Lessons from Kuya

I learned so much from my brother. I learned the meaning of trust, strength and love from him.

Always trust your gut. It knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.

The first time I cooked was with Kuya Bot. When I was 7 and he was 8, I wanted to make myself a fried egg. I asked Kuya Bot how to cook it and he told me to get a frying pan and a spatula. He turned the gas stove on for me because he thought it was too dangerous for a 7 year old (he was all of 8). When the pan was ready, he instructed me to add some cooking oil. I thought to myself “How do you know when the oil is hot?” Will the pan “whistle” just like a the kettle? I asked my (again, 8 year old) brother. He said; “Dip your finger, you’ll know.” That day, I learned the meaning of trust.

Back in grade school, we used to take the same bus service with other kids from our street.

One afternoon Kuya Bot and I, along with two of Kuya Bot’s good friends, found ourselves stranded at school. I honestly don’t remember what happened or why we were left behind. The 3 boys decided we should walk home. It was only about 3 kms away. The only real complication was the highway that we needed to cross to get home. To avoid this, we could’ve taken the overpass. However, my fear of heights outweighed all the dangers of “frogerring” across a congested Manila highway.

Of course I got out voted! I don’t remember these boys ever listening to me; how could they if they never really paid attention to me. So we started walking home past houses and buildings. My brother never left my side or if he did, he made sure one of his friends walked beside me. Kuya Bot held my trembling hands when we clambered up the countless steps to the overpass and distracted me when we crossed it. We walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked some more. While we walked those 3 endless kms home, I learned the meaning of love.

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you” – Stephanie Bennett -Henry

Kuya Bot had to repeat 5th grade so we found ourselves on the same grade level. Not only that, we were in the same class. Unfortunately, Kuya Bot was constantly teased and bullied by the boys in our class. I had known these boys since Kindergarten; their leader was an older scruffy greaseball of a boy. He was dead set on making Kuya Bot the target of whatever fucked up insecurities he had going on. Every day I watched them ridicule him until one day I couldn’t keep watching anymore. During lunch, I decided to stay in class. I stayed in my seat and waited for this idiot to start his daily idiotic routine. Right on schedule, he started teasing my brother as he walked past him and his friends. When Kuya Bot was at a safe distance, I walked to where the boy was standing with his trifling clique of hyenas. I smiled at all of them, faced that greasy little boy and punched all the insecure bullshit right out of his flaccid jaw.

“Punks jump up to get beat down” – Brand Nubian

I told him never to bother my brother again. And to his credit, Jahan never did. Just joking. Jahan never ever made fun of Kuya Bot. He was way too scared of me. That day, I learned the true meaning of strength.

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