State of the Family

Funny Janet Jackson is saying Michael Jackson is family.  By virtue of being sister and brother, that must be true. Blood siblings, no doubt about it.  But America better assess what family means.   Am glad the new first family in the White House is showing a picture of a father and a mother and two young daughters knit together, bound by unconditional love and genuine admiration for each other, dwelling under one roof.  Pray it stays that way forever.  Not necessarily in the Washington D.C. residence, of course.

The haunting stance that the families of the generations past contend bidding children to leave home when they turn eighteen had definitely divided the family.  Many children had set forth far from their parents to build their own abodes.  Interstate distance had made bonding almost impossible.  New offspring barely have an idea of what uncles and aunties and cousins meant.  Grandpa and grandma are probably just like Santa and Mrs. Claus who come and visit once a year.   Whereas if the relatives live just around the corner or down the block or at a nearby subdivision, people would have more birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate.  The babies could share toys, the adolescents could go to the same school and have the same friends, the young professionals, kin though they may be, can put weekend gimmicks, shoot pictures and make a clan album that could live to posterity.  Young in-laws could even form a moral support group, especially when someone is birthing or child rearing.  When one has a confidante all within the family, there would be no need for a thousand dollar therapy nor a day care center.  Having family delivers all the help necessary.  And when one has grown gray and old, the fear of being alone with strangers in a nursing home would not be a problem.  A son could always push the wheelchair for early morning breezy walks and a daughter could prepare that warm oatmeal for breakfast.

As it is the Americans had taken pride on their own individual achievement.  A huge home at the other side of the mainland, a utility vehicle and a car sporting the garage, a swimming pool that costs a hundred dollars for cleaning, a respectable job downtown, and lots of credit cards.  How often would you see brothers driving in a van to work?  Or sisters dropping their toddlers to kindergarten school?  Very rarely.  How often would you see an aged father fishing with his son and grandson?  Remains a wishful image… The family had gone astray.

If celebrities could be good examples, at least we see Julia Roberts and her sister and her niece focusing on each other’s interests.  In England, there is also the matter of Prince William seeking out the adventure his younger brother Prince Harry had experienced, allows us to have a glimpse of a close camaraderie of blood brothers.  Their mother must be smiling down upon them.

Had Michael Jackson been with his family, he would not have died skin and bones.  Somebody could have given him a cracker to crunch when he was exhausted from rehearsals.   He said he would be there if someone needs him,  just call his name.  Pity no one was there when he was calling in pain.

Time to redefine priorities, America.  The family is crumbling.

In My Diary 29 June 2009

The wild winds had left.  The morning sky had been azure with streaks of strong pink, a sign of a good weather days ahead.  I am not able to complete the restructuring of my promenade.  The sun had been penetrating.  The girls too, had demanded much time for several activities they had to attend to.  This morning, Tish would go on her first assembly of the Philippine Medical Honors Society or PMHS.  She received her invitation a week ago and had been extra excited because many were denied membership.  The alumni, doctors now in their own respective fields, screen the applicants.  The applicants have one year to prove their worth.  That was the challenge Tish had been so excited about.  Pray she makes it.

Jean also had been busy visiting hotels and convention centers.  Her class had been tasked to prepare for an exposition showcasing Marikina as a prime city.  An entourage from Mindanao will come by semester’s end.

Yours truly had been the erstwhile chauffer.  The stopovers at the fastfood and the copying center had been my itenerary.  Glad for the sudoku puzzle that kept me company in those hourlong waits.  And yes, I started walking again.

Ico Was Home

Francis Allain Garcia, my nephew 2nd degree, surprised us with a visit all the way from Vancouver.   We had a long lunch at Cabalen MegaMall, courtesy of Ninang Bay.  When somebody comes home from a faraway land, he must be treated with a sumptuous feast.  And Ico, who had left for Canada with his entire family in ’03, received just that.

Ico was 17 when he left.  He had just started college.  Now at almost 24 by July4, he had been an urban planner in his adopted country.  He has his own Toyota Corolla and drives half hour to work everyday.  He becomes the good son and doting uncle on Fridays and treats his parents and 4 year old niece Sophie to traditional Philippine bulalo for supper at a restaurant.

Now Ico was home for a brief visit.  His two week itenerary included Batangas, Sagada, and Palawan.  The wanderlust to see the entirety his home country had lingered.  He had travelled to so many provinces in his teens, the beaches of Boracay being the foremost.  He just had to come back and see more.

