The day my father brought me to the cinema

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
The day my father brought me to the cinema
Illustration by Rjay Villato

When my father was still alive, I promised him that I would one day write about the first time he brought me to the cinema. It was a beautiful experience I was not able to write about in my column before. With his sometimes wickedly humorous nature, he can read about it in heaven today.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 18, was my father’s 13th year in heaven. Days before that, I looked up in the overcast horizon and imagined the first time I saw a movie in the big screen of the balmy Ligaya Theater in Binan, Laguna when I was barely six years old. The movie was Wonder Boy top-billed by Niño Muhlach, dubbed then as the “child wonder” of Philippine cinema.

Inside the cinema I was a kid filled with wonder. The wonder boy in the film had superpowers, the same superpower my father afforded me with that experience.

Clad in my khaki shorts, blue Batman shirt and hand-me-down Bata shoes from my elder brother Gaddie, I excitedly clutched my father’s hand as we looked for our seats in the theater. My little fingers clasped the brawny fingers of my father. Calloused was his palm, for his were the hands of a farmer.

There was darkness inside pierced only by the illumination from the giant screen. I wondered how it could be already nighttime at the cinema when it was high noon when we alighted the jeepney in front of the theater. I feared darkness then because I associated it with witches, ghouls and vampires — all courtesy of our transistor radio when we would listen to Gabi ng Lagim at 6 p.m. (Fright flicks are still at the far lane of the films I will watch.)

My father would hush my fears and in no time I felt at ease. I always credit my father for the strength I have in me. He told me in the vernacular never to fear ghosts because they couldn’t harm me — “as long as you pray.” He barely mentioned God in public but he never went to bed without doing a sign of the cross and uttering “Susmaryosep po,” his shortcut prayer invoking Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was the same shortcut prayer he recited when he woke up in the morning, long before the crowing of roosters in our backyard.

My frame was quite small against the spacious blood-red cushioned seat but my eyes could still see the screen unobstructed. When a burly man would block my view, my father sat me on his lap. And when my view would further be obstructed, he would raise me on his shoulders — both of us panting, shouting as Wonder Boy squared with his enemies.

To this day, I remember the joy we had. Never mind if we went out of the theater hungry. Tatay only brought money enough for our jeepney fare and the P5 each for our movie tickets. But my heart was full.

To this day, my heart is full.

It is full because my father took a day off from the rice field that day to bring me to my first-ever movie experience.

It is full because my father saved decent money to afford his third son the luxury of enjoying the big screen. He made it a point to bring his five sons one by one to the movie house. He couldn’t afford to bring us all but he made sure each one of us would experience watching a movie on the big screen.

(He was a big fan of Fernando Poe Jr. and never missed a movie of the “The King,” even if he watched it alone — his own take on shadow boxing in his corner of the theater, included. My mother even told us that my father went home one day feeling flabbergasted if not brokenhearted when FPJ died in one of his movies. If my memory serves me right, the movie was entitled Asedillo. He told us animatedly how the moviegoers went berserk they threw slippers and popcorn cartons at the screen when FPJ was shot dead and the movie chargen displayed “The End.”)

My heart is full of gratitude for the man who taught me never to fear darkness. He would check the irrigation in the field in the middle of the night with just his trusty flashlight, whose batteries he arranged on the roof of the makeshift storage room at home during daytime.

My father introduced me to Filipino movies. While some Pinoys diss Filipino films, I am in love with them, in particular any movie of National Artist Nora Aunor. I remember my father every time I would evaluate a Filipino film as a member of the Cinema Evaluation Board. He was already weak when I could already score him a deputy card from the MTRCB or a pass for the MMFF films. But we always had a good time on his wooden hammock under the himbaba-o tree talking about the Pinoy films I watched. And even when he was infirmed, the TV in the living room would be on and on the couch I would find him watching old FPJ movies.

That may be a simple gesture of love by a father to treat his son to a movie but to a son, that moment was priceless. We lacked many things but, even for one time, my father treated me to a movie. That’s already abundance.

I credit my Wonder Boy experience in my early manifestation of a life of abundance. I dreamed of having the resources one day because my almost six-year-old self dreamed of watching more films. My father would always figure prominently on my vision board.

How excitedly he anticipated my coming home to Gulod from Makati in the mid-‘90s just so he could listen to my stories of artistas I met on the set when my best friend Christine Dayrit and I used to produce films and telesines for Christine Films, the film outfit of Christine where she was the executive producer. Showbiz ang Tatay ko.

I never had the chance to bring him to a movie but I made sure to watch Tagalog films with him on TV. He would throw punches in the air as his idol FPJ punched his enemies. He would even stand up from the sofa and ape The King as the latter riddled the bodies of his opponents with quick jabs. The excitement on his face was indelible. He would even wake up his wife in the room to watch with him. And some late nights, I would catch them both on the couch, my father joyfully watching his action film on TV, my mother’s feet resting on his thighs as she lay supine, asleep soundly on the sofa.

A kid with a superpower was the first ever film I saw. I have kept that superpower, too, inside me with absolute clarity that as long as I dream, as long as I believe, I can make things happen. The wishes of my young heart have become the solid reality of today. That superpower is my repository of joy in moments when I’m feeling under the weather. It is my palpable fortitude when things go askew my way.

That superpower was a gift from my father.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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