At 16, my father moved to Manila to study in the University of Sto. Tomas. He wanted to be an Engineer, convinced he was good at Mathematics. He found that he was okay in Mathematics.
In college he made a few good friends from his fraternity, and found a really good one in Bong Lauengco, who I would meet 23 years later as a Real Estate Agent. “Back when fraternities were fun and noble,” my father says, “we would get into fights because of honor and friendship.” He always tells me one story: that once, when they were chasing a bastard who beat one of their brads up, Bong saw them from the other direction and immediately kicked the guy running away and pinned him down. This is friendship to them – to have no questions. I envy them. It seems today that romance in friendships is slowly disappearing.
Perhaps it was a lesson on loneliness that my father learned inadvertently from his father, since he lost touch with all his friends in college, except for Bong. I remember playing rounds of Billiards with Tito Bong, betting a hundred pesos per game. I won a lot. Afterwards he and my father would have some drinks, or some coffee, and talk about life.
Tito Bong died. I don’t know exactly when. My father only saw him once when he was diagnosed with Cancer. “Cancer isn’t contagious,” my father said, “but sadness is.”
More recently I received a phone call from a person looking for my Tito Bong. We are used to people looking for him because we transferred his old phone line to ours. I thought the call was as routine as the other calls. I said: “Sorry, he passed away recently.” The voice on the other line asked me what my relationship with him was. I said: “Pamangkin niya po ako.” He told me that I needed to prove him dead. That I should get a death certificate and send it to their office and convince them that he’s dead. “Putangina mo pare, bastos ka, hindi ka man lang nagpakilala tapos hihingi ka ng ganiyan? Wala ka bang respeto?!” He told me that people like me slow down the country’s development. Well, I don’t know him. He didn’t introduce himself. I didn’t bother finding out who he was.
This is what friendship is – to have no questions.