For elected public officials, official activities are not confined to office work or official functions. It includes invitations from the constituents, ranging from the opening of a community basketball tournament to standing as principal sponsor to a wedding. Public officials are always invited to many social functions, many of which fall into what is supposed to be personal time of the official, meaning outside the official working hours and function.
For example, my official function is that of a legislator and my official working hours are during committee hearings and plenary sessions. But as a public official, I am expected by my constituents to be available for them any day of the week for any occasion. Legislators are better off than those serving in the executive, such as mayors. They are expected to be on call 24 hours a day.
So it was that I went on official vacation yesterday. I had the option to lay lazily in bed all day and just watch videos. But that’s something that I easily get tired of. I’m so used to being on the move that if I have nothing to do, I look for something to do. So on that first day of my official vacation, I was looking for something to do.
As I was reading the newspaper after breakfast, I remembered that one of the light bulbs in our bedroom needed to be replaced. Finally finding something to do, I decided to go to the hardware to buy the replacement bulb. As I was about to dress up to go out, my six year old son asked me where I was going. He always asked me that every morning and my answer was always, “I’m going to the office”.
This time, before I answered, an idea flashed in my mind. My reply to him was, “do you want to go with me?”. Without even knowing where I was going, his immediate answer was “Yes!”.
I was hoping he’d answer yes. Immediately, another idea came to me. Why don’t I bring along all my kids? It would be a boys’ day out! I have four sons, aged 17 (Carlo), 9 (Anton), 6 (Ino) and 2 (Enzo). It would be a nice opportunity to spend time with them.
I asked Carlo if he could drive for me, but he preferred to stay home. Anton was eager to go out with me. Enzo…well, Enzo is just two, so he’s always eager to go out wherever, with whoever.
I decided that it will just be me and the kids. No yaya even if the two year old was going with me. I haven’t done that for a long time. I wanted to savor this opportunity of being Ruffy Biazon, the father. When I became congressman seven years ago, I only had two sons who were 10 and 2 years old at that time. Now I had four and I rarely have an opportunity to have some alone time with them.
Instead of going to the hardware, I took them to the supermarket, where the bustling activity and the variety of goods would surely excite them. With the three young boys in tow, I entered the supermarket with the same excitement as they had. It felt good to be a father.
We went from aisle to aisle, without any plans or shopping lists. It was purely time spent together as a father enjoying his sons. I relished answering their questions such as “What’s that, papa? What is it for papa? Can I buy this, can I buy that, papa?”. While I granted some of their requests, I also taught them restraint, gently saying no to many of their wishes. It was an opportunity to teach them the concepts of spending within the budget, choosing between needs and wants, and of dealing with disappointment.
Of course, they weren’t unrewarded for just being with me. They got some of their requests, such Anton’s favorite milk and Ino’s bubble gum. Enzo biscuits which he immediately opened even before we checked out. I also taught them the concept of giving when we purchased some gift baskets filled with groceries to be given to the workers doing work in our house.
I was such a wonderful time for me. Knowing the value of documentation, I had the foresight of bringing along my camera, and we had fun taking photos in the supermarket. I knew I had to record his moment in history, because this will never happen again. Anton will be 9 , Ino will be 6 and Enzo will be 2 only once in my life. This particular instance will only happen once and never be repeated again. Yes, I’m sure that there will be other instances when I will go out with them again, but this moment on
I am one who believes that one should relish every moment given by God. In one of the pictures, my two year old son Enzo posed by trying to embrace my huge body with his small reach. It was an act which was not prompted, purely his own. And I am thankful that it was captured in a photo that would last until I am gray and old. That’s one reason why I have tons of photos of my kids, taken during their school presentations, birthday parties or when they’re playing at home. It’ a blessing that there’s digital photography and archiving. It’s easy to make files and back up files of digital photos.
My life as a public official will have its end. My term will end, or I will not get elected, or I will simply quit. But as a father and a husband, my role and duty will last until I breathe my last breath.
So more than being a great public official, I must first be a good family man. There’s a passage which says, “For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?” This passage, taken from the book of 1 Timothy which was a letter from the Apostle Paul was meant as a guide on how to lead the church. But it may also be applicable in how to lead the country. For indeed, how can one manage the country if one does not know how to manage his own family?
It is a great challenge to be able to say that one has succeeded in managing his family. It is so because the only time you can evaluate if you have indeed successfully managed you family is when you are on your deathbed.
But for me, it is a very good standard to live by, because everyday, I am compelled to exert effort in managing my family successfully, so that when the time comes for my performance to be evaluated, I will have done my best.
For public officials, the same is applicable. The difference is that a public official does not have to wait for the end of his lifetime in order for his performance to be evaluated. A public official’s term has its end and there is retirement.
As I enjoy the holidays and set aside official concerns, I focus on my family and savor the moments spent with them. These moments will only happen once. As a famous poem (I don’t know who the author was) says :
I expect to pass through this world but once;
I expect to pass through this world but once;
any good thing therefore that I can do,
or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature,
let me do it now;
let me not defer or neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again.