I went through my files last Saturday and I came across this letter I wrote almost five years ago. I read it again and I couldn’t help but cry. This time, I finally understood why I wrote this letter to Tatay even when I knew he’d never be able to read it.
I wrote this a month after he died. During the wake and the funeral, I was so busy attending to the logistics that I did not really have the time to grieve and mourn his passing. A month after when the rest of the family were slowly coming to terms with the loss, I was just starting to grieve. And I grieved longer than they did. So I wrote this as a way of coping and a sort of farewell to him as well.
And now I’m sharing this with you all so I can let this letter soar and reach him wherever he may be. Of course I know this is wishful thinking, so I guess I am rather hoping that someone can be touched by this letter and learn to forgive a seeming mistake a parent has done. I also hope that this will inspire whoever reads it to appreciate and love his parents more while they’re still around.
This is my tribute to Tatay and to all the fathers out there. I salute you all!
August 11, 2007
Wherever you are, I wish you could read my letter and know what I have always wanted to tell you. Now, I wonder why I could not tell you all this when you were here. Perhaps, it is because I was so afraid you’d scold me for showing my emotions and you might have seen it as a weakness. I know you’d scorn that for you really worked hard to toughen me, your weak and frail daughter. But even so, I really regret not taking my chances. Now, I am simply left wondering how you would have taken it, if you would have smiled and taken me in your arms, I would never know.
I have many things to tell you that I don’t know where to begin. Maybe I’ll start with this: When I was a little girl, you were my superman. As long as you were around I knew nothing could go wrong. I even wrote a speech and delivered it in our International Toastmasters Club back in 2001 saying “Superman is for real, I know him personally, he is my greatest hero. He is my father.” And everybody just applauded.
As a little girl, I always felt brave and strong when you were around. I slept soundly at night for you were there to keep me and the whole family safe. I even thought you never slept, for when I went to bed you were still up and awake, when I called your name for anything I needed in the middle of the night you were there ready to assist me, and when I woke up in the mornings, you had our food ready for breakfast and my warm bath was there waiting for me. You were and you will always be my superman.
With your hands, you lovingly crafted my toys, for we could not afford those fancy ones sold in stores. But let me tell you that I valued those wooden yoyos and tops and the trucks and boats made out of old slippers and empty baby powder containers more than all the Barbie dolls and lego toys rich children played with. Those toys were simply bought with money which they had in abundance, mine were fashioned with love and so much attention which money can never buy.
There was nothing you couldn’t do or handle. There was no wound you could not heal with herbs and the magic of your love. There was no trouble big enough for you to settle, in fact I have always been proud of you for people looked up to you for help and advice. You were ever kind and generous to others. I greatly admired you for that. You were a big man with a big heart.
When I was a teenager, I have to confess, I hated you. Forgive me. I could not understand then….. I hated the way you treated me as if you never loved and trusted me. I hated it when you would accuse me that our activities in school were just my alibis to have fun with my friends and that I would end up having a boyfriend and would be married before I finish my studies. It hurt me so much, the way you made me pay for the crime my elder sister committed. I knew very well how devastated you were when she eloped with her boyfriend when she was about to graduate from college. I could see how down and beaten you were that I vowed never to disappoint you.
But you never gave me the benefit of the doubt. I hated you more when you did not give me the chance to achieve my greatest dream. You knew how I worked hard in high school. I graduated with honors and passed the UPCAT for I really wanted to study in UP Diliman. You doubted me all along, you never gave me the chance to go and study there and show you I was made of a different stuff. You broke my young heart and shattered my dreams. I wished, then, I had somebody else for a father.
Oh, if you only talked with me, you would have known I never looked at boys. I never entertained their advances. Oh I had a crush, one or two, but they never knew. You would have known I laughed at the love letters I received, checked the grammar and threw them away. We could have even read those together and had fun poring over the corny lines. If only you had given me the chance to let you know my thoughts, you would have saved yourself a lot of worries. You would have known I intended to let you hear my speech on Graduation Day, offer you not only my diploma but medals as well. But you never did.
You did not give me a choice. If I didn’t take up Education then you would never let me go to college, that was your ultimatum! Oh how I hated you! To be a teacher was the last thing on my list. You told me to study in LIT, but my goodness, if I could not choose my course at least let me choose which college to attend. I disobeyed you, I enrolled in LSC. It was the only protest I could afford.
For the first year, I went to that college and took my studies for granted. In fact, I intended to fail in all my subjects so you would be more disappointed. But something changed my perspective, I met people who were to be not only my greatly admired intelligent professors but also my great mentors. They actually showed me the nobility of teaching, tapped my potentials, and believed in what I can do. And then, I just soared high in college.
When I received honors and awards, you simply ignored me, you never congratulated me or gave me a pat on my shoulder. You were always hard on me. When I gave you my Graduation Program, you even asked me why was I just a Cum Laude, I should have earned the Summa! Oh for goodness’ sake, no one was even a Magna! Besides, I graduated at the top of my class. But that was not enough for you… I hated you most then.
After that, I knew I did some foolish things just to get at you, but you were as hard as granite. Later, though, I was to learn from your friends and colleagues that you have always been proud of me, I cried then, went home to you and made amends.
When I became a parent, I understood a lot of things I used to question about how you were as a father. Everything just fell into place and I saw you in a different light. I felt so grateful that you were my father, but I never got the chance to tell you this. I am so sorry….
In your quiet and simple ways you taught me many things which help me through the ups and downs of every day. Thank you so much.
Thank you for teaching me not to be ashamed of manual labor, that my hands were not made for others to admire, but that they were made for WORK, real hard work. That the truly beautiful hands are those that are gnarled and twisted with decent work; I learned that very well.
When I look back now, I am truly grateful to have been blessed with a father like you. In my heart of hearts I will forever treasure you… Oh there were many things you didn’t do but you actually did more for me and my siblings.
You didn’t build me a mansion, but you sheltered me in a home, though humble, abounded in love and laughter.
You didn’t take me and my siblings to fancy restaurants, but you did lovingly cook and prepared great meals for us, I would not exchange those with any celebrated chef’s cooking.
You didn’t buy me fancy clothes and accessories, oh I would have liked those very much, but you showed me that clothes do not make a man. You showed me that beauty does not depend on fashionable clothes and dazzling accessories; and that there’s a beauty that never fades – the beauty of heart and spirit.
You didn’t take me to movies but you watched spectacular sunsets with me and showed me the splendor of the dawn as the sun appears in the horizons.
You didn’t take me to concerts but you entertained me with your old guitar and quaint songs on moonlit nights.
You didn’t leave me millions, but you left me with countless beautiful childhood memories which millionaires may not even have.
You did your best for me; you gave me all you possibly could as a father. Thank you so much!
I still cry every time I think of you, you wouldn’t like that I know, but I just can’t help it. I miss you so much! And I know I shall continue to miss you and your reassuring presence all my life.
I love you… I always have and I always will…