on reaching the business end of a mother’s day conversation

a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library!  happy mothers' day to all!

a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library! happy mothers’ day to all!

[Note : just by being yourself, you are already a legend.  To all moms, please take a bow today.  Happy mother’s day to all! ]

IT SEEMS improbable, but I’m willing to bet a week’s sweldo that with half a lifetime’s bonding, the amazing array of communication tools available, and the era of open, honest and leveled communication now upon us, most of you, like me, still find it a little difficult to talk and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.

We empathize, feel, relate with any kind of person mass media brings before us, we can keep in touch with people halfway around the world on numerous platforms, and we are in complete touch with the widest range of emotions as the moment requires, be it for entertainment, education or edification.

Back to our mothers.  We can talk to our moms on a wide range of topics, as long as it doesn’t concern our emotions.  We can also be at ease with our mothers, as long as we aren’t communicating earnestly.  So what I’m saying is, we can’t talk to and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.  (Or maybe it’s just me?)

*****     *****    *****     *****     *****

So many maybes come to mind when I think of why this might be.  Maybe because of the generation gap.  Maybe because the previous generation grew up repressing their emotions, at least in front of elders, and therefore expecting the same from their descendants.  Maybe because children grew up with an overload of admonishment, overcorrection and micromanagement from their parents, and to show emotion would be a sign of weakness, error or extreme behavior, none of which might be seen as ideal behavior.  But remember, these are all just maybes.

The only thing I’m sure of is that as her third son, now nearly half a century old, I still behave like a little boy when I happen to share a conversation with Mom.

Sure, we talk about pleasant, everyday and important things.  We talk about them often enough, and I always get the feeling that on either side ideas, information and other good stuff go through.

But the really important stuff isn’t as easy to pass through.  There’s this filter of awkwardness, trying to say the right thing, and not lingering on how you really feel, that pervades most conversations with my mom.  And if I know you like I know myself, I’m just guessing here, you know where I’m coming from.

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****

So, just to make it a little easier for you and me, I’m going to tell you what I plan to tell Mom when I call her this Mother’s Day weekend.  (Don’t really know where the apostrophe should be, but that’s not important.)

I will tell her first about the rest of the family, her daughter-in-law, her grandkids, and maybe, just maybe, future members of the family.  If any.  This is easy, because it’s not hard to talk about other people.  And it breaks the ice.

Next, I’ll tell her about my immediate plans and dreams, and how I’m tracking.  This is a little harder, because there’s the potential for success (or failure) assessment, which is the inalienable and God-given right of every parent, so proceed at your own risk na lang. But this is always good to do, because Moms feel important when you report to her your progress (or lack of it), at this advanced stage she feels you still value her input, even though your ear is further from the receiver than at any other point in the call.

Last, and this is like I said in the title, the business end (or money shot if you prefer) of the talk.  You tell her exactly how you feel about her, and how much she has impacted your life.  It is the most important part of the call, so while you can wing it or improvise on the other parts, on this part you don’t.  You tell it like it is.

If your mom is like mine, and I’m betting that she is, she has made you into the person that you are today.  So go ahead and say it.  I have good points and bad points, but most of the former, I owe to her.  I’m nearly certain you’re the same.  So go ahead and tell her.  And a lot of times I was in trouble, real or imagined, she was the first person I thought of running to.  And almost always, ultimately I did run to her. If you feel likewise (and I’m guessing you do), remind yourself, and herself of that, and tell her how grateful you are of that fact of life.

After these, you may now, appropriately, wish Mom a happy mother’s day.  🙂  And an “i love you Mom” wouldn’t hurt.

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****

Look, you don’t need to tell this to Mom everyday, beyond her birthday and mother’s day.  After all, in her eyes, you are already perfect, and every good thing you do is already a bonus.

But every little bit helps.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mom, I love you very much!  And happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms in the world!

happy birthday Bunso !

all dressed up and everywhere to go 🙂

YOU WERE born with the least effort and grief, that much I remember.  It was afternoon, and your mother was already an expert in escorting babies into this valley of tears that we call the real world.  I just went out for a while to complete the funds necessary to satisfy the hospital’s pound of flesh (how apt) and as soon as I returned, you were already being debriefed by co-occupants at the nursery on how to behave as a hyperconscious newborn in a jaded old world.

No chance of a mixup in the nursery by the way.  From the time you were born, you looked a whole lot like me.  How much of a whole lot is a whole lot?  Well, let’s just say if you put your baby and toddler pics and my baby and toddler pics side by side, there would be some scratching of heads before you’d distinguish between the two sets.  And those’re our heads, so you can imagine how much more fun other people would have determining which is which.

