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tec sanchez-tolosa
tec sanchez-tolosa I BEGIN writing this piece in the first few minutes of Black Saturday. I remain awake to constantly observe the state of my sister, sleeping with an intravenous line inserted on her left hand. The bottle of Plain NSS dripping, as it hangs from the jalousies' lever, calls out a thousand thoughts as each of its thousand drops fall. My sister's hair is matted, lying helplessly unkempt, as she complained of head pain when I tried to brush it. On the crown of her head is a long roll of gauze held in place by the stitches made on her head. Her legs rest on throw pillows we placed one on top of another, to cushion the bruises that so unsightfully mar her legs. She has cuts and abrasions, even grease marks that refuse to be wiped away. I look at her as she sleeps—and my mind is lost in a myriad of thoughts, of recollections, of emotions and introspection.

How different things turn out from the way you plan them.

Nothing is under your control.

Does history repeat itself? Does lightning ever strike twice?

Be thankful for every day you wake up, for every moment you breathe; rejoice in every heartbeat and tell your loved ones exactly how you feel, every single time that you can.

Wa, Daddy, anggang agyu ku, eku la paburen. 

How could she have felt when they lay her wounded, sacrificed Son in her arms?

O, Lord, thy will be done unto us.

Holy Thursday started out simply enough. Our plan was to spend the day with relatives in Sta. Lucia, Lubao and then start the evening with the traditional visita iglesia.  Two of our Michigan-based elders planed in to spend semana santa  here, and it was a good time as any to come for a mini-reunion. My schedule with the kids was to cover seven churches between Lubao and Quezon City, before going back home. Iyagkat mi la ren ngan bisang tuki, para mag-bonding.  In my mind our route was all planned out: St. Augustine (Lubao), San Nicolas, San Guillermo (Bacolor), San Vicente, San Agustin (San Fernando), Lourdes Church (Quezon City), and Sta. Teresita. Mabengi na kami sigurung muli, aku keng lub ku. 

The drive from Manila to Pampanga was easier than we thought, and we arrived a little after noon. Tinaglus kami bale matua,  where my mother, aunt, cousins and families were waiting. Lunch was cooking: palambutan da na mu ing ligang babi at isiang da na la reng ema.  When it was almost time to eat, my twenty-three year old sister, Seng, thought to go out and buy softdrinks. Pepasaup ya keng metung kung maningat anak.  My one-year old niece, seeing them leaving, mengalawat ya kang Tita na  and speaking in her cute gaguti,  said na tuki ya.  They carried her with them.

Iniang makayapag na ing paugtuan,  I called my children to the table. It was almost 2 p.m. and we were famished. Milako ne keng lub ku na linual ya ing wali ku. Balaku atiu ne kilub bale. Inia makantita na mu ing pangabigla mi iniang datang yang mamulayi ing metung a babai, susunga ya, manimutla, gugulisak, "Me-aksidente ya i Seng!" 

I froze.

When Seng was four years old, she was hit by a car right in front of our house. Her older brothers who were cleaning our car failed to notice her walking out. Just as she stepped into the street, an onrushing vehicle hit her. I was inside, washing dishes, when I heard the brakes screeching. And then the screams, "Si Seng!"  I was twenty-three then, and I kept absolutely still, hoping that my baby sister wasn't critically hurt.

It felt like that, all over again.

My brother Bong ran out to check on her. Ena man balung kayabe ya ing anak nang pabanwa.  The shouting outside became louder, there was the sound of rushing and an engine starting up and driving away. I stayed inside the house with my mother. I was afraid to see, afraid to ask, afraid to know, afraid to acknowledge that our lives might have changed drastically that very instant.

My mother stood from her chair and ran out to the back of the house, going farther from than nearer to the scene and the crowd, clutching her chest and calling my father's name. I followed her and made it to her side just as she collapsed to the ground.

It has been only been a few months over a year since we lost my Dad, after the car he was riding in was hit by a dumptruck beating the red light in an intersection in China. He didn't make it home alive. We never had a chance to say goodbye.

Atna kasakit tanggapan ketang pinandit a ita, ing posibilidad na malyaring pasibayu ing makanita. 

After seeing to it that my mother was calm enough, and that I was calm enough, I went out. People were still there by the street, each person with something to say. The accounts were difficult to process, they were just phrases that wafted in and out. Madaya lang madaya. Mesugat la buntuk. Dadaya ya arung. Itang anak kayabe de. Atne kabilis itang tau, maka-motor ya. Mangalutu ya lupa, malare ya mata. Malasing ya yata. Anak de retang keta. E man kaya ing motor. 