The lunch time he spared for us was more than enough to rekindle blood ties.  In a way, seeing him again after six years makes one believe that it was just yesterday that you last saw each other.  The Tagalog was the same, the mannerisms were the same, the humility was all accounted for.  It was just that overnight he turned into a man, all hunky instead of lanky.

When the baby you once carried in your arms had grown and had set out into the world to make a life of his own, one couldn’t help but be happy and grateful.  Glad you came home, Ico.

Farrah Fawcett.

Farrah Fawcett’s demise had long been coming.  She was diagnosed with anal cancer two and a half years back.  She had put a desperate effort to keep alive and overcome an illness that weakened the body and the spirit.  She had fought a good fight.  But mortality prevailed.

Farrah Fawcett had been an icon of glamour and sweetness.  Every girl had wanted to have similar wavy locks that made her every boy’s pin-up poster girl in the 70’s.  She had also inspired every ordinary nobody in that time and age  that fame and success can be achieved.   Farrah Fawcett’s angelic image had been an inspiration.

Yet Ryan O’Neal had not been all right when her passing had finally come.  Ryan had been her life partner, her true love.  In a way all of us couldn’t be all right.  When someone we had admired had been taken away, life just couldn’t be the way it was.  Farrah Fawcett contributed to the redefining of television viewing in the 70’s.  She also redefined our way of living.

Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson died today.  He was 50.

I was one of those million people who said What did you say? My daughter received the news via text message.  She told me it was probably a joke.  I said No No That is something you don’t joke about. If that is the case then he must be dead.  I uttered a little prayer Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him, May he rest in peace, Amen.

I switched on the television for the noontime news the moment I got home six hours later.   True enough there was a footage about the King of Pop and his Thriller MTV. People had started to gather outside the hospital in Los Angeles where the doctors tried a futile effort to revive him.   But he had been gone.   At a nearby establishment,  Michael Jackson’s music played.

A certain sadness.  Michael Jackson had made his mark.  He had embedded his ingenuity and artistry in his music and his craft.  He had given the world a distinctly MJ show, trademark  not patented.   Thus the world followed suit and copied his move.  No one can claim originality, Michael Jackson alone has that honor.

Farewell to the man who had given a life so all the world would be entertained.  Farewell to Michael Jackson who wanted to dwell in Neverland but the world never allowed him to.   Godspeed, may you find light shining bright as you well deserved.

A Golden Anniversary

First time I attended a Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration.   Not many couples ever get to last that long. Laarni and her siblings  made sure that their parents be given due recognition for their fifty years of married life.   How else could children fittingly return to their parents the favor of rearing them up and standing by their side through thick and thin.   With families of their own and with two children residing in faraway California, the planning to gather each and every member of the family had not been easy.   For the parents  who made their lives glorious and wise,  the obstacles were easily overcome.

The renewal of vows was affirmed at an old, simple church called San Antonio de Padua in the semi-barrotic outskirts of Antipolo.   The aisle was adorned with white and gold African daisies and ribbons.  The choir sung love songs.  The entourage presupposed the whole family, Laarni being the matron of honor.  The groom was dashing in his traditional barong tagalog and the bride resplendent in her elegantly designed and rose-filled balintawak terno in soft gold. The mass ritual was solemn and the scenario spelled the beauty of an enduring love, tested and proven by the passage of years…

The grand feast was served at the Seven Suites Hotel Observatory located at the stretch of Sumulong Highway, overlooking the metropolis.  After the photo shoots and the sumptuous dinner, the grandchildren serenaded their grandparents.  They performed on a makeshift bridge with the view of the glimmering city lights as a backdrop.  The children introduced their families to the guests and expressed their words of gratitude to the two people God had given them to be their parents.  After one emotional moment from the youngest of the brood Jing, the band shifted the mood to a dancing mode.  The groom waltzed with his bride, and the children followed suit, Laarni and Louie, Lissa and Alex, Dennis and Vina, exchanging partners as they swayed on the dance floor.  After Lissa demonstrated her dancing prowess with a swing and a boogie, the generation XYZ claimed the dance floor with their own version of disco hip-hop.  The band played on, a happy way of marking this milestone for Apolinar and Dolores Merto, two simple and unassuming people who had shown to the world that love indeed conquers all.

