My Filipino Father's Day perennial | Inquirer
Emil Amok!

My Filipino Father’s Day perennial

As host of NPR’s 'All Things Considered,' Emil Guillermo had the opportunity to tell his father's story – the best story he ever told
/ 06:45 AM June 16, 2024

Emil Guillermo and dad

Emil Guillermo with his father, Willie, at his graduation at Harvard. CONTRIBUTED

In 1989, I was the host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where, incidentally, I was also the first Asian American male to host a national news show.

During my brief tenure, I’d say maybe the best story I ever told while I had that opportunity was to tell my father’s story in an audio essay.

It is the story of many Asian American fathers who came to this country, mine as a colonized Filipino.

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I’ve told versions of the story in my collection of essays, “Amok: Essays from an Asian American Perspective,” and, in the oral tradition, as part of my Emil Amok monologues that I perform around the country.

But here is the 2024 version for my USA readers:

Father’s game


While Sunday will be for all us dads – even me – I always celebrate a bit early on June 14 to remember my own late father.

June 14, 1978, was the day my Dad and I had our best moment ever: We took in a day game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park and the Giants won!

My dad had an immigrant’s passion for baseball, listening to games on a transistor radio. He loved baseball and all it stood for. And he loved the Giants. His name was Willie, appropriately. Weren’t all the heroes in San Francisco named Willie in those days? Mays, McCovey, Guillermo.


Born in the Philippines, my dad spoke English, but I spoke it better. It made our relationship a relatively quiet one.

The only time we really connected was when life involved baseball.

My dad was many innings older than me – 50 years worth. Of course, this is nothing compared to the modern fatherhood feats of Al Pacino or Robert De Niro, still a two-generation difference is not insignificant for a non-actor like my dad.

It limited what we could do together, though he did teach me how to play ball. We’d go to Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle – where else would a fry cook teach his son to play catch?

It was more like fetch. He’d throw it, I’d chase it and throw it back. He’d duck.

We both had gloves that looked like the big one out in left field at the new Oracle park. But my dad wasn’t all that athletic. Still, he knew the difference between a basket of fries and a basket catch. And when he couldn’t do things just right, he’d bring us to Candlestick to watch the other Giants named Willie do everything masterfully.

Baseball always gave us a context. “What’s the score?” one of us would always ask. The other would always know. We followed the score.

But of course, there were seasons when not even baseball could save us. Before I was out of middle school, my father was an aging senior, and I was going to father-son events alone. He wasn’t a father. He was also my grandfather.

By the time I was 12 years old, I was an ageist.

We kept drifting apart, our lives patterned like a baseball diamond. He was the first base line, I was the third base line, a field apart connected only at home.

But then I went to college on the East Coast, where I learned a little about the hardship and racism endured by Filipino immigrants like my dad in the 1920s. I learned about the anti-miscegenation laws that dictated his life story. Men from the Philippines immigrated in droves, mostly as laborers. By comparison, few Filipino women were allowed to come to America.

No one really wanted to see Filipino families thrive in America.

I never fully understood why, after coming to America In 1928, my father lived a bachelor’s life until the 1950s. I thought it was by choice, or lack of social skills. I never saw it as a function of the kind of wastefulness that comes from a racism that held him back. History taught me that, and through it, I found a clear path to my father. Perhaps a little late, but it set up our ninth inning perfectly.

The final outs

On the Wednesday before Father’s Day, 1978, we did a day game, my treat. We were a striking pair. I was wearing a sports jacket and tie so we could get a businessman’s discount. He was in a Giants cap and running shoes, and acting like a rascal – cutting in line, running about, me in tow. Seats cost a buck-fifty to sit in left field back then. But the little guy wanted to sit closer. So we sneaked down past security and wound up in prime third-base territory.

During the game, we enjoyed our passion quietly. Fancying myself a broadcaster, I did play-by-play in my head. Every now and then, I would turn to Dad for a little color. He was involved with the drama himself, in between bites of his homemade adobo sandwich – vinegary pork bits on white bread, tastier than a ball park frank.

The Giants celebrated our outing with a fine performance. They fought back to take the lead from the visiting Phillies. And then it was up to Vida Blue to mow them down in the bottom of the ninth. The Phils’ stars – Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt – both struck out to end the game.

My dad and I stood and cheered together in wild appreciation, which led to our only real conversation of the day. Would the Giants get through June and go all the way? My dad was willing to take a psychic flyer on that one. “They will go all the way now,” he said.

As it was, the Giants didn’t. And neither did my dad. Two hours later, back home, after seeing the game highlights on the local news, my father died on that June 14th before Father’s Day.

Hardening of the arteries, the doctor said. But deep in my heart, I knew it was Pennant Fever.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist, commentator and comic monologist. He writes a column for’s US Channel. Invite him to speak/perform his show in your town.  See him on

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