“Di man siya matangkad, tinitingala ko siya.”
That was the first line I wrote in an essay about my father, which won me first place in a national exam back in the ’90s. My Dad stands 4’11” tall, some say like his namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte. And, of all the things he could have passed on to me — it had to be his height. I used to wish I was taller, but over time I learned to appreciate the benefits of being small: it is amusing to see taller people, mostly foreigners, needing to bow down just to speak with me. 🤣 Just kidding. But one useful benefit is that it helps me convince my own kids today, to take afternoon naps. “You’d better sleep in the afternoon — or else you’ll end up being short like Mommy.”
When I was a child, my father was a very busy man, and always out of the house to earn for his big Waray family. The only times we could sit down with him was on Friday night (Sabbath night) meals. And as the fourth of six (very) “animated” children, it was hard for me to find some quality, one-on-one time with my Dad.
So I resorted to writing him letters, which I would tuck secretly into his Executive Diary. I knew he opened that brown leather-covered notebook everyday, to check his appointments and schedules. Sometimes, he would respond with a verbal acknowledgment that he got my letter, and that he liked my writing style. Of course, he would say, I got those genes from him.
It wasn’t until I was 14 that he wrote me back. I kept that letter, and we continued our correspondence until digital messages were made available to us ordinary folks. Since Today is Father’s Day, I’d like to share a portion of his letter to me here.
Feb. 17, 1996
Bi, My darling girl:
It was a big surprise to receive a very mature letter coming from my 14-yr-old girl. Normally, girls of your age would talk about “what-to-do” problems, or “hopes and dreams.” Hardly on spiritual matters like “calling”, “commitment to the truth”, “the leading of the Holy Spirit”, “building intimate relationship with Christ” and so forth.
Of course, at age 12, Jesus Christ was about His Father’s business. I’m happy my girls are not far behind. This is our joy, to see our children find and embrace the ultimate of relationships with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ! Which Dad will not be proud to have a girl imbued with such a sense of mission to work and study hard so she can share this wonderful truth with others in her own generation?
I believe I replied to my Dad’s letter, but I don’t have a copy of my reply anymore. So today I’d like to thank him again — and this time, in public.
Dear Daddy Nap:
THANK YOU PO for teaching us about our Heavenly Father’s love. Thank you for making us memorize the Ten Commandments, and teaching us that obedience to the Creator is the best way to show our appreciation for His unconditional love. We will do our best to pass that on to your grandchildren.
Thank you for always giving yourself to others, sometimes giving even more than you could, so that those who ask for your help could have a better chance, a better life.
Thank you for not being afraid to cry in front of your children — even if it was while listening to Eydie Gorme’s songs, or watching a movie that touched you deeply. You taught me that it actually takes more courage for men to cry and be vulnerable, because then — when you acknowledge your weaknesses and helplessness, we see the grace of God take over, and you receive more than enough strength to carry us all through.
THANK YOU for teaching us about Faith that moves mountains. I once overheard you say, “Hindi ako perfecto — ako si Nap.” It was a truthful joke. Yes, you’re not perfect po Dad, but you have the biggest faith and biggest heart that I have ever seen in a human being. Your humor and faith always shine through, come what may.
You believe in God, and you believe in us, your children. It is empowering to know that my Dad believes in me. It is life-transforming when my earthly Dad helps me to see that our Heavenly Father believes I can do everything He created me to do.
In your 1996 letter to me, you ended quite abruptly with, “I must stop now. Love and see you! Your Dad, Nap Acebron.” I’m guessing it’s because you were already emotional and tearing up. I love that about you po, because I inherited your power of empathy too.
I want you to know that I will always believe this, Dad: You are the Best Dad in the world for this small girl, who is thankful to have the Man with the Biggest Heart as her father.
Love, Your Bitoon.