Honor thy father, as you honor thy mother…

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Last month, we honored our mother for doing such a wonderful job in raising their children.

We give them this respect pursuant to the divine commandment saying: “Honor thy father and thy mother,” one of the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Bible. The commandment is generally regarded in Protestant and Jewish sources as the fifth in both the list in Exodus 20:1–21, and in Deuteronomy (Dvarim) 5:1–23 as Catholics count this as the fourth.

Just like last month, I will not devote this column to divine motherhood or parenthood but fatherhood in layman’s term because the month of June, as May was for mother’s day, is the month associated with Father’s Day! Honoring fatherhood or the father of the family is what Father’s Day is all about. They deserve to be recognized, just like all the mothers!

Raising our children is difficult! It is even more difficult if a father singlehandedly raised them. Wow, it’s really a tough job, I tell you! I have six children with my wife Delia and we really struggled to raise them even with her around. How much more if a father singlehandedly raises them all?

Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, has a history that goes well beyond greeting cards and saying hello to everyone. Records show that the first known Father’s Day service, occurred at the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South in Fairmont, West Virginia. That was on July 5, 1908 and it was through the efforts of a mom, Grace Golden Clayton. Mrs. Clayton had asked her pastor, Dr. R. Thomas Webb, if a Sunday service could be held to honor fathers. It took a woman to initiate the event, a gesture she did to remember her father who singlehandedly raised them to maturity but extended it to fathers in general.

Her dad died in 1896 and she missed him, so Mrs. Clayton thought of having a service to remember not only her father, but to over 200 fathers who died in the Monongah mining explosion. The explosion occurred a few miles south of Fairmont on December 6 of the previous year. I was told that the Monongah mining explosion was the worst mining disaster in U.S. history. It killed more than 360 men and boys, and left about 1,000 children fatherless. She extended the celebration not only to remember her father but to all fathers who raised their children who were victims of the incident.

That was the Fairmont service, the first known to honor fathers, but it did not turn into an annual event. After a few years, however, it gained momentum and paved the way to becoming a US holiday. Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd was credited for being the one who popularized Father’s Day. Again, it took another woman to popularize it until such time that it became a national holiday.

After listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day in 1909, Mrs. Dodd thought that it might be nice to honor fathers as well. When her mom died, her father William Smart raised his six children alone on his farm in Washington. Mrs. Dodd proposed to the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA that they celebrate a “father’s day.” She chose the 5th of June because it was her father’s birthday.

Many of the members of her congregation supported the idea strongly and the ministers of Spokane approved it but asked that the day be changed to give them extra time to prepare sermons on the unexplored subject of fathers. So, the first Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington, was observed on Sunday, June 19, 1910. This became an annual celebration and other towns later had their own celebrations as well on that day.

Despite widespread support however, Father’s Day did not become a permanent national holiday. In 1913, Congress introduced a bill, but in spite of encouragement and support by President Woodrow Wilson, it did not pass legislation. Luckily, in 1966 US President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to honor fathers.

The proclamation did not last long but finally in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a law declaring that Father’s Day be celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June. It has been an official, permanent national holiday ever since. Wow, what a rocky formation leading to a yearly celebration for fathers who sacrifice raising their children to maturity? It went through an acid test before it was finally recognized nationwide as a holiday.

I remember June of last year when my children tendered a father’s day sumptuous dinner for me at a Chinese Restaurant –Fortune Restaurant in Milpitas. It was a day of fun and full of bonding reminiscing our memories as a family through the years. That was the first time after 10 years, we were complete as a family, due to physical distance, my children being in faraway places from us with their own families. My eldest Edel “Gigi” Estioko-Malapitan came from Sydney, Australia where she resides with her husband Eric, who was not able to join us due to prior work commitment in the hospital. My second to the eldest John Edward “Jojo” from Jacksonville, Florida was joined by his wife Alvi and children Reanna Kayla, and Jianna Camille. Mary Rose and her boyfriend Steve Law were with us too. Newlywed Rose Anne Joy “Tweety” was with her husband Jonathan Carino Rasay, who is in the US Army now assigned in Oahu, Hawaii. The rest of the children include Charles Jayson and Paul Joseph. All of them chipped in to pay the bills, a siblings’ way of sharing, as a sign of their love for me. Of course, my wife Delia was with us to complete the family celebrating Father’s Day.

I also remember my late father Marciano Sr. who, jointly with my mother Leonor, raised their 13 children. It was a feat to reckon with and with this I would like to honor my father raising us until we all became professionals and have families of our own. He is the best father I can ever remember in the whole universe. Dad, we love you!

Equally, I would like to honor my wife’s dad Jose Ventura, Sr. who also with his wife Sofia, raised their nine children, despite all the odds in life. To him, Happy Father’s Day in Heaven!

So… to all the fathers in the world, I honor you and recognize your efforts in raising your children and the sacrifices you went through! Happy father’s day to all of you! You deserve the best accolade!

And…to all would-be fathers, you will be going through the process of raising your future children too, a process all of us fathers went through. Love your children and raise them to be worthy members of the family and to the community!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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