Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Loving Memory

All Saints' Day is coming up. In recent years, I have been amiss in my obligations to my dead loved ones. I light no candles, I offer no flowers and I just stay home the whole day of Nov. 1, while the world is trekking to the cemeteries. It doesn't mean though, that I've forgotten the dead. In fact, I think about them, especially when I am in situations that remind me of them. And those are aplenty. I cannot forget about them and their influences in me and in my life.

My parents, Salvador and Milagros, died 40 years apart, with my mother leaving ahead in 1959. This November, we are commemorating her 50th death anniversary. It's my father's 10th death anniversary last April, 2009. My earlier blogs, Of Mothers and Daughters and Buddy Ferrer, are dedicated to their memories.

My sister Connie died at the very young age of 10, in 1967. She had leukemia. I felt the pain of her death only when I came of age. I was a young girl of 14 when she was afflicted with the disease. I did not know anything about it except that she will surely die at a given time. I am pained when I remember the days and nights she would complain to me, "Ate, ang sakit", pointing to me her arms, her legs, her stomach, every part of her. And all I did was to rub the part with vaporub or that ointment that Tatay brought home one time. She had black and blue spots in every part of her body. She was brought to the hospital in mid-November. Four days before Christmas, she died. As I write this, I cannot control my tears. If given more opportunities then, I could have researched on how I could have eased her pain. My only consolation ( that's her full name, Consolacion) is that she was spared of the harsh realities of adult life with her early passing.

Inang Tale and Amang Juan were my grandparents on my mother's side. Amang Juan died a year after my mother's death. I knew nothing about him except that he used to be the cook of Gen. Malvar, a revolutionary leader. He hailed from either Malolos or Hagonoy. I have no way of knowing exactly where. Inang Tale was from the Visayas. This is the reason why we do not know anyone from her family. She said she was a stow-away. Her story was that she and a companion hid in a ship bound for Manila to escape from paying their sea fares. As soon as they disembarked from the ship, they immediately looked for jobs and eventually ended up in Bulacan where she met Amang Juan. Inang Tale raised me and my brother and sister, together with my mother's siblings in a house built by my father. She died in her sleep when I was in college.

Lolo Otik and Lola Ana, on the other hand, were my grandparents on my father's side. I never knew Lola Ana. I am not sure if my mother met her when she married my father. But I vividly remember Lolo Otik's well-crafted, signature cane. He always walked with it, giving him a Spanish genteel look. He seemed like a very intelligent man, perhaps we got our intelligent genes from him. Lolo Otik and Lola Ana were both from Albay in Bicol. An aunt told me once that Lolo Otik was very, very strict. I thought it had a positive effect on his children because in later years, even if they were scattered all over, they remained very close to and very supportive of each other.

My parents-in-law, Inang Ising and Amang Popoy both died of an illness, Inang in June, 2000 and Amang in January, 2009. Amang Popoy lived a very productive, long life. He is perhaps the most industrious man in this corner of the world. His every movement had a purpose. Living with a man like him will make one guilty of indolence. He did not waste his time. ( On many occasions, he would watch tv while asleep.) He always consciously made himself useful. Amang Popoy"s foremost legacy to his children is his very strong character. He did not let his humble roots define him. He went beyond what people think was a lowly livelihood, being a mambubulok. Out of the hundreds of tons of junk that he traded, all his children were educated. I will forever be grateful to him for being the first to accept me in their family- an acceptance I knew was genuine from day one.

My Ninang Noring or Leonor was my confirmation godmother. We used to be neighbors when I was in elementary up to my high school years. I knew her better than my baptism godmother because she was always around as I grew up. My memories of her include those processions around our town on Good Fridays each year. She taught me to join such church activities and explained to me the importance of being religious. She would buy me candles for those processions and would fetch me for the mass and bring me home afterwards. Since she was a seamstress, every graduation day from 1961 to 1965, she would make me a nice dress to wear for the recognition of honors rites. On my last year in elementary in 1966, she even bought the white, lace cloth which she turned into a very nice graduation dress. Beneath Ninang Noring's very small frame is a ton of determination. In the later part of the 60's, when I was in high school, she continued her college studies at the same time that she kept home for her family. It paid off since not long after, she earned a bachelor's degree that would land her a job in a local bank for years. On Good Friday of 2006, Ninang Noring joined her Creator. She died on duty-while serving the Lord on the last day of the Holy Week.

