God’s gift

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Sunday, June 15, 2014


FROM the first day in grade 1 to my last schooling day in college, all of 16 solid years, he drove me to and picked me up from school. And he was never late.

We had house helpers, yes, but my brothers and I had our own work as well. During summers, we learned typing, shorthand, conversational Spanish, and piano.

So, at 11, I was a very fast typist, and I was the only high school student then with typewritten notes in my notebooks.

Like his father, he prepared us early for the first day of school. English was our first language and even the new helpers were chosen based on their trainability to understand and speak basic English.

Discipline, including punctuality and honesty, was to be desired; untruthfulness and laziness, to be abhorred. One’s word is an extension of his soul, my father believed, so one should keep his promises. A man who doesn’t respect himself will not beget respect either.

Respect for women should begin at home. This included proper grooming at home. We were not to leave our bedrooms still wearing our bedtime clothes. Neither were my brothers allowed to be shirtless anywhere outside their rooms.

Occasionally when the summer heat turned unbearable, my brothers would relax on this note.

But the man-of-the-house’s quick “Boys, there are ladies in this house” would send them rushing to retrieve their shirts.

Even at 16, I was still driven to and picked up from the University of Southern Philippines Foundation. So, my class schedules had to align with his own as law professor and college dean at the University of the Visayas.

When he became a judge, I had started teaching. But I was still single and my parents did not want to leave my safety to chance.

So, they decided that my mother should stay in Cebu City while he stayed alone in Butuan City. Only when I got married did my mother join him.

He has always had a big heart for children, especially from struggling families. So, he and my mother took in two young girls as helpers and sent them to finish grade school and hopefully, get a college degree.

When their parents wanted them to return home, not caring about schooling, he became sad. But he also knew that for a great many others, the focus is on bread for the body first before the hyacinth for the soul.

It is easy to gift my father with pants or shirts. His tailor says he has never had to adjust my father’s measurements. Neither do I remember any threat of a paunch developing.

So, talk of healthy eating and living, and my sibs and I are our dad’s frustration. Despite my degree in Foods and Nutrition, he knows better about fish with scales being cleaner than those without. So, he’ll not have any danggit or kitong dish, thank you. That it’s cooked by a well-credentialed chef is of no moment.

When my mother passed away in 1994, my father said he wanted to get into a home for the aged.

Vehemently we said, “Of course not, Dad, you have children to take care of you.”

At 96, he remains our idol, modeling by example how to remain cheerful despite reminders about one’s mortality, and how to yield to the Lord despite one’s innermost wishes.

If I had been born a boy, I would have strived to become like my father, God’s gift to us.

Once again, Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 16, 2014.

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