Letter from Naga


In times like this, I remember you, Tam.

Tammy, Tamara.

During Christmas, I remember when your Mommy, your Daddy and Raya went home for the holidays. Here in Naga.

But I do not remember you dancing to the noisy usually raucous and rowdy novelty songs being played in your Uncle Ano’s house where we would all gather to welcome the New Year.

I hardly remember you, too, opening your gifts handed to you and your cousins.

But I remember how, on one evening, you sang with your cousins when we started playing “Bro, Ikaw Ang Star ng Pasko” which I couldn’t resist playing on YouTube.

When your cousins started singing it, I remember vividly seeing you, barely four, mouthing the words you were hearing just then:

“Ang nagsindi nitong ilaw… walang iba kundi ikaw…” as if you already knew them.

Wide-eyed, you were looking to your ates Abey and Xelene, probably looking for clues for the next words to say,

“Salamat sa liwanag mo… muling magkakailaw ang pasko”

Amidst the singing of others, I was hearing your voice, syllable after syllable, still lisping,

“Salamat sa liwanag mo, muling magkakailaw ang pasko.”
“Salamat sa liwanag mo, muling magkakailaw ang pasko.”

How I felt so happy seeing you singing the words of the song you were just hearing—which I chose to play. How I felt so happy.

I felt so happy for you—but probably really only for myself because you were so overjoyed—your big beautiful eyes brightening up, looking up to your cousins, singing with them, smiling with them, sharing a wonderful moment.

So young, so happy, so innocent, so joyful.

It probably helped that the lyrics were simple and beautiful and the melody was an instant classic—that you just easily sang to the words with your ates Maia, Jom and Chin—like all of you really knew them already.

But right then and there, I was seeing you—and must have thought how this little girl must have missed her cousins whom she must have been told about by her Mommy—every now and then, when in Kingstown she would sing you a lullaby to sleep.

I saw Christmas in your face, dear Tam,—the sheer joy not really of the gifts given to you—but of something else. I saw how you were feeling being one with your cousins, of seeing them and yes, knowing more people around you.

Seeing you at that moment made me forget how tediously and how far I have traveled going home from the Visayas to Naga.

Your elder cousins were probably teasing you in jest, then being fond of you and Raya—and Bugoy and Dudoy, as you were the new babies in the house”, the bundles of joy, as you were—as it were. These were joys enough for us, your parents, to see.

But it was in your joy that I saw the beauty of family. Your parents’ ardent desire to go home—and all that they did for you to travel safely just to be able to share the holidays with the rest of us, with all of us—was worth it.

So whenever Christmas comes, Tam, this is what I remember. Vividly, beautifully, so I thank you, dearly, for this memory.

But in the following days, after the difficult times we had this year, surely, you wouldn’t be able to join us all here. Even if Daddy and Mommy wish to—even if you probably want to.

This year, you will miss your cousins here and your bonding and your gimmicks, with ate Alee and Raya, or your banters with Boggs and Doods and now, Matt. But as long as there is Christmas, I will remember you, Tammy, my sweet niece.

My Christmas.

Happy holidays to Mommy, Daddy and Raya, and you. Have a meaningful Christmas this year and always.

Love you, Tam!*