By Nikki Rivera Gomez

Davao stories

December 13, 2021, 7:58 pm

DAVAO City may be many things to other people. Frontier land. Gateway. Food basket. Melting pot and migrants’ haven. Fruit capital. But for me, it will always be one thing: home.

Although born in Manila, I grew up and spent all my adult life here. My youth, from the 1960s to the 1970s, was drenched with soulful vignettes.

We once lived in a rented two-story house along Palma Gil St. It was cavernous, with a two-flight stairway set against a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. That was where my dad taught me how to ride a bike along the driveway, where I accidentally shot a desk clock with my brother Bubu’s BB rifle, and where I often piggy-backed on my sister Sandra, at one time causing her to fall and bloody her chin.

That house had a large lawn where, at night, our Chow-Chow named Patrick would roam, and where, the morning after, my dad would sometimes park his red Ford pickup as he came home from work in Parang, Maguindanao.

Before sunup, I would awaken by the sound of the voices of my brother and sister, who were usually up at dusk. The sound of soft, familiar voices through the warm blanket was comforting, especially after a night of an asthma attack which was my nemesis then.

My mom had a large kitchen inside that house. I was so fond of it and its cooking aromas that when I acquired a turtle for the first time, I told our majordoma to “take it to my laboratory,” referring to mom’s kitchen. The poor turtle stayed in a small water-filled batya on the checkered kitchen floor for quite a while.

Adjacent to that corner was my dad’s equally spacious study. In it were two massive narra desks with matching solihiya swivels and an Ysmael steel cabinet. For as long as I can remember, an ashtray—always half-filled, one of those olden ones fashioned from San Miguel beer bottles—sat on his desk, the light-shaded one. And that table was invariably laden with stacks of paper, some of which, bundles of unused receipts, emerged decades later with the inscription: Gomez Timber.

Those yellowed pads are now a mute testament to my dad’s frontier spirit as he braved faraway ventures with a shotgun, a Colt .38 automatic, the loyalty of his workers, and the reassuring certainty of a family he came home to.

From time to time, we would visit a ranch in Calinan owned by a family who was friends with my mom. I remember the sprawling lawns and the quiet afternoon breeze. The couple’s son and I would play indoors and pretend to be pirates looking for lost loot, and pry open the wooden floorboards to a “secret” storage space. Of course, it was nothing more than a hole containing rags and discarded wood.

We also toyed with their tape recorder—a novelty for me— one of those big, upright reel-to-reel tape decks. That one must have inspired my dad to acquire a turntable, a couple of oversized speakers, and a vacuum-tube amplifier, all from which he would play full blast his Tchaikovsky pieces of vinyl.

Those vinyl LPs—about four boxes of them— would sometime later be lost forever. As a juvenile driver, I would place them on top of our old Volkswagen Beetle while fumbling with the keys, forget to shove them inside the car, and drive off like there was no tomorrow. In the rearview mirror as I sped down McArthur Highway past the memorial park, I watched in a mix of horror and amusement the discs flying in the air like frisbees.

I can’t remember if I ever told dad about his prized collection.


About the Columnist

Image of Nikki Rivera Gomez

Mr. Nikki Rivera Gomez is a published author and communications adviser. He writes from his hometown, Davao City.