Remembering My Father

June 22, 2009

Apolonio M. Batalla



i’ve tried writing about my father for so many years now, but everytime i was in front of my pc, i couldn’t seem to pull it off. tears would suddenly flow just thinking about my papa. it hurts to write in the past tense about somebody that you really love. yes, i was hurting. and i couldn’t seem to shake it off.

my father was not an emotional person. he did not display his affection to us in public. but he would let us know his affection for us in our everyday lives. but still, i’ve regretted the fact that i wasn’t able to hug him and kiss him and tell him that i love him so much up until he died. i’ve regretted the fact that i wasn’t able to graduate from college at the time of his death when it was his desire to see me march on graduation day. i’ve regretted the fact that he lent me his name and i wasn’t able to live up to his expectation. i’ve regretted the fact that he passed away in a manner that does not befit a good man that he was.

my father was a newspaperman. although he studied law at mlqu and passed the same year he graduated from law school ( he also attended the Harvard International Seminar under Henry Kissinger), he opted to work for the manila daily bulletin. he started out as a cub reporter for manila daily bulletin (the precursor of bulletin today and manila bulletin) and rose from the ranks to become the daily columnist and editorial writer for bulletin today for 2 decades. as a columnist, his idea is to “inform the public and to impart to them my opinion in a balanced manner.” 

for him to sustain his daily columns, he read a lot on politics, business, economics and languages. i remember him took up mandarin and french (at alliance francaise) language courses so he can read more books that were written in chinese or french. 

he didn’t work late hours as most newspapermen did. he would leave at 5am and was home at around 5pm. everytime he arrived, one of us (we are four boys in the family) would remove his socks and put shoe trees in his shoes. apart from this, we would get him a bottle of cold beer (his maximum intake was a couple of beer) or a shot of his favorite whiskey or a snifter of brandy once in a while. a platitio of adobong maniawaited him everyday or nilagang mani. he would chat with us for a while, asking about our day and would begin reading his magazines like time, newsweek, fortune or his book of the day. he was a serious person. but come dinner time, he would play around with his kids and that would make our day. 

in our family, the disciplinarian was my mom. i never remember my dad raising a hand on us or using profane language at us. the most that he will say is pambihira!. no p.i.s and no bs. but when he thought that we had outstepped our boundary, one look from him was enough for us to be on the straight and narrow. he was a decent man, my papa. he was decent in the way he talked, the way he composed himself, the way he dressed and the way he dealt with other people. 

i would always want to think that i was his favorite child though my brothers would of course laugh off the idea. he gave me his name. that explains the a period in my name. when i was diagnosed with a leg condition, he lost his cool and punched his working table in his room. that was the only time i saw him display his anger. he didn’t go to mass for a couple of sundays either. and because i was told by my doctor to be bedridden for about a year (this was when i was in grade 5), he bought me my very own television set. later on, when my mom took me to a different doctor, i was told that i need not be bedridden for a year and that i can use a leg brace. but the television set stayed in my room.

on my first year in high school (which was in parañaque), he would bring me to school and since i would normally go out at around 3pm, he made some sacrifices and adjustments and would be at the school an hour or 30 minutes before 3. and that’s for one whole year since i was still in clutches or braces then. i think that those were the happiest moments of my life being with him alone driving me to and from school. we would usually stopped by an ice cream house in zapote or josephine’s in kawit for a halo-halo on our way home. he would tell me some anecdotes from his office or news on the political front and i would tell him my experiences in school. i skipped out the bad experiences, of course. 

my elder brothers and i attended the same high school. i don’t think that there was an occassion that my dad was called in the principal’s office for some misconduct done by my brothers. and i hope i can say the same way with me but, surely, it won’t be me if it happened that way. my dad would be called in by my high school principal about some things i did in school. he would gamely talked to the principal. and everytime he went out of the principal’s office, i would be shaking with fear what my father would tell or do to me. but he never scolded me nor did he discuss anything that was said to him by the principal. the only time he did was when i slapped a classmate with one of those huge hardbound literature (or is it algebra) book in the chest. you see, my father was a non-believer in violence. he never even owned a gun. he was once given a gun by a senator from capiz during the 60’s but he gave it to my mom’s brother.

there was some sort of tradition in our family. everytime there was a cause for celebration or a birthday in the family, we would go out and had dinner at those five-star hotels or restaurants. at my young age, it was an education in good taste as much as an adventure in knowing the culinary differences in other parts of the world. i would count the days for the next birthday to come but unfortunately, me and my brothers celebrate our birthdays months apart. i also remember that every sunday lunch, we always had nilagang baka. always! if not, we had pochero. the only difference will be the matching viand. we either had grilled liempo, or chicharong bulaklak or grilled tamban or grilled chicken to go with the nilagang baka. i do not really know the reason for that but my father would insist on it. i really had no problem with that because i would usually be the first one at the table and had the bone marrow for myself before my brothers would even had their share. 

papa was a simple man. he was not ambitious. he wouldn’t step on any man’s shoes (or any woman’s for that matter) just to get promoted. he just did his work. if i may, let me quote the respected columnist mr alejandro roces on his may 6, 1985 malaya column:

“it is national press week week and a good time to talk about the good things that can happen to persons connected with the press. one of these things is the appointment of a man who began in the lowest ranks of the working press as publisher of bulletin today…

…we are referring of course, to the appointment of apolonio batalla as publisher of bulletin today…

…members of the press are happy about batalla not because it was such a long jump, but mostly because it came quite unexpectedly, because it could not have happened to a more deserving person…

… how refreshing it is to witness in an organization that is powerful, the positiion seeking the man, instead of the usual man seeking the position”

i may not approximate my father’s hard-earned success, but i have every intention of matching the goodness of his heart.

With my Papa