Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Time heals all wounds".

Sorry Mimi that I have not responded to your query right away. Maybe because I don't know how to respond to it. Ken's prolonged stay in the ICU told me he is not well, yet the doctor kept telling me he is getting better.

Every time I went to see him, I would see a figure which resembled a broken mannequin hooked up to machines - ventilators, IV, pick line, monitors that tracked everything from heart rate to oxygen flow. The ventilator breathe for him. Every breath, a rythmic thwop-whoosh-clunk in the quiet ICU room. All around him machines hissed and beeped. It's a sight so difficult to take in.

His recovery was extremely slow perhaps because it took them over a month to figure out that his pacemaker was infected. They thought that after they took out the bacterial growth in his spine, it will clear out. Staph bacteria is a nasty bug and Ken is in a lot of pain. Meanwhile as we wait for the staph to clear, Ken contacted another bacteria in his lungs, and since he had been lying in bed for so long he got pressure sores as well even when they have been moving him in bed every two hours. He did managed to get better after his pacemaker was replaced for the second time. He become responsive. I would talk into a microphone attached to his headphone because he had difficulty hearing and he would write his response on a white board.

His attitude seemed to change after that, and it is interesting to see how he started looking at hospitals much differently to the negative way he had looked at it before. Ken dreaded treatment more than illness itself but now he depend so much on the nurses and doctors and other hospital staffers. He now appreciate their presence and he realized that help is there if he suffers an illness and they will help him get through it.

I have been going to the big city with Ken whenever he has a doctor's appointment there, but we don't linger to go to other places in the metro, so I would say I am not too familiar with the area. At first I dreaded the thought of driving there every so often because of the traffic and the unfamiliar roads. But after over two months of confinement in the hospital, I soon learned to travel from our home to the hospital and back.

Mimi, I still worry a lot to this day. I don't know if Ken will be able to regain mobility of his legs. He had started rehab now, but starting slow because he is still very weak. It just hit me that when a spinal cord injury occurs, the life that was familiar, comfortable, satisfying and rewarding is pulled away, literally in the blink of an eye, and the life I know is gone forever. The good thing is, another way of life will start, not a life of our choosing, but one me and Ken must figure out how to live.

I am certain though that I won't let my husband spend the day wondering how in the world he is going to bear living life from a wheelchair. And those things that he were once passionate about will definitely not become painful memories of his past because I will make sure he will be able to do them again.

So, does time heal all wounds? I'm hoping that it does. Time though had given me a different perspective on how I view things. I believe, it make me more sensitive to the needs of my husband.

I am going back to the hospital tomorrow to see how he is doing.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My (birthday) wish.

As I opened my eyes, you were my first thought. I strained my ears hoping to hear the tv and be comforted that you were there watching the early morning news. For a few minutes, I let thoughts of you washed over me. I got out of bed, went into the kitchen and made coffee through sleepy eyes. How I wished you were there, sitting in your recliner, bright eyed without coffee waiting for me to make you one.

I then remembered it was Sunday. I loved Sundays with you. After getting your cup of coffee, you would go out to get your Sunday paper while I prepare your favorite breakfast of bacon and egg and toast. We always spent Sunday mornings poring over every bit of news around the state as you buy each Sunday paper in the store. Then in the afternoon we drive around the countryside.

I shuffled about the day, doing Sunday things - cleaning, doing laundry, weeding the garden and all the while wished I knew exactly what you were doing that very moment. Did the nurse came to your room to move you in bed? Are you awake and watching tv? Did your temperature went down because I knew it was running again last night. Are you still having pain or needing ice to moist your lips? I wished you remembered to pray.

A little while later, I sat down to watch T.V. I looked at the shows that were stored in your DVR and clicked M*A*S*H. An old episode came on that we used to laugh about and I wished you were here to laugh with me. I loved those moments as laughter was such a part of us. Now, it seems I don't laugh nearly as often, nor as hard. I wish to hear your voice again.

I had a few mouthfuls at lunch. I simply wanted to get through the whole meal as I had moments of missing you so badly, that I couldn't possibly eat anymore. Remember that time you cooked me duck for supper, even though you rarely cook? You were so impressed with yourself as you dished it out. You had every right to be as it was fantastic! Now, I just skipped supper since you were in the hospital- for over three weeks!

Evenings are never easy. There's hardly any light in the living room since you were gone because I don't like to watch tv there all by myself. I wish you were here so we can both watch our favorite shows like we used to.

Instead, I am sitting in front of my computer typing this.

I wish I wasn't.

I wish you aren't sick.

I wish you could come home soon, Ken.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Next question please.

My sister-in-law, in the picture above, asked me the other night what my plans were if Ken would leave me. That was just after we visited him at the hospital and saw how very ill he was.

No, don't panic. Ken is responding well after his operation and we are certain he will recover. We were just having a conversation about situations and were trying to figure out ways to avoid the same situation from happening again.

So there we were, seated in her luxurious living room when she blurted the question.

She was, of course, just asking an inevitable question. One that even she dreaded asking.

