Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life Goes On!

Sunday, December 24, 2006. I would have delivered my baby this day. This was supposed to be the due date of that oh-so-wanted-and-much-prayed-for baby that I lost last May. Those who know me well knew how badly I took my loss. I still ache for my little one and for all the might-have-beens had that precious life not been taken away from me.

I will never know if that baby that I had so briefly was going to be a boy or a girl. Had a baby girl been born to me, I planned to name her Maria after our Blessed Mother. Her nickname would have been Maia.

The ache has dulled over the months and I believed that I was largely over this painful chapter of my life. But I realized that I have not moved on when I constantly found myself casting longing glances towards the SUMC nursery as I climbed up and down the stairs during my father’s hospitalization there.

One time, I chanced upon the nursery while the curtains were drawn open. I hurried over intending to enjoy the sweet sight of innocent infants, but burst into tears instead, as it occurred to me that my baby would have looked just like them.

It was doubly painful as I thought that I should have been eagerly anticipating the coming of a new life this December instead of dreading an impending death.

This lingering pain perplexes my husband and I guess all my friends as well. I suppose that only women who have infertility problems and who also long for babies with the same intensity as I have can empathize with me. To the rest, I may seem like a nutcase. Sometimes I question my sanity. I have friends who’ve also had miscarriages but have moved on while I’m stuck in this emotional no man’s land and I see no end in sight.

But I draw comfort from the assurance given me by the Compassionate Friends. They are a group of mothers who’ve also lost their own children and who now offer friendship and support to newly bereaved parents. They give the assurance that we will move on, eventually. Though the pain will remain, the heart won’t bleed as much as time goes on.

Through this group, I met a friend named Arlene. She lost her precious Daniel a few days after he was born. I found kindred spirits in the person of Arlene and other mothers like her. With them, I found complete understanding, never bewilderment.

A few days ago, Arlene emailed me with news that lighted up my bleak Christmas. She is pregnant! I cannot find the words to express how happy I am for her.

Yes, I am happy for all of us. So you see, I am not ending this article today with a sad note after all. Instead, I am ending this with a shout of joy, a celebration of the life that goes on and on!

A cycle has been completed. I should have been awaiting life but instead found death towards the end of 2006. I thought that was that! But no! God came in and told me not to despair. This year will still end happily for me, for I shall again be awaiting the coming of a new life – my friend Arlene’s baby. Life does go on. God is great!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Chance for Goodbyes

This was written by my friend Muffet Dolar-Villegas in her column in the Negros Chronicle. Ma'am Muff has breast cancer and she is fighting it with the most powerful weapon that could ever be had in one's arsenal - her formidable faith in God.

I decided to post her article here because I was inspired and comforted by her story of the water beetle. Whoever may be reading this now, may you be inspired as well.

Ma'am Muff is a very beautiful person. May God continually touch her with His healing hands that she may continue to touch others with her kindness and inspiration.


A Chance for Goodbyes
by Muffet Dolar-Villegas (Blue_bell57@yahoo.com)

When I opened my email, I learned that my friend Olga lost her dad recently because of cancer. I cannot find the right words to say to tell her how much I feel for her. I lost my father three years ago because of cancer. I know how it feels to see your love one suffer and eventually die. Olga Lucia Uy is a columnist with the Metropost. Like most of us, she loves her dad and she admired his courage in facing his life sentence, when he was told that he had cancer.

She praises God that He had released her father from pain and unspeakable agony, and a chance to say goodbye . Once more death comes and we grapple for answers to some questions, why did he die so soon? Why should we die?

Yet in one instance, the issue of death was witnessed by Cecil de Mille in one of his searching moments. One day, he was on board a canoe gliding slowly on the river. His attention was caught by a small water beetle climbing the wooden vessel so slowly and gingerly. When it reached the top, it just died. But he was mesmerized when out of the parched and ugly dead water beetle came out a beautiful dragonfly with all the colors of a rainbow. The dragonfly flew as fast as it could, mingling with the colors of the wind.

The dried remains of the water beetle fell, and all the other water beetles gathered and dispersed immediately, seeing that it was dead.

Most of us view death as morbid, but on the contrary, if we are ready to meet our Creator, there is rejoicing and celebration on the other side. This poignant story tells us of an amazing Creator. As Christians, we believe that there is eternal life after death to those who have a personal relationship with Christ. A life that is more beautiful and stable than that of a dragonfly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Flawed Man ... Great Father!

A little boy was asked what forgiveness is …
He gave a beautiful answer:
It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.



Reflections ... in these trying times!
(Final Part)


We were encouraged to talk to Daddy as he lay dying, told that he could still hear us. The sense of hearing is supposed to be the last to leave. We were also told to make our peace with him, as the dying could linger on with still unresolved issues waiting for closure.

I’ve been told countless times that I was a good daughter. In my heart, I knew that I was not. I failed Daddy in so many ways.

I hadn’t asked for forgiveness while he was still conscious. Finally, I leaned over to him and whispered how much I loved him and how sorry I was for everything. Daddy breathed his last a few seconds after that.

I would like to believe that I was forgiven then, but my heart still lies heavy.

* * *

The passing of a loved one filled us with sorrow but it was also a time for rejoicing. We praised the Lord for His goodness and mercy. Watching him struggle with every breath pained us more than letting him go. We were grateful to God for releasing him from his final agony.

* * *

Tears would fall from his eyes every time I would whisper my promise to him that I’d do what I could to help my sisters. Every mention of his three younger daughters would make Daddy cry. Only then did I start believing that we could still talk to them as they lay dying.

* * *

Daddy told me that he was not afraid to die. I believed him. But he became terrified when he learned that it was going to happen so soon. He pleaded for God to give him more time.

As fluid was being drained from his lung, he sobbed as he felt his breathing becoming easier.
He cried out that he wanted his last days to be merry ... that he did not want to die suffering that way, and not so soon …

Don’t we all cry for the same?

* * *

I, too, am not afraid of death. But if I could plead with God, I’d asked to be given just enough time to see my only child though as she grows, to be there for her as her heart gets broken for the first time, and guide her as she learns to her stand with her own two feet. When she doesn’t need Mama anymore, I can go.

* * *

There seems to be a quota as to how much fun we could have. Consume that quota early on and we’d start paying for the excesses. Take them in moderation and we might just be able to continue enjoying them through our old age.

Cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods, sweets … the list can go on and on. The rule stays the same.

* * *

Daddy had a soul mate. Her name is Merle. They never exchanged marriage vows. But watching how she sacrificed for him, took care of his every need, made him feel loved until his last moment … was a humbling experience for me and a lesson on the true meaning of love and devotion … in sickness and in health

I'll be eternally grateful to her, for in her sturdy arms, Daddy was really and truly loved.

* * *

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support coming from our beloved relatives and my dear friends. Thank you so much.

To Alex and Irma, for your kindness and generosity, my thanks. To Ma’am Muff Villegas who offered me her friendship and showered me with encouragement and support, I am blessed having found you. To Nicel Avellana, thank you for your prayers. Pau, thank you!

* * *

Tradition dictates that we should not speak ill of the dead … that we should speak of them only in glowing terms.

I chose not to. I talked of Daddy as he really was: an imperfect man. He was just like every one of us, as flawed as every human could ever be.

As a father, he also had his shortcomings. Again, he was just like every other father out there.

For who could ever truly claim to be perfect anyway?

Having said that, I now say that I loved Daddy anyway. We may have had bitter moments together as I lashed at him for his weakness against his vices. But I loved him unconditionally. And he loved us in return.

Flawed as he was, he redeemed himself by being a great father to us. He was the kind of father who would do anything for his family.

Even as he lay gasping for breath in his hospital bed, he still talked about going to Bacolod and Cebu to earn money for his young family.

I remember him telling me, after he was told of his cancer, that just because he had that tumor did not mean that he would stop selling his Noritake chinawares ... that he would go on trying to provide for his family while he still could.

Flawed man, great father. For loving us with all your heart … Thank you, Daddy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thank you, Daddy!

I wrote the article below in the morning of December 7, 2006. Daddy passed away at 7:25 pm the same day.

When he breathed his last, we thanked the Lord for releasing him from his final agony. Seeing him suffer that way brought us more pain.

Just as we begged God to finally take Daddy home with Him, we urged our beloved Father to move on as our final act of love for him.

Praise God for His mercy!



