"Mutya, how many foreign friends are you travelling with?" my now 58-year-old Filipino mother said.
I understand her concerns; this will be my first trip home for Christmas with my friends and boyfriend (whom they've never met). I've never looked back on my motherland since earning a scholarship to one of the most renowned universities in the United Kingdom. It’ll be weird since my younger sister's spouse was my ex-boyfriend.
“4 persons, including myself,” I said as my phone hung around my neck as I quickly packed, praying we wouldn't miss our flight. A part of me doesn't want to interact with my family and relatives because they appear to be always curious about your life and it's overwhelming, and you feel pressured to live up to their expectations.
“All right, Mutya, have a safe flight. I'll prepare all of your favourite Filipino meals, and Makisig, your brother, should be able to set up the Christmas tree and other decorations before you arrive.” I can hear the sizzling foreseeing all of the kitchen utensils being utilized. Bang! Clang! Oh, my God! It's not like a queen is coming to town or something.
She immediately hung up the phone before I could say anything to my mother. I groaned and sat down on the bed, which was piled high with clothing that needed to be packed for a month-long trip to the Philippines. “What gives you that exhausted face, my love?” Apollo, my Italian boyfriend for two years, cuddled up against me. Ah, Apollo— I'll never forget how we met. It's in the library, and we both chose the same book. We wouldn't want to put up a fight and give it up quietly for each other to take, so we ended up with a book club where we were the only members.
“Mom is overjoyed about this homecoming, even though she always facetime me every day. Let's just say she's looking forward to seeing you rather than me, her daughter.” Apollo kissed my temples as I massaged them. “Well, it's your fault; you enticed me into your lair, and now you're mine,” he chuckled.
We meet our friend Jackie and her girlfriend, Lea, after several hours of packing and sealing all of the luggage. “Are you really going to live in the Philippines for good? Why do you have so much luggage and a carry-on for the two of you?” Lea teasingly inquired? My boyfriend looks at me, waiting for my response.
“It's for my family and relatives. It's their pasalubong. It should have been sent from a balikbayan box, but I've been so busy lately that I have forgotten to send it to the courier.” My boyfriend clasped my hands as if I were doing fantastically well. It's great to have confidence in what we do. I'm worried I'll come to rely on him a lot in the future.
“All right, lovebirds, let's travel to Manila!” Jackie and Lea, the other pair, are sprinting ahead of us. They're insane, yet I enjoy their company.
My entire family is shamefully putting up ‘Mutya De Silva' placards in each corner of the arrivals area as we get to the airport. “I suppose we didn't have to look for your relatives, Mutya.” Lea, the pale blue-haired girl, was the first to wave at them.
“Oh my goodness! Wow! Mutya, you have a lot of attractive friends here, don't you?” Makisig introduced himself as her brother. Oh, Makisig, if you only knew how much they adore one other. “Makisig, don't hit on them, these girls are safe from your playboy antics,” their mother reprimanded. Then she turned to face me and said, "Mutya, could you perhaps tell your friends to hand their suitcases to Makisig while we wait for Gideon, who is driving our van today?"
I was frozen to my stature by the sound of his name. Malaya, my sister couldn't possibly be okay with this situation. I warned them a long time ago not to bother me with their presence. A gentle nudge on my shoulder. It's Apollo, the love of my life. I'm sure I can handle it. However, a month's vacation is probably not necessary.
Nothing seemed to have changed when we arrived at our ancestral home. There are five bedrooms in the house: one for my parents, three for us; their children, and one for storage and guests. It all depends on the situation. My companions appear to be perplexed by the antique yet well-preserved Filipino architecture. It's light and airy while being cozy.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of Filipinos is their hospitality. Because we don't wear our inner shoes within the house, my mother promptly offered my friends and boyfriend house slippers. “Ay! Are you experiencing jet lag? I'm going to accompany you to your rooms,” my anxious mother replied.
“Mrs De Silva, thank you very much for the kind greeting, and yes, please, I would also want to wash up,” Jackie stretched. My mother took Jackie and Lea to the guest room, which is surprisingly tidy and well-maintained.
We’re all refreshed and assembled around the dining table in the afternoon, which seats around 12 people. We seldom utilized it because we are a small family and most of us eat in the breakfast nook near the patio. My only sibling with children is my sister, Malaya, who has two children, Maya and Maximo. “Do we have a pasalubong, Auntie Mu, like the one I told you about?” “How about me, Auntie? I want my own bed because Maxi wets the bed all the time.”
