I grew up always anticipating your coming home. I almost never saw you, never really got to be with you when I was a child. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of you the few times we were together, and some of them were among my many firsts.
I remember the first time we went to Jollibee together. You were driving a dark blue Mercedes Benz–one of the perks of your job, I guess–that looked incredibly long and big to me at that time, and you allowed me to sit in the front, which was a first time too. I was quiet, but couldn’t sit still. I kept looking all around me, wondering if the view from the front would be different if I were seated at the back.
When we reached Jollibee, however, I was disappointed that we did not go inside the store. I didn’t realize that I was in for a big treat – burgers could be bought from a small window without having to leave the car, not to mention we got to have dinner in the car, just the two of us, on the way home. That was the first drive-thru meal I had and I shared it with you! More, that was to be our (first) little secret because we didn’t buy or save any for my big brothers and sister. Anyway, I should have known from that time that Jollibee hamburgers were your favorite.
I also remember the first time I had been to the beach (Lido Beach). I’m not sure if the place still exists today, but I believe it was a popular resort at that time. It was your company outing and our whole family attended. I kept looking for you while we were there because seeing you made me feel secured. Your presence gave me the courage to go into the sea, not mind the waves, and enjoy the waters.
Unlike you, however, I was never fond of getting up very early in the morning (to go to school) as much as I love to see the sun rise and as much as I love learning. In fact, I could barely keep an early morning appointment! To motivate me, you would give me money, in addition to my baon (packed snack). More, on my birthdays, to help me appreciate time and be punctual at all times, you would gift me with a wristwatch. You and Mama would present it to me as soon as I was out of bed. I can still remember their dainty designs, mind you, and one of them is still with me to this day–the red one with Tom and Jerry on its face.
On the other hand, some of my firsts were not so good. I remember the first time you spanked me, Pa. It didn’t hurt, really, yet I cried. I just wanted to cry. You came home very tired, and one of my Kuyas and I were playing rough. I got pikon, so I cried and ran to you, but I didn’t get the sympathy I wanted, especially after doing the same thing several times.
Exasperated by my constant whining, you hit my bottom then with a rolled up copy of a tabloid, People’s Journal. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that it was the only time you spanked me, and I would always smile when I remember that. Just like what I’m doing now. I guess I could be a brat sometimes and you must have known that all along. By the way, that was also the last time you spanked me and I thought that was neat, especially that I had playmates who got their bottoms whacked all the time with much more solid objects.
As I grew older, I started to both resent and appreciate your job though. It took you to places and sometimes, it took a couple of weeks before we saw you again. Just like many youngsters, I felt misunderstood then, so I would write letters to you on how much I wish you would take me with you everywhere you’d go or that you would go home right away to rescue me.
Of course, you wouldn’t have any recollection of reading those letters because I never gave them to you, not one of them. In the end, I would choose to just keep them or throw them away as I realized that I was being very childish. Plus, I was fearful that my brothers and sister, who are 9–12 years older than me, would gang up on me while Mama’s in the market if they ever found out that I was telling you the not-so-nice things they did or said to me… Come to think of it, that’s probably how I first learned to enjoy writing and entertained the thought of being a writer someday.
And then there was the time when we had our first heated argument. I was already in high school. You’ve always known I was a strong-willed girl, didn’t you? You tried to listen to me, but I simply won’t hear your side and I kept answering back, crying. I cried because as much as I wanted to be heard and show you that I was old enough to reason out and talk like an adult, I recognized that I was being disrespectful and sinning. You finally lost it and threw a cigarette butt at me. I was so shocked and hurt by your action, so I slammed my bedroom door and locked myself inside.
In a flash, you were knocking and pleading for my forgiveness. I was even more shocked at that gesture, feeling treasured and humbled at the same time. How could I not forgive you? I committed to my memory then that true parents do know how to apologize to their children. More, that true repentance means not committing the same mistake again. Since then, we had always tried our best to talk things through. If we simply could not agree, we would remain quiet and give each other space.
We didn’t always get along well, Pa, but you must know that I was scared to displease you. You’re far from perfect just like anybody else, yet I’ve always looked up to you. I thank you for all the sacrifices you made for our family. If it weren’t for your dedication, love, and hard work, we wouldn’t have a home to call our own. We also probably wouldn’t have attended good schools, finished college, worked with inspiring individuals and organizations, or make traveling abroad as a leisure activity a reality. Thank you for inspiring us to dream and become better persons who would not be a burden to the society. We wouldn’t have a good name and good values to pass on to our kids, and so much more, if it weren’t for you (and Ma).
