Father’s Day 2021: Fil-Ams celebrate their famous dads

Bert Nievera, Diosdado Banatao, Fernando Amorsolo and Retired Major General Antonio Taguba

AROUND the world, Father’s Day is celebrated annually to honor the contributions of dads in the family. Being a father is no easy task — it comes with a great amount of responsibility and dedication.

To mark the holiday this year, Filipino Americans readily shared personal stories about their famous Filipino fathers: Sylvia Amorsolo-Lazo, daughter of Fernando C. Amorsolo, the Philippines’ first National Artist in painting; Lindsay Taguba-Keys, daughter of retired Major General Antonio Taguba, the second Filipino-​American to be promoted to general officer rank in the United States; Rey Banatao,  a materials scientist and entrepreneur who is the son of inventor, Silicon Valley pioneer and philanthropist Dado Banatao; and Vicki Nievera, daughter of famous balladeer Bert Nievera. She is also the twin sister of the Philippines’ concert king Martin Nievera.

National Artist

Hailed as the first National Artist of the Philippines for painting, Fernando Amorsolo was known for his signature lighting technique, which utilizes the sun’s different colors and brightness. His major works included Maiden in a Stream (1921), Planting Rice (1946), and Under the Mango Tree (1952), which sold for P46,720,000 in 2018.

While his love and passion for art were evident in his works, they came second to the love and devotion he had for his family, according to Sylvia.

“In between his commissioned paintings, he was able to paint portraits of his first and second spouses, his children, and grandchildren,” she said during a panel hosted by online magazine Positively Filipino.

Sylvia noted her father’s financial generosity, sharing that she and her siblings were compensated whenever they posed for him.

“He requested us to pose for him, for his landscapes, always with a compensated allowance. When he sold a painting, we had additional pay,” she said.

Sylvia also talked about her father being humble, revealing that he sometimes asked his children to attend events in his stead.

“When he was awarded Doctor of Humanities (Honoris Causa) on April 8, 1961, he had no choice but to appear personally. Papa was a person who did not brag about these occasions in his honor. We were the last one to know, and (he) even…asked one of us to proxy for him,” she said.

As Sylvia pursued her own path in the arts, her dad became her mentor. One of his pieces of advice to better her art was to be observant and precise, as well as have joy while making her work.

“As a mentor, papa was a person who…only pointed out the things that I should correct,” she said.

“He motivated me to establish my own identity, although he allowed me to copy his own paintings unless I put my own signature. He even encouraged me to do things that I thought I couldn’t do,” she added.

To honor her father, Sylvia speaks and writes about his life and works, but she admitted to stepping out of her comfort zone in order to do so.

“I’m a very shy person and sometimes I have stage fright, I’m not even a good speaker nor a professional writer, but when people would invite me to make talks and publish books about his life and works, I definitely say yes because I think this is one way of giving thanks to him for the blessings that he had given me,” she explained.

Sylvia concluded by saying her father led “a full life with happy and bad memories…and handed down, through his examples, virtues of values.”

“Fernando C. Amorsolo was a genius artist by the grace of God, deserving to claim first National Artist of the Republic of the Philippines,” she added.

Major General

As a military brat, Lindsay was no stranger to moving from one place to another.

Her father, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, served the U.S. in a military career that spanned more than three decades, moving his family in different cities in the U.S., Germany and South Korea.

“As a military child, I moved 12 times before going to college, and so you can imagine that that’s a difficult thing for a child,” said Lindsay.

“My dad was working a lot, he was serving his country, and he would sometimes be away…in the field or training, and there were times when mom was basically a single parent,” she added.

However, Lindsay maintained that she wouldn’t want to change her childhood, since constantly moving around had its own perks.

“It was difficult moving around, but at the same time, I wouldn’t change it. Moving around afforded me the opportunities to see the world, experience different cultures and learn how to adapt to new surroundings,” she explained.

While her father was hard at work, he was “very present” when he was home, according to Lindsay.

“I played a lot of sports and I have memories of him coming to my games, soccer games, softball games, yelling things at me like ‘get that bowling ball out of your back pocket’ to encourage me to run faster,” she said.

“There was even a story of him getting kicked out of a softball game because he was, I guess, being a little too loud. He was very encouraging in that way, very supportive,” she added.

After retiring, her father participated in a number of things, leading Lindsay to describe him as “the busiest retired person that I know.”

Maj. Gen. Taguba served as chairman of the board of directors for Pan-Pacific American Leaders and Mentors, a nonprofit that promotes the advancement of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders.

He also helped organize the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, which aims to obtain national recognition of the Filipino-American WWII soldiers for their wartime service to the U.S. and Philippines from July 1941 to December 1946.

