Memories from my Kumpadre

Light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were”.
A. Bergman/M. Bergman/M. Hamlisch

Life is meant to be lived. We need to give color and meaning to it. Finding what you can do to enable others find happiness and purpose is the real gift you can leave to this world.

“And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain”.

To a retiree talking to another retiree, we must have the temerity to talk about our end time, but my kumpadre is a pious Roman Catholic and he welcomes death without qualms like my grandmother from my mother’s side who talked about Thanatopsis as if it’s an ordinary word.

“I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway.”

Our conversation took place ten days ago. My friend told me of his experience of undescribable hardship during his early life up to adulthood. Being a son born outside of wedlock is a stigma to many but not to my kumpadre, for he has a strong personality. He experienced a life living with one stepfather and two stepmothers. In elementary grades, he experienced eating camote for breakfast and escaping snack during recess to wait for lunchtime, when to open his lunch box to eat in school instead of going home because the same food is waiting for him there – camote. Eating camote in school or at home is the same; you will burp the same, the same sound and taste, so why go home? He wore a shirt made from sacks of flour, but his classmate never bullied or teased him, even his teachers had welcome and acceptance on their eyes. Our times were much different from the present time. Children of our times were well-behaved in school for they were afraid of teachers, and at home of parents. Still, I find a semblance of behavior and character of many children of today to their counterparts in the past.
The prime factor is of course, parents’ management of children. He washed the disposable diapers of his stepbrothers and stepsisters in a stream near the barangay Catholic chapel. He practically did all kinds of labor to help support his parents to sustain a growing family. Yes, he is a son of a rich businessman in town with a family but when the mischievous activity became public knowledge, his mother who worked with the family of businessman and him went home to their barrio. What made him stand out and survive the fate dished to him was the beginning of learning God statutes/teachings through listening from an uncle who taught the Bible to people. Did God make you pass all these hardships because one day He will make you a very rich person? “Maybe and I am very thankful for all these blessings, padi, but we must remain humble”. “At our age we need to store riches in heaven, for our riches on earth cannot buy a place in heaven if we don’t use it the way God taught us”.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. .”

He told me about his multimillionaires friends, one from Quezon City and the other from Albay. The one from QC is close to his heart that he finds it hard to look at this intimate person, so emaciated because of a disease we dreaded once we are affected. He is so thin as if a small amount of skin is the only one covering the bones. He was close to him, who had given my kumpadre the opportunity to start his own business, that his love for this very sick person never wavered on attending at the needs of his benefactor.
The one from Albay was once connected to our family in Buyo. When late father Bailon V. Zafe Sr. and dear mathematician mother were beginning in business, they, too, delivered the whole output of our bodega to the family of this billionaire from Albay. It was because there was a sudden increase in the prize of the abaca hemp and copra that father bought all the supply of our district. Pardon for my little diversion from our main course.
Both of my kumpadre’s rich close friends, in not one ocasion uttered this telling statement that caused me to write it this rainy day of Sunday, Oct 10, 2021. Padi, they told me this statement in the form of a question with regrets, “What is this all about, amigo, after working all my life to amass these wealth started by my father, what now that it cannot bring back my vitality. My depreciated body because of disease and stroke is now in line for a final caravan. Where will be my destination, amigo?”
\My kumpadre, I could only quess on what he told him, “use your wealth to have a place in God’s kingdom. Help people and pray.”

“I faced it all and I stood tall.
And did it, did it my way”.
C. Francois/J. Revaux/P. Anka.

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