April 30, 2010
This is your mother. I hope that you’re reading this no earlier than 2025, because I have no plans of having you in the next few years. I am not yet rich, and only rich people can have children because children are superstrength money vacuums. I trust that you are able to read this thanks to formidable schooling which I was effortlessly able to provide.
How is it over there? It’s election season back here; so far, Noynoy’s leading the polls, and Villar and Erap are tied 19 points behind. I’d vote for Noynoy if I were registered, but I’m not, and yes I suck. My half-baked defense is that I had just moved out from the family compound in Pasig and into an apartment in Quezon City, so I got confused about which district I’m supposed to vote in or some shit excuse like that, but the truth is I got lazy and now I regret it. Did the election work, though? Are you still living in a country mired in frustration? Is the Catholic Church still wielding its Scepter of Ignorance over our multitudes? Has Jolo Revilla run for anything?
Anyway, about the apartment. I moved in about 6 months ago with my boyfriend. (I would like to think that he’s your father, but in case life decides to trivialize my relationship with him down the road [which the both of us are doing our best to dissuade, because we are both of the opinion that we are awesome together], I hope your dad is not a total dickwad, and that we are no longer in contact with him in case he is.) Living at the family compound had led to claustrophobia; it had come to the point that I very desperately needed a place where I didn’t have to be cautious of what I said or did, a place where I wasn’t automatically assigned the role of “wayward offspring.” I was agitated. I stayed out most nights and did things I can’t look back on now without literally burying my head in my hands in shame. Getting the apartment has definitely made me a calmer person; the best part of any day has become the time when your maybe-father and I would make dinner and watch three straight episodes of Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew (fastforwarding over that insufferable Mario Lopez) or whatever we’d scrounge up at the dibidihan, and just exalt in our general domesticity.
Of course, it didn’t come for free. I had to get a steady job that paid well, a concept that was definitely frightening, as I had grown so accustomed to the unhinged disposition of the freelance career. But I sucked it up and landed a job as the copywriter of a big hospital’s Corporate Communications department. I believe that I’m good at it, and working in a hospital does provide a modicum of weird shit to liven the workweek, but as with any other steady job, it can get steeped in tedium nonetheless. There’s a part of me that wants out, a part that wonders what had happened to the old me, the reckless child of yore. I liked being a homebody, but that didn’t instantly purport that I was fine being an office drone too.
Now, I’m the type of person who cuts things out of my life very easily. I could’ve quit that job and tried to figure things out for myself all over again; I have that ability to harden my heart. But I only edit out things that I know are dispensable in the long run: incompetent bosses, fair-weather friends. For the very first time, I found this latest version of my life pretty necessary. And it’s not just because it allows for a place of my own, and a bit of money for some nice things and the occasional dinner out. It has also become the first crucial step towards the bigger, better version of my life I hope to achieve.
Your maybe-father and I made a pact some time ago that we would save up enough money and move from one province to another every couple of years. We wanted to have adventures. We wanted to get ourselves in trouble, to have something new and ridiculous to do together all the time. There was no better way to do that than by restarting our life together over and over from one strange place to the next. And our first stop? The tiny town of Dumaguete, where we first met a couple of years ago.
So Mom’s a big, fat cheeseball, you say? You think Mom’s masterplan is a classic illustration of the kind of idealistic and impracticable claptrap people in their quarter-life crisis hold dear? Well screw you, futurespawn. It doesn’t matter. You might know for a fact that things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, that something went wonky along the way, dashing my precious plans and proving that I was just another 20-something with an idiotic strategy for the future. But right now, that masterplan is what I want, and I’m going to do everything in my power to realize it. I’m going to make sure that when you read this letter, the first few sentences of this paragraph are grossly contradictory of how you feel and what you know. I mean, Mom’s always been a total hard-ass, right? Correct? Damn straight.
But again, I really do hope that these plans come to fruition. I hope that I’ve already regaled you over and over with tales of the many places I’d lived in (so far, Dumaguete, Baguio and Cebu are on our itinerary), with many strange stories and hare-brained schemes your maybe-father and I had amassed during our travels, and that you find this letter annoyingly redundant.
But if things really didn’t work out for me that way, these pieces of paper you hold in your hand is proof that I pursued that life with tremendous resolve nonetheless. That there was a time when everything I did was geared towards that specific version of a bright and shiny future, a time when I wasn’t going to let anything or anyone fuck with me in my pursuit.