I honestly don't have an answer. Although I think I remember saying: " I don't know, because I haven't looked that far ahead."

Seriously, how does one deal with the thought of losing a partner? Perhaps some people would think that it would not make much difference to me since we were married for less than three years. But the truth is, loosing Ken is probably the hardest thing in the world for me. He is not just a husband. He is more than that. He is the love of my life.

He played a vital role for my happy existence.

My husband, faults and all, is truly a hero to me. When we met, I was going through a tough time in my life. Not only was I trying to recover from a marriage that was long over, I was also in a strange city learning to cope with a life so different from what I was use to. And Ken was so patient with me. He never pushed for more than I was ready to give.

He is a man of outstanding character. He is honest and he is trustworthy. He is funny and thoughtful and he is a good provider.

He is also very supportive of my goals and dreams. He even doesn't have to understand them. And he doesn't feel the need to make his hobbies mine, or vice versa. We share many things, yet we each have our own personal interests as well.

I knew I prayed for a man like him before I knew that one actually existed. Of course, there is no one perfect, but there is one who is perfect for me, and that is Ken. It occured to me that for the first time in my life, I have not had to settle for something less. I don't know if it was God's will, luck, or my own doing, but I really did end up with someone who is just right for me.

I may never know how I got so lucky, but I am very grateful.

So, what was the next question?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Brown is beautiful.

I have 3 days off from work starting today so it's nice to have a time to write a new post although I don't have an idea of what it will be.

It is raining outside. It is dark and gloomy and quiet.

It was so different from last week when the sun shyly and coquettishly re-emerged after winter. I saw several of my female neighbors lying outside by their front lawn in their bikinis. I saw two young males lying shirtless on the roof of another house. I saw a mother reading a book while soaking in the sun and another teenage girl mowing the lawn in a skimpy shirt and shorts. People here associate summer with sun-kissed skin that comes with it.

Indeed, Americans love the sun and a healthy tan. To them, brown is beautiful while white is... well, a pallor of death.

In contrast, we Filipinos considered the sun as the enemy to be avoided at all costs. Whenever it comes out, up went our protective umbrellas. In fact, people back home routinely insulted one another by observing that the other had gotten darker (“Umitim ka.”). What would have been the ultimate compliment for an American is for us the ultimate curse. The last time I visited my country I see whitening products everywhere. The harmony of ebony and ivory is now a promise from ebony to ivory.

This white thing was no joke. Every second ad showed miserable brown girls touched by the fairy god mother of whitening products to become happy, fulfilled white versions. A simple equation was evident: brown equals misery and white equals happiness. Do you know that it is a challenge to go to a store and find lotion that doesn’t proclaim its whitening properties? I can’t even watch TV without seeing a minimum of five advertisements proclaiming certain brand of whitening cream that will help one keep her boyfriend.

So you might ask, do I also have an affinity to white skin? YES!

Perhaps because to me white looks pure and reminds me of princess stories. But thinking about it now as I tinker on my keypad, I think my obsession with white skin is not a manifestation about my racial self-hatred or the desire to appear more Caucasian. I think it has to do more with social class. I remember having spent a lot of time basking in the sun when I was younger. I fetched water from a well back in Manarra. I helped my grandma tend our camote garden, fed our chickens, walked so many miles to the market, washed our laundry by the river or did the million other things under the sun. My skin got so dark that I feel like a lowly alipin sa gigilid (slave). When I attended school for the first time, I was fascinated with my classmates who have fairer skin. They looked rich and pretty. I can't be as white as them, so I befriended them. In time, and mainly from avoiding the sun, my skin get a little fairer but only to some extent. I know that my skin tone will remain the same in my life time.

Unless perhaps one is Michael Jackson. But that's a different story.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Please, Pass the Rice.

My uncle Butsoy cooked this yummy paella. Just one of the ways we can cook rice.

You see, there is this long running joke at home that I just laughed and shrugged off. But since Cedric came to live with us, the joke haunts us almost every meal time. In the surface it's hilarious, but deep down we know it is driving Ken crazy.

“We are having rib-eye steak tonight? So what will you have with it? Hmmm... don't tell me, let me guess... is it by any chance rice???" We know it is driving him mental because he would then ask “don't you eat anything else?”

How do you explain to a non-Filipino that we are rice eaters first, second and last. That rice is central to our lives. That it is normal for Cedric and me to demolished a 25 kg bag of rice in a month because we eat rice with everything. Rice with beef, pork, chicken, noodles, fish. We could even pile on one plate rice with pasta and bread and eat it in same sitting.

I wish Ken had come with me when I went home last March so he will see first hand the Filipino obsession with rice. It would have been fun to witness his reaction when he see more varieties of rice in the market than just about everywhere. He might be filled with disbelief to know that some of my countrymen would prefer to be paid with just rice. Give a Filipino some bread and they will still be hungry, give them rice and they are happy.

I remember those rare days when money were tight. My three boys had to do with eating a heap of rice with one puny stick of skewered burnt marinated pork, using a ratio of one tiny morsel of this dish with 4-5 tablespoons of rice. Sometimes it's two plates of steaming hot rice with microscopic menudo, shrinking sinigang and invisible adobo. They definitely have become an expert in stretching a single ulam to go with their rice.

