Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pa voted in 1965

But for whom? Did he vote for Ferdinand Marcos, who won that year and later, plunged the country into the darkest era of its history? Or, did he vote for Diosdado Macapagal, who lost that year but whose daughter, who got the taste of Malacanang at age 14, also became the president in the post-Marcos years, one of the presidents who faced a plunder case toward the end of her  term? I don't know to whom did he cast his vote but the moment I first laid eyes on his voter's ID, I was simply awestruck  by how young he looked. "So, this is the guy who had smitten Ma?" I asked.  A quick math showed he was still 28; if the birth year on the ID was right; though, we were told all our life that he was born in 1935, just like Ma; and later, I would discover another document which showed he was born in 1936. The place in Mambusao, Capiz, which held the documents of his birth had been burned during the war.
I found his voter's ID sometime in 2016, when he was in his 80s [age count based on the latest document]; and he was in Davao City, struggling with lung cancer, taken under the care of my sister Ai-Ai, while I had to rush to the house in B'la to oversee the sale of copra the following day.  I was alone in the house the whole night, when in the wee hours, armed with a flashlight and my reading glasses, I decided to trespass my way through his dust-covered nito bag, to rummage his old and yellowing documents.  I wonder about the life of that young man, then. Below the word occupation, the clerk had written, farmer. His entire life was the land and the coconut farm. I wonder what gave him so much pleasure then, what made him wince in pain, what made him sad, what were the dreams he dreamed of, what were the things he thought about so often, what were the monsters he feared. "I used to have lots of money because I was always working," he had told me, over and over, while we were in the hospital waiting for his diagnosis.  
"But I've always been working since the day I left college, Pa," I had wanted to say because my experience was different.  "I always had a lot of cash," he kept repeating.  
He told me all about his abundance of cash at the time when I never had enough to survive, so poor, I could not even afford to take a few days off from work. I had wanted to ask, so, where is your money, Pa? Can you save a daughter with your lots of money? But an admission of poverty would surely anger him.  "Pobre?! Kinsa'y ingon, pobre?!" he'd say, and so, I kept everything to myself. 
After delighting at the picture of the younger Pa, my eyes fell on the rather strong and uneven handwriting on the card's left corner, the same cursive that appeared on my birth certificate.  Even the handwriting spoke about my Pa.  It may have lacked the grace and spontaneity of someone accustomed to hold the pen but it showed the stubborn firmness, the grit and determination of the boy who was already working the farm since he was still nine years old.   When they got to Mindanao, he had wanted to study and be a pilot, just like his Uncle, he said. But when the family was able to buy land, he had set aside the dream and helped four of his younger siblings go to school.  At times, when he was bedridden, he still had his memories of Uncle Erin or of Uncle Jose--which of the two uncles was the pilot or the priest, I still kept confusing, until now--and how, he was taken in an airplane with the Uncle once, when he was still a boy.
The back of the card showed his thumb mark and the date, March 29, 1965, when the voter's ID was issued.  Both the presidential and legislative elections was slated in November that year, still a good eight months away.  Pa used to be either dismissive or tyrannical about his views of politics. Some time in the past, I could have picked up a hint whether he voted for Macapagal or Marcos. Sometimes, in fact, I had the vague memory of hearing it, not from his mouth but from the things he refused to say. 
Marcos had won the elections that year, which eventually paved his way to becoming a Dictator.  
I had the feeling that Pa wouldn't have voted for him. 
But that's only a daughter's opinion. 

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