When Dad (not Mom) Reads


Since the year 2001, when my first children’s book, Fly, Malaya, Fly! (originally written by my then 10-year-old youngest son and therefore my co-author) was published, I have become a reading advocate. 

What's a reading advocate?

"Someone who values literacy and therefore actively pursues it by encouraging children to read." As they grow up, these children will love reading and understand its importance in their development—and success—as adults. 

A reading advocate, therefore, helps build a literacy-rich environment. To this end, I continue writing books with Christian values that children will enjoy reading and learning from.  

In my book talks, before Covid-19, I emphasized the importance of reading aloud to children every day, until the kids are able to read on their own. Although I know a few fathers who read to their children, the image in my slides was of a mother-and-child, which is the norm.  

Then the pandemic forced both parents to work from home. An image I never used before came via social media. My niece sent me these delightful photos of her husband (not her) reading my book to their child, Praise.  

This pushed me to read up on father-and-child, and woohoo! There have been concluding research data over the years: “When dad reads, he helps improve kids' development more.” 


“A study involving 400 fathers found that kids benefit more when fathers read bedtime stories than when their mothers do it.” 

The results showed a huge impact on the kids’ language development after a year, and their literacy, two years later. The mothers' reading had no such significance.   


Fathers used more “abstract and complex language,” often linking events in the book to their own experience. For example, when a cave was in the book, many fathers narrated the time they entered one and how amazed they were. On the other hand, mothers focused more on the book’s details, often asking children to count objects or identify colors. 

“The dads’ abstract thinking is better for kids' brains because it's more challenging.” 

With time on my hands, I dug into the Internet for more data. I was gifted with heaps of heartwarming images:  

As  a reading advocate, I resolve, from now, to include fathers in this cause. As they begin to read a book to their kids, they will discover that sowing a few seeds of reading will reap a million grace. 

Look closely at the photos above—salute the new reading advocates called "Dad."  

Photo credits: Doreen (collage above); the Net (collage below)    


Young Ones, Young Once

My memory is selective (okay, spotty). There are those I remember vividly and those that I don’t at all. 

This is one of them.

It was my cousin Luding’s wedding and I was the flower girl. Perhaps the reason I can’t recall this occasion is that I was a flower girl in too many weddings (forced to wear itchy and fancy gowns), I chose to forget them all. 

What I do remember are the other events that involved most of the people in the photo. 

The ring bearer was my cousin Boying, who figured in a vehicular accident with my younger brother, Matt, and another cousin, Gadong, in their early teens. Boying was the most banged up, and did not make it to the hospital alive. This tragic event is one chapter in my book, The Other Cheek.  

The best man, uncle Johnny, eventually married the maid of honor, Auntie Nenet. Although we don’t see each other anymore, we sometimes meet up on Facebook with their children and their families.  

Uncle Romy (behind the groom), the main sponsor, was like my second dad. I lived with him and his wife, Auntie Ruth, when I went to high school in Baguio City. When I was told he succumbed to heart attack —I was away in the US for my post-graduate degree—I cried for days. A rock in life, he left dear Auntie Ruth (who joined him years later) and their three young children bereft.   

The groom, Manong Gallo, did not live long enough to meet his sons-and-daughters-in-law and dote on his grandchildren. 

And the lovely bride, Manang Luding, is now the oldest-living member of our huge clan. She’s had many ailments, but she still looks lovely today, with a lucid mind, at age 90.  

How did I find a copy of that tattered wedding photo featuring two young ones (the female one being me)? 

It was uploaded by a niece to Facebook (a grace-rich melting pot), and as I downloaded it, I realized I was young once.  

". . . Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day."  (2 Corinthians 4:16 NLT)

Photo credit (below): Vinya


Let Sleeping Dogs (and Cat) Lie


Every morning at six, since the pandemic started over a year ago, I wake up to this sight at our terrace. Same spot (despite the wide space around the house), different positions. Morning grace. 

I tiptoe so as not to wake them up. After all, they must have spent the whole night guarding our home and us from danger. 

Seeing them sleeping soundly, I remember the still popular old proverb that goes back to the 13th century. It actually alludes to waking up a fierce watchdog and causing trouble. 


- leave a situation alone because disturbing it might cause trouble

- do not make a fuss to avert disagreement

- avoid bringing up memories of a bad situation that people have already forgotten

Our mother-and-son dogs, Attorney and Judge, do not mind being awakened. They are the opposite of this proverb. They are wonderfully affectionate and always enjoy a prolonged petting. If anyone in the household wakes them up, they wag their tails and immediately give obvious signals that translate to, “Please, pet me quick!” 

