Our parents’ first brand-new car was a 1968 Volkswagen (VW) Beetle 1500. Our father was then the Assistant Corporate Secretary of Meralco Securities Corporation.
It was our only car for the longest time before we had any other. It brought our dad to work and to tennis tournaments, our parents to parties, my brothers and I to school, and our family to places near and far. When the first “Herbie” movie was shown about a talking VW Beetle, my brothers and I also called our Beetle Herbie and imagined Herbie bringing us to our own adventures.
Volkswagen was actually conceptualized by Adolf Hitler who ordered Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930s to develop a “people’s car.” But that’s about the only significance of Hitler to the story of Herbie and other beetles.
Herbie was not flashy. It was so simple it could easily be ignored, especially when parked beside bigger and faster cars of the same generation.
Herbie was easy to maintain and it was very economical. A full tank of gas could last a week if not more.
Herbie could go fast but it prefers to just cruise and enjoy the view.
When my maternal grandparents were still living and we would visit them, our dad would fold the back seat and place a small mattress so we could lie down in the evening on our way home and sleep, although my brothers and I preferred to watch the lights on the billboards with the slanted back window of the Beetle and talk about kid stuff.
Herbie had a twin. Our dad’s best friend, Atty. Mario Batongbakal, had a white Beetle. We went to Baguio, Bataan and so many places together. I don’t know what our childhood friends Carmina, Alan, Jay and Donna called their Beetle. They may have called it Herbie, too. In Bataan, we imagined Herbie going up the cross on Mt. Samat. We also imagined it going up the Meralco building where our dad used to work. I don’t remember if we asked our dad to try it. We probably did.
Its original color was powder blue, later re-painted to light yellow, then green, yellow, and pink and white combo.
Herbie was the car designated to pass on from one child to the other. I used it some during college and during my entire 4 years of law at UP. I was at UP Law when it changed colors from green to yellow. As aptly described by my BFF, Atty. Lindy Rogero-Gavino, “ang hilaw, nagging hinog”.
Herbie was flexible and expandable. It could fit 11 people and this has been proven countless times. It could fit around 2 more but that is over-stretching the limit. We did it with my fellow Marilag Jaycees. My brothers did it, too, with their barkada. In law school, our maximum was 6 persons and the back seat almost burned. The cushion was made of hay and the car battery is under the car seat.
When my dad was still active in politics, Herbie was used as the errand car. It went around with a public address system tied to it or to carry posters and campaign materials around town.
Years later, Herbie was soon forgotten. My brothers got married, I got married, new cars came along, a brother moved abroad, and we got busy.
Our dad was not one to throw away things, much less those with sentimental value, and that’s a lot. Herbie was out of the question. It was not negotiable. He asked me several times that we should get it fixed and running again. We never got around to doing it until around 6 months ago. It is now sky blue, a little bit darker than its original color.
From June 12 to 15, Herbie was part of the Father’s Day Auto Show at SM Marilao, shining brightly and standing proudly amidst the muscle cars in the exhibit. Every time I posted photos of Herbie on Facebook when its repair started at Lazarus Car Restorations and until now, family and friends shared their own experiences and recollections of Herbie.
A fellow lawyer reminded me we used Herbie when we took the UP Law Aptitude Exam. A fellow Marilag Jaycees remembers when the doors suddenly opened when we flew over the hump at Greenhills. A law school classmate reminisced about the “Hotdogs” concert we watched on board Herbie. I believe my brothers have their own cache of stories, too.
Ging, Oyit and I decided to restore Herbie for Papa and what he has taught us about life. We did not have an opulent life but it was rich in valuable experiences. We lived life simply but it was comfortable. We learned money is not everything but we should always save. We learned to be happy with what we have and that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
We remembered Papa on Father’s Day and celebrate what fathers like him, as well as Manny, Ging, Oyit and others did and do for the good of their children and their families.