Author Archives: M.A.D. LIGAYA

On COVID-19 and What Is It Teaching Us

Covid

I don’t find it necessary anymore to describe how devastating and horrifying the COVID-19 is. All known media platforms broadcast almost every minute nothing but the horrors the Corona virus has brought upon humanity in every corner of the world. Almost everybody knows almost everything about this deadly pestilence.  Ask anybody any question about it and very likely that you’ll get a satisfactory response. But there is one question, the one that matters most, that nobody could answer – When will this pandemic end?

Nobody knows when will the contagion stop. Only God knows (that is if, like me, you believe in His existence). Scientists are racing against time the to find a definitive cure. Reportedly, there exists old drugs intended to cure other diseases that could help those infected. There were even some unconfirmed reports that actually,  China has already found the cure but they are keeping it from the world. People are desperate in their  search for protection against the virus.

Home remedies and false cures circulated in different countries – inhaling the steam of sea salt and orange peelings, lemon in hot water, cocaine and bleach-like solution, colloidal silver, chlorine disinfectant, etc. Some attempts to try all these unproven methods to fight the virus resulted to both injuries and deaths.  The Iranian media reported that nearly 300 people have been killed and more than a thousand got sick because of methanol which they wrongly believed could  cure the disease.

For those who managed to steer clear from the destructive and murderous path of COVID-19, they had better keep that distance or walk further away.  Stay away from that path as far as possible. We ought to take all the necessary precautions because the vaccine will take long to develop – 12 to 18 months. That’s according to credible and reliable sources. Don’t pin your hopes on the claims of armchair experts (quoted by undiscerning social media users who excitedly post just about anything on their social media accounts without cross-checking and verifying) that a vaccine is coming out very soon or has already been developed.

Taking all the necessary precautions is different from becoming paranoid.  We cannot afford to be too anxious and worried. We may be saving ourselves from the contagion but we might die of other illnesses resulting from emotional and mental distress. We can still live a normal life while observing the established protocols set to prevent the spread of the virus.

We really have reasons to be alarmed, but we ought to be rational.

And this is really a cause for alarm – only 20 years into the 21st century and we have already been stricken by 5 severely infectious and deadly diseases – Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, SARS, and COVID-19.  When I googled it (and hopefully all the information I got are accurate), I found out that that’s already the total number (5) of epidemics/pandemics for the entire 20th century. Google also told me that should you combine all these pestilences during the first two decades of the current century and the whole of the preceding century – and they are 10 all in all – that would already equal all of the fatal contagions that plagued the human species from 1800s down to time immemorial.

We can be consoled somehow by the fact that all known pandemics – from the distant past to the modern times – had their reign of terror ending at a certain juncture in history. Although a few, like  the Bubonic plague (the deadliest in terms of number of fatalities), did comeback and continued its murderous rampage. Some of those pestilences would still afflict some people sporadically at certain periods in history, including the modern times. BBC reported in 2013 that a boy died of the Bubonic plague in Kyrgyzstan. But lest we forget that one of these viruses  is still silently (and effectively) afflicting millions of people around the world – HIV. As reported by WHO in 2018, there are 37.9 million people around the world suffering from AIDS.

We are all hoping (and praying) that the COVID-19 crisis would end very soon. A few epidemiologists expressed fears though  that even when the new corona virus contagion gets contained, it may, God forbid, come back to haunt us during the annual flu season. Thus, getting inoculated against the virus is a must. But, the vaccine could be available February next year at the earliest.

With a specific medicine that could nip the virus in the bud and not just alleviate the sufferings of severely infected patients yet to be discovered and the vaccine still in the process of development, our best bet for survival is heeding directives given by health authorities. They know better than the armchair experts and the skeptics around us.

And most people in COVID-19 stricken areas are heeding the advice of their duly-constituted authorities – to wear masks whenever they venture outside of their homes, to frequently wash their hands, and to strictly observe “social distancing.” Most people, nowadays, are learning to be obedient. If in the past they blatantly disregarded existing rules, now they toe the lines  and do exactly what their leaders are saying. If in the past they would march to the streets whenever their civil liberties are violated, now they have willingly surrendered some of them. They allowed themselves, for their own sake anyway, to be incarcerated in their own homes to venture out only at designated times of the day to buy whatever they need or  transact very urgent business matters. Most people in most countries are quarantined for a certain period of time. This, of course, are done only in countries where total lockdowns were declared.