But enough of that.  Your mom and grandparents will easily attest to this, but you grew up like it was the most natural thing, and you absorbed everything that you saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt.  And I mean everything.  You must also have had a great time doing so, because in literally 99 out of a hundred photos I’ve seen you in, you’re either smiling or laughing.  A very happy young man.

The youngest in a group of siblings usually goes one of two routes : he becomes the entitled, insufferable brat, or he is the well-mannered, eager to please brother who constantly defers to his elders.  You would’ve gone crazy (or driven us crazy) evolving into either stereotype, and happily you morphed into someone in the middle, developing into the Bunso I know today.  I like to imagine you had some of my trademark flamboyance with the spoken and written word, and your mother’s creativity, and gift of focusing on the important things, but in truth you are your own person, albeit constantly evolving into something more each day.

When you insisted on attending the school of your choice, enrolling in a course program that no one recommended (but yourself), and joining new clubs and interest groups, I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.  You have a been like a sponge, gathering influences, perspectives and ways-of-thinking that I have never had the pleasure of gathering, you have the physical and mental tools to do so much more than anyone in generations before yours.  Why should I be surprised if you no longer resemble the 11-year old I left in the Philippines an eternity ago?

After all is said and done, I’m just glad that you have turned out the way you have, and I’m happy to have made a small contribution into bringing you into this world.  Although I will always be proud to be called Papa by you, in almost every way we are equals and co-travellers in this Journey called Life.  Hold my hand anak, and whenever you have time for me, let’s explore the world together!

Happy happy birthday Bunso, you deserve every happiness God gives you today, and every day thereafter.  I love you very much, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos !

“I loved you the day we met, to this day still…”

Joe and Linda, also known as Mom and Dad, with Ganda and Bunso. I wish I could show classic pics of them on their wedding day, but I can’t.

I’VE BEEN such a blabbermouth about eclectic, sometimes sophomoric topics that it would be a travesty to my frivolous blogging if I didn’t, if only once, mention my folks as a couple.

I know history can never be changed (sorry time-travel devotees), and what’s done is done, but sometimes I try to revisit the scant facts I know about how my folks met (reminiscent of the movie Serendipity, for you Kate Beckinsale die-hards out there), just to give myself a shiver, knowing that a slight misstep or two towards their fateful introduction might have produced very different results for five middle-aged men (me and my bros), and I might not even be sitting here blogging this today, if you know what I mean.

***   ***   ***    ***   ***

On Rizal Ave, better known as Avenida then and now, Joe and Linda met, in one of its many combo buildings that were stores on the ground floor and offices above.

Joe was around 26 when he met Linda, who was around 19.  Probably only two people can confirm it now, but it was Linda’s dad who introduced them; all three worked in the same company, a leather-goods manufacturer on Rizal Avenue Manila, in 1958. I’m biased, but the pictures show they were a strikingly good-looking couple.

Again I never thought of asking either of them, or if I did they were probably circumspect in their respective replies, so as far as I’m concerned, at least for Linda, each was the first serious relationship for the other.  I won’t say they had similar personalities, because they didn’t, but they didn’t have contrasting personalities either.  It’s safe to say they complemented each other, both being ambiverts, mildly gregarious people who wanted to get ahead in life and were pursuing the Filipino dream.

It’s formally known, I’m not sure, as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, but to many it’s simply Sta Cruz Church, and it’s where Joe and Linda wed, in 1959.

Could they do this while raising a family?  Without a doubt, for sure would be their answer, by the way the married soon after a short courtship, sealing the deal in Sta Cruz Church and their firstborn Tim coming nine months after their honeymoon in Baguio.  Judging from their pics, they went to quite a few places and did the rounds around the country, enjoying each other’s company before the brood that was to come.

And come they did, Donald barely a year after Tim, Noel (that’s me) four years after that, and George another four years after that.  Jude the youngest was born three years after George, and as the odds of having a daughter seemed more and more distant with each son born, they stopped at Son Number Five.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Mayon Volcano, one of the many picturesque sights Joe and Linda visited. Wish I had the real pics! 🙂

Five sons, seven grandchildren, and 53 years later, many relationships have blossomed and floundered, administrations established and torn down, empires built and crumbled, showbiz careers launched and died, but the partnership called Joe and Linda is still standing.  Some of their contemporaries are still there right along with them, but very few have retained the friendship, passion and affection that their marriage enjoys.

