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Who will I greet on Sunday, Daddy?

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 18, 2021 5:00 am Updated Jun 18, 2021 12:42 pm

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday, a day we honor the central pillar of our homes. This is not always so for some families, but they have happy homes, nevertheless.

Father’s Day is bittersweet. Sweet because I celebrate Ed, the father of my son, Chino, the father tailor-made for him — an intelligent young man in every sense, intellectually, socially and emotionally. I credit those gifts of Chino to Ed.

But I also celebrate the day without the man in my life after whom it is celebrated — my father. There are hundreds of fathers I know and greet on Father’s Day, but none of them is my father.

What I would give to be able to hug my daddy this Sunday, or if that were not yet possible — as it has not yet been two weeks since my second dose of the vaccine — at least greet him, whether he was on the other end of the table, or the other end of the line.

Dad was, and still is, the wind beneath my wings. And humbly, I say, I have soared by his standards, and that is enough for me.

Well, my dad had quite high standards, anyway. He monitored my grades like a diamond merchant monitors his scale. He watched whether they went up or down and exactly by how much. He was like that with all his daughters, even his nieces and granddaughter. (I guess the girls are naturally the more studious ones.)

Because I saw how hard he worked to send his daughters to the best schools, I felt joy in being able to reciprocate that in being good at school. But sorry, Dad, athletics was just not my cup of tea.

When I was in Grade 3 in Assumption Iloilo and our assignment was to name for the following day the mayor and vice mayor, Dad did one better: He went to City Hall, got not just the mayor and vice mayor’s names but also those of all the councilors, even the city fiscal! Wow, did I ace that homework!

He also taught me that it was wrong to cheat. I had no idea it was wrong when I was about five and I told him, “Dad, why don’t I just write the answers on a piece of paper and copy them during the test?” I thought my idea was simple and brilliant, like I had discovered the light bulb.

I thought Dad’s big eyes would pop out of his face when he glowered, “NO! THAT IS CHEATING!” So that’s when I learned what cheating meant — from my moral dictionary, my father.

And without cheating, I have gotten high grades in school, and I would like to think, in my calling in life.

Dad had big dreams for all his daughters. He wanted me to be a scientist and when he would see me lounging around even during weekends (I was a couch potato), he would say, “Oh, pahiga-higa ka diyan. Magbasa ka ng encyclopedia.” (Don’t just laze around, read the encyclopedia!)

That was one of the first books he bought for me — The Book of Knowledge. During one Christmas, Dad and Mom gave me a colored picture book and I was so excited — when I tore the wrapper open what lay beneath almost made me fall off my chair: The Mutiny on the Bounty, a classic by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. What, not “Cinderella?!”

 With my late father Frank Mayor, mother Sonia and my husband Ed during my birthday in 2009, which we celebrated in Morton’s near Anaheim.

For Dad, excelling in school was the first big step towards our dreams. And I saw how proud he was to pin a medal on my uniform — his pride in me became the wind beneath my wings.

Because I saw how hard he worked to send his daughters to the best schools, I felt joy in being able to reciprocate that in being good at school. But sorry, Dad, athletics was just not my cup of tea.

On Sundays when we were little and still living in Iloilo, Dad would take the entire family to the beach and as we were frolicking by the shore he would disappear till we no longer saw his head bobbing up like the crests of the waves on the horizon. We thought he had already swum all the way to Guimaras Island. And just when we were usually about to ask the fishermen to go check on him, Dad would emerge from the sea — exhilarated, refreshed, triumphant.

And so, by the way he lived, he taught us to go the extra mile, to aim farther and further.

But I have no more father on earth.

Who will I greet on Sunday?

My dad’s job took him to many places in the country, and he believed in bringing us all with him no matter how long or short his assignment. When I was in first year high school, we lived in Legazpi City in Albay (and woke up to a breathtaking view of the Mayon Volcano every morning).

My sisters and I studied for one year at the St. Agnes Academy in Legazpi, which was run by the Benedictine nuns of St. Scholastica’s Manila. Dad wanted me to try my hand at piano under a loving German nun, Sister Xaviera, but I didn’t excel in that.

Dad wasn’t so disappointed because that year, I became the school’s “Miss United Nations” — a freshman beating the sophomores, juniors and seniors!

Lest you think I had turned into the beauty of the family, the Miss United Nations Contest was not a beauty contest but a Jeopardy of sorts of facts about the UN.

Knowing I was the pambato (bet) of the freshmen, Dad went to the local UN office in Legazpi City and brought home a pile of pamphlets about the UN, which I devoured that night. Well, I walked down the ramp of the auditorium that day till I made it to the Magic 2 (me and a junior)!

After class, Dad was waiting for his daughters on a bench by the driveway of St. Agnes and he nonchalantly (yeah, right) asked the first student to emerge from the auditorium, “Who is Miss United Nations?”

“New student. Freshman. I think her last name is Mayor,” the student answered.

And Dad almost did cartwheels on the driveway. Instead, he told the student who gave him the news, “Anak ko siya!” (She’s my child!)

But who will I greet a Happy Father’s Day on Sunday?

When it was time to leave for the airport, it was heart-wrenching. Would I still see Dad alive after I closed the door of his home behind me? I lived across the Pacific Ocean, after all.

My last conversation with Dad before he entered the hospital for the last time in 2010 was in late 2009. I had visited him in his home in Anaheim, California because I knew he had terminal cancer. Earlier that year, in March, Ed and I celebrated my birthday with Mom and him in our favorite steak place, Morton’s.

On the day I was to return to Manila that day in late 2009, Dad was watching TV as Mom was helping me make last-minute additions to my balikbayan box. Usually, Dad would help out, too, by securing and taping the box. We were all joking and laughing because Dad would tell me, “Kahit sa dami ng sale, hindi mo mauubos ang America.” (You can’t buy all of America despite the sales!)

When my uncle Jun Reyes sort of signaled me that it was time to leave for the airport, it was heart-wrenching. Would I still see Dad alive after I closed the door of his home behind me? I lived across the Pacific Ocean, after all.

Amidst the jokes and the panic of being late for my flight, I just walked to the armchair where Dad was sitting, and knelt in front of him. I took his hand with both of mine and lay my cheek on it. And cried a million thank you’s to the wind beneath my wings. To the man who even gave me a beauty title.

“Dad, what I am today is because of you,” I sobbed. A woman who endeavors to go farther and further, to step beyond and soar — that is what I try to be then, and now.

Because of you, Dad.

But who will I greet this Sunday, Daddy?