Tuesday, June 10, 2003

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY My father was a man of few words.As far as I can recall, he barely talked that today, I could not remember how his voice sounds like. He was not very expressive about his feelings, his affections, his angst and his rage. Good news was met with a simple ermmhm and bad news with emmm. He died when I was still young He also died young. He did not live life to the fullest. He did not live to see his children the way he dreamed us to be. .But come to think of it, if he were alive, I would have finished an engineering degree. My mom told me that he did not want to grow old and become a burden to the family. He did not want to become senile that his grandchildren would make fun of him. I could still remember when we kids believed that Santa Claus was a fat guy with white beard and wearing a red suit. Our dad would put up a Christmas tree and hang socks near the windows. What so exciting about it? There was no daddy in the neighborhood who did that except my dad. Fathers were just too busy doing their manly tasks so that holiday decorating activities were left to the women of the family . At 12 midnight he would wake us up to eat the sumptuous meal that was prepared for the noche buena and allowed us to check what Santa brought us in our socks. Every new year, he would make us pick from a canister , a piece of paper with words of wisdom and fortune reading. These were the years when fortune cookies were never heard of yet. Fascinated by the glistening Christmas balls and colorful bows, I continued the family tradition even when my father had long been gone. Up to now even when there is just a single soul in my place, I see to it that there is one big Christmas tree that reconnected me to the past when my father would carry me in his arms so I can touch the top of the tree. . He worked hard and hard he worked It was his choice. He belonged to a landed family. He need not work. He may have just chosen to wait for his share from the family's estate. The harvests from the coconut plantation, rice farms and fish pens supported the clan for years after my grandparents died He was the youngest. He was brought up never to argue with his older siblings. So when dispute arose because of the landholdings, he simply went away. There were no harsh words spoken . He simply cut off the communication from his family. He vowed never to set foot to his birthplace. Cut from the source of nourishment, an umbilical cord would just dry up and become dust. Not my father. From a carefree and spoiled youngster, the forebearance, discipline and tenacity of spirit grew on him. He did not know the word unemployment or out of job. Wherever there was an opportunity, he would go. We kept on moving that we attended schools for one or two years and transferred again. My brothers can fill up a whole page for the names of the elementary schools they attended. Whatever academic honors they garnered from the school were denied due to lack of residence. He learned his trade. In the last company that he worked with, with the help of an engineer he saved his company, lots of money for assembling the needed heavy duty trucks for the company’s logging business. He could have made a lot money. He was trusted to make the purchases and he could easily have resorted to creative accounting in order to hide overpricing, unwanted materials and personal travel expenses but he didn’t. He would be considered dysfunctional in these times when scams and frauds are being unraveled as if it is the norm in a corporate world. This value was never pounded to our heads but was invested in our veins. The ties that bind us were not expressed in words. We just knew that we were made from the same stock. When I was growing up fatherless, my mom would say that may be our family came from a different mold. If my father was just as depraved as his co-workers in one company where internal control was a joke, we would be wallowing in luxury. At first, I thought that was “stupid” of him. But I myself, turned my back from an opportunity to get employed in one of the graft ridden government agencies where employees are known to have lifestyles that only drug lords, movie stars at their prime and corporate executives whose household expenses’ tabs are even picked up by the company and charged as entertainment expenses can afford. The recommendation came from a well-connected Person. What stopped me from pursuing my carreer in the government was the miserly pay. I was not naïve however not to know that to be able to amass the wealth, I should jump into the mudpools. Sabi nga ni Maricel ayoko ng maputik, ayoko ng masikip… I have never seen him, go out with the boys to drink. Cigarettes were taboo in the house that when my oldest brother got caught smoking, he did not get his belt as what a father would normally do. He bought a pack of cigarette and gave it to my brother. He made my brother puffed one cigarette to another until my brother was in tears begging him to make him stop. I had my shares of transgressions of the house rules. I do not remember him punishing me except for cold shoulder treatment. My cases were referred to my mom. It was my mom who would punish me and told me what my father felt for what I have done. Then he died while he was away from us. He was confined in the hospital for more than a month. My mom practically lived in the hospital to take care of him. That night, she came home to have a decent sleep. I was the only one who was awake. I saw my father or a shadow of my father entered the room. I could not move. He kissed me in the cheeks. He was sad. He was not talking. I knew it was not a dream. His kiss was cold. What I could not understand why he was there and not in the hospital. I thought that he was already well. The next morning, my eldest brother came from the hospital. He talked to my mom. They left together with the word that they are going to get my dad. I was happy because he was coming home. My aunts and uncle did not know. If it was a wish of my dad not to see them, I do not know. But my brothers young as they were ventured out to seek an aunt in the City in the latest address that was known to us. They came after my dad was buried. He was a great husband. He did the laundry for my mom when there was no maid. He did not care when his boss came to see why he was absent and saw him at the backyard washing clothes. He reached for his hand’s boss with his own hands full of bubbles. He was a great father.Down in the country he would bring us to picnic in the waterfall where he would wash the big stuff in the running water while allowing us to make a dip in the pleasantly cold water. The women giggled seeing him do the laundry. But Andres de saya he was not. My mother was just sick. At the end of the day, he would bundle the clothes and blankets and we would walk home with me on his shoulder. I liked typhoons. During this calamity, my dad would pitch a tent inside the house. No cooking, no going out. He would go out and come back with sliced bread, hot pancit and arroz caldo. Picnic. Unfortunately, I have no photo of my dad. Somewhere in between changes of residence, the albums of the family were misplaced and never were recovered. From my mom’s description.. he looked like a movie icon, tall, dark and handsome. He got high bridge nose and deep set eyes. In my memory, I would imagine him as the tall guy who would put me in his shoulder in order to cross a stream or to reach a fruit in a tree; a tall guy who stood in the crowd waiting for me to appear in stage with my awkward dance costume of a duck or balancing lights in my head and my hands while dancing in the tune of Pandanggo sa Ilaw. A tall guy who would stoop to pin my first medal and the other medals to come. A tall guy who would appear in my dream to pin my medal from the battles of life that I have won. Looking back and looking forward, there are challenges and difficulties to overcome but my father left us values that we can use to emerge victorious.


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