How my father loved me
Illustration by Jaymee L. Amores

How my father loved me

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2020 - 12:00am

You would have been 85 on Monday, Pang. This early, I’m excited to celebrate your birthday with the whole family.

I shared a billion beautiful moments with you. Of the many moments we shared, my discovery and rediscovery of you, even when you’re gone, always led me to a heartwarming realization that the most precious thing you imparted to me was the value of life and love.

You loved me in days when you couldn’t afford to buy me a toy. But you were creative enough to fashion a spinning top out of an ipil-ipil branch for me.

You loved me in ways I couldn’t measure, like how you would tickle my soles when I would lovingly ask you to massage my feet that were sore.

You loved me with your smile that I still imagine to this day, like how you smiled at me when you handed me quail eggs that you found in the field while you were clearing the farm.

You loved me with your burnt brown color, the signia of your hard work, the skin tone that proved that for us, your family, you would carry the yoke to see us through.

You loved me with your wisdom about your folk knowledge about the weather. Because you started farming at the age of 12, you had mastered the temperament of the wind. From June to September, you would tell me and my brothers that the blowing wind was called habagat, because the breeze was originating from the west. Come October to May, the wind would come from the east and it was called amihan. Sabalas was a bad wind because it carried with it, from the north, strong rains. Timog, coming from the south, was the most awaited type of wind when it was storming because it had the capacity to stop the torrential rain.

You loved me with your songs, like how you taught me Anak Dalita, and sang it with frail vibrato in your sunset days.

You loved me with your sincere interest to know what I did for a living, like how you would listen intently to me as I read my column articles to you as you lounged in the hammock that was under the himbaba-o tree.

You loved me with your honesty, like how you requested me to write simple thoughts because your no-read-no-write mind would like to understand what I wrote.

You loved me with your longing stare, like sans a word from you, you understood when my pain was bigger than me. You were the balm that silently soothed me.

You loved me in the days I felt you didn’t love me in my youth. “Touch my hands,” you told me in the vernacular. “If they were smooth, I didn’t love you.” They were rough. Yours were the hands of a farmer, the one and only job you did with passion, day and night, night and day.

You loved me with the rod that landed on my behind. It taught me discipline, courage and the will to do good. It was tough love at times. It was your tough love that softened my soul to seek greatness of the heart and mind.

You loved me with your own childhood stories, like how you hid in a bunker during the war or how you took the witness stand to defend someone. You were a raconteur; it was from you where I learned to tell a story.

You loved me with your love story with Nanay, like how you saved P125 to afford your bride with a bespoke traje de boda. You bought a trubenize that you used under a rented suit on your wedding day. The wedding rings, you both borrowed from the priest and returned them to him right after your wedding ceremony.

You loved me by teaching me by example that superheroes didn’t really have superpowers. You couldn’t fly but your wisdom allowed me to soar and find my own place in the sun. You couldn’t be invisible when you wanted to be but your life was a reminder for me to advance myself and fathom the things that the eyes couldn’t see.

You loved me with your old-fashioned values, like how you astutely reminded me to return what I borrowed. My brothers and I followed your cardinal rule at home: “Hindi bale nang mahirap, huwag lamang magnanakaw (It’s better to be poor than to be a thief).”

You loved me with your magic stints, like how you would raise me on your shoulders as I opened my palm to the full moon, asking it to give me money. I would wake up with some coins under my pillow. You would flash me a smile, a magical smile that said magical moments could come true.

You loved me with your humor, like how you sneaked sweet potatoes in my green Boy Scout socks that I hung by the lawanit window on Christmas Eve. You would never admit to doing it, sticking to your claim that it was the Santa Claus image plastered at the back of our door who did it.

You loved me with those Sour Balls, which you bought for me from a sari-sari store for my Kris Kringle in school. And how you would laugh hard when you found out it was the same candy that I got from my classmate in our monito-monita exchange gift.

You loved me in your dying moment, when it was only you and me in the ICU room, when you breathed your last while I clasped your hands with mine. And when the monitor flashed flat lines, I embraced you tightly, kissed your forehead profusely. “I love you! I love you, Pang,” I said, tears welling in my eyes. When the nurses came near your body, I clapped a thousand times. “Thank you! Thank you! Good fight, Pang,” I said to you. To this day, I remember the orange Mickey Mouse bedsheet where you lay. You brought me Disneyland with your love when you were alive.

You loved me by giving me your genes, like every time I look at myself in the mirror, I see you. I am your spitting image. My bushy eyebrows, the shy cleft chin that I have, my hair, my lips, my smile — all those are yours. And I embrace them with pride.

You loved me by teaching me how to love — to give it all, to embrace the pain that goes with love, to celebrate the joy of loving, of living.

You loved me, Pang.

To this day, I love you.

Happy birthday in heaven.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I am also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bum_tenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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