Honor thy father…and mother

Posted: June 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Father’s day was yesterday.  If alive, my father would have been 98 last May 18.

Perhaps it’s not too late to write about him in this blog.

I am his namesake.  In my foolish young days, I didn’t like the name Amado. I thought it was so old-fashioned, so un-cool, so un-American.  Little did I know what the name meant.

My father was born to two hardy peasants who found their way to Aparri, Cagayan from the Ilocos region by way of the dangerous but picturesque mountain trails that overlooked Balintang Channel in the late 19th century.  My grandparents managed to acquire a sizable piece of land in Aparri and begun raising a family.

I don’t know much about his youth.  What I know is he went to the big city for his college education and earned a degree in civil engineering from the Mapua Institute of Technology before World War II.  He intimated that he first saw my mother in Mapua, she being one of the only two female students in a male-dominated engineering school.

After graduation and passing the government licensure examinations, he went home to marry his childhood sweetheart.  They had two children–Manang Daisy and Manong Rolly.  Unfortunately, his first wife died due to illness during the war.

Papa told me that he got into trouble with the Japanese during the early weeks of the war.  At the time, he was already employed by the public works department.  Anticipating a Japanese landing-in-force in Aparri, Papa was instructed to lead a work gang to demolish all the small bridges from Aparri downwards to the Cagayan-Isabela boundary to slow down the eventual Japanese advance.

Of course, the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police)  came looking for him.  Papa evaded arrest by feigning to have malaria.  The Japanese were deathly afraid of contracting the disease.  After that incident, Papa thought it prudent to stay away from Aparri proper for a while.

After the war, the widower was assigned to Tuguegarao where he met my mother anew, a newly minted civil engineer (in fact, the first female civil engineer of the Philippines), and romance blossomed between the two.  My mother’s family was against the relationship for a number of reasons.  He was a widower. He already had two children.  My mother was taller.  He had dark complexion.

My parents decided to elope to make all these objections academic.  Papa brought Mama to a relative in neighboring Alcala and they got married there.

Now to raise a family.  Their first child, Manong Eddie, was born in Tuguegarao.

Then, by stroke of fate, my parents were assigned to Batanes, where the next four–Manong Chris, Manang Chi, myself, and Grace–were born.  I can’t remember how many of us had Jorge Abad, Butch Abad’s father, as our godfather.  I would not be surprised if all of us had him as our ninong.

We left Batanes when I was barely a year old.  We had a family crisis of sorts.  Manang Chi was diagnosed with polio.  But worse, their bosses were toying with the idea of reassigning our parents to separate locations in the country.

My parents made a strong case for having a permanent abode for a rather huge family.  The compromise: Mama will work in the Tuguegarao office and Papa could be assigned elsewhere.  So the family house was built in Tuguegarao.

For much of my youth, Papa was assigned to work at the regional office in Baguio City.  I remember the blast of a time we had when we visited him in 1967.  We also had a grand tour of the Philippine Military Academy since his younger brother, Uncle Rey, was the institution’s commanding general.

I must admit that I didn’t like Papa so much those days.  He was a disciplinarian of the old-school type.  Oh boy, how he loved to use the leather belt! And we didn’t see him much.  Naturally, we gravitated to Mama and the other loving denizens of the Mallonga compound in Tuguegarao.

I had, however, an opportunity to bond with him in October 1969.  I got a grade of 4.0 in Physics and I went up to him in Baguio to have him help me prepare for the removal exam.  Of course, I had to endure his initial scolding.  Then he proceeded to instruct me in his usual methodical manner.

BTW, I thought I could become an engineer because of him and my mother.  However, Papa always thought I was not cut to be one and that I will gravitate to the social sciences.  He fancied me as a lawyer one day.  How right he was about me going to the social sciences and how wrong he was about me becoming a lawyer!

In between reviewing and solving problems, we talked. We supped on meals he cooked while I did the dishes.  He regaled me with stories on how they would dynamite mountain faces to create roads.  Then he instructed on how mountain road sides near streams and bridge abutments would be reinforced by riprap.  All these while Baguio was beautifully enveloped by  mist and rain.  I think he allowed me an occasional shot of brandy into my mug of coffee to ward off the cold.  But don’t tell my mom!

In subsequent years, I dropped out from UP, got involved in the underground struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, and managed to transform our Tuguegarao house into school, library, meeting hall, printing press, hospital, and dormitory all-rolled-into-one in the process. I was able to do this, I think, because he was not around.

I won my mother over first.  Papa was a tougher cookie.  Eventually, they simply implored that I be very careful and not take unnecessary risks.

