Monday, June 27, 2011


Another day has passed.

And tomorrow, it’s going to be another day again.

Time grinds on… in a speed that often astounds me. I sometimes wonder if I could somehow slow it down… but that is wishful thinking on my part. It will never stop for me.

Talking with my friend Bill who is now out of Calgary just yesterday has made me realize that life is indeed quite short… too short if you ask me.

Of Lies and Writing…
Which gets me to contemplate about some of the aspects of my life… parts of which needs reevaluation. I guess in a way, our conversation made me realize certain things about myself and some of the things that define me. 

The most painful and rather frank assessment he gave me is his accusation of me being a liar.
That hurts because in a way, it might be true…

Not in the sense that I lie to people, no (though sometimes I do give lies) but rather in the sense that I have the ability to blur truth and fiction when I write. And in a way, though that might be good for an aspiring writer, it is something that needs reevaluation.

One thing that readers must understand about writers is that we tend to make statements that take on many different hues of meaning. I mean for one thing, I might be writing something that seems straightforward but when reread and evaluated is actually something of an irony that means the exact opposite and since people in general tend to interpret things literally, that presents a predicament.

Success as a writer comes when you can convince people that their writing is truth or real. Real in the sense that when you describe pain, for example, your reader actually feels the same kind of pain when they read it. Or in describing a scene, the reader somehow is transported to that moment that you describe.

Or like when you describe two lovers in a story and the reader feels like a voyeur who shouldn’t be there, you know… or you describe a conviction and people tend to believe you… that’s the pinnacle of the writing craft… when you can utterly convince people of something.

But in a way, Bill is probably right. People get hurt by the way I write things. And I myself wonder, whether it is intentional or not… I don’t know.

So when reading any of my pieces here or any other writers work, you must always be vigilant. Because sometimes words really mean more than what is apparent in the way that they are arranged. A statement of conviction can be doubt and bravado may just be covering some weakness.

Hence, we have the adage ‘Read between the lines…’ Only a few things are literal, many are figurative and symbolic…

The Real Lie

I owe this to Bill and myself more than anything. 

There is this overused example but I will use it nonetheless: 

Somebody is down on his luck and a concerned person approaches this guy and asks: Are you ok?
The man looks at the good Samaritan, smiles weakly and says:  “I’m ok. Don’t worry about me.”

We all know that it is a lie. But when people say that, we tend to move on since we are afraid that we would be intruding if we insist on asking if they are ok. We all know that he is not ok but since he says that he is, whether that is out of pride or something else, we tend to balk around and back off.

But it’s not the spoken words that matter… it’s the unspoken ones that truly does.

The irony is the fact that we question and doubt what the unspoken words are..

And that’s the tragedy.

I know what Bill was really talking about when he said that I am a liar. And I know what he was getting at. I understand the unspoken concern that was behind it. 

But humans are rather complicated creatures. And I am human…

Si Bodoh at si Bill 

Bill: So what are your plans?

Bodoh: (laughs) change the world… run to Africa… lobby the G8 to end world poverty… frolic in the Mediterranean… climb the Alps…

Bill: (just stares at Bodoh as the man enumerates the many things he wants to achieve in his life)

Bodoh: …see the world… raise some funds to sponsor scholars… (he realizes that Bill had been staring at him, he trails off…) … stuff, you know…

A long silence settles between both. There is this thing that is true to men who speak too much… they are spouting off steam. Like if you ask a person with a strained leg would cover his ailment by walking briskly despite the pain. Men are proud creatures… rarely does one face the truths. You cover deficiencies and shortcomings with words…

Bill: You sure those are the things you want?

Bodoh: (stares into space. He breathes in and out for a long drawn out moment) Yeah…

Bill: You sure?

Bodoh: (exhales deeply) Yeah…

Bill looks over his friend for a while. Outside the gophers were mewling.

Bill: So you’re really not going to establish a family?

Bodoh stands up and paces across the room. He eventually gets back to his seat.

Bodoh: Yeah…

Bill: Can I ask you a question?

Bodoh: Sure.

Bill: Let’s just say that you get married… let’s presume it you know as a matter of contention…

Bodoh: Ok, I’m game with that.

Bill: What would you do?

Bodoh: (takes a deep breath) I once swore an oath once, you know about what my life is… it went something like this: I love my mom… 

Bill: (smirks) What’s that gotta do with it?

