Gatsby Wears Levi’s (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | October 2, 2016

It always appeared to me that introducing my future fiancée to my dad would not be a problem given the circumstance he had back then; yet I have been engaged for almost five years now and dad knows nothing about it.

They did marry, right after dad convinced my mom’s family that he would become a licensed engineer; and that he would also give her more than the Tamaraw FX that the other suitor promised. I smile when I see a picture of me as a baby held by my dad, in his toga beside my mom. The vastness of the MSU golf course filled the background.

Getting his license was an elusive thing. Dad was already teaching as a part-time instructor when he started his review for the board exam. During daytime, he taught disinterested engineering majors. At noon, he dealt with death threats from failing seniors. At night, he studied for his board and was in-charge of getting me to sleep. Mom told me that dad used to read his reviewer out loud while carrying me in one arm. I had heard of circuit theorems first before fables and fairy tales.

Dad never got any result, whether pass or fail, from the first board exam. No one in that batch did. All the test papers were burnt in a fire, which the examiners said was an “accident”. Dad would have left his dreams to die like the extinguished flame had he not met mom. With his wife, plus the baby that rested in his arm getting heavier, dad brushed the ashes off and was determined to do it all over again.

The examiners made sure to keep the test papers safe. Dad had his result the second time around.

He passed.

Continue reading Gatsby Wears Levi’s (Part 2)

Gatsby Wears Levi’s (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | September 25, 2016

My dad loves expensive clothing brands. He bought his first pair of Levi’s when he got his first pay.

This, people would assume, stemmed from the lack of luxury he experienced during his childhood. But there is more to it than just that. He would rather own just one pair of Levi’s than a dozen low quality jeans.

Dipolog, 1970

When he was only fourteen years old, my dad became the head of his family. Two successive deaths made him the caretaker of his mother and three younger siblings. His father (Jose), according to my lola, was stabbed multiple times by at least ten men because he wanted to build what could have been the first copra mill in their town. Later on, I’d learn that these men were members of the National People’s Army. Later on, I’d also learn that it was because lolo Jose left a woman heartbroken (having learned that he was already married to my lola), and that woman happened to be the sister of the NPA’s commander.

His eldest brother, Manolito, too young and too brave, joined the military to avenge their father only to be killed a month after. Both their deaths were accounted to the same rebel group.

Dad grew up in a town where relatives treated other members based on their status and the material things they own. Dad and his siblings ranked at the bottom because they wore nothing but relief clothes (relip or ukay) that lola had bought from the market. These clothes never fit them right. These were always too big and their color too pale, opposite to their cousins who were lavished with clothes from Dubai.

Dad’s sisters did the laundry. And the contrast of their clothes was obvious: while their cousins’ shirts hanged outstretched and clipped tightly to the rope, theirs were dumped in clumps and stacked sloppy on top of each bamboo pole.

I thought my dad, as a kid, surely must have complained about things. I was wrong.

Continue reading Gatsby Wears Levi’s (Part 1)