By Kyla Louisse de Silva
It is part of every human’s nature to be creatively curious. Most of the time, we lost track of the number of queries we do each day. These questions we deliver could be part of a discourse between another person or one’s own introspection. And from our own contemplation of the things that run through our mind, we can still come up with another set of questions–wherein most of them are deemed to be unanswerable. Like a hanging question in an article or an open-ended story, it stimulates our minds to find an answer for the unknown despite its vagueness and flexibility. We tend to look for the missing piece unconsciously. However, all the possible answers we could give may vary upon a person’s comprehension and perspective.
How many springs have passed since I met my loved ones?
What does it take to classify a person’s soul as cold?
Is life really worth-exploring?
Why do some of us call things with names?
Well, the said are just of the random things that could cross a person’s mind.
I’d like to share a list of mine as I walk along this grass field. The sky is in a mix of orange, blue and violet. Warm breeze of one April afternoon touches the end of my short hair, moving a few strands of my hair away from my neck. My hoop earrings dangle and are a little heavy. A short-sleeved black knitted blouse is worst in summer. It is a good thing that the grasses are not itchy to the skin since I wore long corduroy custard skirt. I guess…I don’t really cared about the weather. Unfortunately, they contribute in tiring me a little faster.
What is the purpose of my life?
Why do people come and go?
Can we persuade these people to stay?
Do I feel the right thing?
These are some of the questions in my mind that I’d like to finally answer.
It could be my end point.
My heel bumped and slipped over a rock, tipping my balance off a bit.
And then I saw him…smiling at me.
Just like the way he would always do–so I smiled and hurriedly ran to him.
“Anak,” he warmly said.
“Hmmm…Pa.” I quietly replied as the whoosh of the afternoon breeze almost dominated my voice. I stopped half-way, a few feet away from him. He still wore the same tricolored polo shirt I picked for him–three Christmases ago? I’m not really sure.
“Ang tagal nating hindi nagkita, ah.”
Right that moment…I couldn’t look at him in the eye.
So I remained silent and decided to just listen.
He continued to speak while he comfortably sat on the grass–at our usual hangout place when I was little.
“Bihira mo na lang din ako tawagan simula no’ng maghiwalay kami ng Mama mo.”
A brief pause for him as he gently speaks but a sharp second for me to take all the air I can breathe in.
“Galit ka ba sa akin, anak?”
I shook my head quietly, looked down and pursed my lips tighter as a battle between me and my tears started.
I must not cry…it would make him really sad.
“Eh, bakit kaya gano’n?”
I opened my mouth and was about to explain but he continued.
“Ah, kasi baka…busy ka sa pag-aaral mo. ‘Nak, 3rd year ka na! Konti na lang gagraduate ka na. Palagi mo na siguro ako bibisitahin no’n! Kasi magkakatrabaho ka na…hawak mo nang husto yung oras mo no’n, anak!”
There’s the excitement in his voice and just beneath one layer–longing.
“Tapos anak ang active-active mo rin pala sa school! Nakikita ko yung mga post mo sa Facebook, eh. Naging presidente ka ng student council, sekretarya, bise at kung anu-ano pa sa maraming organisayon…ang galing-galing mo, ‘nak! Walang sinabi sa’yo si Papa.”
I could hear that he took a deep breath…like he’s mustering something to be taken out from his system. All the excitement washed away in an instant–to be replaced by something I am so familiar with.
“Pero, Anak…puntahan mo naman ako. Miss na miss na kita eh. Ako ba…”
Another moment of brief silence–the same moment I was blinded by the late afternoon’s reflected rays on the lake beside this hill, where the last duhat tree stood still.
I finally sat on the grass in defeat, leaving a soft thud and clack to the ground, as tears started to overrule my face drop by drop.
“Hala…anak. ‘Wag kang umiyak.”
My right hand raced immediately on my mouth as I tried to weep silently, setting a bag free to the ground.
“Hindi man kita nakikita, malaya ka man sa akin ng kaunti…naririnig kita.”
“Ssh! Ssh! Pakinggan mo muna ako.”
I nodded and obeyed, shaking a bit for trying to control my emotions.
“Anak, naalala mo yung baraha na nilalaro natin noon kasama ang Ate mo? Nasa bag ‘yon.”
I looked at the old ragged leather bag I brought here.
Before I went here, I took a decades-old brown rectangular leather satchel from our old house.
He left a note and asked me to bring it with me–the day I’d finally like to visit him.
And as he said, I opened it and found random things inside.
I saw the embossed black spade on a yellowish-brown carton–which used to be white. The box has already turned soft and delicate over the passage of time.
“Pag nakita mo na yung kahon…” I gently opened it.
“Kunin mo yung pinakaunang baraha…” I followed and draw the first card inside the box that contained a deck of old cards.
