12km walk with my father

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Everything I learned about the value of hard work, I learned from my father.

“It’s only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home — it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love.” – Margaret Truman

Until the late 80s, transport in our village from town was limited. Jeepneys then ply only twice a day. If you miss them, you wait until the following day. That’s it.

One day, together with a neighbor, my father and I arrived past 5:00 pm at the transport terminal and found out we missed the last trip. I dreaded the next decision but I know there was no other choice.

A very decisive man, my father immediately bought kerosene, used bottle and cloth from the store and made a makeshift sulo (torch). It was getting dark. With an impish grin – perhaps amused of what lies ahead – and torch in hand, we started our walk home. That was my first walkathon!

I did not try arguing for another option. I know he was set to go home – thinking of our farm animals. He was headstrong when he was set on a task. I learned the wisdom of being quiet when necessary from him. Have you experienced this, too?

The distance from town to our village was 12 kilometers. At that time, there was no electricity. The entire journey was in pitch-black darkness – with intermittent lights coming from thatched-roofed huts along the way. They were few and far between.

My father would holler “Agi lang kami (We’re just passing by)” when we pass by the houses – I surmise to alert them that we’re friendly forces and to break the silence between the three of us. He was tireless. I have no doubt we were safe with him around.

Hundreds of coconut trees my father planted in our farm. Before he got bedridden, he made a visit to this place he really loved.

Always to my relief, windows would always open and wish us a safe walk. In most cases, men would recognize my father and we would stop for few minutes as he explained why we missed the ride. That took several stops.

Along the way, we did some story-telling, so I learned about his exploits – and my grandfather’s – during the Japanese occupation of the country.

Through the darkness, it became vivid how they fearfully hid in the bushes when fighter planes buzzed around their village in Valderrama, Antique province.

As a boy, he thought it was both exciting and scary. The war also brought instability as they moved from place to place fearful of their family’s safety. Food was scarce because they have to leave their farms. It taught him to survive and help find food for the family.

Your parents must have gone through this! Have you tried asking them how was it?

I failed to hear his stories when they moved to Mindanao around 1950s. I know they took a rickety ship with their sparse belongings. Landless, he helped my grandfather work in other people’s farms to feed his siblings. He was also very smart – planning ahead of the future with us in our kitchen table that was witness to countless stories he regaled us.

He was a model father – just keep him away from booze. He was a different person when he starts drinking after a hard day’s work (which became a perfect excuse).

Tatay and Nanay on their way to a 2-month Phuket holiday.

One time I was one of the flower girls in my cousin’s wedding. My father got so drunk he created a scene and went home furious and in a very bad mood. I hid down the table together with my sister.

But my biggest fear that night was not my own safety from his drunk-wrath. You see, I forgot to keep my flower-girl-gown and left it hanging at the door. I was so worried he might snatch and tore it to pieces. He never saw it – to my relief.

There are no perfect fathers. They are human beings so they have their shortcomings. But what we become depends on how we positively or negatively react to lessons we learn from them.

Everyday is Father’s Day. Isn’t it? A time to remember how fathers tried their best to raise us in ways they think is the best for us. For me, it’s so empowering now to realize that everything I know about hard work and persistence, I learned from my father.

How did your father’s guidance and presence influence your life? Share with us!


“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland

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