I love rice, as any true-blooded Filipino does. I love garlic too. Although I don’t like it in my breath. But I like making garlic fried rice in the morning with my over-easy egg and bacon. And just imagine how Ken would roll his eyes at the sight of it. He prefer buttered toast with his egg and bacon. Of course!

When we go out to eat, most of the time Ken choose the venue because he wants to be served and waited on. But on occasions that he asked me to pick the place, I always picked the Chinese buffet because of the vast array of food and a choice of fried and plain rice. My son, like any typical Filipino would stacked his plate with two or three kinds of dish and a heaping mound of rice as if preparing for the Hunger Games. Ken could just shake his head.

My two other boys are no different. They prefer to eat in a restaurant that offer unlimited rice. They did not fret when we ate at a Kentucky outlet and all that was left in the bucket was a tiny chicken wing as long as there was still rice. They just pour gravy onto the rice and wadya know this thick brown goo had turned into an ulam(dish).

Gravy on rice? Ken, you gotta see this!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Homecoming Trip - part 4.

Yes, I saved the best for last. My family.

Throughout the years my family have grown with all sorts of personalities, which make every get-together fun, interesting, and memorable.

But first, let me set the tone of this monologue by thanking my husband Ken who gave me the gift of “coming home”. To my cousin Celerina from the moment she picked me up from the airport in Texas, to the moment we said goodbye to head off to our own families in Sagay.
So here goes...

Insomnia in Delta Flight 172. Houston to Detroit to Tokyo to Manila. Sixteen hours at just under the speed of sound. I was going back to the Philippines after three years and my old brain just wouldn't shut down.

It was Friday evening, when we began our final descent. I know right away I was back to my birth country because humidity there has a presence. It closed in on me, weighed me down and made me sleepy. It made me want to rip off my clothes because why the heck do I still have my jacket on? You see, the Philippines is a country of scant attire, where sweat from dawn to dusk is no disgrace. And take note that it was winter in Minnesota when I left, and my body was still in hibernation mode. And now… I’m in Manila. My body was in panic. But I know, I will get use to it gradually, or would I?

Anyway, shrieks of excitement and joy echoed throughout the house as I entered. It was a delight to see everyone. My two boys, my daughter-in-law, my grand daughter, my aunties and uncles, and cousins... just everybody! It would be unfair to mention any single one, as each face that I beheld brought back wonderful detailed memories that only face-to-face encounters could bring in stark relief. If you have been away from loved ones for quite sometime and had come home to visit, you know what I mean.

I was overjoyed to see them although secretly I was back in panic mode because the balikbayan box I had sent home while I was still in the US did not arrive on time. Inside that box are “pasalubong” to my kins and friends. FYI, pasalubong or gifts are very popular among us Filipinos. Like all other returnees I know that handing out pasalubong will keep my bond with family and friends or someone who has close relationship with me as it conveyed that they are being remembered while I am away. Pasalubong can be anything, such as shirts, novelty items, chocolates, jewelries, electronics, or toys among others. I would hand them out not wrapped and give to someone as it is.

But then I am prepared to give everything that I brought home away (except my Ipod and my mini-Ipad, Lol.) It is a gesture of love that I can give away anything requested by a family member. Besides I can usually replace it when I return to my adopted homeland, and relatives or friends usually covet something worn or used by a balikbayan. I know that I will almost surely fill my suitcase with new items and things I want to bring back to the US, so I won’t miss my old things so much.

Every week I was there were marked with different activities I did with relatives. There's birthday, graduation, and lots of get-together parties. The fact that other relatives living and working abroad also came home, made our reunion more meaningful. There were tales to tell, jokes to share, accomplishments to recognize and problems to address. All these made us closer to one another. I would wake up each day excited to know what new things will reveal to me as I begin to rediscover my kins. I again find myself belonging to a place after years of thinking that I really weren't from anywhere. I find myself so at home and secure there and felt such deep love for people and sights and smells. When I arrived back in the States I was shocked, even though it is all familiar, at how very different these two worlds are.

Today marks 5 weeks since I returned from the Philippines. The trip home was exhausting in every way possible.  When I was going, I had so much excitement and adrenaline coursing through me, but on the way back, I had only intense sadness and weariness. If Ken and Cedric had not been waiting for me here and if I did not need to see them so badly, I would not have gotten onto the plane.

I feel so much better now, but still can feel the effects of traveling half way around the world and back in 20 days.

Thank you for following the series.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Homecoming Trip - part 3

If you have read my previous posts, you know I was about to set off to my high school reunion.  The upcoming event had been looming on the calendar for months and with each new day that brought me closer to it, my excitement grew.

My enthusiasm for class reunions and everything that comes with it is at the same level as it was when I first attended it. I still consider it a display of pride for our school. It is three days of reconnecting with my fellow students, mentors and to my Sagay roots. I am surrounded by a sea of familiar and not-so-familiar-faces-anymore, and even as a repeat attendee, I was definitely awestruck by the whole ordeal. Just the number of people itself is enough to overwhelm and excite me.

