There have been different schools of thought on the best way to bring up children in the Philippines.
From the 1930s to the mid-’60s, the regimented, ultra-conservative style dominated the scene: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This was the era of stringent rules and corporeal punishment, meant to instill a sense of discipline in children so they would acquire strength of character.
On the downside, this approach tended to make children behave out of fear or shame, leading to emotional trauma which could haunt them for the rest of their lives.
In the late ’60s all the way to the ’90s, the psychological pendulum swung to the other extreme, with the emergence of the “laissez faire” or liberal philosophy in child-rearing. This time, the focus shifted to maximum freedom and permissiveness in a nurturing atmosphere, where parents would shower their children with love and affirmation, without setting boundaries.
Its objective was to produce happy, self-confident and fully integrated persons. In its application in the real world, however, this strategy sometimes produced spoiled brats.
From the late ’90s to the present, the trend has been combining elements of these two extreme philosophies, based on the belief that “virtue lies in the middle.”
Here are three father-and-son tandems that exemplify variations of these three parenting styles.
SEN. JUAN EDGARDO ANGARA AND SONS MANOLO AND JAVIER: Keep a routine
that gives a child a sense of security
On a recent ‘yaya’-less trip to Hong Kong, he was changing his younger son’s diapers and washing his butt.
Everybody knows Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara as the wonder boy of Philippine politics, who started out as a congressman in the province of Aurora at age 31 and was recently elected senator.
He is the son of another seasoned politician who has just retired after a brilliant career in public service, Sen. Edgardo Angara, from whose shadow he seems to have emerged.
He was also the good-looking, smart and articulate spokesperson of the prosecution team during the historic Corona impeachment trial, who managed to “save the day” for the government whenever his teammates made occasional gaffes during the televised event.
Hardly anybody, however, knows Sonny as the loving husband of ABS-CBN sales executive Elvira Echauz, and the caring father to seven-year-old girl Inez and two boys named Manolo and Javier, age nine and two.
Sonny is a hands-on dad who has done things people would expect only of mommies or nannies—feeding them, changing his younger son’s diapers and washing his butt.
He did all these recently when he and his wife brought their kids on a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland and Singapore without their yaya.
Like any doting parent, Sonny considers certain “firsts” in his sons’ growing-up years as milestones in his own life: the first smile, the first step, the first word. The first word uttered by his older son Manolo was not mama or papa, but “car.” Perhaps, it was because Sonny had bought his son a whole collection of miniature remote-control vehicles.
Despite a politician’s hectic and erratic schedule, the senator has always made time to bond with his sons. He got his son Manolo into sports when he was five, and now that he has turned nine, he plays tennis and basketball. He also tries his hand at video games with his son. However, he encourages him to devote more time to educational toys like Lego.
Sonny has also managed his schedule for important events in his son’s life, like the traditional “Father-Son Day” at Xavier held four times a year, at the end of each grading period. He says the most memorable event in his life was not receiving the prestigious TOYM award, given by the Philippine Jaycees in 2010 for his outstanding performance in public service. It was the moment his son received a medal for second honors as a second grade student at Xavier two years ago.
His schedule became really crazy during the four-month election campaign, especially the two-week homestretch which took him away from the family for extended periods. Sonny laughingly relates that one night, when he came home at the height of the campaign, his daughter innocently asked, “Mommy, does papa still live here?”
Sonny describes his parenting style as “values-oriented,” employing the situational approach. He and his wife have inculcated in their children the value of hard work to achieve one’s goals, by setting an example through their own lives.
Thus, knowing how tough it is to make the grade in his alma mater, Xavier, a Jesuit school, Sonny sees to it that his son religiously does his homework. He prohibits his children from using the Playstation and watching TV Mondays to Fridays throughout the school year.
An integral part of this values-oriented approach is looking after a child’s spiritual growth and development. Being devout Catholics, Sonny and his wife have kept the practice of saying a prayer with their children every night before they go to bed.
They have trained their children to say their own “unscripted” prayer, asking God to grant their wishes and thanking him for all their blessings. This spontaneous prayer is capped by the recitation of one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary.”
The couple now brings their son to Sunday Mass, to prepare him for his first Holy Communion.
His highly erratic schedule notwithstanding, Sonny tries his best to observe another tenet of parenting: keeping a routine that gives a child a sense of security. Thus, he and his wife arrange their appointments in such a way that one of them is always around when the kids come home from school.
The idyllic existence after 11 years of marriage was disrupted by a major crisis two years ago. After his wife complained of frequent headaches, the senator brought her to different doctors, including neurological specialists in the US. Their main prognosis was a recurring brain tumor.
