Thinking of my Papa on Father's Day

by Joe Aliling

At our dinner table while growing up with my brothers and sister, my father (Jose Cabrera Aliling) would always share us his dream of attending our graduation from the best university in the Far East. He worked hard to send us to the University of the Philippines (UP) so that we could develop our intellect and God-given potentials. He also warned us that "time is fleeting" because he may not be always healthy to provide for his family. He wished that his children would someday become an engineer, a Catholic priest, an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher. He prepared us to become a loving spouse to a God-loving woman that he may not even meet in his lifetime, as well as, to become a caring parent to his grandchildren yet unborn. True enough, he died in 1973 before any of his children got married and conceived his grandchildren.

Well, my younger brother, Tito (Jose-Martin Orosa Aliling), took after him as a civil engineer. Chuchi (Jose-Paciano Orosa Aliling) is now a trial lawyer. Jing (Jose-Bayani Orosa Aliling) is an orthopedics surgeon. Mimi (Maria Milagros Orosa Aliling) is a certified public accountant. Unlike me, they all received their UP diploma on time. Today, they have their own businesses in Metro Manila. I, being the eldest yet the "black sheep" amongst his children, became (at one time or another) a Mormon bishop, an assistant professor at UP, a plant superintendent of Pepsi Cola at Muntinlupa, had lived with a Filipina wife (Rachel Evangelista Yambao) and an American wife (Karyn Michelle Rice Hansen). Yes, I was the "black sheep" of the family and the "prodigal son" who returned home, upon the prodding of my mother (Milagros Gonzales Orosa), to reconcile with my father.

My dad believed in the old adage, which proclaims: "The glory of God is intelligence, which meant truth and light." He knew that education was an elevator of hope for the Filipino poor. His own dad (Arcadio Aliling), who came from humble beginnings, had no means to send him to UP. So, he left his hometown of Taal, Batangas. He paid his way through college, working part-time at the post office and funeral parlors while attending classes in the evening at the Mapua Institute of Technology during the colonial era under the United States. Throughout his life, he stayed focus on his goals to become a) a loving husband, b) a caring father, and c) a family provider.

In 1963, it was a big blow to him when UP President Carlos P. Romulo expelled my batch mates and me from the academe for allegedly "participating and conspiring against the UP administration" when we willfully subscribed to "fraternity hazing" as neophytes of Tau Alpha.

My rebellious and unconquerable spirit seized my being, thus, I left home. Later on, I joined the UP Varsity to qualify for a scholarship, secure a bunk bed at the athletes' quarters, and work for free meals (as a dishwasher and busboy) at the UP cafeteria. Very few students knew that working at the cafeteria of the Kamia Ladies' Dormitory and the Vinzons' Hall entitled us to watch the beautiful coeds parade in front of our eyes as they lined up for food, as well as, provided us with the rare opportunity to drink Ginebra San Miguel gin as much as we wanted because it was the favorite tenderizer by the chefs. The UP auditor never bothered to monitor the consumption of this "low cost, fast moving" item on the kitchen shelves of the whole UP cafeteria system. It also appeared like we were drinking a glass of water only.

One day, my mother gave me a special gift, i.e., a poem neatly framed on wood that I could hang on the wall in my room. She always reassured me of her unconditional love. She also told me that my father loved me so dearly, perhaps, more than she ever did, but showed it only in a different way... a father's way, Since then, this poem has instilled many things that my dad had expected of me as his first born child.

For the benefit of everyone interested, and in celebration of Father's Day, I would like to share this poem by United States General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur:

A Father's Prayer

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son, whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee -- and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."