IT WAS William Shakespeare who said, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” My father fell off his horse when I was three years old. He broke his collarbone and lost his voice. His lung was affected also. He stopped working as a tractor driver and my mother was obliged to be a breadwinner in our family. She planted cane points in the sugarcane field for our survival.
I grew up with the supervision of a father who has no voice. If he would struggle to bring up a point, he could only whisper. While recovering from a lost voice and a broken dream, he would only open the pages of “Hiligaynon” magazine (borrowed from a neighbor) to show me how the “komiks” section illustration would take my interest to understand the story.
It is said that a son should know his father because his father would be the foundation on what kind of man he would be. He would take me to the stream to teach me how to trap a fish. He would instruct me by way of demonstration on how to harvest a bunch of banana. He trained me to acquire the basic skills on how to plant and cut sugarcane. He thought that I would become a sugarcane worker also.
That could be the start of my life being a farm boy. My father was a dreamer. He looked forward to a day that I will emancipate myself from the bondage of hacienda system. W ith mother, he drilled me in my English alphabet. Father finished grade four; mother was just up to grade three. Their educational qualifications did not stop them from helping me finish my primary and elementary education. I got two more brothers and two sisters.
Not knowing the “Child Welfare Act,” I requested the “encargado” (overseer) of the hacienda to allow me to work in the sugarcane field during my high school and college days. I was burning my night on borrowed and rented books with the aid of the flickering kerosene lamp. My father was covering my books and notebooks with pages from old magazines and calendar using the newly cooked rice as paste.
On rainy days, he would make me a raincoat from a plastic sack of fertilizer. He did not want his boy and other children to get sick. The owner of the farm, Mr. German Unson, allowed my father to become a sugarcane field watchman. Our family got too little for our survival but we did know that it was poverty. For us, it was life the same with the life of other hacienda workers. We did not find it hard to survive.
It was father (with mother) who inspired me not to repeat history in our family. Father was sick. Mother was drained. I am the eldest and I have to persevere to give example to my two brothers and two sisters… and the other children in the hacienda. Finishing high school was a hard process. I found it hard to study, to speak English, to know Algebra, and to wrestle with Chemistry. We did not even have a dictionary at home.
My college years were harder with only three T-shirts, two pairs of pants, and an old shoes. I did not mind what I did not have. I would just want to prove that I could be a consistent scholar despite of financial difficulties. My heart was bleeding to see father emptying his last peso for my week’s expenditures. At a young age, I learned the value of money.
I managed to finish college with less snacks and very simple viand with rice wrapped in banana leaves. I reserved my few centavos for experiment papers and ballpens. I was attending only very important school activities. On my graduation day, I was not listening to our speaker. My mind was floating and I was thinking what job to take after graduation.
I was offered by the Dominican sisters to teach at St. Joseph Academy. My first salary was P320. For me, it was big. Before my employment, father could hardly give me P80 in one month. The rest was history… and really, history is always a witness. Later, I became a father and I told myself, “I cannot be like my father but I am proud that I am the son of my father.”
It was a dream that my father would see how I raise my family. He died the day before my first child was born. Mother would always tell me, “Ver, you did not fail your father.” Father and mother are gone but they have left me the tasks to be the father of the family that I can be proud of.
To be a father is easy but to be a faithful father is complicated. To all fathers out there, “Enjoy fatherhood!”