(Note to reader: This is the fourth and last installment of Saranghamnida, Sayonara Papa series. If you’re new to this site, please scroll down to read the beginning of the story. Thank you.)
We do not have the tightly-knitted bond that other family have. Our family relationship was so peculiar, that I often wondered why we were not having family reunions just like my friends in school does or why I haven’t met my aunts and uncles or grandparents from my father’s side.
I tried asking Ma about it but she would just tell me that Pa’s parents were already dead and his siblings were all over the place that tracking their whereabouts would be difficult.
As a kid, I accepted Ma’s explanation and tried to just shrug it off.
But several years later, I learned that shrugging it off proved to be a mistake. It was like a timed bomb waiting to explode, an accident waiting to happen…
Part 4: You can’t hide your secrets forever…
Maybe the old man thought he could take his deepest secrets with him to the grave when he died but, alas, the secrets didn’t want to be buried.
The past didn’t want to be forgotten and so it decided to meet with the present.
It was on the eve of May 16th when Momma asked me to read and reply to the message on her phone on the affirmation of the arrival of Pa’s ‘relatives’ from Manila in the morning.
But when I read the message, it said “bukas po ng 6am ang dating nila sa airport. Paki-accommodate na lang po sa mga kapatid ko. Kagabi po kinikiliti ni papa ang paa ko, pakisabi po ke papa, mahal na mahal ko siya. (They will arrive in the airport tomorrow at 6am. Please give my sisters proper accommodation. Last night, Papa tickled my toes like he used to. Please tell Papa, I love him so much.)”
I got confused with the message so I asked Momma about it, “who is this?”
Then she replied, “ah, kamag-anak yan ng papa mo (that’s one of your father’s relatives).
But I hit right back, “eh bakit papa ang tawag niya ke papa? Ano ba siya? (but why call him Papa? How is she related to him?)”
She didn’t answer right away so I asked again, “may anak si papa sa labas? Mga anak niya yung darating bukas? (Pa has other sons/daughters? Are those arriving tomorrow Pa’s offsprings?)
My elder sister answered instead, “oo, tatlo silang darating bukas. Hindi makakarating yung iba dahil may trabaho.” (yes, three of them will arrive tomorrow. Others can’t make it because they can’t get out of work)
“Ilan ba silang anak sa labas? Marami pala kami? Alam mo ‘to ate? (How many are Pa’s offsprings out of wedlock? So it’s not the only four of us? You knew about this, sis?)
But Momma said, “lima sila pero matagal na yun, past is past. Gusto lang nila makita sa huling pagkakataon ang papa mo. (five, they just wanted to see your pa for the last time)
I was dumbfounded for a few minutes then I said, “ayokong mag-reply sa message na ‘yan. Wag nyo rin ako piliting makipag-usap sa kanila bukas, baka kung ano lang ang masabi kong masama. (I don’t want to reply on that message and please don’t force me to talk with them, I might say something offensive.)
Momma then said, “wag kang ganyan, pilitin mong makitungo ng maayos sa kanila habang nandito sila. We are Christians.” (Please don’t be like that, try to be nice to them while they are here. We are Christians.)
But I didn’t dwell on the subject and chose to just keep quiet.
The most awkward moment
The next day, I learned that Ma and my younger brother went to the airport to fetch my step-sisters.
To while my time, I decided to buy some cleaning materials from a store nearby to clean the floors of the chapel and arrange things to make it more presentable to visitors.
Just when I was starting to mop the floors from spilled coffee and bread crumbs, a taxi stopped outside. Then Ma alighted along with my brother and three women.
And so I thought, “these must be them. So let’s get the show running.”
When they entered the chapel, I didn’t dare greet them nor look at them and continued cleaning the place instead. When they sat down, Ma introduced us to them.
“This is Jane, my eldest,” gesturing to my sister, “these are my grandchildren, the offsprings of my son Dandy, next to eldest. You know Buboy already, my youngest and that’s Robie, the third of the brood,” in respect to my mother, I smiled at their direction but I felt awkward so I didn’t look at them.
Momma might have noticed my indifference and so she continued, “this is D****, D**** and G******,” my sister said hi and my brother smiled at them while I remained silent, still cleaning the dirty floors.
“How was your flight? Were you able to get some sleep? Hindi ba kayo nahirapan?” Ma continued chatting with them but I tuned them out.
Why are they here? I thought. If they hated us for thinking we made Pa stay away from them, then why come here? Why now?
I learned from my sister Jane that she knew of them way back in the year 2000 when she underwent training in Manila.
Jane said, “while I was waiting for my training to finish, I stayed at a boarding house in Manila. Some girl befriended me, at first I felt crept out by her because she kept staring at me. But then later on, I found out why when she finally talked to me.
“You know, you really look so familiar to me. May I ask where you came from?” the girl asked.
“Oh, I’m from Davao City,” my sister replied.
“Really?” she asked, eyes lit with curiosity, “my Uncle is in Davao now, he’s a seafarer,” she said.
“Oh yeah? My Father is a seafarer, too. Maybe they know each other,” my sister said.
