today is my father’s 100th birthday. my sibs and i are throwing a party–chedeng or shine–hoping the topacios (papa’s sister’s family from imus, cavite) and the umali family (mama’s side from tiaong, quezon) can make it and celebrate along with us our many happy times with, and memories of, papa.
godofredo velasco stuart, ust college of medicine, batch 1937, was from imus, cavite. he was a big fan of emilio aguinaldo from kawit, and very proud of aguinaldo’s role in the 1898 revolution. it was only in the late 70s, when he read renato constantino’s A Past Revisited, that he learned of how and why andres bonifacio died, and he was devastated.
the first stuart in the philippines was a scot, a schoolteacher, who must have come with the british forces in 1762. family lore has it that he was part of the advance party to cavite, and coming upon some women bathing in a river, he warned them of more british soldiers coming, better to hide themselves. when the brits left in 1764 this stuart stayed behind, having fallen in love with one of the bathing beauties. fast forward to 1898 when stuarts of cavite rallied to aguinaldo’s call for revolution. when the american military took over, most of the stuarts avoided arrest by fleeing to the visayas and mindanao and changing their names, some to del rosario, others to stuart del rosario, still others to estuar. but one of them must have stayed, and survived the american occupation, or we would not be stuarts from imus.
papa was a nationalist and he was a reader (gemini kasi). if not for his filipiniana library — constantino’s books and felix green’s The Enemy and nick joaquin’s The Aquinos of Tarlac, and Ninoy’s Testament from a Prison Cell, among others — i would probably be writing about different things.
at 12 midnight, i uncorked a bottle of white wine and katrina played back mitch miller songs she downloaded from the internet, songs that papa loved playing on his stereo during drinking parties. and we toasted papa, lolo ding, who was quite a guy. he loved life, he loved us, we miss him.
papa died in 1989. a year or so ago my sister baby, the bunso of 7, went over files he left behind, and sent me a folder of news clippings atbp. stuff i had written since 1981, from panorama and observer and parade magazines, even the writer’s guide i had dashed off for the pinoy sesame (an imee marcos project) writers when i decided to resign after ninoy was assassinated in ’83, and my first draft of the edsa chronology typed out on my portable olivetti. i had no idea that papa kept such a file. he would have been ecstatic had he been around when eggie apostol published the chronology and then himagsikan. he was such a ninoy and cory fan.
it’s not all good, of course. i wish i had been more interested in, listened more closely to, his stories of american times, and the japanese occupation, and the liberation, and post-war politics, and magsaysay’s anti-huk campaign. i wish i wish i wish . . .
and there are some moments with papa that i could have handled better. papa and mama were parents of 7 children growing up in the sixties and seventies, when times were a-changing and we were breaking all the rules, testing limits, striking out on unconventional paths that i know freaked them out. and yet they loved us, through thick and thin.
we love you, too, papa :) happy centennial, wherever you are, even if only in our hearts!