“You better find those AirPods of yours, Paco ‘cause I’m not buying you another one,” Carlos Garcia told his son Paco. They were then on a five-day diving cruise on the MV Discovery Palawan along with their diving master friend Gage and members of the media.
Carlos and Paco were at the dining area, on the ship’s upper deck, having breakfast. Paco was visibly despondent, at a loss on how to find his lost gadget. The ship was huge, to be sure, filled with nooks and crannies where small items could easily have fallen. Carlos, repeated his threat, pressuring Paco to look for his Airpods. Eventually, the teenager found them.
But unknown to Paco, Carlos was actually teaching his son. “I actually found his Airpods earlier in the day. But I kept it hidden a little bit longer,” Carlo shares. “He just wasn’t looking hard enough. I wanted to teach him a lesson. I told him later that evening,” he says, laughing. Carlos as a father is not strict, per se. “I approach (my kids) as friends, but I still balance it by letting them know that I’m their father as well. There should be a line. You can’t spoil them.” He shares that it’s their mother that’s the real disciplinarian.
Carlos, a businessman, is tall, with a lively, open face. Always smiling, always laughing; he’s the first person to welcome you at table, even if you’re a stranger. His son Paco, on the other hand, is quiet, loose-limbed, and not as tall as his father, but his long arms and legs suggest he’ll still grow taller. Whenever Paco wasn’t concentrating on his smartphone—as is the tendency of his generation—he could be seen in scuba gear, bonding with his dad in their favorite hobby.
Every morning, and throughout the day, the two would venture out on the cruise ship’s tender (a smaller support boat) to deeper parts of the ocean, where the best diving spots are. When the smaller boats would return to the cruise ship, the father and son’s smiles could be seen even from afar. Diving is indeed a rich bonding experience for the two.
Paco, who is 14, is the second oldest among Carlo’s children: Javier, 21, Adriana, 10, and Carolina, 6. “I try to find a common ground between me and my kids. I find something we all have in common, and then go from there,” says Carlos. “It’s all different with each of them. Like my eldest, he doesn’t like diving like Paco. So, for example, if they like games, I approach talking with them thru their games, and then go from there. It’s important to listen to your kids and give them advice. It’s just being there for them, listening to them, and knowing their problems and anxieties. You just need to let them know you’re there for them.”
For Carlo and Paco, it was diving, a pastime that the former started in 1997 when his dad—former ABS-CBN president Freddie Garcia—bought a boat and decided to buy scuba gear for the whole family. “I got certified with my brother Richie. It was an on and off thing with diving,” Carlos shares. “Until I got married and my wife Kaye, who wanted to learn how to dive as well, so this gave me a reason to go back to diving.” But he and his wife set aside this hobby aside when their family grew and their schedules got busier.
But, three years ago, Carlos learned that Paco had a growing interest in diving. Because of this, Carlos decided to go at it again. The two were instantly hooked, and became diving buddies. “We even got certified for the advance open water course together. That’s how committed we are to diving,” Carlos says, adding that he finds being in the water relaxing and therapeutic. “I’m at peace when underwater.”
“Hanging out with my dad is really fun because we get to create a lot of memories. Also, he always lets me get as much food as I want, so that’s a plus,” Paco quips. The two then waxed nostalgic on some of their best adventures together when diving. “One big highlight for me was our five-day Visayan live-aboard dive trip. The sights were excellent, and it was three dives a day, so we went underwater to our heart’s content. What else could I ask for?” says Carlos.
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For me, adds Paco, “I think the best dive was probably the one where I qualified for the advanced open water course because that was also the time when I was able to observe some bioluminescent algae!”
Even online, the combined passion and enthusiasm of the two for diving was palpable, and it was indeed pleasant to see such dynamics between father and son. Shared experiences, be it diving or any other sport or activity, reinforces the all-important bond between child and parent. It is important, even with our busy schedules, to find time to connect with our loved ones. Parents and their children need to find a balance, a space wherein social connections and bond can still be nurtured.
“Just to share this (diving) with my son, and being able to spend time with him, and bond with him, it’s something I really treasure,” Carlos says. “You can’t replace that kind of experience, that shared adventure with your son.”