The irony of life. I have never understood this cliché more so than I do today.
As I celebrate the beautiful birth of our third child, I find myself simultaneously having to grieve the painful loss of my loving father. Countless times I’ve heard people’s consoling words: “He is in a much better place today.” While I appreciate the sympathy and I know in my heart that it is true, it can’t erase the hurtful picture in my mind of my father never having been able to hold his newest grandchild in his arms.
Our children are far too young to know the kind of man my father was. And decades from now, they will read about him in history, and history may unfortunately offer them an unfaithful picture of who and what he truly was.
So I muster the strength to pen this remembrance to share a glimpse of the Iggy Arroyo I knew. Because, in spite of and contrary to what had been said and written about him, he was a good man and a great father. He deserves the legacy of loving memories, not a tainted reputation that, to this day, remains unproven and unjustified.
My father had an indescribable spirit of hopefulness. On one hand, that quality of hope he possessed was so idealistic; it was almost naïve. On the other, it was also unrelenting. I could not deny the admirable wisdom displayed by his resolve.
It was this optimism and faith in God that got him to where he was and kept him resilient during the most trying times, whether personally or professionally. To the end, they provided him the comfort, confidence and peace of knowing that everything would be all right. In the countless times I’d run to him and cried over what I now realize were trivial problems, he always comforted me by saying he was there for me and that we had each other.
Calm and collected
To me, there was no problem my father could not solve. Any problem taken to him, he would have the answer. He instilled in us patience and understanding in facing life’s complexities. And through his own manner of constantly being calm and collected, we learned the value of perspective.
He always taught us the significance of rising above situations. My father had gone through many low points in his life, but had been able to bounce back with a better lease on life. He always said we would be able to survive through hard and honest work. He trained us to be self-sufficient; he was strict at times, but only so we wouldn’t be spoiled children.
He was a true lover of life. He embraced every moment and immersed himself in it thoroughly. He was extremely sentimental that way. I remember this little habit he had. Whenever he would go on a trip and we weren’t with him, he would send a postcard saying he missed us and that he wished we were there to enjoy the world with him.
He always told us that money and possessions are worldly things you cannot take to the grave, which is why he wanted to create as many memories as possible. If he had had his way, he would have spent every day with his kids and grandkids playing at home or taking walks. At times, we didn’t even have to talk at all. Just being together watching television was enough. To us, those were priceless moments.
He was a charismatic gentleman who loved to make light of every situation with a joke or two because he liked seeing people happy. His easygoing nature comforted everyone and drew everyone to his side. Frequently, we would question his entry into politics. But my father wanted to serve. He truly loved the people of Negros Occidental whom he served.
In Congress, he stood for issues he sincerely believed in. He advocated against child pornography and for the establishment of drug rehabilitation centers, and emphasized the significance of sustainable development. Yet, throughout his service, he remained humble and respectful, knowing his achievements were not his but for the people he served.
If I could sum up what my father was like, I would say that he was full of love. One thing we as his family will always remember is how well he loved us, and how good that love made us feel.
And the saddest thing about his leaving us is that my baby will never experience that with him.