My father drove a yellow car. I barely recall what kind of car it was, must be a Celica or a Mustang, one of those pointy-looking cars that strutted the streets in the 70s. At my age then, 7 or 8, I didn’t have a clue and it didn’t matter anyway. He drove us everywhere in it – to my grandparents in Nueva Ecija, to the CCP and Philtrade for an early morning jog, to Aristocrat in Roxas Boulevard, to the Magnolia ice cream parlor in Aurora Boulevard, to my school, to Rizal Theatre, to the hospital where I was confined for a whole month when I was 9, to my auntie’s graduation from law school, to my mom’s own graduation. It was this way, every Saturday, so I’d wait for the car Friday night. On a good day, it would already be parked outside our house and I’d see it as I came down from my school bus. My dad worked for the government as a trade agent, (not the James Bond type but he did carry a gun) and was usually assigned to some far-flung city which meant he was only back with us on weekends. Having him around was already a treat in itself. If we weren’t in the car going around town, I’d be playing with my cousins for a while then spend the better part of the day being my dad’s shadow and the center of his attention.
Being his only child and daughter (well, that’s as far as I know from my set of parents), I was proud to be told by people that we look like each other. My mom said I take after him, in a lot of ways. He loved the arts, he drew well, he loved building things for the house, he danced and sang well too. Sometimes I would sit with him as he wrote calligraphy to label my books and notebooks for school. I’d try it myself but Speedball was just so messy so I didn’t enjoy it at all. What I loved was dancing with him. He’d put a record on the turntable and we’d dance the cha-cha in the living room. He’s a great dancer, sexy in a daddy sort of way and we looked really funny bouncing around the house, all 6 burly feet of him and me, half his size. We also shared a love for Rocky Road and Double Dutch ice creams, Hershey’s chocolate bars and kisses and homemade chocolate porridge. One time, he went all fruity and tried making papaya ice cream which turned out bitter and mushy. Although he never failed with his original recipe pork barbeque and chicken soup with pasta he made from scratch. My uncles and aunts loved his cooking and they would troop to the house whenever he was home.
One weekend, when I was ten, just after Christmas, he came and left. I didn’t see him drive away. I wish I did so I could have hugged him and kissed him before he was gone. I waited for the car to come back weekend after weekend but it never did. The weeks became months that became years. And every time I’d see a yellow car that almost looked like my father’s car, my heart would stop and I would stare at it and try to catch the driver’s face or the plate number — NGT 846. My memory of that car’s color might explain my love for yellow. I do wonder how I could recall such an odd set of letters and numbers. Maybe, because in my head, it’s the last strand of connection I had with him. I forget that I am his living memory.
The other night, by some strange imagining or wishful thinking, I saw him again…in my dream. We were on the road, in a car. Was it yellow? It wasn’t so clear. He was leaving, so what’s new. But this time I get the chance to hug him and kiss him goodbye. I thought I would never hear his voice again. I know it was just a dream, and probably just my subconscious processing an episode of Heroes. But his words, I will keep in my heart, together with all the happy times in that yellow car and the wonderful man I first danced with. Papa.