I recently lost “Tatay“, my dad. He died last month at the age of 68. I was miles away when he left. My sister had to call me to deliver the sad news, and I had to flew back to the Philippines the following day to give my last respect. In my entire life, that was the saddest 9-hour flight back to home.
It’s been a while since I posted something really personal. And this post in particular was written with many revisions. I couldn’t write for my Dad especially days after he died. I tried, but for some reasons, the words just couldn’t come out.
The night before his funeral, I found an old letter in one of my boxes located in a bedroom that used to be mine. The letter was written by my father when he was still working in Baghdad, Iraq. The date was August 27, 1982. I was 7 years old that time. Amazingly, the date I found the letter was August 27, 2011. The letter was written for me by my Dad exactly 29 years ago. This letter inspired me to write the eulogy. I felt, that for some reasons, Dad allowed me to discover this letter, so I could find the words to say about him.
What follows was the English translation of the eulogy I delivered during Dad’s funeral. Before he was brought to the church, he was first brought to the barangay hall where he was given some honors for serving our community for 10 years as a Councilor. Here was where I gave my necrological speech.
My name is Nelson, for those who don’t know me yet. I am the second of Tatay’s four children. I was the one assigned to speak about our Dad as a FATHER. The truth is, it would be very difficult to put all the things I want to say about how Dad was as a father, in a few-minutes talk. I can write a book about his fatherhood. But this afternoon, allow me to just share with you some very short stories about him.
When my siblings and I were still small, we would wake up to a well-prepared breakfast. Dad would make coffee for my sister, coffee with milk for me, and plain milk for Pits (my younger brother after me). Each cup would have a small plate on the side with pandesal that he precut into bite sizes. Dad prepares all these to get us ready for school.
When I grew up and started my nursing studies, I needed to wake up as early as 4am in order to get ready for my hospital duties in Manila that would start at 6am. My father would wake up earlier, about 3am – to prepare my breakfast, and baon, as he would not allow me to leave the house without eating.
When I started working as a nurse in Ospital ng Maynila, I had the same routine of waking up at 4am for my AM shifts that start at 6am. Dad untiringly wakes up between 3 and 4 to cook my breakfafst.
Later I got married, and before our baby was delivered, I had to leave my pregnant wife under the care of my parents, as I needed to leave to start my work abroad. My wife delivered our first baby, and everything went well. My wife had to go back to her work later and had to leave our baby to our parents. My wife had to leave as early as 5:30 in the morning to be at her work on time. Again, Dad would wake up around 4am to prepare my wife’s breakfast. When my wife has left for work, he would check the plates to know whether my wife ate enough. He would be worried if she ate less. This is for my wife this time – and he was doing this because he loves me – the husband of my wife.
But the touching part of this was knowing that during these times, when he was preparing breakfasts for my wife, he was already hemiplegic. Half of his body was already paralyzed after suffering from a stroke in 2003. Imagine him cooking all these eggs and hotdogs, setting up the table and washing all the utensils – with just ONE functioning hand.
A dear friend of my father told me a story when they were still both working together as construction workers in Baghdad, Iraq. They were both there during the time the Iran-Iraq wars started. There were bomb explosions everywhere and they were told to evacuate their accomodations. They were told to carry ONLY the most important personal pieces. Dad then carried the boxes of toys that he had bought and meant to give to us, his children, when he returns home. He left his clothes and other personal stuff and ran with the boxes of toys while bombing was everywhere. That was how he loved his children.
Allow me to read a letter which he sent to me when I was still small and he was still working in Iraq. This was dated August 27, 1982, and he sent this to me via snail mail. I was only seven years old that time.
How are you, son? I heard you got sick. I hope you don’t get sick anymore, because I feel sad when you and your siblings get sick.
Nelson, I received your letter. You write very well! I will buy you a toy, also for Lito and Pinan. I’ll get you nice toys.
I hope you don’t go to the Municipal Building anymore (Dad didn’t want us to play around that building because of the cars that go in and out of the area). That’s what I like. I know you are all good children.
Always pray so that you don’t get sick anymore.
Please write again, so I would always be happy. I am also glad because you always follow what I say.
Okay, Nelson. Kisses to you, to your siblings and to your mother.
I am also a father now. I have a 3-year-old son, and I try my very best to be a good father for him. My father did not tell me how to become a good father. He simply lived and let me watch him do it. I learned how to become a father by example. I learned how to offer myself whole-heartedly to my family.
Dad had 4 children and all of us were able to finish our studies. The eldest is my Ate Ren who’s now an elementary school teacher. I am the second and I’m a nurse in Abu Dhabi. The third is Pits, who’s a civil engineer in Canada. Last is Jay who now works as a high school teacher. All of our good life now, we owe to our Dad, with Mom’s support. Our parents tried their best to provide for our education.
And if there is one honor or achievement that would be considered the greatest in Dad’s entire life – that is – he was able to successfully fulfill with flying colors, his role as a father to the four of us.
Tatay, thank you for everything. We are very proud of you.
I would love to hear your comments…