A Family Dinner.

I was the only one who remembered the oath taking. I was thinking of what dress to wear. I decided on wearing my Mommy’s clothes. She wanted very much for Tish to become a full pledged physician. Melancholic and mushy, I talked to her, that somehow, she would feel the joy of the occasion, each excited beat of the heart transmitted to heaven.

Whoaaah. I asked Jean what she was wearing. and came a clueless answer: for what? The oath taking, I said. A moment of silence. Then the disbelief. That is on Saturday? Aha, I said. And she blasted: Oh no, Ma, I have a talk in the morning, in Pasig, up to eleven, what time is the oath taking? Twelve, call time. Oh no, you go ahead and I will take the Uber.

That was Tuesday.
Then came Wednesday. I received a text.

Ma, it’s oath taking on Saturday, I forgot. Please fetch me Friday night.

Then Friday night came.

What am I to wear?
There are two beige gowns. You can try those.

Saturday morning. The rain dropped heavy in the early morning. Blessings, I prayed.

And sure enough, Tish and I waited at Jazz, where Jean resides, and together, we went to the Philippine International Convention Center.

The Plenary Hall was filled to a capacity. The oath taking was brief, the beeline to the ID and certificate was longer. The event was much a family groupie. I prodded Jean to take pictures of me. What else can we do?

When Tish came, feet blistered, we snapped a few souvenir shots.

Then drove all the way to Bonifacio Global City, away from the buzz, for a quiet dinner.


The Oath Taking

Saturday, the 21st of October, was a day to remember. Tish took an oath, the Physician’s Hippocratic Oath.

The oath was sacred. It binds the physician to a duty to save lives. Duty first, before all else. That means no Christmas celebration, no social life. No holidays.

Tish has realized early on that that exactly would be her life. Once, the family went to Cebu, for a wedding. She was the only one left behind because she had a test.

And her music, that has to be sacrificed also. Although the piano and singing has rendered her the most joy, life would be trifling if there is no service to one’s fellow man.

Now, there’s the unbreakable oath. Praying to God Almighty that Tish sustains the strength of mind and body when duty calls.

My father fought for my country in WWII.

About that third commandment.

Talk about how time seems to have been so lost in the nature of our busyness, that our undertakings always take precedence over our Sunday appointments with our God, then that is exactly what happened with us on the very first day of the new liturgical year: Advent.
Wait, the greeting must come first, especially to us Catholics: Happy New Liturgical Year!
Oh well, my little family was, as usual, rushing from here to there, picking the most necessary things we need, like food ha ha, and the doggy food, and we all desperately need some sweet slumber moment, that even if we planned an anticipated Mass at our old St. Paul, it was foiled by the horrendous Barangka traffic.
Plan B meant an early hour Mass at Christ the King, because Tish goes on duty at exactly 7 am. We were there, all right, and we certainly enjoyed the feel of Advent air, but Father’s homily, theological and realistic. took more than the usual admonition lashing (joke) that before we knew it, we just have that little time to dash to the hospital. Meaning? We missed the second and most important part of the Mass: Communion.
Sigh. If that is a foreshadowing of the year to come, because we Filipinos have this silly notion of believing that what happens on the first day will happen throughout the year. Good thing that I don’t buy such baloney. I will take the bacon, please.
Confession is now in order. The third commandment was not exactly obeyed.
And why so? Precisely because Advent means a time of purifying our selves, for the coming of our Messiah.
Once again, Happy New Liturgical Year, every one.

A brief moment to get together and party.

BUSY. These days, there ain’t no time for making memories. There is too much work to attend to. My daughters, being young professionals, are caught in that whirlwind of a world. Jean said that when she comes home to our humble abode in the outskirts of the metro, it is like relaxing in the province, where the sound of silence is distracted only by the  chirping of the birds and the barking of our doggies. And Tish, how she sprawls on the bed and catch up on the much-needed sleep.

Rush Rush has been my daughters ways of life for a long time now. And we believe we have become anti-socials, declining invitations, simply because of time conflicting with hospital duty and disaster planning conferences.

Oh well, this Sunday was different, for we actually made is to a nostalgic party, my friend’s mother celebrated her 95th birthday. Splendid shindig. Befitted a lovely lady who gracefully raised her ten children. Wow.

