For the Underdogs

Here’s my draft for today, Thursday 05.16.19.

For the Underdogs

Victor Balmores was the biggest Filipino I ever knew. I never asked him if he were part something else, like Tongan or Samoan, but I think he must have been.

If you ever wanted a friend at Pālama Settlement, Victor was your man. I saw him save many smaller, weaker kids, never mind their nationality. He could scrap, and he was always there for the underdog. He would even kick another Filipino guy’s ass if that punk were picking on some little Haole or Japanese kid.

At Camp Pālama Uka, the summer after 6th-grade, Victor taught us all to swear in Filipino and in English, like we’d never sworn before. My parents were shocked when I shared with them all the new words I’d learned.

Victor was naturally funny, could tell great jokes, made up his own riddles, and we all laughed at his playing and singing silly song’s. But when he got serious, he could handle his ‘ukulele and sing like a pro.

Victor was on the swim team too. When we finished 8th-grade season, the last year we were eligible to swim there, we had a big party. Many of us provided the entertainment. Victor was the MC, humorous as always, but when it was his turn to perform, he played beautiful guitar and sang. No jokes.

That’s the last time I saw Victor. That’s also the last activity I ever participated in at Pālama Settlement. I continued swimming, joining Soichi Sakamoto’s team, but finally gave up because no one there seemed interested in other people, ever talked to each other, only came to swim. It was no fun anymore. There were definitely no Victors.

I heard from a mutual Pālama swim team friend that Victor joined the Army in 1972. He served in Vietnam, and the last my friend knew, Victor had been working with at-risk teens in the Kalihi-Pālama area, but because of an alcohol problem, he wasn’t able to hold the job. I can imagine what a great counselor he could have been for those kids.

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