Much ado about Father’s Day

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

A few days ago, my son asked me where I wanted to go on Father’s Day. After naming my favorite restaurants, I told him to reserve a table for us in advance. He replied: “Dad, this is not Mother’s Day. There won’t be any traffic and most restaurants will surely have space.” No one in my family considered his reply as a joke but a simple statement of a well known fact.

A piece of trivia I read a few years ago before the proliferation of mobile phones revealed that more phone calls are made in the USA during Mother’s Day than during Father’s Day, but the percentage of collect calls on Father’s Day is much higher, making it the busiest day of the year for collect calls.

When I was growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Bacolod , and later in Manila where I went to college and graduate studies, I do not remember celebrating Father’s Day.

However, today it seems that Father’s Day is celebrated throughout the world most likely due to the influence of the USA through television and the internet. In most countries the celebration is on the third Sunday of June following the American model.

There are a few exceptions. In Australia, it is celebrated on the first Sunday of September which is the first day of spring. Countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain follow the Roman Catholic tradition of observing Father’s Day on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day. This tradition seems more appropriate for the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines. But then, it seems that mass media, department stores, restaurants and shopping malls have more social influence than the Catholic Church in this country.

Netherlands celebrates Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June. But they have a very interesting practice which I have tried but failed to introduce in our household. On this day, Dutch fathers get breakfast in bed made and served by their wife and children. But I suppose this requires culinary skills that are forgivably lacking in our family.

Even Iran celebrates the day on the 13th of Rajab, or the birth anniversary of Iman Ali, the first Iman of Shia Muslims.  In Thailand the birthday of the king is automatically Father’s Day. Russia continues the USSR tradition of celebrating “Defender of the Fatherland Day” and sometimes called “Men’s Day.”

Germany celebrates differently from most parts of the world, on Ascension Day, the Thursday 40 days after Easter, which is a federal holiday. It is traditional for groups of men to go on a hiking tour with one or more small wagons with wine or beer. Most men use this holiday as an opportunity (or excuse) to get drunk the whole day.

There are many different historical accounts of the origins of Father’s Day. The most credible story is that it was started in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd. After hearing a sermon on Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday. She initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday. But the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, thus deferring the celebration to the third Sunday of June 1909.

The celebration of both Mother’s and Father’s Days in the Philippine has to be appreciated within the context of our culture.

The family is the most important social group in our culture, the center of the typical Filipino’s universe. A Filipino’s identity is typically and strongly defined by close-knit family ties that oftentimes place the interests of the family above personal interests. Familial harmony, respect for elders, fulfilling duties and expectations and deference to parental authority are highly valued.

The behaviors and achievements of the individual reflect on the family as a whole and bring about either familial pride or shame. In the typical family, it is imperative that one behaves with respect to the self and the family sense of hiya which refers to family honor, dignity and propriety.

In most Confucian societies in Asia, there is an emphasis on patriarchal authority. But in Filipino culture, husbands and wives share in family decision-making. In the Bible, man was created first. But in Filipino folklore, man and woman emerged simultaneously from a large bamboo tube.

Filipino mothers are considered the primary caregivers in the family, holding the “reins” in bringing up the children and managing the home. The father is the authority figure and likely to exercise more parental control especially when a child misbehaves.

After reading different letters of fathers to children and sons and daughters to their fathers, I am convinced that the greatest gift of a father is unconditional love; and, the greatest role is be a model and inspiration to their children.

One of the most touching letters was written by Ninoy Aquino to his son Noynoy.  Imprisoned by the Marco dictatorship in Fort Bonifacio, Ninoy had decided to put his life on the line and defy the Military Commission that was supposed to try him. His letter ends with the following words:

“... stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties, firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage.

“I had hopes of introducing you to my friends, showing you the world and guiding you through the maze of survival. I am afraid you will now have to go it alone without your guide.

“The only advice I can give: Live with honor and follow your conscience. There is no greater nation on earth than your Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart and with all your might and with all your strength. Son, the ball is now in your hands. Lovingly, Dad.”

In the end, although there’s much more ado about Mother’s Day than Father’s Day, undoubtedly both days essentially celebrate the Filipino Family.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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