Reflections ... in these trying times! (First Part)


When I first started, I wanted this column to be light and cheery, easy reading for a leisurely Sunday. I believe I managed that most of the time.

Considering recent events in my family however, I cannot write that way, at least, for the moment. When one’s spirit is down and out, it is difficult to get off the ground, particularly when no one else is there to give that needed boost.

For today, I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve been having lately...

To tell or not to tell …?

This is the big question that inevitably confronts every relative of somebody who’s been diagnosed with a deadly illness. With the Big C rearing its ugly face almost everywhere we turn our heads to, more and more people are being forced to meet this dilemma head-on. So how do we decide?

When I learned that my Dad has lung cancer, I gently probed his readiness for the truth. His “so be it” summed up what seemingly was his attitude towards that possibility. Thus, despite my earlier trepidation that when faced with the truth, Daddy is the type who would just curl up and die before his time, I told him about his tumor without however elaborating about it’s advanced stage. I thought that it was his right to know, so should he want to, he could start putting his affairs into order, and most importantly, make his peace with God.

Daddy took it well at first and seeing him that way buoyed up my spirits! Here’s my FATHER, I proudly announced. His body may have been battered but the man inside remained whole and strong.

I was wrong! When the full import of his condition finally hit him, he wilted right before my eyes and from that day on, I’ve had nothing but fleeting glimpses of the man that he used to be.

Daddy became terrified when he was told in no uncertain terms what was happening, was going to happen and how he would be losing his life in the process. That day, he really started dying on us.

I am now regretting my decision to let him know the truth. But with so many considerations that had to be made then, I made the decision that I thought was best for him. Foremost in my mind was his need to prepare himself spiritually before he meets our Maker. Did I do right? I honestly don’t know.

So, should we tell or not tell?

I think it depends on the person concerned. There are those who knew right on that they couldn’t handle the truth, and we’d know this from their attitude towards death in general.

Then there are those people who think and believe they could. Of these, some would prove themselves right! But most, I believe, would fall short of their own estimation of themselves. Most would crumble upon staring death at its face.

For some people, a life-threatening illness is a challenge that arouses the fighter within. Present them with the truth and they will switch into fighting mode, summon up all their energies, and then lean on God for that much-needed strength.

But others, I think, would rather not know or are better off not knowing. The mind is all-powerful and what goes on up there affects everything in the body. Once the mind gives up, the body will soon follow. Convince it that there is still hope, and maybe, the body would have held up longer.

I’m not a doctor but I believe that Daddy’s psychological mind frame sped up his deterioration. Had we withheld the full truth and made him believe that there is still some hope, maybe, just maybe, he’d still be talking, laughing and praying with us. But just as I initially feared, he curled right up and now gazes at us with those lifeless eyes. Right now, not even his beloved Abby could rouse him up from his own private hell.

What have I done? I should have trusted my instinct when it told me Daddy couldn’t handle the truth. How could I have bungled this way? How I wish I could tell him how sorry I am but I’m too scared.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Olgatraz, Pigsties and Lotto

Whoever said that strong fences make good neighbors forgot to add “noise-proof” and “smell-proof” fences.

When my husband and I planned building our home, we agreed not to build in subdivisions or in those so-called “gated/guarded communities”. I envisioned a place where the houses are far apart and where I didn’t have to see any neighbor if I didn’t want to. I didn’t want my world to be confined within a narrow two-lane street where the farthest point I could see is my next-door neighbor’s gate, or be close enough to hear my neighbor’s every snore, or know at every instance what their meal’s going to be from the odors permeating from their kitchen to mine.

Ever heard of the warning: be careful of what you wish for? Oh boy! Did I get exactly what I wanted – and more! We found the perfect place (?) where the lands were still owned by its original owners or their heirs, and where we could still see wide expanses of undeveloped land almost evocative of rural living. It didn’t occur to us that people in this setting still live the rural way … like raise pigs, for instance?

But that’s getting ahead with the story. Let me start with the terrific duo: our friendly neighborhood shabu dealer and his brother, our friendly neighborhood thief. Thanks to these two (and their similarly-feathered friends), the barbed wires around our home can humble the city jail set up anytime! These two have since then been shipped to Bilibid Prison but not before my home got nicknamed “Olgatraz”. I bet I could make “Olgatraz, Dumaguete City” my address and every mail will still find its way to me!

I barely got settled in to the peace and quiet before another family moved in. I now wake up to the off-key singing of a videoke performer-wannabe belting out ballads for my exclusive torture, or to a blaring morning radio program, or to hard pounding music, depending on their fancy. But sometimes, I get lucky and wake up only to the wondrous sound of their squealing pigs!

Then I retire in the evenings to the nauseating smell from their pigsty, delivered directly into our windows by even the gentlest of breeze! And in between those … heart pounding moments as FIRECRACKERS! - the kind people use in the New Year - startle everyone with sudden explosive bangs at any time day or night!

The firecrackers take only seconds to break the silence, but the raucous they create when our dogs start a barking frenzy takes a good ten to fifteen minutes to end! Sometimes, it happens while I’m in the middle of my nap! Wouldn’t this make you want to wring somebody’s neck?

I’ve tried to be nice and civil through all these. I’ve visited them twice: first, to politely request that they clean their sty regularly, and second, to inform them that we could barely hear each other talk from all the singing that’s coming from their side! It took me supreme effort not to say exactly what I had in mind!

Am I regretting our choice of neighborhood then? It is rather too late to dwell on that at this point. All I can do now is dream of buying that lot just to rid us of these annoyances. Of course, that could only happen if we’d win the lotto so I’d better start betting now.

So, if you should see me queuing up near Bian Yek, you’ll know why.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Regrets As Goodbyes Draw Closer

When my father came to Dumaguete to visit, our battle of wills resumed with a vengeance. For this column today, I planned to grumble about the difficulties we encounter as our parents grow older and more sick, about how bullheaded they become and how they refuse to listen to reason and simply go about their obstinate ways.

From what I hear, this seems to be a common problem with aging parents – and we always hear the complaint: “ang hirap magpalaki ng mga magulang.”

But that changed because of a sudden turn of events. Let me explain.

My father has cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and his latest shocker: he has liquid in his lungs causing him to have bouts of breathlessness. Watching this painful struggle for air tore my guts out, but I still resented him for having brought all these to himself.

You see, Daddy used to be a heavy smoker and drinker. When liver cirrhosis finally caught up with him, it didn’t come as a surprise. After trying in vain for years to make him stop drinking, I somehow expected this disease sooner or later.

He stopped drinking after that – but his smoking continued. In exasperation, I asked him what would make him stop? Lung cancer? Hurtful words said in anger and frustration … little did I know how true they would become.

I could not bear the sight of my father chasing his every breath so I took him to the doctor, wanting to know if a procedure could be performed on what he told me was liquid in his lungs.

X-ray and CT scan revealed a solid mass around seven inches long, 3 inches wide and 3 inches thick. It is so massive it practically covered the upper half of his left lung.

The sentence has been handed down: death in a matter of months. Past excesses finally caught up with him, and Daddy will be paying with his life. At 64 years, he is too young to be leaving us.

I am angry with him for wasting his life away. I want to thrash at him for refusing to listen to all the warnings. I want to shout at him: “Look! You’ll be leaving behind young daughters without a father. You had bartered your time away for a puff and a drink! Are they worth it now?”

Yes, I’m very angry with Daddy, but I am also filled with overwhelming sorrow. Daddy, how can you leave us this soon? Why were you so weak? Why didn’t you fight your addictions before … for your children’s sake? Now you will have to leave us and we’ll be left without our father.

I am pouring my heart out as I write not because I want any sympathy. But I do want to share the following thoughts:

1. Whether we like it or not, our excesses will eventually catch up with us; that for the sake of those we hold dear, it is high time we clean up our act.

How?

Go easy on alcohol;

Quit smoking (imagine your child’s face as you do);

Cut back on your sweets … forget coke with every meal – if you have to, reserve it as a well-deserved treat maybe twice a week?

Also, it wont hurt to put some distance between you and too much humba.


2. Anybody can get the same diseases that my father has. No one will be spared.


3. Don’t be like me. I am facing the eventuality of my father’s death with every kind of regret in my heart: regret for not having loved him enough; regret for not having had enough love to be patient and forgiving of his weakness. I regret all the angry words I uttered to him. I regret not having called him or spent time with him more often. I regret not having showed him my deep love and making him understand that it’s because of that love that I got so angry with him at times.

