Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reality Bites 1 : Beef steak

I've been planning on working on a different tag of work to be put up on this blog. As my frequent readers know, I ramble about the most narcissistic shit on this space. It seems to me that I've been putting up more posts that start with "I" and feature me and my fucking rants as the starrrs. It gets fucking old.

One thing that I'm looking at is writing about people that I know. This idea came up since the people I know that are worth writing about have no background in writing or they think they suck at it, obviously, they haven't even tried writing or reading the shit I post here. That's why I think it's appropriate for me to tell their stories. Use their experiences as a glass of reality that we can peer through with thought and maybe, some introspection.

People have beautiful lives. Though they ruin it with contempt, free will and greed of varying degrees. I've been thinking of which person to feature in this series. It's difficult work since there are a lot of people who have stories that are worthy of storytelling. Then, last night happened. My uncle died.


This is not a script scene.

My Uncle Romy died last night of complications from diseases he didn't even know he had. He didn't want to know. He's a tough guy like that.

He left two children behind. A widower for the better part of his life, he celebrated the world he knew with drink. To call him a heavy drinker would be to put things in a simple perspective. He greeted the day with gin and billows of smoke. I grew up with that image of him in my head.

Thinking of ways to put it, my uncle was an image of strength and bravado. He had arms like they were hewn out of hard work on stone. It is not an exaggeration. 

There had been stories about my uncle that made believing a hard thing. One story told of a man who walked around the hospital even if his doctor told him he shouldn't have been able to. He walked around the place like he was looking for a stick to bum. The sickness in his bone made him frail and weak. The story told about how he retched in pain as the medical staff took out a sample from his bone marrow. They said he winced and screamed from the seeping wound on his spine. He survived that story.

The myth around his strength was stuff of imagination, I said. But I witnessed that in person one time. He liked the games as well, a hustler and a gambler and a drinker. Triple threat. He kicked a man's face in over a game of billiards. The guy came up to him to say sorry for the smack he talked about my uncle. The guy had stitches bristling out of his black and yellow face, his lip split in the meaty part and his right eye swollen to a size of a kid's fist. My uncle had knobby knuckles jutting out of his meaty hand. He was a short and solid mass.

Mama told me that he pitied her little brother. She said that his life was full of suffering. She wiped a tear off her face as she talked about the last time she saw him. He was kind of mad at me, she said. Maybe it was because of the fact that Mama told his kid brother that she'd have a hard time helping him with the hospital bills. We were in a kind of twist, too, not much coin in our pockets, as it always have been the case.

I am not writing this to criticize his life. He lived it the way he wanted and lived on his means. That was the hand that he was dealt, he played the game like those before him. They said that he was asleep when he passed, with all the tubes and needles that supported his fading life. 

A blood-hot stream. That's how he described his injury when he stopped the end of a machete once. It nearly killed him. But he never even got close to it. That's how I always imagined him. The strong, the brave, almost invincible. Though it was far off the picture he painted the last time I saw him.

We drank around 6 bottles of liter beer on that summer afternoon. It was the last day I'd see him alive. He told me to buy more, I obliged. He was proud of his nephews and nieces. That pride ran in the family, rooting from the fact that only a couple of  them had finished school: only two of her older sisters graduated from college. I got buzzed after that. He did, too. Though he wouldn't have flinched if we had that bout a year ago. He said he was growing weak.

My uncle cooked the best beef steak when he used to stay with us a few years back. I was in high school. His second daughter was in high school, too. He seldom saw her. He would chop onions in perfect rings and sauteed them until caramel brown. He knew how to whip up a mean pulutan. What was best about his beef steak was that it tasted good even without the beef. He lived within his means. No beef didn't mean no food. I got that from him.

Of the many things that I can write about him, I think what I put here is enough to paint you an image of what my uncle was like. He looked like an old time coolie, with prominent Chinese features and the twisting sinews and muscle that come with it. He took on his father, fresh from the mainland. Both men lived within their means.

I can't seem to get his beef steak recipe right. Maybe, I never will.

Mama will head for Bicol later tonight. I'll go with and see Uncle Romy for the last time.


  1. Beautiful piece, Chee. And my sincere sympathy to your family.

    1. Thank you, stranger.

      Many say he lived a life of pain, I say he lived life the way he saw it.

  2. We sing no sad song for men like your uncle who lived a good, mean life.

    Nakikiramay sayo ser chee.

    1. Indeed, there was not one sad song.

      SAlamat, ser.

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