Goodbye for Now, Daddy

Have I told you about my father? In my eyes, no man could be more remarkable. By the standards of the world, he didn’t really do anything astonishingly extraordinary. He didn’t achieve the wealth, clout, and acclaim that people of renown have, but in his relatively small sphere of influence, he had touched, inspired, guided, and changed so many lives.

My dad, Pastor Papa

He was a pastor. He was affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but he preferred that our church be independent. He had been district superintendent and presbyter of two regions for many years. That experience led him to the decision that our church didn’t need the burden and bother of politics that big ecclesiastical organizations usually bear.

Since becoming a Christian more than fifty years ago, he had dedicated himself to serving the Lord. Shortly after his salvation, it became clear to him that he was called to ministry, and since being ordained, he had worked tirelessly to pastor the flock/s God had given him.

My dad was also an accountant, and, for years while my sister and I were growing up, he also worked in sales. An honest, principled man in sales didn’t usually spell success, but clients knew Dad to be trustworthy, so many decided that they’d rather deal with somebody ethical than be wooed by the razzmatazz of flashier sales reps.

He excelled in that work and was consistently promoted. While he had steadily been accessing the higher rungs of the corporate ladder, his deadline for himself came up and he left his job to concentrate on ministry.

That happened when I was in high school. Suddenly, our income was much lower. It was scary, worrisome, and inconvenient for my bratty teenage self, but in retrospect, I’m glad now for the experience since I was able to see over on over again both Dad’s faith at work and God’s unfailing goodness to us. If I ever find myself doubting God’s existence, I only need to look back on my life and the faith that I witnessed from my Dad to see evidence, but, thankfully, I’ve personally proven for myself time and again that God is real and almighty.

My dad’s testimony is incredibly powerful. How God took him from incredibly humble, nay, dismal beginnings and lifted him up is always a source of amazement for me. Dad was born right after the war. His father was the 20-year-old spoiled youngest child and, by that time, only son of a well-to-do family while his mother was a 15-year-old poor but beautiful girl. My scoundrel of a grandfather gave my incredibly young grandmother two more children before abandoning them. My dad was then seven years old. When he was ten years old, my grandmother sat him down and told him, “You are now the man of the family,” and with such words did she heap that mountain of a responsibility on the frail shoulders of a sickly little boy.

Make no mistake, that poor and weak boy rose to the challenge, working at a young age and helping take care of his younger siblings. He toiled while attending public school, all the while maintaining a friendship with his rich cousins who all went to exclusive schools. It was a childhood fraught with hardship and humility, and when he graduated from high school, not only did his mother tell him that he couldn’t go to college, but that she actually got him a job as a janitor at the very university where most of his classmates were going to study.

Despite his circumstances, he strove hard to get a college education. While he couldn’t afford to send himself to school, he frequently visited the library and tried to educate himself by reading. He eventually moved on from custodial work to clerical work. After four years, he was finally able to enroll with a union scholarship.

Around this time, he attended a church camp in Baguio and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He had grown up in the Protestant faith. Their mother had raised them on God’s Word and involved them in church work, but it was at this point when he truly became born again. There was no turning back after that.

He started college, taking up commerce and accountancy. Of course he was a working student; he had been working nonstop since he was a child. He met my mother at this time. Both of them were members of their campus’s Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, wherein Dad served as president.

Dad finally got his degree and, having perceived his calling for ministry, immediately enrolled in Bible School. Again, he got in as a working student. Again, he did custodial work while his classmates’ studies were funded by foreign missions. The sad and ironic reality is that most of these mission scholars ended up pursuing other careers instead of ministry. Meanwhile, my dad, who didn’t enjoy their privilege, spent the rest of his life serving the Lord.

Like I said, it amounted to about 50 years in active ministry. Besides being a pastor, he spent time in missions to barrios in Mindoro and other remote places. He also taught Church History at the same Bible college he attended. He even co-hosted a Christian radio program for a time in the ’90s. He was invited to preach in churches abroad. Wherever he went, he was always spreading the Gospel. He would strike up conversations with cab drivers, sales clerks, street vendors – virtually anybody who had the fortune of spending even a little bit of time with him – and tell them about Jesus Christ.

While I was growing up, I found that a little embarrassing. There were many things about Dad that I resented while I was a kid. He had an easygoing demeanor but he was steadfast, absolutely unbending when it came to his spiritual convictions. Because of my immaturity, I often couldn’t understand his rationale and decisions. For instance, his mother is an American and she moved to the US while he was in college. We could have followed and become US citizens as well, but he chose for us to stay here. Apparently, it was God’s plan for him to minister here. As far as Dad was concerned, God’s will for our lives would always prevail. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t often happy with God’s will for us while I was in the thick of living it.

