A Letter to Daddy

"Although I have trekked this path of forgiveness a million times, I can confidently say that I have forgiven and I want to ask forgiveness,too, daddy for all the heartaches that I have caused you and mommy."

by Rhea C. Hernando

Dear Daddy,

This will be the first and last time that I will write about you. “Strained” doesn’t begin to describe our relationship, although “estranged” is a bit harsh. But I just want you to know that one morning, I thought of you, and there was not a trace of bitterness or anger or pain in my heart and in my soul. Instead, happy memories flooded me.

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“Walking in the beach with dad”

I remember daddy. I remember every single thing that you taught me: at 8 years old, with me standing on a wooden stool, both afraid and excited, and you hovering near the stove, teaching me how to cook fried rice using just the right amount of oil, garlic and salt. I had blisters in my ten fingers because the potholder was too thin and the cooking utensil I was using was too hard. But I was happy because I saw you beaming with what looked like pride. You started teaching me that complicated game of chess and strategies at 7 years old, I was winning against the older neighbors when I was 10 or 11 years old, and against high school students older than me during school sports fests. You gave me a Citizen watch at 9 years old, and taught me how to read the short hand and the long hand. You insisted that during summer breaks, apart from the household chores, I have to write an essay and a poem for you to critique. It was from you that I learned what “myriad” means. I was winning essay writing contests from elementary up to high school. You taught me how to wake up at 5am when the rooster crows, because you think that knocking on our door or waking us up every morning will make us lazy.

In my entire life, you didn’t give me big sermons nor did I hear you spout big, complicated words, not during mealtimes because we usually ate in silence, not during down times because I honestly could not remember any. My schedule was always full. I wake up at 5am, cook rice in the good old metal pot and watch over it like a hawk or it will burn and you won’t like it because it’s a waste of all the hard work that Uncle Toto and Tatay Oscar and Nanay Minia put in the rice fields, take a bath, put on my uniform, and eat at exactly 6:00am so that we will be on our way to school by 6:30am, just in time for the daily flag ceremony at 7:00am. I come home at 5pm and not a moment after, wash my uniform, take a bath, cook rice, eat dinner, wash the plates if it’s my turn (some days it’s my sister’s turn), study at 8pm, and sleep at 9pm because whether I want to read a Sidney Sheldon novel or not doesn’t matter to you, it is lights off by 9pm at our house.

"Children at Play" Photo by Dupz Ravelo
“Children at Play” Photo by Dupz Ravelo

Weekends were the best days of my life. I get to play outside, climb up a hill, slide down with just a piece of cardboard on my butt, and go home at 5pm dirty but happy. We try to hear mass on Sundays when you’re in a better mood, but usually we skip it because you strongly feel that praying is a personal thing, not something to show off to all and sundry along with your best Sunday dress. If you have extra money, we’d go straight to Tavern Hotel for buttered chicken, chop suey, and bouillabaisse soup. I remember that soup daddy, it was difficult to pronounce but very easy to gulp down because it was by far, the best soup dish I’ve ever tasted in my whole life, and I’m not a soup person.

It must be old age – mine. But the pains have blurred far, far away into the distant past. I remember but I choose to forget. Although I have trekked this path of forgiveness a million times, I can confidently say that I have forgiven and I want to ask forgiveness too daddy for all the heartaches that I have caused you and mommy. I have bad days when I feel trapped in that vicious cycle of regret, forgive, ask forgiveness, regret, forgive, ask forgiveness.

If I could, I will go back, be a more obedient and respectful daughter, do everything all over again, get married in Church flanked by you and mommy because I know it is something that both of you would want and because it is the right thing to do. Maybe we’re not destined for that kind of altar ending, maybe something far better awaits in the next life. That is what I keep telling myself every time sadness envelopes me. I know it doesn’t matter now, and I know you have forgiven, but I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Ma used to say every time I am angry at you “he puts food in the table, clothes on your back, and sends you to the best school in Surigao and then in all of the Philippines, surely that is enough to be grateful about.” Thank you daddy. You were always such a hardworking man. After office, you’re puttering in the house, cooking our meals, planting mango trees and kaimito and guayabano and tambis and macopa and langka and bayabas and okra and pechay and herbs of all kinds for all your gourmet-like home-cooked meals. And you are generous with whatever you have. Your government salary bonuses always go to us- a new dress during Christmastime, complete ingredients for mommy’s spaghetti (the real del monte tomato sauce and not just ketchup no no no, plus extra cheese), and a kilo of crunchy grapes.

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Until now, every time I tell you we are coming home, you always insist on paying for our airplane fares, and I had to insist back firmly that kaya ko na ‘dy. You are a strong man. You have difficulty walking because of a stroke that left you half-paralyzed and yet, you continue to live life the way you’ve always wanted to live it I suppose, in an unhurried way – reading the morning paper while drinking tea in the morning, watching a bit of TV, taking a nap, watching the world go by.

Every time I offer something to make life a bit more comfortable, you always refuse. I get it daddy. You refuse to be a burden. You are not. But thank you for recognizing that we have our own lives now, and raising our own children. Ma was right, the fact that you chose to rear us and nurture us the best way that you could, when you could be like other fathers who abandon their family at the slightest hint of hardship, is something to be thankful for. But what I’m most thankful for is that you raised us not by words, but by example – of working hard, being generous and taking responsibility. We turned out fine daddy; we all turned out fine.

Lovingly,

Me, Mae, Ayn, and Ryan.


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