Sunday, April 2, 2017

Aloha 'oe, Daddy

My dad, Cesar Diapues Hiponia, died on Sunday, March 26, 2017. He was born on November 24, 1938 — the same year as Superman, as he was fond of saying. Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease about a year ago, so we all knew his last day would come sooner rather than later. It did not make the day any easier to bear. I'm sure I will be awash in waves of grief for weeks, months, years...

Yesterday, my family and I bid him farewell. It's hard to capture in a three-minute speech everything my father was to me, but here is what I said to a chapel full of family and friends who loved my dad.

When I was about six or seven years old, my dad got a chance to travel to Europe for business. Somewhere on one of these poster boards, there’s a grainy photo of him wearing a winter coat, posing in front of the Vatican. I remember thinking how novel and exotic it was to wear a coat. Daddy looked so cool — like an American in the movies!

Like an American in the movies!
 He brought home the most wonderful pasalubong for me from that trip — a collection of dolls, one from each city he had visited. Each doll was dressed in national costume, and had different-colored skin, hair, and eyes than me. Through those dolls, my dad was showing me that there’s a world outside the Philippines, full of different, beautiful people.

That pasalubong sparked a lifelong wanderlust, and I became determined to travel to the places my dad described in his stories. Somewhere in my photo albums, there’s a photo of me wearing a winter coat, posing in front of the Vatican. I don’t look as cool as my dad did in his photo.

I miss swapping travel stories with my dad. I miss talking with him about our mutual aloha for Hawai'i and dreaming about a family reunion on Moloka’i. I miss seeing him sprawled on the floor with his grandkids, playing with them, talking with them, and really listening to them. I miss his wide, toothy grin. That grin said, “I’m getting away with something.”

Totally getting away with something.
I miss arguing with him about politics and the state of the world. Dad and I were both Sagittarius, born in the year of the Tiger, just 36 years apart. And when two fire signs argue, honey, it is a FIGHT! But even when we argued, I got the sense that he was trying to learn something, to figure out how he could become a better person from this fight, from any fight.

I’d like to think I got that same drive to become a better person. My dad thought deeply about things, and almost until the end of his life, he was still learning and growing. Much of who I am is a reflection of my dad. I inherited his adventurous wanderlust, his insatiable curiosity, his ambitious determination, and his irreverent sense of humor.

When someone we love dies, our natural coping instinct is to elevate our beloved to sainthood. My dad was a lot of things, but he was no saint. Nah.

I mean, just look at this cool cat. 
My dad was a force of nature. He had the energy of a Signal 5 typhoon, the warmth of the sun over Manila Bay, and the hidden depth of the Pacific Ocean. He laughed and learned and loved and lived out loud, inviting the entire world into his big, open heart.

Thank you, Daddy, for helping to bring me into this world, showing me how wide and wonderful it is, and encouraging me to go out into it. I will strive to keep my heart as open as yours was. I will keep laughing, learning, loving, and living out loud. Maybe someday, I will grow up to be just like you. I love you. 

Aloha 'oe, Daddy. Until we meet again...