Amang, my Father

This is my father, Rosendo Bauzon Maiquez and I am honouring him and his life more than a decade after he passed on through this short piece of writing.

While I don’t exactly fit within the mould of a good father, husband, or a man like him, I believe that I somehow got his ability to stay calm in the middle of a disaster, perhaps even too much at certain moments that I didn’t get another more important attitude of him, which is to rise immediately from a catastrophe through his big booming laughter, his firm trust in God and that tomorrow will be a better day than today.

As a young man and father, he went overseas to work as a truck driver in deserts bordering Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In his stories, he told us of severe sandstorms that lasted for days that made him and his companion stranded in the middle of the Arabian nowhere. He would bear several stranded trips in the middle of sandstorms or homesickness while working abroad. Nonetheless, he never gave up eventually came back to our country with a small savings to buy his own jeepney and become a driver. 

I remember, one time, I accompanied him during a very wet monsoon season on one of his trips as a jeepney (Public Utility Vehicle in the Philippines) driver. We got stuck in the middle of a busy intersection under relentless heavy downpour for hours when his vehicle broke down. But instead of giving up, he patiently repaired the jeep, which literarily caused a chaotic scene in our town’s major thoroughfare. I was eleven, I think, at that time, and was a bit embarrassed with how we were causing some traffic problems. 

But Amang did everything he could to eventually start the engine and park it at a safer side of the road. I was useless at that time as I didn’t know anything about engines or tools. While I manage to do a bit of help, I silently watched him turn some fuse and coils. I knew he was a bit irritated too after an hour of tinkering, perhaps even to my inability to help him troubleshoot. But I never heard any scolding nor felt any anger from him. He did what he was supposed to do and that is to repair his vehicle, in the middle of a deluge and what for me was an embarrassing situation. He continued being a father to me and to my sister and a loving husband to my mother, who had several mental breakdowns and dark, dangerous moods at the tail-end of her life. He never stopped loving me, despite my distance and absence in most part of his life – while I was young and he had to go out of the country to work as a truck driver in the Middle East and during my college years and early adulthood, when I left my parents to study and work in our country’s capital, Manila. He never stopped being a good father despite my indirect revelation that I am not able to continue his surname, nor become an eventual father myself. He never stopped laughing, smiling, and carrying on with a fight while he was in pain and about to die as we were so poor and we can’t afford to put him in the proper heart hospital and get a decent medical treatment. 

My father also laughed a lot when he was still alive, something that I unfortunately did not acquire. He is always positive and jolly, never bothered much by troubles and bills. Perhaps that was the reason why he married and partnered my mother, an anxious but efficient captain of our household. Though my father was the one bringing food to the table, my Nanay was the one making sure that we get quality life in ordinary ways: good home cooked food and a tidy little and loving abode. I would say this simple life spoiled me, not with riches or toys or gadgets but with the joy, love, care, and discipline our parents brought to our lives. 

My father was the second youngest among seven siblings. At a very young age, he was said to be sickly and gaunt. But he grew up to be a strong, loving, and gentle person that I know. While working overseas, his mother or my grandmother died due to a rabid dog bite. As an overseas contractual worker, Amang was not able to go home to pay for a final respect to my grandmother. I can just imagine how this was one of his saddest moments in life since that he, like me, was very close to his mother as the youngest of the two brothers.

There was another very sad moment with my father that I will never forget. I was already working as a young college instructor in an engineering college in Manila when I decided to go home for a weekend in our province. At that time, I also know that I was gay. My high school best friend (who was also working in Manila) and I decided to take the evening trip after working on a Friday to spend a weekend in our home province of Pangasinan. At that time, my Nanay was at the very beginning of a long downfall from a mental illness. She was starting to be more depressed than the usual. We arrived in our town at around past midnight and I offered the couch to my friend, knowing that their house was very far from the town centre and it might not be safe to travel alone. My father had no mobile phones nor any way of receiving mobile messaging. I knocked on the door and we were received by him. However, when we were about to sleep, my mother had this severe attack of anxiety and mania and got angry at me. She said that she did not know me and that I should get out of the house. She was yelling and violent and insisted that I and my friend leave the house. 

Eventually, my father got affected and said to me to get out of the house too. I felt a bit of anger and frustration from him at that very moment. Me and my friend just decided to go to their house, an hour or less drive by motorised tricycle at around 1:30 am. I never went back to our house nor had a word with my father. I felt hurt by what happened given that I always idealized our home as the be the best place in the world. I stayed in my friend’s house until we went back to Manila for work. I later on learned that my father went to look for me in every house of my friends and former classmates around town that he knew of. A friend of mine, later on, told me that when she saw my father looking for me and he was on the verge of crying. I finally talked to my father after a few days over the phone on a long-distance call. He was again crying and asking forgiveness for what happened that night. He said that he too felt uncomfortable because my mother was acting very badly and that he did not really know what to do. That’s why, he eventually snapped out and thought that it is better for us to leave. But he was very sorry for what happened and he did not mean that decision he made. I was also crying upon hearing these words from my father. I know how much he loved my mother and me, but at that time, it was also one of his most vulnerable and difficult moments as a person dealing with such situation.

At that moment when we were asked to leave the house, I thought that my father was angry at me because I came home very late and that I think he was not pleased of me bringing home a male friend to our house. I was suspecting that he knew that I am gay. I was slowly starting to come out too to my family by bringing some gay erotic fictions whenever I get a chance to visit our province and stay in our house. But later on, after the death of my father, my Auntie Paquita talked to me. She told me that she had a conversation with father after that incident. My father still felt guilty of what happened and he told my aunt that he loved me very much, no matter who I am as a person. Being raised in a very conservative and religious family, I know that this was a way that my father was telling me that it is okay if he has a gay son, and that he love me very much until the end, and that I am his only son, no matter what my choices are.

That was the last time that I saw (or heard) my father cry or get very, very sad, or upset. I have rarely seen him act on rage. Even during his last days, he maintained that gentleness and calm fatherly image that I will never be able to match. I was feeding him dinner after he was hospitalized for a near fatal heart attack. It was our final bond together. Indeed, the silence between us was very golden. I was spooning small pieces of papaya and he was gladly taking each bite despite the difficulty of each breath he was experiencing. His eyes were still smiling and full of positivity despite his condition. His love to me was wordless, no need for any explanation, it was just a plain moment of being thankful for me being there, being his son, amidst what we don’t speak about. A few days after that moment, on August 23, 2005, he finally succumbed to his heart condition and parted us with a loss that I still feel now that I am writing this piece. 

I will forever love you my Amang Rosendo, you who always brought home burger or my favourite egg sandwich every afternoon after your pasada or roundtrip around town as a jeepney driver. I hope I can, sometimes, laugh like you do. I miss your booming and low voice Amang, and I apologise for whatever pain or heartache that added to the eventual damage of your physical heart. But I know, your kindness, your love, and all the good memories will remain in the heart of the people you had loved and encountered in your brief but meaningful life. I hope that in the best of my capacities and despite my many vulnerabilities that I will still be good, and kind like you. I will try to smile, and trust Someone, and the goodness of strangers and our family, whenever I worry a lot like my Nanay, your loving Lucita, which you eternally adored. 

You are forever here, in my own mortal heart, my Amang.

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