THE MESSENGER OF STARS : Homage to my Father (1st of 2 parts)

By June 16, 2024Entre'acte

By Rex Catubig


I almost missed the “once upon a star” chance of being my father’s son. When the baby that preceded me died at birth, my traumatized young mother couldn’t handle another pregnancy.

Against her better judgement, she sought the Managilot to terminate her pregnancy with me. She prescribed her to drink a bitter herbal potion, and kneaded her tumescent groin to flush out the “blood clot”.

All to no avail. I was a stubborn fetus and clung to dear life.  Clutching mightily my lifeline, I crisscrossed my umbilical cord around my body, and did a somersault in my mother’s womb such that when she exerted her climactic shove, I escaped through her birth canal feet first. “Suni!“– village comadrona, Edad, exclaimed of my decisive delivery.

In the end, my mother and father couldn’t have loved this stubborn youngest more. I was my father’s poster boy and without really teaching me, he became the magus who guided me towards the stars.

I learned to love reading because, every day, he would bring home copies of various newspapers and magazines from work. Upon taking his hand to my forehead, he would hand me the papers. I would lay them flat on the floor, fascinated as I flipped through their pages. It was my introduction to the wonder of printed word.

From being my love at first read, they became my first Shopee catalogue. I would cut up photos of items I liked from the advertising montage of Soriente Santos and 15 cents and Up, and ask my father to buy them on his frequent trips to Manila. My prize possessions were a Beachwalk sandal, the equivalent of today’s Havaianas, and a yellow gold silk varsity jacket with a UST logo patch on the chest—foreshadowing the college I would attend and graduate from.

The newspaper comic strips also ignited my passion for comic books which turned into a collection. My father indulged me and never failed to drop by Marigold store to buy the latest issues of Superman, Batman, and The Lone Ranger. They were staples of my fantasy world and my prime childhood allies. In time, Pilipino Klasiks, Espesyal Komiks, and Hiwaga added to my amazing arsenal. Later, Weekly Graphic and Philippine Free Press aroused my pubescent wonder.

As I grew older, my father would take me and Nanay with him to the big city. We would check in on the 7th floor of the Avenue Hotel.  From the balcony, I’d get giddy looking down on Avenida Rizal that dazzled with neon signs of department stores and movie houses.

He delighted in touring me around Manila, taking pictures with Kodak at every site, it’s called selfies today. In the afternoon, we would walk briskly to Clover Theater and Manila Grand Opera House to catch bodabil matinee shows. The stage lights mesmerized me–auguring my love for theater later in life. And Gloria Selga captivated me—she was the Sarah Geronimo of the time.

It would be sundown by the end of the show and hunger hints would direct us to the quaint Sun Wah Restaurant on Soler Street. Guaranteed, my father assured me, to make me appreciate authentic Chinese cuisine.

By the time we walked out of the restaurant, the neon lights were already ablaze–the street awash with shimmer and the glare of headlights from passing jeepneys.

At age 10, my father showed me a glimpse of a radiant world I had not seen before. He opened my eyes to a different universe outside the barrio, to be lived and explored. He wanted me to experience life outside Calmay.

He took my hand, and led me gently on my baby steps through my peregrination.

As we ambled, I was bewitched by the flashy neons streaming down tall buildings. I looked up enthralled into the night sky. The stars twinkled and winked at me teasingly.

“There is your star”, I thought my father said. “Follow it”.

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