Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An Incredible Love Story

I'm an incurable romantic. Stories of great love always touch me. This story was forwarded by a friend. I'm borrowing it for this blog. It's such a great story, I just have to have it right here!

HOPE is a Waking Dream ...
with LOVE everything is POSSIBLE!

An incredible love story has come out of China recently and managed to touch the world.. It is a story of a man and an older woman who ran off to live and love each other in peacefor over half a century.

The 70-year-old Chinese man who hand-carved over 6,000 stairs up a mountain for his 80-year-old wife has passed away in the cave which has been the couple's home for the last 50 years. Over 50 years ago, Liu Guojiang, a 19 year-old boy, fell in love with a 29 year-old widowed mother named Xu Chaoqin...

In a twist worthy of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, friends and relatives criticized the relationship because of the age difference and the fact that Xu already had children.

At that time, it was unacceptable and immoral for a young man to love an older woman.. To avoid the market gossip and the scorn of their communities, the couple decided to elope and lived in a cave in Jiangjin Countyin Southern ChongQing Municipality.

In the beginning, life was harsh as they had nothing, no electricity or even food. They had to eat grass and roots they found in the mountain, and Liu made a kerosene lamp that they used to light up their lives. Xu felt that she had tied Liu down and repeatedly asked him, "Are you regretful?" Liu always replied, "As long as we are industrious, life will improve.." In the second year of living in the mountain, Liu began and continued for over 50 years, to hand-carve the steps so that his wife could get down the mountain easily.

Half a century later in 2001, a group of adventurers were exploring the forest and were surprised to find the elderly couple and the over 6,000 hand-carved steps. Liu MingSheng, one of their seven children said, "My parents loved each other so much, they have lived in seclusion for over 50 years and never been apart a single day. He hand carved more than 6,000 steps over the years for my mother's convenience, although she doesn't go down the mountain that much."

The couple had lived in peace for over 50 years until last week. Liu, now 72 years, returned from his daily farm work and collapsed. Xu sat and prayed with her husband ashe passed away in her arms. So in love with Xu, was Liu, that no one was able to release the grip he had on his wife's hand even after he had passed away.

"You promised me you'll take care of me, you'll always be with me until the day I died, now you left before me, how am I going to live without you?" Xu spent days softly repeating this sentence and touching her husband's black coffin with tears rolling down her cheeks.

In 2006, their story became one of the top 10 love stories from China, collected by the Chinese Women Weekly. The local government has decided to preserve the love ladder and the place they lived in as a museum, so this love story can live forever.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

Last Sunday, I dressed wearily for the gala performance of the Bayanihan, the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, at the Luce Auditorium. I would have loved nothing more than just stay at home and curl up in front of the TV after our long hot day at the beach. (You know how it is going to the beach. You come home feeling dry, sticky and exhausted to the bone although you did nothing but sit all day.) Besides, I had reservations about my daughter, Abby, being able to stay awake during the performance, having swam and played all afternoon long.

But the thought of our two season passes sitting unused and gathering dust in the drawer, and to quiet down that tiny voice inside my head persistently reminding me to “think of how much each pass cost! Think of how much each pass cost!!” … firmed up my resolve. We’re going! Abby can curl up in her seat and snore to her heart’s content, but we’re using those tickets!

So there I was, facing my closet, trying to decide which one of my three good slacks I would wear that night (which, incidentally, were all colored brown, so there was actually no justifiable cause for my indecision) and still fighting the urge to return to the bedroom and just be my usual couch potato self.

But then, I thought of my reason for getting the two season passes for Abby and myself in the first place. I thought that at eight years of age, it was time for her to get introduced to Dumaguete’s cultural life. I didn’t want her to grow up thinking that the only forms of entertainment available are the television, the movies and the occasional Tayada sa Plaza events.

Dumaguete offers so much more and being a native, Abby should realize that she is very fortunate that we have Silliman University at the center of this city’s rich cultural life.

My apprehensions proved to be unfounded. My daughter was hooked from the very beginning. She leaned forward in her seat practically all throughout the performance, small fingers tapping to the beat of the music, her small face transfixed by that cacophony of movement and color on the stage, and barely sparing me a glance whenever I’d say something to her. I sustained her interest by whispering snippets of information like pointing out that Filipino girls wore those long gowns during Spanish time. I was rewarded by “Whoa!!! No pants or shorts?”

Thus, our evening at Luce turned out to be an invaluable learning experience, not only for Abby but also for myself. Take this for instance. When I told her to look at the musicians, particularly at that girl playing that “drum thingy”, she quickly told me that, it’s not a drum Mama, it’s the Kulintang! What??? How did you know that? From Makabayan, where else? (She said that in a tone which seemed to ask, “Hello??? Where have you been lately?”)

She also immediately recognized Tinikling and Singkil although she had not seen these dances performed before. This was an added bonus to my original intent of merely exposing her to cultural shows.

My investment of one thousand five hundred per season pass, which I thought, would merely entertain us, had become an extension of my daughter’s education. For Abby to actually see the pictures from her books come to life is priceless! The money spent for her season pass was money well spent indeed!

On top of that, the Bayanihan dancers gave us a very entertaining and highly enjoyable evening. From the controlled grace and elegance of the dances portraying four centuries of Spanish influence, to the explosion of colors, movements and sounds celebrating the joyous Filipino spirit, we sat enraptured and spellbound, our palms stinging as we gave one deafening applause after another, never holding back as we showered the Bayanihan dancers and musicians with our sincere appreciation.

Now, as I think back of that night, only one thought keeps coming back … there was never a dull moment indeed!

(For inquiries and ticket reservations, please contact the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee Secretariat at (035) 422-6002 local 520 or 0917-300-0783.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Truly Awesome!

I knew that I was fighting a losing battle but I still managed to put up a valiant struggle.

I knew that I was up against an overwhelming opponent but I still waged a war that could only be described as Olympian … but I still lost in the end.

