FOREWORD: Henares, humorist
By Daniel “Danby” Henares, son and sportsman
My grandmother, Concepcion G. Maramba Henares, had a laugh that sounded like a hop, skip and a jump to the highest note. My grandfather, Hilarion Sr., had a laugh that sounded like two loud explosions followed by a cough. My father, Larry M. Henares Jr., has a laugh that starts from the belly, bounces off the roof of the mouth, and reverberates like a thunderclap throughout the entire house, loud enough to shatter glass. Anyone who has ever known these three would recognize their laughter even inside a darkened and crowded movie-house. Director Bibot Amador of Repertory Philippines never fails to give my father a complimentary ticket, because when he is in the theater, the audience perks up and become alive. He and his parents are also inveterate cry babies, shedding tears copiously and unashamedly throughout dramatic tear-jerker plays and movies. But their most well-known trait is their sense of humor.
My father, Larry Henares, is a practical joker, a gentle humorist with a penchant for telling funny stories and for using his incisive humor to insult and make fun of himself and others. He can tell a good story: “During the Liberation, I was assigned by my fraternity to clean the quarters of the Women Auxiliary Corps, billeted in the Nurses Home, beside the ruins of old UP on Padre Faura Street where the US Army was camped. One day I was asked by a WAC lieutenant to accompany her to the Army kitchen, to make sure the WACs got the right food. To our consternation, we saw the Army cook stripped down to the waist, a black man sweating mud and kneading dough. He got a little bit of the dough, flattened it against his stomach and placed it in a pan; and did this several times. His navel protruded and made an imprint on the dough. He placed a raisins into this impression, pushed the pan into the oven and baked cookies out of them. ‘Terrible!’ exclaimed the WAC lieutenant, ‘Don’t you think this is simply terrible?’ And the Army cook answered, ‘Terrible? You should see the way I make the doughnuts!’ and then after a long and pregnant pause, he added, ‘Dirty minds, I did it with my fingers!’”
Another story: “When I went to the USA to pursue my studies just after the war, I found myself on a Liberty Ship, half empty with its propellers half way out of water, and vibrating like a cocktail shaker. I was shown to my quarters by the sailor I was to bunk with. I noticed my bed had no beddings, so I asked him, ‘Sailor, where can I take a sheet?’ He answered, ‘Out the door down the hallway to the starboard side of the ship, turn right, first door to the left.’ I followed his instructions and found myself in a bathroom with no bed sheets in sight. So I came back, and asked him again, ‘Sailor, where can I take a sheet? You know, like on your bed?’ He looked at me sharply and said, ‘You do that, damn you, and I’ll throw you overboard!’” My father would wait for your laugh and if it does not come, he would explain, “The sailor thought I was going to take a shit on his bed.”
In the MIT dorms, he and his dorm-mates would play tricks only an engineer can contrive – disassembling an old antique Model T Ford and re-assembling it inside the room of its owner who had to sleep under the showers for the rest of the term – kidnapping a cow from a nearby farm, loading it into a convertible, and hoisting it up with a block and tackle to the top of the flat roof of the dormitory – disconnecting the U-tubes under all the washroom sinks, so that the waste water is discharged on the legs of the wash bowl user – mining the football field during the Harvard-Yale Football game in such a way that by half time on National Television after the big bang, the name MIT on the field would be viewed by the TV audience (this failed and resulted in the expulsion of many of the culprits.
