Monday, July 26, 2010

counting cars



The weary warrior walked up the steps of his fallen home. Around him lay an orgy of rubble. If these stones could speak, they would tell stories of death, struggle and waste. Suddenly, all the victories he won, all the challenges he overcame seemed meaningless. Nothing he ever did in his short life could ever compare to the grief, the immense sense of loss that seemed to rain on him now. What good would it do if he had no one to share it with?

My father walked up the funeral home with a similar sense of defeat. My uncle died over the weekend. He was instrumental in my formative years. We spent countless summers together, playing street games and eating watermelons. My uncle was a bit of a wild child. He never conformed to anyone even when he had a family of his own. In my clearest memories of him, he is coming up to me with a big, ripe watermelon. He’d chop it in half and we’d bury our faces in the heart of each cheek, eating only the sweetest part, throwing out the rest. It showed how he viewed life. He didn’t want to waste his time with seeds or the bland parts of the fruit’s flesh. You gotta take the good parts and throw away the bad, he explained once. Outside, the trash cans were filled to the brim with half-eaten watermelons left to the flies.

His final years saw him wasting away. The last I saw him, he was almost toothless. His smile beamed at me from across the room, the years betraying signs on his face. His daughters, no longer charmed by his careless life, treated him like a prisoner. He rarely left his room, only venturing into the outside world for his daily trip to the sari-sari store for soda and some smokes. That’s what pained my father the most. He looked at them with disgust. How could you do that to my brother?

He’d been dead for hours before anyone noticed. The entire left side of his body was bloated beyond recognition. My father walked up to the closed casket with a stern expression. He’s always been such an expert at concealing his emotions, showing only what was necessary or negligible. His hands caressed the coffin’s trimmings, running his fingers through the wooden carvings. A single tear dropped on the cold wood. My eyes widened. I realized I had never seen my father cry before.

He was quiet for a long time. He sat on one of the pews, speaking to no one, refusing trays of food or drink. My father is the youngest in his family. He has buried so many people, we have all lost count. My uncle was not the first nor will he be the last my father puts in the ground. It seems that for most people born last in the family, it is our inheritance to bury our kin. I looked at my sisters sitting quietly in the corner. How will it be when my turn comes?

I saw my eldest sister staring at my father, her thoughts running parallel with mine. I couldn’t explain it. I rarely cry at funerals but all of a sudden, I found my own dams had burst. I ran to my sisters, hugging them, hoping they would understand why I felt so bad. There was no doubt in my mind we had many years ahead of us. My fear was that we had already wasted the ones we have now.

My family is not known for our emotions. Prior to this funeral, it had been weeks since we hung out as a pack. Time is a funny thing. We never realize how much we’ve wasted until we are faced with our own mortality. My father wiped his tears and as he stood up, his grown-up children rushed to him with the same fervor as townspeople welcoming a hero. We couldn’t explain it. Logic seemed to escape us but it took a great sense of grief and loss to remind us that it is not too late for our family. It is not too late to be a family.

My sister was too tired so my dad offered to drive us home. In the passenger seat, my mother sat half-awake. In the back seat, my siblings and I sat together, like we did when we were kids on our way to church. I was exhausted. The little strength I had left was taken away by all the crying. In the darkness, I felt a small hand grasp mine, my sister seemingly holding the little time we had left together.

We are only given a few years before everything we worked for, every thing we know is taken away from us. I walked up the steps to my home and unlike the warrior’s, my home’s walls were still intact, the roof firmly above our heads. It’ll take years, decades even, before this house falls to rubble. I found my father frozen in the kitchen with a glass of water. It was like he forgot what he was doing or what the next step was. Good night, I said as my arms wrapped tightly around him. What I really wanted to say was that it’s not too late. That our family will be different. And that though I don’t say it too much, I love him with everything I am.

I could tell he found this strange, too. His first impulse was to flinch. Slowly, I felt his shoulders relax. This evening armed us with an openness none of us wanted to explain. He didn’t say anything. I just felt his hold tighten and I knew what his heart was trying to say. Thank you for being here. I love you, too.

Photo Credit: parthenon

Dishwalla
Counting Blue Cars
Pet Your Friends


If songs have covers, what do blog posts have? My good friend Victor translated one of my first Filipino posts into English. (And though it’s a little embarrassing to have your three-year-old posts aired out, because of the talented writer I know-he knows-I know he is, me’s izz extreeeemely flattered.) Click here to see what he came up with.

63 comments:

  1. Di ko pa tapos basahin. Mamaya na. Naiiyak na ko ng maigi. :'(

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  2. Oh no. What's wrong, Pipo? I'm sorry. :c I always get sad when someone's sad. Hope you feel better.

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  3. I was reading your blog when you comment came through on my recent post.

    Okay, about your post.

    "Logic seemed to escape us but it took a great sense of grief and loss to remind us that it is not too late for our family. It is not too late to be a family."

    Pasasaan ba't magiging okay din kayo. One baby step at a time,and the gesture on the last part of your post is the start. You can do better :-D

    at Ang ganda ng structure ng post mo!

