Thursday, August 15, 2013
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Today is their big day. The rains last night refused to dampen the spirit of Aling Elsa and her relatives in preparing for the wedding party. While in the process of raiding my kitchen cabinets to borrow dish containers, she again reminded me for the nth time of the wedding.
My husband and I promptly arrived at the Mayor's Office of the Montalban Municipal Hall at 9am. In my 28 years of stay here in this municipality, it was actually my first time to step into the premises of our municipal hall.
We proceeded to a room full of people. My eagle eye immediately surveyed the faces and I was amused with the different expressions of people in the room - couples who obviously appear nervous, a few wearing their best Sunday dresses, while a few choosing to wear simple clothes, even jeans. There were mothers who, even on the wedding day of their children, seem like stage mothers, wiping the perspiration of their children, asking questions every now and then. Fathers were their usual selves - sitting comfortably and wearing tired expressions on their faces, as if saying "blah, blah, blah, let's get it over and done with". And of course, the godmothers and godfathers who have been chosen by the couples to be their second parents, but quite ironically, they often know the parents better than they know the children who are getting married. I hurriedly looked at the couples and noticed two brides with bulging stomachs. I also saw a groom who looks barely 20 years old and who actually seems to be getting his first communion, rather than getting married.
Finally, the official from the Mayor's Office tasked to unite them came out. Everyone was silent - for 3 seconds flat - after which the animated banter resumed. The official called each and every name of the bride and groom, and launched into a long list of reminders as to why everyone was in the room. If I'm not mistaken, ten times he asked the couples if they are really sure with what they are doing because their papers show that most of them are quite young, with one couple requiring parental consent. He boldly asked how many are already living in, and how many are not. The couples all answered as honestly, and bravely, as they can, all the while holding each other's hands. When he announced the final question - "Are you really ready for this?", the room became silent again, and nobody from among the couples answered, which prompted a parent to say "Answer him "yes" so we can proceed". He reasoned out that it is doubly expensive to have a marriage annulled, so they should be 110% sure of what they are entering into.
As the wedding ceremony went on, I couldn't help but study the faces of the couples. I could see love in their eyes, but I couldn't help but say a silent prayer for them to be strong enough to handle the trials that married couples usually undergo. They've got a really long way to go. By this time, a number of parents and godparents are already asleep (so much for witnessing a momentous event in their children's lives).
As the official was about to ask the couples to wear the wedding rings, we all heard the persistent ringing of a celfone to the tune of I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore by Reo Speedwagon. The celfone turned out to be that of the official. He answered the call (this really shocked me) and asked his friend to call after 15 minutes.
Finally, the moment came - the official announced "you may kiss the bride" and the room was filled with shouts of glee, in the process waking up those who were sleeping. Pictures were taken, and the official asked the couples to kiss the hands of their parents and godparents. The groom that I am sponsoring had difficulty finding me as he only met me that morning. I was surprised when a mother who was beside me brushed away the hands of one couple. She just refused to acknowledge them which made the bride teary eyed. I wanted to tell her "Girl, welcome to reality."
For me, getting married, whether through a simple ceremony or a lavish one, requires not only love but also determination to sustain that love. It's a partnership through and through- the yin and the yang - the beginning and the end - the cause and the reason. The world would have been much happier if all married couples would follow what the Bible always reminds us of - "Love is patient and kind". As Randolph Ray once said, he would like to have engraved inside every wedding band “Be kind to one another”. It is exactly the Golden Rule secret of all marriages.
As I'm writing this blog, my dear Aling Elsa would have been flat out in her bed, sleeping, after a long day of taking care of wedding guests. Guests would have been on their way home by now. The married couple would now be on their honeymoon. And tomorrow, when everyone wakes up, they will all remember today as just the beginning of the couple's long life together, which, God willing, would be a wonderful one.
“I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
a church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
he said one that would make me his wife.”
