Posted in #Love, Family, Uncategorized

A Family Tree with Adjectives

November 1, 2016

Today is All Saint’s Day. I always look forward to this day because aside from the fact that I get to visit my dead relatives’ graves, I also get to see the ones who are still alive. I seldom get to meet with them because of a lot of reasons, so this is the only probable time. The family’s long-time tradition was to meet each other up at our Lola’s grave (which is also the place where a cousin, two grandfathers, an aunt and an uncle are rested, all from my father’s side) that is guarded by two huge bamboo trees on both sides somewhere south of the Alang-Alang Cemetery. So, we usually sit under the shade and share lunch. If there was no food, we would all go to one Mrs. Pataňo’s canteen and rent a table for a small gathering. We would usually share some kilos of Lechon Baboy and share stories of the dead ones while drinking Tuba.

I said “was” because for two years now, this has stopped being a tradition. For two consecutive years of November 1s, we stopped digging this reunion thing. I am not sure when it all started, but we don’t wait up for each other anymore under the bamboo trees nor go to Mrs. Pataňo’s canteen to eat together. Now, all we did was go to the graves and light up our candles, stand for several minutes while whispering our own prayers and abruptly bid our goodbyes to the souls.

I saw some of my cousins, aunts and uncles today but we didn’t invite each other for lunch. Everyone was in a hurry to go somewhere else. I was a bit disappointed but I guess, being surprised would be the last thing that I need to be.

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I hail from a huge and not so wealthy family. For all of my life, I never denied this reality to myself and to a lot of the people. My grandparents from both sides were farmers, until their deaths. Theirs were the generation that was taken away by World War II. Lola Maring often told us stories about the Japs and how they poisoned them by feeding them with Kurot (a type of root crop which was edible but needs to be meticulously prepared to wash away its fatal toxins) and how the red necks get drunk from drinking tuba and how they all hide from bullets and bombs when these people blasted each other away.

After the war, they plowed, watered and planted on lands which never became theirs. Sending the kids to school was the greatest challenge. Food was precious and prioritized especially with the growing family so the kids almost never went to college, not until they work their own asses off to send themselves to school. At that time, province life was unimaginable. Life was hard, money was rare.

Among my father’s 11 siblings, (2 of whom were stillborn while one uncle died because of ignorance and slightly from acute appendicitis at the age of 18 years) only one finished college and became a teacher. One of his brothers went abroad to find a greener pasture, one remained in the barrios to become a farmer while one is a fruit-vendor. His eldest sister (who died at the age of 70 something) married an uncle who worked in a ship, the teacher married a security personnel and the other one went to Cavite to create a family of her own. My father who was the youngest first fell in love with his music. He went all over the place playing the guitar and Ukulele with his band. He was supposed to become a veterinarian when he met my mother. He quit school during his third year in college and married Nanay. He then became a professional auto mechanic.

My biological mother was the second to the last one from a siblings of five. Between our parents, we (their children) are closer to Papa’s side than that of Nanay’s. So, there is only a diminutive things to say here about the whereabouts of her other three siblings. I’ve heard little rumors like that of their eldest sister dying from a heart attack back in 2014, and her older brother who has successful children. But never have I heard from the aunt who went to Australia and never came back even after the death of Lola Ising. I don’t know where the youngest went or whether he is still alive. We have this aunt though who got married but never had any children. I am not pretty sure if it was by choice or something else. When my parents separated, this aunt fought for our custody but it never worked out. After the ordeal, Nanay died from an illness (I was seven then) and instead of having us, she got Nanay’s part on their 60 hectare-ancestral lands and now farms it. I remember when we were kids, during summer, our aunt would usually send us boxes of sweet Lansones. But now, I have no idea whatever happened to the trees because no more boxes are coming in. Papa says she already sold the lands, which is quite disappointing because technically, it was ours. We could have been rich by now. *Haha. My old man also says that among us, I have my mother’s face and laugh. My mother died at the age of 32 from intense stubbornness and as typical with unhealthy people, a little of her illness.

