admiring Dad on fathers’ day


selfie with mom dad and george

The man of the hour, flanked by 4th Brother (standing), Mom on Dad’s right, me on his left, and Mahal shooting the selfie.  Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers and father figures!

COMPARED TO the mother’s biological tasks related to babymaking, the father’s involvement is a breeze.  Literally, we only need to work (if you can call it work) for a few minutes if at all.  The rest of the job, lasting at least 36 weeks and 9 months max, belongs to our noble mothers.

But that doesn’t make our responsibilities any less when it comes to our offspring.  Almost universally across all cultures, fathers provide, nurture, inspire, educate, and act as our first role models.  Plus, we should be ready to wash the dishes and be ready for carpooling to school and PTA meetings when the primary parent (Mom) is unavailable.

*****           *****          *****

My father stayed with the script, and more.  He was always ready to spend time and just have fun with us, if not after school, then on rest days and weekends.  He wasn’t an all-star playing coach for pickup basketball, but had more than enough time for us for Saturday trips to Chinatown and Sunday fun runs astride Manila Bay.

*****          *****          *****

Dad has slowed down now, but his mind is as clear as the day his firstborn arrived.  He no longer takes his long walks but tight skirts and long legs still bring a twinkle to his eye.

He enjoys being pampered  by his wife, albeit with the inevitable scolding if ever he indulges in his minor vices.  But the thing he enjoys most is that anytime he summons his sons scattered across the seven seas, they will show up (via Skype or FaceTime), and that every now and then the latter still seek his timeless counsel and wisdom.

Including of course, how to catch the eye of those leggy mini-skirts (just kidding, Mom!).

Thanks for everything Dad.  Happy Father’s Day, and mabuhay to all fathers!

 

 

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becoming dad


Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial!  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial! Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

[  Paalala :  Sorry for the long absence Precious Reader, kung meron pang natitira dyan.  At least one blog friend coming across this makes the post worthwhile.  Wanted two things : (1) to have posted this on father’s day, but laziness intervened, sigh sorry Dad, and (2) to talk about recent anti-Chinese sentiment, both in NZ and Pinas.  But in the real world out-of-blog, you can’t always have what you want.  Missed blabbing with you, belated Father’s Day !  ]

MY FATHER is healthy and despite his advanced age has many long years ahead of him, but there are things we can no longer do together.  Similarly, I can no longer expect him to impart to me his memories, learnings and insights the same way he used to do (sometimes too enthusiastically) when we were both much younger.

But there are things I would have liked to share with my own kids the way my own father did, with the same length of attention, repeatability, and certitude.  He was/is a man with simple likes and tastes, but he was devoted to those things that he did.  It’s rather trite, but he lived by the saying anything worth doing is worth doing well :

Karaoke King.  As regards do-it-yourself singing for entertainment, he was ahead of his time.  Just chuck the mike into the amplifier, and play “minus one”  tapes of timeless standards and he would sing to his heart’s content.  He was the Karaoke King before the karaoke was invented, and he could match note for note any amateur singing champion, as long as the songs were by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe, or Nat King Cole.  He would inspire at least two of his children, that’s me and Eldest Brother, to sing out of love, no matter if the audience was one or one hundred.

Sadly, I have not paid forward the inspiration my Karaoke King father has given me.  But it’s never too late for that, right?

Reading for life. Like Mom, my father loves to read, and you will always find him with a book in hand, wherever he goes and whatever else he does.  He is an omnivorous bibliophile, but is partial to war and war-related novels, political biographies, and a wide range of paperback novelists, as long as it’s a good yarn.  Needless to say, the years have seen me pick up his reading habits, until I’ve now reached the day when as a dedicated and committed reader, I’m truly my father’s son.

Running buddy. In Dad’s middle age, when I was a teenager, he picked up a physical fitness fad that became a lifelong sport for him, and because he had lots of sons he could pick from as running buddies, we all had a turn at running with our father.  As years passed, most of us lost interest, but because I always identified running with Dad, I could never truly abandon it without abandoning a part of my youth.

Which was why when I ran my first half-marathon after nearly 25 years, there at the finish line, just waiting for me, was one of the most satisfying memories of a similar run at the Luneta, with none other than my first running buddy, Dad himself.

