On Drinking Beer and Being Your Own Person

Friday, March 29, 2019

ipu-ipo beer
Photo from Travel Up

Face sweaty and streaked with dust, I dashed to our house. It was twilight. My mother had just called for me, and it meant the end of my playtime. I was nine, ten years old – barely out of elementary school. Rarely was I allowed outside, and I try to stick to the rules so I’d be allowed a next time. Even then, I knew I had to abide so that, later, I could give the world the finger.

I got past the rusty gate to our compound – two rows of motley houses with a narrow alley in between. I was greeted with an all too familiar tableau: in front of our house, almost blocking the entire alleyway was a low plastic table. Around it were four mismatched chairs. On it sat four shabby-looking men. Two were tricycle drivers. One was a neighbor. The last one was my father.

I perched my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. I was suddenly thirsty. I walked towards the table, going largely unnoticed amidst the rowdiness of the group. There was a collection of glasses and mugs and a bowl of what looked like mushed eggplants. I squeezed between my father and my neighbor, pointing to a glass containing clear liquid.

“Is that water?” I asked my dad.

He laughed and reached for the glass then handed it to me.

I should’ve known better than to trust a man who reeked of sewage, but he was kin, and I was young, so I threw my head back and gulped.

The next thing I knew, my mother was yelling and my throat was burning, and my mouth tasted like piss. That was the day I had my first glass of gin.

My childhood was comfortable. I was not left wanting – except maybe in affirmation – but most of my memories of it are marred by my father’s drunken antics. He was never violent but he was a handful. There was the Fiesta Fiasco. The Graduation Grumble. The Push-up Phenomenon. And, worst of all, the Acid Affair.

The last one, I’d say, effectively ruined my childhood.
beer in the philippines

After another night of excessive inebriation, my father – still drunk – went to my grandfather’s muriatic acid plant. Let us leave out the exact details, for they are murky to me, but the gist is that he poured acid unto himself – whether by accident or by intent, I’m still not sure.

I was in my senior year in highschool when this happened. I started that year all ready to become valedictorian – because, despite falling short the previous years, I knew I had what it takes – but was already losing steam because life is unfair and I give up easily. I got home from school with the house locked up. I had no idea what had happened (we weren’t as connected back then) until a tricycle driver – one of the two who’d witnessed my inaugural gin – informed me.

I didn’t stay long at the hospital. In the two months of my father’s confinement, I only visited twice and I don’t think you could really consider those as visits – I just waited for my sister outside his ward's door. If anything, I came to see my mom who stayed unflinchingly – as she’d always had – by my father’s side. You might think that’s love, and my mother would agree – and perhaps you’re both right – but, to me, it was madness.

My mother lost all her savings paying for the bills. We were in so much debt, I started gloating about me studying in a public school, how it was a good thing I insisted even when they all wanted me to go to an expensive, private one. I was barely keeping it together.

School wasn’t going so well, even before the “accident”. I was stretching myself thin, and still, I couldn’t be Top 1. I was getting so frustrated that, at some point when my father was in the hospital, I stopped attending classes. I was in school but I would hang by the canteen and play Pokémon on a Gameboy. And then, I started not going to school altogether. I’m really smart and I had these inter-school competitions so I would just show up for those. I won most of them, but still I wasn’t First Honor.

I blamed my father.

I swore never to be like him. I swore off alcohol forever.

And so I grew older. And my father’s burns healed. But we were both scarred in ways more than each of us realized. I saw alcohol as the ultimate embodiment of his flaws, his weaknesses.

Yet as I progressed through this life, to my fear and dismay, I started seeing bits of him in me. And not just physically. I was broody. Moody. Stubborn as hell. Easily angered. Prone to holding grudges. Lazy to the core. I was my father’s daughter, after all, with or without alcohol.
ipu-ipo beer

Then, I met people. People who are good to me, who treated me fairly and kindly. People who, ironically, like alcohol, but seemed actually fine. Not at all afflicted with the curse it had bestowed on my father. They like beer in particular. Eventually – call it peer pressure (or, you know, beer pressure) – I broke my own promise and started to consume – and actually like – beer.

I recently got around to discussing this with my siblings. My older brother was not impressed.

“Most of our problems are because of Papa’s drinking,” he reminds me.

Round the same plastic table, my brother recalls, one of my father’s drinking buddies commented: you will grow up to be just like your father – lasinggero. My brother would have none of it, resolving to prove them wrong. And so to this day, he had not had a sip of alcohol – or so he tells us.

Yet just like me, he is my father’s child, in ways neither of us would dare to admit.

“I am not Papa,” I say nonetheless. 

My reneging was brought about by the company of good people. Beer had come to mean a prelude to great conversations. I no longer fear it, or any alcohol for that matter. I no longer despise it. There is no more blame. Sure, I had my share of mishaps (which are now funny anecdotes), and yes, I am a mess, but I think I'm doing perfectly fine. 

There are echoes of my father in me. And I fear these, and worry that they will drown me, but I am also my mother’s daughter. Just like her, I am resolute. And my desire to make her proud is my buoy.

And I am loved. I acknowledge this now. I am loved by the people I love. And this love is my salvation. 

And I’ve mostly blundered through life, for heaven's sake. From these mistakes are wisdom. Hurt that turned into weapons. Joy that became references. I have learned my lessons. I will be fine.

I am my parents’ daughter. But I am also me. And me thinks beer is fine.

Beer is good. Beer is nothing to be afraid of.
beer na beer old bottle

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