Written in the heart
My father was the best teacher I ever had. No, he was not a professor, not even a degree holder, but he taught me the greatest lesson which I did not learn within the four walls of a classroom. He taught me about life.
Papa Bebot was fond of his motorbike. It was old and small, the color of red. It was our means of getting to school during our elementary and high school years, me holding tight to him as we navigated the cold and empty streets of the early morning in our small town in Bukidnon. Even when I was already in college, he still found it a joyful ride to take me to my early classes, traveling about 30 minutes to another town, before returning to tend to his tedious work in his small-time automotive shop. Most nights, usually after dinner, he would call me (or one of my four siblings) and take us on a ride to town to buy bread for a midnight snack or for next morning’s breakfast. Whenever time permitted, he would also take us on road trips around Bukidnon, introducing us to its wonders.
My father taught me that life, like those half-remembered motorcycle rides, is a journey in itself. You immerse yourself in the moment while carefully wending your way toward your destination. You let your eyes drink in the beauty spread out before you—lush green fields on mountain ranges, infinite stretches of road that disappear in the horizon, countless stars in the vastness of the night sky… You listen with childlike curiosity to the whispers of the wind in the trees, the murmurs upon passing a public market, the squeaking of tires from the cars behind you. You delight in the cold breeze brushing against your skin and the fresh smell of newly baked bread.
Sometimes, you play a little. There was one time when I thought of letting go of my grip on my father and spreading my arms sideways. For one brief moment, I felt I was flying. The thing is you just have to enjoy the ride.
But just as how a journey reaches its last stop, Papa also taught me the blunt truth that life, too, has its end.
It was in late March of 2012 when a text message from my older sister sucked all the splendor out of the beautiful day like a voracious beast. “We rushed Papa to the hospital. He just suffered cardiac arrest,” read the message sent in our native tongue. My heart froze and my brain refused to believe what I had just read. He just sent me thoughtful and loving words the night before, like a father would when his son is far from home for almost two months already, diving headlong into the “real world” after college. I was then in the middle of completing my preemployment requirements in Cagayan de Oro City.
After reading my sister’s message, I literally did not know what to do. But she told me to just finish what I had to do for the day because they had all the helping hands they needed back home.
On the bus ride home for three hours that evening, I was all tears. I went on a trip down memory lane and thought of Papa carrying me half-asleep in his arms, transferring me from the couch where I had dozed off while doing my grade school assignments and onto my bed. I thought of him mussing my hair every time I presented to him my first-honor ribbon in each year of high school. I thought of him at the dinner table, listening to our problems as college students, always reassuring us that “everything will be OK.” I thought of him on his motorcycle, silent but full of purpose.
When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse directed me to the ICU. I found my sisters and brother outside, all of them weeping, comforted by relatives and friends. Little did I know that Papa was already in a coma.
Through the glass window, I saw him for the first time in two months, in his most vulnerable state—lying on a hospital bed with a large tube sticking out of his mouth, surrounded by monitors and machines. I wanted to scream, to cry hysterically. But all I could do at the moment was to tell myself, “Everything will be OK.”
I asked about our mother and was told that she was home with our aunt. They could not tell her everything yet considering her condition: She suffered a mild stroke herself the other year, and was still, back then, in the process of regaining her health.
But we soon told her about what had happened anyway, in the best way possible. She accepted the news with calm tears and said wanted only one thing: to see him. So we took her to the hospital the next day with anxious hearts that she might not be able to bear the sight of him. But she did. Inside the ICU, her soft cry mingled with the steady rhythm of the heart monitor. She held his hand for a long time, not knowing she would never hold him again. That night, my father breathed his last.
Ultimately, long after his passing, Papa taught me that life is all about choices. We are what we are and where we are at the moment because of the choices we have made.
I choose to miss him every day. Sometimes, I still choose to cry in my pillow to ease the longing I feel inside—a longing for a father’s guidance, protection and love. Nevertheless, I also choose to accept the fact that he cannot be with us anymore, that he can no longer take us for a ride on his motorbike to buy bread on some evenings, and that there won’t be someone to muss my hair the way he did for a job well done.
But then again, I choose to do what I know he would want: for me to always follow my dreams. I choose him to be my inspiration for that, always. And that choice takes me to where I am right now, living some of my dreams, but knowing that there are still a lot of new dreams to chase.
My father taught me so much about life. I may not be his best student, but I had the best teacher. And each day, I pore through the pages of notes I made from his lessons—notes that are thoughtfully written in my heart.
Eramark C. Logronio, 26, is a quality assurance analyst at Nestle Philippines in Cagayan de Oro City.
Stories from the young Filipino
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