Our parents can make us feel the most tender of emotions and make us roll our eyes and shake our heads in exasperation at the same time.

They can also ran our patience dry with their obstinacy, or make us want to stump the ground with our feet in total frustration – especially when they start saying: “anak ra ka ….”

But whatever our relationship with them may be now, love and respect are always there. Let’s make the most of that while we still have them. Their time with us will not stretch forever. So let’s give that hug, or whisper I love you or a simple thank you, pick up the phone and talk about nothing, show that you care … don’t wait until the last minute … do what you can now, so you won’t have to look back with regrets later on.

As for me, I have a lot of catching up to do …

Friday, November 10, 2006

Are We Parents Ready for Sex Education?

“Sex education is a responsibility of the parents – not of the teachers.” Reading this statement by Vice-Mayor Ablong (Quotables, November 5, 2006) made me wonder: are we parents ready for sex education?

Assuming that we recognize the need for this, are we cool enough to talk the no-nonsense talk about sex with our teens?

We may be able to crack green jokes with our friends … but doing “the talk” with our kids? As far as one friend is concerned, it is an entirely different matter! I asked if she’s had this discussion with her grown daughter. Her look of utter horror was answer enough.

I know of another mother who freaked out when her first grader asked what the word “sex” meant. Although totally unprepared, she was at least quick enough to think of a suitable answer: it referred to male and female.

How about from the perspective of the teenagers? Would they be comfortable enough to listen and ask questions from a parent with full intention to learn? Try imagining yourself as the curious teenager in that situation: would you dare ask mom or dad as openly as you would probably ask another person?

Most Filipino parents are still uncomfortable discussing sex with their children. The mere suggestion can make even the most modern and/or educated parent cringe.

However, whether we like it or not, and whether we’d take an active role in their education or not, sooner or later, our children are bound to learn about sex. I personally believe that it would be best for my child to learn from me rather than from sources that leave much to be desired.

To illustrate, my friend’s 10-year old son recently announced that he would make love to a woman when he is 15 years old! Freaked reactions came gushing out at the thought of a 10-year old having these thoughts or having discussions of this sort with his classmates. One can only wonder at what grade four boys talk about nowadays!

Supposing then that we are able to overcome our anxieties and decide to bravely take on the job, shouldn’t we still ask ourselves: are we capable of handling our children’s sex education? Do we know enough?

A mere “been there, done that” in our resume will not, by any measure, make us qualified instructors. Sex education does not consist of the actual act alone. There are deeper and more important aspects to this subject.

Take for starters the process of conception. How many among us know exactly what goes on inside the body after the sexual act is culminated? Do we have a working knowledge on proper timing and the series of events that could lead to pregnancy?

If we parents have to handle our children’s sex education ourselves, we should at least have this information at hand. Knowing how today’s teenagers are, a mere warning that sex can lead to pregnancy is no longer enough. If we are to expect them to listen and heed our words of caution, we need to make them understand the hows and whys. And for this, each parent has to be prepared.

But how prepared are we?

It is my contention that we parents should get our sex education first before we even dare contemplate handling that of our children’s. What exactly do we know anyway? We have experience, sure. But how many among us actually took the time to pick up a book on this matter simply because we wanted to know or as preparation for “the talk”?

The sad reality is that parents, in general, no matter how educated they may be, are simply too unprepared for this job! Take me, for instance. I am fairly well educated in the sense that I have two degrees under my belt, but this did not in any way prepare me on this subject.

Until my late twenties, I didn’t have a clue about what goes on inside me. My menstruation came and went and that was it! The total extent of what I knew then was that I could get pregnant the moment I started having my period. Naturally, I assumed that I’d get right to having babies after I got married! I took an active interest only when I discovered my infertility problem.

And I’m not alone in this. People I know, most of whom are mothers, are clueless on such matters as fertile periods, ovulation, fertilization, etc. Most women take these for granted. Based on my own experience, only women with infertility problems and desperate to have babies make the effort to understand the reproductive process. Those who are not as unlucky take this miracle as a matter of course … it just happens, part of being alive, just like breathing.

Another aspect of sex education concerns sexually transmitted diseases. If we are to put the fear of God in their hearts, we should at least know what these are, how they could be contracted, and what exactly it could do to their bodies! Corollary to this comes the need to teach teens about protection. Do we know of any other method in addition to abstinence and condoms?

How about contraception? Do we know enough about this subject? Incidentally, are we willing to teach our daughters how to have sex safely and responsibly?

There are also moral, religious, spiritual, and social aspects that are equally, if not more important than basic knowledge of the birds and the bees. Can we carry on an informative discussion based merely on what we actually know?

How can we impress upon our sons and daughters the responsibility that comes along with sex? How do we warn them of the evils of unwanted pregnancy? Can we still instill the values of purity and abstinence amidst the sexual images that bombard them from all sides?

Shall we opt for the traditional “God-will-punish-you-if-you-have-sex” method? Realistically speaking, this strategy simply does not work anymore. Nor does it make sense to teens these days. In fact, many young adults simply cannot understand why they have to wait for marriage before engaging in sex. In this modern day setting, we’ll be hard put to find a virgin bride!

To the questions that I posed, the reader may answer: I can always learn. Indeed, if we believe that there is need for sex education, we can always scour the internet or devour every book on the subject.

But then, we cannot just assume that every parent out there is equipped with this capability. Lest we forget, there are more people, particularly in rural areas, who have had minimal education, and whose total knowledge can be summed up in these few words: doing it sometimes lead to pregnancy, sometimes not. Can we reasonably expect them to handle their own children’s sex education? Wouldn’t it result to one vicious cycle that goes on and on?

I believe that sex education should be introduced in the high school curriculum. I also believe that parents should become equally involved. There should be no more disagreement as to who should take this responsibility. After all, we are talking here of what is best for all of this country’s children – and this alone should be sufficient reason for everyone to start working together as one.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Loosening the Leash

Doing the Parental Balancing Act


We love our children. There is no question about that. We do our best to ensure their safety and to keep them away from all harm.

But this question is begging to be asked: when does care and caution become too much? and when is there too little?



I do not have the faintest idea.

I wish that there is a school for parents where quick answers could be had.

I wish that there are tried and tested formulae for raising our children.

The best we could do, I guess, is play everything by ear, seek the advise of those who have traveled the same road before, trust our instincts, and pray, pray, pray …


Just like any other parent, my life revolves around my child. I look after her welfare, plan for her future, keep her safe from danger. To do the latter, my instinct is to hold on tightly, keep her close, and steer her away from anything that is remotely threatening.

But then again, I have to ask: when does it become too much? At what point will my love start to smother my child and stifle her spirit and zest for life?





By wanting to keep her out of harm’s way, am I instead preventing her from living life as it should be lived? at whatever stage she may be at the moment?

But what if she wanted to try something risky? Will I let her do it simply because I want her to get a full taste of life? What if by doing so, I am instead allowing my precious child to be exposed to unnecessary risks?






I am constantly being confronted by this dilemma.

How can I strike a careful balance?

How far should I let go while still keeping her close?

During the Buglasan Festival, I allowed her some slack. Although feeling faint as I watched her climb up the ladder to try the Swing for Life, my heart swelled with pride. She showed me that she has courage. My beloved whirlwind is not scared of the unknown and is willing to take on anything new with complete self-assurance and confidence.



Never once did she looked back to her mother ... never did she showed any need for my encouragement. All that she needed to know was that it was ok with Mama ... and off she went!!!

This is kind of sad, but on the other hand, with the qualities that she displayed, I am confident that my baby can take on whatever life will throw at her with a stride.






Abby loved the swing and could not get enough of it. Am I happy for her? Absolutely!

Am I still scared? I will always fear for her.

But all I could do really is place my complete faith in God and trust that He is always sending His angels to keep my baby safe.

After all, Abby does have a sister in heaven, doesn’t she? And with her own personal angel watching over her, what could go wrong?

Maia, please look after your Ate. Mama is loosening the leash ... a bit!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dressing Up for Trick or Treat!


The children of Southdale look forward to Trick or Treat Day!

Abby was no exception, of course! Soon after trick or treat ended last year, she started planning what she wanted to be the following year - and spent the next 12 months jumping from one idea to another - princess, vampiress, doctor, she-devil, fairy, princess again, scientist, zombie, ballerina, witch, princess ... got the idea?

