This picture, taken when sunrise was breaking beyond the veranda of our home in B'la outlining the leaves of the Song of India, makes me think of my Pa.
At the height of his ailment - those long uncertain months after his first hospital stay when we deemed it good to let him stay in the city - I used to leave Davao City at dawn to go to Bansalan to oversee the weighing of copra. I was so insecure about the whole proceeding because: first, I didn't even know how to read the weighing scales used by the Chinese merchants to weigh sacks and sacks of our produce, so, you can imagine how strained I was, standing there, pretending to understand, when all the while, I was feeling like an idiot (of course, this did not last long because Pamela Chua, a Tsinay from Binondo who is my best friend in Manila, whispered to me the secret code shared by all Chinese--okay, this part is purely isturyang hubog, see, I put it inside the parenthesis?!); second, there was no one in the family overseeing the workers in the farm, which actually meant, we are slowly, gradually but surely, losing control of things over there. So, to calm my nerves, I used to leave Davao City too early, when everyone else was still snoring; to see to it that I arrived at the house at dawn so that I had enough time to be at the farm at 6 am, when everybody least expected me. This would allow some time for me to get to know the people and to observe what was going on in the farm (though, I hardly had two hours to do all these). During those months, I had studied the proceedings of the farm and studied the people there just like the way I read my books. [Of course, I eventually developed a grasp of the politics and economics of the place, developed a feel of whom to trust and whom to be wary, honed my skills to read people's hearts and people's intentions; but I admit that up to now, I still can't tell a coconut ready for harvest from a buko or a banana! Uh-okay, I can tell a banana, but to tell a mature coconut fruit ready for harvest from a buko continues to be a puzzle to my untrained eyes! To compensate for this, however, I knew someone I can trust who can tell the difference.]
Once, I overshot my target hour of arrival in Bansalan and had left Davao City at 2 am, which was rather too early. I arrived home when it was still dark and drank the loneliness of the house. I went to the upper bedroom and saw Pa's things and shirts scattered in different places in our frantic search for things to bring that day we left for the hospital. I felt this searing pain as I saw the pillow where Pa's head used to lie, the old Bisaya magazines he used to thumb through and had left in the corner, still half-folded; the glass, still half-full of water, where he drank that night, before he was seized by the pain which made him say, "Dios ko, Dios ko, Gino-o," as he made the sign of the cross; which made me send a text message to my sisters, "It must really be painful because I've never ever heard him say, Dios ko, before;" which made my sisters, hundreds of kilometers away, race for home days after.
Still, I can't forget the sight: his slippers which were scattered in different directions, the discarded clothes, the poor state of his old shoes, worn, weather-beaten, gathering dust in a cordizo; and even the dusty nito basket hooked to a nail on the wall, where he kept his documents.