It is already 4 PM and I have to rush to my son’s presentation. But this traffic is eating up my time. I have been working since 6 AM this morning but looking at the carnage that is before me it seems that there would be no reprieve for me. I have to make it to my son’s presentation, to make up for missing on his last one. I am fervently praying that I make it before it starts at 5 PM. But will I ever make it? I can’t afford to disappoint and hurt my son once again, especially after the last time. The ensuing argument we had left a bitter aftertaste on my mouth.

I am Ronnie, a repairman for the past 20 years. I repair mostly appliances such as televisions, radios and refrigerators. With my job, I’ve been supporting my wife and our three children. Though our life is simple, I’ve learned to be quite content.

I was raised in abject poverty by my illiterate parents, who, in spite of our circumstances tried their best to raise my two siblings and I. My young innocent eyes got opened to the harsher realities of life where I either fight to survive or setback and get trampled in the harshness of this quotidian existence.

At an early age, I learned the essence of responsibility. Before I started going to school, I already knew how to cook, how to do laundry and how to do house chores. On school days off, I worked as a “shine-boy”, brushing and polishing customer’s shoes, mostly cowboy boots, to support our daily needs. At times, I help my mother sell bread. However, there were times when the cops captured the goods we were selling because we lack the permit to sell. Sometimes we were lucky to dodge cops but our luck rarely ever lasts. There were times when we eat rice with salt, or worse, we eat food other people threw away. But I persisted, for my parents, for my siblings, and for myself.

Though I wasn’t as bright as most, I burned my own share of midnight candles. Knowing that I have no propensity for white collar jobs, I took technical courses after high school. The first few years after technical school were rough sailing. It was difficult to find a job to help support my family. Good thing I had friends who helped me look for potential jobs. Before I setup my own shop, I did house to house repairs. It was through my repair shop that I met the woman of my dreams.

It wasn’t long before we got married and  moved to the metro to pursue colossal dreams. We haven’t fully settled yet when my wife surprised me with the biggest announcement of our life, we are pregnant! I got caught up in euphoria I carried her on my arms and twirled her around. But as the dust began to settle, the worries started creeping in. Would I be able to support my wife and child? I was barely earning enough money with house-to-house jobs and I don’t want my child to experience what I have. But determinedly, I made a resolve, I will make things work.

Nine months passed and my wife was on the delivery room. I was excited but anxious. I was fervently praying that both my wife and child be delivered safely. A sigh sigh of relief escaped me when the doctor announced that I am now a father to a bouncing baby boy. No words can describe how I felt when the he handed me my son. He is so delicate I was afraid to touch him. I can’t believe that this tiny being I am holding is mine. Before I know it, tears of joy started streaming from my eyes. We named him Julius for his birth month.

The next few months proved challenging, balancing between jobs and taking care of a growing child. My wife and I took turns in taking care of our son.I experienced sleepless nights but I am learning a lot. I learned to make formula milk, and change nappies. Most importantly, I am happy as my life started becoming full circle.

A year later, my wife announced that we were again pregnant. This got me scratching my head. It was already a challenge raising one child, but another one? How can I ensure a bright future for them? But challenge accepted. I looked for more jobs and by the time we had our last child, I was working for nearly 15 hours a day, waking up at 6 am and returning home at around 10 PM. My extended absence took a hard hit on Julius.

Unlike me, he is very smart and perceptive, and very ambitious. When he graduated valedictorian of his class, I wasn’t there because I was out on a job. I badly wanted a grand celebration for my his success. We can barely afford letchon baboy, but this is my son’s special day and I wanted nothing but the best for him. I went home early but I got caught up in a terrible traffic. When I reached home, everybody’s was already asleep. I wasn’t even able to congratulate my son on his special day.

To make up for my absence, I didn’t work the next day. What greeted me however was the coldness of his thank you. However, I noticed how sore his eyes were for crying all night. I wanted to hug and comfort him but his coldness pulled me back. I later learned that during his valedictory address, he was looking for me in the crowd. He fought back tears as he was speaking. It broke my heart listening to this so I tried to make it up to him but he started blocking me away, and before I know it, a schism was between us. I’ve no one to blame but myself for letting that schism grow wider, for failing to reach out.

Darn this traffic. I badly want to make things right. I need to make up for every single time I missed an important event in my son’s life. In spite of our bitter spats, I still love my son. He is my pride and joy and I always brag his accomplishments to my customers. It saddens however that I wasn’t able to arrest our falling apart.

