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Butterflies Instead June 25, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

Unlock the door, unlock my head
and dream of butterflies instead
the beauty of their colored wings
the trees, the grass and pretty things
imagination fills the void of my existence…”
-K’s Choice, ‘Butterflies Instead’

I believe that the souls of the dead reach out to us in the form of a beautiful black butterfly, one with swallow-tail wings and white spots in its tail markings.

At least, that’s what’s been manifesting to close friends and family every time somebody dear to us dies, or at a significant moment in our lives.

Somebody dear to our family just died, the sister of my maternal grandmother, and one of our most loved lolas. She was a dear and sweet soul who loved her family so much. Nothing gave her more pleasure than to cook and feed family and friends, since she was so gifted with the talent of cooking. My mom was her favorite niece and it was this lola who first taught my Mama how to bake a cake. We owe her so many of my Mom’s delicious recipes and for helping Mama’s talent to blossom and grow.

On Sunday morning, while I was still in Manila, a black butterfly like the one that I described appeared on our dining room’s screen door and stayed there. Our helper Jovy, who is very superstitious called out to my Mom and Dad and had them observe this butterfly. It was a very unusual thing to see because our house is located in the middle of the city and butterflies and moths almost never show up at our house. The butterfly just stuck there until our naughty dog Whiskey, wondering what the big fuss was all about, gave the screen door a bum rush and frightened the poor butterfly away. However, it came back and landed on the kitchen door’s screen instead. It stayed there for a long time.

Then, as I got back home on Sunday night, I received a text message. It was from my Tito Ed in Canada, informing us that Mommy Tita, our lola’s sister, passed away.

Mom then texted all our relatives, including our Tita Lita in Bantayan Island. The following morning, Tita Lita called the house up and talked to our mom. She told us that she’s seen the same big black butterfly flitter around the vicinity, first landing in Tita Lita’s house, then afterwards, landing in our Lolo Nonoy’s vacation home which was right beside. Lolo Nonoy was Mommy Tita’s and my own lola’s brother, who had previously died 2 years ago, while I was still reviewing for the Bar. After she noticed the butterfly, one of her neighbors came knocking on the door and asked her, “Who is that lady which keeps passing by Nonoy’s house repeatedly?”

Before Mommy Tita died, she was very upset because she wanted to come back to the Philippines from Canada, because she made a promise to Lolo Nonoy that they would meet up in the Philippines, but her doctor forbade her from traveling. Lolo Nonoy had already died when she wanted to visit. The mysterious thing was that an amount of money equivalent to a round trip plane fare for two was deposited in Mommy Tita’s special bank account that Lolo Nonoy periodically placed money in whenever he wanted her to come to the Philippines.

My godfather, Tito John Eggeling, told me the same story when his mother died. The same big black swallow-tailed butterfly kept hovering all around his house and landing on the main door where everybody could see them. His son, Jonas, also saw the same butterfly coming home on a late night out, plastered on his window. Jonas was his lola’s favorite grandchild. Finally, on the last night of the funeral, there were instead two big butterflies clinging to the halogen lamp overlooking the whole crowd. I saw those two myself. I think it was Tito John’s mom and dad, finally reunited after a long separation from each other.

Immediately after that butterfly sighting, me and my dad began seeing the same big black butterfly following us around. Dad saw it when he was meeting up with friends at Grand Majestic. The following day, he and I saw the butterfly clinging to our house’s porch steps.

The week after, when I flew to Dipolog (which was my first out-of-town assignment, but I was not yet a lawyer. I was just accompanying one of the firm’s associates, Atty. Hebe Tanga-an, to a case that I was going to be assigned to later on.), I was on my way to church when I turned around because something caught my eye. It was the same big black swallow-tailed butterfly passing me by and flying off to the plaza.

A few days after that, I learned the news that I had become a lawyer and there was a big celebration. In my first day in the office as a lawyer, I was climbing up the stairs en route to the office when I saw that big black butterfly clinging against the stairway walls, as if observing me. I told my boss about it, and he said it’s probably the managing partner’s father, Atty. Jose C. Palma Sr., who was welcoming me as the newest addition to the firm that he founded.

The butterfly’s final appearance for that year was quite comical. I was with with my bestfriend Raymond, who was at that time reviewing for the Bar. This was last year, on May. It was my last night in Makati after having taken my lawyer’s oath. Me, Raymond, his cousin Cristina, and his friend Gon-gon, were having some beers outside of Powerplant Mall when I spotted the butterfly alighting on the sidewalk pavement right across me. A black cat with white paws and a white tip on its tail quickly ran forward and ate it.

(And no Christela, I did not start seeing the cat.)

I did see that butterfly again, on December of last year. My favorite boss, Atty. Chito Teleron, had died a few weeks before the firm’s Christmas party. The managing partner, Atty. Jopox Palma, had decreed that in respect to boss Chito, we will not be celebrating our Christmas party with any fanfare. We will just have a quiet dinner over at Ching Palace. I was riding with my uncle, Atty. Ybanez, to Ching Palace, when we parked at the parking area behind the restaurant. As we went in the glass door leading to the eating area, we saw the butterfly fluttering against the door, trying to get in. We knew who it was. We opened the door, and true enough, the butterfly flew in the restaurant to join us in our celebration.

The following day, the lawyers and the office staff gathered around boss Chito’s office, opened two bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label and got unceremoniously drunk. We were all very happy. The butterfly didn’t show up though. It’s work was done.

I really believe that we have angels everywhere, the souls of our beloved dead, flying around in the form of beautiful, big black swallowtail butterflies with white markings. They’ve come to watch over us, and let us know they are around.

Why butterflies?

Well, I think it’s a symbol. Do you know how it is when an ugly creepy caterpillar spins itself into a chrysalis and comes out as a beautiful butterfly? The caterpillars are us, the souls of the living. The chrysalis is our death. The butterflies are them, the souls of our dearly departed.

The souls who are truly alive….


In loving memory of Teresita Mansueto-Veloso, may her soul rest in peace. Please say hi to Mommy Nena and Daddy Paeng for me. We love you Mommy Tita.


1. Debbie Snow - August 9, 2007

My dog, a black german shepherd, passed away on July 6, 2007. She was with me for 13 years. I moved her bed outside on the front porch & a black swallowtail butterfly showed up & stayed on her bed all day. The next morning she was still there. I put my dog’s bed in the back of the truck & the butterfly again landed on her bed. She flew around my head when I walked through the yard. She rested in the grass in my dog’s favorite spot. I knew beyond a doubt it was my Roxy. A week later a smaller black butterfly was on the picnic table. Her wings were folded together so I couldn’t tell what she was. I put my hand on the table beside her & she climbed on my finger & stayed about 15 minutes. When she flew away I saw she was a smaller black swallowtail. Last night she was back again & landed on my shirt. She flew around me for a while & then flew away. I know she is my dog & it’s such a comfort to have this butterfly around.

2. northwolf - August 9, 2007

Thank you for sharing that with me Debbie. 🙂 It’s a beautiful anecdote. I’m sure your dog is happy, wherever she is right now… probably still looking after you.

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