He is named David Gabriel, because he was born so small, and because he is a messenger from heaven.
I call him Gino, the name I always wanted to give him, but also because it’s easier to yell at your son if his name ends in a vowel — GINO-O-O-O-O!. Kinda hard to sound stern with, DAVID-D-D-D-D!
He is now a big, strapping man, turning 20 today. Big guy, Taekwondo-trained. One day in the elevator at my apartment I faked a punch and his instinctive arm block knocked me against the wall.
“Don’t do that, Dad, I can’t stop my reaction,” David the giant-killer laughed.
So David is a bit of a misnomer now, but Gabriel is still spot on.
David likes David Coulthard and big explosions. I’ve watched him play the first-person shooter Medal of Honor entirely with just a bazooka, using it like a pistol, because it had the biggest BOOM in the game.
He has great eye-hand coordination. I used to ask him to play the “New York Minute” piece of the game Max Payne over and over, simply to enjoy his Zen-like mastery of multiple-opponent firefights.
When he’s away from things that go boom, though, David is one of the gentlest people I know. He nurtures a pair of traits all too rare in today’s world — quiet humility and sincere gratitude.
I have never, ever, heard David talk about his own achievements. We had to hear from others about his medals and awards in school, because he would never tell us.
Last summer he took a Nippongo class at the Ateneo. I assumed it was one of those things teens dabble in for a week before they realize learning a language takes a longer commitment.
Then when he next visited Bangkok, he translated the Ganji messages on the screen display of our Toyota hybrid van. We finally made sense of many functions in the car (the manual is entirely in Japanese).
David had learned to read Japanese!
When he was 4 years old, I took his older brother Carlo to Hong Kong. It’s always tough to leave a second child behind for the first time, because it kicks off a lifelong disappointment of ranking by age.
He was quietly in tears, and when he left the car I was heartbroken. But then, sobbing still, and without looking back, he flashed a thumbs up sign over his shoulder, our agreed signal for “Everything is ok.”
I never forgot that. He had already forgiven me before he stopped crying.
My son David is a constant reminder to me that having 3 sons is all about balance.
The next year, 1994, I took him to Disneyland. After the Magical Parade, Captain Hook swiped David’s hat, and by the time we got it back and ran to the Jiminy Cricket bus stop, the last bus transfer to the hotel had gone.
I couldn’t remember our hotel. We sat on a bench at midnight in the middle of the empty parking lot, hugging each other for warmth. I was lost, cold and defeated. He leaned tiredly against me and said, “Thanks for taking me on this trip, Dad.” He was 5 years old.
Ten years later, in Paris, I told him to close his eyes as I walked him around the corner of the balcony at the Trocadero. When he opened his eyes, the Eiffel Tower glittered in soaring majesty directly in front of us, less than a kilometer away.
He told me quietly, “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. Thanks for taking me, Dad.”
He said it so sincerely, and made every cent of the 2-week trip worth it in that single moment.
Later we stood on Omaha beach, ran across the Pegasus bridge at Normandy, and climbed the ramparts of Mont Saint Michel. For me it was anti-climax after the Eiffel Tower.
Two weeks ago I had some personal stuff to do in Singapore, and David and I met at Changi airport. It was the weekend of the Singapore Formula 1 race, the first ever night race in F1.
We had lunch at the Tiffin Room, at historic Raffles hotel. Then he had Singapore Slings at the famous Long Bar, where the drink was invented more than a hundred years ago.
The Renault team party was at the Raffles Hotel, and little did we know that Alonso would turn the race on its head. But that’s another story.
David quivered with excitement as David Coulthard’s car snarled out of pit lane to take the starting grid (we were at the Turn 1 grandstand, just past the finish line). It was LOUD, it was exhilarating, and it was David!
Under the railing at the top balcony of the east pillar of the Eiffel Tower is a piece of tape with a small memento of our 2004 visit. We promised to meet there again in 20 years. I have no doubt David will take his own son or daughter there to check.
In the meantime, I will have dinner with him today. And he will teach me some more about balance, humility and gratitude.
Happy Birthday, David!! Ginooooo! 🙂
Posted from Manila, Oct 12, 2008