Last April 11, my father would have turned 61 years old.
The last (and most likely only) buffet he thoroughly enjoyed was Vikings, so most likely we would have celebrated there. Or at Sizzling Pepper Steak. He was always loyal to his favorites.
It was a Friday so I can imagine negotiating with him to just come to Makati or at least leave the premises of Las Pinas, and he would say, “Traffic is so bad there, let’s just meet at the Mall of Asia,” and by meet, he means “You better get there first because there is no way in hell I am going around that mall to look for you.”
He didn’t go out much. He mostly just went out because my mother asked. He often refused her, at the same time often joined her. It was as simple and as complicated as that.
If we’re at a buffet, he would look for the dishes that he can copy. Our clan has a penchant for meeting almost every week (and still has the gall to celebrate an annual “reunion”) and he was always thinking of new recipes. I think that was the reason he liked Vikings; I would like to think he picked out a lot of dishes to cook from there.
Then, of course, after the meal, he would sneak out for a smoke. Most people would say it was the cigarette that killed him and as much as I acknowledge my father’s efforts to trim it down, I have to agree. But he would just smoke one, linger outside for a bit, and then whisper to my mother, “I need to poop.” That’s the signal to go home.
But that was always a lie, I think. Because even with the need to poop, we would stop by for dessert elsewhere — coffee for him and my mother to share — chat for a bit, and before we even noticed, all three — my father and my two brothers — start calling dibs as to who would be the first to use the bathroom.
He would have been 61, and he would have bragged about his glorious 20% discount on almost everything.
He would have given me some money to pick out perfume or a bag for my mother’s upcoming 60th birthday. He would have said, “Make sure it’s something she likes ha.” He would have suggestions, but he would trust my choices more.
He would have bugged my brother Ted to drive home, because he would have been too full to drive. I think that was just an excuse to sit at the back with my mother. He liked hanging out with my mother.
He loved hanging out with us.
He would have been 61.
Happy birthday, Tatay.