FOR 45 years, I've been celebrating my birthday on 16 June with my eldest sister, Kathleen. Mama had this story: I wasn't due that day, so my mother--very heavy with me, her seventh-- went to the market along with our nanny Felisa to buy groceries for Ate Kathleen's 8th birthday that day. While shopping, Mama realized I was due, so she proceeded to the San Pablo City Hospital ALONE and instructed Felisa to call Papa in the office with news of my delivery. Six babies before me must have made it easier for Mama to bear me. She brought me to this world after 2PM. I must have been screaming when I came into the world, as "quiet" has never been used to describe me as a person, alas.
And so I was born with the fortitude of Mama and probably the glee of my sister who got a baby brother on her 8th birthday. On my own 8th birthday, Ate Kathleen gave me a white, plastic Volkswagen Beetle as huge as my blue lunch box. I kept that toy in the same plastic bag it was wrapped in, until Dovey, our big brown dog, tore it apart one day. I must have been yapping when the toy came apart, as "quiet" has never been used to describe me, alack.
When Ate Kathleen entered high school at the University of Santo Tomas, she and I stayed together with our maternal grandmother in suburban Quezon City, and we lived with her until Ate Kathleen started working after college. Boy, was I inseparable from my sister. I tagged along to her groovy college parties in the 70s. I even offered her my unwarranted thoughts for or against those suitors lining up at our grandmother's door. How my sister survived such nuisance as me, I don't know. I must have been yelling when I made my presence known to her, as "quiet" has never been used to describe me, aghast.
Through adulthood, as the distance of place kept us oceans apart, we've exchanged less of gifts and more of greeting cards, phone calls, and now electronic messages. I can't imagine having a birthday without thinking of how she's spending her own day. And invariably, I still tell others that my sister is also marking her birthday.
One day, probably on her 60th or her 75th, I will throw a party in her honor. I'll get her to drive next to the sea, along the entire stretch of Manila's Roxas Boulevard or Mumbai's Marine Drive, in a white, vintage Volkswagen Beetle. She'll debate these things with me, of course. And I'll be screaming, yelling, and yapping, as "quiet" has never been used to describe me or my love for Ate Kathleen!