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!

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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!)

Ganda & Bunso adapt adjust and assimilate


I’m not sleepy, the sun is just too hard on the eyes. Snow is almost gone on Mt Ruapehu so as traditional Pinoys we dutifully pose for the Facebook post later. They are almost all grown up !

[ Note : Happy birthdays to Andrew Ong (9th Sept), Tess Aldeguer-Tangco (13th Sept), Archie Mallare (15th Sept), Stephen Liao (16th Sept), Wilson Ong (16th Sept), Martin Go (19th Sept), Ronald Y Lui (23rd Sept), and my former boss at Coke, JB Baylon (25th Sept), thanks to all the support and prayers for Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, her therapy is ongoing, and congrats to the UP Pep Squad on the successful defense of their UAAP cheerleading title ! Woohoo ! ]

THAT EAGLES tune is catchy, timeless and endearing, but it’s hard to be the new kid in town.  You feel all the eyes on you, you don’t have a single friend to hang out with, and there’s no one save your folks, usually clueless and too busy themselves, to give you tips on the places to go and sights to see.

The above is true only three-quarters of the time, because during the odd weekend esposa hermosa and I try our darnedest best to show Ganda and Bunso around, the two having been in Wellington less then five months this week.  Their own mom and stepdad, with whom they stay, are also model guides and mentors to Asians acclimatizing themselves to probably the southernmost capital city in the world, with the bonus of being one of the most diverse, multi-lingual and multi-cultural demographics around.

But during workdays they’re on their own, and there is only so much time you can spend in libraries, museums, parks and the like before you have culture and greenery flowing out of your ears.

Being Pinoys, one of the most social creatures in the world, their next impulse is to seek out people, preferably people of their own age.  This isn’t too practical as well, most of their age group being in either university or middle school most of the time.  I advise them not to be choosy in selecting friends and acquaintances, in fact seeking out people of different races, the more multi-colored the better.  Given their natural shyness and /or propensity to gravitate towards youth in their demographic, i.e, Southeast Asian 18-20s, the inclination is to find Pinoys, in the food court, on the street, wherever.

I’m unqualifedly happy that the two, particularly Ganda, have taken the time to tell us about their goings-on in their new environment, I’m sure it’s a heavily edited version, what with all the TMI details that she thinks her folks don’t want to know about, and which only heightens the usual paranoia that fathers reserve for their daughters, particularly those in the blossoming stage.

But I’m under no illusion that our kids tell us everything about their lives.  In the first place, except in relation to the big picture, a lot of the time it’s not my affair anymore, they are after all already young adults and in another era would’ve been encouraged to marry and start their own families.  In the second place, humans reach that inevitable phase when you have to let them soar on their own wings and succeed and fail on their own terms, damn the torpedoes and bite my tongue when they something incredibly clueless and breathtakingly naive.

Don’t tell them that I told you, but I don’t envy them right now : extracted from the comfortable environment of friends, org-mates and BFFs in their respective universities back home, they have been abruptly transplanted into an unfamiliar, less-than-colorful and not-so-welcoming milieu.  Plans for summer vacations, internships and endless frolicking in beaches, rest houses and giant malls have been scuttled indefinitely.  For Ganda, almost a college graduate, and Bunso, barely out of the multi-tasking of high school honors section, it was a lot to ask.

But they have handled it well, with elegance and a maturity beyond their years.  They have adapted to so many things, having four parents instead of two not the least.  Add to that chilly nippy and goose bump-inducing temperatures that pummel them each time they venture out the door; a diet that is not exactly conducive to the Pinoy palate, and having to overhaul their personalities just to be able to make new friends.  It’s just as well that they are just beginning their lives as citizens of the world, for youth are better positioned than any age group to adapt, adjust and molt their skin into any environment, I just don’t know how long it would’ve taken me.  You won’t hear me tell them, but I admire their resiliency, as Asians, as Pinoys and as owners of half my DNA.

I feign indifference when Bunso tips me off about lurking potential suitors in Ganda’s 50-meter radius, but I take it yet as another sign of normalcy : which parent, when you think about it, wouldn’t be proud that the fair members of his brood receive flattering attention?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if she gives brown skins, black hairs and sub-five-sixers (like her dad) equal priority with the Chris Evanses, budding Mark Zuckerburgs and future Nobel laureates of their new universe, all would be right in my world.

