The grieving father of Carlos Victor Sibayan said that in time he will accept and forgive his son’s untimely death, but for now he needs answers about why it happened.

The Most Rev. John Dolan (left) and the Rev. Efrain Bautista led the procession after the funeral. Photo by Chris Stone

Sibayan, a Navy fire controlman second class, was one of seven sailors killed when the USS Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer, collided with a cargo ship off the east coast of Japan in the middle of the night June 17.

Seven shipmates from the Fitzgerald, based at Yokosuka Naval Base, flew into San Diego to be honorary pallbearers at Sibayan’s funeral Saturday at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Bonita.

“We all have too many questions in our hearts,” said the father, Victor Sibayan, a recently retired master chief. “The pain in my heart will fade away… I need to know why this happened to my Carlos.”

“And Carlos and six shipmates have the right to know,” Sibayan continued at the end of the funeral. “They deserve an answer. I pray that the truth of what really happened will come out.”

In a seven-minute talk, Sabayan occasionally cried and had to pause. He spoke about the lessons he shared with his son.

“One of my advice for him was the importance of standing the proper watch,” the father said. “The thing is to make sure that everyone and everything is safe and secure.”

“But after he died, one night Carlos appeared in my dreams,” Sabayan said while his voice cracked with grief. “He was telling me: ‘Dad, I stood my watch for three years, making sure everybody’s safe when they’re asleep. What happened to me?’ And I said: ‘I don’t know, son.’”

In his “remarks of remembrance,” the Chula Vistan talked about what his son meant to him.

While he lived only 23 years, his life was full of adventures, happiness and laughter, Sabayan said. And his oldest always watched out for his younger brothers and mother, Carmen, when he was deployed.

Navy pallbearers carry the casket of Carlos Sibayan at Corpus Christi Catholic Church. Photo by Chris Stone

“One thing I always remember with Carlos is that every time they drop me off to the pier when I’m about to go underway on deployment, I will tell Carlos to always take care of the family — his brothers and his mom. And you know what he always said? ‘Don’t worry, Dad. I got this.’”

Sabayan called his son “my love, my shipmate and my hero” and very smart.

He spoke about how heartbreaking it was for him to prepare his remarks.

“I can’t complete one sentence without crying,” he said. “Every time I write a word, it was like my heart is in the grinder.”

He ended the tribute by saying, “You may be gone physically, but the memories you left behind will always be in our hearts, in our minds. Rest now, my Carlos, and though you’ll be with God right now, till we see each other again.”

The Most Rev. John Dolan, auxiliary bishop for the San Diego Catholic Diocese, said the funeral Mass, and the Rev. Efrain Bautista, pastor of Corpus Christi Church, gave the homily for the fallen sailor.

“We are gathered here this morning, saddened by the loss of this young man, gathered here perhaps not understanding why Carlos is no longer with us or why this had to happen to him,” Bautista said.

“Carlos always worked to do good deeds, always worked to do God’s will,” the pastor said to the gathering of hundreds. The sailor’s family — all dressed in white — was present along with friends and members of the military.

Bautista said the younger Sabayan, born in Manila, Phillipines, always was willing to serve and dedicate himself to others. He was always respectful, responsible, caring and persevering.

“As we reflect on the life of Carlos, we can see … that even though he was only with a short 23 years, Carlos really accomplished a great deal, leaving for each of us something to strive for, something to work for — to be the best person that we can be and that God has made us to be.”

To his parents, Victor and Carmen, Bautista said, “Thank you for all the love that you gave him, to help him become the best sailor, the best young man that he could be.

“We pray that Jesus will welcome him with open arms and say to him the words that can be found in Matthew’s Gospel: Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sabayan’s shipmate Shingo Douglass, a 2010 Fallbrook High School graduate who lived in San Diego, was buried Friday at Miramar National Cemetery.

Most of sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald were asleep in their berths, which flooded after the bow of the ACX Crystal ripped open a ragged 12-by-17-foot hole in the starboard side of the Fitzgerald below the waterline.

An investigation into the cause of the collision is under way. The U.S. Naval Institute Press reported that the Fitzgerald will enter a dry dock in Yokosuka later this month, where officials will determine whether the ship can be repaired there in Japan, or will have to return to the United States.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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