Happy Birthday Papa!

Today is the first year that we are celebrating the birthday of my dad (Sixto “Tito”Asuncion)…without him physically present.
As I had mentioned in previous posts, he died of Cancer last February. Had he been alive, he could have celebrated his 73rd Birthday today.

Every time I see his pictures I will suddenly realize I am still in denial that he is no longer with us. For He had always been there in all aspects of our lives.

I can still vividly remember that when we were young and it’s examination period, he would patiently spend time with each of us kids to review the lessons and have question and answer sessions just to make sure we will pass and have high marks in our tests which definitely molded us and made it our habit to study harder even until college.
He is a firm believer that education is the best inheritance a parent could give their children. I know it is a tough job to raise 5 children, more so give them quality education which he is able to do single-handedly since he is the sole bread winner in our family, my mom being a plain housewife ever since having children.

My dad is not the authoritarian type but we are also scared of him in many aspects especially during issuance of school report card. He would usually pick-up the cards in school and so when we know he is coming, we will be worried if our grades are good enough up to his satisfaction. Fortunately, in most cases we have high grades but he would always remind us not to be complacent.

He wanted me to become a doctor since he was a frustrated doctor by profession (believe he was studying medicine proper when he had to stop due to reasons I can’t exactly remember why). That’s why he really wanted one of his children to have fruition of this dream. He would always tell me to try Medicine in college because I am patient and he is confident I can finish long years of studying and reviewing and wanted me to try taking exams in PLM or UP.

I had this ambition too till 4th year high school but just before graduation I started realizing it could be hard and not practical firstly because it would also need a lot of resources to finish a medical course. During that time me and 3 other siblings were still studying so I thought it will be very difficult financially speaking.
Secondly, I had been studying since I was 4 years old so I also had a feeling of tiredness because of studying since young. Pursuing a course that would take longer years to finish could aggravate this feeling.
At the end, even if I did not become a Doctor I know I made my parents especially my Dad proud since I also had some achievements during college and be able to have a good career.

Papa (which is how we dearly call him) is generous and thoughtful. I remember my sister Princess as a young girl is used to seeing cake in the dining table during her birthdays. In one of her birthday, my dad failed to buy a cake on time. She started crying very loud and is not willing to stop unless she can have her birthday cake. Papa still tired coming home from work had to go out again and buy her a birthday cake even though the nearest bakeshop is very far from our home then.

My mom would always receive gifts from Papa during her birthdays. She would sometimes receive either a perfume, blouse, bouquet of flowers or even orchid plants (since my mom love to plant trees and flowers in our garden).

Papa’s generosity and thoughtfulness is not only for his immediate family. He makes it a point to greet and visit relatives during birthdays or special occasions. He would lovingly dedicate songs or greetings through a local radio station that he and mom would always listen to during weekends. Suppose it is my aunt’s birthday she would call the radio station to request my aunt’s favorite song then followed by a birthday message. Next, he would call my aunt to remind her to listen to the radio that instant. Upon hearing the song and dedication, naturally my aunt will be surprised by the gesture and will be very thankful.

He also loves his grand children so much. Every afternoon, he would take them out for a walk in our village from the time they were babies until the time they can walk. Our neighbors would always compliment him that he loves the children so much and very proud of them which he would confirm by saying his grand children are not only kind but also smart and all good looking so there is no reason not to be proud of them. I heard a story from my sister that even on his sick bed, he reminded them to buy my nephew’s favorite toy car as his surprise gift as soon as he goes out of that hospital.

I am sure many people misses these thoughts and gestures from my dad. There are countless memories to tell but it will be such a long post and words cannot describe exactly the feeling just reminiscing these events since we were young.

But I am certain he is in a happier state now with our Lord.

Happy Birthday Papa. We truly miss and love you.

Bittersweet memories…

Bittersweet..it’s how I would describe the first months of the year 2011.

The beginning of this year I got a very grand New Year cum advanced Birthday surprise. I got a work promotion which came quite unexpectedly. Surely, I am hardworking and an achiever but I didn’t expect I will be promoted this early. Upon learning about it, I immediately informed my parents of the good news as I know they will be proud of me. Since it was not officially announced yet I had to keep it to myself and my parents only for quite a while.