Thanks for reading!

my paradigm-shifting dad on father’s day


with grateful thanks to Jude Bautista for the pic, from left: esposa, me Tita Lily (Yang) and Dad.

[ Note : Despite NZ Father’s Day and Philippine Father’s Day celebrated on different dates, I will use any excuse to remember my dad, who is very much alive and quite healthy by the way, and besides his birthday is less than three weeks away.  Happy dad’s day to everyone! ]

MY DAD, whether or not he realizes it, is a product of at least two aspects of his generation.  First, that of the reality that Asian fathers are more or less emotionally inaccessible to their offspring, and possibly even to their spouses.  Second, he grew up in a traumatic war period where to utter or make any gesture considered disrespectful to our Japanese invaders often resulted in dire, sometimes fatal results.  The result is many fathers coming from his generation consider it not only normal but also practical to be distant from most members of their family, to both survive and to carry on “normally” as many Asian families do.  Leave the feel-good and mushy stuff to Moms and female members of the family, I could almost hear this generation say.

That’s why it took a sea change for my own father when his turn came to be a dad.  He wasn’t touchy-feely and the type who announced a “group hug” all the time, but he never spared any efforts to show how much he cared for all of his sons.  He never hesitated to give (or for that matter, ask) for a hug and kiss from me whenever he got home from work.  Asians are famous for being “inscrutable” and circumspect, and in that respect Dad was/is traditional, because he had a countenance that was perfectly neutral in front of new acquaintances and strangers.  But before friends and loved ones, he always chose to engage rather than resist exposing his feelings and emotions.

He never ignored the template though.  He expected and received unconditional respect from all of his sons, and in return he gave them his unconditional love.  He made all the final decisions that concerned the family, but most of us knew that Mom was just letting him say out loud what made her happy.  Appearances and saving face, after all, still counted in the traditional Pinoy family.

At the end of the day, when I think of all the good things my dad did to me, did for me and did despite me, nothing trumps just being there and being both a towering and nurturing presence in our lives.  In his child’s eyes, a father cannot help but come to his life great and awesome, it is his life’s challenge to humanize himself, bring himself down to his/her level, and hold his child’s hand forever.

This you did with flying colors Dad, and I will never stop being grateful for that.  I love you so much, advance happy birthday, and for the second time this year, happy Father’s day!

holding back the years with Tita Amy and Tito George


clockwise: cousin Ann Marie B Ceñido, aunt Lily B Yang. Mahal, Tita Amy, Dad, Tito George, Kuya Dr Donald Bautista, and Mom

[ Note : huge thanks to bro Jude Bautista for the pic ! ]

TOWARDS THE end of our balikbayan vacation, I realized that it wouldn’t be possible to meet all the people I had hoped to see, even with around half a week left.

For every person I was actually able to meet, there were around five to 10 people I failed to engage as promised.  For every gathering that was thoughtfully organized for me, there was an equivalent event that I declined or had to cancel at the last moment.

I sincerely apologize and plead poor planning and inconsiderateness on my part; I assure you that though the preponderance of efforts to meet tends to your side, the loss is mine to regret.  The obvious lesson here is to plan more carefully, set aside more time, and be more solicitous of other people’s expectations, energies and willingness to meet little old me.

***               ***               ***               ***               ***

There was one singular occasion when I felt like a fortysomething kid,  and it was because I met people who helped take care of me growing up.  These people were with me during the good times, and inevitably during part of the bad times as well, when I wasn’t so easy to be with.  Thanks to a fortuitous birthday shindig organized for her by generous Tita Lily, I met last Thursday the 19th Tita (Aunt) Amy and her husband Tito (Uncle) George.

Tita  Amy as a young accounting apprentice also brought me to nursery school, helped me bathe, wiped my bum and talked me through all those afternoon naps so my cheeks would grow rosier and my toddler bones would grow longer.

Tito George was her stoic suitor with whom she would play Carpenters 45s on the phonograph, over and over, while I wondered why she ever gave him the time of day.  Decades later, when he would become a crafty and extremely successful agent of industrial commodities, and turned out to be not so stoic after all, gave me the hard lessons of life, without much varnish and even less garnish.

Together they were the classic baby boomer couple who almost non-chalantly achieved the Filipino dream, and produced in their brood the Ateneo lawyer, HSBC VP and Montessori teacher.  In the process they (again) talked me through the highs and lows, smooth and rough spots, and probably because had some emotional investment in me, were in equal parts concerned, alarmed and proud when I became a husband, dad and middle-ager myself, wondering where all those years went.

