The best lessons Dad taught them: Rissa May Camaclang
From a daddy’s girl who always receives words of encouragement to a son who received “tough love” as a form of discipline. Our Ballet Manila artists have varied stories about how their fathers have raised them, but the goal seems to be the same – so that they’d grow up to be responsible and strong enough to go after their dreams. To celebrate Father’s Day, our dancers share the best lessons they’ve learned from the man they call Dad, Daddy, Papa or Tatay and how he continues to inspire them.
Rissa May Camaclang, company artist
My Papa is the simplest and the most humble man I know. He never got to finish college, he and my Mama had me when they were 20. He built a small house in a small lot we don’t own, just for us to have a home. In order to sustain our needs, he started working as a waiter at a Japanese restaurant then eventually became a sushi maker. For seven years, he put all his best efforts in working there, standing all day to get orders, staying up late for over time, getting assigned to different branches near or far; taking a bus or a train back and forth became his daily struggle.
Growing up, my sister and I were the closest to him perhaps because he’s the more “chill” kind of person and the goofiest! Plus, he cooks the best food. There was a time he resigned from his job to rest and focus more on us. He's always been supportive with school, especially in ballet. He would always bring me to school and fetch me, helped me with my homework, got what I needed for school from the best that he could do, because since he resigned, that was the time I became the breadwinner of the family.
It wasn’t easy juggling my studies, ballet and the responsibility of shouldering my family's daily needs. It was a heck of a job. Only strong and brave people can handle it. But then I realized, my Papa has been doing it even before I could even talk. And I reflected on it… Wow. Dads are pretty incredible. They won’t even think about themselves for once, just for their family to get what they need. They have always been the foundation of our home.
And I’m forever grateful with what my father has done for the family. I can never surpass the love and sacrifices he’s done for us. My Papa once told me, "I can never go back to the past and rewrite my life, and do the things I could have done for this family to have a better life. But you are young, whatever your heart desires, however big or small your dreams are, work for it. Give the best you can and never give up. We can rest but we never have to surrender because life doesn’t work that way. If you fall down, you only have two choices: stay broken or get up and try again. People don’t always have to like you, some of them will try to bring you down, but I know you’re strong, so don’t let their judgements define who you are. Always be kind and courageous. Give, not because we have much, but because we know exactly how it feels to have nothing and most importantly, love your sister because you only have each other. One day, your Mama and I are not going to be around, and I want you to look after your sister as she looks up to you."
I don’t have any single regret that I had him as my father or for the life he offered. I am happy that even if we’re not rich, we’re complete and we’re getting by every day. Today, my Papa is working as a parking guard at PICC. He was recommended by a friend to apply since he wanted to work again to help me and the family. I guess he liked it, he's been working there for a year now. But I will never lose hope that one day he'll get a better opportunity in finding a job and be back to doing what he loves most – cooking and serving people with his delicious food. He's the best and I could never ask for more.
Top photo: Rissa May – who started out as a Ballet Manila scholar – says her Papa has always been supportive of her being a ballerina.