this story originially appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on August 6, 2005.

Laughing loud in delight, the small boy enjoys the ride on his father’s shoulders. The father jumps slightly to heighten the excitement of his son. The path home seems like a battlefield, dark and mysterious. Yet the son feels very secure since he is with his warrior-protector, his very own father.

This is pretty much the story I recount to my friends when I am asked what my sweetest memory of my father is. I cannot remember all the details though, for I was still small when my father and I would bond like that. All I remember is that my mom would ask me to fetch my father from an already overextended drinking session with his friends. And when he finally agreed to go home, he would chase me, and I would run and run like my life depended on it. He always caught me though, and lift me to his shoulders, hold my feet against his chest, and thus we would walk home. Walk, and jump and run and hop, actually.

Years later for some complicated reasons, my father found it best to leave us. Then my mom followed. And when they came back after working in Japan before I enrolled in Grade 6, my dad headed straight for our province.

Being fatherless is not something new to me, or to others my age for that matter. It is really sad yet amusing that almost everyone I would converse with regarding the man of the house would recount a very familiar experience and in almost very similar circumstances.

I vividly remember that when I was in high school, our English teacher asked us to write a thank you letter to our fathers as a writing exercise. After a good half hour, one of my classmates raised her hand and said that she could hardly write anything; her father had abandoned them when she was still a baby.

After hearing this, our teacher asked who among us were also “having a hard time” with the exercise. Only a handful did not raise their hands.

That was the first time the fact stared me in the face that mine is a fatherless generation. Though some would not have physically absent fathers, theirs were not there to give encouragement and support, some just did not give what it takes to support their families. Or some would have more than one set of sons and daughters. Or some would mete out very harsh physical discipline for the smallest mistake.

Once when I was at the Sunken Garden in UP trying to find an inspiration to write, I saw a father and his small boy riding a bike. The son was seated on his father’s lap, his head resting on his dad’s chest. I found myself shedding a tear. And then another. A few seconds later, I just found myself sobbing like a helpless little boy.

There was nothing dramatic in the sight of a father and son riding a bicycle. But from the very simplicity of that act made me think that I was ready to exchange everything I had for that boy’s life. We lived comfortable lives growing up, thanks to my parents and my relatives. But the comfort and stability we had, I would readily exchange even for a life of extreme poverty, for a normal, complete family.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that “if someone does not have a good father, he should acquire one.”

I agree. And indeed, I have been blessed with other men in my life I have looked up to as fathers.

My uncle, with whom my siblings and I lived when our parents were abroad, was the first superman I ever idolized. Dada, as we fondly call him because of his generosity in sharing his love and time, is a major influence in my life. When I was younger and somebody asked what I wanted to become when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be like Dada, always wearing his americana and curbata.

Kuya Anthony, my cousin’s husband, is way too young to be my father, yet he was exactly that to me. He was my first spiritual father, having introduced me to Jesus and the Bible. Even when he was still courting my cousin, he would take me out and we just had some good, clean fun.

My Tito Ricky, with whom I now live, is the latest father on my list. He is the kind who challenges me to read more and to think more. There are times when we talk from nine in the evening till four in the morning, and the whole time, he would play devil’s advocate to push me to defend my positions or to argue more intelligently. Other times, we just say “hi” to each other and that is already bonding for us.

I owe a lot to my Bible study leader, Christian, my mentor, my spiritual leader, my brother and friend. I can still remember how rough and evil and arrogant and stupid I was before. Christian very patiently and slowly helped me remove the weeds out of my life. He helped shape my character, my convictions.

I want to honor my real father as well. Despite everything that happened, I forgive him. I love him so much.

The challenge for the men of my generation, I believe, is to be the father we would have loved to have. To get inspiration from other “fathers,” to draw from our own experiences the strength of character we would want to bless our future sons and daughters with.

“If someone does not have a good father,” Nietzsche said, “he should acquire one.”

I say that is not enough. I believe he should be one. 

