Two Rauls - One An Orange CatMonday, April 27, 2009
Two Raúls and a bit of a third have been on my mind these last few days.
When my youngest daughter Hilary was born in 1972 her godfather was Raúl Guerrero Montemayor. I first met him around 1963 at an uncle’s house. Raúl was born, I believe since he likes to waffle on this one, in the US. His father was Filipino and his mother Mexican. Raúl’s first cousin is actress Yvette Mimieux. Raúl looks so much like first Filipino president, Manuel M. Quézon that there have been persistent rumours that he is Quézon’s illegitimate son.
I met Manuel Quezon’s son, Nonong in 1967 shortly before I married Rosemary. I was staying with Raúl. My mother lived in Veracruz so while I was looking for a job in Mexico City Raul lent me his loft as a temporary living quarters. Nonong came to visit him from the Philippines and I noted that Raúl looked a lot more like the ex-president’s son than the real son did. Nonong soon gave me a nickname, Suput. It is a nickname that has stuck with those who really know me. In the Muslim parts of the Philippines like Mindanao, I would be shunned for being an unclean heathen.
I need not go into further details except to note that when I go to Goldilocks, the Filipino bakery on Fir and Broadway to buy “polvorones” or Filipino shortbread I am instructed to wite my name on a little sheet of paper to place my order. The Filipino women behind the counter then yell out the names. I have yet to hear them even whisper mine. They now know me and they simply say, “Andong, what do you want?” and I circumvent the little paper bureaucracy.
It was around 1964 that Raúl invited me to accompany him on a trip from Mexico City to Veracruz. I had not seen the sea since I was 7 and I had gone with my mother and grandmother to Mar del Plata in Argentina. I was attracted to the idea of a little pilgrimage to the sea. There were countless curves, steep hills and down hills. I remember Raúl constantly downshifting as he maneuvered around the curves in his VW Beetle. I remember our first look of the water and the pungent smell of salt, bunker oil and the sewer of the port of Veracruz. Only now I would assert that it was that smell that has become a memory that seems to be the primordial soup of my existence. I lay to bed my trip to Mar del Plata. Here was a new standard. We swam in Mocambo Beach and I lightly scraped my face with the ocean’s sand (really the Gulf of Mexico) and felt clean. Raúl told me of the curative properties of coconut water. We had lots of it. We got the runs.
Raúl is now in his 80s and he still travels so he can practice the over 10 languages he speaks. He was delighted when I told him that Hilary had named her orange cat Raúl after him some 15 years ago. I could not tell him that it was a half truth as Hilary had also named him after actor Raúl Julia whom she admired.
Raúl, the orange cat has been missing for almost two weeks. Hilary cries. Rebbeca cries. Lauren is much too young to understand. This could be the first death that hits home for Hilary. When this happens it is when we really begin to suspect that our journey is a short one and that the 15 long years of a cat’s existence seemed to have passed ever so quickly.