HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated May 01, 2011 12:00 AM
Everyone has a favorite uncle. Mine happens to be my Tito Chito Ayala. My uncle is known nationally in the corporate, business, and political circles, especially in Mindanao from where he helped the Cory, Ramos, and more recently, the Noynoy administration. He has done many great things for the country and these have been written about. Since his death last April 20, much more has been said about him by the many whose lives he touched.
Today, I would like to talk more personally about Tito Chito. He was easily the most likeable uncle to me, my siblings and many of my cousins for the following reasons: he was fun, he had very interesting takes on a lot of things that mattered in life, and he was generous.
I remember when I was a kid and Tito Chito would host New Year’s Eve parties at the home he shared with my aunt Mafe, and their son Mike. I was 10 years old and I was wide-eyed at the fireworks, food and drinks at this grand annual celebration. And Tito Chito made it even more special by setting up tables with decks of cards, dice and chips for us kids to play Black Jack. It was a lot of fun for us kids playing with gaming money that he himself provided! And when we lost, he would generously give us a “second chance.”
He was the consentidor, the adult who was often on the side of the kids, who bent the rules a bit, once a year, on New Year’s Eve. He knew how to have fun and that was one reason why we so looked forward to those parties on 20th Avenue.
On other days, when my brother Raffy and I would be playing at their house with Mike, Tito Chito would come home from work and give us imported candies. He was capable of springing surprise and delight, which few adults could do. He clearly relished being a wonderful benefactor.
Years later, like the other two members of the APO, I asked him to be a ninong at my wedding. After that, he formed Jem Recording and asked us to work with him. Jem was a cutting-edge outfit that focused mainly on new OPM sounds. Three months into the job, he asked me to join him in Tokyo for a business meeting. When we got there, he told me to get ready since we would be having dinner in an hour with a Japanese associate of his. And since this was my first trip to Japan, he said he got me a geisha for the evening!
I didn’t know where to place myself. Tito Chito was witness to my matrimonial vows just a few months back, and frankly, I was shocked that he was actually giving me female company! I conjured images in my mind of a Japanese femme fatale who would seduce me to the ways of oriental sensual pleasures.
But I was too shy to complain and since I did not want to displease my uncle, I meekly accepted the situation and showed no resistance. As he, his Japanese associate and I sat for dinner, there was a knock on the door. I was anxious and a bit tense while Tito Chito, calm and collected, signaled the waiter to open the door. In came my geisha companion wearing traditional robes and displaying impeccable manners, holding a traditional Japanese guitar. While she was attractive in her all-white makeup with sharp lines to accentuate her beauty, she was not a day younger than 75 years old!
From the corner of my eye, I could see Tito Chito laughing quietly! He had pulled a fast one on me. He explained that authentic geishas with years of training in the art of pleasing their clients were mostly old since hardly anyone from the new generation of Japanese women wanted to be geishas anymore. I was thankful to have witnessed this rare traditional entertainment as I watched my geisha sing, pour my sake and generally made me feel comfortable during dinner.
During my frequent trips to Davao in recent years, I have spent much time alone in Tito Chito’s company. In the last 10 years, we had long talks as he drove his golf cart around Eden with me as his only passenger. During one of those treasured occasions, he took me around Eden Park explaining how it made him happy to shape this property of many hectares into an ecological park for the public to enjoy. At the end of the tour, we came across a group of kids who were enthusiastically waving at him, shouting, “Tatay.”
These were kids, children of workers of Eden who studied at a school he had built in the area and who clearly appreciated what he had done for them. He also built a church for the community. I could tell that the smiles of those kids were to him a source of private joy and great fulfillment.
Tito Chito was not just a people person, he was also a “world builder.” He liked to embark on projects like Eden that impacted positively on the world of the many ordinary people who worked for him. He delighted in touching lives and altering his people’s life courses and trajectories in an empowering way. He made everyone feel affirmed when he talked to them. He knew how to reach a person with some personal remark. He made everyone feel that they mattered. Tito Chito’s people were loyal to him because of genuine fondness and respect. They were with him for keeps.
With me, he talked a lot about his children. And he often gave me advice about life, which I have heeded to this day. He would often tell me that one could always turn a bad situation into a good one. He also often worried about what would happen to his life’s work when he was gone.
Tito Chito seemed to relish being a wise old man to this younger, confused person. He knew he was at life’s last moments while I still have time to climb a few more peaks. One of the things I learned from him was that when you treat people in a good way, they will reciprocate. In a large way, that was what his life was about.
I always looked forward to mealtimes at Homebase, the Ayala home in Matina, Davao since Tito Chito liked to talk around the dinner table. I will not forget the time he talked about World War II and how he learned to hustle and be tough to help his family keep body and soul together in those years of deprivation and danger. He risked life and limb to get food for his parents and siblings. It was a Tito Chito I did not know about since I always knew him to be gentle, even unintrusive. As he told his stories, I sensed an emotional content that clearly was still there, despite the years. The war years were clearly a defining moment for him.
I realized that it was partly from such an experience that Tito Chito became the successful businessman that he was. The pains of the past were part of the ingredients that made him who he had become. He learned to be firm and decisive without losing compassion, to be successful and generously share his wealth with others. He dealt with big things in the political and economic spheres, but he didn’t forget the people who worked for and with him. And he made sure he had a lot of time to play with his grandchildren, and enjoy the company of his old school friends and his relatives.
Tito Chito lived abundance not just in material terms but in the way he thought. Most people think that when one gains, another must lose. Tito Chito was different. He opened opportunities to others and delighted in spending on people. He liked seeing people enjoy the luxuries he could afford. He was a big man but he was always attentive to the small details. He would remember the last conversation we had, tiny details about my kids and Lydia or whatever else I was involved in that he could somehow connect to other things to create synergy.
There is a tombstone in Ireland with an inscription that reads, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” We mourn the loss of our beloved Tito Chito, but he has given us enough love to carry him in our hearts until we see him again.
Tito Chito, your life’s themes of generosity, kindness, bigness of spirit were played out clearly and unmistakably. You really did become not just a tito and a ninong but also a father figure to me, a tatay like those kids you sent to school regard you. And I would like to say as plainly as I can that I love you and thank you for often treating me like your own son.
And on behalf of all of us who have enjoyed the privilege of your affection, your company, your wisdom and your amazing generosity, I thank you for making us part of your well-lived life.
Mabuhay ka, Tito Chito.
* * *
1) Now, finally in Alabang! _Creative for Life Workshop in Alabang on May 8._Basic Photography in Alabang on May 18_Songwriting in Alabang on May 27_Call 850-3568 to 70/ 0917-8080627. Venue is at Pixie Forest Amusement Center, Level 3 Festival Supermall, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang. Call for reservation. _
2) Creative for Life Workshop in QC on May 14. _ Basic Photography in QC on June 4.Call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at email@example.com. Check http://jimparedesworkshops.com/ for details on all workshops.