Almost every morning where I live on weekdays, I wake up to the neighbor's children going to school. I never see them; I just hear them bidding their parents goodbye as they pass by my closed window. From their voices, I would guess that one child is in grade school, while the rest are either in high school or college.
The youngest would say, "I love you, mama! I love you, papa!" several times before leaving. The older ones -- I still don't know how many children there are; three or four, perhaps -- would say their shorter goodbyes (once, I heard what sounded like a teenage boy say, "We're going now, mama! I love you!").
It's a nice alarm clock, this daily chorus of goodbyes and I-love-yous. One day, though, I heard something better.
The children were saying their goodbyes, with the youngest delivering his drawn out I-love-yous. The older ones were already talking and laughing about other things when a strong male voice called out in a thick Filipino accent, "Goodbye, my little ones! Take care, my little ones!"
I'd never heard the parents' answers before.
My little ones. These are words few Filipino fathers would use to address their children. How lovely to hear it from the father next door.