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

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.

Trivia Time

From Abbey, 5, and Tisha, 4  – Guess Game!

What CK is a superman?

What BW is a half man half bat?

What PP is a half man half spider?

What is a half man half horse?

What is a half woman half lion?

What A is a half woman half fish?

Answers:  Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Centaur, Sphinx, and Ariel

I asked why did they not say What M is a half woman half fish? The two answered Because you already know it’s a mermaid.

(from EXCERPTS 15 April 1996)

On a Full Moon Morn

The roosters have cocked their wake-up call tiktilaok! This morning is not as cold as yesterday but I am hesitating to go out to buy hot pan de sal at Tayag’s store.  I can still see the full moon bright in the dark heavens.  I  do not believe the frightening full moon appearances of aswang at engkanto.  But Mr. Dianzon from Hibiscus street warned me not to venture alone.  Said the tricycle drivers had been witnesses to taong-gubat hitchhiking at the wee hours of the night.  Goosebumps – sure am!  I yield to the wisdom of the old.

(from EXCERPTS 7 February 1996)

Domestic Tidbits

The wind continues to blow hard each day, especially in the afternoons.  Our curtains which I clip with clothespins on the window grills gets blown off every quarter of an hour.  I have to put them back. They are our only cover from the lashing harsh winds.

Abbey commented on how a swept clean backyard could make a difference.  I actually started gathering the stones to one place in order to keep the blood sugar from soaring.  I had to exercise and I thought a 30 minute gardening could be more exciting than bending.  I have to bend anyways when I pick up the stones and sweep the leaves.  Two in one.  Paid off though.  Lost a few unwanted pounds.

Tisha does not like macaroni soup.  She likes chicken only – fried, roasted, or barbecued.  But Abbey likes the macaroni soup and anything pasta, even if spiced with chili.  I had to force Tisha to eat a little, and she picked on the chicken strips.

The dishes had to be washed.  The refrigerator’s empty.  Had to go marketing.  Ouch! The gardening was backbreaking.  I am so tired.

(from EXCERPTS 6 February 1996)

America is in the Heart

I am half-way through Carlos Bulosan’s novel entitled America is in the Heart.  I purchased my copy at a book bargain a decade ago for only PhP4.75.  It is only now though that I have the time to read the story about the plight of the Filipino expatriates in America.  Very difficult, very sad, bordering on the tragic.  In spite of the hardships though, the Filipinos had come to see America as salvation.  That is why America in in the heart.

(from EXCERPTS 6 February 1996)

The Reluctant Goatherdess

Our two nanny goats gave birth to two kids each, all in the span of one hour.  I had to dash back and forth to the chapel grounds where the billy goat had been leashed.  When I first came around mid morning to check, one nanny goat was in the process of birthing.  I had to rush home to tell Abbey and Tish to stay put and wait for the baby goat.  When I came back the other nanny goat was also birthing.  Two more kids were born.  Amazingly right after the birth, the kids wobbled but stood up to be near their mothers.  I carried each baby home but saw how the nannies eyed me should I harm their new born babies.  But of course they allowed me to secure the babies one by one, four in all.  It was exhausting but I was able to do it.  Now we have a total of seven goats.  Abbey and Tish said I am now a goatherd.  Oh well, what else could I be called even if  I am a reluctant one.

(FROM Excerpts 5 February 1996)

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