This is the story of a father as seen through the eyes of a child who loves him. It began with the events that surround his boyhood and the influences that affected him, most especially, by a prominent figure in his childhood, his grandfather. He financed his studies by doing menial jobs but was terminated as janitor when he passed the bar. They decided to migrate to Pagadian, capital town of Zamboanga del Sur. There he easily got a job in the Provincial Capitol .The children were growing up in an idyllic setting. Then, his wife chose to continue her studies in Cebu. Being away from his children, he created a photo album featuring all seven children on their birthdays.
Those who have seen the photo album of our childhood always mentioned they have not seen anything like it anywhere else. Later, he purchased a musical album from Hongkong, as a final home for the photos. It was his labor of love.
Once again mother did not go on with her studies after the first semester. So I was left alone with my elder sister in Cebu together with papa’s parents who were residing there. When the regional exams were given, I got a perfect examination score in one of the subjects. It was the first time something like that happened to the school.
The school administration got quite agitated for there I was in section 13, an unremarkable forgettable piece of humanity. Getting a perfect score may perhaps even be an embarrassment. For how was it possible for a nine-year old nobody to do better than the best pupils from sections 1- 12? That incident impressed itself in my mind because of the furor it caused. They did not know what to do with me. All teachers were called for an urgent conference that day to decide. They chose that some form of recognition be given to me at the culminating activities. My class adviser, Mrs. Tancinco, fought for me and insisted that I be given a perfect grade of 100% in my form 137A or the school card. Somewhere in the bowels of the Department of Education in Cebu, that piece of paper probably still resided.
There was an unwelcome aftermath of that notoriety. Two teachers who happened to be relatives of ours would now pass every morning in our classroom and, I have to kiss their hands every time. A show of respect expected of us from our elders. But it made me very uncomfortable as I was very much aware that they never noticed me before that incident. At the age of nine I already recognized hypocrisy when it stared me in the face. [which simply means that children even at a young age are very aware of the shenanigans that adults do and therefore copy when they become adults themselves. They learn more in what they observe than what had been told them, for body language gives lasting impressions more than words will ever do].
I wrote a letter to papa complaining about it. His immediate reply was for me to come home and not to wait for the school’s commencement exercises. He did not appreciate the commotion that was generated from my sudden thrust into fame. That experience more than any other confirmed in my mind that reaping honors or some such equivalent is not all there is in life.
Once again, we were together as family but because of the year spent alone, papa had developed the habit of Friday night’s out with the boys. Mother did not object but at exactly 10 o’clock in the evening, she would send us hand in hand, myself, Diony who was eight, Eppie who was seven, and Rey who was four, to go and collect him.
The bowling alley was about three blocks away. Father never got angry over this although his colleagues often would tease him. “O, Dong, your body guards are here”. He will order something for us to eat or drink while he finishes off the game we interrupted, and then bid his friends goodbye.
[to be continued]