*a repost of my article in the Mar. 27 issue of Cordillera Today.
After surviving the six hours in a cramped seat from Baguio to Balintawak, then another two and a half hours to traverse the length of EDSA to Pasay, then another hour to get to Las Piñas, I finally arrived at this salon and there she was – in her trademark denim shorts and no-nonsense t-shirt, seated in front of mirror, getting all dolled up by a hairstylist. And there, right before my eyes, with make-up and a hair style that can do in a few minutes what nature took all of 16 years to accomplish, this once baby girl was being transformed into a young woman. She kept on checking on me from the corner of her eyes, as if to make sure that I was watching. But of course I was, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
“Papa, I’m done,” she sends me a text message, she probably didn’t realize that I was just there behind her the whole time. She turns around and smiled at me, and there’s my daughter, so beautiful, all ready.
It’s just gonna be me and her today, this much I told the usher when he approached me at my seat to tell me to get ready to put on the sash bearing the school emblem for Anastasia Sofia when she’s called onstage to receive her high school diploma.
Standing in the middle of the aisle in the school gymnasium, waiting for her name to be called, I watched her onstage – smiling, so happy, beaming with pride - and for a moment I felt sad that I wasn’t around when she performed right there in a school play, or cheered on her team during the intramurals. I wasn’t there at times when she needed help with a particularly challenging homework. I didn’t get to bring her to school in the morning, or pick her up in the afternoon.
But I am here now, walking toward her at centerstage. Her eyes sparkled as I placed the sash around her, embraced her, gave her a kiss, and offered my arm to her which she held tightly as we stopped for a while in front of the school photographer to capture the moment.
Later, we were at some restaurant for dinner, talking about what the rest of her life’s gonna be like – what she wants to do, who and what she wants to be. I remembered having this same talk with her older brother just a year ago, and I imagined how soon I’m gonna be having the same with her younger brothers and sister.
Follow your heart, always, I reminded her, and what matters most is that you’re happy.
What I didn’t get to tell her is that I hope she and her sister and brothers know that as they journey through life, when they stop to check, from the corner of their eyes, to see if someone’s watching them, I will do all I can to always be there.
Congratulations, Anastasia Sofia, I am so proud of you.