First Father’s Day without Dad

The title probably isn’t accurate. I’m sure there were times when Chipi and I didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with our dad because he or we were away. It is the first time, however, for us to experience Father’s Day since his passing.

There’s a Christian song with a line that goes “He’s a Father to the fatherless…” and it’s a real tearjerker at Sunday worship, but it has always given me a pause. It’s such a simple phrase, but the depths it plumbs! When I think about it – the importance of having a father – it staggers me. Even now at 44, I need my dad, and it makes me feel immensely lost that he’s not around anymore, that I now number among the “fatherless.”

I hope that that statement doesn’t come across as offensive to those who’d become fatherless before I did, especially to those who have always been fatherless. I’m not saying that I had it better and that it’s miserable to join their ranks. What I want to say is that there’s no doubt that having the presence of a good father in one’s life is a priceless blessing, and to lose that presence could really turn one’s world upside down.

My thoughts and emotions seesaw in grieving for my father. While noting his absence fills me with agony, my mind is always quick to remind me, “But you were blessed with a father for 44 years. That’s a relatively long time. He was there for your most important milestones… And you will see him again… And he’s where he wants to be now.” And that’s how I comfort myself when I verge on wallowing in pain. That has been my key to slipping back to a semblance of normal life as I knew it.

Nonetheless, it has come to a point where my sister and I have to knuckle down and settle Dad’s affairs. It’s an incredibly tall task. As difficult as it is to deal with his estate, his pension, his social security, etc., minding his personal possessions is even more daunting. You see, my dad is a collector.

He’s not a hoarder, but some people would probably be inclined to use the term loosely with him. He never threw out his small collection of cassette tapes. The same is true for the small hoard of DVDs he had organized in a shoe box. Almost all of his ID cards from the ’70s (the decade he married my mom and started living in Marikina) to the present are neatly stashed in a drawer. Marveling at his office, we have to remind ourselves that this trove of personal collections had already been significantly diminished by the great Ondoy flood of 2009.

However, just because he had a huge bundle of mostly non-working refillable pens doesn’t mean that he had an obsessive compulsion to acquire and hold on to things. For starters, Dad would be the last person to buy anything non-essential. He never had the latest of anything, and unless whatever he was using was already falling apart, he wouldn’t think to replace it. I remember posting about it on Facebook a couple of months before he passed away. I normally didn’t post about Dad because he wouldn’t have seen it anyway. He had a few accounts that other people made for him (mainly because he kept on forgetting his password) but he never actually engaged in social media. Anyway, this is what I said:


In any case, Dad seemed to live by the tenets of the Great Depression. Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without. It was a little depressing having to grow up with this way of thinking, but since hindsight is 20/20, I can now say that it really made things more interesting. It was character building if anything.

That’s not to say that he didn’t appreciate material things; he just never coveted. This realization clicked when my husband told me that when he and Dad were in the ER, waiting for Dad to be admitted (this wouldn’t happen until early evening of the following day), Dad told him that his secret to avoiding sin was not wishing for what he didn’t have. By that time, he had already mastered the science and art of contentment.

This was something that I couldn’t understand growing up and I later simply put down to being a quirk of his. I remember going around the high-end shoe stores at Caesar’s Palace with him as we waited to meet up with friends. I watched him enjoy himself as he picked up and admired different shoes. I knew he could afford them if he really wanted them, but he would gently put every shoe back. “Aren’t you going to buy anything?” I asked. He replied, “I can admire without wanting.” I just huffed in answer because I hated window shopping and was bored. The man just never bought anything he didn’t deem necessary.

His heart didn’t lust after “stuff,” but whatever he did have, he used and reused until it begged for mercy and then recycled or repurposed. He also gave a lot of things away. You wouldn’t think it, spotting all the vintage items in his office, but he usually gave away things that were still new. If something lasted with him, it was because he continued to have a use for it or he imagined that he would have a use for it farther down the road. So, essentially, my point is that my dad wasn’t a hoarder despite all the seemingly random collections.

Now that Dad is gone, I’m glad that he had this habit of storing and filing. The filing system he used only made sense to him though, of course, but I was happy that I could be certain that whatever I needed to find would be among his things because he hardly threw anything away. While I was going through the folders in his home office, I came across this:

This is a clipping of an article I had sent to the editorial section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I don’t remember if I timed sending it so that it could get published around his birthday (November 14th). I mean, I couldn’t be certain that it would pass muster in the first place (Youngblood was relatively new back then) or that it would be published within weeks of being reviewed, but that’s how things unfolded. My article was approved for publication and was published a day before Dad’s birthday. I went with a semi-pseudonym for my byline, retaining my then family name and using P.K., a known acronym among Protestant children, which stands for “pastor’s kid.”

Of course I originally had my own copy. I kept a portfolio of my published work in a clear book, but I had left it in my room at my parents’ house and when Ondoy struck, it was just one of the many sentimentally valuable items my family lost. I was devastated, but what else could I do but shrug and adopt a c’est la vie attitude?

Anyway, I was hoping Dad would still have a copy of the article, but because of Ondoy, I wasn’t really expecting to find one. That’s why I was ecstatic to come across it in one of his folders. I had to take a moment to stop my sorting and sob my heart out. I took it home with me, of course, and immediately got busy with the laminator. Now that I think about it, I should also get busy with the copier and the scanner, but I’ll likely put that off indefinitely – well, hopefully before I end up being sorry for procrastinating yet again.

In my first fatherless Father’s Day, I’d like to take the time to indulge myself further in remembering my dad and being grateful for the privilege of growing up under his care and correction as well as for the many beautiful moments I had with him.

I would also like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the fathers that are still in my life, starting with my husband Mark. He really rose to the occasion when my side of the family needed him.

I would like to thank Dad’s brother, Uncle Philip, for being our rock during that immensely arduous time. He and his wife, Auntie Nerie, were always there to comfort and support us as we struggled through that unexpected upheaval in our lives.

Our other uncles, my mom’s brother (Tito Vic) and brothers-in-law (Tito Edo and Tito Adan), with our aunts also consistently extended their care and support all the way from the other side of the globe.

Chipi and I are indeed very fortunate to still have good fathers in our family even if we’ve lost Daddy.

I’m learning to go on without Dad’s physical presence as my anchor and compass, but all those years of his influence are not for naught. His Christ-centered example and teachings will remain at the core of my being and continue to guide me as I navigate my own way to the finish line.

This Father’s Day is bittersweet, but I’m keeping my eye on the blessing. I’ve been crying, but I can also feel joy. I know my father is happy in heaven with his Father.

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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