IT WAS Father’s Day, June 18, 2006, when pops Willy was admitted to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for what would be his last operation in his battle against the big C.

He first insisted on celebrating though. “My treat,” he said. 

My last days with him are vividly etched in my brain, the good times, the bad. 

How we held hands in the recovery room the first time he had his operation. How he asked me to pack his favorite book during his second operation. How he sent me to the market to look for guyabano days before his death. 

I believe it is the same with his friends, those who haven’t joined the great newsroom in the sky, who continue to regale me with their memories of the old man. 

Even my peers and good friends have fond memories of pops. Dhobie, Rodz, Harley. Harley started out as a reporter here in SunStar Baguio under Willy, then the paper’s editor-in-chief. And he was Willy’s favorite. Until the day he died, I believe my father cherished Harley as the son he never had.

Stories would range from the hilarious to the more serious.

His cooking would always be mentioned during trips down memory lane, especially during media week of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, always held at Camp Peppot in Burnham Park.

The boys will always tell me how strict pops was in the kitchen, supervising everything, from how the slabs of meat were sliced to how much sili is needed for his signature dish – dinuguan sabunganay (banana heart). 

He was the same at home. Suffice to say, my ate Cherry and I have excellent kitchen knife skills because of pops’ and our mom’s attention to detail. Our heritage recipes, most learned from our kitchen in mama’s hometown of San Juan, La Union, are beloved by family and friends. 

Pops was also famous for his porma.

He always reminded me and ate that dressing properly is a form of good manners. 

When he passed we gave away most of his jackets and polos to his close friends. We did not have the heart to give away his boots and shoes, however. His fave pairs are buried along with him. 

I have since given away his neckties, save for my favorites, to Dhobie, who’s putting them to good use given his daily afternoon news anchoring duties.

My favorite stories are told by uncle Mondax. Uncle Mondax’s sometimes uncanny memory will bring me back to pops’ days in City Hall as secretary to the late mayors Luis Lardizabal and B/Gen. Ernie Bueno. 

I have no recollection of lakay Luis since I wasn’t born yet when pops served him and very little memory as well of lakay Ernie (he looked good in his Army uniform).

And so I hold on to uncle Mondax’s stories, some written and some recited, in what I hope is not a futile effort to keep painting pictures of this man who gave me life and inspire me to live by his legacy.

And then I remember mang Robert Domoguen’s October 7, 2013 SunStar Baguio column. There he wrote:

“I listen to this soothing music on the ‘Trail of Angels’, not knowing how to end this write-up. The music comes with sceneries of nature. The flute played on and it brought me to those days when butterflies and birds, in their myriad sounds and colors painted the skies and landscape. It is a great world we have, ‘a world we failed to discover’ is how sir Willy Cacdac, veteran Baguio journalist described it. Perhaps he pioneered the October graduates from the ‘University of Life’ for Baguio’s great sons and residents.”

Willy’s stories do live on. To quote one of pops’ fave authors, Richard Paul Evans, “The most important story we’ll ever write in life is our own – not with ink, but with our daily choices.”

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers whose stories are worth telling and to all fathers who continue to tell stories of hope and love.