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ALL IN THE FAMILY

How traditional dads show love

Traditionally, the Filipino father is the breadwinner, working hard to provide for the family. Many stay in their jobs for a lifetime, rising to construction foreman or ascending the corporate ladder, while others seek opportunities in foreign lands.

Their proudest achievement is putting their children through school. When an Ateneo college student routinely shares his stellar class marks with his OFW dad during online chats, the latter rejoices, saying, “Nakakawala ng pagod (I am energized).”

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Other fathers eschew being employees, creating instead businesses that they hope to leave to their children. Tony (not his real name) grew up with a gambler father and a depressive mother, and had to “hustle” early in order to survive. He never enjoyed financial security, and cut college short to “scrimp, beg, scramble” until he finally built his own retail business. His eldest son, Mark, and his only daughter, Ana, joined him in the enterprise.

“My second son Peter is a doctor, and my third son is an engineer, but none of us knows what will happen in the future. At least they will have the business to fall back on. It is my duty as a father to provide for my children even when I am no longer around, and it is my dream to give them a better life than I had.”

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Tony’s wishes are similar to those of many of traditional founders, so work often takes precedence over family bonding. When Peter complained that his father never told him that he loved him, I pointed out, “Your father showed his love for you by putting food on the table, a roof over your head, gadgets galore, helpers to cater to you. Aren’t those enough?”

“I was always a bit scared of my dad,” said Peter. “When we did something wrong as kids, my mother would threaten to tell my father when he came home, and she said he would beat us.”

“Did he really punish you?” I asked.

“Only once, when I forged my mother’s signature on the report card,” he said. “He never punished my kuya though, because Mark was a model child. My father was hard on Ana—she had a strict curfew, and he demanded to know where she was at all times. I am surprised that both of them are getting along with each other in the business now.”

When I discussed this with Ana, she said, “I resented my father’s strictness when I was in college, but I know he worries about me, which means he loves me. All is good.”

“The father is a disciplinary figure used by the mother to threaten the child into obedience,” says the website Living in the Philippines, a guide for expatriates. “This sometimes results in the children growing up in fear of their father and never getting to know him as a person … When his children are in their teenage years … he becomes more aware and more controlling of their activities. His role as disciplinarian is even stronger now because the wife seems to feel less capable in this area once the children are older. This is due to the disciplinary methods she uses (threats and bribery) which become less effective when the children get older.”

“I wish that my father and I were closer,” says Peter. “I tell my own kids I love them a lot, just to reassure them.”

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“Reassure them, or reassure yourself?” I asked, but I still advised Tony to at least tell Peter he cares for him.

Tony quietly replied, “As a father, I ensure that my son does his best in life. Whatever Peter needed—tutors, computers—I provided for him. He is a doctor now, so I guess I succeeded, but I hope he appreciates what I did. His kids are still young now, so it’s easy for him to deal with them, but wait till they become teenagers.”

There is also a clash of cultures: Peter is Westernized, while Tony is a typical Asian father.

“The Asian cultural definition of masculinity relies heavily on scholarship and not showing weakness,” Harvard School of Education’s Josephine Kim tells The Chicago Times, “which translates into men showing less emotion.

“The difference in values often led second-generation Asian-American children to misunderstand their fathers as unloving and uncaring, seen through the lens of their Americanized cultural perspective.”

But actions speak louder than words, I told Peter. Even Westerners cannot deny that. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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