Only  a handful of the countries where the COVID-19 is wrecking havoc did not implement lockdowns and it remains to be seen how such would affect their management of the contagion.  But the epidemiologists are unequivocal in asserting that to effectively stem the further spread of the contagion “social distancing” is a must. With big cities and urban areas being densely populated, quarantining people in their own homes is seemingly the only way to effectively implement “social distancing.”  There are already countries who did not impose lockdowns realizing this rather belatedly, and the results are regretful. The South Korean government ensured the even if they did not declare lockdowns, especially in areas most affected by the virus, their citizens would strictly observe “social distancing.” They did. The South Koreans obeyed resulting to incidents of viral infections gradually abating

The reason citizens in countries where lockdowns were implemented embraced their fate and agreed to the stringent measures being put up by their governments is that  they understand that these are not ordinary times and that there is only one right that counts now – the right to live. People are beginning to trust their leaders.

Conversely, people in leadership positions are showing more resolve in enforcing the necessary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents. They seem to be more sincere in what they say and do. The novel corona virus have brought the governments and their people closer. Covid-19 have also broken the walls that divide the ruling party and the opposition. Politicking is being set aside. They both need to sing the same tune and dance coordinately to that tune.

In dire situations like this that governments need to assure their people that they are on top of the situation.  And indeed leaders of the different countries affected by the current crisis should tighten their grip, not only to ensure that they could provide the assistance they are capable of giving to their citizens but also in making sure that the adventurists would not take advantage of the situation.

There are certain values also that most societies in different parts of the world have neglected that are slowly re-emerging. One of them is civic responsibility. Governments know  that when they enforced lockdowns, economic activities ground to a halt. Consequently, businesses are closed and people could not work for they ought to be staying at home. So, the governments felt obliged, to extend all kinds of assistance for their citizens. But some countries have limited resources. They are incapable of helping their citizens sufficiently, especially if the COVID-19 crisis will  last long. So, citizens who have the capability are offering help. From out of their own pockets they are donating either cash or in kind to organizations giving relief goods to the needy. We see some of the wealthy people becoming instant philanthropists.

These are the silver linings amid all the horrors we are witnessing.

Because of the COVID-19, people are learning to care for each other. They are willingly sharing whatever they could for their fellowmen, helping them in any way they could. We are rediscovering the meaning of community. We are seeing people expressing their support and appreciation for the efforts of the doctors, nurses, and volunteers who are unselfishly putting their own lives in the line to try to save the lives of or at least alleviate the sufferings of the those who were infected by the virus.

The COVID-19 crisis is also making us realize what really are the basic essentials of life, the very basic things we need – food, simple clothes and shelter. What’s the use now of all our extra possessions – nice cars, expensive jewelry, and designer’s clothing?

The COVID-19 is reminding us as well of our mortality. It’s forcing us to rethink how are we treating our bodies. Are we taking good care of it to the point that we are eliminating disease as the possible cause of our untimely demise? This deadly virus is telling us that whatever are our pursuits and endeavors in life, we cannot afford to disregard our health.

Lockdowns enforced by governments reunited families. Yes, forcing us to stay at home brought us back to our family. We have never been closer to our loved ones than nowadays. Perhaps most of us finally realized that at the end we only have each other to rely on. The COVID-19 scare made us embrace our loved ones  tighter than never before.

And there is one more that the current pandemic rekindled – spirituality. The COVID-19 brought us back not only to our family but also to God. The faith community have never prayed so hard supplicating Him to end the crisis. We have never seen believers praying unselfishly,  praying not only for themselves and their loved ones and friends but for the rest of humanity… praying that may God give the leaders of all nations the wisdom and resolve to lead and protect their citizens in these critical times… praying that may He help the scientists and medical experts find in the soonest possible time the cure and develop the vaccine against this pestilence… praying that may He protect and strengthen the health professionals in hospitals and care homes helping the victims of the virus… praying that may He help the COVID-19 patients recover… praying that may He grant eternal repose to the souls of those who died because of the virus.

It’s sad that it is only in times of tragedy that we remember Him.

We know that God’s love and mercy for humanity abound. He will listen to our prayers… in His own time.

The one thing that we should not forget –  it’s not the end of the world. It has not stopped spinning.

We have a life to live, with or without COVID.