-- Author Unknown
Sunday, May 10, 2009
But today is different. It's Mother's Day! When I was young, we never celebrated Mother's Day. It was not heard of at that time. To us kids of long ago, everyday was Mother's Day. Our mothers were the greatest influence in our young minds - what to do (to earn a cone of "dirty" ice cream) or not to do (to earn a visit from the aswang, tikbalang and manananggal). My own Nanay is no exception - she was not only the light of the home back then, she was also the lawmaker of the house of the Montanos. With my father away the whole day, my Nanay organized everything from waking us up (me and my two elder sisters) at 5am to go to school at 6am (even though school was less than 400 meters away and classes start at 7am). It was a big thing for my Nanay to be "most punctual" in class. After school, my Nanay was right there in the school gate waiting for me and immediately asking me how my day was, whether I behaved or was I naughty, or did I get good grades in recitation and exams. It was "reporting" time for me. It was all right with me as I knew she had to report back to Tatay when he came home from work. Any misconduct that merits disciplinary measures is reported back to Tatay also. During rainy season, I was the only one who arrived in class with dry shoes even though the school surroundings were flooded. My nanay bravely carried me through the flooded streets just so we can save my shoes as we could not afford a new one then. Whenever my sisters and I quarrel, one fierce look from our Nanay subdues us. No arguments, no tantrums. Whenever our Nanay gets angry at us, she launches into her native language, Waray, that's why even if I don't speak the dialect, I can perfectly understand it. She had difficulty weaning me away from the bottle. I was already in Grade 1 when I stopped drinking milk from the bottle. The last bottle I used was a 7-up bottle to which she attached a plastic nipple, and even if she put Vicks on the nipple, it was super all right with me, until I dropped the bottle and it broke. She then refused to buy me another 7-up bottle inspite of tears freely flowing down my cheeks. She said that "7-up costs ten centavos and that is a big portion of our budget!". Well, I believed her then.
We were then renting a small house in Tramo Street, Pasay City. We had a small balcony with four chairs (which we also use for dinner) and I used to spend lazy afternoons watching passers by admire the lovely potted Petunias hanging in our small balcony. Lazy afternoons also meant waiting for a go signal from my Nanay to play outside. Once she gives it, it's all systems go for me and my older sister Marilu (I call her Alo). We played "touching robber", "baseball", "pico", and "patintero". Our playtime would sometimes get interrupted with a call from our Kuya (the eldest among the siblings) who had to iron his very very tight pants (baston) that was the "in" thing in the '60s. As we didn't have an electric fan then, Alo and I would take turns fanning our Kuya whose beads of perspiration were aplenty while ironing his pants (note: it was easy to wear the pants, but taking it off was quite difficult. Alo and I would need to each hold one end of the pants and pull it off from our Kuya with all our might until we tumble into the floor with the pants in our hands, imagine that!). Afterwards, Alo and I would then go back to playing with our neighbours. It was all right for us, anyway our Kuya used to allow us to watch him play his "army of soldiers" complete with sound effects.
A few minutes before 6pm, my Nanay would go to our small balcony and announce "Pssssssssstttttt!", then we knew it was time for me and Alo to go home. It meant "Angelus" time and we would hear Johnny de Leon (with his trusted sidekick Ngongo) announcing the Angelus. Johnny would play the record "Deck of Cards" by Wink Martindale (anyone remembers this?). Alo and I would listen to the Angelus while my mother prepares dinner, assisted by our Ate Lilian, who, since we were little has always been ladylike. Everyday, the scene was like that. We would wait for the arrival of our Tatay from work and our Kuya from school. Our dining table was "custom made". It was made by my Tatay and Kuya, and if it was not in use, we simply remove the posts and fold it against the wall. My chair then was a big drum where we keep our stock of rice. I cried once because my chair was not the same as those of my sisters, but Nanay told me that I should be proud because I am responsible for "safekeeping" our rice. Again, I believed her then. My Kuya was sometimes tasked to cook dinner. When he cooked "daing na bangus", I remember him wrapping his arms with a thick t-shirt and attaching a kawayan stick to our one and only sandok so that the hot oil coming from the daing wouldn't hurt him. After cooking, he would ask the three of us sisters to stand in the small balcony, and he would set up the table. He then would shout "sugod mga kapatid!" and the three of us would come rushing to our designated chairs. No, our house wasn't big, in fact the small balcony was only about three steps away from the dining table, but for me it was pure fun! My Nanay and Tatay would watch this amusing scene with happiness in their eyes. We were not rich, our life was just simple, but we were blessed with a wonderful and solid family.
