For Marvin


I asked my dad if he recalled what his father said to him before he left home to study in the city. He paused thoughtfully and then chuckling in sudden recognition and amusement repeated the saying: “Nangamung-a.”

“It is up to you.”

When he left home to study at Ateneo de Manila he felt very lonely and homesick. He is the oldest male out of the seven children his mother and father raised. I can imagine the pressure he may have felt to succeed and the world he dropped into was furthest from the insular comforts of where he came. Being a representative of his family with roots in the Ifugao tradition his kind were once looked upon as subhuman. It was a challenge he would be more than equal in overcoming; but not without trial.

He would tell me on more than one occasion about his struggle with self doubt. The most engaging to me was before he first took the bar examination. A fellow student was praying earnestly for assistance and success. In a moment of false pride and confidence he chided the schoolmate for his piety believing he would be better off studying than to place himself in supplication.

My dad did not pass the bar.

In his embarrassment and shame he confessed to a professor that he wanted to go home and that he did not want to go through the experience only to fail once again. The professor encouraged him to continue.

To try again.

How was he able to summon up the courage to face his adversity?

He studied harder. And, he prayed.

To me praying is not the use of words in order to request fulfilment for one’s desires or the mitigation or elimination of misfortune. It is the thoughtful contemplation of the soul, the communication with and resultant echo of wisdom.

I asked him about humility. He said humility is the act of putting oneself in the position “to understand” another. To go under and stand in the light of God. He looked at me his eyes bright. Tired and bright.


His hearing is almost gone, but the same sentiment and loving kindness I could see his father conveyed to him was passed to me also before I married. It is a call to profound wisdom. A patience with oneself that is a touchstone to what I am convinced is a great Ifugao oral tradition.

“Nangamung-a,” my son.

(With corrections kindly provided by Dad)