The school's quadrangle was surrounded with booths, each one with banners announcing the year the batch graduated. Our class don a light purple shirt that me and Ann had donated and designed, others had green, blue, red, orange, white and many more which gave the venue a burst of color. We wore a blazing orange the nextday that our classmte Ginnie had provided us with.

I believe our graduating class was special since most of us had known each other from elementary school. So you are right to think that in many ways, it was a reunion like no other. I came, I satisfied my curiosity about old friends and classmates. I hugged each one of them, I laughed with them, and oh how I tried to squeeze the happenings of the last 35 years into brief snippets of conversation before I would rocket on to the next group of long lost pals. By the end of the day, my voice got worst but I still managed to give a long howl to cheer our classmate who competed in the beauty contest.

In our first reunion, I was certain we will live forever. On our 35th I know we won't. Conversations does normally drift to those classmates who have died or dying. Even classmates who are most likely to succeed have lost something – hair, a waistline, a marriage, a job, a spouse, a child, a fortune. Others on the other hand gained something – 50 pounds, a son or daughter-in-law, an illness, an ego. These things actually made me humble and wadya know, most people are nice at 50 than they were at 15. One comment I heard later was that people who hadn't really spoken to one another in high school had ended up in some great conversations. How often does that happen anymore? I just wished we have included a candle-lighting ceremony for more than a dozen classmates who had passed away.

In the company of my friends and classmates, it seems that time slows down and recedes. I felt like a teenager again, laughing and talking till evening unmindful of the summer heat. Except for one, all of my best friends in high school were there hence, that made this home coming very special. Because despite the miles between us, or the time that elapses between visits, these are the people who knew me almost as well as I know myself. Their gift of friendship and laughter never fails to lighten my soul.  I don’t need an old house to remind me what “home” means to me, I find it in my friends- most especially in Ann, Nancy, Zenette, Ping, & Ruby.

I am proud to say that our class now has a fantastic Facebook page, which I created. Ahem, ahem. And we are still connecting, posting pictures and sharing – not just memories of the past, but who we are today.

Part 4: The family.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Homecoming Trip - part 2

It would be easier for me to recall events of my travel if I cronicled them by stages as they happen. So I am sharing my next big event and talk about the alumni homecoming in my next post.

On my 2nd day, as I try to settle to the vibe of home I find some things not quite the same as when I left them. Foremost is how expensive everything had become. The new peso bills look a bit play money-ish since the color is more vibrant but not quite crisp and by golly, they’re not worth very much anymore.

I cannot believe that I can't seem to spend less than P1,000 for a decent meal for three anymore. A pair of a nice looking sandal for a toddler cost more than the meal we just had, a 15 minute drive in a taxi cost at least P100 and giving the same amount as gift to a relative raises eyebrows all around. So, the initial euphoria I felt about being, wow, part of the faux prosperous quickly dissipated into “how am I gonna stretch my Mickey Mouse bills till I leave”?

One of my purpose in coming home is to get a denture maintenance appointment in Bacolod that would otherwise cost an arm and a leg here in the US. I may show off a nice smile in my pictures if you had seen them, but honestly, I had been needing major overhauling of my incisors and molars long before I came here and the long wait had turned my molar mangled out of commission, and some front teeth chipped almost beyond recognition. Besides that, I’d been forever suffering from overworking one side of my jaw muscles because of a sad lack of personnel on the “weak” side, and I needed porcelain reinforcements. Plus I have a class reunion to attend which make the appointment A MUST.

So on my second day, me and my sister went to see the dentist. The stark difference between here and getting services there is that you simply walk -in and be certain to get attended to right away. I was glad that the dentist was ultra-smooth and personable. Even with the impressive sounding quotation for the dentures, it was still not even a quarter of what it might cost here, but of course, I didn’t tell Doc that. Although I had an idea she already knows it. In fact, my bank account challenged son had to pay the same amount for having two of his tooth pulled here in the US. And he had to go through several appointments before he could get it done while my pretty Filipina dentist had it all done in one day - cleaning, filling, extraction, and new denture. Magic!

Indeed, it was a huge help having it done by a fellow Ilongo and the newer denture technology didn’t hurt either.

Now, I am ready to meet my classmates!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Homecoming Trip - part 1

I am back!!!

Actually, for over 3 weeks now. (Smiling sheepishly)

You see, I kept putting off writing this blog. Not so much because I was busy, but because I am overwhelmed with so many things I want to share with you about my travel to my birth country - Philippines.

There are just so much stuff I want to talk here and pictures I want to share that I decided to write this in parts. So here goes...

Okay, let me start by telling you the one universal truth about this topic. That coming home is without a doubt an emotional exercise. Therefore it was no surprise when the physical and cultural shock assaulted me almost as soon as I disembarked from my Delta flight in Seattle. First, because the temperature has dipped dramatically. The air is no longer dusty and humidity was non-existent. Gone too were the ever present wall-to-wall humanity and scattered garbage. Everything looks spacious and neat. Yet, I felt a pang of sadness for having left the chaos and the hot summer sun of the Philippines.

