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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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