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  4. Pak!! Lumabas nanaman yang structure comment ni Jepoy o!

    Salamat sa pagbasa at pagcomment. At UNL (utang na loob na pinasosyal) wag mo isasara blog mo!

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  5. I was touched by this entry of yours. Actually, I can't see myself hugging my father. We're so okay naman, pero sa tingin ko he'll find this gesture "cheesy." Abnormal kasi minsan ang ama ko. Haha

    And oh, ngayon ko lang narinig yang kanta ng Dishwalla. Angels and Demons lang kasi alam kong kanta nila hehe.

    May nabasa akong watermelons, haha. Favorite fruit ko yan tsaka "pambato" sa zombies. =)))

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  6. Ooh zombies!!!

    Truth is, di talaga kami maaffectionate. I don't remember the last time I hugged him din. Weird.

    Ako naman, this is the only song nila na alam ko. haha It was introduced to me by an ex good friend. I like the melody. Buong araw ko iniisip kung anong magandang soundtrack sa post na to. On my way home, I overheard it sa isang emo kid sa kalsada.

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  7. Time is a funny thing. We never realize how much we’ve wasted until we are faced with our own mortality.

    This statement totally killed it. Prang gusto kong i-print sa mug at ipamigay sa mga friends ko, like a subtle warning, na wag silang magmaganda dahil malapit na silang mamatay.

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  8. Hey, Glentot! We missed you last Saturday. Although YJ had some pretty interesting theories kung nasan ka. haha

    I love how you just gravitated towards that line. haha lahat naman tayo mamamatay. Does that mean wala na tayong right magmaganda? haha

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  9. naiiyak ako..tsk.. hnd ko maintindihan..waaahhh..joke

    ewan ko pero wala talga ako masabi . galing mo talga sir neil

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  10. Haha akala ko naman, naka-relate ka. toink

    Salamat sa pagbasa, Kuya Marvin! Na-appreciate ko talaga. So ano? Dalawin ka na namin sa Commonwealth?

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  11. i gotta say i became an instant fan after reading this.
    beats me why haven't i been reading ur blogs? i will now,regularly, for sure :)

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  13. First off, condolences on the loss of your uncle, Nyl.

    But more importantly, congratulations for the epiphany that it's not too late for your own little family unit.

    It was a little difficult to read the part where you hugged your father, though. Because the first and, to my memory, last time my own father hugged me, I wanted to cry.

    But that's another story.

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  14. our lives are indeed measured by how much we are loved (and how we have loved others too).

    a very good entry that reminds us the essence of mortality.

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  15. depressing but the epiphany is something to rejoice about.

    i love the watermelon part.

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  16. galing ng pagkakasulat.

    at pareho kami ni pipo. half pa lang nababasa ko emotional na ko masyado...

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  17. awwww...
    you're right it's not too late. yaan mo pag dating ng dad ko from US. ihahug ko din sya. :D

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  18. @Soltero: Why thank you, sir! You're too kind.

    @Lance: Yeah. I wanted to show that the rocks weren't unhappy that they were dusty and stuff. It's like they're happy or something which makes the warrior's feelings seem displaced. idk if I was successful. haha

    @Rudeboy: Thanks, Rudie! What is it with us and our fathers? I'm sure at some point, we shared a bond with them. In our adult life, it's like we treat them like strangers. Or am I over-generalizing?

    Tell your story! You know I love it when you talk about tito, este your family.

    @Alterjon: Thanks! Measure it in looooooove!

    Orallyours: It was something I read in a book when I was younger. I don't really remember where. Sorry! Thanks for dropping by! :D:D:D

    @Désolé Boy: Salamat sa pag-basa. :) Sorry naman. Naguilty tuloy ako sa inyo ni Pipo.

    @Ced: Galingan mo ha! Hehe We're inspiring a new wave of daddy leurve!

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  19. yup...yups...we wouldn't really know what to do until we find ourselves in the very situation. then we react as we deem 'appropriate' or 'needed'.

    tea and sympathy :)

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  20. Hey Colorblind. Long time no see! :D Does this mean you're officially back to blogging?

    I think, all factors considered, we reacted appropriately naman. We could've chickened out and said meeehh... it happens but in the end, we couldn't let that oppurtunity pass us by.

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  21. i stopped counting cars. i pick up lessons through their traces.

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  22. Hey, Cio! I guess that's one way of picking up those lessons. Kaso parang immune na kami eh. haha

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  23. sigh. grief does bind us. weird how pain can be a source of strength and a turning point for better things :)

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  24. Her Darc-ie! :D It's one of the bigger, more recognizable catalysts of our generation. We just don't listen to good advice anymore. lol

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  25. my condolences friend... haay. family. i miss mine. :)

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  26. Omnes una manet nox. Memento mori.
    The same night awaits us all. Remember that you must die.

    My condolences.

    Tenderly crafted words. And as always, hands down.

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  27. @Juber: Maybe it's time to give 'em a call! :D

    @Yas: Thanks for reading. Lovely quote. :)

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  28. My condolences Nyl. Death has always been something bewildering for me, something I don't have the strength to confront or talk about. I guess most of us are like that. But when we are forced (by circumstance) to do what must be done, some of us become extraordinary. As this is.

