February 22, 2014
Mga Ama, Mga Anak
My tatay was a loving father. I remember very vividly the things that he did to me, for me, with me, when I was a little boy until I was all grown up. Thinking about him and all the things that we shared always makes me miss him terribly. And, I get emotional and I start to cry. Just like now. I miss him as I think about him. I’m 65 years old, missing my father who is now in heaven, and crying quietly like a little boy.
Thinking about all the things he did for me makes me feel guilty too, because I feel that I was never able to give him or show him in return the kind of love, care, and affection that he generously showered me with.
Tatay was warm and playful. He was very fond of carrying me in his arms, hugging me tightly, tickling me, and putting me on his shoulders. I remember him putting me to sleep when nanay was still doing her chores like cleaning up the kitchen or washing the dishes after dinner. I always looked forward to those times when he would put me to sleep because it was like a game.
He would put me on our banig on the floor. He would lie beside me and let me use his arm as my pillow. He would then pretend to sleep even before I could sleep. Tatay would create weird snoring sounds and then I would feel his other huge arm slowly descending gently on my little body. First, on my tummy. I would push the arm away because it felt heavy. He would let my two little arms push his big arm up as he continued to pretend to be sleeping. I would watch the big arm go up and away, only for it to slowly come back, this time settling gently on my neck. I would push the arm up again. But, it would slowly go back again on my face, gently covering my little nose. I would push the arm again but watch it come back, slowly, this time settling very gently on my eyes, so I would have no choice but to close them. After that, I would feel his fingers stroking my head very tenderly. The game ends as I fall into a deep sleep. I was probably 3 or 4 or 5 years old then.
Tatay was a good fisherman. He and his father, our Tatang, would fish in the Marikina River when its waters were still crystal clear that you can actually see the bottom of the river. Tatay was also a good swimmer. He wanted me to learn to swim, among many other things that he wanted me to learn as a young boy. He knew that alone, I was scared of the water. But with him close by, nothing scared me. How did I learn to swim?
Tatay had a number of fishing paraphernalia, the names of which I cannot recall anymore. He had one that was attached to three slender bamboos tied together into a triangular shape. Tatay used it like a dredge. He would stay in between the two crossed bamboos forming the tip of the triangle, with the wide base of the triangle being pushed against the river floor which trapped the fish swimming in the way. Tatay would move from the shallow part of the river to the deeper part. He would ask me initially to hold on to his arm as he moved. I would start at first tiptoeing as my feet still touched the river floor. Tatay would continue to move forward until I could not feel my feet touching the ground anymore, so I would hold on to his arm tighter. Sometimes, he would pretend to scratch his head or any part of his body that he said was itchy. He would shake his arm to loosen my hold. So, for short moments, I would be forced to float until I can grab his arm again. And still he would move forward to even the deeper part of the river.
From holding on to Tatay’s arm, I found myself clinging onto his neck tightly. And then, he would intentionally slowly bring down his head into the water, with little me sinking with him. After a short while, he would surface again, with me gasping for air, but still holding on tight to his neck. Then he would pretend to scratch his neck again, loosening my hold on it, thereby releasing me. And then he would submerge his head in the water, staying close by, leaving me with no choice but to float. Knowing that Tatay was just close by, I began to enjoy the feel and experience the water and the river. The next time we went fishing, Tatay would get the scare of his life after I dived into the water and stayed too long for his comfort.
There are many other things that Tatay taught me. He forced me to learn how to ride a bike by telling me that boys much younger than me already knew how to ride a bike. I told him that his bike was too big for me. My short legs could not yet reach the pedals. “Then do not sit on the bike’s seat. Sit on the bar so you can reach the pedal,” he said. And I did just that.
Tatay was not only good in fishing. He was a good baseball player. He was in the local baseball team of our barrio, Malanday, Marikina. The Malanday team was considered the best in the Marikina. Theirs was the team to beat. So, next lesson as a teenager is baseball. Since it is a ball game that uses a hard ball, it can hurt your head or any other part of your body if you do not know how to catch it, when it is thrown at you, or when it goes to your direction after the hitter hits it with a bat.
Tatay would wake me up very early in the morning to go the field (a rice field converted into a baseball field in Summer), to teach me how to catch the hard ball from a pitcher. For our first session, he lent me a baseball glove, told me to stand a few feet away from him then put the glove in front of my face but not covering my eyes. He said he would throw the ball fast and hard at me and I should be able to catch it. Otherwise, it would land on my face or any other part of my body. I was pretty scared, so, I said, “Huwag sa mukha, tatay, huwag sa mukha” (Not on the face, Father). He either did not hear me or that was part of the lesson, just to catch the ball, period. He threw the ball straight at me. I knew it was coming fast, quite fast, right straight to my face that I had no choice left, but to catch it. And I did. It landed on my glove. I felt good and proud even though my hand hurt. Tatay came up to me, touched my head, hugged me, and said, “Galing ah! Mana sa Tatay” (Good! Just like Father).
I’m pretty lucky as a son. I had a father like my father. Other kids are not as lucky. Marcelo Monzon was not as lucky.
In Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Mga Ama Mga Anak” (a translation of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s “Fathers and Sons”), Marcelo Monzon also told his father “Huwag sa mukha, tatay, huwag sa mukha.” But, it was not because his father was teaching him to catch a hard ball. His, father, Don Zacarias, was violently hitting him hard with a whip.
I grew up loving my father. Marcelo Monzon grew up hating his father.
I am inviting fathers and sons, as well as mothers and daughters, to come and watch “Mga Ama, Mga Anak.” Jose “Pete” Lacaba also translated it. The play is directed by Joel Lamangan. Featured actors are Robert Arevalo, alternating with Spanky Manikan as Zacarias Monzon; Celeste Legaspi alternating with Jackie Lou Blanco; Cris Villonco; Madeleine Nicolas alternating with Banaue Miclat; Peewee O’hara; Marco Viana; this writer as Marcelo Monzon; and the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company. The set and costume design are by Tuxqs Rutaquio, lighting design by Monino Duque, and sounds and music by TJ Ramos.
The play opens on February 21, 2014, and will run on weekends (Friday-Sunday) until March 9, 2014 at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater). For tickets and other information, please call 832-1125 local 1620 or 1621.
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