Quiet and unassuming....that's how I remember my father,Bernardo S.Rojas. He was a short and stocky man who, despite being heavyset, moved quickly and walked lightly. He didn't indulge in idle gossips. I never heard him say anything derogatory against anyone. He had a passion for good food (and good women!). He was a gourmand and he made no excuses for it.
When he and my mother split up, I was sent to my Auntie Felisa's house in Quezon City to live and study there between the ages of 5 to 13. I didn't get to spend more time with my father but ,at that time, I didn't think much of it. I looked forward to his visits because he readily gave me money for toys or paper dolls.
On summer vacations, I'd go back to Cavite City and stayed with him. I still recall his jokes.He said them very seriously and I had to think first before I laughed. He would take me and my siblings to eat at restaurants in Manila and then watched movies. I remember while watching "Wait Until Dark", a suspense film starring Audrey Hepburn, he would shout out his reactions loudly. Then he would go to sleep near the end of the film and he snored!!!!!! Now I wonder why he wasn't thrown out of the theater because of his shenanigans.
I never saw him get angry though my mother and older siblings (I am the 5th among 8 children) would tell me that he wasn't above losing his cool.They said he could have a very foul temper when pushed to the limit.
He loved gardening. He had a green thumb which, much to my dismay, I didn't inherit. His roses were breathtaking! He could grow grapes even in a very hot climate like Cavite City. Other plants and trees he grew in his yard were jasmins, Ilang-Ilang, Champaca, Guava trees and Starapple trees.
He had 2 houses, both situated in Cavite City. One is the big house located in San Roque which he inherited from his auntie, Dominga S. Picache, sister of his mom, Maria.This was our family home and today, his grandchild and great granchild live here.The other is the small house situated in Manila Boulevard facing the Rojas family cemetery. The houses of his 2 sisters were also located there in a compound called "Patio Maria". Today, "Patio Maria" is no longer owned by the Rojases. Before my father suffered a stroke in 1968, he left the San Roque house and lived nearer his sisters in "Patio Maria".He could not bear the emptiness and loneliness of that big house because my mother no longer lived there. It was too much for him. I think, his first afflication was not the stroke, but a sad broken heart. He died in St.Lukes Hospital in Quezon City after lingering in a coma for three weeks. His death was my first sorrowful experience. I shed a lot of tears for my father.But ,to me, only his physical body died. His spirit still lives on in my heart and in my mind. He left a part of him in me. His legacy will live on, not only in me or my siblings, but also in his granchildren and great grandchildren thriving in different parts of the world today.Had he lived longer, I am sure he would be very happy just playing and intereacting with them since he had a great affection for children. I am also very sure that wherever he is now, he is watching them with a big smile on his face. I am so proud and lucky to be your daughter. I LOVE YOU, PAPA!
- Jean Eulogia S. Rojas