I walked in as a journalist wanting to know about a dictatorship. I walked out a man with a healed childhood. To understand how this happened, let me start from the beginning.
When I landed in the Philippines, I had set up an itinerary to see a vice presidential candidate and a journalist. On the side, I’d see my family and ask them a few questions about how my grandfather was murdered during the Marcos dictatorship.
I have always known my grandfather was murdered. I didn’t know how it affected my dad.
Talking to my great aunt and aunt, I learned that the reason for my father’s beatings and verbal abuse of me was likely due to his own traumatic childhood and early adulthood. In America, where I was born, his past haunted him and he didn’t have support.
My dad was left to fend for himself in a new country with few friends, with unresolved issues. At the time, mental health therapy was still seen as shameful and quackery in the Filipino community. He stuffed it all down and, like a volcano, and it erupted. The lashes of lava struck my sister, my mom, and me.
But like the lush islands of the Philippines where a volcano always smolders, my dad was also lush with love and care. That’s the dad I want to remember—buying me food when he had only $10 to his bank account. He didn’t want to see me hungry.
Underneath it all, my dad was a good man. Life just complicated him. It could happen to any of us—we are all born babies and bright-eyed.
While I walked in thinking I’d report on a dictator, I left with a new appreciation for my childhood, my motherland, and my dad.