COVIDized

covidized

A new word may soon be added to the English vocabulary – “covidized.” Should it happen, it might end up as the word of the year and even of the current decade. Very likely that lexicographers would classify it as a participial adjective and assign the following meaning to it: infected, affected, or influenced by COVID-19.

We may say that persons are covidized if it is confirmed that they are infected by the virus. For those who find the expressions “COVID-19 positive” or “infected by COVID-19” too long, “covidized” is a good alternative, especially for writers who may no longer wish to hit the “caps lock” on their keyboards to capitalize the letters C – O – V – I – D and to not move a little bit higher anymore certain fingers to hit the hyphen and the numbers 1 and  9.

Instead of saying that “the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many parts of the world”, we may simply say that  “the whole world has been covidized” (Yes, except Antartica).  Some countries are more affected by the pandemic than the others. And now that the US has more cases than any other country in the world, we may say “US is currently the most covidized country in the world.” That is if confirmed number of cases is the basis for determining which country is most covidized. Should the criterion be number of deaths, the dubious distinction “most covidized country in the world” would belong to Italy. But the title “the first covidized country in the world” belongs to China. The last country to be covidized remains unknown.

Most of the current policies and decisions governments of countries, corporations, companies, and organizations are formulating and implementing are all covidized. Meaning that those policies and decisions are influenced by present and emerging social, political, and economic realities and trends brought forth by the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world economy has been covidized and experts warned that we are facing global recession that may be worse than that one triggered by the global financial crisis in 2008. Because of the lockdowns imposed by many of the countries that were covidized, almost all economic activities ground to a halt.  Most people couldn’t work to earn a living. Governments are now providing all forms of assistance they could offer to their citizens. But not all countries have vast resources that would enable them to help their people for a long period of time should the COVID-19 crisis drags on for months or, God forbid, years.

Even if we are not infected by the virus, we are all covidized in one way or the other. Our way of life drastically changed since the COVID-19 wrought havoc. We are encouraged to wash our hands frequently, to wear masks wherever we go, and to strictly observe “social distancing.” We need to abide by these directives for our own sake. We are also told to stay inside our homes and avoid large gatherings as much as possible. Consequently, most people have not attended church services for a long time now. Church leaders responded by providing their members church services online.

People are advised also to avoid going to theatres, internet cafés, and videoke bars. Their main sources of entertainment nowadays are the Internet, TV, and radio. And since fitness centers are included among the places that people should avoid, they either exercise using whatever equipment they have at home or not exercise at all. In some countries where total lockdowns and curfews are observed,  people are forced to stay at home and are not allowed to go out at night and  to travel even just to the next town or village during daytime.

These covidized advisories are all necessary for our survival. If we don’t follow them, we are endangering our own lives and may be compromising the safety of our loved ones and other people as well.

We should bear in mind  that anyone could be covidized. The virus spares no one. Even the richest and the most powerful are not immune to the disease. It doesn’t respect age as well.  We know that the elderly people are more vulnerable to it but this should not make the members of the Gen Y and the Gen Z complacent. They could get infected also if they are stubborn and careless. Even the healthiest of athletes who are known for their  ultra-healthy lifestyle are susceptible to COVID-19. So, nobody is safe. Anybody could be covidized at any given time.

We now live in a covidized world. We have no choice but to embrace covidized realities and move on.

ISANG ORAS

busy

May humintong sasakyan sa tapat namin. Nang madinig kong parang may bumubukas ng gate ay sumilip ako sa bintana. Dumating na si papa. Pinatay ko muna ang TV, tumayo ako mula sa kinauupuan ko upang salubungin siya. Bandang alas-dos ng hapon noon. May sinat ako kaya ako umabsent.

“Nandiyan na ba ang kapatid mo?” ang bungad ni papa pagkabukas na pagkabukas ko ng pintuan.

Nabigla ako. Pulang-pula kasi ang mukha ni papa at mukhang seryosong-seryoso. Nagsasalimbayan ang mga kunot sa kanyang noo. Umiling na lamang ako bilang kasagutan. Nagatubili tuloy akong abutin ang kanyang kamay upang magmano katulad ng nakagawian namin ng bunso kong kapatid na si Athena tuwing si papa’y dumarating.

“Ano ba ang ginawa ni Athena at kaylangan ko pang magpunta sa principal’s office bukas? Ang dagdag na tanong ni papa habang ito’y naglalakad papunta sa sala. “Sabi ni Teddy na wala namang meeting ah.”