A misdemeanor that I can never forget was when my Alo and I, together with other neighbourhood kids, decided that our neighbour's giant Gabi leaves could be wonderful bows for us who all pretended to be sagalas for our very own version of Flores de Mayo. Imagine my Nanay's wrath when our neighbour reported it to her and even if it wasn't 6pm yet, my Alo and I could hear our Nanay shouting at the top of her voice "Lailaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! Mariluuuuuuuu!!!!, uwiiiiiiiii!!!!!". When we got home, we were treated with silence....until our Tatay came home and the misconduct was reported to him. What happened later was another story..:)
One by one, my brother, sisters and I grew up but Nanay's presence was always there to comfort us as we struggled with our teen years, our first jobs, our first loves, and many other episodes in our lives that we all had to go through. Now, we all have our own families and all of us siblings are already parents to kids with different personalities. But still, my Nanay takes an active role in bringing "order" into our sometimes complicated relationships with our kids. Without fail, she comes to our house at exactly 5am (our house is less than 200 meters from theirs) and checks on my kids, even on me ("you're already late for work", "why are you wearing that dress" etc.). Other children with mothers like that would probably complain, but not me. I love my Nanay checking on us everyday. It means that I am still blessed to have my Nanay with me, that I can leave the house ahead of my kids, as my Nanay would look after them, even badger them to move faster (remember, she loves "punctuality").
I honestly feel that I, as a parent, can never equal the attention that my Nanay gave to me when I was growing up, compared with the attention that I have given to my children when they were growing up. My nanay is simply amazing. I can't imagine myself being a stay-home mom. But I would like to think that my children are sensible enough to know that mothers, no matter how much or how less they have shown their children what's truly in their hearts, will always wish the best for their children, just like my Nanay did for us.
She once told me that someday she can face God bravely and tell Him that "I've wonderfully done the job you've given me. Thank you God for making it easy for me."
To our Nanay, thank you for making such a mark on the lives of your children, we shall be forever grateful for all your sacrifices and devotion in raising us as good persons. We love you much! Happy Mother's Day! (she texted me this morning to greet me and ended the greeting with "luv u").
- Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Fortunately in our office, respect for one's culture and religious belief is, at all times, observed. Being a United Nations specialized agency, staff are repeatedly reminded that a UN staff is expected to work harmoniously in a multicultural setup, that includes respect for one's religious inclinations. It is no surprise for supervisors to accept the fact that his/her staff disappears for a longer time than usual especially during first Fridays and Roman Catholic church's holidays of obligation. But then, they also are happy to see that the same staff is very much willing to stay an additional hour or two beyond office hours, to make up for the lost time. This is a very much accepted but unspoken arrangement for many many years now.
Perhaps 99% (if not 100%) of the Filipino staff in our office are Christians. A group of staff regularly holds Bible studies in the office. Everyone, regardless of religious affinity, is welcome to attend. This year, when the Lenten season set in, a group of friends also organized a series of Lenten talks, which culminated last Thursday, 2 April. During the last day, Brother Eng summarized to us the lessons he shared with us for the past 6 weeks. Part of his talk was to discuss the three kinds of prayers: active, quiet and constant. In our everyday lives, most of us, if not all, resort to one, if not all of these kinds of prayers. He repeated to us the usual routine when praying: A(adoration); C(contrition); T(thanksgiving); S(supplication). In the past, when I was still ignorant of this routine, I usually head on to thanksgiving and supplication, often foregoing adoration and contrition. But our Father, whose mercy and goodness is unbounded, still answers my prayers, either a yes or no, which I readily accept.
