One of the fringe benefits of having many elder siblings is one’s likelihood of becoming an object of teasing at home. That seems to be the case, as always—the younger ones are vulnerable to the older ones’ teasing provocations.

As the youngest in the family with ten siblings in all, I have had those innumerable moments of being jokingly annoyed by my older siblings, mostly brothers—we only have one sister. When I was yet young as a child, moreover, I could not determine the truth from a joke. I always took things seriously, then.

While soundly together sleeping with Mano Segun, (a brother next to me) one sunny afternoon, we were roused from sleep by two of our older brothers, aged roughly 8 and 12 years old. I was just around 3 years old, then, and Mano Segun was more or less 5. There were just four of us in the house that time; I noticed upon waking up.

Amid the afternoon silence and our appetite to sleep further, they tearfully broke the news to us: Mama accordingly left for Manila together with a friend and is not coming back anymore. At hearing this, I felt as though my world had collapsed. Attached extremely to our mother as a Mama’s boy, I knew I would be helpless without her, and would never survive.

My mind suddenly shifted to these two older brothers as my last hope for survival. But then they continued: “The two of us are also leaving you behind. We will also leave for Manila.”
Mano Segun and I sat next to each other in complete silence, occasionally exchanging glances, our faces painted with utter sadness. The news was too much for us to bear, beyond our childish comprehension. The thought of Mama leaving us pained me intensely. How could she do it to me, to us? Why would she abandon us, without even informing us beforehand? How unfair! Didn’t she love us anymore? Me, in particular?

“It’s time for us to leave, we might miss our trips,” our elder siblings continued. “There’s a left-over food in the kettle, you just eat it should you feel hungry.”

Having said this, the two of them got out of the house and disappeared from our sight, leaving us speechless, confused, sad, scared, shocked, pained, discouraged, furious, deprived, depressed, etc.

After exchanging glances with each other, Mano Segun and I broke into tears, crying hysterically at the same time. The emotions that we could not hold back anymore exploded into the air and broke the afternoon silence in that remote, isolated house of ours standing at the foot of a forested hill.

Later, when our crying somehow subsided, I urged my brother who, like me, was still fresh from babyhood. “Kan-na, Manoy, pangaon kita hin bahaw.” This, I said, in hopes of surviving what I thought was a rough time ahead.

But from the branches of the tree standing nearby, we heard bursts of laughter. They came from our older brothers who were supposed to leave us. They just climbed up the tree. How they enjoyed watching us, their little siblings.

That made me stop crying further. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, pretending to be quickly at play. But when Mama came home from the farm late in the afternoon, we reported them for their foolishness, and they got scolded for real, almost to the point of being beaten. How I enjoyed listening to the sermon.