My father's story
My father and I at a gathering
These past few days I’m up by 5 am because I am required to report to school at 6:45 a.m. Wait—this isn’t about my work schedule. This article is about my father since the annual Father’s Day celebration is just around the corner on June 15.
The other day, while at bed, I heard my name called and I answered yes. My husband Ron who stirred also asked if someone called me. Then it dawned on me that it must have been my father.
I got up and checked on my email and Facebook page and thank God there was no unusual message from my daughter. You see, my 84-year-old father Simeon Barros Naelga has been in and out of the hospitals the past few months.
He had tricked the Grim Reaper so many times I lost count myself. When I do visit him at the hospital, he was sitting upright in bed, smiling at me.
According to my baby sister Aida Naelga Pacana, “Tatay (Father) is weak as a baby. His kidney is affected and he’s losing his eyesight.” I told her over the phone that she shouldn’t worry.
“He might be weak as a baby but I bet his grip is still strong,” I told her. My father, who turned 84 last April, refused to surrender when times were really bad such as when he was unemployed.
I am honored to introduce him to friends. My father Simeon Barros Naelga is the son of Felix “Ingge” Quilang Naelga and Concolacion Barros. Born and raised in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental, he completed sixth grade and reached first year at St. Mary’s High school, now St. Mary’s Academy.
He told us his children that he was a man of all trades and I agreed. He fished, drove and did carpentry. He loves music and music embraced him (his version of All of Me and Hello Dolly are the best) and his singing is still music to my ears.
He can play guitar, ukulele, banjo and harmonica and he can sing classics or a lullaby he made up himself. All these musical instruments are still in the house and aged like him and remain his prized possessions along with his children and grandchildren.
He is funny and can draw laughter out of everything good or bad. Politics is his forte and economics second. I am amazed how a first year high school student like him can talk and absorb the news.
I was told that Grade Six graduates before World War 2 can teach. It was a different time then. Like his friends and contemporaries, he drinks from time to time, maybe more.
He’s drunk during Saturdays with his friends, most of whom are now in heaven. On weekends, he is a vocalist in the neighborhood band or the “Tumba baso (drinking spree)” at Evangelista Street.
He plays the guitar along with Nato Sanches in the banjo, Iyo Mading Abellanosa and others whom I forgot. Iyo Andres Sanchez hung around but wasn’t part of their band. It was a simple life then and my father hung around the store of Iya Puring Pacheco a lot.
But he is still the best father even if his children fail him at times or if he failed due to his imperfections. I love him and miss him. How I wish I am with him these days.
Now he is wrinkled and withering like a dying plant. I reckon that was all those years of hard work. He has been unwell for years and he’s having prostate woes.
I had the privilege of taking care of him since I went back to live with him for two years before leaving for US.
He is blessed to still be living even if his prognosis wasn't good (A miracle). I told him there must be a reason for that. It was in recent years that we became closer; no more fear between father and child but between two equals.
No more arguments; I was more of a listener of his long litany about life and recollection of what Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao, Philippines was then.
World War I1 remains fresh to him; he was eight years old when the war broke out and the rich river of Tagoloan town played a role on his young age.
The names of Rev. Father Peter Wang, and priests like Fr. Moji and other names run forth from his mouth, their names remembered like street names in Tagoloan.
He has spoken about riding a”balsa”(a raft made of bamboo) from Tabok (Sta Cruz to Tagoloan town) with his father Lolo (Grandpa) Ingee piloting it and him as the assistant.
My father mentioned about his teacher the late Gonzala Lim Chaves who called him a ”jungle philosopher.” He didn't elaborate why he was called that but I had the feeling why.
Dr. Hernando “Nandy” Emano was his classmate; when I became alumni president of St. Mary’s High school, Dr. Nandy spoke well of my Tatay.
He never tires of telling one story after another from sunrise to sundown and I remembered a saying that the mark of one’s old age is when he or she talks too much. From what I can recollect, this is his life story:
He was employed with the Philippine Packing Corp. now Del Monte as a hauler driver. It was during this time that my awareness of “Capri” Giants came to. He recalled that that his truck was kicked by a tall man near Mangima Canyon.
The story made an impression on me. A strike at the PPC that he joined ended with him jobless and he refused help from Mrs. Bibanco despite the prodding of mother.
He started farming and harvested cabbage, tomatoes and some camote (sweet potatoes). He told me he never regretted joining the labor strike; he said a man should stand by what he believed was right.
He toiled every day always doing something with his hands. He said a man’s honesty is measured by the calluses on his hands. I agree.
He debates with passion and only loses if the opponent is my mother. He mentioned once that his favorite cousin was Tio Cosme Ejem at Mojon.
He is very good in numbers; actually he was my first teacher in Arithmetic (Apologies to Ray Abejo). I first learned the multiplication table by heart and I also learned from him that life, like carpentry, should be measured twice and cut once.
He is good in math and evidence of that, he claims, is his weekly winnings in “masiao” a local numbers game.
When I worked in a local broadcast station, he always asked the station employees if they had any “hearing” about the latest number combinations and he would tabulate these and place his numbered bets at the lottery office.
True enough, he won. Don’t ask me if he won the Philippine lottery, it would prolong my tribute (lol).
Now that he is alone and I am far from him, I missed our talks. I remembered him saying he doesn’t want to be buried beside my mother should his time come.
When asked why, he said he wants peace and silence and knowing my mother I know his reasons for wanting so.
It is with fondness that I remember my father ahead of Father’s Day because I am away from him. I remembered when he was so sick that he doesn’t want to close his eyes.
He is poor but he’s rich in character and spirit; he taught us, his children, that one’s life journey may be replete with trials but that we should hang on and overcome. As his daughter, I thank him for his lessons.
My father with his trusty guitar and the rest of the family
(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who works as a nanny in North Carolina. This page will serve as a venue for news and discussion on Filipino communities in the Carolinas. Visit and read her website at www.susanpalmes-dennis.simplesite.com. Read her blogs on susanpalmesstraightfrom the Carolinas.com. These and other articles also appear at http://www.sunstar.com.ph/author/2582/susan-palmes-dennis.
You can also connect with her through her Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/41025046580074350/) and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straight-from-the-Carolinas-/494156950678063)