“Maybe. I’ll show you my uncle’s picture the next time we see each other,” the girl said.
When they met the next day, the girl immediately showed her the picture of her ‘uncle’ “hey, Jane, this is my Uncle, the one I told you about.”
My sister took the picture from her to look at it closely and then frowned, “that’s my father,” she told the girl while pointing at the picture she held.
“What?” the girl asked, looking confused.
“I said, that guy in the picture you were telling me about is my father. Why do you have his picture? Are we somehow related?” my sister asked.
But the girl didn’t respond. She abruptly stood up and whispered, “anliit talaga ng mundo, (the world is really small)” then she cried.
“I wanted to ask her why she cried but I didn’t get the chance seeing she was so distraught,” my sister told me. “When Pa came to visit me in Manila, it was then that I knew why she cried when she learned her ‘uncle’ was also my father.”
My sister recounted that time, saying “when Pa’s ship docked in Manila, he came to my boarding house to check on my training. While we were talking, the girl from before arrived.
When she saw Pa, she went to him and kissed his hand. But Pa didn’t look at her or even acknowledge her presence so she immediately left.
I wondered what it was all about. I tried asking Pa, but he was tight-lipped as usual and even though he refused to answer my question, I already had a hunch about what it was.
“I think the most painful time of revelation happened to our brother, Dandy,” my sister continued. “He was in college studying Maritime Engineering when he learned Pa had other family. I think it was the first day of class when the Professor asked for his name.”
“How are you related to Merchant Officer Rogelio Demelletes?” the Professor asked to which my brother replied, “He’s my father, sir.”
“Really? Sa unang pamilya o sa ikalawa? (from the first family or the second?)” the professor asked again.
“I didn’t know how he reacted to that but he said he got really embarrassed and mad at the same time upon learning about it from his Professor, of all people. And so he got drunk that night and went home, shouting outside our house, challenging Pa to a fistfight,” my sister recounted.
When I heard it, I thought, so that was it all about. I wasn’t staying at home when that happened and just knew about it when Ma told me. I understood now why my brother was so rebellious when he was young!
“Buboy, didn’t know it until they contacted him via Facebook,” my sister revealed. “They knew everything about us, who we are and when were we born. They scoured available information, researched anyone who has the same surname as theirs and talked to any person who might know something about us,” she said.
“They even knew Pa’s illness and would call at home to check on him. They said, the last time they saw Pa was thirteen years ago.”
Upon hearing that, I remembered the time a certain D** and G***** calling our house phone looking for Pa. I asked Ma who they were but she was being niggardly and would just tell me that they’re Pa’s nieces. I even remembered the time when Ma asked me on how I will react if Pa has another family.
“They hated us, you know,” my sister continued, “they thought sinira natin ang pamilya nila at inagaw natin sa kanila si Papa,” (they hated us, you know, they thought we wrecked their family and we stole Pa from them.)
The other party confirmed this when one of them talked with Jane along with a friend that night. D**** admitted they were in full battle mode when they came here but was surprised with the kind of reception they got from the family.
They said Momma was very hospitable, always asking about their needs and made them feel comfortable despite the situation’s awkwardness since it was the first meeting of both families.
“Walang dapat sisihin sa nangyari kundi ang may katawan. Pareho lang tayong biktima ng deception, (no one should be blamed for what happened but the man himself. Both families were just victims of his deception)” they said.
I agree. It’s hardly fair for anyone to be blamed on the matter. His relatives in Davao also claimed Pa didn’t tell them he already had a family before he resided in Mindanao.
Questions on why, when and how our Father did it linger in our minds but these will remain unanswered since the man who is supposed to speak, is now forever holding his peace.
I thought things like this only happen in soap operas and films, but now I realize that scenes depicted in the screen also happens in reality, with all its exaggeration. My college theater professor said once, art is the imitation of life and reel life is mirrored from real life.
I am not ashamed of telling everyone about this, and I didn’t write it to spoil my father’s memory. How many people out there are products of a broken family? A child borne out of wedlock? Couples who broke up because of a liar and cheating partner?
We are not alone. Ours isn’t an isolated case. Pa might not be the best father one can have, but he is still our father who, I believe, loved us in his own way. It happened so fuming about it won’t lead you somewhere but acceptance and letting go of despair.
I believe that everything happens and exists for a reason; God sees the master plan and He holds the future in His hands.
If you don’t understand some things that are happening now, just believe and trust in the Lord, for He will show it to you, someday, somehow.
As I close this chapter of the story, I am going to look forward and begin a new leaf in my life. I hope I imparted a message that will remain in you for as long as it will take.
Do what you can do today, for tomorrow might be too late.
Author’s note: This is the last installment of the series of events that took place on that fateful day. I wrote about it as my way of coping with loss and grief and to impart a message to everyone who will be reading it on the importance of life, family, communication and health. Their names were not revealed in this article in respect to their privacy. We may have a complicated situation but I respect them as a person. Thank you for following and reading my blog as I shared my thoughts and feelings on the matter.