My sister’s drawing

My 12-year old sister drew this in my computer when I visited our hometown two months ago. I found the drawing several minutes ago while looking for old files in my hardly-opened folders. Indeed, most beautiful things are found hidden in the least expected of places.

How I miss my sister.

Stars on the ceiling

Glow in the Dark stars

Every time before I sleep, I would stare at the phosphorescent stars and moons my youngest sister glued on the ceiling of her room. I am currently billeted in her room forcing her to transfer to the adjacent room which I used to occupy with my two younger brothers before we left for college. They look like real stars, so big that I could almost pluck them from the black space where they seemed suspended for eternity.

“Walyn (my sister’s name) ikaw ni nagdikit sang mga stars kag moon diri sa kisame?”

“Oo kuya”. Of all my younger siblings, she’s the only one who calls me kuya; the rest call me Yan-yan. She’s everyone’s favorite; the apple of our eyes.

“Din ka nagkuha sini? Ginbakal ni ni mama para sa imo?”

“Ako na nagbakal kuya, gina-save ko be ang balon ko.” I would like to believe that I am her favorite brother, but this is too presumptive to say as she is close to all of her other siblings.

“Nga-a gindikit mo ni sila diri haw? Mayo kay nalab-ot mo?”

“Ginbuligan ko ni papa eh.” She turned twelve two days ago.

My mother did not want to commit the same mistake she did by enrolling my two younger brothers too early in grade one, both were six when they started their elementary schooling, my youngest sister is still on her 5th grade although she should already be qualified as a sixth grader.

This doesn’t bother her. She’s as carefree as any fifth grader, and we would want her to have the same childhood as we all did – uncomplicated, happy, devoid of any pressure to excel and be on the top. Only that this time, she’s spending it alone, as all of us are either in college or already working. We only come home during Christmas holiday or in some rare visits like I’m having at the moment.

I was eleven years old when my mother gave birth to her. That time, another baby sister was the last thing I was asking. Our house was already crowded as it is with five children. I was in a conference in Davao when my mother labored for her. When I arrived home, for a fifth-grader’s rudimentary concept of what is beautiful, I thought of her as a hideous slob of brown, hairy flesh. Even so, I knew that time that I’ve already become a real big brother, and was left with no option but to love her although she seemed too wrinkled and brown. I gave my mother the 400 pesos I saved from the trip to buy milk for my newest sister. I smile whenever I remember that day.

“Ti Wa, nga-a ginpangdikit mo gid ni diri ang mga glow-in-the-dark mo nga mga stars haw?”

“Kuya, siling man gud ni mama, sang una daw, tong mga bata pa kamo, nagpadikit sad daw kamo ug mga glow-in-the-dark stars sa kisame sang pihak kwarto ba.”

One day, she showed me a photo of the two of us. I was around thirteen in the photo, thin, dark-skinned. She was seated on my lap. She was probably two years old that time. We were both smiling; she holding on to my arms tightly. I looked like a very proud kuya so protective of his cute, little sister.

She’s growing very fast. Possibly, the next time I come home, I may have a hard time recognizing her and connecting her to my image of my youngest sister that has frozen in time. Some moments in our lives are just too fleeting.

“Oo no. May ara pa gani wala natanggal nga marks sang scotch tape didto. Ti Wa, na-miss mo man kami?”

“Miss mo lang!”

When we’ve grown too old to play ‘Snakes and Ladders’

This is a very simple board game that is dependent on nothing but sheer luck. Our mother introduced this to us when we were still very young. I was eight years old then. Playing snakes and ladders involves throwing of a die that will determine how many moves a player will take, and depending on his fortune, he may go to a safe tile, climb the ladder and go up several notches, or be eaten by a snake and go back a lower level. The player who reaches the 100th tile first wins the game.

I have three sisters and two brothers. The six of us grew up in a rather protected household. My childhood memory is replete of any friends from the outside. Although my parents did not prevent us from mingling with the neighbors’ children but still we did not go out of the house to play with any of the children our age. It was either we hated rough games or we thought that we did not need anyone because the six of us were more than enough to play hide-and-seek or tug-of-war or whatever game we could think of, and besides we used to think that our neighbors’ children despised us and thought of as us too snobbish.

And so snakes and ladders was one of our past times in the early nineties when Playstation and some other modern games were non-existent or, if they were already in the market, too expensive for our parents, who are both public school teachers, to afford. Oh I remember we had a Nintendo family computer where we had to insert a very big “bala” or cards to play Super Mario or a very rudimentary Motorbike race using our black and white television set as monitor. But it was only the six of us then – my eldest sister, myself, my two younger brothers and two younger sisters.

A decade after, we are already too old to play snakes and ladders or any children’s game.

I had a chat with my eldest sister two days ago. I reassured her that after I finished my scholarship I shall keep my promise to help support the schooling of my two younger brother and sister who are both in college now. I know it was difficult for my sister for she had been sacrificing for the past four years, setting aside all the plans for her self just to help my parents with the education of my younger siblings. I just thought that next year it’ll be a time for her to seek for whatever is in store for her. I told her that I am willing to postpone my master’s degree in Journalism at a university in the US because it is more important for me that she can also do something she really loves to do and not just because she feels obligated to do it.

I also feel the same for my brother who is next to me. He graduated from college a year ago and is now contemplating to go to Romania to be a hotel staff or do a job similar to that. I asked him if he has already made up his mind, he told me he has no choice, “It’s for the family, Yan,” he told me.

The Author, Mae Byrd (24), Sef Daye (19), Ojualyn (10), Gemini (17), Des Neil (20)
The Author, Mae Byrd (24), Sef Daye (19), Ojualyn (10), Gemini (17), Des Neil (20)

We’ve already grown up. Our concerns are not anymore about how to win a game of snakes and ladders but how to make our family whole. I used to think of my eldest sister as selfish and immature and my brother next to me as someone beyond my understanding. They are my siblings but I’ve never really known them, but through the years, I’m starting to see other sides of them that have remained hidden to me despite the number of years we spent together in South Cotabato and even while we were still in college.

It occurred to me that it was I who is selfish and who thought of nothing but the advancement of my career. Although my sister will never have the guts to tell to my face, but I knew she also wants me to do my share of the sacrifices. And I promised her I will. I will be turning 23 next year, in a time most crucial to my growth as a member of the academe, but I know it’ll never hurt me if I give up just two years of my life for my younger siblings and for my sister who also has to find her place under the sun.

I just want to share the ladders I’ve accumulated through the years and kill as many snakes as I can to help my other siblings, the children I used to play snakes and ladders with during our past times in the early 90s, reach the 100th tile together with me.