Monday, March 29, 2010

He's My Brother, He Ain't Heavy...

Dong, my only brother from my parents' union ( I have two more lovely brothers from my father's remarriage), is a junior. People call my late father Badong and my brother Dong. He was four years old when our mother died. Our youngest, Connie, was then two. With Connie's passing in 1967 at the age of ten, our immediate family was left with only three members- my father, Dong and I.

Being older than Dong and with my father's work as a soldier who was most often away, I was left as the only significant family member for my brother.
Our childhood was both merry and sad. Merry, because we had a lot of support from our parents' siblings and we had great neighbors who to this day have remained faithful friends to us. Sad, because during our most painful moments, we were only two to share our grief.
Dong is quite an intelligent student back in grade school. We both went up the stage to receive our ribbons during the recognition rites. He had close friends from our community with whom he hung out especially during summer when there's no school. Everything was normal with him until my father remarried in 1969. He was 13 then, I was 15.
At the time, he didn't understand what I was able to grasp at my age. My father was still young then and the woman he married was from a very good family. I didn't see anything wrong with my father's remarriage, in fact, I felt relieved that there was now someone who would take care of him. Unfortunately, Dong did not see it that way. He became disoriented. His perspective of things changed. He was lost in the world he started to create then. He stopped schooling. He got involved in trouble and more troubles. He went away, returned, went away again and returned again. It was a very tiring cycle which made me cry each time the wheel moved.

While I was struggling as a college student, Dong was training in the army. He would have been a regular at the armed forces, but when I got married a year after college, he dropped out of training and got married himself on the same year I did. That would have been a relief but instead, things got even worse 'cause now he has a family to feed and his lack of education could not land him a good job. One odd job after another, his family (with a son and twin daughters), had to endure hardships. Ironically, when his wife went to the Middle East to work, things did not turn out to be better. His daughter Sherryl, the other half of the twin, died of an illness in 2003 and after her burial, my sister-in-law decided to go back to her work. To date, she has been in Saudi Arabia for more than 25 years. I have no choice, because it is my moral obligation, but to help my brother out when he needed assistance. Today, I regret the fact that I did not send him to school. I was overwhelmed by my own emotional challenges which led me to take the leap and plunge into marriage. Being older, I know I should have done something to change the course of his life by encouraging him to go back to school but my selfishness at the time got in the way. I hope he forgives me for my shortcoming.

Through the years, I have become a constant source of help and support, material and otherwise, for Dong and his family. While there is a limit to what I can give, there is no ceiling to the love and care that I have for my brother. We do not talk as lengthily as we do with our respective friends, but we do know each other pretty well. And we have the same intensity of care and concern for each other. I am sure that even if he had no material thing to give me, he is ready to give his own life for me.

From our childhood years to the present, Dong and I have never even once quarreled. We have had no arguments. We kept our peace when one of us is hurt by the other. He listens to me when I start to evangelize or lecture him. In so doing, we developed a bond so strong it is worthy to be emulated by our children. I guess he has now realized the folly of resisting and refusing to accept my father's destiny to happen. He saw with his own eyes how our stepmother loved and cared for our father till his dying day. He may not verbalize it, but I'm sure he has accepted the things he refused to accept when he was younger.

Sometimes, it breaks my heart when I see how old and sad he has become. But I do not question his destiny. An old friend once said, when he learned of my brother's circumstances, that there are really people who are 'walang swerte", no matter how hard they try. I quite agree because I know of some other people who moved heaven and earth to find answers to their dreams, but they failed. But i'd like to think that my brother is lucky to be born in my family, with a father who early on has taught me that family is the most important thing in this world. I know in my heart that my brother now knows where he failed and why. I know that he knows I am always here for him. I know he loves me and that I love him back.

To borrow the lyrics of a
song, the road is long with many a winding turn for my brother. But I'm strong enough to carry him, for he's my brother. His welfare is my concern and he is no burden to me. There is no reason for me not to share anything I've got with my brother, because the road to eternity is a long road from which there is no return. With God by my side, and with my husband's and my children's full support, the load does not weigh me down at all. He ain't heavy.......... because he's my brother.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bridge of My Youth

Okay, I said no issues. But I can't help it.