Although his wife had to undergo major surgery, the couple was relieved when the biopsy revealed the tumor to be benign. Sonny and his wife downplayed the situation, so that their children would not be alarmed. When they inquired why mommy had to stay in the hospital for five days, the senator simply replied that she was not feeling well.
Like his father, who never burdened his son with the expectations of a politician, the young senator-elect has also resolved to give his son all the freedom to carve out his own niche in the world. He will bring up his son in such a way that he could lead a meaningful and productive existence, doing his share in giving back to the community and making a difference in society.
RICKY AND MIKKEL GUTIERREZ: The long and winding road before they truly enjoyed each other
Mikkel was able to understand his dad only when he became a husband and father himself.
Ricky Gutierrez, founder and CEO of the 1771 Group of Restaurants, exemplifies the eclectic parenting style, attempting a middle-of-the-road approach, somewhere between ultra-conservative and liberal.
He is the father of Mikkel Gutierrez, a yuppie who works as an investment analyst in First Pacific Group. Mikkel is the only boy in a family of three girls.
The relationship of the 59-year-old father with his 32-year-old son illustrates how a baby-boomer can bridge the generational divide with the “young millenials.”
Unlike other baby-boomers setting up their businesses in the late ’70s who tended to neglect their duties as fathers, Ricky always made time for his family. Before going to work and upon coming home, he would help out his wife (who was then pursuing her career with Sabena Airlines), feeding his son, burping him, changing his diapers and putting him to bed.
Until his children turned four years old, he and his wife would sleep with all of them on one huge bed. Ricky relates that whenever his son would wake up in the middle of the night, he would tenderly lay him on his chest until he went back to sleep.
Typical of other boys from the baby-boomer generation, the successful entrepreneur had grown up enjoying the great outdoors. Living in San Lorenzo Village in the ’50s, when Makati was mostly cogon fields, he and his friends would catch frogs and lizards and steal macopa from their neighbors’ trees.
In bringing up his son Mikkel, who belongs to the digital generation, Ricky spent quality time with him, playing Lego, video games and chess.
Although he is not the sporty type, Ricky and his son enjoy watching UAAP and PBA games. He has made it a point to bond with his son by bringing him on trips, including a visit to Europe when Mikkel was only 15.
Having set up his business when he was only 28, Ricky saw to it that his son would imbibe the value of hard work and experience the satisfaction of earning his own money from the sweat of his brow.
Since Mikkel was 11, Ricky has asked him to work during the summer months in the coffee shop in Malate Pensionne. The boy did odd jobs like dishwashing. Later, in his teen years, he learned bartending at Chateau 1771 and Sidebar Café.
Although it was Ricky who had initiated these summer jobs, he never expected his son to follow in his footsteps and take over the management of the family business. “As a dad, I’ve always wanted my son to soar—I never wanted to clip his wings. My desire is for him to find his own destiny, to follow his dream and to make a mark on his own.”
Ricky’s proudest moments as a father were three milestones in his son’s life: his high school and college graduations at Ateneo de Manila University, and, just a few years ago, his attainment of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, a title that can be earned by finance and investment professionals only after passing a set of three of the toughest accreditation exams administered on a global basis.
Mikkel’s candid response during a separate interview gives interesting insights into how a son can appreciate his father.
Mikkel describes the long and winding road he had to take with his father before they were able to enjoy each other’s company. He says their relationship passed through four stages.
The first was from the time he turned one until he reached the age of three. During this period, Mikkel considered his father’s coming home at the end of a working day the most exciting time of his life. His father would scoop him up in his arms and exclaim, “Surprise! Surprise!” Then, like a magician, he would make chocolate bars pop out of his ears.
The second stage was between the ages of four and 12. His happiest memories were when his father brought him to watch his first PBA game at the Ultra hardcourt, and when they took a trip to Baguio—“just the two of us… there I felt so close to my dad when he taught me how to use a bat and score a home run in baseball.”
These pockets of happiness more than compensated for the times his father came home dog-tired and grouchy at the end of a tough day. Or the times he would go on camping trips organized by the La Salle grade school, all by his lonesome, green with envy, as he watched classmates whose fathers had found the time to bond with their kids.
Mikkel recalls that this was the time his father’s business was expanding. Thus, he surmises that due to the pressure, his dad seemed to get increasingly hot-tempered and, unwittingly, would create an atmosphere of fear and tension around his kids.
The third stage was from ages 13 to 25. This was the typical teen period of resentment and discomfort. When he went on a trip to Rome and London with his father at age 15, Mikkel says that although he was happy to be with his dad, it felt a little awkward, “because we didn’t have much to talk about. In fact, the discomfort had gotten to a point where I would even try to avoid him whenever he was home.”
Mikkel, however, clarifies that whenever they had problems, his father made it clear that he would be there for them—and he was.
