By Manny Piñol

I read this piece posted today by my second child, Josa Bernadette, and I felt a lump in my throat.

This is the same daughter who as a little girl turning 9 told me she wanted nothing for her birthday but for me to quit smoking.

This is the same daughter whose many birthdays and special occassions, along with that of her Ate, Maria Krista, and kid brother, Bernhart Immanuel, I missed because I was busy serving other people.

I never realized that I caused her pain many times in her young life.

She is a doctor now just like her older sister while Imman will soon be pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor of animals.

How I wish I could turn back the hands of time and make up for all of the absences and the shortcomings.

I am sorry my dear child for causing you pain and for longing for my embrace while I was away taking care of other people.

But thank you for being proud of me. I promise you, you will never be ashamed of having a public servant as your father, if only to make up for everything.

Please allow me to share this with those who believe in your fatther and pin their hopes on me for the brighter future of their children.

To the followers of this page, please read this heart-rending message from my beloved daughter, Dr. Josa Bernadette A. Piñol.

Understand her message and learn from it while I wipe my tears.

Letting Go Of Mr. Manny Piñol: A Public Servant's Tale

When I was a kid, I used to wait eagerly at night for Papa to come home. I'd run to the door as fast as my little feet would carry me once I heard the old doorbell's slow tune. He would hug me and my sister, give us a pack of blue Chips Ahoy and a 6-pack of Yakult and we were all set. We would forget that he was ever gone for so long. Of course, that was in Manila, before he ever thought of making a career in politics.

But then 1995 happened and everything changed. It's a feeling I had to get used to. The feeling that I had to give you away to the people of this country.

I hadn't fully realized the gravity of the situation until I saw my first inauguration. I was not used to seeing you be approached by so many people, most of whom were strangers to me. They talked about the projects that you started, how these helped their families get jobs. They talked about their hopes, dreams and fears. They talked about how their lives were changed. Even during the several years you lived as a private citizen from 2010 to 2015, I saw how involved you continued to be with the welfare of the people. I realized that your profession not only required you to help me fulfill my dreams, but to help others fulfill theirs.

Not everything was bright and rosy though; I remember all the lines and wrinkles that formed under your eyes through your long years. I remember the sleepless nights. You would go home to shower and have a quick nap and then you'd go off running into the night. I remember the family occasions you had to miss. I remember the sudden phone calls during dinner which would pull you away for hours. I suddenly got used to seeing your name on my phone, calling me on my birthday. I remember scanning the crowd for you whenever I was on stage, even if my mother had already told me you couldn't make it. I remember the trips canceled because you had a sudden call for help. I remember the pamphlets distributed, listing everything wrong about you. I remember the death threats, and the fact that you bravely face them without batting an eyelash. I remember the radio shows mocking your projects and throwing every issue under the sun. I still remember the times I would tiptoe inside your room, afraid to wake you up because you had just lied down thirty minutes earlier. I remember asking my guardian angel to leave me and fly to you as you went to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi , praying you would come home in one piece. I still remember the time we fought because you insisted on attending Tatay Digong's SONA while stricken with pneumonia.

It's easy to see a public servant who has spent enough time out in the field with the people; they usually have huge eyebags, at least one or two illnesses, have weight gain or weight loss, have fine lines and wrinkles on their face, calluses on their palms, and sunburnt skin due to extensive sun exposure.

Whenever I see Tatay Digong on TV, I would look at his face and see how expressive it was. I loved how every line and curve of his face told the story of the Filipino. It was not a face polished by Belo, nor a face saturated with dermabrasion or glutathione, but the face of a warrior who has had his days in the sun. I look at Papa sometimes and see not only our story as a family, but the story of his adventures all over the country.

I keep forgetting that you are not only my father. You are the father of your department. The people are your children, and I have to accept that my time with you is limited.

It is the unspoken code that the spouses and children of every public servant know; this person does not belong to you anymore.

Once someone pledges to be a public servant, they become a property of the country. An invisible string is formed between their heart and the heart of their people. They belong to every Filipino, both here and abroad. Their task is to listen to their children and help them as much as they can. That is why they were elected. That is their one and only mandate; to become a parent to this nation.

Then it suddenly hit me; maybe the call of public service is innate in a person. Maybe that passion never really leaves someone who is truly willing to serve.

Now, while I watch you on the television running around the country tirelessly, I look at you and beam with pride as I see you continue to grow into a better father than yesterday. You can harp on and on about how proud you are of your children, but we will always be the prouder one.

Although I will always miss the Chips Ahoy and Yakult days, I know there will be better days to come. I can only sit in excitement as I watch the history of our country unfold with Tatay Digong as our leader and his merry band of cabinet members.

So to every wife, husband, daughter and son of a public servant,

Let them go.
Let them lead.
Let them serve.

That was what they were born to do. All we can do is provide a safe haven for them to fly home to.

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