The Handwriting On The Post

Was I Born Again, And Again?

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It’s 0520 hours 2007 September 17 in Manila and I can hear rain pattering on the roof, but who’s complaining? I bought a new Intel Core 2 Duo PC system 2 months ago, complete with a 5-in-1 Epson CX2900 color printer – I sold the old one and got 2 times less than I paid for the new one, but who’s complaining? My wife bought a new 21-inch TruFlat TLC television set 2 days ago – our old 29-inch JVC flattened out 2 weeks ago. My son-in-law and daughter Toto & Teresa Hilario-Ilowa, daughters Jinny & Daphne bought me a Canon PowerShot A540 for my birthday – Maria Sharapova’s favorite camera, Maria’s Choice, is PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH, but who’s complaining?

It’s my birthday, and I’m here to celebrate it! I thank the Lord for that. At 0608 Manila time, the Maria Sharapova Fan Community sends me a Happy Birthday email (mariasharapova.org); Maria’s fans are faithful; they have been greeting me for 3 years, by email. Maria hasn’t been winning lately, but she still has those winning looks, so who’s complaining? I look and see that I am currently using 59% of my 2901 MB email allocation from Gmail, and counting. Not complaining.

For quite a number of years now, when friends and acquaintances greet me, ‘How are you?’ accent on the second word (English rules) and not on the third (Hilario rules), I invariably reply, ‘Alive!’ And they always smile. That’s the point.

I’m not Indian, but I’ve been reborn.

Born Once. When I was little and was enrolling for Grade I in our little village in Sanchez in Asingan, Pangasinan, the teacher, little Mrs Bautista knew I was underage. I didn’t. My mother Sixta Agapito (Baket Satur) pretended she didn’t know; she knew I had the mind for it. Mrs Bautista knew her child development – she would turn out to be a good teacher. But not good in child psychology, as I showed her that day. She asked me right there and then to touch my left ear, right hand over head. So, my right hand went up then down – and I couldn’t touch my left ear. Disaster! Strict Mrs Bautista must have smiled kindly. Ah, but that little boy didn’t give up. Without prompting, I slid my right hand over the base of my neck, pressed my left ear and without releasing, slowly pushed my right hand over the top of the head. Touché! They all laughed. Mrs Bautista took me in, Visitor. Yes, we were using English in all levels in those days – so, I thank Mrs Bautista and all my teachers. In a matter of weeks, I was included in Mrs Bautista’s official list. Since then, I have always known I’m intuitive.

Now, I was writing Francisco Hilario on my lined, little Intermediate ruled pad paper with a big, black pencil. That’s 16 letters in all; so, it was not surprising that the Hilario part of my name went right off the edge of the paper! The paper was not long enough. You can say that as a writer, I started rather badly.

What happened was that my mother asked Mrs Bautista to allow a change of name, to Frank. In any case, for the record, my father Dionisio had to produce a birth certificate, and he had one made by a lawyer, an affidavit of birth (abit-abit, as it is known in Sanchez), since the records of the town Registrar had all been burned in World War II. The birthdate? 1939 November 11, making me a year older. Why did my father have to change the year; he could have just changed the month to March, since I was only about 3 months younger than 7? I never did ask him, and I’m sorry. I was never close to him; he was, like me, a loner, on the surface aloof, actually basically shy – but I didn’t know that then. Perhaps he didn’t know enough – he didn’t finish Grade III. He was born 1901; he died in 1995.

After a complete change of birthday – a different year, a different month, a different day – what’s another change?

In those days, 1947, names of babies came right off the list of names of saints of the Roman Catholic Church, which you could read on the calendar. The 11th of November, if I remember right, had a San Francisco. I’m no saint, that’s why my name became Frank.

Born Twice. My father had written down the names and birthdays of his three children on a Grade V pad and pasted that piece of paper on the hidden side of a post in our house made of wood; the post, of course, was exposed in the inside of the house (we were not rich) and I could easily squeeze myself between post and wall (I did that every now and then) and read my father’s handwriting. The list was this:

Emilio – October 22, 1935
Frank – September 17, 1940
Brillita – June 16, 1945

(As I wrote the lines above, I remembered the first two entries on that piece of paper; I had forgotten the third, so I called Brillita a few minutes ago, Siemens A65 to PLDT, and ask her:

‘When is your birthday?’
‘June 16. Why?’
‘I have forgotten.’
‘What day is today?’ She means it’s not her birthday, so why am I calling?
‘September 17.’
‘So?’
‘So, you have forgotten! Babay.’

So, I insist I was born on the 17th of September in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty. I believe the handwriting on the post.

Born Again. I checked the Church records years ago and there was an entry for a Francisco Hilario with my parents’ names attached to it. That explains why I was writing that long name on my Grade I paper. This baby was born 1940 September 22. So, it’s 1940 September, but not 17.

Now, are the Church records erroneous? Not wrong; I have no doubt that they are accurate. So, how do I explain the discrepancy?

It’s like this. In those days, the parish priests all over the country were very strict and imperious, Spanish colonizer in behavior if not in blood. Father had to report my birth right away, or he is condemned a great sinner by Father. To avoid the fire from the heavenly Father, my earthly father reported my birth the next Sunday, September 22, not September 17, which was a Tuesday. Two reasons. One, because the Church is more than 2 km away in the town square; to go there in 1940 was to get 2 bad feet walking over 1 bad road. Very inconvenient. Two, because he had to go to Church anyway, to avoid the fire and brimstone. Very convenient.

Now that I’m a Roman Catholic once again, I like to call myself The Man Who Was Born Twice, and Born Again. Very convenient.

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