A Broken Family’s Kind of Bonding

There are many occasions when I dwell thoughts on why my family had to be separated by distance and space.  And why I had to imagine my mom, old and incapacitated, sitting on her wheel chair, waiting for help from someone in the LA neighborhood, so she could have some ingredients for her viand.  I could have easily run errand for her, had we been together.

As it is, my mom had to be an ocean away, and so do my two brothers, my sister, my nephews, and my sister-in-law.  And life is not made easy for this half of my family who had to keep pace with the rush-rush of the American way. But of course, the green dough had controlled the globe for the past half century, and still does even if it is hanging by a thread.  So my family had to contend with the choking American law, like many other Filipino families who had been bewildered by the dream of making it to the land of milk and honey. That was because of a few cannisters of Pringles and Piknik, some bars of Hershey’s and cute cones of Kisses, salted SPAMs and canned corned beefs, and the hmmm ever refreshing scent that is America. Btw, above goods were all proven detrimental to the health.

Well, actually, for my family, my mom earned it. She had served at the US Naval Supply Depot in Subic for most of her employed life , and was offered to migrate to the mainland in ’87. I remember the dilemma she had because she could only bring two of her children, the ones under 21, and my father was firm in staying, ever apprehensive of what America would ask him to do again, for he had been claiming promised compensation for the service he gave America in the 1940’s world war, and somehow, his voice had only fallen to deaf ears.  And since that tata of the now distant past, we had been a family divided. I had a better terminology that many ask to be enlightened about when I tell them our story. We are a broken home. America, I suppose, has a penchant for dividing families. They send children out of their homes when the children turn 18 years and legal, and look at how divided their nation is now, all because the families are divided, parents against children and vice versa. But of course proud America can always handle their affairs, and in fact, their president said not too long ago that they will not apologize for their way of life. I do hope somebody tells them that only if they are united are they formidable and strong. And the only way to do that is to make the family strong again. Stay divided and America will be conquered!

But of course that is not my concern. My concern is my own family which had been deeply affected by America’s divide and conquer policy. My brother just had a two-week vacation with us from California, and I had never seen sadness from one whose sense of humor catapulted us from chairs in our youth. No matter the prodding for us to get into some gig in Eastwood or Bonifacio High Street, my brother just stayed home all the duration of his stay. Once he came to Cabalen to meet our favorite Aunt Bay, and once he agreed to chitchat with buddies from grade school @ Starbucks, but that was all!  All the rest of his vacation, he sat on the sofa or the swing, quietly strumming his old guitar, or he would just listen to the wacky anecdotes my sister and I related about our good ol’ clan. A couple of high school buddies, Odie and Teddy, came to the house and for a brief moment, my brother shared a good familiar laugh…

Otherwise, we made the most by listening to the music. Adam coached Tish a Chopin piece, and later the music turned to naming tunes. Tami and two of her org mates came late in the night for a photo shoot, and Jean took the role of the make-up artist, transforming Tami into Mrs. Lovett, and her friend Ken into Sweeney Todd, and the music continued, Adam playing intros from Christmas carols to Walt Disney to movie themes, and everyone was identifying the pieces, well! I do believe we could win a music contest if there is one, and we would be by far a lot happier than any lotto contest winner. Btw, I doubt the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office had given the 600+ million lotto 6/55 to a winner yet. I believe the office needs more income from the bettors. However no one in my family is staking a bet. We do not gamble. Money is of prime importance, but not that kind of money!

Ate Grace filled the dining table with bread and cheese all the time, tons of poppy rice or ampao, and lots of pakwan, grapes, and coffee. The food we ordered from the convenient home deliveries, or I would drive to good bubbly Jollibee for Ey’s spaghetti.  I did cook some shabu-shabu, simmering delicious veggie noodles, there was much for everyone till we heated the soup in some pyrex bowl and whaaah! the bowl cracked and the soup became feast for my Artemis!