Belated happy father’s day Dad, and thanks for all those useful and enjoyable habits you imprinted on me.  Love you always!

today (and everyday) is International call-your-folks-from-out-of-the-blue Day, TY to 5th Bro


a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother.  as you can see, they've been taking care of themselves.  miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother. as you can see, they’ve been taking care of themselves. love and miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

[Note :  Thanks to brother Jude for reminding us that “wala lang” (or nope, no reason at all) is as perfectly good a reason as any to call your parents, especially from across the miles. Please visit www.judebautista.wordpress.com when you’ve time Precious Reader! ]

VERY POLITELY, 5th Bro reminded us to call the olds more often.  (By the way, in the traditional Chinese-Pinoy style 5th bro is not my fifth brother, but is “the fifth brother” in a brood of five.)  He gently recounted that sometime during the Papal visit earlier this year, Dad suffered from a nasty bout of flu and related ailments, which he recovered from soon enough, but which gave them enough concern to review Dad’s physical activities short- and long-term.

During the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight early next month, they will all be together, the bros, folks and everyone else, and would a Messenger or Skype video call be possible Fifth Brother adds?  Guiltily I message back, telling him I’ll do all I can to assemble the rellys NZ-side (me, the anakis and the odd boyfriend / girlfriend of the latter).

*****     *****     *****

But almost immediately I want to call home, which I haven’t done since I completed paying my utang to Mom.

[ Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of Dad : he’s always been fit and healthy, especially since quitting tobacco around four decades ago.  Until around 10 years ago he ran 10k’s and fun runs, and strolls nearly everyday.  He’s begun to slow down a bit, but is still up and about and is as frisky as any 83-year-old shouldn’t be. ]

I took the cue and between the evening news and NCIS, quickly rang Mom.

“Advance Happy Mom’s day Mom, Noel here! (my voice is similar to all my other bros’, so identifying myself is helpful)”

“And an advance happy 50th  birthday to you!” she says, and we both laugh at that.

dumadami na’ng 50-plus sa mga anak nyo Mom I joke, and she replies with something like it’s quality not quantity that determines how old we are, how true.

I quickly hop around to the issue, asking about Dad, and as always Mom minimizes the negatives.

Oo nagkasakit sya pero very minor lang, at kilala mo naman Dad nyo, always active and about, Mom sez.  She adds that Dad exercises enough for both of them, a comment which makes me think twice, because Mom herself needs to move about too.

But is he well enough to wander around alone, I venture?

I could almost see Mom roll her eyeballs at my naivete, hearing her say as soon as I reach my pwesto (selling sweet ham in multiple locations Metro-wide) he’s gone doing who-knows-what.

I know that in his advanced age, Dad is still distracted by tight jeans and mini skirts, so I know what who-knows-what is.  That is enough to convince me Dad is still healthy and doing well.

*****     *****     *****

As a bonus, Dad isn’t eating, watching TV or napping, things that he can’t be bothered getting away from.  So I can actually get an audience with him.

HI DAD! I almost shout into the phone.

You don’t need to shout, I’m not hard of hearing, Dad says.  I remind myself that it’s the few seconds audio delay and not the difficulty in hearing that’s the issue with overseas calls.

We talk about my running, which Dad sez he’d like to take up again (wag na lang Dad) and wife Mahal’s cooking, which Dad sez is unfair on two counts : that he can’t taste it (hopefully on a visit home Dad) and that I should be doing some cooking to help Mahal (tasting na lang ang sa akin Dad).

*****     *****     *****

Out of the blue I turn senti and remind Dad of a place in Ongpin (in the heart of Manila’s Chinatown) and a resto manager who became his friend.  On Sundays in the 1970s, when I was Dad’s faithful and adoring squire, he would bring me to eat there and meet the friend.

It’s Dad’s turn to be semi-solemn : Tony’s Kitchen is closed now, he tells us.  And Yu Pak his friend (whose name actually sounds like dyslexic cursing, God rest his soul) passed away long time ago.  No more bihon guisado, and no more discounts on asado and roast duck.  But life is still good, he hastens to add.

