A sentimental journey
- Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2015 - 12:00am

We are in the midst of a family reunion. Nine out of 10 of us siblings are together for two weeks to commemorate to events – the 58 th anniversary of our father’s death on March 17, 1957, and what would have been our father’s 100th birthday on March 28.

On March 17, we visited our old house at 76 Boston St., a house our parents built in 1955. It was where we last saw our dad as he waved goodbye to go to the airport with his friend Yoyong Hernandez to catch President Magsaysay’s plane to Cebu. Mom sold the house in the early ‘60s and I had never been back to see it again, until this week. With my siblings and cousins, we toured the property. Much had been changed – the swimming pool we dug ourselves has been covered in favor of a basketball court. The terrace is now roofed. The large sala that led to the sunlit dining room with sliding doors to the terrace has been divided into two separate rooms. But Mom and Dad’s room and the girls’ and boys’ rooms look the same. The bathrooms – we had only two – have been updated but the sink is the old heavy Armitage brand we used, made in China.

As I walked through the house, memories came flooding back, of how my Mom and I planted coins and religious medals in the posts when it was being built. And how Gabby and I went with Mom to the site in the afternoons to pick up nails that had fallen on the ground and give them back to the workmen to be used, while Mom consulted with the architect and received the building materials as they were delivered.

We moved to that house on a full moon. It was a happy home, full of noisy children and visiting cousins, with lots of space we could finally call our own. We all had to do our share weeding the garden, shining the floors, and yes, helping dig the swimming pool. But what fun we had dong these chores together!

Our summers were magical. It was the suburbs with empty lots nearby, lots of fruit trees to climb and sunflowers growing in wild abandon. There was a creek at the back of our property where we jumped from rock to rock to explore the undeveloped areas around. We had an entire neighborhood to explore on bike and on foot, and neighbors we visited and who came over to play. The church was nearby and we collected flowers that grew in abundance outside our neighbors’ fences and brought them to the Virgin Mary every afternoon in May during Flores de Mayo.

It was bittersweet visiting our old home. I had to tell the present owner how painful it was for me when we had to give it up, and how as a 15-year old teen, I resented her family for buying our precious heritage.

After that sentimental visit, we walked to the nearby church, as we always did when we lived in the neighborhood, to attend the 6 p.m. mass. The Immaculate Conception Church, which we never saw fully built when we lived there, is now a lovely cathedral. Our parents are interred together in the crypt.

On Wednesday, we flew to Cebu to visit the mountain site where Dad and his companions died — Mt. Manunggal, which is now accessible by car.

My siblings and I have long had to do this — walk through our father’s short meaningful life and his sudden departure from our lives. This is why our final activity for this reunion, a tribute book to our Dad and a record of our childhood with him, is so important — and cathartic.

 

In my foreword, I wrote: “When we talked about (the project) as a family, we realized that although Dad was many things to many people – an outstanding intellectual, bar top-notcher, a lawyer for the Church, defender of Catholic education, political commentator, actor on radio, stage and screen, law professor, and true friend — to us, his children, he was just Dad, and close to six decades after his passing, we all still missed him terribly.

“We were all very young when he died — the eldest, Jesse, was 19, Raffy was four — and we had never really gotten over the loss. We therefore wanted to write about OUR Dad as we remember our childhood, made magical by a doting father who was somehow present to us despite his impossibly busy schedule. He was so present to each of us, we all thought we were his favorite. And we needed to process our recollections of that day on March 17, 1957, when the aircraft he was riding crashed on a mountainside near Cebu City, and we lost the center of our lives.

“So what was originally envisioned as a tribute to our father became a healing journey for ten orphans who, by steeping ourselves in the memories of our childhoods, and revisiting the pain of our loss when Dad passed away, have somehow come to terms with his passing…

“By this book we record our memories of our Dad, some of which have begun to fade, and keep alive his legacy. May all who read this be inspired by the wisdom, love, fortitude and good humor with which he (and our Mom) brought us up, and the generosity of his service to God, country and family.”

It is a family book, privately published, for limited circulation. But if you happen to know one of us siblings, we may allow you to have a peek into our childhoods with the best father anyone could hope for.

 

AS I BOSTON ST. BUT MOM AND DAD CEBU CEBU CITY DAD GABBY AND I IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH MOM AND I MT. MANUNGGAL
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