Only one man has ever cried for me. And no, it wasn’t my dad. Yes, he spanked me a couple of times but I don’t remember that. All I remember is that he taught me, nurtured me, loved me. He hugged me, cared for me and kissed my tears away.
Some people say that we had a lot of things in common. Others thought otherwise. But who cares? All I know is that I remember him. And I miss him so much.
I remember the day he changed. He was no longer his old self. He woke up with a start. His knees were trembling. He forced himself up. A big old rusty bolo in his hand. He held me tight as he started waving the bolo in front of him. “Mga Yawa mong Hapona mo! Pahawa! (You evil Japanese! Get away!)” he screamed. He was protecting me from the unseen figures only his old eyes could see.
That was the start of endless bodily tortures for him. He would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, his old body shaking. He would order us to ‘push’ the house. We never really knew what he meant and why he wanted us to do it. I later learned that as a young man, during the American occupation, he lived in a trailer.
Sometimes, we would wake up realizing that he was no longer in his bed. We would look for him. We would later find him in the street. Hundreds of meters from the house. He wouldn’t recognize us. We would carry him on our backs. We would put him back to bed. Scold him. Tend to his wounded knees.
It hurt me every time he looked at us, the people who cared for him, and say that he never recognized any of our faces. I couldn’t believe that he was the same man who forced me to eat all the food from the plate. The man who helped me look for that mango seedling for a tree-planting project. The man who forced himself to stay awake so I could watch my late night shows. The man who spent his monthly ‘pension’ on our Jollibee kiddie meals and never asked for more than a bite from our burgers. The man who told me great stories of his youth. The man who sang “Sonny Boy”. The man who shouted “Telepono!” every time the phone rang. The man who smiled in his sleep. And most of all, the man who cried when my parents tried to take me away from him.
Now I do the crying for him. The greatest man who ever lived.
He never finished reading the Guiness Book of World Record 1989 edition that I bought for him. But I’m not mad.
For I know that he’s smiling now. Looking down at me and everyone else he loved so dearly.
Because the man who cried for me is now all smiles. I’m sure of that.