Iyon pala ang dahilan kung bakit wala sa mood si papa. Napaisip tuloy ako kung ano nga ba ang ginawa ni Athena at  bakit pinapapunta si papa sa school.

“Hindi ba’t mahigpit kong bilin sa inyo na ayaw na ayaw kong maaabala dahil sa mga walang kapararakang bagay?”

Naupo na si papa at tinanggal ang kanyang kurbata. Naupo rin ako sa tabi niya.

“Mahalaga ang oras sa akin.”

Nakinig na lamang ako kay papa. Wala kasi akong maisagot sa kanya. Ako man ay wala ring nalalaman kung ano ang ginawa ng kapatid ko sa school. Wala namang sinabi sa akin ang adviser nila nang magkita kami kahapon. Tuwing hapon kasi ay sinusundo ko ang aking kapatid sa kanilang classroom para sabay kaming umuwi.

Ano nga kaya ang nangyari? Siguro seryoso dahil  kinakaylangan pang papuntahin si papa doon. May sinaktang kayang kaklase si Athena? Imposible. Hindi naman salbahe ang kapatid ko. Masayahin nga siya’t malambing. Malabo namang sinagot-sagot niya ang sinoman sa kanyang mga guro. Hindi mangyayari iyon. Napakabait na bata ni Athena. Lalong hindi naman siguro siya nangumit ng ano mang gamit ng mga kaklase niya o nagnakaw ng pera. Binibigyan kami ni papa ng pera araw-araw bukod pa sa puwede kaming kumuha ng kahit anong pagkain at prutas na nasa lamesa at refrigerator.

Ang napansin ko lang nitong mga huling araw eh parang matamlay at malungkot si Athena.

“Christian!”

“Po?!”

“Pakisabi nga kay ate Flora  na tawagan ang school principal ninyo. Pakitanong kamo kung puwedeng ngayon na lang ako magpunta doon. Hindi ako puwede bukas, may mahalaga pala akong meeting na hindi maaaring hindi ko puntahan.”

“Ah papa, nagpunta po sa palengke si tita Flora. Ako na lang po ang tatawag.”

Tinanguan lamang ako ni papa. Ayaw pa rin siyang tantanan ng mga kunot sa kanyang noo. Parang naka-drawing na iyon doon.

Dalawang bagay lang kung bakit ayaw na ayaw ni papa na magpunta ng school kung ang dahilan eh may kapalpakang ginawa ako o si Athena. Una , isang lawyer si papa at maganda ang reputasyon niya sa komunidad. Pangalawa, napakahalaga ng oras para sa kanya. Ayaw niyang aksayahin ang oras sa mga bagay na walang katuturan. Napakadami niya kasing kliyente. Ang dami niyang hawak na kaso.

Kapag darating nga siya ng bahay matapos kaming magmano sa kanya ay hahalikan laman niya kami at didiretso na siya sa kuwarto o sa kanyang library. Kapag kami’y bumangon na sa umaga ay wala na siya. Ang mag-aasikaso sa amin ay si tita Flora, ang matandang dalagang pinsan ni mama. Ang naghahatid-sundo naman sa amin ay si kuya Teddy, ang driver-bodyguard ni papa. Pagkahatid niya kay papa sa opisina ay babalik siya sa bahay upang ihatid  naman kami sa school.

Matagal na kasing patay si mama, tatlong taong gulang lang daw ako noon. Namatay siya pagkapanganak kay Athena.

Sabi ni tita Flora na napakasakit para kay papa ng pagkamatay ng aming ina. Kaya kung masipag na siya dati sa trabaho ay dumoble pa ang sipag nito. Isinubsob daw ni papa sa kanyang trabaho ang kanyang sarili. Sa eksaktong salita ni tita Flora eh parang naging “therapy” daw para kay papa ang trabaho. Hindi ko naiintidihan kung ano ibig sabihin ng sinabing iyon ni tita Flora.


Parang ayaw na daw ulit pang mag-asawa ni papa. Iyong ang sabi ni tita Flora sa amin kaya nga Grade 6 na ako at ang kapatid ko ay Grade 2 na eh wala kaming nakikitang idine-date si papa.

