It’s Not About Understanding
When I left the Philippines on September 4, 1999; most in my life didn’t make sense anymore.
I was so broken, I didn’t even recognize myself at times. It took a lot of work and patience especially, from Jahan, to fix me. It took almost six years to feel whole again. The first time we (myself, Jahan and Alexander) went home and I saw my three kids together was the best day of my life. It was my fervent hope to see them together. We try to come home every couple of years to see them and the rest of our family.
Arriving in Manila in November 9 2015 alone was daunting.
It felt so strange. For the first time, I didn’t want to be there. My best friend Ana picked me up from the airport. She lives in New York with her husband and two beautiful kids but, at that time, was in Manila to deal with her sick mother. We met when I went back to school after my second child. I was in my early 20’s and she was a teenager. She was the first person outside of blood family I contacted after I received the message about Kuya Bot. After giving me her usual playful hug at the airport (she genuinely enjoys embarrassing me in public) we braved the heavy traffic to our condo in Quezon City. 17 km took 3 hours! For three hours, Ana didn’t stop talking. She distracted me from the difficult task that lay ahead. She reminded me to constantly to be strong and to pray.
When we arrived, I asked her to just drop me off. I didn’t know what to expect and wanted to be alone when I saw Kuya Bot. Don’t get me wrong, him and Ana always got along well; they’re both playful and silly, but I just felt the need to protect my kuya.
The door opened all the way and I saw a man sitting on the couch.
No one knew I was coming home except for Ana and, my daughter, Ayin. I didn’t want to give Kuya Bot a chance to hide from me. I said a prayer for strength before I opened the door. Luis, Kuya Bot’s two year old son greeted me at the door with Manang Cita, Luis’ nanny turned caregiver. When it opened all the way I saw a man sitting on the couch. He was cruelly lean and his bones sharply protruded through dark wilted skin. His face was so thin his cheeks sunk into his mouth. He had bulging barren eyes and sparse wispy hair.
I’ve seen this man before.
I’ve seen him in my dream. Not the romantic kind but on the edges of a nightmare. A few weeks prior, I thought I was having a heart attack on the train home from work. We spent the night in the ER. The next morning, I was instructed to have a stress free day so we went home and I went to bed. That’s when I saw him for the first time. I dreamt, I was outside my bedroom. When I looked in, there was this tall, frail, dark figure standing by my bed. It stood there silently and stared through my eyes. I woke up so scared. The next morning Alexander asked me if I had a good sleep. I said no and told him I had a nightmare. He asked me what it was about. I told him “I dreamt about a monster.”. I suddenly understood my dream. I was staring at him and he was staring back at me. It was Kuya Bot.
Nothing could’ve prepared me for this.
I wanted to hug him but I was worried I would hurt him. I held his hands instead. I told him I decided to come home to check on him because he wasn’t replying to my messages or answering my calls. I asked him what the doctor said. He said “I have pneumonia, tuberculosis and I may be HIV positive. Can you please tell Daddy.” I told him not to worry about Daddy or anyone else. I told him from that day on, we’ll only worry about him. So from that day and the next 121 days after, it would just be about him; no one else.