Bodoh: Let me finish, ok? I mean as I was saying: I love my Mom. She was the one who raised me and gave me the opportunity to have what I have now… I mean, I love myself but I love my mom more… but if I get married, I’m gonna love my wife more than I love my Mom…

Bill: Go on…

Bodoh: I think that it is fitting, you know. After all, when two people become one, it’s a commitment that goes beyond the usual scope of what love is…

He pauses.

Bodoh: … I mean that’s just me… I’m … (trails) you know…

Bill (nods): So why won’t you marry?

Bodoh looks him over as if unsure whether to answer or not. It seems after a while that he wouldn’t answer…

Bodoh: Many things…

Bodoh: Like I’m not financially prepared for one… I’m restarting my life again… I’m too old… you know… the usual excuses men like me use. I could even say that I am a fat ugly bastard and that would be an excuse..

Bill: And the real reason?

Bodoh: (falls silent for a while)… the real reason?

Bill: Yeah, you know… the real reason?

Bodoh: (falls silent again…) I don’t know… maybe that no one likes me.

Bill: That’s stupid.

Bodoh: Yeah…

Bill: Come on man, what’s the real reason?

Bodoh: (exhales)

Bill: So how many girls have you courted?

Bodoh: Technically?

Bill: Yeah, as in seriously…

Bodoh: One…

Bill: (laughs) one?

Bodoh: I got stupid once, so technically it’s just once.

Bill: How’d that go?

Bodoh: I’m alone now, ain’t I? (laughs weakly). I sent a letter once to another girl but that was not technically a courtship and neither does smiling and greeting a girl qualify as courtship… so once only.

Bill: You were rejected?

Bodoh: She saw me as a competitor, I guess. She says that I was too fast… I was stupid.

Bill: How long?

Bodoh: Half a semester so that would be three months…

Bill: (laughs) I’m sorry man… 

Bodoh: She chose her career…

Bill: So that’s your reason for never marrying?

Bodoh: (stares at Bill) Are you crazy, of course not. That is not the reason. Look, I just reached a point you know, when the logical thing to do is to go at life alone. It will take me up to four or five years to reestablish myself in my life again. I can’t possibly commit another person to a roller coaster ride for the next few years. There are too many variables that are way out of my control and I don’t know if I’ll make it. It would be cruel to subject another person to that uncertainty.

Bill: You’re the responsible stickler kind.

Bodoh: What’s that?

Bill: You know… men who believe that their role is to be the primary rock. They want to be secure before they commit. They skulk in the background slaving away at their dreams while convincing themselves that someday, when they reach their dream ‘secure’ state, everything would somehow fall into place…

Bodoh: (nods)

Bill: Guess what? They fail… I mean humans never reach that level where they feel secure enough… they just wake up as old geezers with an empty house and a good credit rating and the money they save up is spent in an old retirement home in Victoria where they play solitaire with themselves… and when they die, their money is donated to charity where the only thing left over to remember you by is a small plaque in a park bench somewhere that says ‘In memory of Bodoh…’

Silence settles between both…

Bodoh: (weakly) Yeah…

Bill: And that’s the kind of life you want?

Bodoh: No, of course not…

Bill: So why?

Bodoh: ……Fear…

Bill: Fear?

Bodoh: Yeah… fear…

Bill: Fear of women?

Bodoh: Of course not… fear of failing… I mean I’m not a perfectionist or anything like that. But I fear failure so much that I am immobilized by it… what if I’m not going to be a good husband? What if, I fail as a father? What if I can’t make my wife happy? You know… stuff like those… better to stop before you know it…

Bill: You’ve got daddy issues.

Bodoh: (momentarily taken aback, his face contorted in warring emotions) … maybe. 

Bill: So what’s your story?

Bodoh: The usual stuff… mom and dad fight… dad drowns in vices, mom nags… dad strikes mom… mom has enough and chases dad away… dad finds another woman and a new family… tragic stuff, sad stuff… you don’t want to live with that kind of thing. I mean, you just shrug it off and say that it’s got nothing to do with it… but you know eldest sons and fathers, right. Those issues scar the soul.

Bill: So you’re afraid of being your dad?

Bodoh: (shrugs weakly)… I don’t know…

Bill: (falls silent)

Bodoh: I hate my Dad.

