5 life lessons I learned from my father

I'm not aware how kids and parents spend their weekends these days, but during my time it almost seemed like a rite of passage for every kid in Metro Manila to spend at least a day and have his picture taken with the family at the Luneta.

I’m not aware how kids and parents spend their weekends these days, but during my time it was like a rite of passage for every kid in Metro Manila to spend at least a day in his young life and have his picture taken with the family at the Luneta.

IT’S official! This will be the first Father’s Day in 50 years that I’m going to spend without my Dad. Well, it’s just one among many events.

Since my father passed away last February, the number of “official” events without him in my life have kept on coming.

It hurts, yes, but if I were to stay sane and survive the next 50 years or so, I also realized that I have to dwell more on life’s little pleasures and not on the pain, both major and minor, it inflicts.

And part of these pleasures is the ability to recall big and small lessons I learned from my father while growing up. I’m pretty sure more nuggets of wisdom he bequeathed to us would crop up as I continue to deal with life singlehandedly.

For the time being, here are five lessons I learned from my father that have shaped and continue to shape my life.

We had our differences, but at the end of the day, my Dad had always been my tower of power.

We had our differences, but at the end of the day, my Dad had always been my tower of power while growing up.

 

  1. Never leave home with dirty shoes on. My father was never a dandy. Had my mother not entered his life (so, she says), my father would have been stuck with a few pieces of old, nearly ratty clothes he had worn to the office for years.
As parent, learning to let of your child can be hard.

As a parent, learning to let go of your child can be hard.

Dressing for success was simply the least of his priorities. Clearly, I inherited my fastidiousness for clothes from my mother.

But if there’s one thing I learned from my no-frills Dad, it’s never to leave home with a pair of shabby shoes on. Never mind if they’re old, he said, the state of your shoes is a direct reflection of your personality. In short, always keep them clean and shiny.

There was a time when I was in elementary school when we ran out of shoe polish. Since he was so particular about shining his shoes before leaving for work, he didn’t allow this temporary setback to stop him.

But it will be harder on their kids later on if parents don't eventually learn to let go.

But remember that it will be harder for your child later on if you don’t eventually learn to let go now.

Before I knew it, he got an old rag and an almost empty can of floor wax and started applying it on his prized pair of brown leather boots. Problem solved!

 

  1. Help open doors for your grown children, but let them fight their own battles and carve out their own niches. As head of radio and communications of the now-defunct Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines (later known as Philippine National Construction Corp. or PNCC), my Dad could have easily pulled strings to accommodate my younger sister, then an aspiring electronics and communications engineer, when she was poised to do her practicum.

If he tried hard enough, he could have probably even facilitated her entry into one of PNCC’s many projects and divisions as soon as she passed the board exams. He didn’t.

Instead, my Dad called on his contacts in the industry to see if they could accommodate his daughter while she learned the ropes.

Photograph and memories of a beautiful day in the park I can't even remember.

Photograph and memories of a beautiful day at the park, which, darn it, I can’t even remember.

Thanks to the good relations he nurtured with his colleagues, they were more than willing to take my sister in. He opened doors for his daughter, but stopped short of directly taking her under his wing.

The same is true for me. When I graduated from journalism school, my father introduced me to one of his friends, a veteran PR practitioner. In due time, I found myself working for her before I realized my true calling, which was to work in a newspaper.

Thanks to the PR practitioner’s tip, I learned that an opposition weekly would soon transition into a daily to cover the run-up to the 1986 snap presidential elections. I applied, and eventually got accepted as a contractual employee. That weekly turned out to be the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Life itself is already complicated. It often helps to see things through rose-colored glasses.

Life itself is already complicated. It often helps to see things through rose-colored glasses.

Not even once did my father directly intervene in our careers. He would support and guide us, he said, but we had to learn to stand up on our own two feet without him if we were to fully ease ourselves into the world of adults.

Would things turn out differently had he run his own business? Perhaps. The burden would have been on us, not on him to respond to his call to help him run it. As his children, it would have been our moral obligation to at least give the family enterprise a try. But not when we were all working for someone else.

Instead of enriching himself, my Dad enriched others by working for various companies. As a careerist himself, it simply wasn’t his parenting style to directly meddle, coddle and manage the careers of his three children.

 

  1. Think carefully before you speak. People who know me well would probably think I’m the opposite. True. Like my mother during her younger years, I tend to be very impulsive and outspoken when it comes to articulating my mind.

But whenever I find myself saying (or writing) too much to the point that it becomes hurtful, I stop and suddenly find myself reminded of my father’s words to ease up a bit and think things carefully. Since I have yet to be sued for libel or slander, I guess it still works.

 

  1. Be positive, it’s not yet the end of the world. Before they could coin the phrase “don’t worry, be happy,” my Dad already had a shorter, more emphatic version whenever he heard my siblings and I complain: “No problem!”
Don't worry, be happy!

No problem! Don’t worry, be happy!

He said it with such conviction while backing it up with concrete and doable solutions that it was almost impossible not to believe in him. Like Adidas said, with Daddy around, impossible was nothing. Channeling his inner Nike, he just did things.

Again, compared to my optimist of a father, I’m woefully wanting in this department. As a pessimist, I tend to see the dark, ugly side of life.

In a way, such an attitude helps me in my profession to be more critical and disbelieving. But we all know that too much doubt and negativity can also be toxic and self-limiting. Negative thoughts have a way of poisoning relationships and paralyzing lives and careers. Armed with Daddy’s mantra, I will try my best to never let that happen.

 

  1. Never forget to pray. I’ve never been a religious person. I seemed to have left my piety by the door the minute I stepped into the newsroom.

But if there’s one thing I’m mindful of, especially before embarking on a journey or covering an event I know next to nothing about, it’s the power of prayer. I believe it not only shields me from harm, but also gives me that extra push to accomplish wonderful things.

When all else fails, you can always resort to divine intervention.

When all else fails, you can always resort to divine intervention.

Such is my belief in its power that I resorted to prayer almost unceasingly during my Dad’s final days. My prayers were answered, all right, but it just wasn’t the answer I wished for.

But I have very little reason to doubt that the Lord was with us every step of the way. Even during my darkest hours, I didn’t lose my mind or sink into despair. Now, that’s an achievement! In fact, I attribute my relaxed, even buoyant state during those days to prayer.

Now, if only I resorted to prayer more often before hitting the malls. Perhaps, I wouldn’t be stuck with so many useless purchases I first deemed indispensable in my quest to look good and with-it. Well, Dad, I’m still a work in progress.

To my father and to all fathers and father figures out there, Happy Father’s Day!

You need not wear a pair of Prada, but in my Dad's book, it pays to keep your shoes clean and shiny.

You need not wear a pair of Prada, but in my Dad’s book, it pays to keep your shoes clean and shiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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