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!”