Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Buddy Ferrer

All the good in me, I got from my father.

I do not know of anyone in and out of our family circle who has ill feelings towards my father. I also do not know of anyone who has badmouthed him at any time in his life. All I remember are the praises of friends, neighbors and just about anyone who knew him.

In the army, he was called Buddy- a very appropriate name for he was such a buddy to everyone. Salvador Cuelana Ferrer was born in Ligao, Albay where he finished his elementary school. His life isn’t the type that would merit a movie or a teleserye. It was so simple yet well spent. He enlisted in the army, was assigned in Bulacan, fought in the Korean War in the 50’s, met and married my mother, had me, my brother Dong and my sister Connie. After only seven years of marriage, he lost my mother who died so young, leaving the three of us under his care, at the same time that he was in the military.

After ten years of being a widower, he remarried, had three more children, continued his military service until he retired and later was taken in as a very trusted employee by the family of the late Pres. RMagsaysay until his second retirement. Perhaps, it was his association with this distinguished family, having served as Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay's close-in security for many, many years, which made him a very upright person and soldier. I saw how he respected all members of the Magsaysay family and how, in return, they all regarded him as family even until his death.

Tatay, as we called him, died of complications due to colon cancer. Just like a real soldier, he fought the Big C valiantly and surrendered only on April 9, 1999, the country’s Araw ng Kagitingan. This was exactly twelve days after my brother Jim's graduation from the PMA, a dream he nurtured for all his sons, but only became a reality with our youngest brother.

My father was born poor. He also died poor. For us, it was a great honor because he was in the military and his most productive years were under martial law. While other soldiers amassed wealth, he lived within his means. It is tempting to prefix the letters Hon. before his name, for he was such an honorable man, but since it’s used by many devious politicians and deceitful lawmakers, I had myself ruled by better judgment. Excuse me, my father is not a pig!

Tatay taught me many things. He brought home books and magazines for me to read. His gifts during my formative years consisted of subscriptions to the Free Press and Reader’s Digest, hardbound books and educational materials. Other kids my age then would not have been grateful, but I was ecstatic. We bonded through those reading materials. I developed a love for learning because my father loved to learn. What he knew from his own private readings and the lessons that life taught him deserved to be acknowledged as a college degree in itself.

He was physically present only on week-ends, yet, he was such an authority figure I could not ignore. Growing up without a mother, I had to be taught some “girl” things by my father. Before the school year opened in 1966, when I was about to enter my first year in high school, Tatay bought me my first deodorant, Veto. He said I should always be clean since I’ll be meeting so many other students. Later, he would bring me Revlon compact face powder, a real nice light blue bandanna and a black cap with flowerettes and sequins. Every year from my first birthday after getting married, till the last year before he died, I always received a piece of cloth for a vestida from him. There was nothing he gave me that I did not like, even if at the time they were given, I found no use for them.

Perhaps the best thing my father did for me was to visit me once a week without fail at my dormitory in UP during all of my five college years. I wonder if any other parent did that. He religiously did so even if I also go home to the province on week-ends. When I need something I could not provide myself, I will just call him at his employer’s place, and he will surely come and bring what I needed. When I get sick and confined at the university infirmary, he would come after being advised of my whereabouts. He tried and succeeded to be both father and mother to me. He was really one of God's perfect creations.

Tatay loved all my children and Dong’s children, too. Unfortunately, they spent very little time together because of some complications. But the love he had for his apos was very apparent in the glow of his face whenever he saw them. Just as he loved Dong and me, he also poured all the fatherly love he can give to Jojo, Carmeli and Jim. I remember one day in UP, while I was having a class, a staff of the Dean's office came up and summoned me, saying my father wanted to see me badly. When I went outside of the building, he saw me coming onto him and he started to cry, really cry. When I asked what the matter was, he, between sobs, related to me that Jojo, then still a little boy, was accidentally poured over with boiling water on his crib. Together, we went to the hospital to check on my little brother. Such love and care for all his children can only come from someone who had a depository of God's love in his being.

I will never, ever forget how Tatay received all my friends at home, offering whatever he can (like slices of pakwan) to make them feel welcome. I will never, ever forget that pair of blue sapphire earring, inside the box to which the card shown above is attached, that he gave me as a gift when I was still a young grade schooler. Even if it got lost somewhere, I vividly remember its shape (star) and the joy I felt while trying it on. I will never, ever forget the early Monday mornings when he prepared a hearty breakfast for me to take before going back to the university. I will never, ever forget each time that he would walk me to the bus or jeepney stop on my way back to school after spending the week-end at home. I will never, ever forget how, when we walk together, he would proudly tell whoever we encounter along the way that I passed the entrance exams at UP or that, later, I graduated from UP. I will never, ever forget how proud he was of me and what I have accomplished. My only regret is that I was not able to tell him or make him feel that I was and still am, so proud of him.

Tatay was the kindest person I knew. He had only good words for anybody. If he didn't want the company I or my brother kept, he would gently tell us to keep some distance between those people and us. When I decided to elope with my husband, all he did was to cry. He never threw a harsh word on us. When my marital troubles began to emerge, he did not say a word against my husband. Nothing. But I knew he was hurt too when he saw that I was. Up until his last days in his hospital bed, Tatay showed his refined, yet strong character despite his very painful bout with cancer.

I wanted to repay Tatay for all his kindness. The best way I could do that was to practice my profession- teaching. After all, he spent for my education from elementary to college. But I was faced with very limited choices later in life such that what would please him and myself will have to take a back seat. If he could see me now, domesticated and out of the academe, contrary to his wishes and our plans together in my younger years, I’m sure he will be displeased. For this I am very sorry. But Tatay is assured that in all of my undertakings, whether it is my choice or not, his good image will never be tainted. And most of all, he is assured that just like the way he raised me and my siblings, I also put my family, especially my children ahead of anything and anybody.

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