Issue of June 18, 2017

Plus Juan
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Father’s Day blues

Today is Father’s Day and like every day, I live through the memory of the best father one could ever ask for – Arturo Ramos Avila, Art too many, “King” to some and plain papa to me, Eric, and Tessa.

He immigrated to the city from the small rustic town of Moncada, Tarlac where my widowed lola Ing-gay, who loved to smoke alhambra brown cigars with the fire and ashes inside her mouth, lived and raised her children. The nipa hut where she raised her kids was in front of the Plebian Elementary School thus my aunts would sell halu-halo for 15 centavos per baso making a handsome profit, quite a fortune then, for their earthly needs.

In our family, King Art was the ultimate politician and on this aspect was my idol whose emotional quotient surpassed mine. Neither a celebrity nor a politician, he was a simple janitor at the then Pines Theatre who worked his way to be an accountant via the Baguio Tech. In the interrugnum, he drunk half-set of San Miguel gin with G. Bert Floresca, Eddie Aguilar, Andy Cariño, and all the boys at backstreet Carantes, earning the ire of my conservative public school teacher mother.

At that time, Baguio was a small town and he drove a Chevrolet Impala to work, wearing a coat but never with a tie. Parking at Session Road was diagonal and he would go to office leaving the windows open and his things inside the car. When he comes back, nothing is missing. He smoked Salem bought from the PX section of the market and if unavailable, the unfiltered Lucky Strike would fill the temporary void. He was always at Dainty Restaurant of Ng Ah Chin alias Ah Kong with his policeman, lawyers, street thugs, scammers and more or less criminal pals although then and now, one could not seem to be distinct from the other.

Speaking of Ah Kong, when he died, he was buried in the wrong plot, wrong hole by the Memorial Park and we went up all the way to the highest court to make them pay, but that would be another story.

Anyway, Papa was respected and admired by people especially the drivers, vendors, and the common tao. He would tag us along but would never sit at table No. 1, which was occupied by the scums of the Earth – lawyers, politicians and contractors. Coffee with a splice of gin or marijuana they say in Dainty was either half-half, light or matapang. Together with coffee, one can order plywood (flat bread with marmalade), fried chicken, ensaymada, or pancit canton. Of course, beside the big coffee machine, was a blackboard and an innocent onlooker would probably wonder what the chalk-written numbers were. The answer my friends is they are the results of jueteng draws which he would bet on religiously, leaving me a legacy of words like pompyang, kalag, or revisador. When I was about 10 or 11, he brought me to a cockpit; yes there was once one in La Trinidad. He pointed out the honor code between the bettors where bets were literally thrown at each other yet the winnings returned intact. I improved on the principle by advocating honor among thieves.

He loved the theatre and every Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., he would not be disturbed as he watches the movie for the week 10 seats away from the big screen, by himself, focusing on the plot, analyzing the content. Then he would decide if the movie gets the axe or shown for the whole week.

He was a storyteller especially exploits as a child during the raging World War II with the Japanese soldiers and their samurai all over his hometown. He regaled us with tell tales of his life; how difficult it was and how through sheer hard work he was able to acquire the three or four AC jeeps – Plaza via Trancoville route which supplemented his income from the movie house. The drivers used to remit their earnings to me as I was tasked to count them and naughty as I was then, I set aside 10 centavos to also supplement my baon, until one day manong Bob, the driver squealed on me to my stricter mother and I received a good whacking on my butt with my father smiling and chuckling all the way at my foolishness. From then on I vowed never to take money not earned. Lessons in life!

My father was not a great cook, but he loved to eat like a true Kapampangan. He liked kare-kare, goat kilawin, kaldereta, aso, pulpog, pinikpikan, and plenty of gin of course to chug the food along. His love for food was only surpassed by his love for music – Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, even Beatles and he had a collection of 33 long playing records, which could fill up a jukebox.

I look at his old college yearbook and notice his good looks, which I obviously not inherit. He had the features of a movie star and I am sure my mother had jealous moments when friends of the female kind would show up with the boys and join their drinking sprees.

Gone now for almost two decades, he lives in my heart as the father I have always wanted him to be! Happy Papa Day! And Happy Father’s Day too to all who have written a book, fathered a child, and became the complete man...Sigh!

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