Mabuti na lang at hindi kami iniwan ni tita Flora mula nang maulila kami sa ina. Siya na ang nagsilbing nanay… at tatay namin. Si papa ay napakadalang kaming kausapin. Minsan habang pumapasok siya ng bahay at saan man siya maglagi  dito eh may nakasalpak pa na telepono sa kanyang tenga. Sa kasabikan ko siguro sa kanya ay minsan napapanaginipan ko na natutulog siya sa aking tabi. Minsan kapag inaabutan namin siya  sa lamesa eh kung hindi cellphone ang hawak niya eh diyaryo.

“Papa, pwede ba tayo mag-usap?” ang tanong ni Athena minsan.

“Naku anak, pasensiya na ha… nagmamadali ang papa. May nagpa-schedule sa aking makipagusap mamayang alas-diyes. Sayang iyon anak, isang libo sa isang oras ang ibinabayad sa akin kapag may consultation.”

Matapos kaming halikan ni papa eh nagmamadali siyang umalis, kasunod si kuya Teddy.

“Hayaan mo Athena, mamayang gabi pagdating ni papa mo eh sabihin kong bigyan ka ng oras para makapag-usap kayo.” ang pangako ni tita Flora kay Athena.

“Ang mahal pala ng bayad nila kay papa kung gusto nila siyang kausapin, one thousand pesos per hour” ang sabi ng bunso kong kapatid.

“Ganoon talaga kapag sikat na ang abogado, nagiging mahal ang bahay kapag kakausapin mo sila o kukunsulta ka.” ang sagot naman ni tita Flora.

At mula noon halos tuwing umaga ay tinatanong ni Athena si tita Flora kung pumayag si papa na kausapin siya at ang laging sagot ay, “Pasensya na Athena, sobrang dami ng appointments ng papa mo.”

Ganoon ka-busy ang papa kaya kahit sa mga parents’ meetings eh si kuya Teddy  ang madalas dumalo. Akala nga ng ibang mga kaklase namin ni Athena na siya ang tatay namin.

“O Christian, ano ang sinabi ng principal?”

“Okay daw po, bago lang daw sana mag alas-kuwatro eh makarating daw kayo doon. Ang kakausap daw po sa inyo ah iyong adviser ni Athena at ang guidance counselor.” ang sagot ko kay papa.

“Sige. Magu-UBER na lang ulit ako. Pakisabi kay Teddy na pagkahatid niya dito kay Athena ay puntahan niya ako doon sa school at didiretso pa kami sa isang appointment ko mamayang gabi.”

“Opo pa.”

“Pakisabi rin kay ate Flora na huwag munang patulugin si Athena hangang hindi pa ako dumarating. Ano mang problema ang ginawa niya eh dapat ipaliwanag niya sa akin ng mabuti mamaya. Mapapalo ko yata ang kapatid mo sa unang pagkakataon.”

Lumabas ng bahay si papa nang tumigil sa harapan ng bahay ang tinawagan niyang UBER.

Lagot si Athena nito. Namamalo talaga ang papa. Ilang beses na rin niya akong pinadapa at pinalo sa puwit gamit ang tsinelas  dahil sa aking kalikutan at kakulitan

Pagkatapos nun ay laging ipinapaliwanag sa akin ni tita Flora kung bakit ako pinalo. Pero noong Grade 3 pa yata ako huling napalo ni papa.

Ano nga kaya ang nangyari? Kay hirap talagang isipin na may kalokohang gagawin si Athena. Baka naman “cutting classes” lang. Baka matapos ang breaktime eh naglaro silang magkakaibigan at late silang bumalik sa klase.

*****

Dumating si Athena labing-limang minuto pagkaalis ni papa. Matamlay ito. Maaring pagod o may dinaramdam. Matapos akong halikan sa pisngi  ay dumiretso ito sa kanyang kuwarto.

Maya-maya’y dumating na rin si tita Flora.

“Christian, dumating na ba si Athena?”

“Opo tita! Nasa kwarto. Para pong may dinaramdam si bunso.”

“Ganoon ba! Bakit kaya? Baka lalagnatin. Baka nahawa mo. Teka ipagtimpla ko ng juice tapos puntahan natin sa kuwarto niya ha.”

Habang inihahanda ng tita Flora ang mga dadalhin sa kuwarto ni Athena ay sinabi ko sa kanya ang mga nangyari habang nasa palengke siya.

“Christian, sigurado ako, ano man ang dahilan at pinapunta sa school ang papa mo eh hindi dahil may ginawang kalokohan o may sinaktan ang kapatid mo. Tingin ko may ibang dahilan.”

“O baka naman tita eh may nangbu-bully pala kay Athena ah.”

