If my siblings and I were to have a fans club, You, definitely, would be the first member to sign up. You were the most appreciative of our tiniest feats and the proudest of our achievements.
I was your first grandchild. You, as much as my parents, delighted on my first step, first word, and all my other firsts – including my explanation of what differentiates a girl from a boy. You were there during my Preparatory Graduation. You were too happy to watch me read and deliver the First Reading at the mass. I was also awarded Gold Medalist that day, so you raved about me for a couple of months. Grade School was a different light, I did not belong to the Star Section, but you always had kind words of encouragement. You always gave me books to read. You always wanted me to speak to you in straight English. You read my stories, my prose, my poems. You took pride when my first article came out in our school paper. I was Filipino Literary editor, but my published articles were in English. Haha!
In the midst of our family’s fall, you gave my Mama some cash so I can take qualifying exams for the Makiling School for the Arts. You said my writings were raw yet beautiful, and has to be honed. I did not even try signing up for that School (though in hindsight, maybe I should have had). I graduated high school. You rejoiced when I passed the UPCAT. You were the happiest when I wore the Sablay on my shoulders.
Same things you did for my siblings. You almost danced when my sister topped the National Schools Press Conference for Editorial Writing. When she was commissioned by RCBC to illustrate their children’s book, you did not want to turn the pages, you just wanted to stare at them. I will never forget my brother’s Recognition. I was walking through the halls, looking for a good angle to take a video, then you were there, the teary-eyed kind of proud. My brother looked awful, he was too dark, stripped of several pounds, some concussions on his face, yet you posed proudly beside him. You traveled miles wearing my brother’s oversized polo to see his first promotion of sorts.
Our milestones were yours. When you found out I was pregnant, you cheered on. You were too excited to see your apo sa tuhod. Your face beamed when you first saw him, when you carried him in your arms. You were old, but strong. You know my Mama always told me that in the province, when kids get sick all the time, they call them by a different name to confuse the spirits. You were named Pedro but was eventually called Mateo. I named my first boy after your new nickname, hoping he’d gain the strength your name has afforded you. And he is, indeed, strong. Maybe too much for his age, even. And I hope he’d also be the cheerleader that you were.
Last year, when I first visited you after your stroke, I played my older boy’s video. Your eyes twitched, you smiled or maybe that was an attempt to laugh. I don’t know. I cried inside. The hospital bed did not suit you, you were always on your feet. So I promised you’d carry him when you get better. I promised you’d meet the boy inside my tummy. You never got to see or hold him, but he’s as adorable as his Kuya. Watch over them, Lolo. You have a lot to cheer on for them.
Today, I didn’t feel as lonely or devastated as I was last year. Today, I was relieved. You fought hard, Lolo. You fought well. You fought too long. And today, your fight is over. You deserve this rest. You deserve this peace.
Thank you, Lolo. I doubt I ever said this as an adult, but I love you.