Papa helped me evade arrest in April 1973 by offering to be brought to the provincial barracks instead.  After he was taken, I took flight and returned to the big city.

I was captured by the security forces of Marcos in September 1973 and Papa saw me for the first time around October or November.  He then told me that he will never visit me in prison again because he might not be able to hold his temper.  He might bring his gun, shoot at my guards, and try to spring me out.  In his scientific mind, though, he knew it was not a viable plan.

I understood and embraced him tightly when it was time to go.

When I got released from prison, Papa managed to get me and Rosalie gainfully employed under his wings. By this time, he was already the no. 3 man in the regional office of Department of Public Works and Highways with offices in Solana, only a few kilometers from Tuguegarao.

My parents and my in-laws ‘conspired’ so Rosalie and I will not go underground again.  We were given a house and a car.  We were promised financial support provided we went back to school and finished our college degrees.

We were grateful.  We also had to be practical given that our first daughter, Tricia, was so sickly and was in and out of hospitals during the first years of her life.

We decided to compromise.  We persisted in the underground struggle while apparently leading normal lives.  We went back to school and obtained our university degrees.

In my case, however, I felt bad that I had to rely on money from my parents every time Tricia got hospitalized.  So I got a job in Makati, transferred to UP Manila and graduated from there eventually in October 1977.

1977 was the same year that Papa retired from government service.  My UP diploma then was my retirement gift to him.  Four years later, my mother also retired from public service.

With time in their hands, both traveled to the United States to marry off our youngest, Grace.  They continued counting their grand-children.

They soon got tired of the States and went back to the Philippines.  They alternated between Tuguegarao, Manong Eddie’s place, and mine.  And they worked their magic on their grandchildren.

Papa will have his joys and sorrows.  He was particularly ecstatic when I named my only son after both of us.  Then he got devastated when Mama died on Christmas 1994 after a lingering illness.  He suffered from depression at times.  He felt he was useless since he was no longer earning a salary and was just receiving a pension.  A pension he would generously share with children and grandchildren alike.  He always wanted to be needed.

Then the great grandchildren came trickling in.  My own first grandchild was presented to him during the Christmas 2004 season.

A tragedy followed: Manang Daisy died in June 2006, also after a lingering illness.  I remember Papa wailing at her burial. Parents are not supposed to bury their children!

After Manang Daisy died, Papa apparently lost the will to live.  He used to complained about the quality of his life.  His eyesight was failing him.  He could no longer solve his daily crossword puzzle. His ears are also shot.  He can no longer enjoy his tango and Nat King Cole.

After a few months in October 28, 2006, he joined our Maker.  I was attending the annual conference of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) in Zamboanga City at the time.  I had to join my siblings and relatives in Tuguegarao to bring him to his final resting place–beside Mama and Manang Daisy.

A lot of people cannot agree who I take after.  Some argue that I look like my mom while others believe that I look like Papa.  I don’t know whom to believe.

Papa and I are dissimilar in many ways.  He is short while I am tall like Mama.  He is fastidiously neat while I am a slob, comparatively.  He is a wizard with the clothes iron and with math while I am not.  He is methodical while I am haphazard and fanciful.  He has neat penmanship while I don’t.

However, I am his son and he is my father.  And that is all that matters.

  1. shinwoowan says:

    hello sir…

    this post is very inspiring..thanks for sharing this post to us…it makes me cry…=(.

    I’m badly missin’ your jokes..heheheh..hope to see you again sir….

    God bless to u and your family ..=)

  2. nuelene says:

    hi sir…this post is really touching…

    yeah i agree that parents should not bury their children…i’ve seen cases like this one and it’s depressing…

    I think parents are ecstatic when their grandchildren has been named after them

    it is like a legacy…

    i have put your blog in my blogroll…thank you sir…

    P.S. we’re actually doing fine here Sir in Miag-ao…just a bit pressured from acads 🙂

  3. paola marie says:

    Hi sir!

    This post is very touching! The two have you have really been thru a lot. I almost cried while reading this… Especially during the part when he helped you escape arrest during the Marcos period. I was really moved.

    P.s. sir, can i put your blog in my blog roll? thank u very much. take care sir. :)))

    • bongmendoza says:

      Dear Paola,

      Thanks for your remarks. By all means, you can put my blog in your blog roll. I hope you and your classmates are doing well.

  4. Robert says:

    Inspiring! My father and I also share the same name, but I was not made a Jr.


  5. mike magcmait says:

    Hi sir. I got teary eyed while reading this.

    This is my favorite part:

    “He was particularly ecstatic when I named my only son after both of us.”


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