Ready na itong juice at mga prutas, tara na sa kuwarto ng kapatid mo.”

*****

Nakaawang ang pintuan ng kwarto ni Athena nang pinuntahan namin ito. Dahan-dahan kaming pumasok. Nakahiga ang kapatid ko. Nakasuot pambahay na.

“O tita…kuya! Wow juice… and my favorite fruits.”

“Anak kumusta ka? May masakit ba sa iyo?”

“Tita wala naman po. Napagod lang ako sa P.E. namin. Tinuruan kasi kaming sumayaw.”

Nakahinga ako ng maluwag nang sabihin iyon ng kapatid ko.

Sumandal sa ulunan ng kama si Athena at sinimulang kainin ang mga prutas.

“Ah, Athena. Kumusta naman sa school. Meron ka bang gustong sabihin sa amin? Ang tanong ni Aling Flora.

“Ha? Eh… wala naman po. Wala naman pong problema sa school. Everything is okay.”

“Athena, baka may nambu-bully sa iyo doon ha. Sabihin mo lang sa akin,” ang wika ko.

“Hay naku kuya, paanong may mangbu-bully sa akin sa school eh alam nilang attorney si papa at may malaki at matabang grade 6 pa akong kuya.”

“Heto naman, ipinangalandakan pa iyong mataba.”

“Ay… sorry kuya. Chubby pala,” ang natatawang sabi ni Athena.

“Pero anak napansin ko lang na matamlay ka nitong mga nakaraang  araw. May problema ba?”

Hindi agad makasagot si Athena.

“May gusto ka bang sabihin bunso?” ang tanong ko.

“Wa… wala naman kuya. Nami-miss ko lang si papa. Gusto ko siyang kausapin. May gusto akong sabihin. May gusto akong itanong.  Kaya lang lagi naman siyang busy.”

Naiintindihan ko ang nararamdaman ni Athena. Ako man ay gustong-gusto kong kausapin si papa minsan kaya lang parang wala na siyang panahon para sa amin.

“Kuya, pahingi naman one hundred o… please!”

“Oh bakit, aanhin mo pera?” ang tanong ko.

“Basta kuya bigyan mo na ako one hundred. Sige utang na lang. Ibabalik ko rin sa iyo. Sige na please.”

“Sandali. Kuhanin ko lang ang wallet ko sa kuwarto.”

“Huwag na Christian,” ani tita Flora.

Dumukot sa bulsa niya si tita Flora.

Nangiti si Athena nang tanggapin ang perang bigay ng tita Flora. Bumangon siya mula sa kama at kinuha ang kanyang bag. Inilabas niya ang ilan pang dadaanin at binilang.

“Hayan… sa wakas nakumpleto ko na ang perang kaylangan ko.”

Tuwang-tuwan inilagay ni Athena ang mga dadaanin sa bulsa ng kanyang suot na shorts.

“Tita ilalabas ko na lang po ito meryenda ko. Manonood po ako ng TV.

“O sige na bunso ako na lang ang bibitbit nito,” ang sabi ko kay Athena.

“Ay ang bait naman ng kuya ko. Thank you po!”

*****

Magaalas-otso na nang dumating sina papa at kuya Teddy. Kasalukuyang kumakain na kami ng hapunan.

Dire-diretso sa refiregerator si papa. Hindi pinansin ang pagbati namin sa kanya. Para lamang kaming mga estatwang dinaanan niya. Si kuya Teddy naman ay naupo upang sumalo sa amin.

Dala ang isang baso ng malamig na tubig eh umupo si papa sa tabi ni Athena.

“Athena bakit mo ginawa iyon?” ang tanong ni papa.

“Ang… ang alin po papa?”

Mabilis na tinungo ni tita Flora ang kinauupuan ni Athena. Tumayo siya sa likod nito  at hinawakan ang kapatid ko sa kanyang mga balikat.

“Kinausap ako ng guidance counselor at adviser ninyo. Bakit sa palagay mo ako pinapunta doon at kinausap.”

“Papa… let me explain,” ang wika ng bunso kong kapatid.

“Bakit ka nangutang ng pera sa mga kaklase mo? Bakit mo ginawa iyon Athena?  Nakakahiya!”

Napayuko na lamang si Athena.

Sorry po papa. Babayaran ko po naman sila unti-unti mula sa baon na binibigay ninyo sa akin.”

