I’m back in my comfortable home in California and finally able to sit in front of my computer after putting away the luggage and its contents. Please forgive me if I have chosen to meander into philosophical musings.
After more than 30 years of living in another continent, I’m grateful that circumstances have required me to return to Manila more often in the recent years. My parents are getting older. They have been spending more time in Manila. My work responsibilities have changed. There are meetings to attend and people to interact with at the parent company there. With each journey, I have reconnected with old friends, thanks to some very inclusive and persistent classmates!
They say that sibling bonds are unique. More than our bond with our parents, our spouses, or our children. No other relation is so cradle-to-grave than siblings. It’s a connection that is lifelong and when you meet after a long absence, you can pick up right from where you left off. I can say the same for childhood friends.
You see, we all witnessed one another’s becoming. We all went through our childhood then adolescent awkward stages: the white socks neatly folded at three inches above the ankle and worn with shiny mary-janes, the giggly girl-talks, or the late night confessions of heart-thumping crushes. The hasty notes passed discreetly from hand to hand as Ms. Fredeswinda wrote on the blackboard. The raised knowing brows over Mrs. Magtaas’ “Is it not, class? Is it not?” (Did she really expect a response? I remember this now with great fondness.) We shared each other’s first periods with its cohort of pelvic cramps and miserable stains, the painful breast buds, and even those god-awful zits.
We were one another’s confidants, patintero-mates, cheering squad, and co-conspirators of all our coming-of-age forays. We were together in the triumphs at elocution contests, GAL games, and inter-scholastic meets. There were the boyfriends and for some, the gender awakenings. We were one another’s tormentors, critics, and even rivals. Through it all, we argued, snubbed one another, parted ways, came together, made up and became chums again. And we came away wiser, more patient, and more emotionally capable because of it. We always had big shoulders for each other’s miseries, through family upheavals and untimely deaths, school transgressions, even our own personal foibles getting the worst of us.
Deep down, we still know one another well enough. There is the sweet one. The funny one. The needy one. The ornery one. The athlete. The scientist. The artist. We recognize one another’s failings and we accept them because now, more than anytime in our lives, we have learned to accept ourselves and one another for who we are, as they say, warts and all. And because of all we’ve been through together, we forgive each other more easily. We might roll our eyes every now and then. But, we don’t vote anyone “out of the tribe.” We have learned that it’s all right that we are as different as we are the same. We can make fun, but it’s never out of malice. We laugh at each other’s idiosyncrasies. But, we also laugh at ourselves. And it’s because we’re that comfortable with one another. Or, better yet, we have stopped caring. Growing older does that to you.
Nowadays, we commiserate over sagging jowls, grays, and expanding girths. We laugh at our memory lapses, back aches, and diverse preoccupations. Think ballroom dancing or chi gong. Hiking the Pyrenees or teaching indigent children. Cooking for the homeless at dawn or cleaning up a polluted beach. We mourn the passing of our parents and even some of our peers. But we celebrate each other’s expanding families and new beginnings. We look forward to new life stages and experiences. When we get together for lunch or dinner, whether at Sugi or Fely J’s, we share this all amid the food we all grew up on. Once again, in this thing we call life, we are travel buddies. And that is good.