A little over a month ago, I departed for my very first trip to the Philippines with my mother, father and sister.
This had been a long-anticipated trip for many years, and it had always seemed nearly impossible due to our constant conflict in schedules, finances and overall lack of planning.
However, 24 years later, it finally happened.
Both of my parents emigrated from the Philippines to America in the 1970s. Leaving everything they knew behind – their home, their culture and their families – they embarked on a journey that changed their lives forever.
Until now, I had never truly appreciated everything my parents did for me. I never realized the struggles they had to overcome and the sacrifices they had to make in order to provide a better life for our family.
My father has always been the strong, silent type when it comes to dealing with his issues. Like any man, he doesn't want to be bothered with the drama. Instead, he would cope on his own. He didn’t like to show too much emotion whenever he was upset.
Being the little fire-starter I was, I always pushed his buttons. I picked fights with him, especially when I knew he was already in a bad mood. We were similar.
Yet, I never thought about the weight he had to carry all these years. I didn't truly understand until I went to the Philippines.
When my mother and father immigrated to the US, they came separately. My mother came first, and her entire family (seven siblings and parents) immediately followed.
Then, my father came with his mother. To his dismay, his siblings (also seven) were unable to come as easily as my mother’s siblings did. And so, he made the sacrifice and had to leave them behind.
For years, my father attempted to bring his siblings to America. In 1994, my grandmother passed away, and that was the last time my father ever went back to the Philippines.
He buried my grandmother in her home country. After that, the fight to bring his family to America diminished. He had to raise a family of his own.
Twenty years flew by before my father was able to go back to the Philippines. It was twenty years of not spending a single day with any of his siblings. It was twenty years of memories he had missed out on.
It was twenty years until he finally brought me, my mother and my sister back home.
After we landed at the airport, I watched my father reunite with his siblings. I saw him fill up with joy and laughter, and he even shed a few tears. And this brought tears to my eyes, as well.
I finally was able to comprehend the sacrifice he had made for us, for his family.
Throughout my entire life, I never thought about how difficult it was (and still is) for them. I never thought about who my parents were before they became parents. Now that I look back on it, I am finally able to see the bigger picture.
I could never imagine making the sacrifice my father had made for me and my family. I could never imagine leaving everything and everyone I knew behind. Yet, somehow he did it.
I’ll never really understand until I become a parent myself, but for now, I can say my father has been my motivation and role model for the kind of parent I hope to someday become.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.