My Childhood with Jorge Robeje
Copyright 2020 by Terence Talagon
been wanting so much to go home to Guimaras; partly because I want to
take a break from school, but mostly because I want to see my
has grown quite old, dragging his feet behind him while he would
stumble on things laid haphazardly on the floor. He could not see
much now, due to the cataracts that covered his eyes. Someone told me
eye surgery would cost around eighty thousand pesos, an amount that
could have been afforded by his working children but which they
is sad that he would not recognize me when I enter the door, and that
it would take a few seconds after my hello for him to know it is me.
But he would always know it's me. He knows it's me when someone rubs
his white head. When someone would pull his wise beard. When someone
asks him how he is and sits at his side, he knows it's me.
he would arise from lying down, and he would tell me how he is seeing
only gray light when his eyes are open. He would say good morning
even though the sun is setting. He would complain a lot about his
bowels and bladder before asking me whether I ate already and that
heís sorry he couldnít cook for me anymore. And if I
chose to stay, he would continue his stories.
was born in 1937. He was young when the second world war broke out in
the Pacific, and I assume he does not remember a lot about it. Most
of his stories happened in his teenage years when he was in the
waters between Guimaras and Negros islands.
was a fisherman. His father was a fisherman. Even his fatherís
father is one. He grew up fishing and swimming and diving the waters
in the small islands near us. He would say that Ďback in the
daysí the fishes are so abundant that they donít cost
anything and he would often give the excess catch to their neighbors
or exchange it for some vegetables.
he grew up to a full man, he fished with his friends. He told me of
the one time lightning struck their boat in the middle of the sea,
and how his companion got immortal by lighting a cigar from the small
fire it made. He would say that later on, he lost that friend to a
that, he would tell me how, when he was young, he used to watch boat
races during the local festivals and dreamed to be a boat maker
someday. So he built a home in the mountains with my grandmother
where there was plenty of strong wood and started to carve his boats.
a few years, his boats started winning the races. He got popular
around town, and many would help him carry his boats to the shore
every year. I remember following after them when I was young and my
grandfather, still able.
his children grew into young men and women, he took them to the
islands. When they grew up and bore him grandchildren, he took them
to the seas as well. Those were my older cousins. When I grew up he
had quit boat making and fishing and has resorted to tending his
animals and his farm.
I was able to walk, he fetched me from our house. He carried me on
his shoulders for three kilometers to the hills. There he took me to
ride in his carabao
and made me a net to catch dragonflies. Later that day, we dug worms
and baited them in our fishing lines beside the river. When the
fishes did not come, we left it overnight. First thing in the morning
I checked it and cooked the haluan
that I caught.
I was in high school we transferred homes beside his farm. There was
still a lot of adventures: planting vegetables, watching plants grow,
milking our cows. But as I grew up, I witnessed how he walked slower
and slower each day. How he began to stumble in the paddies. It was
the onset of his cataracts.
his son was bedridden due to stage four cancer, my grandmother had to
sell the carabao
for his medications. He died months later, and when I came home from
my summer job, my siblings told me how he was the first to find his
dead son. They told me that as he was walking beside his bed groping
for his way, Isidro took his hands and put it on his chest as he blew
his last breath. That day, I embraced my grandfather as he cried.
all that happened to his life is everything that he has left and his
memories would rewind again and again. The stories became repetitive,
but I listened to them as though they were new to me every time.
he would sit silently and stare at the void for a long time, I would
interrupt him with a folk song. I would ask him to sing in his turn,
but he would always decline, telling me he could not sing.
in a while, when his white hair would grow uncomfortable, I would
invite him for a haircut. Afterward, he would always say he looked
better while caressing his hair.
summer I told him that I got accepted to a prestigious university in
Manila. He smiled with utter happiness and clapped his hands. He said
he had not heard of the school but that he wishes the best for me.
will always be the face of my happy childhood. When I will miss home,
it will be his face that I would think of first. It would be the
glorious afternoons when we rode in the back of his carabao,
the water we carried from the river to the fields, the birds we
chased with the dogs, and the stories. He would always remind me of
home- distant, faded but alive.
Talagon is a student who likes to write in his free time and take
part in online writing competitions. He has joined the provincial
schools press conference and has won 1st
place in feature writing.
He is a friend, a
brother, and above all, a grandson.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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