Home (but never) Alone

POINTILLISMS - Mike Acebedo Lopez (The Freeman) - January 3, 2015 - 12:00am

I write this one with faith, family, friends, and festivities in mind, the most important to me, all of which I equate to 'home'-both its essence and corporeal state.  Those who know me well enough know that I will refuse any travel opportunity, no matter how enticing the package (all-expenses covered), no matter how exciting the destination, if it means being away from Cebu and our home throughout the Christmas season. And I have refused a number of them - no regrets.

Simbang Gabi is one compelling reason, a yearly commitment unbroken since 1999. Another equally important reason is my own "Home Alone" experience. When I was around eight, my maternal grandfather HP Acebedo and some of my mom's optometrist colleagues who were working for the family enterprise would call me "Kevin," referring to Macaulay Culkin's character Kevin McCallister in the movie that has since become a beloved holiday classic. The success of Home Alone in 1990 spawned a sequel, "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," just two years later.

I love both films equally, and frankly, I enjoyed being called Kevin. They did so because I was as kulit and pilosopo as a child as the character is. And well, we did kind of look alike at the time. I swear!

But another parallelism stuck. And it had more weight, making me relate to Home Alone even more. When I was four years old (Kevin was eight in the first film), my mom was in the United States exploring the possibility of moving there. My dad's father, Captain Generoso Lopez was a World War 2 veteran, and so he had the choice to petition my dad to the US. My mother was sort of the advance party, surveying the environment, taking the state exams so she can practice optometry or its ancillary services if and when we made that move.

I remember the trauma of bidding her farewell at the Manila International Airport (yes, it was still MIA then, not NAIA). I was inconsolable. A few months later, the Christmas of '87, was even more difficult. We're very big on Christmas and its traditions, and for a child who had vivid memories from as far back as when I was one year old (I still do), it was especially blue. At four, I knew what a "blue Christmas" meant.

Because I was still an only child, my dad and I spent Christmas Eve with his sisters and their respective families, the Lopez-Terols and Lopez-Veneracions. My first cousin Ian Veneracion was a popular child actor then and so, seeing him on television often, I somehow looked up to him and his brother Kuya Mikmik. I distinctly remember that Kuya Mik received a retractable toy knife like Rambo's, one with a blade that withdraws hidden inside the handle when used to "stab" someone. It was obviously a cheap toy but I wanted one for myself, badly. 

A few days later, on New Year's Eve, we went shopping for fireworks at Kalentong Market along the Pasig River; on the other side of the bridge was Sta. Mesa, Manila where I would find myself studying at a co-ed Don Bosco school a couple of years later.

Papa was still recovering from another round of reconstructive surgery (he had an accident when Mama was pregnant with me) and this left him quite sensitive and scatterbrained. Whilst walking around the market scouting for quality fireworks, I spotted the exact same toy knife from noche buena with the Veneracions. It was in a bila-o along with other plastic toys. I stopped and played with the knife, stabbing the tindera. Seeing the blade disappear before me, I was amazed at the simplicity of the trick while enjoying every bit of the illusion. When I looked around, Papa was gone. I searched for him to no avail.

When it became pointless, I made the decision to head home. And mind you, home wasn't near at all (Ayala to BTC, thereabouts); one had to ride a car or public transport. Remember, I was all of four years old. Still, I started walking and I kept on walking. Until I saw a motorcycle that looked like a cop's parked outside a house along the main road. I asked the man standing beside it if he owned it and if he was one. "Oo, police ako, bakit bata, nawawala ka ba?" "Papa ko ang nawawala," I answered. I asked for his badge and when he pulled it out, I quickly held them in my hands to see if they felt legit (we were just in Cebu the summer before and I remember feeling how a real one felt during a visit at the Suarez Bros. office along Jones; thanks to the Suarezes, a longtime friend of our family's, known for metal arts).

The badge seemed legit so I gave him my home address and asked him if he could be so kind as to drive me home to get help to search for Papa lost in the market. When I got home he asked our Manang Pelang for a photo that proves I live there. After Manang showed some photos, he released me to her.

We found Papa and New Year's was saved. A few weeks later, Mama went home and the plan to move to the US was abandoned. Three years later, in 1991, we moved to Cebu. The best decision my parents made, ever.    

I don't want that to happen again, that someone in the family is away during Christmas. That's why I strongly relate to Home Alone, both parts, and the lessons we learn from the movies: 1) You're never too young to fend for yourself; and more importantly, whatever we feel sometimes, and despite disagreements… 2) Family is forever.

In Cebu, with my family, is where the heart is and it'd be where it'll always be. At home we are never alone. 



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