Most of the parents were as excited as their children and actually took the time to buy them fabulous (not to mention, expensive!) costumes. Almost all preschool parents dove head-first with enthusiasm, particularly the young or the first-time moms and dads.

But there were also those (including me) whose excitement was tempered with dread over the inevitable EXPENSES! But still excited, kind of!

It seems that the older their children got, or the more children they have, the less enthusiastic some parents became. Whatever . . .

Since Abby could not decide what she wanted to be ... and since I was unwilling to spend money on costume that would be discarded soon after anyway ... I just borrowed Carla's old costume from Chedette - a Greek Goddess' gown - and as you can see from Abby's pose, she's having a blast dressing up ... I told her she was Hera, the queen of the gods of Mt. Olympus! Another parent teased me that she was Aphrodite - Goddess of Love - I said no no no! My baby's still too young ... don't you give her those ideas!

Abby loved the idea of being the queen. She told everyone that she was a GODDESS QUEEN! and that as such, she was the most powerful of all, even more powerful than the vampires and witches!


At least I got through the day with only the euphorbia flowers on her head as biggest casualties. Thanks to Chedette, my wallet got spared!





That's Abby with Nicole (in black attire) and Dom (as pirate).

Dom is Abby's ex-best friend. They recently had an amicable agreement not to be best friends anymore! They've been classmates since they were three years old and have been together for almost four years now. Both girls have strong personalities and very assertive with their ideas. No wonder they've been arguing since Day 1 - although they still managed to call each other best friends, until now. I hope they'll fix their differences eventually. As I recall, their teacher used to call them best friends-worst enemies! At least, they are still calling each other on the phone!

The Wizardess is Carla. She won the Best Costume Award for Lower School children.


The entire Grade One class: Matt-Matt as Tomcat, Nicole, Dom, Abby, Count "Raffy" Dracula, and Gabby the Ninja!

This time with Jeina as the Corpse Bride. This girl knows how to project! She got the Best Costume award for Middle School.

I wonder who gets the most fun whenever parents would dress up their children?

The children themselves?

How about the parents who went around competing for the best positions while toting cameras and videocams - with hearts gushing pure pride and joy?

We were all winners, no doubt about that. But the real winners were the entrepreneurs who made money from events such as this one.

By the way, my wallet wasn't really totally spared. I still had to spend for the treats that we gave around.

But who cares? We all had fun. And that's what really matters.

For Pau


My joy, more precious than my life itself. The little one is Powpee. She makes my heart happy too!

Hi Pau,

Thank you so much for sharing "The Secret" with me. I will try to look it up, but I am not very optimistic. I'm only on dial-up. I tried viewing videos before but it kept becoming hanged (is that the right term?). Anyways, I will still have a look-see.

I've been to your blog and read about ML. Hey, I hope you won't mind my taking the liberty to comment that ML is a treacherous friend. You are better off without this "friend".

There is always that possibility that the benefits it brings will turn against you later on. I hope that you will never get to that point Pau, but whether you like it or not, the risks are always present.

Both my parents are bosom bodies of ML too and now, they are paying for that friendship:(

I wish that you won't allow yourself to despair too much, but I guess that you have too much of that artist's soul within you - you experience life at a certain pace and level and with an intensity that most of us boring individuals can only marvel at.

I am your typical goat - much too level-headed and pragmatic (in other words - boring) and too shallow to be ever capable of sinking to the depths or rising to the heights that I know you are accustomed to.

If the amusement park can be equated with how we live our lives, you take the crazy roller coaster ride while I can be found in the placid lake calmly rowing my sturdy little boat.

Of course I have my own depths that to me are already the deepest of the deep, but that won't compare to how you perceive your own depths!

What you said about the universe conspiring in our behalf? I believe that too.

For whatever it's worth, I'd like to share some of my thoughts and convictions with you - I believe that we have a God and that He has a grand scheme for each and all of us. We are like pieces of a puzzle and each of our lives are designed to fit into that puzzle to complete that grand plan.

In the same way, each little event in our lives lead to another - there is a reason for everything, a purpose that has to be fulfilled.

But this is where I become confused. Do we have a choice in all these? I hope so. After all, God did give us free will.

I'd like to believe that we have choices as to which paths we'd take, rather than traverse one that has already been laid for us, regardless of whether we like it or not.

So where does the grand plan fit in this? I am not sure but maybe, just maybe, that plan, purpose, or reason is just up ahead - but do we reach it or not? Maybe it would all depend on the choices we make - if we choose to take a path that leads us away from it, God will lay out more choices for us to make, hoping that in the end - we would make that choice that will finally lead us where He desires us to be.

I hope that you will finally find that one thing that will keep your life in track Pau.

For me, it is easy - but of course, we know that nothing ever applies to everyone - but my family, my husband and most especially my daughter Abby, keep me going and they give me great joy! :)

I hope that you will find yours too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Little of Me in Everyone

I am your archetypal housewife ... notably well fed... queen of my home, at my most element in my kitchen! Nothing much ever takes place in my life, where the same routine happens day after day.

But since I had a miscarriage, changes started coming. Among these was the opportunity to write a column from the perspective of a homemaker!

This was totally unexpected! This honor is usually open only to certified writers, celebrated achievers, or distinguished members of society. For an unknown homemaker to contemplate joining this rank, much less actually do it, was very daunting, and believe me, it took a lot of false bravado on my part.

I took courage from the confidence given by Alex and Irma Faith Pal, and from the support and encouragement of one very special lady, Muffet Villegas Dolar. She was with me from the beginning and through her, I finally believed that I could pull this off.

Until now, I still toy with the idea of this being part of God's grand plan for me. Maybe, He wants me to do something else with my life, something more than what I am now, a simple housewife and mother...

Trying to comprehend the ways of the Lord can be mind-boggling! Try looking at it from my perspective:

"Alright, Lord, so You sent trials to get me out of my little world. You opened doors for me. Maybe You want me to do something more? Like writing a column? Sure, no problem ... but a column about wives and mothers? ... what??? I thought I was supposed to do something bigger than what I am now? And that "bigger" thingy is writing about exactly who and what I am now...? This is really confusing.”

Those were my exact sentiments when I started this column! If not for the fact that I was already on the floor when Irma and I were talking, I would have fallen off my seat when she came up with this idea! “What??? What am I going to write about?” I told her the homemaker’s world is very small … children, school, groceries, bills … what else is there?

In fact, when I told my husband that I would not be writing anymore, and before I could explain that MetroPost was going to stop circulating, he interrupted by saying, “Why? Have you ran out of topics already?”

But I soon discovered that there’s so much to write about and it’s very gratifying having friends and acquaintances come up to me, and tell me that they follow my column or that they could identify with my sentiments.

I realized that it’s probably because I’m the essential woman, wife and mother. There is a little of me in every reader out there.

When I wrote about my failure to shed my fats, women empathized because most of us share this problem! When I wrote about my social naiveté, hey, we've all had embarrassing moments, right? Or when I lamented about how I missed my husband… well, people do miss their spouses every now and then, don't they?

But more than anything else, I write about what is closest and dearest to our hearts: family, and most especially, our children. I write about our fears for their safety, or our dreams and aspirations for their future. And what mother or father could not identify with that?

Indeed, the wife and mother’s world is small, but in its smallness, it encompasses the world, for it holds at its center the reason why mankind has progressed this far – and it's those invisible bonds that hold us and our families together.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Battle with the Bulge

That's Chedette - CAUGHT IN THE ACT! As crazy as I am over sweets! (I hope that she will forgive me for posting this picture!)




My friends Maru and Chedette with Gabby and Guia during our PLAY/EAT DATE where the children played and the mothers ate!


Eons ago, I had a 25-inch waistline and a head-turning coca-cola body!

Nowadays, I still managed to maintain that "coca-cola" body!

Sadly though, it’s now coke in cans!

I can always blame motherhood for that. After all, I was in full bedrest during my entire pregnancy. And what does one do if one has to stay in bed all the time for nine months? Eat, sleep, watch TV, eat, sleep … (and don't forget the time-worn, ever-effective excuse ... "I am eating for two now ...")

Or I can blame my having Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome. It is a condition of infertility and women with PCOS are typically “well-rounded”.

