I REMEMBER when you took me to the barber and promised you'd be back after 30 minutes. You had to do the groceries. The barber razed through my hair, reducing its length to less than a centimeter, and I couldn't do anything about it. I had never felt so helpless. When you came back for me, I was mad. I hated my haircut. It was too short. I cried as we walked, but you laughed at me, which made me angrier. Eighteen years later, I still sport the same hairstyle.
I remember how you still call me Bon, a special nickname you gave me, which warms my heart every time I hear it.
I remember how hurt you were when I—then a melodramatic and verbose seven-year old—told you, "You have no right to do that to me!" because you ate the chocolate bar I was saving up in the fridge. I stormed out of the house, but minutes later, you came out and told me to get ready for lunch, as if nothing had happened.
I remember your excitement to take us, my brothers and me, to swimming lessons at the SMRAA every afternoon during the summer. From the stands, you stood proudly when we finished one lap at the Olympic-sized pool. You treated us to a hot, delicious arroz caldo at the nearest carinderia afterwards.
I remember when we all laughed at you when you mispronounced "picturesque." You laughed in return and proudly said something like, "Look at you—you're already smarter than me!"
I remember how you tell everyone, from tricycle drivers to sales ladies to random people from church, about your children, and what great things they've done. I feel embarrassed when you do that, but you choose not to notice my tugging at your shirt, and you still go on and on with your speech.
I remember how proud you were when I finally got around cooking. If I had paid attention to the vegetables I was slicing, I could've gotten a much higher grade in Botany.
I remember how you always go for the spaghetti first during parties.
I remember how you never complain that I spend so much on books or school projects or movies.
I remember how you immediately said yes when I asked you if I could buy a new printer, despite the fact that I still have one in perfect working condition. I count my HP 910 as one of my most precious earthly treasures.
I remember how you urge us to find girlfriends as beautiful as Nanay, whom you love with all your heart.
I remember how serious you get on Sunday mornings because you don't want us to be late for worship service.
I remember how you wake up early in the morning to finish a chapter of a Christian book you're reading. You like reading aloud.
I remember how the entire family gathers, and you lead us all in prayer, every time I leave for Manila.
I remember when you shed tears when I told you the news that I made it to UP Diliman. You were happy for me, but you were saddened because I'd never be around anymore.
I remember your wise counsel, your timely encouragement, and your deep, melodious voice, whenever I tell you about my frustrations, pains, and struggles, especially during moments when I feel I'm the lowest scum of humanity. "The Lord is faithful," you would always say, adding a verse or a line from a hymn you recall from memory. You have no idea how much your pieces of advice mean to me.
And as I remember these things about you, I remember, too, that you are one of God's greatest gifts to me. I hope I'd grow up to be like you, and I'd already be content if I can be half as great a man as you are. I love you. Happy birthday, Tay!