My father turns 69 next week. Much as I would like to rib him with the innuendoes associated with the number, I can’t—he is, after all, my father.

Nine years ago, shortly after he retired from the company that he joined immediately after he graduated from college, my dad bought a PC and got himself an ISP. He soon got the hang of a host of other acronyms, he could mind his mb’s and his kbps. He signed up two email addresses (one was his backup). He learned that a gig did not always mean a singing engagement, and that a virus can give his box not just a cold, but the blue screen of death.

I began receiving text messages from him (he learned to text only after retirement, heretofore using his mobile phone exclusively for fielding calls) more often than not in the middle of the day. This was when I was five hundred and sixty nine kilometers away from Cebu. He made me his tech support specialist, only patronizing his local dealer when I told him his box needed opening and if he wanted me to do it he’d have to send me airfare. My dad is, if nothing else, frugal.

He stopped buying newspapers, opting instead to view the latest world & national events online. He weighed the pros and cons of Media Player vs Quicktime, and would every now and then insert computerese in his weekly “kamusta ka na” calls. When I thought he was ready for the next step, I told him about my chatroom on IRC.

It’s like a room, Dad, where a bunch of people can enter and talk to each other.

What do you talk about?

Anything.

Anything?

Yeah, but first you need a nick.

What’s a nick?

A nickname, a name you’ll use in the chatroom. An alias.

I could sense his eyebrows rising at the word “alias”. In his time, only persons of ill-repute had aliases.

I’ll take care of it, I assured him. I already had a nick in mind. I was the daughter who had absolutely no doubt that her father was the handsomest man in the world, and to me my Dad looked like an interesting cross between Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. So his nick was going to be …

SERPICO

I fired off an email to both his addresses with details on how to login to IRC Dalnet with his new nick and password, and sure enough, at eight in the evening, SERPICO logged into Dalnet #manila_debate.

So there he was, a babe in the woods, fascinated by the speed at which the words were appearing, line by lightning fast line, and at the same time terrified thinking that he would have to type just as fast to get his own words into the window.

I suppose I didn’t help him a bit either by declaring in the main window : Ladies and Gentlemen, meet my Dad.

Whos ur dad?

SERPICO 🙂

ows?

no kidding. i-whois mo pa.

And there indeed, in stark honesty, was his full name and email address.

Hello sir 🙂

Good evening, po.

talaga po bang daddy kayo ni ate roark? (Roark was my nick back then, the character that Sandra Bullock played in the movie version of John Grisham’s book A Time to Kill)

uhm, dad, r u there?

And then, we heaved a collective sigh when we saw his first words in the main window:

Hello all 🙂

He became a regular in the channel, often just reading whatever we happened to be discussing at the time. Everyone became well behaved when he logged in, the usual droll obscenities were avoided, and even the guys who joined us were very polite. There was one evening when they turned to him for dating advice, and the gentleman from the old world wove a time warp with his words…

A boy should be a gentleman. He should respect his date and listen to what she has to say. He should not be mayabang. He should not force her to do anything that she doesn’t feel comfortable doing. And when she says she wants to go home already, he should escort her home and make sure her parents know that she is safe.

The boys did not even manage a smart-alecky quip. I could almost see them nodding, as if they were back in high school and this was the prefect of discipline talking to them. I watched his words in awe; this was advice I never heard from him at the time when I must have needed to, mainly because I had refused to listen to him at the time.

You might say I rediscovered my father, in an IRC chatroom.

He doesn’t chat anymore, but then neither do I. I suppose he came in to the channel because I was there. There had been times when I wasn’t able to log in for a night and my chatmates would tell me the next evening that my dad had logged in, looked for me, and left when they told him I wasn’t there.

But he’s still on the net, reading the news, minding his email, getting viruses from time to time. He is on good terms with his ISP, never going overboard on his net-surfer plan.

He will be reading this on his birthday, I suppose. I’d emailed him the link with the subject: Do NOT open until October 12 2004.

Happy Birthday, Daddy 🙂 I love you.

Happy Birthday Dad!
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