Dear Ilaya and Awit,
Hello,—do you still use that now—I’m your mother. But I’m writing this in 2011, I’m 27, and you haven’t been born yet. (I was also going to say you haven’t even been conceived yet, but if you’re reading this before you can even spell your receive’s and conceive’s correctly, don’t be afraid to ask me baby. I’ll be thinking of the right way to answer it after I write this.) So technically, right now, you are my future child, and I’m writing this from your past.
By now I’m sure you already know why I named you Ilaya, and you, Awit. (I’m guessing it’s one of the stories I’ve been telling you over and over with the same excitement as if I’m saying it for the first time. Please say “Nanay, nakwento mo na yan!” gently, okay?) That’s supposing I really got to name you Ilaya and Awit and was not too in love and submissive to your father to actually let him dismiss my wishes. Ah love, pag-ibig. You’ll learn about it in due time, and hopefully write and paint and sing about it too, and by then, I hope we can talk about it over San Mig Light, and end it with a crisp laugh. Nasa’yo ang huling halakhak. It’s always their loss, my loves, I hope I tell you that often enough, but please do give me their full names. I’ll have them banned in as many places as my GMA7 and TV5 connections can allow. For now, I’m happy with seeing you cringe just hearing the word “love”. Please stay that way as long as you can; I don’t know enough people from NBI yet.
Ilaya, you used to be my pseudonym when I used to write prolifically in college. I fell in love with it when I learned from my Social Science I class in UP that “ilaya” is “hilagang bahagi ng ilog” or where the river begins. I have a tattoo of your name below my right ear, you’ve seen it right? I had it in 2008, I was 24 then and by now, it should’ve already faded. It’s written in alibata; it’s an old Tagalog writing system. I promised myself I’ll re-learn alibata soon; did I keep my promise? (I’ll make sure I do, so I can teach you how; I’m downloading alibata after writing this.) Awit, you’re name’s “song” in Filipino, but of course, you’re too smart to miss that. (It sounds a lot better than “kanta”, right?) You share the same name with Dong Abay’s son, and I hope I didn’t forget to play Yano songs on Sunday mornings. Dong’s a genius, and when you finally believe that he is, please tell me about it anak, okay? I’m sure it’ll be one of my proudest days. And if your would-be girlfriend (you cringe again, I love it) knows of him, she’s already won me over, but I hope she’s courteous and smart too. Call Tatay quick, let’s sing Esem again, and he’ll play the guitar. Or can you play D-A-Bm-G perfectly now?
Remind me to get a monthly subscription of National Geographic in case I’ve forgotten, and Tatay not to get angry when you draw on our walls. Tell him you have my permission and I have veto power on those walls. By now, we should’ve already ridden the MRT, jeep and tricycle together, and you should already be at ease with passing the fare to the driver. (It’s P7.50 as I write this; how much is it now? I really hope I still have the ring I made out of an old bintsingko coin. I’m safekeeping it now; one of you can have it.) May sukli ba anak? Have we gone to Bohol yet? How were the tarsiers? Were the corals in Coron still as beautiful? Where do you want to go next, anak? Ang ganda ng mundo, and I’ve always wanted to travel the world with you and Tatay. Don’t forget your Polaroids and the rule of thirds, and when you get to UP, don’t have a solo picture with Oble before you graduate, okay?
I do reviewers for you during your exams, right? If I forget, tell your Lola about it so I can get some scolding. Brush your teeth before going to sleep, and bad dreams are just dreams, okay? Wake me up if they seem too real, then let’s make another dreamcatcher. Don’t forget your po and opo, and tell your friends to use them too. By the way, do you still play patintero and tumbang preso? If it’s the first time you’re hearing about it, then that’s what we’re doing next Sunday at the Sunken Garden. We’ve been there, right? We should’ve been there a thousand times.
Ilaya and Awit, I’m in the middle of writing my first full-length film right now. I’ve already probably told you about it already (or have we watched it already? Did you like it? The cinematography, how was it? Do you like the sarcasm like Nanay?), but today, I’m just about to do that film. My loves, I’ve always wanted to be a director, you can ask your Tita Mace about it—can you also ask about our Easter Island trip in 2012; did we really go?—and finally in October, I’ll be getting that dream. Finally, anak, finally. I’m not sure if you get what I mean by dream, but I’ll try to explain it: it feels like when you really, really, really want to have a pair of rubber shoes, and you’ve been asking Tatay to buy it for you, but he says no every time because “it’s too expensive” or “we’re in a hurry” or “there’s no size 4 ½”. Then one day, there’s a knock on your room, and when you open the door, you see a box on the floor, with a card that says “Especially for Ilaya/Awit”, and when you open it, it’s the shoes! My loves, this film is my “shoes”, only I’ve waited for it for six years.
My loves, I can’t wait for October to come. I’ll be done with my film by then, I’ll be done with that six-year old dream, probably cry as the end credits roll, and finally, I can start with a new one. And that new dream, it’s to be a mother to you, Ilaya and Awit. Don’t ever feel like you’ve put my life to a halt. I still want to make short films, and maybe even features, write poetry, make planners and notebooks. I still want to learn painting, pottery and glassblowing, but I’d rather do them with you. I still want to go see the Stonehenges and MoMa and the Great Pyramids, but I’d rather see them with you. I can’t wait to finally have you, my loves. I don’t know exactly when. I don’t know if I’ll be good at it, or if I’ll be ready enough when it comes. Mama (your Lola) did a very good job at it, and I know I won’t even come close, but please know that this early, you’re already loved. I’m sure I tell you I love you all the time, and in the future, I’m sure you’ll get I love you’s a lot, but today, on a rainy May 25 in 2011, Ilaya and Awit, I love you. Can I get a hug?