Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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Thoughts about an Absentee Father
My father was a farmer and a fisherman, and in between, he also was an elementary school teacher.
I was very proud of him then. I knew that many of my classmates envied me for having a father who
never stopped working daily to earn more than enough for his family. I was pretty sure that our
neighbors in the barrio also envied my mother, for having a husband as hardworking as my father.

But that won’t be for long. It would seem that in life, everything that’s good doesn’t last long.

I wouldn’t want to dwell again on why my father and mother separated when I was 11 years old. I have
written about that sad episode countless times. When my parents parted ways, we’re four siblings,
with a fifth still inside mother’s tummy.  It was one of the saddest moments in my life. My younger
siblings were unaware of what was happening. As the eldest, I felt right away the negative impact of
such separation.

True enough, everything in my family’s life turned upside down! As a single mom, my mother could
barely feed her five children. I really missed father’s farm produce and the fish he used to catch from
Laguna de Bay. The children were always hungry. In desperation, my mother sold our only property,
the house along Cailles Street, where I spent most of my middle-school and part of my high-school
years. She also sold the most precious gift I ever had from my parents, my upright piano, because my
mother could no longer pay its monthly installment. We were in debt, and so my mother had to work
double time –teaching in the elementary school during the day, teaching steno-typing at a local
college at night, and tutoring  wealthy kids on weekends.  I remember moving from one rented room
to another at various places in my hometown during most of my high school years.

Perhaps poverty helped strengthen my resolve to do the best I can, not only to survive and exist, but to
succeed. And as an educator, my mother led me to focus on education as the only way out of poverty.
On Father’s Day recently, I was feeling down. Perhaps many of you who grew up without a father felt the same way as I did. We envy people who
grew up happily with their father and mother together in a blissful and loving relationship. I was not lucky enough to experience that kind of life, but
I am grateful to God for all the blessings He gave me in exchange for that. I also thank Him for the memory of having a father in my childhood...
brief though it was.

While in a nostalgic mood, I lost myself in daydreaming...going back to my early childhood when my father was still with the family. The place:
Barrio Gatid, Sta. Cruz, Laguna. I was eight years old then, playing marbles with my little brother Rick. The scene faded out. A new scene faded in...
father was working in his poultry farm, getting eggs for the family and cleaning underneath the henhouse. He collected the “dirt” in a sack and
filled his compost pit with it. He called me and instructed me to put the egg basket inside the house. After that, he started working on his
vegetable plots , removing weeds and arranging his trellis. A voice from the outside called father. “Pareng Mario, we’re leaving soon for Laguna
de Bay. The fishes are aplenty tonight!” Father answered, “Of course, of course, I’ll prepare my net and stuff!” After dinner he said goodbye to his
family and told us, “Wish me good luck! I’ll bring home lots of gurami and tinikan (fresh-water fish with lots of scales and bones but very tasty)!” My
father worked really hard!
The only photo of myself (2nd row,
center) and my siblings with our father
(circa '68) when mother had left for the
States to find work.
The absence of my father actually pushed myself and my siblings to work extra hard at obtaining college degrees regardless of where we were
and what situation we were in. It took as a bit longer than others may be, but just the same, we succeeded in graduating from college (all four
of my younger siblings completed their degrees in different U.S. universities in the Midwest). I was the only one who earned my degree in the
Philippines.
I saw my father intermittently through the years. I felt pity than anger every
time he’d come for a visit. Though we never hugged nor kissed, my father
and I understood that parental respect was present and such gestures were
not that necessary. His visits were brief, as if he came just to see me, that’s
all. I don’t remember him seeing any of my siblings who grew up in the
States, even when they were on vacation in the Philippines. I’d say the
paternal bond was obviously absent between my father and his other kids,
especially the three younger ones.

For the last two days, my father has been confined in a hospital for stomach
pain. He’s in agony but he doesn’t want to show it. He simply refuses to eat
so an IV was necessary. His third wife takes care of him but isn’t shy to ask
help from my father’s original family...us.  And I understand. The couple is
poor, and at 91 years old, I am not so sure about his health. My siblings and I
have not been with him in more than five decades.

Aside from financial assistance, I could only help my father through my
prayers. My siblings and I owe our being here in this world to our father. I
have forgiven him long time ago for leaving us. I just want him to be happy
and healthy in his old age. I truly believe that it was God’s plan for me and my
siblings to be very strong people who struggled on our own and thrived
despite the absence of a father in our lives. I still am grateful for having him
as my biological father!