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    My father doesn't tell me about a lot of things. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Saan ka na?”

    Pauwi na.”

    And that’s it. If you looked at my text history with my old man, 90% of it would consist of this and its variations. He’d ask where I am; I’d answer truthfully. He wouldn’t reply, he wouldn’t tell me to hurry up — even if it were an unacceptable time of the night for me to be out on the streets of the Philippines.

    He wouldn’t tell me he’s worried, or mad, or that I should come home earlier next time. Instead, he’d wait in front of the supermarket where I’d get off the bus, ready to fetch me so I wouldn’t have to ride with dubious tricycle drivers to enter our subdivision.

    In the car ride home, I’d kiss him on the cheek, right above where he once had stitches from an operation to remove a benign tumor a few years ago. He’d drop his trademark “Tsk!” I’d know he’s not actually mad. I’d laugh and he’d make a witty comment about how I made my mom worry. I’d laugh even more.

    All my life, the conversations I’ve had with my dad have been like our texts: short, full of one-liners. We've never had heart-to-heart talks like those in teenage rom-coms. In fact, I wouldn’t run out of fingers counting how many actual conversations we’ve had.

    Back in college, I had a hard time choosing a major. I was afraid he’d be upset if I didn’t choose the one he wanted for me. So instead of opening up about it at dinner, I texted him for advice. He replied with the best he could: “It’s up to you.” We didn’t talk about it when I came home for the weekend. As far as I knew, that was it.

    We don’t talk about boys, or studies, or plans for the future. Just the usual “Tsk!” And jokes. More laughter.

    He never told me he loves me. He’s never wished me a happy birthday. I’d give him personalized cards for Father’s Day. He’d just smile without saying thanks. Dads aren’t supposed to be this way, I thought. It always seemed like it was my mom’s job to put his affection into words. Even when he should say something, he’s been silent.

    Having grown up the eldest of nine siblings, my father has a quiet but stern personality. Striking up a casual conversation with him can be a challenge. The first boyfriend I brought home is probably still scared of him, even now that we’ve been broken up for six years. When I was a kid, getting his permission to go to a sleepover or even have a day out with friends would require a lot of courage and/or tears from all the begging. Mostly the latter.

    This isn’t a declaration of frustration over some sort of daddy issue (Barney Stinson would surely be disappointed), because that’d be the last thing I’d have with my dad. That, and a bottle of Lambanog, perhaps.

    I don’t know whether it’s his personality, my perpetual awkwardness when I’m around him, or simply that he's always been a man of few words that makes conversations between us scarce. All I know is that despite this, I have never, in all my 22 years, felt any lack of love and compassion from the man I’m proud to call my father.

    He never said he was proud of me when I told him my undergraduate thesis got approved for binding. That after all the hard work, I’d be graduating from the University of the Philippines on time. But I was shocked when his officemates had congratulated me at a company event a few weeks before I marched with my Sablay.

    He didn’t say a word when I told him I got a job offer at a prestigious media network. I thought he was too swamped with his own job as a regional sales manager to care about mine. But I caught him reading the articles with my bylines during the nights when I thought he was too busy — with his laptop and receipts and all sorts of papers scattered on the dinner table.

    He'd never say a word or give a compliment when I’d be busy working on my latest painting. But I was pleasantly surprised when he came home one night and said one of his colleagues wanted to commission art from me.

    He didn’t seem impressed when I told him I signed a contract to freelance with BuzzFeed Philippines. But I’d hear him talk about my posts I’ve never told him about. One night, he asked me to bookmark my BuzzFeed page on his iPad. He never told me why, but that’s how I knew.

    That’s how I know he is proud of me.

    He never called my mom any term of endearment. I’ve never even heard him say her name. But I see him cooking porridge for her and taking over the household chores whenever her migraine attacks. I see him working ungodly hours so he can give his family a hassle-free life.

    He’s never mentioned his siblings. But I’ve heard stories about how he sent them to college as soon as he got his first job. I even saw him paying for his sister-in-law’s college education while he kept his own two kids in school.

    He never told us stories about his life with his own parents. But my mother told me how she and my father, with his encouragement, spent the money they received from their wedding to pay for my grandfather’s eye operation. I was there when he shelled out a huge chunk of his earnings to help build a house for my grandparents, all while we lived in a small rented apartment.

    I heard him curse for the first time when I was 8 years old. I was petrified because he hadn't even raised his voice when he found out my brother and I accidentally scratched the neighbor’s car. I was so used to him keeping his thoughts to himself — yet there he was, lashing out at someone over the phone that summer afternoon. I later found out that on the other line was my aunt’s ex-boyfriend, who'd threatened her when she tried to break up with him.

    I saw him resuscitating his mother-in-law back to life when her heart stopped for no reason. Together with my brother and cousins, we were sent into one bedroom while the grown-ups panicked in the other. The door was ajar and I caught a glimpse of my father pounding on my grandmother’s chest. He was the only calm one — or if he wasn’t, he showed no signs of it. My grandmother lived another 10 years after that.

    My old man kept mum about the sacrifices he’d made as the kuya of the family. But I was put to tears when my grandfather, on his death bed, told his eight younger children how everything they have now, they owe to their kuya, who single-handedly led them to a better life. My father never commented on my grandfather’s last words, but that’s how I knew.

    That’s how I know he cares about his family more than anything in the world.

    He doesn’t confide to me about his feelings. But it’s evident he chooses not to dwell on things that inflict pain and sadness. I see how he tackles unfortunate situations and ungrateful people by choosing to be silent and do what he does best: being kind. He never told me much about hurt, but that’s how I know.

    That’s how I know how to be a better person, even if the situation calls for you to be otherwise.

    I look at the people who can be open with their fathers. I wonder what it would be like to have a dad I could easily talk to. And then I look at my old man and I can’t help but smile. Sure, I may have lived as a quasi-daddy’s girl all my life. But every time I hug his beer belly, I feel like I’m in the safest place — a place where we don’t need words to feel loved. Because if his silence means listening, diligence, and compassion, then I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    My father didn’t tell me about a lot of things. I also never asked. But somehow, somewhere along the way of not asking how each other’s day was or how we felt about certain things, I came to know. I know he wants me to grow up to be just as kind as he is. I know that he loves me and his family no matter what.

    I know. Even if he doesn’t say so. Even if there are no words to prove it.