I messed around with the twins' hair. They're already so grown that I recall everything as if it occurred yesterday. Gideon is cheating on me with my sister, my sister being pregnant, and me being the aunt that lavishes them with gifts.
“Ate Mutya, Gideon, and I are studying this parenting approach of not spending a lot of money on them and instead of saving it in their bank accounts. So, I hope you don't take it negatively. We appreciate everything you've done to earn their love.” Malaya muttered as she fiddled with her fingers.
Everyone has arrived at the dining table and is eager to eat whatever meal has been served. This is just like fiesta; there’s Chicken Inasal, Pork Adobo, Kinilaw (Raw Marinated Fish), Sisig, Crispy Pata, Taba ng Talangka Fried Rice (Crab Fat Fried Rice), Pancit Palabok (Rice Noodles with Shrimp), Sinigang, Inihaw na Panga ng Tuna (Grilled Tuna Jaw), Garlic Butter Crab, Halo-Halo (for dessert).
The night is still young, but my niece and nephew need to sleep because it is past their bedtime. They've liked every gadget and toy I've brought back from the UK, garnering an eye roll from my sister. Our parents also said their goodbyes since they were tired, leaving us outside with the jet lag squad and my older brother, Makisig, sister, Malaya, and brother-in-law, Gideon.
“Shall we play truth or dare?” Makisig commented to the group, grinning and gazing at Jackie. Lea notices it and yawns, as if she is exhausted and needs to sleep, which is unusual for her. She's generally the life of the party. Makisig, who is now sitting near the flames, is laughingly chatting with Jackie.
Everyone seemed to be on board, even my now-drunk boyfriend, Apollo. He rolled a bottle of beer on the table after finishing it. My anxiety level skyrocketed as he rolled the bottle. I don't believe it's pleasant to play this sort of game in your 30s. I closed my eyes and saw where the bottle's head was.
My brother, who was seated next to me, had a huge grin on his face. He likes Jackie, but Jackie isn't fond of boys or men.
“So, Jackie, truth or dare?” my brother teased, puffing in her ear. “Dare,” she said. Jackie is not like her girlfriend, Lea. She is brunette, more conservative, and has an innocent expression in her eyes, whereas Lea, her lover, has blue hair, tattoos, and piercings.
“Alright, 5-second kiss to the person you find attractive?” my sneaky brother asks.
I saw Jackie rise to her feet, the wind and waves dancing with her skirt, where she had last worn it at her mother's funeral. Jackie kissed Lea on the lips and tongue without warning. The makeout session lasted long, and my brother is now tomato red with embarrassment at me for not informing him that they are on the same side.
“This is a lot of fun; you roll it for me, baby.” Lea trailed along and rolled the bottle. Then it came to a halt at Gideon. Why is he still present? Isn't he even deserving of respect? “I have a question!” My sister looked to be drowsy before abruptly waking up and coming to.“Did you even care about me? Is it still my sister? You've simply come to see my sister and her new boyfriend, who I assume has more money and assets than you, so why are you still in love with her, Gideon?”
I'm completely shaken. It doesn't seem like anything I should be concerned about. What, after all, does Malaya expect from me? She's already attached to Gideon, so why do I feel like I'm always interfering with their relationship?
Gideon rose from his picnic blanket and said something to my sister. “We'll go inside. Simply knock on the third bedroom on the second floor if you require anything. That is where we will be staying for a week.”
Jackie and Lea are in the guest room, while Apollo and I are in my childhood bedroom. Not much has changed. I left the country the next day after receiving my scholarship award. Also, I was really devastated at the time. But I sincerely hope that Gideon and Malaya have a wonderful life together.
“You really need to keep track of your alcohol consumption, you know?” I mocked my boyfriend, whose face was down and exhausted on the bed. The double bed where I used to sleep appears to be too tiny for him, but this will not be our first time sleeping together. We live together in London for months after dating. We discovered that living with someone allows us to learn a lot about them.
"What happened back there, love?" “Why does your sister appear to have ill will against her husband?” I simply sighed as his breathing became more steady.
“It's a lengthy tale, and it all happened a long time ago. “What matters is that we are together,” I spoke in hushed tones to my boyfriend, who was sleeping at the time.