Dad Tales-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
THERE was this once poker den in Laperal building on Session Road. And of course my dad was a regular, being good friends with the man who held office in it by day. Office by day, pusuyan by night. Lots of places are like that… No? Whatever, this office turned into one such place where a friendly game of pusuy was nightly played.
One night, for one reason or other, the Laperal Building security guard decided to ask everyone in said office to leave so that he could lock up early. For one or another reason, the poker crowd ignored him. For one reason or another, he decided to call the cops. Who arrived. Now, since this was happening sometime in the early 80s when the INP (Integrated National Police, a brainchild of my bosom friend Chato Olivas’ father and precursor of the current Philippine National Police) was in place, said cops were not local boys. So they busted into a game which involved a number of Baguio’s rather prominent citizens, pillars of the community and all.
Yes, there was money on the table. Yes, whoever put the money there could be charged with gambling. So the cops took down names but stopped short of calaboosing them on the strength of their collective word: yes, they would show up in court; they were, after all, practically all lawyers. So the cops actually charged the crowd, one Leandro Cortes included.
Leandro Cortes was in truth one Leandro Cortes Cariño, father mine. Who did show up in court, along with all the other lawyers charged. By this time, the incident was already a big joke. The fiscal presiding over the case reportedly had a difficult time keeping a straight face, as matters stood. It got worse when he asked my dad why he had given his name as Leandro Cortes – because the answer was “... it just so happened that that night, your honor... I loved my mother more.” The tale did the rounds and all of Baguio chuckled. No, the bust didn’t hold.
Around this same era, the early 80s -- we had moved to Camp Seven by then -- it became an afternoon habit for Dad to park on Harrison, where we all trooped to at day’s end to drive home, en famille. One of our joys was to take the long way home to Camp Seven via Loakan instead of Kennon. And Dad always pulled this stunt of pretending to stall at the John Hay cemetery along the way. At dusk, on an empty road, it was not funny. But he got a real kick out of doing that.
Guess what. One evening, after the car had “stalled” and we were all shaking with fright and Dad had had his laugh, the car really wouldn’t start. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. We were well and truly stuck. The ghosts must have had some fun, that time around. They did allow the car to start after fifteen or so minutes.
A similar number my father was fond of pulling was to drive home wearing a hideous, hideous plaster of Paris mask of Medusa from a production of Medea I produced one summer. You can imagine how many cars came to a dead stop after seeing that driving down Kennon Road.
Then there was one of a number of telephone jokes. Our old phone number was 2266. A place called Matnog Lumber had a 2366 or 3266 or something else really close to ours. Ergo, a day rarely passed that we didn’t answer to a wrong number, the inevitable query being “Matnog Lumber?” The standard reply was, naturally, “Wrong number.” End of story. Most of the time.
Except that Dad sometimes picked up on the “Matnog Lumber?” with “Wen.” I once heard him say that, followed by “One by six by two? Awan. Semento, addu...okidok. Bainte nga semento. Aprub. Bipor twelb, addadtan, wen...okidok.”
My dad was also one who, like many of his day and age, took pleasure in a drink or two. Or three. Or more. As did/does Uncle Erding Balajadia, who is my father’s cousin on the Magsingal (Old Mama) side. So this one is one of those. Yup, one of those inebriated tales.
For some time again in the early 80s, the family car was this cream Toyota Land Cruiser that we really all loved, particularly because of its front wheel drive and its legendary ability to traverse the impossible. See, the road to get to the house from Kennon Road got built in stages, at one point being partly a tire-track affair. So this cruiser was a real blessing, since it could take us home even without the tire tracks, rain or shine.
On with the tale. Well, Uncle Erding and Dad got happy one fine, rainy afternoon. When it was time to call it a day, each offered to drive the other home. In the spirit of bravado that accompanies such merry moments, each further insisted on seeing the other home. Uncle Erding won out, ending up driving behind my father to see to it that he got home safe. And on to Camp Seven they drove, my dad in the Land Cruiser, Uncle Erding in his car. And down the road and onto the driveway to our house they drove.
My dad made it home, having the benefit of what he used to call an “educated steering wheel,” i.e., it got him home regardless of its driver’s lack of, uhm, direction. Uncle Erding, however, was not quite so lucky. In his gallant move to see his cousin home, his car tires ended up not on the tire tracks I described earlier. Two of them ended up in between the tracks, the other two beside one of them, you get the picture. This car did not have a front wheel drive, neither an educated steering wheel. Or it was educated differently.
So, in the pouring rain yet, my dad took a shot at reeducating the misplaced tires. Vuh-room, vroom, vroom – no go. Uncle Erding tried again, vroom, vuhroom, no go. After several more attempts, they gave up and stumbled into the house where they promptly fell asleep on the sala floor.
My mother ended up calling up her role counterpart, Auntie Olive -- whose instructions were “Idulin mo ti tulbek, Manang!” -- who ended up co-opting the Fire Department, which ended up dispatching a rescue team to Camp Seven, which ended up rescuing Uncle Erding’s car and seeing him home. Ah, these tales of liquid intake.
But let us cut to good old Dainty for the next one. Dainty was a communications center of the small town sort. Uncle Akong, Manang Marcela, Remy, and Janet, who ran it, had nicknames for lots of people, to make identification easier, you see. In the manner that they yelled out all those coded orders from the counter to the kitchen personnel to tell the cooks...
Part of their coded language included tags for my dad and two of my uncles, Joe and Iking.
See, the three of them all responded to “Atty. Carino” on the phone -- or anywhere else, for that matter. Therefore, a call to Dainty for “Atty. Carino” was always followed by “Sino nga Atty. Carino?” This follow-up evolved to “Small, medium, wenno large?” Small referred to skinny Uncle Joe, Medium to my better filled-out Dad, and Large to the even healthier Uncle Iking.
Like any daughter, I am one with a collection of tales about her father, certainly more than I have related here. But one more of these tales must be given space. It has to do with dogs.
My father was a great one for them – dogs, that is. My brothers, sisters, and I grew up in households that always had more of them than less. There was a reason for this. My father used to say that dogs were creatures that took for their masters "bad things" that could come their way. My own feeling is that this is very true.
When we were children, our dogs used to die from asthma, which we all had at one point of time or another. When my father was heavily in politics, our dogs used to die from gunshot wounds, from bullets I think could very well have been meant for the family. Whenever my heart just about broke over one or other puppy being run over on Kisad, my father always said better the puppy than one of us, and invariably brought home a replacement soon after.
Because of this Dad thing, my sister Helena once tried to maintain an army of dogs where she now lives to ensure this paranormal level of safety. Uncle Erding still looks happy as ever, and I haven’t recently heard that he has been in need of a Fire Department rescue. Matnog Lumber, I have just discovered, is now a Matnog Automotive and Industrial Supply with the telephone listing of 442-6622 (I told you it was close). Small, Medium and Large have taken their lawyering and attendant after-office-hour activities on Upstairs. I imagine that when Old Daddy met my Dad there, he could well have done so with the line “Loved your mother more, did you...?"
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 31, 2013.