Friday, October 23, 2009

Geeks: You’ll not have my daughter 
 (By En-Lai Yeoh

One thing I love about our magazine is that we get to have daddy contributors on a regular basis. I've had really cool fathers write for our HIP Daddy section (amazing writers like Red Constantino, Scott Garceau (oh wait, he wrote for our Shooting From The Hip section), Myke Santos, Ramil Digal Gulle and poet Joel Toledo); for October we had the privilege of having En-Lai Yeoh, a deskman for Dow Jones Newswires and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, write about his little girl, Sophie.
I know En-Lai on a gchat/beer-or-two-when-he's-in-Manila kinda basis, and have always thought of him as a smart, straight, no-nonsense kind of guy, but I never knew how tender he could be toward his daughter. This piece brought a little lump to my throat. Just a little. Heehee. And reading something not-hardcore-news by En-Lai was an awesome treat, too.

Three years ago, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Ex-girlfriends, and even the news, were much harder to track down and weren’t a mere mouse click away.
Back then, at 33, I thought I had it all mapped out. Laura Fygi. Lechon. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I knew what I wanted, what I believed in, who my friends were, where our next dive trip would be. Then, she arrived.
As much planning as Jemie and I did, I don’t think we were ever prepared for Sophie. We bought tons of books, we surfed the Net day and night looking for the right items. We bought and bought. Preparation was the key, we said. Right.
She was born in May 2006, a typhoon in a sea of predictability. I don’t think I ever did attempt to run away from the storm, but I sought it. Three years on, I am a proud father who just can’t get enough of her. It’s because of her that I’m no longer clinging on to the past.
From the day she was born, I plotted ways to impart my own version of right and wrong to her, as she does when she feels like its time for ice cream. I felt it was my duty because I’ve seen right and wrong happen right before me. I’ve seen suffering, I knew what extremists were like. How destructive extreme weather can be. Yeah, it’s up to me.
As I write this, a dear friend and former colleague lies in a Dubai hospital bed, a victim of yet more violence in Afghanistan. Andi, my thoughts go out to you. You’re one of the best and I miss working with you. Still, I don’t know if I can go back to what I was and I don’t mind being mostly desk-bound these days, which leaves me more time for home—and Sophie. It’s where I’d rather be anyway.
I’d introduce her to the coolest authors, politicians who defined my generation, music, movies. That would set her up for life, I thought. She’d know things that other kids won’t. She’d understand suffering, and count her blessings. She’d know why she should be left-leaning. Set for life? You betcha.
But did knowing all that prepare me for life’s biggest challenge? Probably not. Even if it did, it took place at a different time, with different people and in a different generation.
Those who defined my generation (“X”) are beginning to go to better places. Michael Jackson, Cory Aquino, John Hughes are among those who have recently left us. As I approach 40, I’m pretty sure a few more I grew up admiring or reading about will pass on. The ’80s and ’90s will soon be a distant memory. Retro is me.
Back then, we didn’t know what globalization was or even begin to understand its concept. The Internet was barely in its infancy and to travel, visas were a must and no flight was cheap. The mobile phone was but a dream and even then, growing up, holding onto a clunker was something to be proud of.
We marveled at technology. Owning a fax machine was then a luxury. Windows 98 was so 21st century, and upgrades were expensive, therefore we looked at pirated software. Cellphones, too, were a big budget item, and seeing a friend whip out a new model was like, wow. Those were my battles with technology back then.
Ahhh, the good old days.
These days, I am humbled by Sophie’s ability to digest ( «Daddy, Barney said you have to share.»). Humbled by her ability to work a mouse when we’re on the Net (“Daddy, I know. Let me press.”). Humbled by her savvy consumerism at shopping malls (“But Mommy, we’re customers.”).
I await the day she shies away from us, and spends more time in school, with her mates, on the computer and texting her friends. It appears inevitable. I guess we’ll just have to provide her more opportunities to be outdoors, and even then, that brings peril as she grows.
It’s only a matter of time before she’ll “add” me or when I see her “comment” on her page about how uncool Daddy was at the school today. Whoa, maybe Facebook won’t even be around in the near future and she’d be on some other super-connected platform. Who knows, maybe Facebook will end up like the Friendster of today.
She’ll probably ask, and receive, her first cellphone about two decades before I first did. As much as I’d like to say no, a cellphone has become somewhat of a necessity, as has a computer. My guess is she may ask for both a pink laptop and BlackBerry with a pinkish hue.
So, we’ll have to get her wired up. Adjust. Rethink. Forget. Change. Yes, we can.
What then can I pass down to my daughter? Will I even leave a lasting impression on her? Will she know everything she needs to know about Daddy from Googling me or sifting through my Facebook profile? I wish I knew.
All I know is that I have to try and stay relevant. I’ll just have to keep on believing that I’ve left more of an impression on Sophie than Barney or Dora the Explorer or the educational games she now plays with me on the computer. That’s my technological challenge now—to stay one step ahead of the gazillion software engineers, toy designers, and Playhouse Disney scriptwriters hankering for my daughter’s attention.
I will defeat you, Pixar. The same goes for you, Still, it doesn’t mean we can’t be Facebook buddies.

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