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  • Smart Parenting's First-Ever Daddy Editor At Large Joey Ong Gives Voice To Pinoy Dads

    His column Usapang Tatay talks about redefining parenting for dads, finding safe spaces online, and enjoying the provincial life
    by Elaine Carag-Calderon .
Smart Parenting's First-Ever Daddy Editor At Large Joey Ong Gives Voice To Pinoy Dads
PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HALILI
  • Joey Ong is not a regular dad. He’s a cool dad. 

    In online circles, he’s known as the founder of DadbudPH. At work, he’s an accomplished name in advertising, currently the Chief Creative Storyteller at FOOD Philippines. Nowadays, you may also know him as one of our editors-at-large at Smart Parenting alongside Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio.

    He prides himself in being an accomplished individual professionally; but, above all, he is a proud husband to wife Ciara and devoted father to son Joselito. He’s a provider as much as he’s a nurturer—truly the definition of a modern dad in modern times.

    PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HALILI

    What gender-based roles?

    Joey believes the concept of an involved father has always been there, although uncommon for most traditional Filipino families. 

    “Growing up, I remember my parents having specific roles. If you needed something, you knew which parent to go to,” he recalls. Typically, the job of raising the children at home fell with the mother. These days, he sees a more palpable shift happening among fellow dads as they embrace the concept of being domestic figures at home. 

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    As a father, Joey is first to ensure that he is just as present in parenting their child as Ciara is. “Gone are the days when the father is really just the main provider,” he says. 

    In the Ong household, there are no gender-based roles between him and his wife. 

    “It should never be a problem picking up where your partner leaves off. For example, Ciara has to take a phone call while feeding our child, it’s not an issue for me to drop what I’m doing to take over,” Joey shares. “Marunong din ako magpalit ng diaper, and this is not a problem for me.”

    PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HALILI

    ‘Parenting is not a competition; hindi pagalingan’

    “Sobrang luma na nu’ng pag-iisip na ’pag dad ka, ikaw lang ang nasusunod at ’yung mom is a housewife,” he says. “The dad isn’t always right, and so is the mom.” 

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    While he and his wife have different parenting styles, he reveals that communication and collaboration are the cornerstones of their family setup.

    “Two people will never be exactly the same, pero dapat may usapan and agreement. Siyempre, may differences talaga, but parenting is not a competition. Hindi pagalingan,” he says.

    For example, the Ongs agree that they shouldn’t coddle Joselito too much even if it proves to be challenging for them as first-time parents. As a mom, Ciara is naturally hyper-protective, but Joey believes it’s important to resist the urge to "baby" their child.

    “Kung madapa man ’yung son namin, instant tinginan ’yan sa amin ni misis. Alam na niya na kung mukha namang hindi seryoso, I’d just say, ‘Walk it off!’” he shares. “Lahat talaga nadadaan sa usapan and knowing each other’s strengths [as individuals and as parents].”

    READ STORIES BY JOEY ONG:

    Becoming a dad without a dad

    Besides learning from and working with his wife in raising their son, Joey also looks to a still-growing Facebook group for dads which he started to get advice on all things…well, dad. 

    Having lost his father at the age of 15, he had to find others to talk to when it was his time to become one himself. “When you become a dad tapos wala ka nang dad, maghahanap ka talaga ng ibang sources for learnings and tips,” Joey says. 

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    “I was walking in blind. Ang dami kong tanong, wala akong alam. I needed a resource to ask about [helping with my wife’s pregnancy] and becoming a good dad,” he recalls. 

    “I was curious about so many things at trip ko kasi talaga ’yung mga kwentuhan and pow-wow sa mga bagay-bagay. Natural na hinanap ko [’yung community] at wala akong makita, not even in my own circle.”

    And that's what led him to join the Smart Parenting Village Facebook community, and build DadbudPH. 

    “Support group ito na hindi ka mahihiyang magtanong. It’s okay to share anything as long as it’s dad-related. We’re from all walks of life, pero we all have one thing in common: the feeling of being a dad,” he says about the DadbudPH Facebook community.

    ‘Ibang-iba ang Dadbuds’

    Being dads, according to Joey, just brings the community together naturally. “Sobrang daming sari-saring kwento about the dad side of parenting, from kababawan, katuwaan, seryosohan, dramahan, and kulitan,” he continues. 

    “Somehow, the way we flex our parenting styles in the group allows us to inspire others to become better parents. Proud na proud ako dahil talagang pinapakita nila na ibang-iba ang Dadbuds sa mga madalas na kwento ng mga misis tungkol sa mga mister nila.”

    “Simple lang naman maging mabuting dad—just be a good person and be a good husband, the rest will follow,” Joey says.

    PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HALILI
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    My son, my ka-barkada

    Of course, this is not to say he hasn’t taken anything from his own father’s parenting. “My Dad was a provider. He was always there to give me everything I needed to be armed for my future,” Joey shares. 

