Monday, February 04, 2008

A Little Black Book

My 82-year old grandfather has a little black book. Every year, he changes that little black book, filling it with relevant names and birthdays, with other pertinent information in his life. To a man who came from a time when a man's virility is of utmost importance and is best reflected not just by the number of children he has, but by the number of women he keeps, his little black book is quite important. The worn out little leatherette booklet that I noticed him flick through every now and then, for me, was just another reminder of his many indiscretions as a man of his time.

My lasting memories of my grandfather are of conversations beginning with "O, hija, ano'ng grade mo na?" and ended with "Mag-doktora ka. Mainam na may doktorang nakakabit sa pangalan mo. Nirerespeto ka kahit saan ka pumunta." Even as a young child, I knew how title-conscious my grandfather was. But, to me, he was just a man who came from a time when a man's accomplishments are best measured by the titles he holds and the money he earns. Despite this, he's one of the many reasons I decided to get a PhD. "Doctor pa rin naman, of Physics nga lang," I would joke.

Our conversation during this afternoon's reunion started a bit differently from what I was used to. "I have 47 grandchildren," he told me and Tito Danny, the husband of one of my mother's sisters. I was curious, because I knew he only had 29 grandchildren from his 11 children by his legitimate wife, my grandmother. He opened his little black book and showed me three neatly handwritten columns of the names of his children. I think he had 18 in all. Beside the name of each child, he had written how many grandchildren he had by that child. He proudly counted his grandchildren off. "47," he said with no small amount of pride. I later on learned that aside from the names of all his children, the birth dates and phone numbers of each child was contained in that little black book. Every time he got a new black book, this very important information, he meticulously rewrote.

Now, I'm not trying to romanticize my grandfather's little black book. I don't doubt that amongst the names of his children are the names of some of his friends, even some of his old girlfriends. But, the very fact that he would take the time to write his children's names down in that small volume wherein he keeps what information he considers important to him made me see him in a slightly different light. It made me realize that he did care for things outside his reputation.

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