I grew up in a close-knit neighborhood in Bacolod. It was a custom to call our place “compound” because we lived in an enclosure of about seven houses owned by the families my maternal grandma and her siblings. We belonged to the third generation of a big clan. My mother alone had 14 other siblings, and my first cousins were running close to 60, until the youngest was born in the late 90’s. My mother’s cousins were plentiful as well. We practically grew up next door with our first and second cousins, hence the impression of being close-knit.
But the truth is, each of the siblings had tacit rivalries and secretly considered their neighbor inferior to themselves. In our family, my grandma took pride in the fact that hers are the only grandchildren who regularly go to mass, clean up before bed, say the rosary everyday, and who have our respective chores in the house. She blindly believed that we grandchildren were of pure Catholic morals and should not often be in the company of our brash cousins. For us however, the years growing up under our grandparents’ despotic noses were the loneliest and most oppressive. We sometimes wished we belonged to the other families, who seemed happier.
Ours is the archetype of the extended family. We were about five families crammed inside my grandma’s 4-bedroom house, although we later had a house of our own. My parents had a tiny humble house erected at the back end of the compound when the second baby was born. My father and mother both went to work in the city and left us to the care of my grandparents in the daytime, only to fetch us at nighttime.
It was like that for a long time. Until my mother passed away, and we had to move in to my grandparent’s house. Without our father. He went home alone to our little house to avoid the spitefulness of my grandparents. And because we counted on our old folks' mercy, my brothers and I had to endure the cruelty of some of my aunts and the other nasty goings-on in that house. We were like the little orphans in lemony snickett's book. Until my father decided to take us someplace else. It was many years however that my brothers and I would finally reunite.
I wanted to write about happy days and warm memories of my childhood, but all too often losing someone in your life as important as your Mother shifts the way you look at things and how they took place. This first endeavor is terribly futile in that it paints a picture of me as being the saddest act in the world. I just had to stop.
I hope to have a second take one of these days….