I was not really a writer.
When I was in elementary, all I ever did was read textbooks and review my notes in order to maintain my grades and be on top. It was as if my life was revolving around pages of test papers and residue of erasers. I was focused on my own life—my world—but then I came to a point where in everything stopped like an Earth already reaching its end. It was nerve-cracking.
Summer of fourth grade, April 2009, we rode RCJ bus from Ilocos Norte going to Manila at around 11 o’clock in the evening. I was with my mom, dad and older sister. The bus was already full so we had no choice but to let ate, the term I use to call my sister, sit at the first row with another passenger. I, on the other hand, was with my mom and dad. I was still young then and small so they just let me lay on their lap to sleep. I remember that they even brought a mini blanket to cover me because I always feel ill on air-conditioned buses. I was a princess (and ate was, too) and my parents was the king and queen of the kingdom they both built. This was what I was thinking before. Well, I was young. Unfortunately, that night changed everything.
At around 1 am, we were already at Candon, Ilocos Sur. The atmosphere of the bus was calm except for the two people who seemed to be arguing—my parents. I listened. They thought I was asleep. I wish I was.
“Pa, sino nga ‘yan?” I heard mom asked calmly but the tension between them was already surfacing. (Pa, who is that?)
“Wala lang ‘to, ma,” Dad retorted. I also can feel him moving his hands, maybe trying to pull away his phone mom was trying to get. (It's nothing, ma.)
I felt nervous. I didn’t exactly know why. I just felt like that.
“Sino nga ‘yun?” I heard mom’s voice cracked. I didn’t know if she was about to cry or she was already crying. (Who is that?)
“Si Sheryl ____, Ma,” my dad answered. My heart started beating faster by the simple utterance of a woman’s name, “ naalala mo yung sinasabi ko sayong kaklase ko nung Elementary na nakakausap ko sa Facebook? Siya yun,” Papa added. (It's Sheryl, Ma. Rememebr when I told you that I begun talking to my former classmate in elementary through Facebook? That was her.)
It was only when I was in high school that I learned that woman was my dad’s first love.
I am not quite sure if that was still the exact words they both said but I remember how painful it was. I remember tears streaming down my face as my dad admitted his affair with another woman. I remember trying to suppress the pain which was creeping inside my body but still failed to. That was my first time feeling that intensity of pain. It was my first time feeling as if shattered glasses were trying to wound my pale skin.
I know I cannot own that pain. It was my mom’s, but maybe it’s true what other people say that you can somehow share someone’s pain, especially when you love them—and I love my mom and dad. That’s maybe why it was that way.
Papa broke my heart before any other guy could.
“Mahal na mahal kita, anak. Baby princess,” he’d always tease me but today I don’t know if it still means anything. (I love you so much, my daughter. Baby princess)
That night didn’t end right there. I knew I had to do something. They were already fighting and I was just listening without them knowing. I thought I was going to explode.
“Tumigil na kayo!” I exclaimed. It was shocking for me.
Shocked at my unexpected blast, mom hushed me since it was still a public place and we were already making a scene. Other passengers might wake up as well. (Stop arguing!)
“Shh, tahan na anak,” Mama calmly said. She was the one who was badly hurt but she even had the knack to comfort someone. How ironic it was! (Shh, stop crying.)
My mom just patted my back since I was already sobbing, but I can’t remember if Papa was also consoling me.
It was my first time hearing my parents argue like that. It was my first time hearing my mom cry because dad did something wrong. It was always otherwise. It was always mom who would start the argument first and then they’d reconcile in the end. But why did it feel like when the bus ride to Manila ended that it also marked the end of the kingdom being ruled by us? Or was it just a fantasy? Cliché, right?
We stayed at my mom’s aunt in UP Diliman, where we always stay whenever we accompany Papa to the airport, but unlike the past years where in we had a sad but happy parting with papa, since he’s going back abroad to sustain us, that time felt as if he won’t come back anymore. It felt like that.
I was resting on the long couch while my parents were near the kitchen, arguing again. I also heard mom talking to the other woman on the phone. I was too young to digest everything. It didn’t even occur to me if ate already knew.
“Load’an mo ako, Ma. Kakausapin ko siya at tatapusin ko na lahat ng ugnayan namin,” that was the last thing he told mom before he went aboard the plane. Hopeful that he was telling the truth, mom granted his request. (Send me load. I'll talk to her and end everything.)
To be honest, writing this again gives me chills.
I know it was painful. I know that this was the best heart-breaking song that ever played in our lives and it was also the longest. It has been almost a decade. But then, even if a century would even pass by, maybe, this will always remain as a scar in my heart. From time to time, I would recall that night on the bus and wish it didn’t really happen. I was wishing I could undo the past, but all I could do was remember and indulge myself with the pain. Maybe, people know how frustrating this was because I know.
Unquestionably, I cannot feel the same intensity of the pain I have felt that time. I cannot even grasp it anymore. I am thankful and sad. This is why I sometimes go back to my old diaries and read. Then just like that, I held the pen and wrote poems, essays and stories about my dad and how he destroyed the kingdom he built. I have learned that it was made of sand. If it wasn’t, maybe my family won’t be shattered like this with just a one big wave.
The back pages of my notebooks would be filled with short poems about him and essays as well. I can choose to forget since I cannot relive the same kind of pain anymore—I’ve moved on—and all I need to do is to tear up the pages and burn it but I chose not to.
Papa did not fulfil his promise. He did not change. He did not come back. Well, I see him from time to time and that was that. Whenever I see him, I know I am seeing a stranger. But how can someone who was originally a part of your life become a stranger instantly? But I felt like that. I don’t know him. After an hour in McDonald's or Jollibee, he’d go again, back to the person he chose. The king was dethroned.
Nowadays, I cannot meet with him anymore due to busy schedules. I might see him on Facebook posts, on the road riding his bike or maybe I might happen to see him through my uncle’s face—his twin. I’ll never know. We are following different paths anyway.
I wish I can pull him back to us, but all I can do was weave painful words into sentences which were created because of him. This is what I am thankful for. If he hadn’t caused me pain, maybe I wouldn’t have the will to write.
Now, all I have to do is hold the pen, make it bleed and stain the clean sheet of paper.
This is how I write.