Ey and his wife Iris took the night flight yesterday for their  California life.  Who would have thought that Ey would be attending to patients in a hospital on a 12 hour shift. I had hoped that he would be a folk singer or balladeer, for he and his guitar made good music. But he is Europe bound next year, and he is making his own life now. I wish he would have a baby though, and Ate Grace and I could take care of the little one if he is too busy with work… Wishes and hopes spring eternal, trite but true!….

…for even if we brothers and sisters are miles away, we are kept bonded by blood and forever we only pray for  happiness for each other. We  do not follow the same tracks anymore but our ideals about life and loving remain the same. When we meet, during the bluest phase of the moon, there is loneliness because we know that we were supposed to be together in this life, because we are sisters and brothers, of the same flesh and blood…

By the way, daddy passed away 8 July, after a long battle with diabetes. He was 84. In the last conversation I had with him before his demise, he asked me to bring the girls to the US. He wanted us to be together, as one family!

In My Diary 16 November 2010

My brother Noel is home with wife Iris from California, and so is Ate Cynthia, Kuya Allan’s wife,  from Canada. That means we are having a grand time kwentuhan at kainan.

It is nice when  family comes home, it is as if time and place had never separated us, and we unload our thoughts and viewpoints about life, and we feel glad and happy that no matter the passage of years and the distance, we remain family and ever bound together by that special blessing called kinship.

Out little lovely Audrey had been confined at Medical City for some seven days now. She had some intestinal flu that made her super weak with LBM and vomiting.  That is why Bong and Malou decided to admit her for some intravenous intervention.

Mommy called the other night and said that the doctor injected steroids on her knees. And she did feel better.

My family! Perhaps the corniest and the most dysfunctional, ever complaining about our state of being poor and ever dreaming about how we will spend our millions if ever we win the super lotto pot!, but nobody really makes a bet, and nobody really minds if we queue in eat-all-u-can instead of fine dining, well! we are all just thankful that we have each other, and that we are family!

A Reason for Writing

Wow! Jean, Tish and I had become recluse. Except for mass last Sunday, we had not left the home premises at all. We did not even attempt to go to the cemetery yesterday, All Saints’ Day. Actually, the correct day to visit is today, All Souls’ Day. The rain sort of makes the outside world look gloomy. But we have to make a dash later, for the ghosts are upon us, ha ha!

I did light candles in the altar, but I think my ancestors would not settle for such a minor effort. So, muddy or not, I had to troop down the graveyard’s way.

It is nice to be home and lazy. I did get to unearth some of my writing exams from way back…please see the last three entries.  I did keep the sheets for a reason, and now I do feel good remembering some details in the past. The one about Rackie was a true story, and reading what I had hastily scribbled for a writing class made me picture an image of her well. It was like she was just there yesterday.

The other two entries were yacky, but I did type them anyway so that I would forever recall the fun I had under Fr. Galdon’s class. And of course he was generous with the grades. How else would I receive such kind remarks with raw and crammed scribbles.

Well, however poorly we write, Fr. Galdon said, write anyway. He didn’t say why. Now I know why. We write to remember.  But he also told us to edit later, and make our articles pleasant to read.  That advice I am not heeding just yet. Perhaps later. I don’t like editing. So everything in my blog is always raw.

Maria Clara in Jeans

Newspapers are truly interesting to read. Pages are filled up with bad news written as good news. Most news are even sensationalized that readers do find them hard to believe. But well, ahh well, newspapers are newspapers, and might as well accept it, truth is really stranger than fiction.

I was reading the newspaper the other day, as usual, the life and leisure first before the front page. And guess what?  Right at the bottom of my favorite page is an illustration of another Noli Hans creation. I looked at the pattern and adjudged the gown beautiful, and yes, sexy! I wondered how much it would cost. Very expensive, for sure. So I read at the caption. It said Maria Clara  terno, to be worn by…for the Annual Ladies’ Club… I scrutinized the pattern a second time and recognized the modernized Maria Clara shawl in a body fit cut. A silly but rather serious thought entered my mind Could the Filipino women today be trying hard to look and be like Jose Rizal’s immortalized character Maria Clara? Then I thought further that there’s actually no need for the women to done a Maria Clara terno in order to be a real Maria Clara.