The past six weeks had been very enriching for those of us who attended the Lenten talks. Most days, our time and attention are focused on our families and our work, often forgetting that our souls also need to eat, to be nourished and taken cared of. The Lenten talks proved to be the "vitamins" that most of us need to boost our spiritual lives, to prepare ourselves for the Holy Week during which we commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent makes us remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made to cleanse us all from sin, which He paid by giving up His life. Sacrifice - to give up, to forgo, to surrender. One easy word, and yet very difficult to make for many of us.
Which brings to my mind an article I read many years ago about two brothers who lived in the 15th century and both dreamt of becoming famous artists. They were eighteen siblings and their parents couldn't send all of them to school. One night, the two brothers tossed a coin - the winner goes to college, the loser goes to work in the mines, after which the winner comes back and the loser goes to college. For four years, the winning brother studied in college while the loser toiled for days on end just so his brother could continue schooling. In no time at all, the winning brother was recognized for his genuine talent - in his etchings and oil paintings. He came back home and the family had a celebration to welcome him back. During the feast, he requested everybody to give a toast not to him but to his brother who worked in the mines for four years just to support him. And he proudly announced that his brother could now go to college. His brother declined the offer, and at last showed him his gnarled hands, which have been broken a lot of times and now suffers from arthritis due to the nature of his work in the mines. The winning brother paid homage to his brother by painting his hands while in the act of praying - and this masterpiece is now known as "The Praying Hands". The painter? Albrecht Durer.
And now, as we commemorate Holy Week, I pray that each one of us find time to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made more than two thousand years ago. As Brother Eng said, let us find our language of prayer. God understands all of us no matter how we express ourselves while praying. Each word is heard and understood. He hears the beat of our hearts, and He sees our wish to repent for our sins and our wish to renew ourselves in His eyes. Relax and let God soothe our soul, read His word each day, and be at peace with ourselves.
Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the eveness of our recollection, the seat of of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest. (Anonymous).
Sunday, March 29, 2009
My son, knowing that my parents like to watch war movies, invited them to view the movie in our home. My mother, now 72 years old, came. I didn't like to watch it as I really hate it when someone good dies in a movie. But I found myself glued to the television watching most of the scenes, along with my husband. Even my dog was there beside my mother watching the action scenes. Interspersed with the movie were my own mother's snippets of memories of the horrors of war.
She was only 6 years old that time, and as expected, she was very passionate while watching the movie, and I could see that she really has kept her sad memories with her. My son assured her that only one lead character would die in the movie, and she answered back that there are still many undocumented atrocities that the Japanese committed at that time.
And that's true. Most of the oldtimers now can attest to the harsh experiences people had during the war. In Leyte, where my parents were born and raised, my mother witnessed people supportive of America being dragged by military jeepneys and paraded for everyone to see, finally ending in the plaza where they were executed. My mother even pointed to the scars on her legs which she got from running across fields where blades of grass cut her young legs, and they had to stay hidden in the water up to 2 days, without food, resulting to infection of her cuts. She learned how to breath using a bamboo stick while hidden beneath the water in the river. She talked about cooking rice, with no smoke at all, because creating smoke would mean that the Japanese would be able to detect their location and raid them. She talked about American soldiers telling them to go to the shore because an air raid would most probably happen soon and staying on the shore would be safer for them because they're in the water. The Filipinos followed the instruction and many ran to the shore. The Japanese air raiders were quick to understand the strategy and instead of attacking the American airplanes, they first raided the shore where by then hundreds of Filipinos were already gathered. My grandmother told my mother to lie face flat and she personally witnessed a couple beside her being unfortunately hit by bullets.