Bill: You are not your dad.

Bodoh: I know.

Bodoh: Change the subject....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Conversations with Bill: Supposition of a Dream-Aftermath

Published with permission.

The repercussions of the piece I wrote over the last weekend has created a backlash that was rather unforeseen both by me and the person who commissioned the piece. So with permission, I am affixing the following conversation to clear the matter, although the results are probably irreparable as of the time of this writing.

This is for Bill and Mira. May you find the happiness you both desire. And for Bill, you should’ve told me the purpose of why you’ve requested me to write it. To Mira, my sincerest apologies. Know that it was never my intention to further complicate things between the both of you.

Bill: You’ve wrote one hell of a story, kid.
Me: Only as you requested…
Bill: You’ve got a gift
Me: Thanks…
Bill: I mean, if I didn’t know any better, it almost feels like it’s the truth you know.
Me: I’ll accept that as a compliment, I guess
Bill: I’ve also read the posts you’ve made. You really have the gift. I mean, you could have fooled me.
Me: Still learning, though.
Bill: (after a long pause) and fool that I am, I actually sent it to her…
Me: (smirking) You did? That’s kinda foolish don’t you think. I can’t imagine her reaction.
Bill: Yeah… (he grows pensive)… she took it hard…
(Silence fell)
Me: Are you sure you’re making the right decision though? I mean… life should be good for you here…
Bill: (snorts)
Me: When are you going, though?
Bill: This month end.
Me: Hmm.
Bill: Yeah…
(Another long silence)
Bill: Let me ask you something though (he looks at me inquisitively)
Me: …sure… what about?
Bill: I’ve been reading through the stuff you wrote and something odd strikes me –
Me: (I smile) about?
Bill: (ponders for a moment. He looks me up like he was sizing me) …you’re a liar.
Me: (startled. It’s not usually that I am thrown such an accusation. It stings to be honest and I grew defensive). Pardon?
Bill: You are a liar. (he looks at me pointedly. I felt threatened, honestly at that point)
Me: About what?
Bill: Stuff…
I stare at him, unsure how to react. We really don’t know each other that much although the last two months meeting at the central library has forged a bond of sorts between us but for him to accuse me of being a liar was unexpected and quite rather pointed.
Bill: (he sees my discomfort)  like the posts you write about yourself and your convictions. You’re a liar
Me: (I relax a bit. There is truth there). Hmm
Bill: Like the stuff where you choose to be alone… (he looked at me, the question in his blue eyes. I dropped my gaze) or the stuff about your life… mostly lies
Me: (I smiled at him but I didn’t utter a word.)
Bill: (he scans my face, gauging my reaction then he smiles) I knew it.. (he gulps down his beer and slaps his thigh. I remain silent and took a draught of my own drink)
Bill: You know what gave you away?
Me: What?
Bill: The fact that I asked you to write that story for me.
Me: The blog post?
Bill: That one.
Me: What about it?
Bill: It seems so vivid, you know (he paused, all the time staring at my reactions. I felt really uncomfortable) I mean you know my story, right?
I nodded.
Bill: (continues). If you remove the year, one can almost imagine it is true, you know?
I nod.
Bill: so as I’ve said, you have a gift.
Me: They are just words.
Bill: But you could make it convincing. (He grinned as if he just made a discovery.) I mean, I read your other stories and if you remove those, uh (he scratched his head) you know, those ‘works of fiction, blah blah bullshit’, you could probably convince me.
I laughed.
Bill: I mean, like the story you have for example about that encounter with that woman… you know that unfinished ‘confession’ thing?
I nodded.
Bill: That’s bullshit.
A long drawn out silent fell. I wondered what i should be reacting. The one thing about westerners is that they are direct to the point and as a brown man with Asian sensibilities, I was put into a spot.
Me: Maybe…
Bill: You are good with words. Utterly convincing.
Me: (After finally getting what he meant) Thanks, I guess. (If I can convince a reader that what he is reading is the truth, then I am a successful writer. That’s how I understood it. Writing often blurs the difference between what is real and what is imagined, fiction wars with actual truths. I play with words. That’s what writing is. To be successful as one, one must be able to interchange one with the other, to present fiction as truth or truth as fiction. When the reader is utterly convinced either way, that’s success)
Bill: But you’re a liar.
I let the comment slide with a smile. In a way, it touched a raw nerve.