Mikkel was able to come to understand his dad only when he became a husband and father himself, the fourth stage.
Moreover, he says that his father apologized to him, explaining that he did not know how to relate with his son, because he himself had not been able to establish rapport with his own father.
“Now that I’m raising my own family, I have begun to understand and appreciate the pressures of being a husband and a father,” Mikkel says. “I’m most thankful for my dad’s faithfulness and devotion to my mom and his children. He is a role model from whom I’ve learned the importance of working hard to give your family a good life. Through him, I learned to respect people, to give back to society and to trust God.
“Because of my dad’s example, I have learned that contrary to what most people say, a man can attain success as a businessman and still remain a faithful husband, a devoted father and a deeply spiritual person. With God’s help, I would consider myself successful if I could just approximate my dad in all these aspects.”
VERGEL AND PAOLO SANTOS: Rapport despite the difficulties
Their most serious, heart-to-heart talk took place after Paolo’s
high school commencement exercises at Ateneo.
Vergel Santos, eminent journalist and father of popular singer-composer Paolo Santos, preferred “to leave him much alone, so he could discover things for himself.”
The only boy of three siblings and stricken as a newborn with a life-and-death case of infection, Paolo commanded particular attention as a child from his father, although never to the point of extreme protectiveness.
Nearly every Sunday, Vergel would take Paolo to his parents in Malabon, and have breakfast on the way in the town market. Vergel would play basketball in the churchyard across his parents’ home, while Paolo played with other kids.
The journalist also taught his son various sports. Before Paolo turned three, like his two sisters, he had learned to swim. By age 12, he had developed his father’s passion for tennis.
To foster a sense of independence in his children at a very young age, he allowed Paolo, only four or five then, to join a camping trip to Laguna organized by his teacher. His son was one of only three children who ended up going. The other parents thought it too risky.
Vergel was also not the type of parent to push and pressure kids to get academic honors. “I didn’t even suggest anything that might give him the idea that I expected him to be an achiever. I just wanted my son to grow up happy. I wanted him to follow his heart. I’ve always believed that one does best doing what one likes doing best.”
Nevertheless, Paolo says he felt somehow pressured knowing how exceptionally well his father and uncles did in school. What seemed entirely lost on the boy was the fact that his own father was a dropout who never finished college.
Vergel says he was lucky to have had a very liberal father himself, although again, he adds, he was sure his father and mother were heartbroken when he decided to quit school for work; they had not finished college themselves.
Although Vergel did not believe in physical punishment in bringing up children, Paolo’s mother Yaya did. Paolo recalls that when he was nine, he was blamed for breaking an expensive vase (actually, his younger sister was the culprit). The punishment proved a blessing in disguise. Grounded for the weekend, he started fiddling with his father’s guitar and discovered the joy of it.
Subsequently, Paolo said, he discovered he “was also in tune.” At 15 he became a member and the guitarist of the church choir at Philam Homes in Quezon City. After graduating from high school at Ateneo, Paolo confided to his father that he wanted to enroll at the UP conservatory of music. His father told him to go for it, but in deference to his mom, who advised him to take up “a safer course,” he went for Business Economics at La Salle.
Vergel confesses that he could not always be there for his son and two daughters. When Paolo was 13, his parents parted ways. His life was turned upside down, he said, because their family had to observe “certain arrangements.”
The difficult circumstances, at any rate, did not prevent father and son from having rapport. Their most serious, heart-to-heart talk took place after Paolo’s high school commencement exercises at Ateneo. Walking through the streets of Philam Homes that night, they talked for hours and were brought to tears. Father and son opened up to each other, recounting the heartaches they had both endured since the family breakup. Both said it proved cathartic.
One day six years later, Paolo called to ask his father to meet him at the Philam tennis courts. After a couple of sets, they sat on the curbside near the court, and Paolo asked his father to come the following night to a little restaurant along Pearl Drive in Ortigas.
When he got there, Vergel had the surprise of his life. There, in the spotlight, was his son singing to his own guitar accompaniment. The debut was followed by many other gigs, then full-scale concerts. Soon, Paolo Santos was a name in the acoustic pop music scene.
Today, apart from Manila gigs, Paolo goes abroad twice a year for concerts and out of town every other week for gigs, usually as a contract performer for Unilab events.
All parents believe in this biblical passage: “By their fruits, you shall know them.” Judging from the smashing success of these fathers, we may conclude that there is no cut-and-dried template for bringing up children.
The best method is always the one that works best for one’s family, given the personality of one’s child and the unique circumstances in his/her home environment. Thus, one must fall back on the only criterion that applies to just about any situation in life: common sense, with a generous dose of tender, loving care.