My father's younger brother was a victim of the Japanese atrocity. The elder brothers of my father joined the guerrila forces. Left at home were their mother, my father, who was 14 at that time, and his younger brother, aged 8. One day the Japanese came to their house, accompanied by a member of Makapili, a militant group organized by Filipinos to give military aid to Japan. Apparently, the Makapili informed the Japanese that my father's elder brothers were part of the underground guerilla movement. The Japanese grabbed the youngest brother, in spite of the pleadings of my father and their mother. They thought that a young boy would tell the truth anytime, compared with my father who was older. The boy didn't say anything and the Japanese kept on torturing him, wringing his neck, which resulted in his tongue coming out permanently. The boy died 4 days later, and it caused my father extreme heartache which is with him to this day, not being able to do anything for his younger brother. Right after Liberation, my father's elder brother went straight to the house of the Makapili and shot him dead.
Many Filipinos now have almost forgotten this tragic chapter of Philippine history. Though they are aware of the fact that Japan ruled our country for a few years, most of them however, can no longer relate to the heartaches and pains felt by the older generations who experienced war. The number of Filipino war veterans is dwindling fast, many of them hoping to finally get the recognition they so rightly deserve.
No country can truly claim that it won a war. In all cases, we are all losers. We lost loved ones, we lost opportunities, we lost time. A war tends to rewrite a country's history and leaves a permanent toll to the nation. God never wants people to fight one another. War among ourselves was never in His agenda. People who decide to enter into war justify their decision that war is a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary it is, as they say, it is still evil. I always pray to God that my children, their children and their children's children (and so on) will never experience the horrors of war. My son once commented that future wars will be so unlike World War II, because it will most probably be a nuclear war. A single nuclear bomb would kill hundreds of thousands without anyone having time to realize what hit them (remember Terminator II).
In our present world where people are so occupied with issues such as global financial crisis and climate change, I fervently hope our politicians are wise enough not to enter into war. If you will observe, it is usually a country's politicians who start war, not the military. But then, it's the military who are the frontliners, and not the politicians. Our politicians have the power to make major decisions that are more complex than their thinking processes. If only we can enact a law that politicians should lead the battle if ever they declare war, then our world would definitely be a more peaceful place to live in.
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
My own college graduation was of not much significance to my young mind then. All I had in mind at that time was how my first day at work would be like. A day after I graduated, I started working in one of the offices in Makati. I was very proud to be officially called then a "working girl" and in Makati at that. During my graduation, my mother forgot to engage a professional photographer to take my picture, so she bravely climbed the steel railings of the PUP gymnasium and took a photo, using an instamatic camera. Imagine my shock when right after I shook the hands of the University's President, i looked at the crowd and saw my mother waving at me, perched in one of the gym's steel beams (try to imagine that). To this day, I still can't forget the risk that my mother took, just to get my photo, which turned out bad because the arms of the University's President hid my face while he was putting on me my medal for graduating Cum Laude (ehem, ehem). Nevertheless, she sent that photo to my father who was then working in a cargo ship far into the Atlantic Ocean.
There were three classmates who did not join the batch of graduates then. One became pregnant way too early and she didn't want to go up the stage with a bulging stomach. The two others didn't pass one subject - Philosophy. In that class, we didn't have names - instead we were called by our "numbers". I still remember our Professor announcing to everyone that those whose numbers he will announce should stay in the room, while the rest of the "numbers" can go out and finally have fun, after one gruelling semester with him. About half of the class stayed in the room and were given another shot, a most critical one. Two failed.
Which makes me think of the sad fact that some professors, even though they know that their subjects are not major ones, choose to make things more difficult for graduating students. They act as if they hold the future of these students in their hands. Which, in principle, is correct. A failing grade would set back the student's dreams for another semester, and definitely puts more pressure on parents, who have been praying for deliverance from the seemingly endless expenses incurred when sending a child to school. These difficult professors do not realize the fact that they have greatly affected the future of these students, and most probably their outlook in life.
Ever heard of the poem "Three"?
I think that I shall never see,
A grade as lovely as a “three”,
A three that’s earned by blood and sweat
When failing is a serious threat,
A three that I’ve asked from God all day,
Knowing that praying is the only way,
Exams are taken by fools like me,
but only God can give a “three”.
