Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thank God It's Christmas - But. . .

This is unfair! I was lost in my countdown for the Christmas holiday. To me there's nothing more important than to get myself actively involved in the Christmas traditions in our parish in preparation for Christmas. I used to wait in eagerness for the first dawn of the start of the 9-day religious preparations in church for Christmas, which is on December 16.

But. . . where did I go wrong?

December 15- The provincial government launched the first ever "Simbang Gabi" or evening mass, in front of the Capitol Building. It is primarily intended for the parishioners who couldn't attend the pre-dawn masses or "Misa de Gallo" at the Epiphany of our Lord Parish church. Since it was a first time experience, I attended the mass at 5:30 pm after our choir practice. My daughter Pot joined me later after office. The Christmas crafts displayed were awesome- the big Belen with the replica of the Holy Family, the giant Christmas tree, with very large Christmas decorations, the blinking Christmas lights all around, the giant lanterns, and the Christmas music rendered by the choir- they were all wonderful. The start of the festive Christmas celebration was a resounding success. It was well-attended.

By Christmas traditions in church, I mean the conduct of a 9-day novena in honor of the "Inkianak" (Birth of Jesus) which starts in December 16, followed by the Eucharistic celebration called "Misa de Gallo" or pre-dawn mass. This is sponsored by the Youth Ministry, because this day is The International Youth Day celebration. It is usually well-attended by the youth due to its pomposity.

December 16- Day 1- My count down starts. Woke up at around 2:30, braved the biting cold with Pot, attended the first day pre-dawn rosary and novena, participated in the "Misa de Gallo" or Eucharistic celebration, bought lots of the traditional food- hot puto(Filipino muffin), balut, bibingka (rice cake)- peddled in front of the church after mass, went home, ate breakfast, then continued sleep.

December 17- Day 2- Woke up with Pot at 3:00 am, arrived in church in time for the 3:15 rosary and novena. After mass, we searched for food stuff again for breakfast, and slept at home.

December 18- Day 3- Woke up late at almost 4:00 am, missed the rosary and novena, but arrived in time for the "Misa de Gallo", bought food, went home, ate breakfast, and slept.

December 19- Day 4- Up at 3:10, groggy from sleep, but caught up with the rosary and novena. After mass, the usual food search, breakfast, and bed.

December 20- Day 5- I was excited. Up at 2:00 am. Today was to be my special participation. In church, I joined the prayer group, led the praying of the rosary, at 3:15 am, read the novena prayer for the day, and joined my Jesus Mary Prayer Apostolate choir group. at 4:00 am for the Eucharistic celebration. The Christmas music, was more than any Christmas gift I could offer for the birth of Baby Jesus. I was euphoric, and very proud of myself for this long-awaited come-back. I had been inactive in the choir for so long because I was infected with shingles, a painful ailment that required me to rest for months.

At 5:30 after the mass, we ate our breakfast at the convent- free for parishioners who render their service in the "Misa de Gallo". Since this was Sunday, we waited for the regular Sunday mass at 6:30, in which our religious group is the regular choir. That meant I had to sacrifice my insulin injection at home at 6:00 am. Never mind, it was only for this day. I had sacrificed a lot for the weekly practice, I just couldn't leave the group now.

But. . . it was really unfair!

In the middle of the communion song, "O, Holy Night" (mine is the alto part), I felt a sudden prickly sensation in my left hand. I flexed my fingers, still singing. But the sensation was intimidating, crawling up my upper left hand. I stopped singing, massaged my left with my right hand. My immediate neighbor, Chat, noticed me, I whispered to her what happened and told her I had to rest. So she led me to my seat. I didn't want to stir attention because we were in the middle of the song so I let her rejoin the group. As she did, I clutched my left chest massaged it, bent forward once, twice, at least to induce blood circulation, just in case I fainted. Chat might not have left her eyes on me because, she was at my side again. Sister Mod saw us and joined us. She got her fan, yes, I needed air, but the the electric fan was way up our heads.

It was not one of those bouts of hypoglycemia I used to encounter, I wasn't sweating. I focused myself to stay conscious, "Don't panic, don't panic", I just kept that in mind until the mass ended. I was quite relieved, but I missed the last 2 final songs.

The other choir members were worried, to ease their anxieties, I told them I must have been tired, I needed only rest. That same day at 5:30 in the afternoon, was to be our choir schedule at the "Simbang Gabi" at the Capitol grounds. I promised I would join them and begged them to help me take my ride home. Earlier, after the first mass, "Misa de Gallo", I sent Pot home so she could take a little sleep before going to work. As soon as we reached the church door, I felt the sensation again, I begged those holding me on both sides to stop for a little while, but I hanged my head to my right on the shoulder of Chat.

When my consciousness returned, I was in a hospital bed with oxygen tube in my nostrils. My daughter arrived, alarmed, worried. I just smiled and said my thanks to all who brought me to the hospital. I cried. I was admitted in the hospital.

December 21- Day 6- I had a good night sleep at the hospital. My seemingly constricted breathing improved, I was snoring in my sleep for the last few weeks, according to Pot. I missed my "Misa de Gallo". I missed our second day of choir participation. My Christmas tradition activities and countdown were broken, for the first time in so many years. There I was, subjected to clinical procedures, BP and Sugar Level counts, blood test, for what? The hospital's ECG machine was being repaired. Before the results of my blood test were finished, I declared my checking out. The doctor approved but not until I conceded that I would have my ECG in another hospital and the results brought to him.

So Pot and I went to the nearest hospital where their ECG machine was working. The test result- non-specific, my heart is healthy, not very bad and not very good, too, borderline. I was advised to have another test- 2D Echo. I begged Pot for home, I felt I was well until I heard that test suggestion. I only needed a good rest. Everything would be fine. I could catch up with my Christmas tradition. We went home.

December 22- Day 8- Missed the rosary, novena, mass, and the 3rd choir schedule. When I woke up, my head was light, felt a little weak. Pot got my BP- 120/60. Today was our Barangay Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) corporate mass and offering at the Capitol "Simbang Gabi" at 5:30. I missed that, too. I just sent the visiting members my offering envelop. I was bored. I checked my sites for my blog, Senior Debutante and HubPages.

December 23- Day 9- Pot and I planned to catch up for the last "Misa de Gallo". We missed that, too. I was up early, but I didn't stir her from sleep. She was too busy and tired at office these past days.

Our supposed Christmas holiday vacation to Manila was canceled. Kit was to come home today, December 24. For sure, we 3 will be attending the night mass at 8:00 pm. We will have the usual gathering with our neighbors and relatives. They couldn't wait for the New Year as was first planned. The Christmas Holiday can be held anywhere. The Christmas tradition lives on and on. Thank God, I'm still alive today to say, MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all! HAPPY NEW YEAR, too.














Thursday, December 10, 2009

Memoirs of the Christmases I Cherish and Miss Today

All my life, I never missed a single Christmas celebration, not since I was of age to know about Santa Claus and lanterns, Mama Mary, Papa Joseph, and Baby Jesus. I was never sick nor was I away from home at Christmas time. I almost missed one, when my youngest daughter, Kit, was two months old. On the eve of her baptism, a lingering pain in my tummy that I felt after normal delivery, worsened. The following day, at the height of the baptismal party at home, my husband rushed me to a hospital. Back home, nobody knew I was operated on before midnight. Blackened blood clots were found to have caused the pain in my appendix. The slow decay was spitting out poison into my bloodstream.

That was December 26, one day after Christmas. So you see? I never really missed that Christmas, I just missed the fun of my baby's baptism. I have always cherished my past Christmases with my loved ones. This time of the year, I would sit back and relax, lost in the happy recall of those days of fun, of family togetherness, of my humble beginnings.

My Christmases with Tatay (Father)

Tatay to me used to be the all-knowing, invincible man, with a disposition an inquisitive child like me, could lovingly admire and whose many surprises I enjoyed to the fullest. He was my Nanay's (Mother) joy when in times of peace, he was her friend-no-more when he pissed her with his playful antiques. I just wondered why Nanay would react the way she did at Tatay's playful jokes. I enjoyed those times tremendously, anyway.