Sleep claimed me and I snored the night away as rhythmic gymnasts danced their hearts out for the gold.

Did I lose you there? Yes, I was referring to the Beijing Olympics, the rhythmic gymnastics competition in particular. It was an awesome display of precision gymnastics combined with the grace and elegance of ballet. I had been looking forward to watching it, and woe of all woes … my eyes simply would not stay opened!

I’m not exaggerating my disappointment here. I feasted on the beauty and elegance of the performances while marveling, with something close to awe, at the single-minded dedication that each athlete must have poured into their craft to come up with such perfection. I would have wanted to watch all night …

The word awe pretty sums up how I feel about the Olympics. I was hooked from day one, when China opened with a ceremony that could only be described as SPECTACULAR!!!

And who wouldn’t be? Starting from that phenomenon in the Water Cube called Michael Phelps (whose broad shoulders that seem to stretch forever, by the way, not to mention those magnificent abs, are a definite pleasure to watch!) all the way down to Hong Kong where the equestrian competitions are being held … I can only say … absolutely fantastic!!!

Dressage and horse jumping in equestrian kept me glued to the TV. The poise and elegance of the world-class riders astride those breathtakingly gorgeous thoroughbreds kept me amazed at the many facets of beauty. (Note: A blog visitor kindly informed me that almost no good dressage horses are thoroughbreds - they are warmbloods. Although I do not know what warmbloods are, I deeply appreciate that information.) My friends can attest to my fascination with those horses and at how beautiful they are to my eyes! One commentator speculated that the best of them could fetch prices as high as two million euros!!! Now, that’s quality for you!

It’s amazing how those horses could dance to the beat of music in dressage! I thought that if their trainers could teach them those intricate moves, surely they could also teach me the cha-cha! But that’s only wishful thinking. I’m afraid I’m untrainable in dancing. Each of those horses has more talent than a dozen of me put together. Hello? As if that’s not obvious enough! That’s why people are willing to pay millions for them, remember?

But my fascination with the horses and Michael Phelps’ abs, notwithstanding, the one image that will stay in my mind for a long, long time is that of a muscle-bound, fully bearded athlete crying openly while pressing his silver medal to his face and lips.

The enormity of his triumph, and those of many others, hit me there and then. That medal meant the world to him. Encapsulated in that tiny piece of metal are all his dreams and aspirations, all the sacrifices that he had to make, all the pain and agony that he had to endure … everything that he had in him, he gave into winning that medal. And it was finally his! Tears flowed out freely, unashamedly. Watching him, I had to swallow a big lump in my throat.

And just as there was triumph, I witnessed the agony of defeat. Many a time I watched as tough looking, muscle-bound amazons fight back tears as their Olympic dreams slipped away from their grasps. A lifetime of preparation and training gone in a matter of seconds!

This drama could not be more apparent than in canoe and boat races. There, at one glance, you would see the deepest depths of agony and defeat in sharp contrast with sights of victorious celebrations. Shouts of victory, hugs, and fists pummeling the air in triumph as against men slumped on their seats in crushed silence, exhaustion and disappointment heavily permeating the air.

And that, my friends, is the Olympics for me. Beyond the pleasure of watching the athletes compete and dazzle with their raw power and strength, their speed and endurance, their grace and elegance, and their sheer ability to defy the rules of nature by pulling off those awe-inspiring feats … beyond the pleasure of watching men and women at the peak of the physical perfection … beyond the pomp and pageantry …

In the Olympics, I had the privilege of catching a glimpse of what is inside the heart of each and every Olympian … that burning fire at the very depths of their being, that hunger for excellence that keeps gnawing at their core, that drive to be the best, that hunger that kept them going, pushing their abilities to the limit and beyond, and rising above themselves to become larger than life. All that, plus the inner strength that drove many to rise up after a crushing failure or defeat, again and again and again, is the essence of the undefeatable Olympic Spirit.

And that’s what made me say … truly awesome!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Girls at Casa Cittadini

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a pint-sized survivor I called Angel. This 4-year old girl survived six days and nights all alone in a forested area, without food, her tiny body covered with wounds, and all the time tormented by maggots.

I wrote about her for a variety of reasons. I wanted to thank my friends who did not hesitate to send help to Angel. I also wanted to bring her plight to the attention of readers, hoping to touch some hearts into giving to the child the same love and kindness shown to her by many others. Finally, it was my own way of giving kudos to this extraordinary little individual. I want to believe that she is destined for something really, really good.

This week let me introduce little Manilyn to you. There was a time when Manilyn had to beg for food to survive. This came after her father died of tuberculosis and her mother abandoned her and her six siblings. But good fortune smiled at her. She has been taken in by loving arms and given a secure home. She no longer has to worry where to get her next meal. And she is now in grade one.

Then, there are the sisters Melrita and Sherlita. Just like Manilyn, their mother abandoned them. They continued to live with their farmer-father, but with nine mouths to feed, life was hard. The children learned early in life to survive on their own. They were often hungry and had to resort to combing the fields for food. When they got lucky, they would feast on raw cassava, banana and other crops.

But this life is behind Melrita and Sherlita now. They have also been taken in by those same loving arms and given a good life and a shot at a better future ahead of them. The older girl, Melrita, is now in 2nd year high school, and Sherlita in grade five.

And then, there is Lady Princess. Her father was too ill to provide for his family, thus, her older brothers had to step in. They brought home food for the table by gathering and selling firewood. But the efforts of these boys were not enough. The family, with nine hungry children, could barely eat one meal a day. To add to this miserable existence, the children barely got the chance to go to school.

But Lady Princess was one determined little girl. She wanted to go to school and it was this determination that led her to her new home. She is now in 1st year high school and belongs to the top ten of her class.