This sounds like it doesn’t need to be said, but I’m saying it anyway. This trip is different from the ones I had before for so many reasons. Mainly because I was able to join the Balik Sagay celebration. Under the Balik Sagay program, now on its 4th year, we returning Sagaynons were treated to a VIP welcome that included a barrio fiesta lunch at our Kauswagan building complete with folk dances presentation. Our city Mayor and Governor were there to welcome us.

I also joined the walkathon which started from the Kauswagan and ended at our town plaza. The walk allowed me to interact with fellow returnees as we talk about life abroad and what-not while trying to take in the new sights of Sagay as we walk towards the finish line. There were native delicacies and drinks laid before us when we got to the plaza to quench out thirst and hunger. And there were dancing too which I participated with glee.

Then, there was the out-reach activity. Balik Sagay organizer had asked donations from Sagaynons residing abroad which was spent to buy food give-aways for the less fortunate families in our city and other meaningful projects such as public toilets. I was in the forefront of this activity as I did an impromptu hosting of the said event.

The evening brought me back to our town plaza, this time to watch the Mr and Ms Sinigayan Festival. It was such a delightful presentation complete with very artistic and colorful costumes and dances. I was asked to be one of the presentor for the award, but I have to beg off because me and the mayor and some friends had an earlier agreement to go to Taliambong. Another venue where people come to chill out by listening to live bands while enjoying drinks and food which can be bought from a variety of kiosk surrounding the place. We intended to reunite with other SYC member but we couldn't find any in the said place so we decided to go to the Ratsada venue hoping to meet some of them there. Of course, the excitement of coming home makes me want to do a lot of catching up with friends. My vacation is about reconnecting with the people closest to my heart. But well, we were unlucky. There were so many people dancing in the street and it was so hot, we opted to stay in an air conditioned tent. After a little while I decided to call it a day.

All these activities occurred in my first day in Sagay. Just imagine the excitement I am experiencing! I felt like I always wanted to spend my every waking moment meeting friends and relatives I haven’t met for years and years. I wanted to taste every dish I missed and take in as much info about the on-goings in my town as I could. My only woe is that my hometown IS and ALWAYS will be a summer town all year round, where you could count on the sun doing a command performance 364 days of 365, where you could hang your laundry for a couple of hours and bring it down bone-dry, and where shorts, sleeveless and sandals are sensible wear and where the two local seasons are sunny and sunnier. I drank my water with lots of ice thus I ended up with a hoarse voice on my first day.

Indeed, when it’s a homecoming, you take the good with the bad.

Next stop: my high school reunion. Stay tuned

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ready. Set. GO!

I went to my high school reunion ten years ago. What a blast from the past.

It was quite an experience as it was wonderful to see everyone again. Literally, everyone. From the school's first alumni, or at least those still living from that batch, to the very recent graduates, which would be the most populated batch. Of course!

Our Alma mater have been having these reunions every five years. I have not had the opportunity to attend all of them, but the few times I was there I was genuinely happy I took the time to attend this gathering.

Now, as the date of our next reunion approaches I find myself very excited and wishing it was already here. Having graduated High School in 1979, you would think that the memories and images which I experienced at that time would have faded with the passage of time, and yet, they seem to live with me forever. There are still people whom I remember fondly. Teachers and mentors from my youth who had a lasting effect on me.

It's been over 3 decades since I have seen or talked to some of my classmates so it’s a stretch of the imagination to visualize our group of senior men and women gathered around our assigned booth, none of us young anymore. I could see older mature people I may not recognize or visualize them as they looked the way I remember them years ago.

Reconnecting with these high school friends is nice for many reasons. Everything about high school is bigger than life. Even 35 years later, high school still remains fresh in my mind. I truly cared about my friends because together we survived the high school years. Besides, these friends were not just acquaintances, but people I really liked and cared about. Their welfare were important to me, just as mine was to them. Reconnecting with my high school friends is nice because even if it seemed like forever, the caring is still there.

Our class reunion is coming up next month. I will fly back to the Philippines to be there.

High School... when I think life will always be just like it was - fun and carefree. Where I survived the break up with what I perceived to be the true love of my life and the occasional fights with my best friends. Where I endured the homework and the tests. Where I looked forward to summer vacation, and then become anxious for school to start again in June. Where reliving those four years assured me that life was never more fun or easier than going to high school in a small town in Negros island.

High School... a time in my life where I made great memories and friendships, some which have lasted into my golden years. A period in time when growing up in Sagay was meant to be the best years of my life.

And it was.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My father. His story.

February 8 will always be a significant date for me.

It is the day I and Ken got married, and the day my father died.

My father had been sick for a long time. He began showing symptoms years ago that was eventually diagnosed as colon cancer. A strong man, who rarely complained, my father hung on and never let on that it was as bad or as painful as we all knew it really was. As his symptoms increased, he quickly grew older right in front of my eyes, each time I went to visit him. But then I moved farther and farther away from my father, as I followed my own path into life. When I came to the US our only means of communication is through phone. But he became so frail that he cannot even stay long on the phone. Eventually it was only me talking and him listening.

