In Catholic high schools in the Philippines, students are required to go on a retreat towards the end of their last year. For two days and a night in a quiet, tranquil place out of town, they are meant to withdraw from ordinary activities including fiddling around with their mobile phones and chatting with their friends. They are urged to use the time to think and reflect on what has been, where they are and how they want to mold their bright, young futures.
Friends and family members are encouraged to write their loved ones palanca letters (letters giving support, and/or expressing guidance), which are opened and read by the recipient on the last day of retreat. In celebration of National Sibling’s Day, I thought I’d share the letter I wrote to my youngest sister, dated 6th of October 2015:
A familiar phase in your life is coming close to an end and I imagine you might be clouded with emotions: sadness, worry, excitement and nervousness… Take a deep breath and let it all flow through you.
High school was one of the best times in my life. I did a lot of afternoon activities, spent a lot of time studying and learning what I could, and most of all, it was the place I met my best friends and had a blast. My heart broke when literally everyone I knew and grew up with left the country and ventured out abroad – I felt alone, different, and never felt I quite fit in.
Having known you, saying goodbye to your friends also won’t be easy. You will miss seeing their faces every day, laughing at all your guys’ inside jokes and sharing secrets. But I’m here to tell you, don’t sweat it. Soon you will realise that college will open new doors and experiences for you. You will meet new people, learn new things and slowly start to let go of this sadness and grow into your own person.
It’s true when they say “friends come and go” but it’s also true when they say “the true ones stay.” Sometimes the people you consider as “friends” will disappoint or double-cross you; sometimes the people you thought you disliked or even hated, will be the ones who are there for you in the thick of it – it’s normal, it happens to everyone regardless of age and only time will tell.
So as you start a new chapter, don’t focus on them or distract yourself with what’s happening externally. Focus on your Self and shining through. You’re probably one of the smartest people I know but the dumbest one at the same time because you fail to see that you have what it takes to be anything you want to be! Deep down, I believe you are destined for greatness and soon I hope you will find it in you to show the world what you’ve got.
Remember we will always love you, be here for you to support you, and cannot wait to watch you fly.
Your forever cheerleader,
There is nothing quite like a sibling bond.