‘Journeying’ with my dad

In Photo: (Clockwise) My best memory with my dad at The Manila Hotel when I was 6; my dad and I at the oldest unagi restaurant in Kyoto; my dad and I attending a sushi-making class together, and my dad with all of us at a recent road trip to Bicol.

FATHER’S Day happens this Sunday. The occasion made me think of an entry I wrote in my journal on September 30, 2013:

“My best memory of my dad was this one Sunday, when my mom and sisters were out of the country for a vacation. I think I was 6 then. I dressed myself in my usual boyish jeans and my favorite white shirt with a blue print. He took me to The Manila Hotel. I don’t remember us eating there. What I remember were the photographs he took of me. Out of all my moments with my dad, for some reason, this was the most precious.

“My personal memories with my dad are filled with how he would always go out of his way to bring home my favorite things. Up to now, whenever he goes to Chinatown, he would buy me my hexagon almond cakes and a box of egg pie. When I graduated from high school, he surprised me with this gigantic Maisto Jaguar collector car to add to my growing collection. I have never been my dad’s favorite. And yet maybe because we have a lot of similar emotional traits and values, I always felt I understood him.

“I admire his ‘rainy day’ view of friendship. He always told me that it was not as important to be there for the happy times, as it was to be there for a friend’s rainy day. I admire his strong sense of self. He is practical and not flashy. I like his long-term view on things. Most people think I look up to my dad most for his great business acumen, which I truly do. But in reality, I admire my dad the most for always putting his children first. So many friends ask him why he chose to keep silent for so long on the true causes of his marital woes. It was because he wanted his daughters to have a decent shot at a good married life.

“I remember my dad told me that he was teased a lot for not having any sons. In a Chinese family, sons are customarily more precious than daughters.  My dad said he always told his friends that it didn’t matter, because his daughters could do what any boy can do. And that’s what my dad did. He equipped us early on. He was strict about our schoolwork but very open to all our extra curricular activities. I went on my first Taiwan Scouting Jamboree at 15. I knew how to drive at 16. I had a hand-me-down car to drive in college and was called ‘Schummacher’ by my guy friends. We never got chaperoned even if we were girls. He never stopped us from drinking alcohol but, instead, taught us how to hold our liquor.

“As far as I can remember, my dad loves stories. He is like a history book. He knows the history of Chinese society in the Philippines so well. More than that, he’s a great storyteller. He would relay these stories to us with much detail when we’re all vacationing together. That’s why he sets time out from all our busy schedules to travel together often. For each of these stories, I have learned many a genuine life lesson along the way.

“I realize my vision for simple happiness comes from my dad. All he wanted was a happy family to come home to. He was never flashy. He buys things for his own contentment. He does not care if he is riding a 10-year-old car or eating at a simple restaurant. He always values what’s within. I remember asking my dad one day when I was in college if it was okay for me to marry someone not similar to our financial status. I expected him to say no. What he told me was that it was a decision for me to make. If I’d able to live the life the person can provide, then this was the most important thing. He said what’s important to him was that I marry someone who knows how to work hard because family money comes and goes.

“Is my dad perfect? He’d be the first to say he’s not. Do I idolize my dad? The answer is no. He is what he is, inside and out. But it doesn’t matter, because he never wanted me to idolize him.  He just devoted his life wanting my happiness and guiding me to be the best that I could be. And for this, I would forever be grateful.”

My sister and my family have enjoyed many trips with my dad. We enjoy simple road trips whenever the holiday schedule allows it. We all enjoy hearing our dad reminisce about his days as a salesman setting up Zenco Footstep stores around the country. We also enjoy hearing stories about his childhood, people he cares about, and everything else in between.

For over 40 years, I have seen my dad as a great provider, a determined family man, and a benevolent person to many. Today, my relationship with my dad has evolved from me being a “wondering outsider” to a daughter who loves him more for having “journeyed” with him. I’m grateful for this evolution, and I truly hope everyone takes the time to discover a deeper meaning in their own relationships with their fathers.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I know that my sister, my husband and kids all want to give the biggest thanks and hugs to our dear dad.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. And Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there.

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