Sir Carmelo Tamayo, 2016
Prof. Carmelo Tamayo passed away last week at the ripe age of 89. He was buried last Sunday. Prof. Tamayo was one of the first members of the faculty of the Fine Arts Program of the University of the Philippines Cebu, which was founded in 1975. He taught here for a total of 16 years before he retired years ago. He was my teacher. It was under his class that I did my first sculpture-portrait. It was studio work for his class.
Prof. Tamayo studied at the University of Santo Tomas. He told me he had been a student of Vicente Manansala. He is remembered here for his paintings of churches and his Tartanilla series of paintings. He taught Applied Arts, Graphic Arts and Art History. He was the last of the old guards surviving Profs. Martino Abellana, Julian Jumalon, Lucille Agas, Mnsgr. Virgilio Yap, and Dean Jose Joya. We remember him as the younger one among his peers.
He drove a white motorcycle, a Honda XL125, for most of his life. He was a member of the Honda Safety Riders Club. And always, whenever there were parades in school: for instance, the annual Christmas Lantern Parade, he would play the role of a motorcycle escort signaling to order the paraders with his ubiquitous whistle. He was one of the founding members of Cebu Arts Association. He was a member, as well, of the Art Association of the Philippines. [N.B.: or: He was also a member of the Art Assoociation of the Philippines.]
But I knew him long before I was his student at UP. He was a knight of the Knights of Columbus (K of C). My own father, Sir Venancio J. Fernandez, and uncle, Sir Salutario J. Fernandez belonged to the same K of C chapter that he belonged to, along with Sir Juanito King. I would be, for a short time on orders from my father, a member of the subgroup Columbian Squires. And often I would watch Prof. Tamayo, my father, uncle, and their friends, as they went about being knights.
The late Prof. Jumalon, whom we suspected of being a Freemason, poked friendly fun at their caped uniforms and swords, which he would describe and then end his description with the phrase, “morag tiking kuwangul.” The term requires a whole new essay to translate. So let me leave it at that and say: I seldom ever really enjoyed their meetings. But please give me a break; I was a teenager of the 70s. But I could see they had fun in the way the “older” people had fun in those days. They ate a lot, drank a lot, talked all together at the same time, and sang their favorite songs: De Kolores, Young at Heart, the old Sinatra favorites. They danced at the drop of a hat. And I have to admit: Most of them danced very well.
I remember myself admittedly groaning through all these. But nevertheless, it was how I remember them, the Knights of Columbus. They looked quite interesting in parades. Prof. Carmelo Tamayo was the last man standing among all I’ve mentioned. My father, my uncle, Juanito King, have long passed away. And for a while, I thought Prof. Tamayo would outlive even me and live till forever.
Which was why I felt no sense of urgency to see him this year, even though a group of my former classmates had talked about a visit. I had not seen him for some years and I thought a visit would have been fun. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass. And now, I am left with only this chance to recollect what memories I have to remember by: how he took us on long trips in buses going to churches, cemeteries, beaches in the countryside; and once, to the Bulok-bulok Falls in Barili. On the way home, we, his students, went wild from the drunken fun of it. We remember finally, how we were only children; in a way, his children. We, including him, were once so young. He outlived even some of us.
And we are right to think how lucky he was. How lucky we would all be to get as far as he did. Farewell, Sir Tamayo, See you on the other side.
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