A letter from home

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Dinagyang festival fluvial procession
Iloilo city
February 20, 2014

Dearest Tatay,

I went home for Dinagyang this year. I know, it took me seven years.

Isla was with me and we joined the fluvial procession. She’s your great-granddaughter.

Remember Franee, that long-haired Cebuano who joined us on your last New Year’s Eve? Yes, he is her father. He was there in the hospital, when you secretly whispered to me your complaint about that doctor who made an ugly hole near your rib so he could drain your lungs.

You would have been so happy. Tangtang (your first grandson to dress as a Sto. Niño) had responsibly carried on your role in the procession. The same wooden yellow signboard with bold red letters that scream “Marshal” was fastened on the bumper of our new ride. You had that signboard made years ago. It was hand-drawn by Manong Kamlon, the neighborhood artist who always smelled of Tanduay and passed way sooner than you. Just between you and me, I’m not convinced by Tangtang’s devotion to this tradition. I suspect that he only enjoys doing this because the Ms. Dinagyang winners were always positioned right behind our car. Maybe you should appear to him in a dream and demand that he wear your Confradia del Sto. Niño silk vest that you and the rest of the old boys don as official attire.

We left the house with all our Sto. Niños a little later after lunch. There were six of them, including the newest one Tangtang gave you for pasalubong from Cebu. We had to be early. Isla fell asleep in the car while we waited for the Sto. Niño de Cebu’s party to dock at the port of Aduana. The crowd was not as huge as I had expected it to be. I woke her, although I was certain to put a two-year-old in a bad mood. We walked around Aduana, or more like I walked around carrying her on my shoulders. The frenzy was too much for her to take in, so she looked displeased in most of our photos. She was delighted by the Dinagyang mascot Dagoy, she seemed confused looking at the little boys dressed as Sto. Niños, and she was annoyed by those soot-smeared young men in intricate tribal costume.

It wasn’t long until the boats arrived. Resting ships let out their bellowing song and tribal drums rolled into rhythmic thunder. The crowd moved closer towards the sea.

Hundreds of Sto. Niño figures of all sizes, and little boys in costumes, were raised by the dancing crowd as we all yelled, “Viva Senyor Sto. Niño! Viva! Viva! Viva!” I turned, and turned, and looked for you.

I rushed to the car, but it was Tangtang who was in the driver’s seat. I came home too late. I am sorry for missing this in your last years. I am very sorry, Tatay. Just like all my other memories of Dinagyang fluvial processions, it rained on this one too. As far as I can remember, this was the heaviest downpour to date.

The thick January sky cleared when the procession concluded at Plaza Libertad. We met Luisa and her nine-month-old niño, Keo there. They were waiting for us near San Jose Church. Next year, when Keo is big enough, you will have a Sto. Niño great-grandson.

To the loudest pulse of bell tolls and tempo of drumbeats, we danced, raised Sto. Niños, and cheered “Viva Senyor Sto. Niño! Viva! Viva!” We kept on and on, until the Sto. Niño de Cebu disappeared into the doors of the church. I turned and turned, and looked for you.

Was that you I saw walking around Plaza Libertad? You were sporting a cap of your favorite NBA team, your usual Lacoste polo shirt, denim shorts, and rubber shoes. You had your headphones, on too, and was totally oblivious of the festive mess. Someday, Tatay, you and I will take our regular walks in the Plaza again.

I miss you,
Mai

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 20, 2014.

Lifestyle

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