From one father to another: a letter to my children

My daughter was born three weeks ago on a clear Sunday evening amidst the sound of trumpets, angelic singing, and Hawaiian pizza.

That’s right, I am a newly-minted daddy. Meaning, I really had no idea how it really felt like to be in my father’s shoes – until now.

Thing is, my father passed away over a month before, barely missing my panganay’s zero-eth birthday.

It is painful to think about, but as he would always tell me, these painful moments are simply God’s way of testing us.

That was the first thing that I learned from him, and one of the many things that I wish to pass onto you, my dear child, as you move on to become the next Steve Jobs while holding the Miss Universe crown after discovering the cure for cancer.

Lesson #1: No pain, no gain

Papa taught me that life is full of challenges. They were inevitable, thus, you have to learn to deal with it.

It may sound a little too pessimistic, but I find value in overcoming challenges. How will you learn to adapt and survive outside if you are too sheltered?

Of course, I can understand why parents would want to shelter their kids. You want to protect them and give them the life you never had, and I am all for that.

It’s not like we’re throwing our cubs into the lion’s den to fend for themselves.

Point is, it’s not always fun and games, dear child. Life is a cycle of ups and downs. There is a time for butterflies and rainbows, but other times you may need to climb mountains, do your Math homework, and file taxes.

Lesson #2: Music is life and life is music

As a certified scholar ng bayan, Papa played his way through high school and college by being in a band. He is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met … aside from the winner of X-Factor.

His weapon of choice was the saxophone, though he could play plenty of other instruments like the harmonica, the guitar, and the piano.

You know how someone can simply listen to a piece once and be able to replay it without using a music sheet? Yeah, my dad could do that.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the perseverance to develop that kind of talent. Not that it’s an excuse really – I would rather sing by myself while taking a shower in the banyo.

I really do love music though. I recall going through Papa’s collection of cassette tapes as a kid, and that’ show I discovered The Beatles, The Cascades, Peter Paul and Mary, The Carpenters, Bee Gees, and … Paul Anka.

It helped me through life’s most difficult challenges like climbing mountains, doing my Math homework, and filing taxes.

If music is the language of the universe, then I hope to pass my love of dubstep and Parokya Ni Edgar onto you so that they too, may help bring color to your life.

Lesson #3: Cooking is tasty, tasty science

Papa was a chemist by profession. This meant two things: first, I grew up with plenty of bath products and second, I had access to certain books containing experiments that could potentially set our house on fire … which never happened, thankfully, though it did instill in me a sense of curiosity that I took with me to the kitchen.

You see, though my parents cooked a lot, I developed a certain taste for food that our household would normally deem unhealthy. You know, the sweet, fatty, calorie-loaded types? Like fried chicken.

So if I wanted to enjoy greasy, fatty foods I had to either buy them, or I could make them myself. So I did, starting with fried eggs, fried hotdogs, and eventually moving onto pancit canton.

Seriously though, it took me plenty of mistakes before I mastered the power of fire burning off a Solane-powered stove. The kitchen is my lab, and I am the deranged scientist who tests on human subjects, first and foremost: me.

Cooking is a cathartic experience, my stress reliever. For the end-result to be tasty is just a bonus. I’m all about the journey, yo.

I fully intend to show my children the mysterious ways of this thing called fire, and how you can harness it to create magical dishes that will warm hearts and fill bellies. Hopefully, this would also inspire them to pick up the pan and get cooking. With fire. From a Solane gas tank.

Lesson #4: Saving for a rainy day … and rewarding yourself when summer comes

Take your typical stingy Filipino-Chinese stereotype and multiply it by two. Then, multiply it by five. That’s. My. Father.

If I wanted something expensive, I had to save for it little by little, which was challenging since I didn’t really have a big allowance, but I did. I had to – after all, how else was I going to get the complete Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hulk Hogan, and a Game Boy?

By the time I was in High School, I made money off designing stuff for my classmates and teachers. When I started working, I was able to save up enough money to start a small business, which eventually closed down, but that’s another story.

So what am I trying to get at?

I guess all I’m trying to say is this: save up for a rainy day, but don’t forget to treat yourself for all your hard work. All the wealth in the world is pointless if you don’t get to enjoy it.

This brings us to my final lesson: saving and re-living these precious memories.

Lesson #5: Capture the moment

Papa used to tell me that he was in the photography club during his college years. Digital cameras and smartphones were non-existent back then, and for some reason, my baby child brain would always picture my dad taking pictures of flowers.

Which I now know is weird. I mean, photography is more than just taking pictures of pretty things – it’s about capturing a memory and telling a story.

Honestly, I never thought I would get into photography. Like I didn’t really dislike it, but I didn’t quite “get it”, either.

Who would have known that almost half a century later, photography would be so big that technology companies would try to kill each other in coming out with the best camera phone? Who would have thought filters that make photos look like they were taken with a film camera would be a thing?

No one could have predicted that. But then again no one could have predicted that we would be sending a battery-powered car to the moon, either.

I’m sure photography in one form or another would still be huge 50 years from now. Humans have incredibly poor memory, and photographs allow us to capture and save our most treasured memories so that it may one day bring us back to the exact point in time they were taken.

Which is why I’m taking every opportunity to take as many photos as I can as possible.

Hopefully, by then, I could look back at this post and cry tears of joy while listening to dubstep and eating fried chicken cooked out of a Solane-powered stove in my humble 10-story mansion by the beach, all the while surrounded by photos of my grandchildren – all thanks to my father’s lessons which I now pass onto you,

My child.