DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 June) — I just checked my Facebook wall, and as I expected, there are a lot of postings wishing their Tatay, Papa, Dad – Happy Father’s Day.
Despite a tendency towards cynicism, a friend had this posting on his FB all: To all my father friends, don’t expect this day to be special to us. That is falling into the trap of commercialism. Everyday is father’s day. Enjoy this day like you have everyday in your life with your wives, sons and daughters. This is coming from a father who is at the moment very happy despite the normal problems of family and fatherhood.
The senior citizens among us may have a hard time linking up with what is a recent construct of the market in order to sell more goods in the malls. Father’s Day only entered our calendars in the recent years, following the commercial introduction of Mother’s Day. These days these kind of days have mushroomed; to my surprise, recently in FB walls, siblings were greeting each other – Happy Sibling’s Day! So what’s next: Happy Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Daughters/Sons-in-Law, Nephews/Nieces, Grandchildren, Godchildren Days? Well trust the greedy appetite of the capitalist market and some bright advertising upstart who will come up with another Day to be celebrated by all of us who have fallen under the spell of these marketing schemes!
But can joining the celebrations of today be so foolish? But then as the song goes – fools rush in where angels fear to tread! (a phrase that originally was part of Alexander Pope’s 1709 poem – An Essay on Criticism). If this phrase is to mean – “ the rash of inexperienced will attempt things that wiser people are more cautious of” (see: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/fools-rush-in-where-angels-fear-to-tread.html) — then I plead having no experience of fatherhood. For truth be told, being a person who took the vow of celibacy, technically – on the basis of biological progeny – I have no children. (These days, however, the vow of celibacy has not stopped other vowed persons having children).
But these days, we are citizens trying our best to survive amidst the complexities of a post-modern era, an epoch where all kinds of constructs are possible. If you think it so, then who can stand in the way of your acceptance of a phenomenon? In this day and age, one has a license to construct whatever has meaning to one’s life so long as it does not impinge into the rights of others and of the planet (among other legal, moral and ethical considerations).
Thus, the age has given birth to family constructs beyond the biological. (I do not allude to the commercial slant of a network’s Kapamilya construct, that is as shallow as the talk of some of the network’s prized talk show hosts! And I am not even thinking of her! Guess who?) I refer to those among us who move beyond the strictly biological kinship ties to embrace those links that can have as much emotional fulfillment or maybe more – given the dysfunctionalities in our own families.
Another FB wall I just read has this line – We may have our differences, but I treasure my father. I love you Dad! So very sentimental. Lucky are we who could take these words to heart. Oh did I have differences with my late father, Salvador; the major one was where we stood vis-à-vis the vicious Vietnam War in the 1960s. But after he died and with the passing of years, I have treasured him more than when we lived together. I do miss him very much and there are days, I wake up with a start dreaming of having a good time with him.
I was lucky to have Salvador as my biological father; his DNA is in my whole and if there are people who like me, part of why I am liked came from him. But I was lucky to have surrogate fathers; and they were/are plentiful – both dead and living. I went to Catholic schools (Cor Jesu College and Ateneo de Davao before it became a university) and there were teachers who became father figures.
There was Bro. Elric SC, the first Director of Holy Cross Boys Department, before it changed its name to Cor Jesu), warm and generous with his comments. He opened our classroom everyday throughout my high school days, and meeting him first thing in the morning could have inspired many of us to do well in school. When he became the first Executive Director of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools, he asked me to come up with a logo. I didn’t even know what a logo was; but I proposed a design and it has remained DACS’ logo until today.
At the Ateneo – on those days when Jesuits were classroom teachers and advisers of school organizations – there were a number of them who were surrogate fathers to those of us needing those figures at a crucial time in our lives. They had family names like Weiman, Dotterweich, Leonard, Fitzpatrick, Borja, Escaler, Mores. When there was a good film showing in downtown San Pedro and our pockets were empty, one only needed to find the right time to approach one of them and be sponsored. And if one was an altar boy, there was always delicious breakfast at the Jesuit Residence.
Much later more father figures came into my life: Fr. Francis Senden, the beloved founder of the Asian Social Institute, Bishops Benny Tudtud and Federico Escaler who were my bosses when I was with the MSPC Secretariat and Daddy Merdonio Caasi, the bamboo king of Tagum in the 1970s-80s. Like my father, most of them have gone to heaven and there are days they are intensely missed. One can only say a prayer of gratitude for the good times one had in their company.
I guess it was inevitable that with such experiences, it would be my turn to be a surrogate father when I started losing my hair. Why and how do these kinship ties arise? Looking back, there is no pattern at all; I encounter the kids and they encounter me and there is a spark. Most of them now are married, so I have surrogate grandchildren all over the country.
This morning, the greetings came and commercial or not – I yield to the joys of Father’s Day! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” “The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul,” and “Manobo Dreams in Arakan.” Gaspar is now Acting Dean of the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City)