My stepmother (the one who took care of us like her own children when my father married her after the death of Nanay) has the strangest story among all of them. According to her, she was adopted by her grandparents and took their last name because her mother (whom she called Ate) got pregnant while under the influence of Gayuma (love potion) by her late father. So obviously, the relationship didn’t work out when her mom woke up from the magical love affair, and she became an unwanted baby. So her Lola took her instead. She never met her father. She found out about the truth when she was I think 12 or 15, I’m not sure anymore. After the revelation, her mother took her in and sent her to college. She finished Commerce but never (even once) did she became an employee of any office. She was once offered to work in a bank, but then she already met Papa who by then was 33 and they had a month old baby and she can’t afford to be away from her daughter, even just the thought of leaving brought huge tears to her eyes. So, she remained to become a housewife to a man who has three children from a previous wife ever since she was 25 years old.

All of my three parents had their fair share of hardships and difficulties, as with my aunts and uncles from both side. Theirs was a life that was hard and where money was rare unless you go to Manila to look for a brighter future. Especially after they have decided to make their own families and create their own stories.

The more we know, the more we know that we do not know. These stories are just the tip of the ice berg. It’s nice though to hear stories from my parents as I have yet to tell and finish my own. I still have a long way to go, our stories will still become more colorful and longer as we go along this journey as a family, but I hope that the traditions will never cease. I long for that day when all of us will be in a single place, everyone, from my parents and siblings to my cousins and their parents and their great grandchildren.  It would be nice to see and hear their own versions of these stories and their own anecdotes as well.

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I hope next year, we will all wait up for each other again and eat our lunches all together under the bamboo trees where our roots lay as one and tell each other our own stories…

-m

Posted in Family, middle child syndrome, parenting, Personal Development

Notice The Parenthesis

First, I have a “Middle Child Syndrome”. Second, I always believe that I was an unwanted child. Well, these are two different concepts, but both stem from that single theory. (Oh, wait.) Let me explain later.

You see, I was born second to Papa’s first wife (my mom of course, who is also now somewhere not on Earth, bless her soul wherever she is) with whom he had a total of three offsprings. Before me, they had their darling eldest, a pretty, fair-skinned with huge round eyes daughter who had been an only child for four years. After a while (four years seeming an eternity) they have decided to add another one to their young family, a boy would be ideal, they thought, to complete the ideal set, of course.

Unfortunately for them, I was next. Ta-da! I was a girl! Another girl. The second one, obviously. Not so nice for them, I guess. So, even when I was just starting to walk, not more than a month for me to turn a year older, they had another kid. Ta-da! The fastest swimmer was a boy! Lucky them! A pretty boy at that, too! Oh how his sweet, angelic-face, and little curly brown hair and small lips made them cry. For nine months, I was just starting to ripen my charm with them when I eventually lost it to him who became the youngest for eight years until my mom died and my father remarried. He and his new wife had a little brown beautiful girl for thirteen years and Hans came as our present youngest. Never knew whether we were the only kids he got, though. (Kidding.)

So there. It seemed I had the shortest time of their attention, their care, and also (might) be their love.

According to Alfred Adler, this syndrome stems out from birth order. Birth order, the order of birth of the kids in the family. (You don’t say.) Like, the eldest usually has the power because of being the first (on everything) or being next to the parents but never really being an equal to them. The youngest has all the charm in the world because of being, well, the youngest, the baby (but could also be the weakest in terms of decision-making for example, no pun intended) sometime being the rebel for having too much of the attention, or being spoiled because parents seldom spank a baby even after it poops in their lap. And of course, the middle child (or children if they’re more than one) for well, just being there between these two.

