Every year, since my Lolo died in 2006, I try to remember him by making a “phenomenology” or a eulogy and submit it to Inquirer’s Youngblood. And every year, I fail to do that because the thought of him will send me to tears. Or so I think. It is difficult for me to organize and recollect the life of my Lolo because back in my mind I know I could’ve asked him to share his story with me but opted not due to my selfishness, stubbornness and teen angst.
For the past six years, I have been visiting his mini library to know more about him. I browse through family photo albums and his work-related photo albums (Yes, he had a couple of them) to get the feeling of who he was. He did a lot of travelling and documented everything. He’d been to Japan, US and some parts of Europe. He submitted an article to Manila Times on how he travelled Europe by Eurail. He was a writer too. He had a pen name and contributed articles to several local magazines and newspapers. He wrote love letters to my Lola and discovered them when we had a project regarding Hallmark cards. Every card that he ever received from family was pasted into a makeshift scrapbook and reading them one by one was very comforting and sad. And then there were birthday and Christmas cards from colleagues from different parts of the world. He had known many people. I wish I knew him long enough to realize that he was essential to my being.
I remember calling him “Papa” during early childhood. I remember me him taking me and my sister to a gathering with his colleagues in a place where there was a waterfall.
I remember frantically running away from the dance floor so that I will not be able dance the waltz with him in front of his department.
I remember him rescuing me and my sister from my mom’s night punishment. I remember when there was black out, he would dress up as hooded hunched back monster and would scare us with the aid of flashlight.
I remember him yelling at me after I spit water from my mouth in the dining because my brother was me telling a joke. He broke into a smile afterwards.
I remember him giving me 20 pesos for my baon back when I just started big school when we were only allowed to have 5 pesos.
I remember him buying me and my sister the Titanic soundtrack in Harrison Plaza after I recorded the soundtrack in a cassette tape, days before.
I remember writing him notes and leaving it on his desk or slipping it through the door of his room to ask if I could have some extra cash.
I remember him totally surprised and excited when I wanted to read the Harry Potter Series. He bought the first three series in hardbound for me. A few weeks later, he surprised with the fourth book.
I remember we used to pick him up after teaching either at UM or EAC. I clearly remember his attire when he goes to school to teach: long sleeves barong, slacks, Bass leather shoes and to accessorize, gold Cross pen.
I remember him giving me my first silver Parker pen back in 3rd grade.
I remember him helping me with my investigative report back in first year HS. Using his typewriter, he pounded the keys of it to come up with scientific sentences.
I remember he introduced me to The Sound of Music, Matt Monroe, Madonna, The Bee Gees, and The Carpenters.
I remember accompanying him to watch Dr. Zhivago on VHS. He returned the favour: he watched The Ring with me.
I remember him feeling so restless and useless having his hip replaced and bed ridden for years to come until his death.
I remember during the burial of his sister, he cried a lot when he saw his relatives. I cried beside him. I remember him not remembering us.
I remember myself crying while commuting to QC, having learned that my Lolo was in the ICU and a chance of recovery was ambiguous. I remember entering the ICU and tears started pouring endlessly, words left unsaid.
On the last day of his wake, I remember we, his grandkids, decided to sleep next to him, one last time.
I would love to go on remembering him here in this post but it will take me painstakingly forever and a bucket of tears to do that. These recollections of him are my way of keeping him alive in me no matter how melancholic things have ended. My little way of coping.
No highfalutin words can describe how much I miss you. So today, on your birthday, I want to tell you that you are my inspiration. You have compelled me to do good, great things in life. Happy Happy Birthday Lolo Neilo! Cheers!