My father has just turned 70, and whilst I wonder what happened to all those years, I remember somehow how he was in the years he worked for a single company for nearly 50 years before his retirement 5 years ago.
Tatay was a humble electrician who took over his father’s job when the latter died when my father was barely 20.
I remember going along with Nanay to fetch Tatay from the hospital where he worked.
I remember waiting for him at the hospital lobby after calling the telephone operator to page him to come see his visitor at the “lobby please” which the bored lady on the other end of the phone was annoyed about announcing when he wouldn’t show up in the next five minutes and I’d ring her again to repeat please the announcement.
I remember that I could just as easily go straight to where his office was but out of respect for the guard who knew him pretty well and me as daughter as well, I would wait patiently at the lobby.
I remember walking the halls of the hospital and our first stop was the canteen where we’d pick a bowl of mami matched with a gelatinous drink with tapioca, but not without my father chatting up every stall attendant, making jokes, and asking for an extra soup or a discount for his daughter that now was seated at one of the tables waiting to sip noodles.
I remember the Merced bakeshop which sold the best brownies and Tatay would sometimes take home some as pasalubong for me.
I remember that canteen with so many food stalls which offered similar Filipino dishes but my father always bought from a man or a woman who always gave him extra serving of rice or added another serving of the gelatinous drink.
I remember that canteen caught fire some years back for mysterious reasons and a makeshift one was set up just outside the main hospital building before things went back to normal.
I remember my memories of the canteen changed and vanished somehow with the fire.
I remember walking the halls of the hospital not uneventfully because, with every step I made or corner we took, Tatay was always waving at someone, either a doctor or a janitor or a nurse, and he joked with them equally without judgment or regard for the type of work they did.
I remember his comrades, upon seeing me tagging along beside Tatay, asking him jokingly whose child I was, and my father would match their silliness saying, “This is my wife’s child, because I can’t bear one myself.” And both would laugh.
I remember that same joke repeated hundreds of times over the course of my childhood.
I remember passing by the hospital’s chapel and my father would bow his head in respect with a sign of the cross across his chest and I wondered as a kid why he did that.
I remember turning into wards for either the paediatrics if I had to be there for a checkup or the lung area if it was a relative who was confined or was taking a chest x-ray.
I remember visiting my father’s small locker room at the bottom of a staircase near the Radiology department which was nothing but a couple of metres long and you can easily hit him if you opened the door without knocking and he’s napping on the floor.
I remember that room smelled rancid of wood shavings or metal or sweaty shirts.
I remember Tatay always saying thank you to the doctors who gave him favours like a free consultation or he saying welcome because he gave them free movies passes which he got from an aunt who worked in Film before.
I remember the room in the hospital where I watched over my sick grandfather, my mother’s father, overnight and helping him stand or call the nurse or get to the toilet.
I remember that being one of the maturest things I ever had to do as a teenager.
I remember the room where my sick grandmother, my father’s mother, stayed and saw my father holding back tears for his frail Inay.
I remember crossing the inner streets of the hospital and taking long stares at the golf course yonder and wondering if my father would like to play golf there too in the future.
I wondered why that seemingly silly sport was a sport, and why only rich people played them.
I wonder how much brain power was needed for golf.
I remember my father telling stories about the spot where he saw actors like Richard Gomez play golf in the area and how the actor waved at him when he called out “Idol.”
I remember my father being referred to as “Idol” by random people in hallways be it a janitor or a nurse or a doctor who apparently played a basketball game with him which he sounded very good at. I don’t remember seeing him play though.
I remember faint lines of stories in my head told by my father or of my father and how these gave me a clear picture of how he lived as a human being.
Humble. Adaptable. Principled.
And whist we carried on in life without carrying your last name, we remember, I remember and will always remember my Father’s lessons by example.