There are so many things that I learned from my dad. From the simple and mundane to the earth-shattering. I know that if he didn’t share them with me, my life would be so very different and I wouldn’t be where I am now.
He has always insisted that you do not wash your hands with cold water after you’ve been working with your hands for a very long time. I’ve always followed this advice, until quite recently, since my move to the UK and I think this has contributed greatly to the pain that I am feeling in my hands.
My father taught me how to cook. I know that, traditionally, cooking lessons come from the mothers. But I remember when we used to live in a little apartment in Teachers Village in Quezon City, my father used to cook us a really nice tomato soup with veg. He let me watch while chopped vegetables and stirred the pot. I now know that that delicious soup was minestrone.
When I was little, he always reminded me to have my head covered in the rain or when it’s cold because if you don’t, you catch a cold. While scientists have disproved that idea that heat escapes from your head more than any part of your body, I still believe in the wisdom that having your head covered in the rain or in the cold will keep you healthier.
My father taught me how pictures were made. He has a small dark room in his lab. When I was little he used to let me come with him to work and he used to show me how he developed the pictures of the chromosomes that he took for karyotyping. He showed me how the developer chemicals were mixed and how each roll of film was processed. He even let me print a photo and helped me place it in the trays with developing chemicals properly so that the picture appeared, almost as if by magic. It was very exciting for a 5-year old to know!
My father didn’t teach me how to drive; I went to a driving school for that. But after I’d learned the basics, it was his backseat driving that taught me the importance of being alert and driving defensively, as opposed to driving offensively. I’d like to think I’m a safe and smooth driver—and I drive a manual transmission car!
My father taught me to appreciate languages. He speaks Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, a smattering of Russian (I think), and a sprinkling of Chinese and of course English and Filipino. My father’s love of languages and his constant encouragement of our interest in learning languages have equipped us immensely. When you understand the difficulties in direct translation because the nuances are lost, you are more inclined to be understanding of the people you speak to be cause you understand how easy it is for the intended message to be lost in translation.
My father taught me to about recycling and being resourceful. In grade school, my dad helped me with my science projects. When I say “helped,” I mean he built my projects for me. He didn’t buy the bulb fittings and switches from a hardware store and simply wired them up. He taught me about conductors and fashioned the bulb fittings and switches from old milk cans. He explained to me how the circuits worked, so that when I was asked about my submissions, I could explain them in my own words. I felt really proud bringing in my school projects because they weren’t like everyone else’s. They looked very original.
My father taught me to work hard and to make sure I tried to do my very best at everything I did. He believed in my abilities and pushed me very hard to achieve at school. I remember once, when I brought in my report card and I got a 97% grade a school grading period on a subject, which I think was English, my father pointedly asked me where the other 3% was. I was flabbergasted because 97% was a very high grade and why couldn’t I just get a “well done!” or a “very good!” I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I completely get it. He knew what I could do and he knew that if I set my mind to it, I would be able to achieve more than I had thought possible. I’ve learned to push myself hard now, to make sure that when I do something, it’s done to the best of my abilities. I think that has allowed me to accomplish the things that I have done, so far.
This collection of lessons doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the things that my father has taught me, in word and in deed. The most important lesson he has taught me is the lesson of love. This man would do everything possible for his family. He would forego eating his favourite meal if it meant that he would be able to share it with us. He has made sure that he has been able to provide everything possible for us. I don’t imagine us to be wealthy, but we certainly have not gone without and we have not grown up wanting anything that was important. He has made sure that we did not want for opportunities to better ourselves. And even now, even when his children are grown up and adults, he never fails to encourage us to continue to work hard, he never fails to be someone we can lean on.
I am blessed to have him as my father.
Happy birthday Abba!