I started jotting notes about my dad for this memorial and the very first word that came to mind was makulit (repetitive). My Dad is one of the most makulit people that I (and probably most of you) have ever met. He had a set of topics that he always talked about – a list of his personal advocacies if you will – such as the importance of learning to speak Chinese, the relevance of being computer literate, the pervasiveness of corruption in the government, the oppressiveness of religion, the beauty of fire trees, innovative ways to save money, and good nutrition (and the greatness of eggs!). He would ask the same questions repeatedly and say the same things in many different ways. I’m sure many people, myself included, have felt so exasperated by his kakulitan. My husband has endured inquisition-level kakulitan from my Dad especially when we were still dating. But my husband shared with me last night how at the end of the day, you don’t remember what people say, but you will always remember how people made you feel afterward. And my husband never felt demeaned or belittled by my Dad’s kakulitan. Rather he is only left with good feelings and he sincerely felt that my Dad accepted and liked him.
Another word that describes my Dad is diskarte (effective). He knows how to talk to people, ask the right questions, get things done. He is a self-made man. He started his own business in a field he had absolutely no knowledge about and never had a degree on. It is no wonder that my older sister and I both married men who are like my Dad, and who have this rare quality. My older sister’s husband started his own business in Isabela and my husband started the first, largest, and the only national food bank in Japan. My younger sister probably has a tough time looking for a man as good as my Dad.
Still another word that competes with makulit, and diskarte, is matipid (thrifty), probably to the point of being barat (stingy). You can read more about that in an article I wrote about him which was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But I believe his legacy was so strong in me that I surpassed his level of thrift. Back when I was working and taking the LRT, I would walk home to and from the station to save on the P50 round trip tricycle fare. One time it rained hard and I still walked. My Dad said even he would have taken a tricycle at that point! We weren’t rich and growing up, I had a sense that we were on a tighter family budget than most of my classmates, yet I didn’t feel deprived. At Christmas time, we didn’t put up any decorations but my Dad would drive us around Greenhills and Alabang to enjoy viewing the houses fully decorated with Christmas lights (while we saved on our own electricity bill). Going abroad was too expensive but every summer, he would take us to different places in the Philippines, and I always credit that experience for my deep love for the country. Yes he was thrifty on many things but was willing to spend for good quality food — even though we all had to suffer through a post-dinner evaluation each time.
My Dad was also a very inquisitive person. At 60 years old, he wanted to learn how to use the computer and get online. It was frustrating and funny to watch him learn. Once he got the hang of it, my Dad was amazed by the wealth of information online. Everything can be Googled and everything is in Wikipedia and he spent many happy hours culling all sorts of things and sharing them with people. I also saw his open-mindedness and willingness to learn when I started dating my husband. Intermarriage is frowned upon by the Chinese community and many of my Dad’s more traditional friends advised him to discourage me from marrying an American. And yet I saw how my Dad struggled with this and tried his best to open his mind and heart until he was able to see the good, even the humorous side of marrying a non-Chinese. He also found support in his Chinese friends who also have children who intermarried. At least daw his grandkids will be adorably mestizo/a. He just wanted me to be happy and when he saw how happy my husband made me, he accepted him into the family.
We are not an expressive family. We don’t say things like “I love you” or hug each other much but I knew my Dad said just that every time he does something for us. In the past few days during the wake, we have heard from his friends how much they know about us because our Dad often talked about us and how proud he is of each of us. He would forward my writings to his friends. He was such a steady, calm, constant presence in our lives and this is the same parenting legacy I want to give our Little One, Ruby, and Little Two coming this December.
Though my Dad has his own sexist views about women which cannot be helped because of the generation he belonged to, the culture, and his upbringing, he actually raised all three of us to be very independent, strong-willed women. He insisted that all three of us should learn how to drive, know about car maintenance, and familiarize ourselves with roads and routes. He encouraged us to travel (even though I know he would have preferred us to be close to him at home) and expand the range of our experiences, and all three of us have at one point in our lives, lived by ourselves abroad for work or studies. He was so makulit about us learning to type with the proper fingers (even though he himself typed with two fingers) and that is something I’m really grateful for as I type really fast and save so much time. He wanted us to learn how to invest in the stock market but sadly none of us took him on that seriously. I like what has been said that people do not live on in monuments; rather they live on in the hearts of the lives they touched. My Dad continues to live on in us his daughters whom he has raised well and who have his spunk, his stubbornness, his inquisitiveness, and strength of conviction.
It is known to most people that my Dad was extremely critical of all organized religion, but most especially the Catholic Church. He read and talked and emailed about it all the time and you may have been on the receiving ends of his rants about the exploitation and deception of religious systems. He refused to go to church and to my knowledge, never prayed. I agree with many of my Dad’s arguments against the church. Underneath all this indignation, my Dad was his own activist, angry at the injustice of having so much poverty and suffering especially in the Philippines in what the bishops proudly declare as the only Catholic country in Asia juxtaposed with Church’s own opulence and irrelevance. I don’t think he ever changed his conviction until the day he died. He often said when he dies, he doesn’t want any masses said for him. He is probably mortified to know that he’s been enrolled in all these mass cards which he believes is a money making scheme (no offense to those who have given them). To some people, this means that my Dad is probably not in heaven. I don’t think he wants to be there anyway, if heaven is exclusive to Catholics, populated with people in funny pointed hats and robes, and hypocritical self-righteous people who go to church but treat other people shabbily. But, I do believe that my Dad is in heaven, the kind of heaven where good people live – good people who tried their best to lead good lives given their limitations and life circumstances, who did their best to love and care for others. That is the heaven where my Dad is, where my Ama and Aunt Lily are (they’re Buddhists). It is the heaven where our dear friend Ruby Sakuma is (she’s Christian)… it is an inclusive heaven, so even Catholics are welcome. My Dad is not a saint. I don’t think anyone is. But in this heaven there is a place for the imperfect and I look forward to one day going there and being with him again.