WHEN I was six years old, my father could do no wrong. I admired everything that he did. He was the most handsome teacher in our barrio. He was looked upon as the most intelligent mentor of our town. He was a Philippine Normal School (PNS) graduate. He talked with sense in every meeting or conference where he participated. He wrote articles in national dailies. At one time, he even won a flashlight in the Ever-Ready contest for writing his experience as a fisherman.
Yes, he loved to fish. I was eager to join him in catching frogs. I placed the earthworm in the kitang/palwe to catch dalag. I untangled the tilapia from the kitig. I caught lewalu from the side. I learned how to catch talangka.
He adored roosters. He was the first person to breed Texas in our place and I could see his happiness whenever he could tend to his favorite talisain.
Whenever there is a social function, he was the best dancer on the floor. He would move with ease and you could feel the cadence and the grace in every step he made. I admired him every step of the way. I remember the time that I was with him while he was playing mahjong. There was a misunderstanding among the players. It happened in a flash. My father, who was about 5’4” in height and big fellow who was about 6 feet were engaged in a fist fight. My Pa took hold of the drinking glass and found its way into his opponent’s forehead. The poor big fellow was knocked out in the cold and I was mighty proud of my father.
When I reached sixteen years old, my father could do no right. I resented his going to cockfights. I did not like him playing mahjong. I thought that he was depriving his family of our time and much needed money. I disliked it when he was looking at beautiful girls. I thought he was betraying my mother when he was talking with his college students and lady teachers.
Suddenly, I could not tell him my plan and secrets. When I told him of my intention to run for presidency of the Student Government, he told me to stay in the school paper. When I told him my infatuation with Cynthia, he countered that Isabel was more charming. When I wanted to borrow his leather shoes, he said no because my feet were bigger. When I was six, he was my buddy. When I was sixteen, he was a bully.
Then it happened. In 1966, we lost him forever. He left us – eight children and an unemployed mother. I was left to beg from my relatives just to continue my studies. That’s the lowest ebb of my life. My father was gone forever. He joined his creator at age 44.
At age 69, I still miss my father. He would have been a proud Pa. He would have been very proud that I could write. He would have exalted that one of his sons is a lawyer. He would have rejoiced that his three other sons are successful in the United States. He would have rejoiced that his eldest daughter is a school principal. He would have been a proud grandpa many times over. He would have jumped for joy that grandson Raymond passed the bar among the top 12.
To those whose fathers are alive, enjoy their company while it lasts. After all, you have only one father, I had one in Calixto P. Viray.