by Patria Baradi Pacis
Losing one brother is bad enough but losing two in less that a year is unbearable especially when the four of us, including my sister were very close. Dad and Mom taught sister Perla, the eldest, Mauro Jr, (passed away April 19, 2019, Jose (Joe, passed away March 19 this year) and yours truly, the youngest, to be kind and to respect each other.
Dad, a diplomat, accompanied by Mom and the siblings, travelled extensively. Our parents made sure we spoke Tagalog at home, so that we would not forget our native tongue while learning the language of the foreign country he was assigned to.
Every June 12, Philippines Independence Day, the family represented our country by wearing formal native costumes. The women wore “Sayas” long, beaded gowns with butterfly sleeves and the men wore long sleeve, see-through-shirts made of pineapple fibers with black pants. We danced the “Tinikling” or Bamboo Dance and “Pandanggo Sa Ilaw” or Candle Dance so that others would get to know our 7000 plus Islands.
There was a time when our family lived in three different continents: North America, Asia and Africa, depending what schools we were enrolled in. Sister Perla and brother Mauro lived in New York, brother Joe in Baguio City, Philippines, and I in Mogadiscio, Somalia or Lagos, Nigeria.
Our parents made sure we kept in touch with each other through letters and pictures so that we wouldn’t forget what we looked like. To save on postage, we wrote on air-letters, (a foldable, blue, sheet with stamp printed) instead of the usual paper and envelope. Sometimes, letters would arrive after many weeks. Mom would read them out loud, and get teary eyed because she missed us so much. Back then, phone calls were prohibitive at $20.00 for the first three minutes and $3.00 each additional minute. There were no cell phones or texting then.
Dad was strict. Mom was more lenient in disciplining us. I felt the luckiest, being the youngest, because my sister Perla paved most of the way for me as far as dating, learning how to dress and put on makeup. Mauro taught brother Joe, to be street wise and how to take public transportation and ride the scooter. As a teenager, Mauro took Joe on his paper route to show him the ropes and also helped him not to get homesick for Mom. Both protected me from bullies and escorted me to dances when I didn’t have a date. All three baby sat me when our parents were out.
Since we lived in different countries more often than not, the times we spent together as a family unit were precious. After we all got married and had children of our own, we still met once a year to celebrate our birthdays together. Mine was May 28, Mauro’s May 29, Perla’s May 31 and we recently made Joe’s on May 30 as his honorary birthday. Our sisterly and brotherly love for each other never wained. Funny, I don’t remember ever fighting. We really liked each other a lot.
As much as Perla and I are heartbroken in the loss of both our brothers within one year, we can’t help but feel for Mauro’s and Joe’s spouses, children and grandchildren especially this Father’s Day. For those who still have their father, brother or mentor, give him a call and let him know you’re thinking of him. Wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Life is so precious!