July 15, 2021, 7:58 pm
Daddy still remembers me.
My grandfather has seen lots of things in his time. His children growing up. Their belongings being loaded onto a truck because they couldn’t pay the rent. Plaza Miranda right before it was bombed. Sometimes I think Daddy has seen too much.
In 2018, he was a victim of a motorcycle hit-and-run and had to get stitches. In 2019, he was rushed to the ICU for septic pneumonia where he was also diagnosed with dementia. These things seemed to happen more and more frequently.
I prayed then. I asked that Daddy live long enough to see my cousin finish med school and become a doctor. That’s all I asked. And He knows I don’t ask for much. I don’t ask; I don’t dream. No, that was my cousin. That was Ate Hannah.
And in 2021 she finally got her dream. The first doctor in the family. And the way Daddy smiled when it sunk in will always be how I remember him.
I have to check my UP results.
I didn’t get in.
I’ll appeal. Everything’s going to be fine. I told myself this. Then:
My mother’s going to be upset. Then:
Mama Ving must be so proud of her daughter, Ate Hannah.
July 18, 12:38 am
I was helping Daddy to bed.
“Anong pangalan mo?” he asked me.
“Ilan kayo magkakapatid?”
“Sino ‘yong isa?”
“Si Carlos po.”
“Ahh! Si Caloy!” No one has called my brother that nickname since he was small.
“Tumakbo na ba si Robredo?” he asked suddenly.
“‘Hindi pa po natin alam.”
“Dapat manalo ‘yon… kasi… babae… taga-Bicol…” My grandmother was from Bicol. “Saka Katoliko, katulad ko… naniniwala sa Diyos… hindi tulad ni Duterte… ‘di ‘yon naniniwala sa Diyos.” How could a man who has been put through so much still have this much faith? “Mananalo ‘yon… kasi… natalo niya na si Marcos noon eh.” I thought he was confusing timelines again for a moment then I realized he was referring to the vice-presidential race in 2016.
It must be nice, I thought, to have so much faith in something.
Daddy asked again, “Anong kurso mo?”
“Saan ka mag-aaral?”
“La Salle po.”
“Eh ‘di ba sa Ateneo ka may scholarship?”
It was quiet for a while.
“Mahal ang tuition sa La Salle, ‘di ba?”
“Hanapan po namin ng paraan.”
As soon as I let go of those words I wanted to take them back. This man has heard them enough. We’ll find a way. Probably mostly from himself. For his family. For us. Too much. Too much.
It’s fine, I sighed, he probably doesn’t remember.
July 18, 10:31 pm
I was holding Daddy’s hand. He wore a bracelet that had his name and my aunt Mama Lou’s number in case he wanders again. This same hand handed my mother a hammer at the noise barrage in 1978 when supporters of Ninoy Aquino flooded Metro Manila’s streets in an act of defiance against Marcos. I wonder if he remembers that. He looked down at the bracelet.
“Sinong nagpagawa nito?”
Mama Lou was also in the room. She answered, “Nanay niya, si Memen.”
Earlier this year, January 31, Daddy wandered out of the house in Manila before dawn without a face mask on and wearing just a sando and boxer shorts. Barangay tanods found him and asked for his name and address but he couldn’t answer. All he said was that he fell asleep at his daughter’s house looking after Bea and Caloy and wanted to go back home to his wife Nora.
His heart and mind were in Davao. The bracelet was meant to bring him back.
July 21, 9:17 pm
He asked, “Kailan ang kaarawan ko?”
“Sa Biyernes.” Daddy would turn ninety on July 23. We would attend mass at Quiapo Church. My grandmother would always attend mass there. She would fall on her knees and move closer and closer towards the altar. Closer and closer.
“Naku! Bawal ang karne!”
“Daddy, hindi naman Lent ngayon.”
July 23, 8:07 pm
Mass ended at 8:00 pm.
“Saan si Nora? Nakasimba ba siya? Hindi nagpaalam?” Daddy looked hurt.
“Nasa Davao siya.” Mama Lou answered.
Technically this wasn’t a lie. My grandmother was buried in Davao.
“Paano siya nasa Davao, eh katabi ko lang siya kagabi?”
Too close, Mommy. Too close.
July 26, 1:09 pm
A commercial came on.
“Tatakbo pala si Villar?” I started. The conversation rolled on. Daddy was quiet.
To test his memory, Mama Ving asked, “Gusto mo si Marcos, Daddy?”
“Hindi.” He didn’t hesitate.
This man would forget us, himself, time, and that it had taken his wife. But he had Plaza Miranda branded onto the insides of his eyelids. The clang of Nanay’s hammer against the metal pole still echoes in his ears.
Bea Gatmaytan lives in Davao City. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English (Creative Writing) at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.