In 2016, FilVetREP successfully lobbied Congress to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino and American Veterans of World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the U.S. Congress to an individual or group that contributed to American culture and history.

“This is a huge thing for Filipino veterans to be honored in a way that they may have not been in the past. He pours a lot of time and energy into that,” Lindsay noted.

She shared the most important thing that she learned from her dad: “Love my family first, be a person of integrity.”

Filipino Bill Gates

Touted as the Philippines’ own Bill Gates, Dado Banatao is a Filipino entrepreneur and engineer most notable for his invention of the first single chip, 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator

He is also known for being an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, funding scholars and providing free education to Filipinos.

Meanwhile, his son Rey described him as someone who “prides himself on being a geek and geeking out on tech.”

He also revealed that his father was “someone who led by action,” explaining that he and his siblings were influenced by watching their dad do “a lot of hands-on things when he was around.”

“He was super active so he would go running all the time, play tennis, and so me and my brother, that’s how we learned to become active. We chased him around the block either running, skateboarding, or riding bicycles, had to show him off our speed and athleticism and that played a key part in us growing up because that passion for the outdoors, that passion for sports, that carried on and really inspired the earlier stages of our careers,” explained Rey.

“Even though it wasn’t something that he necessarily planned or told us to do, it was just through his actions and when he was around, doing things with us, that really influenced us,” he added.

Growing up, Rey said his family told him stories about hard work and resiliency.

“(My father) would always tell me how he was never the smartest in his class, but he always worked the hardest, and so we just learned by his example,” he said.

“Family dinner conversations were always about technology and business and startups. We saw him fail multiple times and not give up, only to succeed multiple times and win more than losing on average and that resiliency is something we carried into our careers,” he added.

Rey also shared that his parents instilled generosity in him and his siblings, and he grew up watching his father lend a helping hand to other entrepreneurs.

“During his days as he transitioned into venture capital after being an entrepreneur, we watched him directly help fellow entrepreneurs, meeting with them. Founders who would eventually become some of the biggest companies in the world,” he said.

“(We watched) them form their ideas in our family kitchen, watched them all together and innovate the future of the industry,” he added.

That generosity continues to carry over to the work that Rey’s family does today. His father founded the Philippine Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on eradicating poverty in the Philippines through entrepreneurship, education, and technology.

Timeless balladeer

Having a celebrity dad, Vicki grew up learning about the glitz and glamour of show business.

Throughout his career, Bert Nievera earned titles such as “the Johnny Mathis of the Philippines,” “Romantic Balladeer,” and “Timeless Balladeer.”

But his beginnings started at Camp John Hay in Baguio, where he performed regularly when he decided to sing professionally in 1958. A year later, he joined the search for Johnny Mathis of the Philippines on a show called Student Canteen, a contest that he won.

In 1966, he joined a group called the Fabulous Echoes, who later became known as the Society of Seven.

“It was the then-number one show band in Hawaii with nightly performances in the main showroom at the Outrigger Hotel right there in Waikiki,” recalled Vicki.

“For several months, we lived in that hotel. Actually, Martin, Rachel and I grew up in that hotel,” she added.

According to Vicki, watching her father perform made her want “to be on a stage very soon in life.” This newfound dream pushed her to start playing the guitar, write her own songs, and explore music.

Vicki went on to recall her family being on the road as her father performed with his band.

“My dad went on the road a lot, to cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities on the west coast of the United States with the Society of Seven. He performed with the band for 10 solid years as the romantic balladeer of the group,” she said.

“I do have very very fond memories of us being on the road with him. There was something that seemed so exciting about packing our bags and taking a road trip or taking a flight to different cities and staying in different hotels all around the U.S.,” she added.

According to Vicki, being on the road was a “fun experience,” but noted that the best part of the whole thing was watching her dad perform on stage at various shows.

“We were thrilled watching the audience just applaud for my dad,” she explained.

When her father took a break from show business, he ventured into the restaurant industry, opening a restaurant called the Roadrunner Burgers in Concord, California. He also moved back to the Philippines and opened up the Bert Nievera Music Lounge in Makati.

In 2003, he went on a self-semi-retirement in Las Vegas.

“I say semi because he could not keep himself away from the stage for too long. In fact, we got to perform with him — Martin and I. So we had several performances together as a family which was always fun, doing what we love with the people that we love,” said Vicki.

She admitted that her fondest memories of her dad are mostly of him just being a “normal” dad.

“As exciting as it was to have a celebrity dad, I can say that my fondest memories really are of when he was just plain old dad sitting at the dinner table, maybe at a picnic on a beach in Hawaii, that’s how I remember my dad the most,” Vicki said.

“Some of my fondest memories are of when we were kids growing up and dad was cooking and taking care of us,” she added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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