“Jenny, keep an eye on your brothers. Take care of them, okay? Don’t leave them….I trust you….Alagaan mo mga kapatid mo….’Wag mo silang pababayaan….”
For weeks Mom kept repeating to me until the day she and Dad left for Australia two weeks ago. Being the responsible, oldest daughter that I was (no pride intended–that’s what they called me), I took these words to heart, thinking I would never break them even if it cost me my happiness. Last Sunday I was tested to see if I passed or failed the Brothers’ Keepers Test. Whatever comes out of it is a matter of life and death because two precious souls are at stake.
The “test” (at the time that it happened it was simply an incident) began the moment the 10 A.M. worship service concluded. About a thousand people made their way out of the 5th floor auditorium and headed in different directions: the parking lot, Megamall, Podium, St. Francis food court, restrooms and Sunday school to pick up their children. I belonged in the last category except I wasn’t picking up my children but my brothers. My cousin, Rej, accompanied me to the 3rd floor. For some reason we separated, she heading to the elementary rooms where my youngest brother, James, and our family friend, Arman, were, while I headed to the intermediate rooms where my 12-year old brother, Josh, was. I went to the Grade 6 room only to find it dark and empty, so I immediately went outside Sunday school. Upon exiting, I found Ate Rej, James and Arman, but not Joshua. Whatever happened to that absent-minded guy? It took us 2 minutes to finally locate him and because I was in a hurry to eat (it was lunchtime already!) I forgot where he went and where we found him. That was only the first of his escapades.
Right after locating Joshua, we met up with the Evaristo family, other relatives of ours. Together–me, Miko and Rej–mounted and dismounted escalators and made our way outside St. Francis Square. I distinctly remember Joshua, again absent-minded, trailing behind us. Making sure of this, I conversed with my cousins (Miko and Rej), laughing and teasing each other like we used to. James and Arman were held by our cousin Kuya Renjay so I relaxed. I was taking care of my brothers without sacrificing my happiness and comfort. Or so I thought.
Three minutes have passed since we entered the doors of Megamall when we reached Pizza Hut Bistro located in the 3rd floor. Kuya Renjay, the younger kids and other relatives arrived earlier to save two tables and order the food. My cousins and I talked some more, then I checked on James, Arman and Kurt (the younger brother of Miko, about James’ age). I asked James where his kuya Josh was, but he shook his head and said, “he’s just around.” I looked around but found no sight of Josh. I did not worry…not yet anyway. Maybe he’s in a store somewhere. Oh there, in Blue Magic. My cousins Rej and Miko went right to locate Josh while I walked left towards Blue Magic. The store replete with stuffed toys and “love” items probably did not attract my brother (like me) so I left it immediately. After three minutes, Yaya Aida, the helper of our aunt Jayjay, called me and asked if we have found Josh. News spreads fast nowadays, doesn’t it? Calmly, I said we haven’t, but assured her we will. Or was it myself that I assured? Either way, we just wanted to locate my brother.
The rest of the brood that were not part of the search-and-rescue team rested on the chairs, waiting for the ordered food. I instructed James to stay with our other aunt, Tita Judith, while I go look for our brother. Where could he be? The last time I saw him was in National Bookstore. I dashed to the ground floor.
As I brisk-walked to NBS, I couldn’t help but worry and imagine the bad things that could have met my brother. Episodes in CSI and Law and Order of 50-year old pedophiles abducting and taking advantage of young boys flashed in my head. Oh Lord, please, no. Not Josh. Not when our parents are thousands of miles away from us, enjoying and having fun. Oh God, no. Please, help me find Josh. Make our paths cross. At the same time, I told myself: This is all your fault. I should have paid attention to him. I should have watched him. I’m such a bad sister.
Immediately I entered National Bookstore upon arrival and searched for a boy in a blue and green striped Gap shirt, denim shorts and red-and-black basketball shoes. No match found. I stopped beside the Teens shelves and contemplated at his present location. He was trained well; he should have stayed here and waited for us to find him. Oh Lord, please keep my brother safe. Please–
*insert CSI: New York theme song* It was my phone. An unregistered number appeared, but I assumed it was my cousin Rejoice. For once, my presupposition was true.
“Hello Jenny? We found Joshua na. “
Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief and thanksgiving. The episodes quickly faded. “Where did you find him?”
“In National Bookstore. We’re in Pizza Hut already.”
He was trained, after all. “Oh…haha, I see. Andito ako ngayon. Sige, aakyat na ako.” (I’m here now. Alright, I’ll go up now.)
We ended our conversation and I went out of the bookstore–thankful, relieved and almost teary-eyed. I hated these incidents, but it is in these adrenaline-pumping moments where I see how good God is and how much attention I gave or have not given my brothers. As I walked to the third floor, I resolved in my heart not to scold my brother. I’ve had enough sermons and worries for the day. (Besides, it was Tita Jayjay who did the scolding. Haha!)
While my parents were away, I kept asking God what His purpose/s is/are for not allowing me, Josh and James to visit Australia with our parents. I guess I had to learn a lot of lessons–lessons I would learn only apart from my parents, to see how their 16-year training will be translated into proper application. Over all, I believe God wanted to teach me the value of brotherly love–literally. 🙂 After that incident, I never took my eyes off my brothers except when they bathed and in the evening when we slept. My momentary lack of attention to Josh did not mean that I didn’t love him, but that I chose to focus on myself. My comfort, my happiness, my time. After all, I took care of them very well when we were in our Tita Amy’s house. But that’s the thing about love: it’s inexcusable. Love suffers long. Come to think of it, I was not going to “suffer” for watching over my brothers! Thankfully, God never kept His eyes off Joshua. 🙂
You may be the bunso (youngest child) in your family, the middle child (like Josh) or the panganay (eldest) like me. If you have a sibling (siblings), choose to love them. Trust me, I’m not that loving now towards my brothers, but I can tell you that by the grace of God, I have changed for the better. I was more patient than I was a year ago or two years ago. Love ought to be practiced faithfully today. Now is the time. You may say, “Well, my siblings don’t care if I exist. We’re on our own now.” The truth is, they do. They desire as much affection and love as you do. Oldest children, our younger siblings look up to us. On the outside, they may be rebellious, disobedient, naughty and stubborn, but really, all they’re looking for is an ate or kuya (older sister or brother) who would love them no matter what. Family members look only for love outside the family when they can’t find it inside the family. Be the first one to initiate the love.
Here are pictures of me with Joshua and James. I love ’em!
smartest boy. evarr. 😀
with our cousin Rej. Our missing footwear is a sign of respecting holy ground. Seriously. :)))
CUTEST!!!! 🙂 :>