Photo depicting the Daep family.

Honoring the Life of Jose Daep, Community Member and Beloved Father

by Ronnie Estoque

Nate Daep remembers his father, Jose Daep, who died in September of COVID-19, as a supportive and loving family man. “My father was a man who not only expressed his love through his words but expressed it through his actions,” Nate Daep said.

Jose Daep was born in Itogon, Benguet, Philippines, on March 19, 1942. He studied mechanical engineering at the Saint Louis University in Baguio and helped out his parents with their recycling company by driving back and forth from the capital city of Manila. Like many other Filipinos that leave the Philippines to provide for their families back home as overseas Filipino workers, Jose relocated to Australia and Zambia before applying for his petition to come to the U.S. in 1970. After 17 years, his petition was eventually accepted and the Daep family was able to immigrate to the U.S. in 1987. They settled in a house Jose built in Pacific, WA.

In 1989, he started working at Boeing as an inspector and eventually retired from the company in 2003 as a technical designer. He met his wife Carmen in 1969 when they worked together at Benguet Exploration in the Philippines. They married in June of 1973 and were married for 48 years. 

A black-and-white photo depicting Jose Daep in a graduation cap and gown while his mother adjusts a pin on the collar of the gown.
Jose receiving his engineering lapel pin from Saint Louis University in Baguio from his mother Concordia while his father Juanito watches. Photo courtesy of Nate and Jourard Daep.

Nate, 37, is one of Jose’s three sons and the owner of Big Boys Kainan, a Filipino restaurant in Kent. Nate first opened a food truck business in 2011, which eventually became Big Boys Kainan. He remembers vividly how his father would always be a call away if anything was mechanically wrong with the food truck, which his father was always able to fix with his experience in mechanical engineering.

And he gave encouraging business advice too. “[H]e just found ways to keep me motivated and just told me, ‘If you feel like you need to sell the business, it’s OK, don’t worry about it. But if you give it your all, even if you’re not making money right now, you’ll find more accomplishment out of that if you really work hard and push through the tough times,’” Nate remembers.

One of Nate’s fondest memories of his father was when he was 6 years old and was taught how to fry an egg. In that moment, Nate felt a sense of fulfillment through his father’s teaching and wisdom, which he would also carry throughout the rest of his life as his food truck business eventually grew into a restaurant space where customers could come in and gather in community for dining. Some of Jose’s favorite dishes from Big Boys Kainan included the Sinigang Bang Wings, chicken adobo and beef steak burritos, and the fish sandwich.

A family photo from 1997 depicting the Daep family gathered around a Thanksgiving table.
Jose Daep’s family gathered for the holidays. Front row from left to right: Jourard Daep (Jose’s son), Carmen Daep (Jose’s wife), Jose Daep, Edwin James de los Angeles (also known as EJ, Jose’s grandnephew), Richard Warden Jr. (also known as Richie, Jose’s grandnephew), Rosalinda Daep Refuerzo (Jose’s late sister), Imeelyn Refuerzo (Jose’s niece), Maelyn de los Angeles (Jose’s grandniece), and Luzcel Warden (Jose’s niece). Back row from left to right: Czarina Cheaney (Jose’s niece), Richard Warden (Jose’s nephew-in-law), and Rudy Refuerzo (Jose’s late brother-in-law). Photo courtesy of Nate and Jourard Daep.

Jourard Daep, 47, another of Jose’s sons, remembers his father’s supportiveness, too. When Jourard was 4 years old, his father taught him how to swim in a pool in Makati, Philippines. Jose had instructed Jourard to kick his feet and swing his arms as fast as possible.

“Come to find out my dad never knew how to swim. But he knew what swimming was inside,” Jourard said.

Jose grew up attending mass in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country. He carried on this tradition with his own family here in the U.S. Jourard remembers how his father would bring him along for volunteer events for Easter egg hunts and different pancake breakfasts. Jose was also an active member of the church choir.

“He was known for [being] that guy with that angelic voice that people just love to listen to because it’s so powerful,” Jourard said. 

One particular Christmas, Nate remembers how Jose had made a huge paról (a Filipino ornamental lantern in the shape of a star) out of cardboard, gold, red, and green paint. “That Christmas was a special one because by seeing my dad work so hard on that star and the commitment … it helped me realize how much our faith in God is so important [to] have,” he said. 

Photo depicting Carmen and Jose Daep with their smiling grandchildren.
Carmen and Jose Daep with their grandchildren (from top back row, left to right) Isaiah, Jacob, Darren, Isabella, Ezekiel Jose, and Victorina. Photo courtesy of Nate and Jourard Daep.

Jose was blessed to be a lolo (grandpa) to his eight grandchildren here in the U.S. and taught them the importance of self-expression and creativity. Nate remembers how shortly after his parents purchased a new refrigerator, his own children had drawn on it and scratched it up. Instead of getting mad at them, however, Jose told Nate that his grandchildren had created art.

“He was a man of unconditional love; he was always accepting of us,” Jourard added.

Jose is remembered by his family as being a listener, mediator, peacemaker, provider, and superhero. He leaves behind a legacy that has been built by his humble upbringing in the Philippines, and his dedication to his passions and values. During this Filipino American History Month, we honor Jose and all kababayan that have lost their lives during this pandemic, and the imprints they have left on us.

On Sept. 29, Jose succumbed to his battle with COVID-19 after 36 days. He was 79. His family has created a GoFundMe for those seeking to offer their support during this transition period. Jose is survived by his wife, Carmen, and his three sons, Jovanni, Jourard, and Nate.

Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.

📸 Featured Image: Members of the Daep family. Back row from left to right: Jovanni, Jourard, and Nathaniel “Nate” Joe. Front row from left to right: Carmen and Jose. Photo courtesy of Nate and Jourard Daep.

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