The stories of Manilyn, Melrita, Sherlita, and Lady Princess are like mirrors that are reflected over and over again in the lives of twenty-three other girls, whose age range from four to twenty-one. The same thread of poverty, abandonment, neglect, and oversized families ran through the fabric of their parallel lives.

Some of them came from Luzon, others from Mindanao. But they all came together in Jawa, Valencia, living a better life, facing a brighter future, and safe and secure under the loving embrace of the Ursuline Sisters of Somasca.

These kindly nuns recognize that the children are the most helpless and vulnerable individuals in any society. They thus took these young girls in when they knocked at their convent’s door and provided to them the physical, moral, spiritual and educational nurturing that they have been deprived of during their early years.

Thus CASA CITTADINI came to be – a home for orphaned, abandoned and neglected girls.

Following the examples of Blessed Caterina Cittadini – a woman who lived for God and who devoted all her life towards giving Christian education and formation to young children – the Ursuline Sisters opened the doors of Casa Cittadini with the mission of caring for these lost children. They educated them, provided to them the love of family that they have missed out, and gave to them all they need to make them happy children of God.

The Ursuline Sisters seek to cultivate in these girls a strong faith in Christ and to promote the formation of Christian values. They hope to develop in them the whole person and to mold them into becoming good and responsible Christians capable of giving themselves in service to the Church and society.

But the Sisters cannot achieve these worthy endeavors by themselves alone. They need our help. This time, they are the ones knocking at our heart’s doors, seeking our support as they labor to raise the girls at Casa Cittadini into young women who would bring praise and honor to God’s name.

These girls have known nothing but adversity all throughout their early years. The Ursuline Sisters came to make them feel God’s love by nurturing them with their mothers’ hearts. Let us help them continue doing this noble task.

We can be a mission sponsor or partner. As partners, we can donate as low as one hundred pesos monthly. It may not be much, but if there were ten of us, the amount we will put together will be enough to feed one girl for one month.

The Ursuline Sisters may be reached through the following numbers: +6335 2261160 and +6335 2250318. Please ask for Sister Molly.

Or you may email them at casacittadini@yahoo.com.ph
or visit their website http://philippineweb.net/aa_casacittadini/index.php

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dumaguete Policewoman received COPS Award

SPO2 Josefa L. Lacandula, Chief of the Women and Children Concerns Desk of Dumaguete City Police, was honored with the Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) award for her unswerving commitment and dedication to her work along with her exemplary and laudable accomplishments.

She is one of ten men and women in the police force who were honored by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last August 1, 2008 during conferment rites held at the Malacanang Palace.

The nationwide search for outstanding police officers is a joint project of the Metrobank Foundation and the Rotary Club of New Manila East in partnership with PSBank and the Philippine National Police.

COPS aimed to identify police officers whose selfless service and dedication to duty have made a positive impact on the communities they vowed to serve and protect.

Following the nationwide selection process, 20 COPS finalists were pre-selected from 108 nominees from across the country. The judges poured over the 20 finalists’ documentation of achievement and answers to essay questions. In the interview phase, the judges rated the finalists based on validity and accuracy of accomplishments, attitude towards their profession, and responsible citizenship.

The Board of Judges was chaired by Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and composed of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Diosdado Peralta, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig President Rosalinda Tirona, Manila Bulletin columnist Julie Yap-Daza and Galing Pook Foundation Executive Director Dr. Eddie Dorotan.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Of Goodness and Evil

I heard of the 4-year girl who was allegedly raped by her 16-year old cousin. The story goes that he threw her down a ravine because “she made a lot of noise”. That would have been the end of this little girl’s story, whom I will hide under the name “Angel”.

Angel would have become part of statistics, just another figure in that long list of defenseless little girls who have fallen victims to crazed attackers.

But Angel didn’t die. For 6 long days and nights, she wandered all alone in a forested area. She must have been scared. She must have cried endlessly for mama and papa. She must have been hungry. With wounds and grazes all over her tiny body, she must have been in pain. And with maggots in her wounds, yes, she must have been in torment.

I thought of her all alone during the cold dark nights, shivering not only because she was scared and not only because of the pouring rain, but also because of that gnawing pain in her stomach … I thought of her fighting off mosquitoes at night, and flies during the day … I imagined her feeling nothing but terror, pain, hunger, thirst, confusion … I tried to imagine all these, and yet, I still could not fathom the horror this 4-year old little girl went through.

Then I thought of my young daughter who sleeps beside me night after night, safe and secure under the knowledge that mama is not far away … and I wept for little Angel.

I wept for the brutality that was committed against her. I wept for those six days and nights. I wept for a little girl whom I fear will never be whole again.

That same day, my friend Chedette and I went to NOPH to offer our little help. We talked with Angel’s father. We saw a defeated man with dull, lifeless eyes.

We made a resolve to continue the text campaign started by some kindhearted soul soliciting help for little Angel. I forwarded the message to every friend I could think of.

I was overwhelmed by the responses that came back to me one after another. Tita Carmen Cabrera promised she would visit Angel the following day. Jackie Antonio went to see her that same night and brought food for Angel and her father. Friends like Dra. Maebelle Siao, Donna Martinez, Geraldine Valencia, Dra. Idelle Yurong, Mayette Diaz, Lloyd Lopez, Ken and Agnes Tuale and so many more, asked the same questions: where could we find her? My answers were brief: ICU, Surgery Dept., NOPH. How can we help? I said, with whatever means you could spare: cash, medicine, food. Some mothers thought of giving toys to Angel. Yes, I said. Why not? Some cuddly stuffed toys will bring great comfort to a traumatized child. How about kiddie snacks? Great idea. Anything our own children would love to eat, 4-year Angel would probably also love.

Sister Marissa, the principal of Cittadini, visited Angel right after being informed of her plight. She promised that the school’s First Friday Mass would be offered for her. She also gave cash coming from the hearts of the Ursuline Sisters.

