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Dear Tay,

I’m typing right now while listening to Brian McKnight. It’s my first day off on a Saturday and finally not working. I miss you dearly. I broke down last night and this morning. You are still a sensitive topic that a song, can just make me break into tears. I miss hearing your voice and your lectures. Right now, I’m trying to get back to following the path I felt I needed to do. I don’t know how or when or even where it will happen. However, I promise I will be successful in my craft and I will try my best and hardest this year. I’m tired of working under people and I want to be closer to my dreams. I knew you believed in me ever since you bought my first camera to giving me your film camera. Thank you for raising me and my sister to the best in your capability. I’m trying to be a better daughter and older sister. It’s hard when I have to explain myself to Nanay and you’re not there to defend me. I hate that I have to grow up faster than others because you’re not physically here. But like I said, I’m trying my best. I know even if it seems I am alone, that in reality I have people out there who are supporting me. I wish sometimes you can be here to help with advice and be there, just be there because no one can’t replace a father figure.

I love you very much. I will eat noodles just for your birthday because usually that means so you can have a long life. Today, I’ve been taking it easy because every moment without you seems like eternity. I wish I had the answers to my problems right now and it was that easy. But that’s just the journey of trying to be where I want to be.

I need to be strong. I need to keep it together.

I hope wherever you are, you are in peace, smiling, laughing, and talking to all the folks up there. I know you’re such a friendly person, a man full of wisdom, I would kill to have a conversation with you. I miss you very much. It’s hard to type this all up, but just had to let it out a bit.

REWIND TO THE PAST — My dad passed away in 2014 and til this day I won’t forget what my neighbor told me. He said that no matter how old you are, the emptiness feeling will always remain. My dad’s death wasn’t one that my family was prepared for, it’s not like he was in the hospital and we waited til it was his time. It was just one morning, I was on my way to buy supplies for the photo studio, and I get a phone call from my sister that I needed to rush home and it was about my dad. She had no guts and it wasn’t in her to tell me the truth on the phone and I had to find out the news in person. When I saw the ambulances and the police cars in front of my house, that’s when I knew something was wrong. Also, I a little part of me told myself, please don’t tell me my dad died.

This happened on a Monday. The weekend that just passed I was in Philadelphia on a photo shoot and so I didn’t even get to spend his last hours with him. I have a bittersweet when I’m in that city now. Every thing happened so fast, from heading to the funeral home, to the Philippine Consulate to figure out how to fly his body to the Philippines, from telling my grandma who was 90+ at the time the news. I was 22, and never did I thought this would happen to me.

I went to the Philippines with my family to bury him there. I knew that’s what he would have wanted. I didn’t care if he wasn’t in New Jersey, I wanted him to be back in his homeland where my grandfather was buried. When I was a young girl, my dad brought me to the cemetery where my grandpa was buried and told me it was my grandfather’s birthday. Never will I forget the date of July 18. I never met my grandpa (lolo, how you say it in Tagalog) but every one swears my sister and I got the creative talent from him.

That whole month of April, was just spending it with family and embracing my dad’s hometown in Marikina, Philippines. I put together a photo shoot editorial and took photos around my grandmother’s home and even with my dad’s dog. The hardest part was probably seeing my grandmother stare at my dad’s casket and all my dad’s old friends staring at me. They all said I looked exactly like my father when he was younger. My grandma too would stare at me because I knew she saw my father in me.

My dad is my number one idol and inspiration.



  1. ulysses ulysses

    This photoset is really beautiful and I’m sure no one will really know how much it meant to you to take those photos. Like you said, this is a sensitive topic, so I will leave personal things between you and I, but you know how I feel. He’s never forgotten, I see him through you everyday. Just keep pushing and you’ll get to where you want and need to be. Always keep striving.

  2. ulysses ulysses

    Happy birthday Tay! I won’t ever forget that.

  3. Jess Ma Jess Ma

    You’re so strong girly <3 I know your dad would be super proud of everything you've accomplished. Loved this post and your tribute to your dad xo

    • swaagcaat swaagcaat

      Thanks Jess <3!

  4. This is so sad and it is true when you loose a loved one you will always feel the emptiness. May your dad rest in piece. Beautiful blog post and pictures. Happy Birthday to your dad!

    • swaagcaat swaagcaat

      Thanks Kseniya, you’re too kind !

  5. Stephanie jeannot Stephanie jeannot

    What a beautifully written letter to your dad. It is so sweet and emotional. I live the part about the noodles.

    • swaagcaat swaagcaat

      Thank you Stephanie!

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