Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Dad

Me and Dad

My dad was a simple man. He wasn't the CEO of a big business nor was he a hotshot lawyer or doctor. He was an employee of a security agency until the day he retired. Afterwards, he kept himself busy as a volunteer in the village homeowners’ association and occasionally driving his tricycle around the neighborhood. 

As a kid my fondest memories of my dad was when I would climb his back and stand on his shoulders as he tried to concentrate on watching TV. In the afternoons we would listen incessantly to cassette tapes of his favorite artists: Matt Monro, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones. He loved Fernando Poe Jr. and watched all of his movies on the big screen. His favorite food was pansit and he would insist that we serve it every time there was any sort of celebration. 

My dad never hit us, except for that one time when I locked the door to our room and he had to crawl along the side of the house and get back in through a window. Boy did I get a beating then. (I totally deserved it). 

I remember there were Sundays when he had to work, and he brought us, his family, along with him. My siblings and I made quite a racket racing each other through the hallways on the wheeled office chairs while he worked on his desk. For lunch I went with him to a restaurant nearby to buy his favorite miki bihon pansit and other ulam to go along with rice and Coke Litro. We would all eat on his colleagues' desks, talking about nothing in particular. 

My dad was fiercely proud to be Waray (he and my mom are both from Leyte) and had an almost uncanny ability to identify if anyone else was Waray based on the way they talk. He had a theory (more like a pigheaded argument really) that all the best singers in the country come from the Visayas and would make up some excuse when presented with names that most certainly were not from the region. "They probably have Bisaya ancestors," he would say. 

He loved to talk and would spend hours with relatives and friends chatting about everything from politics and current events to philosophical musings. He never drank alcohol nor smoked cigarettes, but he would join inuman sessions every time there was a family gathering for the chance to shoot the breeze with hardened drinkers. Sometimes, when I'm within earshot, I would roll my eyes at all the fantastic things that came out of his mouth. 

He had a cough that never went away. For as long as I could remember he would growl and wheeze and clear his throat constantly, from the moment he woke up until he got ready for bed. It became the soundtrack of our household and became something of a signature; it announced his arrival and punctuated his presence. When I came by for visits I remember being so annoyed by it, especially when he had a fit just before bedtime. 

I found out he died from my sister. "Wala na si Dad," was all she said over the phone. What do you say to something like that? I always knew this day would come, but you're never, ever prepared. I was in the MRT on the way to an interview and all I could think about was it would have been unprofessional to cancel the interview at the last minute. And so I went through the interview like nothing had happened. It was afterwards, outside the venue while I was walking down the street, that I broke down. 

The "what-ifs" came during the drive home to Cavite. What if I had stopped by the house last weekend to introduce the family to the puppy I had just gotten? What if I had stayed longer during the Christmas break, which was the last time I saw him alive? What if he made it to the hospital in time, would they have been able to revive him?

Now I hate to admit it, but I miss hearing that cough. I'd drive through hours in traffic just to catch one of his stories that used to make me roll my eyes. And what I would give just to sit down and have pansit with him again.

My biggest regret is that I never told him enough how much I love him. Maybe it was because I thought he’d stick around a while longer. But now that he’s gone, I’ll never get to find out if he was ever proud of me, because, to be honest, that’s the only thing I ever aspired to in life.

Even if he wasn’t some bigshot professional or high-profile CEO, he raised me and my siblings well and showed me the meaning of integrity and generosity. He's the reason I'll always believe in the goodness in people. He was the kindest, gentlest, most giving person I ever knew and I’ll forever be proud to call him my dad.