Chip, Dad, and I in Las Vegas

As a father, Dad wasn’t perfect, but there’s no doubt that he was a good one. He wasn’t a sweet person, but that’s not to say he was cold. He just wasn’t sentimental or demonstrative. He was away a lot, but he always made sure that we spent quality time with him. He had a sense of humor, but he was also incredibly corny. He was dependable and responsible. My sister and I always knew that we could count on him. Despite our disagreements, we never doubted his love for us.

Dad was borderline ascetic. He never cared about material things, and that was sooooo hard for us, growing up exposed to this world’s ideals. He really tried to get us to set our eyes and heart on heaven and not on this earth. It might seem that he had failed at that, but if you scrutinize my weirdness, there’s a vein of asceticism there.

You could not sway him from his values and principles. His faith defined him and explained his actions and decisions. He was conservative, but was also an independent thinker. He was just so against the grain that it was often difficult for us since we had to deal with the usual growing pains and the natural desire to fit in. We were so non-mainstream growing up that my sister and I eventually learned to embrace our alternativeness, rather than perpetually despair that we couldn’t be like everybody else.

That was a process, of course. Dad and I were often at odds with one another, but as I matured, I began to appreciate his positions more and more. That’s why my first ever published article was about him. It was back in the ’90s. I submitted it to be published in the Youngblood column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial section. It was titled “My Father’s Disciple” and it talked about how I transitioned from rebel to follower in my relationship with Dad.

Dad walked me down the aisle, and then he officiated my wedding.

Dad was a pastor, a father, a husband, a grandfather, a son, and a brother, but there were other nuances to him. He wrote poetry and songs. He sang and enjoyed music. He dabbled in drawing. He ran marathons. He was an avid reader. He loved watching the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and other cycling races. He loved parades with “mosiko” (marching band). He liked watching sporting events, but didn’t believe in competition. He loved Omakase’s salmon donburi. He could slo-mo the perfect lay-up form, but never had a ball in his hand or a basketball ring in the vicinity while doing it. He could make believable trumpet sounds with his mouth. He enjoyed the music of John Denver and Kenny Rogers. As a boy, he was an avid fan of Erap the actor, but never even considered voting for Erap the politician for the presidency.

My dad was giving and helpful. People always sought him out for advice and financial aid. He gave us a role model for charity, which means that my sister and I got to witness innumerable times his active caring for the needy. The image of him helping a man who was seemingly having a seizure on the ground right outside the grocery store entrance is forever branded in my mind. The man’s toddler sat crying next to him. When we happened upon this scene, the crowd just milled around the father and son, watching. Nobody was doing anything to help. My dad immediately went to kneel next to the man to attend to him and his little boy. Before long, he was feeding the man and his son at the Chinese restaurant next to the supermarket. The man had collapsed due to hunger. They had come here from the province, intending to stay with a relative they unfortunately hadn’t been able to find. Dad intently listened to the man’s troubles and ended up giving him the funds and supplies for him and his boy to be able to return to the province. That man was able to visit Dad several times in the years after to repeatedly express his thanks.

Marguerite’s dedication – performed by Grampa

Marguerite’s water baptism, also performed by Grampa

In his ministry, Dad was able to touch and make a difference in many people’s lives. We’ve had recently released ex-convicts come straight to the house from the penitentiary because they had become believers while in prison and their pastor had given them Dad’s name and contact information. No one was ever turned away. All of them were warmly welcomed and given the assistance they asked for.

Sawyer with Grampa

Cameron with Grampa

Dad was passionate about righteousness and holiness. Many pastors choose to focus on God’s love and blessings, which are topics that are naturally more appealing to listeners, but while Dad spoke about them as well, he made sure that we never forgot the part where we also accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord, not just our Savior. He wanted us to understand that we should be living lives that are pleasing to the Lord.

There’s so much more to say about Dad, but I wanted to time this post so it would coincide with his cremation today. There will be no wake or interment as per DOH’s protocol regarding COVID-19 deaths.

That’s right. Daddy passed away due to the coronavirus. We initially thought he was having a restroke. We never expected his illness to be COVID-related. He issued a DNI order. He knew God was in control, and if God meant for him to stay, he would allow a miracle, but Dad was ready to go. He had of course been ready for the past half century and he had had a few serious health issues throughout the years, including a stroke in 2016, but this time, I think he was anxious to go. He had experienced healing and miracles many times over. He was 74 years old, and I think he wanted to rest.

