The dates of our birthdays. The cats you’ve saved off the streets (with my enabling, of course). The number of years I have been breastfeeding you. The number of years I’ve been called Mama.
Four. You made it here today. All cuts and bruises and bravado and that nasty scar on your cheek as a reward. You’ve officially stepped into pre-school territory, kid. After the summer, I will be seeing you for the first time in a uniform, with your Dora the Explorer backpack. Little black shoes, tiny feet, making it from dirt roads, seas, and the mountains out into a peculiar world – one of many you are about to open.
Worlds will keep growing. Four will become five and five will turn to 10, 20, 30, 60.
|Trekking the hills of Benguet in search of flowers. October 2015.
A hundred more will unfold in your life – firsts, highest, lowest, longest, hardest. They will only get bigger and tougher as you grow older.
But what I want you to learn is that they are merely numbers. Often, in this world you are to unfurl in your fingers, you will find out down the road that numbers don’t really count that much. It is what you do while getting there that matters.
Like how you must remain truthful – to others and to yourself – even if there’ll be (not-so-good) consequences. Or the way you persevere even if you aren’t sure you can make it to the end (remember Mt. Balagbag?). Or how you help people just because it’s what’s right, not because there’s a reward at the end of the tunnel.
Like the friends you make along the way. There are plenty you made this early. Some you will meet again, some never. These relationships, however fleeting, are the seeds that sow lifelong memories and gifts of love, humanity, and acceptance. Seek them tirelessly. Invest in them.
|These are some of the friends you made, Lia. Many of them, you met on the road. Beautiful, aren’t they?|
Your uncanny ability to charm and easily get along with people of all lifestyles, ethnicity, and age is something that amazes me beyond belief. Apart from your compassion for animals and your endurance for grueling walks, it is one of your best traits. I hope you will keep looking at people the way you do – without bias or hesitation. It can win you a seat in the national presidency.
(I’m kidding. Get a tattoo if you like, but never ever enter Philippine politics. It’s for your own good.)
I once told a friend that parenthood brings out the best and worst in a person. Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful for that one Holy Wednesday, the fourth of April, four years ago when the universe gave me you; someone who can bring out both the worst and best in me. Even if I yell and fight with you every day, I also feel bravest, strongest, safest, most determined, and happiest when I am with you.
You have changed the course of my history. I know that you will change the course of history for others too, even in the smallest ways.
Happy birthday, my dearest Lia. You will forever be my favorite travel buddy. Our journeys together will remain the closest to my heart, no matter how near and how hair-raising they tend to be.
Light, love, hope, take the long road and walk.
PS – These are some of your journeys from your third birthday till your fourth. I hope one day when you’re old enough, you will find something here to inspire you to keep hoping and keep pursuing in the grimmest of days.
|September 2015. When we’re not arguing, we goof around too like normal people do.|
|Bulog Dos Island, Palawan. June 2015.|
|Daraga, Albay. March 2016.|
|Banana Island, Palawan. June 2015.|
|Mt. Balagbag, November 2015.
|Mt. Pinatubo, Tarlac. January 2016.|