March 19, 2012… I spent all day in bed… mourning the passing of my beloved father, Amado Yambao, Jr. I debated whether to fly to Manila, Philippines or stay here and spend time to honor a man who has helped shape who I am today. I chose the latter.
Yesterday, came home from a very successful and relaxing business/pleasure weekend in San Diego, CA with my family. Before we drove home, we spent the entire Sunday morning in Historic Old Town San Diego.
There was this one store that we love… El Centro Artesano, a store that has thousands of wind chimes, terracotta pottery and knick-knacks. It was so serene, so heavenly… I wanted to stay there all day and listen to each wind chime!
For some strange reason, Gary and I were drawn to this large Picotte Windchime – Tenor in B Flat.
The melodious sound it produced was so comforting that even at $140.00 for the chime, we just have to have it! We’ve been together for 19 years, have been around wind chimes but this is the first time we bought one, and on impulse to boot!
Around 11:00am, my Mom and I decided to check out the other stores as Garrett and Gary stayed at the wind chime place. As we walked in between stores, I noticed a couple of ladies taking a photo underneath a huge pink bougainvillea tree. For some strange reason, I felt a sense of spirituality and serenity in that area… I asked my Mom to stand under it as I took a picture of her.
When we got back to the car, I was previewing the photos I took that morning from my camera and noticed this huge orb on my Mom’s left shoulder. I immediately showed it to her and even said “Wow, Mom! I wonder who wanted to be with you in that photo… Could it be your sister who just passed away?” In the past, I never really paid attention to orbs or what they meant in photos… I just remember that I was attending a live spiritual event 2 years ago and I had a huge orb on my right shoulder in one of the photos and my good friend LaNelle Scwab told me that it was the presence of kind spirit which was captured by the camera.
We got home around 5:00pm… as I was unpacking, we received messages from my siblings, Ellen, Jojo and Elsa that our “Tatay” (Tagalog for Dad) just passed away… I was in utter shock… I felt my body go numb. I didn’t know how to feel. My Mom started crying… I started weeping… Gary immediately came to comfort us. For the rest of the evening, I anxiously waited for more updates and to hear form my sisters Ellen and Elsa on what’s going on and how they will implement my Dad’s last wishes for a simple, intimate and quiet wake and funeral.
For the past few years, I really didn’t talk much about my Dad. My parents have respectfully separated when I was in high school… that’s over 30 years ago! There was that “hopeful romantic” part of me that wanted both of them to get back together but the pragmatic and realist part of me that said they’re better off separate to they can live the remaining years of their lives in peace rather than pain and disappointment.
My Dad had moved on to start another family while my Mom chose to stay here with me. While I have never met his new family, I have a sense of deep gratitude to them, for taking great care of him in the last few years of his life especially after he had the first of his three strokes in 2001.
My Dad managed to come to the visit me here in the US quite a few times in the late 1990’s and I was so blessed that he was here to walk me down the aisle on my wedding to Gary on April 1998. He looked so handsome in his tuxedo! Wearing a tuxedo was a big deal to him as he normally wears the traditional Filipino formal wear “Barong Tagalog”. He was quite the social butterfly! I remember at the rehearsal dinner, he was so funny! He doesn’t normally drink alcoholic drinks so when he sampled a glass of margarita, he started singing “Let Me Love You Margarita” acting like a playful young man singing and dancing and just having an absolute blast!
On my wedding day, he was so nervous as he prepared to walk me down the aisle but I was nervous too… But when he told me how beautiful I looked and he assured me it’s going to be a great evening all my fears melted away.
As soon as the door opened and he saw over 125 of our guests waiting in their seats and all eyes on us, he got so nervous that when we reached the altar, he almost sat down without giving me a kiss and handing me over to Gary! I had to remind him to give me a kiss… He was such a great sport!
