I don’t actually have an older brother, but I had one back in college. His name is Cristopher, Tupe for short. Most people would take one look at him and think that he has “priest” stamped all over his demeanor, and in fact I used to jokingly call him Fr. Tupe of happy pious and glorious memories. But there’s more to him than that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he’s not a good soul because he is the one of the nicest men I know, I’m just saying that he’s not one of those such-a-goody-two-shoes-he’s-almost-boring kind of people.
Tupe’s life story is so touching, it’s worthy of being acted out on Maalaala Mo Kaya, and he could even act out the part of Ate Charo with matching mole and fan, which he once did for one of our classes. He had his share of tragedy. His dad died when he was young. Their family was poor, they couldn’t afford to send him to college. So he traveled from his hometown to my hometown to look for work. Luckily, someone suggested that he try to apply for a college scholarship in Ateneo, so he did and got a full scholarship with allowance. He decided to take up Accountancy, and that’s how we met.
He didn’t really have a fixed group in class unlike the rest of us who predictably sat beside the same people in all our classes. But even though he wasn’t in my “gang,” we became close. He sometimes had lunch with me and Ronald and Cate and the others who didn’t go home for lunch; we would eat meals that cost less than 10 pesos at Roebucks (that was actually name of the shoe store beside the carinderia, but since it didn’t have a name, we called it that). Then we would head over to the library and study or do our homework and in the middle of the afternoon, he would close his book and say, “Gigutom man ko oi,” (I’m hungry), which was the cue for the rest of us to say “Tara! RVY!” (Let’s go to RVY). Then we would head outside the school to the store RVY, where we would split a liter of Coke and 5-peso siopaos, saging prito and isaw all dipped in the isaw’s sauce. Yum.
He is a literary and movie buff – he was the one who introduced the works of Nicholas Sparks and Sidney Sheldon to me, and I remember Pearl Harbor as the movie I watched with him. He is also an excellent writer (head on over to his Checken Counter for a sample) in both English and Tagalog. I once joked that he would become the EIC of a bisaya newspaper that he’ll call Kahayag.
I don’t know how it was always him and me Zenie who came up with the weirdest things together. Like that time we founded OPS – Organization of Poetic Singers, which was for us, a group of people who sang as though they were reciting poems. Eventually we started calling ourself kachoks which was somehow rooted in the word choka (squid) which was related to a certain annoying individual. We were also the ones who started what we called the “gerunding” mode – when we would speak Taglish and intentionally badly exaggerate it, like put “-ing” on English words (hence, gerunds). Samples: I’m so not readying for the exam. I’m a bat. (paniki = panicky) But I’m so sampalok. (tamarind = tamaring = tamad + ing) That was only part of our vocabulary, one that also included the words vitamin a (good for the eyes = crush), omega 3 (good for the heart = a person you are happily in love with), and cholesterol (bad for the heart = a person you love but which causes you pain).
One of my most vivid memories of him would be that time that we were in danger of not graduating on time because of one measly subject and he sat down on the floor and cried. As I tried to comfort him, he told me that it was not going to be okay, and I understood then that while pride was the only thing at stake for me, there was so much more for him. Thankfully, we did graduate on time and with honors. And while the rest of us went on to Manila to review for the board exam, he went home and started working for a bank. He didn’t forget us, though. I was surprised to get a card from him for all of us right before we were scheduled to take the exam. I still have the card.
The year after that, I moved to Manila along with a few classmates. Tupe was back in Pagadian then, but he told me he was being sent to Manila for a few months. I was so excited and swore him to secrecy first so that I could surprise the others with him. Soon enough, when we met in Powerbooks Greenbelt, Zenie and Gay got so excited that they screamed and ran to hug him when he appeared, forgetting that they were in a public place. We missed him that much. He stayed long enough to help us scout for an apartment, volunteered to lend us money to buy furniture, helped us moved in, stayed with us that first night and was still there for the house blessing.
The next time I saw him was on Christmas the next year, and again two years after that. But even though we’re not in touch often, I still love him the same way I did all those years ago. You can never stop loving your brother after all.
Happy birthday Kuya Tupe! I miss you loads!