The Aquino family: From left: Alessandro (6 ), wife Jerilynne,  Javier (1 ),RJ and Sophie (8). (The Star.com)

Vancouver, B.C.

RJ Aquino reflects on fatherhood

By Ted Alcuitas

A Vancouver father is one of four featured in a Father’s Day feature in the June 14, 2019  issue of The Star newspaper. Of the four, only one was white and three belonged to the so-called minorities.

There is a noticeable trend in the mainstream media  to include minorities in their coverage and Filipinos are no exception. Just look at the news on the garbage issue, Philippine Heritage Month, etc.

Here is The Star’s article on RJ Aquino: 

Having grown up in the Philippines, RJ Aquino always felt that early connection to his cultural heritage was important during his formative years spent in the West. He wants to ensure his children and other youth in the Filipino community have that connection too.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work with the Philippines community and working towards ensuring that the kids have a clear path in exploring their identity or being immersed in their heritage. That’s one of the things, at least here in Vancouver, we’re a little short on,” he said.

That’s why Aquino decided to start a non-profit, Tulayan, in 2011. Tulayan aims to reconnect Filipino-Canadians to their history and language. Many of his peers who are starting their own families in Canada have similar worries for their children, he added.

Another thing he wants to pass on to his children is being politically engaged. Aquino feels he is successfully “normalizing” political involvement with his children.

“I take them to all these meetings, to rallies, to other significant events. We just explain to them, talk to them and try to connect the dots in terms of what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in their immediate vicinity, their backyard.”

Aquino added that helping his children manage interpersonal problems is important at this stage of development.

“It hasn’t escalated into bullying, but it’s just that so-and-so said something really mean. And it’s helping them navigate those interpersonal relationships … They’re angry at each other for a week, and then birthday party invites are being sent. So it’s just helping them understand the complexities of relationships and that it requires effort to not write people off.”

And Aquino’s response to the article, shared with his permission:

These last few months have presented unique challenges. The mounting pressures of conflicting priorities due to taking a more entrepreneurial path with my career along with exponential growth in the headspace occupied by being a parent of three and things were beginning to feel overwhelming. All of that on top of the things I don’t want to say “No” to in my community organizing and civic work.

Most recently, confronting mortality in a way I hadn’t before has made me a much more reflective person. This introspection has had a side effect of self-isolation and introversion that has taken me away from actively participating in some things.

I think the universe noticed.

Seemingly random events that occurred very recently share the same theme of getting me to open up and be more actively engaged. This article I’m sharing felt like a tipping point in that it reminded me of the things I’d been passionate about and it also reminded me that I don’t talk about those things enough.

Fatherhood is one of the big things in my life that’s driving me to continuously be better version of myself. All of my “public” work started when I found out I was going to become a father. I’m in the midst of rediscovering that and I’m taking measures to be more active, visible and engaged. It’s going to take some time and I will be overwhelmed by the process but I’m so looking forward to figuring it all out.

Happy Father’s Day.