That’s how we referred to him. Papa dearest seemed a mouthful – not to mention corny.

During one of my visits home, I spent time exploring my father’s room. I felt like it’s the only way I can stay in his presence long enough. Nope, he’s not dead. He is well and alive, thank God. It’s just that I don’t really get to spend much time with him anymore. We don’t really talk much not that we’re not interested in each other’s lives. I don’t know how to keep the conversation flowing – to think that I have a degree in communication. There’s a lot of dead air.

We’re not really the sharing and social type of family. My father is man of few words. Cliché, I know, but appropriate for him.

Padires stays in his bachelor’s pad as we refer to it. It’s a concrete structure separated from the main house. Good for him. He’ll go crazy if he stayed in the same building with his sisters and daughters. That’s two spinsters and a widow. I hope they won’t be able to read this 😀 He’s the only adult male at home dealing with his sisters and daughters.

It’s definitely his room. There are stacks of novels, each novel one-and-a-half-inch thick, on his at the bottom of his closet, cabinet, bedside table, and even on the floor. On the base of his rusty bedside lamp rests his broken reading glasses, half the frame missing. Still stingy, I can see. His right sneaker, once blue, is now indigo and has a tiny hole. He still uses it. Stingy, stingy, stingy. Some things never change.

Short he may be on words but I never doubted for once that he cared. I just needed to visit his room to affirm that. He keeps framed photos of his four daughters in his room. Most of the frames are chipped and brittle. Some parts of the photos are smeared, have gathered dusts, or have watermarks. These photos have withstood a lot of typhoons and floods.

There’s that ashtray on the bedside table. At least he’s stopped pretending that he’s not smoking anymore. White printed shirts and towels, which he draped on his shoulder. I used to sneak in his room and get his shirts that I liked and some towels. Once I had them on, he did not stand any chance of getting them back. Looking back, it’s no wonder I was usually mistaken for a male.

When I was in grade school, I used spent Saturday nights with him since we had to wake up early for the 4 am mass. It was relatively easier for him to wake me up.  I don’t know how he woke up at quarter to four in the morning. He had no alarm clock. During college, I opted to attend the 4 am mass whenever I’m home. I never liked attending mass. But it was the only time I spend with him. I usually sleep through the sermon. The only time I get to hold his hand is during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer. (Okay, that’s lip-synching on my part.) I had to get his hand, because he will definitely not initiate to get mine.

Another thing my father does is to collect all our ribbons and medals. He hangs our medals, most of them already rusty. From kindergarten days up to college, he keeps them all. Most of the pins in the ribbons are disintegrating. There are stains and watermarks in the faded ribbons. He hangs our framed certificates on his wall. It’s not even our diploma, yet he allots a space on his wall for it. He even displayed my elementary Blue Madonna cross-stitch output, which he mounted on a makeshift frame.

It was such a big thing for me that he came for my college graduation – plus the fact that he shouldered the family’s transportation. Did I mention he was stingy?

I wallow in all these memories and I miss being a daughter. I miss being his daughter. I miss being his assistant during carpentry work and house repairs. I miss handing him the screwdriver. I miss trailing after him as he jogged by the beach during his recovery from his ankle injury.

I usually come home for short visits because I studied in another region. My work is 13 hours away from home. On the few occasions I do get to go home, I have this urge to give him a hug and feel that sense of security once more. I don’t know when he stopped giving me the lectures I once dreaded. Now I long for it.

Staging mandatory siestas, snitching 25 cents from the pants hung on his room, leaving him with bloody toes after giving him a pedicure, not eating my vegetables, staying out late, improper cooking of food – I did have (more than) my share of childish misdeeds, laziness, and rebellious tendencies. I have been received lectures and punishments. But at least we communicated regularly. Okay, that sounded twisted.

Now, conversations have become shorter, seemingly forced. There’s a long list of questions I want to ask and it’s not about the weather or local gossip. Every time I find myself seating across him, I feel like I’m bursting. There’s just so much I want to tell him but I don’t know where to start.

