BULALAKAW - Pandan Antique Newsletter
Official Publication of
Pandan Antique Foundation and Pagtatap Foundation, Inc.
By Eduardo V. Gumboc III, Connecticut USA
I feel that distance has made Tatay and me closer and more connected. Thousands of miles and twelve time zones apart have brought us to longer, more frequent, and meaningful conversations.

Thanks to phone cards. A five-dollar prepaid card allows for a little less than one hour of call time. To maximize the phone card's allocated minutes of call time, it's advisable to use up the card in one call because some mysterious charges are accrued on subsequent calls on the card, and the loss of minutes is substantial.

So when I get bored and there is nobody online to chat with, I rush to the nearest convenience store to purchase a five-dollar phone card. An hour of overseas call is rather long, but I want to use up the card to fully utilize its value. That is why, every time I place a call, I always make sure that I have at least sixty minutes to spare.

Tatay is always a willing 'victim' of my calls. I could hear him catching his breath (he has asthma) after ten minutes of talking. Oftentimes, he would hand the phone to someone nearby so he could take a breather.

Since I call for no apparent reason, running out of subjects to discuss is sometimes inevitable, and moments of awkward silence would then ensue. There were also times when we would talk aimlessly just to exhaust the time allowed by the phone card.

My overseas calls are not scheduled, but I have made a habit of calling Tatay once a week. So if I miss calling during the week, someone back home would text or email me that Tatay was wondering why I had not called.

This weekend, I called home and asked for Tatay. As usual, our conversation wandered from the kinds of fish his sinsuro caught to the condition of his lungs. He also described what they had for breakfast and what he planned to prepare for lunch. He listened to my stories and concerns, asked about my wife, my son… and everything else… simply to use up and maximize the phone card.

This weekend call, however, was a little more special than the other weeks. Firstly, Tatay was able to stay on the phone from start to finish. Apparently, nobody was there to 'substitute' for him so he may fill his lungs with fresh oxygen. Secondly, he was full of pride and joy for having celebrated his 70th birthday. Thirdly, and more notably, he said, "…love you," before the phone card expired.

Tatay is a very loving person. When he became a grandfather, it was never unusual for him to verbally express his love for his grandchildren. He showered Tim, Kim, Kyle and King with "I love you" or its equivalent whenever he could.

After Tatay said, "…love you," to me, we had several seconds of talk time left, and I had ample moments to respond, "…love you too," but I felt really awkward to say it. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what else to say. The phone card expired, and so no "…love you too" came out of my vocal chords.

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