If you were asked what’s the best gift you have ever received from your father, what would be your answer?
I am pretty sure that whatever the answer is, it would be something that was really the best that a father could afford, for after all, being a father myself, I would want nothing less than the best for my child.
Whenever Christmases and birthdays would come, I would scour the shops and shopping malls for the latest toys that my kids are craving for, sometimes not minding if it would cost me an arm and a leg. When they get prizes for their accomplishments, I give them the chance to name a “big prize”, meaning that they can get something with a price tag that is beyond the standard limit that we have set, because I do want to give them a big reward for what they have achieved.
But while indeed, fathers want to give the best to their children, top quality gifts with a big price tag are temporary both in existence and relevance especially as the children grow up. The bicycle which my father gave me for Christmas when I was around seven was really blew me out at the time I received it, but eventually, I outgrew it within a couple of years and now, it is only but a memory of my childhood.
So when I am asked about the best gift I received from my father, I don’t offer the list of gifts he gave me over the many Christmases, birthdays, and special occasions. I appreciate all those things I received from my father, although looking back I realize they were not necessarily the most expensive. But for me the best gifts he ever gave me, and I think the best that anyone could receive are the many life lessons that he taught us both by his spoken words and everyday action.
One of the most important of which is the lesson that the best legacy a father could give to his son is not material riches, property or even social prominence, but the wisdom on how to live a contented life in a manner that you do not destroy the dignity of your family, preserve your integrity and principles, and treat other people with respect.
Over and above the car that my father gave me when I began my life separate from the loving arms of my parents, I treasure more the lesson on responsibility over things that are put under my care without which I wouldn’t have been able to maintain the car and put it to good use.
Much more than his being general and senator which extended to me his prominence in society, I give more value to the lesson in humility that he imposed on us as we were growing up when he always reminded us to treat ordinary soldiers with respect because the privileges of his rank did not extend to us, his children. “Only I am the officer above them, not you”, he would tell us.
More valuable than the help he gave for me to achieve victory in my campaign to become congressman were the many lessons in facing and handling disappointment that I underwent as I was growing up. I am grateful that he did not spoil me by giving in to every desire and demand I had, because it has made me more resilient in life and more appreciative of whatever is given to me, big or small.
Not all of the things I learned from my father are lessons that were given in lecture or advice. The most effective lessons are those that are learned from experience and seen in examples.
Many of the precious lessons I learned from my father I learned not just by listening to his advice but by seeing how he lives his life. If I were to put into sentence one lesson I learned from how he lives his life, it would be “You will always run after Happiness unless you settle down with Contentment.”
Growing up, I never saw my father seek for things beyond his reach, but for all his achievements, I have never seen him struggle for an ambition. Instead, he would have a vision and simply do his best in what he is doing.
Years ago, before the 1986 EDSA Revolution, he was a colonel commanding a brigade in Davao City. For us, it seemed that that was the highest rank he would reach because he had earned the ire of the president then, and we were prepared for him to retire from that last post. But when the dictator was ousted, he was given an assignment which merited a promotion for him, even though he was not a part of the coup that ousted the dictator. He was recognized for his accomplishment as a soldier loyal to the Constitution and democracy.
With that assignment to the Philippine Military Academy as its Superintendent, he was promoted to Brigadier General. With that, he expected that he will retire from the military service with the Baguio post as his last assignment. He even prepared us emotionally and psychologically that we would be settling down in Baguio City, the city where he and my mother met and fell in love.
But somehow, fate intervened and he was given another assignment which earned him another promotion. He returned to Manila and was assigned as Commandant of the Philippine Marines, the dream assignment of all Marine officers. He was promoted to Major General, once again surpassing his own expectations.
Not long after the assignment as Commandant, he was given another higher post, until he finally reached the highest post and rank that a military officer could achieve---AFP Chief of Staff. Eventually, he would then become Senator of the Republic.
What’s remarkable about his story is that he reached those successes without being a slave to ambition. As he rose through the ladder of success, he was prepared to stop at each rung, focusing only on doing his best in the responsibility handed to him and not distracted by a desire for a higher ambition. But in being such, he earned the approval of others and of Fate, earning the reward of promotion and greater responsibility.
It is from his life that I take the most valuable lessons on how to live mine. The most precious gift I have received from my father is not the most expensive but it is definitely priceless. I would never trade his life lessons for anything else in this world. For these, I am forever grateful for what I learned from the best dad on earth.