My parents didn’t plan to have four girls as their children, yet here I am, flanked by my sisters in one wide bed as I’m trying to recover the lost thoughts I had before they arrived from work. We don’t sleep together anymore like we used to when we were little, but we do bond this way. We hang out in one of our rooms upstairs and do stuff most sisters do. Though I would say I’m blessed to have siblings whom I can share clothes, secrets and crushes with, I sometimes wonder how it feels like to have brothers instead. It’s not until a recent encounter with one of my uncles that I realized what I’ve been missing all along.
One night, two of my young uncles from my mother’s side came to visit us. As I was typing on my laptop, my Uncle Richard sat beside me and sneaked a peek at the monitor. I knew he was drunk; his smell gave it away. I’ve been taught a long time ago to just nod at whatever my drunken uncles say because, well, they’re drunk. This time, though, he sensed something was wrong. He was talking a mile a second, but I was simply smiling at him, not understanding a word. Then I blurted out, “Tito, I can’t hear you anymore”.
I saw pain flash in my uncle’s eyes. He knew I was hard of hearing, but didn’t expect it to become worse. He used hand signals and made me read his lips. He was asking me if both of my ears have already lost hearing and I said yes. As I’ve written in one of my previous essays, it seemed that people around me find it difficult to accept the news. I looked up at him and his eyes were saying sorry. He hugged me and kissed my forehead. I told him there’s no need to worry because I’m fine with it. Still, that didn’t stop him from talking to my mother about how sorry he was that I lost my sense of hearing.
My siblings and I grew up with my uncles. These guys are just five to ten years older than us, so we have practically shared our childhood and teenage years. Their primary job then, in exchange for free lodging in our house, was to look after us siblings. They would send us to school in the morning and fetch us in the afternoon. When we were having difficulties with our homework, my uncles would take turns teaching us and even do school projects for us.
Much of the music influence came from my uncles. They would teach us how to play the guitar and would make us listen to a variety of rock bands such as Metallica, The Cure, Eagles and others from the 80’s and 90’s eras. I vividly recall how my Uncle Jessie, then 20, would rock my baby sister to sleep to the tune of Parokya ni Edgar’s “Buloy”. I would often chastise him, but my sister would fall asleep nonetheless.
My uncles—all the seven of them—are also the perpetrators of “inuman sessions” in our house. Whenever they win a bet on their fighting roosters, they convene in our patio and drink beer. They even let us drink some and give us “balato” and “pulutan”, much to the consternation of my parents. On one occasion, they even drank a lot of beer and kept the “tansans” or bottle caps just so I could redeem a USB for a beer promo.
Why am I sharing these things? It’s because I’ve come to realize that we have taken them for granted for so long. We haven’t thanked them enough for sharing their lives with us. I realized they are the brothers we never had. I know some of you would think it’s weird that we are touchy with one another considering the cases of sexual harassment involving close relatives these days. But this is a brotherly love. They have loved us like they would their own siblings. I won’t have it any other way.
Titas or aunts are often portrayed in the social media as meddling and hard-to-please relatives. I can agree with that. But how about titos or uncles? Well, I’d say they’re the ones who are more of a “kunsintidor” and an easy-going type. Nevertheless, they will love you unconditionally in all your glowing beauty and imperfections—zero love life included.