I don’t just say this because I’m one of the products of that relationship.  There are of course arguments, philosophical discussions, the inevitable highs and lows of any union, but on the whole they are remarkably blessed to have continued bringing out the best in each other.  I wish I could avoid the use of cliches like that last one, but they do make each other look good, complement each other’s strengths and don’t hesitate to admonish the other’s shortcomings.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

It was a sad goodbye when my son and daughter left the Philippines last month, although a new life awaited them in NZ.  One of the sadder goodbyes they had to make was to my folks, who had become a sort-of second set of parents to them, in the absence of their mom and stepdad, and dad and stepmom on the other side of the pond.  Ganda and Bunso (pictured above) needed their support and guidance, and my folks enjoyed their company and seeing them grow into young adults.

In a strange way it’s one of the best legacies they could leave across generations, giving a part of their experience and generosity to their departing grandkids.  Without my asking them, I’m sure they left lasting impressions on Ganda and Bunso, who have never stopped marvelling at their enduring love.

I wish I could be there with you Joe and Linda, happy happy 53rd wedding anniversary from five grateful sons, seven appreciative grandchildren, and an ever-growing circle of family and friends.  Love you always Mom and Dad!

before boy meets (First) world / a sleepover at Papa’s cave

not nearly grown-up, but ready to go :)

I can’t cuddle him anymore, but I can still pose with him…

[ Note : I think I’ve exceeded my quota for senti (sentimental) blogs.  Hope you’ve got patience for one more, thanks again to all who wished Your Loyal kabayan a happy birthday! ]

SOONER OR later, we all surrender to the conceit that our children are miniatures, replicas, or worse, clones of ourselves.  With due respect, this is not true.  To an uncanny extent, they may resemble us, but each child we help bring into this world is the sum of unique features, feelings and experiences that the world has never seen before and will surely never see again.  The sooner we disabuse ourselves of this sometimes restricting belief, the better. 

Having said that, I still gawked, beholding him, at how Bunso reminded me of a three-dimensional photograph of myself 30 years ago.  Even his height was nearly identical with mine, and his voice, strangely, was even deeper than my own.  I kept telling myself as he and Ganda prepared for an almost-surreal sleepover with me and esposa hermosa that I hadn’t seen him for more than two years, during which the features that would define him for the rest of his life, were carved into his youthful countenance.  But in between jokes and woohoos, I had to do a double- and triple- take just to make sure it was really him.

At least on the surface, he never lost the warmth and engaging manner that so won me over when I raised him with his mother.  Even in all his baby and toddler pictures you would almost never see him frown or cry, he was bubbly, bouncing, grinning, all the things you identify with an ideal infant.  Perhaps he had the comparative advantage of having his bro and sis to always make him laugh, and I like to delude myself witht the thought that all the perceived mistakes his mom and I committed with his kuya and ate, were at least noted and undertaken not to be repeated, with Bunso.

[ Before I say anything else, I thank and acknowledge his mom (who I hope will come across this one day) who not only was and is an exemplary mother to him and his siblings but also moved heaven and earth (with her husband’s invaluable help and support) to bring them to NZ asap as soon as she was apprised of impending complications in the migration and documentation process. Kudos! ]

*** *** *** *** ***

But maybe I wasn’t being realistic. He didn’t ask the hard questions I expected, like why didn’t you and Mom work harder at staying together, if only for our sakes (I actually thought he would ask this unanswerable question sometime during the weekend); why did I see so little of you the last five years (understandable because I was away, but I knew that he was thinking of video chat and later Skype), and why did it have to be Mom to bring us here (she had the permanent resident status, and if it helps any, I would always be there for backup and support). He asked none of these questions and the hypothetical answers remained hypothetical.

But he did have pointed queries on how much of an impact I was prepared to make on his immediate future. He left behind an unfinished freshman year at the Blue Eagle school (made possible by generous relatives), would not for the interim be able to prove his aptitude for converting academic prowess into real-world smarts, and for that there would always be a modicum of regret. Left unsaid in that discussion was the overridiing consideration of obtaining residence in New Zealand, a gigantic and unquantifiable asset in their lives for decades to come. All that he needed to know was whether I would be there to continue extending to him the assist and support he would need to improve his lot in life in a helpful adopted country. How could I refuse him?

Because of all the catching up we did (and with Ganda and Panganay as well), the sentences we completed for each other, and the memories we couldn’t help but revive (mostly on their toddlerhoods but a little of mine as well, courtesy of stories shared by their Nana), Saturday and Sunday zoomed past like a blur.

I do owe you some highlights : he ran around the suburb with me both mornings he was here, patiently answered the back story questions as we watched Avengers (he had seen it in the Philippines), and lo and behold, asked to borrow, if I had any, books on political histories and biographies to stem the growing tide of his boredom. Both genres, after S.King and J.Grisham, were among my favorites. How could I not like this young man?

Without my telling him, he shared my reading interests, he was unfailingly polite, and he was prepared to forgive me for my many shortcomings. And assuming we would have him again, he expressed a great interest in coming back to our humble home, with his unflappable sister.