I’d like to end this letter with something I told my friends back in college. I still remember it because it was likely the only lucid thing I said during a particularly drunken afternoon in a bar across school. I told my friends that if I ever had a kid, the most important thing I would tell him (I’m set on a boy, by the way, so if you’re a girl, I apologize in advance for being such a resentful bitch) is that if he has his heart set on doing something, even if I am totally against it, so much so that I will be furious with him for the rest of my life, he should do it. So I’m telling you now, futurespawn, that if there’s something you know you will utterly regret for not doing, some idea that skulks in the back of your brain every second of every day, do it. Even if I give you hell for it. Even if it breaks us apart. Your life is yours entirely, futurespawn, so make sure it’s totally awesome, okay? Okay. Good boy.
That’s it; I’m all letter’d out. Off you go now. Fly your hoverbike or whatever the hell it is you kids do. I love you.
It’s been a little over a year since I wrote that letter, and while the maybe-father and I are still very much together, we remain in Manila in the same apartment and have yet to see the aforementioned nomadic lifestyle beckoning from the horizon, if at all. But that’s beside the point of this current essay, and for the record, something did come along that drew our focus away from this particular dream: becoming active members of the Filipino Freethinkers. (And so far, it’s been the best distraction I’ve ever had.)
What hasn’t changed, however, is my stand that my child should do whatever he damn well pleases when he grows up, no matter if his father and I blow our tops for whatever reason — even and especially if we play the utang na loob card in a key moment of a desperation.
Utang na loob, or debt of gratitude, is not a real reason for anyone to forgo the life they want to live. Doing favors for each other out of goodwill, I totally understand. But doing things out of a certain unspoken indebtedness — wherein guilt is more potent than goodwill — is something that I find bothersome, especially when it concerns parent and child.
Granted that I did not come from the most stable of backgrounds. My father was an angry and abusive man, the main reason why I cannot dub my childhood “happy.” And it would make sense for me not to feel indebted to someone who went out of his way to physically and verbally hurt his own daughter (and sons, and wife) on a regular basis. As far as I’m concerned, and as anyone with the faintest concept of self-respect should know, whatever my family says about utang na loob in his regard is null and void. In fact, I estranged myself from him when I was 13 and have never looked back.
But my mother is a different case. She’s done a monumental amount for me. For one thing, she was the main breadwinner, and would always go on overtime at the office in order to support a five-person family. Her sacrifices were all for us; in fact, rooting through sales bins at dinky department stores for the rare pair of semi-decent shoes was her idea of splurging for herself.
Moreover, she endured my estrangement from my father despite her personal conviction that sticking to one’s family is the Right Thing to Do. She did her best to respect (or at least try to respect) my decision — not to mention grin and bear the endless prodding of other relatives as to my whereabouts and mental state — while I lived apart from them in my own little hole in the family compound (and, later on, in my own apartment). I did what I had to do, and while she didn’t like what I did — and yes, for a while nagged at me and berated me for it — she eventually let me be. And for that I am grateful, because it has led me to live a life that is entirely mine.
Everyone should do everything they can to live their own lives as well, and not the lives expected of them. What’s the point of being our own sentient beings if we can’t even choose what to do with ourselves? Everyone should be able to stick with what they believe in and act on that belief (provided, of course, that this does not involve building a money-making mega-church, strapping bombs to your belly, and other dangerous, deceitful, and destructive acts).
Everyone should want a child not for their own selfish purposes, but for allowing this child to experience the awesomeness that is life, and in the best, most positive manner possible, at that. Last I heard, love is not related to suppression, or blind obedience, or guilt. Last I heard, parenting was about raising a child, not strapping one down to the ground. (Suffice it to say that the RH Bill can bring us one step closer to a society that understands this.)
My mother can ask of me a whole host of things in return for all she’s done, but compromising the paltry few decades of consciousness I have in the first place — when I could be doing something that I feel is actually worthwhile, such as being a nomad, or an active freethinker, or a nomadic active freethinker — is not one of them. Being in a situation that would prevent me from writing the above missive to my future child is not one of them.
Once again, there is only one belief that I will impose on my own child, and it is that he owes me nothing.