“Naalala mo pa ba, ‘nak?”
I flipped the card–a five black clover card.
“Nagagalit ka kasi napansin mo na dinudugas kita. Lagi mo kasing tinatabi ‘yang baraha na ‘yan. Lahat na ng baraha nabunot na natin sa pares-pares tapos parehong ‘5’ ang huli nating baraha.”
He chuckles as he reminisced and I laughed shortly, a montage of memories rushed and drowned my burning heart.
“Eh, yung susunod, ‘nak. Tignan mo uli.”
Red queen of hearts.
“We’re the king and queen of hearts, hold me when the music starts…”
My father’s voice resonated over the walls of my ears and down to my heart–making some space for me to hear the soft cracking of it.
I inherited my singing voice from him.
He used to sing this song every day…and I missed it so much.
“Namiss ba ako ng Mama mo?”
“Pa, lagi namin pinapatugtog ‘yan sa bahay.”
He laughed, for so long…all the sounds I’ve heard seemed so familiar yet so timeworn.
“Ikaw kasi…di mo ko sinamahan magchoir noon eh.”
“Pa…Kinokonsensya mo pa ako eh.”
“Oh, move on na…sunod naman yung green d’yan sa bag.”
“Ha, Pa, green?”
I examined the contents of the bag…there’s nothing ‘green’ inside it.
“Sa may bulsa, sa bandang likod. Ikaw nakakakita diyan, eh.”
I ran my finger through the satchel’s back part and felt a zipper–a secret pocket so I opened it and slid my hand inside with excitement.
A rough and long fiber met my finger–I pulled it out and saw a green glittery shoelace.
On instinct, my tears escaped my eyes unwillingly.
“Sino na nagsisintas para sa’yo nung wala ako, ‘nak? Masarap magluto ang Mama mo…pero hindi rin ‘yon marunong magsintas.”
I raised the shoelace to my eye level and wondered how my father kept it all this time as he talked. My mother’s wedding ring glints under the orange sunlight as I held the lace before my face.
“Naalala mo pa no’ng elementary ka, nag-1-2-3 tayo sa jeep kasi kulang yung kinikita ko noon. Naalala mo pa ba yung sinabi ko pagkatapos natin tumakbo pauwi?”
“‘Wag na ‘wag uulitin kasi masama.”
We said in unison.
“Nadapa ka noon at pinasan na kita pauwi kasi hindi ka pa marunong magsintas.”
He sounded as if it was my fault although he’s just saying a fact.
The event left a huge bruise for weeks as far as I can remember.
I shook my head and laughed at the memory.
“Nandiyan din yung pang-ipit mo ng buhok.”
Again, I looked and saw it inside the secret pocket.
“Namiss kong ipitan yung buhok mo, ‘nak. Naalala mo yung hirap na hirap ako nung nag-abroad, Mama mo. Halos isang oras kitang inaayusan kasi ang kapal ng buhok mo.”
I gasped–my hand went to my chest since it got tighter–I am already catching my breath. I dropped down to my knees, which nearly scattered the satchel’s contents on the floor.
“Araw-araw, hanggang sa maghigh school ka, sa akin ka nagpapaipit ng buhok kapag wala ang Ate mo. Tapos nagkaroon ka ng kaklaseng mahilig manghila ng panali sa buhok. Napilitan ka tuloy matuto.”
He seemed to be so sad as if he wishes I never met that friend of mine since she urged me to learn on my own.
“May isa pang kahon d’yan sa bag.”
“Pa…ano ba ‘to? Bring me?”
“Dali…dali! Tignan mo.”
I crawl towards the old satchel and noticed a brown box peeping from its mouth. To my surprise…it was the box of messages I gave him one Father’s day. It contained small kraft papers with quotes about good fathers and phrases that shout gratitude to them.
I put it down instantly as my grip became tighter and my body shakes in anger.
“’Nak, ‘yan yung una mong regalo sa akin pagkatapos namin maghiwalay ng Mama mo. Araw-araw ko ‘yan, pa-isa-isang binabasa…kahit na magpaulit-ulit.”
I clutched a handful of grass as I gritted my teeth…an iron-like taste melts in my mouth. My knees are getting itchy from kneeling for minutes.
“’Yan yung una at huling regalo mo, Anak.”
“Anak, gusto magsorry ni Papa kasi hindi ko naibigay lahat sa inyo. Sorry kasi naghirap si Papa. Sorry kasi napagod si Papa para sa inyo. Sorry kasi sumuko si Papa na maging matatag. Sorry…kasi kung ginalingan ko pa, eh di, hindi sana tayo nagkahiwalay. Sana hindi nagalit sa akin yung Ate mo kasi walang siyang choice kun’di buhayin ang sarili niya–pati kayo. Sorry, anak.”
My eyes are already blurry and I’m a bit dizzy right now.