I grew up in an environment where most of the neighborhood children seldom went to school. But my parents saw to it that all 9 of us, their children, went to school and received good
education. Their efforts paid off. My other siblings graduated valedictorians, salutatorians, with honors, where I had none. Well, I was not the dumb one, I might not have been as lucky as they were. But I used to be a teacher's pet, too. Well, I finally received one- in my post graduate studies. I graduated with academic excellence!

So, it was in school where I learned about the Santa Claus Tatay introduced to us-when I was not yet in school. Santa Claus, the white-bearded, pot-bellied, sleigh-riding old man from faraway land who gave us our Christmas gifts on Christmas eve, if we were good. So I used to try to be very good, at least for Santa to know. I learned about the story of the first Christmas in school, that Tatay was always ready to confirm and many stories about baby Jesus and His family and many things my peers didn't know about.

Perhaps, it was only in our house where a decent-looking Christmas tree stood quiet and stately even if its decors were made of cheap stuffs. The tree used to be a pine tree cuttings Tatay would bring home on his sturdy shoulders, courtesy of his janitor friends at his workplace in the Capitol building. As soon as he had it placed on a strong base, say an empty petroleum can, he would fish out from his pockets some colorful balloons. How we siblings enjoyed blowing the balloons to hang. We would decorate our treasured tree very artistically. I couldn't keep back smiling today over those balloons, because every time the wind blew, out puffed the balloons, to our dismay. Tatay, would buy the next day again.

I would save a few coins to buy Christmas balls , candies I hanged, which I would count from time to time, lest a naughty sibling might pick to eat. I bought some beautiful old Christmas cards in a Catholic school that sold such item to us children. My 1 peso would yield a big bunch of say, 20 pieces of cards, which I tied with thread and likewise hanged. When the wind blew, I would clap in gleeful wonder over the cards turning around and around. Imagine that? In the eyes of a child it was a perfect Christmas tree, and that which I believed would make dear old Santa stop to look for the socks I hanged.

We never bought any of those commercial lanterns. My Tatay and our elder brothers made home-made parols (Christmas lanterns) or lanterns from strips of bamboo, then covered with white or red or yellow Japanese paper. Inside each parol was a candle holder, to be lighted when night came. Oh so beautiful lanterns, in front of our windows. They were everybody's envy. The neighbors would come over just to watch the twinkling parols like stars in the night. Did anybody fear for possible risk of fire? Nobody did! Because Tatay and Nanay kept watch until it was time to sleep.

On Christmas eve, I used to tell myself not to sleep, in case Santa arrived, so I would be on a night watch to see him put the gifts in my socks. I really wanted him to put at least the things I wrote in my letter to him. Santa never seemed to know. But Tatay would say he was too busy to even look. Many children all over the world were also waiting for his coming. But I thanked him, for the candies, anyway.

We would be awakened from deep sleep by our parents to dine together at midnight over hot pancit with puto or sandwich with margarine and hot chocolate. What irked me though was Tatay's habit of making us wait until he was able to distribute a plateful of pancit-puto-sandwich to each of our neighbors. Rain or strong cold wind, didn't deter Tatay from giving out food. I never went out with him, as I was afraid of the dark.

The next day, December 25, we would have a festive meal of meat for lunch, steaming beef or pork stew, or sort of heavy dish complete with dessert, which we enjoyed with unexpected visitors, too. Tatay never seemed to have ran out of people to feed at Christmas time. I grew up into adulthood accepting that our house was a big mess hall for our neighbors, relatives or not. During special celebrations or even not so special ones, that called for preparing of food, Tatay saw to it that we, his children, would be giving food to the houses in the compound.

Christmases with Dad (My Husband)

When I got married, our paternal tradition during Christmases, was somehow internalized in me that I saw no great effort on my new family to follow the same. Like our dear Tatay, Dad, enjoyed the very same things we did. We introduced to my 2 daughters early in their lives about Santa and all that stuff. However, they were very clever, than I was, because they discovered early also that Santa was a hoax, and that Santa was actually Daddy, sneaking out when they fell asleep waiting for the "Ho ho ho ho ho!" and the clatter of reindeers' feet on our rooftop. Santa they said, wouldn't be bringing them candies they could very well buy in the old sari-sari stores nearby, they could have been strange candies, chocolates, and goodies they only saw in foreign magazines as Santa was a foreigner.

Since it was only Tatay and Nanay left alone in their house, (adjacent to ours), we would move in their house for the Christmas "noche buena". Food was much more aplenty then, than when I was young. Dad would teach the 2 girls how to bake cakes and would dress them up with florets, and icing, too. No one but Dad and I would go around to give food to our neighbors. I couldn't say "no". Just like me when I was young, my 2 daughters would reason out that they were afraid of the dark.

We didn't bother Tatay and Nanay to buy special gifts for each one of us during Christmas when we were young. To us, exchange gifts were better enjoyed in school. After all, they would buy us the gifts we exchanged in school anyway. We would keep away our received gifts to open on Christmas day. Not before, or else the magic would have weakened its effect on us, receivers, or so we thought.

But to my 2 daughters, gift-giving was a must. We would go to the big City (Manila) for the shopping. When they were young, we bought their necessities in school anyway, like a new pair of shoes, new school bag, and their favorite- which they would insist to buy themselves, were pocket books like the Nancy Drew Adventures type, What Are Friends For? etc. As they grew older, they didn't want their Dad and I to shop for them. This idea was introduced by their Auntie Nela, Auntie Lina, and Auntie Edna who gifted them, with gift cheques. As they went around the malls for their loot, Dad and I would just sit and wait until they were done. We would then evaluate their items which often were trinkets, a growing up wanted to have. And so, poor Dad would still chip in for new shoes, bags, dresses, they wanted after all.

Once in a while, Dad and I would force the girls to come along with us for the Rotary and Innerwheel Club Christmas Parties to which we were active members. Or to other clubs' Christmas Parties, we used to attend as active members before or just after December 24. I still remember today the last Christmas party we attended, in December 28, 1999. He was very happy even if he was already feeling a sort of malaise in his right side by the hips. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, January 2.

Christmas was never meant to be sad for us. We would go around the big city, in a caravan with my other siblings and their children, to take a good view of the Christmas lights and lanterns that adorned Makati. We could stay for almost the whole night just watching the live Belen (Christmas manger depiction) in Greenhills and wherever we learned of good treats for children. We would go around sore in the throats with our "ohhhs" and "ahhhs" as we appreciated what we saw along the way. I really missed those happy days with Dad.

Today, I would bring myself first to great effort, before I could put up my own Christmas tree or decor at home. Not that I don't want to celebrate this special occasion, but I seem to have lost my festive mood as the season approaches. I often live alone at home, that perhaps, is the reason. I cherish these fond memories of my past Christmases and I really miss a single bit of the experience we had- until this day.

I just can't wean myself entirely from those memories, but my recent Christmases with my 2 daughters are more than enough to make me smile again. They are always looking for ways to make me enjoy not only the season but my life as a whole. We have each other to relive the moments. I have 2 wonderful daughters to share my thoughts with. This alone, makes life enjoyable and pleasant.


To Live Meaningfully, Die for Others (Ampatuan Massacre)

Sometimes we think that there are things we cannot do, especially when our lives are in danger. Unless someone who has a lot of courage and bravery acts on it, we will not realize that to live meaningfully, is to die for others. (Nicdao and Hilario, GMRC 6)

The aforesaid nugget of moral wisdom is lifted from a textbook, Good Manners and Right Conduct, intended for grade six pupils. It would have been very deep in meaning for the very young clientele to understand if there was no supporting story for it. Indeed there is one.

Robin Garcia: The Boy Who Died for Others

Young Robin was a student of the ill-fated Christian College of the Philippines in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. This entire building collapsed as a result of the killer earthquake of July 16, 1990. With one terrifying jolt, it went down without warning and with it were its occupants, students, teachers who were probably wrapping up for the day's lessons because it was 4:16 pm when it happened. The earthquake rocked the whole of Luzon. I experienced its deathly intensity and still fear its threat to life and property to this day.

Robin was trapped in the ruins like most of his schoolmates. He was slightly hurt. After a moment of shock, he mustered calm and sought his way out. He could have went home for safety, but he didn't. When he heard voices crying in pain and shouting for help, the boy didn't hesitate. He scampered back into the ruins, plunged into the maze of rubble and emerged with bodies of his classmates. He did so again and again and saved many lives. But on his last attempt, he stepped on a concrete slab that gave way. He went down with it, and was pinned down under. Rescuers who found him rushed him to a hospital, but his injuries were fatal, he didn't make it- he died.

