Since my elder brother passed away at birth, I have been the eldest or “kaka” to my sister and younger brother, and then my youngest brother when he came into our lives that fateful day 20 years ago. (Goodness, has it been that long?) As Ate, I have always been proud of the fact that despite the distinct individuality of each of us in the family, we grew up very close. We do have our ideosyncracies, like my sister will not use the same spoon I have used but will not think twice about borrowing my toothbrush if we were out and she forgot hers.
We slept in the same room until we hit our teens when my brother got his own room — finally. We have private nicknames for each other which has a story behind each monicker. (I am Aloha because I love Pizza Hut’s Hawaiian Delight, my sister is Suzy because she kept breaking keys — from the car keys to our front door keys, and my brother is Kenny because there was a young boy in a movie whose name was Kenny who, according to Suzy looked like my brother.. the youngest, Nikky seems to have been spared — for now..)
If we were in dire straights, we wouldn’t think twice of running to the other for help. And although times back home are tough, my siblings don’t ask for my assistance unless it was as a last resort. No matter how we would bicker and argue, or how we disagree with the other’s views, we have always maintained a closeness that allows us to speak freely from the heart when needed, and joke about even the most personal things. We are always part of the tight circle were our little joys and big successes are shared as a family.
So when I receive a text message asking for assistance, I try my best to help as best I can — although my efforts often fall short of my own desire to help. I may be 10,000 miles away, but I feel as though I am there with them in Manila, still their Ate.
I always find myself looking for things to share with them — either to send door-to-door with the occasional balikbayan box or the faster courriered packages I send when there’s something to celebrate. I miss my siblings and sometimes regret that Angel will not know how it is to have that kind of a family. I just try to find comfort in the thought that as an only child, he would be more generous and giving to his cousins who will be his sisters and brothers, be they here on this side of the world or back home in Manila. I definitely will teach him all about hating kapatid and what that truly means.