Thanks from Tish

Patricia Anne Leyva Palma plays a Shostakovich!

Tish rendered her Second Piano Recital last Saturday, June 26, at the Mini Hall of the College of Music. Here she is playing a Shostakovich Concerto with her teacher, Professor Augusto Espino.


I am not going to talk about birds. Falcon – that is the name of the tropical depression that had been lashing throughout the archipelago since yesterday afternoon. I do not know if it had been upgraded into a storm but right now, it is damn cold!. The volume of rain had reached critical level, and  the people had been advised to seek shelter on higher grounds, or so I heard over the radio this morning. Whaaah, the weather is really dampening. I wish the rain stops. We ain’t got food yet, not even rice to cook. I was so busy preparing for the recital tomorrow that I forgot to replenish our own ref. So, I had been keeping warm with mugs of coffee, and the two girls, with warm Milo.

Tish is ready  for the piano recital, and the suspension of classes today is a bonus practice time.  The downpour is loud and wind is howling, but when Tish plays her pieces, the weather becomes bearable. Music does changes moods, and I am :).  I am tuning in to television news in a few moments though…., I do hope the poor are not exposed to the cold…

My Mommy Reminisces Her Childhood!

Mommy called sometime after lunch today. Her half-an-hour phone card ran out in twenty, so I dialed. She couldn’t sleep even if it was almost midnight in LA. She said that perhaps now that she is alone, she gets to reminisce her childhood, one that was so difficult because of the world war. The call was rather long, but I enjoyed mommy’s recollection…

She was a happy child despite their house getting bombed and burned down by the Japanese forces… She sold peanuts and envied her classmates who queued for their classes… and one day, her friend Punggit forced her to leave her peanut post and come line up for class. She did, and when the new teacher asked who she was, Punggit answered She is our best student!

Mommy was under a teacher called Mrs. Suarez. One day, Mrs. Suarez gave the top students some seat work. When the bell rang for recess, mommy ran to the lohiya to eat her merienda. Her stepfather was there and she asked what was the answer to one choose the correct answer item. Her stepfather pointed to the answer she thought was right. So she marked her answer, folded her paper, and returned to class. Then the teacher asked them to submit their papers. Little did mommy know that that was the final test that would determine the rankings of the honor students. The following day, the teacher announced the placing, and mommy was first honor. Ha Ha!  Mrs. Suarez declared that in  her 23 years of being a teacher, the class mommy belonged was the best.

Mommy said that her classmate Cesar Gonzalez was pitted against her in spelling. It was sort of boys versus girls. Cesar asked mommy to spell the word immediately. Mommy forgot one m and the girls lost! Cesar went on to become a doctor, so mommy said he was really intelligent. But that is mommy”s way of saying that she didn’t have books, much less a dictionary. Their house got bombed. In fact they didn’t have towels. They used their clothes to dry themselves after bath. And she had only two worn dresses then. Mommy was accelerated from fourth to fifth to sixth grade all in a span of one year, three months for each level. That was also why she was not given elementary honors, because she only had 3 months of 6th grade. but she graduated.

Mommy said that one of her classmates , Odon de Castro, became a priest. So, their batch from Cavite must really be a good group. And of course mommy turned out to be the best secretary in the US Naval Supply Depot. She was high school valedictorian, after all.. And the Blue Cross of America lauded her for performance par excellence.

Mommy said that a student from Northridge named Pam was writing her thesis in 1994. Pam wrote mommy’s story and her childhood experience is now archived in the university. 🙂

Kinship is in the Heart!

Today we laid to rest Jean and Tisha’s paternal grandmother.  Lola Rading was 93.  She died of throat cancer, the one that gradually blocks the passage for food and breathing.

Two months ago though, when we first visited her after a decade of no communication, she can still cry and smile and listen to the gossips and laughter that we uninhibitedly shared despite the awkward initial hellos. And Lola Rading, uncomplaining in spite of her discomfort, urged us to eat together and participate in what she knows as sharing of the heart.  One lesson I learned from her early on, no matter how angry one family is with another, serve the food.  Eventually, when cooler heads prevail, everything will be all right.  But nothing can be gained from an empty stomach.  And so, that day, she even made an effort to stand and walk and be present at the dinner table.

