When I was a kid, lolo (my grandfather from my father’s side) used to have a life-sized parrot that looks so real. Its’ feathers are so soft and the beak and claws look so sharp that if you touch it, it could really hurt you if it’s not in the mood. The parrot always mimicks what lolo says and most of the time lolo likes to make fun of the people passing by his store. Lolo has a small sari-sari store located in front of an elementary school. Thus, most of lolo’s customers are kids. Everytime a kid buys in his store; it is mostly because of the parrot. The kids are curious to see the parrot; they thought it was really the real thing just like how I thought it was back then.
Lolo was a strict father according to my father. He implements curfews and takes education seriously. He told my father that the only inheritance that he can give is education as he doesn’t have many properties. He is a firm believer that education is the key to a successful life. He even handed down that belief to us his grandchildren at a young age where at that time we could not fully understand what he means. That is why occasionally when we visit him, my brother and I always bring with us our papers from school with a one hundred percent mark because not only he would be so proud of us but he would also feed us with anything in his store plus his favorite Royal True Orange drink. During the time when the parrot is still functioning, I’d remember him smile and say to his parrot, “Very good Abi” and the parrot would mimick him in a high pitched voice.
This was our routine- me and my brother everytime we visit lolo, until one day, the parrot stops functioning. Lolo said the parrot died because it is already old. The way lolo said it made me sadder than learning I will never see and hear from the parrot again. Even if in that time I already knew that the parrot is just a toy, because of my curiosity, my father told me the truth, I saw in that instant lolo’s grief- he cared so much for that nonliving thing. That somehow made me realized that even though lolo appeared to be strict, scary at times and strong, he has a soft side- he cared so much for everything and everyone he loves. When we got older and we can only visit him once every three months or fewer times than that because we are busy with school, the first thing he would ask us after we put our head in his hand is how we are doing in our studies and when we answer him that we are doing well, he would smile, pat us in the back and tell us to continue to study harder.
Perhaps the memory of the parrot is the memory that I have chosen to share because this is where I saw lolo the most human. The parrot brought out his cheerful, funny bright side but also showed his compassion. He was a man of few words but when he opened his mouth to tell his stories about his childhood, his adventures as a police officer specially his encounter with the New People’s Army at the time where the town he was assigned to was attacked by the NPA and he was the one who made the shot that made the NPA go away immediately, his eyes always sparkled with excitement and delight. That is why even though I already familiarized his stories, I’d always show my interest in listening to him.
Indeed, it is a wonder how an absence even of one thing such as the toy parrot or a person such as lolo make such a big impact to those who were left behind. After the toy parrot is gone, the store got a little silent and after lolo’s death, the house seemed a little empty. The ‘duyan’ or hammock where he used to sit all the time to watch a boxing show or a Kuya Germs movie or a Fernando Poe movie is no longer at the sala but transferred into the second floor. Also his youngest daughter who worked faraway for a very long time decided to go home and settle down and my cousins and I got closer to each other after his death. We used to see each other once every 2 to 3 years but now, we are seeing each other more than once a year. It is amazing even though lolo is gone, he continues to bind us all together and even though we can no longer see him, we can still feel that he is still looking after us.
Abi Andoy is a licensed real estate appraiser and is working in a Municipal Assessor’s Office in Surigao. She is an alumna of Ateneo de Davao University and she writes occasionally.