"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

'Scarred Father': A Tribute To My Loving Father (2003)

Jose Vilog Manzano (March 18, 1949-April 11, 2004)

E
arly in the morning I was awakened by the noisy crowing and cackling of the Texas chickens in our backyard. My father had just finished feeding them with the special hodgepodge of rice sprinkled with feeds and vitamins. He spent many mornings bringing out his treasured fighting cocks from their cages into the morning sunlight—stroking their shiny plumages.

That morning, I watched him slowly hobble into the porch of our house with a cane in his right hand and an aluminum crutch in his left. He reached carefully to put his crutch at the corner and then slowly dropped his body onto the bench where he usually stayed all day reading magazines and newspapers. He sat in silence as he took a look out the window and observed our neighbors bustle in their routines.

"Hasn't your uncle Doming passed by yet?" he said in his hortatory voice. "Yes, he has just come to deliver the newspaper." I reached forward to give the papers to him together with his thick glasses. He still had not changed his habit of consuming the papers from cover to cover—from the headlines down to the ads and crossword puzzle. He was updated always with the newest products in town even though he knew he would not be able to purchase them.

Three years ago I entered the religious life. Now I can only visit my family once in a while when I have the chance. I was in for a week and I had been thinking a lot about my father and about how he was able to survive his own life's treadmill. A phantasmagoria of the adventures he had flashed in my mind like I was walking through a living hero's portico showcasing his many struggles and conquests.

Hailing from a small village of farmers, he did not allow poverty to dash his hopes for his future. At an early age, he first learned how to till the ground, and he sold fruits and vegetables to provide for his pocket money and snacks in school. When most parents in the neighborhood no longer encouraged their children to aspire for higher education, he set out of his way to go to the metropolis to study.

He went to college and was able to finish agriculture. I remember how my father used to sermon us by recounting always how he took pains in managing his time both for studies and for doing his part time job as a taxi driver. At certain intervals he had to stop from school in order to generate money first for his tuition fees. We thought, at first, he was just making up those stories. But it was our grandmother who confirmed those accounts, and she herself added her own experiences of working hard in the farm just to produce more harvest that would put up for my father's studies.

Upon finishing college, he was hired by the newly founded Department of Agrarian Reform during the Marcos years. He worked for nearly twenty years as one of the pioneers in the department helping farmers in their often neglected rights and privileges with regard to land matters. By then he started to build his own family which further pushed him to work harder. He was fortunate to be catapulted to a high position not because he graduated from any reputable University but all because of his own diligence to do his best.

His work exposed him to lots of dangers. Within that span of time, he survived three motorcycle accidents. No matter how much he gravitated to accidents, he was always lucky enough to leave such scenes without a serious scratch. Because of this he became more and more a fearless person. He did not mind being assigned to remote places that were infiltrated by armed insurgent groups.

Clockwise: Lola Antonia+, her aunt Perfecta+, Jacqueline, Leticia (my Mom), Jocelyn, Jollie-Ann, Jeofrey, and JM (me). Undated photo taken at my father's ancestral house in Palali Norte, Sta Lucia Ilocos Sur.

Being a breadwinner of a big family was no easy task. He raised and supported the seven of us together especially in our schooling. Considering what he went through in his life, putting so much value to our education was a non-negotiable in our family. When we were little, he became our tutor in our different subjects. Despite his busy work of attending to the problems of farmers, he always had enough quality time to check on our studies. I will never forget those nights when he would not let me sleep until I learned how to read correctly. Sometimes, it was our mother who would secretly help us answer some difficult problems just to allow us to go to bed and save our buttocks from falling prey to the slashing slap of our father's palms.

When we reached high school and college, he was forced again to look for other sources to hold at bay with the family's burgeoning needs and demands. He engaged in raising livestock and poultry. He even tried his luck to work overseas in Japan as an illegal migrant worker. Unfortunately, after eight months the government found out about his illegal stay. If not because of some good people who helped him out, he would probably have been jailed by now.

A catastrophe came to our family when my father met with an accident that nearly paralyzed his lower limbs. He survived three motorcycle accidents but not his falling from a Horseradish tree. I was there that early morning when he climbed that old succulent tree to collect leaves and fruits that he liked very much for viand and I never saw him walk free again after the incident. He lost his job while all of us had to tighten our belts to adjust to our mother's meager income.

For some years we thought his legs were already totally paralyzed, but miracle of miracles, he strived and fought so hard to bring back whatever strength he used to have. Every morning my mother accompanied him to the seaside to bury his legs deep in the sand. He realized that he had to do it all over again just as when he was still a child learning how to make his first full step. My father's strong determination that he would be able to recover helped him overcome such a seemingly hopeless predicament. The moment he started to recover, he managed small scale industries like making hollow blocks, delivering sand and gravel, trading fruits and vegetables. Until now he still has no sensations on either side of his thinning legs, he still hobbles around the neighborhood supported by his precious cane and crutch, but these did not dampen his spirit to work hard for his family.

One hot Sunday afternoon on my last visit, I helped him change his clothes drenched with sweat. I saw a very long scar on his back with several stitch marks on it. He got this from his first major operation on the spinal cord after his fall. There is another on his abdomen when he was again operated on two years after due to further complications of the impact of the falling.

As I watched closely, I saw my father now old with salt and pepper hair and scarred in the different parts of his body. I saw a man who knew, in his own terms, how it is to become a father. What struck me above all was what I had learned recently from my grandmother about my father's true identity. He grew up without seeing his biological father. He really survived a terrible cost. I guess this is the wonder of it all about him, he grew up without any model and yet he has exemplified the characteristics of what a real father is. Family oriented and fearless to give his all for the future of his children. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Thank you po, Fr. for sharing with us your father's life and your life too.. Tears fell off my eyes while reading it.. can't help but to remember also the sacrifices of my father for our family and how he loves us so much...
    I think indeed your father is very happy up there seeing how his son loves him so much...
    God bless you always..

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    1. Tears of gratitude those are. These come from the same river which many call the river of love... and we all draw from it eternally... God bless us with more loving memories!

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  2. A touching surprise.... A coincidental paternal story...Gratitude and good past memories evoking... We are blessed to have caring and loving fathers, Fr. JM. I am amazed with the similarities of facts of their journey. Thank you...♪(・ω・)ノ

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    1. Thank you for sharing that too! I am reminded of what I wrote earlier quoting from Richard Rohr "Most of us understand that "me" has its limits, which is why we try to dress up our lives in artificial ways. Our inner hero wants to move us beyond "just me" to "we are" and ultimately to the biblical experience of "I AM." OUR stories are summed up and perfected in the "I AM" story of God. https://www.8thworker.us/2020/04/30-day-lockdown-retreat-journey-to-be.html

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    2. "We" or "us" is one of the significant words I learned from you since I started reading your reflections. Thank you Fr. JM... and also for the link... Still reflecting on it... ;- )

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  3. Like father, like son. Thank you for being our spiritual father, caring, supportive and loving. Happy father's day,Fr. Jomari! ❤ n 👏s...from us, your spiritual children. We entrust you to St. Joseph n to. Our FATHER. TC!

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    1. Thanks for the Father's day greetings TC. We thank God for sending our fathers! GBU!

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