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  29. Oooh... so it's true. The Manech is back!

    Thanks for dropping by. You've been terribly missed.

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  30. i forgot to say my condolences that night...i hope its not too too late... condolences, nyl...


    off topic:
    and again, we were not able to talk that much. i was charon that night. hehehe thank you for coming.

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  31. Hey Geek! I found out Sunday morning narin naman eh. I didn't know din at that time.

    It was really nice seeing you! Kinain ni Jeff yung pasalubong ko. :c What's Charon?

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  32. A death can lead us to confront our own mortality and the questions that arise with it.

    Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Who are you?

    Lover, friend, father, son. We were/are/will be each of these things at some point in time.

    But there are many kinds of sons, and many kinds of fathers. Which one are you Nyl?

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  33. Interesting realizations, Kane. I don't really know how to answer that question. Of course, I'd like to think I'm a good son but my father's got a lot of reasons to be disappointed in me. Most days, I try not to think about it.

    I sure hope one day I could have my own kids. I don't really know what kind of father I'll be but I would like to find out for myself.

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  35. who is charon, nyl. hahaha

    sabi ni yj, lola da wniya kumain. hahaha bawi ako next time.

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  36. Sabi mo Charon! Haha Di ko alam yun eh.

    Naku, awayin ko lola niya! Haha if I know, siya kumain nun! (Joke lang, YJ! hahaha)

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  37. Please save this one for your later memoirs -- it's just so beautifully woven. As usual. Hope you feel better now.

    Something funny naman next time?

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  38. Hey Peter! Thanks for saying that. I think it's a little too early for my memoirs but it's definitely memorable enough to save for that.

    Yeah, I feel better na. As for the funny post, hmmm.. I can't really promise anything. I'm not very funny eh haha

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  39. if only men were as good as women in showing their emotions... ay wag na lang, chaotic masyado.

    grabe nyl.. kaka-touch! *hugs*

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  40. Yeah, I wouldn't want that either. lol Ang gulo kaya nun. Plus I use my sex as an excuse sometimes. haha

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  41. There has been so much death lately. Not only people I know, but people my friends/acquaintances love dearly. I guess the old generation is finally giving way for the younger generation.

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  42. And that sounds fine now, Andy but in a few decades, that'll be us. Is anyone ever ready for the big D?

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  43. in some ways i find the life that the generation of bading younger than 30 have created (not burdened by the blair-witchesque fear that linked gay with death) quite refreshing; but on the other hand, the spike in HIV transmission limits how refreshed I feel.

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  44. I guess it's the price people pay for forging a new path. We make mistakes because the ones before us couldn't [?] What do you think?

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  45. I don't really know either. Blame it on the lack of sleep. haha

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  46. i think a true creative moment can only be born alive if it enters reality through a wasp-orchid conjunction. when the two come together, the wasp and orchid both mistake the other's true existence and when it is over, they both are different on a cellular level. youthful folly, misplaced confidence and precociousness are necessary conditions for creativity to thrive in a world overly bound to tradition and authority. that being said, one easily gets inflated and the wax on one's wings melts and one dies from an HIV infection for no good reason.

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  47. I think that's a lovely metaphor, albeit a little sad. Not everyone ends up "different on a cellular level." I just wish it were easier for everyone.

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  48. "I just wish it were easier for everyone." that the spectre of authority speaking a la Chairman Mao. =P

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  49. Refresh me. Was that the dictator? haha Wikipedia's been blocked from my work computer. :c

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  50. hahaha. founder of the People's Republic of China...

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  51. *facepalm* so that's why he seemed familiar. how embarrassing.

    so is this desire to make everyone's lives easier the premise for communism? or do i need to go back to school? i was never really good with history and stuff. haha

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  52. the shadow quality to the claim of making everything equal is that things are not equal and thus, a hidden violence lurks the below the idealism of the clouds...

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  53. *nosebleed* okay, lemme get tissue. i'll be right back.

    i think to say that things are not equal and deciding you want to do something about it entails a certain god-like projection of yourself. i get that way when i play the sims. but then again, most of my characters end up dead or miserable. :c

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  54. i was moved with this entry. I'm glad that you're able to make your dad feel what you felt for him. you had your chance and you went for it. unlike ours, it'll never be whole again, it'll never be the same again.

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  55. Is it really too late? I'm trying to remember if you said anything about it to me before?

    How are you, Kuya Xtian? I feel like it's been years since I saw you.

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  56. I'm ok. Thanks for asking. Prob sa mga previous entries ko hehe.

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  57. Well, I hope you sort everything out. :)

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  58. This is a very good song and a very good band. Dishwalla. I haven't thought you're listening to this kind of stuff nyl. :)

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  59. Of course, I do! haha I love music. As in.

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  60. 90's music is really great. I love Dishwalla. :) Do you happen to listen to Candlebox as well?

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  61. Candlebox? Unfortunately, I know nothing about them. lol most of my 90's music knowledge was influenced by my older siblings and so, I only know the acts that they liked. :)

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