November 2, 2012. I woke up early. My boyfriend and I were going to visit our grandfathers at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for Heroes).

“Tatay”, my lolo, was a strict father and quite the ladies man. He also enjoyed getting drunk out of his mind, but he had mellowed into a gentle old man when I met him. He rarely spoke but was always quietly kind.

We arrived at the cemetery. My boyfriend’s family friends had a tent pitched on top of their grandfather’s impressive tomb. My boyfriend’s grandfather, a brigadier general, was in the same elite row. I marveled at the care of each tomb. One had purple lilies dotted on the mound. How artsy. Another tomb had a massive flower arrangement with intertwined cabbage flowers, giant red roses, and yellow tiger lilies. All fake, upon closer inspection. I realized then that I was empty-handed. I didn’t bring anything for my dear lolo.

Tatay was a hardworking jeepney driver. He’d come home from driving a nightshift with a lot of change in his pocket. My cousins and I would clamor around him, wanting a share of the loot, “Piso! Piso! Piso!”. He’d oblige by handing each of us a peso. But for a reason that escapes me now, all of us wanted the piso with the carabao on it. The delight upon getting one with the animal was mind-boggling.

My thoughts were interrupted by a query from one of my boyfriend’s family friends, “what was your grandfather’s rank?” I fumbled for an answer. “Not sure he had a rank. My grandmother said he was a guerrilla messenger of some sort.” She looked at me wide-eyed. “But you have to have a rank if you’re buried here”. I turned away feeling sheepish. Truth is, I didn’t know that much about my grandfather.

I did know that I was his favorite grandchild. I guess I took that as fact because that’s what my aunts would tell me. I had other proof. In his jeep, he inscribed all the names of his grandchildren. But my name was the one above the driver’s seat- directly above his head.

I never visited his grave alone so I didn’t remember its exact location. Lucky for me, a volunteer soldier located him on his computer records. My boyfriend and I made the long walk over and when we finally found him, I looked down and smiled at the sight of his name. We said a prayer and having no flowers to leave behind, I left a shiny new piso.

“Tatay, maliit na siya. Wala na din siyang kalabaw.”