"Ninong J... Ninong J... may pasalubong ka sa akin?" The little tyke barrages me with the same question every time I go home.
"Asan pasalubong kay Totoy?" The toddler refers to himself. I would just smile, stroke his soft, wavy hair, and go directly to my room to retire. Sometimes, I would make excuses and tell him I'd buy one the next day. Convinced with my ruse, the little boy lay down next to his lola to continue their bedtime book reading.
Afforded a reprieve, my mind returns to solving pressing matters that baffle the mind - until the kid remembers the pasalubong I was supposed to give when he sees me the next morning.
The other day, I went to the supermarket to procure a month's worth of supplies for the house. My sister sent a list of stuff to buy, including Hello Panda biscuits for my older nephew and his younger brother.
When I returned home, the three year old boy wouldn't let me leave the master's bedroom. He was waiting for his pasalubong. My mom handed him the biscuits, and yet, the look on his face showed he was expecting something else.
Something I've promised a few days before.
"Ano ba gustong pasalubong ni Totoy?" I hugged him tight before saying goodbye. It was my peace offering after my heavy handed discipline when he threw tantrums that same morning.
"Gusto ko kotse." He said gleefully.
"Yung kulay red."
Truth is, I really have no intention of buying him a die-cast toy car. Not that I don't have the money, but I see that he has lots of toys scattered around the house. Also, learning from experience, one tends to place less value on things that were easily acquired. They become dispensable objects. It's no wonder that many of his toys don't even last a year.
I even ceased letting him borrow my die cast car collection because they get returned to me missing a wheel or some other small, moveable part.
But a promise is a promise, and three year old boys never forget. Restless and close to losing hope, he reminded me once more of the red car when I left the house yesterday. On the phone, every time I spoke to my mom. In my thoughts, it comes across while doing my shopping at Trinoma. There's no more excuse given the reminders from him.
It made me recall the time I was upset with my dad. I was expecting for us to watch a movie - even took a bath and wore my best clothes, when he came home and suddenly told me he'll postpone the movie watching for another day.
I was hurt because he didn't keep his word. Only guilt, and some frank words from a nine-year old changed his mind.
And so before leaving the mall to go home, I made a detour at Toys R Us to get the cheapest die cast my money could buy. It's the least I could do, knowing I've allotted a chunk of my savings for his Christmas gift.
"Ninong J, wala ka pasalubong sa akin?" He greeted me when I showed up at the master's bedroom.
"Ay wala!!" I teased. "Nakalimutan ko bumili."
Frowing and on the verge of tears, he asked once more if I had something for him.
"Kiss muna..." I ordered. He walked towards me to plant a kiss on my cheek.
"Isa pa." My mind was telling me to get used to this - to be expected of bringing home something as my nephews get older.
Pulling something from the paper bag I was supposed to show my mom, the little toy car my nephew waited for so long emerged, like a precious gem from my hands.