This year, Fathers’ Day falls on June 18. To commemorate this special day, my Sunday features leading up to the day will mostly be about fathers. I was supposed to share this story last Sunday, but unfortunately ended up being strapped for time. I’ve had this on my mind for awhile though, because Tuwing Sabado is definitely the kind of children’s story I think parents aiming to teach their children compassion would like to hear about.
Tuwing Sabado is a bilingual Filipino-English book, and means every Saturday in Tagalog. Tuwing Sabado, the narrator and his mom get ready to visit his father. On this special day, everything else is put on hold to prepare for the journey to his father’s (hopefully temporary) home.
His father is extra special, because he seems to be a new character with every visit. One time he was a magician. Another time he was a storyteller. Sometimes even a teacher! One Christmas, he discovered his father was also a sculptor because he could create animals out of tin cans. The narrator’s classmates were so jealous. The narrator’s new “toys” were items you won’t find anywhere, even at the malls. Naturally, this kid beamed with pride!
Unfortunately, some days he gets hit with the reality that his situation is nothing to be proud of. After coming home from his visits to his father, his neighbors grab the opportunity to tease him relentlessly. “Jailbird, jailbird!” they gawk, taunting him until he feels like exploding. But whenever he tells his parents about these bouts, his parents simply tell him to ignore them.
And he does… or tries to anyway. Because none of his neighbors know his father like he does.
“How many more Saturdays?” he often asks his Dad. The answer comes in the form of warm arms enclosing him in an embrace against the cold steel separating them.
And every Saturday night, the young boy looks up at the stars and makes a wish.
He wishes for Saturday to come sooner.
I’ve been very fascinated lately with children’s books from the Philippines because of how much they are based on real life situations back home. The Philippine-based online newspaper Rappler shares that “an estimated 10.5 million Filipino families consider themselves poor”. And in the Philippines, you need to work extra hard to get out of poverty. For women, job options include becoming a helper or a nanny (like in Yaya Niya, Nanay Ko) or laundresses or laundrywomen (like in Kayamanan ni Nanay).
This means they are forced to find alternate options to provide for their families. In Yaya Niya, Nanay Ko, the mom becomes someone else’s nanny and has only come home three times in the last five years, and I would not be surprised if I learned that it was a true story. The second mom I earlier mentioned is a laundress or a laundry woman, a common job amongst poorer Filipino women. For men, many also turn to jobs such as construction workers and boys (all-around house helper), although some choose the riskier option through crimes, which is probably what happened in this story.
As a mom, I was quite naturally also drawn to the mother in the story. Every week she diligently brings her son to see his father even if it most likely also hurts her reputation. Oh I bet people were judging her for it. But what does she do? She still does what she believes to be right. It also shows me that the husband must be a good person, otherwise why expose her son to an evil man?
I also have to admit, the father’s character amazes me. I’ve only heard stories of how prison breaks people. And yet here is a story of both son and father motivated by each other, week after week, and still growing through their love for each other. Every week the father is motivated to be something new for his son. To teach him something. To still be a father to him.
And his son? Oh his son adores him. He is quite obviously his son’s hero, which is why this whole story is quite heartbreaking. It’s a story many children must be living through, and might also be suffering for.
Books are a great means to teach our children good character. Through this story I hope to teach my children to be more sensitive to others’ situation. This is definitely one of those books I’d like to hold on to for a long time.
For those who are based in the Philippines, I bought this book from National Bookstore, but it’s also available at Pumple Pie’s online store.
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Thank you for reading! 🙂