But today, we had to say our final good-bye to her. Tish couldn’t make it for the interment because of a long exam.  But Jean talked with her cousins, her aunties and uncles, and with those who loved her grandmother. A few tears can’t be helped, for how can one not cry for a matriarch who knew nothing else but love her brood. And her son Aldwin spelled it out in halting sobs…Mommy said she loves us all!  quoting verbatim Mahal ko kayong lahat!  That was why she never left her home far enough and long enough, for a mother’s place is in the home where one of children or grandchildren may come and need her help.  Lola Rading cooked food, sewed clothes, played mahjong and poker with her children, talked with them, and prayed her best to keep her family safe and sound.

Well, life has its ills and even family either knowingly or unknowingly begrudge each other. Sometimes, problems can be solved after sipping a hot bowl of corn soup.  But others seem to take root and pierce the heart of a mother.

But that is all up and done with now. Barney is moving on to his final year of sacred theology. What greater blessing can a mother have than to have a grandchild become a priest. Amy and Jay are now down under in Australia.  But they had received the photos of how immaculately beautiful the final services had been given to their Lola.  Ed and Rica saw to it that everything was right and perfect. Lola Rading deserved nothing less. Glen and Belen had shifted for the 24/7 nursing care, and all the others had been folding napkins, at Lola’s beck and call.

But to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Lola Rading’s time ticked the final tock. And her family surrounded her with white flowers, orchids and mumps, befitting a mother deeply loved.

Ooooops! In case Emma gets to read this.  She is the erstwhile entertainer. Nell is the tearjerker, and Sammy the quiet supporter.  GJ, what do you think?  Marami pang left out like Edith managing the gremlins and yet remembering to bring flowers to Lola after mass…

Emma will write  her memoirs…  For now, kinship is in the heart, and my daughter Jean is already happy with that. Di ba, Lola?

The Boy Mathematician from the Province

I attended the recognition rites for the College of Science scholars.  Tish, for two semesters in a row, was able to meet the excellence required by the college and the university.  Amazingly, there was a packed room of recipients from different majors – Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Microbiology, Marine Biology, etcetera.  And the proud parents, sidelined for viewing, made sure corsages and photo pins adorn their children’s casual clothing.  Tish got her pin from Angel’s dad though.  I am never for  obvious display and refrain from putting flowers on the chest, nor pins.  But I was grateful this time because I had no camera.  Jean has her own activity in her college and couldn’t attend the rites.  But before the students accepted their certificates on stage to the tune of the Aida March, an unassuming. ordinary looking gentleman took the lectern.  His name is Mr. Lope, mathematician.  And the following is the story he related to us.

He was the eldest of 9 siblings. His parents were public school teachers in the province.  The productivity was due to the romantic atmosphere of their abode, the address of which is perhaps the shortest one can find.  Their home has no number nor street, just the barrio and the province.  And this home he still retains to this day, for the love of his family and the memories of how he grew up to become the inspirational speaker standing before academicians, scholars, and parents this day 1 March 2010.

He was just a boy excited about learning new things in their local school.  But he did well in his arithmetic and was thus prodded to represent their school in the 3rd grade Math competition.  Easily, he emerged 1st place winner. And this forced his parents to send him to the bigger school in town where he could receive more challenge.  And so, from Grafe 4 to Grade 6, he would commence his day at 5 am for the 4 kilometer walk to school. He said that perhaps boys who don’t have much wouldn’t ask for what they don’t know and don’t have.  But now that he is grown, he is thankful for all those breaking of dawns and sunrises, the number of which far exceeds that of a busy man’s lifetime viewing of the sunrise. And those years in town prepared him for the optimum academic training he was destined for – a scholarship at the Philippine Science High School in Diliman, Queson City.