Me: So are you really going to leave her behind? (I tried to change the topic)
He stares at me then he smiles as he realizes my ploy.
He nods.
Bill: Up north is not a place for a woman
Me: You actually broke with her?
Bill: (gulps another mouthful of beer) Yeah. Used your story.
I stared at him. He requested I write that blog piece ‘Supposition of a Dream’ a while back. That he would actually have the guts to send that to Mira was beyond me. She’d be devastated. I mean that was not the purpose of that piece.
Me: You did?
Bill: Yeah.
That was cruel. If you are a woman and you get sent that kind of piece as a breakup piece, that was something else. I mean, if I had known it, I should have rewrote the piece. It was supposed to be a ‘supposition’ only: a mind game.
Me: That’s cruel.
Bill: (nods)
I felt guilty. That piece was never meant for Mira. That was a low blow. I suddenly had a low respect for the man before me.
Me: I should apologize.
(Mira did send me an email to which I hope my apologetic response was enough. I’m really sorry about that Mira. I truly am..)
Me: You really are going aren’t you?
Bill: Yeah. (he finishes his beer and peers at me). You should come. I can hook you up with my workcrew in Manitoba.
Me: (I must admit that his offer was tantalizing, good pay – though manual labor. The chance to learn a trade… I felt like accepting before – but I couldn’t) I can’t
Me: I’m sticking with Calgary for a while. Try to upgrade and find a stable job and I’m waiting for my family, you know my reasons…
Bill: I know, kid… but should you change your mind, just give me a ring.
I nod.
Me: You want me to bring down the post?
Bill: (he looks at me) It’s already there. (he shrugs)
Me: I’m posting this conversation, though…
He shrugs.
Bill: But not the previous ones…
Me: Just this and the first one.
He laughs.
Bill: You know something… You could probably write that you are a murderer with such clarity that I would believe you. Or you could convince me that you are a madman and I’ll believe you… I mean, the way you write is dangerous, kid. I don’t know anything about writing stuff but your manner of writing is wicked. You’re bound to hurt people.
Me: (I smile weakly. I kinda realize a bit what he is trying to say). If I can blur the difference between what is real and what’s not, that’s probably success for me. (which is sadly true)
Bill: That is dangerous, kid, I tell you.
I smile.
A long pause ensues.
Me: Are you really leaving Mira behind?
Bill: For the moment, yes…
Me: Then you really are leaving her. (I said with finality)
He looks at me, and smiles as he realizes he’s been found.
Bill: Yeah.
Another long pause settles. I often wonder you know how tenuous and fragile human relationships are. We exist to hurt each other. That’s a part of our humanity. Pain is the fruit of Adam’s original sin and the constant reminder of our being alive. One wishes to go through life not ever hurting anyone but that is a wish that cannot be granted. In one way or another, you hurt people, some more than others; simply by your existence and your actions and your choices of words.
And once done, the actions and words created cannot be undone. That’s the tragedy of it. Bill is guilty, I am guilty… Everyone is… to someone. Apologies can never do it justice… ever. But it helps a bit to say sorry.
So I am sorry. I’m sorry Mira. For Bill, for the words and the post. For a man to abandon you for something else is probably one of the most painful things that a woman has to go through. Sometimes, it may have been better if he is leaving you for another woman. Somehow, that would be better. But he isn’t. That’s the tragedy. I’m sorry for him, for the both of you.
Me: I should be going.
Bill: Hmm. (we shake hands) As I’ve said kid, you’ve got a dangerous gift… and don’t lie…
I laugh.
I walk away.
Bill: (calls out). I’ve been wondering, what the hell was that writing prior to the post?
I turn.
Bill: Is that your native tongue or something?
Me: (I shrug) Nope.
Bill: What was it?
Me: Bad Japanese about politics. I’ve been sitting on it for a few years without the right piece of writing to attach it to. You want me to translate it?
Bill: Politics huh?

I shrug. 

I guess it was better that way.

So Bill is out of Calgary now. I’m gonna miss the conversations we’ve had since we first met. The only thing I have are transcripts of those conversations (which I cannot post because he asked me not to). This is the reality of human relationships. They are transient and often brief. The friendship is real though. Sometimes it is up to us to work to make the relationships we like happen. That’s the challenge. And we often fail…

This is life, indeed…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Supposition of a Dream..

