this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on March 11, 2000. 

Nigel was the black sheep in our family. He was stubborn, devious, loud-mouthed and short-tempered. But that was before he met Elaiza.

When we were kids, almost everyone in the block had something against Nigel. He would cheat at every game he played, be it patintero, agawan-base, tumbang preso or pen pen de sarapen. He would always find a way to outsmart his playmates and leave them crying.

Of course, his poor playmates would turn to their parents for help and consolation and the parents would complain to our parents. Our parents, in turn, would deliver a very long sermon, but do you think Nigel listened? Not at all. Instead, he would pull other tricks-this time on the parents of his playmates. He would let loose the pigs of our neighbors, tie their pet cats to a tree, give their dog a new hair-cut, pull their root crops or pick the fruits in their backyards.

When he reached high school, Nigel grew even wilder. He often cut classes and hang out at billiard halls. He would get his allowance ahead of time and bet on the latest game to hit town. He smoked and even sampled marijuana. Hardly a day passed when he didn’t get into a fistfight. Whether he started it or not, it didn’t matter. He always seemed to attract trouble.

Then he discovered girls. Although he is not as good-looking as Aga Muhlach or as cute as Rico Yan, somehow he would always get the best-looking girls. I pitied them, knowing that they would end up with a broken heart. Nigel seemed never to be contented with any relationship. He ruined it by taking the girl for granted, chasing another girl or simply giving all his attention to his barkada.

His college days were as turbulent as his formative years. He finished a two-year course in five and only after going through three different schools. After graduating, all he did was bum around, drink with his buddies, party all night and chase more girls.

After what seemed like an eternity, he thought of looking for a job and got a one-year contract as a member of a ship’s crew. What a relief it was to our parents when he finally took off, for they thought he would finally help them out financially.

Wrong! After months and months of waiting, all he sent was a postcard. Moreover, whenever he called us, it was either to ask for money or to tell us that he got suspended for again practicing his bullish ways.

When he came home, he was completely different from other returning overseas workers. He hardly had any money in his pocket. All he brought for his siblings were chocolates bought from the duty-free shop-no jewelry for his sisters or imported cigarettes for his brothers.

The reason for this I learned from the stories he told to his buddies about his adventures in foreign lands. He had hooked up with a number of foreign girls, and they loved his charming and generous ways. He described how a Swedish girl differed from a German girl-the way they laughed, the way they smiled when they’re about to ask for something (he gave them almost anything they wanted) and, of course, their physical attributes. (At that point, I stopped listening to their conversations.)

When he came back after finishing his second contract, Nigel had more “conquests” to boast about. Aside from having a steady girl in Manila, he also had a girlfriend waiting for him in Australia as well as a Pinay girlfriend in Hong Kong. I had the impression that he was generous toward the three girls since he didn’t have any money again when he returned home.

It took a while before he got his work contract renewed for a second time so he went back to his old habit of partying all night and sleeping all day. This went on for about nine months. Then one of his buddies asked him to go to a relative’s wake and there he met Elaiza.

Elaiza is like a light to Nigel’s dark life. Her face is as calm as the bay on a windless summer night. She has long shiny hair, big brown eyes and sweet, red lips. She’s a fascinating woman and so intelligent that she can talk about almost anything under the sun. She’s very open with her life and can accept criticism graciously. She’s a professional holding a high position in the provincial government.

After the wake, Nigel couldn’t seem to have enough of Elaiza. He couldn’t stop talking about her.

At first, I pitied Elaiza, thinking she would wind up as just another of Nigel’s many conquests. But being with her changed Nigel in many ways. For instance, when he invited her to our house, he would cook for her. And I didn’t even know my brother could cook. Quite often he would go to a corner to compose, of all things, poetry. Now, that’s something really extraordinary from someone who cannot stay in one place for even a minute and from someone who doesn’t like writing.

As the days passed by, Nigel spent more and more of his time at home, helping his siblings do their homework. He would talk to us for hours, giving us his full attention. He spent the morning helping mother in the garden while in the afternoon, he would be with father helping run the family business or giving suggestions on how to improve it. Apparently, he had become interested in making and saving money for the future.

Being with Elaiza also tested Nigel’s patience. He waited for her to finish her work and carry her things for her. And Elaiza got him to hear Mass every Sunday.

When the time came for Nigel to start working abroad again, we were greatly worried that he would revert to his old ways. But he didn’t. He wrote regularly to each of his seven siblings and asked how we were doing. He shared his thoughts with us and encouraged us to tell what we wanted as pasalubong. He also sent a third of his earnings to mother and saved whatever he could for himself and Elaiza.

When he came back, he lavished us with gifts and his attention. Then he built a house and invited Elaiza to live with him. Now he is preparing to work on his fourth and last contract.

Nigel and Elaiza are still living in and I’m very happy for them. I am happy that Elaiza is now part of our family. It’s not that I am pushing for live-in arrangements, but I have nothing against it. It’s their life and even if Nigel is my brother, I don’t intend to interfere with his life. Elaiza has changed Nigel in a way nobody in our family ever had and we are very happy about it.

I hope that they will marry someday and give me a beautiful niece or nephew. But for now, I’m just glad that they found each other. They are a perfect example of how love conquers all. Their relationship has changed Nigel, my once domineering, selfish and bossy brother. 

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