Philippine Science High School was an entirely new scenario.  He was now away from his parents and his siblings who he loved most.  He was housed in a dormitory with new faces.  And this was the school for the best and the brightest in the land, the cream of the crop.  And so he proceeded to do the one natural thing he knew how – answer every problem in the textbook.  He didn’t know it was the most horrible thing to do.  And before he knew it, he became known as the nerd.

But he figured he could work the image to his advantage.  The 1 k stipend he was receiving was surely not enough to finance all the requirements they were asked to do in class.  And so he accepted tutorials for a fee.  That augmented his financial needs. The brain training also allowed him to achieve the highest honors bestowed upon a scholar.  He excelled not only in Math but for Physics and Chemistry and Biology as well.

The preparation was more than enough for the college course he chose in the University of the Philippines – Mathematics, of course.  Aware of the much needed educational funding of his brothers and sisters, he hastened to finish his course in three years.  And he did.  The occasion could have been the happiest in his entire life but his father passed away two weeks before graduation.  And the task of being breadwinner fell on his shoulders.

He could have coursed his life a bit differently but the huge stipend the Japanese Mombusho scholarship offered could help his family so much.  Without hesitation, he embarked on a 5 year study grant in the land of the rising sun. And so while working on his Master’s Degree, he was also sending home money.  By the time he was homeward  bound one spring day in Japan, he was already able to graduate four of his siblings from college.

Mr. Lope stood there before us, proud of his story.  Many of us came to the College of Science in our own cars.  He probably walked the distance from his home in the campus or nearby.  He would have been ready to dance the maglalatik, a native fast beat coco shell dance, which his friend said he does with charm.  But that Monday morning, he was there to tell us how simply beautiful life is.  We only have to live according to the intelligence we are blessed with.  Everything follows suit.

Well done, Mr. Lope.  God bless you all the more.

Happy 75th Birthday, Mommy!

Let me tell something about my mommy.  She turns silver today.  And like the ever grateful child of God, she celebrates it with the company of family and friends.  Where?  Take a guess!  Max Restaurant, of course.  But this one is not on Philippine soil.  It’s in Glendale, California.

Well daddy couldn’t be there definitely.  His abode is the nursing home now.  But I am sure he doesn’t mind.  Mommy is really a party goer and daddy always opts to stay at home.  It had been something like that for more than fifty years.  Half a century! But daddy likes mommy to take reprieves in celebrations.  After all, mommy had tasked herself dutifully as a wife, mother, and breadwinner.  Now that she had been retired from office work, she had taken the role of the ever loving better half, preparing meals and literally spoon feeding daddy.  He is in absolute pain and had lost arm movement.

To everything there is a season.  A time to sow, a time to reap.  It’s harvest time, mommy. Go for it.

And yes, daddy, there is a time for every purpose under heaven.

I love you both, more than you know.

Kuya Allan’s Homecoming

On the eve of typhoon Ondoy’s devastation of the National Capital Region, our family was comfortably seated at McDonald’s party place in Katipunan.  We had another dinner date with Kuya Allan, the eldest cousin of the brood.  He was home for a brief visit.  He had migrated his entire family to Vancouver, Canada in ’03.  This was his first journey home.  We already had one lunch date at Dampa, Libis, but as in any Filipino family, despedida makes the blood bonding complete.

McDonald’s was SRO.  The rain was heavy which surprised every motorist.  The natural instinct was to seek refuge at the fastfood centers and avoid the looming traffic.  But it was on every one’s mind.  The tables were all occupied and the counter queues extended to the space outside the entrance doors.  Since our entourage counted twenty, the manager opened up the balloon filled menagerie for us.  As luck would have it, we had the entire nook to ourselves and we had the most enjoyable evening of kwentuhan at bidahan.  As cozy as we were chatting and the children busy with balloons, no one was wary of the impending doom that would befall many just down the stretch of the highway.