The young boy is now enshrined in the hearts of the schoolmates he saved. This memorial by Nicdao, et al, will forever be etched in the hearts of Filipinos, young and old alike. His courageous action will be emulated by the young who will turn hopefully into brave adults.

Definitely, there were others like him in that disaster area who offered their lives for others to live. In fact, in our daily existence, there are heroes and heroins, known and unknown, whose courage and bravery touch our lives. Calamities, tragedies, accidents, natural and man-made disasters- create extraordinary people with exemplary characters we will always remember in this broken world.

Must people, especially the ones so young, really have to die, in order for the others to live? Then if the answer is yes, I would add here that we don't necessarily have to die, if we want to live a meaningful life for ourselves and the others. We just look around us, open our eyes wide for the opportunities for us to live a meaningful life.

One such rare opportunity to show one's courage to help others in order for one to live a meaningful life, is to get involved in the speedy solution to the Ampatuan "backhoe" massacre that happened last November 23 in Maguindanao, in southern Philippines. 57 innocent people were butchered and dumped by a government-owned backhoe in a mass grave by an alleged 161 militiamen who are private armies of a feared and powerful clan, the Ampatuans. The dastardly act was perpetrated by no less than the Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. He shot at close range the dead and the dying to be sure they were indeed dead, as alleged by witnesses to the crime. The gory scene shocked the whole world.

The brutal crime committed by a private army of a warlord in one of the election hot spots in the country was proof of the barbaric impunity by which the perpetrators can kill and even try to hide the crime as if no law can be applied to prevent them from committing such brutal act in broad daylight. ( Kelly M. Delgado, Secretary General of Karapatan, a human rights group based in Davao, southern Philippines).

Genalyn Mangundadatu: The Housewife Who Died for Others- the Filipinos

Genalyn Mangundadatu, was a dutiful wife, endowed with exemplary courage and bravery- but she died a cruel death in the hands of her province-mates along with 56 others- innocent women, lawyers, journalists, and motorists who happened to be in the vicinity of the planned massacre. Yes, it was planned, so that her husband, Vice Mayor Esmail Mangundadatu, with honest belief that probably if it were some women he sent to file his certificate of candidacy for governor, and with that number of mediamen- all 30 of them, and two lawyers, no untoward incidents could happen, much less, killings. The filing was projected to be sensational because the powerful Ampatuans won juicy seats in government without contenders since 2001. They wedged such power and clout that no one was brave enough to run against them. And so, 30 journalists joined the six-vehicle convoy. They were flagged down at checkpoints intended to prevent them and were waylaid from the highway.

They didn't go unprepared. One of Mangundadatu's two slain sisters made a secret audio recording of the horrifying attack. He instructed her sister to turn it on as soon as they left. It was hidden in her socks when his wife and relatives went to the Commission on Elections office in the town of Shariff Aguak to file his COC. The device was recovered by the police. Genalyn was able to call her husband to tell him that they were flagged down, she was slapped.

Stories of the victims' families of their slain loved ones, trying to call for help are ripe in the news. Manila Bulletin reporter, Alejandro Reblando, tried to call but failed to gain attention from 2 high-rank military officials and police officers before the massacre. He dialed the mobile phone of ARRM police director Umpa. The phone was ringing but the call was left unanswered. They were butchered like animals, dumped in a mass grave along with the vehicles crashed by a government-owned backhoe, bearing the name of Ampatuan, Sr. When their bullet-riddled battered bodies were later found in the crime scene, 20 out of the 27 women were alleged to be raped before they were mercilessly killed.

The whole world is watching us. 18 days today, from the day of the massacre, justice for the victims, is yet to be served. The alleged perpetrators are rounded up, all right, but the investigation is in snail's pace process. As if the puzzle would be an unending question as to who are the perpetrators, the government investigators slowly unravel yet more heinous atrocities committed by the suspected planners and executors of the crime even as fearful people refuse to come out to serve as witnesses. They are afraid of retaliation and they lack confidence in the government's resolve to place the culprits in jail.

The "backhoe" massacre of 2009 where 57 people were killed, is incomparable to the latest discovery, the so-called "chainsaw" massacre of 2001 where around 250 people were chainsawed and buried alive when the Ampatuans began their rise to power. The alleged "killing fields" are still there. The whisperers are in tight security until this issue is dealt with. They fear for their own lives and for their families and relatives. According to these whistle blowers, they now feel safe with the imposition of martial law by President Gloria Arroyo in the strife-torn province of Maguindanao and are now willing to talk. The president herself was blamed for ignoring the incident- she is an ally of the Ampatuans, and the Ampatuans are her staunch supporters who deliver rich votes to her ruling coalition. Every Filipino voter will never forget the case of the "Hello, Garci" tape, where she used her power to influence votes in her favor.

Proclamation 1959, declaring martial law in the province of Maguindanao, for whatever the president intends it for, is receiving a lot of criticism. The leftists are accusing the rightists believed to be in collusion with the president who they accuse of having found a venue for a hidden agenda- to declare a failure of election, and to prolong her stay in office and power. It should be noted here that at the time that the massacre was making waves in the air, President Arroyo beamed on TV as she showed her certificate of candidacy for congresswoman in her hometown Pampanga, a first of its kind for a past president of the land to stoop so low as to seek lower position in government. The issue of immunity from crimes she and her family had allegedly committed while in office, is one reason, the other, to influence the House of representatives to give her overwhelming support in her pursuit of an illusive agendum- the Charter Change or "Cha-Cha".

Some high-ranking officials are now crying "foul" in almost every move of the president. Her declaration of Proclamation 1959 or martial law almost 2 weeks ago, is being condemned to be illegal, it has no constitutional basis since there is no rebellion nor a proof of attempts to overthrow government. If this is not revoked, she will have a precedent that will give her the power to declare martial law anywhere in the country without constitutional bases, she could stay in power, as long as she wants, too. The ghost of the 1972 martial law that ruled for 20 fearful years in this country still haunts the suspicious public. The joint session of the Senate and the House, that has started to convene as of yesterday, holds the key to said allegations, if true. But the plead for revoke is just secondary to the budget hearing the joint session will undertake. Let's just keep our fingers crossed.

The dead must now be writhing in pain in their spirit world, waiting for appropriate justice for them. Someone, or everyone who is tasked to probe the murder issue must have a lot of courage and bravery, to arrive at a swift and fair trial for the perpetrators and eventually for justice to be served for the peaceful repose of the victims' souls.

Yes, this is the best time for the president and her advisers to show the whole world that they are not sitting on the massacre issue and to deal with the Ampatuans in the strictest application of due process not with "kid gloves". This is everybody's chance to die in themselves, forget their personal motives, and come out honest and clean with their conscience. Likewise, all politicians with private armies must dismantle such. CVO's, militiamen, private citizens, and all who are possessing illegal firearms now know the bitter consequence of this situation that went awry. It's too late to blame the government now for allowing the Ampatuans to run private armies as part of government strategy to contain the Muslim separatist insurgency. If the news running these days are true, the powerful Ampatuans have made Maguindanao their own republic, and with their loyal private armies totalling to about 2,600 and with that cache of warfare materials still unaccounted for in still undisclosed arsenals, they can launch an attack on government facilities and military.

Ranking officials of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines are calling for the people's sobriety, a call for restraint on the part of the administrators of martial law, because biases for and against it can befuddle the issue. They must not abuse the power, it must not be prolonged, it must move for speedy dispensation of justice for the victims. We all can become heroes if we stay vigilant and calm. Courage, my fellow countrymen, means laying arms, to let law and legislation take its course.

You live by the gun, you die by the gun. Must someone have to die again ? How many Genalyn's must still die so that we, Filipinos, must live- in absolute peace and progress?




Video by jinanne on YouTube

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Enjoyed My Century Bangus Fillet at the Cemetery

"Never again", it was almost said in a whisper. With a smile on my face, I wondered if Kit at the end of the line caught it. I was thinking out loud. It was too late for me to recall what I said.