Years ago, I came across an epitaph which I want to be written on my tombstone. Just like the memories I treasure of my dead loved ones, I would also like to be treasured in the memories of the people I will leave behind. Thus, I want it written- " Here lies a woman who lived in the hope of becoming a memory."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beautiful In My Eyes

Someone noticed that I don't have a post exclusively about the hubby. I told her I was being careful and that I try to keep sacred grounds sacred. But this month( Oct. 3, actually) is the hubby's 56th birthday and so I reckon that maybe I should write about him so that I can tell him I prepared the best gift ever for him this year.

I call him Ding. High school and college friends call him Gerry. Relatives call him Rading. He may have different names, but he has only one character- a formidable one.

Ding is one of eight siblings born to parents who operated a junkshop that sent all of them to school. Life was tough for them, but resilience led them to where they are now. Ding's journey is an uphill one, characterized by falls and plunges here and there. But he always stood up after each fall.

Our love story is not the best material for a telenovela screenplay. Sure, it was full of sub-plots, but if it were to be shown on primetime tv, I doubt if it could last one season. Viewers might not be able to identify with the characters. They are extraordinarily ordinary.

Let us begin from the very beginning. Ding and I were neighbors since the day we were born. Hence, it was but natural for us to be classmates in elementary school- from 1960 to 1966. Most years we belonged to one section and during those times, we were always listed in the honor roll. Sometimes, he got ahead, sometimes, I did. In high school, I was lucky to have been included in the prime section up until I graduated. He, on the other hand, belonged to section 2. There was never any chance for us to be together in any high school activity. I did not know how he busied himself or who his friends were. I was so engrossed then with myself and my world where he did not belong.

Then, on November 1, 1974, All Saints' Day, I took notice of him because he stood out amongst the many people who flocked to the cemetery. At the time, people prepare their best attire when they converge in public places. Ding was wearing an old pair of faded denims when it was not yet fashionable then, and a plain, tattered, white round collar t-shirt with holes and torn sleeves. (No, it wasn't a fashion statement, I'm sure of that.) He was in rubber slippers, certainly not Havaianas, and most likely Spartan. A few exchanges took place, followed by a class reunion of our elem batch which we both attended and in April, 1975, we were officially together. I never asked him what made him notice me because at the time of that cemetery encounter, I knew he was seeing another hometown girl. I was afraid of what I will hear if I asked.

Our early days together brought out a lot of revelations about his and my character.He was the jealous type, I was very comfortable about myself and so I was never threatened by anyone else. I was very 'ma-kwento' with complete attention to details, he was always quiet and reflective. I set my eyes on being a teacher and earn that PhD later, he wanted to strike it big in business. It was very easy for him to take chances, I was the 'sigurista' type who wouldn't waste time and money even if I had tons of them. He was born to a relatively large family, I can count my immediate relatives with the fingers on my two hands. He was sun to my moon. He was hot. I was cold ( well, not in the bedroom!) He is pancit, I am pasta. Poles apart, we were. He was a very impatient person, while I always believed that there is an appointed time for everything.In later years, the best description I could come up with to describe the two of us was- "Ding is a man of numbers, I am a woman of letters."

What can one expect from a couple with very contrasting personalities and characters? World war, what else? But in our case, it was more of a silent war that brewed for years. I waged my war quietly with the resolve and pure intention to win all the battles to save my family- a complete, functional one, even if during the crossfires, I always find myself losing because I always ran out of ammunition. Funny, but I never ran out of tears. There were sporadic periods of loneliness along the way, but God always gifted me with the best inspirations to go on- like my three beautiful children. They made our lives purposeful despite and inspite of.

