Volcano Child - A YA Novel in Progress by Candy Gourlay
Two weeks ago, Mouse decided to dig his way to London.

22 November 2006

Our Fathers

At the beginning, it was Father who was going to leave; it was Father we were going to miss. It was Father who was going to earn plenty of foreign money to fill our bellies and put shoes on our feet.

Like the characters in Volcano Child, my father went overseas to work because foreign money paid so much more than Philippine pesos. That was in the early eighties.

Orland Quimpo and family in 1986, shortly after he returned from working in North Africa. Photo by Mandy Navasero.

The week before he left he taught me how to drive the old Renault16 that he’d patched up from scrap. While he was gone, it was going to be my job to drive my little brothers to and from school (that's my family pictured above, soon after Dad came back from overseas. That's me second from left).

I remember how impossible it had seemed. How were we going to cope without Dad? What was Mom going to do on her own with six kids? How was I going to drive that car?

We did cope. Just. And I crashed the car twice in that first week that he left. But I did get better eventually.

Still, it was the loneliest time in the world.

Years later I discovered that there were hundreds of other young people like me in the Philippines who had experienced that same loneliness. Ask any Filipino, we don't have to try very hard to name someone close who left to work abroad.

When one thinks about it, the Philippines must have some of the loneliest young people in the world.

Portrait of my Dad, Orlando Quimpo, as a young manLast July, Dad died. He was 73.

To be really honest, I was relieved. He’d been dying for a long time, his last four years spent in a bed, unable to eat except for a tube into his stomach, unable to breathe if it hadn’t been for a tube down his throat, and unable to speak.

Dad had always been a brave, uncomplaining sort; my mother used to say that there was something heroic about him, that Dad was something of a superman, someone who could make things happen, you know the type. But nobody deserved to die like that.

After all we’d been through, my family saw Dad’s death as an end to a long and harrowing period. And so we were taken aback by the number of well-wishers who came to condole at his wake. People he had helped. People who had looked up to him. People whom he had cared for.

Orland Quimpo as a boy with one of his model airplanesPutting together an album of old photographs for the wake, we found images of a sparkling young man, obsessed with building model airplanes (that really flew!), an artist who was forever sketching, a tinkerer and gadget lover who could take a junk car and bring it back to life, a prize-winning inventor, a father who, confronted by children to entertain, could build a tank out of tin cans or a Christmas tree out of newspapers.

The fact was, we had forgotten that before he became a bed-bound patient, Dad had a life. And it was a life to be celebrated.

We won't forget you, Dad.

Orlando L. Quimpo died in July 2006 in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about your dad, sounds like a nice man.

Wednesday, 22 November, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. My father also left to work abroad when I was a child and when he returned he was a different person and he and my mother split up. I always say that he had no choice but to go abroad. But sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. Thank you for sharing your story.

Monday, 27 November, 2006  
Blogger Andre said...

This post has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, 28 November, 2006  
Blogger Andre said...

Nice piece Candy. Dad was my hero and I am who I am today mostly because of him. Too bad April never knew dad before the tumors and all BUT she says he's a good and interesting man. I never thought I'd be a teacher too! hehe.

Now that I have Zoe, I try my best to do what dad did for me: Support my dreams and show Zoe the beauty in things around us. I try to be that 'walking encyclopedia' for her.

Maybe someday, Zoe might win that Soap Box Derby for her lolo! :)

Tuesday, 28 November, 2006  
Anonymous candy said...

Thanks, Andre. (Andre, btw is one of the little brothers i mention in the piece - no longer so little! He might recognise something of himself in the character of Mouse!)

Tuesday, 28 November, 2006  

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