Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Remembering my late estranged father

Jun 18, 2022, 1:00 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

Barely a week ago, June 12, was the birthday of my late estranged father. He died in 1995, and he would have been 108 last week.

In my past Father’s Day column piece, I recounted how I was gravely hurt when after getting out from the seminary on my penultimate year of priestly formation, I found out that my father, then already 70, had separated from my mom and was already living with another woman whom he sired a son.

I also revealed that, reeling from my hurting experience with my father, I then got married, veered away from home and settled down in Manila. But after eleven years, my father died at 81, and my belated homecoming (only after my father’s burial) made me realize the stupidity of my unforgiveness after learning from my mom that my late father came back home a year before he died, already sickly and bedridden, and was welcomed back my by saintly mom and taken care of until his death. Goodness gracious me, I fell in utter sorrow and remorse, as I had to contend with pouring my tears on the father’s grave.

Now, with the Father’s Day celebration at hand, I’d like to honor my late father – not anymore my hurt and unforgiveness – but with the affirmative fond memories I have about him, my good tatay. With nostalgic affection, here are some that I tried to unravel.

1. I must confide, for one, that tatay never raised a hand against nanay, to me or to my siblings. Yes, there were times I saw tatay having drinking moments of tuba with his friends or our neighbors. We were poor then, tatay was a carpenter with no fixed employment except for some small short-term carpentry job contracts. But in good times, I remember on regular Sundays tatay would buy lechon, gaway (or gabi), and tuba of course, and bring the whole family to ride a banca to the other side of the bay for a Sunday picnic. Oh, that was memorably precious.

2. Aside from being cunningly strict, tatay was deeply religious. I remember very well when I was in Grade 6, on a fiesta day of our barrio (“barangay” wasn’t in vogue yet), tatay claimed to have been awakened at dawn by a bright light and an apparition of our barrio’s patroness, the Nuestra Sra. De Salvacion (Our Lady of Salvation). Thereupon, tatay hastily went to our local chapel and volunteered our family to be the next Hermano Mayor. Thus, before the fiesta day ended, the image of Nuestra Sra. De Salvacion was delivered via procession to our house. From thence, tatay would always sternly bid us all everyday at 6 p.m. to kneel around the altar and recite the Rosary with our mom.

3. As a young boy, I have two special memories about tatay. One, when I told him I wanted to learn to ride a bicycle, he agreed to teach me, and for three or four consecutive days he would always wake me up at 5 a.m. for the bicycle lessons. He told me then, “Anak, mas maganda sa madaling araw at wala pang mga sasakyan na dumadaan, at hindi pa mainit.” Two, together with my mom and younger sister, we went to the farm some 30 kilometers away from our residence. While we were walking on a bright morning – it seemed then we were the only ones travelling through the rugged path – along the rice paddies on one side and a shallow creek on the other side, I saw a limping bird hooked to a branch on the other side of the creek. I then asked tatay if he could get the bird for me. And he did. He forthwith took off his clothes, including his underwear, and dipped into the creek, got the bird, and handed it to me and took it home.

4. As young boy also, I fondly recall tatay would tell me stories about his exploits as a World War II guerrilla veteran. He said his rank was captain and he was good in repairing guns and weapons (which, during my childhood days, I still saw some of those old weapons in our house, kaya medyo kinatatakutan kami noon ng ibang kapitbahay).

And oh, I can’t forget too that tatay was quite a voracious reader. He had a paltry collection of old books about the native American Indian heroes during the US settlement era. His most favoured hero was “Hiawatha” – so favorite that tatay even named his sired son, Hiawatha (my step brother), when he erstwhile parted from my mom.

5. When I entered the Minor Seminary at the age of 12, before leaving home, tatay told me to kneel down before him as he bestowed his blessing for me. And this scene kept recurring in my mind even when I was already in the seminary, prompting some occasional attacks of homesickness. And always, I would readily wind up such thoughts with a prayer for my tatay and everybody at home.

On one occasion, while I was already in the seminary, I went home for a brief visit (we were then allowed occasionally a home weekend visit for only a few hours and with valid reasons). When I arrived home, only tatay and nanay were around. Tatay was busy upholstering a bed for a client, while nanay was on the sewing machine. I vividly remember how overjoyed they were upon seeing me, and tatay hugged me after my “mano po” gesture, and said: “Anak, medyo swerte tayo ngayon at marami ang nagpapagawa sa akin. Kaya may pambaon ka na pocket money mo pagbalik sa seminaryo.” How I was really thankful to high heavens on that particular moment!

Such are my happy memories about my father – ‘tis but my humble tribute to my dear late tatay on this Father’s Day. And, as I’ve failed to utter my apologies before he died, now I proudly say: “I LOVE YOU, AND MISS YOU, ITAY!”

Indeed, in closing, Pope Francis cannot be more right when he said: “There is no perfect family. We do not have perfect parents. We are not perfect, we do not marry a perfect person or have perfect children. (So) the family must be a place of life, not of death; a territory of cure, not of illness; a stage of FORGIVENESS, not guilt...where genuine LOVE truly resides and blooms.”

Happy Father’s Day everyone!


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