But the blame really lies on me alone and my enthusiasm for food and sweets! I tried to fight by sticking mostly to fish and vegetables and not keeping anything remotely palatable at home. Being on a seefood (when-I-see-food-I-eat) diet, I thought that keeping away the temptations would help. But I still ballooned to 160 pounds even with only occasional binging during parties and fiestas.

Funny how we never seem to notice how BIG we’ve really become! Of course, we know that we’ve gained weight or have gotten fat, but we never seem to realize how fat we have become until we see our pictures! It always comes as a shock to me – “am I really that big already?”

I did the South Beach Diet once and actually lost 15 pounds! But it’s a very difficult diet to stick to, particularly for somebody with an ongoing love affair with desserts!

I also tried the pastrami diet with my cake-eating soulmate, Chedette! It was absolutely crazy! We were supposed to eat nothing except one very thin slice of pastrami, sandwiched by two slices of cereal bread for lunch and dinner. I didn’t last long.

I will never forget becoming bathed in cold sweat as I trembled from hunger, or how I combated my hunger pangs by drowning myself with coffee! Oh! how we suffered! But we really suffered for nothing as we succumbed to almost every temptation that came our way. We were too weak to say no. It was hilarious how we used to text each other, starting with … “forgive me for I have sinned …”

I realized the more we deprived ourselves of the food we love, the more intense our cravings became. Whenever we’d go on a diet, we seem to think of nothing else except food!

Chedette and I often wondered at how Maru (who is a Muslim) could bear not to have any food or drink FROM SUNRISE UP TO SUNDOWN – FOR 30 DAYS during Ramadan! One time, we jokingly told Maru and we could never convert to Islam, not because we have anything against this faith – but simply because … yes, you guessed it!!! --- Ramadan.

We’d both make very miserable Muslim girls … and as our imagination got worked up, we thought of how we’d be discovered – caught in the act of cheating – while eating under the bed during Ramadan – and eating “humba” at that!

We also tried the Carbo Lovers' Diet. It is very simple and easy to stick to. We have 3 full meals each day, right? Well, we can choose any 2 meals where we eat according to the principles of the South Beach Diet. The third meal is to be our "reward meal", where, for one hour from the time we start the meal, we can eat absolutely anything and everything under the sun!

This is a great idea and another friend Maru swore that it really works! The beauty here is that we are not deprived of our favorites. We have that one meal each day to look forward to, where for instance, that ice cream that we have been craving for, could finally be had!

Another beauty is that the Carbo Lovers' Diet is very flexible! What if you were invited to this feast that you simply must go to - BUT, it's for dinner!! and your reward meal is lunch!!! No problem ... you can switch for that day ... do the South Beach during lunchtime, and reward yourself by binging at dinnertime! But remember -- one hour only. (There is an explanation for this but it is too technical and complicated for me to narrate here.)

I was happy with this diet and I think I can stick to this and actually make it my lifestyle. However, I realized that as far I was concerned, this is good only for maintaining my desired weight once I have reached it, but not while I still want to keep losing more.

So I decided to abandon it momentarily, aim for my goal, and once it is reached, resume the Carbo Lovers' (or is it Addicts') Diet.

Presently, Chedette and I are struggling with Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (again!). We are actually doing the cha-cha, where we stayed good girls for one week and lose about 5 pounds, let go of all control the following week, then struggle back the next!

I suppose it is more difficult for working moms who have to contend with all the temptations in their workplaces, from vendors lugging goodies along to officemates bringing fiesta leftovers!

At least, stay-at-home moms like Chedette and I can choose to bar yummy food from our homes. The operative word though is “choose”, because weak-willed as we are, we easily yield to our cravings, throw our resolves into the wind, and actively seek our hearts’ desires.

Oh well … here’s to all of us who have not given up yet! Can we ask the powers that be to help us by banning fiestas all over Oriental Negros?

By the way, we did consider exercise! We will get to that, maybe after losing about 10 pounds … or maybe not … takes too much effort … bad lazy me!

Monday, October 09, 2006

STUPID, STUPID CHILDREN!

Arghhh!!!

If only I could throw you across my lap and spank your butts until they’re blue and black, I would!!! Oh stupid children, do you have to make you own mistakes before you will learn your lessons?

I am speaking to you Jimmy Jun, Jay, Japhet, John Robert, Akoi, and Gabriel – all of you who answered in the negative when asked whether we should be wearing helmets or not when riding our motorcycles. (Vox Populi, Metropost, October 1-7, 2006 issue)

Jimmy Jun, you said that you have been driving around Dumaguete for five years without a helmet, and have never encountered any problem, so why change the way things are?

My dear child, not having had any accident in the last five years does not mean that you have some sort of invisible shield around you, protecting you from all those “horrible” things that we older people seem to be scared of!

Jay, you said that we don’t have to wear a helmet because it makes us look ugly. Gabriel basically said the same thing, that helmets will lessen the beauty of fashion and style.

Oh, c’mon guys! Think how ugly you would really look if, God forbid, your faces would be scarred forever after a “minor” mishap. And I wonder how you could parade around in the latest fashion and style with a broken leg or two? Or how about if you would get your heads smashed and live to tell about it? But then, you would be confined in a wheelchair and tell your story in barely discernable speech, with saliva uncontrollably dripping down one side of your mouth. Now that’s a pretty sight!

John Robert, you made a valid observation about the helmet making it difficult for the driver to look on either side. It is difficult, yes, but not impossible. And you think that we do not really need helmets and that it is up for us to be more careful when driving.

Akoi, are you sure that accidents happen only when you drive fast?

Let me tell this to both of you. I am probably one of the most careful drivers there is. Why? Because I am painfully aware that I could lose my life anytime due to a million causes, including a vehicular accident. But I could not die yet. I must continue to live because I still have a six-year old daughter and I can’t have her growing up without her mother. That is why I am always careful.

But you know what? I still went down in my motorcycle while going at about 20 km/h. Preposterous? Not at all. The back of my motorcycle was nudged by a motorcab, and down I went! I escaped with just bruised knees and palms.

The point that I am trying to make is that no matter how careful you are, there will always be someone else out there who is not as careful as you are! And that somebody can crash into and maim or kill even the most careful driver in the world!

Do yourself a favor John and leave your youthful sense of invincibility behind. Face the scary reality that even the best driver is NOT SAFE from the really bad ones.

Akoi, take note of this: I was driving slow and so was the motorcab driver because we were both trying to inch our way out of a traffic jam at that time. But I still went down because of that slight bump.

I think most drivers still consider 40km/h slow. Can you imagine what would have happened if both of us had been going at 40km/h? I am not sure of this but wouldn’t that make the force of collision equivalent to 80 km/h? Can you imagine if I, or you, were thrown from the motorcycle at that speed?

If you had been following this column, you would know that a crash at 40km/h has the same impact as falling from a two-storey building into concrete.

Imagine, young Akoi, what it would be like to fall from a four-storey building into cemented ground. Ouch!

Finally, we get to Japhet whom I saved for last. Can I give you a hug? If I had a child when I was seventeen, he or she would be just your age by now. I prefer to hug you, as a mom would, rather than give vent to my strong urge to shake you until you are senseless!! Grrrr ...

Do you really believe that there is no need for helmets because we all drive slowly in Dumaguete anyway?

My child, where have you been lately? Haven’t you seen what’s REALLY happening in our streets? Haven’t you seen those crazy drivers zooming around as if racing in their own private racetracks, or zigzagging between the cars and motorcabs like seasoned stuntmen?
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Or ever notice how reckless even the most mature-looking drivers become as soon as the rain would start falling? I call it the “mad dash” to the nearest shelter. I always send a silent prayer every time I would see these people, especially when their children are with them. I pray that they find shelter and not disaster.

But I may be asking you the wrong questions Japhet. Should I be asking instead – how fast is fast for you? If you think that 50km/h is still slow and that 80km/h is what’s really fast, then we are in great trouble here.

But really, Japhet, you are seriously mistaken. Dumaguete drivers are not saints. They do drive fast, really fast. And it is not just the young adults like you who do that. I have seen older men and women, and that makes it even worse, because these people are supposed to know better.

But I guess, young or old, we can all be blamed for thinking that we are invincible or untouchable. A very basic understanding of human nature will tell us that anyone can fall prey to the mistaken belief that bad things can happen only to the next guy, but never to us or our loved ones. How stupid of us!

