Posted by: Amy | February 8, 2013

The Good Guy

Uncle Efren with one of his grandkids, Grace.

Uncle Efren with one of his grandkids, Grace.

For years, Friday night was reserved for big family dinners. It was a chance for my sisters and their families to come over and have home-cooked Filipino food. This was a time where there weren’t any Pinoy eateries nearby, where you “turo turo” or “point point” at whichever ready-made dish you wanted “to go.” Besides, nothing compared to Mom’s cooking.

Most of what I know about my family history, I learned at the dinner table. Recently, my parents recalled stories of one of my uncles.

***

Two brothers

As a boy, my Dad’s job was to feed his younger siblings before he can go out and play. One brother, Uncle Efren, ate too slow. So what did my Dad do? He ate Uncle Efren’s food, then ran out to play with his friends. Later at night Uncle would cry because he was hungry and my Dad would get in trouble.

At one time during WW II, a friend of my grandfather went to the house.  “I think there’s something wrong with one of your boys,” the old man said. My grandfather sent my Dad to check. So he went out and found Uncle Efren in tears. Upon seeing my Dad, he screamed, “Kuya!” (The honorific for an older brother or cousin.) Dad said the whole village heard him. A black spider bit Uncle on his butt, so Dad had to carry him home.

My grandfather’s friend cut a green papaya off a tree, sliced it half and placed it on the hot kindling used for cooking. Meanwhile, Uncle Efren was crying out loud, thinking he is going to die. The bite site swelled up to the size of a baseball. All the neighbors gathered outside the house to find out what all the commotion was about. While Dad held his brother down, the old man took the charred papaya and stuck it onto my uncle’s butt and held it down. Uncle let out a death-defying scream that scared everyone. Then passed out.

Two days later, the family had to evacuate to avoid the bombings. Once again, my Dad had to help his younger brother, who could barely walk. They were just about to cross a river when they heard the sound of machine guns firing. Every one ran back to hide among the trees along the bank. After a while, they noticed Uncle was not there. In a panic, Dad and my grandfather started looking for him. To their shock, they saw Uncle Efren … on the other side of the river.

Fitting Nickname

I think that story tells a lot about my uncle. When everyone is doing one thing, he went in the opposite direction. He was argumentative and never gave in. His nickname “Bida” means “the good guy”in Tagalog. But Dad says it’s really short for “kontrabida,” which means “villian.” (The Spanish “contra vida” means “against life.”)

My uncle had his shares of mishaps, misadventures and mistakes. Once my grandmother asked my Dad, “Why don’t you go to church like your brother?”

My Dad replied, “He has more wrongdoings to pray about.”

At one time, my uncle was a truck driver. He was driving workers to a site when one of them fell off the truck. The others tried to get my uncle to stop, but he kept going, oblivious to the fact that he lost a passenger. Luckily the man was not hurt and was able to hitch a ride.

Then there was the time my uncle asked Dad to help him buy another car.  Dad asked him why, but he wouldn’t say. Turns out that Uncle was dating someone, and the lady’s adult son found out. Uncle got scared and wanted to get rid of his car in case the son came looking for him.

Uncle Efren gained “cool” points with the kids when he wandered into the wrong movie theater and watched “Purple Rain.” He must have been the oldest person to see Prince’s film. Ever.

Through the years, my Mom and Dad would have the same conversation.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my brother,” Dad would say.

“It’s your fault,” Mom would reply. “You ate his food when he was a kid. He didn’t get the right amount of nutrients.”

My Uncle Efren died a few years ago, after he was able to bring his entire family to California. There’s a whole big group of Lansangs up in the Sacramento area who owe everything to him. Even with his social miscues and life blunders, my Uncle was a loving person. Truly “Bida” all the way.

***

Did family tales unfold at your dinner table? Which stories were told over and over again? Do you share stories with family now?

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Responses

  1. Hehehe. I’m liking your fambam more and more all of the time! Talk about stories!

    • Thank you so much, Lori. As I said, we put the FUN in dysfunction.

      • Lots of love. And what stories!

  2. Aaww .. what a neat story! A big-hearted guy despite his mischief. I enjoyed reading.

    • Linda ~ Thank you very much. Your comment means a lot to me.

  3. I love a good story and this is one. Are you gathering your stories for a book?

    • I am not sure, Sabra. I know I wanted to chronicle the family stories somehow. Thank you so much for your comment. Now you got me thinking ….

  4. Thanks for sharing your uncle’s story with us. He will always be remembered.

    • I had a lot of fun writing it. Thanks, Romelle.


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