The scanned image you see below is that of the winning entry in the High School category of Honda Cars Philippines’ writing contest for Civic owners in 2002. I penned the short essay, which was published in the Japanese automaker’s Challenge Magazine. Every time I read this piece, I become more and more convinced that I wouldn’t have won had it not been for my dad.
My father served the merchant marine industry his entire working life. He was an accomplished mariner who worked on ocean-going tankers and bulk carriers for 10 years before settling down for a shore-based job as a crewing manager after the birth of his eldest child (that would be me). In his line of work, English skills mattered. From discussing pressing issues with ship captains of various nationalities to facilitating crew changes at different ports around the world, command of the language was extremely important.
That aptitude for communicating would be put to good use when Honda ran an essay-writing competition for customers who owned a Civic. When I made my initial draft, I was confident that I had already nailed it and that my dad would never have to change anything. To my absolute horror, the final iteration of my entry was a heavily reworked version of that draft. My dad had to painstakingly fix all of my grammatical and spelling errors so that my essay at least had a fighting chance with the judges. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure my current boss wouldn’t have hired me if he had seen my woeful writing back in the day.
Looking back, winning the contest sort of became a preview of what was to become my current line of work. Just like my dad, my editor-in-chief diligently sifts through every single draft I send him. Back then, seeing my name printed in a magazine was a once-in-a-lifetime moment and a source of pride for me. Today, I get to experience that almost every day. When I met with then Honda Cars Philippines president Kenji Otaka to claim my prize, it was like seeing a famous celebrity up close. These days, meeting company executives is something I happily do on a regular basis. And while I now write about cars and motoring, Honda’s writing contest was a very rare opportunity for my young and awestruck self nearly two decades ago.
On my author page, I mentioned that it was my father who had fueled my passion for cars and driving from a very young age. I forgot he had also been my first teacher and critic in automotive writing. That experience has now stood me in good stead as a motoring journalist—something that was never really a part of my career plans. But as far as jobs go, this is one of the most interesting and rewarding that I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.
Thanks a lot, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.