To An Unknown Dad: Nestor de Villa

Nestor de Villa 1928 - 2004
Nestor de Villa 1928 - 2004

A Makeshift Monument To My Missing Father

There’s an account in the book of Acts where we find the apostle Paul anxiously awaiting his companions in the city of Athens.[i] We are told that he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. As he ventured further into this idolatrous locale, he looked carefully at the objects of their worship and found among them a peculiar altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown God.’

If the apostle Paul were to enter the inner museum of my mind, walk around and look carefully through the “Hall of Father Figures,” he would have found an altar with this inscription: “To an unknown Dad.” Fearful of offending my father by failing to give him due recognition, I raised up this makeshift monument out of loyalty to cover up for his missing role in my life. After all, Dad was the breadwinner of the family who provided the food on the table and a roof over our heads. Although our father-and-son relationship was sacrificed, I was always made to assume that it was for a nobler cause. In our slice of society, financial stability far outweighed paternal intimacy.


An Extra At Home

Virtually unknown to his children, my father was well known to his admiring fans. Nestor de Villa[ii] was the original Philippine Idol. Since Dad happened to be a very popular movie actor and television personality in the Philippines, his life became public property in the 1950s and has remained that way ever since. Due to the demands of the entertainment world, my father’s schedule was booked solid. It afforded him little time for family life. In fact, much of my time spent with Dad was in front of our television set watching his movie reruns and prime time variety shows. Like one of his many admirers, I didn’t know him but knew of him.

I saw my father as a stranger in my mother’s house. While I was up early for breakfast, Dad would drag his feet into the kitchen looking haggard with a stubby chin in dire need of a shave. His eyes were bloodshot. And he couldn’t shake off his moody attitude. Back again from an all-night film shoot, he practically slept the whole day. When we got back from school, I remember Mom cautioning us to remain extra quiet for the rest of the afternoon because Dad was fast asleep. At sunset, my father would head right back to the studio. Other times, location shootings would take him out-of-town for days or even months.

Due to the nature of my father’s work, my mother became his appointed proxy. Mom wore the pants in the family. She was always there for us. How proud she was of her children. She really raised us up single-handedly. Mom kept to the challenging task with no complaints or excuses. She was always available and ever reliable: a true comforter and confidant. There’s an old Jewish saying, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore He made mothers.” Thank God for Mom.

Dad received top billing in his industry. While he played the lead role in his films, he was just another extra at home. He always seemed to be missing on the set when the camera of real life would roll on my significant moments. His just “being there” would have meant so much to me. There were many crucial periods when I needed to see his physical presence giving me moral support and encouragement. Dad would have jumped for joy had he seen his son score that decisive goal in the junior high soccer match or walked on air had he seen his son graduate from college with honors. But Dad was permanently distracted. He always had too much on his plate. The late songwriter and musician, Harry Chapin, penned the lyrics of this popular song entitled Cats in the Cradle that hits home: “When you comin’ home, dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.”[iii]


A Gracious Do-Over

I didn’t know it at the time but this little boy had a hole in his heart that only a father could fill—and as the years went by that emptiness deepened. I tried as best as I could to fill up that aching void with my father’s approval. I didn’t realize it then but Dad was also caught in the limelight as he continually sought the approval of his many fans and admirers. I felt left out in the shadow of his success and consoled myself with that all-too-common cliché: “Sorry kid, that’s showbiz!”

The stage light started to fade on my father’s show business career as he entered his mid-seventies. Through it all, he made many acquaintances but very few honest-to-goodness friends—people he could truly confide in. He almost always instinctively distanced himself from those who really cared for him. I personally found it difficult, almost awkward, to get intimate with him. Maybe I’ve become calloused from the pain of not having him around when I needed him most. Learning to live without a “father figure” all these years worked against me. My attempt to recapture a long lost relationship has proven to be somewhat futile. It felt like entering a familiar hurt that was once buried and long forgotten. At this junction, I have deliberately copped out and refused to risk our “comfortable” relationship at the expense of experiencing true intimacy.

Just when I thought I could put closure on the pain of a broken bond, cancer caught my father unexpectedly. God has taught me that He happens to reserve the last word in the life of Nestor de Villa. In the days that followed, it became apparent that the storyline was far from over. The Divine Director didn’t shout, “Cut! That’s a print! End of story.” My father’s life-script was destined by God to be wholly edited and rewritten. The Lord in his mercy was gracious enough to grant Dad a “do-over” in his life—a second chance at righting any wrongs and binding up old wounds from the past. The spotlight struck the stage once again, the cameras were on a roll, and God cried out, “Action!” The long lost role as a father was restored to my dad with the opportunity of a lifetime to finally put his house in order.