*****     *****     *****

Before the call starts to cost too much, Dad sez he still has one more nugget of wisdom to impart, and I listen closely :

You have a lovely young wife who is devoted to you, he reminds me (no need to actually).  Your kids are all grown up and doing rather well, he observes (again, I’m grateful to be able to see that).  And you are healthy, Third Son (cross my gouty fingers).  Don’t forget to take a step back, be grateful, and ENJOY YOURSELF.  

I already am Dad.

Thanks for reading!

birthday thoughts for bunso


always looking to the future.  happy birthday pogi!

always looking to the future. happy birthday pogi!

ON MY 30th year on this earth, a young boy came into my life.    Among all the pictures of him that exist in early childhood, there are around one or two that show him crying, but otherwise all the rest, scores and scores, show him flashing his famous brilliant smile, radiating warmth and charm three hundred sixty degrees around, and twenty-four seven. Yes, From the very start, there was something special about him.

He’s always had the easiest time with words and phrases, better than average with graphs and figures, and creative as anyone with a brush, mouse or pen.  Early on, he showed a remarkable ease being with children and adults much older than him, but was likewise able to bond with children his age and much younger.  His gift was in expressing himself, in understanding the world around him, and as a logical consequence, in relating to all sorts of people.  Almost everytime, he would leave you feeling that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, anything he set his mind to, and he had the rest of his young life to do it.  Such was this young boy as I saw him.

It is as I continue to see him, despite all the challenges and obstacles that he has run into, perhaps because of all these same challenges and obstacles.  The past year has seen milestone after milestone that he has declared for himself : first job, first term in an NZ university, first participation in a uni varsity team, first stint as a class representative, and so on and so forth.  That he has produced above average academic results while doing all those firsts shows that he is thriving in the whirlwind, and that he is a natural under pressure.  From babyhood till today, the eve of his 19th birthday, he continues to amaze his awestruck father.

These small tributes are of course natural from an admiring parent, so I temper it with a token enumeration of his adolescent faults : he burns both ends of the candle, he is an unabashed admirer of looks and cleverness in people, usually his own, and unsurprisingly suffers from intervals of overconfidence.  But look at yourself in the mirror Noel, and pay yourself a hundred  pesos for every fault of his that you didn’t have at his age.  That’s right, better start looking for those pesos elsewhere.

The day he came into my life will be exactly 19 years ago tomorrow, but he still gives me the same gift, besides the honor of being a proud father.  And that gift is the ever brightening hope of a kinder, smarter and gentler generation that comes after mine.

From Papa and all the rest of us, happy birthday Bunso, and thank you for being in my life.  As always, you make me proud.

the last 36 of the last work week of summer


A pleasant surprise : "Noel : thank you for changing your hours and working O.T. (overtime) to get the retail (packer) up and running the last few weeks -Ben (obviously the supervisor)"  Awww..

A pleasant surprise : “Noel : thank you for changing your hours and working O.T. (overtime) to get the retail (packer) up and running. -Ben (obviously the supervisor) On top are two supermarket vouchers totalling $50. Awww..

THROUGHOUT HIS professional life, Dad was/is a deskbound, adding machine-holstered white-collar worker, but he was always blue-collar in attitude and approached work the way a wage-paid laborer did.  Day in and day out he answered the call, and only the most extreme reason could keep him from work.  Showing up everyday and on time shows you care for your job, he said in so many words.  It didn’t matter how high or low you were on the totem pole, if you were there ready and good to go, ready for your mission, then the boss looked good, and if the boss looked good, then oftener than not, things would look good for you.

It was just as well for me when I carried on with that work ethic in New Zealand where I now live and work, ’cause it seemed that in blue-collar Wellington, where the luck of the draw landed me, everyone who liked his job (and lots of those who didn’t) showed up for work every day that the Lord made (or bawat araw na ginawa ng Diyos, if you like), 15 minutes before the bell rang, and bright and cheery for work.

Bright and cheery also included being battle-ready for anything new on the menu, meaning if training or upskilling was available, you grabbed the offer, because usually that meant new machinery or new positions were emerging in the workplace.  On the record nothing would be taken against you if you refused, but the boss would remember the next time you needed a favor or when advancement was appearing, and likelier than not you wouldn’t be recommended.

