Dear Mr. Uyboco,
I just came across your newspaper column and was able to look at your website for past articles. You made me very curious because I used to know your father. I am sorry for your loss. I was able to read your eulogy to him. Anyway, I was wondering how come you turned about-face on what your father believed? I knew him to be very active in church and religious organizations. Don’t you feel that you are somehow disrespecting his memory or legacy as well as that of your family whom I know are still well-known in Christian ministry?
I am not judging you or condemning you but I am sincerely wondering. Don’t you think your dad is sad looking at you here and hoping you will open your heart and join him someday instead of continuing on the “path of destruction?”
Please do not publish my name. Thank you.
Dear Anonymous writer,
Thank you for your email, and please be assured that I do not take offense at your statements. I understand where you’re coming from and the context with which you are asking your questions. With that being said, I hope you will forgive me if I offend you by answering frankly. It is not my intention to offend but to simply be honest about how I feel, and if you find that offensive, well, I can’t do anything about it anymore.
You have to understand that although my father could be quite authoritative and a harsh disciplinarian, he was also surprisingly willing to listen to my ideas and he respected my freedom of choice (not very typical of a Chinese father of his generation). When I was very young, I was coerced to take Chinese tutorial lessons on Saturdays (because I didn’t study in a Chinese school), and also piano lessons (but the latter I volunteered to do because my friend was also taking lessons).
After some time, I didn’t feel that either was benefitting me and that I was just wasting away my Saturday mornings. I couldn’t bear the thought of missing so many episodes of the Superfriends, Space Ghost, Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget and so on. Anyway, I tried talking to my dad to stop and at first he wouldn’t hear of it. But later, he relented and said he didn’t want to force me to do those things but just thought that they would be useful for me someday. So he gave me a week to think things through and to give him my decision after that.
So I thought things through and after a week told him that I still wanted to quit. And he respected that.
It has been the same for many bigger decisions I had to make in my life as I grew older. When I wanted to take computer lessons in the summer, he supported me. When I wanted to study in Manila for college, he supported me as well. He made me decide on what to major and what I would like to do after that. I bluntly told him then that I didn’t want to join the family business, and he said, fine, I’m not forcing you to anyway — which was again, not very typical of a Chinese father.
Now why am I telling you all this?
Well, perhaps to show you that if my father were alive, I’m not sure if he would take what I am doing as shameful or disrespecting him. I’m quite certain that we could have a decent conversation about it. What would be more shameful or disrespectful would be if I was a bum, or engaged in criminal activity, or cheat on my wife, and so on.
Our religious (or irreligious) beliefs are our own, shaped by what we experience and by how we think and process ideas. And yes, parents can and are great influencers in this regard, but we should never think that abandoning what our parents believe is any sort of disrespect. This does not make any sense. I could just as easily accuse my grandfather of disrespecting my great-grandfather for abandoning his Buddhist beliefs. And I can accuse my Buddhist ancestor for abandoning whatever traditional Chinese deity in favor of Buddhism, and so on.
Or does it only become disrespectful when one’s beliefs do not conform to the norm of one’s social circles? I hope you see the inherent bias in this line of questioning.
Regarding my dad looking down at me with sadness — that is your own interpretation and imagination at work. How do you know that he is indeed looking at me with sadness? For all you know, he might be poking an elbow at God saying, “See? That’s my boy. I’m proud of him. Thanks for giving him a good head on his shoulders that he actually uses instead of just following the crowd or swallowing whatever the preacher tells him.”
And lastly, if my earthly father can respect and understand my decisions and free choice, why does this heavenly father not seem to do so? He has to compel people to love and accept him on the threat of eternal damnation.
That is not an act of love but of terrorism.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.