#30DayWritingChallenge: One thing I never learned.

Day Fifteen: One thing I never learned.

I never learned how to swim.

I got it from my mom. She hardly goes out of the house and she’s afraid of deep water, so none of her kids grew up knowing how to swim.

Our dad was away on military assignments for most of our early childhood. If he had it his way, we would’ve been swimming for most of our childhood years because he grew up near the sea.

I’m tall-ish for a Filipino. Five-foot-eight. So when it comes to company or barkada excursions to the pool or beach, I’m not afraid of getting into the water as long as it’s not more than five feet deep. A little deeper than that and I start to get nervous. Close to six feet and I will wade away to shallower waters. I can’t even float.

Jade in an inflatable pool.

It’s kind of pathetic, actually.

One time, an ex-boyfriend asked me, “what if I was drowning?”

“I’d be sad,” I promptly answered. I think he never forgave me for that.

Lately, I thought about learning how to swim. But there’s always some excuse or another stopping me. I even bought swim trunks and a goggles to motivate me. But, alas, it has yet to happen.

So here is the fastest way to kill me: throw me unto the ocean. I’ll panic and I’ll drown. And then I’ll turn into a mermaid.

Hah. I wish.

#30DayWritingChallenge: The weirdest thing about my family.

Day Fourteen: The weirdest thing about my family.

I can probably count in one hand the number of times our family went to church. The last one was maybe three years ago, during my sister’s wedding.

My father could not care less about religion. He is as nominal as nominal a Catholic can be without calling himself atheist. I doubt he understands the term; but even if he did, he probably think it’s too much of a bother.

My mother has always felt guilty about not going to church. Every Sunday morning, she will turn on the TV for a televised mass. She hardly watches it, but the sound from the television is probably enough to keep her satisfied enough about her Catholic obligations.

TV mass is really targeted to those who are too old or too sick to go to a church. My mother is neither of these. She is just shy about dressing up and going out in public.

So it was the kids who had to make up for the religious lapses of the parents.

I went to a Catholic school in high school and was even active in some church organizations. It was mostly for show, in hindsight, although I believed it (mostly) at that time. Church work means attending a mass and going to org meetings, leading prayers, and learning Cathechism. The latter appealed to the geek in me.

I stopped going to church around college, and like someone who has not eaten bacon in three months and realized that it was possible to not miss bacon, I realize that I won’t be smote for being a bad Catholic. Besides, I masturbated every day. Surely, I should have been punished sooner than that?

My siblings all went to a public school and so they were not pressured to exercise religious fervor the way I did. My oldest sister, as far as I know, remained religious. This is inspite (or maybe because) of living in the Middle East for the last few years.

My middle sister joined me and my oldest sister in church when we were younger, but by the time the youngest siblings were old enough to go to church with us, we already stopped going to church.

Family portrait, Maia's wedding.

Looking back at what I wrote so far, this isn’t particularly weird for an average Filipino family. The weirdest thing about our family is probably the fact that it isn’t.

The weirdest thing about our family is that how I am in it.

#30DayWritingChallenge: My mother.

Day Three: My mother.

I woke up early in the evening to the sound of raised voices coming from downstairs. It rarely happened now; the familiar sound used to be more frequent while I was growing up.

It was just one voice. A woman’s, harsh and angry. And it probably can be heard from across the street. Righteous anger always trumps her usual shame in being caught in embarassment.

I went down and asked what the commotion was about. The house helper earlier said her nose bled while in school; it was apparently a common occurence. She was evasive when questioned about her medical condition, and she gave very flimsy excuses when asked to have her sister phoned for answers.

My mother is a temperamental woman. It was borne, I suspect, from various frustrations she carried while growing up. She was the middle child, possibly an unfavorite. She graduated class valedictorian in high school, but rebelled in and eventually dropped out of college. Through the years, she’d tell us of stories of her life while growing up. In retrospect, there was always a tinge of hurt in those stories. It reminded her of what she did not become.

Those frustrations lash out in her angry outbursts, scary and surprising. It is the anger of someone deprived of opportunities to become better, but will not complain of what was her lot.

I tried to calm her down, but I knew I can only diffuse her a little. Once worked up, she can go on for an hour or two. The house helper, a girl of sixteen, hid her face underneath a pillow, still not saying anything. Oh, the many things she got things wrong.

