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Seasons of Bong

AT the requiem mass that Fr. Fidel officiated for his cousin Bong, the priest retold the story of a man who asked his four sons to describe the pear tree in their garden, one for each of the four seasons. Not surprisingly, the words they painted produced different pictures of the same tree. Nevertheless, the father told his sons they were all correct. It is our tendency to judge by the season.

To the people who thought they knew Bong, he was a gentleman playboy and party animal who won the heart of a Miss Universe. Although the marriage did not last, it produced two beautiful daughters. He tried going into politics but failed. In those short sentences lies a summary of the public season of Bong. Privately, Bong was the first and favorite grandchild of his Lolo Gabriel and Lola Angeles. When his mother Nora died three years ago, he was inconsolable. Privately, even as the ex-husband of Glory the beauty queen, he did not mind posing for an “unofficial” family portrait with her, their three children, and Mike, Glory’s beau and companion these many years, post-Bong.

After the Mass Thursday night when Bong’s favorite people gathered to shed tears falling from reddened eyes and exchange fun anecdotes of his life before, during, and after Glory, their daughter Ava screened a collection of pictures showing Bong in all his happy-go-lucky glory days of bachelorhood. Girls were everywhere, blondes and redheads included, on the beach, in a nightclub, in Paris, New York, Makati, and there he was, Bong displaying his thirtysomething body in swimming trunks, Bong with an arm around a blonde – “Transvestite!” yelled Glory with relish, joke only.

What the pictures did not show was Bong’s heart, one big enough for all seasons. During his Paris years, anyone who knew where to find him was welcome to stay in his apartment, aka Hotel Bong. In 2014, despite a long period of estrangement, he gave a present to his ex-wife, a Mercedes-Benz. During the week that he was comatose, ex-wife Glory was in the hospital with him, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. “Mike didn’t mind,” she said, “he’s not like that.” Too well he understands her, her and her season with Bong. (Jullie Y. Daza)