The resemblance is striking. Naturally we make jokes about it to break the ice. April, Katriz and Elmer come from the same family. Like most families, they used to live under the same roof until life gave them challenges which led to their long separation. For three consecutive years, they have lived apart from each other. While April and Elmer were able to reunite a year earlier, today, it is Katriz’s turn to complete the trio. Once again, they will all be under the same roof.
The eldest is April (far left) – a feisty 17-year old girl who has made it her mission in life to reunite her three siblings. In their provincial home in Zamboanga Sibugay, she was the first to flee the household. Their mother died in their early year, leaving them to grow up under their father. Later, after their father abandoned them, they were then sent to live with their aunt and grandmother. They managed to be in this happy household for two years, but after their aunt got married, their peaceful life soon turns into a Cinderella-like nightmare. April’s rebellious spirit forced her to run away, packing only a bag of clothes and a few pennies. She went up to her brother and sister who were both doing chores in the garden to bid them farewell, promising to come back and fetch them. She asked them to promise her that they would wait.
Three years later she kept her promise, but not without consequences. Katriz and Elmer eventually got separated as they followed their elder sister’s steps by running away from their aunt’s home. Elmer wandered for awhile before being “adopted” in a community where he did chores in exchange of food and lodging. Katriz also worked in exchange for a place to dwell – she tended to a sari-sari store (a sort of kiosque) where she was given a small salary. Both stayed in the same provincial area of Sibugay but lost contact from one another, and had to give up going to school to work for their keep..
When April went back to her hometown after two years to fetch her siblings to Zamboanga City, she could only find Elmer, who was now living with a distant family member. Katriz, was nowhere to be found and no one had any news from her, nor had a way to contact her. April and Elmer returned to the Zamboanga, half defeated, feeling completely powerless for their sister.
A year later, on February 16, 2016 April was having her high school prom. Despite the festivities, she carried a painful face that day. Her heart seemed heavy, and even decided not to go at one point. Everyone in our house was used to April’s moods and tantrums, she never allowed herself too much happiness knowing her sister was still lost. That prom night was no exception, but somehow, there seemed to be even more weighing on her soul that night.
Later that evening, April came home earlier than expected, drowned in tears and in a seemingly nervous, frenetic state. Apparently, her long lost sister, Katriz, had called her while she was at her prom. The younger sister had found April through Facebook, and soon the prom was forgotten as they started talking, recounting their lives with intermittent sobbing. Katriz barely recognized her brother Elmer’s voice when it was his turn to finally speak with her on the phone. As the rest of the evening unfolded before us like a telenovela, we came to find out that she was living in Cagayan, the other big city of Mindanao, and that she was working part time as a house helper and while going to school.
That particular evening has been one of the most emotional of the house.
On the 27th of May, our feisty little April, along with Lorna, the founder of Holy Trinity Orphanage and “acting mother” of the bunch, arrived in Cagayan de Oro. The two sisters were finally reunited.
“You’ve grown taller, ate”.
“You have too Kat!”
“Your hair is much longer now!”
They look more closely at each other and make comments on their physical changes. They laughed nervously and sometimes just stood there, lost for words. But they share the same laugh. And the same mighty look in their eyes.
At the end of the day, we all agree that they belong to the same family.