(Friend Glenda Gloria reminds on Facebook that this week is National Daughters’ Week. I am giving way to my daughter’s essay she wrote when she was 16 to get a glimpse of how she thinks. Now is your time to shine, Maui.)
We are five in the family. I have two older brothers; that makes me the unica hija and the bunsung-bunso. I am given much love and care being the youngest and the only girl in the family. My parents and brothers are very protective; they allow no one to do me any harm (who would want a loved one be hurt in the first place?). Though this is the case, my parents gave me the freedom to play and explore the world. I used to play in our neighborhood with lots of toys and lots of playmates. It was fun playing and inventing different games with them.
Nanay always tells me that I can play whatever I want – responsibly. There is no such thing as a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy or a girl’s game or a boy’s game. I can play any game that interests me.
Being hurt, getting bruises, scratches and wounds are normal things. My parents do not scold me whenever I go home with such skin abrasions. They tell me it is part of being a child. It is a learning experience. So I do not cry whenever these things happen. I have a high tolerance to pain.
We also take care of a lot of pets. We experienced having five dogs and seven puppies, four cats, and a flock of doves in our home. They are all part of our family. We love them. I think this is why I grew up with so much love and compassion to animals. That’s why when I was in grade five I decided to become a vegetarian. Nanay earlier did. Tatay, Kuya, and Diko did not change their food preferences but they respected our decision.
When I was little, Nanay already gave me the freedom of choice – to choose the things that I like; the things that I want; and the things that interest me. When I was around four years old, I already got to shop and choose the clothes that I want to wear. I remember telling a saleslady, “Pabayaan nyo po akong magdesisyon” because she was suggesting me to buy something that I did not like. I just can’t help but smile whenever I remember that moment. I think this is why I have become independent. I am not afraid to decide on my own. I felt trusted and responsible for everything that I think or do.
Nanay tells me that I talk like an adult when I was little. We have had a lot of sensible conversations. I had so many questions in my mind, and I expected her to give all the answers. I was a really inquisitive kid. This explains why I like to talk with people and share them my views about life.
I started cooking at the age of four. Scrambled egg was the first dish that I have ever cooked. Then I added milk, so it became scrambled egg with milk – I consider it the product of my first food invention/experimentation. I have enjoyed cooking since then. Tatay taught me how to make pancakes out of flour, eggs, oil, water and milk. I was already cooking at the age of five. I needed to stand on a chair because I was so small that I could not reach the stove to cook my “dishes”. Now, I can cook normally. And I am proud that I have learned to cook a lot of dishes – from Filipino cuisine (sinigang, diningdeng, tinola, tinuktok, adobo, nilaga, etc,) to foreign ones (pansit, spaghetti, lasagna, brownies, etc.), all of which are vegetarian dishes. Some were taught by Nanay, some were from recipe books, and some were products of my creativity and imagination.
When I started schooling, my parents guided me all the way. They always remind me that I am good at everything that I do, be it on sports or academics. When I was in elementary, I did my assignments and projects. Nanay helps and guides me and makes sure that I really did the school work. From then on, I learned to take responsibility. In school, I have always been elected or chosen to lead a group or our class (group leader/class officer). This has built my self-esteem.
When I was in middle school, I used to play Titser Titseran with my playmates who are much younger than I am. Our classes (game) were held in our house on a regular basis. I teach them real lessons (baking, math formulas, good values, etc.) with real subjects (GMRC, Math, Science, English, Filipino, Hekasi, Arts, HE) with even real break times (recess/lunch). I even made a class list, grades, and gave report cards at the end of the grading. On weekdays, they visit our house after their classes in school. I helped them with their assignments. I became their tutor.
My parents enrolled me in basic swimming lessons when I was in grade three; basic gymnastics when I was in grade five; voice lessons and advanced swimming lessons when I was in grade six; piano lessons when I was in first year high school; and flute lessons when I was in second year high school. They encouraged me to do everything that interests me and excel in whatever I want to do.
I started dancing when I was three years old (I think). I had my first official dance presentation when I was four. In elementary, I have always been dancing for school programs (intermission numbers). When I got in high school, I became a varsity swimmer and competed with other athletes. In my second year, our school principal invited me to dance an Indian dance in the school’s morning assembly and I became famous for it. In my third year in high school, I realized that swimming was really not my passion, but dancing. So I joined my high school’s pep squad.
I grew up having a close relationship with my family. My brothers and I used to play together. We always kiss our parents and tell them how much we love them. Our parents too are very affectionate. We established an open relationship. I can tell them anything! I think this is one of the reasons why I am not yet interested in looking for a partner. I do not feel empty, for my family’s love completes me.
I grew up with confidence. I always keep in mind what Nanay always tells me – I am a strong woman. I have the freedom of choice; freedom of expression, but I should act responsibly. I can stand for my beliefs. I am somebody.
Raising two sons and a daughter can be complicated and extremely hard but not actually as difficult with the help of my husband who dotes on the children, my parents who really love their grandchildren (perhaps more than their children) and my mother-in-law who has always been there for me in the absence of a babysitter or house help.
True, there were tough times when I almost surrendered to impatience and wish I could resign as a mother but realizes that motherhood is a permanent position with a job description that calls for the flexing of the muscles, extending of patience till it reaches the heavens, wit that is always challenged and intelligence far more than Einstein’s.
While the two older boys – almost four years apart – were toddlers, they both told me: “Nanay pakakasalan kita paglaki ko (Mother, I will marry you when I grow up).” Same thing with our daughter who also told me when she was about two years old: “Ikaw ang gusto kong asawa paglaki ko (I want you to be my wife when I grow up),” to which I replied: “Hindi puwede. Nanay mo ako (You cannot. I am your Mother.)” My daughter retorted: “Sige, si Tatay na lang. (Then I will marry Father).” To which I answered: “Hindi puwede. Tatay mo siya (You cannot. He is your Father.)”
Unrelenting to be unmarried, my toddler daughter quipped: “E, di si Kuya na lang (I will marry my big brother then).” I was almost laughing when I told her: “Hindi puwede, kapatid mo siya (You cannot marry your brother).” Finally exasperated, this daughter realized: “E, di hindi rin puwede si Diko?” (Then I cannot marry my other brother?).” Yes, I said, explaining to her that she cannot marry anyone in the family.
“Hindi na lang ako mag-aasawa (Then I will no longer get married),” she finally resigned.
The boys’ and her concept of the family at tender age revolved around us five – father, mother and siblings – who eat, play, work and live under one roof. Nothing more, nothing less. So much so that when my husband went abroad to work, the five of us were all devastated. Separation is the most painful feeling for a child (and adults too).
We all dread the day when my husband was scheduled to fly back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to work as an editor in an English newspaper there. He has been leaving the Philippines yearly for 13 years but we never became used to it. Once we lost sight of him when he boards the tricycle (my husband is so used to simple living that even when he is already earning dollars he prefers to take public transport), the two boys would go to their room hurriedly. The eldest son would lie on his bed facing the wall; the second son would bury his face in the pillow, sobbing. The daughter waits for an airplane to pass by and waves goodbye thinking that her father is always in every airplane.
As for me, I tell myself that nothing and nobody can break our family. The husband writes almost every day and play puzzles and whatever games that can be had on paper with the two boys. The toddler daughter writes back to his father in scribbles telling him how she misses him and asks him when he is coming home again.