Father’s Day, beyond the usual

PERCEPTIONS - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

It’s significantly timely to remember today the contributions of Filipinos who helped build our nation. We still have a long way to go in fully achieving the elusive aspirations of progress and prosperity for everyone. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting to whom we owe several milestones that shaped our society.

The tradition of celebrating the day of our fathers started on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington. Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of an American Civil War veteran, was inspired to lobby for a “Father’s Day” annual celebration after she listened to a religious sermon regarding Mother’s Day. US President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported the clamor. Later on, the special event every third Sunday of June was recognized as a public holiday by legislation during the term of President Richard Nixon.

For my column today, I expanded the meaning of father beyond its literal definition to hold us in gratitude for the contributions of some of those who lived for us.

For starters, let’s begin with the “Father of the Philippine Republic,” General Emilio Aguinaldo. His Declaration of Independence in Cavite el Viejo, now Kawit, on June 12, 1898 marked the birth of the first constitutional republic in Asia. He led the revolutionaries in successfully fighting against the Spaniards who colonized us for more than three hundred years. He organized the government for an independent state. In spite of the controversies hounding his leadership, his role in ushering in a new era of hope cannot be diminished. We must rightfully accord to him the unique position of opening a new chapter in the history of our country.

Motivated to free our people from the abuses committed by the conquistadores, Andres Bonifacio courageously formed the clandestine organization, the Katipunan. His patriotism compelled him to take the extreme path of starting the revolution after Jose Rizal was arrested in July 1892. The incident proved that the only way to freedom was not through the reforms that Rizal, our national hero, was advocating. In fact, Bonifacio was even amongst the first members of the La Liga Filipina of Rizal. Upon witnessing how a respected doctor was unjustly incarcerated, Bonifacio was emboldened. Along with more than 30,000 Katipuneros composed of peasants and middle-class patriots, Bonifacio challenged the stronger force of the unwanted and overstaying colonizers. For his gallantry and historic role in winning our liberty, Andres Bonifacio is honored to be the “Father of the Philippine Revolution.”

Some historians even consider Bonifacio to be the real Father of the Philippine Republic because he formed the revolutionary government of the Tagalog Republic. His violent death in the hands of fellow Katipuneros who executed him was a dark spot in the narrative of our people’s struggle. He is a hero of the nation, and a father to his siblings when he dropped out of school to support them in their studies. The sacrifice done by the “Great Plebeian” in saving the nation and working for his family has inspired many future leaders of our country.

There are more renowned names in the list that we can acknowledge on our nation’s Fathers’ Day but not necessarily along the epic stories of bloody campaigns for freedom. But they too have contributed significantly to nation-building. The “Father of Philippine Architecture,” Narciso “Jun” Nakpil, for example, designed structures that would withstand the test of time because of their grandeur and compatibility with our seismological conditions. Notably, as showcases, are the University of the Philippines’ administration building, the renovation of the Quiapo Church in 1933 used his designs and Quezon Institute. By the way, he is a son of two Katipuneros. His father, Julio Nakpil, was a composer and general of the Katipunan. His mother, Gregoria de Jesus, was the widow of Supremo Andres Bonifacio.

In our more recent times, we must also cite Henry Sy Sr., the “Father of Modern Philippine Retail.” I believe that he earned the honor not only due to the fact that he built the top retailer in the country by changing the landscape with his visionary mega malls. For me, his biggest contribution is the urban legend of rising from humbly owning a small store in Manila into a tycoon whose empire owns more than 60 department stores, more than 200 grocery stores and supermarkets, one of the country’s biggest banks and real estate holdings. The inspiration to transcend beyond the limits of one’s birth is Mr. Henry Sy’s legacy.

Father’s Day would be celebrated in different ways. One of which is celebrating the lives of those who brought us to where we are now, as a nation.

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