To my father on Fathers’ Day

famHey, you! This letter is for you. Yes, YOU, Jimmyboy!
Our shared history had been long and full of sub-stories that you might fall asleep if I’d divulge all the contents of my journal in one sitting. 
You should know that you were my first true teacher in self-care. My awareness to take care of myself began when I was 8, when you first showed me those shocking mug shots of rapists in your police criminals file. Thank you for telling me (without mincing words) what they did to their victims. Because of that, I became paranoid, and ergo, survived the tumults of growing up in a place like Olongapo.
Thank you, too, for lecturing me on the different adverse effects of drugs. It was so scary to hear you say that pushers discovered a way to get young kids addicted by injecting drugs in our candies. Growing up, I was afraid to take any food even from well-meaning classmates. They must have thought I was a classy girl even if I was secretly drooling inside.
During my difficult years as a teenager searching for meaning, you were a humongous presence in my life. You and your handcuffs. Thank you for not putting me in prison like you did with my brother James Ian.  Those scary mug shots you showed me in my formative years remain etched in my memory. I was sure better off being incarcerated at home with a wrist attached to the handcuffs, that was attached to the kabayo ng plantsahan, than behind bars- in proximity to those characters whose faces you made me commit to memory.
I think I have gifts to see the future. (I must have taken it after Mama.) Long before my angry relationship with your handcuffs, I thought that that day would come so I stole your tiny key and made a copy. Voila! Houdini ini, anoh. 
After all, you told me that since I was always among the top of my class, you expected me to be bright and not to be kiri. (Now, don’t laugh. I heard you bragged to our neighbors that you were amazed at how I was able to free myself each time, that ikaw na ang napapagod mag-posas.)
I knew your fears at that time. You thought  I was seeking the life of a  rock groupie. But can you imagine how nightmarish it was for me, that at a time I was following all those cool bands in Magsaysay Drive, you were the police chief of Station B?!
I had to hide under tables, behind columns, pillars, cars and human shields  whenever I see your patrolmen made their rounds.  I was almost declared a pariah by my friends who were scared of your uniform and your shiny holster that they can’t even look on your face.
You thwarted what might have been a more colorful life for me had I become a true-blue groupie. (Now I am not sure if I have to thank you for taking away that fun or not.)
(Sidebar:  I had such a great time watching my favorites so never mind na ma-posas. Gary Perez strumming it out with Sampaguita was such a vision at 100% Rock! I loved hanging out at the Billboard for its jazz playlist and who would forget Benson Foo’s B’s Musical Lounge with his faux grand piano?
I followed The Poor Immigrants, 3 Good Reasons, the Gold Rush, Josie Rivera, Le Jovials, Verna Canon, Maria Cafra, the Frictions- because they were my assignment in 2nd year English writing class.  I chose to write about “the current musical scene in Olongapo” and Ms. Bebot Cabasa  gave me the highest mark in composition. It fueled my passion to become a journalist one day. Didn’t I fulfill that dream, and yours- that I’d do something that mattered? You were always thrilled to read my bylines, as I remember.)
My dating life was never normal if there ever was a dating life at all because you terrorized all the guys who walked me home. One of them vowed to become a policeman so he can stand up to your bullying. (You would remember this guy!) In later years, he became one and unfortunately for him and because of you, I didn’t want to date a policeman.
Half the time we found each other standing on 2 opposite sides of the fence. You perceived me to be a ‘subversive.’ I have no name nor explanation for my choices in life. I trekked  uneven pathways of uncertainty in finding my place under the sun. You were a policeman, it must have been  difficult for you to have a child like me. I am sorry for the misery and pain I have caused you in the past. Up to this day, I am trying to make up for them.
Whenever I visit our photo albums, those sepia and black and white pictures evoke certain memories. These memories remind me of certain stories and never fail to bring back feelings from the past. I will smile and laugh and cry remembering them.
Our  father-daughter saga, to me, is highlighted by 5 themes:  Stormy. Comical. Reconciliation. Healing. Love.
This blog would never be enough to contain your goodness and your imperfections. One day, I would write a book about your love story with my mother.
As we look back to the years of your being a father to 5 special children (you have to admit we were not normal kids), I salute you, chief, for maintaining your humor in life and for believing in each and every one of us.  
I am where I should be today because of you. I am thankful and proud that you are my father.
Your prodigal daughter,
Jen

