“Tata”

IMG_1405Tata.  That was how he was introduced to me. In Ilocano, he would be “Balong.”  In Cebuano, he would be “Dodong.”  He is an Ilonggo from South Cotabato. “Tata” literally means “little child.”  When I first met him, he was 27 years old, married, and had a baby of his own named “Toto,” “little boy.” Tata and I speak the same dialect. His parents were from Negros Occidental, the province whose name to me often evokes nostalgia.

Tata’s wife is named N, and she’s from this side of the mountain where I go in and out preaching the Word. From his story I surmised that she was a woman full of ambitions.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance. He started courting her one day when their paths met. He was tired and thirsty and she guided him to that nook behind a forest where a bubbling spring could be found. They began a conversation that lasted until noon. He was struck by the beauty of this mountain lass, with her features so fine she could be mistaken for an “hija bastarda.” It never occurred to Tata that while they both shared the same attraction, they would never share the same faith, or dreams, or goals. After a week of courtship, she became his wife.

I had studied the Bible with Tata many times. He listened, understood the logic underscoring the teachings of the Scriptures, and began to see the light. After a few months, he was on his way to become a disciple like the one he reads about in the Bible. Tata lacked just one thing. But then I was ready to immerse him– if he was ready too. He said he was.

Tata’s wife got herself a job in the city, first as a lady security guard for a grocery store, then as a factory worker at MEPZA. At the time we were having studies, his wife had already been away for a month.

Tata never came to the baptismal pool as scheduled. His wife had left for a job which she thought was good as far as economics was concerned, but she also left him for another man. He was so downhearted.

I saw him again three months after. He came for advice. In the kindest way possible, I frankly told him three things that were wrong.

First, He had fallen in love with a woman who was not even in love with him. Love in a marriage is a two-way traffic. She was a Delilah in disguise. You remember that Bible story.

Second, their home started in the wrong nest. After their wedding, her parents’ home became their home.  What does the Word of God say about spouses leaving parents and cleaving to each other alone?

Third, their marriage was without any moral foundation. Tata strived to listen to Jesus and obey Him; his wife never had a qualm about doing anything  immoral.

It’s been three years since Tata and I last saw each other. He’s back in South Cotabato, trying to pick up the pieces of his life and restructure it. I miss that friend of mine, even as I pass by a big mansion on my way out—another imposing structure in this forest land, where Tata’s ex-wife now reigns as queen. The cost?  Just three million pesos. Built for her by her new lover. She was twenty-five.  He was sixty-five.

Tata, on the other hand, found the church in South Cotabato.

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