“Kasalanan ko. Kasalanan ko, Anak. Sorry kasi sa’yo ko na lang masasabi ‘to. Ayaw na akong kausapin ng Ate mo, eh.”
My heart hurts so much I could barely breathe.
My father broke off and cried as well–the static buzzed over my left hand.
“Gusto kong bawiin kayo, anak. Kaso…naging failure na si Papa eh.”
I shouted in pain. Just a short howl–for a quick release of emotions. I couldn’t bear his pain any longer.
I knelt on the ground slowly with all the energy left in me. And finally, I had the courage to look at my father in his eyes inside a glass and wooden frame.
His smile never wavered.
“’Pag narinig mo ‘to at nakuha mo yung bag…siguradong wala na ako.”
The pain was so sharp…so raw that I just laid again in defeat on the grass.
I covered my eyes with my left arm, the recorder became much closer to my right ear. It seemed as if my father was right beside me.
“Anak…hindi na kita makikitang grumaduate.”
He sobbed, I died…again.
“Sorry, anak, kung hindi ko ipinasabi sa’yo. Pero nakita ko kasi kung ga’no ka kasaya. Tapos malapit ka pang grumaduate…madidistract lang kita, anak. Hindi ko kayang makita ka na malungkot, anak. Kaya nga hiniling ko sa’yo na sumama ka sa Mama mo, eh. Alam kong hindi ko maibibigay yung mga kailangan mo. Hindi ka magiging masaya na kasama ako. Kasi…walang-wala ako, Anak.”
For a thousandth time hearing this record, I am still speechless.
The pain is still the same.
“’Nak, nabawi ko pala yung wedding ring ko sa pagkakasangla para pang-tuition ng Ate mo noon. Nandiyan ‘yon sa bag.”
I run my thumb against the shiny metal on my right ring finger, tracing my mother’s wedding ring. I didn’t bother to check if my father’s ring is truly inside the bag, ever since I listened to this–until now.
“Kapag nag-asawa ka, Anak, ‘wag kang hahanap ng katulad ko. Kasi mangyayari lang din sa inyo ang nangyari sa amin ng Mama mo. Ang hanapin mo, anak, yung mahaba ang pasensiya at malawak ang pag-unawa. Bagay na bagay ‘yon sa’yo kasi mainitin ulo mo.”
“Ibigay mo ‘to sa kanya. May sumpa ‘to.”
I squinted at the recorder near my face. This part never pleased me.
“Biro lang, ‘nak.”
He laughed as he sniffed, bed sheets ruffled and bed springs creaked as he spoke.
“Pero, seryoso, ibigay mo ‘to sa kanya. Tapos i-kwento mo ako…para maging mas mabuti siyang ama sa mga magiging anak niyo. Wala na kong mahihiling pa kung hindi isang lalaki na magmamahal sa anak ko ng higit sa kaya kong gawin. Yung hindi siya iiwan, palagi siyang mamahalin at ipaiitindi sa kanya kung ga’no kaimportante ang masaktan sa mundong ito.”
My eyes already sting even though I kept them close to refrain from looking at the sky. The leaves of the duhat sway slowly with the soft warm breeze.
“At sa singsing na ‘yon, maalala niya sana yung mga aral na natutunan ko. At magsilbing paalala sa’yo, maging sa kanya, kung ga’no kasarap magmahal ng totoo. Kahit pa magkalayo kayo. Hindi ko na kasi maipapasa ‘tong trono ko sa kanya, eh. Dapat usapang lalaki namin ‘to, ‘nak. Eh, kailangan ko ng mauna, ‘nak eh. Hindi ko na siya mahihintay. Makuha mo sana lahat ng gusto mo, anak. At hanggang sa kabilang buhay…patuloy pa rin kitang susuportahan.”
This time I stood up quickly, shouted so loud I thought I was about to go deaf and threw the recorder in a distance.
I don’t want to hear it anymore.
It has been three years since my father passed.
And nothing has changed. The pain I felt the very same day I got a call about this and the instant I received his note–a plea for me to come home–were all the same.
He had emphysema and pneumonia during the time of the pandemic.
He survived the pandemic, so did our family.
When my family split up, I made a vow to myself–that I’d study the hardest to help my family and ultimately–my father. My father raised me since I was young and my mother worked overseas. So I spent half of my life growing up with him and my sister until the day he begged me to leave him in exchange for a better life and future with my mother.
I swore to be sensitive and understanding to all the people I’ve met because I learned it from my father. Although he and my sister are not on good terms when we got separated from him, I believe we were raised properly and carefully by our parents.
It takes a good parent in order to be one.
Ever since we were young, there’s always someone we look up to.
And for me–it was no other than my father.
The record is still on. I almost forgot.
The last words resonated on the quiet field.
I wanted to forget–everything.
