Finding the 'man' in superman
My birth was excruciating - I was the sixth and the heaviest child to emerge from my mother’s womb - while my early childhood called for my mother’s early retirement to take care of me.
For all the sacrifices and hardships my mom endured for me, I decided to repay her back by being a mommy’s girl all throughout my life.
That isn’t to say my father took no part in raising me. He was a devoted, doting parent, dutifully attending my school events (though the Perfect Attendance award still goes to my mother).
Not a Daddy's girl
I remember playing with my sister in his office, fiddling with the apple-shaped keyboard he gave me as pasalubong from his business trip to Malaysia, and playing baseball with him in our backyard (leaving out the part that he accidentally hit my lip with the ball).
The painful truth is that though I love my dad, I was never close to him. There was the quintessential sweet act - wiping his sweaty forehead when the car broke down, saying thank you after going to Disneyland - but I was decidedly not a daddy’s little girl.
To the younger me, he seemed larger-than-life; he was a well-traveled vessel of endless knowledge and good humor that made him well-known and well-liked. Such “grandeur” intimidated me; how can I be close to a “big man” like him?
It’s hard to explain, but the way I saw it was that my mom was a winged being and my dad was a man on the highest stilts ever made. It was easy to be close to my mom, she could swoop down and listen to little ol’ me. It wasn't the same for my dad.
Being that tall made it difficult for him to hear me while he couldn’t pick me up and sit me down on his shoulder because my acrophobia wouldn’t approve. I built a wall to try to reach him, but it only made me feel more distant from him.
I use the past tense because the situation has changed now (or so I would like to think). The first two years of my college life marked the beginning of a weekly bonding activity with my dad in the form of carpooling.
Every Wednesday or Thursday, my dad dropped me and few others from the Ateneo-BF Homes Carpool group off to school in the morning and brought us back home in the afternoon (or if need be, in the evening).
It was an unfamiliar yet necessary change for me - it was my mom who did the dropping off and picking up at school, but she could not do it at such a long distance. Not wanting to ship me off to the university dorm, my now-retired father agreed to take up the carpooling duties.
It was a tiring endeavor that forced me to mature: to balance my time wisely, to finish everything before I went home, and to be especially considerate of my exhausted aging father. Only the simplest conversations took place in the car rides.
He would ask “Saan ka kumain?” (Where did you eat?)
“Sa Gonzaga,” I'd answer.
“Hindi ka kumain sa Manang’s?” (Not at Manang's?)
“Hindi eh, malayo.” (No, it's far.)
But it was in those quiet moments that I saw my dad’s frustration and weariness - from the broken E-Pass tag to the horrendous C5 traffic - leading to the gradual crumbling of the wall that I built.
This summer, the wall came crashing down. I applied for an internship with Rappler and got in. It was a great opportunity, but I had some reservations about it, especially with regards to my transportation. I tried to avoid having my dad drop me off and pick me up at the office in Ortigas, but in the end, he agreed to do it and I was too selfish and eager to argue otherwise.
Again, only the most basic of exchanges occurred in the car: inquires about lunch and the workload I had and the request to order drive-thru from Jollibee. And yet, I saw glimpses of his vulnerability: with the traffic, with work (he took a consultancy job to keep supporting us after his retirement), with our finances, and other troubles.
The hows and whys of of this sudden change in our relationship are correlated with seeing and realizing the old age and exhaustion etched on his face. As a child, seeing my parents worry or their weakness was enough to make me feel restless for many nights.
When you grow older and you see how old and perennially exhausted your parents are, you wonder just how much time you have with them, how much longer it will be to see that same weariness and oldness etched on your face. Catching a glimpse of my parents’ weaknesses, especially my dad’s, made me appreciate them more. It made me realize that behind those superhuman exteriors are flawed beings, trying to relate with and do what’s best for us kids.
I don't see my dad as that unreachable "big man" anymore. It's not that he's shrunken down or I've grown up to his level, but I think it's more of how that silly illusion has been shattered.
I now know Dad isn’t invincible, he has one too many types of Kryptonite, but that doesn’t make him less of a Superman in my eyes. If anything, it makes him a greater man than any superhero in a comic book.
So, Dad, here is my article about you. I know this isn’t the segue you’ve wanted for so many years now, but I hope this makes a memorable Father’s Day gift for you. I love you and thank you. - Rappler.com
Mariel Arboleda is a 3rd year student at the Ateneo de Manila University and a Rappler intern.