Thursday, December 30, 2010

They're Havin' A Baby

Four months ago, I was near depression. There was so much angst and pent up emotions within me. I was a bomb waiting to explode. An "incident" took place, perhaps a conspiracy of the stars, which made my life a living hell once again. I've gone through this state of affairs many years ago and I didn't think I would go through a wretched life once again at this point. Surely, out of the billions of people in the world, the chances of me having to go through an unhappy and forlorn existence AGAIN seems nil. But no, I had to pass the test again. But instead of giving in to depression, I choose to be angry. That was the more logical reaction to that particular "incident". Nonetheless, it was still burdensome. With an abiding faith, I accepted the ordeal but prayed so hard that I may carry the load till it is extinguished.

The lonesome days of September slithered slowly until I noticed that the air becomes cooler at the same time that the leaves turn gold and started to fall to make a yellowish/brown earth floor. Soon, the anger and resentment in me vanished. Perhaps it was the "good" in me that was planted early on by my father which made me more and more and more understanding and indulgent. I only have to remember him, ask him for prayers and guidance and everything will be alright. Almost immediately, I started to live life again as if that "incident" never happened.

What my faith teaches me is true. When you erase all negative thoughts and feelings, good vibes follow. My youngest son landed a very good job in the IT department of a reputable hospital in QC. Later, the long overdue trip to anywhere Tim wanted us to take became a reality when we visited Cebu and Bohol in the last week of November. We were able to close a deal with a friend regarding their inherited property. Each day, I find good reason to live life more fully and positively. The advent season intensified the euphoria that replaced the cheerless and gloomy state I was in after the "incident". One day, I found myself in the company of my high school friends as we met for the planning of our 41st anniversary reunion, an activity which I willfully avoided the past months since I lost all inspiration to be with them for quite a while. I made peace with one of my high school friends who I thought had something against me. I was wrong. It wasn't me after all. I wasted time worrying about nothing.

By mid-December, I realized I am still alive- vibrant and vivacious. I thanked God for all of these. I praised Him for always remembering me and giving me what my heart desires. But I did not know that He still has more for me- one of the greatest gifts He abundantly showered my family. Tj and Timmy are pregnant- with their first child, our first apo. We have patiently waited for this since their wedding in 2005 and now it will be just eight months away.

My baby girl Timmy is havin' a baby! I will only be a grandma, but I already have plans for our coming baby. I will search all bookstores for the best copy of Desiderata- a poem all parents should teach their children. I will go online to search for new trends in teaching little kids what they ought to know at their age. I will make sure Tim's and Tj's firstborn will learn the lessons I learned from my father. But make no mistake about it- I will not and will never pick a name for the baby; nor will I reject a name Tim and Tj will pick for him/her. I will not choose my first apo's ninong and ninang. It is a task only parents should do. I will only be in the shadows since the little bundle of joy in Tim's womb now is first and foremost her and Tj's responsibility. What I can promise is that I will love him/her as much as I will love the other grandchildren that God will give us through Poy and Nad. Just thinking about it- I already am giddy.

I guess until the time that s/he comes out, Lola Pretty will just be sitting pretty.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Balik sa Bohol, Balik...

There was so much excitement these past weeks owing to the fact that at last, the hubby and I got our feet moving and went on a short trip to the south which Tim had been planning to book a long time ago. Prior to our trip to Cebu and Bohol, we have been locked up at home due mainly to the hubby's accident in September, and for which he is now undergoing therapy. (This is not part of the excitement I am talking about).

Cebu City offered nothing new to us. Like Manila, its malls are now its most important attractions. The best things I found there were the churches, specially the twin cathedrals- the Sto. Nino and the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the historic spots, particularly the very small Fort San Pedro. The fort brought back memories of the years I was teaching Philippine history to first year high school students.

I was surprised at myself for riding a Supercat from Cebu to Tagbilaran City. After that Super Ferry ride from Cebu to Manila in 1997, I swore not be in the middle of the ocean ever again. But the hour long ride from Cebu to Bohol was just a breeze. It helped that I took some medication for dizziness an hour before boarding the ferry boat. And it helped that a comedy film was shown throughout the trip.

Bohol was a pleasant surprise for me. Seeing it for the first time, I can't help but mourn for Bulacan. If Bohol were to become the gateway to the Philippines, the country will all the more become a tourists' haven. There's no traffic anywhere in the city nor in the provincial highway which is the main route to most of its attractions. Even the smallest inroads in the island of Panglao were cemented. I did not see men having a drinking spree in front of their homes. It was so clean everywhere. We passed by several public schools but there were no vendors that would create an ugly sight. All the churches we went to as we cruised the road to Carmen, where the Chocolate Hills are, kept all their historical relics. Like Cebu, its churches have the most ornate retablos which showcases the style introduced by the Spaniards when they arrived in the islands.

The cruise down Loboc river is one that I will forever cherish. I used to get annoyed before whenever I see Cesar Montano on tv saying good things in praise of his home province. I thought, 'yeah, I love my own', little knowing that he was not exaggerating. Had I known, I would have gone there with either the hubby or my kids a long time ago. Call me OA, but when I was in Bohol, I did not see the usual ugly sights in the Philippines.

There are still so many true, good and beautiful things I can say about Bohol during my very short stay there, but lest my fellow Bulakenyos call me a traitor, I will stop here. But one thing is sure, I will visit Bohol another time, and I hope it will be soon, with our best friends in tow, to make the trip doubly remarkable.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Christmas

Every year, I make the mistake of commencing the preparations for Christmas depending on the events unfolding in society. I am aware that's it's wrong, but I am always affected by changes and sometimes, upheavals, that take place around me. I remember in December of the year 2000, a great year as it was the start of the 3rd millennium, I was so horrified by the scandals that rocked the country which led to the impeachment proceedings against Pres. Erap. I refused to put up the tree. But on December 21, I think, a bank executive by the name of Clarissa Ocampo, an eyewitness to Erap's signing bank records in the name of Jose Velarde, came forward and testified in the trial that was beamed on national tv. Late into the night that day, I was putting up the tree because an angel named Clarissa told me there was reason to rejoice.

This year, I promised myself that no matter what, at least the Christmas tree should be up by November 15, and that's how it's going to be from this year on.

In 1999, on our first Christmas in our new and very own home built from the ground up by my husband, Timmy bought a six feet tall Christmas tree out of her bonus as an employee of Pag-ibig. She has since moved to other jobs but the tree is still with us, standing tall, straight and proud of her services to my family. Each year, we change the color motif of the decors, beginning from the poinsettia flowers. In 2001, our 25th anniversary, I bought silver and sapphire blue decors (our wedding color motif was light blue). Then, in later years, we went gold, orange, chartreuse, red, etc. This year, I put out all the flowers in different colors and thought it looked quite good, so I had it that way, minus all other decors, like Christmas balls and ribbons.

Just this morning, the hubby found two flowers, one chartreuse and the other gold, all mashed up and tousled. It must be the handiwork of my other bunsoy - Bitoy. Instead of getting mad, I felt good because Bitoy must be feeling joyous too as we await Christmas. Next week, I will be starting on a make-over, sort of, of the house. Just a few changes in the positions of the old furniture and perhaps some new curtains ( the hubby says, "Curtains? Not again!. Christmas really makes me move my big and little bones. And it feels good!

