My Belovèd Sisters
Photo taken on December 24, 2004, during my family's yearly Christmas get-together at our home in San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines: My belovèd sisters, Niña Rica, 21, Karen, 28, Kimberly Mae, 24, and Lovella, 30
I'm so blessed for having beautiful, loving, and, most of all, family-oriented sisters—who never fail to remind me of my brilliance when I'm in self-doubt, of their all-out support for my decisions, of their love when I feel down and alone, and of their acceptance in case all else fail where I am.
I was only three years old when my first sister was born on September 29, 1974, at Pasay-Parañaque General Hospital in Baclaran, Pasay-Parañaque boundary; so I can no longer remember specific moments except for a scene in which I was with my father on our way to the nursery; my father then carried me so I could see our newborn baby through the glass window of the nursery. I know how really excited I was for finally having had a sibling. My father named my first sister Lovella, rhyming with our surname, Mella. We (her family and friends) fondly call her Lovel or Lovelle, while our cousins on the paternal side call her Lovely.
My second sister, Karen, was born on August 17, 1976, also at Pasay-Parañaque General Hospital. The most distinguishing feature Karen had as a baby was her chinky eyes. Karen's appellation would have been Marinella, a name my father thought of, again to rhyme with our surname. However, according to my mother, my maternal grandmother insisted that the baby's name be changed to Karen, which Grandmother derived from the name of an international-beauty-pageant contestant that year. I'm unsure yet I supposed it was either Miss Germany Karen Fastner (Miss Europe Pageant 1976) or Miss Australia Karen Jo Pini (Miss World 1976).
I was the one who accompanied my mother to Pasay City General Hospital on the dawn of December 3, 1980, when she said she felt she was already giving birth to my third sister. I was in fourth grade at St. Mary's Academy, Pasay City. While my mother was in the delivery room, I was a barely ten-year-old buying the provisions on the list my mother gave me, there at the stores along Libertad Street in Pasay City. When I returned to the hospital, my mother was already in the ward; and a very beautiful, fair-complexioned, dark blonde–haired baby was lying beside her. I couldn't believe at first that it was my newborn sister; I thought my mother was kidding me; I surmised the baby belonged to the younger-looking mother occupying the bed beside my mother's. That was how beautiful my third sister was—I couldn't believe she was a sister of mine—although, she eventually grew up looking as if she was a female version of me—a reality I've long accepted, and with which both Kim and I continue to delight. Then, my mother told me she was yet to think of a name for the baby. She asked me for a suggestion; it was then that the name printed on the box of tissue paper on the table had caught my wandering eyes: Kimberly-Clark. I said: "Kimberly!" Mother responded: "That's a beautiful name. Let's add Mae." I smiled and then stared back adoringly at my cute newborn sister and said: "Hello, Kimberly Mae."
I was there during the very moment my mother was giving birth to my youngest sister, on September 6, 1983, at a lying-in clinic in Bangkal, Makati, Philippines. I wanted the baby to be a boy (for an obvious reason), so I was wide-eyed in awe when I saw something long sticking out of the baby's body: I thought it was a penis, but it turned out to be the umbilical cord. Nevertheless, I felt happy for having had a new baby in the family. Mother and I were the ones who thought of names to be given to the baby: If Niña Rica had not been chosen, you would have surely been calling my youngest sister Maurice.