Happy birthday, Manong Ali.
Today is my brother’s birthday. I would like to show my love and appreciation to him by talking about him on this blog.
My brother and I grew up together but he went to my dad’s workplace which was far from our hometown when he was in high school. I followed him when I was in grade 3. For more than a year, he took care of me and cooked lunch for me everyday. I would go to the high school boys’ dormitory where he stayed and ate lunch with him. For a high school heart-throb like him, it may have been embarrassing to take care of a sister but he did his responsibility to me lovingly.
I think my manong (Filipino endearment for older brother) is proud of me because I reciprocated his love for me and did the “pay it forward” by taking care of my 2 nephews. I cooked them breakfast, lunch and dinner for a year. I was in year 10. They were in grade 1 and year 7. Such a huge responsibility at an early age!
Taking care of family is very normal for us. It is not an obligation. It is just the way it is. It is my dad’s legacy to us. I remember his words, “Do everything for your family. Don’t be selfish. Share what you have.” He added, “Don’t lend. Give what you have: time, love and money. Don’t ask for payment. That is what family is for.” (“Achi ayu mun-iinnutang an hina’agi, ichat moy wacha i he-a: oras, pamhod, pih’hu. Achi a munpabayad. Athinay munpapamilya.”) To this day, that is what I do to my siblings and family members. My sons are all trained that way. Give freely. Do it for love.
So back to my brother. My dad named him Alibon. The Catholic parish priest in our hometown didn’t like to baptize him with that name because he said it is a name for a dog. So my dad named him Alipio. Our family calls him Monong/Uncle Alibon. Everyone calls him Ali. It reflects both of the names that my dad gave him.
My brother is loving. He shows it through actions consistently and steadily through all these years. He is a man of few words but a man of action.
Every time I moved to rental places, he would be the one to transfer my things using the jeepney (or jeep, the most common form of transportation in the Philippines) that he was driving. When I got married, he was still the one who transferred our stuff from one rental place to another (ahhh… the disadvantage of not having a house of your own). Every time I gave birth or had miscarriage, he was there on the night (just after his work shift). My sons were sickly when they were young. My brother was always there to visit us. During my most vulnerable and weakest stages in life, he was there. For that, I will forever be grateful and appreciative of him.
When he was single and my sister and I were college students, he would visit us regularly. Every time he came to our boarding house, he would bring a highland-style dressed chicken (“pinikpikan,” a special chicken stew dish in the Philippine highlands). There was never a time when he did not bring us anything when he came to visit us. He would always cook for us and prepare our dinner for us.
I remember the times when I arrived home from school to see my brother sitting, listening to music and reading comics magazines. I grew up reading manga, comics courtesy of my dad and my brother. My 2 younger sons read manga. The legacy of reading comics live on. hahaha. He already cooked, washed the dishes and tidied up our boarding house. What a loving brother he is! And he was even tired from driving an 8-wheeler truck for many hours from one place to another.
Even when I was married, he would be the one who would come and cook pinikpikan for us. The best and most vivid memory I have of him cooking pinikpikan for us was when we just moved to our rental townhouse near the school where I was teaching. My dad, my mum, my nephews and my brother were there. My brother was holding the chicken on the head and my nephew was holding the chicken’s legs. They were on the steps near the water tap. My dad said, “Just kill the chicken and cook it. Don’t do any ceremonies or whisper anything while killing the chicken. Your sister’s husband is a Christian and you have to respect his belief and not call any spirits (“anitos”) in her household.” (“Achi goh nganin chi iyang-angubom hina, Alibon. Namag ya pinartem hinen manu’ ya inha’ang mu. Achi ngannganin chi ayagan an anito hituh bele cha ti kurityanoy ahawan han-ibam. Unuchon tuuy pammati na.”) I love how my dad was resolute when it comes to faith.
To this day, every time I see photos or eat pinikpikan, I always equate that dish to my father’s love (to be shared in another blog post) and to my brother’s love. Every time my family and I go home to the Philippines for a holiday, I make it a point to eat pinikpikan to remind myself and tell my family how great my brother’s love is for me and for my family. I sent him a big quality stockpot to use in cooking pinikpikan. I hope that every time he cooks in it, he will remember that I appreciate his love and care for me when I was young and dependent on him.
My brother is very generous. He would buy clothes for himself. If my sister or me asked for his jackets or tshirts, he would give with no complaints. Then he would buy again… and we would ask for it again… and he would give it again… The cycle goes on until we could be the ones who can buy for him. I love buying stuff for him. Now, I can afford more than a jacket for him.
My brother is soft-spoken and a man of few words. His silent companionship is very comforting. We would all just be sitting, doing our own thing (him reading and us studying) and it is reassuring that our brother is there supporting us. Every time we have family occasions, he would support us with his presence and his gentle smile.
My brother is very smart. He is. He is a math wizard. He was a consistent academic excellence awardee when he was in school. Many of his classmates are my Facebook friends. They tell me how they remember him because of his smartness, gentle nature and good looks. My dad wished for him to be an engineer but my brother chose another pathway to success. And that is okay, there are different ways to attain success. As long as you are independent and are able to take care of your family, then that is what matters. And may I say, my brother is great at what he does.
My brother is very clean and very meticulous. He wants his stuff to be spick and span. I remember one time when he was in high school that he requested our mom to wash his newly-tailored pair of denim jeans and jacket -both blue in colour. Knowing that he wanted his clothes to be really clean, my mom brushed and washed my brother’s jeans and jacket clean until the water was clear. Imagine how the blue denim came off! His new blue denim jeans and jacket became stone-washed without being used. Hahaha. Poor manong! He could not even get upset to my mom because all my mom wanted was for him to have clean clothes. I can still imagine my mom and my brother’s look that day.
My brother takes a shower every dawn before going to work. And take note… with cold water. He said he feels like he was not clean enough if he uses lukewarm water. We grew up in the coldest part of the Philippines but he still took a shower with cold water everyday. At least he drinks coffee to keep him warm and alert at work.
My brother reminds me of my mom and dad. He got my mom’s gentleness and my dad’s focus on details and punctuality. He has a baby face. He got it from my mom. When you request him to do something, he would do it immediately. If he is not able to do it, he will keep talking about it (“nalopet”) until he can accomplish that task. When I see photos of him, especially his arms and hands, I see how hardworking he is like our parents. When we went home for a holiday before the pandemic, he came to see us with a complete bundle of ripe bananas. He reserved that for me and my family so we can taste their organic produce from their garden. I saw what he was holding when he entered the door and I am teary-eyed and emotional because I remember my parents sending their freshly-harvested sweet potatoes for me.
My heart is overflowing of love for my brother as I am writing this. I could go on and on and write more of my brother’s attributes but I will stop here. I just wanted to share a glimpse of who my brother is. I have more to say about my brother and about my love for him but I will just show through actions like he does.
To Manong Ali, please know that I love you and that I am proud of you.
My family and I send you our love and virtual hugs. Our prayer for you is that our Almighty Father will bless you with good health, long life and overflowing blessings. May He keep you safe everyday especially during this pandemic. May He protect you from harm and danger. May He answer all your prayers, fulfill all your dreams and make all your plans succeed. We pray this in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
I am sharing with you some of my favorite photos of my brother Ali.
Thank you for reading, dear reader.
I pray for good health for you and your siblings.