i read the letter on the off-white paper near the window where an ample amount of light managed to make its way through the window sills. i wondered if my eyes were fooling me again. jumbled words appeared before me as if teasing me to decipher their hidden meanings. in an instant, i have read words, even sentences i usually hear from my father.
- wala kang patutunguhan
ang yabang mo
sino ka ba sa akala mo? anak lang kita!
ang haba ng nguso mo
akala mo kung sino kang matalino!
random flashes of flashbacks started to hit me. the impact was so hard that it felt as if my internal organs were about to erupt. i felt the swelling feeling of heat brewing inside me as i tried to digest each word, each sentence i read from the retreat letter written on the off-white paper. the swelling feeling on my head was commanding me to tear the letter apart to release my rage. when i felt my patience was only inches away from giving up, a cold, wrinkled hand calmly pat my back and told me it was ok to cry. it was father peter’s hand. his look on me was more freezing than his hands. he smiled as he whispered on my ear god loves you.
i hid the paper from his view as if he’s a wolf preying on my letter. cry? yes. i wanted to cry during that time but my tear glands were manufacturing. maybe the vapors of rage somehow disrupted it’s normal tear production. but i did cry, internally. it was hard to read a blank letter. it was even harder to pretend that you feel almost the same as most people in the room- people sobbing, crying, and smiling because of the actual letters they’ve read. letters with actual words and sentences written by their parents or guardians, not a blank off-white paper full of illusions of having actual words and sentences.
i was the one who submitted the letter sealed in a white envelope to my class adviser back then. i remembered the night i asked my father for a retreat letter or even a note. i was not demanding him one; it was a class requirement. after a week, a night before the spiritual retreat, i asked him the letter but he replied in a stoic tone,
- ano ba yang kalokohan na yan? wag mo nga akong guluhin!
it was then that i managed to find the of-white paper on my room, folded it into three and sealed it in a white envelope.
lately, while clearing my file basket, i managed to find the white envelope with the blank off-white paper. i thought disposing it would be great since it was an added junk on my piles of files, but i ought not. i opened the letter and again, flashes of flashbacks enveloped me. amazingly i can still read words, sentences, and paragraphs from the blank paper. the letters appeared as if they were talking to me, telling me to write with them, be with them. without any hesitation, i grabbed a pen and started to fill up the off-white spaces with the spontaneous flow of black ink.
salamat dahil madalas niyong sinasabing wala akong patutunguhan.
salamat dahil lagi niyo akong pinupuna at pinapagalitan.
salamat sa madalas na pagpaparamdam na ang liit-liit kong tao.
salamat sa pagsasabing ang haba ng nguso ko.
salamat nung minsang sinabihan o akong walang kwenta.
salamat dahil akala mo mahiyain ako.
salamat sa pag-aakalang adik ako, payat at basagulero.
salamat, kundi dahil sa’yo, wala akong patutunguhan.
salamat, kundi dahil sa’yo, hindi ako magiging matapang para harapin ang buhay.
salamat, kundi dahil sa’yo, hindi ko mararating ang kinatatayuan ko ngayon.
salamat sa pagpapanday sa akin.
salamat kayo ang naging ama ko.
salamat sa sulat niyo dati.
mahal ko kayo.
i placed the letter on the white envelope but did not sealed it.
i placed it near his cabinet in our room.
one of the greatest lesson he instilled in me was humility.
his constant nags and beating taught me that no matter how good you think you are, you are nothing but a speck of dust in the vast universe, the world will revolve even without me and that my name does not even appear as a footnote in history.