Not a bad first sleepover with Bunso, don’t you think?  And a great way to welcome him to Middle Earth, Pinoy-style!

Thanks for reading !

Thanks for reading!

what it takes to be Mom: Happy Mother’s Day !

She knew last year we couldn’t attend Bunso’s graduation from miles and miles away, so she made the effort to attend, just like a proud parent! :’)

[ Note : I know I just signed off yesterday, but I completely forgot that we’re almost halfway to the end of the week, which culminates in Mother’s Day.  I’m the designated Prodigal Son in my family, and it’s only twice a year I get to return figuratively to my Mom‘s arms that day and on her birthday, so I have to do this.  Mom, I don’t know if you’ll ever get to read this (wink wink bros) but I love you terribly and miss you more!  PS. Both great pics here are provided by bro Jude Bautista, thanks and acknowledgment to http://judebautista.wordpress.com/ ]

IT’S PROBABLY one of the cruelest jokes of nature that one of the most exalted things that you can be on this Earth is a job most identified with thanklessness, and selflessness.

It sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it?  There is no more universally appreciated role in life.  Even Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible and Adolf Hitler must’ve had moms who nurtured and raised them into strapping young men, and much reviled as they were, I’m sure they loved their mothers.  But mothers raise their young knowing that at some inevitable point in their lives, the latter turn their backs on those who gave them life, because it is the way of the world.

She was equally proud of Panganay, having seen him through almost all the rough spots of his college days 🙂 sigh, what would we do without you Mom? (hey Panganay why are you pointing at your Lola?)

I say thankless, because despite the certainty of this knowledge, mothers consider it not only their duty but their destiny to protect and raise their children with the very essence of their own lives.  It is not an exaggeration that a mother will give up their lives for the least of their children without a second thought.  Why selfless?  Considering whether a child is worth any sacrifice is, for his or her mother, not part of the equation, for the moment their offspring leaves the womb, it is understood that its life is linked to her own.  For life.

I’ve had numerous occasions to witness both selflessness and thanklessness in many mothers, but my best examples have to be the ones that hit too close to home. 

I have an indelible memory of my childhood, and it’s funny-sad.  My first birthday party was when I was four or five years old, and right before the party, my mom showed me her purse.  Inside was six pesos and she told me, this is all I have left Noel, but it is worth it, because I know you will have a nice birthday party.  It left me a life-long guilt trip, but it also made me a fan for life.

As regards thanklessness, I know I have disappointed my mother many, many times in life, ran to ask her to save me from my own immaturities and shortsightedness, and she has never failed me.  As soon as I recovered, I would run away and return to the folly of my ways.  She might have gotten frustrated once or twice and left me to my own devices, but ultimately she would not be able to bear seeing any of her sons suffer and come to my aid, time and again.  Sometimes I would thank her, other times I would forget.  But she would never be as forgetful like me.

Perhaps one of a mother’s most underrated gifts is to make each of her children feel that he or she is her favorite, and I know many, many mothers who have this rare ability.  You have this secret knowledge, cherish it in your innermost parts, and yet when you compare notes with siblings, you realize Mom made each of you feel that way.  Not all Moms can do that, but you might be surprised how many do.

When all is said and done, one of the most frustratingly rewarding things that a Mother can claim as regards her children is to see them through all the bumps in the road towards success, and then be able to tell those same successful children, I told you so.

Because warts and all, successes and failures, hits and misses and peaks and valleys, there is no other person who stays on as your Number One Fan, long after everyone else has gone home.  In return all she wants to see is that smile on your face, and for you to tell her you’re happy.  THAT’S her reward.

Thank you for showing me a slice of heaven on Earth, Mom.  You really are the best!

Advance Happy Mother’s Day from five grateful sons.  I love you very much!


Bro Appreciation Day : Happy Birthday Jude !

his job allows him to meet many interesting people...

Laugh hard, live truly, kiss slowly and NEVER regret a moment in life that ever makes you smile !