“Eh bakit kaylangan mong mangutang, binibigyan ko naman kayo ng pera araw-araw at nagbabaon pa kayo ng pagkain. Sana sinabi mo sa akin na kaylangan mo para binigyan na lang kita. Hindi iyong nangungutang ka. Nakakahiya.”

Nagsimula ng manggilid ang luha sa mga mata ni Athena. Tumakbo siya sa sala. Naupo at doon ay tahimik na umiiyak.

Sumunod kaming lahat kay Athena sa sala. Naupo sa tabi niya si tita Flora. Naupo rin kami ni papa sa magkahiwalay na upuan. Nakatayo lang si kuya Teddy.

“Bunso saan mo ba kasi gagamitin ang perang iyon?” ang tanong ni tita Flora.

Habang dumadaloy ang mga tahimik na luha sa pisngi ni Athena ay sinabi nito, “Para po kay papa.”

“Ha!? Para sa akin? ang gulat na bulalas ni papa.

Natahimik kaming lahat.

Tumayo si Athena mula sa kanyang kinauupuan at lumapit siya kay papa.

Mula sa bulsa ng shorts  ay dinukot ang mga dadaaning inilagay niya doon.

“Papa heto po ang pera. Bayad ko po. Isang libo iyan para sa isang oras ninyo.” Ang sabi ni Athena matapos ilagay sa kamay ni papa ang pera.

Hindi nakakibo si papa. Kitang-kita ko sa mukha niya ang pagtataka.

“Gusto ko po kasi kayong makausap ng kahit isang oras lang. Makakwentuhan. Mayakap. Mahalikan.”

Sa punto iyon ay napayuko si papa.

“Mahal po kasi ang bayad ninyo bawat oras kaya isang oras lang po ang kaya kong bayaran. Pero okay na po sa akin ang isang oras na kasama kayo. Okay na sa akin iyon.”

Umiiling-iling si papa.

“Inipon ko po ang five hundred last week mula sa baon ko.  Iyon pong four hundred ay inutang ko sa mga classmates ko at one hundred naman po ang bigay ni tita Flora.”

Hindi ko napigilang lumuha.

Aywan ko kung bakit sina tita Flora at kuya Teddy ay iniwan kami’t bumalik sila sa kainan.

“Kaylan ko po kayo puwedeng makausap papa? Hayan bayad na po ako. Ngayon na po ba? Kuya puwede bang orasan mo ang paguusap namin ni papa?”

“ENOUGH! I am so sorry Athena.” Niyakap ni papa si Athena nang mahigpit at sa pagitan ng mga hagulgol niya ay paulit-ulit niyang sinabi ang sorry.

“Papa, galit ka ba sa akin dahil namatay si mama matapos akong ipanganak?”

“Ha? Anak, kahit kaylan hindi ako nakaramdam ng ano mang galit sa iyo dahil doon.”

“Talaga po papa?”

Lalong humigpit ang yakap ni papa kay Athena at parang batang humagulgol.

“Anak, maniwala ka sa akin. Hindi ako galit sa iyo. Mahal na mahal kita… kayong magkapatid… mahal na mahal ko kayo.”

Tumingin sa akin si papa at sumenyas na lapitan ko sila.

Lumapit ako’t ikinulong ko sila ni Athena sa aking mga bisig.

“Christian…Athena… hindi lang ninyo alam pero tuwing gabi kapag kayo’y tulog na tulog na eh halinhinang pinupuntahan kayo ng papa ninyo sa inyong kuwarto.” Ang sabi ni tita Flora.

“Talaga po papa? Tuwing gabi eh nasa kuwarto namin kayo?” ang tanong ni Athena.

Tumango si papa sabay halik sa pisngi ni Athena.

Ang akala ko ay nanaginip lang ako kapag nakikita ko si papa sa aking kuwarto sa tuwing ako’y naaalimpungatan. Totoo palang nandoon siya.

“Sorry Athena… Christian. Hayaan ninyo, simula ngayon, isang oras bago kayo matulog  eh dito muna tayo sa sala o kaya sa garden. Mag-bonding tayo. Babawi ako sa iyo.”

“Promise iyan papa ha,” ang wika ni Athena.

Tumango-tango si papa at pagkatapos ay halinhinan siyang humalik sa amin ng bunso kong kapatid.

“Balik na kayo dito, tapusin na natin ang pagkain.” Si tita Flora iyon.

– W A K A S –

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