Thoughts and Memories:

Interest II

The thing that made me change and forget gambling completely was education.

I was the first stowaway boy of Buyo. It was the night when all Petromaxes available were lighted on the streets on the hands of the Alguazils or aguazils (called barangay tanods now). Left at homes were lighted candles and kerosene lamps.

The old folks that time who still live will remember that night when I revolted against my father: wanting more freedom to do my interest in life – gambling – despite my young age and its ill-effects on myself. I wanted freedom to indulge in it, something which Father looked upon with contempt.

The search for me were made by the Alguazils and men who loved my father.  I was found a stone’s throw from our home, laying on the dusty, wet ground together with the noisy pigs under the home of Tang Melicio Panti, the father of ex- barangay chairman Floro Panti of Buyo who died recently and was interred last Saturday,January 16,2021. It took them seven hours of searching before I was finally discovered, already asleep.  Some were believed to have reached the three remote barangays of Dugui and others combed the nearby places and mountains in search of me.

At the home of Bailon V. Zafe Sr., a compromise was made and formalized.

Offering a compromise was a sign of capitulation. Was the man, regarded by many as the datu of the nine barangays those days, made to swallow his ‘amor propio’? Respected and feared because of his economic standing and volatile mental temperament, was he ready to surrender? His purpose, cause or ideal was never explained or made known. His ideal, once he married, was that all his children must finish college. It was his dream but he never realized it because of poverty. “Was this son in front of me now an affront or a thorn to the realization of my ideal, an ideal among dreams, an obsession, after becoming a father?” he must have thought as what the public saw in him was his strict, disciplinarian ways, attributed to his temperament.

The offer was for me to stop schooling in exchange for daily cash for my gambling. Mother will give me the amount every day. Father was serious, his eyes on the center table, never looking at me. We were both seated at the receiving room. Mother was in their room; she had stopped crying and somehow got hold of herself. I looked at Father’s face, which had regained its color, no longer reddish as when I arrived. I knew his fiery temper was on hold. This bargain was deliberate, dearest mother could have had a hand on it so I could escape punishment by belting.

I am not saying Father was forced to make a compromise. I am sure they had found my weakness: the notebook I borrowed, the book or notes attached to it before I returned them to the brainy, beautiful lady from the north.

My answer was based on several reasons. My new interest: an awakening in my sleeping heart, not to be subject of derision or be the laughingstock of the barrio, but most importantly, I didn’t want to be left behind by my classmates.

The clock tolled once, the hour was at 1 of Monday morning, when I made my irrevocable pledge to stop gambling. “Father, I promise to quit from gambling, just let me continue my schooling.” With that, I stood up and dashed to my room, not waiting for an answer, and prepared to go to school.

Lord Jesus Christ must have been hovering above our heads that night, directing us on what to say, modulating our voice and controlling my father’s emotion. Tonight’s actual case study on people, penned by God, made me wonder in HIS encompassing presence in our life during difficult times.

As an afterthought, Father was happy that I never reneged on my promise. He did check on me when I was in Manila. One morning, when I arrived on our rented apartment at 1067-C Arlegui street, Quiapo, Manila, he was already inside my room, sitting on my bed and pretending to be doing something. I asked him, “Why are you here?” He said, “To buy spare parts of our diesel engine.”

I knew better than that. He was checking on me, as he could have sent any of our reliable saw mill workers instead. Could you not love or admire a man, whose only obsession or interest in life to see his ten children graduate from college, that he will climb the highest mountain and run an extra mile nearing death just to fulfill an obsession?

At Father’s old age, whenever I was home in Buyo to attend our barrio fiesta, he became a totally-changed man. One vesper night I sat with our visitors on our garden. I remember Mayor Cito Alberto, Fr. Pedro Aldea, Manoy Fred Gianan (not sure whether he was a PBM during the occasion) and many others were present, as their names escape my memory momentarily.

Interestingly, Father will greet and talk to our visitors then come to me, massage my neck and later whisper, “Ding, one shot “. Doc Zani had prohibited him from drinking wine was prohibited because of his recent stroke. I gave him not once but thrice for the three times he asked. I could have made it five shots, if he requested. How can I refuse this man? The man who partly made me who I am today. A man, a father who from the start of becoming a “padre de familia” had a dream, a cause, an ideal to make all his children finish college. His finite mind understood this as an excellent accomplishment of a Grade four elementary finisher and achiever.

Remembering his sacrifices to accompany me fishing when he could have assigned others, visit Manila to check on me by poking at my notebooks and helping me meet JVS so I would end up at NAIA working with Bureau of Immigration. How can a beating heart obey a doctor’s learning, saying it’s bad for father?

Did I, by chance, remember also the lashing of belt in my buttocks and that one-time slight slap for my failure to tell our driver of the passenger bus to pass by our home? Instead, I entered the gambling house and played billiards.

When you reach a certain level of success, those things are replaced by happy memories. The whip was a massage, the slap an endearing whisper. No more pain nor hurts but triumphs and glory after you conquered the unwanted interest (gambling) in your life.

The reason I wrote this article was for my father’s dream to influence many fathers. If three fathers take this ideal to their hearts and minds, I will have succeeded .

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