Abellanosa: Duterte and optional Father’s Day

Fringes and frontiers

THE silence of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Chinese vessel incident is deafening. Now would have been the time when his bladed tongue and demonic expletives would be most useful. Unfortunately, he is somewhat bewitched. The good and ever caring Duterte has not changed his love for China despite the brimstones of criticisms fired at him. Reports have it that he’s going to call for a meeting soon. I hope that it will be a serious discussion about the incident and not another round of ranting against headless and gay bishops.

There are those who would say that the issue is close to insignificant. What are fishermen after all compared to the economic interests of the country? Let’s not forget though that how a government takes care of those who are least in society speaks volumes of the true identity of this administration. When Duterte was selling himself to the masses, his favorite words were “tapang” and “malasakit.” He used these words not only as descriptions of himself but also as his contrasting points against the previous administration. His “tapang” is nowhere to be found. And his “malasakit” has metamorphosed into either “malas” or “sakit.”

Let me leave Duterte, in order to talk about a post in Facebook about “Fathers’ Day” as an offensive celebration. There was this post about a proposal to ban Fathers’ Day because it is offensive to single mothers and same-sex couples. While I raised my eyebrows for an initial reaction, I had a second thought about it after a cup of coffee.

I was raised by a single mother who, in almost all ways, tried her best to be our father. If parenthood were a job, I would say that my mother absorbed the job description of my father. Was it my father’s fault? I don’t know and I would say that I respected his choice (bless his soul). Unfortunately, not all fatherless kids can easily process themselves.

I understand that we are still living in a world that is relatively conservative, and this I specifically refer to the Philippine context. Despite advancements in our legislations and the increasing number of literate people in this country, there has remained a deeply engrained judgmental culture against people who cannot be classified and contained in our preferred socio-cultural boxes.

So when Fathers’ Day is celebrated, some (of us) cannot close our eyes to this honest and biting question how a child without a father would celebrate or even understand the event. I remember what used to be a school activity I really hated when I was in Grade School, i.e. being asked to bring a family picture. All the pictures I had were that with my mother and my three other siblings. So one time, because my Civics and Culture teacher insisted that we bring a “complete” family picture, I submitted one with my uncle in it. Looking back, I would say that that teacher was not at fault. She simply thought and viewed things from where she was. But I believe that that is not how we should teach children today.

We do value the family but not at the expense of other equally important values like honesty, charity, compassion, and inclusivity. It is true that the family is a basic unit in society. A more important question though is what makes up a family? For so long a time, we always define the word family to mean “father, mother, and child/ren” but I guess we have to “interrogate” this concept. One can never say that the so-called “complete” family is much better or more peaceful than those that we call “broken.” Should we not for example “rethink” the term “broken” family?

For all we know, there are some families where the mother and father have stayed together not because of love but because of the formalities that their children need. For how long should we suffer in this world, for all eternity? There is so much that has changed in our world today. The material conditions where we are in in the 21st century no longer match to some of the age-old concepts that certain individuals insist to be eternal.

Apparently, Fathers’ Day is for those good and hardworking fathers. These fathers deserve such a wonderful day of acknowledgment for their fidelity and hard work. But a certain fraction of the population sees the event like how non-Christians view Christians in their celebration of Christmas as the birth of the savior of the world. Yet we find consolation in what Pope Francis says, “realities are greater than ideas.”

Belated happy Fathers’ Day, Tatay Digong!


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