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“Kailangan doble kayod para maganda kinabukasan nyo, anak.”

Dee spent so much time at work because my Dee was the only member of the family who could provide for me and my two other sisters back then. Dee would even accept multiple side jobs just to earn extra money, so that enjoying four meals daily will not feel like a luxury.

Dee was very eager to give us a life where comfort is not an option. Worked abroad, gambled in cockpits, until finally starting a business, which were somehow beyond Dee’s expertise. But frankly, I’ve never heard a single ounce of regret ever since. “Anak, our needs come first. Extra hours of work are nothing compared to seeing you guys happy.” Dee made it sound so easy.

Working beyond eight hours meant very little time for home – too little time to bother handing me the knowledge of 1:1 concept when cooking rice or even just hearing the awkward story of my first high school crush. Sure, Dee tries to be there for me when I need it most, but unintentionally fails because I’m not the only daughter who needs a parent in her life.

It’s hard to juggle everything in one go when you’re doing it alone. I get that it could get really tiring. So on rough days, Dee would punish us for the slightest mistake that we’d do. Belt, slippers, and broom – my butt have met all of them. We’d hear countless sermons if we didn’t complete our share of chores. We’d be grounded if we failed to finish our school homework. You know, just like what a normal parent would do.

But the thing is, I hated these off days so much. Not because Dee was angry, but because I had no other parent to run to when it gets cold. I started to wonder what it would be like if it was possible for us to choose who our parents will be instead.  Will my life be easier if I have a rich dad? Will it be more exciting if my mom were a celebrity? Or have I ever thought of choosing my mommy and daddy just the same? Heck, why should I even bother, when one of them already didn’t choose me?

It was then when I realized that I needed to start learning even the smallest things on my own – not because Dee was so occupied, but because Dee is strong enough to raise three girls alone.

Dee inspired me to go beyond whatever this society is expecting a girl to be. I started with learning how to say “no” when it’s necessary, and then figuring out if something is worth every “yes” that I must say. I learned to be independent. I learned to take care of myself. I learned to appreciate what is in front of me.

It’s okay that I learned to cook through Google, ’cause it sure as hell felt more rewarding seeing Dee enjoy my homecooked dish. It’s okay that Dee didn’t get to know my first crush, ’cause all I need you to do is walk me down the aisle, the day I get married.

I owe it all to Dee – the only person who never made me feel like I was a choice to make. The only person who would over and over again, choose me.

You see, our life was not easy because Dee is a single parent. We had trouble figuring things out along the way for sure, because no one would really hand you a manual on how to deal with this kind of life, right? An ideal family would have a mom, a dad and kids. I only had 2 out of 3.

So the search for a missing half got stuck in me for a while, but was long gone when I started to accept Dee being enough not just as my mommy, but also being my daddy.

I, however, feel very sorry for my biological father, because for a thousand years more, my mommy will always do better than he’ll ever will.

Happy Father’s Day, Dee. Happy Father’s Day to my Mommy. Please never forget, you’re the greatest daddy for me.

-P

Illustrations by Madel Crudo

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