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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

2011 June 18 (6:30 pm)

Just got home from San Pedro Cathedral where I attended an anticipated mass for Holy Trinity Sunday.

Such a fulfilling evening for me...while cooking for dinner I couldn't help but think the heartwarming homily of the priest about God's unbending love and the significance of the Holy Trinity in the Catholic faith, but what struck me most was his sharing about God's self-concept of being a "father". This is very timely because tomorrow the world also celebrates Father's day. 

Then the priest shared a touching story about the movie "THE MOST" where a man, who worked as a bridge keeper, sacrificed his own son to save many people. This highly emotional story magnifies the unconditional, paternal love of God to His people which prominently described in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son".

I already saw the trailer of this video when a friend shared a link from youtube some months ago so while the priest made an introductory description of the movie, I blinked rapidly to prevent tiny tears from rolling. A scene where a man had to endure an agonizing decision to sacrifice his son's life was heart-wrenching. How many more fathers in the world have such a "sacrificing instinct"?

Since tomorrow is a special day honouring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, I will share something about my own father, how his strict principles influenced my life's decisions and how his warmth, protection and love  made me what I am today.

My father is far from being modern but he understood how to live a life in the present world, he would often warn me to be cautious with the people I meet and "never come home late at night". He often said, we are somewhat unlucky to be born in an era where life is often treated unholy by some and where wars are frequently heard everywhere. He hated variety shows with girls dancing in bikinis, he found it too lurid to be watched by children, so we did not have television until my last year in college. None of my siblings  developed the habit of watching TV too, well even myself, other than watching news and reality programs--like quiz shows and sports telecast--I never spent long hours in front of television. My father disliked soap operas and he found variety shows with girls romping with bikinis as obscene and nasty and not worthy to be watched by the whole family.

He is a great crusader of justice and peace in our province, a community organizer of cause-oriented activities, an activist, an ecologist and a long-serving lay minister in our parish who regularly conducted pre-cana and pre-baptism seminars. In other words, my father is in active "service duty" 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. He is also a member of the Knight of Columbus, an international paternity of the Roman Catholic men, and the first magazine I read in my life was "The Columbian" the official magazine of the Knight of Columbus. One way or another, I secretly admired him with his superhero-like dedication to Catholic church and community service.

But after college, gradually, I was disillusioned with my father's stiff principles in life and we occasionally had a row because of his "wrong" interpretations on some world's events. He detested America and badly criticized whoever sat as US President, he always believed that Americans made Muslim's lives intolerable which I think is not all true. So to prevent from bickering, I would not join him in the living room when he watched news because we always ended up debating.

But my father has this endearing character which makes me think if he owns a charity institution in his past life. If he saw a vendor in the street with torn pants, he would give his own, if he saw a homeless person knocking in another door, he would fetch him and let him stay in our house (this happens several times), he regularly offered foods, water and a small amount of money to people who badly needed it. He often said that part of our mission in life as a true Christian is to serve our "neighbors" as what the Holy Bible commanded. For one, I extremely admired his act of kindness and generosity.

My father will turn 72 this year. I am his eldest child, you might be wondering why we've such a huge age gap, well, he married late in life, around 34 but did not have me until he was 36 (my mother got pregnant two years after their marriage because my father went to Cagayan to attend a special course for animal rearing for his earlier work at the municipal hall---as Meat and Livestock inspector). Actually, I inherited mostly the physical features of my father except my eyes and fair complexioned skin which I got from my mother.

He is such a huge influence in my life.  Though a strict and very traditional disciplinarian, not once I thought of going against his house rules. In my lifetime, there were only two wishes of my father I disobeyed: Education and career. He wanted me to take up Journalism in college and Law afterwards but I defied it and took up a business course instead, then he wanted me to work in a government office, but I turned my back from the two lucrative job offers in the province because I wanted to live in the city. I know he was unhappy with my decision and up to now he detested my current job which he thought would never help come out the best of my potentials. But when I told him that I am taking my masters to switch a career afterwards, a contentment registered all over his face.

My father is very proud of my "writing talent" (hehe!) even when I was still in high school, he would proudly announce it among his friends and  colleagues that I can "write" any topic under the sun so some of them would come to the house and asked me to write something about anything.  

Except career and education, I did not defy my father's other rules: never take boyfriends while still in school, never go with people who have unconventional lifestyle, no to nightlife and never entertained the idea of working abroad especially in America (his face would turn red every time he heard us talking about the United States which he often pronounced as a disgusting country).

