Turnaround

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How divine parents hug their offspring closest to their bosoms. But arrives time, children eventually grow, and like fledgling birds on tottering steps, take to the winds, soaring with or against its flow.

Flapping on air, they learn, become strong, mature then flock together.

One deems that human offspring are like birds, being of the same feathers and flocking together.

Children grow wings, as it happened to parents eons past. By nature’s call, growing  eventually lead them being normally attracted to the opposite side.

For normal people, simple law of magnetism states, “unlike poles attract each other.”

You ask, “How about people with unusual tendencies?” Well, same law states “like poles repel each other.”

Although today, this part of law’s magnetism is tested to its limit. Why? Well, Nowadays, people of the same pole or gender attract each other. A fact.

Ironically, and sometimes, when “unlike poles attract each other,” that’s when relationship between parents and offspring erodes. Happened many times before. Sadly, it happens these days.

Last week, Severino Fontilla and Lauk Kubdilan’s unusual experience unraveled   when both met this unshaven daily laborer.

Severino, 63 years old this 2018, from the lowlands, studied in Baguio City, graduated college in his early 20’s during the ‘70s.

During college, he befriended Cordillerans, among them, being Lauk Kubdilan, similar in age with Severino. Both became close friends.

They parted trails that ‘70s. Severino returned to the lowlands and rose in business. Lauk disappeared somewhere in a valley, in a place called La Trinidad, in a province called Benguet.

Severino married. No word circulated about Lauk.  Severino and his wife, Claring, begat two boys, Gabriel, born 1983, Orlando, 1986, and one girl, Samantha, 1989.

In 2012, Gabriel, then 29, met a Cordilleran lass, named Alina – half Ibaloi and half kankana-ey –  and decided she was the one he trusted to ride life’s river with, come hell or high water.

Gabriel informed his father he liked to settle down for good, but it didn’t sit well with Severino when Gabriel hinted Alina’s family wasn’t moneyed as Severino was.

In a nutshell, “madi kayat ni Severino nga ag-asawa da Gabriel ken Alina.”

Severino also told his son, in their household, his word was “law.”

Whether Severino made money his god, in exchange for his innate good ethics, nobody knew, but ‘twas clear, his motives were under suspicion. No amount of pleading from Claring dissuaded Severino’s intractable attitude.

In the course of falling out between son and father, Gabriel packed, left home December of 2012 and followed Alina in Cordillera.

There, where they made their home and started a family.

When Gabriel left, Severino stamped down his foot and said he had nothing to do with Gabriel, turned his back on his first son, and didn’t even care knowing the full name of the woman Gabriel married.

Severino’s unkind words, as he remembered them, then, to Clarita, Orlando and Samantha, were, “Your son, your brother, married a poor girl, one whom I forbidden him to marry, and I won’t forgive him if they all starve together.”

In Cordillera, this attitude of parents towards in-laws related to them by marriage of their offspring is known as “ungos” or “ung-ungosan da.”

It’s disliking someone married to a member of the family. Bluntly, this relates to whether one is looked upon as moneyed or not.

In Ilokano, it’s known as, “tinalikodan na” (dagidiay annak). In Tagalog, it’s called “itinakwil.”

Severino was successful in business. Why he was unsuccessful understanding life’s frailties, only he was the one who knew.

Unknown to Severino, whenever he made business trips outside the lowlands, Claring, Orlando and Samantha sneaked into La Trinidad, Benguet, where Gabriel stayed with his family.

By these rendezvous, reveal a mother’s profound love that reached out for her lost child left by the wayside and stabs deep into the heart.

It also reveals a brother and sister’s affection for a brother wrenched away from them by the obstinate principle of a parent.

Years passed. Change descended, however, on Severino. Often he wasn’t his usual self. He stared into space, caressed his face, wrung his hands, kneaded his forehead and   mumbled incoherently to no one in particular.

Nobody knew then –  before this story unfolded –  that he felt a void, a vacant space – a yearning to be filled.  Despite his pockets filled with cash, he was in reality, a poor man, literally broken into two.

When often called to eat, he’d mumble to family members, “later.” Food failed to fill up the hunger pangs that gnawed at him.

Last January of 2018. Samantha, was massaging her father’s back, then said, “It’s many years hence, have you forgiven Gabriel?” Gabriel, this 2018, was already 35 years old.

Silence filled their sala. Only Severino’s breathing was audible. Apparently, Samantha’s question wobbled the fragile peace her father kept to himself and his darned soul. It took him long to answer.

Severino replied, “I’d give all I have to find your brother and his wife to whom I committed the gravest of injustice.  If I could find them or their children…”  He couldn’t finish, choked on his words and his lips quivered.

Samantha was as beautiful as the Benguet lily that grows along the mountains and besides the waterways of the province.  Claring was as beautiful as the wild sunflowers that nod with the sun along mountain sides of Cordillera.

They were the beautiful voices pleading the lost voice of Gabriel. Orlando was the silent peacemaker that made Severino conscious of his fault.

Samantha touched her father and said, “There’s a boy, four years old, visiting, who would like to see you. Just to see you, that’s all.”

“What…what did you say,” Severino asked. But something incoherent pounded on his chest. He seemed unable to breath.

“Oh papa, he’s a handsome boy. Maybe you’d like to see him, then he can leave our house,” Samantha countered.

Their mother, Claring entered their sala, prodding a little boy towards Severino. The boy looked around then settled his gaze at Severino. They stared at each other.

Samantha knelt before the boy, pointed towards her father then said, “Jr. (the boy’s name) that’s Lolo. Go to Lolo.”

Hesitatingly, the boy approached Severino, then stopped.

Mind that the boy looked at Severino as a stranger, for he only knew Lolo and Lola were Alina’s parents.

In Ilokano, Severino asked, “Anya nagan mo?”  The boy was perplexed, couldn’t understand. Claring prodded her husband, “Damagem nagan na iti English.”

Severino did. The boy smiled and answered, “I am Gabriel Fontilla Jr.” By gosh!  He was taught to speak in English at an early age.

Realization hit Severino. He stared at his grandson, and grandson of a close friend during college days, Lauk Kubdilan. He swept the kid in his arms.

He remembered, after college exams, he got drunk as students often do, yet Lauk (even drunk) stood by him, never abandoned him and shepherded Severino safely to his dorm. Shame pierced Severino.

“Ni Gabriel, ni baket na, adda da?” Severino asked Claring, who shook her head negatively.

“Inimbitar mi lang ni Jr., nga umay agpasyar,” Claring told her husband.

Severino slumped. “Dakkel basul ko. Kayat ko makita ni Gabiel, ni baket na, ni Lauk ken ni baket ni Lauk, Anya kasapulan da?” Severino pleaded.

Claring arched her eyebrows in reproof to her husband and said, “Lakay, saan da kasapulan ti kwartam ta adda cut-flower business da.  Supplier da ti sabsabong idiay, Little Dangwa, idiay Dimasalang, Manila.”

She approached her husband, touched him and said, “Lakay, saan ko dawaten nga agbaliw ka, ta lakay kan nu panggep dayta. What I’m asking you is mellow your thoughts. Go, (to them) for they need you – as their father.”

Severino slowly nodded. Tears blurred his vision. The heaviness that hung over him the past years seemed lifted from his shoulders, while his apo he clutched wondered why an old man was crying like a little boy.

And the little boy – becoming the big man – tried to console the old man Severino by hugging him back.

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