When I heard the phone ring the afternoon after my wedding, I knew even before I looked at the caller ID, that it was my sister. With a shaky, breathy voice, I heard her say quietly, "Dette, he's gone." Silent tears rolled down my face. I stared out the window into our backyard full of snow, and half expected to see my dad out there, waving to me - as he passed into the next life.

When I put the phone down, there were already hot tears rolling down my cheeks. I yearned to be back home, to be with family, to be near my father's remain. But travel is out of the picture at that time as it was not conceivable.

On the day he is to be buried, I got a call from my sister asking me to write a eulogy for my father that they will read during the funeral mass. I just got home from work, and I have only an hour to write it, send it through email, and have them print it before the mass starts. My mind was running wild. Where and how do I start? My father's life is a story, a unique story that nobody ever lived before and no one will ever live again. I wish it would go on forever, but I understand that even the best stories has to end. It would be a strange story if it did go on forever. So instead of grieving that it has to end, I feel blessed and lucky enough to have been a part of it.

Memories of my dad flashed before my eyes. The father as I saw him when I was growing up and the life he lived parallel to mine. His amazing life story ultimately gave me an inspiration to write his eulogy. And like a story, I understood him better as I get closer to the end. I came to understand the significant of something that happened back in chapter 1 and 3. It was not a perfect story, as the plots were not effectively developed or structured. It wasn't meant to entertain but it has beginning, a middle and an end.

Thank you Papang for your story.

One that will continue to inspire me.

One which pages I memorized from the heart.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A none traditional anniversary gift.

This coming Friday, my husband and I will celebrate our second wedding anniversary. I felt that we truly have a lot to celebrate with our marriage because it has become a union of two companions working towards a common goal. We see each new day together as a blessing. We are glad that we have found our soul mates.

I have never been one who needed a bunch of personal stuff to know that I am loved. I do better with simple gestures that have no monetary value. My love doesn't cost anything. My husband however like to shower me with gifts. Things that he knew I would love to have, but would not dream of buying because they are just way too expensive to a scrooge like me. He gave me two wonderful gifts this Christmas. Last month he bought me a round trip ticket to Manila so I can visit my family there.

I simply can not compete with that. Whatever little I earn from working I send to my two other boys in the Philippines to support them. Both are still in college. But I want so very much to give my husband a gift for our coming anniversary.

However, I am stumped on what to give him as gift for this occasion. I know that what I choose to give to him will be a reflection of my feelings for him and my desire to please him. This thought alone pretty much stress me out. What can I give to someone who can get anything he wants?

So okay, he love tools! But he seemed to have all the conceivable tools there is. His shop is full of it. He doesn't need a new wallet - he actually never use one. Oh yes, he is into motorcycles since he owns a Harley, but then again, he is not the leather wearing type and neither am I. He do not like modern technology gadgets. He has a laptop computer which he sparingly use. He do not like smart phones and is more comfortable with the old one he is using. I have tried buying him clothes before, but he told me to stop, because nothing I bought fits him.

But he love cars. He like driving around and I also like riding with him around the countryside. He would upgrade his car every two years. But the thing with the new models, they have everything in it - built in GPS, sync system, Wi-Fi feature, Sirius channel that streams his 60's songs. There is practically nothing more he would need for his new car!

Or is there? Maybe things that will help organize the stuff he carry with him inside the car? I have been complaining about the blinding sun rays in the passenger side, and when we shop, there ain't enough room to put our plastic bags. So, I check out and found some interesting stuff. I bought them online, and they arrived yesterday.


All I need to do now is to put them in a nice box with a nicely written card and I am ready for our anniversary day.

We haven't made a plan yet on what we will do this Friday. I have no work that day, so we could either go out to eat or I can cook a special meal for us. I know there is no wrong way to celebrate our anniversary as long as we are together and happy. Being together means a lot. I know my husband is devoted because he stays by my side. No matter what, he remains steadfast.

He does not just say he will be there. He is.

To me, that is the best present of all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Better safe than sorry.

We are still experiencing sub-zero temperatures. Then came the rain.

As expected, the early morning news is flooded with car accidents in many places due to icy road. I shrugged my shoulders and told myself, nothing will happen to me on my way to work. I will just have to drive extra slow because the roads were icy and slick. I was determined to leave early to give me ample time to get there. I would get to work and put in my 8 hours, then drive home and make supper, watch TV and go to bed.

Everything seemed fine.

Or so I think.

But as soon as I got on the road I realized that getting from home to work can be a problem. The entire road surface for miles is glazed due to the freezing rain that it is pretty well impossible to drive safely on it. I am driving a ford explorer, an SUV with 4x4. Does this offer me any safety?


