A long-serving barangay captain, he is remembered for helping built the Catholic church, the Muslim mosque, the local water system that now supplies clean water to other barangays in Zamboanga City and for having waged gun-battles with attacking Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels occupying an island a mile away from our place, Barangay Manicahan.
But he is also a man of many flaws – hot tempered, a Karate black belt who gets physical with truants in his CAFGU and civilian military ranks, drinks and smokes a lot; and yes – like his dad and my late lolo – a suave womanizer.
Alas! The last trait is something shared by all his brothers and their male children and his children to include yours truly. Thank goodness maturity in years, ambition and family life has mellowed me down. I am now limiting myself to three women in life – my wife and two daughters -- who watch over me to make sure my dad and lolo’s playboy streak will not return. That’s alright, I had my days and my beautiful memories of past skirt-chasing days will last me several lifetimes!
Well, apart from the love for beauty, what I also got from my dad – and lolo Rodolfo “Rod” Nocum – was the love of reading and writing; strong will and drive to succeed in life, entrepreneurial skills, talent for smooth talking; and yes, their legendary mercuric tempers.
But I am realizing now, these flaws may be what makes them heroic – the instinct and adrenalin rush to do things to help people and causes to set wrong things right. This is true with my dad who – although he passed away years ago – is still remembered for his heroic exploits like mounting a risky and foolish gun-battle with lost-command MNLF forces to rescue a wounded cousin – I think it was Harry Natividad (if memory serves me right) – although they were outgunned and out-numbered in that encounter.
This same instinct drove my lolo – a former college professor and a Kapampangan – load up my Manilena lola Elma Nunez (while she was washing clothes) in a banca along the Pasig River so they can elope even if it would have meant my lola’s banishment from her clan who opposed the union.
This devil-may-care attitude – and deep love for country – also drove my lolo to risk life and limbs to serve as telegraph operator for the underground Filipino guerrilla forces so they can communicate with US General McArthur after the later fled to Australia before the fall of Bataan and Corregidor Island in World War II.
A history book tells of my lolo Rod’s war exploits in keeping the telegraph communication going from a bombed out cinema in Manila amid relentless search effort by Japanese forces out to stop his wire messages to the Allied forces and among the guerrilla commands scattered all over Luzon. This same deep sense of adventure later drove my lolo and his young family to try their luck in far-off adventure land Zamboanga City.
In a way, my lolo and my dad have defined heroism for me. To me heroes are made of man who are not perfect but men full of character flaws but who overcome these imperfections to rise above themselves to do something good for their community and country.
That is my reflection of this day as we celebrate Father's Day and the incoming celebration of the birth of my favorite hero -- Jose Rizal -- on June 19. If you come to think of it, Rizal’s enigma and humanism comes alive in very tantalizing ways because of his own romantic liaisons with women all over the world.
To be blunt about it, Rizal’s image as an international playboy endeared him even more to Filipinos who in some sense are not averred to such kind of personalities, having time and again elected to office incorrigible womanizers like former Presidents Manuel L. Quezon, Joseph Estrada, Sen. Ramon and Bong Revilla, Sen. Benigno Ninoy Aquino and his son P-Noy.
But then I am not saying this to mean I must return to my old playboy ways to be a hero ... Happy Father’s Day to All!