The best and one of the most vivid memories I have of him was how he thoughtfully held the tips of my veil during the entire wedding ceremony as the wind was blowing it out of control. What touches me about that is that to me that loving gesture symbolized his unconditional love and how he did what any Dad would have felt instinctively right at the moment without having to be told what to do. He simply was a doting father, keeping a loving eye on me… I am so glad our photographer Gary Fong captured this timeless memory…
I AM MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER… I may not have spent as much time with him as most daughters should have but I have chosen to forgive, love and support him through the remainder of his life. I have chosen to acknowledge the values and lessons he has instilled in me as a young girl, instead of feeling the disappointment of not having him in my life. He taught me these invaluable lessons:
1) Appreciate the beauty in the simplest of things.
2) Be passionate and live fully.
3) Build strong powerful relationships.
4) Have a heart for those in need.
5) Love and respect animals.
6) Allow music to speak into your soul.
7) Learn to fix things around the house so you won’t have to wait for a man to do it.
8 When you cook, imagine the joy of those who will be so blessed to enjoy your labor of love.
9) Respect yourself and command that respect from others.
10)Knowledge is power, gain more and use it wisely and responsibly.
11)If you don’t know a skill, learn it and implement it.
12) Persistence pays… when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
Life hasn’t been all rosy for my Dad… As the oldest son, he sacrificed not going to school so he could go to work early and support his younger siblings so they could go to school. While he loved my Grandpa, he used to tell me stories of resentment on how he couldn’t comprehend my Grandpa’s anger and harsh discipline when he would fail on some tasks. He absolutely loved his Mom and he truly cherished her.
Was he the perfect Dad and husband? Far from it. Did he give the best he could offer? Absolutely! At least I’d like to think so anyway. Being expressive – touchy, feel-y, hugg-y, is not a typical Filipino trait – maybe for a select few, but definitely not one he was brought up with. So he wasn’t able to raise us in an expressive home. Despite the lack of expression, we knew we were loved, safe and protected. When I came to the US, I noticed how expressive people here were and I felt so free. I think that’s why I have an appreciation and desire to really love on others and give everyone hugs, even “virtual” big hugs online!
Growing up, my Dad was more of a “renegade” – a non-conformist. He stayed home to take care of us 4 children while my Mom worked and I remember him doing a great job keeping the home in order and making sure we had 3 square home cooked meals each day. I also remember that he was our official “barber”. He would line all of us and gave us haircuts! He was also the one who would announce when the rain started pouring and all of us would go out the door, get soaked and play in the rain! He truly was a great, caring and thoughtful father. Thank goodness, I have told him what a great father he was, many times when he was still alive.
He disliked having a j-o-b. He was more of an entrepreneur, a craftsman. He did beautiful work with his hands. He perfectly created air rifles by hand, from hand carving the wood buttstock to assembling the barrels, triggers, scopes and the actual foot pump. His air rifles was a highly coveted brand among hunters then. Owning an “Amado Air Rifle” showed that your gun is of great taste and quality.
Aside from crafting air rifles, my Dad was an amaaaazing cook! He has a signature dish called “Caldereta” and his famous dish is made of goat meat. He would often be invited by his friends to cook for them and he did EVERYTHING – from finding a live goat, preparing it, getting the ingredients, setting up a huge makeshift stove and actually cooking a meal to feed an entire village and he did that as a favor. He never asked to be paid. To him, cooking was an expression. A way for him to endear people to him… a way to serve…
My Dad had a passion for animals – I remember when I was in 6th Grade, he came home with a horse! We lived in the city and there was no way for a horse to live in tight quarters but he said he wanted to save her from being slaughtered. He named the horse “Hit or Miss” and it didn’t take long for him to find a good home for it. My Dad also loved dogs! Gosh, at one point, I think we had 10 dogs total in our household!
What I remember most about my Dad was his passion for these 4 things: Bicycling, Boxing, Singing and Beautiful Women!
When I was in grade school, he would get up early in the morning to ride his racing bicycle to ride up to the mountains of Cogeo, Tanay and Antipolo. He was very meticulous about his bicycle and his gear… from his drinking bottle to his riding shoes. He took great pride with his love for cycling and experiencing the beauty of nature when he did. One of his dreams then was to compete in the “Tour of Luzon” the mini version of the “Tour de France”. My Dad never got to live that dream because one day he came home with 2 missing front teeth and 2 broken ribs. He fell off from his bike at top speed while riding down from the mountain. I don’t remember him getting on his bicycle again since then.
