Alcoholism


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.

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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.