[DETOURS] Crossing bridges and seas with my father

Editor’s note: We grew up believing that fathers are meant to be breadwinners while mothers should stay at home to take care of their children. In this Father’s Day essay, Micah Edem shares how her father decided to take a detour and swap roles with her mother, and for that she will forever be thankful.

When I was a little child, I dreamed of studying in a certain prestigious grade school in Cebu City because of its beautiful building. Every afternoon, I would run and play outside the building, but the school guard would reprimand me for crossing over the boundaries that they put in place. 

I was born and raised in the city, but we moved to the province when I was four. In the province, I did not see any schools with beautiful fences. It was time to let go of that dream of mine since it was silly and childish anyways.

I was only a kid who knew nothing about the world. But my father thought otherwise. He saw and knew what I was capable of, even as young as I was at the time. My father was the first person to believe in me and because of that, I felt like I could conquer the world and cross bridges and seas.

When I turned five years old, I already had to enroll in kindergarten. So, one morning, my father and I rode the boat and crossed the sea to go to another island. I used to be so small that I could not balance myself while walking on the wooden plank that served as a bridge connecting the boat to the wharf, so my father had to carry me or else, I would fall into the sea.

Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a 14-year journey of my father and I crossing the Tañon Strait, the body of water separating the islands of Negros and Cebu, everyday. 

Every morning, when I arrive at the seaport located one town away from my home, I am able to witness the first streak of sunlight breaking through the early morning sky. During the boat ride, I would eat the breakfast that my mother packed for me. Oftentimes, when the big waves hit the boat and splashed inside, my food would taste a little salty. This made me look forward to breakfasts even more. I felt like I was having a picnic in the middle of the ocean. 

After school, I would always hurry out the gate to catch the last trip of the pump boat. During the ride back home, I would stare at the sky and bask under the sun setting over the mountains. Instead of selfies, the photo gallery in my phone was filled with pictures of the sea and the sky blending into beautiful shades of blue, pink, and orange. 

Throughout our journey, we have witnessed the unpaved roads and wooden bridges transform into cemented highways and steel ones. We had to make several detours while these were under construction. Along the way, I was able to graduate kindergarten, elementary, junior high, and senior high school with flying colors. 

Perhaps, this was what my father saw in me when he decided to break free from the gender roles that have been deeply ingrained in our patriarchal society. Most especially in the Philippines where the stereotype is that mothers take care of the children while fathers go to work. My father took a different route – a detour. My father devoted his life to accompanying me to school everyday, leaving not only his potential career behind but also throwing gender roles out the window.

Since I was too young, I didn’t realize how distinct our set up was until I noticed that every time someone asked me where I was living and I would say Samboan, Cebu, people were shocked. Most of them would further say, “I meant, what is your address here in Negros Oriental?” It was difficult for me to explain and for them to believe that I was crossing the sea and was going back home to another island every day. 

Sixteen years ago, it was impossible to cross the Tañon Strait everyday to get an education. Nobody has ever done it before, and nobody believed that it was possible. It was only my father who showed me that in everything that we do, when we do it in the service of our Lord, all things are made possible. 

He would always remind me that just like the skies reflecting God’s beautiful creation, the talents that we have should be used to glorify the Source of it. I live by that reminder up to this day. Indeed, I am a combination of my father who gave up his dream to accompany me to school every day so that I can start mine and my mother who sacrificed and worked hard for me to fulfill that dream.

My father may not have followed a career path nor have I studied in that school with a beautiful fence, but the Lord has redirected us into a path far greater than what we have ever dreamed of. I am proud of my father – and myself – for being outliers.

Even if the path to your dreams isn’t in clear sight yet and you may be going through a detour in your life right now, always remember that if you are meant to be there, you will get there.

This Father’s Day, just like how my father believed in the dream of my four-year-old self, there was a strong woman who believed and raised my dad to become the loving and caring father that he is to me today. I would like to wish my grandmother a happy Father’s Day in heaven too. – Rappler.com

Micah Edem is a BS Accountancy student at Silliman University. She’s a Math Olympiad awardee and once guested on the game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.