DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June 2011) – Real men do cry.
Even Jesus did. He cried after talking to the grieving sisters and seeing the friends of Lazarus weeping. That “Jesus wept” is a popular phrase, known as the shortest verse in the Bible, found in the Gospel of John.
But I did not see my father cry. He was stoic. He must have felt physical and emotional pains but crying was just not his way of showing them.
Papa was a hard worker. From Cebu where he was born, he tried his luck in the greener pasture of Mindanao, together with some of his brothers. He worked in a Japanese-owned banana plantation in Davao City. Decades later, he was able to acquire enough farm lands to provide for the family. He was that strong, determined and industrious, to say the least.
He was a strict disciplinarian. Like most people my age, I and my siblings had our share of receiving corporal punishments, for good reasons. But he saw to it that the punishments were just enough for us to learn from our mistakes and keep us from repeating the same offenses. And we tried very hard not to cry, otherwise we would receive more.
Papa disliked too much talking in the dining table. He wanted us to finish eating, clean the table and talk later in the living room. When eating, eat. When talking, talk. Work while you work; play while you play. No multi-tasking.
I think the best story I heard from Papa was how he survived the war in the 1940s. They traversed Mt. Apo from Davao and reached somewhere in North Cotabato, whichever trail that was. They were captured by some Japanese soldiers. Some of their companions were shot and buried right at the pit they themselves were directed to excavate. But he was saved, when he was identified as a worker in the plantation.
Papa didn’t go into the gory details. It was as if he was telling an ordinary mountaineering adventure. There was pain in his eyes and his voice. But he never cried.
I was in grade school when we had a very serious and emotional family confrontation, which eventually caused our leaving the barrio and transferring to a new residence. Many of my siblings, full-blood and half-blood, were crying. My father was very hurt but he never cried. He was pained but he never showed it.
And there was this ‘vehicular accident’ which remain vivid in my mind.
The ‘kariton’ turned turtle while going a downhill alley from our house towards the road.
A ‘kariton’ is a carabao-pulled cart with two rear wheels used in transporting farm produce especially coconut fruits. The other one without wheels which resembles a sleigh is called ‘kangga.’
I, my siblings and some friends were riding on the kariton. I bumped on an angled wood at the side of the kariton and was thrown out with the rest of the kids. It hurt very badly and my forehead swelled. I cried aloud.
Papa who was ‘driving’ the kariton fell from the carabao’s back, after his feet were hardly pressed by the hard wood connecting the kariton to the carabao’s neck. He landed on the side of the alley. With some help, he tried to raise himself up and sit near the bermuda grass.
I was shocked to see his right shin bleeding profusely. He was obviously in pain. Yet, he maintained his stoic trademark. He never shed a tear
I felt so sorry for him and suddenly realized that my injury was nothing compared to the wound he sustained. I suddenly stopped crying and boldly shouted, “wa’y sakit akong ulo Pa!” (My head didn’t hurt Pa!).
Decades later, Papa fell ill when I was in third year of my engineering course. That was the first and the last time my father was confined in a hospital.
I spent most of my vacant periods in the hospital. I even worked on some of my assignments in his room. But I was among those who were last to be informed that his ailment was at its terminal phase.
While I was having classes at school, my youngest brother who was about four years old then was given special permission to visit my father.
Together with another brother, our youngest sibling tried to perform reflexology massage on my Papa’s feet, imitating the strokes of a therapist who occasionally visited our home. Perhaps my brother was confident that Papa would get well.
It was then when my father cried, I was told. Maybe it was his first time to cry in front of others.
There is nothing more painful than knowing that my stoic father cried, probably sad to leave us, without his protection. What made it more painful was that, when he cried, I was not there.
When this memory flashes back, I can’t help crying for my Papa. I cry not mainly for pain but more for the privilege of having a good, strong, and protective father who kept the pain to himself to protect his loved ones.
My father, Macario Dayap Balucos, Sr. born on March 2, 1926 in Cebu, passed away on July 11, 1990 in Davao City. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Danilo A. Balucos was the first business manager of MindaNews. He is now a lawyer).