"Ma, I'm coming home this week-end. Anything you want me to buy for you for "pasalubong"? Kit, my youngest daughter working in Manila, called seconds ago to ask what I wanted her to bring home to me. It is her usual way of checking if I am feeling all right, if I name one, I am- otherwise, she would believe that I'm not feeling okay.

"Century Bangus Fillet, please. And lots of them"! I had been tracking the only grocery store here in our place that supposedly would sell this commodity. I failed to see any from the shelves many times. Probably this item is still not in demand. Fresh "bangus" or milkfish abounds in this province. So, why must the people buy canned bangus?

After our short exchange, I sat on my grandpa's chair, (no, not really mine, it was my husband's favorite chair). I recalled to mind the reason behind my quick response to request for this commodity.

It happened only last All Saints' Day. Just when I thought that maybe, my brothers and sisters who live from afar couldn't make it for the All Saint's Day, a special holiday we celebrate yearly in honor of our dead Tatay, Nanay, my husband, and other dead family members interred in the province, a call came in the dead of the night on the eve before the holidays.

"I'll get it." Pot, my eldest daughter, was a light sleeper than I am.

"Who could that be?"- I was half- awake, half-asleep. I'm a heavy sleeper, I could sleep like a log especially when I was tired the whole day.

It must have been a long phone conversation, I doze off back to sleep. I was stirred to consciousness again when I heard the faint click of the night lamp near my headboard.

"That was Auntie Edna", Pot said when I turned on my side to face her. Edna is my youngest sister living in Cainta. "She is worried because it will be the first time, that many of your siblings can't come for the family prayer vigil. Now that JP ( her only son) shows a bit of wellness, he is no longer running a fever and his diarrhea controlled, they will hit the road at early dawn tomorrow"(November 1).

Not a bad idea. I just couldn't imagine praying at the cemetery with only the three of us, Pot, Kit, and I. I hadn't heard about the others yet. But definitely, Sisters Lina and Nela couldn't make it. Lina was under traction treatment for her slipped disc and Nela and kids would visit William's grave. She was recently widowed last August.

After a few moments of silence, I thought Pot was already asleep. Suddenly, she blurted out. " By the way, Ma, Auntie Edna, Uncle Pol, and JP are staying for the long week-end vacation".

Well, if that was not a bad joke. "My, oh, my!" I hadn't done my marketing for any eventuality.
I sat up in bed, figured in mind what to do the next day. "Lanie? or Nena? or Vergie?, Lord please make them available for me. I need help".

The incessant crowing of roosters from the nearby farm made me jump out of bed. I practically pried open the doors of these dear ladies before they could even open their eyes. You see? Prayers really work miracles. They were available, yes!

"Pot, prepare breakfast. We've got early visitors. Prepare everything conceivable by you that I would need for my cooking. I'll go to the market", - with that I felt less stressed. Never mind her whining, I could explain later. When Kit would arrive from Manila, she would take over the preparations, anyway.

I didn't carry with me any market list. It would be time- consuming to sit and think about anything. I started playing in mind what to prepare weeks ago, I wished I still could recall on my way to the market. "Brrr, it's cold and dark outside".

In a few hours, I was directing my helpers on what to chop, what to mince, what to marinade and all that stuff. "Our first set of visitors are coming for lunch, seven of them"- I announced as cool as I should be. That was my in-laws' perennial schedule of visit to my parents-in-laws ' graves in another cemetery.

"No problem", my assistants chorused.

I was washing all the food stuff of vegetables, meat, and fish by the sink when I heard a loud "Quabbbb!" My gas range exploded in a ball of fire! Gas leaked! My presence of mind shot me up toward the cabinet where the gas tank was, I turned off the gas valve and regulator with shaking hands. My helpers were all talking, trying to explain, but I had no time for any further delay.

"We have 2 spare earthen stoves in the dirty kitchen, go get them. We have two sacks of charcoal. No problem". Really? I suppressed my growing uneasiness. I just moved about, as a matter of no choice.

Two burners incapacitated! And we hadn't really started cooking our main dish for lunch yet. I rounded up my neighbor-relatives asking them if they could loan me a burner stove or anything of the sort. I got one! Well, it was messy cooking, but somehow, all went rather smoothly. Kit's early arrival made me hopeful, we could do it.

There was no let-up in our cooking. Finally at lunchtime, while my in-laws enjoyed their lunch, I kept going in and out, supervising the helpers for our menus for diner in the service area of the dirty kitchen. (I wonder why Daddy termed it that way when this alternative kitchen of ours is always clean?) Thank goodness, our first set of visitors didn't have any suspicion that we were caught in a tight dilemma. My in-laws stayed for a while after lunch. When they finally left, I said, " Success! Hahaha!"

Sweating from the heat of the stoves, and aggravated by the grill for the fish roast, we had somehow overcome the difficulties. At 5:00 pm- all was set on the table. I advised my daughters to go to the cemetery ahead because by then, our relatives would be arriving there one-by-one, group by group, or worst- in droves as the usual case every year. As I stood there to size up the quantity of food laid on the table, I asked myself. "What if after all , many are coming to dine with us? ". I really couldn't tell. My helpers left except Lanie to whom I gave instruction that should any visitor come, she knew what to do in my absence.

I looked over the pantry. "Hmmmm, got lots of canned goods for extenders". I let my mind rest in peace. I even hummed an out-of-tune lullaby as I went by my last preparation. That one burner gas stove saved me from puffing my eyes out kindling the messy charcoal. Satisfied at last with my table setting and presentation, I left for the cemetery after leaving proper instruction to Lanie.

Funny, but when I arrived at the cemetery, I would have been happy with all those people visiting our parents' graves, but I was fidgety instead. What if all these people will be invited by Edna or by Mar? It was customary of us to invite relatives since this was one of those few times they could strike conversations for updates in the family. We had our family rosary and prepared for the night vigil. I was somehow awaken from deep reflection when Mon, my Sis Edith's eldest son said, "I'm hungry. Could we eat?"

Before I could say, "Follow me, we're dining at home", Edna said she would prefer to eat at the cemetery, after all, her family wasn't going back to Manila that night. And we could stay longer for the vigil. The Halloween Party will be held at the cemetery with our relatives!

When we reached home, Mon, Jong, and Tet helped themselves with the food with gusto. As usual, I was the best chef ever. It was heart-warming- those appreciations made my hard day seem light and easy. Lino, a cousin, appeared from the kitchen door and informed me that some relatives were already at the service area, eating. They were to return to their homes, too, that night. As our tradition, I would prepare packed midnight food for them. Pot entertained them. I heard her say, "Ate Maggie, "buro"? (fermented fish in cooked rice). It is a delicacy of Bayambang where their Ate Aida lives. So sad Aida didn't arrive. Maggie said, Wow, "buro?"

After diner, I handed them packed food in styro. Maggie pointed at the plate, she called "buro" and asked the little still remaining in the plate to be wrapped. "I like that, I really had my fill, but I want to finish it".

When they left, I found out that the "buro" was untouched! Maggie actually downed the Century Bangus Fillet with Tausi! It must have been a long long time that she hadn't eaten "buro", that she forgot its taste. She enjoyed this new bangus gourmet without knowing it, and she is the choicest among my nieces when it comes to home-prepared food.

When they left, it took me only a little time to heat another can of the magic gourmet- to bring to the cemetery. And there, I enjoyed my first taste of the Century Bangus Fillet with Tausi, with my family and relatives. I understood very well why Maggie asked that her left-over be packed for her take-home. It was soooooo delicious! When we started to eat, I couldn't help but smile. I thought that I would have a long explanation to do to Pot and Kit why it took me sometime to open a can when they had long brought home this extender that became my main dish- at All Saint's Day. Meanwhile, I enjoyed my rather late dinner of the bangus gourmet- at the cemetery.

My anxieties over the long week-end vacation with Edna's family was practically put to rest. I had in my pantry more cans of another flavor- the Century Bangus Spanish Style. Yes, "Never again" would I be caught unprepared for unexpected visitors at any time during any of our family gatherings. For Maggie? She'll surely have her day when we would see each other again. I believe I owe her an explanation, too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Hero's Welcome for CNN Hero




Efren PeƱaflorida, Jr.,from the Philippines, bagged the prestigious Cable News Network (CNN) Hero 2009 award, over 9 other nominees all over the world, Sunday, November 15. He came home Wednesday midnight, November 25, without much fanfare. He was welcomed at the airport by jubilant relatives and supporters- ordinary people with ordinary lives- like Efren, himself.

