It is said that we are made immortals through our children. As we nurture them to be fine individuals and grow into responsible citizens, a part of us lives on and is perpetuated through eternity.
16 January 2010
My ever dearest Beatrice,
Today marks a milestone in your life ---- you are now officially a teenager! It's both exciting and exhilarating, but just as equally horrifying. One word can best describe it ---- AMBIVALENT (look it up :) ). You're caught up between being treated like a child one moment, and being expected to act in a more mature manner on the next; caught up between “you can't do that” and “you should be doing this already”; between being told “you're not a child anymore!” and “you're still a child!”. I know, it's confusing.....but I understand. And hopefully, you'll have the wisdom to understand it soon enough, as well.
It's been thirteen years since Mama and I first learned that you were coming. We were newly minted doctors, ready to face the world. I must admit that the timing was a bit unexpected, but we knew that it was inevitable and is certainly most welcome. I have loved your Mama ten summers before that and we knew that your coming birth was a culmination of that love between us that we nurtured with care.
At that point in our life, we were at a cross roads. We were not quite sure yet whether we'll start working as General Doctors or go into further training. Whether we'll live in Manila with Lolo Fred and Lola Ely, or in Cavite with DaddyLo and MommyLa; or in fact, whether we'll live with anyone of them at all! But one thing was sure.... we will all be together as a family. The first few years were shaky but we managed. We lived separate from your grandparents in a house generously provided by your Lolo and we went into further training. And this is the first instance that Mama and I would like to apologize to you. I feel we cheated you of some of the precious time that we should have spent with you; a result of our being away most of the time during our training. I feel that we did not hug you enough, did not kiss you enough, or play with you enough, especially during your first 2 years of life. Of course you were well-loved by everyone as you were the first “apo” from both sides of the family, but I regret that we were not around as much as we wanted. For that we apologize! Then Yana came, then Gabby, then before we knew it, you've grown to be a fine lady that you are right now: intelligent, independent, creative, admired by her peers, and talented.
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As you venture in this new chapter in your young life, I pray for a few things for you, and would like to reaffirm certain TRUTHS to you and about you.
First, we love you UNCONDITIONALLY! We love you no matter what. We assure you that we are always ready to listen to you and understand you even during times when it appears on our faces that we do not. This doesn't mean, however, that you'll abuse it, and act irresponsibly to test its limits. Loving someone does not always mean giving everything you have, but also withholding some of it at certain times. Love is not always ruled by tender embraces, but also sometimes by a firm and strict hand.
Our FAMILY will always come first. Friends come and go but your family will always be around. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, your family is the only one you got.
BE RESPONSIBLE. After Mama and me, you're the next in line in the family. Your sister and brother look up to you and admire you immensely so please show them the way. Speak to them as tenderly as you would speak to us, or as you would speak to your best of friends, taking care not to hurt. Earn their respect by using your intelligence and sense of fairness. Be a big sister to them by showing them you love them and by protecting them from harm. Be a joy in their presence and use your creative mind to stimulate them to be as great as you, or even better than you. It may seem hard, but this is expected from being the firstborn. We know how it is as Mama and I are also firstborns in our respective families but we did it and I have faith that you'll do better than us.
BE HONEST. In all the values that you will learn from this Life, being honest will serve you well all the time. Being honest is the foundation of character....it's what you are made of. It's what sets a person head and shoulders above everyone. And it doesn't need to be about anything big. It may mean being honest about what you feel, about what you did, about what you did NOT do. Even in the darkest moment of one's life, being honest serves its purpose. Most of the time, being honest to admit one's mistake is half the job done to correct that mistake.
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YOU ARE A FILIPINO. Be proud of it, anak. We may have lived away from the Philippines for a few years now, we may plan a few more years away, but you are...we are.....and will always be FILIPINOS. Never forget who we are, our values, and our heritage. No culture, no nation, no person, is above or below us. We have our own culture and it can stand among everyone. You may be exposed to other nations but use it to understand the equality of all. Take what is good and learn from it.
As you know, we are again in another cross road in our life as a family. Where the next few months will lead us only the Lord knows. We pray that we are guided accordingly. Wherever we may be, be assured of our love. I hope that as you enter this turbulent but exciting phase in your life, we may make up the time we lost from you. We hope we can talk more, and share more, and make us more a part of your life. Your Mama and I are always ready for your stories. We are always beside you!
We love you anak....happy happy birthday! We are so proud of you!
Dadoy and Mama
This letter was written on the occasion of the 13th birthday of the author’s firstborn, Beatrice. Rommel is a pediatrician and his wife Doris is an OB-Gynecologist. They live in Bahrain with their three children, Beatrice, now 14; Yana, 10; and Gabriel, 7.