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Almost

Exactly a year ago, I lost a brother. We were not really close. There was a point that I actually loathed him. I mean, all brothers, at one point in their lives, fight always. Only in our case, there hadn’t been a reconciliation phase. A point where we could have shaken our hands, hugged each other tight, and just shrugged our shoulders to let all our issues go.

16 years ago, the case was different. He was our big brother. We used to call him “Papa” because he was the one around whenever our parents weren’t there. He was our protector, our guardian, our symbol of assurance that we were safe, and things would be okay. He was also our playmate. He never got tired of playing with us even though we’re too young to play the games he wanted to play. He would spend hours in our room, just to play with us, acting like a monster that we had to defeat using pillows and stuffed toys as our shields and weapons.

He was also my first inspiration to write. As a kid, I spent more days inside the house studying and playing alone instead of playing with other kids outside. I was usually teased and taken for granted because I was really small, and effeminate. Whenever he went back to Baguio for college, my then regular playmates were my little brother, my sisters and our sets of encyclopedias. One afternoon, while reading, I checked the end page of one of our encyclopedias. Only to find out a poem, written with great penmanship. I couldn’t understand half of the words that were written there. But from that day, I promised that in the future, I would write something as beautiful as that poem, plus to have a better penmanship.

Everything changed when he went to college. All of a sudden, we saw less and less of him. His usual smile that I remembered before changed into something I couldn’t even describe. All I knew was he learned how to drink and smoke. He would go home, very early in the morning while we were sleeping. He would spent all day in his room, puking like there’s no tomorrow, asking for so many things while we were afraid to not follow his orders.

And then I discovered what went wrong. It was a huge mess and it affected our family, and together with other problems, it affected our business. We suffered from severe financial problems that forced me to study in Manila while my parents were sorting things out. Then I realized, I wouldn’t be able to follow the track of my older brothers and sisters. Ever since I started studying, I wanted to go to the same private high school and college they went to. For me, they were my aspirations and my ideal self in the future. But everything vanished, including my respect for him.

When I saw him again, everything changed. It was as if I was allergic to him. I couldn’t stand being with him in the same room. Aside from him bossing around, he was usually drunk. If before I wanted to be like him, not anymore. I actually wanted to disassociate myself from him. I wanted to have no relations with him at all.

All those years, I neglected him as a brother. I neglected that I was the only one thinking like that. Because I know, for him, I was and would always be his brother.

He had always been proud of me. Whenever he had friends in the house, he would boss around but at the end, he would introduce me as his smart brother. There was a time when he would get all my medals and show them to his friends. I acted like I was really annoyed but deep inside, I was saying, “stop it, you.”

Everybody in our place knew me, and my family. Nobody dared to do something bad to us because they knew, they would be accountable to my brother. While for me he was the villain, other people saw him as a hero. He was good in basketball, billiards, and pretty much everything so he easily gained respect. He was also a good friend to others, always willing to help out without even asking anything in return.

He was also a sign of security and safety for us. Every time we had a problem, our instinct was to call him immediately. Although sometimes, we knew he couldn’t do anything about the problem, his mere presence was enough to assure us that things would be fine, that we would be safe, and nobody could bother us.

I always knew he was really proud of us. He would always say whenever he was drunk that we should never be like him. We should study hard, follow and love our parents. He said we were the ones who would fulfill the dreams he never got to fulfill.

During our last new year together, he was blabbing about how he was proud of what I had achieved. He also said that he didn’t believe the rumors (which is actually a fact) that I am gay. He said he was proud of me and should continue to do better and not forget my parents like what he did.

I almost cried that time. I almost said sorry for the thoughts I had of him. For the fact that I lost every inch of respect that I had of him and I ignored everything he did for my family. But I didn’t.

Almost is a very sad word. It signifies our regrets and the things that we could have done. But sometimes, it is also our salvation. Our point where we do what we think is right.

My last interaction with him was when he woke me up one morning, and asked me to write a solicitation letter for the basketball team he was managing. My first instinct was to say yes, but I had no plan of doing it. I almost did what I thought of. But I am glad, I didn’t.

I am glad, that for the last time, I was able to help him out with his endeavors.

Pa, wherever you are, we hope you are safe and happy. I know that you know we have been loving you. You were taken from us three days before we could have celebrated your birthday but instead, we celebrated your life along with the people that were always there beside you when you were still here with us. We miss you pa. Nanay and Tatay miss you so bad.

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