I’m struggling for the right words and thoughts about my other daughter – Stella Marie Isabelle or Aia.
Writing between deadlines is tough for someone who is not an essayist.
Several months back, I wrote about my son Andre – when he turned 8 last March – and later my eldest princess, Ara – on the eve of her graduation from high school.
Aia wryly asked: “Bakit ako wala, Dad?”
To soothe her ruffled feelings, I assured her that she’ll have hers on her birthday which is about an hour away from now in Philippine standard time.
My Aia is turning 12.
I’d dare say that my baby girl is his “Daddy’s Girl” as she’s always there to lift me up when I’m down.
It was Aia who’d always ask me if I’m OK. She could sense when I’m in low gear and she’d spring up and try to flag my sagging spirit.
When I grew my hair long to reflect how indignant I was with the way things are going my way here, Aia would egg me to get a haircut. And when I reasoned out that I can’t find a good barber here in Dubai, she told me that, “bukas, may darating nang magaling na Filipinong barber dyan” and she’ll be praying for it to become a reality.
And that became the cue for me to reconsider and give in to my family's wishes. I just waited for the right time to finally shed my locks and mark a new beginning.
No wonder, my little Miss Congeniality was selected to join her school’s cheering squad and was even chosen as “muse” of an all-girls school.
But looking back, Aia really has the charm built into her system.
When she was still in her nursery years at the Little Angels of St. Therese School in Galas and at St. Joseph’s College, she already got ribbons for being “Most Friendly.”
When she moved to Angelicum and later to the Holy Spirit School in Quezon City, her classmates would gravitate around her as her warm and cheerful disposition was infectious.
I saw her former mates at Angelicum jump for joy and bust their lungs out when they saw Aia at the Sto. Domingo courtyard where we waited for Andre last January.
My baby girl has also taken over and is continuing my life-long relations with the Labayos where – like me – she was “adopted” as a member of the family.
Ara, who was so aloof when she was a kid, has made a turnaround. She was even described in her yearbook as someone who has “built a friendship with almost every being”. I suspect that Aia’s charm had rubbed on to her big sister.
Aia is also somebody who is full of surprises.
Emerging from the shadows of her ate, Aia surprised many in the family circle when she excelled in taekwondo where she rose to become a red belter at the age of 10.
A few days before I left for Dubai in February 2006, she came home with a bronze medal after competing in the Women’s NCAA (WNCAA) where she represented her school.
Unfortunately, her enthusiasm for the sport died down. But her feat still remains my source of pride and joy.
How I wish it was easy for me to get teleported back home just to kiss my baby girl and wish her well as she starts her last year as a pre-teener.
I may be thousands of miles away but deep in Aia’s heart – Daddy’s at home.
Happy birthday Daday!