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TURNING POINT: My Father, the Salesman

mindaviews adan

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 17 June) — A father is only as good as his ability to challenge his children to unfold their potential to the limit by his own example. 

Once, I considered my father cruel and heartless. I realized, later, that his apparent cruelty forces out the best in me. I could not follow his heartless example though: my heart is soft to my kids. They will judge me one day. 

This is the story of my father that I love retelling.


My father only finished Grade IV. He never had a career or permanent occupation. He was what he imagined or desired to be in different phases of his life. He was a gasoline station attendant, a taxi driver, a bus conductor, a fish dealer, a gold miner, a carpenter, a butcher, and an appliance salesman. Later in life, he became a farmer and died a farmer. He would claim, however, that he was a salesman all his life.

He impressed on me that all of life is about selling, all vocations for that matter. Every time we enter into a transaction or a relationship we are actually selling something.

Parents sell to their children good behaviors worthy of citizenships in the kingdom of God and men.

When a guy courts a girl, he is actually selling himself to her, convincing her that he is the best guy and the only choice in town.

Through his behavior, a taxi driver must be convincing to a sizable commuting public that taking a taxi is still the safest and the most convenient mode of city transport.

It is the job of law enforcers to sell to the citizens the idea that observing the laws works to their advantage and interest.

It is the role of the teacher to convince his students that education is a game changer, a good equalizer and is therefore worth pursuing.

It’s the duty of the pastor or priest to sell to his flock the mansions in heaven.

In the market of life, each one must exert his best to sell something to one another to keep the whole world hoping, growing and moving. 

Certainly, even the best of salesmen may experience failure every now and then. But the best salesman never runs out of hope. He considers every failure as a stimulus to change. 

I have been trained as a salesman since childhood. I had peddled and sold many things in the streets – newspapers, sweepstake tickets, ice-drops, fish, vegetables and other farm products. I also sold my services to the public as a bootblack. My father would also send me on an errand to collect monthly installment payments for the appliances he sold in distant places I had never been before with only one-way fare money. When I first complained about this he simply told me to do my best in collecting so I could buy something to eat along the way and return home.

I was only 11 when my father tasked me to cross the sea between Surigao and Leyte with a pocket money good only for a meal. I naturally protested only to be rebuffed, telling me to learn to travel without money. He left me at the pier almost a nervous wreck. But I chose to survive. I befriended a kindly elderly couple and told them about my predicament. I persuaded them to consider me as their son while in the boat so I could avoid paying the fare. They happily obliged and even shared with me their food.

In my life journey, I learned that the best survivors are individuals who give their best in everything they do whatever their station in life may be. They are persons who are not content with the usual and ordinary and always strive to make changes on things around them. These are people who refuse to be imprisoned by common hesitation, doubt and fear of the unknown. Those who succeed are individuals who dare.

When I was already 16 my father began celebrating with me and my mother every major errand I accomplished and every achievement I earned later in school. He would prepare kinilaw (fish salad) and grilled pork belly  and a cocktail of San Mig beer, Pepsi Cola and Kulafu (a medicinal wine)  for our drinks.

“Drink, “he said. “There is nothing wrong with drinking if you are celebrating life. If we work hard, we must celebrate well. There is no point working like a slave for life without a celebration to look forward to.”

My father quit as an appliance salesman upon turning 60 and after a stint of seven years in the job. He received a Five-Star General decoration from his firm for his outstanding performance. He moved into farming.

When I visited him one day with my young son in his rice field, he was silent and meditative.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I am talking to the plants,” he replied.

“You talked to the rice?” I was baffled.

“Yes. I tried to persuade them that it is to their interest and to everyone if they grow healthy and bear more grains than usual,” he explained.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental)

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