"IS YOUR dad gay?" a few classmates asked me then. Daddy was the more prominent fixture in my school activities because of his flexi-schedule.
My dad also works in an industry with a lot of them out of the closet. He is friends with Mother Ricky Reyes, Fanny Serrano, Kuya Germs, Boy Abunda, and many others from the LGBT showbiz community so, I suppose, it was but a natural question.
He is an entertainment reporter for newspapers and magazines. When I was a kid, he used to appear on TV a lot, with his show "Let's Talk Movies" and "The Big Big Show”. At times, he also appeared with Inday Badiday in "Nothing but the Truth", "Eye2Eye", and "See True".
Until now, I never told him about that question. I just brushed those girls off and thought they were funny. My dad is almost 6 feet tall, with a booming voice. But he is more of a teddy bear, with marshmallow fluff inside. Really, he is a softie who easily cries at sad stories and quickly lends a helping hand to anyone in need.
Not once did I ever think he preferred men to my mom, even if their worlds were different. She's the more serious one who had worked in the academia, had consultancies for the government, and had a Phd from Michigan State University.
He was never insecure of her higher degrees. In fact, when she took her post-doctoral fellowship in the State University of New York, he put his career on hold so she could take us all with her. It was his best job ever, our Mr. Mom.
Back in the '80s, the concept of a stay-at-home-dad was as extinct as the dinosaurs; but, Dad had no second thoughts doing it to support mom’s dreams and to give us a new experience. I recall he was the only Asian guy during dismissal amidst the sea of blonde soccer moms. He was present in all the parties and field trips. The most memorable was when he played assistant photographer for Picture Day because he fussed over my pig-tails. He was awesome!
He still is.
When I hit my teens, The Gwapings were very much the "in" thing, so he let me tag-along to their press conferences. He also got my friends and I pictures of the group with dedication. For my 13th birthday, he invited Aga Mulach to my party because he was the talent of my Ninang, Ethel Ramos. It was easy to get movie premiere and concert tickets too.
Another Ninang was Lolit Solis. I remember during my confirmation, it was the height of the Film-Fest scam. She had avant-garde funky hair that screamed for attention, and she was wearing slippers (it was a fashion faux-pas; Havaianas were still unknown).
My seatmate asked me with a smirk: "She's the take it, take it girl, diba?!" I wanted to melt like ice cream on a hot summer day into a puddle on the floor.
Later on, I asked my dad about his choice for my Ninang. See, I can question him like that because we have open lines of communication. He even calls me his favorite "Dawter"—after the Tagalog expression "daw", meaning maybe. Maybe I am his favorite daughter (I am the only one). And I call him "Fadir", "Erfats", or "Fatherhoodlum". He replied to me then, "She volunteered to be one. And besides, she may be loud and noisy, but she has a good heart. Isa siya sa pinakamabait na tao sa showbiz."
One of the things I got from him is his perpetual desire to move. His friends call him kaladkarin, and he always brought us on trips, both locally and abroad. We were engaged in Wanderlust, even before it became a cool term. The most memorable for me would be our trip to Europe on my 18th birthday. I never got a debut like my other friends (it was uso then), but I got to see the world. For that, I am eternally grateful.
He has remained humble, emphasizing that: no matter how high you reach, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. He required me to learn to commute before he taught me to drive. Since he sent me to Maryknoll (turned Miriam) from kinder with soshalera classmates, riding the jeep was akin to torture.
One time, he took me to Mega Mall via bus, and I was so embarrassed. When we took the overhead footbridge, he lamented: "Ang arte-arte mo! Gusto na kitang ihulog dito, para matauhan ka. Lord, saan ba ako nagkamali?!"
Thank heavens to him for my huge dose of reality check and street smarts. Walking the streets also meant gorging on: fishballs, taho, tokneneng, isaw, and balut. Pak ganern!
Dad is the one who taught me that if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life. He was blessed with a calling that he excelled in and loved; so until now, at the age of 72, he hasn’t retired. He still writes daily for two newspapers and a website. He regularly attends press conferences and previews. It is natural for his age to be grumpy due to aches and pains, but Dad still mostly remains an optimistic go-getter.
Most importantly, he loved my mother living by the adage: the best way to show that you love your children is to love and respect their mother. When she was abruptly taken eight years ago, a part of him died with her. Yet despite his pain, he still manages to move forward for us.
To date, Dad still pitches in to help with his grandchildren-giving baths, feeding, or changing nappies. He told me there’s nothing remarkable about men doing these tasks for their kids. They should because they are dads. They’re pair-ents. A dad is paired with a mom so he can be her partner every step of the way.
Thank you, my Mr. Mom. Happy Father's Day to you…and to all the dads, and to all the single moms that double as dads out there!
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Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 18, 2017.