Laughing loud in delight, the small boy enjoys the ride on his father’s shoulders. The father jumps slightly to heighten the excitement of his son. The path home seems like a battlefield, dark and mysterious. Yet the son feels very secure since he is with his warrior-protector, his very own father.

This is pretty much the story I recount to my friends when I am asked what my sweetest memory of my father is. I cannot remember all the details though, for I was still small when my father and I would bond like that. All I remember is that my mom would ask me to fetch my father from an already overextended drinking session with his friends. And when he finally agreed to go home, he would chase me, and I would run and run like my life depended on it. He always caught me though, and lift me to his shoulders, hold my feet against his chest, and thus we would walk home. Walk, and jump and run and hop, actually.

Years later for some complicated reasons, my father found it best to leave us. Then my mom followed. And when they came back after working in Japan before I enrolled in Grade 6, my dad headed straight for our province.

Being fatherless is not something new to me, or to others my age for that matter. It is really sad yet amusing that almost everyone I would converse with regarding the man of the house would recount a very familiar experience and in almost very similar circumstances.

I vividly remember that when I was in high school, our English teacher asked us to write a thank you letter to our fathers as a writing exercise. After a good half hour, one of my classmates raised her hand and said that she could hardly write anything; her father had abandoned them when she was still a baby.

After hearing this, our teacher asked who among us were also “having a hard time” with the exercise. Only a handful did not raise their hands.

That was the first time the fact stared me in the face that mine is a fatherless generation. Though some would not have physically absent fathers, theirs were not there to give encouragement and support, some just did not give what it takes to support their families. Or some would have more than one set of sons and daughters. Or some would mete out very harsh physical discipline for the smallest mistake.

Once when I was at the Sunken Garden in UP trying to find an inspiration to write, I saw a father and his small boy riding a bike. The son was seated on his father’s lap, his head resting on his dad’s chest. I found myself shedding a tear. And then another. A few seconds later, I just found myself sobbing like a helpless little boy.

There was nothing dramatic in the sight of a father and son riding a bicycle. But from the very simplicity of that act made me think that I was ready to exchange everything I had for that boy’s life. We lived comfortable lives growing up, thanks to my parents and my relatives. But the comfort and stability we had, I would readily exchange even for a life of extreme poverty, for a normal, complete family.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that “if someone does not have a good father, he should acquire one.”

I agree. And indeed, I have been blessed with other men in my life I have looked up to as fathers.

My uncle, with whom my siblings and I lived when our parents were abroad, was the first superman I ever idolized. Dada, as we fondly call him because of his generosity in sharing his love and time, is a major influence in my life. When I was younger and somebody asked what I wanted to become when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be like Dada, always wearing his americana and curbata.

Kuya Anthony, my cousin’s husband, is way too young to be my father, yet he was exactly that to me. He was my first spiritual father, having introduced me to Jesus and the Bible. Even when he was still courting my cousin, he would take me out and we just had some good, clean fun.

My Tito Ricky, with whom I now live, is the latest father on my list. He is the kind who challenges me to read more and to think more. There are times when we talk from nine in the evening till four in the morning, and the whole time, he would play devil’s advocate to push me to defend my positions or to argue more intelligently. Other times, we just say “hi” to each other and that is already bonding for us.

I owe a lot to my Bible study leader, Christian, my mentor, my spiritual leader, my brother and friend. I can still remember how rough and evil and arrogant and stupid I was before. Christian very patiently and slowly helped me remove the weeds out of my life. He helped shape my character, my convictions.

I want to honor my real father as well. Despite everything that happened, I forgive him. I love him so much.

The challenge for the men of my generation, I believe, is to be the father we would have loved to have. To get inspiration from other “fathers,” to draw from our own experiences the strength of character we would want to bless our future sons and daughters with.

“If someone does not have a good father,” Nietzsche said, “he should acquire one.”

I say that is not enough. I believe he should be one. 

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