In My Diary 20 June 2009

Director Jon Skelly of the US Veterans Affairs sent an e-mail apologizing for the untoward telephone conversation conducted by a VA representative and the misinformation intentionally given to me about the processing of the Equity Bill claims.  He also said that he will personally attend to my father’s case.    Gratitude was in order so I replied with acceptance on my part.   Daddy and mommy will be happy now that the lump sum is under way.  It had a long time coming.  It matters now with health impediments costing every cent saved…

Jean and Tish shifted instantly from vacation’s carefree mode to serious scholastic undertakings.  The two were bombarded with diagnostic tests and graded recitations within the first forty-eight hours of the semester.  The teachers couldn’t care less if the campus is being battered with heavy rains and that dreaded swine flu.  The syllabuses had been set, so the learning begins.  The students just have to focus on the lessons at hand.  At the UP, they say, it is difficult to get in but it is even more difficult to get out.  The only way to accomplish that is to study hard.

The books are very expensive.  Campbell’s Biology costs PhP4000.  Tish settled for a newsprint copy for PhP895.   The text may be the same but the photographs and illustrations in color matter in the study.  Instructions like …look at the diagram, the circles shaded in teal and blue show that…. would be easier to comprehend if seen in the original.   University Physics is at PhP795, Chemistry is PhP1500, Tourism and Travel at PhP495, some five manuals at no less than 200 each.  So we had been dining on adobong sitaw at piniritong bangus.  The books are important.

What is it with Filipinos….?

I have heard of unbelievable stories from balikbayan Filipinos about how cruel our countrymen could be when they had made a head start in a particular place and someone had just come in from the native land.  Although there are many who would lend a helping hand, there would be more who couldn’t care less if one makes it or not.

However , I never thought that I would be on the receiving end of such cruelty in my own homeland.  Here’s my story…

My mother called long distance from California and said that my 83 year father slipped and fell while checking the mail.  My father had been waiting for his compensation under the US Equity Bill.  After a wrong prescription by a kidney doctor, my father though became weak and wobbled whenever he tried to walk.  Thus my mother found him slumped near the mailbox.  She was grateful for a truckdriver who stopped and carried my father inside the home.  Shaken and frantic, my mother told me to find out the status of my father’s application.  It was the cause of my father’s restlessness.

Obediently I dialed the US Veterans Affairs office in Manila.  A representative named Nino Agana, a Filipino, answered my call and informed me that my father’s name was not on the list yet.  There were around 27,000 applications and with only seven representatives working on the Priority Bill.  He said the representatives are working hard and the only thing the representatives do for themselves is to take a pee.   And they attend to the ones received via courier  first.  He advised me to tell my father to send another application form.  My brother sent another one via US Registered post.

When my mother received the return stub from the US Post, she asked me to confirm the receipt.  I dialed the VA office again, this time a representative called Nadine answered my query.   Again my father’s name was not on the list.  She related how exhausted the representatives are from the 30,000 applications they are working on.  Their work efficiency had suffered and their office had lagged on the regional ranking since this Priority Bill started.  I asked to be enlightened and she said that they used to be top at work efficiency but now they cannot attend to the other veterans like the USAFFE because of this bill.  She said that they can only ask the claimants to fill up forms and the representatives will contact them later.   I told her that old people must be attended to at once, why ask them to fill up forms when they are already in front of you.  I invoked the 4th commandment and told her that anybody who disobey this will lose his life.  She seemed to have been electrocuted and said that I am lucky my father will still receive his share.  Her grandmother died without any.  She asked me to call again and maybe by that time my father’s name might be listed. I told Nadine that I will tell the ambassador about their sentiments.  She gave me the embassy line.

I made another call and this time Mitos gave me another negative on the database.  She asked for a the SSS number which I immediately asked my brother in LA.  Even with that the list does not contain my father’s name.  So I called the ambassador’s office just to  expedite my father’s listing and air the sentiments of the representatives.  A certain Benny advised me to e-mail the ambassador and I did.

I would have left it at that because I know the ambassador would act on it.  My mother though pressed me to ask again because my father turned for the worse.  This time the doctor said he has acute renal failure and dialysis is mandatory.  My mother said my father could barely open his eyes.  They sit him each time and lay him down for sleep.

So I called the VA and Kathleen Tinasas said that my father’s name is not on the list yet.  I asked how does it get on the list?  She said it is from a room upstairs.  I asked if someone could be sent there to get my father’s application.  She said there are 33000 applications.  I said my father is dying.  She said fax the application and she will personally hand carry the application to the people processing the bill.  I said I will try to tell my brother but considering the physical exhaustion my family had been experiencing, isn’t that too much to ask.  It is easier to get the envelop from a room upstairs than to bother a family beset by physical incapacity.  But I said that I would do that and call the ambassador again.  I asked her if I could mention her name.  She said yes.