The Filipino women today had traded their kimono and patadyong for jeans and shirts, but the character traits and decency that had been bequeathed to them by the mythical Maria Clara are personified in their images. Take for example Boots Anson Roa, movie actress and television host. She is brainy, brave, and brawny, and very vocal on every topic under the sun. Yet she exudes a certain femininity totally Filipina. She is a gentle wife and a loving mother, one who does not shout nor get angry in public, poised, calm, and mature.

There is also Professor Doreen Fernandez, academician, writer, drama critic, food aficionado, and everyone’s mentor/friend inside the campus and out. She is very straightforward, completely academic, and amazingly congenial!

Cory Aquino is the wife of a martyr. When her husband was killed, she had come out of her home to fight for justice and peace. Unafraid and willful, still she remains the quiet, gentle mother concerned about the daily welfare of her children.

Cecille Licad is an international pianist. And Lisa Macuja is an international prima ballerina. Young and gifted, the two women hurdled difficult training abroad just to excel in their respective competitive discipline. Hailed worldwide in music and dance, the two keep private their woes, and project only the exceptional artists they turned out to be.

Oh well, the Filipino woman had indeed emerged from the once bashful and coy Maria Clara.  But the new Maria Clara is still a picture of a charming but strong woman…

Then I glanced upon the two Filipino adolescent boys clad in summer clothes.  Hmmm, what about Crisostomo Ibarra in bikini briefs?

NB: Remark – Good!  Grade – A    circa 4 May 1985 ADMU

cOmPaTiBlE InCoMpAtIbLe dIfFeReNcEs

Once upon a time, a newly wed couple decided to buy pets. The master liked a three month old chocolate brown puppy with a cream patch on the right ear. He instantly called the puppy Choky Patch. The mistress fell in love with a three month old creamy white kitten with a brownish spot on the left ear. She called her kitty Creamy Patch.

Choky Patch and Creamy Patch were so happy to be chosen from amongst the hundreds of pets in the shoppe. And they walked proud when their new master and mistress ushered them out and into the nice car waiting for them. But the moment they realized that they would be together, both eyed each other in rage.

Choky Patch sat at the left rear seat of the car while Creamy Patch curled on the right rear end. When the master and the mistress left them for a while, the puppy barked and the kitty meowed.

Choky Patch insulted the kitty and said You lazy witch breed, my master’s mistress was wrong to get you!

But Creamy Patch retaliated Look who’s talking? You pretentious man’s best friend. As if I didn’t know you love to bite! You are a crazy breed.

Choky Patch and Creamy Patch snarled at each other till they turned into a dog and a cat. Eventually, the master and the mistress snarled at each other, too, because of their Choky and Creamy.

The master yelled You should have bought another puppy! Then we would not have been as messy!

But the mistress screamed Why? Who chases my kitty around the house but that insufferable dog! Had you bought a cat, we would have been at peace all this time. But see? Who’s barking so loud?

And the master stormed out. And the mistress slammed the door. And Choky Patch and Creamy Patch found themselves alone. Quiet and shocked.

Then they looked at each other, sad that they had been the cause of the quarrel of their master and their mistress. Choky approached Creamy and poked his snout on her. Creamy  responded with a poke, too. Then all of a sudden, they thought each other not bad at all. And they kissed and made up.

When the master returned, he saw  Choky and Creamy  lying side by side near the kitchen counter. He took some biscuits and poured it into Choky’s bowl. The two pets stood up and started eating the biscuits together. The master was amused and he called on the mistress to come to the kitchen. Still hurt, she came anyway and saw the two pets munching biscuits. So she poured some milk on Creamy’s bowl and the two pets helped themselves to the dairy without hissing at each other. And the mistress gave a cry of joy. Finally!, she said, and curled up next to her husband who was eying her with a naughty grin. Ha ha!, he laughed…

And they lived happily ever after.

