Life is a puzzle; we are the clues, and God is the answer.
Silence, sometimes, can be a powerful weapon. But not always. There are times when speaking up your mind and standing up to your beliefs — even if they are unpopular — will free you of later what-ifs and if-onlys.
Let me explain by telling you a true story that continues to haunt me to this day.
We used to live in a two-level, four-bedroom wooden house owned by my paternal grandparents. The house was big for a family of six, so my parents knocked down the wall separating the two rooms downstairs to make it much bigger, and rented it out to a family of four.
I was about five or six at the time. We were playing by the stairs, my brother Ogie and I, together with some friends. I can no longer remember what our game was, but I remember we were very rowdy. Suddenly, our tenant — the wife — walked over to my three- or four-year-old brother. Then PAK! She slapped him in the face.
We all fell silent. Shocked. “Apay a ti la impulpulongmo kada Daddym? Agipulongka pay maminsan ta saan la a dayta ti maramanam!” she threatened him.
My brother just stared at her, wide-eyed, too shocked to cry or to react. Scared, my playmates and I did and said nothing.
The day before that, my brother saw the wife — Divina — doing something that wasn’t right (can’t remember what it was) and so he told our father about it. Acting on my brother’s information, my father talked to the husband and wife calmly, asking them not to do it again.
The following day, the wife slapped my brother.
I guess it was fear of Divina’s threat that stopped me and my brother from telling our parents what she did to him. In fact, I remember now, that we (my brother and I) did not even talk about it — ever. I don’t know if we just forgot all about it, but the incident was never mentioned between us, and life went on as if nothing happened.
But I don’t think I ever got over it. I remember that as Divina was poised over my brother, verbally abusing him, my mind was telling me to do something. But I was reduced to nothing; I just sat there — trembling.
Sometimes, when that incident comes to my mind, a chill would run over me as the image of the young boy that was my brother fills my mind. A great shame for my inaction would wash over me, and I would berate myself for not standing up for him, for not defending him, and for not telling Mom and Dad about it. I know I was just a kid back then, but I often wish I had had the strength of character I have now — so I could have spoken like an adult, and defended myself and him. (After all, my brother was also just a kid when, roughly a year after that incident, he braved the gun fires so he could come and get me to safety. See my “Volcanic” Eruption post.)
No, I don’t think I ever got over that incident. In fact, there are times that I suspect that that particular incident helped shape the person that I’ve become. As an adult, I’ve been accused many times of caring too much, of being too vocal about my convictions, of being too strong, of always defending others. But to do otherwise is to be not me. The image of my brother — helpless and staring wide-eyed at his tormentor — just wouldn’t let me turn a blind eye to injustice or keep quiet when I know I must speak.
So now I always speak up my mind and let my stand be known. No matter what.
//Sherma E. Benosa; 29 February 2008; 9:16 pm