This line of thought brings to mind one episode of CSI Miami where recovering alcoholics or people who were apprehended for drunk driving, were taken to the morgue to view the battered corpses of drunk drivers or of their victims. This was intended to impress into their fogged minds how easily death could come to them or to others as a consequence of their drunken acts.

I will probably get stoned, not only for contemplating this thought but for writing about this, but I am wondering if seeing a bloody head, or brain spilling out of a cracked skull, or broken and dismembered limbs scattered about, would make our children think twice before rejecting helmets, or before speeding around in their motorcycles?

This is extreme but I think that this is a preferable option compared to the risk of seeing them learn their lessons the hard way.

But how I wish that there could be gentler ways of knocking some sense into their heads and that we don’t have to pound their young minds into realizing that what had happened to others could happen to them as well.

Suggestions, anyone? But no stones, please!

Capri Pants and the PPO

I watched the concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Sofia Soller Sinco Hall in Foundation University last September 28, 2006.

Am I into classical music then? Yes and no. I am not that passionate over classical music but we do have a nodding acquaintance with each other.

By that, I mean that I can name a few of the biggest composers, just don’t make me match the geniuses’ names to that of their creations. Honestly, except for Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, there is no telling for me who composed which masterpiece.

But I do enjoy classical music. I had a collection of the popular classics once and even used to listen to a station in Manila that played it. When Abby was an infant, we had a speaker right inside her crib playing Mozart. I read somewhere that early exposure to his music is supposed to make babies brighter.

But I am limited to the light classics. There are others that are simply too incomprehensible to me. This happens when all of the instruments seem to go off together and I am left wondering where the melody has gone.

I have always wanted to watch a live performance. I looked forward to the PPO concert and could hardly wait for the day to come. The evening started with high anticipation, but horror of horrors!!! The sight of ladies in their resplendent evening dresses greeted us when we entered Foundation University!!!

My friend LB and I turned to each other with looks of terror and with mouths agape, surveyed each other’s attire. Oh yes, us two barrio lasses came in shirts and Capri pants!

We met Ms. Lele Martinez on our way in and all I could do was whine… “but they didn’t say it was a gala performance …..”, as if it could actually excuse our ignorance! A friend told me later on, “ikaw naman, PPO na yan no?” what could I say to that? nothing, except admit, “paano kasi, wala akong culture!”

What was I thinking of? Where did my brains go that night? As shameful as it is to admit, but the thought of dressing up for the concert never occurred to me. But on the other hand, even if it had, what could I have worn? I am basically a pants-shorts-and-shirts person and have absolutely nothing that could even remotely pass for evening attire.

It is quite amusing actually, thinking back of how LB and I cringed our way into Sofia Soller Sinco Hall, literally hunching our shoulders and wishing we could will ourselves into invisibility!

But all that was forgotten once the concert started. I was transfixed as I listened to the music and watched Maestro Eugene Fredrick Castillo conduct with what could only be described as pure passion.

I admit the selections that were played were unknown to me. I would have enjoyed the concert more if I had been listening to familiar pieces. There were times when I felt lost in the cacophony of sounds and I strove to find my way back by listening closely for the beautiful melodies created by the violins.

I think that the general audience shared my sentiments. I drew this conclusion from the almost tentative and lukewarm response to Beethoven’s and Schubert's music.

Matud Nila was actually received more spiritedly and the audience really came alive during the encore performance with the Sound of Music medley.

I guess that most people in the audience are basically like me. We appreciate classical music but not to the exclusion of other forms of music. We tend to respond with greater enthusiasm to classical pieces which are already known to us, or which are more familiar to our ears. We are not ready for the “heavier” classics yet.

My wish is for PPO to keep coming to Dumaguete and to include light classics in their repertoire. As Maestro Castillo said, “give classical music a chance”.

Oh yes, I’m all for that, but please start me off with the not-so-overwhelming-ones first! We can tackle the heavier pieces later on. But then again, that is only my personal wish!

Lunches at Southdale


I don’t think there was ever any meal in the last six years where I have not barked at my daughter to “EAT QUICKLY!” Not only has she perfected the two-hour meal, she actually elevated it into an art form!

And not only that, she is an infuriatingly picky eater. Our household survives primarily on fish and vegetables. But my opinionated daughter has long declared that fish is stinky and vegetable is yucky, hence an absolute “ewwwww!”. Believe me, short of starving her for two days so she would gobble up whatever is given to her, I have tried every trick in the book to no avail.

She seemed hopeless until she started eating her lunch at school. I was pleasantly surprised when her eating pace improved considerably. Let me qualify though. While Abby is indeed eating faster now, she is still almost always the last one to finish.

I suspect that she is bent on winning the trophy in the slow eaters’ category. Her closest rival for this honor is her school friend, Carla. Together, these two adorable girls effortlessly dried up their mothers’ supposedly ever-flowing springs of patience almost on a daily basis.

Other than that, lunches at Southdale are quite fun actually. The children either bring their meals to school or get them at lunchtime. It is a busy, noisy hour where younger children interact with those in the upper grades. They often dig into each other’s food and Abby’s soup has become everybody’s favorite. One can almost see the other girls craning their necks to see what her soup would be for that day.

Parents who are pressed for time often bought from Jollibee. Here is where some of us got into trouble with Teacher Maru, the school directress. Soda is not allowed in Southdale. Watching her check if the children were given softdrinks is very amusing. I got caught once. What could I say? except exclaim, “oh my gosh, I forgot! Soriiii!!!”

One pleasing outcome from our lunches at Southdale is seeing my daughter get her first lesson about individual differences. I can never forget the wide-eyed look on her face when the realization hit her. “Ate Jeina does not eat pork?!” Her utter look of disbelief was a classic!

It started when Abby urged Jeina to try her food and we had to explain that Jeina is a Muslim and does not eat pork. When Jeina’s mom approached the table, Abby turned to her and in her most authoritative tone, offered serious advice, “you know what, Teacher Maru? You should pray at our church because you will be allowed to eat pork there!” She was absolutely adorable as her young mind struggled to comprehend how people could bear not to eat the oh-so-yummy pork!

But she learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I hope will help shape her into the kind of person who will be respectful and tolerant, rather than be critical, of those who do not share her own beliefs and convictions.

I am glad that I decided to let Abby eat her lunch at school. I hesitated at first, but the decision was made for me when I learned that there was going to be a naptime for all the children after lunch. This is one great practice in Southdale and I welcomed this as an opportunity for my baby to get rejuvenated after being bombarded with the morning’s lessons.

Altogether, the lunches at Southdale sometimes translated into a learning experience for each child, be it in observing fine manners, social interaction, sharing, or respecting individual differences and boundaries. It is very gratifying to see the lunch area doubling as a classroom that prepares young children for the real world that is waiting beyond their school gates.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Am I the most terribly selfish person I know?

Muffet Villegas is one of two very beautiful persons I came to know since I lost Maia. The other one is Lele Martinez. If not for this painful event in my life, I would never, ever, have gotten the opportunity to know these two ladies - and they stand before me as shining examples of how I should also live my life.

Ma'am Muffet became a friend although we never met. Without meaning to, she became my sounding board and mentor as I groped through what could only be called the darkness and emptiness of my spiritual life.

We write to each other quite often and I am taking the liberty of posting her letter to me. She has so much wisdom to share and I would like to share it with as many as possible. I am also posting excerpts of my own letter to her as I tried to make sense of one very confusing being - me!



Dear Ma'am Muffet,

I'm sorry I did not reply to you immediately. Again, I did not know how to respond to all the wonderful things that you wrote about me. You think so highly of me, and I am not worthy. I am not even sure if you, or I FOR THAT MATTER, know what my real motivations are for doing the things that I am doing. Did I lose you in that Ma'am? Sorry I am lost too. I am really confused right now.

I keep asking myself...am I helping Kate because I have compassion and want to do good for goodness' sake? Do I really value all human life, ALL FORMS OF LIFE, as I profess to do? or I am just selfishly pursuing my own selfish goals?

I claim to value life. Fine. But how come that whenever I would hear news that the vigilantes have gunned down another drug pusher/financer, I would have no feelings of outrage? Rather, I would secretly say "serves them right!" How come I favor the death penalty for scums like Echegarray? How come I commented that whoever raped-slayed that poor 13-yr old girl in Candau-ay should not be taken to court anymore ... that they should be executed right away? POOF ... there goes my claim.

