A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of June 11-17, 2014
CELEBRATING THE ROLE OF FATHERS IN OUR LIVES
We say this to the most important man in our lives: Happy Father’s Day!
I’m sure you have your own memories of how your father was either a daily part of your formative years or somewhat absent, either a disciplinarian or a softie, either aging gracefully or grumpily. When I think of my own Dad, I think about different skill sets to describe him.
First of all, when my sister Cherry and I were still very young, he used to tell us bedtime stories after tucking us in within the “banig” (woven sleeping mat) and “kulambo” (mosquito net). He would start weaving a tall tale about a beautiful princess who lived in a big castle — but he would quickly say that her gown had pockets! Of course my sister and I would protest that a princess’ gown does NOT have pockets, what was he thinking?! Thereupon Dad would change the narrative again (“O sige, sige, walang bulsa,” he would concede) until a pivotal break in the story, when Dad is free again to say anything outrageous to our young minds, anything that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of what a fairy tale should be. Dedicated and hard worker that our father has always been, even during our younger days, he always tucked us in at night with his imagination and sense of humor. Short explanation from an astrologer like me: my father is a Virgo.
Still speaking of skill sets: Maybe some of you have even hear my Dad, Ron Carmona, sing and play his guitar at the former Bobby’s Bamboo Grill in Union City around 4-5 years ago. Once he sings his Elvis, Beatles, and Filipino “kundiman” (sad love song) pieces, the audience is always enthralled and asking for more. So much so that he has been invited every now and then to birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other special occasions because of his evocative talents for entertainment. My father is also an accomplished cook specializing in Ilocano dishes like pinakbet but has since expanded his expertise to include traditional Filipino party dishes like pancit palabok, menudo, dinuguan, and adobo. Dad is the kind to turn to the Internet for the recipes and then tend to follow these to the letter. True enough, his delectable concoctions taste very yummy, and we’re even talking about the “second-day phenomenon” at home, about how Dad’s dishes manage to even taste better the following day!
So with the fathers in our lives, we usually talk about different skill sets, each unique to the man we owe our life to and/or who raised us. Now I am very blessed that my father is still here, married to my mother for 45 years now, still with us to grace us with song, make us laugh with his jokes, or play weekend chef to feed us with yet another tasty dish. Dad is encouraging his grandchildren to play the guitar and has even bequeathed one of his old ones when he and my Mom visited the Philippines recently.
Some of my elementary and high school batch mates have already lost their fathers and announce the fact on Facebook so that we who cannot personally be there can post our condolences. I know for a fact that some classmates had been especially close to their Dads such that the parental loss temporarily set them off on a spiral of paralyzing depression. It’s good to know that they eventually recovered and continued to face the challenges in their lives.
Father’s Day in the USA had its first champion in Sonora Smart Dodd. Upon hearing of Anna Jarvis’ successful campaign for Mother’s Day the year before, Dodd wanted a celebration in Spokane, Washington in 1910 to honor fatherhood, specifically her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart who was a single parent who raised six children there. Dodd wanted the celebration to be on June 5, her father’s birthday, but the pastors wanted more time with writing their sermons so they moved the first Father’s Day to June 19, 1910. However, through the following years, it was ridiculed and resisted as merely a “commercial ploy” to sell men’s products on another “special” day. It was only in the 20th century that its legalization has truly come to pass: In 1966, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when Pres. Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
We have actual fathers and metaphorical fathers, fathers in various senses of the word and fathers of many splendored things. From the head of top Olympian Zeus sprang Athena Minerva fully clad for battle, literally birthing the warrior goddess off the top of his head, but not as an afterthought, I hope. We are talking about heroes and father figures to nations. Mahatma Gandhi is considered the father of the Indian independence movement. Albert Einstein is the father of modern physics. Andres Bonifacio is the father of Philippine revolution while Dr. Jose Rizal is the father of Philippine nationalism. The poet Francisco Balagtas is the father of the Tagalog poem while Julian Felipe is the father of the Philippine national anthem. The late Blas Ople is the father of overseas employment while Isabelo Delos Reyes is the father of the Philippine labor union movement. William Torres is the father of Philippine Internet while Roberto Verzola is the father of Philippine email. Thanks by the way to Wikipilipinas, the hip and free Philippine encyclopedia, for the List of Philippine Fathers, which I encourage you to visit for other names and fatherly designations unique to our land of birth.
Regardless of my personal beliefs, though, I think that the “father” making the most worldwide impact these days is Pope Francis, the “Papa,” the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church. From the very beginning of his ascension to the papacy, he has shunned the pomp and finery of his office, preferring humble vestments and accessories. Even weightier than matters of dress are the matters of the Pope’s statements. Upon the many issues presented to him, his overall attitude is: “Who am I to judge?”
Finally (I said in my mind), here is a worldwide head of a religion daring to lead by his example of love and humility. As of this writing, he has just headed an unprecedented prayer for peace among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Vatican gardens, with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in attendance. In that historic event, Pope Francis said, “To have peace, one needs courage, far more than you need for a war.” Four months ago, Pres. Barack Obama, current father of the USA and father to Malia and Sascha, met with the Dalai Lama, father of the Tibetan faith, despite the threats and dissent from mainland China – precisely because both of them want to leave a better world for their actual and spiritual children.
These are the kinds of fatherhood that our world truly needs, not the macho incarnation that finds glory in war and carnage, not the tough-love persona that expects too much yet gives so little. Father-figures around you who have inspired and challenged you all throughout the years deserve your love, respect, and greetings on this special day proclaimed especially for them.
So all together now, let us say: Happy Father’s Day!
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