Some Cittadine mothers heard our calls for help for Angel and went directly to NOPH. Others like Gina, Heidi and Jovie pooled their resources and came up with an amount that would go a long way towards helping Angel and her family.

I have always believed that some good could still be found amidst the most evil of circumstances. We saw the outpouring of goodness when Dumagueteños showed up to give love and kindness to little Angel.

Indeed, evil flourishes in our midst. But there is still so much goodness all around us. Yes, the good will still triumph.

The Great Equalizer

I thought of my father’s life while visiting his grave. I could not help but compare it to that of the man buried only a few feet away from him. Like my Dad, he started life filled with so much promise. But that is the farthest their parallels could go.

This man went on to make millions while still in his thirties. In his forties, life continued to smile at him. Life was good until it was snuffed out.

My Dad reached his plateau early on. At some point after that, it became a downhill struggle for him. He experienced some brief highs along the way, like the quite joys only love and family could bring, delights that no amount of poverty could take away. But he still died a broken man.

Two lives so vastly different from the other. Yet here, at the end of their day, they lay almost side by side, all differences and barriers gone.

Then it hit me. I always thought I knew how, beneath our skin, we are all the same … but during that quiet morning, I came to truly understand.

All we have in this life, everything about us … wealth, title, beauty, fame, achievements, talents, profession … everything that distinguish us from others … everything that held us above the rest … or simply made us better one way or another … are all stripped away when we leave this life.

Under the ground, we become equals with the poorest of the poor, even the lowest of the low.

I was brought me to my knees. I was humbled.

A Champion in our Midst

This mother starts her day at the crack of dawn cleaning up around her home and quickly doing some laundry. Then she wakes up her two boys and the mother transforms into a figure reminiscent of a drill instructor running a marine boot camp as she herds her sons from their beds to the bathroom. In between occasional yells for Pol and Pat to pick up their speed, this drill instructor undergoes yet another transformation. This time, she becomes the harried cook busily banging pots and pans in the kitchen as her prepares her boys’ breakfast and lunchboxes.

After the boys are taken to school, this mother puts on her uniform and SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula, along with husband Luis, also a PNP member, starts yet another part of her day, this time, as Chief of the Women and Children Concerns Desk (WCCD) and the Family, Juvenile and Gender Sensitivity (FJGS) PNCO of Dumaguete City Police Station.

For the uninitiated, SPO2 Josefa Lacandula, or Jobie to her friends, is the lady police women and children ran to when they are in trouble. Battered wives, rape victims, and abused children all know her face. Every one of them would attest that behind that no-nonsense façade lies genuine kindness and warmth and a truly compassionate heart whose concern for each victim’s plight extends beyond the 8am to 5pm confines of her job.

This may come as a shock to some, but cyber sex operators have arrived in this genteel city. Four minor girls, who came to the city to work as house helpers, were induced with promises of easy money, to work as subjects in a cyber sex operation. They were made to perform unmentionable acts in front of a web camera and viewed by foreign clients via internet for a fee.

This was brought to the attention of the Police by an aunt who became suspicious of the inordinate amount of money in the girls’ possession vis-à-vis their supposed earnings as house helpers.

SPO2 Lacandula wasted no time acting on this information. She personally conducted surveillance operations night after night and purposely did not bring in male police personnel to avoid detection by the operators and the relatives surrounding them.

She did this at great peril to herself, and more often than not, used her own vehicle and spent personal money to expedite her operation. Her tireless efforts lead to the apprehension of the suspects and rescue of the victimized minors.

This praiseworthy accomplishment is only one of SPO2 Lacandula’s countless triumphs as a champion of women and children’s rights within the police force.

She also rescued five minors from the Cebu province who were brought over to Dumaguete City to work as commercial sex workers. After learning about these girls and how they have been living in the streets after they ran away from their abusive employer, she proceeded to search for them by conducting night patrols for fifteen straight nights until she found them. A mother at heart, she did not stop at mere rescue. She extended her efforts at rehabilitating these children by finding them sponsors who’d shoulder the cost of their education.

She did the same thing for countless street children, most of whom have fallen into the habit of sniffing dangerous substances. In her back-to-school program, she found funding for their return to their families and provided them with school supplies through a foreign sponsor so they could return to school.

She was also in the forefront of a buy-bust operation aimed at stopping the proliferation of pornographic lighters in the City. In a Frustrated Homicide case, her efforts led to the arrest of a suspect who viciously and repeatedly attacked and stabbed his wife in the presence of their two daughters. In another case, her immediate response also led to the quick arrest of the common law husband who stabbed the victim to death after she ended their relationship. The next case involved a French pedophile who victimized four minor Filipino boys. Finally, SPO2 Lacandula convinced witnesses to talk leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, a family friend of the 10-year old child whom she robbed and strangled.

And as if her day is not busy enough, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct training seminars among student advocates, women groups, youth groups, and male advocates in the barangays and schools on laws protecting women and children. She also produced information materials pertaining to these same laws and distributed them to families, offices, schools, churches and other public places.

Her busy day does not end when the clock strikes five. Amidst her duties as wife and mother, and in between household chores and her children’s assignments and quizzes, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct frequent surprise visits to hotels, pension houses, motels, karaoke bars, internet cafés and other nightspots. This is in connection with the implementation of the Anti-Indecency Ordinance that aims to ensure that women, children and youth are protected from abuse.

SPO2 Lacandula’s unswerving commitment and dedication to her work, along with her exemplary and laudable accomplishments, did not go unnoticed. Chief of Police and her immediate supervisor Supt. LEOPOLDO ECHICA CABANAG recommended her for the nationwide search for the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS).

And indeed, the organizers know a good cop when they see one. SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula will be honored this month as one of the Philippines’ Top 10 awardees of the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) award.
To Jobie, her family and the entire Dumaguete Police Force, our congratulations! Keep up the good work!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Joy and Sorrow

Written May 1, 2008

These past few weeks, my heart was filled with a quite joy I shared only with those nearest and dearest to me. That which I have been longing and praying for has finally been granted. I was going to have another baby.

