THE past week was a depressing time for me. I was so miserable that I had to ask friends to have a drink with me in the house on the eve after the elections. I woke up with a terrible hangover the following day. And I got more depressed when I learned that someone I looked up to passed away in his sleep.
This time, please allow me to veer away from my usual dog stories. Instead, I will be talking about Domecio Yapo Cimatu Jr. and how his uncharacteristic ways have touched me.
For the benefit of those who did not know him, DomCi, as he is fondly called by close friends and associates, was a veteran newsman. He was the vice president of the Cordillera News Agency (CNA), an organization he helped establish in the 80s. He was also bureau chief of the Philippine News Agency (PNA), and a part of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco).
But his credentials are not the reasons why I am writing about him. You see, from time to time, I have this yearning to drink alone.
It could have been in 2001 or even much earlier, when I may have possibly chanced upon DomCi at Rumours (a bar and restaurant at Session Road in Baguio City). It was already late in to the night, only a few customers remained, when I heard an elderly man at the bar throwing invectives to another customer. He was in a maong jacket with a knitted scarf around his neck and donned a black fedora hat.
It was only a matter of time when I started drinking with him at Rumours (and Luisa’s), and gleaned some things about him.
I learned that he is a writer. It turned out that he was the older brother of another friend who was also a writer. He told me once not to write about depressing topics. I was flattered because he was reading my column. But I never got the chance to ask him why I should not write about gloomy subjects.
But other than his being a writer, I was drawn to him because of his mind and character.
He was witty. He was mischievous. He was vocal about his thoughts. If he was not impressed with you, no matter what you did, he will be flippant towards you. I do not know if it was because of his age, but he really appeared to me as someone who had no time for pretensions. You actually did not have to do anything to impress him. If he liked you, he will call you babe or my love. If he did not like you, he will deadpan you or worse, call you a bitch. Yes, I know some of the people he referred to as “that bitch”.
About a year ago, he wanted a friend to create apparels for senior citizens. He told us that senior citizens have the money and being old should not be an excuse to dress shabbily. He wanted an ensemble and, of
course, a fashion show at the People’s Park, Baguio City, to showcase the collection. Every time we saw each other, he would remind me about that project.
And so it came to be that our connection was characterized by those late night encounters. He will be alone, I will arrive alone, and I will join him for a drink. We will talk about things. When it is time to go home, I will help him hail a cab.
The last time we drank together was at Luisa’s, I arrived close to ten that evening. As usual, he was alone at the table near the cashier. He looked fine then. He asked me about my dogs and why he has not seen them around for quite some time now. I told him I could not find time to bathe and groom them because I had to let go of the dog minder so I was not bringing them along. I asked him about his cat. He told me his cat was lazy and getting fat. And in that night, as in most of the nights that we drank together, I helped him hail a cab to bring him home.
More than a month ago, he was brought the hospital due to an unexplained illness. But I thought it was not serious because when I visited him, he was about to be discharged and was his usual self -- incorrigibly joking about those he was within the ward that they were about to die during the night. I pressed his hand when I said goodbye. I knew everything will be alright because his hand felt warm to the touch.
So on May 14, 2019, I was disconsolate when I learned that he passed away at dawn. He was watching the news the night before -- most likely the canvassing of the senatorial votes. Perhaps, just like me, he got so dejected with the results and slept with a broken heart.
There were a lot of instances a few months ago when he told me that people were disrespecting him. I surmised that he was referring to the young customers and perhaps some of the waiters, too. I told him I am not surprised. I reckoned, these are the people who could not really differentiate frankness from brashness, and wit from ordinary jokes. And the fact that they did not know him well enough.
There is a good reason why I am drawn to older people. Regardless of their achievements and status in life, they have acquired a wisdom that only time could provide. By listening and being with them, you get to learn things that may take years learning by yourself. And when they tell you they like you, they are genuinely telling you the truth. He was one of the epitomes of such people.
His brother asked me if I wished to speak during his wake. I declined. I did not think I knew him that well to give a tribute.
But thank you, DomCi, for sharing your thoughts and giving me the confidence to just be myself.
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