This Father’s Day, let’s raise a glass to the men in our lives who have shaped us — your father, my uncle, my father, your uncle, and his father, someone’s uncle, and so on. But for my Tatay #Atoy, a toast might not be his style, as he always favored the ‘pulutan’ over the alcohol — he was a man who lived his life to the fullest, and gave us front row seats so we can all watch him do it.
As the indispensable sidekick to his father, my grandfather, he was a constant presence in the rice paddies, fields, and carpentry workshops. He was a jack-of-all-trades, tending to grazing carabaos, repairing machinery, and salvaging parts from war-torn vehicles and crashed aircraft. His siblings, less adept at these tasks, pursued more academic paths, leaving him to his hands-on pursuits.
In a secret venture, he took up part-time mechanical work for the Philippine National Railroad — whose carriages, tracks and whistles were visible and audible from our ancestral home in Palanan, Makati. He simply wanted to earn his own money. In a similar vein, he also managed a route for what I presume was a public utility jeepney.
After his children finished school, he embarked on new adventures. He scaled the highest peak in the Philippines: Mount Apo — not once but twice. Because why settle for the second highest when you can conquer the highest…again?
He also undertook an epic bicycle journey, traversing the entire length of the Philippine archipelago, from Aparri in northern Luzon to Jolo in Mindanao. And not on some high-tech, carbon fiber bike, but on a simple, rusted, and utterly steal-proof bicycle.
As I sift through the sands of memory, and genetics, and nature, and nurture — I realize I’d often attribute my logical thinking to my dad, while my moral compass and artistic streak, I owe to my mom.
Tatay was a true book lover. He had a talent for unearthing intriguing and affordable books from second-hand stores in Sta. Cruz, C.M. Recto, Quiapo — these were his treasure troves of knowledge.
These books would find their place in every nook and cranny of our home, silently waiting to be discovered. It became a ritual for me to scout for new titles, be they hardcover or paperback, science or math, old or very old, and I’d immerse myself in their pages.
Tatay was an insatiable reader, a passion that only waned when his eyesight began to fail in his 80s. National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Readers Digest, travel magazines, the occasional newspaper, American power tool catalogs — these were his gateways to the world.
So, this Father’s Day, let’s honor the legacy of this man who taught me the joy of discovery, the value of knowledge, the satisfaction of hard work, the thrill of achievement, and the richness of a life well-lived.
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