Monday, September 10, 2007

Memories Of My Father

My father would have been 60 years old today but he died young at age 43 from complications of his excesses in life.

I remember my Dad mostly as a beer- drinking, chain- smoking, black- coffee drinking, temperamental man who spoke English, which he learned from my mother, mixed with the vernacular he learned from the Istambays in our town.

He was a young man of 21 when he first set foot in our remote town in the Philippines as an eager member of the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV), Japan’s version of the US Peace Corps in trying to make amends for the war that devastated his neighbors years back.

It was in Tiwi, Albay famous for its Hot Springs and Pottery among others where he first made his mark in the Philippines. He was assigned as a Ceramic Technician and had a hand in the rehabilitation of the Ceramic Plant of the town.

And with the cooperation of some local folks, he was instrumental in making maybe the first and probably the only Japanese Garden in the Philippines made by a “genuine Japanese” at that time.

The Japanese Garden in Tiwi was once upon a time one of the most visited places in Albay by both foreign and local tourists alike. It even landed in both the Japanese and Philippine Tourist Guidebooks although the information on the latter was erroneously credited to a group of Japanese JOCVs which I think only shows how irresponsible they were in handling facts and put premium more on hearsays rather than do some research on the subject.

Sad to say, the said Japanese Garden of today was a mere shadow of its old self having fallen victim to neglect due to political intramurals of the local leaders. I hope that one day, I could raise the money to rehabilitate it if only the town’s local officials would allow it.

My father was a handsome man which probably why he was able to win the hands of the only daughter of the former Mayor and convinced her in the end to elope with him when my Grand Pa did not approve of the relationship because of what he deemed as cultural differences and the thought of losing his precious daughter to a complete stranger and a "former enemy" at that, what with the painful reminder of the Second World War still fresh in the late 60s.

My Grandfather in his attempt to stop their blooming relationship even asked the Japanese Embassy to pull him out of Tiwi and had him recalled to Japan thus ending abruptly the stint and career of the youngest member of the 1968 batch of the JOCVs in the Philippines. But my father wrote to my mother almost everyday until he finally came back and the rest was history.


I will always remember his ritual each morning while sitting in his chair with a cigarette wedged in his fingers, reading a book in between sips of his very strong sugar-less black coffee.

He was a wide and voracious reader. He had a vast collection of books from the animes to history and the sciences, all in Japanese of course, which was maybe his way of getting in touch with his roots while moored in a land far different from where he grew up.

I will always remember the packages from Japan that my Lola Riki, his mother sent to us. I will always remember the excitement on his face as he takes out the toys, clothes and boxes of foods out of the box and gave them to us one by one.

Long before Voltes V and other Japanese Anime's invasion of the Philippines, I already had my share of those battery- operated robots, transformers and anime- designed sneakers, school supplies and clothing. Funny, but I even refused to wear those sneakers to school and used the knapsack since I felt that I was out of place for in the mid and late 70’s I think those things were uncommon in the Philippines.

And long before Japanese foods were in vogue, I already had my fill of sushi, sashimi and the like. My father would regale us with stories about his early years in Post- War Japan where food were scarce and the sacrifices they made.

He once shared to us a story about how his Mom would prepare and arrange his packed lunch for school with nothing but rice and a single pickled red cherry at the center fashioning out a Japanese flag from the meager supply that they have to remind him not to be choosy about food.

And he was a funny man too. Maybe taking from his mother, he in turn tricked me and my younger sister into believing that the Nori paper that he just run over the flames of a lone candle is actually carbon paper that he turned into something edible and other hilarious stories about the brown Miso paste, the pickled radish, the sesame seeds and the Kikkoman soy sauce.

I will always remember how he gave birth to a lot of animals through the magic of Origami as well as colored pencil sketches on the drawing books putting to good use his talent that once upon a time won him a place in a UNESCO- sponsored art contest in Japan.

I will always remember how he made our Christmases more bright and fun with his artworks and fancy decorations of Santa, Rudolph and such.

And of course, how he made my school projects better than anyone else with his wide knowledge and imagination.

He was our resident artist, comedian, designer and father rolled into one.

(To be Continued)


Gina said...

You must miss him so .... He seemed like he was a very interesting man.
I will wait for the second installment ..

Nicey said...


snglguy said...

A very touching tribute to your Dad, padi. Can't wait to read the rest.. :-)

43 is such a young age, and I'm already 46! Had he still been alive today, I bet he would be the proudest papa in Tiwi, seeing that his first-born is a doctor, and in the States pa. ;-)

raqueLLe said...

today is my mama's birthday if i could have your words half as good then she can read how thankful i am to have her. but i just cant find the things to say yet...

ill wait for the next.

annamanila said...

What an amazing, talented, and complicated man -- your father. And he was cut down in his prime. Sayang naman. But you have enough memories naman to last you a life time.

I wondered if you were really half-Japanese or if you were just enamored with a Japanese pseudonym. I am glad to know more about you, Bill.

Will also wait for part 2.

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