May The 4th Be With You (Even If It's Already The 5th)

A Tribute To My Grandma

What I like (and hate) about riding the ferry to and from home is the amount of free time I get the entire evening, especially when there is no data and no books to read while I’m still sugar-high from all the coke I drank a couple of hours ago.

Because I am wide awake past midnight on a swaying boat under the bright stars, I will let you in on a couple of stories concluding how May 4th could be one of the saddest dates in our lives. You might not know it until you finish reading this post.

May 1

Let’s start with the 1st of May, Labor Day. It was my grandma’s birthday. May would always begin by celebrating my grandma’s birthday. My cousins and I would usually get together for the next coming days starting the first. My cousin from Cebu would come home with her parents for grandma’s birthday. My cousins and I would play all day long for days on end. We would dance at the disco, or play under the street light and make the most of the night together. We knew everyone and we had fun.

My grandma lived in a very small village called Silanga in Tangub City. It was named as such because they said it was facing the east, where the sun rises. Silangan in Tagalog. I didn’t know why they dropped the ’n’ and I didn’t have the energy to research so let’s leave it at that. It’s a small barangay, mostly consisting of fisherfolks. My grandfather was a fisherman when he was alive. He had a fishing pen back in the day, which was their main source of income. Those were said to be the glorious years of the family. The sea was prosperous; there was a lot of catch here and there.

When my grandpa died, my grandma, together with her five daughters (my aunts) endured tremendous hardships to get by day after day; meal after meal. With no permanent source of income, they were selling everything they could sell. From ukay-ukay, shells, rice, wood, vegetables, and other stuff. My aunts were creative and resourceful. They worked hard to earn money and feed the family.

While sacrificing much of their childhood, they didn’t sacrifice their studies. They persevered because they wanted to finish school. They had to make it work, enduring long walks to get to school and back home, whilst doing chores at home and other people’s. More than that, they had to do rations to make sure everybody got to eat.

I couldn’t imagine living in the same situation my aunts were in. I romanticised my life and squirmed at the sight of inconvenience. I had always been superficial and sickly so I might have not survived and died early on.

Fast forward to many years later, when my cousins and I were born in this world, our parents were already reaping what they sow. They found work and established their own families, at the same time keeping each other close. They were already prospering enough to get us what we needed. On top of everything, they made sure that we were still very close to each other.

The best part of my childhood was around this time of the year, starting the first of May till the fourth. My grandma’s birthday was the start of the week-long celebration; the start of my childhood summer.

Today, everything is entirely different. Most of my cousins are already in our early 30s, and late 20’s. We are now living our adult lives trying to keep it together whilst making sense of why we are doing what we are doing. Whilst we already have separate lives, we are still a close family, perhaps bonded by the childhood tradition that started every 1st of May.

May 2

Post-birthday celeb, May 2 would usually be an important day to prep for the next day. It’s considered a busy day for the aunts. I remember my aunts busy preparing and cooking food to bring home to my grandma. There would be lumpia, lechon, and all the usual food on village fiestas.

My cousins and I would do our own thing, huddled in a corner of my cousin’s room or in the living room, whilst the aunts were busy. We had a lot of things going on, so many games to play. Year after year.

The second day of May was a relevant day that bridges the birthday celebration to the village fiesta. It was an important day.

May 3

Village fiesta. For whatever reason, it was important for my grandma to celebrate fiesta. My grandma’s house would be flooded with friends, relatives, and neighbors. My cousins and I would then meet other distant cousins, catch up, and play with them all day until it was time for them to go.

I remember one hot summer fiesta under the banana trees between my grandma’s house and the small chapel. We would run, hide, chill, and cower under the shade. I don’t remember what we did exactly, but sometimes I ended up annoyed with some of my cousins simply because I was normally an angry child who didn’t know how to compartmentalize emotions. But I loved my cousins to bits nonetheless. I just hated the fact that I got annoyed when my way was not the highway. If that makes sense.

May 4

There is no story here, really.

It’s just that May 4th was always the day that everything ends.

It’s always going to be the day after the happy days; the day after days of good weekend and happy bonding.

The eminent day; a reality checker. The unchosen one. The least preferred. The aftermath of a good experience.

May 4th is me.

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