Anggang metung ala kung dimdam sinabing "mabie la, makagising la." 

I drove over to the hospital not knowing what to expect, but bracing myself for the worst---even as I prayed for the best.

News travels fast, even in sleepy barrios. There were a handful of people milling around the emergency room, talking about the incident. Maybe my anxiety was written all over my face in capital letters, because people I didn't recognize led me inside saying "atiu la pu keni." 

The first thing I saw was the blood. Lots of it, on my sister's clothes. I couldn't see her face at first, only the backs of the nurses attending to her. Then I heard her crying, bawling out loud, "awsan ye i Ating ku." Kanita mekapangisnawa na ku,  because then I knew she was alright. No matter that she had a long wound on her scalp that was being sutured. No matter that she had hematomas and abrasions. She was crying because she felt scared, because she was in pain. That was alright, because it meant she was alive.

Flanking her were my niece and my help, both with bleeding, lacerated wounds on their heads: the former wailing and flailing her arms, calling out to her mother; the latter still jarred from the experience and unable to move.

After their emergency treatments we transferred to a private hospital where tests were done and additional medications administered. The preliminary findings showed no definite damage but as with all head injuries, there is a critical period for observation before one can say that everything is normal.

The events that followed will be material for many family-and-friends conversations for the days to come: the full extent of their injuries, the perpetrator remaining at large, the issue I raised out of the second hospital's personnel requiring cash payment for services rendered in an emergency situation. There will be talk of strangers who came to help; of parents who take on their offspring's accountabilities, repentant for sins that are not theirs; of individuals incapable of empathy; of redeeming factors and kind-hearted people, and how one person's goodness can truly lighten the load. In the more quiet moments come the reflections: the sad state of the health care system in our country, the ills pervading our society, the stark contrast between government and privately-run hospitals, the disparity of medical care received by those who can afford the cost and those who cannot. And in the most pensive spiritual moments, I think of the father who has gone on before us, one Father who gave His only begotten Son, the mother who held her Son as He slipped away from His man-life. How much goodness can a parent have in his heart for him to forgive those who have wronged his child? How much effort to keep oneself from getting even or tying up the score? Abstract, intangible things, like forgiveness and justice and reconciliation: can one exist or remain without the others?

What fills me most, though, is gratitude: overflowing thanks that we are here together, that today is yet another day we can share. I give thanks that I can write, that my sister and my family peacefully slumber. I thank the Lord that while we fall into the darkness and the dark times, He brings us into the light; that while we become wounded and lacerated, He heals us and makes us whole again.

We rejoice, because we know we have been saved.


[About the author. Tec Sanchez-Tolosa, MD is a full-blooded Kapampangan and a mother of three. A member of Pinoypoets since 2006, she is the author of the Kapampangan poetry collection "Ing Bie Kung Delanan, Ing Bie Kung Balikan (2006)." Some of her poems have been published in emanilapoetry and the online poetry journal Makata. While enrolled in her M.A. Creative Writing program, she was included in the anthology Sleepless in Manila. Tec is also a seasoned medical writer, with printed works in health publications and major dailies. She worked briefly with the ABS-CBN Foundation as a scriptwriter/researcher in the early stages of Sine'skwela. Raised in Manila and educated in St. Theresa's College during her formative years, she is a product of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, where she graduated with a B.S. in Biology. She later became a Doctor of Medicine and trained in diseases of the skin, hair and nails. She is now a Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS) Board-certified Dermatology specialist with an active practice in San Fernando, Pampanga and Quezon City.]

-Posted: 4:44 PM 3/24/08 | More of this author on eK!
WHAT THEY SAY...

Badtz (of Philippines & UAE) writes...

tita tec, musta na? sensya an ngeni ke pamu open ing yahoo account ku kaya ngeni ke pamu abasa ing article mu re: huwebes santu...kumusta ne i seng? how about itang anak ng tito bong, kumusta neman?i tita babes pala atyu ya pa pala pinas, kumusta neman? please extend my regards to seng, and i hope na kumayap no reng sugat na.. mingat kayu ngan lagi...GOD bless... :)

-Posted/Via Email: 2008-03-26 03:34:14 PDT



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