As to boxing, the most unforgettable boxing match I remember watching him was “Thrilla In Manila” with Joe Frazier and “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali! I sat in front of the TV watching many boxing fights with him. I am sure that our very own Manny Pacquiao had been one of his boxing heroes.
My Dad loved music and singing. I remember how he would play the piano by ear and how he really wanted us to learn how to play the guitar. He hired a private guitar teacher for my older sister Ellen and I and I remember my music teacher, Mr. Nick teaching me classical pieces like “Malaguena” and “Forbidden Romance”. My Dad always asked me to play those pieces for him and would even invite friends to see me play. I still know how to play “Forbidden Romance” but “Malaguena” is a blur. Dad loved “Ole Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra and all of his songs, but most especially “My Way”. He told me at one point, that song is his life story. I’ve uploaded this song on my iPhone and will play it over and over when I want to spend time with him.
“My Way” by Frank Sinatra
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“No, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!
As a “lover of Beautiful Women”, what I meant was that he simply had the appreciation for how a woman should carry herself, to remain elegant, to walk tall, head high, chin up one foot in front of the other gracefully. When I was in 4th Grade, I remember being out running errands with him, he met up with a group of friends who were saying how tall I was getting and I remember him saying “You watch, this daughter of mine will grow up to compete in Ms. Philippines.” To a young girl, that meant so much to me. I really felt that if my father thought I was beautiful, then that’s all that mattered! We would watch all the Bb. Pilipinas, Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss USA and Miss World pageants on TV and it was interesting because he would always pick out the Top 10, then the Top 5 and ultimately the winner. He would tell me which contestant would win and why she would win. He knew exactly what the judges were looking for. He had such an uncanny way of knowing, it was remarkable! I would make a bet with him, we would both pick out our favorites and he always won! Miss Universe Pageant 1974 was memorable for us because it was held in the Philippines, we watched that together and yes, he loved Miss Universe 1974, Amparo Munoz and he and I agreed that she was going to win!
If there was any skill he was lacking, my Dad would learn it and implement it immediately. As a child, people would come to our house and look for my Dad… they called him “Amado, The Gun Maker” or “Amado, the Cook” or “Amado the Vet” or “Amado the Realtor” or “Amado, the Jack of All Trade”. He was a very popular man! He was like a diplomat. He didn’t have a lot of money but he sure had one thing not many people had: Relationships and Influence. Gosh, as I write this, I realize that I truly am my father’s daughter. I guess that’s why I have become a learner, an implementor, an influencer and a relational marketer. My life is a living extension to of my Dad’s influence in my life!
My Dad was a brilliant man! I know that he lives so much in me. I know I have his “Lion Heart”… I have his strong will for survival that no matter what life throws at him, he knows how to think and act his way around it. I have his charm – his influential nature that wherever he goes, people want to be around him because he truly loves being around people! His smile lights up a room! He was quite the entertainer! He was also a risk taker – a gambler in his youth – but a risk taker nevertheless. He taught me to not be satisfied with conformity and be okay to explore and experiment with new concepts and ideas.
When I was making a decision to come to the US in 1989, he was the one who confidently told me that I will be okay. He was a bit uncomfortable with my decision but instead of stopping me, he assured me that I have what it takes to survive and create a good life for me and my future family. I remember him saying: “I will be there soon enough… you’ll be okay in the meantime.”
Despite half of his body being paralyzed, I was so blessed to have been given the chance to see him and spend time with him in 2007. Garrett was able to spend time with him too. My Dad cried a lot during our last time together. I was told that hypersensitivity was common for people who have experienced strokes. Every time he looked at Garrett, he would cry, feeling regret that he couldn’t be the Grandpa who could play with him. He felt sorry he couldn’t make Garrett his own personalized air rifle. I remembered the last time I was with him, we listened to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. During that time, he could only make gestures as he couldn’t really speak much. He asked me to get something from his bedside table… it was the small photo album I gifted him with with photos from my wedding. It was as if he was telling me that my wedding was the most memorable moment of his life and that he really enjoyed every minute he spent with being with my Mom.
