GM Fortunato “Atong” Garcia, Born July 11, 1917 and died February 2, 2008, according to his grandson, Alex Garcia, experienced death twice prior to his death last February 2, 2008. It was believed that Tay Atong (the name we used to call him) had a “tamawo” friend wherein he was being invited to a journey to “heaven” and after three days he will return and when he woke up he would ask for a glass of water because he said “the journey is very tiring.” Once when we had a conversation he described to us the place where he went. It is like a garden, green grass everywhere and also long stretches of desert sand wherein there are no benches to sit. The first time he experienced death was when he was in a town called Isio, southern town in Negros Occidental. He just fall asleep for three days. And on the third day came back and upon waking up he asked for a glass of water. The second time was when he was in Isla de Higante somewhere in Iloilo Province. He was just put beside a wooden box and covered by a mosquito net. After three days he woke up. According to Alex, his father, Julio, told him that on the day the Tay Atong died, the family would have not embalmed Tay Atong right away, for he believed that after 3 days he will come to life. Then if after 3 days if he will not come back then it was time to get the embalmer.
It was believed by his sons and grandsons that Tay Atong has what we called an amulet (anting anting o pangalap). According to Alex, his grandson, his grandfather never got tired. It was believed that he had a sash/belt wherein inside the belt is a bone of a knee cap of a child. He always wore this belt that is why he never got tired according to the grandson. But in acquiring this amulet, Tay Atong would render a service by sleeping and praying every 1st Friday of the Month in the cemetery from 12 midnight up until sunrise. Many believed that he had encountered various kinds of spirits in the cemetery. As time went by, there appeared on the skin of Tay Atong certain rashes which his sons and grandsons advised him to return his amulet to the cemetery. They don’t know if Tay Atong returned his sash/belt but they noticed that the rashes healed but he easily got tired during the day. Once according to Alex, his grandfather asked Alex to have his sash as if offering it to him as his inheritance. Alex declined because he could not keep up with the services/promises in getting the amulet.
Tay atong’s friend (tamawo) was responsible for his expertise in arnis/escrima. According to him after he tended his carabao, he would practice what he learned from various masters in arnis. He was under a balite tree practicing the strikes of arnis/escrima when suddenly out from nowhere there appeared a man, a white man, (mestiso) and asked him if he could have a friendly sparring with him. Which Tay Atong never refused a challenge, he agreed. They exchanged strikes and defenses until late in the afternoon. They started at about midmorning. After the exchanges of techniques, Tay atong asked him where does he live. Over there was the answer pointing his finger towards the balite tree. When Tay Atong checked there was no house there. He just kept quiet and continued to spar with the mestiso guy. Everyday they exchanged techniques and the mestiso guy taught Tay Atong the inverted stick technique which Tay Atong called “tuhaw” meaning “out of nowhere” in reference to his friend who came out of nowhere.
The family believed that it was this white friend who invited Tay Atong to his journey somewhere.