I started to dream for this baby again, just I dreamed for my little Maia, another baby I lost two years ago.

But my dreams were quickly shattered when at almost nine weeks, we learned that I lost this little one too. The depths of my sorrow could be equaled only by the heights of my joy as I happily anticipated holding another baby in my arms.

Early embryonic demise. No cardiac activity. These words appeared in the ultrasound report. But I did not have to read it to know. Watching the face of the doctor who did the ultrasound told me everything there was to know. My heart went cold. I could only cry for another baby I will never come to know and love … another baby who would have completed our little family even more.

What followed was a blur of indecision, of me adamantly refusing to take the drugs to induce the expulsion of my baby from inside me, of refusing to consider a D&C, of wanting the process of losing this child to take its natural course … to accepting the drugs when a follow-up ultrasound confirmed my loss, to wanting a D&C and then not wanting it … and finally, to admitting that the waiting was taking too much toll on me and my family … that emotionally, spiritually, physically and psychologically, I am drained to the core of my being.

I am having my second miscarriage as I am writing. I started bleeding as cramps wracked my body last night. This came as a welcome relief to my weary soul.

I was on denial when I had my first miscarriage. I refused to accept my baby’s death even though pain tore through my body day after day. I fought hard by imploring God to give life to my child. As long as I had hope in my heart, I refused to let go. I was willing to do whatever it took if it meant life for my little one. But as fate would have it, my baby and I lost that battle.

This time around, I put up no fight at all. Maybe the past made me more resigned, more accepting of the undeniable fact that losing a child, one that seemed so improbable and so incomprehensible before, has become a recurrent reality in my life.

But while I accepted my third baby’s death, I still refused, and continue to do so up till now, to have a D&C. Only when the choice is taken out of my hands will I submit to that procedure.

But while I still have that choice, I choose for my little one to leave me as God had intended. I want to wait for nature to take its course. But without medical intervention, I realized that the waiting could take so long. And it started to take its toll. Everything in me grew weary from being suspended in a state where I was neither here nor there … where my body felt pregnant yet with no growing life within it … where I grieved and not grieve at the same time. Finally, all that I ever wanted was to reach closure, to be able to move on and open myself up to my family again.

So I finally sought medical aid. I took the medication that would induce the expulsion process. When the cramps came, I welcomed them with relief. There is no use holding on when there is nothing more to hold on to.

I have been asked why I did not want a D&C. I said that going into surgery scared me and that I did not want to expose myself to the risks accompanying this procedure.

But I have been less than honest with these answers. While I do feel this way about D&C, the real reason behind this refusal is my desire for privacy and dignity, for wanting this miscarriage to happen just between me and my child, not in a roomful of strangers where my baby will be referred to as tissue or product of conception and handled in much the same way as medical personnel would handle a surgically-removed appendix or cyst. So cold. So distant and uncaring. So professional. I do not want my baby to leave me that way.

When my baby will finally leave, I want nobody else except me touching it … where it will be held with love, tenderness and great respect.

With Mama alone, this baby will be spared from becoming the subject of cruel jokes by dispassionate medical workers. The first baby I lost suffered that fate. Cheerful lab workers, oblivious to my pain, talked about urinating on the cup containing my poor little one right in my presence.

That is not going to happen this time. This baby will be spared from that kind of indignity and disrespect. This time, my child will receive nothing but all the love and respect it deserves as another one of God’s creations.

Picky Eaters: Born or Made?

Those of you who read this column once or twice might have chanced upon me complaining over how picky my daughter is with her food. It has always been a constant source of friction between me and my pint-sized nemesis, who from day 1 – and I mean DAY ONE!!! – defied me over the subject of food! Can you imagine that? Me? Who worships every gastronomic delight I could lay my hands on … has a daughter who does not want to eat?

As I said, it started all the way back from Day One – when she absolutely refused to suckle from me! I still remember Abby (who was only a few days old then) turning as red as a tomato as she bawled and screamed and kicked and pushed at my face … just to free herself from my breast!

My husband and I figured at that time that if we could manage to make her open her mouth wide enough to take a nipple and then quickly hold her head to prevent her from turning away, that she’d somehow realize the futility of her refusal, cave in to our superior will, and start taking and liking my milk!

Oh well … she put up such a valiant struggle (you wouldn’t believe how strong a newly- born infant could be!) we quickly raised the white flag for fear that she’d dislocate something as she relentlessly twisted and turned her head to get free!! I still remember the raucous that attempted forced feeding caused! The neighbors must have thought we were trying to murder our new baby! And that red, red, RED face … unforgettable!

Down the drain went our superior will … will somebody get the bottle please?

And so the pattern for the next few years was set … feeding time became synonymous with battle of wills … where getting her to take a spoonful only signified the start of the next battle, which was to get her to chew … after which the next challenge awaited … how to make her swallow.

As she grew older, Abby became uncompromising in her refusal to eat food that she thought she wouldn’t like. Can you believe that? If something doesn’t look good to her eyes, it must not be good enough to eat then.

But if she did took a liking to something, she’d eat nothing but that alone for a few days … until she becomes tired of the food, and poor mama has to search for something new to entice her brat with again.

I have always attributed her pickiness as a trait that she picked up from her lola, my mother-in-law, the alpha and the omega, the absolute mother of all picky eaters!

Thus, I came to the conclusion that a child is either born a picky eater or not. There was a time when I saw children from less fortunate families gobbling up their rice with nothing but sabaw sa kamunggay. I remember thinking then that it was a good thing none of them was picky like Abby.

But I had to revise this thinking and consider another possibility when I saw the commercial of Lactum with Claudine Baretto and her daughter. I believe that this was the child who was abandoned outside her home and whom she later adopted.

