“SABI mo uuwi ka. Nag-promise ka. Sabi mo, mommy.”
For years, these words haunted me. Even in sleep, they tortured — like blades that clinged and pierced me with the slightest breathe.
RJ, then 6, desperately pleaded on the phone. Daily he called while I was in the hospital caring for his Ate Grace, who had leukemia. Every day, he begged, cried and reminded me that I was a liar. And that he was all by himself in our dark house.
It was pure pain.
RJ was often left alone with Ate Grace on the rare days she was at home. Their dad and I had to forage for money to meet the mounting expenses.
One time, I went home to find Grace asleep on the sofa heavenly draped in a family-sized blanket. She was having chemo complications, but she looked like a peaceful angel. Her brother had made sure of that.
Tiny RJ had pulled the giant cloth from the second floor, dragged it down the stairs then lovingly placed it on his sister. The spread could have swallowed him with a misstep and sent him tumbling down 14 flights. But his guardian spirit had protected every struggling step.
It was then when I realized that RJ was benevolently his sister’s keeper, that ‘bunsoy’ was in reality, her ‘big brother.’
It was also when I heaved a sigh of relief and realized Ate Grace would be okay — with or without me. She had RJ. Now the fun facts.
RJ, Ate Grace and I were the terrific trio. We turned bonding moments — like grocery attacks, mall treks, resto hopping and movie marathons —- hilarious. As the de facto man of the house, RJ always led the way. And his sister and I obediently followed behind him He was our keeper.
Thus when he wanted to go hotpot, we ‘hotpotted.’ When he said samgyupsal, we ‘samgyupsalled.’ And when he craved for lobster, we ‘lobsterred.’
Disneyland shoppings took a back seat to the endless activities which he planned meticulously. RJ was a master coordinator. He managed to squeeze in watching 2 to 3 theme park shows, rides, food binges, other fun stuff and the covetted shopping — all in one day.
RJ didn’t know it, but Grace and I grumbled and mumbled as we panted and ran behind him to catch one activity to another. Later, when the sun had set and we were nursing our aching feet, Grace and I would look at each other and smile.
We knew the stress and panic were worth the multiple memories. Thanks to RJ.
Our trio even became better with the addition of two wonderful souls with whom mommy eventually shared in RJ and Grace’s hearts — G2 and Neil. As a five-man team, our adventures became more indelible.
RJ loves the blessed life and good people. He knows he doesn’t have to be filthy rich to enjoy them. All it takes is the right perspective. It was a life hack I had ingrained in him and Grace. We were already living YOLO to the hilt long before the word was coined.
The name Rommel Joshua was taken from his granddad’s name — the late Judge Romulo —- and Yehoshua, the Hebrew word for salvation. He does saves people he love.
When he was barely three feet tall, RJ had bravely blocked my aggressor twice his size. He thundered out in a high-pitched voice: “WAG MONG SASAKTAN ANG MOMMY KO!“ Six-year-old RJ scared off my attacker, leaving me unharmed.
RJ isn't shy but isn’t really outgoing. He respects those who deserve his respect and stands up for his beliefs. He has a big heart and brave soul.
As a kid, RJ refused to walk and insisted on being cradled in his daddy Kiko’s arms whenever we went to the mall.
“Karga king ako!” , he would shout to the delight of onlookers. At such a young age, RJ was already ‘king of the world’ way ahead of Leonardo ‘Jack’ di Caprio.
On your birthday today, RJ, may you continue to shine and rule in your chosen world, in New Zealand, and wherever your wisdom and fate will take you.
May God continue to talk to you in the same way he did to angel Joshua. May His guiding light help you to remain as the best son, brother, partner, scuba diver, IT expert, among other roles.
Thank you for the flowers which never fail to arrive and nurture my soul on all occasions.
Keep springing your surprises in the same manners you announced — on FB —that you were already a certified scuba diver, or that you had gone wild water rafting standing up, or that you had been skiing although you didn’t know how.
Today, you are marking a most certain milestone in a most unusual time for a most Divine reason. Keep the faith.
Always trust that Ate Grace and I, including your doting dad Kiko and our beloved Sir Gus, would be behind you — cheering, caring and supporting your every step. Ditto with G2 and Neil. We love you to NZ and back.
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