Kapatid (Siblings or Brother/Sister in Tagalog)

I am the eldest living child in a family of 5 siblings.  An older brother born four years ahead of me had passed away at birth.  After me came my sister, a brother, and another brother who was a gift from God.

Our birth spacing was close enough that we were just a year to a year and a half apart.  We slept in one room until our teen years and one of our most memorable photos together is of the three of us in identical Santa outfits.  My youngest brother did not come into our lives until I was 19 years old already but we are very close, even if we are now 10,000 miles apart. 

Siblings make one think of the saying that you cannot choose your relatives but you can choose your friends.  While it is true that you have to make do with the family that you are born into, you can nurture extraordinary friendships with blood relatives that give meaning to the saying that blood is thicker than water.

My siblings and I are totally different from each other, yet the wisdom imparted by our parents, particularly from our Mom to us binds us together.  We have our personal quirks but we all know how to behave on the dinner table, be it to eat with our hands (or magkamay) or an elaborate meal that sees a dozen or so silver pieces on each place setting.  We all know that we should not look for our talents and skills in others because not everyone was created equal as our Mom admonishes us.  We’re all chocoholics and have a running joke of petnames for each one only the four of us know the rationale for.

I am very proud of the fact that we are close enough that even if we are separated by oceans, when we need help, we reach out to each other, be it for comfort or other needs.  We know what goes on in each others lives, no matter how we may disagree with how each lives it.  We support each other when things go wrong, even if only through prayers. 

Of course we’ve had our spats but we always get back together as close if not closer than ever.  Such is the special bond we share as brothers and sisters.  I cannot thank the Lord enough for giving me the siblings who call me Ate.  They have been one of my crutches and source of inspiration through the trials that I faced, and the first one to cheer me on through my triumphs.  I’m very proud of each one of them because they are secure in their person and are all good human beings.  Not one of them has harmed another human being be it physically or emotionally intentionally.  We were all raised under the golden rule of doing unto others what you want done unto you.   And we know when to forgive in the name of love.

I have too many good memories of our years to gether to recount them all.  My greatest regret is that they were not here when I walked down the aisle.  The separation has been very difficult and I cannot say I have adjusted and coped with it completely, even if I have been here almost 6 years now.  There’s just no getting used to leaving family behind.  So I cherish those times that we talk on the phone or e-mail.  Next to introducing my son to his grandpa, the biggest highlight of my homecoming is being with my siblings again.  I can’t wait to go around Manila with them again this April.

I cannot imagine how my life would’ve been if I had been an only child.  I wouldn’t have anyone to laugh with those weekends we spent home.  Who would have helped me to put up our makeshift tents between our beds as we entertained ourselves within the confines of the bedroom we shared?  I’m not even enticed by the thought of not having to share the goodies with anyone — sharing was always part of the fun.

I wouldn’t want any other siblings — I’m happy with the ones I’ve got.  They have blessed my life with their friendship and love, and they have made me a better person just by loving me, despite my flaws and imperfections.  I am teaching my son about his other “siblings” back home — my brother’s children.  They are a fixture of my thoughts about growing old because I know that unlike other siblings torn by strife who have disavowed their family ties, we will always find the way back home to each other’s arms.

Peace Keeping via E-mail

I never sent that e-mail which I felt was much too hostile for my good.  Instead we got another e-mail and I guess now, all attempts at keeping the peace are futile.  I’m okay.. thank you to those who inquired about it.  Don’t worry, we’re not having the same kind of political emergency GMA is having back home.  (How come that bit of news didn’t surprise me?  We were actually waiting with bated breath when the attempt would be made after all those arrests.. but let’s not get political here.. )

The only good thing about this is that I am at peace with my family (meaning my immediate family — Mom, my siblings and everyone back home), my husband, his Mom (who now lives with us) and even my stepson with whom I’ve been at odds with from the day I married his Dad.  We’re even actually getting along which is a feat in itself.  So even if others have been causing my husband and his family pain, I am able to give them my strength.

When hatred takes over, there is no way to listen to reason.  My biggest regret is having to say goodbye to people who have no choice but to stay away now that lines have been drawn.  Though they may not want to take sides, they have to.  Our extended family used to be my sister-in-law and her family and her in-laws who were our Ninong and Ninang when we wed in 2000.  Now that family has been torn in two.

I used to believe that there is no such thing as the point of no return when it comes to people you love.  Sadly, my husband’s family has reached that.  I can only watch from the sidelines and assure my husband and his Mom that we will be alright.  It will not be easy just forgetting family ties like that which have been severed, but we must move on and go past the anger.  Let them wallow in that — we don’t have to.

I even wished them well and thanked them for having been a part of our lives.  Instead I was told I was never even treated as part of the family.  I knew and felt that.  Yet I did not pay heed because I came into the family because of my husband, and my mother-in-law is one very fair and generous person.  Besides, my Mom had always taught me to deal with my in-laws fairly — di bale na daw na meron akong masabi sa kanila, basta wala silang masabi sa akin.  I find it timely indeed that my Mom is here witnessing my other family breaking apart.  She was admonishing me not to get involved, but I was the only calm voice in the melee. 

It’s so sad.  All I can say is I am so glad I have my siblings for my family.  That’s another post altogether. 

As I wrote my Ninong and Ninang, it sounds like goodbye but it isn’t for Alan and Me.  Family is what you make it — and whether or not they are physically present where we are, they are always a part of us.