As I eased my car on an icy road I can feel my four wheels slip on ice just the same as two. So I drove very slowly, about 20mph wondering how long it would take me to get to my destination. If I ever get there! At the back of my head, I can hear a voice telling me to go back and just give up attempting at all. It is a Sunday. I was alone on the road and up ahead the road appeared dark and wet with a dull shine to it.

I was already off Easton when I tried depressing my brake to see if it work but it just skid through. It was so slippery that I could not feel any traction between my wheel and the road. What if I lose control of the car and ran into the ditch?


Yes, I survived my first accident, but the thought of it happening to me once more is very unpleasant. I can still remember the telltale drift of my car accompanied by the sickening feeling in my stomach as I realize I have no steering control. I steered in the direction of the skid, but it has no effect. Seemingly in slow motion, my car turns left and right, spinning out of control, helpless. When I saw it heading towards the ditch, all I can hope is for it to land upright. And it did!. Heart pounding, it took me three minutes to calm down enough to call my husband on my cell phone.

My senses tells me that even if I get to work, coming home in the dark of the night in the same road condition would be extremely hazardous to negotiate. This layer of ice between my tires and the road can take a severe turn for the worse. Four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, two-wheel drive, it doesn't matter. This black ice is a killer and it could kill me faster than I can imagine.

I am still a long way from Delevan and another 8 miles from there to Winnebago. I cannot take that risk. I finally eased into an open curve and slowly turn my car towards home. I can call my supervisor and tell her I cannot come in and I'm sure she will understand.

Driving home, I feel better. I feel safe.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


This week it seems that hell had actually frozen over here in Minnesota!!!

I am miserably cold.

The cold I am experiencing now is a little daunting, add to that wind chill and it becomes a survival challenge for me. Minnesota winters, as anyone who's lived through one can testify, are tough.

I am forced to wear flannel pajamas and sleep under a thick comforter. And if I misplace my fuzzy slippers, the trek to the bathroom turns into an icy expedition. I hate the icy winds that freezes my fingers and cause my nose to run non stop. Because of the cold I cannot gain access to my car unless I am red faced and gasping for breath, especially coming out from my workplace. This extreme cold turn the simple process of getting into my automobile an obstacle course that is physically exhausting.

Not only do temperatures often fall below zero, but if it snow, there is a drive way one has to clear. It's a dreaded time of year for anyone who owns a shovel and has a back that hasn't yet been professionally diagnosed as "strained."

I know I said in my previous post how I hate summer. But darn, I'm missing it already!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

How it use to be.

I grew up in a family where entertainment meant playing and running outside the house. There are trees to climb, fishes to scoop up from a running canal, tiny rocks, twigs and leaves to toy around, strong winds to fly our kites with and many other things that are not electronic.

We do not have television. Not that it wasn't around yet, but it's a luxury that only the rich can afford and we are not rich. I only get to watch shows on tv when one was installed in our town plaza. The whole town will gather there every evening that it became like a social event. Old and young alike would crowd around a 20 by 18 inches box to be enthralled for 2 to 3 hours of pure entertainment. There are animated talks before the show starts, then hushed silence fell as soon as the black and white screen flickers. I remember hearing laughter and cheering and booing depending on what happened to the main character or the villain of the show we are watching. Honestly, I really don't understand most of the conversation of an English show because I was just starting to learn the language then. But I clearly remember the warmth and joy this boxy component had brought to our town.

Why do I remember all this?

Because I would sit down with Ken everyday in our living room to watch reruns of classic tv shows. These tv show that I remember having glimpsed but did not fully understand as a kid reminds me of the things I used to know - good old family values and memories of an era gone by.

These old TV shows have a way of taking me back in time to a place where in my mind I still yearn to be. Innocent as lambs, where people owned up to their faults and apologized to one another when they wronged their fellow man. Remembering the old TV shows engulfs me into places in my mind that make me feel nostalgic and lonely.

Hearing that famous opening theme music of MASH, I have to admit that I felt some goose bumps and got a little nostalgic for the 70s. I also start to like watching Gun Smoke. Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty , Chester, Doc Adams and Festus stream into our home every day and it introduced me to the Wild West. Bonanza has good family values, no crude humor, and good almost always overcoming bad and the Cartwright sons always stood by each other.

I understand the conversation now, and I applaud the excellently-written, superbly-acted, with sly, off-color humor blended together scripts. These shows are still quite enjoyable to watch even today and that was what I discovered when I started watching some episodes of MASH. In a world gone mad, The Andy Griffith Show make me recall a time when things were much more human. Treating one another with a kindness that is truly genuine is a lost art in society today and often looked upon as old fashioned or even just plain silly.

Enjoying the classics is as close as I can get to a world that has passed me by and as long as I am graced with the blessing of finding them on and filling our living rooms, I know I'll be happily taking that trip when I can.

All of these shows are long gone and many of the stars of these shows have passed away. But, these shows and the stars who played on them will never be forgotten and will live on forever.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An addict no more.

If I lived in the virtual world, did I live? In what world do I want to spend my life? Are experiences and memories from my virtual world contribute to my physical existence? Or are they just blank pages in my life, where I just sat in front of the computer and lost a bunch of time?

Questions, questions...

