Dad believes in superstition. And this is very evident during the last day of the year, when he brings home fireworks when the government has already started to ask citizens not to light them up.
Also, my dad is a practical man. He doesn’t like wasting money. And what’s more wasteful than fireworks, right? You buy it for five hundred pesos. For a thousand pesos. You light it up. It goes boom. And less than a minute later, you’ve burned off the money you spent.
And yet… My practical dad never wanes in his fireworks shopping.
He will complain about the price. He will complain about the gas he uses up as he travels farther and farther away from the metro to buy the looked-down upon fireworks. But he will always buy them.
This year, he asked me to look for his suki. The guy who sells him his fireworks every year. He’s gotten sickly these past few months, and it would be taxing for him to travel all the way to Bulacan just to buy the fireworks he prefers. I asked him if I could just buy from Tomas Morato, from the pop-up stalls that take over the street during the week after Christmas, but he just shook his head.
He didn’t even argue. He knew I would drive all the way to Bulacan, because this is the first thing he’s asked off me since…
Since my mother died.
Dad told me to tell the man in charge of the stall that he sent me. That I will be buying the same fireworks he does. That the man who sells the particular fireworks he wants might have moved again. Inwards. Upwards. I should just ask around.
And I did, when I finally got around to going to Bulacan. I drove and drove and drove—but I couldn’t find my dad’s suki. I vaguely remember an old man, with thick white hair, from when I was a kid. When the seller sold his fireworks off McArthur Highway. Just past Valenzuela.
I couldn’t find him.
I asked around.
Finally, I settled on an old stall, selling fireworks for cheap. They looked exactly like the ones Dad would buy every year. I figured, Dad didn’t have to know that it wasn’t the same. That I couldn’t find his suki.
I told my dad his suki said ‘hi.’ Dad just nodded.
Quietly, we counted down to the New Year. I cooked pancit. Heated up some barbecue I bought off a Chinese deli. I poured out two shots of rum. One for Dad. One for me. Dad arranged the twelve round fruits we had on the center of the table.
And then we waited.
As the clock ticked down to midnight, I accompanied Dad out of the house. I placed the fountain firework in the middle of the street, lit it up and we watched the sparks fly.
Dad held a couple of sparklers. One for each of us. He lit it up. We held the sparklers, watching the night sky burst into a million colors. Smoke filled the air. Across our house, one of our neighbors gave a wave. They didn’t buy fireworks, but they wanted their kids to see the grand ones light up the sky.
I waved back. Smiled, even. And then I turned to dad. He had a disapproving look on his face.
"These are not the fireworks I asked you to buy."
I didn’t know how he could tell.
"You don’t know what you had done, boy."
I didn’t know either.
Dad shook his head wearily before walking back inside the house. I remained outside, confused; curious as to how my father would find out.
The the shadow of our front door quivered.
I thought it was because fireworks continued to light up the sky still. I thought the erratic light thrown off by the erratic displays of firework was playing visual tricks with the shadows.
And then it moved again. And then I saw it smile.
And then it followed my father inside the house.