A joyous day to all of us, fathers!

Thursday June 1, 2017

Let me begin by describing my father, and may his soul rest in peace. He was a brilliant engineer, an intellect, and a man of principle. In the 1970’s we all migrated to the United States under his wings; a wife and seven children. It was a humbling experience. He began to work odd jobs, from bussing tables at the local restaurants, janitorial duties, and eventually as a boiler operator at an automobile company. We grew up in a neighborhood where crime was the norm. In our household, he was firm in implementing his goals and values for all of us. It was vital that we all showed respect to our parents and all of the elderly. We were only allowed to speak Tagalog, showing our loyalty as Filipinos, and we adhered. My siblings and I came to US at a very young age, and to this day Tagalog is fluently spoken in the household. We were taught to kiss our parents before leaving and when returning home to express our respect, and it is something we practice until this day with our own families.

My father had three major goals for his children: HIGHER EDUCATION, good health, and a comfortable home. He advised us all to pursue Medicine as a career choice, where the future lies. As a result, all of his children completed various college and graduate degrees. The oldest daughter attained a Bachelor in Arts, while the next eldest sister completed a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and a Masters of Anesthesia in Nursing. My younger brother and I both completed medical school and are now practicing Physicians. The youngest brother finished a Degree in Dentistry and also physical therapy. The two youngest daughters both have a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Nursing. We were able to complete our education in the Philippines, for financial reasons, then eventually returned to the United States to further advance our careers. Our parents provided us with a loving home and kept us in good health to the best of their ability, so I believe those three goals were achieved. Their prayers were heard and we were all blessed.

I am a father of one son. I completed my Degree in Medicine at the Perpetual Help University School of Medicine in the Philippines, away from him and my wife. After graduation, my vision was to pass the medical board examination in the United States, which was a known challenge to foreign medical graduates. It was an “all or none” attitude: I needed to succeed or else there was no other option. I did not want to settle for any other tempting careers or opportunities, a bright future for my son was the ULTIMATE goal. I set up a deadline to pass by the time my son entered high school. In the meantime, I worked side jobs, such as a phlebotomist and a technician at the local hospital in order to support my family. After work hours, I would proceed to the local library until late hours in the night reviewing, then continuing to study in the early morning before work. I recognized that I was not alone in my journey to pass this exam, so I formed a Filipino Board Review class, which was sponsored by the Philippine Medical Association of Michigan. The goal of this group was to gather all of the unlicensed Filipino physicians, and to work together to achieve this goal of practicing medicine in America. We all sacrificed our weekends for months as we reviewed a vast amount of material. In the end, our group ended up with an 80% passing rate.

As a father, I believed in continuing the tradition of implementing our native tongue, Tagalog, in our household. Although my son was born and raised in the United States, he can still fluently speak Tagalog to this day. My philosophy is, why burn the bridge between two cultures? Respectfulness was also a top priority while raising him. We taught him to never raise his voice at your elders, and to always discuss matters in a civilized manner; any disrepect would not be tolerated. A kiss on the cheek was expected as a respectful greeting, and we counted on him to make sure his friends showed their respect when entering our home as well. We also believed that who you associate with is very important, and as the saying goes, “tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” As our son was growing up, we always made sure to monitor who his friends were, along with their parents and family background. I emphasized the importance of forging friendships with those who valued education, respect, and character, while filtering out those who did not.

From a very early age, I strongly emphasized that higher education is the only path that may secure success in life. A person’s success must implement good strategies and determination. As he heeded my advice, we told him our support for his full tuition and accomodations was part of a bilateral deal, which was for him complete his degrees and pursue a promising career. If he held his part of the bargain, we would fulfill ours. He was fortunate to have an IQ of 160, and as he applied to college, he was interviewed at Harvard and Princeton. He eventually took a partial scholarship at La Sierra University, where he pursued and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, along with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences. He went on to get a Masters in Public Health from the University of Southern California, while working in medical research. After a short while, he enrolled in the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program at St. George’s University School of Medicine with the goal of becoming a physician. He has passed his USMLE Step I exam and is currently in his 4th year completing his rotations in New York.

Throughout all these years away from home, we strongly reiterated the importance of keeping in touch us, the parents. Up to this day, he gives his mother a call daily, and after the advent of texting, he would text me that he was home safe at night. That simple gesture gave us a secure feeling, and also showed that he understood how much it meant to us. We have always attended mass together on Sundays and went to lunch afterwards, where we would discuss an agenda of various topics and concerns that would require solutions and updates. While he has been away, he has continued the practice of regularly attending mass to thank God for all of the blessings and continued guidance.

The Filipino culture is very rich and unique, and we should teach our children to embrace their deep heritage. As a parent, we must identify our child’s talent, personality, and ambition from a very young age. We must enhance and support these characteristics to help them achieve a brighter future. While their genetic makeup and environmental influence is one thing, their moral values are another. Those values must be instilled and implemented as enumerated here:

RESPECT: A “mano”, kiss on the cheek, or a hug must be expressed as a respectful greeting. They should never to raise their voice, scream, or talk back in disrespect towards the parents or elderly. L

ANGUAGE: Tagalog (or the native dialect) must be enforced or at least comprehended, for one’s native language depicts loyalty to one’s ancestry.

GUIDANCE: Parents should always be aware of the whereabouts of our children and their company. We must encourage them to attend safe environments and appropriate social gatherings.

COMPASSION: Always have open ears to our child’s concerns and be empathetic.

INDEPENDENCE: We must support our children’s needs until we decide they are ready to be independent and are qualified to live on their own. I personally do not condone any specific age as to when they need to leave home, only time and maturity will dictate when that is.

RELIGION: A family should attend mass and pray together to thank God for his continued support and blessings.

AFFECTION: Most vital of all, we must assure our children that they are LOVED, through our actions and by our words, telling them we love them each day.

It is the parent’s duty and obligation to provide physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional support for their children’s well-being whenever possible, making them realize that the only thing that matters in our lives is THEM until our LAST BREATH. “A child’s success is a parent’s success.” Best wishes, from my precious family to yours, a blessed Father’s Day to all!

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