Honoring heroic Filipinos on Father’s Day

Published June 20, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Like most other countries, the Philippines is celebrating Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June.

This is despite the fact that in 1998, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada transferred the observance of both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day to the first Monday of December, thereby superseding President Corazon Aquino’s earlier proclamation issued in 1988. While President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued an executive order tasking a committee to review these observances as part of a new National Family Week concept, there is no recorded outcome of such initiative.

So the celebration of Father’s Day today goes on.

In many Filipino homes, two realities define the context of this year’s Father’s Day observance: first, the thousands of Filipino fathers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and second, the large number of fathers who are away from home as they have become overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

And by the way, there is another exceptional phenomenon that deserves closer attention. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2019 data, 55.8 percent of 2.3 million registered OFWs are women.  In 2000, 53.9 percent of OFWs were male.

This has led to a role reversal: Filipino males becoming house husbands and pushed to perform tasks to which they are either unaccustomed or unprepared.  According to a noted clinical psychologist, they suffer from deflating ego or self-esteem.  Over time, many of them have learned to adapt themselves to being the primary guardians of their children’s studies and as counselor and cheerleader in meeting life’s daily challenges.

Thanks to the Internet, families with fathers who work overseas are now able to spend time together virtually — talking via Skype or Facebook, sharing back-home stories and away-from-home workplace anecdotes.  Such opportunity for long-distance bonding enables children to express gratitude and support to the father-provider.

Just as the Filipino mother is often called ilaw ng tahanan (light of the home), the Filipino father is regarded as haligi ng pamilya (pillar of the family), in recognition of his role as the chief provider of food, shelter, clothing and other resources for day-to-day living.

For those families where the father-breadwinners lost their jobs, there is a continuing struggle to cope and adapt.  The benefits from an extended family culture provide stop-gap relief. Uncles, male cousins and family friends are also looked up to as surrogate fathers who could pitch in to help them overcome the current crisis.

The sheer generosity of neighbors and friends — best exemplified by the community pantries that have mushroomed all over the country — also somehow enables those that have been marginalized to hurdle their daily survival challenges.

On a sidebar: As its Father’s Day treat, the Comelec has declared June 21 to 23 as special registration days for male voters.  “Kalalakihan, prayoridad ka (Men, you’ll be prioritized)! is their call to action. This is a timely reminder, too, for Filipino voters to start discerning their choices for next year’s elections so that when Father’s Day comes around anew, they will have more reasons to celebrate.