Two days ago, I went to SM Baliuag with a friend. The jeep we were riding got stuck in traffic right above the Plaridel-Pulilan concrete bridge. The few minutes we were there awakened me to a nagging truth- the Plaridel-Pulilan PNR Railbridge is no longer where it used to stand.

It was the bridge of my youth. That bridge was a playground of sorts for me and my playmates. In the early '60's, my elders used to go to the river to wash clothes and to have a picnic. While they did the laundry, the children ( that includes me) swam in the crystal clear waters which was only knee deep at the time. While swimming, we each had a tabong lata where we put the very fresh tulya which were later cooked by the older ones. We cooked rice using firewood gathered around the area. We gathered fruits from the trees along the river. Several times, we ate fresh langka as dessert, courtesy of the homeowners near the river. We were literally submerged in water the whole day. Almost always, we sat at the concrete platform of the railbridge while telling stories or while munching on some goodies we brought there. We would only leave the platform when a train passes overhead, either north or south bound. The memories and the images are still so vivid. They were the best of times.

Years later, it became impossible to do what we used to do there. The waters darkened and smelled. The banks were now filled with makeshift houses built by people from other provinces in pursuit of the good life away from their hometowns. Worse, the PNR trains stopped operations northwards. Suddenly, there were no more sounds of a cho-choo train nor the sight of the dark smoke emitting from the engines. But the bridge was still there. And it felt okay. The sight of the railbridge evokes memories of a healthy and merry childhood. That was enough.

Then it happened. Slowly, the railbridge disappeared part by part. First to go were the wooden railings. Someone said it became a hot stuff for architects and decorators. Now, they can be found in the best homes worthy of a page in the Architectural Digest. Then, the metal rails went. I myself saw several times how the metal bridge was torn apart. There was no furor over the dismantling. There were talks that it was done regularly-meaning, above board. But nothing is impossible in this country. Whoever got richer by messing with a cultural and historical artifact only has to answer for it with his god.

It wasn't a white elephant even if the trains stopped operations. Many people from both Pulilan and Plaridel benefited from it as it is used by pedestrians who choose to use it instead of walking onto the concrete bridge in order to avoid accidents. It could just have been asphalted or concreted to remain as useful as it was. But no, there were other agenda.

I have no pictures of the bridge of my youth, because it is no longer there.

PS. this is how it looked like.
It's the bridge on the right.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What I Know For Sure ( An Oprah-inspired Musings)

Having lived for more than half a century, I can now boast of knowing some things for sure. Age has a way of teaching us mortals certain truths about certain things. I have always believed that truth is relative. There are as many truths as there are people in the universe, perhaps even more. Maybe my truths are untrue for others, but my life is an affirmation of the things I believe in.

1. Love is the best reason for getting married and for keeping the marriage. In a marriage, there are a lot of termites ( in-laws, vices, ill-motive friends, etc) that threaten to wreak havoc on the union. The strongest weapon against them is the love that binds the couple. When love jumps out of a married person's heart, the marriage is doomed.
2. Children who grew up in a loving environment are well grounded and well mannered. What happens to a child between birth and age 7 defines his future temperament.
3. Generosity cannot be taught. Either one is a giver or a taker. Givers give until it hurts. Takers are not hurt no matter how heavy the load taken is.
4. Friends are not called such if one knew them only for days. Friends are like trees- they have to be planted, cultivated, propagated and cared for.
5. One is never alone. Even the worst person has company-the devil himself.
6. Money is neither good nor bad. It is how money is earned and spent that is either good or bad.
7. When one misses something he considers important and does not get it in any way, it is alright to settle for the next best thing. No one has a monopoly of the best.
8. Learning does not happen only in schools. The universe is the biggest university where even a rolling stone teaches a lesson or two.
9. Some memories are better left untouched especially when they threaten to ignite anger and frustration.
10. Prayers are always answered. However, the answer may not be what you pray for. But it is always good to be thankful for answered prayers.

More truths later.....