An Open Letter to My Daughters: Embrace Our Stories

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Dear Ana Patricia and Denise Paulina,

At this age, I don’t subscribe to pain (alone) as a fuel for inspiration. A well of happy thoughts can bring sweet water to the spirit. I am so blessed in having them, these moments I call day-by-day miracles. Thanks to you, your brothers, and Wiel.

Once upon a time, life wasn’t like this for me. Continue reading

I almost lost a friend because of “Game of Thrones!”

Don’t laugh, I’ve experienced it myself: No one can truly say when a spoiler is a spoiler. It is not determined by time nor venue where information was released or published. One cannot say, “Ah, but the book’s been out for years” or “It’s not my fault that you didn’t watch it last week” (or last 2 weeks or so on).

I have a precious gf who didn’t have the chance to catch up with regular viewing of Game of Thrones in HBO because of her busy work and mommying schedule. After a week that the “Red Wedding” was shown I posted my reflections, and boy, was she annoyed big-time! She chastised me via open FB and tagged my name to call my attention! Worse, one of her over-zealous FB friends, cursed me and wished for my death. That hurt. Continue reading

I Sing Songs to My Dog

jamby & me

Everyday I sing to her. Can you guess what her favorite song is? — Bizet’s aria- ‘Habanera’ (in dog language, of course: aw-aw-aw-aw,,,)

“… Love is a gypsy’s child,
it has never, ever, known a law;
love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you’d best beware!…”
Allow me to translate:
“Ang pagibig ay anak ng isang lagalag,
Hindi ito kailan man kumikilala ng batas;
Huwag mo akong mahalin, at mamahalin kita;
At kapag minahal kita, mag-ingat ka!…”

Jamby would be so excited to hear me sing. She would push her face close to mine, wanting only one thing, as if saying: “Let’s rub noses, please-please?!”

 

Positive Thoughts Are Powerful Prayers

IMG_6955When someone asks you to pray for something or someone, do not delay in granting the prayer request.

Sometimes we commit the mistake of being forgetful amid the hustle & bustle of our everyday lives.

What if your prayer is the last one that the Higher Power is waiting for, that would help someone you know recover, gain some victory, or survive an ordeal?

I remember my mom telling me when I was little: Every good wish or prayer you utter for a person goes to a ‘baul’ (treasure chest) in heaven that will earn you some good points when it’s your turn to be prayed for.

Others call it karma.

I think positive thoughts have the power to multiply like good bacteria. A positive thought is an expression of genuine concern and friendship. And prayer is a strong form of a positive thought.

The next time someone asks you to pray for his or her concern, do not allow the opportunity to earn points for your ‘baul’ escape you. Pray with that person. Guaranteed to make you feel good knowing that you helped a friend feel safe.

light a candle

Love, Yes- Love Always Wins

 

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(Note: The title of this story was inspired by a line in a book written by Mitch Albom “Tuesday With Morrie.” Contexts do not matter, whether they are the same or different. Love is all-encompassing.)

My daughter is a peace worker at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (or OPAPP). It was only less than a year ago when the country achieved a milestone in history when the Peace Pact in Mindanao was signed. (Gov’t, MILF seal preliminary peace pact) I wrote an article (not about the peace pact at that time) but about Denise and her commitment to contribute to the country’s peace efforts in her own little and humble way. (http://www.countrysidewriter.com/there-was-a-girl-a-peace-worker/)
Continue reading

