i remember because
Sometimes, I could be too forgetful.
"What is the Filipino term of Literature?" Uncle asked me once and I was afraid to admit that I did not know the answer. Our relatives were seated with us at the dinner table and I thought I heard them drop their utensils as they waited for my reply. I could not say that I only remembered the words tula, saknong, and prosa. How did I remember particular elements without recalling the word that held them together?
He spent a few minutes mocking my obliviousness that I had to hide my face. And I told him, as they went on to consume their palabok, that I’ve overlooked a lot of things.
I reminded him. “Tito, I could not remember at all. Like the Ate’s name that sold my favorite candies by the corner. Diba, you have to tell me her name every time I ask?”
“Susie.” Uncle told me. He stopped chewing the chicharon he had on his mouth. "You do not know and you're a writer?"
I was afraid to be called a writer. And perhaps this was the reason why I’ve been afraid of heading towards that ambition. I can only say that I write because I refuse to forget. There were too many memories to inscribe, and yet too little strength to remember in detail. To write this now means that I am forlorn.
Why would I have to write if there was nothing to reminisce about? To restore? There is a yearning to engrave memoirs on paper -- to have a physical testimony before it fades from your memories. I write as if it is a race and I am left behind. Once, I was asked to describe the scenery from a road trip for school work, but I got too caught up in looking at the sunset. I’ve forgotten to illustrate what the ocean looked like. I only wrote about the dark hour, when the moon was forgiving enough to show that the waters were murky and serene.
Because I've forgotten what it was like to hide behind Dad's back before entering Uncle’s house because I know he'd be hiding and wearing that scary mask somewhere. I've forgotten the particular words I told him whenever I saw him secretly smoking in the garage. I've forgotten the number of take-outs we had to order whenever we visited his favorite Chinese restaurant. I've forgotten all the facts and trivia he's shared whenever he came by to visit, or when he’d feel that it would be a good time to brag about his encyclopedic mind.
And I remember now, that the Filipino term of Literature is Panitikan. The only way I could evoke this word is to recall how he asked. I am writing this now so I could remember the answer.
I think that forgetting could be a blessing.