[OPINION] To the father I once hated

My clearest childhood memory is when my parents decided to break up.

I was only 6. I can clearly remember waking up from all the noise they made as they quarreled about something. 

I cried as Mama tried to take me out of bed. She held bags full of our stuff as she instructed me that we should go. “What is happening?” I asked her.

She ignored me and forcefully grabbed my arms. Papa was pulling me from the other side. I was very confused. I took a glance outside and saw my two other siblings crying as my grandparents held them. They tried to break free from the tight embrace. (READ: 5 gifts your dad wants to get for Father's day)

During the struggle between my parents, I felt my Papa loosen his grip on my arms, as if he was setting me free and letting me go to Mama instead. I felt like he intentionally did it, leaving me to feel and think that he must not like me that much. He must have loved my sister more than me, that was why he let go of me.

From that time on, I started thinking that I was not his favorite. That he wouldn’t choose me. He wouldn't fight for me. This made a mark on me growing up. We 3 siblings  got separated – my Mama took me and my elder brother, while Papa took our sister. Right there and then, I thought I was right: he did not care for me, his youngest son.

When my parents separated, we lived like ping-pong balls. One day we were with our   maternal grandparents, the next day we were sent to Papa’s side. It was really stressful. There were sleepless nights full of questions. Why? Why do we have to experience this? And typically in a small village, our situation became the talk of the town.

I remember my grade two teacher asking me, “Ngano nabulag imong Mama ug Papa. Basig dili namo nila love (Why did your Mama and Papa break up? Maybe they don’t love you anymore)."

It was embedded in my mind that maybe they were right – our parents didn't love us anymore. All I did before was to make sure I did well in school, hoping that whenever I get a medal by the end of the school year, my parents would show up. Unfortunately, they never did. (READ: On Father's Day, a letter to Tatay)

I remember getting afraid of my Papa. I didn’t like his smell, his presence, and all. I would cry so loud whenever I saw him. I would run so fast or take a different route just not to see him. I think I developed that fear from the moment I felt him loosening his grip on me and when I saw him and Mama in a shouting match.

Growing up, I never had a real father figure. My father lived in Manila while Mama left us with our grandparents. I can categorically say I hated Papa for not being a father to us. I hated him for abandoning us like trash.,

After a few years of separation, Mama and Papa decided to get back together. I was quite reluctant about the idea or maybe, I was afraid. I was thinking that what happened a few years ago might happen again. I wasn't close with Papa. I was cold towards him. I did not care about him.

We barely talked – to my delight. I did not live a life idolizing my Papa for I knew that he was just nothing. In fact, I would learn from Lola and Lolo that he was a pain in the ass. He was sent to a good school but he decided to become a hoodlum. He hardly finished high school and caused so many problems – truly not a father figure.

But growing up, I noticed something very strange about him. He was very opinionated on everything political. I would hear him telling stories about martial law especially when got drunk. How cruel and chaotic it was. How people thought that it was the best time in our country's history when the truth is, it was the worst.

I remembered him telling those stories with teary eyes. I became curious. Whenever I asked him about his experiences during martial law, he would choose to be quiet. He would show his left pointer finger – the finger without a nail. Later, I convinced him to share his story.

Papa was abducted and tortured during martial law. He was taken from his family and was forced to speak about his involvement in the movement against Marcos.

My Papa, who was a youth leader, who I thought was insignificant, had done something truly significant for the country. The man I hated so much for loosening his grip on my arm; the son my Lola had called a problem child, was among those who fought for the freedoms we are enjoying now.

Papa, if you are reading this, I want you and everyone to know how much I love you. I salute you for standing what is right. I am very proud to be your son. I love you so much. – Rappler.com

Jan Aldwin Cutin is the Youth Program Coordinator of Youth Peer Education Network- Pilipinas