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The Soapbox Filipina | September 23, 2019

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Tosha Di, Pa - The Soapbox Filipina

Tosha Di, Pa
Pier Angeli B. Ang Sen

Tosha Di, Pa.

A recent but significant conversation we had with my father-in-law,  was when he spoke to us through fb video call at 11:30 in the evening in July, while my son and I were in Hongkong.

This was after my son Rafa, won a merit award in his math competition in Hongkong. 

My father-in-law was excited as he asked us to show him Rafa’s medal. 

He was very proud of Rafa and that in itself, in that short time before he left, made us happy. 

Several years ago, I wrote my father-in-law something for Father’s Day. 

With a broken heart, I am now rewriting it, as I pay homage to the life he shared with us.

Having been nicknamed, “The Godfather” by distant relatives, surely gives a short account of what my husband’s father is.

The first time I met Papa, my father-in law, could be likened to any television commercial which shows an apprehensive girlfriend about to bolt from her seat, as she is being introduced to the family.

And perhaps with a “voice over” that echoes 

“Sana bumuka ang lupa, lamunin ako ng earth!” ( May the earth open and swallow me up).

He rarely spoke which made it all nerve-racking. 

And when he did, that was only when I was about to leave.

His words? He said “ tso ko lai”. (which meant “come again” in his native tongue)

And I did not just come again. I married his son and lived in his house.

He was very limited with his praises.

In fact my husband and I get most scoldings from him more than praises. 

He was short in praises. He rarely does. 

But in those few years of knowing him and living in his house, I only got two. 

One was for my cooking and the other was for guiding my son, as he excelled academically: 

     1. “Puede na ikaw tayo restaurant”.

     2. “Yan Rafa mana-mana galing, PERO ikaw 

           alam alaga bata”.

These two praises, I will forever hold dearly in my heart. 

I was the proverbial Filipina, Juana, marrying into the Chinese family and living under one roof

trying to learn everything, anything. 

But for my father-in-law,  it was not me a filipina , or a bisaya from mindanao—-coming into my husband’s chinese family. 

But it was me , simply coming into my father-in law’s family and living in his house. 

There were slight adjustments as I came into the family but my father-in-law made sure I would be comfortable with the new culture.

In fact, he began conversing to me in Chinese. 

Not that he wanted me to assimilate the language immediately. 

Nor did he want to give me a hard time while knowing I was zero- chinese but I, myself , wanted that over the tagalog language.

Even if conversing with him proved to be a hindrance, his speaking to me in his language worked to my advantage.

Not only did I grasp a few Chinese words , like “chia binthao, dim kape, chia diao lo, ti goon hang and tiam lai”.

It also made me appreciate him, his culture and his language more.

In spite of his stature, my father-in-law remained a very simple man.

On ordinary days, he donned a simple kamisa chino, slippers and slacks.

His phone, had it not been broken, would never be replaced with the latest model.

And my husband’s “buying him a new watch” turned to be an absolute discussion that forever remained as one.

ELEVEN YEARS may never be a long time to actually know someone lest misunderstand his thoughts or words,  but my father-in-law has shared so many adages. 

Through my husband’s translation, some have made an impact on my way of life:

Firstly, Papa says “there is no reason at all to complain because what is on the table is still food.”

“The disparity “, he says “ between cheap, bland food and pricey , tastier food is only in fact six inches away.

”And by inches he meant the distance from the tongue to the esophagus , for there , taste might be consequential.

But he pointed out that as food reaches the stomach the difference is marginal to none at all. 

True indeed.

Secondly, he says “ the things we wear are truly secondary to who we are.”

Even if one wears branded clothes and designer shoes, it still pales in comparison to a tycoon wearing the simplest clothing.

And as an example he says “ even if an average earning person may be wearing the fanciest clothing, he still will never be on the same level as a simply clothed Henry Sy.”

‘What ever you wear can never change who you are or what have in your brain”. 

And last, which has stuck in my head is this:

  “Mo tio ti, lan lumpia.” 

What he meant by this was that sometimes we think we are so good and great that we have already touched the clouds. We thought it was “lumpia” but in reality it isn’t, for no one has ever touched the clouds.

So let us not rely always on our greatness for we might not be. 

The nuggets of wisdom that my father-in-law has, is as rich as the culture of the country that he left as a young man.

The hardships that he went through is truly awe-inspiring. 

The sacrifes he gave is overwhelming.

His youth he would always say, included having not eaten for days, being in a long-boat trip to nowhere, staying in a dank crowded place and continually being hassled in a foreign land.

But because his hard work is as tremendous as his pursuit for a better life, he became successful as he did now.

No motion picture could measure up to the life story of my son’s angkong (grand dad).

He had given more to many and most to his family. 

And I will forever be grateful. 

Tosha Di, Pa.

Have a safe journey and goodnight.

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