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“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”[my art blog dedicated to everyday muses]
I just found out over dinner today that my dad’s great-grandfather was a town “Dato” (chieftain) and a Muslim man with 3 wives and 26 offspring. During his grandmother’s time everyone was converted to christianity, and I’m not sure if everyone was christened with the same family name. I very likely have relatives scattered all over the southern Islamic-dominant southern Philippine region, which probably means over in neighbouring Sabah and Sarawak too.
CEILING INSTALLATION COMPANY:
FOOD STALL IN THE MARKET:
AUTO REPAIR SHOP:
[translations and annotations by me,because I feel like this should be shared to an even wider audience]
I once chatted up with a cab driver on my way home, two years ago.
He asked me if I wanted to listen to his life story, and I thought why not, right? He told me he married young, separated after 10 years of unhappiness, and got left behind in the Philippines as his wife and his three children flew off to the States for a better life. He is now married with children, but he said that he will never stop thinking of his other children. He told me he hasn’t talked to them for almost 13 years.
Unlike all of us, this man didn’t have Facebook.
And I did.
Casually, I offered to look for his children in Facebook. I thought it shouldn’t be that hard since Mark Zuckerberg made it perfectly suitable for stalking people.
He then excitedly gave his children’s names to me, and I wrote them down one by one on my phone.
As we reached my house, I handed him money as my payment. He pushed my hand away and told me: “Wag na! Baka ikaw pa ang anghel na tumulong sakin!” [Forget it! You could be the angel sent to help me out!]
I insisted and told him: “Manong, kailangan mo yan. Kahit magbayad ako, gagawin ko po yun. Madali lang yun! Hanapin ko sila sa Facebook!” [Mister,you need that. Even though I’m paying,I’ll still do this. It’s easy! I’ll find them on Facebook!] gratefully, I laughed and said my goodbye.
I logged in my Facebook the morning after and remembered last night’s conversation. At first, I felt hesitant to meddle with family businesses that aren’t mine. But I also remembered promising Manong Steve (my cab driver) that I was going to at least try.
Gathering all the courage in my fingers, I began typing his children’s names.
I found a name match with his first daughter, but I wasn’t so sure if it’s the same person so I tried his son’s name. Again, another match. Like a professional stalker that I truly am, I checked their information. Both were located in Washington. I checked their profile pictures — it couldn’t be more obvious that they were siblings. Also, they looked like they were the same age the cab driver told me they’d be — around their twenties.
It was time to panic. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I couldn’t believe that I found them in Facebook and that everything was freakishly falling into place. Yes, it felt like a “Maalaala Mo Kaya” [“Would You Even Remember?” Its a show reinacting real-life unusual,heart warming stories; unexpected family reunion stories are popular] episode happening right before my eyes.
What to do, what to do?!?
For a good 30 minutes, that was the question that lingered in my head. Should I message them? What do I say? What if they get mad? I mean, weren’t they going to get mad because their father left them and here’s a stranger asking them to talk to him again? What if they shoot the messenger? What the fuck am I doing? Better yet, what the fuck am I NOT doing?
“Hello there. Would you happen to know a Steve (Surname)?” I typed and pressed enter, messaging both children.
1 minute passed, no reply. 2 minutes passed, the red alarm of my notification came.
“Nope, I sure don’t.” the boy replied.
I was relieved that it was the end of the story, but for some unknown reason, I felt the urge to text Manong Steve: “Manong, baka po hindi Steve pagkakakilala sainyo. Anong pangalan niyo po na makilala nila ifever?” [Mister, maybe they don’t know you as “Steve”. What name would they recognize?]
My cab driver replied immediately saying: “Tiburcio ako. Pinaganda ko lang nickname ko. Hehehe” [I’m Tiburcio. I just made my nickname fancier,hehehe]
I went back to my laptop, messaging the boy again: “How about Tiburcio (Surname)?”
The son replied: “That’s my father.”
This is fucking weird. But calm down, Tami. You’re already here. Corresponding. It’s time to be a man.
“I met him last night randomly and he asked me to give you his number. That’s all. I’m so sorry if I’m meddling with family matters. He just really wanted to be in contact with you that’s why I’m here to relay the message. I hope you’re not mad at me. His number is (xxxx-xxx-xxxx). He was my cab driver last night, and we had a chat and he asked me graciously to look for you in Facebook.” Message sent.
Honestly, I was afraid. I was scared of the repercussions of my meddling. I can imagine myself being in his shoes, and all I could think of was how mad I would’ve been. To be reminded by my father’s abandonment over Facebook is a terrible place to be in.
And that’s exactly what I got as a reply from the son.
“Why should we call him if he already has another family there?! Tell him that’s not gonna happen. We don’t need to keep in contact with him! We’re fine how we are now. Who the hell do you think you are?!” He answered.
I couldn’t help but cry after reading his reply. What was I going to tell Manong Steve??! That his children who he hasn’t seen for thirteen fucking years never want to see him again?! How do I comfort the son who’s probably dumb-founded by this surreal situation with a stranger?!
I didn’t know what to do, and I decided to block everyone off of my Facebook. Even the other daughter who didn’t even get a chance to reply to my message. I’m done. I’ve done my part. They have their father’s number and it’s up to them whether they call or not. My involvement as a messenger, trying to help a family the best way I knew how, is finished.
And I failed.
I tried to forget everything that happened so I could carry on with my life. But I couldn’t. I burst into tears every hour knowing I’ve failed Manong Steve. I’ve failed their family. I was useless and all that I was going to end up doing was hurt both parties really bad.
Nighttime fell, and my heart won’t let me rest. Manong Steve kept on texting me, asking how everything was. Asking if I found his children.
His questions burned a hole in my soul. I didn’t know what to tell this hopeful man.
“Manong, nahanap ko po sila pero ayaw po nila kayo kausapin” [Mister,I found them but they don’t want to talk to you], slowly, I typed this down on my phone.
I re-read my message again and what I saw was a heartless bitch, breaking an old man’s heart.
“Manong, hindi ko po sila nahanap. Pero try ko po ulit!” [Mister,I couldn’t find them. But I’ll try again!]
I cried myself to sleep that night.
Until when will I keep from Manong Steve my on-line conversation with his children? Was it better to protect him from the hurt? Will I just forget about him? Should I just be a cold-hearted bitch? Why can’t I just not fucking care?
I woke up at 7AM the next day with 5 missed calls from Manong Steve and 1 unread text.
Synapses opened, waking up my whole being as I read the message:
“Ang saya saya ko. Tinawagan ako ng anak kong si Chona! Maraming salamat sa’yo!”[I’m really happy!My child Chona called me! Thank you so much!] my heart exploded along with my unstoppable and over-reacting tears.
Reading that message from Manong Steve, released one of the best and most heart-felt sighs of relief in my life.
Last year, Manong Steve called me around the middle of the year. His children were coming home to see him. He was crying.
And as you’ve probably guessed — so was I.