I honestly thought that I valued life, no matter what, that even the scoundrels of society deserve their day in court. But when I examined myself, I realized that I was nothing but a hypocrite who maintains double standards, maybe, in everything that I believe in.

Even my desire to help Kate came under my own scrutiny. Is it because of compassion? Yes. Could it also be because I could easily imagine Kate as the baby that I would probably have, had Maia been born to me? Most certainly yes! Am I hoping to reap heavenly rewards for good deeds? I do not think so. Could Kate merely be a means to an end? That is what I am scared of. What if whatever help would come Kate's way through my efforts now, would merely be a fortunate by-product of my pursuit to find the meaning and reason for my baby's loss? What if I am simply selfishly pursuing my own goal - that of finding my closure? Had I not lost Maia, would I still have lifted a finger to help this baby? If that is so, would that not make me the most terribly selfish person I know?


So many questions! How I wish the answers are as easy to come by. But how can I find answers to my questions when I doubt everything? even myself?

Ma'am, thank you so much for your patience in answering my questions. You cleared up some doubts but stirred up more questions, I'm afraid. I hope that I am not being a burden to you as I grope through my doubts.

Ma'am thank you for wanting to help Kate. Please do not think that I am using our friendship to solicit help for her. I just felt that I would not have done everything for her if I had not brought her case to my friends' attention. As what Ma'am Lele Martinez said to me - just leave it all in God's hands because I have done my part already.

Finally, may I wish for more of God's blessings to come your way? You have so much goodness to share, like guide the likes of me through our confusion, and you will need your health and all your strength to fulfill that mission. I have complete faith that God has touched you with hands that heal and that you will continue to be our shining example for the long years ahead.

With love and the highest regards,

Olga


Dear Olga,

It's good to write long letters, I think we are both on the same boat. We just love to write. I am talkative sometimes. Especially when I talk about something I am really passionate about.

Before I answer your question, let me tell you that I read your mail about that child, who was needing so much help, but she can't avail of some help from the heart center because she's a mongoloid. In every inch you are right when you reasoned out to that person about your contention to help that little girl. I admire you for that. I say that you are a person with determination and substance and who is willing to stand for your belief, and for what is right. I would liken our situation as cancer patients to that child. Some were given 6 months or 3 months to live and a relative of my husband went through chemo for the second set every week at St Luke, even if she was given one year to live. Like that little girl, some of these cancer patients are no longer productive in the sense that we could live like a vegetable with morphine for the rest of our short existence. Yet life is of the greatest value, no matter what. That little girl deserves to live, no matter what kind of situation she is in. Why are there sick people? Why are some so poor? Why are there children who have this kind of illness? Why do I have cancer?

Sad to say, I don't have all the answers. All I know is that, it is not a mere accident that we know these people. God designs a plan, and for everyone we meet, there is a reason behind it. Just like what you said, that there is a reason for every pain. For me for those of us who know about that little girl, God is giving us the chance to respond,in His own way. Do we respond with compassion? or with calousness? is it right for that person to say that since she is not an asset to the community, then, those who decide that she should not avail of those benefits are right? olga, for every person, God gives us a chance to show to Him, our God, who even gave His only Son to die for us that we, in our little ways could respond and be merciful. I am giving to that little girl. Its a small amount, but you know what? God, just wants to test our hearts. You are one person whom God is using as an instrument for others to see with eyes of compassion.

Also, God does not measure our love for Him by going to church. He sees our hearts. he knows our desires to be close to Him. Our prayers may not be answered for now, but God is never too late.

Now your big question. Was I spiritually close before I had cancer? Yes. But my faith was not this BIG. I am not a good person. I am like the others. I scold my kids, and nag my husband. I have missed so many opportunities to help. Although we have just barely enough, I discovered that being poor is not a hindrance to help. But my belief since I was little is that, it is better to be hurt by others than me to hurt someone. I believe that I can handle the hurt and I can forgive. But I can't handle or control the other person if I hurt him with words. I can't sleep thinking that I hurt somebody. I always believe that there is a good thing in every person even if he is the worst for others. So I would go for those who are hurt, or needy. I find ways to cheer them up. But you you know what? I thought it was enough to be good hearted, I failed to realize that I was doing it to merit God's love. To make him utangan to me. Which was wrong. The danger of being self righteous was there.I still felt empty, Olga, it was like I was doing it for nothing. One thing strange with humility is that once we realize that we have it, then we lose it.

Many years ago, I thought I could be saved by good works. Wrong again. if this is true, then I didn't need a savior, right? Christ death on the cross would be in vain, because look, I could save myself by being good. I grew up with the nuns for seven long years. I almost became one. My parents made me as "interna" since first year up to first two years in college. Again, we were not even well to do, but just enough that we could get a good education.

Yet I was yearning for God. I didn't feel Him close. As if he was too too far away. I would go to church everyday, but it was like nothing. There was that vacuum. even if I have a good husband, and nothing to complain about my life, there was still that nagging pain of emptiness. Then one day I became so desperate. I asked God to show me the way. To make me feel that he is real. I was brought to to this full gospel gathering , then there , I received the Lord Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour. Yes it sounds like a cliche, but these words have totally changed my attitude of self righteousness. I realized that like others, I was a vile sinner. I sinned in my thoughts, in words,and action, and to God, sin is sin. Jesus said, if we thought about killing someone, because of anger, we have done it actually, so who am I? I thought about nasty things, and never talked about them, and I thought I didn't sin. How many times have I murdered somebody in my thoughts? The bible says, everyone has sinned and fall short. In thoughts,in words and in deed.

Then after several years, cancer strikes. You know what? I can't imagine myself taking this blow if it was not for that personal relationship with Jesus. Maybe, I would have hated God. maybe I would have become bitter and ask a lot of why me Lord? I don't drink, nor smoke, I live a straight life, I am good, etc...why cancer Lord?

But when I heard it, when my doc told me about it, I cried and begged God to be with me, I didn't want to be away from him, and he kept so close, than ever, Olga.. the feeling is so wonderful. Sometimes when pain was terrible, I would ask Him to block it out, just hold me so I could sleep. And He did, many many times. How can I not fall in love with God? He showed many times his power. I bled on the fourth day and my doc said, it was seconds, and they could have lost me on that operating table. Then as I was groping for conciousness, I felt jesus so close. Actually holding me. I know it sounds strange to some, but that experience was so wonderful. So lovely, and won't excnage it with tho those times that i was healthy.

Yes, as you follow God, He will reveal to you all these miracles, like answered prayers for that baby, Olga, God has beautiful plans for you as you follow him,know Him. He's got more to show you. He will provide tremendously beyond your imagination. Continue to trust God.

Much love,

Muffet

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Another Compassionate Human Being

I found another friend for Kate. His name is Kojak. Looking at him, one could hardly believe that this tough-looking American, who rides around Dumaguete in his big bike, carries with him a compassionate heart - one that seems to be absent from MOST people I see around, some of whom profess to have "found" God!

I have friends who are deeply spiritual, like Ma'am Muffet and Ma'am Lele, and as their relationship with God deepened, they were able to transcend their weaknesses as human beings, giving them the rare ability to look beyond themselves and to reach out to others, even to complete strangers - and extend a hand of friendship - a hand that is of God Himself.

I am not as spiritual as they are, but like them, I am deeply grateful to God for having blessed my life with such overflowing goodness - my cup runneth over - and as with my friends, I am saying "thank you" to the Lord by passing forward the blessings that I have received.

It makes me wonder then, how about the others who claim to have "accepted God in their lives as their Lord and Saviour"? Is it simply a two-way relationship then - just between them and God?

Good deeds - for the sake of doing good and not for reaping heavenly rewards later on - do not come into the picture of that relationship at all?

Is it not that having found the Lord, one has changed for the better? And is it not that having become a better person, one wants to do good for the sake of goodness alone?

I am confused. Or am I just being too naive?

Kojak Hughs - he is a Vietnam War veteran. He has seen more than his own share of death, and I would have thought that anybody who has been through that would lose his soul. But not Kojak. His heart remained whole. Beneath that tough exterior dwells a sensitive soul that
can still still notice and appreciate the sight of pure simple love between a father and his child ... or protests against the hypocrisy that abounds in our society.

How many among us would notice those little things around us? More often than not, our gaze remain fixed on our nearest and dearest we fail to notice there is so much more to life beyond the walls that encloses our families and those we hold closest to our hearts.