It was a chance for me to be a kid again when I recounted all my adventures overseas, and they had to give wry smiles and winks when I introduced to them esposa hermosa for the first time.

Though it had been some time since we last met, it was like we had just resumed a long-running conversation on life and love, and it took off like we had never stopped.

I hope it won’t be too long before we meet again, Tito and Tita.  Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip !

a Pinoy appreciates Dad on father’s day


Dad is the handsome guy in red next to Ganda. Behind them are Tito George (Apostol), his wife Tita Amy, forever pretty Tita Dely (Imperial), Renato (Jhun) Montenegro Jr carrying daughter, his mom Ernani B Montenegro, Tita Beth (Javier) and Bunso.

[ Note : Please indulge a blog we wrote a few years ago on our high school Yahoo!group, condolences to the family of the late Asuncion C Sy – Ang, mom of our dear kabatch and friend Ms Pilar Ang – Si.  Happy father’s day to all ! ]

MY EARLIEST recollections about Dad are quite ancient.  Very early in the morning, hardly out of diapers, he would bring me to the Luneta (Manila‘s biggest public park) to enjoy the sea air from Manila Bay.  I was particularly enthusiastic about these trips as I would be bundled up together with my walker, and toughen up my toddler’s gait under his benevolent eye. This was probably 1965 or 1966.

Years later, on rapidly microwaving Sunday dawns just before the 1980s, Dad and I would be in the same venue, jogging around the block right in front of the Luneta Grandstand (measured by him to be 1.2 kms in circumference) but not before I went through the drill of being woken up by marathon crazy Dad, peeling off me my bedcover, pillow and blanket and sprinkling water till I had no choice but to get up.

Still a few years later, on sunny weekday afternoons, to the same Luneta breakwaters, Dad would bring little Panganay, only his second grandchild, for kiddie boat rides, viewing nearby Cultural Center and Corregidor Island in the distance.

For a pre-postmodern dad such as mine, there was no such thing as quality time.  He had nothing BUT time, when it came to me, and probably the same thing was true with my other siblings.  You just didn’t realize it till you were all grown up, and your kids think nothing of asking the same of you.

As fathers, though our bond with our kids may not be as strong as the mother-child relationship, it is equally emotional and nearly as dramatic.

We are there initally to lend mothers a helping  hand in the raising and nurturing, but in equal parts we educate, inspire and guide our children into becoming the human beings the world expects them to be.

Without a doubt we take a back seat to moms in the development of our young, but by being the best that we can be, we stand tall as models when the next generation looks for people to emulate.

By being the first people they are exposed to, we can do no less. I can only think of a few examples.

The picture of the affable, authoritative yet approachable (not authoritarian) dad belongs to my high school classmate and now Dr Evelyn V’s dad, who I addressed as Mr Lee. Bumming rides with them , I would often see him in the car ride home from school. I would hear him crack jokes with his kids, ask them about school, and sometimes ask me about my own dad, who he got acquainted with in the 1950s. Mr Lee no longer fit the remote, stern profile most Chinese Filipino dads of the 60s and 70s assumed, and could easily bond with his kids.  I liked him for that.

I had less encounters with another high school contemporary Dennis (Sy)’s dad, and will probably not do him justice.  If memory serves, he was a soccer enthusiast, and supported his two sons’ many interests, which probably inspired them to pursue varied sports and music.

The chummiest Dad I can remember though is bosom buddy Raymond (Ong)’s, who would often pause from his work to strike up a conversation with me whenever I chanced to visit their Ermita store, as if I were a long-lost customer. He exuded a warmth that would disarm the gruffest exterior, and it would be a legacy to all his sons.

Almost gods in our eyes, we later discover, sometimes sadly, that they are as human as we are, prone to the same failings and temptations.

We can only strive to do as well as they did, and hope that in their eyes we do not fail too miserably.

Thanks for everything Dad, and Happy Father’s Day !

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Is That Dad In The Mirror ?


Senti Fathers' Day moment : Luke and Dad, revelation time !

[ I know Dad’s birthday was just around the corner, because I’d been dreaming of him.  Here’s a report below. ]

AT FIRST, I thought I was Dad’s favorite because I resembled him, but through the years, I realized that almost all of us  5 brothers reminded people of different parts of his physical and non-physical whole.  Then I thought it might be because I was the most charming, sociable or personable, positive traits that he liked to think he owned.  After a while again, I realized my 4 siblings and I more or less possessed the same interpersonal qualities.  Finally I guessed that, like him, I showed great potential to be smart, successful or attractive, which time and again was proven to be plain wishful thinking given the sharper minds, successful careers and solid relationships, in perspective, that my brothers have enjoyed.

