(A great friend once advised me never to start a speech with an apology—a golden rule which, she said, should also be followed strictly in letter-writing. It was a rule so easy to follow; I rarely, if ever, said sorry for my mistakes, much less wrote about them. Until now.)
Dearest Tatay and Nanay,
Sorry. When I was four, you brought me my first real book. I was so happy that I was unable to sleep properly for several days. One morning, you found me in a corner crying. Ever the attentive parents that you were, you instantly came to my side and asked me what had happened. I said I wanted more books, and you told me I had to wait until one of you got the chance to go to the nearest bookstore (which happened to be in Manila).
I became hysterical when I heard that. I seldom asked for anything but when I wanted something, I expected everyone to get it for me immediately. Sorry if I didn’t know better then. And sorry because even when I was growing up and the memory would haunt me once in a while, not once did I have the guts to come to you and apologize for being so unappreciative and impatient.
Sorry. When I was in Grade 2, I asked you why you were with me and my siblings when most of my classmates’ parents were working abroad. I even told you that it would be nicer if one of you would do the same, so we could have a bigger house and a better life. When you looked at each other, unsure of how to respond, I saw something which at that time I could not yet recognize. Later it dawned on me that it was pain and doubt that I saw there. I let you believe that you weren’t good parents just because I lacked the material things my friends had.
Remember that family day I asked you not to let the 11 aunts and uncles go with us? It was the day I realized that I was indeed so blessed: While my classmates were ranting to our teachers that they didn’t have anyone to attend the event with, I was worried that my ever-supportive family would make it a literal “family day.” I should have said sorry to you then, but, the coward that I was, I didn’t.
Sorry. When I was in high school, we planned to migrate to Canada. All the papers were approved, except mine.
Immediately, without thinking, you decided we would all stay. I felt guilty that you again had to postpone a dream because of me. Sorry that I was so selfish not to let you go.
Sorry that I never mentioned this incident again; I was thinking you’d regret having made that decision. Sorry that I underestimated your love for our family.
Sorry. When I got to college, and you didn’t want me to go to the University of the Philippines because it would mean being away from you, I rebelliously engaged in activities you didn’t approve of. Like drinking alcohol at a friend’s house the whole night and not attending my classes the next day. Like joining a sociopolitical sorority, undergoing an initiation process, and participating in educational discussions and rallies. Like trying to get myself killed.
You never asked and I never explained. I let you live in worry and fear that I just might not show up alive again.
Sorry if I was insensitive. I could have said something to make you understand, but I didn’t. And still, when I came home after graduation, you accepted me as if I were exactly the daughter you dreamed of having. Sorry, not for what I did at that time, but for why I did them.
Sorry. When I got my first job, you were so proud of me that you told everyone, even our neighbors, about it. A week later, I came home crying. I said I couldn’t do it anymore, that it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be, that the corruption was so prevalent there, and that I was disillusioned. Traumatized, I went AWOL. But instead of coming to you, I stayed where I was. I chose fear over your love and protection. And in exchange for doubting your love, you helped me gather the pieces of my broken self.
Sorry. When “that fateful incident” happened, I got so mad that not even your explanation was enough to stop me from running away. Tatay, already crying, already hurting, even walked me to the terminal. How painful it must have been for a father to be hated by his daughter. And how painful it must have been for him to see her go without specific plans. That night before Christmas, when I finally decided to come home, I was surprised to see you, Tatay, lying on the sofa, so thin, and still weeping. Upon seeing me, you changed your clothes and went to church to offer a Mass. Sorry that I didn’t listen to you. Sorry that I let my anger hurt you. Sorry that I left.
Sorry. When I decided to try living abroad, you didn’t agree to it but you still supported me in every way possible. I said I wanted to learn how to be independent, and you gave me that chance. Whenever I called, you pleaded for my return, and I often replied: “Soon.” Sorry that a year later, I’m still here. Sorry that I’m making you wait again. Sorry if it’s taking me long.
Sorry. When I participated in the Dubai Marathon, I got so excited that I forgot you were celebrating something big. I was never good at remembering dates, but there was no way I should forget Jan. 24. But this year, I did. I didn’t call to greet, and it took me two weeks to realize that that’s what your text message meant. Stupid me! You know how thankful I am that you are my parents and that if I could, I would make the world the best place for both of you, right? Sorry that I didn’t get to say “I love you” more often. Sorry that I forgot your wedding anniversary. Sorry…
There are a lot more things I should apologize for, but I guess they do not matter anymore. Your hearts are so forgiving that they easily overlook our mistakes. You just love and love and love. There are times when I get overwhelmed by your love, but often, I want to bask in it. The world is harsh and unsafe and living in it can be very painful at times. And so whenever things get so bad, I just have to close my eyes and imagine you two—how your love has protected me and my brothers over the years, how it made us feel safe, and how it taught us to fly with our feet on the ground—and I’d instantly be back to my happy self. Sometimes I ask myself if I can ever be as loving, forgiving and patient as you are. I wonder where you’re getting all that faith and positivity, of which you seem to have an endless supply.
Thank you. Thank you for giving me your courage whenever I am losing mine. Thank you for lending me your happiness when finding mine seems so difficult. Thank you for sharing my joys and pains…
’Tay, ’Nay, please wait. I’m coming home because you are my home.
Nalaine Briones, 24, is a customers service representative in a freight forwarding company in Dubai, UAE.
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