by Evans Yonson
It has been a busy week. I have been checking term papers and computing grades these past few days. I detest the last week of every semester. Everyone seems to be hurrying up but I am taking a break today. I am having my birthday leave from my regular day job. I have been cooking and preparing food for tonight. I have spaghetti with meatballs, chicken teriyaki in hot sauce, and grilled fish. I am playing Backstreet Boys’ Quit playing games with my heart. Some friends are coming over for dinner. Several others are arriving after midnight.
I am in Manila right now. I have been living here since 1993 when I started my graduate studies at the University of the Philippines. Diko Lolot called from Santiago, Chile at early dawn today. Manoy Bobong called me from Cagayan de Oro while I was cleaning the house. Manoy sent me lechon through air freight. It’s a very special day for me, I am 30 years old today. I am single and enjoying every moment of it. Earlier, I went to hear mass and lit a candle of Thanksgiving for my 30th brithday. Nanay does not call me. I always call her thrice a week. I tell her my news and how things are going for me in the big city. Although, I don’t have any intentions that there will be boys tonight.
I was born in October 1968 while my Tatay was in the military training. My parents were government employees. Tatay served the military for a while and worked with the Department of Labor office in our city. My Nanay was employed at the City Hall where she became the City Treasurer later on in her life. Two brothers came before me and followed by another brother (Jojoy) and a sister (Vya). I grew up in Cagayan de Oro with my Nanay and my siblings and it was the most memorable time of my life. I was almost four years old when Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. I remembered how we would stay at home before sundown because there was curfew then. We would be home early and Nanay would lead us in praying The Angelus every night until 1981 when everybody suddenly grew up and started discovering the bigger world out there. Martial Law was lifted. We could stay out late. We could even get out early.
Summers were spent traveling and knowing new places and meeting new friends. I learned how to fly kites. I bathe in the rain. I played the local games at night in the street with my friends. I cooked food with my siblings under the supervision of our maternal grandparents, who were tailors. We ate fruits from Papang’s fruit trees. We had guayabanos. We had guavas. We had starapples. We had coconuts. And we had a deep well. We were guided how to clean the house, how to sew clothes, and how to wash our clothes by hand. Early on, I was already trained to be responsible and adventurous but with precautions.
I contracted poliomyelitis when I was two years old. My parents would explain to me later on that it was the epidemic of the time, like HIV-AIDS now. Medical experts were still trying to find the cure. My parents were advised that before I turned 12 years old, my right shoulder should be operated on, which I never had because of financial constraints. But for the meantime, I underwent major physical therapy. I would do monkey and chin bars. I had body massage every single day to stretch my bones. Many people never notice that my right hand is shorter than the left. I grew up different from my siblings. But it was never suggested in the family that my physical situation should become my prime insecurity. Everybody’s attention was on me. I could not do this. I could not do that. There was a long list of things not to be done. I watched my friends swim. I wanted to swim. I dreamt of climbing high fruit trees. I wished I could ride a bike. There are so many things to wish for especially on your birthday. I never stop wishing. I never stop adding more wishes ever year. I wonder when will I realize everything. Or maybe it’s time to stop wishing and start realizing all these wishes.
(to be continued)
 A roasted pig.