Always an attentive and supportive parent, my father never let a single day passed without checking us when he heard some unsettling issues, his favorite hour of the day (to talk to us) was at the early dawn, even if we won't wake up, he would sit beside our bed and bombarded us with advises and detailed explanation on how life should be handled in order to avoid mess later. Looking back, I learned so many lessons from my father's precious words and "counselling moment" before sunrise. His gentle words, which is unlikely because he was known with his signature "booming voice" in the neighborhood, deeply penetrated into my brain and miraculously worked for the next two decades of my life.

I was extra close to him when I was still a kid, I constantly accompanied him to all his public appointments. At summer, I would tag along with him when he reported to work at the municipal hall, I loved it because at lunch he would treat me to a lone restaurant in the place which served delectable dishes and allowed me to order anything I liked! It was only my father who could tolerate my tantrums without losing temper, he would easily yield when I wrangled to buy something maybe because he did not want his eardrums to be pierced with my toe-curling wail. But like a good disciplinarian father, he never tolerated some of my impossible lapses, he would shout at the top of his lungs and shut me with glazing eyes if I did something terrible and would often gave me a  corresponding corporal punishment if necessary.

But my father had this extra sweetness whole year round.  He always made sure he had something for us when he came home from work, so every afternoon at 4:00 pm, I and my sister would excitedly wait at the foyer of our house in the farm for a bus to arrive, our house in the farm then was built 10 feet away from the national road dividing the river and hills with rice and coco fields on each side.

For the first four years of my life, we lived in a farm where my father had a poultry business. He also ventured into Copra, Abaca, Corn and fruits trading, but when insurgencies erupted in early 80s we moved to my grandparents' place and left the farm to some tenants, seven years later, my father sold this 5-hectare farm which made me sad up to now. While still growing up, he taught us how to be more cautious with foods, he never allowed us to drink coffee and soft drinks and he never used vetsin and seasonings when cooking our meals. He loved the countryside life and originally wanted to settle in the farm, may be if not for rebel and military conflicts we're still living in the farm until now. For him living in the city is like "hell" because of the absence of green environment and fresh air, he dubbed foods in the city as "too artificial".

He had been serving the Catholic church as a lay minister even before I was born and my first childhood memory was accompanying him to the church while he conducted a celebration of the Holy Word (Holy Mass can only be celebrated by priests and deacons). Church is his life, even when he was still working in the government office as a Local Revenue Collection Officer (a job he took in the local government office after leaving the Meat and Livestock Inspector item), he always prioritized his obligations in the church, conducting the Holy Word service when our parish priest is not around. In fact, he was not able to attend my college graduation because he had to be in the parish for the scheduled Parish Pastoral Council general assembly where he sat as President (at that time).

His deep commitment to the Christian life service and the community was halted in 2009 when he suffered from cataract, by May 2009, my father became completely blind and his movement was limited to sitting and sleeping. It was a big struggle to his part since he adored reading and watching news. But the most frustrating part of this condition was the fact that he could no longer offer his service to the community and the church. Around this time also, he was elected as Board of Director of a cooperative focusing on environmental activities which he dearly loved.

At 71 and with the history of hypertension and heart ailment, my father naturally could not be qualified anymore for an eye operation, his blood pressure was unstable and sometimes went up to an alarming level, but in the last part of 2010, due to his willingness to see again and resumed his lay ministerial job in the church, he was able to conquer the obstacle and his blood pressure miraculously stabilized and finally on the 9th of November, 2010, his cataract was successfully removed. 

More than a father, my Papa served as a good model in my life when it comes to generosity and kindness. His influence and discipline, to be morally upright all the time, made me able to conquer life's demons and temptations.

My father kicked his smoking habit in 1988 and when he was diagnosed of hypertension in 1990, he totally stopped drinking alcoholic beverages and from eating pork. Since 1990s, he had a lifestyle only monks can endure when it comes to eating, but I slowly adopted it now and felt great about it.

For this happy occasion honouring all the fathers in the world, my only wish for my father is to be healthy all the time and have a long life ahead to see me build a family of my own.

The Bridge (The Most) video which highlighted the homily of the priest for Holy Trinity Sunday, it carries a heartwarming message how much God loved the world. This is a  wonderful movie trailer for Father's Day celebration. Happy father's day to all fathers in the world and to my own father, Mr. Leonardo Lamela.

"It's only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home—it's only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it" --- Margaret Truman

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