I remember getting spanked (and kneeling down on salt, because we don’t have Monggo seeds) for shouting at my sister just because she’s older than me. (They said to respect the age, but I figured as we’ve grown apart, being respected never really comes with age, it’s with the attitude and the character.) I remember being reprimanded by eating something that was supposed to be for my brother because he needed it more than I do because he was younger than me (naturally, they said. Always give way to the young.) I even remember waking up crying after one afternoon nap and I heard my mom asked somebody to check if it was my brother crying, and when that somebody saw that it was just me, he went back to my mom and they did nothing. I was just 3 or 4, I think. I was just a toddler and I deserved some freakin’ attention, didn’t I?

Now that I remember them, it makes me…well…uncomfortable.

But much to their surprise, I excelled in almost everything. I was the brightest among us. I always ranked number 1 or 2 in school, never getting below a grade of 90 (except when I went to college, but give me a break, I went to UP for crying out loud!), I danced, I sang, I played musical instruments, won almost every competition I join, president of every freakin’ club I know, always an officer of the student council, president of my every class, I was the darling of my friends, I was popular too, among other kids. My parents never had to pay a single cent on my studies because I was always a scholar, even when I was in college, I can even lend them money from my regular stipend…, you name it, I always nailed things. I was the best in everything (almost)! (Except I graduated salutatorian in elementary and high school. And I wasn’t anyone’s first love, ever.)

(You see, middle children tend to be achievers because they need awards to be recognized by their parents.)

Since, Nanay died when I was seven, Papa became my universe. I do things best to make him proud of me, because I saw how he adored my brother, his only boy and did his paramount efforts for his eldest, his “key” to a better life. When I did nothing, he could only care less about me. I was just the second child. It made me believe these stupid jokes our neighbors used to tease me back when I was very little. They said I was just an adopted kid. Who wouldn’t believe it? Among us, I was the only one with the smallest chinky eyes, I was the brightest, and of course the least favorite of my parents.

They give me presents every time I end the school year on top of our class. They pat me on the back when I bring home the medals. I didn’t want to fail because they fail me, too. Like when I was twelve, Papa didn’t come to my elementary graduation after I flop to proceed first honor, despite me being on top for five years. And when I was nineteen, Papa didn’t even come to my college graduation (which is kind of disappointing for me until now.)  I was jealous of his picture with his eldest, him with his entire and proud smile, standing beside his future teacher kid. (Now, where is she?) Ah, his “key” got lost when she married three or four(?) years after her graduation. He was of course frustrated, but partly, it was his fault. (Now, somebody else is enjoying the fruits of his labor.) (Off-topic but somehow related: the disadvantage of the Filipino trait “utang na loob” in the context of Family.)

(Finally, the second kid is no longer useless.) While their other kids can only do enough, I do almost so much. Maybe I wanted to show them what I can do more and make them regret that they have cared less about me in the past, that their favorite kids are not dependable (just yet) as I am, and they have made a mistake in expecting too much from the wrong kids.

Am I finally glad? Of course I am. This is my sweetest revenge! (*But this makes me feel evil.)

But honestly, I feel proud that I have been a good person despite of it all. (Research says that middle children tend to be well, psychologically and socially imbalance.) After all, I have found love and care among other things instead, like thriving in friendship, becoming a peacemaker (sometimes) and not losing a social circle. And I get spoiled (haha!) by a man who loves me despite being so “difficult”.

Finally, I forgive them for their lousy parenting style because I wouldn’t be here anyway, if it weren’t for them. Now I am here, and they depend so much on me, and despite the difficulties and this being a huge responsibility, I am honestly glad that they notice me now. At least, my efforts bore fruits.

They are my parents after all. They are my family, who never chose to give life to me but did anyway when they had me (at least I was not a mission aborted), who will always be there no matter what I am and what I go through so that even in my prayers I will always end up whispering “they are my life…”.

Now, I am an grown-up middle child and I just love how I’ve grown to be more independent and decisive, although I know that I am a bit of an attention-seeker but to be honest, middle child syndrome is terrible. Not my syndrome, I believe. I guess I was just exaggerating.

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*Grabbed from Google’s image on Middle Children Memes.