It’s my Tatay’s birthday tomorrow. I tried calling him on his cellphone this morning. The maid answered my call. She said Tatay went out of Ate’s house for his daily routine of pagkakalat ng lagim. My Tatay is turning 70 tomorrow and is suffering from prostrate enlargement, arthrithic joints and a few complications caused by his diabetes. Still, he has time and energy to spare for all sorts of kalokohan in Ate’s neighborhood, the kind of kalokohan that often lands him in baranggay hall’s complaint desk. He always wanted to call me but he again forgot how to use the features in his cellphone (years ago, he’d text me the wierdest messages I’ve ever received). I thought of calling him too but I don’t own a cellphone (the seminarians in our congregation are not allowed to own one). Or maybe, I just don’t feel like talking to my Tatay. Why? Because Tatay always cries on the phone. This is the same Tatay who once scolded me for being such a cry-baby. Ate Rinna reported that Tatay cried buckets again when he learned of my future assignment in France and that he laments the fact that I can’t visit him in Naga before I leave this July.
Inay, during her lifetime, had the habit of documenting the times Tatay cried for me: The day I was born, the day I was first rushed to the hospital, the day I was rushed to the hospital the second time, the day I graduated from highschool, the day I graduated from college, the day I swore as a licensed chemist, the day I left for Bacolod on my first provincial job assignment, etc… And yet, I only knew three instances where I actually saw him cry:
- The day Tatay and I had our first fistfight (New Year’s Eve, 1999). The Christmas of 1999 was perfect because for the very first time, everyone in my family is there in our old house in Batangas. But the New Year was plain hell. My parents and I were the only ones left to celebrate it at home. For some reasons, my parents picked New Year’s eve to be the auspicious date to have a quarrel. While this has been a regular feature in my household, the wordwar that day just got out of hand. My father, already drunk, became a bit too physical. He doused my mom with cold water while she’s cooking and the he started hitting her. Hard. Come to the rescue naman ako. Surprised, he turned his fists on me. But since he’s gin-soaked, his aim sucked and always missed me. I hit him back. Sapul sa panga. My father was stunned, not because I’ve got Mammy Pacqiao’s brunt but because his pacifist son just threw a punch on him. Andrama, kasi no one is moving for about 30 seconds. Titigan lang ang lahat. As if on que from a bad soap opera, my father’s tears slowly but visibly rolled down his cheeks before he walked away. Me, I went to the porch and lit kwitis for New Year, remorseless. Si Inay, she scolded me for hitting Tatay. I left the house the following morning to spend my own birthday with my friends. Remorseless.
- The day I entered the seminary (May, 2000). Tatay and Inay brought me to the Provincial House of our Congregation (more like the head office, in common parlance). When they were leaving, Tatay was already weeping as he took his place on the driver’s seat and said to me in quavering voice, “Magbabait ka doon!” before slamming the car door. Inay, sitting at the backseat, rolled down the car window, to report to me in a very amused tone, “Ang tatay mo, iyaken!”
- The day Inay died (December 2003). Now, this is a story I’ve already told in Bluep’s blog. What I haven’t told yet is how, one dawn during Inay’s wake, I caught my Tatay opening Inay’s casket to touch her face and hold her hand… and then cry like a baby. I just watched and cried quietly from where I was peeping. Full of remorse.
There’s a lot to love about my Tatay. There’s even a lot more to hate too. But tomorrow, on his birthday, nothing of those mattered. He is, after all, my father. Just for his birthday, I might as well call him again and might probably cry it all out. So he’d know his son hasn’t learned anything from him and is still a cry-baby. Very much like his father. Yep, tomorrow, I’d call him again. That is, as soon as he’s back from tormenting the neighbors.