The Unbuttoned Superman: A Dedication

A smile makes its way across his face, diminishing the obvious lines on the side of his eyes and the wrinkles across his temple with the appearances of his sweet, discreet dimples. His humility is captivating, his laughter is contagious. He speaks in all languages, from the sophisticated to the common masses. With his age, he has gone through hell itself, but he has stood straight and tall despite his battles with life, and against his own private demons. In the eyes of the people around him, it’s as if he’s Superman. He’s a father, a friend, a lover and a hero, and a true one at that.

His curly hair that rises on the top of his head signifies our family’s dominant gene. His complexion is as fair as a young adult, smooth and youthful for a man his age.  His facial features show a distinct foreign look, evident to his direct Spanish blood. Most of the time, he is usually mistaken for either a tourist or an American who has lived in a town in Sorsogon for a long time. The moment he speaks bicol, surprises others. But almost all of the townsfolk know him by ‘Boy’ or ‘Paping’, not to mention having to bear the surname ‘Rocha’. Our family name resounds as one of the known families in both Sorsogon and Tabaco. A street in our town was named after his direct great-grandfather, Ramon Dote. That aside, he was also known to be the son of a wealthy businessman, who owned the Rocha Marine Products that was known in Bicol for transporting marine products and the like before it reaches in the Visayas region. That was that, before the business went down and closed due to an ambitious competitor.

Despite being born with a silver spoon, ironic enough, he lived a humble life. With his 3 brothers and 4 sisters, they were taught manners in a strict way. If asked to recall, he can hear echoes of their grandmother uttering Spanish words whenever they eat with feet off the ground and on the chair, or caught playing with their food. Still, outside home, he appeared simple, wearing regular and common clothes of the decade. His lifetime friends from high-school never fail to say how much he’s always the ‘friendly guy’ and also most of the time, the silent sheep among them. As he grew to become a ‘college kid’ his way of life never changed, his natural “nice guy” charm made women swarm over him, if not that, his looks did. His love life however, proved he did not become the chick-magnet of the group, despite his tremendous advantage over women. He had one woman back in high-school though, but not more than just a mere crush.

He enrolled in a university but transferred to take Aeronautical Engineering in PATTS College of Aeronautics (Philippine Air Transport and Training Services) a prestigious and known aeronautical college. That’s why until now, his love for aircraft and electronics is always expressed in his everyday life. Even without an authentic college degree, he became a known technician. But, the one dark thing he never forgets was the obstacle he couldn’t cross over that led him to fail and not finish college. Up until now, it is always a blur to ask why he didn’t graduate, because the stories of his wife and himself didn’t always match up, and that one event of his life became something he used as a scare to not follow his mistakes. It also became a reason to be strict towards us, his children. But over time, he slowly understood that the life of others other than himself is meant to be lived while being guided by their own principles, those of which that was not forced on them because it would be consequential not to follow otherwise. Life’s principles are those that people have learned from their own mistakes. He would rather his children avoid mistakes, but he knew that living meant standing up and confronting the problem to become stronger in life. Over and over, he would always say, “The key is to stand by your actions and never give up. Panindigan mo at patunayan mo sa kanila, na kaya mo. (Take responsibility and prove to them, that you can)” He continued on. Though, he’s just a technician, others from his batch were sometimes jealous of his achievements despite him not graduating college.

When Superman encounters a villain, like Dark Seid or Bizzarro, who always make his day worse, at the end of each battle, he refuses to finish them off, if he has a choice. (Either they let him return to their world or blast them off a wormhole in space) This is because of his strong will to stand by his principles. An overwhelming sense of pride pours over Superman, but even he doesn’t acknowledge it, because he is also simple man, after all. All he wants is for justice to prevail and protect the ones he loves while doing honest work. Rafael Rocha, my father, proved that you can live happy, while being honest and dedicated despite adversaries and sometimes, moments relative to a midlife crisis.

Superman as the true leader would sometimes be a debatable topic among comic fans like me, because in the Justice League, the true ‘brains’ of the group is Batman. But the Man of Steel remained as the leader, though Batman could perfectly be one, he can’t and he, himself, wouldn’t want to. Batman wanted Superman, because he proved to be the face of the group, one who embodies hope for everyone, an epitome of ‘greatness-through-goodness’, a perfect example of a man driven by his right morals. He led men through his influence. And that also holds true when it comes to my father. He taught me so much about standing by to what you believe is right, and fight until the end. He taught me how to prepare for life, and deal with uncertainty.

When he knows we need him, he’ll run to an elevator, loosen those checkered ties, tore off his buttoned shirts and fly up to God-knows-where. The next thing we’ll know was that he saved the day again. He’ll need some help too. For 17 years, I have known this to be true, not just to me, but to the rest of the people who care for him and holds him dear to their heart. He ain’t just a man, he’s a hero, a damn good one…

… and he’ll always be our Superman.



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