There used to be two ways to get to our home’s rooftop. One, you climb either of the two mango trees standing tall on both sides of the house. Second, you climb through the stairway-like metal leading
to the water tank at the back of the kitchen. April (my second sister) and I would always choose the first option, especially during summer, when the trees are bursting with fruits. We’d climb the one on the right side of the house, traversing from one branch to another as if God created each of those to accommodate our little hands and feet. At 4 in the afternoon, or 5, depending if there are still classes, we’d bring with us a knife, fish sauce, salt and water.
We would spend the first 15 minutes picking mango fruits. We’d watch people on their bikes pass through the once rugged, dusty highway, while the sun slowly dips over the horizon. We’d listen to our playmates looking for us. It’s time to catch dragonflies, they would say. Or play rubber band or chinese garter or patintero.
On other days, we would immediately join them, but there will be days when sitting on the rooftop is way more appealing to us. Munching on the fruits, we would talk about our dreams and plans when we grow up. I’d tell her that I would support her when I get work. Then she would support our third sibling when she finishes her studies. We’d talk about not having boyfriends 'til we finish college so that the younger sisters will follow after us. I am not sure how we started those conversations. I can only give the credit to our parents who taught us to look after one another.
At 6, we’d hear our house help (who also became our second parent) call our names. She would stand beside the mango tree, ready to catch whatever we brought with us on the rooftop. It’s time to shower and do your assignments, she would shout. By then, the sun has set. We could almost hear daddy in his owner-type jeep, arriving from work. We would then oblige.
When we said our goodbyes after my 1-week vacation in Dubai last week, we had a good cry, just because there is no getting used to doing that. I am proud of the woman she’s become, the sister that our younger siblings can look up to. Everything we talked about during those afternoons is slowly coming to past. God has been faithful. There were plans that did not go according to our timeline but He showed us that His timing is always perfect. The world has become our rooftop, April and I.
There are so much more we could have talked about - her life as a nurse in the desert of UAE, my latest deployment in Indonesia, our parents’ clamor for us to settle down soon, our sisters’ pursuit of their own dreams, but, like in the good old days, we heard the call. ‘It’s time to go down, you have assignments to do.’
Again, we had to oblige. There are dreams and plans we need to work on. For ourselves. For the family. So we hugged, said our I love yous, told each other to take care and that we’ll see each other soon. Like how our younger selves would anticipate the next afternoon, we took our separate ways looking forward to that next reunion, the next rooftop conversation, wherever in the world it may be.