We used to have a Tamaraw — not the animal, but the car.
For those of you too young to remember, the Tamaraw was a boxy and rugged utility vehicle manufactured by Toyota in the late 1970’s. It was the predecessor of the popular “FX” (which is actually “Tamaraw FX”) model which still plies our busy streets, mostly as taxis and public utility vehicles.
I must have been around 7 years old at the time when my dad bought the Tamaraw for our business. I loved riding it because it was open and had no glass windows (like a jeepney) and I could feel the wind on my face as it cruised along. It was the next best thing to riding on the back of a pickup truck, which I jumped at every chance I could get, but since we did not own one, I had to settle for the Tamaraw most of the time.
One day, my dad was driving and I was sitting beside him, and then he told me that if we went fast enough, the Tamaraw could fly. I got so excited about that and I would badger him, urging him to go faster and faster, because I really wanted to fly, but when I wondered why we didn’t fly, he would say, “Oh, we didn’t go fast enough yet.”
At another time, I was seated at the back, at the outermost edge watching the street below zoom by. I yelled at my dad to go faster. I was so convinced that this time, we would really fly because we seemed to be going very fast. Of course, we didn’t fly and my dad gave me the same reason, “We didn’t go fast enough.”
I was disappointed and I began to wonder if my dad wasn’t just making things up. I grew older and wiser and I don’t know how long it took but one day I finally decided that the Tamaraw wasn’t ever going to fly. My dad was just playing games with me.
Despite that, I still loved that piece of machinery. It was where I first learned to work the stick shift. Manong Tony, the company driver, would let me work the gears while he stepped on the clutch. As a teenager, I would later on sneak some driving time going backward and forward on our driveway.
But eventually, we had to say goodbye to the old junk. It had outlived its usefulness and it was time to get a new delivery vehicle — with more power and reliability.
The flying Tamaraw is a fitting metaphor for my religious beliefs — instilled in me since I was very young, and which I believed with all my heart and mind. Yet, over the last few years, I found many little chinks in the story that would later on widen to show huge holes. There were just too many inconsistencies and flaws in reasoning. I don’t know when exactly it happened but one day, I couldn’t believe anymore. I could no more believe in the God of the Bible than I could in the Flying Tamaraw.
It wasn’t easy letting go, just as it wasn’t easy admitting to myself that my dad had been fooling me all along — not that I took it against him, but it was difficult nonetheless to have been believing in something so fervently and to have that belief shattered. It wasn’t easy coming out to family and friends knowing that they would most probably never understand, would probably look at me with either pity or derision, or fear that I would influence their friends, their churchmates or children.
I know those closest to me are fervently hoping and praying for me to go back. But I don’t think I can ever go back. One cannot un-see what one has already seen, nor un-hear what one has already heard. Besides, I cannot recall a time when I have been more at peace with myself — no more endless wondering about what God’s will is or why he doesn’t answer this or that prayer; no more second-guessing whether what I’m thinking of doing is from God or from the devil; no more guilt and no more fear.
I look at my religious upbringing in the same way that I remember that old Tamaraw, not with resentment but with nostalgic fondness. Both were filled with many happy memories and learning experiences. Yet there was a lesson from Jesus himself about new wine needing new wineskins, for new wine poured into old wineskins would cause them to burst.
And so I went and got a new wineskin, because the old one could no longer contain a flying Tamaraw or a talking snake.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.