NB: Remark – Fun!  Grade – B.  ( Fr. Galdon doesn’t like dogs and cats probably) Circa 1985 ADMU

Dear Rackie

25 April 1985

I would have preferred to climb the hundred steps to the Lourdes Grotto in Baguio, but my mom could not do that anymore. So we took a cab to the top. There were many children playing around the grotto, some were jumping and hopping on the steps. Some were running. There were adults, too. Most of them were gathered in front of the image of the Blessed Mother. Souvenir vendors wait for the prayers to end, and then they desperately try to sell their wares. Photographers try to shoot pictures, too, as mementos of  the pilgrimage to Our Lady. Such was the scenario on this bright and beautiful morning of a Good Friday.

I bought a blue candle from a persistent young boy. He had wanted me to buy more but I said no. I lit my candle and started to pray. I stared at the image of Our Lady. It was then that I remembered Rackie.  I promised that I would pray for her, and I had not done that yet. So I went down a few steps and bought another blue candle from the young boy. And I lit the candle for Rackie, just specifically for Rackie.

Rackie was my student. She was just 12 years old. And she was the only girl in a family of four. Rackie was pretty, with a creamy white complexion and a jet black, wavy, shoulder length hair. Rackie’s eyes were large and forever smiling. And Rackie, one day said, she loved me.

Rackie was an average student. She seldom recited in class discussions. And her test scores were just all right. Had she not vied for Miss Industrious, or class muse, I would not have noticed that she was talented. She played the piano, danced the beat, and delivered poetry. Most af all, she loved life.

A fortnight before the final examinations, Rackie failed to come to school any longer. Her classmates said that she had severe headaches and had quite often vomited. Then, her mother came to tell that it took a third eye doctor to request for a brain scan for Rackie. And that was the time they discovered a cancerous inoperable tumor. And she said Rackie was dying.

I went to visit Rackie the very Sunday after the school ended. I brought her six round mangoes, three M & M’s candies, and a pad to tinker on. She had her locks trimmed like a boy’s. Rackie was so surprised to see me because she thought I couldn’t come visit anymore. So she made an effort to sit on a chair, beside me. We blabbed for three and a half hours, till her mom told me that her condition couldn’t allow her to get so tired.

Rackie had already lost her balance, and she could only look at me sideways. But she told me that she felt so shy, embarrassed actually to sit beside me. She thought me to be so beautiful and she so ugly. I told her that wasn’t true, because both of us were beautiful. Then she narrated her dreams. She said that in three of her dreams, she saw the Blessed Mother. When she woke up after the dreams, she remembered always the story of Fatima, the story of the apparition that I related to them in class. She thought of herself as Jacinta. But then she looked at me and said she did not want to die yet. I told her that so long as we breathe, we should  hope for the best. Rackie was very perceptive for a while, and was very quiet, and then she simply said that I was beautiful like the Blessed Mother. Again I countered that no beauty can ever be compared to Mother Mary. And Rackie understood.

Two other ladies stood beside me as I concluded my prayers. I looked at my candle and it was still aflame. And then I went to the back area, took some pictures, and then motioned my mother for our descent.

Baguio was full of people that day. Most of them were vacationers, some were transient travelers. Many wore visors and jackets, but many, too, were in mini shorts.  The shopping bags were a sight, and the cameras continued to click. One thing definite, everyone was having a grand time in the city of flowers that day, a Good Friday. But me, I had Rackie in my mind. And in my prayers, too.

24 September, 1985

Rackie passed away 22 September 1985, after a fatal surgery. I am sure the Blessed Mother had already welcomed Rackie in Her loving arms.

NB: I submitted this story in a class requirement under Fr. Joseph Galdon, SJ. He gave me an A and wrote Good! You write well! Keep it up!

So, thank you, Rackie! You are now my angel.