Issue of June 18, 2017

Plus Juan
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No, this is not an endorsement of a well-known Manila resto favored by large families and voracious eaters because of its eye popping and mouth-watering dishes – heaps and heaps of food ranging from steaks to oysters – that local restaurants are trying hard to copy but with little success, we are actually referring to fathers honored at least one day of the year, now that the women have practically taken over the world.

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In my growing up years, dads were known as family heads and providers, the one who wore the pants in the house, that had mom scared stiff each time he raises his voice, sending the kids scampering for cover under their mom’s skirt.

Alas, things have changed since then, and after today, dads will go back to being henpecked husbands, tasked with the duty of taking care of the children and helping them with their homework, while mom is off to work as a bank executive or as an elected government official.

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I recall an old story about a once popular lady politician who was said to be sleeping with her driver. Turns out that the fellow who would bring her to City Hall every morning and fetch her late in the afternoon only to be brought to some social function or agenda-filled political caucus, taking a short snooze before driving home his boss a.k.a as his wife late at night, both too pooped out to indulge themselves in the most exciting sport on Earth.

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But when it comes to kids, dads have their moments too, knowing what gift to give to a son who would make his heart jump with joy on his birthday, and taking pains to find out what would make a great graduation reward for a daughter finishing her high school or college course with honors.

Truth is, not a few of my male friends are closer to their daughters than to their sons, the latter forced to seek comfort in mom’s arms, given the apparent favoritism that dad hardly bothers to conceal or even disguise.

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It was only upon reaching school age that my dad and I became close. At that time he was employed at City Hall as a technical assistant to the mayor, in charge of price control, that had the Chinese business community stumbling all over themselves to carry favor with my old man.

Coming from school every lunch time (classes were either in the mornings or in the afternoons then, or only half a day) my dad and I would walk down to Kayang Restaurant where he would dine on lechon (unfried) smothered with onions, and always pancit and cake for me.

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Movie houses in those days opened at 1p.m., so my dad and I would scramble to catch the first showing. I stayed awake even during the newsreel, while my dad took his usual afternoon nap with shoes off.

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When my dad had a falling out with his boss over a silly tribal matter that had something to do with family pride, he resigned from his job signaling the end of Chinese hospitality – no more legs of ham, cakes, grapes, and other fruits, on Christmas day.

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What I remember most about my dad were his little stories about life that sort of defined my future.

Watching a relative unable to fork a piece of chicken during one party, my dad said to me, “Poor (no names, lest I ruffle a few feathers) if only he had accepted the job of Special Counsel when it was offered to him, he would be the City Fiscal today.”

So when I was appointed by President Cory as 2nd assistant city fiscal, much as I wanted to go back to politics, I wouldn’t but feel haunted by my dad, to please not make the same mistake as my cousin did.

It was without regrets but with a heavy heart that I took my oath two weeks following my appointment.

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When President Arroyo (now you know why I have a soft heart for her) appointed me City Prosecutor in 2004, I told my Minda that without my dad’s little stories of life, I would have ended up being a has-been politician.

My Minda often spoke of my father as a decent person and a true gentleman, even if they know each other only briefly.

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Even our two boys, who never got to see their granddad, were thrilled every time they would come across an elderly lady who would regale them with stories about my dad – his good looks, his well-tailored suits, and his fine manners, a true gentleman of the old school.

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If only to console my envious heart, my Minda would tell me that she sees traces of my old man in me.

Within hearing distance, both Marc and Melpether would roll their eyes and naughtily sneer, “Grandpa’s dark side maybe.”

The boys were just being their playful selves, and I can swear on my mother’s grave that her beloved husband had no dark side – his eldest son more likely, but not him.

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A raconteur and a gentleman my father was, and deep in my heart of hearts, I know that he was at heaven’s gate to welcome my Minda to God’s kingdom, with his bundle of stories that would make her laugh and ease her solitude, with my mom and in-laws joining and enjoying the fun that only someone like my dad could provide, the ever wonderful and funny Pedro “Pete” Carantes.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads in the world!

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