A picture I grabbed from brother’s Facebook page showing him and the little boy he brought home last Christmas, rastafied.
He asked permission first from me if he could bring the son of his girlfriend to our house in the province. Since I was paying for his trip, my opinion mattered, and I made it clear that I did not want to have anything to do with that boy, much less be responsible for the welfare of my brother and that boy as we still had to travel for three hours by bus to reach our hometown.
He was taking the Iloilo-Davao trip and I was coming from Manila. I did not want to be inconvenienced by that imp as I wanted nothing but to rest while on the bus. I told our mother that if he insisted, I’d leave him and that little boy in Davao and take the trip home alone. I imagined the boy of three as the devil in flesh–perpetually hungry, throwing tantrums every five minutes, defecating at whim, and in need of everyone’s attention.
For some unexplainable reason, I was persuaded by our mother to let him bring that boy. Probably it was my mother’s pleading, and eventually screaming, tone while she’s explaining to me that she has seen the boy in one of her visits to Iloilo, that the ‘baby’ was adorable, and how our house had become so gloomy after all five of us left for college, save our youngest sister who is in her sixth grade, that it needed some ‘apple of everyone’s eye’.
I retorted that we have our youngest sister who can do that. ‘She’s already twelve, for crying out loud!’ Well, she did not exactly use this line, but she said something to this effect. The matter was settled. The ‘baby’ was to spend Christmas and New Year with us.
Since my flight was set three hours earlier, I arrived in Davao at 6 in the morning, I had to wait for them at the airport. Davao Airport, is not exactly a modern airport. Despite being a gateway to the biggest city in Mindanao, it does not have a decent waiting area for people waiting for arriving passengers. So I had to camp outside, downing as many as five cups of coffee at a nearby tapsilogan, waiting for my brother and his adopted son. The idea that he’s bringing somebody else’s son irked me more. I was thinking of making him feel my unrestrained fury the moment I saw him.
At 9am, I heard the public address system, which sounded hoarse after decades of use, announcing their plane has touched down. Fifteen minutes later, I saw my brother waving at my direction. He lost weight, probably because of poor nutrition and pressure from his school work. On his back is a big mountaineering bag that seemed to have dwarfed him, and in his arms was a yawning little child.
He was clinging to my brother like a newly-born chimpanzee to its mother. His right thumb stuck in his mouth, his head rested on my brother’s shoulder. He straightened his body when he saw me and gave me a puzzled look.
‘Yan, si Seth.’
Then I knew why my other younger sister who stays in the same apartment with my brother in Iloilo was silent the whole time when usually she would badmouth my brother’s girlfriends, why my mother defended my brother’s decision to bring home that ‘baby’, and why my father conspired with my mother.
Seth scratched his nose, looked at me, and gave me that short and innocent smile. His eyes looked droopy and tired because of the trip but he gamely showcased the tricks my brother must have taught him such as saying ‘Halong’ when somebody says ‘Ba-bye’ or gesturing sex with his fingers when my brother ask him what Seth wants to do, and a lot more that I already forget. Right there and then all the preconceived notions I have of any creature that are of Seth’s age got demolished like a stack of gambling cards made to stand on top of each other. If I were to have a baby of my own, I wanted it to be exactly like Seth.
Unlike most kids of three I’ve seen, he’s not megalomaniacal. It never crossed his mind that he was the center of everyone’s attention, he was, though. He did not cry a lot during his stay. He’s quiet most of the time. He did not look revolted whenever we requested him to show off what he has learned from staying regularly in my siblings’ cramped apartment. He made me want to have a kid of my own.
But what was even more endearing about Seth was the closeness he has established with my brother and how this has changed my brother. I didn’t know my brother knew how to change diapers. While we all ran away whenever Seth pooed, my brother would come to the rescue, wash him, and pat him dry. While we only wanted to play with him when he’s laughing and smiling, my brother would do funny faces to make him stop crying. More than three-fourths of the space inside the big bag he carried home was used to contain Seth’s clothes, diapers, feeding bottles, and infant formula. My brother didn’t leave the house during their stay except to buy milk at a grocery in the poblacion.
While he used to think only of himself, he’s found a new reason to be a better man by being a responsible ‘father’ to Seth.
And we, doting uncles and aunties.