A few weeks ago, Mama sent a message request on my Instagram account. I never got to open the two messages she sent, just the snippets I saw from the inbox. They read:

“Don’t use your relatives to…”

“We love you more than [ourselves]….”

She sent that after trying to add me on LinkedIn, and a few days after they talked to siblings about me. “God is revealing these truths to us,” my sister Miles said they told them in the video call. “You’re now beginning to see what kind of person your Kuya really is.”

Mama meant that as a derogatory statement, said Miles in one of our secret Sunday meetups at a Starbucks in Calamba. “After that, they asked us if we’ve read the articles on your blog. Kuya Dave and I said no.” Miles smirked as she chewed on the second croissant I got her. “They don’t know we’ve read everything years ago.”

I let out an empty chuckle.

The article in question was an essay I wrote for my Expository Writing class in college, titled “Sick of Jesus.” It was a writing exercise on irony and paradox (if I remember correctly), based on David Gessner’s “Sick of Nature.” The challenge was for us to write about a topic we’re “sick of” but are really passionate about.

I wrote the piece as a critique of how organized religion has painted an image of Jesus which didn’t really coincide with who Jesus was during His time. Like David Gessner in his work on nature writing, I started the essay with “slander” about the faith I practiced.

I wrote:

I am sick of being crafted in the image and likeness of a rule-abiding leader, a keeper of complete families, and a beacon of purity.

Because I am not and can never be any of those things.

And then I proceeded to recount times when I found manifestations of Jesus different from what was taught to me at church. I was always told to imitate Christ because He was uptight, He recognized the dominance of men over women, and He was against the questioning of faith and sexuality.

But instead, upon my own reading of the Scriptures, I found Someone Who loved in a way that was radical and unbounded, Someone Who valued the rights of women and those not permitted to speak, Someone Who found inner truth as the complete subversion of doctrinal righteousness.

And by the end of the essay, I came out—both to the characters in my essay, and to the readers. I wrote: And if, as a Christian, I am supposed to imitate Christ, then this is the kind of Jesus I choose to be.

I didn’t know if my parents had read the entire article. But according to Miles, they had a fight about it in front of my siblings. Because one part of the essay, the part wherein Papa bad-mouthed Mama, happened in the privacy of our Honda Civic. It was supposed to be a secret between me and Papa.

Just as much as this event I’m writing here is supposed to be a secret. By writing this, I am risking being found by my parents again after I ran away from home. It’s the first week of May now, three months since I left my family and never came back. They’ve continued on their witch hunt ever since.

They’ve tried messaging me on all social media platforms, which was how they found my blog probably from my Instagram bio.

When Miles raised the matter to me that my parents found my blog, I’d admit that it caused a mild panic. My hands started shaking and sweating as I handed my payment with a smile to the cashier.

And then I scoffed at that fact. “They’re really gonna do everything they can to find dirt on me, aren’t they?” Miles smiled sadly. The entire time, all I felt was anger at their actions. The crazy extent they would go to find me. Not so they could have their son back, but so they could end the “curse” they told my siblings I brought to the family.

They had to have their villain, their Enemy, use Christian terms. Because that was easier than admitting their own faults.

I told Miles I was sick of them, and not in an ironic way. I was literally sick of their antics and their mental gymnastics and their doctrinal delusions.

After finishing her second croissant, Miles said, “There’s a silver lining, though: They’re starting to listen to me and Kuya Dave now. They said they’re okay with the course I wanted to take.” She spun her fork around the crumbs of pastry left on her plate. “I just wish they treated you like this too. Maybe then you can come back home.”

“Hey,” I said. “You know what? That’s good news. Really. If it ever comes to a point where they become decent parents to you and Dave, then good for you and them.

“But I don’t think I’d consider coming back, be. There’s too much irreparable damage now. I don’t think I’d be able to risk my current peace just for a ‘silver lining.’”

Miles nodded. After that, we talked about everything else except family.

When we parted ways, I gave her the tightest of hugs and told her to tell Dave that I missed him, too, and that I’d try to see them again soon. Then I hopped on a jeepney back to my apartment.

Along the way, my earlier anger turned into something else which made me sick, something that squeezed at my chest and made it hard for me to breathe.

Because for the first time ever, even if it was to bring me down, my parents read something that I wrote.

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