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A Father's Pride

Most people know me as a public servant or an entrepreneur. And modesty aside, I would like to think that I have been successful in both roles. I served our country for 21 years as a legislator; leading both houses of Congress as speaker and senate president. As an entrepreneur, I presided over a real estate enterprise that has become one of the leading integrated property developers in the Philippines and the largest homebuilder in the country overall. 


But if I am to sum up my life in terms of achievements, I think I am most proud of being a father to my three wonderful children: Camille, Mark and Paolo. As speaker of the House, I did something historic: Impeach a sitting president and preserve our democratic institutions. As president of the Senate, I stubbornly protected the independence of the chamber and maintained its position as a bulwark of democracy. 

But as a father, I am most proud of the loving family Cynthia and I raised. It is not as fancy and powerful as leading the country but there is nothing more fulfilling and satisfying as seeing your kids all grown up, hardworking, successful in their own right, and raising their own families. 

None of these are my own achievements, of course. I am not one of those parents who think that everything their children achieved is because of him. No. My kids are independent-minded and are capable of making their own decisions. This brings me to a point of reflection. What is our role as parents? To hold their hands every step of the way? To push them into the kind of life we want for them?

I do not think that is my role as their father. My job is not to force them to make decisions based on what I want. My job is simply to create an environment where my children can grow as autonomous persons.


To me, that is the paradox of being a parent. Part of my job is to be there for them but the best indicator that I did a good job is when they no longer need me to hold their hands. It is probably the most frightening and saddest moment of being a father – that time when you need to let go of your baby girl or baby boy because they need to live life on their own. 

That was what I felt when Mark went to the University of Pennsylvania, when Paolo went to Wharton, and when Camille studied at IESE Business School. I was mighty proud as a father but a part of me was devastated and afraid. But I knew that was part of their growth. 

Today, I am proud of what they have accomplished. They were born at a time when we were already living comfortably but I am amazed at their humility, how they show their care for others, and how they shun the ostentatious lifestyle. I have never received a complaint about them name dropping me even when I was in government. I have never seen them brag or belittle other people. I am proud of that. And I think these values have been inculcated not by endless sermons or lectures but by example. As they say, “A father doesn’t tell you that he loves you. He shows you.”

That, my friends, is my treasure. No richest man title, no position in government, can ever compare to your kids telling you that you are the best dad ever.  I am writing this article on Father’s Day and I imagine millions of Filipino tatays working hard everyday to make sure that his family is provided for. My father was like that—he would do everything in his power for his family. So kudos to all the fathers out there. It might as well be National Heroes Day.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar