• This Mom Who Lost Her Husband to Dengue Hopes to Turn Tragedy Into Victory

    "I believe it was my husband's mission to get me back into singing," says the mom of one.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .

  • They say an ending is but a new beginning, and that out of every tragedy comes new strength. Indeed, nothing can catapult a person into being the best version of herself as tragedy could.  

    But life doesn’t always hand you these lessons on a silver platter — Red Tan, a Filipina entrepreneur and a mom of one, now realizes. Like many of us, she has dreamt of raising a family and fulfilling their dreams — hers was to share with the world her incredible talent for singing. 

    But family always comes first. When she and husband Cedrick were blessed with a son, Red willingly gave up her career to care for her child.

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    A proactive mom, Red was already hunting for a school for her son Duke long before he reached school age. In 2014, when Duke was 3 years old, she put up The Great Leap Academy, a school in Quezon City that offers enrichment programs on math and science, music, and sports, which were developed abroad.

    After a five-year hiatus from her singing career to focus on family and on raising her son, Red was ready to go back to work in 2016. “Duke was already 5 years old, so my husband told me, 'You know, you should go back to singing because that’s your first love.'” It took a lot of courage, but she later realized just how much she missed singing. Soon she was back to doing lounge gigs once more, proving that one can pursue her passions even after motherhood.

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    In August 2017, Red got the surprise of her life when she received an invitation to audition at the prestigious World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA), an annual competition participated in by singers, dancers, musicians and other artists from 60 countries around the world.

    She, however, felt she wasn’t ready for it, having just returned from a long break. But it was again her husband who lovingly pushed her to jump at the opportunity. “He looked up my piece on Youtube, cheered me on, and drove me to the venue.”

    Even when she didn’t feel confident about getting accepted, Red says her husband was ever supportive. “He was smiling at me, and he was very positive that I would get it. And I got in! I am going to Los Angeles! He was so happy about it.”

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    But the highs were quickly offset by lows when, in October that same year, Cedrick fell ill. “He had dengue encephalopathy, a rare case of dengue, which affected his brain. It was so fast. He was confined at the hospital on a Tuesday, and three days later he passed away. It was really shocking and abrupt,” the 34-year-old mom said.

    But nothing was more painful for Red than seeing her son grieve for his dad. “That time, Duke also had dengue, so he was only able to visit his dad’s wake on the second night. He just looked at the coffin, pero when he went home, ayun na. He cried the whole night. It’s harder when you see your son crying.”

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    Since then, Red has had to do double duty at home — a tall order, knowing how tight the dad-and-son bond was. “When Cedrick was still alive, meron syang wrestling time with our son every night, and Duke always looked forward to it. I always felt like Duke needed his dad more than me. Their bond was really special. It was his dad who took him to parks, and they did road trips together.” 

    Red is still trying to cope with the loss herself by keeping busy with work and Duke. Aside from the singing engagements, she continues to teach at Great Leap Academy while serving as the school's executive director. She also homeschools Duke, who is entering the second grade this year. She says she prefers to teach Duke herself so she can emphasize character formation. 

    “As time goes by, you realize you’re doing everything alone. Sometimes you will break down; I would cry in the bathroom pero syempre I have to hide it from my son. I have to show him that I’m strong because that is where he also gets his strength. And you get tired, and it will come to a point where you’ll just lie down and accept that you are tired.”

    Red misses her late husband even more now that their son is approaching puberty and has a lot of questions about his body. “Sometimes he tells me that he found this woman beautiful, or even his yaya, and he thinks he loves his yaya. But I can't talk to him about 'boy stuff.' So I just tell him that it's natural to love because Jesus gave us a heart that can love abundantly.” 

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    Last month was especially hard for the mother-and-son pair because it was the first time Duke celebrated his birthday without his dad. On a trip to Africa, Duke opened up to his mom about how much he misses his dad. “For the first time, we cried together. That was the only time I showed my emotional side. We hugged each other and cried together.”


    The heavens must have heard their cry. Red recalls an incident the following morning that made her believe her husband still watches over them.

    “At breakfast, the waitress served two cups of coffee. One was for the tour guide and she said of the other cup, ‘This is for your husband.’ I said we didn't order that other cup, but she repeated that someone ordered it. Although she spoke in African, I could tell she was annoyed that she had to take the coffee out. She insisted someone ordered it, and it was my husband, a man wearing a red shirt. That’s when I knew it was him because we wear red during birthdays, and it was Duke’s birthday. So I told Duke, ‘See, Daddy heard us last night. He's here.’”

    With just a month and a half left until she flies to Los Angeles to compete at WCOPA, Red is feeling nostalgic knowing that her husband, who was instrumental in getting her back into singing, won't be around anymore to cheer for her. “I believe it was his mission to put me back on track,” she says.

    Every song she will sing at the WCOPA, more heartfelt for sure, will be dedicated to her son Duke and a loving tribute to the memory of Cedrick. And should she bring home a gold medal as she hopes to, what a victory that will be! 

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