Jonjon initiated the talk, commenting on the college girls’ noses perched on thick textbooks.  He said that he had topped most of the exams he took and he did not have to bury his face on the pages.  The trick is to study whatever is needed beforehand, review when necessary, and do not teach all the formula to your classmates. That elicited a good laugh and started the ball rolling.  Jonjon related his frat initiation and blamed Kuya Allan for turning him black and blue.  Had Kuya Allan not allowed himself to be paddled ages ago, then they would not have wondered what could that be.  Boys will be boys , I guess.  Glad the few men in our women-dominated family still stand tall.

And our discussion flowed to the adventures Kuya Allan had in his adopted country.  Needless to say, the ache pinched the hearts as the eyes controlled the tears.  Kuya Allan was an electrical engineer and he had a good job at the Philippines’ foremost electrical company.  He had a decent home in Lagro, another pad for rent, a van for traveling, and another utility vehicle for spare.  His two elder children were in college, the first one about to earn her degree.  The youngest was in grade two.  And his wife, Ate Cynthia, was a nurse at the waterworks.  Yet, Kuya Allan wanted to make his dream of venturing the world come true.  He did not foresee the obstacles that would make the realization painful.

At first, his relatives on his father side, received them well.  They were allotted a comfortable shelter in an unoccupied room.  But as days turned into weeks, the romancing ended and the harsh reality of surviving gripped the entire family.  The burden was heavy on Kuya Allan’s shoulders.  He was the head of the family.  And he was shocked to know that even blood ties mean nothing in an alien land.  The relatives gave him the blank stare and shrug the shoulder treatment.  One has got to do it on his own – alone!

Kuya Allan accepted his fate and swallowed his pride.  He endured eight hours of smoldering by day and dishwashing by night. He rotated his head 180 degrees and willed to make life begin anew.  And he did.  While stretching his stiff neck from smoldering, he glimpsed at some people walking from a distance.  When he asked a fellow worker what  institution they had  for a neighbor, he learned that it was a home for the mentally handicapped.  Without hesitation, he applied to be a volunteer.  When the interviewers asked him what experience has he got with mental patients, he related the sad story of our lone uncle, Tony Caraos, who lost his sanity in the war, and yet lived a full life with us because we treated him as normally as we can. And Kuya Allan was accepted immediately.  Little did he know that a routine as easy as caring for someone mentally deficient would give him the money he needed to sustain his family’s needs.  All he did was usher the patients to their next activity, like watching television.  Or he would sling his arm on the shoulders and bring them somewhere to walk and talk.  Most of the time, he did the talking telling the patients I am Allan Garcia, I am an engineer…etcetera. Before he knew it, they would have coursed kilometers on end and all he did was practice his lines for future interviews.  And so Kuya Allan cried, remembering  Uncle Tony who seemed to be with him every inch of the way.  And he drove the van with the mental patients to all the parks around the area.  And Kuya Allan had his grand tour of this side of Canada. He uttered a prayer of thanks to Uncle Tony for never deserting him in the greatest trials of his life.

Kuya Allan was given an engineer’s job not long after.  But he continued to spend a free night or two at the mental institution, watching tv with the patients, just sort of keeping them company. Or he would sleep the long night to serve as the patients’ night guard.  It was a way a paying back for the blessings he received. That gave him a sum to enable his wife Ate Cynthia and youngest daughter Yanna  a journey home in ’07.   The eldest,  Tata,  had married and born a beautiful girl called Sophie.  Ico came home in June. And Kuya Allan had his six years after leaving this beloved islands which, he said, could never be forgotten.

I received a text message from Kuya Allan the afternoon of September 26, during Ondoy’s heavy downpour.  He asked Kamusta kayo? And I said Lakas tubig pasok bahay. And he knew that tragedy had struck.  My other cousins’ homes were penetrated by the muddy flashflood.  That left us a night of total darkness and fear.  Little did we know that many had perished and many more had been clinging to dear life.

