Tatang was a very industrious and religious man. He avoided trouble and continuously had a smile on his face. He was humble, simple, and loving. I never saw him pick a quarrel with my mother or with anybody. His advice to me and my brother was to avoid trouble and to run to our house whenever one tried to pick a fight with us.
His pastime hobby was raising fighting cocks. He went to the cockpit every Sunday and came home with either a bloody rooster or a dead cock.
When the sun set and it was too dark for him to sew slippers, he could be seen with a rooster in his hands that he was pulling by the tail as the rooster resisted with its legs, to develop stronger legs. He would fling the rooster up and catch it, to develop stronger wings.
Then he would puff cigar smoke into the rooster’s feathers to kill the bugs or mites on its body.
At noon break he would pit one rooster against another as sparring partners. He would choose the better one to bet on when he went to the cockpit on Sunday afternoon after the mass.
Very often he would castrate some roosters by removing their testicles and sewing back the wound on their side. He would roast the testicles and give them to me and my brother. They tasted like small eggs.
Our house was always full of bed bugs, because of the chickens that were being raised under our house. Father would let me and my brother do the feeding of his roosters that were tied up in compartments under our house, around ten of them.
My son Bobby is his reincarnation! Praise the Lord!
When there were lots of orders for slippers, Father worked very late at night and oftentimes hired additional hands to help him catch up with back orders. This was true in days nearing the Holy Week, when people from the barrios ordered slippers to wear inside the church.
Most orders were made by the upper class of society, such as government employees, merchants, teachers, and professionals.
There were relatives of Father from Kapangpañgan who stayed in our house for FREE, while selling very cheap slippers in competition to Father’s that cost almost half the price. Father did not mind because later on they came to have them repaired not long after they had used them.
My brother and I did the re-sewing of the cheap slippers and we made money ourselves, ₱.10 ($.05) per pair.
The prices of Father’s slippers were ₱1.50 for men and ₱1.15 for women. At that time the wage for laborers a day was ₱.50 ($.25). Many were paid by installment.
That price was not very much, considering the fact that SIBAYAN-made slippers lasted a lifetime! This was especially true when the users wore them only in church on Sundays.
The farmers’ wives, after the mass was over, placed their slippers inside the bamboo basket they carried on their heads together with groceries they shopped for from town. So we joked, saying: “Look, they are carrying their carabao on their heads!”
The farmers rode on horseback and did not have any footwear. Most people there went barefooted when I was a kid.
It was more convenient to go barefooted inside a house with bamboo floors or walk with slippers on very dusty and stony or muddy roads. That was in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s.
But now, 1990’s, everybody wears footwear, as slippers made of rubber or plastic and shoes from Japan and China.
Father was a very strict disciplinarian. He did not “spare the rod to apply it on the seat” of knowledge when necessary. It was his belt or his leather slipper-holder he used while sewing with which he horsewhipped us until welts appeared on our buttocks or legs and caused the skin disease on our legs to bleed when the scab of a healing infection was hit.
One day he beat me and my brother, then required us to kneel in front of a big cross with Jesus hanging on it inside our room. After crying for a while, my brother and I glanced at each other, smiled at each other, then we prayed in chorus, “Matoy kumani tatang Apo,” (“My father drop dead, Lord”), repeatedly and silently.
Father used to let me sit beside him while he sewed slippers and required me to read the CARTILLA, a Spanish beginner’s book starting with A, B, C, D., etc., when I was around 3-4 years old.
Then he enrolled me in a class tutored by a very cranky old lady who used to paddle our palms red whenever we failed to read correctly the CARTILLA.
On Sundays Father used to comb my hair using water for pomade, and then we went to church together with my mother and brother.
During Angelus, or 6:00 in the afternoon, he required us to say our ILOKANO prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be), then kiss the back of his hand and our mother’s hand for our blessings from them.
His hand always smelled of leather and the fermented- rice paste he used for gluing the slipper parts together, the smell of which is that of rotting, fermenting boiled rice.
From the Angelus we proceeded to eat our supper prepared by Mother, consisting of rice and leftover lunch or “dinaguan,” blood pudding, with “chicharon,” or fried pig’s skin.
Father was a very religious man, God-fearing, patient, full of LOVE, which he shared with everybody.