If you ask me about my father, I’d probably say he was an engineer and he died when I was in my second year high school. But you know what? I have different stories to tell about him, just like the things he has taught me.
My Nanay taught me how to read. Starting from that A Ba Ka Da book you see at the market or book stores. The cheap ones that have thin covers, yellow, with two kids, a boy and a girl, reading. Our reading lessons were always during the afternoon. I remember it clearly. I learned how to read the word phoenix and exhibit when I was five. My Tatay did not teach me those. My Nanay did. And though my Tatay was an engineer, he never taught me how to count. I don’t remember he did those things but he did teach me some.
1. My Tatay taught me how to ride the bike. I learned how to balance by the age of 5. I remember, we came from church and we went to a bike shop. I remember that Red Power Ranger bike was hanging at the store. I don’t remember asking for a bike but he bought me one. It had its training wheels which I didn’t want to let go of but he insisted How would you learn if you won’t take those off? So he did. Once, it was morning and we went out so I can ride my new bike. All of my friends were there. You can see the excitement on their faces as if they are the ones who own the bike. And me? It seems like I don’t wanna ride it anymore. I was shy. I don’t want to ride it with them watching me. I know I will fall. And the road was a downhill. I didn’t fall but the bike crashed for so many times over the somewhat higher part of the road. Add that my friends tried it, too. They did make it crash as well. So Tatay got angry and told them they were trying to destroy the bike. But he didn’t tell that to me. Every afternoon, we go out to ride my bike. Those times around, not on the downhill. I was used to him holding the front of the bike and the end of my seat but that stopped. He then held my nape. I was infuriated. His grip was a little tight. I was thinking he really wants me to fall. I was scared. I was shaking. But then, I learned. I really learned to balance myself on my bike. We used to ride our bikes together. Sometimes, he lets me ride on his together with him. We bike around. There was even a time it rained while we were biking. We were soaking wet. The next day, I got a fever. He did not. Now everytime I see a bike, I feel so happy especially when I see a father and son or daughter. And there I learned that once you know how to ride the bike, you’ll never forget how it is done. How I wish balancing life is as easy as how you balance on a bike. And I hope it is also easy to let go of things that you have to so you will learn.
2. My Tatay taught me don’t cry in the morning. It’s a bad way to start your day. I cried one time. The clock has not yet turned 12 noon. And he told me stop crying. I don’t want to see my Ate crying this early. So yeah. I only cry when the darkness has enveloped the sky or probably during the afternoon. But not in the morning.
3. My Tatay taught me it’s OK to fall in love while you are still studying. Once again, it’s all about balance and not the bass. Sorry, Meghan. Out of the blue, he told me that you can fall in love while you are still studying like what he has done before. He said he was able to put them together and it’s OK. It is not a problem if I will be having a relationship while I am still in school. I do not need to finish college before I engage myself into love. Too bad, he never witnessed on Earth how my relationships went.
4. My Tatay taught me to read books. He never taught me how to read. He never taught me what the sound of the letters are. But he taught me that books are treasures. That books are there for you to be able to explore one world from another. He taught me how to hold them close and put my eyes and head on them. He taught me that when you are alone, you may ride your bike or grab a book and read.
5. My Tatay taught me to find the x by yourself. He is good in Math. For fuck’s sake, he’s a Civil Engineer. We had this homework in our algebra and our teacher has this thing about recitation that you’d be called per row or per column. I know it’s gonna be me who would be answering the next day, showing the answer to the homework she has given. I wasn’t able to understand the lesson very well so I asked my Tatay to answer it for me. I know I’m done with asking my parents doing my homework. It’s high school. Even in elementary, if I remember it right, I stopped asking for help when I reached grade 3 or 4. He answered my homework. It was all about finding that x. That x which we always have to find. Guess what? He did not tell me how it was done. How he found the x. Was it because I did not ask? No. Because maybe, he wanted me to figure it out. And so I did figure it out by looking at the solution he has done. He taught me that sometimes, I have to find the answers by myself. That sometimes, you don’t need to ask help again and again because you can do it. You can live alone. And so I did.
6. My Tatay taught me to go to Church. I was never a religous person. Back when I was younger, we go to church every Sunday. He taught me how to say Peace be with you. He taught me how to be patient, to wait until the mass is done. He taught me to endure things like standing for an hour because all the pews are taken. He taught me how to listen. I don’t go to church on Sundays anymore. And there I learned, I only wanted to go before because I know, there’s something waiting for me — the balloons he buys me every time the mass is done.
7. My Tatay taught me to trust people. He always says this — Trust, you don’t always give it. But you know what? It seems so ironic because some people take advantage of the trust he is giving. He is a very friendly guy. We transferred to another house when my little brother turned one and my Tatay became friends with everyone in the neighborhood in a snap. I don’t know how he does it. And to everyone, he has given his trust. There I saw where it went. There I saw what happens when you trust people so much. Sometimes, they break it until it breaks you. So you only give it once.
8. My Tatay taught me not drink. Not to smoke. I saw it. Everyday, he drinks. I was even the one who buys it for him, everytime he asks. People say my Tatay won’t be able to get his work done if he doesn’t drink. It was like his vitamins to make his brain function. To finish all those blueprints, those measurements. Now I am thinking, is he Edgar Allan Poe? The house was enveloped with smoke from his cigar so I was used to the smell of it. But when the presence of the smoke was no longer there, I started to hate it on the places I go to where people inhale their cigarettes and exhale the smoke. Actually, he’s not the reason why I don’t drink or smoke. It’s just a part of being who I am. That I would never drink. I would never smoke. But the bottle or glasses of alcohol weren’t vitamins. They were poison that will lead you to demise. I saw it.
9. My Tatay taught me corporal punishment is a No. He never hit me. I don’t know if I am lucky or what because there was one time, he was so angry and I saw him punishing my brother. It only happened once and I don’t know why he did it because he never does it. When he was a kid, Granny used to hit him and her sisters as part of disciplining them. He even jumped out of the window to be able to escape a dos por dos (2×2 wood). The punishment to my brother didn’t happen again. And there goes the No, becoming a Yes sometimes.
10. Be affectionate. Everyone was asking why we call our mother and father as Nanay and Tatay. Why not Mama or Papa so it would sound rich? Or Mommy or Daddy? He answered, Mas malambing ang Nanay at Tatay (Nanay and Tatay are more affectionate endearments).
Do you remember when you went to your work with me? You were the engineer of that mall in Cainta. I was still a small child then. Probably 5 years old. We needed to go to the penthouse and you said there were no elevators and there were no escalators, too. So we have to take the stairs. I asked you to carry me because I am getting tired but you didn’t. You said we’ll go to Star City for my birthday, I can’t remember for what year, but that did not happen. It’s OK.
It’s about to be 8 years since I last saw you. People always say, Those who have left us here on Earth are in a better place now. Are you in a better place now? I hope you are. Thank you for all those things I think you taught me. Yeah. I think. Happy Father’s Day, Tatay.