The ad was about Claudine giving Lactum milk to her daughter to supplement her diet as she would eat nothing but hotdog. Granting that she really is picky in real life, I wondered whether she would still be as choosy had she stayed with her biological family, whom we can fairly assume, would be incapable to giving her the same privileged life she is enjoying with Claudine.

Could it be possible then that picky children are made, not born? It is probable that children from marginal families learn early in life to eat whatever is on the table because there simply is nothing else to eat!

And our choosy dears? They must have also caught on early that if they stood their ground on the food they say yes and no to, mommy and daddy would sooner or later give in to their demands. Why? Because they can. They have the means to give to the child what it wants. Their less fortunate counterparts do not have that luxury, so their children either have to eat whatever is there, or face starvation.

So next time we feel like banging our heads against the wall out of frustration, maybe the thought that we might have brought this upon ourselves in the first place, will somehow extend our diminishing patience.

Imagination Going Wild

We talk about how we’d rather lose electricity than not having any water at all. I’m sure that almost everybody will concur to that. But it sure is hell not having any electricity, isn’t it? I know we can all relate to this because of the series of brownouts that hit our city lately.

Suffering through the inescapable heat brought about by the brownout, I was horrified to realize how soft we have become … how very easily we wilt, sapped of all strength and the will to move even an inch, in the absence of that comforting blast of cooled air which modern times have blessed us with. A blessing? I’d say definitely!

But on the downside, it really is horrifying to realize how dependent we have become on modern technology. Take the lowly matchsticks for instance. Would most of us still be able to light a fire without it?

Have you ever thought about how we’d all cope if we were stripped of all the modern conveniences we surround ourselves with? The recent brownouts denied us the use of our electric fans and airconditioners. The heat was unbearable, wasn’t it? How much more if we were to lose everything … and I mean every little and big thing that we take for granted and would miss only when they go missing. Can you imagine us losing our basic soap and shampoo, for example?

Through the years, we evolved from being producers to mere end-users or consumers. Look around you. What do you have in your kitchen right now that you yourself produced? In our case, except for the malunggay, sili and tanglad growing in the yard, we get everything else from the market or supermarkets.

Have you ever wondered what would happen to us if these stores were to close because the supplies have stopped coming? Where will we get our food? Start planting? Ok, granting that we have a sizable land to plant crops in, which unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with, still, can we imagine us growing our own food???

Imagine no electricity. No water supply. No gasoline.

Our life, as we know it now, will never be the same. Scary!


Are you the type who compares your doctor’s prescriptions against what the pharmacy assistants give to you? I’m not. I recently realized the importance of doing this when my daughter was prescribed medicine in infant drops form instead of the type more appropriate for her age. No big deal really. The mistake was quickly corrected when I called the doctor for clarification.

But this incident got me contemplating on the word kumpyansa…I’m not really sure how this word translates to English, but if I were to define it based on my own understanding of the word, I’d say that it’s complacency born out of placing too much trust on something or someone. In a broader spectrum, it could mean betting too much on chance, trusting that the universe wouldn’t somehow conspire to throw some bad lot our way, thus we toss caution into the wind.

A few nights ago, I thought I heard Abby wheezing during her coughing fits. I had my husband, Nonoy, as well as my in laws, Dominador and Marlene Uy, listen in and they all confirmed my fears. Abby could be having an asthma attack! Nonoy had asthma before. My in laws have two asthmatic children. They should know!

Being the praning that I am, I wasted no time dragging Abby, with Nonoy not far behind, to one of our local hospitals for a consult. Waiting until the following day to see her pediatrician was out of the question. She had to be seen by a doctor right there and then.

The resident who examined her told us that she could hear no wheezing and sent us home with a prescription for antihistamine and Salbutamul. I wanted to question her findings. How could four people be wrong about it? But hey! She’s the doctor! I bowed down to her superior knowledge.

But just we always do, we took Abby to her pediatrician the following day. And surely enough, Tita Doc found her wheezing and crackling and proceeded to treat her condition accordingly.

So what’s the moral of this story? Very simple really. We should still take our children to their own doctor, even after a night consult, at the first opportune moment. Except for the additional cost and the time we have to spend waiting for our turn, we don't lose in any way.

Can you imagine what would have happened had we not taken Abby to her pediatrician? Her asthma would have gone untreated and it could have progressed to pneumonia!

Another lesson learned from this experience is checking that we are getting our medicine from the pharmacy exactly as they were prescribed. Fortunately this time, the clerk spotted the erroneous prescription herself. But mistakes could still be very easily made by fatigued, stressed out, and even harassed pharmacy assistants.

So let’s start checking, shall we? Let’s do away with too much of kumpyansa. After all, nothing is too hard when it comes to our children’s best interests.

Surviving Big School

Another old article

We made a really big move this school year. We decided to send Abby (or Noelle to her new classmates) to a bigger school where almost everything became a first for us.

Why? As Catholics, my husband Nonoy and I decided that it was time for Abby to start getting a Catholic-based education.

Having came from a smaller school where I, as a parent, have grown very comfortable in, with teachers who knew and loved Abby since she was a toddler, and with a population that was small enough we were always assured that our children were well-looked after, moving Abby almost felt like throwing her into an open sea where she’d become fair game to whatever that bigger world could throw at her.

Contemplating that big move, I could not help but imagine my baby thrashing about as she struggles for breath amidst tossing waves, barely staying afloat in a world that’s alien from the sheltered one she had been the last four years of her life.

But steeled my resolve I did … I told myself that she either had to learn to swim or sink in the process. For wasn’t our intention also to introduce her to the world beyond what we consider to be safe and secure? Nonoy and I decided that we’ve sheltered her long enough during her first seven years. Time to start letting go … a little.

