Today, I woke up not too groggily as in recent mornings. It is going to be a busy weekend, and I carefully recalled my agenda for the day.
I instinctively go inside my parents' room and find it empty. The phone rings, a neighbor informs me that another oldtimer has passed away. She is also sorry for not being able to visit Dad, but asked if we got the mass card she sent. I thank her for her sympathy. My voice echoes in the room and I realise it didn't used to resonate as much when we had carpet flooring before the flood.
I turn on Dad's 20-year-old AM/FM pocket radio and listen to his doctor's advice on herbal medicines on his 30-minute morning show. I hope to hear him mention about Dad, but he never does.
The house is abuzz with activity as we clean the rooms to await my family's arrival. Joy is coming home with the baby, and I was left at home to oversee things and to have time to prepare for a wedding I will be attending. It will be my first social event outside of family. I practice "Seasons of Love" in the car while I take a quick trip to the salon, and I remember the quotation I selected for Dad's tombstone, hearing it in my head in Dad's voice:
"Sa takipsilim ng buhay, ang tao'y susukatin lamang sa ngalan ng pag-ibig."
"Of course, I grieved. For a very long time. She was beside me, mainit pa nga ang katawan niya kaya hindi ko mapaniwalaang patay na siya."
Dad was telling me a story again, while driving to Malabon. We were in the new white Sentra, the aircon was cool, and Placido Domingo's cassette tape was playing on deck.
"Ang pinatutugtog ko noon was 'The End of the World', kinakanta ko 'yun 'pag nag-iisa ako, kasi ganun ang naramdaman ko noon. Gusto kong tumigil ang mundo para ipagluksa siya. Paanong magpapatuloy ang paligid ko gayong ang buhay ko ay nawalan na ng saysay?"
"Eh paano nga 'yun, Daddy?", I asked. I tried to remember the last time I felt really bad. My grandma's death? When I got humiliated in front of the entire class because I forgot my sewing project at home? I couldn't find anything that could approximate my Dad's loss. I haven't even thought about boys at that age, much less know anything about heartbreak.
"Nangyari na lang, I picked myself up. Gaya nung mamatay ang tatay ko nung 10 years old ako. Inisip ko, 'paano kami mabubuhay ng nanay ko?' I had no time to grieve dahil kinaumagahan kinailangan ko nang lumusong sa ilog para may makain kami. And so I did. Masaklap, pero kung hindi ko ginawa 'yun kaagad, magugutom kami ng nanay ko.
"Kasi anak, kapag ang tao'y namamatay, hindi naman siya nalulungkot. Ang nagpapalungkot sa kamatayan ay ang mga taong naiwan niya. It's the selfishness in the hearts of those that are left behind that makes them sad. Kaya dapat hindi ka malungkot kapag may namamatay. Kapag ako wala na, huwag kang malulungkot, ha? Aalagaan mo ang mommy mo, ang mga kapatid mo. Si Kuya Pepe mo at si Kuya Jun mo, huwag mo kakalimutan dahil kawawa naman sila."
"Eh paano naman yun, Daddy, pagdating mo sa heaven, asawa ka na ulit ni Tita Nading? Magagalit ka ba pag nakita mo yung Papa ni Kuya Dacky?"
Dad laughed. "Hindi, pag nagkita-kita na kami roon, magkakaibigan na kami lahat, siyempre. Alam mo ba, nung naghoneymoon kami ng mommy mo, nag-jogging ako habang natutulog siya sa hotel. Pagdaan ko sa isang garden, nakita ko si Nading. Nakatayo siya sa harap ko. Ang takot ko nun nung makita ko siya sa malayo. Parang buhay na buhay siya. Paglapit ko, nakangiti siya. Doon ko nalaman na masaya na siya para sa akin. Hindi siya nagsalita, pero naramdaman ko ang pagmamahal niya.
"Kaya huwag kang iiyak, ha? Ikaw ang inaasahan ni Dad. Ayoko ng malungkot. Gusto ko magsaya ka para sa akin. Kasi magkikita pa naman tayo. Tandaan mo lang ako paminsan-minsan."
It is now 11AM and I have yet to eat the pandesal with vienna sausage that Mom left me for breakfast. The maid absent-mindedly puts coffee in Dad's cup, and I volunteer to have it for myself. I wonder if I could actually finish it, having wasted cup upon cup after his death as it reminded me of how I would make it for him in the days when he could no longer feed himself. I check if the beef is tender for nilaga which we're preparing for lunch. Joy would love to have soup.
The dress I'll be wearing for the wedding is hanging on the wall, neatly pressed. I listen again to "Seasons of Love" and think about the friends I will be seeing later. My old room is now slowly being converted into the nursery/family room for Joy, Mitch and Baby Dylan. Soon, the house will be lively again as everyone will be fussing about the infant and the new mom.
"In the sunset of life, man will only be measured by love."
And so, 525,600 minutes begin once more for me, as I swim at every sunrise into the river of life to search for nourishment of my soul, guided by the love of a father who awaits me at the end, smiling and laughing at my clumsy yet determined strokes.