Hello po. Welcome ulit sa Labandera Chronicles.
Am still in New York. And still caught up in my memories of the legendary FPJ.
I sift through past Facebook posts and see several pieces I put up through the years, if not on his birthdays, on his death anniversaries.
From “Panday’s Last Fight,” which I wrote for Rogue Magazine, the election year of 2016:
"In Calbayog, we were made to wait in the parish priest’s private quarters before the program started.
"I felt a sudden urge to smoke, and moved to the door. Reggie, FPJ’s aide, asked where I am going. 'Maninigarilyo. Walang ashtray dito.'
"FPJ left the window, walked to the bed, went down on all fours, confidently groped with his right hand on the floor, on the spot directly under the pillows, and—ta-dah!—brought out an improvised ashtray made from an old tin can.
"'I used to be a sacristan when I was young,' he grinned, like a little boy. 'I know the secret hiding places of ashtrays in a church.'”
This, I’ve written about several times:
"A street rally was called in Makati the night of May 11, 2004, to protest the apparent cheating in the presidential elections. I was standing by the small truck commandeered as makeshift stage, waiting for my turn to speak, when Susan Tagle made her way to me: 'Tawag tayo.'
"FPJ’s white vehicle was parked by the Mandarin Hotel. Tagle and I got in, he told his driver, Mario, I believe, to leave us for a while. Then he let out his first question: 'Why are we out on the streets? Are we not winning?'
"'Sir,' I reply, calling him that for the first time since we'd become friends, after his outfit's My Little Christmas Tree, where I got cast to appear with him, Nora Aunor, Chichay, Veronica Palileo, and Dencio Padilla, among others.
"'We are checking the returns. You're winning greatly in the municipalities, but the figures are being altered at the end of the day, at capitolyo level. It looks like there's massive cheating to ensure your defeat.'
"Tagle agreed with me and said more.
"He slapped his thigh, with a resounding whack. 'How low you think of the little people! Pareho pa naman kayong [galing] UP!
"'If cheating's really been planned, you think there is not one guard at the COMELEC who will stand up to volunteer that he had heard the cheating being discussed?
"'You think there is not one school teacher who will come out to admit they're being made to change figures in tally sheets?
"'You think the Church will just let this go by, the priests, the nuns? What about the students? Won't they want to have their say?'"
"As he spoke, I recalled the 'little people' in his films, where he never really won The Fight on his own, but always with the help of his community of neighbors who’d go out of their houses with batya and palu-palo, dos-por-dos and dustpans, walis-tingting, kalderos and what have you, to combat contravida goons; with even child actors joining in the finale fight, all the way back to as far as Jay Ilagan in Anak ng Bulkan, Bentot Jr., Dennis Padilla, Niño Muhlach, and Vandolph, to name a few — and his voice cuts off my thoughts.
"'Have faith in the little people. They will not let us down.'
An hour or so in the car with us, he never referred to himself as 'I.' Winning, for him, was a matter of 'we.'"
There's so much more I'd like to say about that election year, 15 years ago. But I stop here now, to just simply remind us all: He was Royalty. He was King.
We continue to miss the man. Arguably, he was the best president we never had.