Excerpt from unpublished biography of dear father Bailon V. Zafe Sr.
I have yet to learn how their relationship started and how it blossomed before my father and my mother got married at an early age. Thus, I will zero in only on vital events of my father’s life as a person, a father, a businessman, a public servant, a musician and as a man of interesting personality.
During the early days of their married life, a friend of Papa by the name of Tano Villafuerte, blind on both eyes, lived with them. Papa had a zany side whenever Mang Tano was around. Cooking time is always fun. After Mang Tano put the kettle or cooking pot to the burning firewood, he will sit nearby and wait for the boiling sound as a warning that the food is almost cooked. Waiting for some time already, Mang Tano decided to check why it was taking so long for the alarm to sound that food was ready for serving, only to discover that all the firewood were missing while Papa could be heard at a distance laughing his heart out.
Mang Tano, when still with my parents, requested Father to read verses from the Bible, sometimes the entire chapter. The following day, Father heard Mang Tano already reciting the verses he read the previous days as the blind man possessed a strong retentive memory.
The reason why one day Papa and Mama decided to let go of Mang Tano is not clear on my mind. The honorable and safest reason I could give is divine intervention. Not even the coming of their first baby named Salome or Father’s irregular income could force him to part with his dear good friend Mang Tano, who brought sunshine and joy to their lives. Papa had a genes common to his siblings of welcoming friends to their homes and inviting them to stay for months or years. Maybe, it was the other way round. Mang Tano felt his friend should have a feel of real fatherhood minus his presence. He insinuated that he desired to visit his family in Paco, Manila. God designed what happened to fulfill their respective destinies.
Fast forward, it was my last year in college in 1972 when Father, upon arrival in our rented apartment at 1067-C Arlegui St., Quiapo, Manila, invited me to look for Mang Tano in Paco. He just arrived from our province of Catanduanes.
We were both determined to find Mang Tano, but after two hours of searching, we began feeling tired and discouraged. We were beginning to think of abandoning our search, for my father could no longer figure it out where he left MT almost twenty years after World War II.
All of a sudden, I saw a tailoring shop at a distance and looking at father, who is also a good tailor, realized that God sent help before we got totally discouraged. The tailoring shop owner said, “Walk the alley way near a sari-sari store (small grocery) two houses from here, and after passing a wooden bridge, you will see a big three-storey house in front of a basketfall court and there you will find Mang Tano, a respected pastor.”
We finally found him inside the big, beautiful home near a basketball court. They embraced like long-lost brothers, leaving me with misty eyes and expressing thanks to God for reunited them after many years. Mang Tano had married and had become a respected, successful preacher.
I was happy for both of them and my eyes became tearful but I didn’t cry because people were looking at us.
These two people are connected to me; one by fatherhood and another through knowledge of their wonderful friendship. Both came from poor families with little education but reached a certain level of success. Both were born in the two remotest barangays of Virac, Catanduanes: Dugui Wala San Vicente and San Isidro.
I pray that their kind of friendship will not end now that Father is dead. Who knows, one day I meet a Villafuerte in Paco and upon inquiring about his forefathers, will answer, “Tano Villafuerte from Bicol”?
There will be a continuation of an amazing friendship, inspired by music, the Bible and Lord Jesus Christ, Himself as the author, as nobody else can.