A letter for my son
(My son R-jay graduated from high school last night. It was a poignant moment particularly because as President of his class, he helped put together the simple but meaningful ceremony. He was given a special surprise award, Model Student. I wrote this letter when I got home from the revelry. This is a very personal post and I would appreciate if you would spare this post from political nitpicking).
Tonight, as I watched you and your classmates throw your white graduation caps into the air and give each other high fives and tearful hugs, I couldn't help but remember my own high school graduation more than two decades ago. I saw the same fire in your eyes that used to be there too in the eyes of many of my high school classmates : you want to make something of your life, change the world, be the best you could ever do, make a difference. A few years ago at our silver homecoming, many of my classmates were jaded, bitter, and over kegs of beer recited a litany of woes and afflictions. But yes, there were some who continued to keep the fire burning inside them.
As you went off to join your friends for your own version of a graduation ball (bar hopping, I presumed) I couldn't help but take a deep sigh and come to terms with the fact that times have really changed. But I do hope, very sincerely, that you and your friends will nurture the fire within your hearts better and sustain it longer. Not only for your own sakes, but the sake of far better and nobler causes.
There are so many things that I want to tell you. Now that you are an adult, there are things that you will have to come to terms with and as sad as this may seem, you will have to come to terms with these - the frustrations, the disappointments, the painful realities of life in the Philippines circa 2006 - on your own.
First, I would like to apologize that my generation has not been able to collectively make things any better for you and your friends. Sure, we may have been able to provide more in terms of material things and comfort - your daily allowance in the last four years was more than what I got for a whole month during my time and you have been able to wear more trendy clothes and had the conveniences of unlimited texting and computers, but I know deep in my heart that we have also failed you in many respects. I feel sad for example that your generation has been unable to experience the absolute wonder of climbing trees and chasing butterflies and fireflies, nor the excitement of walking along picturesque Avenida, or even just the sheer fun of watching movies in a big silver screen in the company of 1,000 other people. We could have fought harder to preserve the soul of our race as a people but we have failed miserably to protect the many legacies that our forefathers painstakingly built with their bare hands.
You are a generation with very few real role models and it pains me to realize that you do not even know who Claro M. Recto is, or even Raul Manglapus or Jose Diokno. It embarrasses me no end that we have taught you respect and citizenship as theoretical constructs, rather than by example. It pains me to realize that you are coming into your own as adults at a time when our leaders are behaving like children - squabbling and engaging in intolerable screamfests. I am sorry, and I can only hope that you and your generation will do a better job.
You once asked me after visiting this blog why some people hate me with a passion, simply because I have a different opinion and simply because I chose to speak up. My answer is the same, son. Everybody has to grow up, and just because some people chose to behave a certain way does not mean they are bad people. These are confusing times and sometimes people, perhaps in rage and out of a sense of helplessness, strike blindly at the most convenient targets. Do not ever let this deter you from believing in the basic goodness of people. I know this for a fact: many times in your life, you will depend on the goodness of strangers, and there will always be good Filipinos and people out there. Anytime, anywhere.
But despite our many shortcomings, there are also a number of things that I am proud of about my generation and I hope that you can build on these. We fought so hard to bring down a dictator and to restore democratic processes in this country so that you can find and speak your own voice when you choose to. We also tried our darnest to make your lives better and many among us had to suffer the loneliness of being in a strange land just so you can have that x box you wanted for Christmas or that cellphone that gave you license to belong. I personally wished I could have read you more bedtime stories the way Nanay and Tatay did to me, or taught you how to play the piano or the guitar instead of leaving you to figure out how to burn copies of pirated movies and mp3s. But I had a job and couldnt be home in time even just to ruffle your hair while you struggled with that algebra assignment. I know that I would have to pay dearly for spoiling you a little with material things to make up for the guilt. But I take comfort in the fact that we share the same blood, and that must account for something. I know that in time good intentions will bear us out.
I want you to know that I am so very proud of you - of what you have made of yourself so far, notwithstanding the way we have bungled up our roles as parents and role models.
I am amazed at the intelligence, the resourcefulness, the pragmatism that you and your generation have shown. I look at the computer at the library with perplexity and marvel at how you have been able to fashion a basic contraption into a complete entertainment and processing center while my own laptop is a simple word processing and data storage silver box. I take immense pleasure in realizing that you have learned how to drive a car on your own and without my knowledge, while I had to take lessons at 20. I take great pleasure in realizing that you could figure out the many ways to optimize the features of my cellphone. But most of all, my heart swells with pride when I see how you are able to display affection and pay your respects by kissing even older male members of the family when I myself still feel a little self conscious when I have to kiss your grandfather on the cheek. We come from a generation where showing affection was a sterile gesture and gender roles and rules were a little more strait-laced.
And so, I take comfort in the thought that somehow, the world will go on despite our shortcomings. Because more than anything else, we have taught you how to love; and this we did well.
I just hope that you and your generation will truly do a better job. I pray that you and your generation will not commit the same mistakes we have made. This is your country, this is your future, this is your destiny at stake. Grab it.
And by the way, take care and remember Dad loves you unconditionally.