As the youngest of 5 children, I was doted upon by both parents. It was both a boon and a bane, depending on the circumstances, but for the most part I loved being pampered.
I had a close relationship with my father, who would have turned 85 today. I had an attachment to him like an invisible umbilical cord. This isn't hard to understand.
My mother said I was such a cry baby. "Masyado kang iyakin" (You cried a lot). Even though I was already asleep, I would wake up and cry as soon as my back hit the bed. Thus my father spent many nights on the rocking chair with me in his arms. I would continue to enjoy being carried by those arms.
My father and me in front of our house
My babyhood was unusually extended. I was unintentionally weaned from the bottle at age 4. (My siblings forgot to bring it to Mt. Makiling where we we stayed overnight at my grandfather's nipa hut). I slept in my crib in the same room as my parents until I could no longer stretch my body inside it, maybe till the age of 4 or 5. In the morning when I woke up, I called out "Tataaaaay!" (Father!) so that he--or my mother if he wasn't around--could carry me to the dining room. This stopped when I was 10. What a baby!
I liked my father's arms. He let me hang on them like they were exercise bars. We would also walk around the living room, my feet on top of his, while I held onto his arms or hands.
Mr. Fix It
In case you didn't know, my father repaired broken radio and TV sets. It was his sideline, when his clients--mostly friends, relatives and neighbours--actually paid for his services with not just snacks and a thank you. He often did repair work at home on weekends. I liked to hover around him and handle electronic parts and tools, which often ticked my father off.
My father at work at the U.P. College of Engineering
Me, at my father's desk at work, two blocks from home.
When I was old enough to go by myself, I dropped by every now
and then to be treated to a burger and Choco-vim at their canteen.
I think I got a streak of the fixer-upper from my father. I have the urge to troubleshoot or repair when something is broken. I'm not the greatest DIYer. I sometimes make do with duct tapes and twist ties, but I just feel the need to do something. Anything.
When my father needed to buy electronic parts, he, often with my mother, went to Raon St. in Manila on a weekend. They let me tag along on the condition that I would not ask to buy anything from one of the shops in the Quiapo underpass. Although the bus ride made me carsick and throw up, I took that opportunity to see the outside world, the world off campus.
My parents did not have much education through no choice of their own. Hence, they instilled that value in their children with such conviction.
I showed an eagerness to learn my ABCs and 123s early, which my parents nurtured and fanned with hardly any resources. I can't remember having a preschool book of my own except for two old American storybooks I found in an old chest. My parents sat me down to teach me the basics and entertained my many questions at other times. I was an inquisitive child.
Even our bus rides and out of town trips were teaching moments. My father challenged me to read shop names and store signs along the sidewalks. I learned a big word in this way--Upholstery. He humoured me too. He said Dressed Chicken meant they had clothing. Once on our way from Baguio City, he made count the electric posts in Tarlac. I fell asleep counting posts.
My father was always very encouraging and bragged about my proficiencies to just about everyone. I was ready for kindergarten. He took me for the entrance exam, which I thought was a breeze.
A major disappointment
The results came in: I didn't make it. I failed the kindergarten entrance exam!?
I sensed something was wrong and my parents were upset. Long story short, my father did not rest until he could see my test paper which was refused him by school officials. He went to the top, someone he knew at the Board of Regents, a well-respected man whose TV he repaired. My file was opened.
My father was told that the problem was not with my test result. I was underaged by one month. So why let me take the test in the first place? My father believed I was bumped off to give priority to children of academic personnel. He was a non-academic staff. Nonetheless, I got accepted to the only school my parents considered for their children. There was no other choice for us, and especially for me, the last child.
It was probably against this backdrop that my father invested so much time in my studies. He helped me with my homework every night. He was very pleased and felt vindicated at the end of each grading period. I performed very well.
"Laging first honor!" (always first honor) he often said. That was not always the case but maybe he meant to be more "prophetic" than factual. He wanted to speak things into being, declaring a good thing over my life.
(to be continued)