Kuya Allan had boarded his plane back to Canada as scheduled the following day, a Sunday.  I was unable to communicate with him anymore because the cellphone batteries were dead.  And nowhere could the gadgets be charged because of the power blackout.  I was also making my route checking on who needs help. Some nephews and nieces had been stranded in schools.  Nephew Adam was trapped somewhere in Katipunan and walked his way home the morning of his birthday, September 27.  He was able to capture images of the flood waters in his cellphone.  But the sight of dead bodies left him sleepless for so many nights.  I also spotted canine carcasses and some marines carrying an unknown corpse in a stretcher, but I swiveled my head to the mounting garbage instead.  I do not like the sight of the dead in my memory.

Long after the calamity, I thought about Kuya Allan and my prodding him to write his stories in a journal.  He said Ikaw na lang. I said okay. It is sad that I had to write his story alongside the most devastating typhoon that paralyzed our country.  Yet, if I recall right, Kuya Allan always leaves with a bang.  When he departed for Canada in ’03, the Trillanes group sieged Manila Peninsula Hotel in order to topple down the incumbent government.  This time he left again with another bang, much grimmer though.  But that is Kuya Allan.  Godspeed, wherever you are!

My Cousin Migs Gets Hitched

The Leyva family of Rosario, Cavite had already endured the loss of one beloved member in the war in Mindanao during the early stages of the Christian-Muslim armed conflict of the south.  When cousin Junjun set forth on his journey in the said battleground, we can only whisper our prayers and bid him Godspeed.

Cousin Junjun holds a degree in Musicology at the UP.  At the time of his stay in the university, he was an active figure at the Vanguards and commands the corps of cadets.  In college one has the pleasure of doing what one desires.   Junjun pursued his two loves – music and the military.

Junjun became a teacher of music at the Southridge School for boys.  I queried one time how he liked being a teacher.  He reponded with My boys are always dirty.

To everyone’s surprise, soon he was southbound.  I absolutely could not fathom the amount of  sadness my Tita Luning felt.  A mother always worried.  And the emotion transcended to us.  Even if we really are not that tightly knit, the blood prevailed.  So we prayed.

On one furlough Junjun related how bloody red could a  soldier’s life get.  Without warning an encounter could claim the lives of your best buddies.  He once carried the body of his commander to the hospital not knowing that it was lifeless.  Said he had seen the grim part of life, especially the part when a friend dies in your arms.

Yet Junjun sent an invitation.  It said Migs and Miki nuptials 16 May 09, Zamboanga.  Our Junjun is getting married.  And our Junjun has a new name.  He had been baptized Migs by his comrades.

Tita Luning and Shey, cousin Tess and daughter Jam and adopted son Ronron, nieces Jocelyn and Jean composed the little entourage from our family for the afternoon wedding in Zamboanga.

My daughter Jean had already related to us how regal the rites had been.  Everything else considered, the wedding was actually grand.

Congratulations Migs!  And best wishes to the newest addition to the family – welcome to our circle, Miki!  In the midst of seeming hopelessness, your marriage shines bright reaffirming us that tomorrow will be a beautiful day.

A Tale of Two Mothers

Eugenia and Angelita are sisters.  Eugenia, also called Gening in the family or Gene in the office, had started from a lowly job of being clerk cum stenographer to being the secretary of admirals and commodores of the US Navy stationed at Subic.  Angelita, Baby or simply Bay, had worked as a registered nurse in Chicago but had opted to teach nursing in her motherland.  The two had been children of the war.  The rise from the ruins of the war was achievement enough, to engage in noble professions was deck of cards laid on the table.  And that is what the two sisters did, precisely.

Career on the side, the two sisters were first and foremost mothers.  Eugenia had five children and six grandchildren.  Angelita had three children and three grandchildren, too.  Septuagenarians now, the two continue to tend their brood, most of the time advising the younger generations to listen to the wisdom of the old.   But they are also first in spoiling the children, not wanting anyone to experience the cruelty of what they had been through.

Thank you mommy!  Thank you Tita Bay!

A Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.

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