One for the road, Wash | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I almost missed it on the way home the other evening, but I heard the driver chuckle and I wanted to know why. He slowed down. And I shuddered.


It was a dramatic tableau of four life-sized figurines of corpses in different stages of decomposition; a little too graphic for me.


It is the season for ghouls, goblins and ghosts, skeletons, witches and other weird inhabitants of another world. Not my favorite time of year.


The costumes are fun to observe. But it terrifies me to think there may be perverted minds out there that are out to frighten the living daylights out of you, or worse.


Trick-or-treating offers the perfect setting for someone in disguise to walk up to your front door, armed and dangerous, and not ask for candy. Call me paranoid if you want, but with everything that is going on in the world, who’s to say it is farfetched?


This year they tell me that the Halloween top sellers are again superhero costumes. I guess even kids feel the need to look powerful, even menacing; someone to be feared or with supernatural strength. So much like some grown-ups we know.


Purity and innocence


Which reminds me.


In this day of fake and other news, when there seems no one on the horizon good enough for our kids to look up to and just when I am sure that apart from their gadgets these young ones have nothing else they value, I get a glimpse of the purity and innocence of children. And I am encouraged.


My granddaughter, who runs The Bridge School in Parañaque, glowed with pride when she showed me short compositions by her first and second grade students (ages 6-8) on “Who is Your Superhero?”


In careful and neat penmanship, they wrote:


Sophie: “My hero is my Kuya. He is always there for me. I love him.”


Carmen: “My superhero can brighten up my day. It is my mommy. She is nice. She makes me happy. I know my mommy is the best superhero.”


Andres: “My everyday superhero is my mom. She is loving, strong and helpful. My mom does so many things for our family. She makes sure I am OK in school. She makes me feel happy. My mom can do many things, so she is my superhero.”


Samara: “It’s my grandmother because she brings me places and keeps me company when I am scared or sad.”


Jana: “The only superhero that can make me smile is my dad. He has time for me even when he’s busy. I would not trade my Superhero for anybody else’s.”


Adriel: “She is my supermom. She encourages me when I feel bad. How would I be here without my superhero?”


Kayla, in second grade: “My Superhero is my own Papa. He is strong, kind, fast, encouraging. He encourages me to be brave when I am scared. He is fast because he is 40.”


A send-off


Our eloquent editorial last Tuesday, “A Call to be Real Filipinos,” filled me with both hope and despair. It spoke about the late business tycoon Washington SyCip, better known to his numerous friends here and abroad as Wash.


I met him on board a flight back to Manila from Tokyo. A mutual friend introduced us. He must have been on one of his countless speaking engagements, and I had just welcomed my fourth grandchild.


We sat across the aisle from one another. We were offered champagne. I declined. Wash lifted his glass and smiled at me.


He must have noticed my white knuckles when we took off because he gave me another reassuring smile, like telling me “everything’s all right.” And I felt better.


But after takeoff, there was a strange vibration in the cabin. We were airborne for not quite an hour when the captain came on the PA system to announce there was a problem with the flaps, that we had to return to Tokyo, but first had to dispose of our fuel before we could land.


I went into a quiet panic. And I imagine it was obvious. Again I saw his smile. “I think you should change your mind about the drink, don’t you?” he said. I nodded. I was busy praying and promising myself never to fly again.


The flight attendant filled my glass, and I downed it even as she stood there and I asked for a refill.


Funny but after the bubbly, the rest of the flight was peachy.  I think I dozed off. I woke up back in Tokyo.


Irreparably bereaved


We waited in the terminal for several hours. All the while, Mr. SyCip talked about how advanced aviation was and how Japan had all the best mechanics to work on our problem. I think the gentlemen he was talking to knew all this. But I happened to be sitting with them and I felt it was really for my benefit.


He walked with me back to the plane, solicitously made sure I was seated comfortably and looked pleased when I ordered a drink. Before take off, he lifted his glass, saying: “One for the road.”


Back in Manila, we shook hands and said: “It was nice flying with you.” At the same time. We laughed.


That was 35 years ago.


I never really knew the man. Our paths never crossed again. But his passing has affected me like the loss of an old friend. I still remember the day he made me feel safe.


And now I have a feeling that our country was safer with his presence, his patriotism and the wealth of his wisdom. I fear we are irreparably bereaved.


Godspeed, Wash.