family

this good morning

This morning I woke up to the gurgling sound of a little girl’s laughter and the soft pats of tiny hands on my cheeks, and I wonder at love. I felt the warmth of the little girl’s father’s strong arms engulfing me in a “good-morning” embrace and I wonder about love some more. It was still daybreak but already I was thickly enveloped in it I felt intoxicated.

Yes, some days are better than others. I chalk this one up as one of the best.

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Saved by the Beach

It has been a hectic time at work the past few weeks.

Although our group didn’t really render that much overtime, each day of last week was spent slogging off and agonizing over complicated files that seemed to be written by authors not of Earthly descent but may have come from planets Jupiter or Mars or from Galaxy 6-O-991. It was no surprise that output was low and group morale was lower than Marianas Trench’s depth could go.

blue overall

To save my sanity, I proposed to the family that we head off to the beach at the closest weekend. They all readily agreed, especially Tata who, for the past weeks, had been taking the brunt of my stresses at work (sorry, baby!)

Sunday morning shone bright; the skies had the blue hue of an ideal summer day. The clouds were scattered above just so, and the breeze picked up nicely as we went down from our mountain home to the beach. Faith had a new yellow lifesaver.

Tata with the new lifesaver

We took off with a few friends who were also eager to do something that would herald summer for them. Our slice of beach was not in some commercialized resort lining the shores of this side of the island. I’m very pleased to know that there is actually, in Bacong, a little clearing — free from cottages and the omnipresent hawkers and vendors — with a strip of sand and shade from coconut trees, which is very much like the beaches of my childhood memory: untainted, unspoiled, and isolated.

cool summer

Nevertheless, our group’s elation at being the only ones on that deserted beach lasted until a couple of hours before lunchtime. By then, other beach goers — families, couples, kiddies, grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins all — came in and invaded our sanctuary by the truckload and busload. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who knew of that strip of beach’s existence.

faith by the beach

Still, that didn’t stop the fun that we were having. The tide was coming in, and the waves crash to the shore with such force that took my breath away. I swam over, under, and into the waves, appreciating how powerful such force of nature really is. I think I already have an idea how it is to be punched on the abdomen. I was screaming and laughing and swimming along with everybody. We body surfed and built sand castles. We buried someone in the sand! I realized that I never had such fun in such a long time. I’m all brown and a bit of sunburnt from staying under the scorching Great Yellow for a great many hours; Faith and Ta are browner as well.

I could really say, from experience, that a little unwinding could do wonders for wage earners such as moi. A little break can be all we need before tackling another grind on the work mill.  Ask me how I’m feeling today, and you could already guess that my reply is, “I feel good!”

Mother’s Day

It’s my mother’s graduation today. She receives her Master’s degree in Ministry from the Union Theological Seminary. She graduates with the distinction of being the recipient of the “Best Thesis Award” for her paper “Rites for Life,” which is a collection of rituals based on the stages of human development as put forth by Erik Erikson. These rituals are not the usual ones published in a church missal, and these rituals can be used by anyone in the faith community for events in their lives, whether celebrations, mournings, commemorations, or anything that attempt to lift the events of a person’s life out of the mundane and into something sacred and divine. I think the rituals my mother presented also include blessing same-sex marriages.

My mother got married at the age of twenty-three, was a mother of two by age twenty-five, and was a widow and single parent by age twenty-six.

She is a minister, an ordained Reverend of a Protestant denomination in the Philippines. When her husband (my father) died, she did her best to raise my brother and me, provided for our needs, and strove to send us to the best schools in the places where she got assigned to minister. And those places! From big cities to isolated mountain areas rife with the conflict of the mountain people and the government/military.

She also worked overseas, being a regional coordinator for the Asian region for a German-based missions organization. We, her two children, decided to stay behind in the Philippines.

She was in Indonesia when my brother died after being shot right in front of his school by a drug-crazed classmate. My mother resigned from her overseas work after that.

We bought land in the province where my brother is buried. After that, I kept the lighthouse… I met Ta, and Faith came into our lives, so I decided to stay in the land we bought and, with Tata, tried to develop it into something of a retreat, a place for healing.

My mother went to Manila and continued her Masters studies, which she halted when she went to work overseas, while at the same time being the Acting Director of a Mission House that caters to children of families from urban-poor areas. The Mission house is based in New Manila.

Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all the things my mother did to raise me well. I love you, Ma. There is no other daughter more blessed than I am with a mother such as you.

Bloodlines

UPDATED 12-27-2007

So, it was finally Friday. At seven, I just wrapped up my Math tutorial and effectively squelched the demands from the kids for an extension of one hour just to hang around the Mission House by giving them the cryptic “I have a date (plus inane smile)” statement.

I pulled on a black blouse — the only decent, no-ironing-required piece of clothing available from my stock of washed, yet still unfolded, wardrobe — and splashed on my usual cologne  and attempted to tame my scraggly hair with the aid of a clamp. I caught my reflection in the mirror and decided that I looked more blah than ever so I ditched the clamp.

As an afterthought I also ditched the stiletto sandals and opted for my reliable pair of black Islander. Gateway’s just around the neighborhood anyway and I didn’t want to add more worries to myself if I tripped up on some cracks in the dark sidewalks of Cubao.

Anyway, I wasn’t aiming to impress anyone. My cousins, endeared to me by ties of blood, were more viscious than a pack of starved hyenas when it came to teasing other members of their family that it could either leave one permanently traumatized that would require years and years of near-futile psychotherapy to undo the damage or it could thoughen anyone’s hide and immunize one from any other criticisms encountered over the years from people outside the family.

The stilettos would have been my undoing if I’d worn it.

Since I live in the vicinity of Cubao, I got to Gateway first. I exchanged SMS with the cousins who were still on the way from Ortigas area who assured me that they would be there in less than half an hour.

While waiting, I sat outside Pizza Hut and people-watched a bit. However, I made the mistake of looking a stranger in the eye. The next thing I knew, he, a man of about fifty-six with sparse hair and yellowed teeth plus a beer gut (no criticisms intended), walked up to where I sat and fixed me with a smile that only he could personally think was beguiling.

I shuddered inwardly and gave him an arched eyebrow plus American accent, “What do you want, grandpa?” send-off. He looked embarrassed and quickly shuffled away.

Great. I got mistaken for a night flyer.

I informed my cousin, Lanie, who was still in her cab at that moment. She gave a characteristic “Ha ha ha” reply. Very sympathetic, my cousin.

Fifteen minutes later Lanie arrived. We hugged. Bussed each other on the cheeks and proceeded to give each other the customary once-over.

Lanie: Shucks, you look… thinner!

Me: Hmmm, you too! (Lanie was always underweight. Score one for me.)

Lanie: You actually look, um… good this time. How’s your boyfriend? I saw his pic in your friendster, my God! So… antique! (ouch)

Me: Thanks. He’s my showcase.

Lanie: Hahahahaha! Funny ka talaga!

We decided to stay outside while we waited for the other cousins to arrive. Lanie brought me up to date of the things that happened in the intervening six years that we never communicated (she’s a mother now, unmarried, she works as a telemarketer, was  recently promoted, and enjoys her singlehood) while we waited for Tox and Che (and Che’s friend, Lienny).

I’ll just leave it to the slideshow to do the rest of the narrating.

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