A tribute to the real superheroes

A few days ago, I posted this photo of Robert Downey, Jr. as my profile picture on Facebook.

In all honesty, I’m very honored (enough to want to photoshop myself into a photo) to share the exact same birth date with the person who got me into the Marvel movies. I’ll never forget the high I got from watching the first Iron Man back in 2008, and DC made that year even more memorable when they released The Dark Knight– the film that remains to be my favorite superhero movie of all time.

I love superheroes. I imagine how dark the world would be without them. They don’t just save the fictional worlds where they’re written to exist in, they save the real one from plunging into what I imagine to be a sad and hopeless one. They make the world a better place because we know, on some level, that they exist. And they don’t just do good, they inspire others to be good. To be better or be the best versions of ourselves, even.

I love superheroes. So much that, when I promised myself that this would be the year I’d have a small party for the kids of Kythe, it was clear to me that it had to be the theme.

I’d been entertaining the idea of having one for years but this year, in particular, I felt that something was egging me to finally make it happen. There were too many signs and I’m the kind of person who believes that things don’t just happen by chance.

I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that the second installment of the Avengers is coming out on April 22, while DC is celebrating 80 years with a giant celebration in the Philippines on April 18. I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that two very close friends of mine who share the same birth month (one of them, even the same birthday!) are also part of Kythe-Ateneo– the same organization that caters to children with cancer.

So, while I was sitting down planning for the next quarter of the year, I immediately got in touch with my friends, Elijah and Issa, to ask if they were game for it. They didn’t even take a second to say, “Yes!” The next few weeks turned into visiting NCH and meeting our old hospital coordinator Ate Maryan, spending a day in Tutuban buying props, giveaways, and DIY costumes, and inviting a small group of friends who were just as game to perform, interact, color, take photos, and sing, all of which, with and for the kids.

Looking back and now that it’s over, it amazes me on how everything came together in the end. So much had happened in the span of two weeks.

I spent a day in Divi buying cloth by the yard just to cut it into capes with two very good friends.

I saw a mother helping make a costume for her son

and a father who willingly put on a cape to make his barely three month old daughter smile.

I watched people who had never been part of Kythe talk and play with kids as if they had been doing for years

and saw an old Kyther who slept at 3AM the night before just to finish a costume for the kids.

And, as for the kids themselves, I witnessed child after child smile and pose as if they were invincible to the pain of needles and sickness.

They will always be the bravest people I will ever meet.

It’s people and moments like these that remind me that superheroes are larger that what’s seen on the big screen or in the person of Robert Downey, Jr. They’re here, and they are very very real. These friends, who had commitments for work and med school, still spent a Saturday afternoon at a hospital in full costume and helped distribute food and put on a show for the kids, these parents who tirelessly work to take care of their children and still find the time to put a cape on and color pictures with them, and, most especially, these kids, the bravest of them all, who fight big words like ‘cancer’ and ‘needles’ every day, and still smile up to their ears– they are the testaments to what it means to be superheroes.

I suppose that’s why it’s so easy for me to love the idea of superheroes: because I’ve already met so many of them. These good people, they are the real superheroes; and getting to spend an afternoon with them made this birthday all the more special.

So, thank you.

From the bottom of my 24-year-old heart, thank you.

* Author’s note: All photos are c/o professional photographer and good friend from college, Matt Lee. Despite having a shoot he had to rush to in MOA, he spent part of his day just to take photos of this party. As I said on FaceBook, Thank you for not only giving me photos I can look back on but for playing with the kids, too, Matt. I have no doubt that you’ll be shooting my wedding someday also– and by then, I won’t accept you doing it pro bono out of the goodness of your heart. Thank you, Matt. You’re as real as superheroes get.

Original non-photoshopped RDJ photo here: http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSldqFSQbf-tq0tM1WxD13MgJcB0uJ_ey6QwygO8DddjmZpFow3kQ Thank you to Krizia Lim for editing the photo!

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