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My imperfectly perfect dad |


My imperfectly perfect dad

Vicky Veloso-Barrera - The Philippine Star
My imperfectly perfect dad
Me with my dad Pepe Veloso in the early ’70s, when I must have been 12 or 13 years old

If you look at my passions for cooking and designing, it’s obvious that the women in my life — my mom and her mom — passed their loves down to me. But honestly, it was my dad who got me started ... in both fields. 

How fascinated I was as a toddler, watching my mom Malu Veloso make sugar roses for her wedding cake business. I wanted to start baking right then and there. But when my mom switched to clothes, she became too busy to actually spend time with me in the kitchen. It was my dad, Pepe Veloso, who, when I was seven, took pity on me and bought me my first Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls.

Because of that cookbook I found myself in the kitchen even if cousins were visiting and running around the garden with my siblings. But even I put down my baking pans when my dad brought out his movie projector and started playing all these old ’60s cartoons — like Chilly Willy (a penguin, I remember). 

If I preferred being in the kitchen, my dad preferred being with us kids rather than his fellow grown-ups, so that my cousins have very fond memories of my dad, who loved entertaining children and making them laugh.

While fashion, writing and teaching kids to cook have become bread-and-butter jobs, I inherited a love for travel from my dad. Our annual summer visits to Matabungkay and Tali beaches meant road trips with a Burt Bacharach playlist. (So when we took our kids on a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway in California, we just had to listen to…Pacific Coast Highway.)

My dad loved the sea, while my mom shaded herself from the sun, for fear of getting dark. He got us singing and dancing and, of course, kids love singing and dancing. Small wonder that later, at Philamlife, part of his responsibilities as vice president was the auditorium where Repertory performed many Broadway hits such as A Chorus Line. We watched that musical free of charge over and over. And more than a decade after he joined the angels, I learned the opening steps to One from Julie Borromeo’s daughter Anamarie Quirino. On his birthday I posted my birthday tribute to my dad in heaven.

My sister Letlet and I are third-generation fashion designers, having picked up the passion for fashion growing up in my mom’s and lola’s respective ateliers. But when the time came for Letlet and I to start our own ready-to-wear boutique, it was my dad who supplied the P10,000 seed money — worth quite a bit in the early ’80s. And he drove us when I still didn’t know how to drive and the driver was absent.

When I finally did learn to drive he would accompany me and a few brave souls on trips to beaches in Bataan. I refused to let him take over the wheel and he would casually remark how I had just cut off a car, almost hit another one and other driving blunders. Unlike my sister, who refused to even ride with me (she would follow with our friend Carol, who was a better driver), my dad remained calm and unfazed in face of his reckless older daughter.

If my present home resembles a zoo with its menagerie of rabbits, dogs, cats, turtles, a duck, a chicken, birds, fish, a sugar glider (possum) and who knows what else, it’s because the house I grew up in was like that too, much to my mom’s dismay. She was clearly not an animal lover like my dad. But we kids back then and my kids now find that pets are lovable, endearing, rewarding and lifelong, faithful companions. The joys and sorrows of caring for animals are so worth the heartache when they leave you.

That my dad was a jokester and a prankster never disappeared even as we got older. When Camp John Hay in Baguio was still a full-time American base with limited access to us locals, my dad would drive us up to the gate, authoritatively announce to the American guards that he was Colonel Veloso and they would let us in with no question. I remember the 19th Tee for its cafeteria with such delights as hot dogs and yummy sheet cakes.

My dad was a cool dude. I say that in comparison to my more disciplinarian mom; so there was a balance. But I have a pet theory that all of us (now grown-up kids with kids of our own) learn our parenting styles from our parents. And that we will do the opposite of what our parents did if we did not like certain aspects of what they did.

For example, my lolo Buenventura Veloso was quite the disciplinarian. Perhaps it was because he had five sons, with nary a daughter to soften his gaze. I can imagine that five boys were quite a handful. I heard some of my dad’s brothers almost burned their house down as kids. 

As a vice president of Philippine Airlines when Benny Toda was president, my grandfather required that, for our personal travels, we be at the airport four or five hours before departure, the sooner the better. This was in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties when we did not yet have such complicated pre-departure security checks and monstrous traffic. But as we traveled free on his account we couldn’t complain, and it was a perk to be able to do so as long as there was space on the flight. (Guess in which class you could almost always find space?) And being bumped off in a foreign country would have been no hardship either.

My dad tried to be a disciplinarian but he was too softhearted. In contrast to his father, he was easygoing, easy to talk to and so personable that at our college and post-college parties at home he was more than welcome to attend. How many of us at that age would want a parent as part of the party? But my friends liked my dad and they loved his record collection with romantic ballads like Cherish from The Association, which we would play when the party was winding down.

I know my dad had many disappointments, career-wise. When my parents separated, I think he always hoped they would get back together. But a lot of what kept him going was his pride in us kids. Any achievement we had was his achievement, his glory, and I would say rightly so. He was the one who had the time or made the time to encourage us and support us. He never questioned our passions.

Since I married late, my dad even made it part of the speech at our wedding reception that he had been waiting a long time for grandkids. He got his wish too, the following year, leaving us for heaven’s greener shores two months after his first grandchild Joshua was born.

My dad was not a perfect father — no, he was perfectly imperfect. I think that our Heavenly Father, who is perfect, sends down to us these imperfect men to give us just a taste of the unfailing and perfect love He has for us even now.  

Our dads do more for us than we realize in a world where it has always been the mother’s responsibility to rear children. Mothers are so recognized for their herculean tasks, which they could never have accomplished without a Heavenly Father supplying the strength, the patience and the grace that we so obviously need.

And I think it’s never too late to show our dads our appreciation, even if they are already in heaven like my dad, making the angels laugh. You dance the opening steps of One in your tights and your tap shoes, hat held high, and post it on social media to show other dads that every little thing they do for their kids comes back a millionfold.

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