Up to the Sunday before he was brought to the hospital, he was standing at the pulpit, preaching God’s Word. He didn’t know he had COVID. The issue was with his blood pressure. He was weak and unwell, but he had pledged to serve God, and as long as he was able to, there was no question that he would. What dedication. What service. His life is an inspiration to us who have a desire to effectively witness to our faith.

I will edit and post anew as I see fit because, although it would be impossible to write all that I feel and think about my father, I’d certainly want to give it my best try.

Daddy with Mommy, the woman who stood by him for 45 years

There have been several revelations to me upon Dad’s passing. The biggest realization, of course, was that I was blessed tremendously to have had him for a father. Many of us quote Philippians 1:21 (For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain) and Colossians 3:2 (Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things), but not many of us get to see that in action. I was blessed to see that ideal lived out with my very own eyes. I didn’t always appreciate it, but now I’m incredibly glad that Dad was the way he was. That’s a rare thing to observe constantly first hand. Dad’s favorite hymn was “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and nothing could be truer. Jesus was always number 1 for him.

Another important observation I’ve had following a moment of despair when I wept about how I didn’t have anybody else I could trust to give me wise and godly advice or to rescue me when I was in any kind of slump, was that I could easily get those directly from God. It was important to remember that. I’d leaned on Dad’s faith so much all my life that I sometimes forgot to exercise my own.

Another paramount realization is that Dad’s passing also reinforced my desire for rapture, the choice to set my eyes heavenward. That’s a gift to a Christian, who may still struggle with worldly enjoyment.

I miss my dad so much. My heart is broken, but I also have a hope and promise to cling to. I will see my dad again, and when I do, I will see Jesus too. That will indeed be a time of great rejoicing. In the meantime, I will remember my father with great love and gratitude.

Daddy – he kind of looks like Jethro Gibbs here

Here’s to my dad, the Reverend Cesar V. Papa, Jr. You’re an inspiration and an example. I’m so glad my children got to spend time with you and experience your love. We love you deeply and we will miss you so much, but we’ll be together again someday. See you then, Daddy!

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  1. Czarina Santos Papa says:

    This is so beautiful, Ate. Thank you for writing it. Daddy was such a good man – things were often difficult with him because he was. I miss him so and will not stop missing him for the rest of my life, but he’s finally where he had always wanted to be, in the paradise of our Lord.

    • Thank you, Chipi. He was not an easy man to understand if you were coming from a worldly perspective. Sigh. Everything triggers my grief right now. I’m trying to distract myself, but everything reminds me of Dad. 🙁

  2. Letecia Damole Canales says:

    Thanks, Ivy. You captured everything about Pastor Papa. He has been my spiritual father for 36 years. My Christian faith has been molded by how Pastor live his life serving God. He was a very principled servant of God..

    I had ups and downs of my life because I was hard-headed sometimes, but Pastor never got tired of teaching me and others as well, the life of righteousness and holiness. Pastor exemplified the life of humility and obdedience. As our spiritual father, we love him so much. We miss him but hope to see him again, someday.

    • Thank you, Sis. Letty. It really gladdens my heart to see so many people saying that Dad had such an impact on their lives. I think I captured his main, most important attributes, but I keep on coming up with trivial little traits that also say so much about him. I’ll save them for the memorial. Take care and stay safe. God bless. <3

  3. Beautiful tribute, Ivy

  4. Ronald P. Cailo says:

    Rest in Heaven our Dear Pastor, Rev. Cesar Papa Jr. You will be missed but never be forgotten, Till We Meet Again!

  5. What an amazing life story! What a giant in God’s eyes. Jesus must be so thrilled to welcome your Papa home. One day, you will see him again. And please introduce me to him when we’re all in heaven. Hugs, Ivy! Praying for love and comfort to you and your family for the days to come.

    • Thank you, Frances. I’m glad that we have heaven to look forward to and that we can find comfort in the fact that our parents are now with Jesus. <3

  6. This is really him, Ivy.. I remember these stories. He oftened talked about it. My heart is broken. He has been my pastor, my mentor, my friend. He has been a father to me.
    Will never forget him in this lifetime. He is now with Jesus that’s our comfort. Continous prayers for everyone. God bless us.

  7. Amelia Westall says:

    Thank you. That is so beautiful. He was one of a kind.

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