My mom sells home-cooked meals at Davao City Hall. She has been doing this ever since she had my eldest brother. This is the way our family has survived for almost 40 years now.
Mother taught my father how to cook and prepare the dishes in our menu. Every ten or eleven in the morning, they go off to sell the food. Our house would be left in a messy havoc. You see, the whole house is the kitchen. It would be my job to clean up. During the summer or if we had no classes, father would always remind me: “Panghugas ha? Bantay lang ka wala pa ka nahuman pagablik nako.” What a reminder as they took off on our Kawasaki motorcycle, the metal basket on the rear!
I hate washing dishes. When I was younger and lazier, I preferred to watch TV or play outside than wash two very large planggana full of the dishes, pots, and utensils they used that morning? Even now, I could waste my time cleaning when I could be doing more interesting things.
I can still remember my father’s angry face and the sting of the whip of his century-old belt because I did not wash the dishes. Oh how many times my skin has gotten acquainted with that strip of leather! I can remember my little sister laughing as she thought Dad made music with my head for the drum as I hung over his knee to receive my punishment.
But I also remember how I proved him wrong as he pinned those medals on me during my high school graduation. This, after he slapped me just before our first grading examinations because he felt I was not putting enough effort in my studies. My study habits were just different from his. How could I not forget the pain I have had to endure because I loved and respected my father in a way different from what he was accustomed to?
I entered college in defiance of him. He wanted me to go to a university that we could afford but which I did not want. Instead, my Mom and I enrolled me in UP Mindanao. Tuition was P15,000 for the program that accepted me, but I got in on a full scholarship. He had no choice but to help me.
My father did his very best to provide me with all I needed for college. He was not a delinquent father but he had been lacking when it came to providing for my older siblings. I felt overwhelmed, living away from my family yet fully supported. And yet I also made my mistakes. I failed one semester and lost my scholarship.
My father was furious, but not implacably so. He forgave me and pushed himself harder to help my mom so I could go on with college. I was oblivious of his hardships and his sickness.
Then one day, he became bedridden, helpless and asking for salvation from God. Death became inevitable. On my birthday, he was the first one to greet me. I told him not to cry. He asked forgiveness for all the moments he had hurt me. Then, he kissed my forehead and hugged me so tight but I could not hug him back as much because I was afraid I would hurt him, something I now regret.
Tears fell but I could not stop laughing to ease the tension and pain he must have felt emotionally and physically. I told him I have never hated him, there was no hate inside me. I cried when I went to school that day. I cried when my close friends gave me a cake.
He died that summer of 2013. I can remember that morning I told him: “Dad, hulata ko, ha? Uwi ako maaga, bantay ka lang.” He just responded with a nod. I remember rushing home from work that lunchtime, but I would not there at his deathbed. I could not bear to see him die. There was no cooking for that day, just tears and goodbyes. The only dishes to wash were for the boxes for his wake.
Reyl Espirituoso is super senior in the BS Architecture program of UP Mindanao.