Before he became a photographer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and had the distinction of being one of the country’s best sports photographer, my dad’s studio used to take pictures for Miriam College Grade School—the same school where I had my elementary education.

I used to really hate it when my classmates called me, “daddy’s girl.” It sounded so lame. That label was for sissy girls who couldn’t do anything without their daddies. I was a tough girl—a varsity basketball point guard to boot—and it really pissed me off when they called me that. But the funny thing was, I played terribly when my dad wasn’t around to watch my games. It was like, I had no reason to play when he wasn’t there.

Yes, my dad was (and still is) quite protective of me and my sister. Maybe that’s the reason why he enrolled me in a gym to learn kick-boxing before I entered college.

I could never really explain why dad’s absence used to affect my game that much, until I started playing rough with boys at the basketball covered courts in college. I played well. And obviously, my dad wasn’t there to watch (I don’t think he’d like to see his daughter get elbowed by guys hehe). But still, I didn’t suck.

And then I realized that maybe it was because I already had something other than basketball for my dad to be proud of. By that time, my dad was already a photo correspondent for the Inquirer. And I was the Graphic Design Editor for the Ateneo school paper—I even had my own editorial column. Though my job there covered mostly design stuff, I still wrote a few news and feature articles. Obviously, my dad was really proud of me. I was, after all, in the “same” field as he.

Yes, that was probably the reason. I was no longer in my father’s protective shadow. My classmates knew me as “the Graphic Artist,” “the Web Designer,” or even “the Goof-ball who can write long and senseless term papers that still seem intelligent.” I was no longer just “August Dela Cruz’s daughter who played basketball.” But something still told me that it wasn’t enough. He was an award-winning photographer. I wanted him to be, if possible, even more proud of me. And being just an editor wasn’t enough.

An old college friend of mine came over at our house a few nights ago for a beer session. And through the course of our conversation, the subject of choices, of regrets, and of why I never wrote for a broadsheet (or even a magazine) came up.

My dad could have given me a leg up in the journalism field, and it would have made my life easier. I would probably be watching games that I enjoy and writing about them. But here I am, a struggling blogger and designer.

I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I let my dad help me. I dedicated practically my entire life trying to please him, to make him proud of me, because of me. And finally, I am happy to say that I am. I’m also no longer ashamed to be called a daddy’s girl. Because now, I’m not just a daddy’s girl. I’m a daddy’s girl whose daddy is very proud of her.

It’s kind of hard to believe that it took me more than twenty years to realize that my dad had always been proud of me. I guess that really happens when you’re too hard on yourself, like you have to change the world before you can be happy. My dad didn’t need for me to change the world. Although sometimes it seemed that way, I only had to look closer to understand that all my dad wanted was for me to always strive to do my best.

My grandma was the reason why this domain and blog came to be. But it was because of my dad that you’re seeing a highly customized theme and reading my entries (and actually understanding what I’m saying). And you know what? After re-reading an interview Sunday Inquirer Magazine had with my dad a few years ago, I realized that my playing basketball was the reason why he started chasing his own dream: to become a sports photographer. And that, means to me more than any award or recognition the world has to offer.