Sunday, February 10, 2008


Written on an afternoon a few weekends ago in Passi, Iloilo:

I’m sitting alone at a common area on the 2nd floor of the main house. Most are likely in Bacolod by now, where Tito Totong's cremation will take place. Lola is sleeping in the living room downstairs. Dad is asleep in our room a few paces from where I am. We’re packed; waiting to leave for the airport at 4:30.

Earlier, I saw a picture of a thinner, younger Dad, w/ a woman I would call Mom, from the early ‘80s in 1 of those albums downstairs. Though I can’t picture myself wearing such a tight-fitting dress shirt w/ wide cuffs & an even wider collar, I can’t help but see a lot of me in Dad’s likeness. Something about the smile—barely one at all. Perhaps it’s the hair, the way it seems haphazardly brushed after being blown all over the place. Something similar about our posture: relaxed but exuding confidence in the way we lean to one side, the plane of the left shoulder slightly higher than the right—groovy, they called it in his day; cool would be apt now.

“Villanueva na Villanueva gid.” I’ve heard that said many times over the past 3 days, by longtime friends & neighbors, relatives distant & not so—the lines are blurred in these parts.

After mass this morning, while Tito Totong was being loaded onto the funeral car, Dad's old yaya walked up & gave him a friendly slap on the cheek, followed by a kiss. Dad pointed to me. "Anak ko, yaya." She looked at me, then at Dad. She walked over & gave a similar greeting: a friendly slap on the cheek, followed by a kiss.

To encounter death is often an invitation to look back. Dad would recall the romance behind that old pic had I shown him. And it’s beyond just two people & the love they felt. I speak now of age, youth, vigor minus mid-life’s burdens: wife, son, family—I yet to be trapped & condemned to elusive grounds, like that of an old picture, sandwiched by a piece of cardboard & sticky plastic inside a dusty binder, placed in a corner where few rarely sit.

I imagine Dad looking at that picture now, how we would say that that version of him, like his older brother, has died—but only to himself in melancholic silence. I inherit that frozen moment in sepia now, & I live what is now Dad’s yesterday—my version of it in the moments that make up my next decade or so, my finest hour as I.

Perhaps youth is never lost but merely passed on, to one’s own blood, his own likeness. Perhaps such was the power of family, neighbors, friends, & even old yayas seeing me now in this old town-now-city, in a quaint little patch of an island they call Panay: that moment now in sepia, their young Toto Rene, reborn.


Post a Comment

<< Home