JUST came across this quote somewhere on the internet, and it reminds me a lot of my brother Jude, who celebrates his birthday this Friday.  It’s not so much the literal application of the saying, although I’m sure he’s done those things mentioned, but the fact that he savors to the max all the simple joys that life offers, and celebrates unapologetically every moment of life as if it were his last.
And because of the uncomplicated nature of my brother, how could I expect our relationship to be anything but?  We have none of the brother-brother / brother-sister angst that defines many sibling relationships, often marked by awkwardness and unexpressed emotions of a lifetime. I love him a lot, and I expect ( hopefully ) that he does likewise.
It helps that we share a little more than a passing interest in sports, TV and cinema, but it’s nice that we can talk about almost anything under the sun with little self-consciousness or inhibition, TMI alerts notwithstanding.
If I had to describe him using an everyday product of modern living without which life would be pretty much pointless, he would probably agree on my choice : Regular Coke.  None of the pompous tastelessness of Diet Coke, the half-strength of Coke Zero, or the artful cluelessness of Cherry Coke.  Just pure original full-strength pleasure that you expect on the business end of a soda can, that’s Jude.
His shutter eye and trigger  finger are unmatched as a fotojourno gunslinger, and he will probably crown his career with a couple of coffee-table folios that, through killer pics and slambang text will relive history before your very eyes.
I’m most grateful for the bonding that we do through memories and e-mails, his uncompromising presence in Ganda”s and Bunso’s lives back home, and his just being there for Mom and Dad.
Happy birthday bro, you are one in a million.  I love you always !

Kuya NOel
PS.  You can view and subscribe to Jude’s wordpress site at www.judebautista.wordpress.com

3 Nevers of Dad and 3 Evers of Bunso

Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo, Manila, with th...

Image via Wikipedia

I HAVE SO many good memories of my dad, and the best thing about it is that every time I come home to visit, there will be more.  Some of the highlights are his bringing me to Manila Bay shoreline at Luneta before I learned to walk, a practice he continued with my own kids; bringing me to his favorite Binondo watering holes, soccer games and the occasional Cantonese movie; jogging on Roxas Blvd which I originally disliked, having to wake up so early to avoid the blazing Sunday heat, but later realized it was one of the best things we did together; and sharing with me his opinions on why our country would continue suffering age-old problems no matter who was president or which party controlled Congress.

He has rightly counted two among his many blessings as giving him the greatest satisfaction : that he (knock knock) continues to enjoy good health in his advanced age, and that he has seen many of his grandchildren grow up to adulthood, admittedly something not all of his contemporaries have enjoyed.
Which brings me to one of his grandchildren, Bunso, who incidentally celebrates his birthday today.  He likewise has much to be thankful for, not the least of which is an auspicious start to his college life last week, the love of his family and friends, and above average intelligence which will serve him well the rest of his life.
Below are three “nevers” and three “evers” that remind me most of them, and hope that (1) they will agree and (2) you can relate :
(1) Dad NEVER missed a day of work, always treated his employees like family, and lived the conviction that work justified a man and validated his existence.  Like many children of the Great War, he valued every peso he earned, and knew that the pesos kept coming in only because of the hours he put in at the desk.  By trade he was a numbers cruncher / bean counter but he loved the printed word, ran a printing press to prove it, and encouraged all of us to read and express ourselves through the pen, and in his aura I discerned a poet, calligrapher and artist, trades he might have learned had the war and destiny not intervened.
(2) Dad NEVER used corporal punishment as general policy or behaved less than gentlemanly with Mom.  I didn’t say he never punished us, because there were a few times he actually smacked me for some forgotten reason, but because it was such a rare event, I remember it all the more.  Most of the time he used sound reasoning and logic to tell us why we messed up royally, rarely used sarcasm and only resorted to the dreaded belt and slipper when we committed heinous crimes against the rules of the household. In all my years with my folks, I’ve only seen them argue ONCE, and this was when I was 5 or 6 years old.  Otherwise, he’s always allowed Mom to have the last word, never raised his voice at her, and has exhibited perfect patience with his wife 24/7.  That’s Dad for you.
(3) Dad NEVER played favorites, and never compared one son to another.  Well, maybe he never expressed his thoughts out loud, and believe me, he would have had plenty of occasions and reasons to do so, having five sons of diverse and disparate strengths and abilities flung far and wide. He never raised one up at the expense of the other, always appraised and assessed each one of us on our respective merits, and seldom asked any son who happened to be underachieving (wink, wink) why he wasn’t more like the rest. Come to think of it, he could be tactless in other areas but never when it came to praise, or lack of it.  That’s how I remembered, and continue to remember him.
Now comes Bunso, and on his birthday I can’t help but reminisce the following :
(1)  Bunso was EVER the smiling baby, and out of dozens and dozens of baby pictures I have seen only one (1!) picture of him crying, for some reason it reflects perfectly the recollection that he was a happy and good-natured infant, probably because he was the youngest and had his siblings as well as parents around to humor him.  This good naturedness has carried over into puberty and young adulthood, where Bunso is (so far) emotionally well-rounded, easy-going, has certainly avoided the crests and troughs of the emotional tsunami that marked many adolescent years, mine included ;
(2) Bunso was EVER the dancer and actor, which he almost certainly got from either his mother or his grandfather, both of whom were or are good dancers.  At first I just thought he had too many extra-curricular duties on his plate, dancing for this or that event, then I realized for him to be picked and rostered for so many shindigs evidenced only two things : either he had the talent or the goods to do so, or he really loved dancing and related arts.  The truth is probably a combination of both, and while I’m proud of him, I confess it’s not easy to relate, as I have two left feet and a voice only a mother could love 🙂
(3)  Bunso was EVER the responsible student, and only his para-academic activities, org commitments and his precious down-time from hyperactive school schedule prevented him from an honorific graduation, and to his credit, his insistence on a well-balanced high school experience has given him the best of both worlds : respectable grades and development in things he loves to do.  If I sound like a proud dad, it’s because I truly am.
Happy Father’s Day and happy birthday to two guys I will NEVER get tired bonding with and EVER love and admire :  Dad and Bunso .
Thanks for reading !

