(Excerpt from unpublished biography of dear father Bailon V. Zafe)
They boarded the vessel in high spirits. The day was beautiful when the ship departed Virac for Manila. My father, Bailon V. Zafe Sr., will be escorting Mang Tano Villafuerte because he is blind. Father was several months married and had no permanent job. Mang Tano, as a good friend and companion, had been staying with them in their home.
Mang Tano is feeling ambivalent, missing his dear good friend Bailon and with nagging questions about his future in Manila and the kind of relatives waiting for him. The early morning sunrise, the deep blue skies with few clouds covering the rays of sun foretell a wonderful voyage.
Sometimes what we expect don’t happen.
Barely two days after departing Virac seaport, when the ship was nearing the province of Leyte, waves started to get angry and the ship began to ride the waves alarmingly. The captain was alerted thru radio of bad weather and advised to seek shelter in a safe place. The captain searched and found a cove with a pier, docked his vessel and decided to stay until the weather became normal. The weather stayed bad for three days before the clear skies and serene seas returned.
What happened to my father and Mang Tano during that three days revealed the kind of men they were. They had money only for three days travel and to extend it for three days more was a problem.
The first night, they roamed the town for familiarization. They were looking for opportunities that could augment their dwindling cash. When night fels, they went to a simple night club and listened to music being played by combo players. After several songs accompanied by wind instruments, both came to conclusion that they were at par with or maybe even better than the combo players.
Before the club closed, my father saw an opportunity. He approached the manager/owner and told him about their situation, that they are willing to perform for free in exchange for three meals a day. The owner, sensing an opportunity to present new musicians, seized the proposal.
The first night, the two strangers were given a good welcome by regular customers for the duo were both good singers and musicians. Papa sang and played the trumpet, banjo and guitar. Mang Tano was the better singer and guitar player. He awed the audience, first because he was blind and a very good entertainer. The following night, more customers arrived and already there was a shortage of chairs and space to accommodate them. The owner were very happy and started becoming friendly to them. The last night was a smash hit and resounding success after the other combo players joined them. They had gotten familiar with each other’s songs and also developed a camaraderie common to musicians especially Visayans who are akin to the Bicolanos’ character as fun-loving people and both enjoyed drinking wine. Instead of closing at twelve midnight, the customers asked for extension so it was extended till the wee hours of the morning.
For all of these nights of delights, the duo were given a visitor’s treatment, accommodation for food and lodging, and also received extra money. The captain of the ship enjoyed the entertainment for three straight nights.
Hours before they were to resume their voyage to Manila, the owner of the club talked to them. Asking them to stay for more days with an offer of a regular income. My father was thinking about Mother and maybe other things that he refused in a gentleman’s manner.
They arrived Manila during the years after the winds of war died down. In Manila, the roads were unencumbered by traffic, pollution was nil, there were no beggars, the streets were clean and few people were out walking on it.
Finding Mang Tano’s relatives in Paco was easy. In no time, they found the fun-loving clan of Mang Tano.
Mang Tano was asked many questions regarding their relatives in the province and matters relevant to families comprising their clan. Papa simply let Mang Tano take the center stage and stood at the side as a plain listener.
Little did they know that Mang Tano’s arrival in their lives would bring a big leap for the better: a complete change in their lifestyle, order and love of God.