I remember when I was just a little girl and she was still young, she would occasionally ask me to go to the market with her. It was a privilege rarely given to my other siblings, not to mention it was always a chance to get myself candies and hair clips before heading home.
We would walk hand in hand on the wet streets while she carried two recycled plastic bags folded perfectly inside her pocket. I loved observing her as she smelled the fish, as she haggled over the price of vegetables, as she chose the freshest mangoes because she loves eating them with rice.
Though I always tended to rant about how the market stank, the moment I looked at her and saw how composed and calm she looked amid all the smell, I would suddenly pause and tell myself, I want to be like her.
When I went to high school, I slowly stopped accompanying her to the market. I got busy with cartoon shows on Saturdays; even when she asked me to go with her, I would tell her I was tired of all the school work. The rest followed; I eventually lost my excitement for our market days.
It was during my college years that we began living away from each other. I attended a university and rarely went home. But as thoughtful as she always is, she would pay surprise visits. She would spend a day with me; we’d go to church on Sunday, then to the grocery and, of course, to a nearby department store to buy new clothes and hair clips. When she could not go because of work, she would send goodies via LBC. She would even send me a whole marble cake, because she knew how much I loved it.
At first, I was bothered about why she had to send food when I could buy them from a nearby grocery, but I did not ask her why. Whenever I went home on term breaks, she would prepare the best adobo and leche flan. As a bonus, she would sometimes hand me a bracelet and a pair of earrings.
It was in college that I started to grow a deeper relationship with her as my best friend, despite us not seeing each other often. I would tell her how I missed home, how I just wanted to go back to the province because my classmates were too intelligent, my professors were all the “terror” kind, and I felt alienated more than ever.
When I developed insomnia, she would give me a call at night and tell me to breathe deep and forget all the worries away. At times, such calls helped. Other times, they just made me miss home even more.
On semestral breaks, I would sit with her and tell her how I admired my English professors, how I loved our classes and how I wanted to write for Candy and It Girl magazines after graduation. Also, like her, I had started eating rice with mango.
When I had my first job, I felt like she was more nervous than I was, especially on my first day. She kept asking for updates—where I was, how my boss was and the office. She was so happy when I got work in the government. As she always said, it would be beneficial in the long run. But it was a good thing, too, that she never lied about how difficult it would be to step out and thrive in the real world.
Sometimes when things got complicated and stressful at work, I would remind myself of her forever “pabaon” before I would leave the house: “Always pray.” And at some point, I knew it was one of the few things that kept me afloat, especially during the hardest times of being part of the workforce at a young age.
We have been best friends for 26 years. I guess I will never find someone as “best” as she is. I still tell her about everything — from a recently opened restaurant that I love, to the mean people in my workplace, to how my boyfriend has gotten busy in law school — all the random things I can think of. She certainly knows me to my core. Honestly, sometimes I think she knows me better than I do.
Although we are still living away from each other due to my work and studies, she also never fails to update me about her life every day. Recently, she told me she had finally replaced her morning coffee with warm water (she seemed so proud of that), that she would still fall asleep in front of her lesson plan, and that she would love to see us during our family reunions.
I admit that it’s getting harder for me to find time to go home and talk to her like in the old days. But maybe, it is how it is right now. We make the best of our times together and look forward to the next. At the end of the day, friendships, much like love, have never been about proximity to each other.
For now, I want to tell her that I love her so much, and that I am grateful to God because when He gave me a mother, He also made sure she would be my best friend.
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Fatima M. Peyra, 26, is a communication arts graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.