I read every character trait of my children in their earliest years, never missing a single trait. It’s a source of joy and wonder for me.
As a one-year-old, my elder daughter, Karen (born May 1969), was already a food lover, in fact, an arroz caldo nut. She would insist to the waiter at Jack’s Restaurant that her bowl should have more pieces of chicken, the fleshy ones, and not the bony. She’d push aside her bowl if her wish was not granted.
Lolo Tolstoi and Lola Veny, of course, always sided with her. Young as she was, she had that food-lover look, chubby and lovable.
In her preteens, we sent her to a child cooking school and she specialized in making chocolate candies. “The temperature is key,” she told me.
I had wished for a boy as my first child and it showed in the toys I bought her every time I came home from my foreign trips—tanks, robots, laser guns and jeans. I was warned I might make a tomboy out of her.
When she was 10, she did something that surprised me. I was riding my bike near our house in Merville when a group of rowdy boys crossed my path, causing me to fall off my bike. Karen saw me fall off and in an instant I saw her chase the boys, throwing her fists at them and angling for a fight.
Karen’s teen years passed uneventfully, without girl things such as beauty routines and girl socials. Her female friends were much older than she was. She enjoyed mature company and mature talk. I trusted her.
My younger daughter, Claudine (born September 1974), was different. She was into dolls, dollhouses and pretty clothes. Playing house and mother roles was her game. Even her build was very feminine—lean, long legs and slender body. She was close to her mother, always tagging along at parties and her mother’s office social. She was a sweet girl and I had a very protective attitude towards her. When she gave me hugs, all my day’s worries vanished.
In 1984, a tragedy struck my family. My wife suffered from cerebral hemorrhage one day and died the next day at the young age of 43.
In my grief, I realized that I had to be both father and mother to my two daughters. To fill the big void in our lives, I had Masses offered for my wife every Sunday at Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park. We all felt that my departed wife and mother to my daughters was with us during the Mass.
I made it a point to be close to my daughters. I transferred residence to a flat in the same building where I held office. That way I would always be accessible to my daughters. I took frequent out-of-town trips with them to Hong Kong and Chicago so we could be together often.
In the next seven years, I followed my intuition in rearing my daughters. To do this I made it a point that we communicate with each other our joys, our sadness, our trials and our victories, at all times sharing our laughter.
I made sure that my daughters knew my life philosophies, my striving to achieve excellence in my job, my adherence to family ideals and, most of all, the consistent practice of our Catholic faith.
Early on, even in their teens, I learned to trust my daughters, when they had their social life with their peers. I made sure I knew who their friends were. I was confident that with my trust, my daughters could handle any problem they encountered and that they would stay away from trouble.
Karen finished college and worked in our advertising agency’s creative department for three years. She didn’t like working in an office where her father was president. She moved to BMW Philippines handling car marketing and sales. She found the job exciting and asked me to brainstorm on her sales strategies and presentation tools, using advertising techniques.
She bought clothes that fit her boardroom poise when she would do sales calls for the high-end BMW models. She selected her target market as the upper-tier foreign expats, mostly employed in embassies and the Asian Development Bank.
She also acquired the skill of customizing high-end models used in foreign dignitary events and unique, special orders for serious car aficionados.
Karen ended up as a top sales executive with excellent sales records in the high-end BMW models. She was promoted to special sales manager of diplomatic and fleet sales.
She married Paul Buenaventura, a young entrepreneur. She quit her job to concentrate on taking care of their home and their two boys, Pablo and Carlos.
She finds time for golf, competing in national and international amateur competitions, and finds fulfillment in her winnings brought by strong work ethics, discipline and a fighting heart.
Claudine chose feminine jobs after graduating from UA&P. She became a flight stewardess, then moved on to the Manila Peninsula as food and beverage executive for corporate clients.
For a better career path, I made Claudine take a two-year course on Hotel Management at Endicott College in Boston. She was rehired at Manila Pen and met Art Pascua, fell in love. They got married in 2008.
I now feel that my stint as a widower (1984-1990) raising two daughters alone was a terrific experience; it improved my people skills. It taught me to be more considerate and understanding of another person’s individuality.
It has also taught me that loving your children is the best activity a parent can do. It’s truly rewarding especially now that I’m in my senior years and my children’s love and thoughtfulness give me so much happiness.