The light shines directly into my face. I heard people moving and walking pass by me. The hospital ward felt like a hallway but it seemed like an evacuation center due to the number of patients, including myself. I just regained consciousness after an hour of a surgical operation and another hour from the recovery room. It was so quick. the last thing I remember was that they let me inhale and the next thing I know, my appendix was taken out. As I regain consciousness, thoughts came rushing into my mind like that of a water coming out from a damaged water valve. It’s the second quarter of the year 2015 and so many changes had happened. I was thinking of the life I left back there in the Philippines, then the childhood memories with the first set of friends, the Sundays with the old grannies, the high school experience that sometimes I’d like to forget but would choose not to, the escapes and reasons made just to get away from the chores, and the day I realized how unique and common my situation is.
The oldest memory I could remember from my childhood was when I was back in the province with my great grandparents. They were the first ones whom I remember taking care of me. They were the first ones who taught me how to write the letter S. I remember, they would leave me and my younger brother in the house. They would lock the door outside so we could not go out as there’s no one left to look over us. They would leave us with a pad of paper and a pencil. My brother would write the letter O as many times as he could on the paper while I am tasked to write the letter S. I remember complaining because writing the letter S was too difficult for me. As to why it’s S and O, I have no idea. Might be because O is like a circle and they were actually asking my brother to draw circles or it might be just because I forgot that they also made us write all the other letters. Then, there were some nights that I would cry myself to sleep because I did something and they punished me. They would whip me with either a belt or the very thin straw they used to tie the sack of rice after harvesting. Sometimes I would hold my tears because they would threaten me, they’ll let me sleep in the pig pen. How old was I? I’m not exactly sure but I’m certain it’s before I was six. What did I do? I could not remember. Did I hate them? Of course not. There was never an ounce of hatred felt towards them. Perhaps because back then, they were the only ones I have. Later did I realize that if they haven’t done what they did, I might have never learned the lessons they were trying to instill in me. In their own simple ways, the first virtues I’ve learned were respect and honesty. They indirectly taught me how to be thrifty not just in terms of money because not a single cent was given to me back then but in terms of other stuffs. I learned how to value the simple things others would give me. The simple reward and appreciation they gave me into the simple things I made for them.
When I was about six, I was taken back to the city. I remember a ride from the city on a rainy afternoon. I was with my mother and her friend, one from the neighborhood. There was a baby girl in my mother’s arms and I was told she’s my younger sister. I asked if I could hold her and they said not this time. I couldn’t exactly remember what I was thinking back then. I just knew she’s my sister. I don’t remember the first time I saw the people in the house. Whether I was shy or not, I can’t say. I just know there were the uncles and the aunts whom I refer to ,up to this time, as my siblings. I met the father of my sister. I haven’t met my biological father but I have my grandfather (mom’s dad) whom I call as Papa. I call my grandmother Mama. I call my mother Mommy. I grew up knowing that my sister’s father is not my real father. I don’t know if I ever asked them why, only they could tell. I just grew up living with it. Without the biological father. It was easy for me. I have my uncles, my mom, and my Papa. There’s nothing more to ask. I didn’t feel empty or incomplete because love and care was always always there. From this, I learned how to be contented with what I have. I learned to accept things even without fully understanding why for I have always believed that the reasons will unfold in its own time. While it is true that there were so many questions about why my family circle is different from the others, I managed to set them aside as during those times, I knew no one was ready to answer the questions. There were more important things to think about. Besides, I was blessed to be surrounded by loving people not just within the family but as well as the neighborhood. I made good friends. One thing I am most thankful for is the fact that these good friends never made me feel like my family is different from theirs. They’ve got both parents and their siblings are too close to them as well. And another thing that makes it even more sweet is that their parents were like my second parents too. During my primary and secondary years, my friends parents would always make me feel that they’re happy and at ease that I am their daughter’s friend. It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve felt whenever they would entrust the company of their children to me.
So, it was not actually difficult to grow up without the biological father. Until one day, I found myself thinking about the questions I should’ve asked back when I was a child. But I was scared. Scared that they might think I am not happy with what I have that I needed answers now. Scared to disappoint them and make them feel sorry about me. I never had the guts to ask anyone about it. Up until this time. I just let things be how it is. I have faith in Him that all these things won’t happen if it’s not for the good of everyone.
One day in my mid-teen-age days, I saw my biological father right in front me. I knew I was meeting him and I did not know how to respond. What happened surprised me even more. He was talking to one of my grannies. He knew whom he was talking to. I was there. I sat on the stool beside the table waiting for the turn of events. But he just passed by me. He looked at me like as if I was not someone he knew. I knew he knew who I was at that time. I knew he knew I was his own. I looked exactly like my mother but I also got some physical attributes from him. I felt that he knew who I was. But he just walked and acted like I’m some random stranger. I didn’t know what to feel at that time. All I remember was I wanted to cry. I guess I was hurt. But I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t express how I truly felt right there and then because I didn’t want to create a scene and embarrass my grandmother and my family. Only when I was alone that I let the tears flow. I let it pass because I knew the people around me would be unhappy. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they have to make sure I am fine.
