Christmas would have been a merry reunion for the Castelvi family of San Fernando, Pampanga with the surprise homecoming of Paul Vincent.
A caregiver in Israel, Paul Vincent Castelvi, 42, received a plane ticket from his employer of four years which he intended to use to go home for the holidays to surprise his mother, according to a "24 Oras" report by Sandra Aguinaldo.
“Sabi niya kapag kausap siya ng nanay niya, hindi siya uuwi. Ang uuwi ang asawa at bata lang. 'Yun pala gusto niya sorpresahin ang nanay niya,” his father Lourdines said.
It would have been the first time as well that he would see his child due this November.
The Hamas attacks in Israel that killed him also shattered the family's dream of being together again.
Paul Vincent was one of the two overseas Filipino workers killed at the onset of the Hamas raids.
He works as a caregiver at Kibbutz Beeri, located at the southern portion of Israel near Gaza. The area was one of the places where the Hamas launched its attack over the weekend, killing around a hundred people.
Paul Vincent's last moments were unknown, but his father believes he died protecting his sick employer.
“Para sa akin po, by that time na pumasok ‘yung Palestinian sa lugar nila at nag-house to house sila ay para sa akin po ang ginawa niya kaya siya namatay ay pinagtanggol niya ang amo niya sa mga terorista,” Lourdines said.
As the family's breadwinner, Paul Vincent was described as generous and caring.
"Para kaming naputulan ng paa. Hindi namin alam ano mangyayari sa mga darating na araw," his father said.
When the news about Paul Vincent's death reached her, Lilina took a picture frame of her son and held it close to her.
“Hindi ko na po siya mayakap, hindi ko na po siya mahalikan. Kung uuwi po siya na abo na lang, paano ko po siya mayayakap? Wala na po,” the grieving mother said.
She said her son talked to them almost every day.
"'Pag nagbi-video cam kami, 'pag magpapaaalam na siya, [sinasabi niya] 'Sige na, Paul love madami, love love mama,'" Lilina said.
"Maka-mama talaga s*iya. Kaya sa araw-araw sinasabihan ng 'love love madami.' Siya 'love love Ma.' Ngayon wala nang magsasabi sa akin ng ganyan. Wala na po siya eh," she added.
“Ang hindi ko lang masukat isipin paano nila nagawang ganyanin ang anak ko dahil napakabait po niyang bata, napakabait po niya, wala pong katulad," Lilina also said.
Although difficult, Lilina said she has to be strong for Paul and her future grandson.
“Huwag siya mag-alala, hindi ko papabayaan ang anak niya dahil kung paano ko siya minahal ganu'n ko rin mamahalin ang anak niya,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has given financial aid to Paul Vincent's family and that of Filipina nurse Angeline Aguirre.
Aguirre was killed after she remained with her elderly patient in a shelter that was shot up by gunmen amid the conflict.
According to the DSWD, the families of the two Filipinos were given financial assistance of P10,000 under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program.
They were also referred to projects under the agency's Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).
The DSWD said it will also provide burial assistance and psychosocial support to the family.
Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Thursday said he had talked to the victims' families over the phone.
"Last night, I made two of the most difficult phone calls I've had to make as President. The nation is one in grieving with the families of the Filipinos who were killed in the attacks on Israel," Marcos said.
"We will provide the utmost support to the families they were taken from," he added.
Likewise, the President said such tragedy will not deter the Filipino spirit.
"We will continue to stand for peace," he said.
Marcos earlier said that the Philippines stands with Israel following the deadly attacks by Hamas.
The Philippines has placed Gaza under Alert Level 3 amid the ongoing reprisal strikes by Israel.
Alert Level 3 means voluntary repatriation.
There are 137 Filipinos in Gaza, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). —Sherylin Untalan/LDF/KG, GMA Integrated News