This is an op-ed, I wrote for The Times 7 years ago… it rings truer today. I was a little miffed that there were a ton of op-eds about Mother’s Day that year and none about Father’s Day, so I stepped up. Pops is my hero and one day I hope I can be half the man he is. Happy Father’s Day to all the Poppas out there. Obviously his name is not Pops Panda, but since I’m trying to do without using full names on this blog I’m calling him Pops Panda… enjoy. The music video is Cat Stevens’ (Yusuf Islam) “Father and Son,” one of our favorite karaoke songs.
– Penning Panda
The King of Myself, the Son of my Hero
June 14, 2003
Even at the slightest mention of “Pops Panda,” they always smile. Whenever I tell a story about him, the general response is “I love Pops Panda” or “I love your dad.”
Although I’ve met many people and read many books, none has taught me more than my father. He has lived his life simply and fully.
When giving me advice, critiques or encouragement, his words are simple and direct. My mistakes he always turned into lessons. The greatest piece of advice he has given me I would have known, but it could be stated only in my father’s words, “You are the king of yourself.”
Reflecting on my generation, we often lack people to look up to. I’ve never had that problem. Even after I passed my dad in height, I still looked up to his achievements, actions and words.
My father was my first coach, from learning how to walk to his advice on the soccer field. During my swim meets, my teammates and even my competitors would flock around the sharply dressed official, Pops Panda. Whenever my father could not attend my meets, swimmers and parents alike would ask, “Where’s Pops Panda?” This has made me realize that I am not much without my father.
Invariably, my father would sacrifice his time to be there for me at my highest points, but more so at the lowest points in life.
My father sacrificed and worked hard for me before I was even born. He was born and raised in the Philippines. Although my dad is humble about his hardships, his childhood stories continue to motivate me.
My father knew at a young age that in order for his future to be bright, he had to work hard. He found the United States Navy as the force that would lead him to that bright future.
Into my 21st year of life, I am only beginning to realize that my father’s hard work has enabled me to create a bright future in the greatest country on Earth.
My dad takes great pride in his life, but he takes even greater pride in mine. The moments that bring a smile to my father’s face often come when he tells me about the interest his peers have in me. Many times, self pride comes from our peers, and as my peers respect my dad it is only intensified by their respect of me.
Doggedly, my generation has been criticized for our lack of vision for the future. The critics can’t be blamed, with the shoes of the fathers that walked before us. My future can’t be as bright without a man who has continued to live his life to the fullest.
My dad is not a war hero, pro athlete, and his name is not on billboards. Rather, my dad is just that, my dad, living life as Pops Panda.
Learning from him, I’ve grown to respect that trait and try to do the same in my own life. In an age where image is almost everything, my father has taught me that being myself is my greatest asset. No matter what, the one thing you will always have is yourself.
As I am finishing my collegiate studies and my future is not yet certain, I realize fully that my greatest possession is myself.
However, I will never be alone. No matter what, my father is not only with me, but I am a manifestation of my father. I am an only child, yet my dad has not ever made me feel alone.
During my growth into a man, I thank my father for everything, and his wisdom will continue to guide me. I am grateful for all that he is and for all that I have grown up to be.
To all the sons and daughters lucky enough be around their dads, take this day and smile to your father. My bet is you will see your reflection.