WE WENT to the nearest beach the day after I arrived from Manila. We hoped to be there by 6:00 a.m. because we believed it was the best time to bathe in the warm sunlight. I have gone to the sea numerous times to see the sunrise. It is something I anticipated when coming home.
However, there are days when the sun hides behind the grey clouds and mountains. During those sullen days, when the sky was unclear, the sparks in my father’s eyes could also not be seen. How lucky we were, for when we arrived at the beach, the sun was large and round, and few clouds could be seen. On the shore, I closed my eyes and felt the air. The wind blew my hair while Mama and Papa stood beside me, looking afar.
I always loved how the sun’s rays complimented Papa’s brown eyes. We had the same eyes, and it felt nice. It felt like I could see my eyes from others.
I missed talking to my father. Thus, I saw the opportunity to speak to him when something unusual happened, like the vast sun that day. I pointed out how big the sun was. He agreed, but he did not prolong our conversation anymore. I felt embarrassed; it had always been like that since I was a child. Though it is not something unusual, Papa always preferred to listen more than to talk. Thus, short conversations with him matter because we rarely spoke on the phone when I studied in the city.
Our days just do not align. At home, they already had their dinner at six in the evening, but that was the time I just finished my shift working at the Miguel de Benavides Library. After arriving at the dormitory, I prepared my dinner, but that was when Papa and Mama would tend to our garden. There were only a few times when I could share what happened to me the whole day.
At 6:30 a.m., we were still at the shore, and the sunlight was starting to ascend higher. While Mama and Papa were talking with each other, I played with the sand and put some on my feet to feel its rough yet ticklish particles. Having no siblings to converse with, I am alone with my thoughts again. The memory from last night came in. I felt guilty.
The night when I arrived, we talked briefly during dinner. Mama said they rearranged the house, and I noticed some of my old artworks were displayed. There was one dedicated to Mama. It was a birthday greeting written in bright red and orange pastels and a pastel painting of a bouquet of roses. Some artworks were for my favorite films, but none for Papa.
I gave it much thought before I slept that night. As I moved uncomfortably in my bed, I felt guilty because I remembered my last birthday gift for him when I was still little. It was a letter written on purple-colored paper, folded on both sides to mimic an envelope. Inside were drawings of hearts and scribbles. I remembered how I was so afraid of him reading the letter I wrote for his birthday, so I slipped them into his closet instead, where he could barely see them.
In the end, I gave it to him because it crumpled inside. I do not remember his response to that letter of mine until the day of his 53rd birthday, nor the content of that letter. As a child, unfamiliar with the display of affection, I made my sincere love for him known through makeshift envelopes and letters.
At 7:00 a.m., the waves started to get bigger. I took a picture of the sea before I stood up and gathered my things before we left. During the hour that we spent there, the exchange of our words was limited. There were a lot of things I wanted to tell him. Even though I turned 19, I still long for his presence when I am in pain. In every Ilokano dish I cooked in our dormitory’s kitchen, I could not help but prefer his cooking. I might not call often, but I always wonder how he is doing at home, even when I am miles away.
The last time I hugged him eagerly was when I was younger, when he came home with my favorite snack after months of working in a different province. Whenever we talked over coffee, I tried to know his favorite color, his preferred weather, his favorite dish to cook, his favorite song, and how he likes his coffee. I know about Mama, but what about his? All of those may seem trivial, but for me, it is not.
I wish I did not make him feel less loved, but if I did, I apologize. I am remorseful for not paying enough attention to him. I regret not giving him something that reminded me of him, something to remind him that I always care and remember.
In the ocean of memories between us, we have been through a lot despite everything. I love you, Pa, more than when I was 16. Happy birthday. F