Watashi wa hontōni anata ga suki. Watashi wa sore o mitomeru koto ga dekinai. Ichi-ninde wa naku… Tabun nai…Watashi wa shitai to omoimasu, Shikashi, watashi wa dekimasen.


Watashi wa hontōni anata to watashi no jinsei o sugosu no ga daisukida. Watashi wa hontōnidarou... Shikashi, watashi mo okubyōmono no ōku wa gozen….Watashi wa kokuhaku suru koto wa dekimasen… Sore wa watashi o miru...

Shikashi, watashi wa anata o aishite…

Watashi wa sekai ni sore o kokuhaku.

Kore o rikai shite inai kanō-sei ga arimasu… 

Tabun watashi wa bakada.

Watashi wa jinsei de saikō no anata ni shitai

Anata no shiawase no tame no watashi no negai

Watashi wa sono hito ni naritai. Anata wa dare to waraudarou... Anata-kata o sapōto shimasu… Kata o tayori ni… Aisuru koto… Furui seichō suru…


Watashi wa, okubyōmono, orokamonodesu, Hito ni hanasu yūki o kaite iru... Shikashi, watashi wa kimi o aishi teru…

Eien ni…

The year is 2016. The place somewhere.

Working the coal mines up north for five years and lacking any family to go back to in the South has made me steer clear of the place where I first set foot in this great land.

The reasons go beyond that of course, the land of the Wild Rose symbolized everything that I probably could have had and the city of Calgary, in particular symbolized the dreams I could have accomplished. Save for a few brief touchdowns on my way to Vancouver, I avoided it.

But not today.

Today, something is calling me towards the city and the call is so strong that I found myself Downtown grappling with a nervousness I could not explain.

I hadn’t told anyone I was coming. While my sister and her family made this city their home and they have a house on the Southwest, I hadn’t really called them. I am planning on crashing at a motel somewhere, address the unexplained yearning and then leave.

The discomfort that Calgary symbolized goes beyond words. It is something that I can never fully explain. In a way, I know the root of the problem. It has something to do with a choice I made five years ago, a choice that has landed me where I am today. I have always wondered what could have happened if I made the opposite choice back then. During the long nights cooped up alone in a cabin in the cold windswept hills of Manitoba, I have always been beset by deep regrets arising from that choice.

And perhaps those feelings are the ones that is pulling me back here now. 

After getting to my motel room and freshening up, I wandered aimlessly Downtown. I found myself on top of the Calgary tower. It is no longer the highest building in Calgary and in a way, it is now constricted by the modern sky rises that dotted the cityline. I watched absent-mindedly as people dared themselves to go over the mirrored ledge. There was a time, I did that too and the thought of it made me a bit queasy.

For I have always been afraid of heights.

Grabbing a Tim Horton’s, I found myself boarding the train, headed to stations I had once known. Erlton, Victoria, 39th Ave, Chinook, Heritage, Southland, Anderson, Canyon Meadows, Shonessy…
I didn’t get off any one. Thankfully there was no one in the train who recognized me. In a way, I was probably indistinguishable now with my full beard and grizzled coal-miner appearance. People’s appearance change with time at such a fast pace that sometimes it also surprises me.

I don’t know how long I rode the train but eventually, like all train rides, I had to step out on a station I will not name on a platform that is both alien and familiar.

I knew of course, where I was headed.

The place was different. I stood in front of it for a long time, noting that its façade had been remodeled. It was still a restaurant which comforted me. Maybe this is why I am back here, I reasoned… or maybe not…

I went in, not really knowing what I’d find inside.

It was stupid…

I ordered their special and just zoned out. Perhaps I was not really there in the first place. I don’t know. I was in limbo.

Only when I felt a presence did I snap out of my reverie.

You know the feeling when someone is looking at you? Like the world just stops and two people are just existing looking at each other.

Like an apparition from a dreamscape. Or straight from a surrealist’s easel.

‘Hi’ she managed a weak smile as she came over. I scanned her face for any hint of surprise but if she did, it didn’t show.

‘Hi’ I answered rising up as she sat across me. Like a dream…

We sat down in silence for a long time. Her order came and went in that half-dazed world. One could not really define the moment.