In a few days, I will be making a mental list again of the ingredients for pancit molo, a regular Christmas table fare requested by my nieces and nephews. We will bring food and more food to share on Christmas eve. We will be thinking of more games to play before each family goes back to our own homes. Last year, Pinoy Henyo was a hit among us. We will be merry once more, because we choose to be happy even if Amang and Inang are no longer around; even if Rico and Lina are now spending white christmases in Ohio (they send goodies, anyway, LOL); even if Sam, Poy and Erick are in countries that don't celebrate Christmas (LOL again, these countries become richer because of Christmas); even if there's a chance Nad will have a night duty on Christmas eve; even if we don't have that much to spend on Christmas finery; even if some others choose not to be part of our family merrymaking because they are busy soaring up high in the sky. This time of the year is a time to be happy and merry and joyous. After all, it's the best time to think of and give thanks for the birth of The One who makes all things possible.

Merry Christmas to all of us! May this season be filled with love and joy to keep in our hearts forever.

Monday, November 15, 2010


This is the first time i will be blogging with a deadline- 12:00 midnight tonight. And it's already half past nine in the evening. Today is my Bunsoy's 30th birthday and because i was caught up in so many inconsequential matters the past days, i failed to grab enough time on the computer to do what i needed to do- write about my youngest, dearest son. The whole day today, i was in the kitchen with my bff and my cousin turning up some scrumptious dishes for family and his buddies. As i write this, his titos and titas and his cousins have gone back to their respective homes, but the buddies and the birthday boy are still up in the bahay-kubo, having a blast, as if being thirty is the most significant stage in a man's life.

Ronald, my Bunsoy, was named after Ronald Reagan who won the US presidential elections on November 4, 1980. Eleven days later, Nad was born. Since his elder brother, Gerald, was named after Gerald Ford, we reckoned that, maybe, it will be more consistent if we go by that name. I am quite proud of the choices we've made for our children's names primarily because we made the choices ourselves. When I was still single, I made a vow never to let another person give the names of my would-be children. I'm glad I did not have to go through the distress of having to turn down someone who, for some reason, would be so assertive enough as to choose a name for someone not his/her child.

Among my three children, it is always Nad who makes a big deal of his birthday yearly. It is as if he was so exultant and ecstatic that he was born. And that alone makes me happy, too. When I hear other young people question why they were born, I feel sad for them because their reservations clearly have something to do with the kind of life they live. Nad is nothing like that. He loves life and he lives it to the fullest. He may not be the gifted son nor the young entrepreneur who earned his first million before he reached 30, but my Bunsoy gives me so much joy, like all other Bunsoys in the world do to the own mothers. Like his eldest sister and elder brother before him, Nad has been and is always a constant source of joy and inspiration for me to go on living, despite the stresses attendant to aging.

Nad and I have our own share of spats and misunderstandings, but one thing I will always appreciate about him is his ability to take things lightly, as if unpleasant things didn't happen at all. When it is I who have done him wrong, it does not take too much time for him to forgive and forget. Perhaps the only thing I could never make him appreciate is my being a worrier. He wants me to relax when he goes anywhere, but what can I do? I am a mother who thinks I am the only one who can protect him.

I know I owe my children so much. To this day I still cringe when I recall that on Nad's second birthday in 1982, I left him and his sister and brother in the care of a househelp and attended to a problem with a bounced check that was paid us by a customer in Pasig. All along I thought I could make it by noon time, but my aunt-in-law and I arrived back home late in the evening- with everything in disarray on the homefront. I hated myself then for being away on my son's birthday and I feel that I have never forgiven myself to this day because the memory is still fresh in my mind and the tears still flow when I recall the events of that day.

Nad was my passport to a renewed professional life when, in 1986, his first year as a kindergarten in St. Mary's, I also started my stint as a classroom teacher in the same school. I was to resign in 1998 when he graduated in high school, but was given a bonus of one more year. Many years later, Nad finished college. Many girlfriends later, Nad is still here with me, celebrating his 30th, still single and still giving me the joy only a mother could feel.

Happy birthday, Bunsoy. I love you beyond the stars!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A September to Not-Remember

This month is my birth month. Sadly, September 2010 wasn't a joyful one. On August 31, 2010, I had the thrill of redeeming my prize, a DVD-CD combo of James Taylor and Carole King's concert at the Troubador in 2007, which I got by joining a promo of the Lifestyle Network at ABS-CBN. When September slowly tiptoed in, it brought a lot of anxiety to me and the whole family.

First, Tim had to be up on her toes for the month long bar, which ended bloodily and violently for some students.( Pilipinas kong mahal, bakit ka nagkakaganito?).Then, the hubby had an accident the details of which are painful to recount. Then, there are the previous transactions with our office that are not moving in the concerned government offices, which make our clients impatient. The list goes on and on. It makes me want to just sleep and wake up when the month is finally over.

Tomorrow, October comes in. I hope it brings with it the cold wind that can calm down my nerves. Need it so desperately.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Men in Blue

PROLOGUE: This article will be published in the author’s personal blog not to initiate a never-ending debate on the police’s perceived incompetence. This is a ventilation of her ideas, sentiments and opinions on a lot of matters concerning law enforcement in the country. This piece contains both matters-of-fact and matters-of-opinion and is never intended to hurt any relative of a police officer, whether known or unknown to the author.

My family was once a victim of police abuses. That gives me the right to write this piece. I would rather not deal on the gory details of those tense, agonizing hours and the days and months following that first Sunday of May in 2008, for they are now water under the bridge. But believe me, the ghosts of that night still haunt me, thus making it hard for me to move on to more productive endeavors. I cringe whenever I imagine how a police officer pointed an armalite on my very precious, kind and adorable son just because he was getting the names of the police that detained my husband and his companion, an uncle. I cry when I recall that my daughter, present then to help my husband, was pushed down to the ground by burly police officers. My knees jerk when I recall the witnesses’ account that my husband, a lawyer, was hit by one of the police officers while in detention, because he kept on asking why they were being detained. (Incidentally, I always kiss the hand of this police officer’s mother when I see her in church, before and after the incident, since we know each other's family.) On Thursday following that Sunday, men armed with long firearms were in my next-door neighbor’s house, making sure they were visible to us, allegedly investigating the loss of their cell phone. Very funny. The events of that night caused my blood pressure to shoot up to 230/110 and I had to be confined in a hospital. The charges and countercharges filed have since been dismissed after a settlement initiated by the public prosecutor. The main reason we agreed to it is the safety of our family, relatives and friends. But to this day, when I see policemen whether in uniform or in civilian clothes, I can’t help but become tense. Then I realize that after this encounter with them, my life will never be the same again.

The events of Monday, August 23, 2010 at the Quirino grandstand over-emphasized what was obvious all along- that there is something very wrong in the country’s police institutions. The hostage crisis proved that many of our police officers are inept and that they lack the necessary system, training and equipment to deal with crisis situations. But what struck me the most about last Monday’s crisis was that point when the brother of the hostage taker, another policeman, refused to go with the team that will take him to the police district’s office. On national TV, he said to media people, “ Tulungan ninyo ako. Wala akong kasalanan. Idadaan nila ako sa likod. Wala akong tiwala sa mga yan! Mga pulis yan.” The police afraid of the police? Wasn’t it absurd? Or does it tell us we are correct in our perceptions?

If we go back a few weeks and months earlier, we will recall how the whole police force of Ampatuan, Maguindanao allowed themselves to be used in murdering more than 50 persons. Then, the Ted Failon episode showed us the kind of police work that is available to us. A few days ago, a torture video, featuring a police official and his victim, a supposed criminal, was released on television. The best word I can use to describe it is karimarimarim. The morning after the hostage crisis, two policemen were being investigated in connection with the rape of the wife of a man they were investigating. In this case, one of the officers had the guts to say that he has never met the woman before- which made her hysterical. What woman would say on national TV (Bitag) that she was raped if she wasn’t? Many years ago, police officers were the ones who took and brought a female UP Los Banos student to their town mayor who raped her. Afterwards, they took turns raping her again. When their lust was satisfied, they killed her and her companion and dumped them in a garbage site. The mayor and some of the policemen may still be in jail now but I am convinced that the lives of the families of those UP Los Banos students have been turned upside down. I can only wish that they have now accepted their fate and somehow forgotten their ordeal. The list of police abuses and brutality is very loooong. And it doesn’t seem to end, even after a very much trusted person is elected president of this country. This situation is both frightening and terrifying.