His last few years weren’t the most comfortable. He had a most difficult time living day to day because of his stroke, but he had high hopes that one day, he’ll come back to the US and make things right. He wanted to get stronger but I believe that it was time for his meaningful earthly life to end so he can start over in heaven. I know that his passing enables us to be connected spirit to spirit, so much more than we were able to do while he was alive. He will continue to be my guiding light and I will find inspiration in the beautiful memories I have of him. I will continue to live his legacy through the strong values he has instilled deep within my core.
The day we heard the sad news, Gary lit some candles and hung our newly bought wind chime near the door. It was a very windy day and the slight breeze through the door created the most magnificent music – almost like church bells from a distance. We immediately knew we bought that wind chime for a reason. The glorious sound it produced plus the flicker of the candles brought me a sense of peace for the moment in honor of my Dad. Our makeshift memorial corner with the wind chime and candles will continue to bring me comfort. Now when I hear the wind chimes it represents the beautiful life my Dad lived and how those melodious tones will always remind me that he is always near and is always a part of me…
Oh and by the way… remember that photo of my Mom with the orb? After talking to my sister Ellen, we determined that the time of my Dad’s passing was appx. 2:00am Monday, March 19, 2012 Philippine time, which was 11:00am, Sunday, March 18, 2012 California time. It was around the same time that I took the photo of my Mom with the orb in it. Now we want to believe that it was my Dad who wanted to say hello to us on that photo…
To my Mom Ely, sisters Ellen and Elsa and to my brother Jojo, your families, Tatay’s siblings, extended families and friends, I am here for you and will see the pain through together. I know that Tatay has left a huge void in our hearts that can only be replaced by re-living happy memories of time spent with him. To those of you who who took precious time to read this post, I THANK YOU all for giving us strength in this time of grief…
Goodbye for now my dearest Dad… I know you can see my personal message… from my soul to yours…
“Tatay… I know you’re in heaven now and are in a place of utter peace. Your life here on earth may not have been easy but I know that in your own way, you have positively impacted many people’s lives by your mere presence in theirs. I will continue to find courage and comfort in your unconditional love… You were bold, yet remained humble. You were confused and perhaps didn’t make the perfect choices but then again, who’s among us is perfect? I remain to be your number one fan! Please rest in God’s peace knowing that we are here honoring you with the love and respect you absolutely deserve…
I am glad that I was able to tell you how much you mean to me through my letters and when we were together. Otherwise, I would probably live a life filled with remorse and guilt. Instead I can honestly say I rejoice with the Angels that you’ve now gone back home to our Father in Heaven… Gary and Garrett miss you too and they send you their love. Mom does the same…
On behalf of Nanay Ely, Gary, Garrett, my sisters Ellen, Elsa my brother Jojo, their families, your siblings, your family, your friends and our collective family friends, we will make sure that your legacy lives on… We will honor your wishes to be buried in your beloved hometown Jaen, Nueva Ecija, perhaps near your favorite Nueva Ecija/Pampanga River:
Tatay, I know that you’re there in heaven, riding your prized race bike on the zigzag roads paved with gold and are singing with the angels, playing with your pure bred dogs and appreciating more beauty. The air is fresh, crisp and clean and you are in your best tip-top shape ever! You flash your effervescent and infectious smile on everyone you meet and you are free of worries and concerns. You are reunited with your beloved Mom, Grandma “Lola” Rita and your Dad, Grandpa “Lolo” Amading and all there is are love and forgiveness. Perhaps there are no boxing matches in heaven nor the need for air rifles but there are plenty of new, more profound and pure knowledge to acquire and share! Most importantly, I know you are up there receiving the best hugs of all… hugs from our Heavenly Father and from the saints and angels who welcome you with so much love…
I urge you to now rest in God’s peace my dearest Tatay… Someday soon, we will see each other again and I know our reunion will be filled with peace, joy and love. I love you so, so, so much. I hurts to know you’re no longer here physically but it’s reassuring to know that you’re love remains to cheer me on and inspire me and our family. I will ALWAYS love you and you will always remain to be my absolute HERO… I have always been proud to call you Dad… I remain in utmost gratitude for all that you are in my life…”
With Utmost Love and Respect…
Your Proud Daughter,
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