[Father’s Day] In memory of Tat

Rona Gorayeb
As Father's Day draws near, a daughter recalls her 'Tat' — and special memories they shared

DADDY'S GIRL. The photo engraved on the pendant tied around Rona's wedding bouquet. Photo from Rona Gorayeb

MANILA, Philippines – Up to now, I still have no words about how I felt when my Tat left in 1997.

I was happily talking to him on my cellphone at a barkada‘s party and, two hours later, he passed on in the emergency room. This was just 3 months after his angioplasty; he was valiantly waiting for me to rush home from Manila so I could be with him.

I did not make it on time.

And so from being his treasured princess, the apple of his eye, I turned into an old woman overnight, devoid of life and light. I was shattered into a million fragments and only God was able to give my heart strength to go on, and after a long time put me back together again.

DADDY'S GIRL. Dancing at Rona's 18th birthday, probably wondering where all the years had gone. Photo from Rona Gorayeb

There are still some days when I shed tears. Some days, I am more fortunate as I dream of him all happy and healthy and in a place suffused with sunshine, or see the details of his face in my mind’s eye.

But mostly, I can now tell amusing and amazing stories and anecdotes about him to my new friends, or reminisce with my old friends who knew him and how much he loved and doted on me and my brother.

Stories of how he shot at the tires of the vehicle of one of my mommy’s suitors when they were still — I guess — m.u. [in a mutual understanding];

of how he would patiently cradle me to sleep when I was confined for 3 months at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center after I was born due to a very bad case of lactose intolerance that turned into sepsis;

of how my earliest memory was of him and my mommy excitedly rousing me from sleep, putting me on top of the sofa and singing “Happy Birthday, My Darling” on my 3rd birthday;

of how he would go to my kindergarten class to carry me in his big, strong arms and how he would give me the old green five-peso bill as baon (allowance) before he would leave for Manila for another week of work (I was so proud then because the teachers and nuns were all awestruck of his Lebanese good looks);

of him going up the stage with my mommy to pin my medals;

of him patiently accompanying me on my 1st week in all my classes in UP Diliman.

MORE HANDSOME THAN CRUSHES. At Rona's 8th birthday, where he teased her about being more handsome than the actors she had a crush on. Photo from Rona Gorayeb

I remember him and me sitting in the old, air-conditioned Love Bus while he pointed out all the landmarks along East Avenue so that I would remember and not get lost: “Anak, iyan ang Heart Center. Anak, ‘yan ang city hall.” I would cringe in embarrassment because the other passengers could hear and figure out that I was new in the city.

And then there are my memories…

of him passing the time watching the upperclassmen play tong-its at the store across UP’s Faculty Center and then appearing outside my room at the end of each school day;

of asking my cousin to summon me while i danced with my first love during my debut so he could dance with me;

of him hiding his face under the hospital sheets, crying after the angiogram results came out;

of him looking for me when he woke up after his angioplasty;

of him insising that he drive home his owner (-type jeepney) after he was discharged from confinement;

of him looking so fresh and happy after I came home one Saturday from Manila;

of holding his hand while singing “Ama Namin” in Carmel Church in Lipa where he liked going to mass;

of him staring at me with a happy yet wistful light in his eyes at the Makati Med cafeteria the last time I accompanied him for his check-up.

WAY BEFORE WOLVERINE, RONA's dad already sported the cool hair. This was taken two years before he passed; Rona's favorite. Photo from Rona Gorayeb

Many, many years ago, during my renewal and work at the Center for Peace (and during a highly contentious time in our family life), I remember praying the rosary in the darkness of my room and telling Jesus with all my heart that I cannot possibly enter heaven if my Tat will not be there. I guess He took my word for it. Now I know my father watches over me every day and prays for me, the apple of his eye, his princess forever.

Happy Father’s Day, Tat! Only God and Mama Mary really know how much I love and miss you. – Rappler.com

(We’re counting down to Father’s Day! Send us your Father’s Day story and photos with subject heading WORLD’S BEST DAD to desk@rappler.com. Join us on June 17, Sunday, 3 PM, for a live Tweet convo in honor of our dads @rapplerdotcom #loveyoudad.) 

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