‘The death of a parent is a heartbreak you can never get over with’
I WAS NAMED after him because they told me I was his favorite. Though his real name was Alipio, he became known as “Alex” when he ventured in Manila. My father was one of those epic success stories – a probinsiyano who struggled to get out of his dire luck and made something of himself. That is exactly what he did.
Being a businessman had always been his calling. He would always try to find ways to earn money, and to make that money grow. He knew how to convince people to invest. Based in Manila, he had a successful export business of handicrafts where he earned in dollars.
But he was never greedy. For every success he has achieved, he would never forget his siblings, whom he had helped find their own footing in their chosen field. There were three uncles who wanted to become seafarers. My Papa helped them achieve their dream. There was an aunt who wanted to study college. My Papa was there to support her. There was another aunt and uncle who needed help with a small business, and Papa was ready to provide. The help didn’t stop there. He would also lend a helping hand to his nieces and nephews. In fact, there is no one in the clan, whose life he hasn’t touched or affected in any way.
Unfortunately, lady luck turned her back on him. I remember it being the 90s and all of a sudden we had no house and had to move to an apartment. The business he had been counting on tanked, with it, the house as collateral was taken away. There started the tumultuous years of struggling with a life we weren’t used to.
As I grew up, I nurtured contempt. Contempt for his careless decisions, contempt for not setting aside a backup plan for his family, contempt that he had failed. He would always ask me for help in typing his business letters on the computer because he couldn’t operate it by himself. Begrudgingly, I would do his bidding, my irritation only heightened by his handwriting that I couldn’t properly read, and his terrible grammar. Little did I know that as I typed, I was also learning how to compose business letters, and was getting exposed to terms like L/C and B/L.
There was a time when I accidentally broke his vial of insulin, which was quite expensive, and I never heard a word of condemnation from him about it, even though as a diabetic, it was his lifeline. Throughout my impatient dealings with him, he never complained nor lifted a hand at my temper. Deep inside I was realizing how horrid and ungrateful I was, and I had begun to think that I cannot wait to graduate and to be able to work so that I can provide him with what he needs.
His way of lambing, was to ask me to remove the eyelashes that fall in his eyes. He would also ask me to massage his cut middle finger while watching TV. He teased me by calling me pag-ong or turtle, because I was such a slowpoke. In the evenings, his favorite teleserye to watch was ‘Pangako Sa’yo’ (the first version), which unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the ending of.
I can still remember the evening when I last saw him. I had just gotten home from a school activity, and he was waiting outside. Had I known then that it would be the last time I’d get to talk to him, I would’ve taken a moment to sit down and ask how he was. But I didn’t.
The next morning, he sailed to Batangas with my brother, and my mom related later on, that before he got on the cab, he was looking at the house and the surroundings for a long time as if recalling memories spent in it. The following day, my mom was having breakfast when all of a sudden, tears were streaming uncontrollably from her eyes, without knowing why. Then the phone rang. It was my brother telling her that Papa was gone.
“What do you mean gone? Find him! Maybe he’s just in the mountains!” I remember my Mom shouting over the phone, trying to keep the panic down. That afternoon, we braved the turbulent seas to Tingloy to see my father for the last time. As the boat we were on braved the waves of the sea, I recalled how as a child it was my first time to set foot in his beloved Tingloy, and the waves were as violent, and the boat was smaller.
Back then I remember not being afraid, because Papa was embracing me, and I knew if the boat capsized, he would save me first. On that fateful day however, the boat was bigger, the waves, too, but there was no Papa around to save us if the unthinkable happened.
That was 15 years ago, and the pain is still fresh. I had not always been a very good daughter to him, and it is a burden that I will carry with me my whole life. The death of a parent is a heartbreak you can never get over from. Oftentimes my sister and I would reminisce and wonder how Papa would react to our achievements. I wonder what he would say knowing I had somehow seen the world and traveled extensively. How I wish he was still around, and we could’ve talked about what business ventures to pursue.
My relatives have nothing but good memories of him. He was everybody’s Uncle Alex, or Kuya Alex, or Manong Alex. And for those whom he befriended that were not part of our family, he was lovingly known as Mr. Bacay. To us, he was simply, Papa. Loving, funny, stubborn as hell (probably where I got it from), and generous even when he has nothing more to give. To us, he is the best father anyone could ever ask for. And I miss him dearly.