It’s Never Too Late

As you can see, the Lord allowed me to fulfill my God-given obligation as a son. For a brief moment I became my father’s keeper. I was given the opportunity to minister to Dad within a four-month period in California. I would visit him at the hospital and pray for his every need, listen to his complaints and hold his hand in his struggles, read him his bible and teach him a truth from the scriptures, wipe his surgical wounds and change his bandages. What a delight it was to just plain spend time and enjoy Dad’s company.

The long goodbye at the Los Angeles International Airport was in order. At the flight gate, I gave Dad one last great big hug and kiss. Although his body felt frail against my own, his grip was still strong and sure. I didn’t want to let go. In that instant, which felt like an eternity, we whispered in each other’s ears affirming our love for one another. I remember asking him to promise me to wait until December. Dad put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye saying, “Gicky, you have been a good son to me.” Those life-giving words brought healing to my soul, closure on past hurts and secured the bond between a father and son forever. I stood at the airport terminal and savored that moment washed over with tears of joy. The Author of Life has provided us a happy ending to the perfect screenplay after all.

In retrospect, it’s as though I was enabled to squeeze forty-five years of my life between these four magical months before my father passed away. Dad and I were afforded 123 days together to repair our relationship—to forgive our past hurts, to express our love for each other and undo what was unknown about him. Our long lost father-and-son relationship was finally mended as the Spirit of God stitched our hearts together. There are many things we wish we could have said, but went unsaid, when our loved ones pass away. Don’t wait until it’s too late. It’s never too late. In truth, there will never be enough time. Those who have departed can’t smell the beautiful bouquet of fragrant flowers…give your loved ones the flowers now.

In these pages, I have invited you to walk through the museum of my mind. You witnessed the way in which God allowed me, with great care, to chisel out a forgotten figure that was trapped within the stone. I can finally rest this once unknown figure upon the altar of my life with the proper inscription:

“TO A GREAT DAD.”


Endnotes

[i] Acts 17:16-23.

[ii] Wikipedia, Nestor de Villa (July 6, 1928 – February 21, 2004) was a Filipino actor frequently cast in musical films. He was a gifted dancer often paired with frequent onscreen partner Nida Blanca in both movies and television. His dancing talent led some to call him the "Fred Astaire of the Philippines."

[iii] Harry Chapin, “Cats in the Cradle,” Verities & Balderdash, Elektra/Asylum, 1974.

© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.

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Comments 29 comments

heart4theword profile image

heart4theword 7 years ago from hub

Very Heartfelt, I can relate! It is so awesome how you had that time with your Father before he passed on. I wander if I will have that opportunity someday? God only knows.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

heart4theword,

When you cross that bridge someday, I pray that your relationship will be ripe with opportunity. Thank you for your kind words.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

So touching, so real, so genuine, so human. How important to alas have had an opportunity for a paternal hello and goodbye. How blessed I am to have been allowed a glimpse into your life history. Doing so, has enriched mine. Thank you dear friend.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

RevLady,

From the painstaking hello to the soul-healing goodbye. It was quite the journey and well worth the trip. Always glad to have you come for a visit. Your comment is precious.


Jack West profile image

Jack West 7 years ago

Wow! I agree with RevLady "So touching, so real, so genuine, so human." Good stuff Gicky.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

Jack,

I'm glad this hub is touching nerves in a good way. Thanks for dropping by.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

My cheeks are wet with tears, Gicky. Thank you for opening up your heart to share the totality of this story. No matter what, God is always in the reconciliation business. Be blessed & encouraged.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

Ken,

Amen. In the end, it's reconciliation in Christ that counts. Thank you for your kind words.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 7 years ago

Gicky Soriano, Wonderful of you to allow us into the corridors of your life and share this heartfelt story! You were able to reach, share the Lord and touch the life of your Dad like no one else... I believe this is also why the Lord has embedded in you such Compassion for His Word! Thank you for sharing. Blessings!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

