I was four or five years old when my parents brought me to the Basilica. Perhaps as a way to reward me for enduring the two-hour trip from Sogod to Cebu City – I have trouble sticking to a task for long; years later I would learn that I have symptoms of ADHD although I had never been clinically diagnosed to have it – they bought a balloon for me. I’m already 32 but I still remember the color, texture, and even the smell of that balloon. To a young child from a poor family, a balloon that floats was indeed a gift. I was very proud of it, and I was excited of the thought of bringing it home and showing it to my two elder sisters, who I was sure would be jealous of what our parents bought for me.
On our way home my parents passed through a relative’s house and had some chitchat. While they were talking, the string of the balloon slipped from my little fingers, and the balloon floated up. I could not hold back the tears that welled in my eyes. My gift, my pride, my balloon – it was floating up to heavens, and I could not do anything about that. That was my first taste of how it felt to loss something. That night I reasoned to myself that it was just a balloon anyway, but I still cried myself to sleep.
The next day my father and I went to the farm, where just a few meters away stood my grandfather’s house. I told Lolo Gundo about my loss, and he jokingly said to me that I should have strapped a note to the balloon addressed to my other grandparents who were already in heaven. (Lolo Gundo, my father’s father, was the only grandparent still alive when I was born.) The joke did not mitigate the pain, and instead I cried like a baby who felt pain all over his body. Lolo Gundo asked me why I was crying. I thought that he would further make fun of me if I answered that I was crying because of the balloon, so I lied to him that I cried because I missed my other grandparents and even if I wanted to, I could not have attached a note to the balloon because I did not know then how to write. (In truth, I could not miss those other grandparents, because I never knew them.) Lolo Gundo told me that I should just wait for some more time, and then I would be enrolled in a school, and I would know how to read and write. He told me that I should know how to write, and if I ever felt the loss of something or missed someone’s presence, I should write – not necessarily to the person I missed because you can’t write to those who had already left you, either because they are already dead or to them you are already dead. My grandfather died on Valentine’s Day, 1993. Since then I had been writing.
I had lost things since that red balloon. I missed people in my life other than my grandfather. Every now and then, I suffer setbacks, I get hurt. Dreams get shattered, best laid plans go astray, relationships built through the years break. That there is the possibility of pain is a given; but to give up the pursuit of a possible happiness because of the chance of being pained is cruelty to ourselves. The trick is to know how to handle pain – I write, some pray, others cry it out. As we leave the 2015 that was, let us learn from all the hurt and pain we suffered this year, and resolve to continue dreaming, hoping, loving this 2016. Yes, even if we hurt ourselves in the process.