The life I choose–I valued my dreams more than everything else…I forgot that life is too short to grasp them all with my hands. And the handful I achieved…will never be enough for all the relationships I have traded it with.
I truly have forgotten–a lot of things.
And one of them…it that time never waits.
You can’t chase it either.
All you need to do…is do what is right, follow your heart and be guided by your mind.
I finally stood up.
“Papa, mahal na mahal din kita. Sa paulit-ulit kong ritwal ng pakikinig sa record mo…ito pa lang ang unang beses na sasagutin po kita sa mga salitang iniwan mo.”
I looked at the same eyes I have and a smile I will never see again–face to face.
“Hindi ka dapat mag-sorry, Pa. Masakit man…na kahit kalian hindi tayo nakumpleto tuwing graduation ko, ang importante sa akin–ay naalala mo ako at nagmamahalan po tayo. Hindi mo po kasalanan…o maging sino po sa pamilya natin na maghangad ng mas magandang buhay. Lahat kayo…ginusto niyong ibigay lahat sa akin. Samantalang ang hinihiling ko lang naman po sa kada gabi ay mabuo tayo…kahit minsan.”
I looked at the blue and orange colors at the sky, as if my father might be looking down from there.
“Pa, you may be the engineer that ended up to be a salesman. To a lot of people, even to your family–you might be a failure.”
I let out a sigh and breathe again–a pause for gathering more strength for the next things I’m about to say.
The words I held so tight inside me for a long time–are finally setting free.
“To me, success never contributed in calling someone a great or good man. You might have failed, yes. But not in my eyes…because I’ve always believed in you the way you believed in me. It doesn’t make you less of a man nor even away from being a great father. You may have stumbled and fallen over and over…but that’s what I would always be proud of. You tried even in the smallest ways. You have sacrificed all that you’ve got for our family.”
I took a step closer to his grave.
“We lost the ancestral house. The land it stood. And everything else–one after the other. Siguro nawala rin si Mama pati si Ate sa’yo.”
I couldn’t really help but cry…at least, I’m letting myself to be forgiven.
“Pero…kahit kailan, hindi po ako nawala sa’yo. Hindi po ako sumuko sa’yo.”
I sobbed–both in relief and pain. Isn’t it so weird? To feel both opposite feelings at the same time?
“Sorry, Pa, kasi pinaghintay kita. Masyado akong nalunod na iparanas at higitan pa kung ano po yung naibigay mo sa akin noon. Gustong-gusto ko na ibalik lahat ng mayroon tayo noon. Hindi ko naisip na baka sa panahon na makuha ko lahat ng ‘yon… pupwedeng ikaw naman ang wala na sa akin.”
I looked down to the earth…unsure for the next set of words.
“Pa, how could you ask me to find a man that would take your place? Hindi mo po ba alam…na napakahirap mo pong higitan dito sa puso ko. Kasi…naibigay niyo po lahat ng kaya niyo sa akin, eh. Pero ako po k-kasi, hindi ko po naibalik sa’yo sa paraang alam ko at gusto ko pong gawin.”
I wiped my eyes and nose with my handkerchief.
“Pa, mahal na mahal din po kita. Sorry kung hindi mo na po narinig sa personal.”
I took his picture sitting above his grave.
“Pa, hinding-hindi ko kayang maging masaya ng wala ka. Pero patatawarin ko na po yung sarili ko sa mga pagkukulang ko sa’yo. Maraming tao na po ang itinulak ko palayo sa buhay ko. Panahon na po siguro para maayos na po ang lahat.”
I let out a sigh and hugged the frame.
“Miss na miss na kita, Pa. Susubukan ko pa pong maging masaya.”
I kissed his cheek and put the picture back.
The bright flowers suited the hills setting. Hot and a little damp, the air from the lake seemed to fit this place.
“Babalik po ako, Pa, ha. Sana I could be back with the man you wished for me.”
I laughed and heard a brief clack that usually came from rocks that bump together.
“Pa, bakit ka po nagpaparamdam? Akala ko po ba gusto mo ko sumaya sa tamang lalaki?”
Chuckling, I turned my back and waved before I walked down the hill.
A list of questions ran through my mind as I walked away from the duhat tree.
What is the purpose of my life?
Why do people come and go?
Can we persuade these people to stay?
Do I feel the right thing?
I guess…it’s not yet time for me to answer.
All I need to do right now…is to forgive myself further as I have accepted all the facts that have been laid before me.
You…have you thanked your father as much as you do with your mother?
Have you cherished your moments with him?
Well, I guess, these are part of the questions that I’ll entrust with time and my healing.
Whatever your answers are…happy father’s day to your father, brother, cousins and all the other males you’re related with.
May they all be great fathers of this nation.
Lastly, I glimpsed back at the lake…and saw the sun set before it.
A sign for a new tomorrow would nearly begin.