I believe the above poem simply states the truth - better to get 3.0 and pass, than not to pass at all.
This graduation time, I sincerely hope that these graduates would find a more fruitful life after school, let them join the taxpaying workforce that are the true jewels of our nation. They may become cynical of a "worker's life" in due time, but then, that's where the wheels of life lead us. After repeatedly encountering setbacks in looking for that elusive "perfect job", at least they get to gain experience and wisdom in knowing that true happiness lies in accepting what you actually have for now - a job that pays you on time. It is in the learning through life's experiences, in the contrasts of good and bad, happy and sad, up and down, that we grow. It is through these things that we gain understanding of how we should live life.
College graduation only happens once in a lifetime. Grab and savor the moment, but don't forget to equip yourself with enough faith to know that equivalent to this special moment are many heartaches, frustrations and trials, and they don't come in three's only. They oftentimes come in numbers that you can more than handle.
In the process, may we learn to trust God more. He will help us realize that He cannot, and will not stop us from experiencing life, but He assures us that He will be with us throughout our journey. He will be our strength when we are weak, and our courage when we are afraid. Perhaps that is why during graduation, many believe that the tradition of throwing the cap to the air means that graduates are supposed to let God take over. A new beginning, a new chapter, a new story - and the pages of the book are still blank, it's for the graduate to write whatever she wants to write, the pen is already in her hands. Congratulations graduates! Be good.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Does anyone remember the song My Heart by Harriet Schock? Well, probably none of you do, but I'm sure if you're gonna hear it you will surely like the song's haunting melody. It's as if the singer's unrequited love is reaching out to someone, and yet she's afraid to take that first step out of her comfort zone.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon while listening to one of my CDs, I happened to hear this song, and flashbacks of yesteryears came to me. How many times have I felt something for a man and yet I couldn't express my feelings. I clearly remember this high school crush I had. I used to go home with a classmate who was then living in the same area as my high school crush. Oh, how we ducked whenever my crush looks back in our direction. But that was 31 years ago, so long ago. I heard he now has a big beer belly and his thick black hair has now receded into something like the
Nowadays, teenagers have better ways of expressing their feelings. There are different avenues to do so - emails, blogs, and so many other forums in the internet highway and of course the very reliable celfones. Gone are the days when a lady in love would spend afternoons listening to the radio and singing along with the top love songs of the time, sometimes sheding a tear or two, and a few times writing a poem, or simply dreaming of what ifs and could have beens, lost in her own paradise, until her mom shouts in her ears and asks her to help out in the kitchen. (How can mothers sometimes get to be so KJ....)
A few times I have asked myself the question as to what could have happened had I mustered enough courage to tell someone that I have feelings for him. I'm sure he would have been as embarrassed as I am, and I'm sure I myself would regret doing so the moment I uttered the words "I like you". That was an unforgivable sin to us teenagers of long ago. My mother would have pinched me in "you know where" if she came to know about it.
But then, in silence lies the beauty of unspoken love. It gives us something to look back to and from the what ifs and could have beens that we have been dreaming of, we are free to make our own story, and our own happy ending. I couldn't care if my crush in high school now has a big beer belly and receding hair, anyway, I too have my own unflattering bumps here and there. What matters is, in the deepest recesses of my mind lie my happy memories of being just an ordinary girl having a crush on an ordinary guy. Part of a poem that I wrote then says - with a thousand of tomorrows comes a myriad of nows, where shall it all end? Who will care but I, and will he do too?
My heart overprotected its first born
Sorely neglected its last torn pages
Of the book it had learned by heart
My heart runs at the first sign of danger
Opening up to the strangest stranger Till time can tear us apart
Till time can tear us apart
Along with my heart
And scars like well travelled roads
Always lead home
If the going gets rough
And the scars are deep enough
My heart like a road map to your door
Winding homeward for one more moment
The promise of one more start
My heart is crying I love you
But these words that I'd love to tell you
Got lost along my way
along with my heart.....