Maybe it was a blessing that I wasn’t able to prepare for your eulogy during your wake. As always, I tried to keep myself busy and occupied by the little things because the big voices and feelings inside me are way too much to handle. But if I was to say something about you, it would probably sound something like this:
When I was young, my papa was everything to me.
Maybe it was because everyone gushed on how much I looked like him. “Kamukhang kamukha ni boy”, they would say. And I loved it. I loved our almost everyday trips to Ongpin or Luneta, the nightly order in of Aroma after dinner while he watches basketball or boxing, and our grocery trips to Unimart where in I point to just one item and come home with a box. When there were things that I wanted (but really couldn’t say out loud because that was rude, to ask for what you want) he would just ask, “Good girl ka ba?” to which I would immediately nod to yes with all my heart. I loved sitting at his lap while he let me drive his stainless owner jeep. I used to think I was driving it on my own, but he had one hand steering the wheel with me. I was my papa’s girl. He had his boys, but I was his only girl.
And then one day, my papa became a stranger.
No more trips, no more take outs, no more grocery shopping. But life, as it turns out, had to keep moving on. No more christmases handing out envelopes to our neighbors, no more birthdays, or big events that he was there. On such occasions, I would look at my self in the mirror and silently whisper in the little band-aids in my heart how I wish he would have been there. On my prom night, I remember looking at myself wishing he was there, and then realized I didn’t, because I had all that make up plastered in my face. (kabuki face with all that shiny eyeshadow, kemown! right? right?) He would have never approve of such… excessiveness. Because that’s the kind of guy he was. Just white shirts and slippers.
I never hated him though. I just truly missed him. I guess I understood the practicality of it, but my heart kept searching for that love that I thought I had lost. I kept him him with me by just wearing plain shirts and slippers, all the time, everytime it was possible.
Of course, life couldn’t be that simple, and so one day, my papa became a visitor.
We started to see him again, and in these little trips to Balut or Spring Deer or Aristocrat, he would buy little trinkets for us. Pins saying “best daughter/son” or little dolls and cars. When he would give it to us he would say, ” diba yan ang gusto mo?” Diba taga Assumption ka? Diba naging Man for Others ka sa Ateneo?” and sometimes my heart would crack because he was just stuck to that time when he was my papa. And so, we would order the same things we did when we were younger, and talk about the same things when we were still living with him.
In a way, it was a blessing, because he wasn’t able to see how much we have changed and grew up. He just saw us as his little kids who would still be happy with little trinkets which would just usually accumulate dust in our home. And so, no matter how small, I always love the little things, and the little trips, and the little meals that we would have.
In the latter part of his life, he started going to our house in Quezon City during Christmas time. The first time he ever did that, my eyes grew wide and my heart felt like it was about to burst sunshine out of it. I felt it was the best Christmas ever. I had one eye on my mom’s visitors and my other eye on him. and Papa was just quietly going around the house, looking at our pictures, smiling at the people that he had never met. I remember giving him a tour of the house like a kid showing her papa a painting that she did in class. Good times, good times.
And in the last months of his life, my papa became a human being. A man, made up of flesh and bones, heart and soul. I saw a man so raw of the feelings that we all usually hide behind the walls we have so carefully built to protect us so fiercely. I saw him happy, sad, angry, remorseful, and scared. And in those moments, how could I even hold a grudge to the man who is half responsible for creating me? How can I not give him the peace that he deserves?
Papa, there are so many things I wish you have taught me. but as I have forced myself to do this introspection before I internally combust, you not teaching me things have forced me to learn things on my own, and that’s not such a bad thing after all. The priest in your last mass said, “what an honor it is to have Manuel as your father, because out of the millions of fathers there is in the world, he was chosen to mold who you’ve become right now. ” and what a journey you have given me papa, most of the time bittersweet but I promise I have come out of it a bit better and a bit wiser all the time.
I’ve missed you for the past 24 years of my life, but I won’t miss you anymore because this time I know you will always be with me. I won’t have to worry about you not knowing the real me because right now, you are probably getting a blow by blow commentary on how I have spent the last 33 years of my life. I only wish I can make you proud, and be the woman you always imagined I would be.
I never lost your love. I’ll always be your little girl. I’ll always be your good girl. But now it’s okay, you can let go of the steering wheel. Let me take it from here.
Rest well, papa. One day, we’ll see each other again.