In the early days of marriage, my father and mother lived in a beach house by the seaside in Parañaque, rented to them by Doña Ichay. Among their neighbors were Doña Pura Villanueva Kalaw, mother of Teddy and Maria Kalaw-Katigbak, who collected rusty iron sheets in her living room for use in houses she constructed on government land, and who spent most of her time on her balcony spying on another neighbor, Nicasio Osmeña, eldest son of the President, playboy and bon-vivant, who loved to entertain Doña Pura and my parents with beautiful girls in various stages of undress, visible through an open window. There was also Ramon Caro, owner of Orient Batteries, so courtly and neighborly. But there was another neighbor whose name must remain anonymous, because he gets home drunk at night and beats up his wife and children, and spends most of his time alone listening to Frank Sinatra in a radio station on the FM band. I mentioned this because my father makes his own hi-fi sets and connects it to the record player via a miniature FM station that can broadcast up to 25 feet away. He adjusted the radio frequency to find a clear spot in the radio spectrum he can use. This time he fine-tuned his radio transmitter to the frequency of the station frequented by his drunken neighbor, souped it up to transmit farther away to the neighboring house and connected a microphone to it. He got his friend JV Cruz (later Ambassador to the Court of St. James) to broadcast to the neighbor while he was alone listening to his radio: “Oy, Ako ang Dios mo, maraming sala sa akin at sa familya mo.” My father and Tito JV got the drunk so scared that they were able to force him to go to mass and communion every day. But through the maids’ gossip, the drunken neighbor found out about the practical joke, confronted my father and threatened to burn our house down for the aborted attempt to make a good Christian out of him. My parents had to move out.
In the family, my father is well-known, and sometimes resented, for his practical jokes during weddings. In New York, during the wedding of his best friend Neno Abreu and Lulu Campos, he knocked at the door of the wedding suite, pretending to be a waiter, and burst in with his camera, taking pictures of the couple in bed, as well as evidences of the consummation, as shown in the bedsheets and towels, and the disordered matrimonial bed.. Lulu was screaming her head off, so he retreated. But the pictures lay in his files for twenty-five years till he presented the couple a silver anniversary present of an album of 8×10 inch prints of their wedding night, complete with appropriate comments.
During the marriage of his cousin Engineer Alfonso Quintans, he kidnapped the bride, hauled her to the matrimonial Suite of the Tagaytay Country Lodge, and gave the bridegroom the keys and a car to bring him to Tagaytay. During the marriage of his own brother Teddy and Mameng Marquez, he invaded their honeymoon suite at the Manila Hotel and went to sleep and refused to leave till morning. When his nephew Teddyboy Henares was married, he put itch power in the towels, change the soap to something that turned blood-red when wet, and hired his maid Pacing to knock at the door of the honeymoon suite, toothless and attired in a bikini, claiming to be the abandoned sweetheart of Teddyboy, reminding him of his obligation to their “child.”
He has the ability to laugh at himself. He makes fun of his own obesity and baldness although he claims to have more hair than Anding Roces and Bernie Villegas whom he describes as having a “decorticated pate” all the way down to the Tropic of Cancer, and whom he gently chides for exposing their baldness with the shamelessness of a strip-teaser.
He uses insult and derision as an intellectual weapon in his public debates, as did Lincoln, Churchill, Disraeli and Shakespeare. In his tirades against colonial agents of American Imperialism, he uses this weapon with devastating effect. His description of Jimmy Ongpin as a Villainous Concavity of a Face (a prominent forehead, an advancing chin, and a face that collapses in-between, with two buttons for eyes, and a pouting mouth trying to occupy the smallest space possible) and Cesar Buenaventura as a Villainous Convexity of a Face ( a receding forehead, definitely the criminal type; a weak chin; and in-between a bulbous nose shaped like an eggplant trying to say hello to the his chin, and forcing the mouth out of its accustomed space to the side into a twisted smile; and eyes that squint due to a lifetime habit of peering through darkened windows, preparatory to an act of thievery), as well as calling Dick Romulo “Small Dick” and Bernardo Villegas “The Alopecic Misogamic Gynander’ – threw them off their pedestals.
In this book, my father describes the twins Raul and Jose Concepcion as the Immaculate Concepcions, surrogates of God, who do not pay their taxes because God does not, who entered the flour business to “give us our daily bread,” who have the power of bilocation, in several places at once, who enjoy being incarcerated while awaiting crucifixion and resurrection, and who humbly claim that they have only 2/3 of the power of God, because they are only twins and not triplets like the Holy Trinity.
In this book, my father also writes of the Ongpin brothers and how their sibling rivalry started with the “Un-Eatable Siopao.” And his essay on Cesar Virata, the Sunshine Boy, and Kokoy Romualdez, the Midnight Cowboy is a classic. And so are the essays on the British, Belgians and especially the Australians, wherein he trades insult for insult in reaction to their racial slurs against the Filipino.
Oh, what the hell, read them for yourself.