Father's Day and Sense of Values
by Rudy A. Arizala
Santiago, Chile, 17 June 2012
The month of June is not only when we celebrate Fathers Day, but it is also the month when my father joined his Creator many years ago - in 1981. And this recalls to mind that in the Philippines, especially in rural areas as in my hometown of Infanta, Quezon, the people have their sense of values.
The Webster’s dictionary defines “values” when applied to sociology as “acts, customs, traditons.” So, “values” may apply to the conduct, sense of morality, or character of a people or nation. Values are the ones which give strength and life to the fabric of a nation. Thus, values may mean sense of gratitude, (utang na loob), shame (hiya), respect for parents or elders, (pagalang sa nakatatanda), kinship, (pakikimaganak o pakikisama), friendship, (pakikipagkaibigan), solidarity, (pakikiramay), and loyalty, (pagkamatapat).
Perhaps, due to what we call “progress” or modern way of living brought about by “globalization” and modern technology, such values in my hometown or rural areas in the Philippines, are changing if not gradually disappearing. Now-a-days, nobody seem to care much anymore for their parents or elders, that is, give them respect and attention as they used to be done before. Due to modern means of technology, people are becoming more independent in their daily lives. Consequently, they feel there is no need for them to have “pakikisama” (friendship), or bonding with their fellow-beings. And with the decline, if not disappearance of bonding process, sense of solidarity also wanes or disappears. People keep to themselves. Parents or old people, especially in developed countries, are kept in the homes for the aged, instead of living or staying with their children.
Methinks, Fathers Day is also Godfathers Day! and therefore, Godchildren Day as well, when human values of love, respect for elders and parents, solidarity and pakikisama are not only remembered but also manifested.
I recall many years ago, when my late father was already sickly and almost bed-ridden, one day a woman knocked at our door at our home in Infanta. When we let her in, her first words were: “Nasaan po si Ninong?” (Where is my Godfather?). It turned out that my father was her “ninong” (Wedding Sponsor). Inside the bedroom where my father was, she produced from her rattan basket a coconut shell full of small fish and shrimps saying: “Ninong, nabalitaan ko po na hindi ka na raw makakain. Naito po ang mga bakuli at singkag. Mabuti rin pang-ulam mo.” (Godfather, I learned that you have lost appetite. Here are some small fish and shrimps which would serve as your viands and regain your appetite).
I could see tears welling from the eyes of father as he accepted with gratitude the fish and shrimps. Mother invited father’s goddaughter to stay with us for lunch, but she begged to be excused because according to her, her grandchildren were left behind at home in their barangay with no adult companion. Therefore, she had to hurry back home.
When father died, a man came to the house and without much ado stayed with us during the wake, funeral and after the funeral. He positioned himself in the kitchen ready to help in whatever tasks he could do or be assigned to him. He saw to it that there were enough chairs and wooden benches where people could sit and helped serve foods and drinks to people who came to the house to condole with us. It turned out he was also the “ina-anak sa kasal” (godson in wedding) of my late father.
Why my late father had so many godchildren (in baptisms & weddings) when he was not a politician or rich man but a mere government employee? My late father, according to those who had encounter with him, while he typifies the ordinary government functionary, serious, conscious of his duty to uphold the law, nevertheless, does not lose his compassion, understanding even at the most difficult moment when one tells the truth, especially children. As narrated by Mr. Leo Villeno of Brgy. Alitas, Infanta, Quezon who is now a resident of the United States, when a young boy playing with his younger brother at the playground of Alitas Elementary School, one day my late father came and casually asked them the whereabouts of their father. Before Leo could reply, his younger brother “Manny” replied that their father was out there in the swampy area brewing illicitly nipa palm wine or unlicensed “lambanog”. My late father, according to Mr. Leo Villeno, simply took it with good humor and told their mother about my late father’s discovery. There was no arrest made nor penalty imposed by my late father.
Leo’s account perhaps explain why despite the zealous performance of duties of my late father as a BIR agent, he nevertheless, had a soft heart for the poor especially to young children who tell the truth. No wonder he acquired during his lifetime so many “cumpadres” and “cumadres” from almost all barangays of Infanta.
Speaking of “godfathers” and therefore of godchildren either in weddings or baptisms, my parents (tatay and nanay) had many goddaughters and godsons. Most of them turned out to be loyal, faithful and thoughtful going out of their way to show their friendship, love, respect and solidarity at unexpected moments.
In my own case, I have also many godchildren in baptism and in wedding because when I became a young town lawyer, almost every Sundays, I am in church as sponsor to baptism. And I continued to have more godchildren even after I abandoned my law practice and joined the Philippine foreign service.
Now that I am retired and no longer in the foreign service, there is at least one goddaughter of mine in baptism who has not forgotten me. Every now and then she sends me from the United States bottles vitamins and eye-drops for my eye problem. I remember this particular goddaughter of mine. When I was re-assigned in the home office at DFA, Manila, one day she came unexpectedly to my office at Padre Faura Street and told me: “Ninong, i am now working at PGH. Why don’t you go there at the hospital for a general health check-up? Don’t you worry, all expenses for your room and examinations at the hospital would be on me as my gift to you, now that I am a doctor.”
Gratefully surprised because that was the first time I saw her again since she was baptized as a newly-born baby at our local parish church in Infanta many years ago, I replied: “Thank you very much. But right now, i am feeling allright and very busy getting settled on my job, i would just let you know when i could come to PGH for general check-up.”
Unfortunately, I never had that “general check-up” because shortly thereafter, I was posted again abroad. The next time I met her, I was already Consul General in New York City and she, working already as a medical doctor in the States and has a family of her own.
The kind gestures to my late father of his godchildren of which I am also a recipient now, are manifestations of kinship, love, respect solidarity and gratitude seldom found these days. But they are worth remembering especially on Fathers Day for which we must be thankful. For fathers and godfathers have touched many lives serving as inspiration, hope, love, compassion, understanding and role-models.
And so, as a humble tribute to all fathers and godfathers on “Fathers Day”, may I end this remembrance with the following lines:
ODE TO A DEPARTED FATHER
Fair, just and compassionate
Always with us when needed
Timeless is your love and care
Heralder of good and cheer
Ever you provide us with
Rectitude, truth and strength
Sense of justice and fairness
Dear Dad, we miss you always
And so we utter a wish
You with the Lord rest in peace!