Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On fathers and fatherhood

My father turns 68 today. He was the fourth among a brood of seven. His parents were poor farmers from the hilly interiors of Batangas province in the Philippines. A smile always forms in my face with the thought that my father’s ancestors were despondent indios while my mother's clan included powerful ilustrados from Catanduanes. One hot March afternoon, some years ago, my father sent a draft speech with a short note. He had been invited to give an inspirational talk before the graduating class of a local high school. The note requested me to edit the draft. It was from this piece that I first learned of some interesting facts about my father.

I found out that as a child my father walked more than eight kilometers from their place to the nearest school in town. As my grandfather was unable to support him through college, my father decided to try his luck in Manila. He ended up doing some odd jobs in the city to augment the meager allowance from home. He took up an engineering course in a small university, joined the basketball team (he was only 5’4”) and passed the board exam after graduation. He married my mother during the late sixties. They’ve been together for more than thirty five years now.

From all those gender seminars that I’ve attended, I got this idea of the emotionally absent father — a good provider but quite incompetent in addressing the family’s other (non-material) needs. For years now, I’ve thought of my father as closely fitting this description. Recent events however have forced me to reconsider my estimation of tatay. Recalling his speech, I think I understand now how my father’s own experiences must have nurtured in him that get-rich-quick attitude, that stoic demeanor I have learned to abhor. Working abroad when we were growing up, I realized how hard it must have been for him to reconnect with us afterwards.

Apart from those few occasions when he diligently explained to us the mechanics of planetary rotations and revolutions, I haven’t had any other serious conversations with my father these past thirty six years. Yet I can sense that beneath the unfathomable silence, there’s always this feeling of respect and love for us. Despite all the limitations imposed by their upbringing, some fathers have cared deeply for their children in their own unique way. This is the first time that I'm buying a cake for my father’s birthday. I hope he likes chocolate.

2 comments:

Cecile said...

Randee,

When I moved here in the US, I became very close to my dad...he became my bestfriend...he was always busy with work all the time when I was growing up that I felt that I never really knew him until he took me here...this month, it will be 14 years since he had been gone from my life, but his teachings and principles in life are with me...

This is a great piece you wrote about you and your dad...

Thank you for sharing...

~Cecile

Yhang said...

Hi randee,

I got interest to your articles since a very close person to both of us has told me all about it... Just a quick glance to my indentity, i came all the way here from the so-called "Land of Promise".

I was teary-eyed while reading this as it reminds me of my father`s memories. A piece of your father`s experiences is very similar to my father`s childhood memories. He also used to make an early morning walk going to the nearest school in town. He wasn`t able to finish studies due to poverty and this decades of war in this part of the island, but he had his own unique little way of inspiring us to strive harder towards the fulfillment of our dreams. I am very glad to say that all he was brought us to what we are now.

He passed away 4 years ago but his memories and wisdom still guides us to who we are now and to all what we want. But my greatest regret is I was not able to tell him verbally how much I loved him, how i am very proud to be her daughter and how very special he was to me.

So for everyone out there with parents beside them, try to make every single moment of your time together as special and memorable as you could and say how much you love them. Death may come in an unexpected time, but at least you have shown them how very special they are to you and made them feel that they are the most precious thing in this world.

Thank you for inspiring us through your writings. Hope to meet you in person.

warm regards,

Yhang:-)