Seven Incredible Favors Mom Did 4 Me

A mother plays the guitar while her two daught...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : Still using the no-internet service provider excuse, but since the end (of Mother‘s Month ) is at hand, these senti thoughts will expire very very soon.  I am thus putting them to electronic paper, thanks loads for remembering our special day SycipLaw memorable Atty Franco Noel Manaig, Sec. A classmate Daisy Chua – Davis, red rooster kabatch JeffLu, Mostly Sunny Gemma Malong, resto entrepreneur Maribeth Wong, Kulemate & entrepeneur TJ Jose, our Danish kabatch Cathy Vi – Clausen, Lord Chancellor Brod Thor Causing, Kulemate and tugang Bembem dela Torre, brod Atty Andrei Bon Tagum, Atty Al Kahayon, Canada-based cousin Victoria Rosin, cousin James Bautista, classmate Atty Imelda de Castro Santore, officemate Dina Aviles, siobe Evelyne Sy Yu, sis Joy Yuson, officemate Mao Lim Agbuya, brod Atty Ricky Espina, nephew Alfonso Bautista, kabatch Joey Sy Evangelista, classmate and tugang Judessa Botor – Jaranilla, Bunso’s classmate Sadeen Macuha, officemate Malou Moyco, Auckland mate Leng Latosa, officemate and friend forever Arlene Latosa Ahorro, and neighbor and balikbayan Attys Dale and Ethel Villaflor ! If I’ve forgotten to thank you, I will surely remember next time ! ]

Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates, and friends :

I SHOULD have said “Incredible and Then-Underappreciated Things Mom Did…” but it would be inaccurate because I have since appreciated these things Mom did a whole lot more now, despite any unfortunate shortsightedness then.  As regards their kids, their incredible body of motherly knowledge, supplemented by uncanny maternal instinct and intuition equips moms admirably against the risks, dangers and worldly catastrophes awaiting their children.

Pardon my pessimism, but I’m just basing these cynical thoughts on personal experience.  Despite the best possible set of parents and relatives, healthy genes ( I can’t say I suffered from natural gifts, except maybe too-big teeth, the lack of the dancing chromosome, and below-average height ), a wholesome family life and better-than-average education each level up the ladder, I effed up most of these blessings and would have done worse if not for extreme good fortune.  Which is why these favors my mother did for me count for a huge lot, as it happened not just because she was being herself, a concerned Mom, but because she cared enough to stand by and make sure I didn’t totally waste what was given me.

As usual, I have a couple of disclaimers and qualifiers for this list : She did the same things for my brothers and so I am not claiming by any means that i was her favorite, most probably I just needed the extra assist the most.  Second qualifier is that Dad was always there supporting her, but when you think about it, while Dads do their best to be motherly, relatives always fill in and pinch-hit, everyone takes a back seat when it comes to taking care of their young to Moms, don’t you think :

First Favor : Select the best possible Yaya in the world for me.  Mom was the supplementer, entrepreneurial and second-income type of matriarch, so instead of raising us from home, she did the next best thing.  The yaya she selected was very good in what she did, not least because she had already taken care of my two elder brothers before me and had plenty of practice.  In fact she was so good that like most of us who had great yayas, I learned to love her as my second mother, no fault of Mom whose only shortcoming was to choose too well.  My yaya showered me with love, admonished me when I did wrong, knew her place and did not confuse me when it came to loving her back (“I love you, but dapat your Mom is No. 1“) and was hugely responsible for my healthy EQ, my respect for all women and a more-or-less happy childhood.  Knowing you and me, that’s quite an achievement for anyone is this world.  Thanks Yaya, and Thanks Mom, for Yaya !

