A Father’s Place

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UP Diliman. Photo by Candy Cruz Datu

I MISS my Dad. I lost him two years ago but I still think I hear his voice and often forget that he’s not home to greet me with his usual, “Hello, Darling!” Father’s Day is especially tough because it makes his absence starker.

He was an excellent Dad. Of course, in our 46 years together, we inevitably slogged through the usual drama that exists between father and daughter. But he was the top, even when I wasn’t.

He taught me to read. He taught me to write. But what I appreciate most about my Dad was his presence. He liked to spend time with me and he relished our conversations. He knew how to listen.

I was blessed to have enjoyed a father like him. I was truly fortunate to have had him always within reach. I cannot imagine what it is like for those who have to grow up without their father because he is elsewhere earning a living for his family. It is one of my dreams for this country that our children will one day not have to endure that privation.

It was reported on the news last night that two cybersex dens were raided in Pampanga and Bulacan. The young children were made to perform grotesque acts of perversion on webcam and to top that, in the case of the Pampanga victims, their (still youthful) grandmother and aunts were their pimps. Besides promoting the children’s online prostitution, the grandmother even invited foreigners to visit the Philippines to have a “hands-on” experience with the kids. Several acts of statutory rape were thus committed in the children’s own home. In the Bulacan case, the child’s father said he had no inkling that anything untoward was going on.  He claimed to be extremely pained by the discovery because he was completely ignorant of what was being done to his child.

I can’t help asking, why? Why would a father not know what is happening to his own child? As for the Pampanga kids, my question is, where are their parents? The news report did not say.

I can only surmise that the reason for the Bulacan father’s ignorance and the absence of the Pampanga parents is that they work away from home. The absentee parent is now a ubiquitous fact of life in the Philippines, and all because he or she is struggling to provide a better life for the family. Ironically, the pressing need to escape from poverty (and the less urgent desire for material abundance), is why many Filipino families are sundered today.

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Liliw Cathedral. Photo by Candy Cruz Datu

Our overseas workers have sacrificed much to provide for their families, and a welcome side-effect of their self-abnegation is the improvement of our national weal. For this we have hailed them as heroes.

Without diminishing their contribution, I suggest we apply perspective to this situation. It is right to appreciate our migrant workers, but isn’t it time we took an honest, careful look at the long-term effects of the OFW phenomenon? Shouldn’t we consider weaning ourselves from this revenue source and insist more strongly on the increase of home-grown enterprises, primarily for the sake of our families? I am afraid that the more we affirm overseas employment, the more children there will be growing up un- or under-supervised, and vulnerable to a host of evils. And who will be responsible for them?

A father’s place is with his family, not on Skype. Besides the paternal love that is naturally expected of him, he is to supply leadership, guidance, and moral support – not merely basic provisions and, unfortunately, the frippery that frequently compensates for absence.

I realize that times are changing, but in the traditional (and still common) view, a father is the mast, and a mother, the ballast that keeps a family ship-shape. We have in the past succumbed to expediency and compromised the integrity of our families for economic survival. I have no idea how much longer this will have to be done, but I am looking for national leaders who will stop depending on expatriate parents to supply not only for their families but also for the country.

When asked why they had allowed the children to suffer such heinous sexual crimes, one of the aunts said in between sobs, “Poverty. We were forced to. Please give us another chance because we really had no choice.”

That’s hogwash – loathsome, execrable, hogwash. There is always a choice. I feel that if the children’s father and mother were around, they would have certainly made the right one.

I am hoping more fathers will choose to stay with their families and ensure that their children have sound childhoods and fond memories of them when they pass on.

I am looking for a candidate who as President of this country will make this a priority in the next term.

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Liliw Cathedral. Photo by Candy Cruz Datu

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