Churchill G. Aguilar

Remembering Ate Bem

By Churchill G. Aguilar

This article first appeared in the Sun*Star, Cagayan de Oro City, on 17 July. It is slightly edited here. The author was in the Columban College Formation Program in his college days, when he studied at the University of San Carlos, Cebu City.

Editor’s note for non-Filipinos: ‘Ate’(AHteh) is a Tagalog term of affectionate respect for an older sister or for a woman to whom you relate as to an older sister.

In her illness, I saw strength: a paradox I witnessed in the life of my eldest sister, Ate Bem.

At age six, Ate Bem was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease. Since then, the hospital had been her second home, yet it never took the smile off her face.

Ate Bem was very determined to live a normal life. Even with her absences from school, she always managed to be an honor student. She never made her illness an excuse to escape from her responsibilities as the big sister to her five siblings.