Family

Before there was ROMA, there was ROMEO.

An entry dedicated to my dad, Romeo. Papa, if you’re reading this (as unlikely as it may be), wherever you are, I’m your daughter and I want to meet you.

Grey’s Anatomy, I think, influenced me way too much, with the drama, the songs, the word seriously, and the emotional one-liners that they repeat over and over during the climax of the episode. Anyway, the main character, Dr. Meredith Grey, has abandonment/daddy issues. There was a particular episode where she knocks on her father’s door, and demands an explanation as to why he had left her and her mother. “Why didn’t you stay? Why didn’t you stay and fight for us?”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my own father and how I’d like to meet him. Don’t get me wrong: my family on the mother’s side is the best. They never lacked in love and togetherness. Having grown up with five guys in the family, I never really sought a father figure. And my mom did an excellent job at being a single parent: always finding time for me, and giving me everything I need and almost everything I want.

So why would you want to meet your dad? you might ask. You said yourself that your family never failed you in sustenance and affection. Isn’t that enough for you?
I used to think that, too, until I read something in Candy. It was about a girl who, like me, was raised by her single mother. She eventually met her father, and her father’s family, including her half-siblings. When I looked at the picture of her happily standing with her family, finally with the father she never knew, I just knew that I wanted the same thing.
It’s not like we didn’t try to find my dad, though. He was in the Marines, and my mom has a friend who knows someone there. When he looked up my dad’s name, however, he wasn’t enlisted, leading my mother to conclude that my dad is either dead or retired.
How do I tell my mom that I want to exert more effort to find him? In any case, I don’t think she is keen on the idea of me meeting my dad. She told me that parting was their mutual decision. She also told me that he probably has a family now, and that meeting him will only open a can of worms. What if your half-siblings hate you? she said. What if his wife hates you for disturbing their life? Hay nako Ela, it’s better this way.
For her, I guess, it’s better. She already met him and moved on. There are no questions left unanswered. But what about me? Don’t I deserve to get to know my own father? After all, it is his DNA living on in me. When everything’s been said and done, I am still his daughter.

If his family hates me, it’ll be too bad, because they’re missing out on a wonderful addition to their family. No, I’m not saying they have to accept me instantly. I’m saying I want the opportunity to meet and get to know my relatives on the father’s side. (I grew up used to the fact that I only have one set of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I have never had to use the phrase “on my father’s side”.) And if he has children, why wouldn’t I want to meet my half-brothers/sisters? Discovering siblings would be so great.

We used to have a picture of my dad stashed in a cabinet. I think it was a 2×2 ID picture. When I was young, I used to look at it when my mom was away, afraid that she might get mad if she saw me looking at his picture. Years later, when we realized that the picture went missing, a sadness filled my heart. I felt like I lost the only piece of my father that I ever had.

I’m not completely clueless about my dad, though. Mom told me that she and Dad loved Pugad Baboy comics, an addiction I am proud to say I inherited. She also told me that Dad had a thing: he would say, “Gamitin ang utak!” then point to his butt. She told me it used to make her laugh. I think Dad’s province is Pangasinan. And I do know that I inherited his eyebrows, his skin tone, and his build.
When I was young, he used to call us. I never thought much about it, but now… I’d give up a lot just to talk to him. (I’m getting a little teary-eyed here.)

Mom never told me about the things I want to know. I mean, I appreciate the tidbits of info she tells me, but I want to get to know my father as a person, not as a black-and-white character, crudely drawn on a blank canvas, with little depth and warmth. If ever I get the chance to meet him… I’ll make sure he never walks out on me again. Why am I getting so emotional over a man I’ve never met?

Ela is a twentysomething who is constantly getting stuck in self-destructive behavior and bouts of low self-esteem. She struggles with depression and writes to relieve herself of her feelings. Sometimes she even blogs about other things like makeup and positivity. One of her pieces was published in the Inquirer Young Blood in October 2017. She likes cats, dogs, and sometimes even people.

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