So work ethic and “optional training” had combined to give me the position of backup operator on the brand-new packing machine.  Theoretically, as long as I was dependable and a third shift was needed, I was their man.  Unfortunately, theory turned into reality when one of the regular packers accepted a supervisor’s job in his hometown’s winery, an irresistible prospect for him, and because of staffing issues the packing machine quickly fell 200 man-hours behind based on a constantly increasing order schedule.

To truncate a potentially longish story, I was transferred from my regular department to packing, on a 10-hour 0500 to 1500 shift to make up for lost hours.  Before the end of the second day the site manager decided that even that wasn’t enough, and asked the packing supervisor to ask me if I could change from morning/afternoon shift to the graveyard shift.  Before even thinking, and undoubtedly because of Pinoy pakisama I just said “sure why not?”  After all, the week was almost over, and the overtime money couldn’t hurt.

Famous last words.

It's a different model, but this is what the packer looks like

It’s a different model, but this is what the packer looks like

Problem is, 12 hours during the night is a bit different from 12 hours during the day.  The lack of sunlight and daytime warmth makes the hours stretch endlessly, and the lack of human company stretches same even longer.  It helps that you keep going round and round a machine roughly 10 square meters in area, and constantly feed it paper bags, glue and plastic rolls for the bag bundler oven.  You also weigh product regularly and never stop monitoring the various conveyors, metal detector, bundle labeller and robot palletizer.

In short, while the work is tedious and wears on your limbs, if you do your work, you almost never get sleepy.  The machine was notorious for kinks on any or all of its various innards, but because the catchup production was a high priority, the site manager actually gave me the round-the-clock assistance of the plant engineer, unheard of before she thought of doing it.

And all this, heading headfirst into the biting wind of autumn.  Summer was long gone and on annual leave.

***               ***               ***

The first night was the hardest, because jams on the conveyor were constantly holding up production.  The scale inside the packing machine needed at least one recalibration, and the metal detector was either too sensitive or not sensitive enough.  But as soon as the different machines settled in, production was smooth for the rest of the night.

This is what the robot palletizer looks like.  Ours has a cage around it, because you don't want to be ANYWHERE near it when it's working;  one hit and you're a goner. :(

This is what the robot palletizer looks like. Ours has a cage around it, because you don’t want to be ANYWHERE near it when it’s working; one hit and you’re a goner. 😦

The robot palletizer was another matter.  Bundled product coming into the final conveyor must be exactly in the same place every time, otherwise the bundles don’t get piled up correctly and the robot must be reset.  The robot palletizer is exactly what it sounds a metal arm that scoops up anything you want and depending on the pattern you program into it, piles up neat piles of bundles all night long.  The bundles can’t be too fat or too thin, the shrink-wrap plastic at just the right temperature so it won’t be too hard or too soft for the robot to pick it up neatly.

So as you can see, I had plenty of things to occupy me, and on pure adrenalin and healthy stress, I hardly even had the time to sit and have a cup of tea.  It was only my forklift guy and the engineer who reminded me to take the breaks before I realized it was the crack of dawn.

This went on for two more days, and the next week was a “regular” shift schedule of 10 hours, which I didn’t mind too much because I had the advantage of day shift.

Two weeks later, I realized how important the 24/7 shifts were when the supervisor sent me a thank you note (with the blessing of the site manager), and a $50 supermarket voucher.  Suddenly the cold and tedious nights of those shifts just became a distant memory.

Now, on to just another week of night shifts to finish…

Thanks for reading!

the longest trip home


Mahal and the first man in her life.

Mahal and the first man in her life.

[Note :   Sadly,  Mahal  never quite made it in time to say goodbye to her Papa on his deathbed.  Fortunately for many other kabayan overseas, they make it home in time to bid fond farewells before loved ones cross the Great Beyond.  I just thought about what would’ve happened had Mahal made it home. Thanks for all the kind wishes and the condolences, and thanks for reading! ]

AMONG ALL the overseas Filipino narratives, the rush home to visit a sick or dying relative is almost certainly the most compelling.  You begin with an internal contradiction :  the Pinoy’s instinctive need to provide for his/her family, versus the fond wish to stay close with parents and extended family, who traditionally are as much a part of immediate family as anything.  You continue with the constant conflict between wanting to come home and spend more time with kinsmen, and postponing annual trips in order to send a little more hard-earned cash home to help out with the leaking ceiling, an additional carabao or dried-up fishpen.

