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What’s in a number?

Three is a significant number in the life of my Dad. His exciting life was full of number threes. As a matter of fact, three was a magic number for him. Spanning four generations, his life, like a book, had three interesting chapters that taught us how to make the most of God’s gift of life, “for what we become will be our gift to God.”

Dad was blessed with three sons, his own three musketeers. Two are permanently residing in United States, while I remain faithful as a proud Filipino. Of the eight grandchildren, three have finished their college degrees while the rest are still studying.

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Three chapters of his life started in Manila, stopping over in Canada and the last in the US. The longest chapter was in Manila, where he studied and worked for more than half of his life in various professions, as an educator, lawyer, and politician.

He earned three degrees: education, law, and master in education. It took him a number of years to finish his studies because of three reasons: the onset of World War II, being a working student, and being both father and mother who had to provide for his children’s needs because of the early demise of his wife.

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He finished his education course and much later his law degree. He passed the bar on his third try without enrolling in any review school then, because of fund and time constraints.

The second chapter, although a short one, brought him to Canada where he stayed for a year teaching English to 6th and 7th grade students at Chapleau. He got sick because he could not withstand the very cold weather,

From Canada, he went to California, USA, and stayed with his sister. He was a tourist, so he went back to the Philippines where he was rehired by his former office as a legal officer. After retiring, he went into law practice and at the same time was hired as a high school principal. It was at this time that his third profession or calling came to the fore.

He was elected as a municipal councilor of Santa Lucia, Ilocos Sur. However, he never finished his stint as an elected official. He was not cut out for the rough and dirty game of politics. He returned to Manila and started to teach in a suburban college while pursuing his master’s degree in education, his third course. Eventually, he became the dean of liberal arts.

The third chapter of his life started when my older brother petitioned my Dad and second Mom to be able to join him in the US. They stayed in New Jersey where my brother and his family live, with three dashing guys and a lovely scholarly lady for his children. From there, they moved to Stockton, California where he worked for the city’s Foster Grandparents Program.

While in California, Dad and Mom stayed at the Philippine Plaza, where I stayed for a while when I first visited them in 2000. There, he introduced me to three affable, beautiful, and smiling women who took care of the activities of the tenants in the building. The maintenance of the Plaza was taken care of by three men. In the sixth floor, three of them — my Mom, a brother-in-law, and Dad—were in the pleasant company of other Filipinos in the compound.

On special occasions, Dad was welcomed to stay in a two-story house with three bedrooms on the ground floor, owned by his nurse-niece with two children—another three in his life.

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At 95, his second wife left him for the real world. He had to move out of the Plaza and live with a family of three in San Jose—his youngest son, his wife, and a daughter.

During his 96th birthday celebration in 2004 where I was present, he was asked if he had any intentions of having a third wife. He gave a sheepish smile and said, “All I want to see before the last chapter of my life is brought to an end is to have my three sons all in America—my only son in Manila to join me with his children—all three of them.”

The dream never materialized. He left the netherworld in 2012 at the ripe age of 103.

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Mario C. Anteola, 80, is a retired government employee. He is enjoying his retirement with his townmates in Bangar, La Union, as the president of the Bangar Retirees Association.

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