Dad is not the clannish type. I grew up knowing that his mother only has one sibling. She and her family lives in Cebu and did not make visits to Manila. Although my grandmother goes there for visits, Dad only visited once.
From his father’s side, I got to know his wife and son. But that was a short-lived acquaintance because the son and the father passed away when I was still young. Maybe because we do not carry his name, I never did know nor meet any of his siblings.
Back on the mother’s side, a cousin of hers established his family in Manila thus they are the only relatives I got to know and get close to. He may be in truth a first degree cousin of my grandmother but I grew up knowing he was my father’s cousin, making me him technically my grandfather.
In 1980, one relative of my father, an 18 year old quiet young man, came to try his luck in the City of Manila. Lola and Dad introduced him as my uncle – Tito Primo. He was a delight for the seven year old me. He was a treasure trove of magic and card tricks. I was a very active child and a spoiled brat but Tito Primo was a patient sort despite his youth. No one could make me sit still except when am reading a book but he managed to capture my undivided attention during his performance of tricks. When he went back to Cebu after five years, we lost touch. I rarely hear any news about him.
It was when I was already an adult when I learned that he is not my real uncle. He is my father’s uncle. My grandmother’s father remarried after being widowed and Tito Primo is the eldest child of that union.
About six years ago, I managed to talk to him over the phone then the communication again fizzled.
On my July visit to my father’s hometown, I finally got to see him again. We managed to visit three times and share some stories. We agreed that on my next visit, planned for October, I will be their house guest. I was looking forward to spending more time with him and knowing more about this side of my family but my October was a hectic one and I couldn’t take a trip down south.
Waking up today, the first message I received on my Facebook inbox was about his death last night. I have lost the opportunity to spend more time with him with my postponed visit. But at the least, I had that July meet with him.
Yes, we lost communication for decades, but he was a part of my childhood – a comfortably warm part. He was someone I really felt close to when I was a child. He will always be the Tito Primo of my childhood.
I will still come back to Dalaguete but it will always now be an incomplete visit without my Tito Primo there.
Tito Primo and my sister Jacq in 1981 at our Manila house on the top photo. Bottom photo was taken during my July 2013 visit to Dalaguete, Cebu.
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