With the fruits of my labor already being reaped, I started to plan something good for my family, my parents in particular. I have traveled to many places, seen how beautiful the world is and I want my parents to enjoy and experience the world that they would just usually see in postcards, magazines or Television. I wanted them to have a grand holiday. By Grand I really meant GRAND. We had few good holidays together and all of these occasions had been memorable to them and they would have countless stories about these trips. There was a slight hindrance though on my plan…around August of last year, my Dad had undergone a major operation because of cancer.

His Bladder was removed and the Doctors had to attach an artificial urine bag so he could function like normal. He lose weight and became a bit weak which led to him mostly staying at home as he could barely do long walks like in the past. He  would skip events or occasions being held far from home. However, I am still positive that the planned trip would push through soon. Don’t know exactly when but deep in my heart I know it will happen.

Just right after New Year, my Dad complained of severe stomach pain and he had difficulty doing bowel movement. At first the doctor thought he lacks sodium and it seemed not a very serious case. However the pain persisted so the doctor thought it is due to something else. He ordered my Dad to undergo CT-Scan.

True enough, when the result of the CT-Scan was released it was something the family dreaded and hoped not to hear. The cancer has spread to the stomach with many tumors in the area. He was confined in the hospital for more than 2 weeks. One of his Doctor advised the family to just bring my Dad back home so we could spend more time with him. Upon learning this, I immediately decided to take a trip back home to spend time with them. I was in the hospital helping to take care of my dad until the day he was discharged and sent home to recuperate.

My youngest nephew will be celebrating his 2nd birthday and also my birthday in a few days time plus my Dad’s return home so we had a small family gathering/dinner arranged last minutely since my Dad was released from the hospital almost 7pm. It was January 30 then…the next day I had to fly back to Bangkok.

The Doctors did not say how long my Dad is going to live but all of us are hoping for the best and wishing for a miracle to happen so our Dad could be with us longer. We continued praying.

Upon my return to Bangkok and just after Chinese New Year, my promotion was announced in our office and various overseas offices. I was really glad and immediately informed my parents that it was now official! A lot of my friends and colleagues congratulated me as well.

However, it was a temporary happiness. Just 3 days after my promotion was announced, I received a very early (around 4 am Bangkok Time) phone call. Hearing my phone ringing at that unholy time I already had some thoughts that something bad may be happening. It was my brother on the line.

At first he tried to sound a bit cool and ask me if he woked me up and if I am still sleeping, etc. Since it is unlikely for them to call at that time, I went straight to the point and asked, “What Happened to Papa?”

“Papa is now gasping for his last breath” my brother replied.
I was caught off guard with what I heard. “What happened? Why it happened so fast, I just checked Mom about Dad’s condition and she said he was OK?”.
“It could be what God wants for Papa” my brother tried to comfort me though his voice is breaking.

I later learned that almost the whole morning till afternoon of Feb 09, my Dad showed some upbeat feeling and looked stronger so the family thought he started to feel well again. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated towards the evening and was even unable to eat dinner. He just looked at them with very faint response. He held my Mom’s hands and touched her face as if saying Thank You and I love you to her as he cannot utter any word. Same goes for my siblings and other family members. All of these were happening while I am hundreds of miles away and totally unaware of.

Around 2 am, he had difficulty breathing and so they rushed him to the nearby hospital. His breathing became fainter and have longer gap, his blood pressure dropping and heart beats once every few seconds. It was during that time that my brother called me to inform me what was happening. I was so frustrated and anxious for I am so far and not able to be with him until his last breath.

After a while, they told me my Dad was gone..It seems I was in denial and cannot believe what I just heard. I started packing my bag but my mind was blank. I wasn’t even sure how I was able to reach the office. I informed my boss about it and ask permission to go back home. I was fortunate to be able to get a flight on the same day.

When I saw my Dad in the casket I’m still in denial. I shed tears but I tried to control it. Cos it seems to me what I saw is not real. For my Dad had always been there, very strong, very supportive. It is not likely for him to be laying still and will never wake up again. Though its true everyone of us will eventually die, we are just not prepared for it to happen to him that soon. Our only consolation for which we really thanked God is that my Dad did not suffer much on his sickness compared to other people with Cancer. Or maybe he tried to conceal his pain to us so we will not worry. There were several occasions that it seems he was in pain but when we try to ask him if there is anything painful, he would deny it.

