Underweight, emaciated, and flimsy, you had met the big, wild world like a glaring spotlight in the dead of the night when the tempest was at its strongest, you the young, poor deer, scared you had nowhere to run. Of course, you didn't have a pint of a memory of that. Of course, it was your mama and papa who did, who had felt joy when you had finally broken loose from an aching, soaked-in-wet womb; but the joy was undeservedly fleeting and replaced immediately with worry after worry. Reality bit them hard when they saw through your bones how fragile you were, a most delicate white porcelain that breathed off precious life.
It was a painstakingly agonizing moment that would last as long you live. They both had realized that. You're the eighth child in the already-big family -- five girls, three boys. Your papa would often lose count of his young children whose age was indistinguishable. By the looks of their faces, built, and height, the first four seemed to be born in the same year, quadruplets if you will.
Being the youngest child and son, you were supposed to have had perks being one, to be given special treatment just as any old mother would. But such wasn't the case in yours. Old mama and old papa, at forty-eight and fifty-one, were either too busy to scavenge for food to be brought to the non-existent table, or to care for everybody's baths in absentia for a couple of days or long weeks. All they had in mind was to survive, for all of them to be alive and be intact and in one piece before everybody dozed off, even though their guts were burning.
Nevertheless, you would never know that, nor understand the heaps of struggles mounting on the every day inside your shanty of anything-goes and what-have-yous. All you ever cared for was sucking milk out of your mama's sickly, close-to-arid breasts until they bled. Your mama's bosom was profusely hurting, you should know that.
The time came when you could muster baby steps as gentle as that of a dying battery-powered walking toy. Old mama and old papa couldn't believe you're strong enough to stand and walk wherever, paths emblazoned only by a child-king. Indeed, you were a miracle baby, and they thanked dear God for that, crying and kneeling before child Jesus inside centuries-old Santo Niño church.
Then your family relocated to the fringes of downtown Cebu, living inside an abandoned building, which I thought was better and sturdy enough to weather the passing storm, standing on the shores facing Bohol sea.
That was three years ago when you were at the onset of your walking.
Precisely a month ago, I saw you. Surprising, it was not. You were playing with, I presume, your friends in the neighborhood. I had never seen nor met them before as long as I could remember. New kids on the block, I guess.
As I went in closer, I had noticed the afternoon light cast a shadow behind your new abode, the empty windows served as spotlights beaming lights onto the ground. Interestingly, you and your friends stood under those lights, happy and playing some characters, as if some mighty actors on stage.
What a sight it was to me. I suddenly felt hopeful, glad you had found those rays of light adults would deem of as pieces of hope in this big, wild world. But I was sad at the same time. The world knows why.
I stopped and was silently watching how you kids delighted in the gleeful afternoon.
You had said hi as soon as you noticed me. I saw how you have grown all these years, those bones were fragile no more.
You waved me goodbye like an old friend as I left, smiling without you knowing my name.
Image: Cebu City, Philippines
Image: Cebu City, Philippines