And so, I prodded the waiter to snap a picture of my daughters and me. For the memories of a brief moment together.

A prologue to my eulogy.

I sit here staring at the computer, my sister Grace told me over viber that my brother Gie would skip my eulogy, because he didn’t like the melancholic tone. So, in a last ditch effort to be part of my Mommy’s Celebration of Life Viewing, I am attempting to draft another…

Sigh! What fun moment do you want me to tell you guys, that we all shrieked when one time, Mommy was spring cleaning, and she emptied the huge jar she bought from a Muslim peddler, an intricately designed piece of pottery that everybody used as garbage bin, and in order for Mommy to clean the bottom, she has to stretch her arm in, and as she did that time, she spoke in her usual loud voice “Ano ba itong malambot na ito?” or :”What is this soft thing?”, and when she put it out, it was a 3-inch dead mouse! Imagine the pandemonium.

Okay. I concede. So, I watched Mommy’s video again, and was sort of asking her to help me write what she would want me to tell about her. And as I watched the photographs, there was Mommy smiling all the time. As if sadness was not a part of her. My brother Gie is right. Mommy loved life. When there was a problem, she never wallowed. She solved it.

Mommy was a positive person. From the vestiges of the second world war, a deprived childhood, she gracefully emerged the congenial and gregarious young lady, winsome  and forever smiling. She made many friends, and kept them in her heart. Her treasure.

Mommy enhanced her clerical skills. Yes, Mommy was a topnotch secretary. And we are not referring here just about that undecipherable stenography and super speed, error free typing, Mommy was editor par excellence. The admirals and commodores that were her bosses at the Fuel Department of US Naval Supply Depot were bullish. They had a one-woman package deal commanding the Seventh Fleet. If not for Mommy, communications would have been faulty. Ha ha. But that is true. She was the only one person not in uniform who was allowed to press the red button, in case of emergency.

Mommy was punctual. One morning, I woke up and the sunlight already lit the room. I saw Mommy dashing, and when I asked why she was in a hurry. she answered. “If I don’t catch the shuttle, it would be some six kilometer walk.”  That was why she was never tardy.

Mommy was gracious. Every Christmas, she would fill our long rectangular dining table with bountiful food. Kare-kare was our main dish. So, the night before Christmas, I was pounding peanuts and roasted rice.

Mommy was benevolent. When Metro Manila was drowned in a deluge that was Ondoy, Mommy mobilized me to get through mountains of piled trash to check relatives and friends, and extend to them her humble aid. At the end of my ordeal, Mommy did not ask if I was okay, she wanted to know if the recipients were better. I said yes, and she ordered me to check on them again.

That was Mommy in a nutshell. A cheerful giver. Her friends and family could attest more about her generosity and kindness, the true mark of a Christian.

But please, Gie, could you make this a prologue, and still read my previous text.

A Eulogy for my Mommy

How does one talk about Eugenia Caraos Leyva in a matter of minutes? Perhaps we need eighty years, for that is her lifetime, and in that lifetime, each day did count.

She is my mother, a blessing that spells how God loves me so dearly.

Oh yes, Mommy did scold me when I ran down the hill and smashed face down, and instantly my arms and legs turned black and blue, or so I recall. And she spanked me when I refused to take a hot shower and I was chilled to the bone. I was a stubborn child, I suppose, but Mommy never ran out of patience .

She brought me and my siblings to St. Joseph’s Church, for splendid Mass with music. The Magnolia kiosk beside the church though was part of the Sunday package activity, pinipig crunch for Ate Grace and twin popsies for me. My two kid brothers were not as choosy yet, to my advantage.

Mommy loved the piano. She said that my grandma Lola Naty could not afford one, so she practiced on the table, after asking someone to teach her how to play the ebony and ivory keys. She enrolled Ate Grace and me to the Herminia Albano Piano Studio, Ate Grace succeeded in reading and interpreting the notes. She was awarded Outstanding Student. I slept. But Mommy never reprimanded me. She smiled and continued bringing me to the Saturday nap lessons. And for Mommy, a house is not a home if there is no piano.