Alas, through the years the visits grow less and less, until you wonder where all the time went.  Suddenly, siblings begin to earnestly make more requests for you to come home, and the need for speed, speed to rejoin and reconnect with the olds, acquires a new urgency.  Money and financial support, while helpful still, isn’t that essential anymore.  Tatay and Nanay just want you to come home and enjoy more time with them, not while you can, but while they can.

Still it’s hard to comply with such requests, what with the uncertainties of working overseas, your employer’s rostering planned well in advance, the difficulty of bringing all the kids home with you, and an eye trained towards career advancement that includes a hundred-and-one percent dedication, extra  hours and extra shifts, the proverbial performance beyond the call of duty thing and all that.  How could the feeble voices and grainy images of Tatay and Nanay, albeit on Skype and Face Time, compete with that?

***                              ***                              ***

…Until the shock of the news comes, it’s still beyond belief.  Words like cancer and terminal are still avoided, but the message is clear.  You had better get home as soon as you can kapatid, every day is a blessing now.  Then it’s a series of ominous don’ts.

Don’t ask to speak with him because he gets tired easily. Don’t ask for details, because we will just start crying and the keyboard is wet enough. Don’t delay.

But still you cry, because you feel so helpless, thousands and thousands of kilometers away, unable to help your elders while you are in the midst of so much affluence, technology, and the detachment of a different culture. You want to literally teleport yourself from one hemisphere to another, project yourself astrally if you had the power, but in reality you are here and your loved ones are there, and until you fly home there is nothing you can do about it.

***                              ***                              ***

Leave must be applied for, special requests granted, goodbyes rushed and suitcases packed. You do everything quietly and efficiently, but all the while you are in a daze, thinking of what to say and how to say it, and behind all that thinking the guilt of never being able to make up for lost time bears heavily on your stressed, stressed conscience.

You rush home,  take the first taxi to the bus terminal, take whatever bus is there, take the tricycle, and walk the familiar footpath up the munting dampa, up the worn steps and on the wooden slats still burnished by coconut husks. The air is thick with liniment, the bedsheets need changing, and there are enough vials and drugs to fill an aisle of Mercury Drug, but everyone is happy to see you…

Tatay, Baby is here. (You have been an adult half your life, but everyone still calls you Baby.)

The figure in bed has seen better days, and to say that he is at Death’s door wouldn’t be an exaggeration.  He has one last battle to fight, and that is the battle to die with dignity.

He can no longer speak except in whispers, but his eyes are still bright. And those eyes are trained on you.

Thank you for coming home, Baby, his eyes seem to say.

That’s all. His eyes close shortly afterward, and they never open again.

Thanks for waiting for me, Tatay.

hitting an early highlight w/Mahal & anakis 1st week of 2014


Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn't complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping.  Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn’t complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping. Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

NINETY MINUTES (at least) doing anything that’s not pure recreation, not pure rest or keeping close company with someone who isn’t your beloved, particularly on a non-working day, is hazardous to your mental health.  The only exception/s is/are (1) when it’s spent on a special day or holiday, on which thanksgiving and introspection is better spent in communion with other people, and (2) when (1) is spent with loved ones and/or family.

That is how Mahal and I convinced myself (Mahal needs to help me convince myself) despite previous postponements, to go all the way and spend a nice, all-extras-included New Year’s lunch with son Panganay and girlfriend (if any), daughter Ganda and boyfriend (if any), and younger son Bunso and partner (if any).

Which would’ve been great, had all of the aforementioned not had previous engagements, holiday shifts, basketball games, gym workouts and overtime work intervening.  In the end, we just settled on whoever was available for the Saturday post HNY lunch, which unfortunately didn’t include Panganay’s girlfriend (visiting a sick friend) and Bunso, who was at work.

