August 2006


scooter

I was watching The Interpreter last night and I was fascinated by the yellow scooter that Nicole Kidman rode in some of the scenes. My father used to have this Kawasaki scooter when I was still little. It had a wide platform at the front where I would stand while my father gave me a ride. I ‘d hold on to the handle and I remember how thrilling it was to ride that scooter, the wind blowing my hair, and my father driving it.

My father rode his scooter one night to go to a friend’s house in the next town. He must have been invited to drink and then drove himself afterwards. He didn’t come home that night. My mother was so worried. She went to that town looking by the roadside to watch out for his scooter. She spotted it in a ditch. She went to the nearest hospital and found my father there. Luckily, he wasn’t badly hurt.

This is the reason why I get so upset when my husband goes out drinking with his friends. Then he drives himself home or one of his friends who had also been drinking will drive him. You aren’t thinking straight when you’ve had even a little to drink. What more if you’ve been drinking all night. Most of the time, he stays out until the wee hours of the morning and I won’t know where he is. He leaves the house without telling me where he’s going because he knows I don’t approve of it. I always tell him that if anything happens to him, I won’t even know where to look for him. I just hope that he’d realize soon that it’s not safe to drink and drive. Before anything bad happens.

Describe your father.

This was one of the questions I was asked in an interview for a position I applied for in a prestigious auditing firm in Ayala, Makati sometime in 1986 or 1987.

Describe your father.

It’s not really a question. It’s an imperative sentence.

The interviewer was requesting me to describe my father. I knew that my acceptance to the firm I so longed to belong would depend on how I answered this question.

What does my father have to do with my job? Oh, I know. They want to know how I was raised. They want to know about my relationship with my father.

It should have been so easy to answer because I had been very fond of my father. I was daddy’s little girl.

I remember he used to make a lot of jokes. There was this trick that he pulled up on me and my sister. He pretended that he picked his nose with his index finger. Then he would lick his middle finger. He did it so quickly that we thought he licked the finger that was just up his nose. He always got a good laugh from us.

He liked music. He had vinyl records of The Platters, The Commodores, The Temptations and the like and he would play them over and over and the music would fill the house. He also had a harmonica and he sometimes played out a few tunes before he went to bed.

Sometimes he would ask me to pull out his gray hairs. I remember how I liked combing my fingers through his naturally curly and thick hair. Mine was very straight and I hated it. Whenever I was searching for his gray hairs, my mother would come and point out to me that he had seven puyo (cowlick on the head). “It is very unusual for anybody to have seven puyo,” my mother would say. “Old folks believe that a person who has several puyo is stubborn or is always looking for trouble.” And she’d flash me a smile.

I could have told all these things to the interviewer. But I thought that she’d find all these answers very childish.

Describe your father.

I winched at my seat, my palms sweating profusely.

My father is an alcoholic. He beat up my mother really bad and they separated. He stole money from her. My mother went to work abroad so she could put my sister and me through college. And we were left to live with relatives. My father still drinks and is living with one relative to the next.

These were the thoughts that were playing in my head at that time. But I couldn’t tell these to the interviewer. What kind of daughter would I look like saying this kind of things about my father?

Describe your father.

I tried to gather the right words to say.

My father is a simple man with simple dreams. He is a smart man and he spent a lot of times with me when I was little. He helped me with my homework. He explained Math to me and showed me tricks on how to solve number problems. This is why I think I am very good in Math and wanted to be an accountant. There was also a time when he stayed up late with me one night to help me finish my Art project.

I don’t know if it was my answer, but I didn’t get a call back from that prestigious auditing firm.

My parents garnered a lot of friends in our small town. People came to the shop, The TOUCH Tailoring, and asked my father, “Mr. TOUCH, would you please give us the honor of being the godfather of my child?” My father would say, “Why, sure, it would be my pleasure.” For it would not be proper to decline that offer. My parents and the other parents then became magkumpare (male) and magkumare (female). They became the best of friends, almost like family members. They went to each other’s house and it was the custom to serve your kumpare a few drinks of beer, whiskey, or rum.

My father drank a lot. Whenever we visited friends and relatives, there was always drinking involved. Once, we visited my aunt in Quezon City. My uncle, who was a seaman, offered my father one of his expensive wines. My father enjoyed it so much as it wasn’t often that he’d get a taste of an expensive wine. He’d had too much to drink that he passed out on the covered wooden swing in the front yard. My aunts thought it was funny and my mother even took a picture of him. My mother still has that picture in her photo album.

There was also this one time when my parents went to visit my grandparents in their house in Manila. As usual, he had been drinking. He was already quite drunk when they boarded the bus home. My mother told me that my father needed to go to the bathroom badly so they went to the back of the bus and he relieved himself there.

That was my father. There were times when he would be out by himself, come home late, drunk. He would pass out on the couch and wet his pants. When he’d wake up the next morning, he wouldn’t have an idea of how he got home the previous night.

We were in the car on the way home from church when I asked my mother a few years ago if she remembered when my father started drinking. She said he was already that way when she met him. When they got married and lived with his parents, my grandparents, in his hometown, my grandfather warned her about his drinking. My grandfather told my mother about this time that he hung my father upside down at the window when he came home drunk one night, hoping that it would embarrass him when people saw him like that the next morning. He thought that the embarrassment would make my father stop drinking. But it didn’t.

My grandfather even shared with my mother an old wives’ remedy. He told her to obtain the sweat of a horse and secretly pour this in my father’s drink. And this was supposed to make my father stop drinking. I asked my mother, “Well, did you?” “No,” she said, “how could I get the sweat of a horse? Besides, what if he caught me pouring it in his drink?”

So there you have it. Funny as these may all sound, it’s not like they didn’t try anything to stop him from drinking.

What does TOUCH mean?  The word TOUCH is a noun and also a verb.  It has several meanings, not just as a noun, but as a verb as well.

The following is just a few meanings of TOUCH as a verb listed in dictionary.com:

1. To cause or permit a part of the body, especially the hand or fingers, to come in contact with so as to feel: reached out and touched the smooth stone.

2. To bring (one thing) into light contact with something else: grounded the radio by touching a wire to it.

3. To press or push lightly; tap: touched 19 on the phone to get room service.

4. To lay hands on in violence: I never touched him!

5. To eat or drink; taste: She didn’t touch her food.

6. To disturb or move by handling: Just don’t touch anything in the room!

7. To affect the emotions of; move to tender response: an appeal that touched us deeply.

TOUCH is also the name of the tailoring shop my parents used to own in a small town in the Philippines.  The shop was the front room of our house, which was at a corner of a busy intersection – a good spot for a business like ours.  At the front of the shop was a big glass-covered window box where my parents displayed pants and shirts.  There was a sign that said TOUCH Tailoring.  Inside the shop was a big wooden table my father used as a cutting table.  There were three sewing machines, which my mother and a couple hired people used to sew the pants and polo shirts.  My parents ran a successful tailor shop.  People knew us because we were the only tailor shop in town.  They actually referred to my parents as Mr. and Mrs. Touch.

Continued here.