Letter for Lolo
I will probably never let go of the idea that I did not have a chance to say goodbye. I like it when people tell me that they’re leaving. When I was a kid, I would get mad at my parents whenever they would leave the house without saying goodbye.
It’s probably because I don’t like the feeling of being alone. It makes me a bit disoriented, somewhat confused, and most likely afraid. Now I am wondering if this is what my Nanay and her siblings must feel like.
I really don’t have a specific memory of you, but what I remember are the little everyday things. Like before you had an accident, you’d bring pancit malabon every time you came to stay for the weekend. Every Saturday morning, your ringing the doorbell had a lingering quality to it. You’d press the button, then wait a couple of seconds to release it. I would drag my feet, still feeling very sleepy, to open the door. I would see you in your cap and oversized khaki jacket, a dark blue messenger bag on your shoulder, and in your hand a plastic bag containing the bilao of pancit, or sapin-sapin.
With your lopsided smile, you’d gruffly shove the bilao at my face. Ha-ha. It’s like you had to give something first before entering our house—an offering, perhaps?
I guess that’s how you repurposed yourself. You always came on weekends after Lola passed away. Maybe you were a bit lonely, and you needed a change of atmosphere. And I guess you just liked the idea of still being able to provide for your family even in your old age. You were 80+ back then and pretty much stronger than any other grandpa I knew: You were still commuting on your own, bringing snacks, or dinner even—“Chicken Sorrow,” anyone? That’s what you called Chicken Joy—and making sure that we were well provided for.
We were roommates back then. I used to hate the idea of having a roommate because I felt that I needed my own space (growing-up years). But my room had the biggest space (and the cleanest one at that). So during college, there were times when I came home late, due to academic and, most often than not, lakwatsa purposes. You’d always check up on me, where I’d been, who I was with. You’d always say that I should come home early and that I should be careful because “maraming loko sa mundo.” Being naturally optimistic, I’d find that statement a bit off. I did wonder where you got that “mean world syndrome,” but I guess your being raised in very harsh conditions (World War II) somewhat molded your values—and showed how fiercely protective you could be for your family. Well, that’s from a man who slept with two types of balisong under his bed sheet. (You gave me one but I politely refused.)
We had those conversations. Random ones. Your road adventures with your friends (because you wanted to eat a certain delicacy in a certain province), how you and Lola met in a parlor. I guess my inquisitiveness also played a key role. And through that I learned that you dated many girls but in the end chose Lola to be your wife. You saw past the physical beauty of other girls and saw Lola’s inner qualities that made her beautiful inside out, with motherly qualities that you said would be needed for a family. And you advised me to look for the inside qualities in a girl as well.
You always believed in me, in what I did and what I could do. You’d say I could go far in life. You actually encouraged me to sing on stage. Every time you watched a choir in our church, you’d say I should sing with it. I dismissed that as plain nagging. But deep inside, a small part of me was actually happy and curious about the what-if and what-could-be. I needed that challenge.
So, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being the fiercely loyal, ever practical provider-believer type of Lolo. Thank you for sharing your life with me.
Enjoy heaven. Till next time, roomie.
Jose Benigno Aquino Gonzales, 24, was in Singapore for training when his grandfather, Leonardo Dizon Aquino, died. This letter was read at his Lolo’s wake.
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