Life was quite hard and there were other more important things which needs focus. I thought that whatever’s between me and him, one day, it will all be clear. I would not say it was easy to just let it go. It took me a long time to let that memory fade somewhere. Maybe I remembered it this time because it somehow left a scar in me. From this, I learned to value and honor the people around me even more. I learned to set my priorities. I learned that whatever circumstances we are in, these things should not hinder us from taking that one step forward to a better version of ourselves. I learned that there is time for everything. Maybe it was not just the right time for us.
Fast forward during my tertiary education, I was struggling to finish the degree I signed up with. It wasn’t my first choice. Due to financial difficulties, I found myself completing the enrollment form and wrote Special Education as my major. Because I wasn’t interested with the course I was in, I found it hard to maintain a good grade like when I was in my younger years. I never have had a failing grade before I entered college. Not to brag but I managed to come out as an honor student. I was in college and I was so dismayed with my grades. It was not a happy report to the mother who was working as an OFW. Oh, yeah, she’s probably on her 5th year working abroad when I was a freshmen. Prelims, midterms and I was really gonna fail if I won’t do anything about it. I told myself I couldn’t fail any subject and disappoint anyone.You know,it’s hard to disappoint people who believes so much in your capabilities and abilities. I thought, if they believed in me, how could I not believe in myself that I can do this. And it was only he beginning so I really needed to strive harder. I tried my best and in the end, I finished the degree. However, I changed my major after a semester to Secondary Maths. There were times I really wanted to quit but I knew quitting was not an option. My only option was to reach the end goal. In the process of taking the course, I learned the concept of commitment. It was probably here that I realized that a sense of commitment is essential in life and in decision-making. I can’t simply quit because I’m tired of it anymore. Nor can I simply start another because I thought that, if I was not able to finish what I’ve started, there’s a tendency that it might happen again and I was afraid it might be a cycle. I’ve seen it happen to other people.I didn’t want it to happen to me. I had to discipline myself and get through the course no matter. I’m glad I did!
More than two years after graduation, I was teaching in a regular private school (my second job), when the news came that my biological father’s mother has passed away. I met her once back when I was in high school in one of the wakes we have attended back in the province. I remember her smile when she saw me and how eager she was to meet me back then. But during those times, I didn’t know what was happening. She was just introduced as one of the grannies. I have had so many grannies, so meeting one grandma is not really unusual for me. But I didn’t realize who she was, it didn’t sink in to me that I share the same blood as hers. I only realized all these some time later. Then the news of her passing came.I didn’t hesitate to go as I didn’t expect that our second meeting would also be our last, much so that it’s gonna be during a wake too, with regret, her own wake. So I went with the company of the uncle and the grand-dad. The jitters were back. It was weird and awkward. I didn’t know how to face the people. I didn’t know if they knew who I was. I didn’t know them. But I was glad, one of my aunt whom I met back in college was there. At least, there’s someone familiar. Then some people were coming out of nowhere. Some are familiar, some are not. And they are all greeting me with their smiles. Then I got to meet some of my father’s siblings. They were kind enough to introduce themselves and initiate a conversation with me. What an event for some kind of meet and greet eh? My father? Soon as he saw me got out of the vehicle, he was there for a moment and I never saw him again even until I left. I understand as I knew how hard it must have been for him. As for me, during my stay there, I observed the people around and saw some of my half-sisters and brother. I knew they were my siblings. I just didn’t know if they knew who I was. Or that whether they know of my existence or not. This is one of the main reasons I never had the guts to initiate a conversation with anyone of them or go to my father and say ‘hi’. A lot of times, people are telling me to go and introduce myself to him, get to know him and my siblings or his family. It’s not very easy to do that if you were in my place. I couldn’t just show up and rock their world and tell them, ‘hey, I’m your big sister. How are you?’, when I am not even sure if they knew of my existence. What if they didn’t know. It scares me that they might hate or question their father about me, of what happened and of what’s happening. This is also why no matter how much I wanted to get close to them, I just can’t. Things will fall into their right places in God’s perfect time. If there’s one thing I am dying to wait for, it’s that time. That time when I get to be reunited to everyone.
All these memories came rushing until one colleague came to check on me on that hospital bed. Thank heavens for people like them. The story about why I was in the hospital would be another story (or not).
Meanwhile … Life is full of surprises. A lot of twists and a lot of turns. It doesn’t matter how big or small these surprises are, what matters is how we manage to come out of it. Like I always believed, it’s only a matter of perspective. No matter how dark the place you seem to be, when you choose to see the bright side, life will always be good. No matter how high that wall covering your way, when you have the patience and gather all your strength, you can get through it. Each individual is facing their own unique battles. I couldn’t say mine’s a different nor it is a harder battle ’cause at the end of the day, we all are doing our best to get through these battles every waking day. The only difference is the way we managed to come out of it and what has become after we get through it.