jam, who could've been my sister.


yesterday, my cousin jun-jun had a reunion party for my mom's side of the family. my cousins bobby, espie, and buchoy showed up with their kids. the kids are my nieces and nephews, and there were a lot of them. it was hard to keep up with who's who. most of the afternoon was taken up by me asking my mom, "who's that?" my mom tried to explain, but there were so many kids that i couldn't possibly figure it out. later, at the hotel, i had her list my cousins, my nephews, and my nieces. even she didn't know all their names.

the only two people i remembered well were jam and buchoy, and that's only because i really liked their names. jam is now twenty-four, a year younger than me, and she has finished nursing school, but she hasn't yet taken the boards, so therefore, she is currently working as a realtor. her father is bobby, who is my cousin, and her mother is a katulong i don't think jam has ever seen. at the dinner table, my tita ampy murmur something like, "she's an american girl."

i wasn't sure what tita ampy meant by that, so i asked. "siso (my uncle, my mom's brother) wanted your mom to adopt her." i was shocked. i looked at this thin, pretty filipina sitting at the far end of the table, not knowing up until that moment, that she could've been my sister. i imagined her sleeping in the room next to mine all those years, and the two of us going to st. ignatius together. but what immediately came to mind, for some strange reason, was a hypothetical argument we might have had once, one where i would've ruined everything by using the lowest blow possible. i would've screamed something like, "you're not even family!" i get a little carried away in my imagination sometimes.

how nice it would've been to have had a sister, though. someone who might've been able to get me out of my shell, save me from my teenage years of gloom and doom. how badly i needed salvation then. i wondered how she would've turned out, though, growing up in the united states. as i look at all filipinos here, both young and old, i'm always thinking about that. how would they be if they were americans? i'm aware that i want simple solutions. i want to believe that i would've been happier had i grown up in a community where people looked like me, ate the same foods i did, knew the language and customs of my culture. but i don't know, and there's no real way of knowing.

back at the hotel, i asked my mom if she would've adopted jam had she known that that's what uncle siso wanted. "of course," she said without hesitation, "i could've sent her to nursing school at sac state." i asked if it would be possible for me to hang out with jam, love, darling, and my other nieces and nephews. "yeah," my mom said, "why not?" so tonight, my nieces and nephews are going to take me out somewhere, to a club, a karaoke bar, or something. i felt a bit isolated at the family reunion, as i can't speak tagalog well, but i really need to know this side of the family. who they are and what they do.

last night, i went to the metro manila film festival with grace. ate paid for us to get in because she really wanted me to see kc concepcion in person. the truth is, i'm not into kc as much as i would have people believe. we saw a couple of stars walk down the red carpet. i didn't know who any of them were, so grace told me their names. kim choo and gary somebody or other. i didn't really pay much attention. we went inside, but the awards ceremony bored us, so we decided to check out the hotel instead.

there was a bar/lounge type place, and grace asked if i wanted to go in. i said yes. there was a crappy cover band in there called sensation, and they started out with "very superstitious." after the song ended, they asked how everyone was doing. the bar was nearly empty, except for patches of old people scattered here and there. no one said anything, and i felt really bad for the band. i screamed, "woooo!" they noticed me and said that they would take requests. i wrote down erasure's "a little respect" on a napkin, but they didn't play it.

right now, my parents are afraid to let me go to a bar with jam and my other nieces and nephews. they are afraid that something bad will happen to me because they don't know them very well. i hope they're wrong.

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