Looking back, it’s very hard to believe that on two separate occasions, I didn’t speak to my Dad for one whole year. (That makes two whole years in total!) I was resentful. Bitter. I felt like he didn’t know me and didn’t care to take the time to build a relationship with me. My heart was hardened. I was in the right. He was in the wrong. I didn’t care if he said sorry. I had decided to build a wall to protect myself from pain.

I’m not sure how things started to turn around for me and my Dad. All I know is that I had finally turned to my Heavenly Father. It was clear that He wanted me to forgive, give my Dad a blank slate, and honor him no matter what. Even in his imperfections. I had to make a heart decision, not once or twice, but several times. And I can tell you that although it was difficult, it was well worth it because I’m now enjoying the rewards of having a loving relationship with my earthly Dad!

Today, as I had lunch with him in Cafe Ysabel, it was obvious that he wanted to spend time with me just talking and enjoying each others’ presence. After being away for a year and a half, there is nothing more I want in this world than to spend quality time with him. Life is short, fragile, full of unexpected turns. I’m choosing to spend that time with loved ones.

They say that actions speak louder than words. Here are some lifelong lessons I’ve learned by seeing my Dad in action.

1. Never give up on the people you love no matter what the circumstance is. My Dad has stood by my mom, sister, brother and me through our ups and downs. We have hurt him deeply on uncountable occasions. But he has never cut us off or left us. My Dad’s greatest joy is the simple pleasure of seeing us and being with us. In today’s world of disposable relationships, where people break ties because they are unhappy or not getting what they want from the other person, my Dad has gone against the norm. He stands by us. Supports us. He is there for all of us when we are sick. When we need help. When we are broke. When we are stomping our feet and throwing tantrums. When we walk through dark emotional valleys that seem to have no end. When we turn our backs on him and betray him. My Dad stands by us, fights for all of us and protects us. I see this choice my Dad makes over and over again and it has cut my heart. I am amazed at his strength. He is like a boxer who keeps on getting knocked out but keeps on standing up again as he slugs through the pain. I can only pray that God gives me half of his strength through the inevitable dark valleys in life.

2. Treat people equally no matter what their race or socio-economic status is. My Dad used to take me to Aurora market, a wet market near Cubao. Every week, a man with cerebral palsy would limp up to him and sell him sweepstakes tickets. And every week, my father would buy a ticket from him. My Dad always greets doormen, waiters, waitresses and other service people. He makes them feel valued by engaging them in small talk.

3. Value learning. You’ll never see my Dad without a newspaper or novel. He is always reading or watching CNN and talking to me about world politics. In other words, he’s a nerd! He is always encouraging me and my brother to explore further studies. He values that I’m an international school teacher so I can share this love of learning with others.

I have the best Dad in the world who has taught me lifelong lessons through his actions. I am so grateful and glad that today I am able to spend time with him and honor him. I love you, Dad!

“If you don’t clean it up by Saturday, the fire brigade will break into the apartment and clean it up.” My Dad. Over a long distance call from Manila.

So with fed-exed keys in hand, I braved apathy, took a cab to Breach Candy, and unlocked my aunt’s apartment. She moved to Manila five years ago so the pigeons have broken in.

The perpetrators

This is the home where my father grew up in. My mother lived here for a year when they were newlyweds. My aunt took very good care of it when she lived in Mumbai, asking house-cleaners to come twice today.

For the past year, our Breach Candy apartment has gone to the birds.

Today, with the help of my aunt’s neighbor, Varsha, we hired some cleaners who picked up dead, half-dead and live birds. They swept and wiped away as much poop as possible.

At this point, I can’t look at pigeons without shaking my head and feeling a deep sense of disgust.