Second Favor : Not spoil me in anything except books.  Admittedly, this wasn’t hard for Mom to do, because by the early Seventies I had four other brothers competing for scarce resources and parental attention, and hand-me-downs ( including underwear ) from Kuyas too eager to throw them down to me.  To be fair, I do remember two great toys I got for Christmas: a battery operated policecar with bright blinking red lights, unheard of in 1971, and a sleek red Easy Rider that I unwrapped a week before despite a strict embargo against such before Christmas.  Otherwise, the only extravagance Mom allowed was quarterly trips to National Book Store, where the bros and I were allowed to choose favorite books like Ladybirds, Enid Blytons, and of course our beloved Hardy Boys.  I was never certain why Mom permitted this, other than maybe she loved to read herself and the primary reason for the bookshop sprees was her own excursion to buy Mills & Boons, the latest Agatha Christie and occasional foray into Stephen King, which when you think about it, was pretty cool for her, as the latter has only risen to now become the most popular novelist of our generation, thanks to readers like her.  Most of us who grew up in medium to large-sized families know that having siblings prepares us for learning to share and be socially adaptable, and so for this experience I’m grateful, Mom and Dad.

Third Favor : Enrol me in a terrific high school. It wasn’t Ateneo, La Salle or one of those exclusive schools, but just the same the combination of academics and discipline made me more well-rounded than anything else, and the only drawback I can tack against it, looking back, was the slight de-emphasis on athletics and sports, don’t know if this was intentional or not, but if you want to be fit and sporty, mass media and human nature will more than make up for any lack in your curriculum.  I guess everyone I went to school with, not just in my batch, will agree with this.

Fourth Favor. Allowed me to enrol in UP.  This was really uncharted territory for my folks, because their tendency was to go with Catholic institutions their relatives were familiar with.  Going against her initial instincts, she allowed me to become the first in the brood to enrol in State U, and as a result, I received a slightly more liberal education, made friends from different parts of the country, and learned a little more about social realities than I would have had elsewhere.  All because my folks, bucking the trend, went with the public school system.

Fifth Favor : Allowed me to go out on my own.  This was a short Language Course, tuition and transpo care of a very generous aunt, for two months in Beijing, which was then just starting to recover from the Cultural Revolution and open up to the rest of the world. The two months on my own made me realize what a big world was out there, how dependent I was on family and friends, and how naive it was to maintain a worldview based on what I saw at home.

Sixth Favor : Left me on my own after I got married.  Mostly out of disappointment, but also because she probably wanted me to stand on my own, I didn’t see my mother for more than I year after I got married.  During the time, I endured quite a few hardships and made sacrifices I never thought I would make, but on the whole it strengthened my character and made me realize how thankful I was for the life I had before.  By the time Mom saw Panganay when he was around one year old, I was quite grateful for the learning experience.

Seventh Favor :  Took my kids in when I worked overseas.  But parents will always be parents, and when I became an absentee dad myself after starting to work overseas, who would be there for birthdays, graduations and enrolments but Mom, who on her own initiative took a personal interest in the academics and physical well-being of Panganay, Ganda and Bunso, who had no choice but to love her even more for that.  I know that grandparents frequently dote on their grandkids, but to go the extra mile and insist on knowing about everything going on with their apo’s when they had various projects, ailments and schedules to occupy them, was simply too much to ask from Mom, but she did it without fanfare and without even telling me.  I can never thank her enough for that.

Naked and unashamed stand here the Seven Favors.  I’m sure your own Moms have done selfless things for you, just thought I would share these memories.  If you have time, please  set aside aside some thanks for that person who will never hesitate to do anything for you, and in your own special ways thank her again and again.  Believe you me, she will never tire hearing it.

Belated Happy Mothers Day to all !








to Crazy Good Son on the eve of your birthday

Crazy Good Son in a visit to our home

[ NOte from NOel  : Forgive our candidness, but we think our children are the only people on this earth who can make us laugh, cry, turn crimson with anger or misty-eyed with pride, growl with irritation or turn goose-pimply with unreserved happiness, in short make us zoom through the spectrum of emotions (and back) without which Life simply wouldn’t be Life… Among the immensely talented group of finalists on this year’s A.I., two hopefuls are both confident and crazy enough to try Queen and Nirvana songs (particularly unsafe for the time and talent invested), and a 90% falsetto and harmonica-dominated performances.  So much that we’ve heard the judge/s call them “crazy good”, and given all our history, we think it’s a worthy modifier for Panganay, who from hereon we dare to call “Crazy Good Son.”  Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

