My sister Sorene was never your usual silently-obedient type. She was never one who would just concede to your ideas without you exerting an effort to convince her of what you have in mind. No, she was not like that. She was never like that.
Sorene was not an easy sibling to live with. She was head strong, aggressive and fiercely proud. She would never bow down to you if you don’t deserve it. And she would never think you deserve it if you have not earned it.
We always had a love-hate relationship as brother and sister. And our differences started early when we had a pig, with whom I had grown fond of, slaughtered and prepared for Sorene’s baptism. I was only four years old at that time. And I felt bad with what happened.
A couple of years after that though, I had one of my life’s biggest scares when Sorene was admitted to a hospital in Cebu City for high fever. We had just moved in to join Papa after he was assigned there for work. And there we were in a hospital room with Sorene on the bed. I worried much about her, so much so that I slept beside her on her bed, only leaving her side to eat and clean myself up.
Months after that we moved back to Cagayan de Oro. Where we again went back to the hostilities we had.
Our younger years were never perfect. We always had quarrels, especially since we grew up in a common room. And once you share a very limited space, there is always the tendency for conflicts over use of what little area you have in the room. And we always had that.
For a long time, Sorene and I shared a double deck bed. I was on the top deck while she was on the bottom bunk. My brother Abe was in a separate bed opposite Sorene’s. Yet despite the close proximity of our sleeping spaces, that never guaranteed any similarity in our preferences, not in our personalities and pursuits.
If my wall had photos of wars and maps, hers had photos of her and her friends. If my bed had the usual pillows and a blanket, hers had stuffed toys and throw pillows aside from the usual pillows and blanket.
This marked difference would manifest itself several times as we were growing old. We did not have your fairy tale sibling relationship. No, it was far from that. We quarreled, shouted at each other and there were even instances when we exchange punches. Yes, Sorene was that tough.
If Sorene and Abe were very good friends through and through, she and I had agreements and disagreements. And that was because we never really agreed much on anything as we were growing up.
Yet despite our differences, Sorene never stopped organizing birthday dinners for me, Abe, Mama and Papa. And I know, she does that too for every other member of the family, and for many of his friends and co-workers.
When we were still both working in Metro Manila, we hardly saw each other unless there was some emergency, celebration or random reason for coffee or dinner. But those few moments over her birthday or my birthday, or Agnes’ birthday, were moments where we cherished each other’s company over pizza, pasta, coffee or iced tea.
Quick meet ups in Blendz Megamall, dinners at Mall of Asia, birthdays with Yellowcab Pizza – these things I will always remember whenever I see these familiar places when I get back to Metro Manila. And I think it would probably not be easy to hold back tears when I find myself sitting in any of these establishments.
Maybe it was isolation from the other members of the family, or maybe it was because we were facing the same struggles, but those years in Manila allowed us to better appreciate our relationship as siblings. It allowed us to see how important it is to have a sibling in a place where you hardly have anyone rooting for you. We were both Promdi’s in the big city.
Over the next few years, we would exchange travel plans for the family. Being both who seem to be afflicted with the travel bug, we both love to take breathers from work and be in unfamiliar places. And we did have some ideas which eventually became realities. A lot remained in the pipeline though.
Aside from these plans, we also talked much about plans for the family, particularly in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong – where many of the members of the family, stared death in the face. We planned about relocating the family, particularly in areas which would be safer and more secured from natural and man-made calamities. Especially since the typhoon reinforced a warning I gave the family a year before it occurred.
What was not in the plans we made though was her Lymphoma.
All the while, I had always thought that Sorene was in the pink of her health because out of us siblings, she was the consistent runner. In a year, you would see her competing in at least a couple of marathons, while Abe and I spent our weekends only on movie marathons.
She invested heavily in her running gear and shoes while Abe and I bought mainly collared shirts and work shoes. When we bought her New Balance runners and a Nalgene bottle, she was ecstatic. She even said that because of that, her commitment to running would be deepened. And we were happy that she loved running because it is a language which Papa also speaks very well.
Running was Papa’s passion. And because of that he and Sorene would both talk about it at length. As a result, Papa gave Sorene several tips on how she should approach her running and how she can improve on it. And improve she did. She conquered 3, 5, 10 and 21 kilometers and participated in several marathons over the past few years. And in the process, she also inspired some friends to also hit the road and sweat it out.
That is why when she informed me of her condition, I was confident that she would be, at the very least, able to withstand the physical demands of a protracted treatment schedule. She was, among the three of us, the fitness buff.
And so like many, and probably even Sorene herself, I did not expect that she would be battling not the Lymphoma itself, but an opportunistic lung infection which gives her struggle quite a poetic irony – a runner struggling, and eventually succumbing to death with a lung infection.
I may not have been there but I am told that her last few weeks had been very difficult. For someone who cannot sit still and just do nothing, being in the hospital bed for almost a month most have been torture for Sorene. And the experience of restlessness and frustration (and maybe even anger) must have built up so much inside her that she decided to do away with some of those whom she thought were only after her well-being, yet were in effect jeopardizing her chances of survival.
By then, it was too late. Too late for her body to immediately recover from the effect of the infection on her; too late for her breathing to sufficiently improve that she’d be able to transfer from the Intensive Care Unit onto a private room; and too late to have those who truly love her to see her and join her in fighting for her life.
She died not knowing how many genuinely love her despite her flaws. She died not seeing how those who genuinely care for her were constantly thinking of her. She died not realizing how despite all the differences she may have had with some of those who shared her journey with her, they had always been thinking of her well-being.
Over the coming days, weeks, months and years, I will try to make sense of what happened to Sorene. And I know it will not be easy. But one has to make the effort to understand what could be the purpose of the Divine in recalling to His dominion my only sister – who gives life and color wherever she goes and in whatever she does.
As a sibling, she was never easy to be with. But despite your differences with her, she will not stop caring for you or make you feel special. She was always that person who believed so much in the possibility that the other will change for the better or at the very least, feel better.
We will miss you Sorene. You will always be Padaday to us, your family and friends. And we will always cherish the memories of the moments you have shared with us.