There was no hero's welcome for Kuya "F". There was no media blitz. He was not seen with tight securities afforded only to the VIP's. There was not a single high-rank government official who accompanied him to the awards venue, the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. His big contribution to his country's name was too small compared to the popularity ( notoriety? ) of the powerful ruling Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao, who fared in the recent much-celebrated Maguindanao massacre, that took away the limelight from his honorable feat. But in fairness, I learned that he is to be conferred with the Lakandula order, for being a hero.

Just as he plied the forgotten filthy streets of Cavite City, silently, pushing carts filled with books, tables, pens, and chairs, that serve as his "pushcart classroom for the urban poor youth", he vowed to continue unobtrusively, his kind of mobile education advocacy. His simple but highly respectable acceptance speech, " to serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve", penetrates the heart to the core.

This humble 28-year old teacher, a native of Cavite City, and a true-blooded Filipino, epitomizes the Filipino trait "bayanihan" or the spirit of volunteerism. His pioneering mission to bring the classroom to the poor children in the slums to help curb the prevalence of gang memberships in these areas, is the essence of his advocacy. He was nominated to this world renowned search for a hero. And as he waited for the online voting results, he continued unperturbed plying the streets with his volunteer workers he called the Dynamic Teen Company ( DTC ).

Accordingly, he has over 2,000 volunteer members who are involved in teaching basic reading and writing skills among their beneficiaries, the marginalized children, who may have lost interest in attending formal schooling due to poverty. In addition to teaching them these basic skills, they are taught personal hygiene, clearly, to dignify their lot.

This very simple plan that evolves on a gargantuan effort paid off. Kuya "F" brought home his prize reward of $100,000 where 90% of the cash grant will go to Dynamic Teen Company, a part of which he pledges to use to build a gymnasium for his protegees- the under served youths, while the 10% will be for the church. And suddenly, many have noticed him. He is even eyed to join politics- which he politely declined.

I was once a teacher. I know that Kuya "F", the CNN Hero for 2009, is not embarrassed by the seemingly lack of fanfare over his fame. I'm sure that we both share our opinion over this stigma among teachers, that teachers are the unsung heroes, at least in this republic. They come, they go, they fade away. But this time, Kuya "F" leaves his footprints. Congratulations, Teacher Efren!

Video by rotaractmanilametro on YouTube

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Manny Pacquiao Punches His Way to His 4 F's

Just as I thought that the hottest news has begun to simmer down in peace about Manny Pacquiao, the "Pambansang Kamao", almost one week after he triumphantly brought home to our homeland Philippines, his 7th World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title and had imagined him sleeping like a log for a much-needed rest, I was proven wrong.

There is not a second nor minute in the air and in the internet that I could find news that Manny is now hibernating away in Saranggani with his family and finding solace to his hurting ear, swollen knuckles, and probably nursing his guilt?

The best world pound-for-pound Filipino boxer, who, at the early age of 12, stepped into the boxing ring for few pesos a fight to help his family and to buy his notebooks for school, and who continued fighting for few dollars as an under-aged boxer, recently walked out of the boxing ring again yodeling to the tune of millions of dollars after his hottest performance with Miguel Cotto in a 3-1 favorite, winning an unprecedented 7th world title in the history of this bloody sport.

His simple plan as a teenager, "to fight his way out of poverty", cannot be taken literally now by his countrymen. His lightning-speed punches made his way to his 4 F's- Fortune, Fame, Fun, and Fling.

Fortune-

Manny grew up in General Santos City in Mindanao, a province in southern Philippines. He belonged to a poor family and as a young nobody, his existence was centered in going to school and helping his mother to feed the family.When he started his boxing career at age 15, he lived in Manila with his trainer. In between his training hours and free days, he worked for a living as a tailor, a construction painter and wielder, sold flowers inside churchyards. He became a professional boxer at age 16 because he faked his age at 18 during one of his fights.

His poor beginnings are now overshadowed by the millions of dollars attached to every fight won. His bare necessities in life are now things of the past. The King of boxing now lives like a king, in palace-like homes here and abroad, painting the town red in his most modern luxury vehicles, only billionaires can afford, giving donations to the needy in several digits. His fortune that we all see are just the tip of the iceberg.

Fame-

Manny, Asia's top boxer, has earned for himself addresses of endearment due to his popularity. His name, " Manny or Pacman", has become household icons. The "Pambansang Kamao" title places him to a hero's status. In truth, he was recently conferred by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the Sikatuna award, rarely given to deserving heroes of the land.

Manny Pacquiao, the "Fearless Dynamo", the "Filipino Ring Icon", the "Mexicutioner", the "Peoples' Champ", the "King of Violent Sport"is now on a pedestal he shares to no one in boxing. He is known the whole world over to be constantly moving up his weight class looking for boxers who can endure his lightning-speed punches.

Fun-

The Champ is not "all work and no play". At 30, and with such a fortune, he indulges himself with gusto, surrounded by his handlers , supporters, and fans, spending with them the money he earned from his fights. He has his own share of the wild and wet days inside bars, pool halls, billiards, casinos, and cock fighting arena. He enjoys tremendously, moments spent with his die-hard fans- signing autographs and posing for photos with them. He has joined the world of entertainment, television, and movies. He has become a singing sensation. A day before his fight with Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, he was seen on TV relaxed and waxing a song, with his signature naughty smile. I haven't seen him so happy as he showed.

Fling-

At the rate that he is making money now, pouring like rain, and riding in euphoria on his popularity, Manny has everything money can buy at the tip of his fingers. It's true that inside the ring, he makes a big margin of difference for fighting as a gentleman, for his big heart, for his restraint with his opponents. Sadly, however, there is a seeming crack along his self-discipline, outside of boxing ring. He is widely known as a womanizer. Wasn't he featured once to have sired a child to another woman? His alleged latest liaison with a movie starlet is making waves everywhere. His wife Jinkee's feigned loyalty, in public at least, is heartbreaking.

Manny is punching his way to his Fortune, Fame, Fun, and Fling. It's now time for him to contemplate- and consider in all honesty, this snag in his name. His 5th and 6th F's- "Family", and "Future" must be his priority because when time comes that he can no longer punch his way- it might be too late.



Video by RemusMarkCarballo on YouTube
Source: Reader's Digest, Dec. 2008

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Boy I'd Loved Before

He was a flushing chubby school boy of 17, fair-complexioned, a typical Manila boy, very neat in white polo shirt and black pants, surprisingly shy and boyishly handsome. He was quiet and reserved. He stayed a good distance away from me, that was why he amused me, but honest, I thought I liked him the first time I met him. Nahhhhhh! It was not love at first sight. He was 17, I was 23. He was 5 years my junior.

He came home to spend the semestral break in November, 1968. He was a sophomore taking up Mechanical Engineering in Mapua, Manila. I was one of their teacher-boarders, in my second year of teaching in public elementary school. The acquaintance was casual. Before the week ended, he returned to Manila. We were just friends. Days became months, months became years. He would come home in many unexpected ways. I found myself secretly longing for those visits. We addressed each other "Joe" ( meaning friend ).

He would visit me at our own place. My family, especially my younger sisters, used to ask me why he came often. I told them, he was my landlady's son and we were friends-just friends. And Mother believed me because whenever he was around, he was happy just playing scrabble or cards with my younger siblings. And how he laughed- those loud and boisterous laughs, so different from the first day we met. I would be unmindful of them playing while I continued whatever chores I was doing at his presence.

Some other times he would just show up in school, which of course, I didn't like because I was afraid my fellow teachers might give it other meaning. When I transferred to our own barangay school, he didn't stop his visits. His family used to come, too, especially his grandma who brought baskets of fruits from their orchard, on my birthdays and other holidays like Christmas. She would in jest tell me his grandson liked me. I realized, in my heart, I wished it was true.

He would come home from Manila at times loaded with his school work. I offered to trace his drawings of accumulated unfinished plates for him. My two younger brothers who were studying in Manila taking up Civil Engineering and Architecture, thought it was weird. He was not even my boyfriend. But as years went by, a unique kind of friendship blossomed between us.