Which didn’t bode well for Panganay and Ganda, who hadn’t exactly been on the same wavelength recently.  Panganay was having uncharacteristically the best of times with Bunso, who traditionally had always been on Ganda’s side, so Bunso would’ve smoothed any wrinkles between the two.

But it being a new beginning, and it being the first get-together for the year, we were all hoping for the best.

***                              ***                             ***

It turned out that we had nothing to fear.  Brother and sister both wanted to have a good time, and sister’s boyfriend, to be fair, wanted to get along with everybody.  The Beef Wellington and Heineken beer certainly didn’t hurt, although designated drivers could only drink a bottle at most.

We were all so happy that we didn’t mind Panganay bragging about his recent promotion, his anticipated work as an extra on Avatar 2 (to be filmed in NZ, largely expected as its producer had recently set up base in Wellington), and so much good luck that had come his way.  I figured, for him to appear (albeit as an extra) in a movie that had a good shot to be in the top 100 films of all time was as good as it got.  (Besides, to somehow balance it out, he also underwent a minor operation in 2013.) On New Year week, and with family around, we all had a right to feel happy with ourselves.

Ganda, after her migration seriously stalled her academics, had rounded up enough credentials and documents to get admitted to the nerdiest school in town, a bit out-of-character for her and therefore doubly impressive.  As if that weren’t enough, I couldn’t stop smiling with the news that her devoted (so far) Pinoy BF (yes, he’s Pinoy) not only approved of her going back to school but was actually going to help her with matriculation fees (??!!) New school, new boyfriend and new outlook in life, and I couldn’t help but be impressed with Ganda, who I thought was hapless enough to have inherited my happy-go-lucky attitude in life.  I couldn’t be more thrilled to be wrong.

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. :) Proud dad moment!

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. 🙂 Proud dad moment!

***                              ***                            ***

We still hadn’t given up on Bunso, who while working was only a half-dozen blocks away in his barista job.  Instead of hoping he would join us for his lunch break, we decided to surprise him at  Istarbak, have our post-lunch coffee there and sample his wares.

I almost got teary-eyed watching him in the first job he loved (he worked a previous job but didn’t like it), conjuring coffee creations for urban addicts who were eager to sample first-hand the talented techniques of the rookie Istarbak brewer.  I was almost certainly biased, but it seemed to me that as the cafe queue grew longer, Bunso worked faster and more dexterously, never sacrificing quality for quantity.  Of course, this included our lattes, frappucino and coffee of the day.  Seeing Bunso work for the first time,  we were one proud dad and stepmom that afternoon.

Considering that I had already experienced what would probably be one of the highlights of 2014 on only the fourth day (and first Saturday!) of the year, it was a good day.

Thanks Mahal for convincing me to gamble on those 90 minutes.  Practically risk-free!

Thanks for reading!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!


this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and http://judebautista.wordpress.com/ !

[ Note :  In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then.  Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most.  And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department.  LOLs and smileys all around after that one. 🙂

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t  claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers.  Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son.  Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt.  The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

***            ***            ***

Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it.  Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things.  That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today.  The first, second or third?

I don’t know.  Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)

why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running


a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay.  I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class.  When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports.  And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry 😦

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit.   It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and  strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment.  I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

ay Papa hindi ko pa nasabi, may boyfriend na ako :) [or btw Papa, i’ve got a boyfriend]


don't tell me if they look good together... but if she's happy, I'm happy :)

don’t tell me if they look good together… but if she’s happy, I’m happy 🙂

We all want to fall in love. Why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive.  Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality is shattered and we are flying into the heavens.  It may only last a moment, an hour, an afternoon. But that doesn’t diminish its value, because we are left with memories that we treasure to the rest of our lives.     –from a Google search 🙂

[ Note : just so you know the backstory and  there’s no inadvertent loss of perspective, Ganda for the first time in her young life now in her first serious relationship has a boyfriend.  Here’s a letter I wrote to her spontaneously, half-wanting to tell her not to make mistakes, foolishly remembering that in my advanced age, I’m still making new ones everyday, and half-wanting to tell her to be as happy as she can be, without (grrr) letting her boyfriend know.  He seems like a good fellow by the way (and plays excellent basketball in the local Pinoy leagues here); happy 2013 to all and thanks for reading! ]

