Coconuts Manila: Working with my dad, Peque Gallaga, who once called my poems “cat farts”

I was asked by a really good friend, someone who I credit to bringing my whole writing career to a new level, to write an article about working with my Dad.

I have been asked — a lot of times — to write about my Dad in many different magazines and publications, and I have done so, many times in the past. I think it has come to a point that I really do not know what to say anymore. I think that for me to write an article on my Dad has become cliche and has been overdone. It’s hard to ask me to interview him for any particular purpose because our relationship is really deeply ingrained. He’s not just my Dad, he’s my friend, my colleague, my mentor, my sparring partner. He’s everything, really. Interviewing him seems pointless because my questions would be leading and, at the same time, I will try to protect him from the things I know he would find himself saying things he shouldn’t say (at least, in my opinion).

after the Sonata special screening with my Dad and Tito Lore

after the Sonata special screening with my Dad and Tito Lore

At the same time, there are things I know about him that I take for granted and wouldn’t ask him in an interview, thinking everybody else knows it, only to find out, that’s what people wanted to know.

But James is a good friend and he has been instrumental to my writing career; taking a chance on me and allowing me to write for ABS-CBN publications, which helped me raise my game and allowed me to find my place in the publishing world. I felt like I owed it to him and so, even if I didn’t want to write another article on my Dad, I went to a deep place and wrote about what it is like to work with him.

The article got published in Coconuts Manila and while I gave a title, it was changed to the hilarious Working with my dad, Peque Gallaga, who once called my poems cat farts. Honestly, it was perfect.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

When I was 13, I wrote nine poems and handed them over to my dad. He was in bed at that time. He put down the book he was reading, took my poems, looked at them, and asked, “Is this on file? Have you saved these?” “Yes,” I said. He ripped the pages apart. “These are cat farts,” he said. “Stick to the essay.” That was my first encounter with my father as my harshest critic.

It’s a true story, for sure, but the evolution of our relationship is detailed in the article (with lots of other details edited out for brevity) and I’m scared that people might think he was a tough father to have. He was, but he knew how tough to be. I had placed it in the original article but it found itself on the editor’s floor because it was implied throughout the whole article, that he knew what I could handle. I may have been thirteen years old, but he knew I could take it.

As a person trying very hard to be an artist, I’m very lucky to have him as my father, guiding me every step of the way, letting me fly when I need to and holding me back in when I need it most.

It was not an easy article to start but the moment I had that memory and I knew that I wanted to work on it, the rest of the article just flew out of my fingertips and into the Word file.

Read: Working with my dad, Peque Gallaga, who once called my poems cat farts.

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