Thank you, Papa, for doing your best to be a good provider, father, and even grandfather. Thank you for being there when I needed you most. Thank you for cooking for me, especially when I was pregnant with Ali. Thank you for allowing my children and me to seek refuge in your house, when my marriage hit rock bottom years ago. Thank you for looking after Ali and Zoe whenever I had to be somewhere else. Thank you for helping my husband become a better man and for helping him to get where he is right now. Our little family has been blessed tremendously through you. Thank you for loving us unconditionally. Truly, I am blessed to have you and I thank God for you!
Although I wish to be with you much longer, listen to more stories about your life during the Japanese occupation, see you smile, see the twinkle in your eyes as you happily munch on a Jollibee burger or as you watch your grandkids play, listen to your loud snoring as well as to your sound advice, minister to you in your old age… I know it’s time for me to let you go, Pa.
I just wish I was able to make that scrapbook the girls and I have been planning to give you. I wish I was able to pay off all the money you have loaned me because that would be an accomplishment on my part that I know you would want to see. You (and Ma) had always been generous in sharing your resources, even to strangers and individuals who tend to abuse your kindness, and you never expected anything in return. I wish I could be like you!
Thank you for being a fine example of someone who always takes the higher ground. I shall do my best to practice what you had always preached and modeled before us: to always treat people with kindness no matter where they’re from, to show respect at all times, to always give someone the benefit of the doubt, to always be willing to help even if the person in need has wronged us, to never hurt my children and speak kindly to them regardless of the wrongs they’ve committed.
We never made that trip to Baguio, Pa, but I’ve always hoped to bring you with me next time I travel abroad, especially to Singapore. You would’ve loved it, you could walk there as much as you want and breathe clean air! I also wish I could cook tinola and sunny side-up eggs for you once more. I long to eat alongside with you at home again and see you savor the meals I have prepared, no matter how simple they are, or dine with the rest of our family at a fine restaurant as we celebrate special occasions. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if you would prefer pizza, ice cream, cake, French fries, or cheeseburger to my cooking. I would have done the same thing, too!
I wish you could stroll again in my backyard and see the flowers blooming now. I wish I was able to bring home to you sooner the vitamins and the jar of instant salabat that I have bought for you a couple of weeks ago. I wish you could still play with your granddaughters, especially Zoe. I wish I could hug you one more time, hold your hand as you speak, and whisper “I love you” again.
I love you, Papa. If you ever felt inadequate as a father or that you did not do right by me, please understand that I owe everything to you and I hold nothing against you. I hope you forgive me, too, for the times I have been so unloveable and rebellious, especially in my youth. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see Ali and Zoe before you dozed off. I’m sorry I didn’t get to trim your nails last time we saw each other. That was your last request and I wasn’t able to do it for you!
I’m sorry that last time we argued, I recounted to you all the sins you’ve done, in the hope that you would finally recognize that you need Jesus in your life. I was so self-righteous! I have no right to do that and I must have hurt you a lot. I’m sorry for making you feel unwanted when you hurt my feelings, too. I understand now that you were very sick and you were no longer in your right state of mind. I’m sorry for being mean. I know you had forgiven me because you looked for me when you were in the hospital. The first thing you did when you saw me was to hold my hand tightly, like you always did, and we started reconnecting again. But still…
Right now, I am terribly sad to see you go, but I’m also happy that you’re finally home now. I can imagine you now, walking happily toward Mama in heaven. Hug her for me. I shall see you both one day, but not too soon, okay? Because I still have two girls to protect, raise, and help become Proverbs 31 women.
You have no idea how glad I am that you have come to know Jesus before you left, Pa. In that area, my stubbornness was well worth it, I guess. I had almost given up on you, but I’m glad I did not and God has a better plan. I told you He’s real and He cares for you so much! I’m glad that you have allowed my family and me to take care of you, Pa, even for just a couple of months. I’m glad the LORD answered my prayers, when He took you while you were resting and did not allow you to be ill for a very long time.
I love you, Papa! I thank God for you and Mama. You were the perfect parents for me and I couldn’t be prouder of you!