Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Papa Tatong on the wall

When we were kids, growing up in the old house in Caloocan, we had these wooden walls in our bedroom with whorls and wood grains visible on them. One day, my brother and I were playing on the bed and he pointed out what looked like a human face on the wall. I looked and I did see what looked like a disctinct human face from the whorls in the wood. "Papa Tatong is looking at us," my brother said. It was an odd name, but it stuck. We started to call the face Papa Tatong and use it to scare my sis. "Lagot ka kay Papa Tatong." I dont know how my brother came up with the name since we havent heard of anyone named Tatong before. And "Papa?" We called our step-grandfather Papa, just as we called our grandmother Mama.

Name-dropping side-trip: Papa, my step-grandfather, was a USAFFE officer from Manila who guerilla-ed in Pili during the war when my grandmother met him. She was a young widow and my mother said Papa would serenade her with his guitar. Once my grandmother's yaya thought he was serenading one of my grandmother's unmarried cousins. "Hindi ho siya. Yung viuda," Papa said. He had a great baritone and sang Spanish love songs. Later, war over, they married. He then managed a local radio station in Naga and also DJ-ed. In the 50's one of his guerilla buddies, Ramon D'Salva, was acting in movies and introduced him to the big studio producers at the time: the Santiago's, Vera-Perezes, etc. He eventually acted in movies and earned a FAMAS nomination for best supporting actor. He was probably one of the most type-cast actors in movie history. Because of his looks and bearing, he was always cast as a pipe-smoking, robe-wearing, Don Something, or as Mayor Something. At the same time, one of the soldiers in the guerilla unit he commanded was also making a name for himself in the movies; a young man from Sorsogon from the Escudero clan, whom we all know today as Eddie Garcia, Manoy himself.

Mama and Papa moved to Manila with the kids, eight of them, because of Papa's movie career. They rented a place in Caloocan near the Premiere Productions lot in Grace Park. This was in the late 50's or early 60's. At around lunch time when they were shooting, two young actors would poke around the house and ask Mama what was for lunch. They loved Mama's laing. Their names were Fernando Poe Jr. and Joseph Estrada. My mother had such a huge crush on FPJ. End of name-dropping side-trip.

Anyway, there was Papa Tatong on the wall looking at us. It was only years later that we would find out that my grandfather's name was Fortunato, and he was called Tatoy for short. Eerie that my brother would choose the name Papa Tatong for the face on the wall. Methinks it's some sort of memory my brother had when he was still a baby, or a fetus, or something, when our folks were talking about my grandfather, lodged in his subconscious. The name resurfaced years later, slightly altered but unmistakable.

Here's a picture of my grandmother and grandfather, the oldest picture of them my mother found in a relative's vault somewhere.

The note on the back reads: To Tio Ramon and Tia Sulu, A simple souvenir of our first wedding anniversary. [signed] Tatoy-Mila and Baby. The siopao-faced baby is my mother.


grifter said...

hanep!!! may ties ka pala ke erap at fpj!!! dammit, man!!! thats why you were waffling on erap, and voted for panday!! nyhahahahahahahaha!!!

Jego said...

Pinuno mo na ang salop, geek. Dapat ka nang kalusin.


Homer said...

it almost sends a tear down the cheek to see how much life our folks had in their prime when we see them in their current state, somewhat senile.

nostalgic isnt it?