My missing his last presentation is probably the lowest point in our relationship. I promised him that I’d attend when he uncharacteristically extended the invitation to me. However, a big job came up and got caught up in a heavy downpour before reaching his school. Later at home, we had a grudge match, yelling at each other at the top of our lungs, vindictiveness in our voices . When my wife intervened, a vile taste of my failure was left on my tongue.

This is the very reason why when my wife said that my son is doing another presentation, I readily promised to attend in spite of the fact that I have another big job coming. But I want to keep the promise I made, for myself and most of all, for my son. Darn this traffic!

It is already quarter to five but the cars barely seem to move. Impulsively, I rushed down the bus and started running towards my son’s school. I ran as though my life depended on it. I dashed faster. There, I see it! I was breathing heavily but I didn’t stop to catch my breathe. I didn’t mind the sweat rolling down my face, and as I opened the door to the auditorium, I saw him on the stage.

“It’s been four years since I first stood on this stage. Today, as I deliver my swan song, it is fitting to dedicate it to the man who stood behind my back through all these years, who with indefatigable energy worked hard to support my siblings and I. In spite of my intransigence, this man patiently raised me the best way he can. To my father, this one is for you.

Our relationship is by a mile, not the most ideal. Ours is a battlefield marked by verbal landmines and detrimental verbiage, where neither left unscathed. The profanities we forged as weapons left virtual scars in our soul. Our hell-raising arguments left nothing to the imagination. We are warriors too hardened by the battle that we barely noticed how time has passed before us.

Yes, I wasn’t the perfect son, too ideal, too ambitious, too expectant, and too obstinate in reaching for my dreams. But in my ambitiousness, I forgot my values. I forgot the people who matters to me. I was too selfish and I wanted too many things. Most especially, I wanted my father, beaming with pride, to be there to congratulate me.

I admit, I’ve been blind for seeing things only on my perspective. I only saw his imperfections and failures. I never saw the sacrifices he made to ensure a brighter future for my siblings and I. To all these, I turned a blind eye because I was too disappointed for the times he wasn’t there.

But I remember how he looked after me whenever I am sick, whenever I wallow in delirium. I remember his puffy eyes worn from long sleepless night, contemplating how to earn money to make us go to school. There was one time I went home crying because I got bullied in school. He asked me why I was crying but I got riled up instead and started shouting at him. My words were like daggers aimed at his vulnerability. My impetuous anger failed to discern the look of concern on his face. These are just among the many instances that I was too foolhardy to even regard.

Our poverty was the bane of my existence, and I used to blame it all on him, for his inability to find an suitable job. But now I see how hard he worked to alleviate our situation. To provide for us, he worked doubly hard than most. He sacrificed a lot for us to have so much. Yes, our life may not have been as luxurious as most but still we are lucky. We have a father nobly made everything work out for all of us.

Sorry, Dad, for being too proud, for being too blind, for being selfish. I apologize for all my misgivings and my slipshod behavior. I am sorry for all the spiteful things that came out of my mouth. I am sorry for being ungrateful, for being unapologetic in my demeanor. Dad, I apologize for everything. I know you are not perfect, but so am I.

But most of all, thank you for all the sacrifices you made. Thank you for the food you’ve put on our table, for the clothes which kept us warm, and for the roof that shielded us from the elements. We rarely say it but in spite of your flaws, we still love you Dad. We love you to the moon and back.

Yes, you are but a mere repairman but through your tenacity, you were able to carry us through. The power of your dreams were beacons in the mirthless darkness. With your, you’ve lit a brighter future for my siblings and I. We may not have it all, but we are richer in a lot of facets. I may not always say it but I am proud of you, and I am even prouder to say that my accomplishments are also yours.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the reason why I am standing before you today, my father, my rock, Ronnie dela Cruz!”

Like a child, I started crying profusely as I moved towards the stage to meet my son. The resounding claps drowned the things I wanted to say and as I hugged him, I was taken back to the moment I first held my son, delicate, serene, and innocent. I can’t believe how time passed us by. It is incredulous that the once delicate baby is now the man standing here before me. Words evaded me as the emotions took over. This is a moment I will forever cherish. Once again, my life became full circle as the schism that once existed started closing.

“Love your father despite his failings and weaknesses.” ~ Father Bel San Luis, SVD, Word Alive, Manila Bulletin June 19 2016 Issue, Vol. 522 No. 19