As I looked at the vast horizon, I envision myself as an eagle soaring high with so much hope, dreams and aspirations. Each time I flapped my wings, I can feel the strong wind underneath, bringing me higher and higher until I can almost touch the sky…. And almost as fast I went up, I suddenly felt myself falling, struggling for control and losing balance! The exhilaration of being up there changed into dread and fear as I fell fast. Just as I was about to lose everything, the wind blew strong and suddenly I felt myself being lifted high. My father, my hero, is the wind beneath my wings.

Allow me to share how my dad shaped and inspired me to be the person I am today:

My dad was my first tutor in school.

Summertime while growing up was never a time to laze around. Every day I had to get up, recite the multiplication table in Chinese. I had to perfect it in such a way that I can instantaneously give the answer to 6 x 9 or 8 x 9. I had to write two pages of Chinese words in the morning and in the afternoon, before I can even think of playing. I grew up not really liking math as it was never my cup of tea, however, I won several Chinese Calligraphy contests in school because of the daily writing tasks I used to do.

Ever since I was in first grade, I never understood why I was always chosen to represent our class in speech contests. I was declaiming in English, Filipino and Chinese. My dad would practice me everyday unceasingly until I master my oratorical speech. What I learned: practice is the key to build confidence.  I have to practice up to the point of mastery even while asleep. I mostly won the contests I was in.

My dad taught me to drive.

I can still remember those days when my dad used to give driving lessons to my siblings. I would sit at the back and enjoy the ride. I was eleven years old when it was my turn to learn. Since I cannot reach the gas pedal, my dad let me sit on a ream of bond paper. For the next year or so, my driving lessons were moving the car forward and backward. That’s it. There were times I felt so bored and so impatient! I wanted to learn more and go out where the other cars were. Yet, he told me to master the very basic of driving a stick-shift car before anything else and I did. I got my learner’s permit when I was 14 years old and have been driving for almost 30 years now.

My dad taught me to cook.

Yes, I am the cook I am because of my dad. The first time he taught me to cook was back when I was in 4th or 5th grade in school. He taught me how to cook noodles. Every Chinese girl should know how to cook noodles—that’s what he used to say. And so noodles it was and more. He taught me all the secrets of marinating, stir-frying and even marketing and storing of food. All these lessons came in handy and shaped me as a cook.

I love playing tennis because my dad is a tennis player.

Although I learned the sport at age 24, since then, tennis has been a very important part of my life. I’ve been competing locally if the opportunity presents itself. Hopefully, I can still play tennis as I reach my dad’s age. At 80, he still plays a game of tennis every day. (Note: My dad doesn’t play tennis anymore, but I know he still loves the sport.)

My dad taught me important lessons in life.

• Be a good wife to your husband by taking care of his needs above all else. From simply making him a cup of coffee during a hard day or getting ready his clothes while he is in the bath, constantly be around to support him in all his endeavors.

Learn to be content with what you have. Do not compete with others because it will cause you to be dissatisfied with life.

• Always and at all times be frugal in spending. If you are earning Php100, spend only 80% and keep the 20%. With my dad, he spent only 50% of his earnings and kept the other half. This is the reason why even though he was not able to finish school, all five of us were able to go to good colleges (my siblings hold Master’s and doctorate degrees) and have a career.

• “Always finish what you started.” Starting a project, plan or lesson to learn should always have an ending. Despite how difficult it can be, always be determined to finish it.

Most of all, my dad taught me to stand up every time I fall. He possesses the strength that all of us look up to. My father used to be very, very strict during our growing up years, but underneath all the toughness, there was gentleness. There was love. He is a traditional Chinese man and typically, Chinese people are not demonstrative of their love. My dad used to tell me I was his “most precious” daughter…. He says this to my other sisters as well. It is his way of telling us how much he loves us. With him, there was no “favorite” son or daughter. We were all loved and brought up equally.

My dad is my strength. Although I don’t hear it from his words, but he is constantly proud of my simple achievements in life. He never fails to ask me if I won the tournament or not. He used to love the Chinese steamed buns I used to make and never failed to tell me how good it tasted. He is interested in my work as a freelance writer, although I am not sure if he totally understood the technicality of it. Once he saw me crying because of the pain I had to endure with not seeing my daughters, he encouraged me to move on.

I love you papa…. so, so much. I know I have failed you many times, but you never gave up on me. You have always been my strengthmy wind beneath my wings. Happy Father’s Day.