EVERYDAY HEROES
Negros Chronicle, May 27 issue
(website: www.negroschronicle.com)





I write this column for several reasons. First, to honor those we often do not hear about or forget. Second reason is to entertain and, hopefully, to help improve your life.

Finally I do this to stimulate your thoughts and to encourage you to actively participate. I am gratified that many of you do send me thoughts, stories and encouragement. (kojak3238@yahoo.com)


Down Syndrome Child
by Kojak Hughs

I was at Mass. When we stood to sing, I saw a little sevenyearold girl about three rows in front of me. She had the distinctive features of a Down Syndrome child. I was overwhelmed with a sudden sense of sadness. I felt so sorry for her, not because she was likely to die before hertwentieth birthday. I felt sad because here was a beautiful innocent child that would miss so much of life. She would probably never have a boyfriend. Never know the thrill of her first romantic kiss. She would never be married or know the full joy of motherhood. As I stood there feeling sorry for her, she looked up at her father beside her. As he gazes down at her they smiled and her tiny hand slid into his. I suddenly felt sorry for myself. I would never know the depth of pure simple love that they shared at that moment.

God gives us challenges. He gives us love in strange ways. The other day a nice Filipina lady told me about little Kate Lozada. She is only seven months old but already she has adult size problems. Problems that can kill this sweet tiny little baby. You see little Kate has a congenital heart defect. If she does not get an operation soon she will not survive. Her mother works in the pharmacy at Silliman University Medical Center but just can not afford the expensive surgery. She is forced to sit helplessly by and watch her tiny innocent baby die a little each day. In desperation she has appealed to every charitable organization she could find. Only to be turned down. My friend asked me to see if I could help. I told her I would try. I took all the information I had to some friends who regularly do charity medical work. They were not too optimistic. The operation is VERY expensive, around 500,000 pesos. Also it is highly likely the baby will be retarded and has a limited life expectancy. Possibly that is why the charitable organizations turned her down.

I admit, here I get a little angry. People claim to be against abortion, the killing of a fetus, but are perfectly willing to let a baby die when it could be saved, merely because it wont live long anyway?

I can not help but think of that sweet little girl in the church and how much love her father would never have gotten had she died. How much pain her loss would have brought to her family.

To those everyday heroes that read my column. Those who want to help as I do, even though my help is meager compared to the need. The mother has established a trust bank account for contributions, the pediatrician is Dr Glenda N. Nuico and the mother can be contacted at 09173141942.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Tribute to Kate's Unknown Angel


She agonized over how she could help Baby Kate. She has funds for her charity works, but she knew that if she gets money from that fund to help Kate, it would be tantamount to taking away much-needed help from others who are just as unfortunate.

Then somebody came to her one day, bringing one news she never expected to hear ... she won the grand prize in a nationwide raffle! She won P50,000.00 ... from the ONE ticket she purchased that was worth P100.00.

What are the odds of winning that grand prize with just one ticket against hundreds of thousands sold in a nationwide raffle? Practically nil. But our angel did win.

Without any hesitation, she started giving away her winnings. First, she gave a P10,000.00 donation to a local organization. Then she pledged the amount of P30,000.00 to Kate so she could have her surgery as soon as possible.

She said that that money was not for her. She believes in her heart that God sent that money for Kate and for the others who are in need of help. And so she gave them away.

How many people would do that? I, for one, could not. Of that, I am certain.

To this beautiful angel, IT IS I, Olga, who is blessed and HONORED to have met somebody like you. How I wish I could tell the world who you are, but I have to respect your wishes.

IT IS YOU who is totally and so unbelievably selfless. I could never do what you are doing for Kate.

As I wrote before, I am merely trying to be good, to rise above my own selfishness. Had that money come to me, I know that I could not part with it, because my priorities would go to mortgage amortizations and overdue insurance and college plan premiums. My desire to reach out to others and share God's blessings, comes in constant conflict with my instinct to secure my own loved ones' interests first, and IT IS A LOSING BATTLE MOST OF THE TIME.

Thank you so much for showing me that there is still so much goodness left on this earth. You restored my faith in all of MANKIND.

Now I can believe that there is still so much compassion left in the hearts of people for those who are less fortunate than themselves.

Thank you so much for showing me your example. I will strive to follow your footsteps and walk on the path you are treading.

I know that you do not expect any reward from God for your goodness, but of this, I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN ...

GOD IS WATCHING AND HE IS VERY PLEASED WITH YOU!!

You have brought HIM great HONOR by your obedience!

He is very pleased indeed ...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I WANT TO LIVE!




I slept late last night because of "Van Helsing". I was surfing channels prior to turning the TV off when I caught the movie just when it was about to start.

Actually, I think I have seen Van Helsing twice already, but I always caught it when it was on its final half. My favorite part was that spectacular masked ball in Budapest with all those acrobats swinging from that oh-so-high ceiling. It simply was an awesome sight!

But what really made me want to watch this movie again and again is the compelling character of Frankenstein's monster. I cannot forget that part when he was dangling over an abyss. He asked the Friar ... "help me!" To that, the Friar replied, "but you are supposed to die!"

"I WANT TO LIVE" ...... the monster answered.

Four simple words ... "I want to live". Yet it speaks volumes to me. I was struck by the immensity of his desire to exist, a hideous monster like him, who knew he had no chance whatsoever of being accepted by society.

Living and dying. Who decides who is to live and who is to die? Who can play God for all of us here on this earth?

Who has a better right to live? Everything that is normal and beautiful as represented by that ethereal albino peacock? ... the very sight of which would send shivers down our spines?

How about the monster? He embodies all our darkest fears ... the likes of him certainly has no place in our midst ...

For those of us who aspire for perfection and harmony... he is everything that is ugly and repulsive, an undesirable that ought to be swept under the rug ... hidden from our view ...

And when it comes to deciding who is to live? Shall we play God? Who will live? Who shall be cast aside?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

LEAP OF FAITH

I wrote about Kate last issue hoping and praying that a miracle would happen for this helpless little baby. I had nothing to lose and the worse that could happen is for the readers to utter a few words of sympathy and then move on to the next page.

But i did something else. I sent an email to Ma'am Lele Martinez telling her about Kate. I included the draft of my article "Life is Precious, No Matter What".

I am a complete stranger to Ma'am Lele. All that I could tell her was that I used to work for Atty. Frank Yap, her old friend, and that I used to see her whenever she would visit his office. Knowing her involvement with civic organizations, I was hoping that she could help by bringing Kate's case to their attention.

Writing to her was a shot in the dark. When I decided to write about this child, I prayed to God and asked Him to help me find help for her. I took a leap of faith saying "Ginoo, ikaw na ang bahala".

She immediately wrote back and these were her exact words to me,

"God gave you the gift of writing and the opportunity at Metropost to make a
difference for people like Kate. You have done your part, let it rest in God's
hands and we will trust that His grace and providence will come.


IT WILL COME."
She wrote with so much certainty ... "IT WILL COME". I believed her and I took her advice to my heart. Having done what I could for Kate, I let go and left her in His loving hands.

Last Wednesday, help came indeed. Ma'am Lele told me that she found a benefactor for Kate who pledged to give P30,000.00 so she could have her surgery immediately. All that we need to do now is raise P170,000.00. With the amount that we already have, we are so close already.

You see, the hospital requires a deposit of 50% before Kate could be scheduled for surgery, and yes!!! that P200,000.00 is exactly the 50% that is needed!!!

GOD IS GREAT! And I want to shout this at the top of my voice. This miracle is an affirmation that God is taking care of all of us, most especially of the littlest and most helpless among us.

But our struggles are not over yet. The P200,000.00 is merely the deposit that will enable Kate to receive that much-needed surgery. In her desperation, Kate's mother Dinnah, has decided to do her own leap of faith ... go on with the surgery and then pray that more help will come so all her hospital bills could be paid later on.

We shall be joining her as she prays for God to see Kate through her operation. We shall also join her as she prays for more miracles to come Kate's way. A little here and there will add up to one big miracle from all of us.

Finally, please join me in thanking God for His loving mercy and in thanking Kate's angels, Ma'am Lele Martinez for her willingness to help a complete stranger, and our unknown benefactor ... you are so blessed for God has chosen YOU of all people ...

Is it not amazing? Through YOU, God is performing His miracle here on earth. He specifically chose YOU. You are so blessed. What you are giving away will return to you a hundredfold.

Thank God for people like YOU!