No, I concluded.  A more accurate self-revelation I think, a veritable epiphany I’ve had regarding why Dad and I have bonded so well, is that I have always been enraptured by his every word and deed, and that he has always owned alpha-male status to me.  Not that my other bros haven’t admired him, but in many ways he has always seemed larger than life to me, and many times I didn’t bother to hide such admiration.

One of the defining values of Dad that I came to fully appreciate only recently (that of giving priority to fitness) came in the form of a dream,  which I thought was due anyway since his birthday was less than two weeks away.  A few nights ago, I dreamt he was trying to wake me by alternately sprinkling fistfuls of water in my face, and tickling the soles of my smelly feet.  He was doing so, expectedly, because he wanted me to go jogging with him Sunday morning.

A backgrounder if I may.  During the fitness craze of the 1980s that was spiked by Dustin Hoffman‘s Marathon Man and the blossoming of various fun runs and half-marathons year-round (no seasonal constraints in humid Manila), jogging to Roxas Blvd from our house in Paco began as a family affair.

Before long though, both First and Second Brothers got preoccupied by university, Mom progressed to aerobics, and only the last three sons were Dad’s faithful seconds from Grandstand to Cultural Center.  Finally, there was Dad by his solitary self, hoping even one of his medium-sized brood would jog with him on bright Sunday mornings.

Atypically, he never gave up on indolent me, long after every one of us had given up on the regular weekend seaside route.  It became an almost weekly routine for us, his waking at half-past five on Sunday, and spending at least 30 minutes trying to rouse me, before I myself surrendered and donned shorts and sneakers to jog behind his confident gait, if not astride him sometimes, from sunrise until it was too hot to run.

So along with jogging, these days I find myself more and more enjoying things my Dad did, and appreciating his passion.  Just three of them, besides the Sunday jog, are never going through the hour before bedtime without a good book, starting the day with breakfast porridge, and seeking conversation (virtual or otherwise) with at least one of his children daily.  As we age, we truly become our parents.

***         ***         ***         ***         ***

But back to the dream.  Dad was as usual waking me up, unmindful of the fact that I was bone-tired from either work or traveling home ( as far as I could remember, I just came from overseas diba? ), and insisting that I join him on one of his interminable runs.  No amount of lame excuses, whining and sleep-pretending (which I thought I was good at) would dissuade him from appropriating my company on this trek.  Sighing, I acceded to his request, asking only that in exchange, he answer a simple question from me : Dad, how do I age as gracefully as you have (he’s a juvenile 79 going on 39, the age of Youngest Brother) ?

“OK, but get your Nikes ready Son Numba Three.  Predawn run is not a good time for question-and-answer.”

I dutifully complied.

“The answer to your question is divided into three parts :

“First, you can’t eat the way you ate 25 years ago.  You are now as old as I was when I started to watch what I ate.  There is no way around that.  Ignore this at your own peril.  You know what’s good, and what’s bad for you.  Moreover, you should know what your limits are as to the quantity of your food intake.  Just do that, and you can’t go wrong.”

Wow, great advice.  Watch what and how much you eat.  That is so enlightening.  What’s next?

“Don’t rush me.  Sleep is underrated, but is key to great health.  Get the right amount of sleep, and sleep at the right time : just when the cricket chirps, and greet the rising sun.  DON”T sleep when the midmorning sun is everywhere, and DON’T sleep when you could be running, like now.”

I smirk at that segue, and concede that his pearls of wisdom come from experience.  But what’s the last tip, Dad?

“The last is the most important, Numba Three : Stop harassing your wife for sex all the time, OK?  Sex is as important as food and exercise, but too much of anything, even a good thing, can be counterproductive.  And don’t ask how I know, because I know.”

I look at Dad incredulously, and again he reads my mind.

“Yes Noel, I know it’s a dream, but the advice is good.  Take it, if you want to live.”

***               ***               ***               ***               ***

Happy birthday Dad, love you always !

Noel

3 Nevers of Dad and 3 Evers of Bunso


Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo, Manila, with th...

