• What Tatay left behind: Handwritten Bible passages and good name, not land titles


    IN the last few days until yesterday, greetings and tributes to fathers dominated threads in the social media networks. Thanks to the commercialization of Father’s Day, the third Sunday of June has never been the same as it was in my younger years.

    The day has become an event to many families to celebrate by dining out and going out of town, among other activities that they can do together. That means higher sales to commercial establishments particularly dining places, resorts and shopping malls.

    Father’s Day gives us the opportunity to acknowledge and express gratitude to fathers for their hard work and sacrifices just to give their children the best they can. To the fathers, this day must remind them of the more challenges of fatherhood that they have hurdled and improved on their weaknesses.

    In my younger years, Father’s Day just came and went. We did not eat out because my elder brothers and sisters were either working or studying in Manila and, in the first place, we did not have the money to have lunch or dinner in restaurants. Besides, the nearest restaurant from the barrio was several kilometers away and we did not have a car that can fit everyone in the big brood.

    We did not need a Father’s Day to celebrate and recognize our father’s sacrifices and hard work. We did it randomly when we could all be together at lunch over boiled vegetables harvested from the farm, or sautéed native chicken from the backyard. Sometimes we would have a pork or carabao dish.

    Neighbors or relatives who dropped by at lunch time were awed upon seeing 10 to 15 heads gathered around the dining table, some with one foot raised on the wooden bench, eating like it was their last meal. Those were wonderful days. We were poor but we had lots of fun.

    There were times when we thought Tatay was being harsh and cruel. He used to keep a buntot pagi (sting ray tail) and a baina, a hard leather-like case for his bolo that he used to whip us with when we do something wrong.

    I have not forgotten that one night when he whipped me because I fell asleep on the wooden bench on the ground floor. I was crying hard and I even urinated in my pants while going up the stairs.

    It moved me to tears just now because I was thinking how my father would have reacted if he had seen me sleeping on my work desk before writing this piece.

    To a young mind, it was difficult to understand why my father would wake us up at 5 a.m. so that before going to school at 7 a.m. we could sell the fresh carabao milk that he had just extracted or the vegetables he harvested from the farm before retiring the previous day.

    But as we were growing up, we recognized the hard work he was doing for his 11 children to have three meals daily and be able to go to school.

    It was unfortunate that he passed on at the time we were starting to earn. It was unfortunate that we did not have the opportunity to provide him little luxuries that we can now afford. All this because of the hard work he did and sacrifices he made to raise us.

    Tatay worked so hard because he knew how difficult it was to be poor, and he did not want us to remain poor. In his own ways, he taught us to know and do what is right because the consequences of doing wrong could hurt us more.

    He did not leave behind much material possessions, but a good name. Tatay served in the community as a barangay (village) secretary for 20 years or so, and a lay minister. His funeral Mass was one of the most attended in our town in those times. He was right when he said that one would know how good a person is when he is dead.

    As we were growing up, Tatay showed the boys that fatherhood did not simply mean having children and letting them fend for themselves. Although he did not finish schooling, he instilled in us the value of education.

    And we knew he was too proud each time he would go up the stage on graduation or recognition days to pin our medals.

    Tatay only managed to finish Grade 4 because the war broke out in the early 1940s. But he studied on his own. Months before he died in 1996, we would see him scribbling on old notebooks during his free time. We found out later that he had written Biblical passages for each of us. He placed them in white envelopes for each of his 11 children. Those were his pamana, not land titles but Biblical passages in his handwriting.

    Well, the land titles came later.

    Aaaahhh…Father’s Day! Memories of Tatay always make me cry.


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    Comments are closed.