Picture a man in jeans, wearing the latest Adidas and a neat shirt. One time he sported a ponytail. He even shaved his moustache and beard much to the delight of my late grandmother and our (my mum, sister and me) mortification. He smoked when he was younger but went cold turkey one fine day. His to-do list enumerates reading as number one followed by – not necessarily in order – watching NBA, buying Cayenne’s food and writing. He is an essayist, novelist, literary critic and poet, and started a blog way ahead of me. He was also the one who taught me how to text message and was one of my first writing teachers (the other one being my mum).
World, meet my father. There’s no mistaking, aside from the family name, the lineage. First, the mop of curly hair, which is our trademark and something we both inherited from my late grandmother. Second, we’re blind as a bat without our spectacles. Third, the demeanour. We both don’t mince our words when the occasion calls for it and we mean what we say all the time. Lastly, there’s always a book – or books – in our bags, on our beds and somewhere in the house because reading is a family-shared passion.
Conformity is farthest from my dad’s mind unlike noetic pursuits, which means that gender bias is always a high point of contention. There was no belief that girls were less logical and more emotional than boys that permeated the walls of our house and the depths of our consciousness from when my sister and I were growing up until now. My father, together with my mum, raised their daughters to be intelligent, independent, capable, strong and scrupulous women – not ditzy, snivelly, voice-less and dependent women who keep the cycles of bigoted notions about women alive.
True to form, when I joined the university varsity soccer team during my first year, much to the chagrin of my classmates who kept reminding me how unsuitable it was for a girl, my dad took me to training sessions that started at the crack of dawn. Naturally, he was at the games as well and quietly watched the games, indulged in tête-à-tête with my coach and cheered when our team scored a goal.
Gender was also never a reason not to excel academically thus when my sister and I were particularly weak in a subject, my father expected no less from us. When I failed miserably in multiplication in my elementary years, he would not brook any excuse. My Voltes V anime was at stake so I sat down and wrestled with the multiplication table.
He differed from his siblings and relatives in the way he viewed genders. That he believed that women’s lives meant something more than settling down and carrying another man’s name were something unfathomable for most of my relatives. One uncle in particular badgered, if not me, my parents about my “lamentable” state of being unmarried until my mum, on the brink of exasperation, cut him to pieces with the line, “Leave my children alone. We didn’t raise them to think that marriage is the reason for living.”
That my father and I are not estranged; that I seek out his opinion; and that he continuously prods me to parry the vice-like grip of mental lassitude afflicting people, is something that has caught people off guard and left me wondering to this day. What should be the relationship between fathers and daughters like? Estranged? Fighting like cats and dogs? Dictatorial? Condescending?
Like my mother, I have a good relationship with my father and, I suppose, one of the fortunate ones to have such a relationship. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve not been spared of our petty quibbles and catastrophic spats, but we always find ourselves traversing the same plane later on. I guess, you can say, I am really my father’s daughter.
Photography by Lyra Garcellano