Chapter XVIII

I was born on December.

Whether it was sunny or cold out, I do not know. I have no memory of my birth, of how my mother reacted as she first saw me under the glare of hospital lights, of how the sterile air tasted, of how various hands felt as they held me. What I do have is my mother’s memory: how she labored for hours on end to give birth to me, how the first thing she saw was the mole that stood quite proudly on my left arm, how she felt like I was a gift from God on that very day: her birthday, and mine.

And I just turned 18. Let me tell you the story on that.

To me, turning 18 was always something far away. I knew it was bound to happen, but not immediately. So I dilly-dallied for years. Until one day, it was right there, just an arm’s reach away. I’ve wrestled with the idea of becoming an adult for as long as I can remember because, honestly, it’s way too fun being a kid. Being an adult means being responsible for a lot of things, and as I am thoroughly lazy at times (or most of the time), I kind of flinched at the thought. Being an adult means you’re supposed to stand up on your own.

As much as I love the idea of independence, I’m not that quite ready for it. Though I am already 18, it’s still a huge issue I have to contend with. And not just now but for the rest of my life.

There’s another reason I didn’t want to turn 18: because I was afraid I haven’t done enough in this world as a child. During the months that led to December, I felt like my time was running out, and still, I haven’t done anything big. It was frankly frightening. I wanted to shake the world around me, even just a little. It wasn’t because I wanted to feel good about myself; it was because I wanted the years I have spent to have some meaning. It was as simple as that. And as complicated, too.

Truth be told, I am so glad I share my birthday with my mother. Because I don’t think I would’ve lasted a minute without her there during the planning for the celebration. What I mean is, it was a joy to have planned the celebration not only for myself but also for her. (Although, as she is still the mother, she pushed on about the whole party being about me.)

But there wasn’t supposed to be any party in the first place. What I had in mind at first was just a good old dinner with my family. As the day drew nearer of course, it was my father who knocked some sense into my head (although I would hate to admit that because he’d be so smug, haha) and told me, in essence: Wouldn’t you want to make it special? 

The answer? YES. Of course I did. I wanted it to be the kind of day I’d remember even as I forget plenty of other ones. And I wanted to spend it with the people closest to my heart.

So there was going to be a party. Scratch that, a celebration. But, and I put my feet firmly on this one, it wasn’t going to be a debut in the traditional sense. Not that I’m criticizing those who have had a traditional debut. Believe me, I’ve been to quite wonderful ones. But I just wasn’t the type to stand in the spotlight for long, not to mention in a big, glittering ball of a gown that will probably itch as my sweat trickles down through the crevices between it and my body.

As for the place, we were looking for a garden-type. On my first search, we found Isabelo Garden Restaurant. And just by the reviews, my mom and I knew it was the right one. Arrangements were made and I fell in love with it on my first visit. It has this homey feel that makes you want to tuck your feet in and read a good book while sipping lemonade. Somewhere along those lines. It’s a magical place, that restaurant. One of my friends, Eris, after seeing pictures of the place, told me: “It’s so you.”

Guest lists had to be made, and invitations, too. I made the invitations, as a tribute to my love for words. I think it worked, or so my friends said.

Overall, the planning process drove me crazy. It stressed me out like no other. I often joked with my mother: “I feel like I’m getting married.” And she’d frown at me, not pleased by the joke at all. Haha.

To make the waiting process sweeter, relatives from our province came to attend the celebration. It was really touching.

Then the night came.

Even now, weeks later after that night, I still have no idea how to put it into words. That night is a night my words can never do justice to. It was the biggest surprise of my life. It was a Johari Window kind of surprise, if you know what I mean. People closest to my heart said the most overwhelming stories. The whole night I just felt like crying because of joy, because somehow, I did have an impact after all. Because I learned that my years weren’t put to waste.

But beyond all that, I felt very blessed. I am very blessed, infinitely. It’s unbelievable, how a sinner like me can still bask in the grace of God.

I’ve always thought I’d cry on my 18th reason for precisely this reason:

I cried on my 18th birthday. I thought 17 was such a nice age. You’re young enough to get away with things, but you’re old enough, too.

Liv Tyler

And I did cry but for a very different reason altogether: Love. I never thought I was capable of being loved that much. Yet another surprise. I think I’ll never get used to being surprised but, anyway, that’s part of life.

My heart swells with love and gratitude for the closest people in my life. My mom, the one I will forever owe my life to. My dad, my best man. My siblings, Eia and Vince, who are champions on being simultaneously annoying and adorable and wonderful and sweet. My grandparents, Mama and Papa, who will always be another set of parents to me (and they are grand!). My aunts and cousins, particularly those who comprise my Heart-Diamond Co. Diya, my biggest brother (literally and figuratively, haha), and the Balaoro sisters: Tita Gie and BB, plus Porschia, the boxer (my girls). Yaya, for the unparalleled jokes, and Tita Cathy. The Aliman family, always a joy to me, awesome road trips included. My friends: Block 15, all of them crazy and beautiful and nothing but great company. DDM Batch 2016, my new family. AOM 0910, another nonbiological family (which I dearly miss). Imma, who has been around even when I’m not. My dormmates, and our unending debate on who the first honor is (which is me, majority of the time, hahaha). I love every one of you. Thank you, always.

And of course, Jesus, without whom I will never be here in the first place. Thank you for your love, the greatest love of all, the love that saved, and still saves, me. ♥

Yes. 18 is just the beginning. 🙂

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