Dear Dads: Give Presence not Presents

Dad (center, standing) with the family during Jana’s graduation

Dad with the first Filipino on Mt. Everest, Leo Oracion, and my daughter Jana

Of all the blessings that the Lord has gifted me and my three brothers (Michael, Randy, Charlie) and one sister (Mary Cheryl Anne), the most important was giving us extraordinary parents. My mom, Maria Elena “Allen,” and my dad, Manuel “Bunny,” were always there for us.

My dad taught me about sports. He biked, pedaling a “racer” (road-bike). He jogged. He walloped that pelota racket. He exchanged tennis volleys with Monico Puentevella at the Negros Occidental Tennis Association (NOTA) courts in Bacolod City.

He showed me the importance of a daily sweat. He lived it. He practiced the age-old adage: “A healthy body equals a healthy mind.”

Bunny Pages played basketball. No, he wasn’t in the PBA. That was his younger brother, Ray, who wore the Crispa Redmanizers jersey. My dad joined the Bacolod Professionals (BAPRO), a gathering of executives and businessmen—all united by the same love of sport as Moses Malone and Paul Westhphal. This was in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. As the eldest child, I’d tag along. A tall, 6-footer forward, my dad scored 23+ points, his jump-shot from the side was unstoppable, like George Gervin’s.

My brother Charlie and I played basketball. We joined the La Salle Bacolod varsity team.

One of my life’s most unforgettable moments was in our Intramurals. Facing a team in the Finals composed of the best in our Grade 7 batch, our underdog team fought. It came down to the last few seconds. I was fouled. Make both free throws and we win the championship; miss one attempt and we lose. The La Salle Gymnasium was packed. Cheering engulfed the indoor arena. At 13 years old, it was unbearable pressure.

Swish. Swish. We won.

The reason for all this? My dad. He recognized early-on our passion for basketball and he built, right at our backyard in Mountain View Subdivision, a half-court so that all-afternoon-long, after school, we’d dribble and practice lay-ups. Each night, after Charlie and I would rush to finish our homework, we’d turn on the spotlights and play until our elbows ached and our necks stiffened.

Thanks to the green-painted basketball court, our skills improved. Our La Salle elementary team won the overall championship in Bacolod. I was the point guard and was adjudged the MVP.

I cite this example because it’s true. It’s personal. And, now as a father to my 12-year-old daughter Jana, I look back at what my dad did and apply the many learnings I’ve accumulated.

My dad and mom were always there. Always. Always. Always. Always. In basketball contests, tennis matches, declamation performances, PTA meetings—in anything and everything that had to do with their most-loved possessions, their children… they were present.

Be present. Remember that presence is more essential than gifts. Children spell love. . . T-I-M-E. Above all things, our life here on earth will be measured by how much time we spent with our children. I believe in this mathematical formula: the amount of time you spend with your children is commensurate to how good your children will become. Trust me on this. That’s what I’ve experienced with my own parents.

More time + attention = Better children.

Sports? Above all things, this is one activity where you and your child will bond best. Sport means playing. And don’t children love to play? Find the game that your child enjoys. Jog together. Swim. The more time you and your child spend playing, the healthier you become; the healthier your relationship.

To my dad… I love you. Thanks to your childhood present—that basketball court—and to your presence. Happy Father’s Day!

Me and dad in Seoul, Korea

During the Davis Cup with Treat Huey and Cecil Mamiit

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