Papa: Where did the 2% go?

By Herman M. Lagon

Father’s Day is upon us again, a time to reflect on the dads who shaped us, taught us, and sometimes baffled us. For me, it is a moment to remember my father, the late Rosalio Fuentes Lagon—a short story Sumakwelan poet, multiple-term barangay captain, labor union leader, and accounting executive at the defunct Panay Railways, Inc. He was a no-nonsense, challenging, yet passionate man who only cried out of profound bliss when Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was exiled to Hawaii on February 25, 1986. That was the only time I saw him shed tears, a rare glimpse into his deeply held values.

Growing up with such a father set high standards for me, albeit not explicitly declared but implicitly demanded. I remember his constant questioning of my achievements: Why only second place? Why just the inside page of the school paper? Why not in the front row? Even my Grade 1 report card at 5 years old with a 98% mark was met with a stern “Where did the 2% go?” This relentless drive pushed me to aim higher, sometimes more than I could chew, instilling an insatiable hunger for excellence.

It is funny how these behaviors are passed down through generations. When my then 7-year-old daughter Parvane gleefully showed me her 98% in Grade 1 at the Ateneo, I also instinctively asked, “Where did the 2% go?” Until now, she still remembers this nightmarish “halo-halo treat” of mine with her. It took me years to shift my parenting style from my father’s rigorous methods to something more suited for my Gen Z daughters. My approach now is less about demanding perfection and more about encouraging grit, grace, and gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong; my dad was a great provider and protector, expressing his love through actions rather than words. I never told him before he passed away during my high school years, but I see a lot of him in myself. From him, I learned that integrity is more important than what others think of you. He demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning, constantly listening to the different radio frequencies, writing commentaries and journals, and reading daily newspapers, magazines, and books. He showed me that constant, correct practice makes perfect and that fighting for justice for the marginalized gives life profound meaning.

My father was a proud, disciplinarian, and steadfast man. His strictness was what our generation needed at the time. Though our parenting styles differ, the rigor, resolve, and grit he taught me are qualities I cherish and hope to pass on to my daughters and, maybe someday, to their future kids and, if grace is given, to their future brother, my future son. His legacy lives on in how I navigate fatherhood and life’s challenges.

Fatherhood, much like life, is a journey of growth and adaptation. It is not just about providing but also about slowing down, engaging with our children, and discovering who they are. It is about being present in their world and learning from them, a lesson that resonates deeply with me.

Despite the societal shifts and challenges faced by fathers, including single mothers and alienated dads, their role remains irreplaceable. They contribute to their children’s well-being in often understated but profoundly impactful ways. They provide stability, support, and a unique kind of love that helps shape their children’s futures.

Reflecting on my own Papa, I see a meticulous, gray-haired, upstanding mestizo who balanced his roles with gravitas and strength. He was stern yet fair, demanding yet supportive. His teachings were not always shown through clement words but through acts that give breadth and more depth to supposed abstract concepts. I learned vicariously from him the significance of perseverance, hard work, and standing up for what is right.

For being a father involves more than just being a provider for one’s family. Being a mentor, a role model, and even a disciplinarian who sometimes acts as a part-time comedian and “jack of all trades” is part of the crazy job description. It is about showing up, even when things are complex, and being present for the significant moments, even small ones. Teaching by example and leading with integrity—walking the talk and talking the walk—are both essential components of this.

And so, we invite everyone to take this opportunity to reflect on the principles that our fathers established in us and the lessons that they taught us as we celebrate this special day. Honoring their accomplishments and acknowledging the sacrifices they made is something we are encouraged to do. Because of their impact, our lives continue to be shaped, regardless of whether they are still with us or have passed away.

For those of us who are fathers, whether for biological or other reasons, let us make it our goal to be the best versions of ourselves for the sake of our children. Knowing that we are influencing the future generation, let us embrace both the difficulties and pleasures of being a parent. As we guide them with love, wisdom, and grace, let us be present, engaged, and supportive of them.

And so, in this 115th Father’s Day celebration, we give our snappy 100% salute to all the loving fathers, papas, tatays, dads, dadas, babas, grandpas, lolos, angkongs, uncles, titos, kuyas, manongs, yayos, maninoys, sirs, tita-dads, and single moms out there! This day is a time to honor you for forming our lives in countless ways!


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.