‘I was surprised you are here.’ I ventured, tentatively.

She gave me another weak smile. I dropped my gaze. From guilt mostly…, unexplainable…

‘I heard, so I came down…’ I offered. ‘More like read it…’ I laughed feebly. Despite FB’s problems, it is still the platform that one goes to.

She still smiled weakly, quietly nibbling her salad.

‘How are you?’ she asked finally, her voice low.

‘As you see, hehe… old.’ I gave an exaggerated gesture to encompass my grizzled appearance.

‘When did you come back?’ There was a bit of tenseness in her voice, though I might just be imagining it.

‘This morning…’ The other words were drowned in the unvoiced conversation that happened in the brief pauses that came between the actual voices.

I’ve always wondered what was really between us. I mean, is it actually possible for two souls to be connected in such a way as ours did. Or was the connection just something in the mind. Was it even imaginary? I sometimes wonder.

It never happened, really. Choices were made and there never was a chance to fully explore what it was. But there is a bitter aftertaste and residual pain that was never really addressed. Indirect excursions in the guise of virtual conversations. Pain by supposition. Mind games.

Or maybe we just made it all up.

Or I made it all up.

But here we are.

An unresolved enigma that might never be answered.

‘You should be going…’ I hated myself the moment I uttered the words.

She looked at me. Was it a question that lingered there?

She hesitated for a moment then with a sad smile she stood up. This time she was the one who extended an arm.

I smiled weakly and shook it. I was numb.

‘Congratulations on your impending marriage…’ I managed, forcing the words out.


Then she turned away. I watched her dainty form fade away into the street. I stood there long after she was gone, dry invisible tears streaming down.

‘I hope and pray for your happiness…’ I whispered to phantom ears.

An image of her in a white wedding dress briefly flitted across my mind’s eye. A faceless man waited for her in the altar…

I could never be that man. 

I knew that even then.

But how I wish I could be that man…

©Johnny Domawa
All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: All persons/events here are products of a writer's imagination. Any resemblance to a person, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day...

Copyright 2011 Johnny Domawa
All Rights Reserved

Today is the 17th, in three days it will be Father’s day. Of all the special days that are present in the modern calendar, this is probably the one that hardly registers. After all, mothers often trump fathers in the parental scale. Except for the rare instances where daughters worship their fathers, most sons and other children have a rather distant relationship with the head of the household.

I mean, let’s just look at Facebook posts on Father’s Day and you’ll get the picture. Only a few people would be greeting their fathers and of those, most will be merely posting and would not be able to actually say the words they write to their fathers. You can laugh about the irony once you get it. 

But probably that’s the role of fathers.

They are probably meant to be kept at a distance, to goad us either by their lack of emotions or their failings. For fathers often fail, in most scenarios. Either they are absent for most of our lives both literally and figuratively; or they mess up so bad we use them as role models for a life we do not want to have.

But it doesn’t always start that way. One of the fondest memories I have of childhood are the rain-soaked afternoons spent trudging beneath pine trees looking for mushrooms with my dad. And when my Mom used to whip me up when I missed my curfew, it was my Dad who stopped her from giving me more. And I looked up to him, a lot during those times prior to his change of heart when he reached middle age. He was the rock and the strong presence that buoyed me in childhood and there is no doubt that such is the image of most fathers during that time.

Things changed, of course as time rolled on. I grew up and the things I could not see as a child became much more apparent with age. I empathized with my mother for her sacrifices more and the distance between my dad and me began to grow.

Fathers, in the eyes of their sons are the greatest stumbling block to growing as a man. If the father is a role model who somehow breaks the usual and becomes a great father, he will be the barometer upon which sons mold themselves. And if he is a failure, he is the image of the man that a son hopes he will not grow up to become.

And either way, the results are often tragic.

Either the son who idolizes a good dad overcompensates and fails miserably (they will tell you: ‘I am not my father! Do not compare me to him!’) and suffer when they could not exceed their father’s stature or they struggle and fail to not fail (they will tell you: ‘Wala akong alam, Katulad ko lang ang tatay ko, isang loko!’ I’m dumb just like my father, so don’t be surprised). Clearly, the best fathers are those who are in between: not too successful and not overt failures either. That way, sons can aspire normally. There are no monuments to conquer and no pitfalls to escape from.

