It’s been five weeks since I last wrote you a letter. I’m sorry! I know I have no excuse. The world is spinning too fast, and a lot of things have already happened in the past month — both to you and to me. I like to congratulate you for finding a new job that is exactly aligned with your talents, hobby, and passion. That’s great! That job will never bore you.
In the mean time, I want you to cry. No, not that I really want you to cry. Actually, what I want is for you to watch the 2009 movie, “Hachiko — A Dog’s Tale.” For surely you will cry. I did when I watched it. Hachiko is a remarkable story of undying loyalty — one that is extremely rare to find among humans.
Dogs are incredibly loyal creatures. Once you create a bond with them, they will never break it. And if you do break that bond, they will remain your friend and keep their loyalty intact. Their body dies first before their loyalty. I learned it when I was five years old.
Forty Years Ago
We had a big dog named Boojie. It was my father’s personal pet, companion, protector, and friend when he was still in the army. We were in an area where rebels constantly battled with the army. So my father trained Boojie to protect not only him but also us: me, my mom, and my little sister, because he was always away — in the battle front line.
Boojie was an intelligent guard dog. I remember how amazed I was to see it following commands from my dad. When my dad tapped a table twice, Boojie would jump over that table. It would sit when my dad said so. And when my dad made a gesture to attack someone, Boogie would surely attack that someone.
One common experience among soldiers in the 70’s, was the reassignment of duties. One day, my dad surprised us that he was just reassigned back to the country’s main island, more than one thousand three hundred kilometers away from where we were at that time. And we had to move immediately. Since the only two options to travel was by plane or by ship, and dogs have their own fare, not to mention the clearances required to process to transport them, my father’s initial decision was to leave the dog. So we left Boojie alone.
But Boojie didn’t agree with the decision. He followed us as we travelled to the city from that remote mountainous area. My dad was tough. And I knew, he was trying to be tough that time as he was driving the old rugged car looking at the side and rear mirrors from time to time to check whether Boojie had given up following us.
Boojie steadfastly followed us for more than two hours, running in full speed in that very long and very rough road going to the city proper. It was my father who gave up. His toughness was no match to Boojie’s persistence; his strong heart was weaker than his dog’s loyalty.
He stopped the car and let Boojie come in. When I noticed its tongue to be unusually longer, I asked mom why. “Boojies has been running for two hours and he never stopped even though he’s very tired. He wants to come with us.” she answered me. My short 5-year-old arms weren’t enough as I embraced Boojie until we reached the dock.
In short, Boojie traveled with us in the ship back to the country’s capital.
Upon arrival, we went straight to my mom’s parents house and settled there for a couple of days. Then we traveled to my dad’s home to another province just to visit them. When we came back to my mom’s home four days later, Boojie was dead. My grandma told us that, “He won’t eat anything. I think he was so lonely. No matter what we did, he just kept on ignoring us. Maybe he thought you left him here. He just died yesterday.”
Almost forty years have passed, and I still remember the emotion that succumbed us all that moment. My mom cried. I did too.
Remember the first time I took you from your mom, to live with me? You were still in your fifth grade. When we arrived in your would be “new home,” I embraced you and said, “I missed you son!”
Then unexpectedly, you asked me a very innocent question, “What is ‘miss’ papa?” Apparently your young mind was not yet familiar with the concept of “missing a person.” I thought maybe because you haven’t experienced yet to have a bond with someone. I was physically away from you, your mom was physically present but wasn’t caring enough for you. Maybe you didn’t know how it felt to be endeared by someone.
So I began a series of projects. First I bonded with you by being a friend more than a father at the time. Then I gradually gave you home duties that are solely yours so you would learn how to be responsible to what was expected of you. Years later, I taught you to grow plants and take care of them. Then finally, I inspired you to grow animals. First, the hamster, then the pigeons, then finally the dogs.
Before you went back to your mother, I noticed you have already learned how to bond with your beautiful dogs and cats. That’s a great thing son. That’s wonderful!
All those years, what I really taught you was the power of friendship. Because true friendship will always breed loyalty — the one thing that is so rare in our modern time, the one Hachiko demonstrated in the movie, the one Boojie taught me forty years ago.
Loyalty is so rare now, perhaps because people have forgotten how to become a good friend, a true friend, a trustworthy friend. They forgot that loyalty grows from true friendship alone.
My son, you are now becoming a father. It is no joke. You are not just growing a plant or a dog or a cat anymore. You will be growing another human being — another person just like you and me, with own body, heart, mind, and spirit. You will be growing someone who will be your legacy, and yet free to choose his own path. The one great way to do that is by being his dad — a father and friend rolled into one.
Now go, take a rest, and watch the movie. Learn as much as you can. Enjoy it!
I love you always son!
God bless you!