Monday, June 20, 2005

Dad: Travelling Companion

When I became old enough to travel, I think my Dad supposed that I was also old enough to accompany him to his speaking engagements. I have always accompanied my Dad around even when I was much younger, but the role of travelling companion actually belonged to our Mom before. But there was that rather brief period, from the time I was seven years old to the time I was around twelve that I accompanied my Dad almost as often as my Mom. My twin would sometimes accompany us on these trips.

I usually accompanied Dad whenever the place where he was supposed to speak was too far away for my Mom to travel comfortably or, if near, when my Mom was not feeling well enough. Because of that, I feel that I became a rather seasoned commuter much earlier than any of my brothers. I knew the right sort of bus to ride, for instance, if one wants to go to Taft Avenue from Dasmariñas, Cavite. I knew that the fare from Pedro Gil to Libertad was only a peso, two pesos from Pedro Gil to Pasay, but if we took the new-fangled Light Rail Transit, no matter how far we went, we would only pay two pesos. As far back as I can remember, I already loved following and making directions, and when I was a kid, I can rattle off all the details of a trip including the most trivial of landmarks the same way a child of my age can memorize TV and radio commercials. Of course, as with most of us former kids who no longer can memorize much of anything we used to hold as second nature because we supposedly had much more important things in mind, I now need the aid of a good map.

At any rate, those long trips with Dad were, for me, one of the most memorable because I felt that my Dad and I became so much closer. Long talks happen on long trips, and usually, those long talks were the ones that set the tone. Dad would start of as an adult with a child, with the usual adult-to-child banter of "Would you like me to buy you some of that candy/peanuts/etc.?" or "Would you like to sit close to the window/driver?" or even "Would you like to hand over our fare to the bus conductor?" Eventually, Dad would forget that I was a kid as the trip "dragged" on. He would talk about the church or group of people we were about to meet, he would talk about the politics and person-to-person dynamics, for instance. He would then discuss his sermon/speech/lecture with me, which was easier for both of us because I had been looking over his shoulder the night before as he made it. I would ask questions, and he would patiently answer, teaching me new words so that I can understand the oftentimes complex concepts. I am so glad those trips were long; I feel that Dad was talking to me the way he did, patiently explaining things, precisely because the trips were long and there had to be something to talk about while we travelled.

Sometimes the result of our talks was that Dad had some new material at the very last minute, already discussed, weighed and debated that by the time he arrived he would have a much better talk than he had just before we left. That was just one of the only perks: Dad loved eating in restaurants, and if we were not fed by our hosts, he would take me to the really nice restaurants and order food which I normally don't get to have.

But, the best of it is when my Dad would call me forward and introduce me (or us, if E- was with us) as his son to a room full of grown-ups. I (or we) were shy, but I always loved hearing the love and pride in our Dad's voice as he would tell them about his "boys".

I think I learned more from those trips about everything that needs to be learned than any one class in school. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking were much more illustrative when our Dad was living it and not when some teacher was merely reading out of a textbook (or worse, listening to us read out of a textbook).

This Fathers' Day is probably the very last I would spend with my Dad, for I will soon leave the Philippines (I don't know how long I will be away). Unlike previous Fathers' Days in the past, today wasn't so glitzy or flashy. My brothers were all off on their own assignments somewhere, and I am the only one with Dad now; but even he was too busy... too busy, in fact, to eat the lunch my Mom lovingly prepared for him.

But no matter where I am, what I am is because my Dad, even when he committed mistakes (a lot of them really bad ones, but he didn't mean it), he still raised us better than I thought was possible. We aren't so rich... we aren't "ahead" as much as I want to. But he taught us the importance of integrity and the authenticity of intellects, while other Dads were meanwhile merely teaching their kids to merely beat the system. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thanks Dad.