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The father’s creed: ‘Like father, like son’

By BEA TRINIDAD, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 19, 2021 6:00 am

"Like father, like son" is an old proverb that means the son followed in his father's footsteps. I've seen this father-son dynamic in Creed, the seventh film in the iconic Rocky franchise by Sylvester Stallone. The new protagonist, Adonis, quits his cushy-looking white-collar job to fulfill his dreams of being a superstar boxer like his deceased father, Apollo.

Father-and-son duos such as Apollo and Adonis are not confined to the boxing ring. In real life, you will see sons who choose similar professions or industries as their fathers, achieve equal success, and develop the same personalities.

I spoke to several father-son duos on their relationships, shared passions, and identities. Their stories unveiled the power of fatherhood.

Toti & Caloy Soliongco

‘The joy of the creative pursuit at an early age was made apparent to me. I remember during breaks from work, he'd actually be painting.’ —Director Caloy Soliongco on the influence of his father, Toti Soliongco, in entering advertising.

Toti and his son, Caloy, have always fostered a friendship. Toti says, "He is always the perfect companion. He's been inquisitive since he was small." They found common ground in admiring Volkswagen cars, photography, music and art through the years.

So it was only natural for Caloy to also end up in advertising as he tagged along with his dad on shoots when Toti worked in ad agencies and production houses.

During the pandemic, Caloy collaborated with his dad on a project: "We shot a commercial for Nestlé at home at the beginning of the pandemic. I learned that he acts surprisingly well."

During the shoot, Caloy showed Toti new tricks from his generation of directors. He recognized that a lot of his knowledge comes from his dad sharing one important lesson: "I learned the theater of presentation, which means how you say something is just as important as what you're seeing."

To Caloy, Toti is not only his dad but also his mentor in life and career.

Atty. Gary & Atty. Darren De Jesus

Grab the opportunity and make the best out of it. And make sure that you win at all costs,” lawyer Gary De Jesus advises his lawyer-son and Cocogen president Darren De Jesus.

Darren admits that he didn't want to be a lawyer earlier in his life. "My dad knows this. Meron akong reflection paper in my first year of college na nakalagay 'I just want to be a rock star.' Law school was my backup."

Gary laughs at this: "I still have his paper." And they both joked that, at one point, they would frame this paper.

Gary has always supported Darren's decisions, from playing football and being in a band to eventually entering Ateneo School of Law. Darren said, "Dad was really there to encourage me. Any other kid who didn't get that support would've quit."

Darren has always respected his dad, but there was one instance in law school when his father's successes became apparent. Darren's professor called him for recitation about Pepsi-Cola Philippines' "349" legal crisis handled by his father.

Gary reflected on the case: "I was general counsel of Pepsi-Cola. At that time, about 15,000 to 20,000 cases were filed nationwide. So we had to handle it strategically and adopt a system where we have a very good winning chance." Darren added, "Yung tansan na yan ang nagpa-aral sa akin."

It is this mutual respect that rings true with what Darren said: "We're not just father-son; we're partners already in some opportunities and cases."

Dr. Butch & Dr. Anton Recto

‘Medicine is difficult, but if you are disciplined and you have the passion, then you can do it. You don't have to be extra-intelligent to be a doctor. I think it's more having the heart for it.’ —Dr. Butch Recto advising his son, Dr. Anton Recto, on his decision to specialize in cardiology. Also in photo is Dr. Anton’s son Andres.

Butch and Anton chose cardiology as their specialty for its dynamism and ability to prolong people's lives. At work and home, they have idolized one another in so many ways.

Butch was impressed by his son's ability to balance it all and his focus. "He decided early on that he wanted to be a cardiologist. So he did not miss a single year. He continued right after the internship. He went to residency. Right after residency, he went into fellowship. There are very few people who do that nowadays."

For Anton, his dad had a good balance at home of being a disciplinarian and one of the kids. He explained, "The joke would always be that my mom has six kids because my dad would be one of them. So, you know, he had a good side of him that we'd see at work. We'd see him get things done and provide for the family. But at the same time, he would laugh and joke with us.”

When I asked Anton what made him choose a similar path, he said, "My dad was my idol. I got brainwashed into the whole medical thing early on. I used to do rounds with him when I was young. Maybe I was around seven or eight, I was already going around with him in the hospital. I’d see him take care of patients. So I think that's what inspired me to, you know, eventually do the same thing.”

Engr. Filemon & Engr. Carlos Berba

‘Sabi niya, he did not only want to be successful, he needed to be successful. And that really struck me.’ — Engr. Carlos “Caccus” Berba, managing director of San Miguel Brewing International, Ltd., recalling how his father, Engr. Filemon Berba, motivated him and his siblings to study and work hard

For Caccus and his father Filemon, you can't draw a straight line between influence and opportunity.

But Caccus shares: "When you have a father who is an achiever and gets into some of the best opportunities, it's hard to differentiate whether you are doing it because you're inspired by him and want to be like him, or because it really is the best opportunity. Now, if you're lucky, you should take it."

Both Caccus and his father Filemon are electrical engineers. They both went to Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. And they both describe themselves as being kalog.

Filemon said, "Maybe I inspired my sons to become engineers. All three boys became engineers. The first one is in mechanical engineering. The second one is in electrical. The third one is in architecture."

Caccus agreed that his dad was his beacon, but explained, "While my dad did the talk on the importance of education, my mom was the one who did the hand-holding while we were in kindergarten, grade one, grade two, maybe high school. Not too much. It's a make or break. You might turn to frustration in going totally the other way."

A balanced household prepared Caccus for success in his career. What won't he forget from his father? He said, "Don't manage from the ivory tower."

Jojo & JV Poe

‘Whether you’re going to be in business or any leadership position or as an executive, you need the kind of confidence that allows you to connect
the dots, even if there are very few dots.’ — Jojo Poe, chairman and CEO of BCC CAT Group, recognizing son JV’s entrepreneurial instinct.

Aside from the value of education, some fathers believe in real-life education. JV Poe thought this to be the case with his dad Jojo: "My father was the biggest influence in driving my curiosity and sense of adventure. When I say that, I mean, it's because of him that my philosophy today is to try everything at least once. Even the bad things."

Their dinner-table conversations are often cerebral. JV said, "We love drawing out these connections that separate everything, from nature, politics, whatever it is. We even speak about marathons, pragmatism versus idealism, presidential candidates, logic, and social entrepreneurship in our conversations.”

Jojo said, "We're not intimidated by any problem. We feel like if you mention a problem, even if it's an alien thing, we'll just keep asking questions, and we'll find a way to bring clarity to the situation. We just love puzzles."

Jojo, coming from a traditional Chinese upbringing, approached parenting differently: "I knew they (my children) were gifts from God that we had to really take care of. And I just knew that I had to help them reach their highest potential."

This situation was also true when JV told his parents that he was gay. Jojo said, "It took a while for me to come around." But eventually, he embraced it as part of JV's authentic self.

Thinking back to Creed, in the sequel, there’s a scene where Adonis visits his dad’s grave after a victory and says, "I did it. But I didn't do it for you, or because of them. I did it because it was my fight."

Like these father-son duos, the sons did follow in the footsteps of their fathers. But they are also carving their own unique paths.

On the sidelines, their fathers cheer them on to put up a good fight in work, family and life. And the relationship between a father and son is a reminder that no one is ever truly alone.