06 November 2010

The Failing Grades

Unbeknownst to many this side of the province, there is a term used to describe womanizers who grow old in fear of karma rebounding back on them in the form of suitors of their daughters who will do the exact same thing they oh-so-loved to do during their halcyon days of libidinous machismo. That word is bangkás.

I rather suspect the word is more commonly used in the western section of the province because I do not believe I have heard the word used at all where I currently live. I used to hear it spoken by my Mom in reference to how her Tata – my grandfather – used to treat some of her less-favored suitors.

Needless to say, among the traits of somebody who is bangkás are excessive strictness with his daughters in their conduct of their personal affairs and even a paranoid tendency to be acrimonious towards his daughters’ suitors.

I used to know somebody who was the spot on embodiment of the word bangkás. He was the archetypal Filipino macho man of old. While not necessarily good-looking, his square-jawed face topped by sleekly combed pomade-conditioned hair was not at all unattractive. He was of average height; and while not muscular, he was sinewy nonetheless.

He was a self-confessed womanizer in his youth, someone who was not averse to letting his appreciation for a pretty woman passing by known with a mischievous cat whistle. When he did get married, he naturally sired a large litter of children; such was the custom of his day.

Whisper it quietly, but even as father to a large brood, he was not at all averse to an occasional fling on the side. But then again, there was the image of the macho man to maintain, wasn’t there?

As the old cliché goes, time – indeed – flies! His daughters, once snotty children running around the yard in soiled clothes, had grown into lovely maidens starting to catch the attention of the youthful gentlemen in the neighborhood.

When a few actually summoned the nerve to visit any of his daughters at their home – as was the proper thing to do if the gentlemen’s intentions were noble – then they had to contend with hints dropped with a total lack of subtlety that might as well have been signs that read: SUITORS BEWARE.

For one, the bangkás father’s face was eternally wearing a menacing scowl. Any attempts made by the young gentlemen at making conversation and – hopefully – gaining favor were frequently met with curt, acerbic replies. There sometimes also tended to be a rather intimidating gulok nonchalantly displayed somewhere very, very conspicuous.

Of course, the bangkás father made sure his daughters and their suitors were confined to the brightly lit living room where there was no chance of them getting too comfortable with each other. And this is not to say that anyone even contemplated the idea since the bangkás father never left the living room for the duration of the visit, anyway…

Perhaps, the most humiliating thing was for the suitors to be graded in a completely criteria-less evaluation by the father; albeit, the grades were considerately released to his daughters and not directly to the suitors.

There was one time when the father himself was telling my Mom how he graded three of his daughters’ suitors. One got a 68; another got a 70; and the last got a 73. Mom was, naturally, doubled over in laughter.

The bangkás father did not get things all his own way, as things would happen. Eventually, he had no real recourse but to face up to the fact that his daughters were going to get married. They all did, as a matter of fact.

Of course, the first one had to elope with her suitor, the proper and only way to deal with an unreasonable father. What I cannot recall is if the suitor was the one who got the 68, the 70 or the 73.

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