During the funeral, the family broke down to tears. My Eldest brother was tasked to say his last words during the Church service while at the cemetery I had to say my piece. I was unprepared but what I said was all coming from my heart. I know Dad lived a full life. He is only 72 when he died…he could have lived few more years but we know he died peacefully and an accomplished man. As I saw all the relatives and friends who went to the funeral, while weeping I can’t help but be glad to realize that my father had helped and touched a lot of people’s lives. He is not a politician nor a religious leader he is just a simple man but is well respected and emulated..The love and sympathy poured in to my family by well meaning friends and relatives is just overwhelming.

Truly it was such a bitter sweet memory at such a short span of time. The year is still early so I am praying for the best not only for myself but for my family.

Dear Dad…

Tomorrow, June 20 the whole world will celebrate Father’s Day. Coincidentally, the next day is my Dad’s birthday so it’s a sort of double celebration for our family back home. I texted my mom the other day to ask their plan for the 2 occasions. She said they already bought fresh products in the market which they will cook so the whole family can eat together. God, I miss my family. It has only been 2 months since I came back home for a short holiday but the memories of that trip still remains. I was able to enjoy a family outing and spending more time with them catching up.

Now that all of us children are already adults, I can proudly say that our parents have brought us up well. They are good role models and has always been there for us. However, since Father’s day is coming as well as my Dad’s day, let me make this post a tribute to my dad. Btw, we affectionately call our Dad, “Papa”.

My dad was a Police Officer when he met my mom. They eventually got married. Because of the risk of the job and since my eldest brother was already born, my mom requested him to resign from the police. He then worked for the Central Bank for many many years until he retired. His passion for work has been an inspiration to all of us especially now that we have our own careers. I can still remember those days that he wouldn’t mind going to work even though there is typhoon or flooding which is a common scenario then because our city is located in a low lying place. He is the breadwinner and my mom is a plain housewife. Having said that, I cannot imagine how they are able to raise 5 children well, send to private schools and always have good food in our table. Life may be hard but our parents would never let us feel it.

My dad loves reading. He has tons of books in our house ranging from dictionaries, English communication books to almanac as well as constitution and governance. As books are plenty, I developed the habit of reading as well. Almanac was my favorite book then maybe the reason why there was a point during my High School when I was able to memorize almost all capital cities of the world.  🙂

He also enjoys writing. He writes very good letters from a plain excuse letter at school, to solicitation for sponsorship of a basketball court in our village to the local government and I think there was even a point that he wrote a letter to a president of a certain country (I totally forgotten which country it was and not sure if the letter ever reached the desk of that President).  I think I also inherited his writing skills though I must admit that he has a wider vocabulary knowledge than me.

During monthly exams in school, he would ask us to read the topics for the exam first in our text book then everyone would have their turn to be asked various questions about the lessons from my dad. My other brother would even have to pretend sleepy or sleeping already so the question and answer part will stop.

With all these, you might think he is a strict father. On the contrary he is not. I cannot remember a single time that he used his hands to reprimand us kids. He is also very generous to all of us. When he was still working, Mother’s Day or my mom’s birthday will never be complete without any gift from my dad from perfume to blouse or even orchids or rose (not in bouquet but plants that can be grown cos my mom loves gardening). There was even a time that my younger sister already gotten used to having a cake during her birthdays. Unfortunately on that day my dad was unable to buy the cake. My sister started to cry profusely and my dad had to buy the cake from somewhere far cos there was no bakeshop in our area then.

Two years ago, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer of the bladder. All of us were very worried but he did not show any signs of depression or desperation. Many procedures were done and up until today is still being undertaken to prevent the cancer from developing further. He has to avoid many foods and habits that are not good for the health. He lost some weight but I still see him very active. He loves taking care of his grand children so it’s a good exercise as well. His well being is always in my daily prayers.

When my friend visited me here sometime ago, my parents requested for some stuff to be brought to me and inside the box was a letter hand written by my dad. The message of which comes from both of them. In the letter they asked me how I am, that they missed me and always pray for my success and safety. They also hope I will like the stuff they sent. I was really touched by the gesture.

I am not vocal showing affection to my parents but in every way or every opportunity I have, I do not hesitate showing or making them feel it. Even up to this day, I would kiss my parents in the cheek to say goodbye which is not a common gesture for children these days.

My dad may not be able to read this blog post since he is not using computer these days but I know in my heart that he loves us so much and he is proud of all of us and surely he knows that we love him very much and we are thankful to God that he is our dad.

Dear Dad…Happy Father’s Day. Happy Birthday. I love you.