Eulogy for my Father

Alfredo Templonuevo Yano
(November 23, 1930 – December 14, 2011)

Eulogy Dec 19, 2011

My mother wanted me to tell you my father’s story.

He was born in Manila, Philippines and grew up during the Japanese occupation in World War II. After the war, he graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, then married my mother 53 years ago this Christmas. They had five children.

My father was a reluctant immigrant. When in 1965 America liberalized its immigration policy and allowed more non-Europeans to come to the country, my father “Tatay” could have gone then.

But he was a homebody and did not want to leave his family.

Martial law was declared in the Philippines in 1972, which started a decline in his employment security. So he made a difficult decision to leave the Philippines to go to America in 1974. He made the sacrifice for his family, to find a better life for his wife and five children.

* * *

1974 to 1975 was a difficult year for my father.

It was a year of looking for jobs in Philadelphia, then New York.

It was a year of going from building to building with his architectural portfolio, getting short-term drafting jobs and then multiple layoffs.

It was a year of sharing cramped living spaces with other fellow Filipino immigrants, four in a one bedroom apartment, sleeping on couches.

It was a year of trying his luck and a year of tears without his wife and kids.

But he persisted with support of relatives and advice from friends. He finally found stable work in Connecticut and petitioned to bring his family to the US in 1975.

After that it was just icing on the cake for us, especially his children. There was abundant food, better housing and amazing opportunities. These were the gifts of a reluctant immigrant, who finally found steady work at Pfizer, where he retired in 1992.

* * *

My father was a modest man but quietly proud of his children and their spouses and their children. He made it all happen for us, for my mom, my brothers and sisters, for my nieces and nephews.

We were given gifts of the great American life while being imbued with Filipino values: of loving quietly but deeply, of doing all for family, of sharing and sacrificing for others.

From many of his gifts, I value these I received from my father’s year of solitude and sacrifice in America:

• The Public Library in New London and Yale University which fed my intellectual interest and exploration

• The freedom of moving around and looking and finding opportunities in this wonderful country, from Connecticut to Massachusetts to Idaho and to Washington state

• Loving in the form of action and not of mere words

• Seriousness of duty and responsibility and deep and intense devotion for spouses and children

* * *

My father was not a literary minded person but because of his sacrifice, his second son was able to indulge in such impractical vices as studying art, reading poetry and literature.

Here’s my final impractical gift to a practical man: a pearl from literature that captured him and other immigrant fathers.

Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian American wrote the short story “Third and Final Continent” about a Bengali man who goes from India to England to America, experiencing the wonders and surprises of a transient life. This is his message to his son:

In my son’s eyes I see the ambition that had first hurled me across the world…
Whenever he is discouraged, I tell him that if I can survive on three continents, then there is no obstacle he cannot conquer. While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have travelled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

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