Friday, October 31, 2008

A Toast for My Namesake

When I was still in grade school, I am often seated anywhere in the front row because of my surname. Whenever the teacher made a roll call for attendance or for whatever cause, I am always the first or if most of the time included in the first five to be called. However, my name is not as short as my other classmates' who in a very fortunate situation only bears one name and a short one. My twin classmates then have the name Jave and Jed. I still remember the one with the name Eric. Oh, yes we even had in the class a name Al. Every time my teachers would ask us to get sheet of paper and usually 1/4 of an intermediate pad, I am always deprived of space and often times just write the subject and the date under my name when my other classmates joyfully scribble those just opposite their names in the first line of their paper. Well, my name sounds American and it can be considered a name of the 90's because it consists of two names which are very common and famous for babies in that time frame. We hear one with John Joshua, a Chloe Marie, a Jude Lawrence, and many more.

My name, despite its foreign and modernistic sound for the ear of a Pilipino, was first used in 1939. It was given to a baby who was born October 31, 1939; before the occupation of the Japanese in our country. The baby is Joseph Glenn S. Austero Sr. - my father. I was named after him and so adding to my two names is a suffix "Jr."This article is not about me or about my name but about my namesake.

My father's age difference with mine is a mere 46 years and with that gap, I no longer experienced basketball sessions with him the time I was starting to embrace “teenhood” or asked advices on love and courtship. However, there are experiences that still linger in my memory that both my father and I shared as father and son.

When I was a kid I saw a picture when my father used to have me sit on his lap while he pedaled on his bicycle. This picture was made a real experience when he let me go with him one morning for a bike ride from Malinao to Tabaco after the typhoon Rosing hit our place. I may not have been exposed to sports by my father way back then but he still managed to instill in me how important I am to him even in simple ways - a reality which I realized when I am already making my own life.

He is never the father figure as other people may think of but for me he is still my great father I can be proud of. He made so many mistakes in his life but he made a way so I can see it and decide not to do the same. He loved my mother so much that when my mother came home from abroad after 9 years of staying overseas, he stayed with her despite all the things that he knows might have caused his morale to crash - he stayed with us in deep remorse just to save his family.

You know, he is not that strong in terms of decision making. He always makes it a point that every thing in the house is under his control yet with my mother's permission. His submissive character for the good cause is one of the heirs I got from him.

He seldom nags. He never spank any of my sisters even me. Even his four grandchildren have never been punished by him physically. He may have said a word but it’s not too deep that it will pierce your heart. When I was in grade four, I have received a news that my second eldest sister has given birth to my first nephew. When I told my father about the news after when he came home from work, he immediately said that we will visit my sister and the baby the next day and promised to buy me a pair of sandals. While we were both having our hairs done at a barber shop in Tabaco, he asked me what gift I would want to give to the baby. To my excitement, I exclaimed one whole dressed chicken. And he smiled. He bought that one big chicken and then paired it with formula milk. That instance have never happened again in my life afterward but I still heard from my sisters that whenever he receives his pension just some few years ago, he always have to hand in a box of milk for my nephews.

I am a witness to his dedication to God. When his health started to deteriorate, he made a pact with God through our pastor that he'd going to trade his illness so he can serve his Master in one of our Church's pioneering distant branch. In 2004, we rushed him to the Philippine General Hospital for a life battling operation of his collapsed lungs due to emphysema. He's such a strong man and managed to survive the operation at the age of 62. He stayed on with us for another 5 years and after that on February 5, 2007, he joined his Master in heaven.

During his wake I only cried once. I was sitting in front of him and thought of the good times that we had. In my mind I shared to him how lucky I am to be his namesake and his only son. I speak to him and again argued who's the actor who really played Ian Fleming's Her Majesty's Secret Service - a usual scenario which he and I always do when we are watching a James Bond movie. He anticipated watching Casino Royale but he never made it. Yes. I cried once. My girlfriend can attest to that. I cried once not because I was saddened of his death. I cried not because he has left. I cried not because of anger. NO. I cried because he will never come back again and that what is left of my namesake is a memory that will only reside in my mind.

He was a teacher. He is called everywhere as "sir." And when people call him with that, I felt like I am also regarded as someone of higher degree; a prince. My father's legacy to me as his son is not to be a successful engineer or lawyer. His legacy was the name he made of me and the life I am going to make of the name.

I may still be referred to as his son and namesake but I don't care. I am proud of it. He made so many things in life, good and bad. But for me his mistakes are his own responsibility and he taught me to shoulder my life so that I would not blame anybody for whatever decision I make. He taught me to regard mistake as a tool of learning to me and a warning to others. He had taught me so many things that this article can never contain.

Now, I am Joseph Glenn C. Austero Jr., his namesake and a proud son. Today is his birthday and I wanted to greet him Happy Birthday Papa, without you being born 69 years ago, I could not have existed and my name could not have been used. Thank you and I love you so much.


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