Many things have been said about last Monday’s hostage crisis. There was a blame game in the aftermath. Finger-pointing was soon followed by the washing of the hands of those perceived to have contributed to the tragic end of the daylong drama. As I write this, I am listening to the Senate investigation on both the torture video and the hostage crisis. I hear so many issues. But I believe, with full conviction, that the tragedy which put the Philippines to shame in the international community, should be blamed only in the hostage taker himself- a captain who is soon to retire. His relatives and his colleagues have described him as a kind man. Praises for his person and the awards he has received were enumerated for whatever purpose may serve his supporters. But I beg to digress. What virtuous policeman would get himself embroiled in an extortion case that led to his dismissal from the service? If he were really kind, where in the world did he get such an idea as to take hostage foreign tourists and later kill them? Kind? Sorry, the Holy Bible tells me those were not the acts of a kind person. It is very clear that this man, wanting to regain the powers he lost through his dismissal from the service, wants instant reinstatement. As for his awards, a retired policeman-friend (almost a relative) of ours says, they can be bought. In fact, he says, during their Sunday runs, those who did not want to go the distance because they are not capable (bulging stomachs, etc.) or they simply didn’t want to can have their way- if the price is right. This policeman-friend of ours even tells the story of how their superior police officials would demand weekly amounts that lead the subordinates to engage in illegal acts to raise the money. To avoid doing this, our policeman-friend decided to be just a 15-30 public servant, with a certain percentage of his salary going to his superior. A lesser evil, I suppose, but it is tantamount to stealing public funds. (We are not brave enough to tell our friend this, because his acts may not be too pleasant, but he is well mannered compared to others.)

But come to think of it, what is it that move many police officers to do such horrible acts? A brief review of our history gives us some insights on how we Filipinos handle power. We have been under Spanish rule for exactly 333 years and under American rule for more than 50 years. Our republic is relatively young. It’s not even a century-old. Filipinos are hungry for two things as an aftermath of being colonized- freedom and power. Hunger for freedom is a good thing. Hunger for power only becomes good depending on the purposes for which it is sought. The nouveau riche, having acquired enough wealth would soon become a politician. Having both money and position, he is now assured of power. Even a poor man who barely eats three square meals a day aspire to have power so much so that the relatively easiest position, such as being a barangay tanod is very attractive to him. Most Filipinos are power trippers because there is something in our blood that desperately wants to come out after being suppressed for more than three and a half centuries. Having a firearm makes a person powerful. Having a firearm wearing a uniform makes a person doubly powerful. The powers vested by law unto policemen obviously make them powerful to the point that they extend these powers beyond limits. Martial law in the early 70’s aggravated this hunger on the part of the law enforcers. As they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Many people say there are more upright and decent policemen than there are unprincipled and corrupt ones. I agree. I know of a policeman whose daughter was molested by a young man in their community. Instead of taking the law into his own hands, which he can very well do, he took the case to the courts of law. Very commendable. But I ask, where are the rest? Why are they failing us? If there were more good ones, how come the institution is as indecent as it is now? Can’t they do something? Can’t they overpower the bad eggs in their ranks? I wish they would do the right thing to serve and protect the people truly, justly and faithfully.

My father was a member of the Philippine Constabulary for most of his life as a man in uniform. When it was integrated into the national police, he chose to transfer to the army, where he started. I am very glad of his decision. For if he stayed in the police force, then I will become one of those who are hurt by the many criticisms generated by the bad eggs in the basket that is the national police.

We need the police. We need law enforcers. We need peace keepers. We do not need torturers, rapists, extortionists, murderers and hostage-takers in uniform.

Last Saturday, I attended the class reunion of Batch ’94 St. Mary’s Academy, Baliuag. I learned that two of my former students became police officers- a young man and a young woman. Before I went to sleep that night, I thought about them and I prayed that they may always be guided by the Catholic, Marian and Ignacian teachings that they got from their alma mater. I prayed that they may always find what they need in discharging their duties faithfully to their fellowmen. Some good things are really easy to find. We do not need to go far. They are in our hearts.

Picture taken from

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery

A story was told about a man who persistently prayed to God to ease him of the cross he has been carrying for years. One day, St. Peter appeared before him and said he is being summoned by God who has heard his prayers. The man went up the gates of heaven with St. Peter who later brought him to a roomful of crosses. There they were, in different colors, materials, sizes. Some were very simple and some were ornate. Some were as huge as the trees in a virgin forest and some were as small as the palm of one's hand. Then, St. Peter told the man that because God was a just and fair God, he can take a look and choose the cross which he thinks he can carry without much difficulty. The man went around the room. He paused when he saw one that caught his attention. It took a while before he chose one, got it and showed it to St. Peter. The gatekeeper asked him if he was sure it was what he wanted. After giving his assurance, St. Peter instructed him to look at what's written on the back of the cross. The man was astonished to find his name engraved thereat.

I always recall to mind this story whenever I have choices or decisions to make at this point in my life. I know it pleases my God to know that I have accepted my cross long ago, and though I sometimes feel burdened heavily, I always look forward to the promise of resurrection which would lead me to everlasting life.

I am no Bible-carrying nor Bible-quoting Christian. I just know that the story of the man who refused his cross and ended up with the same is repeated several times over in all parts of the world. Being an orphan at a very young age is a cross. Difficult mathematical equations are themselves a cross. A vicious husband, a nagging wife, a special child and sickly parents are each a cross. So are a parasitic friend, an unproductive sister and a gossipy neighbor. Even a low-paying job, a know-all-boss and an inefficient assistant are crosses one must have to bear. There are as many crosses as there are people on earth. Sometimes, a person feels s/he has a lot of burdens on his/her shoulders. It would take a lot of self-searching to discern which of the crosses we bear is the one for us. I believe this means that like the man in the story, we can bargain with God, but only on His terms.

I can't recall how many times I turned down someone in need because I know that it is a cross I shouldn't have to bear. (The times when I carried this cross far outnumbered the times I didn't.) Or the times when I refused to heed the messages sent by listen-to-me-I-know-it-will-be-good-for-you fellows, who only wanted to pass their crosses to me so subtly, they think I wouldn't know.

It is very clear to me what my cross is in my lifetime. Sure it's heavy. But I know it's mine. It manifests itself in different forms at different points in time, and when it does, it weakens and debilitates me. Good thing I am a half-full glass of milk-person. It helps a lot to carry that weight. Plus, I get a lot of help from the One who carried His cross to Calvary, and His mother, who did not leave His side.

Image lifted from yakub_israel

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kind Hearts


They are all over. Kind spirits who inspired me as I was growing up until this time when I am already growing old.
There are people I have met at some point in my life who have left such an impact in me for only one reason- they are all kind and benevolent.

First among them is my Ninang Noring ( my readers have met her in
In Loving Memory). She dutifully performed her duties as my confirmation godmother during my formative years. My eyes water whenever I remember her efforts to guide me during my early years as an orphan. If only for her, I would have believed that really, all men are by nature, good. But the realities of life taught me otherwise. There are people with mean bones alongside the good ones.