Image via Wikipedia

I HAVE SO many good memories of my dad, and the best thing about it is that every time I come home to visit, there will be more.  Some of the highlights are his bringing me to Manila Bay shoreline at Luneta before I learned to walk, a practice he continued with my own kids; bringing me to his favorite Binondo watering holes, soccer games and the occasional Cantonese movie; jogging on Roxas Blvd which I originally disliked, having to wake up so early to avoid the blazing Sunday heat, but later realized it was one of the best things we did together; and sharing with me his opinions on why our country would continue suffering age-old problems no matter who was president or which party controlled Congress.

He has rightly counted two among his many blessings as giving him the greatest satisfaction : that he (knock knock) continues to enjoy good health in his advanced age, and that he has seen many of his grandchildren grow up to adulthood, admittedly something not all of his contemporaries have enjoyed.
Which brings me to one of his grandchildren, Bunso, who incidentally celebrates his birthday today.  He likewise has much to be thankful for, not the least of which is an auspicious start to his college life last week, the love of his family and friends, and above average intelligence which will serve him well the rest of his life.
Below are three “nevers” and three “evers” that remind me most of them, and hope that (1) they will agree and (2) you can relate :
(1) Dad NEVER missed a day of work, always treated his employees like family, and lived the conviction that work justified a man and validated his existence.  Like many children of the Great War, he valued every peso he earned, and knew that the pesos kept coming in only because of the hours he put in at the desk.  By trade he was a numbers cruncher / bean counter but he loved the printed word, ran a printing press to prove it, and encouraged all of us to read and express ourselves through the pen, and in his aura I discerned a poet, calligrapher and artist, trades he might have learned had the war and destiny not intervened.
(2) Dad NEVER used corporal punishment as general policy or behaved less than gentlemanly with Mom.  I didn’t say he never punished us, because there were a few times he actually smacked me for some forgotten reason, but because it was such a rare event, I remember it all the more.  Most of the time he used sound reasoning and logic to tell us why we messed up royally, rarely used sarcasm and only resorted to the dreaded belt and slipper when we committed heinous crimes against the rules of the household. In all my years with my folks, I’ve only seen them argue ONCE, and this was when I was 5 or 6 years old.  Otherwise, he’s always allowed Mom to have the last word, never raised his voice at her, and has exhibited perfect patience with his wife 24/7.  That’s Dad for you.
(3) Dad NEVER played favorites, and never compared one son to another.  Well, maybe he never expressed his thoughts out loud, and believe me, he would have had plenty of occasions and reasons to do so, having five sons of diverse and disparate strengths and abilities flung far and wide. He never raised one up at the expense of the other, always appraised and assessed each one of us on our respective merits, and seldom asked any son who happened to be underachieving (wink, wink) why he wasn’t more like the rest. Come to think of it, he could be tactless in other areas but never when it came to praise, or lack of it.  That’s how I remembered, and continue to remember him.
Now comes Bunso, and on his birthday I can’t help but reminisce the following :
(1)  Bunso was EVER the smiling baby, and out of dozens and dozens of baby pictures I have seen only one (1!) picture of him crying, for some reason it reflects perfectly the recollection that he was a happy and good-natured infant, probably because he was the youngest and had his siblings as well as parents around to humor him.  This good naturedness has carried over into puberty and young adulthood, where Bunso is (so far) emotionally well-rounded, easy-going, has certainly avoided the crests and troughs of the emotional tsunami that marked many adolescent years, mine included ;
(2) Bunso was EVER the dancer and actor, which he almost certainly got from either his mother or his grandfather, both of whom were or are good dancers.  At first I just thought he had too many extra-curricular duties on his plate, dancing for this or that event, then I realized for him to be picked and rostered for so many shindigs evidenced only two things : either he had the talent or the goods to do so, or he really loved dancing and related arts.  The truth is probably a combination of both, and while I’m proud of him, I confess it’s not easy to relate, as I have two left feet and a voice only a mother could love 🙂
(3)  Bunso was EVER the responsible student, and only his para-academic activities, org commitments and his precious down-time from hyperactive school schedule prevented him from an honorific graduation, and to his credit, his insistence on a well-balanced high school experience has given him the best of both worlds : respectable grades and development in things he loves to do.  If I sound like a proud dad, it’s because I truly am.
Happy Father’s Day and happy birthday to two guys I will NEVER get tired bonding with and EVER love and admire :  Dad and Bunso .
Thanks for reading !
NOel