My brother sent an e-mail of the application and that prompted me to call the VA office and probably I could just forward it to them.  Lorraine answered and said that she could not give an e-mail address.  It has got to be by fax.  I asked if I could use the ambassador’s e-mail and she said if I want to.  I said I will call first to ask permission.  But Benny’s number was busy.  I called the VA again to say that I will go out and fax it at around lunch time.  Nino Agana answered and I explained the situation.  He however asked for  my father’s name and I told him Kathleen said negative.  He said he will check…. and whola it was there.  The reason for the negative, he said, was that the last name was spelled with a B instead of a V.  Anyways I said now it will be processed.  Nino said that we have to wait because my father is asking for 15000 dollars and so they have to check on the citizenship.  Passport number is not allowed for verification.. It has got to be verified at the Citizen’s Board.  I asked him why another obstacle and said my father is dying.  Nino answered and said All of them are. I got angry and said that he is not kind.  Kathleen is but not him.   Nino told me that Kathleen cried after talking to me the previous day.  I asked why should she cry.  Nino told me not to shout else the papers will not be processed.  I hang the phone up and called the ambassador’s office.  Benny wasn’t there but Cynthia listened.  She told me I will receive a message via e-mail from the VA.

What is it with my fellow Filipinos that they should speak this way?  I would have believed that these representatives would be doubly happy because their countrymen are being repaid for being America’s comrade.  I would have believed that they are there at the VA office  offering their own mortification for the welfare of the old grandpas and grandmas who had waited a lifetime for this minimal compensation.  Instead, they are the ones creating obstacles for our elderly loved ones.  Is it because they are there at the American Embassy, comfortable with their jobs, while others get a difficult time just to get an appointment.  Shush!  How condescending they could get!  My mother had been in the service at the Naval Supply Depot in Subic till 1986 and had never seen her belittle anyone.  And she served with admirals and commodores of the Seven Fleet.

Mr. Benny and Ms. Cynthia from the Ambassador’s office had been most understanding.  They offered their ears despite a concern so trivial compared to more pressing diplomatic issues.  My mother used to say that in the end, it will always be the Americans who will truly help.  Amen to that.

As to the representatives in the VA office, now I believe in the tragic anecdotes of the Filipino expatriates.

In My Diary 17 June 2009

Bad weather ushered the beginning of the new school year yesterday.  Jean literally got her feet soaked at the footbridge flood.  She shivered all day at the college and lack of hot water in the canteen did not help.  Tish, on the other hand fasted all day.  The swine flu scare impeded the students from buying lunch at CASAA.  Better hungry than sick.  So I prepared packed food for the girls today.  The weather however had not improved.  More cases of swine flu popped in different schools.  UP had three dormers down with fever but tested negative for the pandemic virus.  Thank God.

Mommy called this morning using a phone card my brother Gie bought for her.  She asked Leny to take care of Louie for the time being.  Daddy had turned for the worst with the doctor diagnosing his condition as acute renal failure.  Daddy cannot move at all.  He is in deep pain.  The doctor advised dialysis.  Gie and Louie’s Mexican aide carry daddy on a wheel chair  several steps up to their second floor apartment.  Mommy said Gie is physically exhausted. He buys all their food outside to spare mommy of cooking.  The laundry with lots of blankets and towels soiled had become a burden.

Ey and Iris came over for Gie’s birthday.  Iris prepared pasta.  That is also for Father’s Day celebration.

I called the Veteran’s Affairs again this afternoon and Kathleen Tinasis said daddy’s name is still not in the data base.  She requested for a fax copy so she could hand carry it to the representatives processing the compensation.  Texted Gie but had received no reply.

The financial situation is as bad as the weather.  The books the girls need for the semester do not come cheap.  We opted for some xerox copies but that too had been a fortune spent.  The city services bills had come and I still have to pay the recital dues.

In My Diary 12 June 2009

Had the L3 registered yesterday.  As  usual, the mandatory smoke emission test  added to the cost of registration.  After more than six years of annual anti-smoke belching check, the roads are as polluted with exhaust gas as ever.   The emission test is not a guarantee for clean air.   The LTO must impose on a change oil and filter receipt before registration instead.  I have a hunch that this emission test is for business purposes only of someone with power.  Who?  That leaves to be researched.

Tended my garden today.  Ouch, my back aches and my hands are numb.  But my wildflower garden is getting prettier.

Previous Older Entries