And what is ironic is that the best fathers are the worst lovers at least in most instances. When the man is not the best lover to his wife, he often compensates with the children. Rare is the man who accomplishes both. And the best lovers are unfortunately, often absentee distant father figures since most of their passion is directed towards their wives and lovers. 

So what makes a great father? 

I don’t know. Don’t look at me for answers. I am not a father and neither will I be any time soon. That is something that must be answered by each individual man using his own resources when his time to become one happens. And one does not become a father by merely begetting a child. It takes more than a sperm donation to make a dad and more than a genetic match to make a father.

The Filipino culture makes for a rigid structure where blood relations are the greatest weight that goes against all else. I mean we have the adage ‘Anuman ang mangyari o sasabihin mo, anak pa rin kita at ama mo ako! Whatever may happen or what you say, you are my son and I am your father!’). We all believe that. And it is that same dogged belief that gives license to men to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. That is one of our cultural failings if we really want to be critical about it.

Fathers and Sons

Fathers love their sons. Of this, there is no doubt. Even when outwardly, they love their daughters more. Because sons are the symbols of their hopes and the continuation of their seeds.

All men, no matter how much they would deny it want to be remembered. And when a son grows to be great others will say ‘Sino na ang ama niyan?’ Who is his father?’ It is the source of man-pride, you know in the most basic sense of the word. Sons are the trophies that men hold aloft once they have a family. That’s why men would insist on having sons and why fathers cry in private when their sons go awry. 

Despite whatever distance or resentment that divides men and their cubs, there is always love that is present there, always unvoiced and always repressed. And virtually nothing can break the man-code. Only loonies and battered men lost in delirium would ever actually utter the words ‘I love you son…’. We express love through other means.

Like sharing a drink during family gatherings. I often resented, you know, drinking during social meetings. I hated the effects of liquor and the drunken revelry and madness that follow too much imbibement of alcohol. I still do but lately, I also have come to realize that moderation actually plays a role in the relationships of men. Because alcohol is an excuse.

That’s right. It is an excuse. Women got it wrong when they think that men love the taste of alcohol. It is a not. Men love instead, the excuse that alcohol provides. When men had shared a glass of wine, then they are given license to speak. Particularly for those born in Asian cultures.

Do you give advice to you sons or friends when you are sober? 

Do you reprimand a guy friend or a grown up son for a failure while sober?

Do you rant or vent while sober?

Do you praise a man while sober without restrictions?

Alcohol gives you an excuse to do so. You can do these without drinking but they are limited. Praising a man for example can be done in a formal or joking manner when sober but it is more heartfelt and spontaneous if you’ve wet your lips with just a shot. And men and their sons get to really talk with less reservations when there is a bottle of spirits between them.

Or mechanical things. That’s also the place where fathers and sons bond together. Machines and alcohol, other than these, there is only the invisible divide between a man and his male progeny.

And that bond is never broken.

Fathers and Daughters

Do you know why fathers in the rare instance that they do, express their love more to their daughters?

Or why they are very protective of them?

Because daughters unlike sons, are loans.

Yes, you read me right. Daughters are loans. Like the loan you get in a bank that you have to return, or that car you loan that you have to drive back. Daughters are like that to fathers.

Fathers know instinctively that there will come a time when they have to give up their daughters to someone else. Notice that I use the word ‘give up’. 

If you don’t get it, remember the wedding ceremony. Who walks up the bride to the groom? It’s not the mom, that’s for sure. It’s the dad. That’s the dreaded moment in every fathers life: that moment when he has to give up the daughter he always knew he had to give away. Unlike sons that are theirs forever, daughters aren’t theirs figuratively speaking.

That’s why men dote on their daughters. That’s why outwardly, they seem to love them more. And why they are more willing to overlook the failings of the fairer sex and are more critical of their sons.

And it is not fathers that are credited when a woman achieves something. Call it chauvinism or something else, but the fathers are out of the picture. You know what the question is when a daughter becomes someone?

You know it and I know it. Everyone knows it.

‘Sino ang asawa?’ ‘Who is the lucky bastard who’s married to her?’ That is the question. You can laugh about it or find it ironic but fathers know this and they accept it.

Sons though are another matter.

