Even after living in New York the last 14 years, I haven’t quite gotten used to being away from my siblings who are all in Manila. Despite all the technology that allows me to talk to them as if they were just minutes away and not a half day ahead, or being able to spend 2-3 weeks with them in person practically once a year, it’s just not quite the same. It doesn’t even help to know that the distance has continued to keep us closer than ever, and has not affected our bond as family — it actually makes it even worse. But I continue to try and cope my way…
I have always cherished the way my siblings and I have continued to build our relationships with each other. I feel so blessed to have been given each of them. And that includes my older brother who went to heaven after but a few hours on earth. He and I have an even more special relationship, because I know he watches over me and never fails to move me when he visits me in my dreams. I’ve only seen him as a baby, yet I know it’s him when he pops up in my nocturnal adventures.
The hardest part of being here in New York, is that I am 10,000 miles away from them. One of my coping mechanisms has been to take out their friends when they land in my part of the world for one reason or another. Yes, even those I’ve never met before but whose connection to me is that they are “superfriends” or “buddies” of any of my siblings back home.
Most of them are surprised by the warm welcome — but it is always easy for me to be warm and friendly and cozy with those who I know share a special bond with the most special people to me. Be it for a single dinner or a walk around the city or what have you, I cherish those moments when I find myself with them again, even if only vicariously. I miss them that much even if we see each other every other year (or even every year like in most recent times) and even when they are but a touch of a button away on Viber or Facebook or a dial away on the cellphone.
So in the last couple of months, I’ve met up with two of my sister’s friends, and a pair of my brother’s. Each one has been a different encounter but rich with a lot of laughter and reminiscing and just plain getting to know you. I relish those moments shared because they translate to time spent with the sibling who is our common friend.
Val visited a few months back and had helped me to get a better insight into my sister’s current circle and world. Although it is not the same as meeting up with my sister’s friends who I had known from their shared childhood or high school years, Val gave me a window into my sister’s world outside of the circle I normally see her in. She was quick to laugh like my sister, and it touched me that she told me she had connected with my sister between the first and last time I got to sit down with her here in New York, and she had told Ofie, “Mahal na mahal ka ng Ate mo.” (Your older sister loves you so much.)
Then came Edlyn who I had known from a visit a few years back and who, like Ofie and I, is a Paulinian. (We all shared the fact that our formative years were spent with the Sisters of St. Paul.) We were supposed to attend aparty in Freehold, NJ the same evening Edlyn was free, but it was more important for me to see her, so I sent father and son off without me and planned a special night. I picked a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for the longest time, Esca, and I went into the city on a Saturday evening not knowing it was the start of the (in)famous traffic-snarling UN Week here in New York. (I would’ve loved to pique your palate with the sumptuous photos I had taken but I lost my iPhone two days ago.. along with the thousands of pictures I had stored in it.)
I have always loved Edlyn’s positivity and vivacious personality. Even on Facebook, her page drips and oozes with optimism and words of encouragement without being soupy or overly religious. (Although I don’t mind those, in general.) She had an infectious laughter (tossing her head back in wild abandon, several times almost hitting a server sidling up behind her — caught unaware by her sudden jolt of joy). I was there to just have a dose of that, but I got so much more. A professional life coach, she was in town for a spiritual conference and to take on several other events from coast to coast. We discussed so many things over that sumptuous meal that I would’ve stayed longer at her apartment, but I didn’t want to rob her of a chance to catch up with some Zs in preparation for the long day ahead.
She doesn’t see my sister as often as they used to see each other, but she is close enough to know the latest that’s been going on in her life. Edlyn’s focus, though, was me — and she shared her heart so openly and with no reservation that I soon realized we were brought together for a reason beyond catching up about my sister. Of the many things Edlyn told me and asked me, she told me “It all comes back to ‘YOU’. Always remember that — you are the most important thing.”
Even now, that gives me pause to think and reflect. And I see her tossing her head in wild laughter again. =)
Just a few days ago, one of my brother’s friends arrived with another friend/officemate in tow. They were a nice pair of young travelers trying to take in the city — very pretty Anna and my stand-in Nikki superfriend, Romeo. (Nikki is my youngest brother who is now a physical therapist in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila.) Never met them, and I never even started communicating with Romeo until Nikki connected us just before he left.
First, I took them out to lunch which caused quite a stir with the boss for the length of time I was away. (I was royally scolded!) Then we met up again at night to take in the lights and sounds of Times Square, Fifth Avenue and Central Park. I played photographer, tour guide and jokingly, “Pimp”. We managed two sets of photos with New York’s finest which were the biggest hit in their photostream of photos taken here in NYC.
Sitting across the table from Romeo at dinner at Rosie O’Grady’s felt like sitting across the table from my dearest Nikki. He came into our lives when I was 18, and had always treated him as my baby, even now when he’s a 30 year old professional. I had always told myself that if I were never blessed with a child, he would be the one to fill that gap in my life. But even now that I have my own son, I look to him as the baby I saw grow up before my eyes into the beautiful person that I am so proud of right now.
I wanted it to be Nikki in those pictures we shot — and I went all out in the hopes that seeing Romeo here would make him want to come here and join me — finally.
These people were brought into my life here in New York through my siblings, but they have touched my life in a more direct way and I feel that my life has been enriched by these encounters. Beyond the care packages they brought, they brought me a piece of my siblings that I wouldn’t see otherwise, viewing it from the perspective of being one of the family. And over and above that, they all brought something different to add to my life experiences. For the special friendship they shared with the people who mean the most to me, I let them in with open arms and was able to find new friends of my own and for that I am a better person.
I opened my heart to them as if I had known them forever, and because they saw an older sister in me, they did the same. We became instant friends because one of my siblings was a very dear friend of theirs — and now, they are my friends, too. For that I am eternally grateful, and I can’t wait for the next pseudo-sibling to come along… hopefully soon.