I cannot help asking that to myself as I sat here in front of my computer. You see, my loving husband is feeding me with my addiction. He gave me an iPod on my birthday, and bought me an iPad mini this Christmas. As if the time I spent playing Mafia Wars in the computer isn't enough to drive him nuts!

Sure now I can sit in the couch and watch tv with him, but as soon as the commercial comes up I slide my iPad's screen and update the news feed on Facebook, or play Bejewelled.

I admit that back in Manila I get completely sucked up by the internet. I meet so many friends online that I find it a joy talking to them through chat or messaging.

Then I started blogging.

And suddenly the joy of writing, the pleasure of discovering my own insights into life by looking at what I write fascinates me. I become like two persons - one is typing and the other is reading, and the reader is fascinated by what the writer is writing.

The weird thing is that I start to get my identity in the virtual world. I begin to gain my reputation there, and build relationships. My real world becomes gradually less interesting to me. Yes, I share my insights of the real world with the virtual world, but I'm just like an outsider looking in.

I become addicted to computer. I love the power that I have when I am "virtual". I love the ease it brings to my life so much that the real life becomes very difficult. (And it really was difficult for a single mother raising three boys) To me the real world is too physical, it's too primitive. There I was, living in a society that is a collection of all moods and choices. In the net I choose what to see, with whom to interact, whom to speak to, what to do, what to read. I have control over the world that I emerge myself in. Once unplugged I felt isolated, helpless, and I longed to go back in.

Coming here, I find stability. My husband is a very wonderful man who made life easier for me. If I am not working, I would kill time driving around with him in the countryside or tend to my plants or tinker around the house. I blog some of my adventures, but writing had just become a hobby and not a means to escape. I don't chat with online friends anymore, but I keep in touch with them once in a while to check how they are doing by sending them brief messages.

To me the internet has now become more of a lifestyle than an addiction. I use it to order things I can't buy in stores, arrange travel, get directions, and communicate with families all with a simple point and click.

This allows me to have more time for myself, more time for Ken, and more time to live my life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Me and John Denver.

I just came home from Waseca. I drove Cedric there because he will work tonight. He will stay there till Friday, then Ken and I will pick him up again on Saturday. He spends his days off at home here in Wells.

I was alone on the road, on my way back. Everything looks quite and peaceful.


country road, take me home, to the place I belong...

That's John Denver on the radio. Suddenly I am reminded of home and I get a little misty eyed. My thoughts went wild. I envisioned my dad the last time I saw him. I remember the house I grew up with, and the folks who shaped me into who I am today. I remember the old movie house across the street, the plaza where I played with my cousins as a kid, my elementary school, the market place.

life is old there, older than the trees...

I keep remembering my hometown, and it make me feel sad, and painful and happy and warm all at the same time. I swell bursting with pride and love for the place I was born. And I wonder if everyone feels this way when they hear this song no matter where they're from, or if it's just me and John Denver.

the radio reminds me of my home far away...

Even when I have come to love living here in Wells because of Ken, I know that part of my being is always tied to my old home town. A piece of it lingers in the vast sugar cane field that stretches out under the sun. Another piece lay hidden in the old ancestral house and the trees I have climbed. But most of it lingers where all the elements of childhood, of magic, of tradition, of love, of comfort, and of belonging resides.

take me home, country roads...

Soon, very soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Five O

I have turned 50.

You might think that would be cause for distress? On the contrary, I love this phase of my life. The hectic hustle and bustle of youth had passed, and I have settled into a familiar lifestyle which is as comfortable as an old shoe.

Maybe some of you are fighting old age with a vengeance. Not me. I intend to sit back and enjoy every minute of it.

Truthfully I thought I would not feel any different than I did when I was in my 30's and 40's. After all, they say age is just a number. But as the months went by I began to realize that being 50 means that things do change, some for the better and some for the worse.

For a start, I found that gradually, I could no longer do simple, physical things with ease. Rising from a low chair for example, required a lot more effort than it did before. It's the act of propelling yourself upwards that is so difficult. I also start to get age spots on my cheeks. They just seem to appear overnight. And thank goodness for hair dye because I begin to realize that if I didn't dye my hair, it would be grey all over.

A little nap in the afternoon suddenly becomes an attractive idea, and if I sit down in one place for too long, I suddenly feel my eyes beginning to close that I tend to miss the end of films or chunks of programs on TV that I was anxious to watch all the way through. Now, don't make me bore you with the details of the menopause - but then everyone knows what they are! Of course the eyesight tends to get worse, that I have to have reading glasses within my grasp in case I need to read labels, or cooking directions from a box.

On the good side, now that I am fifty, I have earned respect from people. The fact that I am not expected to run marathons, or carry anything really heavy is an advantage. And if people expect me do these things, then I can protest and say that I cannot do that at my age!' I also like the fact that it's OK to dress for comfort and no-one will judge me.

On the whole being 50 means slowing down a little, taking the pressure off myself and learning to be me. I enjoy it. I embrace it.

Here I am at 50, enjoying the United States from the front seat of a Ford Platinum.


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