My mother is often a kind, sympathetic woman, but she demands respect from those under her authority. We, her kids, as expected, constantly challenged her; even more so now that we are adults. We got our temper from her, after all. It is especially true with me, who might have made several of mistakes she made when she was younger, only worse and for worse reasons. Growing up, arguments with her became a game of waiting for her to say, “what did I do to deserve you?”

My mother eventually simmered down and I urged the house helper to return to her room. After I told her maybe half a dozen times, she decided to get up and move away. That girl didn’t seem to have much sense in her.

People who have met and talked to my mother would tell me she’s such a nice person. And she is. Except during those times when she isn’t.

In her dream, my mother wandered into a movie shoot with Tito Sotto.

While we were having brunch, my mother recounted to me a dream she had last night.

It was my sister’s wedding. (IRL, my sister got married two years ago.) She woke up late and everybody in the house has already left for the church. From the distance, she can hear the wedding march playing.

Panicking, she quickly got dressed but couldn’t find her bra. So she wore her dress without it. Already crying in panic, she also grabbed what she thought was a handkerchief. It was only after she left the house when she realized that it was one of my black tank tops.

Although she can hear the wedding march playing, the church itself was pretty far. Worse, there were no public vehicles passing. She had to walk all the way to the church while conscious of how her breast showed through her gown.

The first church she went into was empty; there was no wedding. The next church she arrived in was crowded with a wedding entourage. But it turned out to be because of a movie shoot and Tito Sotto was one of the actors.

Back on the road while looking for the right church, a man saw her and offered to drive her to the church. She was crying the entire time they were driving. The next church they saw was still not the right church. Finally, in her fourth attempt, she found the right church where my sister and the rest of the family was.

But the wedding was over. She did not even make it to the picture-taking. Still weeping, she finally woke up, with her chest heavy.

Ma and Pa during my sister's wedding.

Although she was laughing it off, it was a little painful to hear her tell me how she was panicking and weeping when she realized she might not make it to her daughter’s wedding. Because I can just picture it happening in real life. My mother often cannot deal with emergencies very well, and she will be running around while flustered. Or she will weep.

“Didn’t you remember that Maia (my sister) is already married?” I asked her, after she recounted her dream. It was a dream and she did not remember. And maybe the crushing despair took hold of her while she was helplessly walking, looking for the right church where her family was.

Kumain ka na ba?

If she did not notice me eating supper before I left for work, my mother would ask on my way out, “Kumain ka na ba? (Have you already eaten?)”

Often, I would grunt that I’ll be eating in the office instead. Or not answer at all. More often than not, I am already in a hurry when I go out of the house and do not welcome the last minute question which causes me to momentarily pause and consider if I should answer or not.

She means well, of course. A caring parent would want to make sure that her child gets to eat properly, nevermind if that child is already an adult in his thirties. However, a lot of the things that we do well-meaningly are also a little misplaced and do not contribute to anything beneficial.

I can already feed myself. That’s why I work in a job, actually, so I can feed myself. Wondering about my well-being based on whether I have eaten or not at that given moment seem a little superficial. So what if I have not yet eaten? Should I go back inside and tuck in some supper so she would be relieved that her son isn’t starving?

And not commenting on the obvious (I think) fact that I am, at that moment, in a hurry. That an interruption can cause considerable delay to my travel time. But then, my mother had been self-employed all her life. She did not have to worry about coming to work on time, only in ensuring a dress gets finished on a particular day. My mother is a product of a background and a generation whose values are considerably different from mine.

I wish she’d call out “Ingat!” when I go out of the house, instead. Wishing someone “Ingat” shows understanding of a situation as well as appropriate concern for a person’s safety. I think of these things now and get a guilty feeling for not appreciating parental concern. The moral dilemmas from being raised in an Asian family while adopting a mostly-Western worldview sucks.

At the Slaughterhouse District, Baguio

I tell myself that these selfish, petty aggravations will go away once I move out again. Except that I will not be moving out of my parents’ house anytime soon. So better keep your mouth shut, Jade. Next time my mom asks “Kumain ka na ba?” I will try to smile, keep quite, and close the gate carefully behind me.