When Lola Naty took us under her wing, and we moved from Olongapo City to Marikina, we would see Mommy and Daddy only on weekends. The glorious weekends meant loads of comics: Archie, Peanuts, DC, Marvel, new pencils, clothes, a bounty of food on the table, fruits, and the sweetest of all, our dearest little sister, Portia. How we longed five days each week for a weekend when we could play with our bunso with the large, round eyes. In hindsight now, Mommy and Daddy commuted by Victory Liner, how they managed to carry all the bags of pasalubong, including hot monay from a bakery in Cubao, sigh, Mommy never complained about being tired.

The first physical concern i became aware of was when Mommy asked me to accompany her to UST Hospital. For whatever reason, she was bleeding. We took the bus, and I courageously asked someone to give his seat for Mommy. Oh how afraid I was Mommy might fall. Eventually, Mommy had to undergo hysterectomy. That scared me, because I saw the concern in my Daddy’s face. But how brave Mommy was.

And even braver when she came to America. It was a whole new world to conquer, initially with my two youngest siblings Lupo and Portia, and then with my Daddy, brother Noel, sister Grace and niece Tami.

Mommy joined the Blue Cross of America, where she was able to gain the respect of her bosses and colleagues, and made some of the dearest of friendships she had.

On the domestic front, she built a beautiful home. She marveled at being a doting grandma to my American born nephews, Lance and Louie.

For us left in the Philippines, Mommy made sure we received two Forex boxes of goodies, towels, night shirts, books, Barbies, Fisher toys, gadgets, trinkets, gowns, pantaloons, casseroles, and practically the whole of Wal-Mart every Christmas. On good years, the fresh scent of America comes to our home also summertime.

And that was the beginning our virtual bonding. Mommy never failed to call weekly, even when she was exhausted from work. The telephone cards were expensive, but she would call, so she would know if my house already has a roof, or if the old car was repaired, if the tuition for school enough, or have I got myself a physical check. Mommy provided for all, including my hundred thousand peso thyroidectomy, that when I told her about the need for the surgery and cried, she asked: Why are you crying? Gie is going there. Help is on the way,

That is Mommy. She worked so hard so that she could give, Not only to me. When she learns that someone is in a tight situation, I have to withdraw from the monthly remittances she sent and deliver not just grocery goods but money as well, to those who need it,

Mommy’s final years were as trying as when she was a child. First, she lost Daddy. A year and a half later, she was diagnosed with cancer. That turned the tides, my turn to call daily. A few minutes to an hour or more, Mommy would tell me of the pain that is chemotherapy. She said it is not something anyone would wish even to his enemies. I was the one devastated, for she told me she couldn’t breathe in the test chambers, and the long hours of imaging and scans left her cold, numb and hungry. She asked if she has still blood left after the many painful extractions. I would try to appease her with comforting words, but the battle with cancer preyed on the flesh, not the soul. Mommy narrated that the Blessed Mother came to her early on, after being afflicted with the illness, and so I said that that meant Mama Mary is already caring for her.

When Mommy was a child, she lost her father. Then the Japanese bombed their house in Cavite City. Impoverished, Mommy sold peanuts and other kakanin before she attended school, to augment the food on their table. She has just two sets of clothes, the one she was wearing and the one she would change on. That is also why she loved sending towels, she never had one in her youth

And yet she inscribed in one of her keepsakes an adage: Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used

Mommy spread her wings and soared high, reaching for all the beauty that life may bring,

Mommy celebrated birthdays and Christmases and other important occasions with joyful feasts. It is her way of thanking our good God for all the blessings bestowed on her. When I invited a friend one time to spend Christmas with us, he asked, exactly how many people are in the Christmas party, for there must be a tally like a hundred. I told him to commence counting quickly, for the friends and neighbors who partake at Mommy’s festive table come and go.

Thank you, Mommy, for filling life with much glee. Such heartwarming memories you left us with.

Thank you for finishing the race and keeping the faith. Yours is a story of Love and Devotion, your favorite piano piece.

Thank you, Mommy, it is indeed a privilege being your daughter. You are a perfect mother. I love you so much. I will forever hold you in my heart and cherish you in my dreams.