My Tia Agring, one of my father's sisters, is another very kind soul. All of my father's siblings are kind and compassionate. However, it is my May Agring's life that I witnessed as it unfolded. She is everything a biblical wife should be and I'm glad I have her as a role model for her fortitude and serenity. The same is true with my Nana Subring, an elder sister of my mother. One heartache after another, she still remained strong, resilient and zealous. She has faced challenges head-on and emerged a victor. Perhaps her long life is God's reward for her steadfastness and unwavering faith.

Outside of the family, there is Tata. His first name escapes me at the moment but we initially called him Mr. Guerrero and later Tata for the duration of our stay in his cottage. He was the lessor of the first boarding house my high school classmates and I stayed in at the UP in 1970. It was a run down cottage in Area 2 within the UP campus. I remember him being an Ilocano. He was already a widower then, with four or five children. He had a very calm demeanor inspite of the palpable problems in his family at the time. Whenever I go back to his cottage from a week-end in Bulacan, I always took his hand and bring it to my forehead asking for his blessing. Sometimes, his daughters would laugh at what I did, but it has become my way of showing him my respect since he was the only authority figure I have in that house I called home for over a year.

Then there is Mrs. Nenita Ocampo, Math professor at the AS, also in UP, who owned an apartment unit in the same area, where I lived for more than three years. It was perhaps part of God's plan that I met her (and the other women mentioned previously) since she was also another biblical wife, who longed and worked for a strong marriage against all odds. Ma'am was hands-on in taking care of her three children at the same time that she taught at the university. She always had kind words for everyone. Although it was obvious that she had a lot on her mind those days, she kept to herself and never did once display rude behavior before us her boarders. She's overflowing with understanding for everyone around her. It's a pity I didn't try to reconnect with her these past years.

When we lived in Baliuag in the late 80's, Tita Elsa Sauco became our next-door neighbor. Perhaps it is better to say we became her next-door neighbor. We were the transients in the place, anyway. It did not take long for my kids to be the playmates of her children, Mayet and Hans. Tita Elsa would call on my children to go to their house during week-ends. They were there all day long and she didn't mind all five loud and lively children all over the place. At first, my husband would be hesitant because Tita Elsa wont allow them to go home to eat and instead will prepare meals for them. Every now and then, she would ask me how we are doing and at times, sensing that there is a dilemma, she would graciously offer some help. Her graciousness and congeniality was manifest throughout our more than three years stay in Baliuag. Today, we still communicate and I am glad that I have all the chances now to reciprocate all her kindness.

When I was still teaching at St. Mary's in Baliuag, I met several RVM sisters who deserved to be remembered for their compassion and kindheartedness. I met S. Cely Amper, RVM, in 1986. She was one of those who interviewed me when I applied for a teaching position in that school. I did not show up when she called for me to report for another conference sometime in February, 1986, because my husband and I were then in a mass action in Luneta to support Cory Aquino who won in the snap election against Marcos. When I reported to S. Cely a few days after, I explained the situation and she understood. That was the first of the many other incidents when I needed her understanding, the one thing she was always ready to give to anyone. Another sister, S. Paula Adaoag, RVM, was appointed as the school cashier when she was given the Baliuag assignment. At that time, I was the only one earning for my family since my husband was still in law school- an option he took after quitting a small grains business. One day, she summoned me to her office and pointed out that my pay slip reflects a very small amount every payday, owing to the many deductions, especially the tuition fees of my three children. She asked me how I am able to make ends meet and I had to let her in into my private life as a sole breadwinner with four students to support. S. Paula asked how she ( and the school) can be of help. She broached the idea of relieving me with the twice a month deductions and instead, my two months summer vacation pay shall all go to the children's tuition. Of course, I agreed. S. Paula's gesture was meant for me to regain a little more dignity as a teacher by making my pay slip a little thicker than it used to be. S. Cely's and S. Paula's names are forever engraved in my heart.

A Greek philosopher once said that kindness gives birth to kindness. In so doing, it will forever be reborn and therefore will never die. In today's world, new technologies somehow changed the landscape of social relationships. There are now fewer occasions for people to develop deep and lasting connections . We call someone a friend if s/he is in our list of friends on Facebook or Friendster. Even a close relative is now simply a friend if s/he lands on that list. But having such a list of friends can be a good start in nurturing deep affection. The first step could be a kind word thrown here and there.

How I wish my children will all encounter kind souls with kind hearts as they go through their individual lives.
These souls are what maybe called models- for they say and do things that must be emulated. In contrast, fate lets us meet people whose words and deeds should never be replicated, for as Kahlil Gibran said, "they are vexations to the spirit". Between these two groups of souls, those with kind hearts should rule our lives for they live according to the rules.

Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on; 'Twas not given for thee alone, Pass it on; Let it travel down the years, Let it wipe another's tears, Til in Heaven the deed appears - Pass it on.- Rev. Henry Burton

* Heart image taken from

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Everybody's Fine

Yesterday afternoon, I wanted to have a few laughs before going back to the unfinished house chores, so I chose to watch a movie that looked funny- Everybody's Fine, which stars Robert de Niro, Drew Barrymore and one of my favorite Kates in Hollywood- Kate Beckinsale. ( How I love looking at pictures of Kate Moss, Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett and Mary Kate Olsen). Ten minutes into the movie, it turned out I won't have a good laugh. Instead, I had a good cry.

The movie moved me to tears as I imagine my family in the same situation- without me, their mother. Frank, De Niro's character, was a new widower and in the movie, he tried to reconnect with his four children who have gone on their own in different places. He took a road trip to New York, Chicago and Las Vegas with the intention of surprising his children with his visit. Instead, it was he who was surprised at the discovery of concealed truths about the lives of all his children.

There were universal truths about family life depicted in the movie. Like- why do children speak truthfully to their mothers but not to their fathers? And why do parents find it hard to let go of their children? Perhaps, Kahlil Gibran's admonition to parents in The Prophet can give some enlightenment to us parents. He said-

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

When the time comes that the arrows have flown swiftly and afar, I wish that everybody's gonna be fine.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Letting Go and Moving On

My world has stopped moving normally for a while since Monday, May 24th.

Suddenly, I got sick- minus the usual symptoms that accompany any malady. I had to always move and do something, despite the scorching heat and the cough and cold that I caught. There has to be no idle moment to stop and think, even for a while. When every chore is done, I had to click on the television, or the computer. There had to be a sound or an image at anytime so that I will forget that my dear Bugaki is gone.

A few weeks ago, when it became clear that she will soon leave us, I told my husband that she will forever be alive as long as my blog is in cyberspace. After all, this site was named after her. But then again, it was only her name and her memory that may live forever. She is gone and so are the joys that she gave all of us since she was a small puppy.

Bugaki did not die naturally. We had to decide to put her to sleep upon recommendation of our veterinarian-neighbor. That was the most difficult part of her passing. What I suspected all along was true- Bugaki had cancer. When she was still stronger, I noticed a big, wide lump on her breasts whenever I give her a bath. From then on, I make it a point to make her clean and comfortable always. We built a fence in the back garden so she can have the place all to herself. The other dogs were not allowed in her new territory. Then, the lump became an open wound. We treated her with antibiotics but had to stop when no sign of cure was manifested. A few days before she passed away, she lost appetite and her wounds became difficult to manage. That Monday, the vet said her wounds' condition has gotten worse such that it can cause harm to the other dogs and even to humans. He was of the opinion that Bugaki's remaining days will be difficult for her and for us. We had to make a decision in a matter of minutes. And because we love her so much we do not want her to suffer anymore, we agreed it was her time to go. Finished.

Or so i thought. When I broke the news to Timmy, she was preparing to go back to Manila. I was on the verge of tears but I had to show strength in order for her to calm down. But she was inconsolable. Tim loves Bugaki. I texted Poy who is in UAE and he was crying uncontrollably when he called back. Poy loves Bugaki. I texted Nad to tell him that Bugaki's gone and all he said in reply was "Bakit?" Nad loves Bugaki.