As it turned out, I worried too much over nothing. All that imagined thrashing amid turbulent seas should have been reserved for me alone. I was the one who barely survived big school … Abby never had to. My girl breezed through her first days and proceeded to take in all her new experiences in a stride. Her leap from a class of 6 to 36? No big deal! Before long, I started seeing her hanging out with friends from grade 1 or grade 4 or even from high school with equal ease.
Thus it came to be that despite almost five years of prior schooling, it wasn’t until my daughter reached Grade 2 that I truly got to experience the horror stories other moms have been talking about for centuries: school exams!

My friend Jobie once told me how her voice got hoarse from all the yelling she had to do at her two boys as she hovered over them during study time or as they prepared for their exams.

I had the nerve then to assume that I’d do better. Before I had Abby, I was very judgmental on mothers I’d observe snapping or just being generally impatient with their brood. More particularly so with those I’d see spanking their youngsters. I used to tell myself (with absolute certainty) that I’d be different, that I’d never get impatient, angry, yell, or spank … that I’d only have to speak calmly ONCE and my perfectly-behaved and ever-so-obedient child would immediately obey …

I also had this mental image of myself as the incarnation of infinite grace and patience, holding out a book in front of a well-behaved and cooperative angelic-looking Abby as she poured over her lessons with nary a complaint night after school night …

Prrrrrrt!!! Enough with fantasy! Let’s get back to reality, shall we? As it turned out, motherhood in real life is never picture perfect! I never had to worry about studying at home before. But in our new school, come examination period (or almost every night at that), and it’s nothing but dried-up patience, BP raised to ceiling heights, broken rulers, hoarse voices, tempers serious enough to tempt one to start wringing one cute little neck, palms stinging from hitting table surfaces, pencils, papers or smuggled toys flying off to all directions … and what else? Oh yeah … upturned teary eyes and quivering lips seemingly wanting to ask … “what’s happening to you Mama?”

Yeah, what’s happening to Mama? To the entire barangay listening to me vocalize when I start blowing my top, it must have been bad, bad, Olga indeed! A friend of mine once attempted to lecture about being patient and calm … I cut her off by saying, try having a brat like mine first, then we’ll talk again!

All you moms out there … did that seem familiar? If not, lucky, lucky you!

I was told that this was partly the reason why it is best to hire tutors for our kids. They tend to act up less when they are with other people, particularly when the tutor happens to be their teacher as well.

But with moms, believe me, the complaints I’ve been hearing are so similar they seem to come from the same script! Mind you, we don't get mad when our kids don't get their lessons. But what really gets the full solo concert going is the amount of interest they are willing to devote to the lesson at hand, which is considerably less than what they would otherwise give to the lizard stalking its meal at the ceiling, for instance. Yeah! That’s it! Everything else is interesting except …

Can you imagine explaining something to a restless figure who seemed to have assumed every conceivable position there is over the desk only to settle down slumped over it, albeit with the assurance: “I’m listening, I’m listening!!” … only to be answered with “huh??” once you’d start asking questions? Grrrrr!

And how about all that fidgeting with the hands? Even doodling can be very distracting, so you order them to “stop!” and away goes the pencil … for 3 seconds! So you’d say again, “I said stop that!” … and it goes on and on until you’d have to say, “one more time and I’ll throw that pencil away!” In the end, you’ll discover that it saves more time and energy to just get that pesky pencil without a word and throw it to some hard-to-reach area. Believe me, that alternative is much better that giving in to your desire to throw away the child itself!

So who did I say survived big school? Let me check … heart still working, only one or two additional wrinkles, more white hairs though, BP still normal, can still speak, no burst capillaries … yeah! I survived big school! Rejoice!!

Housewife's Back!

I wrote this piece a long time ago, around February 2008.

Yeah! I’m back and for good this time … I hope. I have not written for around five months. It feels like it was only five weeks ago! Time does fly indeed!

Friends have been asking me why I stopped writing this column. My editor Irma Faith Pal was equally perplexed but she never gave up on me. Time and again, she reminded me of my deadlines, and time and again, I broke my word about coming up with something. Actually, I made several attempts to write and had in fact finished one, but they never got off the ground, so to speak.

So what cataclysmic event brought about this silence? Nothing much. I just went on a diet.

Whaaat? Diet? Yeah, I went on a diet. Hey! You out there, you can stop smirking at my diet. I may have stated earlier that it was nothing much, but if truth is to be told, going on a diet turned out to be a heartbreaking roller coaster ride that had me going three steps forward and four steps backwards. Ask anybody who, like me, loves food and hates exercise with equal fervor … and they’ll tell you how it is.

You may be wondering now where dieting and writing connect? I don't know if there is any medical basis to my observations, but when I started Southbeach Diet, nabotol ko. Yes, my mind just seemed to stop working at its usual pace. My thought processes slowed down, my memory became foggy, my body became more lethargic than usual … in other words, an 80-year old grandma would have had a mind that’s sharper than the one I had in the midst of my dieting frenzy.

To the uninitiated, Southbeach Diet is composed of 3 stages, the toughest being Phase 1 which lasts for 14 days. In a nutshell, Phase 1 is an absolutely NO CARB stage. It entails total deprivation of the body of sugar and fats to compel it to utilize its reserves thus leading to weight loss, lowering of blood sugar, healthier heart, etc. And it’s not just our plain old table sugar variety, mind you! By sugar, we mean any food that the body could chemically break down into sugar, which by the way, is what fuels our bodies in much the same way that gasoline is fuel for our vehicles.

To give you a clearer view of what I had to go through, here’s a list of what I was ONLY allowed to eat or have during Phase 1: lean white meat, fish and other seafood (only boiled or broiled), leafy veggies, canola oil or olive oil, a limited number of nuts, black coffee, tea … and oh yes! let’s not forget water because I was allowed to drown in it! Are you seeing the bleak picture now?