A Father’s Love

A father’s love is often voiceless. Unlike a mom who would be vocal about it, a father is utterly different. The love of a man to his child is expressed in other more subtle methods.
If a man gives all his passion to his work to earn money that he sends most if not all to his family, it means that Family, I love you so much that I will sacrifice all my dreams and my time to give you a good life. If I can buy you a nice house, or that ipod you love for Christmas; if I can send you to a good school and buy you a dress; if I can make sure that you will not be wanting materially, then I have fulfilled my obligation to you. I may never say it in words and at times you may feel that I am choosing my job over you, but that is not the case. I love you and the only way I know to express it is through money. 

Don’t blame men if they do this. If they send you more than three quarters of their salary, they are always saying that they love you. I know that money can never be equated with love but forgive us because sometimes it’s the only way we know how to express our feeling. So don’t hate your workaholic father who probably is often distant. He may seem to be too attached to his job but he is doing it for you. 

Liken him to a dumb man (pipi in the vernacular) who could not speak out the words of love. So instead he does that in sign language and since he is deficient, he equates love with money. Don’t call it stupid, please… the fact that we can’t express ourselves is torment enough…

Of course, it’s different altogether when a father only sends half of his salary or less to his family. Something is already wrong in that scenario.

When a father gets his daughter/son (in the vernacular, pag nagsusundo) you would either find him inside the car a little impatient or smoking nonchalantly besides it. He would only give you a curt smile and give you a comment like ‘ang tagal niyo a or ang aga niyo a’ you’re late or you’re early. These may sound rude or impolite to ones ears and is often interpreted as impatience.

But you never see the fidgeting they do when you are a little late or hear the hammering of their hearts when they wonder if something had happened on the way to meet you. Beneath their rude exteriors and tart comments, they are actually worried. Worried that their kids had somehow met with some unimagined horror along the way. And since they cannot be as emotional as mothers they can only cover that concern with such taciturn comments.

Beyond the lack of words and the silent treatments that you get, you should see further to peel away at the thin veneer that hides their true emotions. You will realize that fathers are softies at best.

A Comparison of Fathers

We tend to compare fathers. Hear the children bicker among themselves and sooner or later they will start bragging about their fathers. That’s in the realm of childhood.

When they grow up, we tend to compare them by their ability to give us what we want. Like ‘Ang tatay ng si ganito, binilhan siya ng ipad… or nakita mo ba ang kotse ng tatay ni ganito?’ 

And then, later we compare them by their position in life.  We try to hide their being laborers or lowly clerks when we give out stories and downplay directors and doctors when we have the chance. 

We chase them and aspire to be greater than them. Rare is the child that wants to exceed their moms accomplishments. Daughters want to be more beautiful than their moms and sons want to marry women who are the same or greater than their moms but when it comes to career aspirations and their dreams, they use their dads as their gauge.
‘Ayaw kong maging isang manggagawa lang na katulad ng aking tatay’ Gusto kong maging isang successful katulad ng tatay ko. Gusto kong ipakita sa tatay ko na kaya ko ang buhay. Gusto kong ipamukha sa tatay ko ang kanyang mga pagkukulang… the list goes on.

Coz the role of fathers is simultaneously to be the rock that we bang ourselves against to make us men and at the same time the reviled kontrabida whose shadow we always struggle against.

The Recipe of Fatherhood
I won’t lie to you. I don’t know what makes a great father. Men become that on their own. As I have said, a great husband might be a bad father or vice versa. You rarely hit the jackpot when it comes to men (and vice versa).

The only thing that I can leave you with is a bit of advice that works on all things in this world and that is to keep the lines of communications open and to keep God always there with you. As to what makes a man a great father, that is up to you

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Dad, we might never see eye to eye any time soon but I forgive you (but know that I resent your decisions and your poor choices…)

For all Dads still living… it’s not yet too late to bridge that divide between you and your children…

For all Dads who passed on… your love remains in your children whether they know it or not…

For all prospective Dads… Advance congrats and learn from the mistakes of your fathers…

For all who’ll never be Dads… sorry friends, it seems our lot in life is to be that grumpy uncle that the family is obligated to invite during the Holidays…

For all Dads who’ve lost a child… that is hard. I know that no parent should ever have to bury their children. It should be the other way around… these are hard times indeed 

For all who want to be Dads… tough luck brothers… stick with it and you might be lucky…
For all MIA Dads… brothers wake up men! You’re fathers now…

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