Everyone in my family loves Bugaki as if she were another human being. She was a constant in our lives. She was born in 1998 when we were still renting a house while our own was being built. Bugaki had the habit of following me around wherever I go. Once, she was nearly ran over by a jeepney along the highway since I didn't notice that she was following me on my way to work one early morning. Every afternoon in the latter part of 1998, she would lead us to the lot where we were building our house. She always wanted to be the leader of the pack that included our other dogs and our children. She would be the first to enter the premises and later, the first to come out to lead us back to our rented home. How she acted like a precocious child then.

Bugaki's life ( long, in terms of dog years) is a lesson in loving and caring. I was never fond of dogs before. I had fixed my attention to my growing children and I didn't think it was such a good idea to have dogs in the house. I was raising a family by my lonesome self and I thought it was not only a distraction but also impractical then to spend for dog food and other dog necessities. My children taught me to be more dog friendly and from that time on, I was hooked on these canine creatures. It didn't matter if they have a pedigree ( Bugaki is an aspin), as long as they are four-legged and knows how to bark, especially at strangers.

Bugaki's death, on the other hand, is a lesson on letting go and moving on. Her passing made it clear to me that there are two kinds of death. First, the kind that gives one a sigh of relief and a taste of freedom, and therefore does not hurt as much. The second, the kind that renders one immobile, unthinking, shocked, traumatized and shaken up, thus, translates into more pain as the early shock wears down. Bugaki's death is of the second kind.

Someday, I will have another dog in the house. Just not now. The space in my heart reserved for Gaki shall be there for hers alone, for sometime. When I am ready to make space in my heart for another doggie, I will make sure that I will love it the way I loved Gaki.
I can imagine Rotty, our dalmatian, Bonnie, our siberian husky, Puti, Bugaki's mother and Bugaki, our dear aspin, all together playing in dog heaven today.

Meantime, I will relish and delight in the joys brought to us by our remaining five amazing and wonderful dogs- Cotton ( aka Kotong), Purlak, April, Chuchay and Bitoy
. Life goes on.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Story

Journaling is not new to me. Since my teen-age years, I have always made very good friends with a pen and a notebook. I always felt the urge to write what happens to me- whether they are sad or joyful didn't matter. A quick look at my high school journal reveals a lot of happy, delightful and jovial events, either with my hometown buddies or with my school friends. In college, there was not much time to write since I was a working student and college life, while very productive, was quite dull and boring. (The only colorful events are those leading to the First Quarter Storm.)

The years from 1976 were quite eventful, as they covered my life as a young married woman and later on, as a young mother. Early on, I deemed it necessary to write a journal since I had no one (literally) to run to when news, good or bad, had to be shared. One heartbreak after another, my life story unfolded in my journal. There were entries that made me smile ( like my descriptions of my little children while asleep) when I read them again. But there were many which made me teary eyed, no matter how long ago they transpired. Perhaps these were the same entries that made my daughter Timmy cry when she discovered that journal when she was still a young girl. While it broke my heart that she was affected at such a young age, I recognized the fact that sooner or later, I will have to tell her my story.

My story is about people, places, events, choices, regrets, pains and pleasures. I am very thankful of the many blessings I have been greatly showered by the Great Provider- blessings that helped me survive an otherwise difficult existence. It was easy to revisit those memories but when it comes to my regrets and pains, it was a different story altogether. One advantage of revisiting such memories, however, is that it puts me in a vantage point where I can be an observer of my own life, thus, I get new perspectives and I gather new messages. More than exploring my creative side, I am more interested in healing and exploring myself.

When a woman has experienced being shaken to the very core of her foundation by a set of circumstances she had no control of, she undergoes a degree of woundedness that needs to be healed. Writing one's story is a way back to sanity and sensibility; it is a mode of sorting through the conflicts and the pains alongside the delights and the bliss. I want to take this route a little further. I need to take this route a little further. For even if my life experiences have made me stronger, I doubt if they have made me better.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

There Are Places I Remember

I was born in a house near the 'riles'. Back when there were still trains passing through the railway, the area was called Daang-bakal. For so long my address used to be 701 Daang-bakal St., Banga, Plaridel, Bulacan. There was only one Banga then. It can't be missed since it has the most important landmark in my hometown- the railroad crossing. In the 80's, Daang-bakal lost it's meaning because the wood and steel materials went piece by piece after the PNR stopped operations north of Manila. Today it is a cemented strip of land unofficially called Calicot St. Whoever coined the name must have some naughty ideas in his head. I still visit the place where my father's house still stood. It was also where my parents-in-laws' house used to stand. Not so long ago, that house was demolished and my husband rebuilt what was left of it in our 'bukid'. I enjoy visiting the place because I always see old, familiar faces, mostly people my age, since most of the elders are now gone. We were squatters in this area as it was owned (still is) by the PNR. More than half a century ago, this place provided me and my childhood friends with a happy and safe environment. After supper on week-ends, we play 'taguan' and 'patintero' ( when the moon is full). As we play, our elders would cook 'tamarindo', a native delicacy made of ripe tamarind with coconut milk and sugar or 'panutsa'. It has a gooey texture and a sweet-sour taste, but it is sooo good. Sadly, nobody makes it anymore these days. Daang-bakal or Calicot will always be remembered because it is the land of my birth.

In college, I first resided in an old, run-down cottage known as T-170 B, Area 2, UP, Diliman, QC. Together with some of my classmates in high school, this place provided security and sanctuary for us who were all-first time city dwellers at the time. Nina and I moved to Cataluna St. in Sampaloc, Manila in the summer of 1971, in a boarding house owned by her tita. At the time, I enjoyed commuting from Sampaloc to UP but when I experienced waist-deep floods in Manila, I decided to go back to Diliman. That's when I had a very posh address- Kamia Residence Hall. I didn't think I would have a bed in the said dorm, but I believe that my name was not even wait-listed after the matron interviewed my father from whom she learned that I was orphaned by my mother at the age of six. A sad story gave me a room.

After a long vacation full of uncertainty due to PD 1081, I again transferred residence. This time at 103 Valenzuela St., Area 2, UP Diliman. This apartment was owned by a Math professor- Mrs. Nenita C. Ocampo and this was where I developed a deep and lasting friendship with my roommates Rachel Recomono and Joy Versoza. I stayed in this apartment until I resigned from Maryknoll in March 1976.

During my marriage, we have had two residences both within my hometown. In the late 70's we rented a bodega along the provincial road, owned by my friend Goya's family, where we built a palay-buying station and a living space at the back. This bodega stood witness to the many heartaches I had to endure as a young wife and mother. But this is also where Timmy and Popoy learned their first steps, so it made the place worth remembering despite the hurts and the pains. Then, we bought an old house from my in-laws near the elementary school where Ding and I went to. Tim spent the first two grade levels there before she and her brothers transferred to St. Mary's. Just like the bodega, this house was another witness to the many painful and agonizing moments in our life. When we could bear them no longer, we decided to find a place in Baliuag, despite the apparent refusal of our children, specially Nad. That was the most logical choice since at the time, I was already teaching at St. Mary's.

The old house in A. Luna St., Baliuag, Bulacan became a safe haven and a refuge specially for me who have grown so weary, exhausted and tired of all the hardships attendant to living with difficult in-laws. I felt it's about time we live independently- without listening to the endless criticisms and reproach from people who thought they knew better. The A. Luna house looked so old and dilapidated, but both Ding and I thought the three years we spent there were the best years of our lives, more like heaven compared to the little hell holes in Plaridel.

