Today is his birthday. Recently, I visited New York to celebrated my Uncle's birthday (brother to my father). It was a wonderful, soul-freshing experience and got a few new stories about my father that I can add to my list.
One, I sort of knew but wasn't sure on the details. Found out my father lived in England at one time. He came back saying words like "bloody" and "bloke", which my Uncle found amusing since it was coming out of a dark-skinned Filipino man. Now, do not mistaken my father as some Filipino man of short stature and thick accent. Far from it. The Almirol clan is of a different breed.
My father, a professor in Anthropology Studies with a particular focus on Asian-Americans, came to America as a Fulbright Scholar. He was to study at the University of Illinois - Urbana, then return back to the Philippines as the department dean at the Univ of the Philippines, following his completion of his studies here in the States. The problem was that when it was time for him to return to the Philippines, Martial Law was active and the regime were not fans of those with an activist history like my father. His comrades were either arrested or 'missing', so it was in my father's best interest to stay away from the PI as much as he can.
His writings became popular in Cambridge that an university invited him to come and give a talk. He grew popularity there and was offered a faculty position, which he gladly took and sufficed for the time he needed to live outside of America as he applied for a visa. Eventually, he returned back to the States to work in the UC system at Davis, California. In a way, being a student of the UC system, I'd like to think we were sort of linked in some way. Anyways, I also learned that he and a colleague were the two individuals responsible for making Tagalog an accredited course. A person that would want to be, I believe, anthropology student or graduate student (not sure which, not too big of a deal in the story) had to know two languages as a requirement. The problem was that Filipino students who knew both English and Tagalog, had to learn an additional 2 languages since Tagalog did not count as a "language". Because of these two men, Tagalog can be counted and learned in the California academia.
I also learned that my father was an exquisite writer, though I already knew this. My wish is that his skills may be part of my inheritance. When people speak to me about how intelligent or insightful my father was, I can only think of the giant shoes I'll have to fill and what I disappointment it may be for them to have only me in place of him. I get it, I create my own voice. My voice itself can and is unique. Just because we share the same blood, it does not mean that I have the same ability to write books, teach courses, etc. I understand I can create my own legacy on my own. Just a part of me wonders, if he was here, where I can be now, not necessarily physically, but more of a state of mind. I feel half the man my father was when he was twenty-five years old.
I bumped into a former coworker of mine at the gym the other day. We both shared about losing a parent at a very young age, though sounds heart breaking, may not seem as terrible as it is. I lied, though. It's easier to say that the death of this parent did not affect me much because I was of a young age when he passed, but there are times when this is far from the truth. I am jealous of my cousins that they were able to share in engaging conversations with him. I am jealous that people can see him in me, but I cannot see what they see. I am exhausted of learning about him through secondary sources, yet I can't wait to hear story I may have not heard yet. I want to share stories, listen to his voice, and look in his eyes. I want to see what other's see: his charisma, his very, very contagious charisma.
These words I type is familiar, something I think or write or tell people when I speak of my father. Depending on the depth of our relationship or if you never knew before, I welcome you to the stories of my father. He lived a beautiful, yet such brief life. Happy Birthday dad, how I miss you so.