Our contrasting characters contributed mainly to our contrasting love languages. Ding wants to be served. How he loves hot coffee in the early mornings but I stubbornly refuse to wait on him. ( I'm supposed to be a teacher, not a waitress! And what man doesn't know how to make a cup of coffee? Pray, tell me! Well, honestly, there is a story behind this, but that would take another post. ) He wants me to ask him if he's hungry. I prefer him to tell me when he is hungry. I love to be given flowers from time to time. He questions why he had to? ( In fairness, when I ask where the flowers are on certain occasions, his standard answer is- 'Ok, you'll get them tomorrow.) And tomorrows never end.

Let me state bluntly that in our early years, I was disillusioned. However, a magazine article I once read taught me that at times when a spouse starts to focus on the other half's undesireable traits, he or she should immediately begin to list down the other half's very endearing ones. That way, the positive rules over the negative. I did this a million times over ( go, figure why!) and I've proven this to be true. It is one of the many secrets of our successful marriage. I always consciously try to remember his virtues so that I won't lose it.

Ding is a very humble person. Though sometimes, that humility borders on a feeling of inferiority. That was why I always have to come to his rescue. He needed to be pushed sometimes but when he gains momentum, there he goes. He is also a very simple person. He enjoys eating in a carinderia more than in a fancy restaurant. He loathes wearing a barong, but his profession dictates that he had to.

I cannot explain the rationale behind it, but I find it desireable when Ding cries. He cried when our puppy was ran over by a vehicle many years ago. He cried whenever we watch Wish Ko Lang on Saturday afternoons. He cried ( his right hand flashing the L-sign) while Cory's coffin passed by our spot at the Luneta during the funeral for the former president. He cried so many times in the past, and I know he will cry some more when his emotions are stirred. There is something venerable and marvelous about men who cry. ( How I loved John Travolta when he cried on Oprah in one of those 9/11 episodes.)

Perhaps, his most endearing quality is his very good sense of humor. On good days, it is very infectious, all we do is laugh about anything and everything. In the mornings, it has become a daily contest between us as to who passes gas out the loudest and longest. ( Ummm, cover your noses!) We have developed a language all our own such that even if we are in a very public place, we can't help but laugh at things that catch our attention. For a time now, we have been laughing about a request I made long ago which he has not yet granted me. I have always fancied having a stainless pole in the middle of our bedroom so I can dance to my heart's content when there's music. I argued that anyway, he will be the only one to see me do it. He never said no, but when I gyrate to a lively song while we watch tv in bed, he would cover his eyes and turn the other way prompting me to say, "Okay, I get it!".

Just the other day, his birthday, we had a good laugh while we were in the room due to some misunderstanding on my part. I cannot recall what he said exactly, but I asked him, " Ano sinabi mo, may asim ba ako o maasim ako?''. Instead of answering, he laughed, and I did too, realizing the stupidity of my question. It was some ten or more minutes before we calmed down.

Perfect imperfections, that's how i would describe our characters. Our imperfections are perfect for each other. At this point, I have realized that we are God's gifts to each other. And perhaps I can say that we are also God's gifts to our children because through it all, they were foremost in our hearts and minds. Ding and I maybe many things, but our love and commitment to each other never faded, but in fact, grew stronger through the years. Loyalty is our second skin and we are both proud of that.

I may be battle scarred. But the blemishes and scrapes helped in making me the person I am now- stronger and determined. There may be times when I will feel sorry for myself again, especially when the imperfections become very visible once more, but in my heart, I know I am blessed with a very loyal and devoted partner. And so, for now, I'll keep on singing-

" the world will turn, and the seasons will change and all the lessons we will learn, will be beautiful and strange, we'll have our fill of tears, our share of sighs, and my only prayer is that you realize, You'll always be beautiful in my eyes."