Little did we know that in so short a time, we will be going back to Plaridel when the owner of the A. Luna house decided to sell the land where it stood. Ding was then working in Valenzuela City at the same time that he goes to a night law school in Manila. We were to occupy the second floor of my parents-in-law's house in Daang-bakal since the ground floor was already being occupied by the family of Ding's elder brother. It was literally going right in the midst of the devil's territory. I knew it would be hell and it was hell a hundred times over. But at the time, when Ding was still struggling with his law studies, we needed a place for free so that we can survive. Almost seven years of everyday spectacle from Ding's brother made me hate myself for agreeing to go back to Plaridel. It was a huge mistake. If given a chance to rewrite our family history, I might omit this miserable episode in our life. My children did not deserve to live in misery and desolation all those seven years only because they had a relative who lived to make other people's lives wretched and miserable. Years later, when we have moved to a place all our own, this relation died of a disease which putrefied his body even while he was still alive.

Now, we live in a house all our own. Ding built this house at 0479 Agnaya, Plaridel, Bulacan from scratch. Everything here, from the doors and locks, the paint and nails, were bought under his supervision. And everything here came from the fruits of our labor. While we were building this house, designed by my former high school student, Randy Reyes, we rented another near the lot so that Ding can personally supervise the builders. I was then on my last year at St. Mary's. A quick look at the house being built slowly then was enough for me to sing " Ang puso ko'y nagpupuri, nagpupuri sa Panginoon..." for at last, He gave my family a true refuge and a home where love springs eternal. It took us so long, but the wait was all worth it.

My final home just might be a little urn but I hope that before my ashes are placed in it, I would have built a small depository where my loved ones can keep it. My spirit and my soul can soar high up in the horizon, but it is still my wish that what remains of my body is kept in my home.

Friday, April 9, 2010


She was born on April Fool's Day but she is certainly no fool.

Kumareng Nene or Florida S. Camitan Alberto, my best friend forever, is two years my junior. We were childhood neighbors and playmates. We went to the same public elementary school in our barangay. Unfortunately for her, her parents could not afford to send her to school for her secondary and college education. Like most parents of post war Philippines, they argued that she is a girl, anyway, so she didn't need to go for further studies. Instead of sulking over her parents' decision, she studied sewing by apprenticing at the shops of seamstresses and tailors in our community. That gave her an opportunity to earn a living.

Her lack of education motivated her to go beyond her powers so that her own children will be educated. She worked odd jobs- as a sewer, as a laundrywoman, as a house help. She allotted a very minimal budget for fancy food and clothing so that her children could spend for what they needed in school. To her credit, three of her five children got their bachelor's degrees and are now living their own lives.

My BFF's life is one for the books. Once, during her most trying moment- when she had a falling out with her only son who prioritized some other person over her, I told the son, " If I had been your mother, I don't think you could have finished school. Because I could not have done all the sacrifices that your mother did." My words fell on deaf ears. Today, the son is having the most difficult time of his life, living in debt and disarray, all because he took his mother for granted and completely ignored her in making life-changing decisions. All I could say was- what comes around, goes around.

Kumareng Nene is poor- materially poor. But she is very rich in values and virtues., hence, she has such a rich spirit. This is perhaps the reason why my husband allows me to go anywhere as long as she is my companion. He knows I am in very good company with my kumare around. But the most admirable thing about her is that despite living in dire poverty, she can always put food on the table for her family. She has no debt of whatever amount. Her husband's social security retirement pension of just a couple of thousand pesos goes a long, long way. Most of the time, it is kept intact as their savings and would only be spent for urgent needs. If she had a business of her own, it would surely grow and multiply with the way she handles money.

Her sense of community with other people is also worth emulating. She would condole with grieving families. She would volunteer to accompany a neighbor to the hospital in times of emergencies. She would seek assistance for a neighbor in need. She would always lend a hand to her orphaned nephews and nieces, her brothers and sisters, as if she were the eldest in her family. Indeed, my BFF renders more help than anyone better situated than her.

Today, she is my constant companion, my nurse, my confidante. When I get sick and immobile, she is the first person my husband would call for help. All my children care for her. Whatever they give their titas, they also give my BFF. Most of the time, when Tim and Tj would treat me out or would just go out malling, they would tell me to bring my bff along. She has become such a significant member of my family through the years.

We are now both in our twilight years. I cannot imagine a life without a friend like her. As I always tell her, should I go ahead of her, she's free to tell my family my innermost thoughts- my fears, my anger, my concerns, my thrills and delights and all my secrets. I have a most wonderful husband and amazing children, but still, there are things which I can only entrust to a friend like Kumareng Nene. I have so many friends from everywhere. And I truly and sincerely treasure my friendships with them- developed at different points in time and in different places, under different circumstances. But my BFF is in a plane different from all the rest.

She is a living proof of how blessed I am.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Teacher No More

I wonder why many students are at a loss as to what they would be in their future lives.

I knew I would be a teacher since I was in grade school. Not only did my father groom me to be one. I wanted it myself. During my playtime with the kids in my neighborhood, I usually essayed the role of a teacher. I don't remember anyone telling me to be the teacher in our 'laro'. I just assumed the role as if at age 7 or so, I have already been to a normal school. Back then, teacher-training institutions are called normal schools. Back then, the 'best' students in high school took up education to be a maestro or a maestra. Back then, teaching is considered a very elegant profession, hence, daughters of "buenas familias" naturally become teachers. Their suitors are the sons of other "buenas familias" who turned out to become lawyers, engineers, doctors and architects. Since they ran in the same circles, it was but natural for them to get hitched to one of their own. ( In contrast, as pointed out by my graduate school professor, Dr. Cruz, women teachers today marry the tricycle driver who brings them to and from the school, or the school maintenance staff with whom they often communicate concerning school activities. After all, they belong to the same strata of society which falls exactly on the poverty line. We all laughed, but we all felt the joke was on us).

My teaching internship at the UP Integrated School and at the Ramon Magsaysay High School in 1974 were both very memorable ones. Although I got a very good rating from my UP critic teacher, that was not enough to land me a teaching job thereat. Ms. Jorda said I had three "5's" in my TOR so i cannot be accommodated. Funny thing is they accepted applicants from lesser known universities because they had a clean TOR. On the other hand, my critic teacher at the RMHS kept egging me to apply at the QC Division Office because she was sure I would make it. The trouble is, newly hired teachers in public schools at the time did not receive their salaries until after a year. My goodness, did they expect us to walk from home to school and not to eat for a whole year? So fate brought me to the catholic private schools. It was a choice between Maryknoll College (now Miriam College) and St. Bridget's. I chose Maryknoll since it was closer to UP where I lived then.

The Maryknoll experience was sort of a baptism of fire for me. It was also where I experienced the so-called culture shock. Rich kids shout " Miss, my shirt is for dry clean" when their classmates were about to throw them into a pool during a birthday party for a classmate. They traded stories of their European or US sojourns during breaks. They were very open with their feelings (good and, well, not so good) for their teachers. A whole class booed me so loud as I passed by their room just because I was reassigned as their Sociology teacher and their former sociology teacher, who requested the change because she said she had no experience teaching sociology, was given my previous assignment, World History. Looking back, I know in my heart that they liked their former Sociology teacher because she was really chic and fashionable. I was a plain jane to her Sarah Jessica Parker. Nevertheless, I finished the whole year with colorful memories and when it closed, I resigned after deciding to go back home to the province to get married.

