Weird. But, we haven’t had any fight with my little brother. From a simple sibling misunderstanding to raising curses from nowhere. Nada. We live a quite different world compared to the rest of our neighbors.
When I was young, I, out of habit, would slip my two small eyes in the window to look out the front yard after our three-o’clock meriyenda. Further out we can see the neighbor’s house. I saw an entirely different universe. An alternate reality. There, their voices reverberate through the whole neighborhood as they bicker about a missing pizza slice in their refrigerator, some lost pair of Havaianas of their Ate, or about who left the yellow submarine in the porcelain port without its captain bid its last farewell before heading towards the wide Pacific Sea.
Meawhile, me and my brother were both attentive in our individual worlds that we personally built: his, around the stenciled 100 basic mathematical equations while I, around crampled papers trying to rewrite last night’s teleserye episode of Marina as I remember from memory.
Ideal sibling relationship, no? For me, it is not. I am quite worried about our relationship as siblings which will have a silent 360-degree turn in the near future. A future very hard to forsee or to preempt if we maintain this kind of (non-)engagement. Nothing went between our way which will test our bond. Did we really understand what it means to be “siblings”? Can we consider ourselves as “brothers” aside from coming out from a single source of existence? As the eldest, have I given my brother the accepted minumum love and attention for him not to consider just like another person whom he met in the school or in the park?
And, what does being “siblings” mean? Are they under the same glass box with “love”, “life”, “community”, “country”? That despite their mundaneness, our own rationality fails to grasp their meaning, as they float in the sea of pretensions and make-believe.
Take the glass for example: may it be transparent ceramic or a colored plastic. But we refering to it depending on the contents being filled in it or who fills it up: “a glass of iced tea”, “a glass of orange juice”, “a glass of soda”. Is it half full or half empty? I don’t know.
In our family, “love” hardly gets the center spot in our dinner table or a space in my parent’s well-kept altar. It doesn’t mean we weren’t loved by our parents. It is just that the subject of what is love is rarely being explored with and by my parents. My brother and I doesn’t have the slightest idea of my parents personal concept of “love” aside from their every early Sunday morning wake-up call, accompanied by a “scaring ritual” if we resist to get out from bed.
“Pagmata na! God will not be happy seeing you like that.” started by my father and ends up with a rant from my mom. “Don’t be so ungrateful. One hour is what God wanted from you.”
“You need to go to church to be better kids! One cannot have a good life without His love. You can only get that by attending mass. That is your obligation as a Christian. Sige na! Pagmata na!”
This is not what we want to sign-up for. We want to know what pushes them to utter the vow with the satin veil in their heads and tied with synthetic lace in front of the priest and invited guests who are also waiting impatiently for the next part of the ceremony. We want to know how “love” keeps our family together. We want to know how “love” is nurtured for me and my brother.
But this doesn’t mean they care less about us. On the contrary, we are being flooded by their care and concern. Their urge to give us the best that they can is so strong. We were schooled in a montessori school. They bought us our first personal computer when brick games still overtook every household in the neighboorhood and a laptop before it became viral every fiesta or significant gathering as lapad nga tupperware. They bought a dialed up internet connection which turns into a novena, testing once patience just to access to the global web. They made sure that we got all the best thing that they can give despite their meager salary as a public school teacher.
However, in exchange with the good life there are limitations being imposed to us that we try to adapt and endure. We find ourselves locked from the inside of our house to keep us playing in the streets everytime they need to go to work even on a weekend. They don’t allow us to play in the rain while my friends waiting for us to come out. Their laughters and their playful shrieks hurt our young playful ego while we watch them from our own little cage.
Questions after questions occupied my young mind. These questions echoed so loud but as time goes by its power diminished. I hoped that these echoes would hit a big thick wall to see how important these questions are to be reflected upon. If the wall breaks, the better. If it doesn’t, it is not worth to spend my time and effort. I didn’t expect that I will be able to reach that wall.
It was just any other ordinary day. A weekend. Everyone is at home- me, my younger brother, my father and my mother. My 7-year old brother was at our sala playing with his toys, scattered in the floor. My father was also there watching an afternoon TV show. I was eating in the dinning room. From where I was, I can directly see them. Moments later, I heard my father raising his voice at my brother. His big roaring voice drummed like a thunder.
“What did you say? What?”
“I’m not finished here! Unya na!” my brother replied with his high pitched voice.
I was able to understand what was happening with them. My father wanted my brother to get rid of toys. He was asking him to clean the front yard. But, my brother kept playing.
My father went inside his room and came back with a belt in his right hand. I just watched them until my father whipped my brother ferociously with all his might. I was left stunned at the sight of my father, like a monstrous storm ripping off every visible things standing along its way. He haven’t done like this before. Powerless, my brother curled up like a fetus, screaming .
My feet immediately reacted to the sight. Next, I just found myself in between the two- my brother in the floor and my father holding the belt in the air preparing for another blow.
“Nganong gibunalan man nimo akong manghod? Why are you hurting him so much? If he doesn’t want to do what you told him to, how sure are you that he will follow you after this? Ka-grabe ba god ani.”
He slowly clipped his arms from the air to his side, while my brother sobbing, sweat, tears and snot in one pool. I didn’t noticed that tears started to drop from my face. I didn’t know what’s happening. I know that I am in the state of anger but I am sure that I am not afraid. My two clenched fist quiver. I watched my father went out the sala with my piercing sight. My brother immediately climbed up my arms as I offered it to him so that he won’t fall as he tried to stand. Still crying but with muted sobs.
Fifteen years after, the sight of the said incident still reverberates deep in my consciousness. Fifteen years, but still I have no idea on how to put my brother’s reaction into words.
What was just happened? I don’t have any single clue. I felt something inside me but I don’t know what was it and from where was it coming from. The only thing that I know was it was not the feeling of obligation or the sense of responsibility for my brother.
One thing is for sure: that was the first instance that stood up against my father, against a figure that we both worship and we adore. But it felt nice. It feels great to stand for what is right. To stand up for what we think is right. To stand up against an authority who is oppressive is truly addicting.
Most importantly, that short progressive stint was made possible by a brotherly revolt. That is how I understand what being a sibling mean. That is how I learn about what is love.