After which, they nap again. 

And then there is our cat, Fiscal. It is always asleep as well and when awakened, meows, begging to be carried by son #3 and taken inside the house for sightseeing.

Why is there so much sleeping these days? 

Why not? Their family (us) is forever at home—lolling about mostly. Unlike in the old days, prior to the coronavirus attack, all humans would be out at work or elsewhere and coming home would bring excessive excitement to our dogs-and-cat welcoming committee. Often, we’d take them out for a walk or let them out with their kind in the neighborhood.  

But the Covid-19 changed all that. 

And so they sleep—for lack of other things to do.   

And so we let sleeping dogs (and cat) lie.   


Awash with Cash

"Poor country." " Developing nation." "Third world." "Republic with poverty rate higher and more persistent than any country in Southeast Asia." 

Those words that economists use to describe our beloved Philippines are devastating. But facts are facts. And so we acknowledge our sorry state of affairs.  

Imagine my shock when I read one issue of last month’s newspaper. It came with a seven-full-page listing of our lawmakers’ salaries and expenses. My advertising mind immediately totaled the cost of the pages—more than P5 million in ad rates. Reading the items, audited and signed by one Isaiash C. Reynoso (OIC – supervising Auditor), I almost had a seizure! We are supposed to be poor.   

But if this is how our lawmakers spend the taxpayers’ money, why, we’re awash with cash!  I wished it were an April Fool's Day joke.   

There are 243 representatives and 24 senators, and not one of them receive an annual salary below P1 million! Their other expenses? 

    • Foreign travel 

    • Local Travel 

    • Contractual consultants 

    • Representation 

    • Chairmanship allowance 

    • Public Affairs fund 

    • Central office staff

    • Equipment, Furniture, and fixtures 

    • Extraordinary and Miscellaneous expenses

    • Meetings and conferences 

    • Supplies and materials

    • Rental of motor vehicles and equipment 

I am bad with figures; I can’t crunch numbers accurately, but common sense tells me that these run into billions of pesos. 

And for what? Only for crafting laws that many of them, especially those who have lost their conscience on the road to perdition, violate anyway (and get away with it). 

With all that cash, I can’t imagine why 44% (World Bank figure) of our population live in shanties without toilets, make-shift homes packed with adults and children suffering from incest, rape, malnutrition, and unhealthy environment. Well, those are why we are still classified as a poor country. 

Words fail me. 

May the Lord of all grace fill our heart with compassion, and rid our life of greed for cash. 

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT) 

Photo credits: top photo; bottom photo 


A Pandemic High

Coinciding with the highest one-day tally of coronavirus cases in the country (almost 10,000) was an equally high level of excitement in our household. 

It was the day son #3 defended his dissertation for Doctor of Juridical Science. It was held online, open to the public, but I decided to avoid watching to preserve my composure. Tony wasn’t vocal (never vocal) about his reason for staying away.  

At our perch in the terrace, we could hear son #3’s voice and the voices of the panel of distinguished justices and college of law deans. It seemed longer than two hours, but as soon as it was over, JR nonchalantly announced, “It went well. I was awarded Magna Cum Laude distinction.”  

“Say that again? Say that again?!” I shrieked. 

Tony and I went into an exceptional high, way above cloud nine, while still nailed to the ground.   

In minutes, the dean of JR’s school uploaded on social media the result of the defense of the paper, "Convergent Streams: The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions, the Magisterium, and Sola Scriptura."  

“What does that mean?” Tony wondered.

“Nobody has to understand,” JR replied with a straight face. “That’s how dissertations should be.”  

He narrated that about the only negative comment he received was, “Some parts are too literary.” 
(JR is a two-time Palanca awardee. I know how difficult it is to abandon one’s love for literature.)  

In the comment thread of the above post came this accolade from one of the panelists:  “Dr. JR, your treatise is far more comprehensive than any thesis some of our seminarians have done in our formation as priests. You contributed not only in the field of civil, but of canon, theology and history as well . . . Your book deserves a space in all seminary libraries in the Philippines.”  

“Ah, so!” Tony remarked, like the light suddenly turned on. “The paper is about how human laws and God’s laws meet.”   

Whatever, I said silently. This mom ignores details when grace suddenly shines through the darkness of a one-year old pandemic.  

“If not for the pandemic, I would never have had the time to finish that paper,” JR said, as though rebuking my thoughts.  

Ulk. That sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke.