I remember when I was small, in our old home at the province, when I would always hope my instructor would somehow miss our unpromising piano sessions, so Dad and I could spend whole afternoons together play-boxing. I don't remember him loving any other sport, as with my grandfather and my uncles, and when we play-boxed as soon as he came home from work I took matters as seriously as any kid would at play. In my mind I was a man. Those days he enrolled me in music lessons 'cause he wanted me to grow up well-rounded and kept busy, but I did not want any part of it, thus never learned. I was a proud man faced with a serious challenge.
Watching Monday night's Fight Night in our living room he used to tell me stories of how great Muhammad Ali was in the ring, and I would listen to him the way any kid would when told of the adventures of Marco Polo, or Peter Pan: in awe, except that he would tell me countless stories of Sugar Ray Leonard's sleek defensive skills and whirling hand-speed, and Ali as an excellent tactician. I loved Monday nights because of Boxing on channel 9, and because it was a brilliant excuse not to study; not that I disliked studying, but classrooms bother me. Any place that curtails my freedom bothers me so much that if I took literature classes I would probably end up discarding the heavyweight works of my beloved authors at home.
But my piano instructor would only miss a few sessions until late in the year, perhaps by sudden insight, when she finally gave up on our partnership. Yet by then the damage had already been done. Dad's cancer had become too complicated and started its race to get the best of him 'til he finally succumbed on the summer of '83. God I hated my piano teacher to death. I hated her for the wasted time. I hated the piano as much as I have loved boxing. But looking back now, at the right age and perspective, maybe it really wasn't about her or the sport, after all. I just loved my dad so much and had badly wanted to spend more time with him.
I think of him often times when I'm at the gym. I used to box for a year at a gym in Mandaluyong City, where the heat could be punishing enough especially during summer. Whenever I climbed up the ring I felt all alone, and every once in a while a train would pass by yet I am oblivious of the disturbance around me. I know I am in heaven with him. The squared circle turns into a sacred ground and it is all solemn within the confines of its ropes that I find myself at peace. I am alone in a prayer with my leather gloves on. And when I push myself well beyond my limits I push it hard for both of us, as my only way of connecting with the past- with my father; knowing that nothing else in this world links me to the man. It makes me reach out to him, so Boxing between us becomes an intercession.
Nothing bonds fathers and sons like Boxing.
The Late Judge Napoleon Dagani Villanueva
Mark currently lives in Iloilo City and can be followed through http://twitter.com/markfvillanueva