They were having dinner at home later that evening. Aunt Laura had prepared bihon and fried tuna. Alegria made a joke about politicians, which caused Uncle Reyes to spill bits of bihon on his shirt. They were eating and laughing together. Then Tristan said, “I want to go back to Zamboanga.”
“Are you tired?” Alegria said. “Do you miss it there?”
“I just want to go home,” Tristan said.
“Don’t act like a child,” Alegria said. “It’s better to visit Mom and Dad in November. You still have classes. And I’m busy with work.”
They did not understand. Tristan again stuffed a large amount into his mouth, that he could not completely close it while chewing. “One at a time, Tristan!” Aunt Laura reprimanded. “Equal to the size of the spoon.”
“He’s not a child anymore, Laura,” Uncle Reyes said.
“He sure is acting like one.”
Tristan dropped his spoon loudly on the table, which only Alegria noticed.
“Hey!” Alegria said. “What’s the matter with you? Stop saying nonsense like that. Finish your food.”
Then the anger of Tristan was kindled against his sister. “Who attacked our city?!” Tristan shouted. Uncle Reyes stopped midway, and Aunt Laura, drinking water, spilled some on her neck. “Wasn’t it the MNLF? They separated us from mom and dad. Aren’t you angry at all?”
Continue reading Home (Part 2)
Tristan was twelve years old when they invaded. His family lived in the barangay near the coastline where the rebels landed. They burned down his family’s home, one of the many. The four of them fled on foot: Tristan, his father, mother, and older sister Alegria. None brought anything with them except the clothes on their skins. Alegria was falling behind. Tristan’s mother pulled his hand tightly as she called out to his father, who ran ahead, shouting at him to slow down. His father said something Triste could not remember, because halfway through his sentence his father suddenly stopped speaking.
His mother screamed just as she fell on the asphalt, dragging Tristan down with her. He fell open-mouthed, and a piece of his front tooth broke when his face hit the ground. His mother became voiceless.
He could not remember his mother’s exact final moments. Alegria grabbed him before the image could sink in, carried him on her shoulder as he continued to cry, and ran as fast as she could, never looking back. Tristan didn’t want to, but he looked back.
How long had they been running? He had lost the will to cry. He seemed like a corpse on her sister’s shoulder. Alegria struggled to carry him; he was not a small child anymore, and he was almost as heavy as she was now. But she pushed on, like there was some invisible force screaming at her that she must carry him, else he dies. When she could no longer bear her brother’s weight, she stumbled in an abandoned street and scraped both her knees, as her hands embraced Tristan so he wouldn’t fall with her. Then there were people in the distance, running toward them. Alegria’s legs couldn’t muster the strength. They were coming closer. And they were carrying guns.
Continue reading Home (Part 1)