2015: Thoughts on family, life and moving forward

Fog cover the town of Banaue as viewed from the Viewpoint.
Fog covers the town of Banaue as viewed from the Viewpoint. The rice terraces are still visible in the foreground.

2015 was not an easy year. Unlike previous years which presented only their fair share of challenges and difficulties but leaves the order of your life relatively unscathed, this one changed mine a lot. And while I do know that I do not have the monopoly of melancholy and grief, I would say that that the year brought changes unsurprisingly and early on.

Just a few days after I celebrated my 35th birthday in February, I lost my only sister to pneumonia before I was even able to see her for one last time in Davao City. A few months prior to her leaving, we had a long conversation on her having lymphoma and how she was able to look for solutions and was determined to see things through.

Confident, we thought that Stage 2 was something she can deal with easily. Contrary to our expectations though, it was the complications which pulled her down and slowly sapped her life away.

My sister’s passing was not easy for everyone, especially since she was one who always made her presence felt. From phone calls to messages, to Instagram posts and Facebook comments, she was one who willingly shared her daily activities to everyone, as well as took note of what everyone else was also doing. She kept in touch with family and friends both near and far. And she seemed to never grow tired of it.

In June, Agnes and I would shuffle back and forth between Quezon City and Lucena City to constantly check on her mother who was rushed to a hospital. Nanay Mary, as how she had asked me to call her, had a liver condition which disrupted her digestive process and disturbed her daily routines. The doctors said it was cirrhosis. This despite the fact that she was not given to drink or some other activities which could have caused problems in her liver.

On Father’s Day, Nanay Mary peacefully passed on as Agnes and her siblings were talking about the medical options the doctors had given them. Considering that their father had passed on a couple of years earlier, we thought he had come to fetch her for a date. We consoled ourselves with that thought, being that Nanay Mary had always felt melancholic after Tatay Tito passed away. With her passing, Tito and Mary were now reunited in the heavens.

Being both born into small families, our losses this year have been felt profoundly. But as we are also both professionals with commitments to work and our colleagues, we did not have the luxury of time to wallow in grief and sort out our emotions. Also, the semester was ending and we also had requirements which we needed to satisfy, else we risk endangering our academic standing. In short, work and studies pushed us to move on.

The house by the creek. Banaue, Ifugao. This house is visible from the Uyami Green View Restaurant and Inn.
The house by the creek. This house, viewed from Uyami Green View Restaurant, always seems to give me that melancholic feel. It also reminds me of those farm houses in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

Prior to joining our families for the Holidays, Agnes and I thought of going up to Banaue, Ifugao for some quiet time. We felt it was needed, being that we quickly moved from both our losses and marched on with our professional and academic engagements. And so we went into the hills.

Banaue was an easy choice for the both us, being that we’ve spent a week in town for the Imbayah Festival in 2014. And we also passed by the place when we visited Sagada in the Mountain Province later that year. We know our way around town and owing to the number of days we spent there earlier, we have picked up some words which we can use should we need to ask around.

Banaue did not disappoint. Waking up on the first morning after reaching town, Agnes and I talked about our dreams. And both of us dreamt of our recently lost loved ones. She met with her parents in her dream while I met with Sorene.

I had a short conversation with my sister on how she was. And she said she was good. I asked her why she had to go and she just smiled. She then asked me to say hi to everyone in the family and let them know she was happy.

It felt like a scene from the movies where an actor visits a friend or a family member in a nursing home. But it was good enough for me that I got to hug, sit and talk with my sister. Of course, people of science will say that it was just my mind playing tricks on me and satisfying an emotional need which I have ignored over the past few months.

Nothing though will ever compare to the emotional satisfaction felt when I woke up after the dream – a feeling that the experience was real and that I really had a conversation with my sister. And it was a conversation which I was not able to have with her before she left.

Losing Sorene and Nanay Mary was not easy for both Agnes and me. I lost both a sister and future mother-in-law in the same year. And it is not something one wishes to have to go through while attending to employment commitments and academic requirements. But life goes on.

The personal struggles of 2015 only reminded me of lessons already learned in previous years – that all life is fleeting, making it important to value every time spent with family and friends. And that time given to moments made with those who hold special meaning in our lives, is more important than any material possession or social stature we may acquire.

As a thought often expressed in several literary (and even religious) permutations have always suggested, we are all here on borrowed time. And we never know when it will be our time to go. And so while we are here, it is important that we make time for family and friends, especially if we spend most days of the year away from their warm embrace and consoling words.

And when we end the Holidays and return to our own so called busy lives, we take stock from the memories made with friends and family these past few days. May they become sources of strength, inspiration and love for the coming challenges which this New Year will bring.


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