Dear Crazy Good Son :
COMPARED to an anything-goes, cross-country road trip to Auckland via Lake Taupo and Rotorua, I don’t think a birthday dinner of sinigang na hipon and pork inihaw (BBQed or steak-style, take your pick) would be fair competition, I wish you well instead and hope you enjoy the adventure of your life on the eve of your 23rd.
Arrayed with options galore, unattached, with no responsibilities and with your life barely begun, it is mostly an alien situation to me, and I can only begin to imagine the anticipation you have for the limitless expanse of life that awaits you.
That you begin a parallel quest to discover a second home in this beautiful country makes your story twice as interesting, as you negotiate the convoluted twists and turns, the unexpected developments, the lifelong friendships and of course, all the romantic encounters (if any) that will undoubtedly spice up the plot of  your young life.
I just hope you don’t forget, as I know you probably won’t, to thank all the people who have helped you reach this point in your life.  It doesn’t matter if they are friends or relatives, allies or foes, buddy or co-backpacker, mentor or peer, in the boulevard of dreams.  A simple personal, written or online acknowledgment would go a long way towards confirming what I already know : that you have made an auspicious first step towards maturity, and that you are a fine young man any parent would be proud of. 
Just a few details I never passed on to you, realizing now that it would’ve been impossible for your mother to know them, that humid night of April, 23 years ago.
                **               **               **               **
You were almost born on the 25th, but a mildly difficult delivery (as most first deliveries are) extended the delivery room ( DR ) time till around one in the morning the next day, in what was then still something of a community hospital but almost surely one of the overgrown, metropolitan hospitals in Manila now.  You were lucky enough to have a doctor for an uncle, and not only was he there at the DR to cheer your mother on, he was also there to warn me of the dangers of a wayward umbilical cord complicating delivery, less than unlikely but still a possibility. 
I even remember the hospital bill, which was dramatically reduced because not only did Tito Doc save up on IV fluids, syringes and gauze bandages (still allowed then), he took care of the OB-GYN‘s professional fee.  Pared down to the room fee (the O.B. ward), the anesthesiologist and DR free, it was a quite reasonable P3,000 which today won’t even be enough for the meds needed for a normal childbirth.
Those days newborns were still kept away from the moms till it was time to go home and so even for the healthy babies there was a nursery with the traditional viewing glass through which well-wishers could view you.  But even before that, your first visitors just a few hours after you were born were Ninong Dennis (Sy) and Ninong Raymond (Ong), who kept tabs on you even before you left your mother’s womb.  Your uncles and Lolo visited you later in the morning, and were thrilled to see only the 2nd member of the new generation.  While all these transpired, I was only beginning to contemplate, while beholding your tightly bundled, serene presence, the overwhelming responsibilities that the next years of fatherhood would bring.
There are many more details, but that’s enough for now.
                **               **               **               **
I’ve probably said this one or two times during awkward reunions and the few times I was forthcoming enough to say so :  More often than not, I’ve lashed out at you in anger rather than a fatherly instinct to discipline and admonish.  Better than half the time, I’ve allowed laziness and lame excuses to intervene rather than take a genuine interest in your studies and interests.  And too often, I’ve given you baon that barely provided for your transpo and merienda.  Awful stats for any self-respecting father, and more justification than you would need for a dysfunctional adulthood.
But if you had anything going for you, it was your immense belief in yourself, a belief that no external source could crack.  When no one believed in you, when I even sneered at what I thought was your misplaced confidence, when everyone except your Nana was a doubter, you had a self-confidence that could not be shaken.  When I saw your graduation pictures last year, I had to tell myself that I was wrong and you were right.  You had what it took to lay the foundations of success, and my self-righteousness turned to shame,  coupled with pride that I had a son like you.  Then as now, you deserve every bit of congratulation anak, from a father that fully admits his error.
               **               **               **               **   
Odds are, you’re probably snoozing right now at the backseat of your best mate’s Nissan, on the Motorway somewhere between Auckland and Wellington, or squeezing every precious dollar out of your birthday money in a roadside McDo or Burger King.  You’ve filled your phone cam with the exhilarating sights, taken in the pure autumn breeze of Lake Taupo, or marveled at the geysers of Rotorua.  
Besides the pair of friends with you, you are by your solitary self, with not a care in the world.  You deserve the luxury and carefreeness that youth provides, especially on your birthday.  Just don’t forget to thank God for creating you, your mother who helped bring you into this world, to think of your siblings back home, and when you have time, whisper a prayer for your dad who continues to love you and think of you every so often.
Happy birthday anak, I love and miss you always, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.

Brent’s High School Graduation and Chuck Lidell (via Text and Photos by Jude Bautista)

Gratitude and deepest thanks to brother Jude for posting this on his site, so many feel-good memories and senti thoughts go your way bro! I can never return the favor, but please let me try ! (hikbi hikbi !) 😉 love you bro!

Brent’s High School Graduation and Chuck Lidell Written and photographed By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista Elijah Brent Bautista graduated high school from Sienna College Tay tay last March 29, 2011. His Social studies grade was the best for the batch. He is th … Read More

via Text and Photos by Jude Bautista