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[Y-SPACE] Ate(n) — Panganay na babae.

By Angela Arreglado

Eldest. First-born; in Tagalog— panganay. In this specific case, let’s talk about being the firstborn amongst the siblings in a Filipino household. A Filipina panganay. The “Ate”.

I’m a 24-year-old woman, the eldest in the family. Born in a middle-class Filipino household with a younger (male) sibling. And yes, all those years it has been raining cats and dogs. Welcome!

Allow me to describe my family. My mom, aka the love of my life, was paralyzed in 1999 while she was pregnant with my younger sibling. Least, I was able to spend 2 glorious years as a solo child with my mom being normal. My dad, the man of my dreams, is a seafarer. And, well… my younger brother— was sort of the black sheep in the family. Sadly, my mom passed away 2 years ago due to breast cancer.

When she was still around, she would tell her friends that at the age of 2, I was already giving her a full bath when she just recovered from her month-long stay at the hospital. At the age of 2, I was already my mom’s caregiver and my brother’s big sister. When I was in preparatory school, I would come home to my brother waiting for me, telling me how much he admires me and how inspired he is to go to school. At the age of 5, when I graduated salutatorian in kindergarten, bagging all the academic awards; my dad would go around and brag to his friends how bright his first-born is.

When I entered elementary at age 6, I was fully aware of the expectations of my dad about my grades and my school performance.

When I turned 9, my brother joined my school. He was in 1st grade, I was in 3rd. As the Ate, I was expected to keep an eye on him. Shoo the bullies away and tend to his school needs because my mom nor my dad cannot come to school. While excelling academically, I also have to be a role model for my brother.

Honestly— it wasn’t hard to excel and be a role model. But what I was not aware of is that this whole scenario that started as early as 2 and the praises that I would get from my parents, my parents’ friends, my aunties and uncles were slowly becoming a personality.

As an Ate, I have to be responsible, nope— I am responsible.

Maybe because I’m a girl and in the Filipino nature, women are usually the more compassionate, the kinder beings, the more understanding creatures. My parents have fully assumed that I am so. In high school, my parents would let me pay for my tuition in their stead. As early as that, I was open to the finances of our family.

When I was 16, I was taught how to cook; because, in our culture, girls have to know how to cook by the time they’re 18. It’s a must-skill, according to the adults, because women need to tend to their husbands, but I don’t exactly believe in that anymore (although I’m a very good cook myself!).

When I was 21, I was already too involved in the decision-making of the family— whether it’s as big as our finances, or as nitty-gritty as our meals for the day. And when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was expected to know the jargon.

Being the Ate in the family is almost synonymous with becoming the Mom of everybody. The extreme sense of responsibility in making sure that everything goes well for all of us is undeniably strong that sometimes, I would talk to my mom and dad separately in order to set things straight and explain as to why things have to be decided this way or that and it’s not always peaceful. Imagine, the daughter scolding her parents!

The slow shaping of my becoming, as the eldest woman in the family, has cultivated a strong sense of responsibility in me— and I’m sure as hell it’s the same to almost, if not all, ATEs out there! The Filipino household I was born into has involved me in adult matters as young as my teenage years. The openness and involvement, that not a lot of other cultures have are what makes being born a Filipina panganay a whole lot different.

Angela Arreglado is a 24-year-old city girl who decided to settle in a small town to practice slow living. She is a local radio DJ and a novice Voice Over artist from Dingalan, Aurora.

YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.

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