He will turn 66 on September 12, 2010. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he replied “I just want to eat, enjoy and spend the day with you guys.” I was struck by his answer. I could not fathom how a simple answer could have such a profound effect on me. And why not. Being the eldest child of four siblings, I knew what responsibility meant at an early age.
My mother went into long labor before I was born. So he went home for a while to take a bath. When he returned, the nurse congratulated him and said, “It’s a girl!”. And he said, “Oh, okay.” I know he wanted a boy he could name after him. But that did not deter him from bringing me up like a boy. No, I did not end up a tomboy. Instead, he shared to me his passion and zest for life. At a young age, I learned to love music. I remember playing the turntable to the tune of the bullfight of Spain while I cleaned our house during Saturday mornings. At the end of the day, we would listen to Chuck Mangione play his trumpet while we put up our feet and sink deep into the couch.
Every summer, my siblings would excitedly wait for him to take out the huge Betamax box full of Marvel and other English comic books. We would join the adventures of Superman, Batman and Spider-man while go to far away places immersed in the stories of famous authors. As I grew up, I shifted my attention to the Reader’s Digest and National Geographic magazines he has collected through the years. Yes, my father is an avid collector of a lot of things. Comic books, Reader’s Digest and National Geographic Magazines, ukay-ukay (surplus) clothes and shoes and digital music. He has a knack (or maybe he is just lucky!) for finding branded clothing and shoes. But, I think it is his perseverance that led to the discovery of those treasures. As far as I can remember, it has been twenty years since he started his love for surplus apparel (Ukay-ukayan at the Sta. Cruz market!). I distinctly remember him giving me three Lacoste polo shirts in red, maroon and white colors. When I was in college back in 1991 in Manila, my Manileña classmate said to me in her kolehiyala twang, ” Is that Lacoste polo shirt real?” I said, “Of, course” while I was giggling inside of me. I was wearing the white Lacoste shirt wherein the words Lacoste were stitched all over it. Anong tingin niya sa akin, can’t afford. Hahaha…When I went to the mall that weekend, I looked for the shirt to see how much it cost. My eyes rolled. No wonder she can’t believe it. One shirt cost P2,000 at that time, while I was wearing a P35 original shirt. Boy, was I laughing out loud.
My father is always hungry to learn new things. He learned how to use the computer at the age of 60, when most senior citizens his age or younger would dare not touch a computer. Translating his love of music to the digital world, he became internet-savvy and explored the wonderful world of the web to download his favorite music. Now, his digital music collections are in the thousands and counting. He is the Flying Dutchman (Davy Jones) of the Music World (a.k.a. pirata ba!hahah!). He has a Facebook account to keep in touch with family and friends. He is comfortable using Google and Yahoo in searching for any subjects under the sun. He is also an amateur photographer. He has tons of pictures in boxes waiting to be indexed and placed in albums.
My father may be simple, but he has great character. I look up to my father because I want to be like him, to live life to the fullest with the talents that the Almighty has given us. I have not achieved even half of what my father is, but I strive to be what he has become. He believes that I can always do better than the mediocre work I have shown him. He believes in me and the great things that I can achieve. And for that I am humbled and inspired.
This is a simple gift I can give to my father. Pa, in everything that I do, I always remember that I can do more and give my best because you believe in me. No words can express the impact you made in my life. I love you, Pa. Happy Birthday.