Traveling with my father is an attempt to make up for lost time.
As I grow older, the more mistakes I commit. The more I realize my imperfections.
And I definitely am not a perfect daughter.
As I started to deal with the realities of being an adult, the more I understood and value what my parents had to go through for the sake of all six children. And the day I felt like the world came crashing down was the day I started to look back.
And then one day it just hit me- my parents aren’t getting any younger.
And from then on was a desperate attempt to make up for the harsh words, for my impatience, for not making that phone call, for failing to come home on special occasions, all because I was too caught up in proving myself to the world.
And so I started bringing my father and mother along in my travels three years ago, when I could already afford it. Cebu and Bohol was their many firsts- first plane ride, first snorkeling experience, first time to see a tarsier, first time to touch a star fish. We went to Bicol the year after and then Palawan and Malaysia this year.
And so every year for the past three years, during those five full days we spend together, I started to remember what my father is like-his temperament and peculiarities. It was like reminiscing my childhood.
His love for coffee is still there and would never fail to bring sachets in every trip. When we were younger, my sisters and I would fight over the great honor of preparing his evening cup. The formula was 1:1:3- a teaspoon of his favorite instant coffee, a teaspoon of creamer and 3 teaspoonfuls of sugar.
He still tends to speak in English, in a slurred accent that makes it a challenge for me to understand. He encouraged us to learn to use the language at an early age.
He still avoids negotiations. And would still try to show me off, every chance he gets.
He already lost the struggle to quit smoking. He smokes half the same rate he did more than thirty years ago though.
And it’s still the same old coughing and the “sinusitis” that never went away and the white film growing over the left eye.
And still the same old pride.
These few years I started to observe little things- how he refuses our help to carry his bag, the over sensitivity, his silence when I point out the politically incorrect remarks, his delight in teaching us driving. I added it all up. And then it dawned on me- this must be a hard period for my father.
Because now, tables have turned.
We grew up with Papa as our only knight in shining armor. The one who could heal all kinds of wounds with rubbing alcohol, merthiolate and antibiotics. In the eyes of all six children, he was the strongest man ever! The only person who has the strength to throw you into the air or carry you into bed while you pretend to sleep. He was the richest person too, the one you need to appeal to if you want a new pair of shoes and your mother insists the old pair works fine or when you simply wanted a tootsie roll. Papa was the wisest person on earth, who could answer why stars blink, where dogs come from, and why you can’t have two bottles of soda every day. We tried to outrace each other for the privilege of bringing him his slippers when he came home from work to gain first access to the pasalubong.
Papa was the funniest and coolest- the one we ran under the rain with and who taught us to make walkie-talkies, stoves and pots using clay from that mound inside our neighbor’s yard.
Papa was Superman… until we became adults ourselves.
Suddenly, Papa is not the knight in shining armor anymore, who could heal wounds and broken hearts. We have doctors and friends for that. Apart from the fact that I realize that nobody cleans up the shit but your own self.
Suddenly, he is not the strongest person anymore, who could race you to the top of Lignon Hill or lift the heavy backpack to the overhead cabin.
Suddenly, I pay for dinner and the travels.
Suddenly, Papa doesn’t know everything in the world.
I can sense how painful and scary it might be for Papa. Now that all six children are on their own, Papa is not Superman after all.
Maybe that’s why he insists on pretending to be strong enough to be left on his own, and says that he wasn’t really interested in climbing the hill to reach the canopy walk, because he wouldn’t admit that his weak lungs will not be able to keep up with our pace.
And maybe that’s why he is delighted when we ask him for driving lessons and is more than happy to oblige when we request for his world-famous chicken dish or when we ask to be picked up. Suddenly, Papa is again that person you run to for help, the only one who can nail your favorite pinaupong manok and the one who can rescue you when it’s too late to get a bus home. Maybe he gets to be a dad once again.
Not everyone is blessed to have grown up with a tatay. Not every one is blessed to have a great father. And not everyone is lucky to still have a dad right now.
So if you still have a dad with you right now, call him. Go home. And if you can, take him traveling. Experience adventures together, just like when you went fishing or kite-flying during those lazy summer afternoons. Explore Angkor Wat or the Great Wall of China together, the pictures of which you often looked at during your childhood fascination with archaeology. Marvel at new sights and stories.
Laugh at his jokes, no matter how corny while trying to kill time at the airport. Crack one as well.
Sit beside him during the 30-minute boat ride and often ask how he is and tell him stories about yourself. So he can see how you’ve grown all up and realize how he did a great job as a father, no matter how much he thinks to be an imperfect one.
Make up for lost time. And make him feel that he is still… Dad.
Happy father’s day Papa!
I love you.
Papa was the one who instilled in me the love for traveling. After the scars and bruises, he finally managed to teach me how to bike when I was nine years old. That was the first time I tasted the power of mobility, the exhilaration of freedom and exploring. My mother will be outside the house looking for me because I failed to come home before 8pm as I was too happy visiting areas in our barangay I’ve never been to.
He taught us how to fly kites, and brought us to the beach every May 1 (or the nearest river and even irrigation) so we could go swimming. I experienced fishing and was used to being away from home to spend summer with relatives.
While I got the love for books from Mama that sparked my imagination and led me to become a dreamer, it was Papa who instilled in me the love for adventure so I grew up having the balls to close my eyes, hold my breath and just jump.