Eldest son of Igmedio Fameronag and Maria Fabreag, two of the most industrious grandparents I have ever seen; son-in-law of the late Urbano Famarin and Josefina Fabella, one of the most cultured couples of Sibale; and brother to Teresita, Marchita, Seneca, Anselmo, Virginita, Luzvinia, Lourdes, Evelinda, and Ricardito, Doding in his youth was a feared warrior, a mean boxer who brooked no rule or tradition when it came to street fights. Stories of his exploits were told not by him, but by those he had fought and later became close friends in their mellowed years.
A cockfight aficionado who drank like a fish and smoked like a buhadan, Doding was a jovial man, a passionate and demonstrative lover, and a most responsible father.
He was also a cousin to several Fameronags now multiplying like mushrooms around this country (God knows how many they are because the clan in its heyday was in Tres Islas the most prolific!); a tiyo to nephews and nieces; a ninong to several dozens of godchildren; a pare to the parents of these several dozens of godchildren; and a mamay to grandchildren and the not so grand. Most important of all, he was, to his very last breath, a devoted husband to his late wife Aling.
In fact, I supremely believe Doding died of overly requited love. When Aling passed away ahead in 2009, Doding simply gave up life. He lost his will to live and suffered from a diminished appetite for the suffocating air of an afflicted universe already killing itself of consumptive materialism.
His and Aling’s singular accomplishment was no mean feat: they sent their seven children to school, six of them experiencing what poverty denied them in Sibale—a college education.
I didn’t know what Doding and Aling had for pillow talk when their children were young kids in the neighborhood of Masudsud, but I am sure it was not about more children. The brood they had was already contributing heavily to the country’s chronic rice shortages.
The seven, who, by the stroke of genes and what Aling said was the fruit of squash, manunggay, ginat-ang tawan o yangka, inaslom, and fresh fish, exhibited brains in school and were good finishers. They were always in the honor roll, prompting the diminutive Eugenio Fonte, then principal of the Concepcion Central Elementary School, to pull Doding aside one day and whispered to him: “Send your children to school whatever it takes. I can see they have a future.”
The future, as the eldest of the seven divined, was plotted in the four corners of a classroom. At a young age, he convinced Doding it is only through education that the family could move up in life. Without it, they would surely not only go down but sink deeper into poverty, perhaps, early death and, therefore, perdition.
And so, while for the children the university became a “Google” to search and acquire knowledge, a remedy to stanch the pangs of ignorance, for Doding the agricultural farms of Batangas to where the family moved in the 80s became the lifeline with which he and Aling teetered the children to school. Plain hard, industrious work, frugality, and an abiding faith in the Lord sustained the Fameronags in the crisis-stricken decade, until at last, one of the children, the eldest, obtained a degree.
In succession, the rest of the siblings obtained theirs, except for the second son who married early, but whose union was a blessing: the couple produced two daughters who were full-time scholars from high school to college and who later graduated summa cum laudes at the Adventist University of the Philippines.
Unabashedly proud but remaining the simplest of men, Doding basked in his glory as a father of the brainiest Fameronags who ever walked on earth. His simple luxury was a good haircut and shave and a weekly trek to the wet market where, later it was found out, he made friends with people who shared his passion for a leisurely bet on jueteng and cockfights, a vice that his conversion into the protestant church of the Seventh Day Adventists could not, and did not, expurgate. The Asi spirit in him remained an immovable, inconvertible force.
His other pleasure was playing the harmonica, so much so that when the eldest had gotten a job shortly after graduation, he bought him one and presented it to the dreamy-eyed Fameronag patriarch. When Doding misplaced it and decided it was lost, his trademark volcanic temper erupted with murderous fury prompting the eldest to buy him another one.
While admittedly Doding in his early married life was fond of women, he never kept one and remained fiercely devoted and loyal to Aling and strongly committed to preserving family harmony. When the family was still in Sibale, there were the usual late-night quarrels common to starting couples, but this remained subdued shouting matches, kept in the confines of the home and away from the hearing distance of the children.
The causes—never women—varied, from unpaid gambling debts to drunkenness to street fights and, it couldn’t be believed, even misplaced personal effects, such as the balisong which Doding kept immaculately sharp and handy. He never left home without it tucked inside his waist.
After his conversion, Doding miraculously abandoned his vices—cockfights, night out drinking sprees, card playing, and cigarettes—in exchange for the Bible. Because of his reputation as a disputatious, quarrelsome lad, no one believed him at first, but when the years passed seeing him even abstaining from pork and going to church on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with his family in tow, the entire Sibalenhon community, happily relieved of one citizen who made troubles in every baylehan, said he was, indeed, a changed man.
Indeed, a changed man he was, for at that time the education of his children became a Doding executive agenda and top priority. Everyounce of sweat from his brow and every sinewy of muscle he devoted to his children's education.
I had the faintest suspicion that had Doding been to school, he would have become a soldier or a police officer and would have been a thorn on the side of thugs, scalawags, thieves, and other lawless denizens.
Proof of this was his glorification of men in uniform. When he was alive, he said he dreamed of donning a cowboy hat on top of crisp khaki attire and shiny leather boots, and of wielding a pistol. He thought men in uniform are powerful heroes and, therefore, he feared and respected Tiyo Amboy Fanoga, then Sibale's chief of police who was the only one who can pacify him when he was drunk. Tiyo Amboy used to confine Doding in the town's one-room concrete cell when he chanced upon him inebriated and making raucous noises during a baylehan, only to free him in the morning.
Doding, though afraid of death as all of us must be, was prepared to meet his Maker when he breathed his last on 08 November 2011. In fact, I think he relished it for it was the time mandated by the Great Watchkeeper for him to be re-united with his wife Aling, and Erel, one of their seven children.
Doding, who was, is, and will be my father is gone, yet he is alive and that is how I feel, believe, and perceive it to this very day, for the simple reason that without him, it would not have been possible to write a proper goodbye:
that the living go on to die then live
while the dead rest waiting in the cold earth bed;
but poets, alive, breath, search the darkest cave
for epitaphs the dead will no more read.