DeBorrah,

Every once in a while, but not always, does the Lord perform a painfully precious inward work that seems spontaneous this side of heaven. We never known what the left hand of God is up to. But when he does finally reach out, we feel his firm grip of love. He squeezes the old life to death and brings out the new. Suddenly, we are all changed. It's been a blessing to share my personal history with you.


coffeesnob 7 years ago

Gicky,

I loved reading your testimony of restoration. I know you must have a greater sense of belonging since that restoration has been made complete with your dad. Your memory of him in this eway will be lasting. Your words here reminded me of the hirling who, at the last hour gets hired and is paid the same wage as the rest. This is what restoration/reconciliation does in our lives. It gives us entrance into wonderful life -even at the last hour. Blessings, brother


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

coffeesnob,

There's nothing like returning to a prodigal relationship that has gone astray - even at the last hour, as you so amply put it. Thank you for your insightful analysis.


Godslittlechild profile image

Godslittlechild 7 years ago

Wonderfully from the heart and very touching. You look a lot like him!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

Godslittlechild - I wake up in the morning, rub my eyes as I squint before the bathroom mirror saying, "Dad?" I appreciate the visit and comment. All blessings to you.


drpastorcarlotta profile image

drpastorcarlotta 7 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

Once again you have blessed me and the tears roll down my cheeks. I am honored to be your FAN Gicky, very honored.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

drpastorcarlotta, it's truly a blessing to know that this article touched your heart. Your gracious visit and comment simply made my day. God bless you.


cristina327 profile image

cristina327 7 years ago from Manila

Thank you for sharing this great hub about Nestor de Villa. Nestor de Villa is my mother's favorite actor.During my earlier years I also happened to see many of his movies on TV.He also became among my favorite LVN actors together with Jaime and Rogelio de la Rosa. He has great movies. He is now among the "unforgettables" in the local movie industry.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

cristina327, I can't agree with you more. Those were truly the unrepeatable and unforgettable golden years of Philippine film. Every now and then I see Dad in a movie and miss him so. Thank you for stopping by and blessing me with an encouraging note. Bless you always.


elliot.dunn 7 years ago

thanks for sharing that gicky. it's so amazing to see how God can work, bringing restoration in times of intense struggle.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

elliot.dunn, All things do work together for good. God's purposes ultimately prevail and we are the recipients of His goodness. God bless you Brother.


Frank Velasco 6 years ago

Hi Gicky,

Nice words here. My parents were social friends of your Dad/Mom way back when we lived in Bel-Air in the late 60's. He was a real Pro in what he did. My aunt Norma Blancaflor(Lydia Velasco) worked with him in several movies. I have been a resident of Reno,NV since 1986. None of the siblings went into the Art of movies huh. franchitreno@yahoo.com


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California Author

HI Frank,

Good of you to visit my hub and leave some encouraging words. My dad and your aunt were truly from a bygone era - the Golden Age of Philippine cinema. Although much of LVN's films deteriorated over time, I'm glad that there are still a few in circulation. In our family, Jeric, the oldest, along with his son Paul, entered show business but from behind the camera. In this day and age, directing commercials and film can go the distance while an acting career is so short-lived. Take care and God bless you.


nynzky 5 years ago

hi gicky,

it's a blessing to read this article. i was just typing in google the words "nestor de villa born again" & found this wonderful article. for sure i will use this article for my father's day sermon this year. i'm so blest with ur nephew Paul soriano too. i've watched the film "journey home" & use it in my Bible study since i am ministering to OCW people here in japan. may God bless ur family.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 5 years ago from California Author

nynzky, I'm glad you googled into my hub on Dad. May the Lord continue to reach and teach souls through your ministry in Japan. All blessings to you, your family, and the flock under your care.


nikko 5 years ago

Thanks for posting this one god always is good. your story touches my heart, it's a heart warming for a teenage like me especially in our new generation..


Jess Curabo 5 years ago

I was looking for something else when I serendipitously came upon this poignant and oh-so-human of testimonies. I posted the link on my FB wall and I am amazed at the responses I have gotten so far, It just shows me how crucial our relationship to our earthly father is and how wonderfully reassuring it is to have our Abba Father in heaven.


Noel 5 years ago

God bless! May He comfort you and strengthen you as you trust in Him. Indeed, He rights everything in His time.

May all of us fathers finish strong in raising our children.


rafae 4 years ago

very inspiring. well-wriiten memoir which transcends to educate the heart to forgive. thanks for sharing your story...God bless your dad's soul


arm 4 years ago

thank you for this...

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