In 1976, I applied and was accepted at the St. James Institute ( now Academy) in Plaridel, Bulacan. I was to start a new chapter in my teaching career in June of that year but I was married that same month. One obstacle after another made me decide to forget teaching for a while. It was largely because I succumbed to in-laws pressure that I had to give up what I wanted. Someone who exerted power over my husband made it known to me that she is against my plans to be employed as a teacher again. To my face she said that I just wanted to be' magara" and though it broke my heart, I knew then that my marriage is on the line if I don't follow. So, my husband taught me to engage in the grains transporting business which I hated from day one. It would be years later that I realized I did it because I just wanted acceptance. The business is a very lucrative one. It got us earning a net of at least a thousand pesos a day which is quite big in the early 80's. Depending on the capital, the take-home would be much, much more. But it is also a very frustrating means of earning a living. From the time we start buying the goods in the morning till we deliver the same to our customers in far-away Pasig, Taytay, Angono and Binangonan, it is a series of lies after lies in order for the goods to be bought. Oh, how i hated it. I hated the traffic and the heat on the road. I hated the policemen who asked for money even if we have no violation. How I hated it when our truck broke down and we had to sleep just anywhere. There was even a time when I was still nursing Poy and we did not get home until the next morning only to find out that he and Tim were in my aunt's house where they spent the night. ( Thank God for good natured relatives!). O God, how i hate to think of those days. I guess all the wickedness in me, I got during all those years. In fact, i once told a colleague at St. Mary's, "Kung hindi lang nabubulok ang pagkatao ko sa viaje, mas maganda sana ang kita dun kesa magturo". It was an effort i did to make my family whole and for me to be accepted. But the most disturbing detail in this episode of my life was the times when i would avoid visiting my father because I was ashamed that I was not practicing my profession for which he worked hard to support my studies.

I love my family so very much, but in all honestly, I felt something really important to me was missing. I have always maintained that I had no choice but to prioritize my family. Later, I was presented with the right opportunity to go back to the academe. When Nad was to be enrolled in Kindergarten, I applied at St. Mary's Academy in Baliuag and was accepted. At last, I found my second home.

Many times, the sound of CAT students shouting "St. Mary's!" while in formation would ring in my ears. For thirteen years, St. Mary's became my and my children's second home. I love the sound of the official greeting "Praised be Jesus and Mary!" of the congregation that runs it to this day. When I see RVM sisters in malls or elsewhere, I approach them and greet them the RVM way. Then, a short conversation would begin. I developed long and deep friendships with my colleagues at St. Mary's, like Ate Dory, Ate Lucing, Ate Mercy, Menchie, Ed, Ogie, Tess (now Sis. Tess, RVM) Leny B., Myrna and many others. I became 'ninang sa kasal' of my younger colleagues like Mati, Fe, Weng, Yo, Vilma L., Vilma B. and Maricon.I will never forget the sisters who were very true to their vows as a nun- Sis. Cely, Sis. Paula, Sis. Efrena, Sis. Chit (RIP) to name a few. I also ended up having the worst enemy thereat-especially the sister who, instead of fostering unity of the high school and grade school departments, went out of her way to make her department seem "better". There were several others like her whom I still worked with civilly but I would constantly greet "Morning, sister!" so fast I deliberately made it sound"Monster!"

Because I had a very happy and unforgettable high school life, I always looked for the counterparts of my classmates in all the classes I handled. I was always on the look-out for the nerds- a Victor, a Sonia, a Ver; the heartthrobs- a Dinggoy or a Deyot; the bullies like a Lu-es and a Joji; the sweethearts like an Angie, a Yollie, a Beth and a Reby. They come and go every year. And because they reminded me of my own high school years, I made theirs memorable, too. I cannot be accused of being a terror because I really was not. In fact, I cleaned our homeroom together with the assigned cleaners; I asked the guidance counselor to go with me to the homes of our awol graduating students so they can still cope and make-up. I wanted my students to enjoy the learning process. I was fortunate that with the subjects I taught-World History, Philippine History and Filipino, it was a piece of cake to do just that. This was why every graduation day, I was always teary-eyed as the graduates sang the graduation hymn.

Thirteen years at SMA made me richer in experience and in friends. More than half of my friends in Facebook now were former students. Without them knowing it, these students have taught me a lesson or two on life and living. The valedictorians of each year taught me to forever be on my toes, or else they would eat me up alive. Who could forget the likes of Rutchelle San Gabriel (87), Rochelle Cuyco (88), Loretta Buenaventura (89), Arlene Angeles (90), Erwin Herrera (91), Portia Briones (92), Anjanette Uy (93), Joey Rivera (94), Shiella Rillera (95), Roel Mapoy (96), Dionice Juliano (97), Cheska Cruz (98) and Eileen Bondad (99)? But these topnotchers make up only a small portion of the most unforgettable high school characters. There are the bullies, the KSPs, the problematic ones who carried the world on their shoulders, the kikays, the boy-next-door-types who spent most of their allowances on hair gel, the many dishonest but lovable parasites who prey on their classmates' test papers, the politico wannabes ( Buko, statue?), the steadfast fighters like Emmie Liza Perez, Fritzie Marcos and others who stood for what was right, even if others talk behind their backs. And of course, the majority of boys and girls who exhibited a calm, serene, relaxed and cool demeanor come rain or drought. And, oh, it was bonus for me to be the teacher of my own children in either Filipino or history. It was like feeding them the good food that I cooked for others. How can I not treasure this chapter in my life which I call my most productive years?

Alas, some good things really never last. When the school year 98-99 opened, I felt something really bad. I began to be restless. I began to search for new purposes. I knew so many things have gone wrong. I was suffering and later I developed burnout. Suddenly, I didn't want to function as I used to anymore. The new demands on the home front added more confusion to my already confused mind. We have built our very first own home in 1999 and I thought I needed to be there to savor the beauty of owning one for the first time. I had so many things in mind on how to beautify and care for our little home. But that was to be just a shield from the real nagging reasons for my growing restlessness. I felt I had to be honest with myself and with my employer, thus, I wrote in my resignation letter that " I cannot support the objectives of the school anymore". Before I left St. Mary's, teachers were asked to do tasks which to our minds were merely duplications of the things we have already done. The school demanded "excellence" from the teachers, even to the point of having them work until dark, when their families were waiting for the food to be put on their tables; or even during week ends which were supposed to be family days- a very catholic christian objective. These things the teachers endured- all in the name of accreditation. From being a very vital partner in the learning process, the teacher was now reduced to being a tool for marketing the school and the services it offered. Sad, really sad. But what made it more unfortunate was the fact that so much was asked of the teacher and so little was given in return. And when the teacher voices her concern, she was told, "Give, until it hurts."

Teachers' salaries and benefits have long been an issue in this country. All along, I was of the opinion that when one chooses to be a teacher, she must bear in mind that it is a vocation. Thus, money should not be a concern. I was so wrong. When a teacher's whole life and being is asked to be offered, for purposes other than noble ones, she should be remunerated- correctly and exactly.That is justice and fairness, no more, no less. I guess I am no hero. But this much I can do- I can teach street children and whoever needed to learn, when I want to, without being paid a single peso, for as long as there is no individual, organization or congregation, for that matter, who would become richer because of my time, effort and expertise. A teacher becomes truly one in the service of a learner- and not as an instrument to be used by school owners to become incalculably wealthy.

For the time being, I am a teacher no more. Until the bell rings again and the call is clear, I have to make do with what I can to do some "teaching" of my own.

Goodbye class! See you next time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

He's My Brother, He Ain't Heavy...

Dong, my only brother from my parents' union ( I have two more lovely brothers from my father's remarriage), is a junior. People call my late father Badong and my brother Dong. He was four years old when our mother died. Our youngest, Connie, was then two. With Connie's passing in 1967 at the age of ten, our immediate family was left with only three members- my father, Dong and I.

