ive been dreaming of Papao, my maternal grandfather, for two straight nights now. amidst the tossing and turning from disturbing dreams, Papao's face would come up, commiserating with me.
the first night, i actually dreamt him more fully. in my dream, i was crying and sobbing so, and he embraced me and i lay my head on his shoulder as i continued to sob. he looked grim-faced; i could sense he was angry at the cause of my pain, but he was tender and gentle with me. he never said anything, and i felt comforted.
tonight, i just suddenly woke up from seeing his face flash in my mind, and the quick thought that January is his birthmonth. for a hazy while, i thought of calling him up to greet him, but then i remembered that he is not in this world anymore...
i am suddenly missing Papao so. he was the fatherly presence and love in my young life, when my own father was too busy making a living, and too incapable of being tender and loving.
sometimes, i think, that Papao's early influence in my life somehow made up for and buffered me against the many onslaughts of misfortunes i would face later on. his love for me was unconditonal, his belief in me solid.
when i was still the only grandchild, and airfaire was cheap, i remembered being "borrowed" by Papao and Mommy (my maternal grandmother) on weekends or even on weekdays, to stay with them in Cebu.
i was only three years old then, but i still remember our daily ritual of my waking up at 7 a.m., taking a bath, eating and finishing my breakfast, for my prompt reward at 8 a.m.-- my daily one-peso Magnolia drumstick, from the ice cream man who would come rolling by at exactly the same time, every day.
Papao was an industrial and mining engineer, and he would go off to work each day promising me that he'd slay witches and dragons for me, from the many underground mines he was going into, and bring me their eyeballs as trophy at the end of the day, if i promised to be a good girl and do as Mommy bid.
i would try my best to be a very good and obedient girl and not ask too many questions (although i remember Mommy scolding me one time for asking, "Mommy, who created God then if He created all of us?"). by 5 in the afternoon, i would sit by the bay window and eagerly await Papao's arrival.
sure enough, soon, i would hear his car coming in and i would run to the door to greet him and get my trophy. sure enough, every day, without fail, he got me two full plastic bags of witches' and dragons' eyeballs, red round little balls with black dots on them.
it wasn't until i was already 17 when i learned that those "eyeballs" were actually seeds from some wild plants in the mountains, but when i found out, it only made me smile and love Papao even more.
i also loved to sit on his office chair and rummage through his drawers and things, trying them out for my own use. i especially loved his old Olivetti typewriter, the solid feel of the keys and the smell of typewriter ribbon, even as i typed gibberish happily, and "wasted" reams of paper. later on, when i learned to read and write, i would copy quotations from his many inspirational books, type them up on paper, and bind my papers together with some fasteners or ribbons, making my own little "book of verses".
he regaled me with stories, mostly of World War II, and history came alive for me because of him. my favorite story, though, is not of the war, but of his own grandfather (mine, too), who was a Tausug pirate named Tatay Dusli ("dusli" means to enflame, to burn), who terrorized the seas of Visayas and Mindanao by burning ships and entire villages if he wasn't given what he wanted, but made the women more than swoon at every port. eventually Tatay Dusli landed in Leyte, and fell in love with the daughter of a Chinese landowner, but their love was not meant to be, as she was of the rich gentry and he was not only an outcast, but a feared outcast at that. still, their love bore fruit in the person of Papao's father, Rafael, who was taken away from his mother but given to a good, hardworking childless couple who managed one of the Chinese's farms. this couple bore the family name Concepcion, and that was how he and us came to be Concepcions. Tatay Dusli, though, when the Spaniards came and colonized the islands, eventually bore the family name of "Noguerra" (for "no more war", as that was what he was made to promise by the Spanish colonizers, in return for considerable booty. : > ). true or not, i choose to believe his stories still.
in most of my teen years, i asked to spend my summers with them, not only to escape the drudgery of watching our store, but because i loved spending hours with Papao at his laboratory. he invented all sorts of things to make every day life easier and i was his young and eager and curious assistant. i remember this little battery-operated gadget he made to keep mosquitoes away. it emitted a soft buzz, and he explained that the soft buzz was to keep female mosquitoes out, as it is only the female mosquito which bites.
we loved watching movies together. i watched his favorite, King Arthur, with him many times, and he watched my favorite, The Sound of Music, with me sixty times (!), that summer of my fourteenth year.
in my later teen years, when my parents would take trips, he would come over to Bacolod to watch over us three kids, and he loved to stay in my room while i moved to my sister's. he loved reading my books, especially those on Theosophy and astrology.
Papao gave me my first and only set of Tarot cards, and handcrafted for me my first and only set of Runes.
Papao not only gave me unconditional love and support to be who i was and who i wanted to be, he also nourished my imagination and curiousity about the world, and treated me with utmost respect and consideration, never looking down on me patronizingly. he gave me the gift of utmost and unwavering belief in my self, that i could do anything and be anything, and that belief stood me through many many years of turbulence and confusion and pain and seeming loss.
Papao died in december 1997, a little more than a year after Mommy died.
Papao was born on january 23, 1919. the first aquarian i knew and loved. : )
belated happy birthday greetings, Papao.
thank you for still coming to my comfort, even when you are already in another world, another life.
i love you, Papao, always and forever.