Dear Ganda :

First of all, I want to let you know, as I’m doing so now, that I’m so so happy, over the moon for you.  I remember you telling me not so long ago back in the Philippines that being the eternal romantic that most Pinoys are, that in this big big world of ours there was someone out there waiting for you, and for whom you were also waiting.  I also remember you asking me (who didn’t have a clue on what to tell you) Papa, why is it taking so long?  I smiled inwardly at your young confusion, as to why Love hadn’t been happening to you as soon as it was to your peers, friends and contemporaries.  Well, as you very well know, it’s happened.  And if anyone deserves it, it’s you.

But I also want to tell you that just because it’s your first time, that just because it’s a life-changing experience for you, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened before.  I know it sounds simplistic and elementary, but like everything else about Life, Love is based on human experience and is a learnable activity.  There is no textbook manual for what you are enjoying now, but sources are plentiful on the subject, and because I have the benefit of  (painful) experience, I audaciously appoint myself an authority on the subject, at least for the duration of this letter.

Like the quotation above, and as Eminem makes quite clear in one of his collaborations (with Rihanna), Love is what happens when a tornado meets a volcano.  It’s a groundswell of emotions, physical tumults and explosions all put together in a transaction of feelings between two people, especially if one or both of them are in love for the first time.

Because of such, I will try to say this as diplomatically as I can to you, but during the course of the time you are in love, especially the first few months, you can’t expect to be in your right mind.  Eight times out of ten you shouldn’t trust yourself to make the correct decision.  Things that you would 99% of the time choose the correct and commonsense option, you will gloss over in favor of Love.  ( I am being diplomatic again here, when I say “Love” I actually refer to your boyfriend.)  It is the way of the world, bonehead decisions you would laugh at years and years later but which you would do for Love without a second thought right now.  Trust me on this one, please.

I don’t think I need to get into specifics, but I do need to give you the soundest piece of advice because of the Truth I just revealed to you in the previous paragraph : on matters of Love, seek often and heed the counsel of your mother, who I’m sure is giving you tons of advice, most of it unsolicited.  She has the painful benefit of falling in Love early in life, reaping all its consequences, and surprisingly surviving it all. 😉  If there’s anyone who is in a great position to anticipate road bumps and challenges for you, it is her.  For the soundness of her advice, it’s about as good as money in the bank.

Look, if I’m beginning to sound like a doomsday soothsayer about something that should be giving you oodles and oodles of happiness in your young life, I’m sorry.  But combined with my ecstatic joy that you’ve found love is a concern that you stumble, fall and make the same mistakes that many young people, including Your Loyal Papa (once upon a time), have done.

It’s not just getting pregnant, being a young mother, then being a single mother that bothers me, let’s push that elephant out of the room.  If you just pause before doing anything, give your head and your heart equal face time, and as Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind, you will avoid what your parents had to contend with at the time : being mapusok and allowing the heart to rule the mind.  But it’s not just that.

Asking basic questions like : is this what I would be doing regardless of my current relationship status?  Am I thinking of us, or am I also considering myself alone?  Am I being in love with my boyfriend, or am I being in love with the concept of being in love?  I know these sound philosophical and like so much nitpicking, but they (the answers) are worth considering.

Knowing you, I know you will just push this letter aside as the rantings of an old man making mountains out of molehills.

To balance it out, I am happy that you took the time to invite your boyfriend to your Tita H’s shindig, that you asked permission before asking him to visit late at night, and that you introduced him to me and Tita H the morning after.  It’s also quite decent of him to introduce you to his entire family for Christmas dinner. Those are little things, but to me they matter.

It indicates to me that you still love me as much as you did when I was the center of your world.  I know those days are long past, but you have grown up very well.  It also shows (dapat lang, as you will surely retort) that he loves you to bits.  Well, so far, so good.

Above all, I am ultra-glad you have fallen in love sensibly, if that is at all possible, and that you have fallen in love with a (so far) decent, sensible and respectful young man.  I wish you and Pinoy Boyfriend all the blessings in the world.

Nawa’y kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos anak.