Then one evening, during a Closing Exercise in our school, he came with a cousin. During the program, in which I was master of ceremonies, there was great teasing from the speakers pairing me with the PTA president. I was worried because he was there and heard it all. I didn't know he was invited for the dinner by another teacher. The next day he came to school again, in time for our pupils' clearance. I was at the principal's office, too busy to entertain him, so he decided to leave with a word that he had something important for me that he placed on my chalk ledge in the classroom.

I was not very curious about it, so I didn't look. When it was time for me to go home, I remembered. And there- on the chalk tray- was a golden ring. My hands shook when I fingered it. Inside, it read "Ruben". Instantly, I unlocked my necklace and slid it there with my other pendant. I was sleepless that night. From then on, I wore my necklace inside my dress neckline. I was afraid of what my family would think about it. And besides, we didn't even talk about it! I waited for him to show up the next day. He didn't show up, not even the whole summer vacation. One day, when my wits was at its end, I received an endearing Social Telegram, telling me he was busy since he was graduating that year. The telegrams would arrive more often after the first. I wished those were his personal letters, but then I was happy to read over and over again the socialized telegrams.

Then one day he came. He said he had no time for those visits, although he wished he did. He was apologetic. I was waiting for my chance to open up concerning the ring. But I didn't have the heart to disturb his exceedingly happy countenance. I learned that, he was happy because he was indeed graduating and he invited me to come. And in not so audible words, he said I was his inspiration. I felt elated, I agreed to attend his graduation! Just like that. No explanations, no nothing. I was excited!

My parents allowed me to attend his graduation in Manila, but not without chaperons. At the Mapua gymnasium where the graduation rites was held, Mar, Abring, and I sat a good distance away from his parents, so they could enjoy by themselves the fruit of their toils. When he marched in front of us, toward his seat, he looked at me sheepishly. I remembered the ring! Oh yes, the ring! Momentarily, I put my hand where it was- in my necklace around my neck. Goosebumps in my neck, I felt dizzy. I thought of confronting him about the ring. But how and where? It was just crazy!

The commencement exercise was long but I was overwhelmed with emotions, I didn't realize it was already over. He broke away from the recessional, jumped over the barrier that separated the graduates from the audience, for all those people to see. I just laughed because few of the graduates soon followed suit. His parents were seated in the front seats but he seemed not to see them despite my desperate signal that his parents were near him. He went directly toward me , hugged me tight and planted on my lips, the first ever kiss I'd known in my life! I couldn't look at all of my companions in the eyes. But, that was it! We were sweethearts!

Seven years after, I sat to write my love book. It began with a dedication, thus: "To The Only Man In My Life". The old yellowed manuscript still remains in my own handwriting. And it ended, this way: "Today, I'll put an end to this love story. Thank God, that I was able to go through all those hard days and nights I spent on this unique piece of work. Now, I'm very happy I did it. I know I'm stopping my pen temporarily. Love, the future has many yet in store for us. I swear to you our time has just began. Only time can tell when I will decide again to continue writing about our unending love life. You are my love, my life, my everything. I know one day, we will be together to make our own dreams come true. Then one day, I will be inspired again to sit down and write- with you- to fill up the remaining spaces in this love book of ours. 'Till Death Do Us Part." Love Eternal. Signed (in my maiden name).

We were married in January, 1976. He was 24, I was 29. We were so blessed to have each other to have and to hold. I didn't ask for more. He was everything I thought of to be my life's partner. He was a friend , a father, a husband, my prince. We were blessed with two beautiful daughters, Pot and Kit. They were so happily close to each other, that there were moments when I thought I was jealous. Since we saw to it that God is the central figure in our family life, it was much easier to shake off idle evil thoughts. We became closer to God, knowing we were different from the rest, in terms of family relationship. I'll never forget what my eldest daughter said about her Dad, he just gave and gave, even without them asking.

Until that fateful evening, after 23 years of our happy married life- I begged of him to leave. He refused. He cried bitterly. I put up a good front, despite the tears rolling down my chin, the lump in my throat, and the piercing ache in my heart, I insisted for him to let go, in God's name.

And God gave us time to talk it over. I knew we had to. We all had suffered so much, us, his family, his friends, and everybody whose lives he touched. We both cried and laughed from our flashbacks of our life together. I gave him a hearty kiss, I had no inkling that it would be his last. I decided to call it a day at 4:30 am, exhausted, aching, surrendering all to God, despite his last request for another log roll in his airbed. His last sentence, said in his usual careful and most affectionate tone, "Minsan pa sana" (One more time, please). I didn't reply. I heard him sigh "hmphh". I smiled a naughty smile and drifted away to sleep.

At 6:30 in the morning of November 20, 1999, I stirred from my rather shallow sleep, to find out that the boy I'd loved before and will love forever, was finally about to leave. He wanted to say something, his saliva rolling down from his lips and his teeth clattering. I told him, "Hush, my darling, I know everything you want me to know. I tried my best, yes, we all did, but your time has come. Forgive me for surrendering you to God now". Quickly, I told my maid to go to church for a priest. Together, Pot and I, held him in a tight embrace and whispered our undying love for him and promised that we would hold on as always. Kit was coming home from school in Manila that day as she promised one week ago. We cried silently. His tears rolled down, too.

He died in the middle of our parish priest's last prayers. His peaceful countenance , framed inside the shadow of our steel window and illumined by the early morning sun, will forever be etched in my mind. He succumbed to prostate cancer within 9 months after discovery of what caused his pains and listings, earlier diagnosed as UTI by our family doctor. The last 9 months of his life, will never be forgotten. They were the most difficult, but were indeed the best my 2 daughters and I gave him- all seconds spent to enlighten him- through our continuous bible sharing. We forced ourselves to accept his predicament because we were racing with time. I know his doctors did their best. We gave him quality life. We laughed, we cried, and prepared him everyday for his crossing the bar.

Today, November 20, is Dad's 10th year Death Anniversary. God Bless you Dad. I love you.

My photos:
1st photo was taken during my husband's graduation in college.
2nd photo is a picture of the "Love Book" I had written years ago, a gift I gave him, after his two year stint in Saudi Arabia in return for our beautiful dream house he built for us. Pot was aged 5, Kit was 2.

Monday, November 16, 2009

THROUGH THE POET'S EYE

I'm not a poet, but I love to write poems just as I write stories about my personal thoughts and feelings. I know, like you do, that stories are usually written in prose. We also know that there are times when a good story can be told with the richness of words, rhythm, and rhyme.

Few of those good examples of stories in poetry form are: "The Highwayman" written by Alfred Noyes, which is the story of a highwayman's ill-fated visit to Bess, the landlord's daughter; "Lord Randall", an old ballad written by an unknown singer to celebrate the sad story of Lord Randall and his sweetheart; "The Wreck of Hesperus" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a story of sea adventure and tragedy in New England.

Sometimes, a poem does not tell a story. It arouses in its reader a mood, a feeling, or emotions he may have felt but is unable to express. A poet has the ability to see and hear things sharply and describe them vividly. Some poetry is very easy to read and understand that it requires no further study, while others must be carefully examined before it can be fully understood and enjoyed.

Poetry has special qualities readers must know in order to comprehend its meaning and enjoy it. They are the following to wit. After reading, can you tell from which famous poems these lines are taken?

1. Imagery: Poetry uses figurative language.

"Grant him, O Lord, a full control,
That he may learn in heights of heaven
The rapture altitude has given. . ."

2. Compression: Poetry can say a great deal in a few words.

"The lark's on the wing;
The snails on the thorn:
God's in His heaven -
All's right with the world!"

3. Intensity: Poetry expresses deep feeling.

"And so, all the nighttide, I lie down
by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and
my bride,
In her sepulcher there by the sea -
In her tomb by the side of the sea."

4. Rhythm: The regular accent of repeated sounds is one of the beauties of poetry.

"With rue my heart is laden
For gold friends I had,
For many a rose-lipped maiden
And many a lightfoot lad."

5. Rhyme: Some poetry please us by repeating the last sound in each line.

"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree."