Being older than Dong and with my father's work as a soldier who was most often away, I was left as the only significant family member for my brother.
Our childhood was both merry and sad. Merry, because we had a lot of support from our parents' siblings and we had great neighbors who to this day have remained faithful friends to us. Sad, because during our most painful moments, we were only two to share our grief.
Dong is quite an intelligent student back in grade school. We both went up the stage to receive our ribbons during the recognition rites. He had close friends from our community with whom he hung out especially during summer when there's no school. Everything was normal with him until my father remarried in 1969. He was 13 then, I was 15.
At the time, he didn't understand what I was able to grasp at my age. My father was still young then and the woman he married was from a very good family. I didn't see anything wrong with my father's remarriage, in fact, I felt relieved that there was now someone who would take care of him. Unfortunately, Dong did not see it that way. He became disoriented. His perspective of things changed. He was lost in the world he started to create then. He stopped schooling. He got involved in trouble and more troubles. He went away, returned, went away again and returned again. It was a very tiring cycle which made me cry each time the wheel moved.

While I was struggling as a college student, Dong was training in the army. He would have been a regular at the armed forces, but when I got married a year after college, he dropped out of training and got married himself on the same year I did. That would have been a relief but instead, things got even worse 'cause now he has a family to feed and his lack of education could not land him a good job. One odd job after another, his family (with a son and twin daughters), had to endure hardships. Ironically, when his wife went to the Middle East to work, things did not turn out to be better. His daughter Sherryl, the other half of the twin, died of an illness in 2003 and after her burial, my sister-in-law decided to go back to her work. To date, she has been in Saudi Arabia for more than 25 years. I have no choice, because it is my moral obligation, but to help my brother out when he needed assistance. Today, I regret the fact that I did not send him to school. I was overwhelmed by my own emotional challenges which led me to take the leap and plunge into marriage. Being older, I know I should have done something to change the course of his life by encouraging him to go back to school but my selfishness at the time got in the way. I hope he forgives me for my shortcoming.

Through the years, I have become a constant source of help and support, material and otherwise, for Dong and his family. While there is a limit to what I can give, there is no ceiling to the love and care that I have for my brother. We do not talk as lengthily as we do with our respective friends, but we do know each other pretty well. And we have the same intensity of care and concern for each other. I am sure that even if he had no material thing to give me, he is ready to give his own life for me.

From our childhood years to the present, Dong and I have never even once quarreled. We have had no arguments. We kept our peace when one of us is hurt by the other. He listens to me when I start to evangelize or lecture him. In so doing, we developed a bond so strong it is worthy to be emulated by our children. I guess he has now realized the folly of resisting and refusing to accept my father's destiny to happen. He saw with his own eyes how our stepmother loved and cared for our father till his dying day. He may not verbalize it, but I'm sure he has accepted the things he refused to accept when he was younger.

Sometimes, it breaks my heart when I see how old and sad he has become. But I do not question his destiny. An old friend once said, when he learned of my brother's circumstances, that there are really people who are 'walang swerte", no matter how hard they try. I quite agree because I know of some other people who moved heaven and earth to find answers to their dreams, but they failed. But i'd like to think that my brother is lucky to be born in my family, with a father who early on has taught me that family is the most important thing in this world. I know in my heart that my brother now knows where he failed and why. I know that he knows I am always here for him. I know he loves me and that I love him back.

To borrow the lyrics of a
song, the road is long with many a winding turn for my brother. But I'm strong enough to carry him, for he's my brother. His welfare is my concern and he is no burden to me. There is no reason for me not to share anything I've got with my brother, because the road to eternity is a long road from which there is no return. With God by my side, and with my husband's and my children's full support, the load does not weigh me down at all. He ain't heavy.......... because he's my brother.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bridge of My Youth

Okay, I said no issues. But I can't help it.

Two days ago, I went to SM Baliuag with a friend. The jeep we were riding got stuck in traffic right above the Plaridel-Pulilan concrete bridge. The few minutes we were there awakened me to a nagging truth- the Plaridel-Pulilan PNR Railbridge is no longer where it used to stand.

It was the bridge of my youth. That bridge was a playground of sorts for me and my playmates. In the early '60's, my elders used to go to the river to wash clothes and to have a picnic. While they did the laundry, the children ( that includes me) swam in the crystal clear waters which was only knee deep at the time. While swimming, we each had a tabong lata where we put the very fresh tulya which were later cooked by the older ones. We cooked rice using firewood gathered around the area. We gathered fruits from the trees along the river. Several times, we ate fresh langka as dessert, courtesy of the homeowners near the river. We were literally submerged in water the whole day. Almost always, we sat at the concrete platform of the railbridge while telling stories or while munching on some goodies we brought there. We would only leave the platform when a train passes overhead, either north or south bound. The memories and the images are still so vivid. They were the best of times.

Years later, it became impossible to do what we used to do there. The waters darkened and smelled. The banks were now filled with makeshift houses built by people from other provinces in pursuit of the good life away from their hometowns. Worse, the PNR trains stopped operations northwards. Suddenly, there were no more sounds of a cho-choo train nor the sight of the dark smoke emitting from the engines. But the bridge was still there. And it felt okay. The sight of the railbridge evokes memories of a healthy and merry childhood. That was enough.

Then it happened. Slowly, the railbridge disappeared part by part. First to go were the wooden railings. Someone said it became a hot stuff for architects and decorators. Now, they can be found in the best homes worthy of a page in the Architectural Digest. Then, the metal rails went. I myself saw several times how the metal bridge was torn apart. There was no furor over the dismantling. There were talks that it was done regularly-meaning, above board. But nothing is impossible in this country. Whoever got richer by messing with a cultural and historical artifact only has to answer for it with his god.

It wasn't a white elephant even if the trains stopped operations. Many people from both Pulilan and Plaridel benefited from it as it is used by pedestrians who choose to use it instead of walking onto the concrete bridge in order to avoid accidents. It could just have been asphalted or concreted to remain as useful as it was. But no, there were other agenda.

I have no pictures of the bridge of my youth, because it is no longer there.

PS. this is how it looked like.
It's the bridge on the right.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What I Know For Sure ( An Oprah-inspired Musings)

Having lived for more than half a century, I can now boast of knowing some things for sure. Age has a way of teaching us mortals certain truths about certain things. I have always believed that truth is relative. There are as many truths as there are people in the universe, perhaps even more. Maybe my truths are untrue for others, but my life is an affirmation of the things I believe in.

1. Love is the best reason for getting married and for keeping the marriage. In a marriage, there are a lot of termites ( in-laws, vices, ill-motive friends, etc) that threaten to wreak havoc on the union. The strongest weapon against them is the love that binds the couple. When love jumps out of a married person's heart, the marriage is doomed.
2. Children who grew up in a loving environment are well grounded and well mannered. What happens to a child between birth and age 7 defines his future temperament.
3. Generosity cannot be taught. Either one is a giver or a taker. Givers give until it hurts. Takers are not hurt no matter how heavy the load taken is.
4. Friends are not called such if one knew them only for days. Friends are like trees- they have to be planted, cultivated, propagated and cared for.
5. One is never alone. Even the worst person has company-the devil himself.
6. Money is neither good nor bad. It is how money is earned and spent that is either good or bad.
7. When one misses something he considers important and does not get it in any way, it is alright to settle for the next best thing. No one has a monopoly of the best.
8. Learning does not happen only in schools. The universe is the biggest university where even a rolling stone teaches a lesson or two.
9. Some memories are better left untouched especially when they threaten to ignite anger and frustration.
10. Prayers are always answered. However, the answer may not be what you pray for. But it is always good to be thankful for answered prayers.

More truths later.....