Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Half Brother

Taliwas sa alam ng marami, hindi lang isa ang kapatid ko kung hindi dalawa. I have a half-brother; a sibling four years my junior. He was already featured in one of my entries. At that time he was asked by my mom to check her test papers. He bought a male companion to help him. Ang buong akala ko nga ay partner niya ang kanyang kasama. The speculation was a product of a naughty imagination pala.

So I have a half brother. One time in my father's life, he did the unimaginable and had a tryst with the maid. He said he did it to get back at my mom's family. They looked down on him kasi. Nobody bought his excuse. Mom was furious. In the end, the maid was forced to leave the house. 

Sa probinsiya isinilang ang aking kapatid.

Decades later, fortunes have changed. Dad became a newspaper publisher and he started earning a lot. To make up for his estranged son, he asked him to move in with us. Hindi man siya nag-stay sa bahay pero kasama naman niya lagi ang aking tatay.

I remember the time we first met. It was at my dad's office in Intramuros. I don't recall if mom was aware of the reunion, but it had to happen. Lumalaki na kami and rivalries might erupt should we remain distant brothers. It was an awkward moment, I tell you. We shook hands, but we hardly spoke to each other. If we did, it was mere small talk. Kunwari, we're thrilled to see each other.

But it was merely for press release.

The truth is, there was a feeling of ambivalence. His presence didn't matter, I'm not mad at him either. He stayed at my dad's new office in Tayuman the whole time I was in college. Doon siya tumira and people saw him as the underdog. They asked, why my dad did not enroll him in a good school. Why I was given a desktop computer when he got nothing. He was always compared to me. Ako daw ang privileged at siya ang api. The mistress tried to be close, pero when she felt that my dad saw my half brother more of a trouble, she eventually distanced herself.

My half-brother and I grew even more remote. Those who secretly despised me in my dad's company sided with him. The underground support made him think that his influence is growing. And he said things behind my back. Words that would put us in direct conflict had he said it up front. Mabuti na lang, he wasn't given a role in the newspaper business. Tita Heart, who is my dad's sister also sided with me. Nakakalungkot lang kasi, nagback-fire sa utol ko ang hamon na binato niya sa akin.

For better or for worse, dad's fortunes disappeared. After the authorities raided our printing office, we had to move to a smaller headquarters. The transfer became a burden to my father, kasi, he didn't know where to put my half-brother. He was thinking of sending him back to the province. Pero kung ginawa niya yun, a son of his would hate him for life.

I didn't see it that way before, pero acting on impulse, (or nature, whatever you want to call it) I offered my mom's ancestral house instead. Ang kapal ko lang. To think no one among my aunts knew what I was about to do. I told everyone it was a temporary set-up. Kahit ako, yun rin ang paniwala ko. But fate has other plans, and the blueprint would be rolled out a year after he was sent to his new home.

So many things happened. Dad passed away just days before Valentines Day. His business ventures closed down. And for a time, my half-brother's family wanted a share of our inheritance. When they knew he left nothing, kasabay nilang inabandon pati ang kadugo nila.

Ang kapatid ko.

If there was one selfless act I did; one that would ripple long after I made it without thinking of the future, it was to let my utol stay with us. He may not have been close to me or my sister. But as a family, we did our best to make sure he will never be left behind. Aside from having a place, which I think will be his home as long as he lives, the caretakers of the ancestral house vowed to look after him. Kumbaga, they did become his family.

My mom worked hard to secure him a spot in the state university where she taught. My half-brother was able to get a degree - and for a time - find work which he did enjoy. So attached he was to the family who adopted him, that when he returned to the province to work in the local government, he went back after six months. Ang sabi niya, mas nakakaramdam daw siya ng pagkalinga sa amin.

There are times I wish I earned bigger, or my clout in the office world much larger. For my half-brother is no ordinary kid. Dala na rin ng hardships at neglect when he was younger, his lungs aren't as strong as ours. Just last month, he was rushed to the hospital after spewing blood. Nagtrabaho kasi siya sa Internet cafe, at dahil laging babad sa aircon, hayun, nagcollapse ulit ang baga niya.

He got lucky this time because confinement wasn't necessary. Nagkataon rin na mom got extra money from Mr. Ant.

Lives went on, with him barely out of my thoughts.

Until last night, when I checked my Facebook just before leaving the office.

A phone call was then made.

"Hello Ma, birthday pala ni Red today!?!"


"Nagluto ba tayo ng pansit para sa kanya?"

"Binigyan ko na lang ng 100. Pambili ng gamot." Reading between the lines, mom is short of cash.

"Bili natin ng cake!"

"Gabi na saka wala dito si Joppy." Joppy is our househelp. He stays with us even when he doesn't get paid.

"Ganun ba?"

"Bakit hindi mo na lang kaya bigyan ng pera?"

"Mas kailangan niya yun." She added.

The last line hit hard. Kunsabagay, aanhin mo ang cake, kung wala ka naman pambili ng life-saving medicines mo.

And so I withdrew some cash before heading to the ancestral house. It was past 10 in the evening and was way past my new bedtime. Pagdating doon, tulog na ang mga tao. Not even our caretaker showed up to guide me towards the room where my half-brother is confined.

It was another boarder who showed me the way.

"Red... andiyan ka ba?" After few minutes, the door opened. It was my half brother covering his face with a towel.

"Happy Birthday..." I tried to smile, pero feeling ko, parang ang latoy-latoy ng greeting ko. After that, I handed him a crisp bill. The same amount of money I usually spend when I'm out on a Saturday night.

"Uy huwag na..."

"Tanggapin mo na. Makakatulong rin sa iyo yan." Dahan-dahan niyang kinuha ang pera. Marahil naisip rin niya, malayo ang mararating nun.

I didn't stay long or spoke with him at length. It was getting late and I'm already tired. When I was assured that he was feeling better. That his coughing had become less frequent, I left our ancestral house with thoughts of dad in my head.