Book 8: Light and Shadow

Foreword by Juno Henares-Chuidian:

          Light and shadow.  Chiaroscuro.  The gentle interplay of a multitude of shades of gray, from the most intense, brightest whites to the deepest, darkest ebonies. This is my father.

            For he is neither black nor white.  He is a melange of colors gently weaving in and out of life; artfully dodging the vile, lingering and savoring the sweet, and defiantly facing the inevitable.  Interesting, perplexing, and fascinating.

            My father is an enigma.  Since I have come back to settle in the Philippines, it amazes me to no end how he continues to have the energy to multitask.  Many have asked me how my father is doing since my mother passed away 4 years ago.  I reply by asking them how old they think he is.  They all answer, ”In his sixties”.  When I show disbelief in their response, they quickly retort in shame, “ Ah… I mean fifties.”  In fact, my father is 74.  He bounds up and down the stairs faster than I could ever hope to.  He works until 1am, gets up from bed at 4 am to pursue an idea on his computer downstairs, then wakes up once more at 7 am to dance to the soundtrack of “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.  Then, he does 800 sit-ups in order to finally get rid of his huge girth which he acquired when he quit smoking cold turkey 17 years ago.  He has a twice-weekly television show, a daily radio show, and a daily newspaper column.  Yet, he finds time to preside over family matters, immediately aid each of us six children in any of our undertakings, attend all the milestone events of his 14 grandchildren, and even assist, advice, and comfort our loyal domestic help with all their woes.  It’s no wonder we put up with his mercurial rage and mood swings.  He has the energy of my 5-year old, the diligence of my 8-year old, and the enthusiasm of my 12-year old. 

            And boy! that mind!  When does it ever stop?  Scattered about him are pieces of paper with ideas for his articles and shows, interminable lists of things to do, and stacks upon stacks of reading material.  In a trip to New York, he bought five voluminous books and read them all that night.  Ask him anything about anything and he will either regale you with studied knowledge, entertain you with hilarious anecdotes, or research the subject with excitement and get back to you with more information than you would have ever hoped for.  When all of us children were in school, he would tutor us during exam week till the wee hours of the morning after full days of work.  What astonished us was not so much his ability to stay up an entire week without sleeping and still remain lucid, but his astute knowledge of all subject matters from Advanced Calculus to Civics to Shakespeare in all grade levels from Preparatory to College.  How did he do this?  We were secretly convinced that Mama gave him all the answers.  If not that, then at least the reason to keep on going.

            His lust for life is dizzying, his laughter infectious, and his Cheshire Cat smile disarming.  My neighborhood playmates remember him as a movie producer who gathered all the children of the neighborhood for crowd scenes in his movie extravaganzas starring his own children as Tarzan, Superman and characters from famous classics.  My Assumption Convent classmates remember him for his no-fail attendance and support for all my endeavors.  My theater friends remember him for taping each of my shows on opening night (for which my friends crowded around me to get in frame to the chagrin of the director), then enjoying the program with clamorous gales of guffaws and audible sniffles of sentiment.  And U.P. friends remember him for showing up in his Mercedes limousine (which we have gotten rid of since) and bringing in all his state-of-the-art equipment to help me in my performance classes.  Many of them would opine, “You have the best father in the world.”

            In the articles in this section where he declares he should have drowned me in the bathtub, I remember quite fondly the time he told me it was a veritable waste of my efforts to pursue media as I was taking up Broadcast Communications at U.P.  He was accompanying me to rehearsals for an Upsilon Sigma Phi musical “Aloyan” when he said I should be taking something more substantial like Architecture, Business, or Economics.  Of course, we all know now that Information is king, and that the medium is truly the message.  Maybe I should have drowned him in the bathtub…but he would probably float.

            Light and shadow.  Chiaroscuro.  The gentle interplay of a multitude of shades of gray, from the most intense, brightest whites to the deepest, darkest ebonies.  This is my father.

            Take him or leave him.  I choose to love him.