COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Sometimes in your comings and goings in different circles and events, you come across a spark of soul that shines a peculiar brightness of its own. I consider Mano Francing for one. He strikes me as one belonging to an older generation of men who are generally happy with themselves and with others irrespective of the time and circumstances in which they live.
He is always smiling if not laughing and his warmth is infectious, giving you a sense of affinity like that brought by blood. There is this zest in life and a passion for even just a small preoccupation like that of an ordinary conversation.
When he talks, he just doesn’t talk to the person near him but to every one within hearing range, or anyone who cares to listen, as if holding court. And his manner so lively and spirited that sometimes he appears like a Lolo telling an interesting story to a bunch of kids. Always full of humor, he talks freely while his topic could range from sports, mundane matters, to politics.
Well I guess we talk just about everything at the Tacloban Tennis Club. It’s a relaxed atmosphere for a hundred men who let down their guard, shedding mostly their position and status as they are being equalized in the field of sports. And though an afternoon’s count could only number between twenty to thirty players, it could be a rowdy group.
There is much ribbing, bantering, and laughing at anyone’s expense. The green jokes becoming greener and lurid in details. But in the midst of this ribald hilarity, Mano Francing somehow rises above the petty viciousness of it all. He laughs with his usual mirth, without spite or malice, retaining a subtle kind of decency that often escapes from others.
It only saddened me to see him suffer during his bout with lung cancer for he became mindful of the pain on his right chest. But even then, he did not feel sorry for anything, taking his affliction in a matter-of-fact manner, and without dampening the inner joy that is inherent in his nature. He still frequented the club in his last year to watch the games, play cards, or just be with the guys in familiar company.
In earlier days, Mano Francing used to produce a nice bahalina packaged in one-liter plastic bottles labeled JAMLI. He said the label stands for his four grandchildren James, Addie, Megan, and Liam. For a time, the men at the club drank that tuba while the supply lasted. JAMLI came as a perfect combination to the broiled fish or other appetizers that the guys are wont to take after a hearty game of tennis.
And now Mano Francing is dead. But death is a celebration of life; for it is in dying that one can finally declare that a man has lived. So it calls for a great deal of gratitude—to God who gave that life, to the family who nurtured it, and to the people, places, and events that gave meaning and relevance to its earthly existence.
(Francisco Daa is a longtime member of the Tacloban City Tennis Club. He was born on October 20, 1937 and died on September 12, 2006)