My first born and his fear of boats

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, August 1, 2014


(Friends, including Vic Sapguian, who used to host breakfast for months to dialysis patients from Baguio when they would have to travel to Quezon City to line up for support before dawn at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in Quezon City, swear that lawyer-real estate developer Alex Bangsoy was right in saying that my son, Johann, writes better than I do. “Johann sees and feels better than you do,” added Camilo Candelario, my boyhood buddy who lives with three pet dogs in Falon, Nevada after retiring from the U.S. Navy. Taking their cue, I lifted a sampler which Johann wrote in 2007. – RD.)

HE CAME into this world on a cold, foggy afternoon. I was there, in the delivery room, holding my wife’s hand as she huffed and puffed and pushed out onto the hands of the obstetrician our first boy after five years of trying. We named him Denzel Luke. Denzel because when the doctor placed him on his mama’s breast for bonding, his complexion was dark and had an Afro style hairdo just like the actor Mr. Washington. Luke because we want him to have a Bible name.

Every father I knew who proudly expressed their ‘first times’ were saying the same things: “I can’t exactly say what the feeling is.” “The joy is overwhelming.” “Can’t believe I’m a father.” “It’s really a miracle!” “It’s like winning the lottery”, and so on.

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Mine was different, I was shocked! This baby is not mine, I told myself. At that time, my wife was already crying tears of joy. With the baby’s dark skin and curly hair, I began to recollect the two years my wife and I spent in Malta. Who!? Was the question bothering me. As far as I know, we never have or she hasn’t got any acquaintance with someone having African roots! Then my wife spoke and said “Ay apuuu, karuprupa ni Pa!” (Oh my, he looks just like Pa!).

I squinted and zoomed in on the baby’s face and finally I told myself, “Ay, Dacawi met gayam (Oh, he’s a Dacawi). I had to thank my wife for her uttering those words.

That was January 21, 2002. Five years later, on December 5, my wife was back where she was, but now alone, in the delivery room of San Giovannie Paolo or Ospedale Civile in Venice. I had to leaver and go home to stay with Lukie (Denzel’s nickname). Heartbroken and worried, I watched my son sleep. At around four o’clock in the morning, the nurse phoned and said Lovelyn was now in full labor. I was l worried sick and now helpless. But now, at least she won’t be alone... Soon Dylan James would be there for her. Dylan because Lovelyn wants to keep the D and, you guessed right, the folk musician. And James is in the Bible.

I sent l Lukie to school so I could greet my second bundle of joy. On the next day, I took Lukie to do the same. We actually live in the mainland called Cavallino (small horse). A vegetable farm and fishing community that is frequented by Germans and the rest of northern Europe on summers for its golden beaches and camping. More or less than twenty minutes bus ride (Pullman) and forty five minutes boat ride (batello or motonave) from our home to Venice.

I was reviving my old hobby. I always take with me my camera everywhere I go. My son and I were seated inside the motonave on our way to see Baby D when I noticed it was nice to shoot outside. The weather was called and gray but the sun gave a nice color on the afternoon when it peeked out. As I gave my cell phone to Lukie to play with, I told him I would just be out there to ‘shoot’. He didn’t mind; he had the phone, so I went out and fired away. To get to Venice, the boat has to stop at Lido, one of the two strips of island that act like a barrier to protect Venice from the Adriatic Sea. We were about dock when I recognized one tourist with a concerned look on his face.

Holy %&#*! Lukie! A lady was trying to console my son who was sobbing immensely. I said ‘thank you’ and she went back to her seat, leaving her evil eyes on me. “What a father this one!,” she might have thought. Lukie cried because he thought I got off at Lido without him.

Saying sorry, hugging and rubbing my hands on his back made things worse. With his loud sobs – they were like glass shards stabbing my heart -, he angrily said, Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, Papa, don’t shoot!”

OK and sorry was all I said but he didn’t stop. He was inconsolable and bitterly furious. I was bleeding profusely inside and the lady summoned the boat people to attack me with their eyes. Without looking, my samurai senses told me there were about seven or eight pairs of eyes striking down at me, not counting the children.

I had to act fast. I wanted to counter-attack. I was still holding my cam and had the craving to shoot at them with the flash to blind them. But Lukie told me not to shoot. My son just saved those people from going blind.

To stop Lukie from wailing and my heart from bleeding, I gpt angry and talked like a ventriloquist nexct to my son’s ear. I threatened him: if you’re not going to stop right now I will smack you in the face. Just then he pulled out his weary arms and hugged me and, in-between his little sobs, he whispered, “Don’t shoot, Papa, don’t shoot”. I held him tight. Tight as I could. The blood turned tears in my heart as it beat out the words: Forgive me, my Lukie.

Finally, it was all over. Just for some little sobs, Lukie was OK, for now. We were both wounded badly from this experience. A little boy about to be five, a grown man of thirty two. I will omit the part when I told my wife what happened. The harsh words I said to him just came out. I never meant them but I said them.

Do you remember when you were young, you were with your parents somewhere, and in just a blink of an eye, they’re gone? I remember mine, and it terrified me to death. I know the feeling n and now my son knows it, too.

When he was learning how to walk he had no fear. I got tired of walking him around the boat. An old Italian man even said he is very independent and confident for his age. There were times when we left him on his own wandering on the motonave, then he would come back soaked with sweat from running around.

His fear of the motonave was my fault. Until now he gets scared and frightened on the boat. Not one member of our family could go out the boat.

When one goes, everybody goes. That’s how Lukie wants it. He wants us intact, together inside the boat, a family and that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The only good thing that came out from this episode of our lives is that... someday, I know he will become a good father. -- Johann Dacawi.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 02, 2014.

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