Sunday, June 1, 2008

The life and times of Dad

This month is Father's Day.

But he's not around anymore. Nine days after my birthday, dad passed away on June 26, 1994 at the age of 59. He was admitted to the hospital on June 24 and in his sleep in the early morning of the 26th, quietly left us. Even in his final day, it was done with no drama.

My dad was the eldest in a brood of 10 children. Alfonso (dad), Antonio, Albino, Armando, Arturo, Andres, Alejandro, Alberto, Aida, and their adopted sister, Carmen. My grandparents were migrants from mainland China. The story of my father starts off like many Chinese migrants who grew from rags to riches.

Their family started selling in the public markets and later grew to owning financing and insurance companies, movie houses, wineries and government officials! But like all rags to riches stories, there was the downfall of the empire. Drugs, gambling, women and greed became the downfall of my dad's family.

I grew up in Tacloban City where my dad had to manage the family's illegal winery. My mother would tell me that NBI agents would raid the winery in the middle of the night and beat up my father for them cough up money. It tore my mother's heart and my dad suffered from type I diabetes mellitus. After 6 years, we moved back to Manila only to find out that all the money dad had sent back home were "sequestered" by his family in order to keep the financing business, which was losing money because of mismanagement, alive.

Two kids, a wife and jobless, my grandparents threw us out and we literally were on the streets living off what my mom's parents had sent them. My dad had managed to juggle various jobs - from the illegal jueteng "kubrador" in Laguna to the salesman who sold shoes in Marikina - there was no greater man who made ends meet to give us food on the table, a roof on our head, and schooling for us, than this man I am proud to have shared 35 years of my life and called Dad.

It was not until he was almost 40 years old that my parents decided to buy a lot in Alabang, Muntinlupa. It took us out of our comfort zone of living in various apartments and in 1975, we were finally going home. Mind you, Alabang at that time was a municipality and our neighbors were cogon grasses. The house that my Dad built out of blood, sweat and tears is the house I still live in today.

It is in this house that our family found love in the most unexpected time, learned to sacrifice in order to survive, and yes, it was in this house that we found home.

I knew that Dad did not have much luxuries as he saved them to provide us with our needs and wants by putting his family first.

Through him we have learned integrity, loyalty, love, sacrifice and respect.

Half the story of my dad has been told, entwined in my life, my sister's and my mom's...

Mom would always tell me, after dad had passed away, that my father would have been proud of me, were he still alive today. In fairness to my sister, my dad would have been equally proud of her.

Me and my sister are the other half of the story.

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