Dadje with sister Jam and niece Jehan
Kulit with sisters: Renee Veronica and Sam
I am another tainted person in a swarm of survivors.
You touched me like you own me and wrapped me around filth.
Am I pretty? Am I beautiful?
Do you see beyond your secret and lies?
The pain in my eyes to see my own reflection
You are the phantom that lies
The Phantom was my grandfather. The bearer of lies. But in my time with him he represented the life we wanted, or so he tells us. We needed him, his financial aid at a time we were struggling and our family is being torn apart by my father’s adultery. He posed a promise to make our life better.
I was a teenager, strong willed but I was trained to bow to authority and he was every bit the tyrant. He made sure we knew we were entering his care, his house. My mother was reduced to a child. It was easy for him to accuse her of spoiling me, I never had to do chores, never had to do anything without her supervision and that he told us, was going to change.
He had me working, leaving me to do things on my own and sent my mother away so that I could learn to be “independent”. I cried in my sleep until he whispered into my ear how I was destroying my mother’s will to be independent herself. That it was up to me to protect my family. That it was my duty to take care of my mother who was going to be our sole provider. And so I took on that role of being the strong one. The child that needs to grow up fast.
For a while I had adjusted to this life. And looked up to him as the wisest person I’ve ever met. He was clearly better than my father who was wasting away in the Philippines and didn’t have that balls to take care of his family. I was afraid and I was respectful, to things that suited me well as a daughter.
I thought about how all of it had led to my being molested. How the little things he did were so he could win my trust. And how the inappropriate things he did were overlooked by me and my mother. I would find him sometimes sitting on the toilet while I took a shower. And how he assured me that this was okay. He was after all, my grandfather. My flesh and blood. The door was locked of course and yet I kept finding him there.
I wish I could tell you I have blocked everything out. I wish I had. But I could not be spared that guilt. Till this day I could not look at my step-grandmother in the eye when she had all been gracious and supportive of me.
It’s hard to know for sure who I could have been and who I was before all of these had happened. I listen to stories about me as a kid and laugh when they are reminded of bravery, of wonder. I wonder if things did not happen that way could I not cringe when someone calls me beautiful.
To everyone else I was a victim and what happened then a crime. But I did keep all of it a secret. One that has scarred me for life. And I have never felt like a victim.
I wish I could tell you that he did not try again when I was older, but he did. At an opportune time where all else in my life is falling apart and my mother was once again pushing me to the door for his help. I felt like I could be the strong one once more but I couldn’t let myself be buried in filth again.
How quickly it had all changed his demeanor when I had stood up. He admitted that it was wrong and that he loved his wife. That he loved me and my mother.
Thirteen years later and I am still haunted by all of it. But it was keeping it all a secret that proved the hardest thing to live with.
To this day I have never told my parents. It is a choice. There had been so many heartaches enough not to add to it and so many problems now not to dig through the past. My grandfather, despite seeing him for who he really is still helping and I welcome this so long as he’s in another continent.
Telling Dadje proved to be so difficult it was like searing pain stabbing through my chest and yet it felt freeing.
There is no life lesson to learn from this that I have learned except that we do all we can to survive and push on. We can never really know who to trust except that we must and that I am trying.