My dad just turned 73. The number shows he is already a senior citizen. But he is not that senior looking. Yes, he is retired. But he is not tired from life. His newest venture is farming. He has so much passion for it. Though he is not an agriculturist by training, his heart is one. He has spent so much time in personal research to discover and learn the latest techniques in farm development. He is self-taught and continues to learn from others, from observation and from experience. For him, this is not just a personal passion. This is his contribution in order to change the paradigm of our community in Bantayan Island. He wants to show the importance of the land and how to maximize it.
Dad is one of the one hundred million Filipinos in this country. But he is more than a statistic indicator. He is more than just a number for us who know him and love him. We celebrated with joy the day of his birth to thank God for the gift of life. As always, he is never alone when he celebrates his natal day because he was born as one of the twins! For whatever reasons, his mother called him Teopistes and his twin brother, Teofisto; he is Titing, the other is Totong. If we were to look at their throwback photos, they were really identical. Even now. Same height, same build, same good-looking faces. Yet so vastly different because when God creates, He does so with quality. He fashions each of us in style. God makes it sure we have our own personal identity.
The twins were born three months before the war of 1941. Two other siblings preceded them. One could imagine the difficulty of giving birth in a small island town. No hospitals or doctors were available. They just had “hilots” (quasi-midwife) to aid the women in their pangs of birth. When the war broke out, my dad’s family had to hide in a cave in a forested area to survive. Life was difficult. Yet they survived. They had to work hard. And never did they doubt that God was there all along. Through war and peace, God was not that distant. If things went wrong with my dad then, I wonder if I would still be his child. The thought might seem hypothetical. To me, it’s a mystery.
In those days, the survival of the child hangs on the family. Parents had to do great sacrifices to feed, protect and nurture their children. It was a great burden but it was done with great love for every child is considered a gift from God. Every gift is a treasure with a built-in responsibility. Parents saw it that way. They still do so today believing it is God’s way of raising a family.
The other Sunday, Pope Francis married 20 couples at the St. Peter’s Basilica, part of the Church’s effort to bring people especially couples to Jesus. In his homily, he reminded them: “It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.
The Pope gave the couples sound advice telling them that their wedding bliss will be tested but reassured them that Christ would be able to help them resist the “dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment.” He also added: “the love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together.”
The ceremony was the first time since Pope John Paul II presided over a wedding in 2000. That event highlighted Pope Francis’ desire to focus on the care of the Christian family. Next month he has called for an extraordinary synod (meeting) of bishops on October 5-19, 2014 to discuss on the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Despite humanity’s progress, the human family continues to be the basic channel for God’s blessings to flow in the world. It is God’s way of showing He continues to care. It is God’s way of renewing the world from within. Thus the hope of humanity is still through the family.
At 73, my dad has so much to thank for. As his family, we are blest for the life he shared with us!
(This article appeared in Cebu Daily News, September 21, 2014)