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Knowing the Right One

 waterfalls Many summers ago- I asked AIM professor Cecilia Manikan (who mentored Christine Carlos & I in Management Education in the Arts): “How do you know when you found the right one?” (It was a question from out-of-the-blue and unrelated to what was being discussed. It was a time of hopeless romanticism. I was tired of waiting for a fairy tale that wouldn’t come. Let me tell you now that fairy tales are overrated!) However, the whole class seemed eager to know the answer, too. Cecille looked me straight in the eye and said: “When you are the right one yourself.” Just like that. “Please turn to page __ of your reference book.” came her next remark. From then on, life became an education and practice in self-work, reparenting the child within and self-care. One day, Dutchy just fell down from Love Heaven. Many times I was asked by young (and not-so-young) women who came to Cafe by the Forest to partake of our food, our Cappuccino, “How did you know he was the right one?” Each time it was asked I will respond the same way it was given to me by Cecille. (It was her birthday on April 18, I learned from FB. Happy birthday, prof!) Today, I read this letter of John Steinback to his son. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/12/john-steinbeck-on-love-1958/ The last paragraph is timeless and not only it applies to the quest of finding love but also to everything that we are looking for in life. “If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. nothing good gets away.” (30) 396787_183950198370452_1502532577_nwiel & jen  

Michael W

Saying Goodbye to Michael

Strange but true: We are giving Dee Smith a welcome fellowship party @ 6 pm today- cakes and coffee at the Cafe by the Forest. So I thought of hitting two birds in one stone: Buy the cakes from SIH Terrace and annoy Michael like I always used to. i haven’t spoken to him for months so I looked forward to being showered by his sardonic humor.

 

As I was selecting cakes, the Terrace manager, Edwin, offered me the usual FOC coffee. I said yes cheerfully and “By the way, where’s Michael?” His face turned ashen then sad: “You didn’t know, do you? He died last night at 11 in the evening in the hospital.”

I was shocked. I fought back the tears. I knew that Mike had been sickly of late but I didn’t expect that he’ll leave this early. He had always been robust about life. Some memories flew by as I stared at the cakes.

 

Michael Wilson, British Honorary Consul in Subic Bay and Subic International Hotel’s GM stood by me during a challenging period in my work life. (The hows and the whys shall remain quiet paragraphs in my private memoirs.) Subic Bay Freeport was young then and so were we. We jokingly called ourselves “survivors of political skirmishes.”

 

We were gung-ho about a lot of things then. We thought we would see Subic fly like Hongkong in tourism but it’s been nearly two decades and still it’s not happening. And yet, we stayed on, faithful to Subic. I told him once: “I never imagined myself living in another place.” He nodded and puffed a smoke on my face.

 

Despite this unfulfilled dream of ours, Michael didn’t lose his humor and stayed in Subic. Last time we spoke, I urged him to quit smoking to which he replied: “You’re no fun to be with, lady!” and called a staff: “Give this woman whatever she wants so she’ll leave immediately.” Hahahaha.
Subic will never be the same without Mike. He will be missed and remembered with fondness. (As usual, as it was with all my friends, I never attend wakes and burials. His remains lie somewhere in a funeral home in Taguig, I was told.

 

The last memory of him in my mind would be his squinting eyes as he told me to: ‘Leave,” his cigarette smoke trailing behind me. I blew raspberries. Our goodbyes always ended in mutual giggles.)

 

My sincerest condolences to his family and to his friends and fellow workers who are mourning his death.

And Michael, wherever you may be (in case there’s you-know-what), I hope you know that I am giggling while I am writing this.

peace

There was a Girl, a Peace Worker

There was a girl who works in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (or OPAPP), who sometime ago complained of hyper-acidity and the occasional stomachaches that go with it. Her mother made her take all kinds of tests and after learning that it was from stress (the usual culprit), she sat her down: “Resign, hija. That job is no longer healthy for you, all those 12-hour days!”

Mama was relentless in making sure her daughter explores other job opportunities. She was worried about her health as she was worried about her own sanity. Her friends (some of them can make things happen) were very supportive. One friend offered to hire the girl in her department in a multinational firm. Another offered to help her get a Master’s Degree scholarship in a premier university. (More promising was it may possibly continue to a PhD degree overseas).  Continue reading