Now, here’s what I could NOT eat (and it’s all the good things in life!): fatty cuts and innards, red meat, veggies like carrots and potatoes (because they contain starch which the body could convert into sugar), cheese, all fruits and juices, softdrinks, ice cream, milk, yogurt, and here’s the worst! ALL CARBS … and this translates to NOT BEING ALLOWED TO EAT RICE, BREAD, CAKE, COOKIES, CEREAL, OATMEAL, PASTA, PASTRIES … could anybody be in a worse situation? Could I just let this out? Waaaaaah!

I know, I know … it’s for a healthier body and ultimately a longer life. Hey, that was why I started dieting in the first place! But who am I kidding? My husband was coming home! Honestly? That was my first and foremost reason for this self-imposed torture. Health comes a poor second.

I’d like to go on and on, but I have exceeded my word limit already. Next week, I’ll write more about my chacha-like efforts in preparation for hubby’s homecoming. Friends, no teasing please! OFW wives, rally behind me! Tell those who are still in the dark that it’s not only me. We all go through this pa-gwapa frenzy a month or two before hubby’s return, right? More about that next week.


We all know for a fact that most of us ladies let ourselves “go” after we get married. Generally speaking, weight gain becomes particularly inevitable after a baby or two starts coming.

Only a lucky few are able to keep their 20-something figure. For most, sheer willpower, I’m sure! But some, I guess, are simply not genetically predisposed towards obesity. I call these lucky ones genetic lotto winners. But for the rest of us sorry souls, we could only but sigh at the sight of those nubile young things we see parading around in our streets.

I most unfortunately belong to that latter category. Not too long ago, I used to possess a cola-cola body (sigh!) … mind you … I still got that enviable figure … albeit it’s now in cans! (sigh again!)

I’d often catch my husband looking at me with that bewildered look on his face, as if wondering where that shapely thing he married eleven years ago has gone! In fairness though, I still have all those shapes, they just went to all the wrong places!

Being an OFW wife, it was particularly easy for me to let my figure go. With no husband to make pa-gwapa for ten months at a time, plus add the fact that I am not particularly arte … not to mention my love affair with every gastronomic delight Dumaguete could offer … and let’s not forget my most strenuous activity … surfing TV channels … no wonder I ballooned to unmentionable figures after only one child!

I don't really mind being the “fat lady” … that is, during the first eight months after my husband’s departure for his work overseas. But come the last two months prior to his homecoming, and you’ll find me in a whirlwind of activities that could only be only be described as Olympian!

I know that most OFW wives go through this pa-gwapa stage before hubby comes home. My friend Pam told me how she jogged every morning, ate practically nothing, and started swallowing those whitening pills in preparation for her husband’s homecoming. Good for Pam her that efforts paid of. She stills glows whenever she’d recall the look on hubby’s face when he caught sight of her new look at the airport. Her reward? Instead of rushing back to Dumaguete to their three daughters, they stayed five days in Manila for what could only be called a second honeymoon! Now, if that’s not a happy ending, I wonder what else could be!

And how about my own efforts? Could a heavy sigh be answer enough for you?

Believe me, I’ve tried every diet there is! About three years ago, I had success with the Southbeach Diet and actually lost about fifteen pounds! But sadly, this time around, I could no longer summon the willpower to finish one entire phase without cheating.

Here’s the picture: you’re supposed to finish Phase 1 in 14 days, right? I’d do like 7 days and lose like 5 lbs. Beaming with success, I’d decide to take a one-day breather and reward my gargantuan efforts with a trip to Chow King with my eating pals Maru and Chedette, who, by the way, love Chaofan and Halo-Halo with as much passion as I do! Before I knew it, that one-day break would stretch to two or even three more days. And those 5 pounds I just lost? Take a guess.

Just as girlfriends Maru, Chedette and I binge together, we also start our doomed-from-the-very-beginning diets and weight-losing efforts together.

We have tried going to the gym and invaded Mr. Sy’s realm at Cellutrim with enthusiasm that quickly trickled into nothingness as tortuous week after tortuous week dragged ever so slowly. During our lowest times, we usually comforted our aching muscles with a quick detour to Chow King. Another rational behind this is to give equal exercise opportunities to all our body parts. We can’t be accused of neglecting our jaws, you know! Hence, that trip for the rigorous jaw workout it offers!

And in between those sinfully heavenly trips, together or singly, we tried the pastrami diet, the carbo lovers’ diet, no meals after six, the eat-only-oatmeal thingy, and yeah … the 3- Day diet that I’ll never forget for it’s hellish grapefruit juice! And what did we lose in this last endeavor? Negligible amount of pounds and very substantial amounts from our wallets!

My editor Irma Faith Pal tries to help by inviting me along her biking sorties to Valencia. I’ve lost count of the number of times I said yes only to chicken out at the last minute. But can you blame me for becoming terrified at the idea? The last time I spent considerable time in a bike was astride my easyrider way back 30 years ago!

But I did find an exercise routine that I could live with. It’s a very easy-to-do 45-minute exercise that I could do right inside my home. It’s the 3-mile walk video shared to me by Tita Nini Cabrera. All you need to do is follow the walking movements they do on video. It’s guaranteed to squeeze all sweat out of your body.

My frantic but doomed efforts usually wind down about two weeks from D-day when I’d look at the mirror and decide my poor hubby will just have to adore me for my winning personality!

But all hope is not lost though! My girlfriends put their heads together and came up with makeover in lieu of weight loss. They took me shopping for clothes that could hide my bulges and had Maria Havranek of Cuttin’ Loose get rid of my manang look.

I was a nervous wreak before we started. Imagine having my hair colored for the first time! That was a very big step. But bubbly Maria soon took care of my nerves and proceeded to do a fabulous job with my hair! I love it! She also gave my editor Irma Faith her first-time ever streaks earlier that day! Talk of pleasant coincidences.

So what did my husband had to say about all these? Just like any typical dense-headed male … he didn’t even notice! I practically had to stand under the midday sun before it finally dawned on him. I should have asked Maria to give me a carrot hair … that would have saved me from sunburn!