Source: Adventures for Readers Book I, Elizabeth C. O'Daly, et. al. , California State series, 1961.


Here, have a look at my attempt to express my feelings in this piece of poetry. Remember this though, when reading a poem, you always have two choices, to get the meaning intended by the writer or to follow your own meaning to it.


REALITY BITES

You greet this day, yawning away
the pains of day before.
Yesterday has its own tale to tell,
but today is a new day.
Arise! - a ray of hope is arms' away,
but hark!
Only the fools see it,
through seared myopic sights.

The great and the mighty,
sprawled carelessly,
under canopied beds.
They lay motionless, savoring still
the Godly taste of vintage wine,
unmindful of the priceless china
that lay broken near their manicured feet.
While their bodies gyrate yet in interlude
of last night's tale of woes.

Do they ever know, of the biting taste
of sufferings, the lone and frail figure in the dark
must brave,
as he waits for his chance, to gather the crumbs,
under the upturned chairs.
the excesses of the night, strewn around,
them cats and dogs feasted on-
to pick unnoticed,
and bring them with glee to his hungry siblings, waiting. . .
with their mouths agape in resigned patience?

Yes, you are right! The great disparity between the rich and the poor is real. It hurts, really hurts.

Photo by: Gustavo Montes de Oca

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FULL MOON, A CHILD, A DREAM


Call me a nerd but I don't call a calendar a good calendar unless it has markings of the lunar details from the new moon, the first quarter moon, the full moon, and the last quarter moon.

It's now November, two months before the year ends, and this is the beginning of my calendar shopping in malls, grocery stores, banks, in search of my item - the bigger one with naturally bigger numbers and bigger pictures of the four faces of the moon- the better. The simpler (no lavish trimmings please) -the best choice for me.

The calendars I used to hang or display at my bedside, beside a mirror, near the dining table, or near my study table when I was a child, were no different from those I choose today which I hang in the most conspicuous places around the house where I can regularly keep watch of the days the moon would begin to show. As a child, I liked to look at the calendars doggedly the way my father would look at them while he waited for his pay days on the 15th and the 30th of the months.

At least, I congratulate myself today that it is a win-win habit I have never outgrown and pays off once in a while. For example, I know that the moon affects the tides. That rivers swell more during high tides when the moon is full. I use it as handy reference to gauge levels of the floods that affect our barangay annually.

So you see, with my childhood lunar obsession you may call me a lunatic, just as you call a fan obsessed with an idol- fanatic, an artist obsessed with his artwork- artistic, etc. I wouldn't mind it at all, really. I just couldn't resist the beauty of the moon.

There was the moon- a full moon, this child, and her dreams. I laughed at how the whole world prepared to catch the historic glimpse of the the first ray of the millennium sun in the year 2000. What difference was there over what I did and still do today, as I anticipate every month, every year ever since the day I could recall, for the glorious burst of the moonlight? The full moon continues to excite me, connects me to my happy innocent childhood days.

You might think it was crazy, but I used to quarrel with my siblings assigned by my mother to prepare dinner and set the table at the time when the gold linings of the majestic moon slowly broke out from the horizon. By then, I would be outside either in our front yard or at the barangay main road with other children to catch the very big moon peeping out, as it illuminated a silent fishpond nearby giving it its awesome sparkling gurgles and gave lively colors to the plants, the trees, and everything including the clear sky. I often got real spanking from my siblings or received a hurtful paddling from Mother for that! It was only me who understood, I was sure of that.

With the glorious light flooding the darkness of the night, I would stand with my back facing the moon, and looked at my shadow. I would wait until the shadow was clearly that of me- the child- neither very long nor very short. So time was important to me. I would stretch out my arms flexing them by the elbows and saw to it that the shadow would look like a bird on its wings, feet close to each other so they would look like a tail, looked at my shadow with intense concentration memorizing every line thereat. And I would look quickly up the sky.

There in the clear moonlit sky, I would soar like an eagle on wings. Although it would only be a fleeting image, I knew that I had fulfilled a dream, to be where all children longed to be- the wide wide sky, where I could stay still, kissed by the silvery clouds and wondered where all the stars, the planets, and the rainbow could be hiding.

I could transform myself in many forms I wanted to. It took my childish creativity and persistence to do that. I could be the skinny scarecrow standing in an immaculately white cotton field. Among my favorites were the winged eagle in its flight to faraway lands and the dreaded man-horse (half-man half-horse) we call "tikbalang" in Philippine folklore seated with knees as high as the chin in wait for bad children to punish. I wasn't afraid of the "tikbalang", you see? I was the good one always on the look out for the bad. I could mimic shadows of my dreams plying the wide sky until my eyes got tired and the shadows began to confuse me. It was then that I would decide to go home, hit the bed, and dreamed of the next full moon to come.

Those were a child's lofty dreams I held on to and cherished all those years, dreams to soar high, dreams of a heroine on a night watch looking for bad boys and girls who pry on the weak and the innocent, and harass them to no end.

In my later adult years, the full moon continues to bring magical inspiration to me, although I refrained already from standing outdoors on moonlit nights for the shadows I loved to create. I just savor the pristine beauty of the moon outside in my garden or in my bedroom through the wide-opened steel windows. At this point I've got a funny experience to tell.

One night, I woke up to see the outside world bathed in moonlight. I was all alone in the house and decided to fix myself a glass of my milk Glucerna. Once done, I heard voices outside which I followed until I came to the main road which is a few yards away from my house. I came upon some youngsters in whispered conversation. Upon seeing me, and after saying our exchange of greetings, I joined them. I thought I noticed we were alone and no vehicles were in sight, the whole neighborhood was deep in its sleep, but I felt lighthearted for this which I had not done for years. It was cold and there was a bonfire. What a night, I told myself! I was lost in our conversation, oblivious of the time.

Then I decided to leave the youngsters, all boys. As I walked on home I noticed that the moonlight had dimmed. Groping for the doorknob, I entered the house, switched on the light in the living room. I happened to look at the clock. It was 5:00 in the morning! That was the moon's mystery and my misery combined! The full moon on its ebbing phase cheated me. ha ha ha!

My childhood dreams to soar high and be the good sister to the least among my brothers never left me, and the child now a senior debutante has become full fledged lector in the Roman Catholic church- a proclaimer of God's Words during Eucharistic masses. I had woven a child's dreams in the silvery moonlight. Those dreams will never last, not only for as long as the moon - the full moon- shines at night, but until the day I breathe my last. Shalom my friends!

Photo by Tina1111

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Childhood Fantasies


In my youth, I painted in my mind a life in the future induced by this song of my childhood, and I sing:

"When I grow to be a lady, I'll be a queen, a lovely queen,
Walking in a garden shady, in gown of green, with silver sheen;
maids in gold and white shall follow me, and suitors of a high degree'

When I grow to be a lady, a fine and noble friendly lady,
Then my Prince will come to claim his own,
And love will crown me on my throne."

Very nostalgic, really! I learned this song in my grade school. My teacher didn't sing well, but she did a good motivation that swept me off my feet. I sang a lot of "kundimans" (love songs) of those times, but they were meaningless to me as a child. My childhood favorite meant a lot to me, with this vivid attachment to it. Every time I sang it in class during warm-ups, my teacher would call out my classmates to render a pantomime or role play. That gave me an inner feeling of pride and satisfaction.

My studies and my household chores were not affected by my fantasies. It was during play that I gave it substance. My playmates and I would sing forever and would render similar pantomimes in varied versions. There were the queen, the prince, and the maids acting out the lyrics, in our childish interpretations. We used to put up an enclosure in our favorite space at our backyard with nipa palm posts and decorated this with yards and yards of "dalakurak" vines and flowers stolen from neighbors' ornamental gardens. We called the enclosure our 'stage ' and made child-crafted crowns out of the flowery vine "dalakurak", a beach vine. We sneaked out over-sized clothes, shoes, accessories to match our costumes. We painted our faces the way a child would apply make-up.

Sometimes some daring eager beavers among us insisted on their own interpretations of the
song that almost always, ended up in trouble. Next thing, we would start pulling down our stage and quarreling to no end. The next day, the troublemakers would be excluded from the show and remained spectators who would harass the new cast. It was time then to go home.

