Ruben. Ben. Dodoy. Papa.
These were a few of the names my Dad was famously known for amongst family members and friends. My cousins also called him their Papa, because he had been all that a dad could be to them. I have nothing but sheer joy and gratitude to have had him as my earthly father. For as long as I can remember, he never failed to show his love and care to all of us even when He was away. Back in the day when we still used walkie talkies and radios for communication, Papa had been the first to call us every single time. We all had code names, and it was such an intimate thing to know that we had secret names for ourselves. When mobile phones became available, he bought each of us our very own units so he could easily contact us wherever we were. For most children, their parents have been through every milestone in their academic lives. My dad was absent most of the time in ours due to the nature of his work. And I didn’t dislike him for it. Not one bit. Yes, I did get insecure sometimes, because I yearned that He would be the one to put my medal on when I won an award or when I received honors, but I loved him more because he always made a way to send his congratulations to me. Whenever he came home after months of being away in other provinces, he always brought me my favorite Goldilocks classic polvoron. There were days that he’d come home just for the weekend and then go back to the province again for work.
Grade school years have been a time of Art discovery for me, and Papa indulged me with comics, art books, and coloring materials. He too, was an artist. He taught me how to draw my first ever elephant and my first house. He always bought me reams of bond paper that I can use to practice. Whenever we went to his place of assignment for the summer to visit him, I would always borrow his set of pilot marker pens to outline my drawings. And whenever I showed it to him, he always smiled and said, “maayo na kaayo ka mudrawing, Bam.”
Being a soldier’s daughter, I saw the amount of respect his men had for him. He treated everyone he met with equality and impartiality, and his excellence at work was praised all throughout his career. Papa never boasted of his achievements, because his friends and colleagues did it for him. He never announced his rank to anyone but just introduced himself simply as Ruben. He was a quiet, reserved, and calm man – a no nonsense kind of guy that one easily felt at ease with. Who he was at home was who he was whether at work, in church, or in family gatherings. He was as transparent as glass, and sincerity and respect followed him wherever he went.
Post school life was filled with luncheons at Roadhouse, window shopping in Bench and Penshoppe, and trips to various countries. Sundays were spent at my sister’s home where he spent time with my nephew and niece, asking them about their studies and their interests. Friday nights became coffee date nights at Mallberry where we talked about future plans and investments, and Saturdays were for cleaning our own backyard. He was such a homebody, my dad. He was never a fan of doing random shopping trips to malls unless necessary. He enjoyed being at home, helping my mom out with the chores and enjoying cups of coffee with her during the weekend. Papa always made it a point to improve whatever was given him. Our house was his biggest project, and he still had so many other plans for it after his second retirement. The Christian life is really unexpected, as what has been said a thousand times. We may make plans, but the Lord is still the one who determines our steps.
These will be a few of the things that I’ll miss the most about him. Everything will remind me of him, and I will always grieve and long for his presence. But I will continue to press on in life without him. Death may have separated us for a while but it will also be the one to reunite us again in the future. Time is a healer, and so is God’s Word, and I’m comforted to know and believe that he is in the presence of Jesus now. See you real soon, Papa! I will still show you my paintings. I will still buy your favorite grapes. I will still spend Friday nights as coffee date nights but with mama now. I will still make sure that she and I can travel together again when it is safe to do so. I’ve loved you then, I love you now, and I love you 3000 times more in the coming years.