I have a fond memory of our family car in the Philippines, the one and only one we had owned. It was a 1969 white Ford Cortina, Mark II 1600 GT, 4 door sedan. It had black synthetic leather interior trim, black front grille, and shiny chrome front and back bumpers. It was a handsome car in its heyday.
I don’t remember exactly when my father brought it home, for I was just a toddler at that time. However, I have childhood to young adulthood memories on that car. I remember when we were still young, we will fit 2 families (4 adults and 6 kids) in it. Cars have no built-in seatbelts yet at that time. We went to school, church, work, vacation spots, picnics, weddings, baptisms, funerals, fiestas, and visit relatives in the province with it. That car did not just brought us places, it brought us to destinations.
Even when it was getting old, my father did not trade it in. One reason is that money was tight. But perhaps the other reason was that we grew in love with it. When you call a car by name, we called it ‘Puti’, it becomes a part of the family. And when it started to have problems due to the sheer age of it, my uncle who was an auto mechanic who lives down the street, kept it going. Believe it or not, we used it for more than 20 years. We drove it around until we drove it aground.
When my father died, I inherited Puti. I was 20 years old, and it was 18. Even though I did not use it everyday, for I prefer to use public transportation, it was still of service to me. Perhaps the reason I don’t use it so much, was most of the time, we need to push it for it to start, just like a race car. I remember when I had 4 medical school classmates of mine rode in my car one day. It so happened that it stalled. So I asked my classmates to give it a push to make it start again. They were all ladies. If you can just imagine the shame I withstood that day.
I also remember that I crashed Puti in an accident. I was driving with my family, and we were passing a narrow street with lots of children playing, when a cockroach flew inside my open window and landed in my neck. In my panic, I swerved sharply and hit a parked jeepney. Nobody was seriously hurt except my ego and the cockroach which I killed (nampuchang ipis!). Good thing it only caused minor damages to our car and very minimal dent on the bumper of the parked jeepney.
I also used that car to take my girlfriend (who is now my wife), on a date. I recall on a certain date, I parked it outside a restaurant. Since I parked it on a steep street, and the handbrake was broken, so I asked my date, to step on the brake pedal while I place a stone to wedge under the tire to prevent it from rolling. At least I did not make my date to push start the car! It also on 2 occasions caused my girlfriend’s stockings to run when it got caught in a rough patch of the seat which is peeling . My car may not be running perfectly but it was making other things run – like stockings and people pushing it!
When I left for the US, we gave Puti to my auto mechanic uncle, for he’s the only one who can make it run some more anyway. I learned he took out the engine and placed it in his jeep. The body perhaps was taken to a junk yard and was recycled into something more useful. I wonder how many tin bottle caps came from our recycled car. I still have lots of memories of it though, that I will recycle to my children, and even to my children’s children.
In 2003, I went back to the Philippines. When I rode my uncle’s jeep he gladly informed me that it was still our car’s engine that was under his hood. I was amazed that it was still running after all these years. Flashback of our old car flooded my memory, as I felt Puti’s soul welcomed me back home.