The day I met Amboy, I fell into a little argument with him on who was more glamorous between Elizabeth Taylor and Greta Grabo. That was at the Piner’s Beauty Salon at the Diocesan Building which I visited to look for a friend, Marlon Carbonel. That was in the early 1990’s. Since then, I’ve been running into Amboy in different occasions where gays would be gathered.
However, it was in the latter part of the 1990’s when I sort of became one of Amboy’s so-called “children” – a grouping of young individuals who have yet to know what we really wanted in life, a grouping that included Alvin Bacwaden, Kenny Gonayon and Edward Baguilod. We were at that stage where we were drifting, even as we were searching for something meaningful that we may eventually want to focus on. Amboy provided that vehicle for our mindless search. Given his infectious personality which centered on his ability to show that he cared, and that he understood what anyone may be going through, we became hooked, following him day after day (practically residing at his stall at the Bulanao market place). And so we became his disciples – calling him “Mother Amboy”, a distinction in the gay community which we only reserve for those whom we either respect or fear. In his case, I think it was more of the latter.
Intelligent yet silly. Gentle yet fierce. Free-spirited yet conservative. Amboy is a perfect subject on contradictory personality. He would harshly scold a person one minute, and the very next moment he would turn to you and gently say “My dear, iyawat mu man dayta shot glass. Thank you, my dear.”
He would stride into a room and cut through the calm, either though his cacophonous laughter or the orders that he barked: “Mary, mangiruar ka man dita.” (that was Mary Oman, whose place we used to frequent).
There is never a dull moment with Amboy. I may find myself discussing current affairs with him, then before I knew it, we would be running away – from whom, I hardly had the time to find out, though I remember we ran away one time from the tanods who interrupted our grouping at Mary’s, reprimanding us for drinking during a liquor-ban day.
Amboy is – was – one person whose commanding power was indisputable. He would look outside the window, make his weather assessment, and say “Pack your swimming clothes, get the pitcher and two glasses. Intayo idjay Pasunglao, it’s a sunny day!” No questions asked.
But that’s all in the past now, and the Guru pages may not even be enough to contain all the anecdotes that pertain to Amboy. We – his so-called children – have all moved on, and I don’t know whether younger ones have replaced us in his kwadra. I slowly lost contact with him these past years, and I only got to hear news about him now and then – particularly his nursing role for his mother.
Then, like a bolt out of the blue (which he can be likened to, whenever he assaults a gathering), he came to Dagupan last December. He stood by the frontage of Marlon Carbonel’s salon (R and J Beauty and Fashion Empire), told him to close the shop and follow him. Then as soon as they were seated at Violy’s Place, complete with beer bottles on the table, he told Marlon to ask me to join them. “Ma-miss ko man ni Mars,” he told Marlon.
So Marlon sent me a text message. And like a dutiful “anak,” I dropped what I was doing. I shut the computer down and rushed over to them. I realized that it has been years since the last time I spent time with him – with bottles between us. I did miss him too, and part of me wanted to go see him and sort of make a report of what I had become.
We talked. We exchanged stories, and reminisced the past. When I asked what made him occupied aside from being a home-body by then, he added new bits into my dormant Amboy archives in my head. As always, he gave us a cornucopia of stories about himself that always border on the fantastic and unbelievable. But that’s the Amboy trademark – he could make a lot of declarations, and you would not find it in your heart to express disbelief. Part of the Amboy mystique, I guess, is his ability to confound you. Plus his many claims that remain unverified all these years. And, despite all these, we loved him. He remained lodged deep into the recesses of your head – like a presence you may fail to acknowledge sometimes, but you know it’s there.
That afternoon at Violy’sPlace re-established his influence in me, but it would be the last time I would raise a glass with him, and the last time I would hear his gurgling laughter.
We would never know what great things Mother Amboy would have been capable of accomplishing – considering his intellect and strong personality. We cannot judge him, either, for the choices that he had made in his younger days. Coming from a very affluent family – peopled by highly educated siblings, offspring and grandchildren – he never once turned back from the path he chose to tread. As I have learned during my days with him, “if it makes you happy, go for it” has always been his mantra in life. But that did not diminish him to an individual who has no purpose in life at all – in fact, his greatest triumph is in making others happy, while being true to himself.
“No regrets,” I can almost hear him saying, with his signature whistle which he used to accentuate his statements.
Ditto. The days I spent with him were too colorful to be forgotten. He helped in broadening my view of various people coming from diverse backgrounds. He helped me become street-smart all the more, to be tough – inside out, without sporting the leather jackets that were part of his staple wardrobe.
Oh, the places we went to, the dangers we encountered, the adventures we risked our life with. To be young again, and re-trace the same days – what a party it would be with him! From now on, I would not be able to drain a bottle without hearing Amboy’s voice, saying “Here’s to life!” – like he never left at all.
There was one time Amboy, Bryan (also gone, may his soul rest in peace) and I went to Amdalao, Pasil for the town fiesta in 1996. On the day we had to go back to Tabuk, Amboy said we must stop for awhile in Cagaluan. So we did, then he took out all of our fare money and said we had to “drink” while waiting for another ride. And so we raised glasses and time passed us by. I later pointed out that there no longer seemed to be passenger jeepneys passing by. With that, he stood up, went to the road side, and after just a few minutes, he was yelling at us to hurry up.
We hitched a ride. In a big, worn and dilapidated truck. That’s the Amboy way. Most things in life are free.
You’ll be missed… terribly. Mother.
(In behalf of the Gays Union of Tabuk, we express our most sincere condolences to the Kub-ao family)
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