by Trisha Balan
Filipinos are fond of nicknames. I have quite a few. My name is Trisha but I am called Shasha, Chubs, Twizzie, and many others that I would not like to discuss. My favorite nickname, however, is Ate Trisha, which translates as "older sister Trisha." It was given to me by my 45 younger siblings.
In the gritty, crowded heart of Metro Manila, tucked away from the expensive high-rise buildings and suburban paradises of the middle class, there sits an impoverished community, surrounded by mounds of garbage and decay. This small community is called Payatas and it is home to my 45 little brothers and sisters. They are not related to me by blood, but they are my family through Tulong Sa Kapwa Kapatid (2KK), an outreach organization that aims to provide more opportunities and values education to the youth in Payatas. Every other Saturday, I am given the chance to guide and teach these children life lessons they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. For the past four years, I have learned to become a teacher, a guidance counselor, an event organizer, a playmate, a friend, and an older sister to these kids. Payatas proved to be my best classroom. I might not have learned how to solve algorithms or how to analyze a villanelle poem, but I did learn how to be all these things for my brothers and sisters. Being an older sister is my talent and it is my passion. As the youngest in my biological family, I never thought it was something that I would be good at, but I soon discovered that caring for others is something built within me. As Ate Trisha, I get to see into the minds of my little brothers and sisters. I learn about their lives, discover their dreams, and I grow to care about them. As an older sister, I think of myself less and it gives me purpose in life.
Despite my interest and my passion for this cause, more than once, my friends and even members of my family have told me to quit my organization and to pursue different interests. They believed it was a waste of my time to be with these kids, that I had nothing to gain from being with them. What they said was true, I had nothing to gain, but I did get to find out who I was. I could have done a lot of other things if I was not involved with these children. I would have led a very different life, but I do not regret it. I love being Ate Trisha. I became who I am because of my little brothers and sisters.
Gandhi once said, "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." I was lucky enough to find myself through these kids. Being Ate Trisha makes me feel close to them and it makes me feel unique. They have given me my identity. Being an older sister may not sound special, but to me it is. After all, who else can say that they have 45 younger siblings?
To be an "Ate" or a "Kuya", a Kapatid, you can volunteer here.