My father is turning 75 on the 19th of December. At first, I thought of writing about 75 things that make him one of the most admirable fathers God created for this Father's Day. But since that could be a very long list, I limited it to 19. After all, 19 is also significant to him:
1. He bagged the MOST PATIENT award. My and my siblings' patience combined is no match to that of our Popsy’s. He is just patient, period. He is slow to anger, period. Yes, he is not an alien. He is our Father.
2. He keeps no record of wrongs. This is a source of disagreement between us. When I was a kid, I told him I would not be like him. I would be kind, but a little mean (Oh yeah, I said that). I reasoned that the mean part is a necessary evil for protection. I was convinced that Pops could be a little more like FPJ (a Filipino action star) or Chuck Norris, pleasant but would give a series of punches and kicks when necessary. But when I grew up, met a lot of people and delved into analyzing a lot of them (including myself), I realized how noble that character is, and few, few people have this kind of value. And how privilege I am that one of those few people has his genes in me!
3. His un-authoritative approach commands respect. Pops is just an unconventional father: he is neither a belt-touting Dad nor a do-this-or-else kind of Dad (very common in a traditional Filipino family). He actually rarely asks us to do anything for Him. And probably, that is the reason why my siblings and I wanted to do so much for him. You know that feeling when someone is so deserving of all good things and does not demand anything, and you just could not help but double the effort to make him happy. He is a testament that, indeed, love conquers all.
4. He is discreetly generous. Pops' generosity stems from his compassion to people. He gives because he was once in need. And I grew up seeing Him and my mother (when she was still alive) being ready to extend help to others without necessarily looking for thumbs up or approval from people.
5. A man of calmness. This is Pops' most quoted Filipino adage: Ihip sa lusong, sa mukha ang tapon (this is similar to the saying, whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.) I could recite this adage at age 7 even before Pops opened his mouth. He would always remind us not to answer the unfounded critics because eventually those unfounded criticisms would haunt them. While I have a different take on handling trolls, this perspective of him has readied me and my siblings to relational challenges in different settings.
6. A man of few deep words. When I introduced my husband, my boyfriend then, to my father, I have only one reminder: “Do not be fooled by his quiet persona, you are under a fiery scrutiny (I used the Filipino term kinakaliskisan. It has no exact translation in English, but the root word kaliskis means scales in Filipino - usually pertaining to fish scales. And the process of removing those scales to get the fish clean and ready for cooking is kinakaliskisan - that would be my description of Pops' process of knowing people beyond skin-deep.). He is not the I’ll-impress-you-with-my-words-and-clothes type. Actually, he will show you the unlikable in him to see your breadth and depth. Only when he has proven that you are worthy of his trust that he will let you see the beauty in him. That is probably why I do not easily buy into platitudes, pleasantries and sweet talk. I grew up with a mind-and-value touting Pops!
7 - 8. A man of humility and selflessness. Pops embodies simplicity and keeps everything simple. I remember when someone told him, "Wow! Your kids are all well-educated and well-grounded." To which he replied, “Yes, God is good. (while chuckling) I could barely remember buying myself even a decent underwear when they were studying.” I felt a lump in my throat upon overhearing Pops' reply. I would never fully understand the depth of his sacrifices for me and my siblings. Pops raised us on his own. He was always ready to give whenever we needed something. He was always happy to see us well-groomed and well-fed (this is huge when you grew up in one of the poorest areas in a third-world country). And then all along, he was denying himself even with a decent underwear! I could only be grateful for all that he did.
9. He is loyal to a fault. He did not remarry after becoming a widower 25 years ago. He would not also leave our old house because according to him, he promised our mother not to leave it. He would die there, he said.
10. He is persistent. Pops and mother's love story was enveloped in an arranged marriage. According to Pops, he thought of leaving mother during the early part of their relationship. There was no peace at home. Mother was still in rebellion because of what their parents did. She was very strong-willed and would hit him in anger. He never once laid a hand on mother. But he thought of my two older sisters (I was not born yet), and decided to stick it out with her. Things got better along the way. As a matter of fact, it did not even cross my mind that they had an arranged marriage, causing havoc in the early phase of their relationship. As a kid, I could only see two people committed to and loved each other and their kids with all their hearts. Thank God for Pops' persistence.
11. He is an amazing cook. Pops loves to cook. As a kid, I would always look forward to the day that he would be home, cooking scrumptious meals for me and my siblings. I could almost taste his pansit (noodles) and sinigang (soup) while typing this post.
12. He is a good teacher. I learned my numbers from him. As a kid, I would sit with him every afternoon and count all the coins from our convenience store. He would show me the difference between a 50-centavo and 25-centavo coin. He would also ask me to put all the 2 Philippine peso coins together and add them accordingly.
13. He is a generous business man. Pops would ask me to pluck his white hairs for a corresponding service fee. I was allowed to negotiate for the pay based on the length and count of the white hairs I have harvested from his head farm. And since Pops had a lot of white hairs, I had a steady source of income. Yes, income I earned from my own sweat and err, Pops' sweaty white hairs.
14-15. He is a dreamer and a strategic fighter. A neighbor once despised my father for sending us to college. This person said my father was wasting money for our education. "They would just get married, stay home and take care of their kids. Why kill yourself for them?" To which, my father replied smiling, "all the more I should send them to good schools, be educated and get trained. How could they teach their kids if they do not know anything?" Pops was focused enough on his goals that he handled nuisance well.
16. He instills trust and confidence in a very practical way. One of my most unforgettable memories with Pops was our walk home every afternoon after closing our store. We would traverse the unpaved, crack-full road with me atop on his shoulders. He would ask me to hold tightly on his almost bald head while both of his hands were full of home needs. It was a long, cautious, calculating walk. We lived by a hill then and we would always come home safe and me beaming with pride.
17-18. He is cheerful and optimistic. In some days that we could barely afford some animal protein and seafood, he would remind us the benefits of not having them and joke around about our plight. We would be vegetarians by default. How cool is that?
19. He is complexly wise. Pops said he is everything his father is not. As a teenager, he would always witness his parents' fight whenever our grandfather would go home drunk and had lost a good sum of money from gambling. During the day, he would rather help his mother in their business than go to school while his father was busy chasing women, in drinking session or gambling. Coming from this context, his choices in life are pretty understandable. And I am grateful for his wise choices. I am one of their products.
Happy father's day!
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