Once at home, I would make my own diorama using a big cardboard box- cut paper to form a queen, a prince, several maids, or add other cast of characters, colored and pasted them here and there, added other features like simulated trees, grass, flowers around my cast in an attempt to present the outside scene at our backyard. And I would sing my song to my own delight until sleep found me. I used to hide my creation for use during wet days when our variety shows were not possible to hold outdoor.

Our happy escapades became irregular during high school years. In college, I was totally weaned from the group because I went out of town to pursue my studies. Few among my playmates made it to college, some married young, the others ended up idle in their adult lives in our barangay. Did I overcome my childhood fantasies?

In college, it took a new turn, at least in a secret way. I tried to live my own queen. I crafted my own dress designs (my mother was a good dressmaker). I seldom wore ready-made dresses, they were expensive during my days of early womanhood. I was choosy in buying my bags, shoes- but not extravagant over them. As I shopped, I would lapse into my secret fantasy, and asked, "Would it fit me like a queen?"

When I became a full- fledged teacher, I became addicted to reading novels, subscribed to "Women's Magazine"and still continued reading fairy tales. I was fulfilled at having vicarious experiences with my favorite characters- particularly with princesses and princes. I used to tell myself that when I grew older, I wanted to be "a fine and noble friendly lady". Did my prince come? Yes, finally my prince came to claim me for his wife and love crowned me in my throne- my own palace I call home.

Have I overcome my childhood fantasies? Nahhhh! Am I now a fine lady? That will take me a lifetime trying to be one. Am I a noble one? Perhaps? Am I friendly? That I'm sure. Yes! Yes! Yes! Mabuhay ka!(Long live!)

1st photo by: Waponi
2nd photo is taken during my wedding day

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WHY HATE WHEN YOU CAN LOVE?


I dislike to abuse my readers' patience but out of the blue I just want to write this blog about the word L-O-V-E. Call it just a fig of my tired imagination, but nothing comes from nothing, so I pray that I be heard and be judged after wards.

Adam and Eve came into being out of God's love of creation. All breathing humans after them were fruits of God's loving command "to go and multiply". Despite the seeming bad blood between God and the first couple, God persisted in love. Couples bore children out of love- whether the children were borne out of a blissful union of two would-be parents or were borne out of wedlock; whether these children were borne as planned or were borne by accident- love was the driving force. When we love another and receive the same love- that's mutual love. When we force ourselves into an unwilling partner- that's selfish love ( or sinful love). When we give love and don't expect love in return- that's selfless love. When we love through eternity as in" not only 'till death do us part', but 'till life after death", that's endless love. Oh, so many classifications of the term "love".

We are all capable of loving as we are of living. When selfless love exists, imagine the beauty of life couples share together as lifetime partners and a happy life with their children as responsible parents. Why don't we go for it, if we aren't that yet?It's a bold decision but it's feasible. Before we close our eyes at bedtime, we lift our hearts to the Lord and say, "Dear Lord, bless me for whatever good I did, big and small. Forgive me for all that I didn't do which I should have done in Your Name, and for all that I did which I shouldn't have done because they hurt You. I love You Lord."

Upon rising in the morning, we open our hearts again to the Lord to say, "Most Loving Father, thank You for this new gift of life, for sparing me from harm as I lied down to sleep. Please guide my thoughts, my mind, my lips, during my waking hours to do as You will and not as I will as a sign of Your love to me, Amen". Once we start our day with a sincerity of intentions, we will feel His divine love that will direct our thoughts, our actions, and deeds. We will find that work is not like work. It becomes light and easy.

Negatives will always hamper our flow of work- that's just normal. Tough times will never last. Challenges will always show their ugly fangs. If in our hearts we keep even the smallest flicker of lovelight, it will bloom into a burning fire that will lighten our way and guide our ways, our attitudes. We will tenaciously hold our feet aground. Our cheerful ways and positive outlooks during difficult times will win for us others to follow suit- all in the name of love.

So, why hate when we have all the capacity to hold love in our hearts and share that love to others ?Hate only darkens our world. It pulls us down into a quagmire of more hate and misery. We all err. We are customized for that being humans. But to answer for that human error, we are designed with innate brain power that we can activate. If we are creative, we can transform difficulties into success creatively. If we are resourceful, we can devise ways and means to meet our pressing needs constructively. If we are level-headed, we can manage our problems cheerfully. If we are trustful in the Lord, we will be endowed with potential power to cope efficiently.

If you are not still convinced that love is powerful, let me cap this attempt of a fertile imagination to persuade as I say, we are all survivors of a broken world full of hatred and unwanted misfortunes. The potent to our survival comes from the magic of the word L-O-V-E.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IN GOOD TIMES AND IN BAD

That phrase has sunk into my consciousness for decades now. It has become a cliche that buoys me up whenever I'm feeling down and out. I've been out of circulation for a while because of recent calamities that struck our province of Pangasinan. After clearing the dirt left by Typhoon Pepeng in our yard, my daughter and I paid my brother a visit at his place in Bautista, Pangasinan which was one of those worst-hit towns.

There, we actually saw ugly prints left by Typhoon Pepeng along the way and learned some untold damages from my brother - concrete dikes collapsed, houses were washed-out, local cemeteries bore proofs that they were submerged in flood waters, ( the family mausoleum was submerged up to its rooftop), my brother's house is still surrounded by sticky "linang" (mud) and the dirt and the mounting foliage in it couldn't be swept, furniture inside their house warped and drawers don't fit when put back, the once speck- and- span tiles of the whole house carry unsightly stains , appliances were not spared from drowning in the flood, too.

Efforts to wipe away the ugly signs can't hide the damage done. The laundry is still wanting for clothes left that soaked in the flood. Normalcy is still far to achieve in and out the house, at least on my personal observation by my sister-in-law's standard of home care . My brother told us that if the dike at Bacnono didn't collapse, their house must have suffered much, probably submerged up to its roof. He sighed at the pitiful situation of people in that part of the town of Bayambang, the nearby town.

These were one of those bad times after our good times in the family. We don't have control over them but we can solve them when they happen.The inner strength never leaves us because we have great faith in Him who does all things possible here on earth. For example, my brother's nightmares at the height of the deluge (although he accepts that he didn't panic) could have been compounded after the flood, were it not because of the quick and precise response of his absentee-wife, and their children in Abu Dhabi.

My sister-in-law through long distance advisory, set up work force by contacting people she trusted who helped clean the house and its surroundings from the debris. She was not a school principal for nothing, always systematic and has that respectable commanding prowess. My brother didn't lose time to inform us that he was well and not burdened by the house re-structuring and clean-up. He added that as if my sister-in-law was all there with him in person. Were it not due to his health status, he would have accompanied his wife to Abu Dhabi in time for the birth of MJ, their new girl apo (granddaughter). What more could he ask for?

This November, we are anticipating another family gathering, to pay respect to our beloved dead, and for sure, to update each other with the recent calamities we all suffered. Our siblings from Cainta, Antipolo, Quezon City, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, and us here in Pangasinan will each have our good times and bad times to tell. But it's most probable that some will have to be excused for not attending because of some twists of luck in the family.

My newly-widowed sister and her children from Quezon City will spend the night vigil on All Saints' Day for their beloved Daddy. Another sister will forgo the trip back home to Pangasinan due to her affliction. She was diagnosed with slip disc and is undergoing traction procedures and needs complete bed rest. Our eldest brother in Cavite is having hard times taking care of his son with cancer. It is this year also that most of our nieces, nephews, and their families have migrated to Canada and the US. The clan is undoubtedly thinning out due to opportunities of good life they pursued some years back. But our family tradition of spending All Saints' Day together will go on and on. It is just one or two days a year which we offer for our beloved Tatay and Nanay.

So, you see, I find my cliche working strong again in me. It's my way of soothing my ruffled feelings, of aching to be with my siblings and their families, but simply can't. For the meantime, knowing that we all have our built-in strength to face life's challenges, I will live with anticipation that one day God will make a way, to ease our pains, to wipe away our tears, and to comfort us in our afflictions- and be happy together again. What we will surely miss is our childlike ways of trying to outdo each other in our singing habit- but the videoke can wait. The Castro Clan is a "singing family" which our neighbors and relatives likewise enjoy to watch and listen.

Yes, in good times as in bad times, we are one loving family.

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