Love, Eileen

After Listening to President Aquino on EDSA Anniversary Mass

Thanks, President Aquino, for sharing to us your juvenile thoughts when your father was killed and tossed. I was watching the television that lunch time of August 21 when the tube went blank, but news of your father’s assassination has hit the airwaves, and I saw my own father’s face, his concern, his sadness. My father told me about your father’s genius and gift of gab, and together, my father and I listened to that one rare moment when from prison, he was allowed an interview, and gosh, he outsmarted his interviewers, including that Sri Lankan Ronnie Nathanielz.

Of course any one of us would very much like to avenge a senseless act of violence for a loved one, but as you reminded us, that is not forgiving, that is not the way to peace, not love at all.

I have done my best to listen to you, as you are my President, Now I will put my total trust in you on this Bangsamoro Law, because you are right, peace begins with us.

And as St. Francis would pray…..

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life

My Lola’s Feast Day Today.

They say that a saint’s feast day is commemorated on the saint’s death day.

There is one person in my life I call a saint, and that would be my grandmother, Lola Naty.

Today is the feast day of my grandmother, Lola Naty, she died thirty-two years ago. and left behind seven children and some twenty-six grandchildren. It feels good to remember this old lady, who, when my siblings and I were little, quietly prepared our breakfasts, taught us to pray the Angelus and the Rosary wholeheartedly every night, shielded us with her calm resolve from the violent storms, and brought us to hilarious failed picnics, swim pools, downtown movies with treats either at the panciteria or batchoy @ Skorpios, and the annual Acies (the renewing of pledge to the Blessed Mother).

Lola, as we called her, accent on the second syllable, was a partner in crime, for she translated my homework in Spanish, making my teacher believe I was proficient in the language, till he asked me to recite in class and discovered the only conversation I could carry is Si Senyor, perdona me, pero no mas intiende. I think the only thing that saved me and gave me a good grade was my singing of Dios Te Salve Maria, which of course, was our growing up Santakrusan song every merry month of May. LOL.

Will light up a candle and lay some flowers, on Lola Naty’s grave at Loyola later today. Hoping that her children and grandchildren, wherever they may be, would remember this courageous lady who endured, with certainty, many of the harshest trials in life. ♥

Ronald Santiago, from OFW to security guard, a story of endurance and faith!

He was the graveyard shift at the UP Institute of Biology, so my sister Grace and I, and my daughter, asked him if there are ghosts in the buildings. We were up early because my daughter had to make some ID of her moths and butterflies. Of course, the security guard said, I just had an encounter with him, for I am new here. His name was Ronald Santiago. And his brush with the spirit did not recur again because he supposedly talked with the spirit and said that he is the new guard, and he is only securing the premises.

That brought the goosebumps, and more stories about this young, talkative guard whose duty is to keep the students safe.

Well, he was once an OFW in the Middle East. Worked as a welder in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. The past year 2011 was, as the news featured, the fall of dictatorships in these countries, and Ronald was one of those migrant workers displaced by the civil strife. At first, he was willing to stay and endure the chaos, for there was a job there that would give him pay, as compared to none at all back home, for he has not enough education in his bio data. At 32, he had finished sending his siblings to school, unfortunately though, they all married right away and has still been dependent on him.

He would have stayed, and had actually been residing with two Libyan women who sought his help. One day though, the elder of the two women made the mistake of opening the door to soldiers with power arms, as in AK 14, Ronald said. The soldiers grabbed the younger woman and was about to rape her when Ronald shouted “Don’t, she is my wife.” So the soldiers grabbed the older woman and raped her in front of them. Ronald couldn’t save her anymore, for the soldiers know that migrant workers only has one wife.

That experience brought Ronald home. He traveled by foot to get to the plane that brought him home. He brought some seven hundred thousand with him, thinking that was enough to marry his girlfriend of nine years, and start a family. For some divine reason though, his girlfriend Roxanne fell ill. She collapsed one day and was diagnosed with a heart condition. Ronald had her attended to at the Philippine General Hospital. That meant also that his hard earned money had to foot the bills.

They had not married, and Roxanne is deteriorating. Ronald enrolled himself in a security agency, hoping he could have a post where there is a minimum pay.

The post at the UP IB was a prayer answered, he said. He added that God had always answered his prayers. He just didn’t foresee that a ghost was his welcoming party in his new job.

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