Monday, April 09, 2007

Return to "Easter"


The following piece was written eight Easters ago. I wrote about a seemingly lifelong predicament and my perpetual struggle to overcome it. In the end, I discovered the key was not to defeat it but to embrace it.

Wanting to share the life lesson learned, I submitted my composition to a national daily. On June 12, 1999, “It Must Be Easter” saw the light of print on the Young Blood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It was my very first foray into personal essay writing.

“It Must Be Easter”

I was dead for the first twenty-five years of my life. Yes, the demons were with me that long. I believed I was dead because I had lost hope that things would be better. Grief and uncertainty clouded my existence. But, I didn’t wear a dejected countenance. Like many others, I hid the bitterness with a smile, with a spirited camaraderie, and with a boisterous laughter that made my friends call me a “laughing hyena.”

That is quite an ironical metaphor. When I look back to the past, I see a boy struggling for emancipation from fate, from social sanctions, from gender marginalization. But these subjects are moot and academic. So I will write instead about my liberation from the past and how I reconciled with myself. Unless you exorcise the ghosts of the past, you can never function really well in the present and in the future. You always seem to make the same mistakes over and over.

There were a lot of things that my parents did and did not do that I still cannot forgive. I am one of those lost children who had a wicked and miserable childhood.

I knew my parents loved me. The problem was Mama and Papa hardly expressed their love. Perhaps they took our being their children for granted. Perhaps they thought it’s to be taken for granted that parents love their children and vice versa. Perhaps they didn’t realize that children need assurance of their parents’ love - children need to hear and feel it.

Whatever I was, however I responded to life, I blamed on my parents. They played a major role in molding the person that I had become. Even though I knew I had a big say on what my life should be, I did not want to embrace that truth because of the overwhelming accountability that came with it. Our relationships in the house (not home) was functional instead of meaningful.

They say it is the parents’ duty to provide their children food and shelter. They did not fail us. We had a place to stay and never went hungry.

They say parents should give their children good education. They were quite successful in that, too. All of us, their three children, went to prestigious schools.

My sisters and I were not deprived of finer things in life. We could eat at posh restaurants, buy trendy clothes, purchase things that catch our fancy, and travel frequently.

But Mama and Papa were too busy earning money, which was really understandable because where they came from they didn’t want their children to be. They didn’t want us to grow up and live poor.

It was in the emotional department that they were wanting. Our parents never talked to us. They would open their mouths to utter a thing or two, but never really spoke to us. They could hear us but never really listened. Papa and Mama were emotionally mute. When they used the power of speech the words that came out were usually full of spite, scorn or shame.

I never felt they were proud of me. One time we had a science fair in school, I decided to make a robot out of trash. I worked on the project for a week. I painstakingly put together empty boxes of medicines and imported cigarettes, ballpen caps, paper clips, and other thingamajigs to produce a visually appealing masterpiece. All throughout the week I didn’t hear a thing from them. They just passed by me as I busied myself with my creation. I wished they’d notice and offer me words of encouragement. Nothing.

The day of the fair came and I proudly set out with my creation. As I bade them goodbye, I hoped they would make some remark. Nothing. The strangers I rode with on the jeepney were the ones who told me, “Wow, that looks wonderful!” and “You’re so creative, boy!”

When I came home I kissed them on the cheeks as usual. I was still hoping they’d say something so I stayed awhile for some small talk. Still, nothing. I gave up. I retreated to my room upstairs and dumped the robot where it came from.

Luckily, I had friends to comfort and guide me. I knew I had to make an effort to understand my parents, to comprehend why they did the things they did and didn’t do the things they didn’t. Probably, no one taught them. Probably, they were emotionally bruised, too. So how could they teach us something they never learned? Indeed, how could they give us something they never had.

My mother came from a very big family of ten siblings. Since they belonged to the lower socio-economic stratum, the children never got much attention from their parents. My father was worse off. That’s why he never spoke to us about his past. He didn’t want to feel his deprivation again. He didn’t want to be vulnerable.

It came to a point that whenever they’d call, I’d be indifferent, resentful. But somehow I made my mother aware of my resentments in our phone conversations. And I wanted my father to know about them. I wanted to hear them say the three simple words of affection and the three simple words of regret. I wanted those words to come not merely from their lips but from their hearts. It was my only hope for redemption. If not, I would only continue to exist, but not live.

The turning point came during the Holy Week. In the wee hours after the Blackness of Saturday, Mama called. We chatted for a while. I unburdened myself of past grudges. Mama couldn’t keep up with what I was telling her. When I bluntly asked her if she had anything more to say she said there was none.

It was two in the morning when the phone rang again. Surprisingly, it was Papa calling me for the first time. I suppose his emotional and verbal reticence had been disturbed by my mother’s constant expression of concern over the growing distance between us. I could hardly believe my ears. Was this the man I used to call Popsicle? The man who wouldn’t melt no matter how much warmth you showered on him?

Finally, Papa was talking about his past. And he was crying. I figured it was his last-ditch effort to save me and to save himself in the process. All the things he couldn’t say came rushing out. “I love your Mother very much. I love all three of you very much. Whatever fault we committed in the past, forgive us. Sorry, we didn’t know.”

I told him it was very good to hear, and I was crying, too. My lament was that of a child who had been hurt deeply but had been redeemed. I felt so relieved. We forged an agreement not really to forget the past but to correct what went wrong then. After all, we needed to look back so that we can see where we were headed in the future.

My father asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk to him about. I asked him if he could continue talking after being on the phone for a long time; any moment Easter morning would be breaking in the horizon. “As long as it’s for my children, I will bear it,” he said.

I brought up something only he among our family didn’t know. With the lightness of being I was feeling after coming to terms with the past, I did not have any qualms telling Papa about my emotional orientation and sexual affiliation. But that’s another story. One thing’s certain, though: Relief provided by declaration, and gratification from self-affirmation, were out of this world.

It couldn’t have happened at a better time. On Easter morning when the Lord rose from the dead, I was resurrected from my deathly slumber.


My parents realized a few other things upon reading my composition. Other opportunities of enlightenment for all of us came through quality communication that followed. Our family dynamics dramatically changed. It improved to a level I never though we could ever reach.

It was then I discovered the power of writing. How writing can heal the past, amend the present and guide the future. How writing can help us come to terms with ourselves, and the people most important to us. How it allows us to view the world from a different perspective, moves us to make life-altering decisions, and most importantly, gives us an opportunity to connect with our innermost selves.


  1. I never really read this article when it saw print years ago. I knew it existed and it is a shame that it's only now that I read it.

    I've stopped writing. Other than news items -- I've stopped sharing myself. Nobody read anyway. If somebody did, it was all just taken for granted or belittled or misunderstood or judged wrongfully.

    I hope to start writing again though. There's so much to share.

  2. Keep on writing. Even though no one seems to be reading, just keep on writing. And write for yourself first and foremost, not for anybody else. Let it be the time you commune with your core. Find your voice and your voice will find an audience. And the first audience your voice must find is you. So start writing again. Now.

  3. Thank you for this essay, Peter. I clipped your article and read your essay a number of times back in college. I camped out in Pangil, Laguna last night and I suddenly remembered your Easter inspired piece.

  4. Walang anuman, Mark. It's amazing how clueless we could be how what we think, say, write, and do affect other people. You said "back in college". Gradweyt ka na ba? I hope what I wrote brought you something good. I wish you luck in your endeavors.