As I recall all those memories with him, there’s that pang. If there were one thing that could easily reduce me to tears, it would be my father. And I’m no crybaby. I just don’t want to waste the next years recalling the same set of memories. It’s time to make new ones.

Padires, ‘musta lamang buhay-buhay ta d’yan?

By the pier

The town pier is a favorite spot of locals. The day I took this shot, I wondered why I wasn’t one of those who frequent this place. It wasn’t until I spent more time in Laguna that I learned to appreciate the poblacion’s humble pier.

At dawn, fishermen would unload their catch here and the middlemen would be waiting for them. The early motor banca trips from the different island would arrive carrying goods to be delivered in the mainland and containers to be filled with supply. As the sun rises, the crowd in the pier thins leaving few tourists and locals in their leisure walks. You’d spot children playing by the beach.

It’s the town’s public beach. It holds a lot of memories for both locals and tourists.

I used to tail my father as he jogged by the beach during his recovery from an ankle injury. You’d see people of all ages jogging or taking a walk in the beach. As soon as the sun is up, the beach welcomes families. You can’t be a local and not know how to swim – or at least float. This is where most of us learned to swim – mostly by force. My sisters would take me to the deep part and pretended to leave me there. After a while, you’d learn to swim for your life.

white room

It used to be easy – shunning oneself from everything and escape into that room where time causes no worry and deadlines evanesce. It was easier when I was still in high school. It was easy to look interested during the long lectures. I looked at the board and then glanced occasionally at the teacher but in my notes, there was nothing about the session’s discussion. In my mind, I am sitting in an almost antique arm chair in a room of white where I am at peace. It’s a room where a few seconds seem to stretch into hours of silence.

More than half a decade later, it’s starting to require more effort. It is not about how many hours of free time you have or if can find that nook of yours. It’s that ability to think of things not required. It is not about finding that room of silence in a hall of chatter but that ability to empty the mind – temporarily – of all the things one needs to do. To think of nothing would be nice. To block all thoughts about deadlines, disappointments, and backlog.

As the years pass, it seems harder to conjure that room. My stays there have become less and less frequent. I’ve always longed for it and believed I can in the next hour or the next day or the next week perhaps? When I do find that free time, I usually fall asleep before I could enter the room. I’ll wake up feeling cheated.

It is not because I don’t have free time. I believe I have. I’ve just been wasting it on worry and dread. It’s not healthy, I know. More time spent on worry gives me less time for dreaming and hoping.

White room, video games, writing, sketches, eating – it’s the same. It’s time off what one needs to do and focus on what one wants to do. It’s any attempt to keep oneself sane.

Cagsawa Travel and Tours

A ticket worth 850 Php seemed a too much for a half-day trip from Albay to Laguna – not the case if you’re traveling with Cagsawa Travel and Tours.

I’ve been enduring 12 to 15 hours of travel to and from Bicol in the seven years that I have stayed in Laguna. In those seven years, I’ve made up my ming that I get my money’s worth with the non-air conditioned bus units (read: ordinary).

Yes, the air-conditioned buses are more comfortable but not 850-pesos worth comfortable – well at least from the busses I’ve traveled with. Cramped seats, narrow aisles, and who can forget the tortured passengers at the back-most seats?! And some of these buses take in more passengers in the middle of the trip. Talk about maximizing profit. That’s what a passenger usually feels like in most bus companies – a source of profit.

With Cagsawa Travel and Tours, I was dreading the trip since I was in seat 37. It’s a window seat but it was the last seat at the back of the bus. At the back of the bus is where torture seats are. You’d feel every turn and bump. Good luck in trying to sleep.

When I entered the bus I was delighted to see a wide aisle. I got t my seat without the usual struggle. I found that the seats had individual foot rest and seat belts – plus there was no torture seats in the bus. I’m referring to the five-six capacity seat at the back spanning the width of the bus.

Also, there’s something dignified about the way the drivers carry themselves and their uniforms that makes passengers feel safe. Plus the drivers are patient and polite in answering passenger inquiries – and they give accurate time of arrival.

In all the trips I have taken, the trip with Cagsawa was the most comfortable. I arrived rested and on time. That’s how every trip should be.