dadi, my grandpa, was a vietnam war veteran who was also a military ophthalmologist. people from the armed forces medical dispensary remembered him as the great eye-doctor who performed his medical operations under the spell of alcohol. my father told me that alcohol keeps grandpa’s hands steady while performing eye surgeries. the alcohol must have tamed the war-shocked veins of his hands.
my relatives told me that we could have been filthy rich if only dadi spent his money wisely. most of it, they say, were spent on his liquors.
back in the days when acquiring properties of land in the rural areas were based on the area that you can cover with fences, dadi was apparently asleep, or could have been drinking his daily dose of liquor, therefore my family was only able to conquer a relatively small area of land, enough to accommodate a typical two-storey bahay-kubo.
i was in third grade when dadi died. he was the type of grandpa who would spoil you and give you 500 pesos a day (which was of very high value back then). and despite my wild splurging as a kid, he still gives me money until his last day of existence.
my father, on the other hand, is a retired soldier from the navy. he has been to australia, to africa, to east timor, to mindanao, and to other areas with conflict. he used to draw caricatures of animals and people in his jeans using the usual black, red and blue markers. he used to swim in alcohol until half of his body became paralyzed years ago. after his recovery, he became the community’s event organizer. i remember back when i was young, he would arrange weekend movie nights with our neighbors, take our tv set outside the street and set-up chairs for the audience to enjoy our newly rented betamax video. during weekends, he would usually cook extremely large quantities of food (imagine a weekly fiesta) and share it with the neighbors. he is the santa of the neighborhood. he is the people person, the pr man of our baranggay, the kuya of everyone in the community.
lately he becomes fond of sharing stories if his adventures in the military; the government conspiracies, his adventures in the communities of africa, his mischief as a private, his affairs, almost everything. i never realized how my father could be a treasure box of stories, until he started pouring his tales to me.
i am the family’s dreamer. i dream of being rich. i dream of having a family, i dream of being recognized, but i never thought i would dream of being a soldier. i once dreamed that i was a soldier, caught in a post-war scenario, desperately looking for something. it was a vague dream. things were bleak and smog filled. i never knew why or how the hell did i become a soldier. maybe it runs in the blood. or maybe, one day there will be an inevitable war where everybody becomes a soldier for his country.
today i realized that somehow i have to make my dreams a reality. i am no doctor. i am no soldier. i am just a dreamer, still making out my dreams of becoming what i wanted to be- a successful and established individual. i guess i will need the courage of my dadi and my father to wake up and do something to turn my dreams into reality. i know i have to establish and weave my own stories to share. i have to do something in the future to help other people. although i can’t perform eye operations, or fight with guns, and although i am not even close to being the pr person of my community, i will write and take pictures to inspire (at least) and help other people make this world a better place.
*On this date, araw ng kagitingan is celebrated in the philippines.