In a few hours, the whole world will celebrate again Father's Day. And again, I cannot join this wonderful occasion as my father already passed away eight years ago. And everytime this day comes, it makes me look back at the Toastmasters speech I composed and delivered during the Father's Day celebration in 2006 entitled "Loved by the Untamed Mountain and the Calm Sea". Honestly, I am having second thoughts if I should post this on my blog because I'm opening a very sensitive part of myself and my family but I thought, I wrote and delivered this several years ago and it only means that I'm ready to share this piece of my life so others may get inspired and learn from it.
So, without further ado, here's the Toastmasters speech I'm talking about...
Honor thy father and thy mother. This is God’s fourth commandment. 'But what will you do if you don't feel that honored at all and you can't obey this commandment?
Let me tell you this story.
My father was a typical Filipino father. He sent us to a Catholic school but he never believed in priests. He read the bible often but he hardly brought the whole family to church on Sundays. He demanded that the whole family should eat together but he never initiated saying grace before meals. He was intelligent and had a great career but he was also proud and short-tempered. He loved the kitchen, books and plants but he also adored hard liquor and cigars. Indeed, he was an untamed mountain, wild and free, mysterious and hard to climb.
As a child, I had a picture of how an ideal father should be. And his face was never the picture I saw. I had a regard for him as my father, as we all normally feel towards our dads. And despite the fact that he valued me so much as I am the youngest and inherited his wit, I barely reciprocated the feeling. At that time, I thought the arrangement was enough.
So the set-up continued and was generally accepted until a few days before I reached the summit of my hard work, my graduation in college, my father had an accident. He fell from the stairs of a three-storey house and his spinal chord was severely injured and damaged. This made him completely bed ridden and unable to recover. He suddenly transformed into a calm sea; silent and still but in pain and agony.
Instead of becoming compassionate, I turned furious then. How could someone who gave me many disappointments ruin the most important day of my life? I’ve always dreamt of that moment when my parents will be proudly handing over my medal and diploma, the fruits of my hard work, blood, sweat and tears. My father wanted and was very much happy with this recognition but when I finally got it, how can he then come up to the stage? The supposed summit of my academic career had a detour and I was devastated by that unexpected landslide. I hated him... I denied God’s existence... and I was angry with the injustice and inequality that I faced. And you couldn’t imagine how my character turned so black at that time.
However, in my eruption and in my darkest hours, a light guided me to reason and wisdom. It was my mom who served as the guiding light. In one serious talk we had, she told me, “I also feel like quitting. And I want to join you.” And it made me stop and think because I never planned and wanted that to happen. If I wanted to be heartless, that would only be me alone and I wouldn’t want anyone from my family be like me. It was another turning point. So as the light cleared the ashes that I threw into the air, I again sailed the calm sea. Together with my mom and my brother Kuya Jojo, we all put ourselves as second priority and took care of my father. Together, we attended to his needs; we fed him; we bathed him; we carried him; we looked for and tried many ways to help him recover; and ultimately, we cared for him more than ever. At the time when it’s most difficult to us, when my father barely moved, I’ve learned to love and care for him even more. The tragedy, though difficult and unimaginable to go through, became an opportunity for me to see the hidden treasures of the calm sea: the corals that signify the home I grew up with, the fishes that symbolize the food we ate in every meal and the salt water that shows the unconditional love of a father to his family.
And as I walked through the fine beaches of the calm sea, I noticed the backdrop of what used to be an untamed mountain. I realized that the mountain ranges were beautiful at large. I may have been at lost trekking the forest of the untamed mountain but I was fed by its fruits and protected by the shades of its trees. Before, all I saw was the difficulty of climbing its slopes but I never realized that the gold lies beneath.
He was a provider. He valued education. He ensured that there’s always food on our table. His spirituality may be unconventional but in his own ways, he taught us to be fair, responsible, humane, and God fearing.
Right then, I missed the normal dad I couldn’t get along with. I told myself, have I had serious talks with my dad before, I could have made better decisions.
And that night, I had a dream. My father was standing and called me. “What is it that you want to tell me? I’m here, standing; I can stand by myself now. Come on, you can talk to me,” he said. I wasn’t able to speak a word and I just hurriedly embraced him and cried like a little child, thinking and wishing that if I hug more tightly and won't let go, this dream is indeed true, he really can stand and walk again. But when I woke up, the only truth that faced me are the tears continuously pouring down to my cheeks. I then hurried to his room and saw him lying and sleeping on his bed. And seeing him still alive and resting well is an enough relief for me.
'But I think the dream I had was a sign as a few weeks after, the calm sea started to dry up. I was headed home from work when I got a call from my uncle (Tito Nono) telling me to hurry up so I could still see my father and say goodbye. Again, it made me stop and think. Was I ready? Have I done my part? Was my care enough? Have I been forgiven?
What really torn my heart apart was despite the fact that he was in a coma and battling for his breathe, I needed to leave the next day to fulfill a sensitive obligation at work that no one else can do. I swear, I didn’t want to leave and didn’t care about the repercussions; but my family reminded me of what my father always told us: to be responsible no matter what. So as I painfully looked at the last moments of his life, I embraced him tightly; wishing that I need not go and afraid that I may not see him again when I come back. But again, I became an ungrateful son as I defied my heart’s will.
The society dictates how parents should be. It’s in the bible, it’s in our revised family code, and it’s in our culture. They should be fair with their children. They should be good providers. They should be morally upright citizens. They should be perfect role models. And we, as children, caged our parents in these standards. And if these standards aren’t religiously met, we judge them; we blame them, that easily and blindly not realizing that our parents are humans too. Like us, they have their good and bad sides, their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and downs, and they sometimes do it right but they also sometimes fail. But unlike us, they are able to accept and love their children no matter how their youngsters have become.
My father was never the ideal father I pictured out but he was the real father I loved and will ever love given the second chance. Despite my imperfections as a son, and as a human, he taught me many things, and loved me whether he was as strong as the untamed mountain or as silent as the calm sea.
|Remigio B. Bondoy|
December 19, 1943 to June 07, 2002
|My baptism at Sta. Ana Church in Manila|
|with my Mama, Papa, Ninangs and Ninong|