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Hola, chica! Que tal?

Yesterday was my first class of Basic Spanish at the Instituto Cervantes Manila. A long time ago I made a pact with a friend that every year, as part of a conscious self-improvement program, we'd make sure to learn a new skill or do something outside of our comfort zones, something new or adventurous that will surely enrich us as persons. This is why last year I purposely studied Japanese and took and passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 3 the same year.

Although I plan to continue studying Japanese in the future, this year I'm setting my eyes on learning this supposedly third most widely-spoken language in the world, next to Mandarin, Hindi or English, depending on who's doing the counting. My first experience with Spanish was with my very strict and stern but loving grandfather on my mother's side who passed away a little less than a decade ago. His name was Restituto Magistrado. But to us kids, we all lovingly called him Apay, a filial term for grandfather in Bicol where I grew up.

I carry Apay's last name of course which is also my mother's maiden name. It means magistrate in English. According to my Spanglish dictionary, Restituto may come from the noun restitucion, which means return or the verb restituir, which means to come back. So my grandfather's name, in English roughly means, the returning magistrate.

It's only now that I realize that my grandfather's name was indeed his destiny. Well, in a roundabout kind of way. Apay was no officer of the court but he was certainly magisterial. He ruled over our extended family household (which included our family, my mother's sister's family, a handful of my mother's other siblings and my grandparents, of course) like a dictator of a little kingdom.

Growing up, we were taught that our grandfather's word was the law. Whatever he said or commanded, we could only dutifully follow. In our household, everybody lived in fear of displeasing Apay. This was because he was also a little heavy-handed. He would slap you, bop you on the head or punch you depending on the severity of the crime you committed in his eyes. Although I witnessed it rarely growing up, still I did see my grandfather hit members of our family who to him were guilty of various infractions. It could be not beating the curfew that he set, not doing what he asked you to do fast enough, answering back, being disrespectful or disobedient, etc. And always always he would curse you in Spanish. He would say "Sin verguenza!" (literally, no shame) or "De puta" (whorish) or "Cabron!" (shameless).

My grandfather was an old-school household disciplinarian and one of the things we feared most in his bag of punishment tricks was the bugtong. Literally, it was THE stick. In fact it was a kind of stick made of very slender bamboo. It was different from a cane because it was slimmer and shorter but it was used for the same purpose: to whip or flog you senseless. We all feared it growing up because it drew blood and made serious welts on the skin that scarred. In my entire life, I saw my grandfather use it only twice, once on my brother and another time on an older male cousin who my father accused of stepping on his freshly made cement.But those two times were enough to instill fear of that stick in me. I never ever wanted to be beaten with it.

Of course I have fonder memories of Apay. I remember how, when I was 5 or 6, he would bring me to school in his bicycle and then pick me up after. He did it five times a week for a year until I became too heavy for him to carry on his bike. I also remember how proud we made him feel during the annual awarding of Honors that our Catholic school held each year before the end of the school year. My older brother and sister, including my cousins, and I all went to the same school and during the awarding ceremonies, our parents would ask our grandfather to be the one to pin our medals instead. My grandfather obviously relished this routine every year because all of us kids did well in school and always bagged all the awards. My grandfather took pride in getting up the stage the most times compared to the other adults present during the ceremony.

Finally, my fondest memory of him was watching him get ready for work, travel, an event or special occasion. This involved him shaving and "prettyfying" himself. It was an art and science all together because the whole ritual required him to start from sharpening his shaving razor to ending in his combing pomade on his hair using a finely-toothed comb. Apay took this ritual very seriously and would usually take an hour or more depending on his mood. What I remember most from this was the music.

Before he began, he would first put on records by the Los Panchos, a world-famous trio. He would then take out his paraphernalia of shaving razor, shaving cream, a brush, pomade, water and comb and start getting ready humming or singing along songs like Besame Mucho or Quizas, Quizas, Quizas. All of us his grand kids used to watch him do this on mid-afternoons when we were home and had nothing else to do. Sometimes when he was in a particularly good mood, he'd grab one of the girls and dance her around the room. He would twirl her around with shaving cream on his face and everybody would squeal and clap in utter delight.

I remember my grandfather now as I look forward to studying Spanish. Although I am not entirely sure if he did speak it, I thank him for bringing it close to my heart.


Ron Centeno said…
Yan ang maganda sa ating mga Pilipino. Our parents and grand parents would dicipline us with tough love. They always believed that to spare the rod you spoil the child.

Memories, Saw the stick a lot of times myself. :-)
Onotheo said…
I am familiar with the stick myself as my father was an old fashioned disciplinarian. But my principle is different, it's more like, 'violence starts where reason stops'.

We have something in common, I'm interested in Spanish and Nihongo myself. I'm currently studying Spanish and I think I would be proficient within this year. I was told my grandfathers speak Spanish but I think it might be more of Chavacano.
Anonymous said…
sinturon ang sa amin :) masarap mag aral ng ibang lenguahe ano, kasi kahit na asa pinas ka, para ka na ring nakarating sa ibang bansa. will add the URL in my links. salamat sa pagbisita
Ming Meows said…
gusto ko matuto ng spanish para makatagpo ako ng mga hot latinos hehehe. joke!
PinayTG said…
@Ming Meows: At maraming hot latinos Ming Meaows! Go go go!

@Ron Centeno: You are right although some Pinoy adults can go overboard with their disciplining tactics. :) Myself, I don't think I'll ever use physical punishment if I ever have kids. :)

@Onotheo: Cool. The good thing about learning Nihongo and Espanol is that you learn one Asian and one European language. So we're set. :)

@kwentongkengkay: Tama ka at sosyal din sya. LOL :)
Geisha said…
instituto cervantes here i come! hehheeheheh :D

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