Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For My Dad

One of the earliest memories I have of my dad is easily the fondest. I was about nine years old, we were then living in an apartment in LaLoma, and I just finished my regular afternoon play outside. I was about to go inside the house when I saw two of my dad's clients walk out the front door, my dad following behind them, dad holding a basketful of vegetables and two live chickens. I was just this curious observer of the entire exchange when dad called me aside, lightly touched my cheek and said: Anak, it's a beautiful day. From that day onwards, I resolved that I wanted to be exactly like dad, a lawyer. And I never looked back.

My dad taught me two important things in life that I live by to this day--(1) to treat every single person I meet as an equal, and (2) to live my life in accordance with my own, as opposed to others', standards.

The first of dad's teachings, I witnessed from him first hand. Dad was a big lawyer in the province, was one of the first to be elected as City Councilor of Dagupan City, and went on to be founder of Basic Petroleum and Minerals, Inc. together with his brothers. He also became President of the Pangasinan Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and later on, Governor for IBP's Central Luzon Chapter. Yet all these I knew only from his friends. He never told me these things--his exploits in Jordan, the cases he won, the many awards he received, the exotic places he has been to. No, dad was more interested in talking about my day, and at night, when the world was about to sleep, dad liked to hang out with neighbors, men who had no college degrees, who waited on tables at a nearby fastfood joint, who were part-time firefighters, policemen, market vendors. He loved being with them, talking to them about mundane things, important things. Understand that LaLoma, where I grew up, was a place where more people were poor than rich. That we were right smack in the middle of it for 14 years of my young life made me understand intimately the plight of the less privileged. So that even as I went to an exclusive girls' school during the day, my playmates were kids who went to public schools, or didn't go to school at all. Kids who dreamt only of living a decent life, kids who lived for the day, never for the next. I had no illusions that I was any different from them, because dad showed me that they were my peers. Even when we moved to our own house inside a gated community and long after I had my own car, I never forgot LaLoma, how to commute, how to eat binatog, isaw, scramble and fishballs. I never forgot Aling Josie and Mang Frank, Aling Laura and Mang Arlie and my playmates Jennifer and Michael, Mang Nestor and his boys, the tennis court, the firehouse, the police station, E. Rodriguez High School, Malaya Street, the smells, the sounds, New Year's fireworks. LaLoma is where I will always feel at home.

The second of dad's lessons he never really voiced out loud. But it was a principle that he applied when raising me. You see, I have always been a good student. I got awards, honors, and the like, on a regular basis. Dad never really put a premium to these things. When Dad found out that I performed especially well in law school, he was happy, but not as outwardly happy as one would expect a dad to be. Nevertheless, I never felt that he wasn't proud of me; quite the opposite in fact. He wasn't one to call up his friends and brag about my achievements. Dad was just there in the background, happy that I was happy. He was more interested in what I thought/felt about topping the Bar, whether this particular success was, in MY estimation, a truly happy moment. In other words, he did not quantify nor measure my success and judge me more special as a daughter, as a person. He did not see titles, accolades and a successful career as those that defined a person, that defined me. Instead, my character defined me. He taught me to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.

When I was reviewing for the Bar, dad shared with me a story. He said that he did not study much in law school. During his day, he had more time for fun than serious study. So when he passed the Bar with a barely passing grade, he was already so happy. This was when I interjected, so daddy, happy ka na rin kung mababa lang grade ko, basta pasado? He just smiled at me and said, Oo naman, pero malabo yun anak.That simple statement from dad eased all the pressures of bar review, and from that day, I did not fret anymore about whether I would top or merely pass. I just wanted to pass. True enough, when the results came out, dad only said, O, anong sabi ko sayo?, with a hearty chuckle.

So I learned from dad to live my life to the fullest, to not worry about what others expect, or want of me, to pursue my own dreams based on MY own pace, MY own strategy, MY own desires.

Dad never stifled me; even with 55-year age gap, he understood that I was my own woman, and that the way to nurture me was to let me be. I would like to believe that he raised me well, and that even when he was already sickly and too weak to make jokes and converse with me, he knew that I was coming into my own, in God's time, in my time.

The true measure of a man is how he treats those who have less than he. I am absolutely certain that in this regard, dad stands taller than any man I know.

Dad passed away last January 23, 2009, and I am here inside a coffee house in Dagupan City, seeking a brief respite from the oppressive heat. I already miss my Dad terribly, but I breathe a little easier knowing that dad is finally at rest.


r-yo said...

my condolences. your father raised you well. truth is, i learned the same lessons from my father. lucky you, your father was there to savor your victories. mine died long before i even fancied being a lawyer (his long-time dream for another sibling).

Ms. J said...

Thank you, r-yo. We are both truly blessed to have such outstanding men for our fathers.

Jae said...

This moving story truly made my day. It comes as no surprise, though, as I've known you for a long time and the old adage that the fruit never falls from the tree is most certainly true in your case.

My condolences ulit. I'm sorry that they had to be given while you were in Dagupan, and I, in an almost empty parking lot at Funeraria Nacional in Araneta Avenue. Mwah! Love you.

Ms. J said...

Na-touch naman ako sa inyo ni Bheng. :) Salamat sa pagpunta, hectic lang talaga ang schedule ni daddy hehe. Miss you and love you.

Anonymous said...

My condolences. Certainly, I admire you and your Dad.

Your piece reminds me of my father and, also reminds me of my former Big Boss, Atty. Ramon Constancio - a Filipino Lawyer/Alumnus of Ateneo de Manila Law School, an Aquila.

The world needs more persons like your Dad, and other humble, sincere beings, not necessarily lawyers, to inspire and set good example.

Thank you for sharing your life.

Aimee (Dan Alpha)

Ms. J said...

Hi Aimee! Thank you. I agree that the world would be much better if it were populated by humble doers.

vince said...

condolonces again atty. joan. i am truly inspired by this article, as i always am.

i can feel how you're feeling of losing your father but am happy knowing how you have grown so well and successful, inspiring a lot of people including me.

Ms. J said...

Thank you, Vince. I'm missing my dad each day but I just take comfort in the thought that he's in a much better place now.

Anonymous said...

my condolences pañera...
may the lessons from your dad
continue to inspire and guide you
in your day to day dealings with people particularly the ordinary ones.

-- from 2005 bar passer. Ateneo de Davao law school. Talio

Ms. J said...

Hello batchmate! Thank you. I have learned, through the years, that extraordinary things can bloom from seemingly ordinary encounters. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi again pañera...
it's nice to know
that we are batchmates.
God bless


Marizylle said...

Our condolences..

you're so blessed to have a dad like him.

Maricel aka jurist

Ms. J said...

Thanks, Maricel! I know.

Venus said...

Thanks for sharing. It uplifts me a lot and enables me to affirm that despite, there will be a brighter future ahead of me.

Ms. J said...

Yes, Venus! And it's a brand-new year! May it be good to us :)

Anonymous said...

I was just reading "For My Dad". Honestly, it reminded me of something. Currently, I am promoting our Case Law,, which in fact something that I am proud of because it was Dad's idea to have his Case Law published that before was only published in Lawyer's Times. Though, I set up the technology and the means for Case Law, it is still his effort that made it possible. Frankly, unlike the people that I promote Case Law to, I am not a lawyer. Like your title, this is, "For My Dad"

Alex Almeda