    “He taught me about money at a very young age, he made sure I had all the materials I needed to become the artist I am today, and he made sure I knew how to fix stuff around the house. DIY Daddy ako ngayon dahil sa kanya, and this is something that I will definitely teach our son.”

    If there’s another thing that his father’s early passing made Joey realize, it’s that he wants a close relationship with Joselito—something he missed out on with his own dad. “My dad was quiet, and we never really had kwentuhan moments, so I think this is something that I will make sure na magagawa ko with my son. Barkada kami—buddies!”

    Parenting should not just be about raising your child. It’s about building a relationship. I want him to learn that we are his parents and also his friends,” Joey says.

    READ MORE FATHERHOOD STORIES:

    Why they traded the city for the province

    Both Joey and Ciara are so invested in giving Joselito their best that they even uprooted themselves and traded in the convenience of the Big City for the quiet of the province. And it wasn’t as hard a decision as you think.

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    “Over the pandemic, I think most of us were reminded of the value of time and quality moments,” Joey says. 

    “We were parents in a pandemic, locked in our condo for months with our son growing up so fast. I think six months old si Joselito when we finally made the decision to move. When he started crawling, ramdam na ramdam ko na being in an enclosed space was not good for him.”

    Joey recalls one day he and Ciara decided to take their son out after months of being cooped up in their building. “We went to a park in Makati kasi maganda dun at marami rin ibang kids pero kitang-kita ko sa mata ni Joselito na takot siya. Takot na takot din kami dahil hindi pa namin alam masyado kung ano ba ang COVID,” he shares.

    “Another time, I was walking in the park and I bumped into a friend of mine who just got a bike for his 12-year-old son. He was riding it in the parking lot. I was like, ‘No way na dito lang mag-bike ’yung anak ko! Tapos araw-araw ibaba ko sa building ’yung bike niya? Probinsya life, here we come!”

    PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HALILI
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    ‘Millionaires of moments’

    The Ongs looked at homes in Antipolo and Tanay in Rizal, Subic, and Zambales before ultimately settling on Cavite. “It was really our top choice, close enough [to Metro Manila], really accessible. Plus, the place is very nice. It was the best move ever. Sa probinsya, mas fresh ang hangin and we have the luxury of space.”

    Instantly, Joey and Ciara noticed that Joselito was showing signs that he was happier. “Don’t get me wrong, okay din talaga sa condo, but it’s a box within a box. Moving out means having more open space,” Joey says. 

    “Hindi pa ganu’n ka-okay ang signal, so we’re forced to connect to nature. We spend more time bonding. I would say rich in a non-monetary way ang buhay namin ngayon. We’re millionaires of moments!”

    Of course, it’s not idyllic 24/7. “Siguro, iniisip niyo, ‘Wow, sarap naman ng buhay!’ Parang wala kaming trabaho,” Joey counters. 

    “Pero sobrang busy pa rin namin. We work in advertising and PR, so there’s still so much to do; but working from home is perfect because we’ve been able to achieve the balance that we’ve been looking for.”

    The family of three still follows a scheduled routine with no yaya (and no plans of getting one). For example, Ciara has already sleep-trained Joselito to be in bed by 9:00 PM, so she and Joey still have some alone time after he sleeps. 

    “During the day, my wife spends time reading and playing with our son. ’Pag walang meeting, nandu’n din ako kasama nila. It’s the perfect setup talaga.”

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    Joey's advice: Basta may WiFi, fight!

    After a year of living in Cavite, Joey is even more convinced they made the right move. Although they still have their condo in Makati, they’re sure they won’t be moving back there permanently anytime soon. 

    “Our son will be a probinsyano, and I’m looking forward to the boy he’ll become and everything he’ll learn growing up outside the Big City,” he says.

    If you’ve been contemplating the same change as the Ongs, Joey has this to say: “If you can do it, if you can afford it—not just financially—then do it. Why wait until you’re super old to live on a farm? For us, basta may WiFi, fight!”

    “Life is so unpredictable now; if this decision will make you happy, then you should go for it. You’ll only really know when you take that jump.”

    As for parenting, whether in the city or the province, Joey, the Dadbuds, and Smart Parenting are sure to continue supporting each other through the many stages of parenthood.

    “Enjoy niyo lang. Hindi siya talaga mahirap,” he says. “There is no right or wrong, as long as you’re trying your best. Lahat naman ng dads nagsimula na walang alam. 

    Bagong life stage ’yan and no one starts off an expert. Hindi mahirap magtanong and maraming willing to help.”

    ###

    Catch Joey Ong's weekly column Usapang Tatay exclusively on Smart Parenting, a safe space where Pinoy dads can be heard and their stories represented. Joey is proud to share the Usapang Tatay platform to today's tatays and encourages Dadbuds to join the parenting conversation by emailing your thoughts and stories to smartparenting@summitmedia.com.ph.

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    Editor's Note: Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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