Five Lessons I Learned from my Filipino Father

Sandra Nomoto reflects on the big life lessons she has learned from her introverted Filipino dad.

If your dad’s like mine, he doesn’t get as much attention or accolades as you think he should. You could say that my loud, performing Waray mother overshadowed my introverted nerdy dad, who loves good music and movies just like I do. In subtle ways, I’ve learned big life lessons from his example.

1. The importance of documenting. An electrician with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, my dad always carried the newest tech, from Betamax, VHS, Laserdiscs and large screens, to theatre-like speakers. My parents towed a huge Beta video camera to field trips and school concerts, and as a result I have a library of footage from my childhood. My mom even videotaped my bridal shower in 2016, even though I didn’t want a record of it, which brings me to my next lesson.

My dad (with his father) showing us how it’s done in 1997.
Photo: Submitted by Sandra Nomoto

2. Everyone’s gotta shine sometime. My dad and I are both quiet and better listeners than storytellers, so performing isn’t our natural state. But as a Filipino kid, I had to choose singing, dancing, or an instrument (usually a combo of all of them) to be performed at a party in the future, whether I liked it or not. Thanks to those awkward moments, I’m more comfortable with public speaking or during media interviews when I need to be. I most admire how my dad played piano by ear, which is how I learn to play new songs today.

Playing flute with my sister on guitar, in the early 1990s.
Photo: Submitted by Sandra Nomoto

3. Eat a slice of humble pie. Even though performing was a must, my dad taught me that you can’t always be on your soapbox or showing off. In my tween days, I spent hours on the phone with friends, and the topic of sex came up. One night, I let a phrase slip a little too loud. While making dinner, my dad overheard me and told me never to repeat that again in public. Compared to my mom who speaks her mind and apologizes for it later, I learned at a young age that most times, you have to watch what you say, and when.

4. No matter what, never give up. I always thought my parents’ story would make a pretty good movie or TV series. They met in Manila, Philippines when they studied in university, but when my mom got the opportunity to work as a graduate nurse in Arkansas, USA and my dad immigrated to Canada, they stayed in touch by snail mail, then married in 1976. It’s a result of my dad never giving up on love. It’s this same perseverance that motivated him to walk me down the aisle when I got married in 2016, despite his limited physical mobility.

Photo by Tomasz Wagner

5. The student becomes the teacher. What I respect so much about my dad is how he shaped me into a leader. Whether it was paying ten-year-old me fifty dollars for the total owed of many 25 cent swear charges, asking how he could cut down on meat intake when I went vegetarian, or now, using cannabis-infused products I’ve provided to aid in his pain relief, he still gives me the chance to give back to him and others. I’ve also learned that I can’t control everything, when he doesn’t listen to what I advise.

Having grown up in Canadian society with a lot more than his family had, I consider myself lucky to be his daughter. I hope I make him proud by embodying the lessons he’s taught me.

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