the ultimate unmatchable Christmas person

happy times with Tita Lily :)

happy times with Tita Lily ūüôā

[ Note : I’ve been dreaming about a certain person quite frequently the last few weeks, and I just realized why. ¬†That person, my aunt Tita Lily, would’ve been celebrating her 90th birthday this month, and moreover was the ultimate Christmas person, practically the modern equivalent of Santa Claus in our cynical day and age. ¬†I was not among her favorite nieces and nephews (for she had many — favorites and otherwise), but in my wishful thinking she knew my quirks and failings enough to be comfortable with me. ¬†Please indulge me in this little reverie about a truly influential person in my life, Ms Lily B Yang ! ]

I WAS tens of thousands of kilometers away when probably the most influential person in my life (after my folks), as well as that of my family, Tita Lily, passed away this May. ¬†For many of us in her family living or working overseas, a dark cloud of extreme sadness and guilt filled our hearts, as our Tita had sent three generations of her relatives to school, supported so many families who couldn’t make ends meet; and found jobs for dozens and dozens of us between jobs, out of jobs, or who just couldn’t get a break in the hustle-and-bustle world outside. ¬†She helped us fill our dinner table, fulfill our dreams and keep our dignity intact; she never failed us in our moment of need. ¬†When death knocked at her door, God was merciful in keeping her suffering short before taking her home.

But come December, it was like a flood of memories all so real came rushing back, so much so that it was like Tita Lily was among us again.  You see, Christmastime was one of her favorite times of the year, if not her most favorite.  It was the best time for her to make people happy, which, hands down, was her favorite activity of all.

She literally had a gift list of thousands upon thousands of giftees, a number that had grown through the years and years of friendships, relationships and even one-off encounters in my aunt’s life. ¬†It didn’t matter if these were close bosom friends from way back, clients of the law firm where she worked and shopkeepers of her favorite stores, or the multitudinous members of her large family, including brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand nieces, and untold numbers of godchildren gained in baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings, holy orders, silver anniversaries and even golden anniversaries.

She would start filling out her lists early December and would continue sending gifts well after Christmas Day.  She could never countenance missing a name, or worse, a family, for she often gave to each member of a family as she enjoyed a personal relationship with two or even three generations in a family.

One year I would help her write out gift cards (an absolute essential in her gift protocol), her helper would help her wrap the gifts, and the driver would stand by to deliver the goodies post-haste.  Very soon we realized that she needed more than a staff of two or three and from then on, Tita Lily always prepared for the gift-giving season by having at least two nephews or nieces, two separate wrappers, and of course substitutes who would spell all of them while the gift preparations would extend well into the night.

She was particularly solicitous of people who would be alone and in want during the holidays, cognizant perhaps of her contemporaries who would sometimes be forgotten by the people they had taken care of in earlier decades.  Once she rang up an old officemate who she discovered had suffered a severely bruised hip and was immobilized and hungry for nearly 36 hours.  Not only did my aunt ask her driver to bring said officemate to the hospital, she also insisted that the latter spend Christmas with her, bandages and all.  That impromptu act of kindness was just one of many that Tita Lily did year-round, but which acquired a special sweetness at Christmas.

I could go on and on and on here, but truth to tell I’m already starting to cry. ¬†My aunt was a one-in-a-million kind of person, and amazing as she was, Christmas brought even more out of her. ¬†Everything I do, every kind thought I think and every good deed I do (if ever), I do in her name. ¬†Tita Lily, you will live on in our hearts this Christmastime and forevermore!

Thanks for reading!

brothers & sisters, photographs & memories

believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have teenaged grandkids!  The lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial.

believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have nearly-teenaged grandkids! The lovely lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial. Mom is on the extreme right, and the fellow who looks like John Lennon is my Tito PD. Tita Beth and Tita Amy are their younger sisters.

[ Thanks Tita Dely Imperial and Tita Rose Lizo for use of the pic! ]

WHETHER THEY love or hate each other (or somewhere in between), cherish or annoy each other to bits (or somewhere in between), avoid each other or play practical jokes all the time (or somewhere in between), brothers and sisters share more than blood and childhood memories. ¬†They are bound by a psychic connection that will not be severed by time or space, and when they reconnect after a long while apart, let’s just say the emotional whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

***         ***         ***

My mom and her three siblings more than deserve to give each other a pat on the back. ¬†After all, they’ve endured a hard childhood, worked through school, successfully raised families and are now enjoying their grandchildren, all in the span of 70 years give or take. But every now and then they like to reminisce about the happy days they spent in their island hometown in Masbate, where the air was pure and nature was free. ¬†Because they had no other choice, they learned to depend on each other, where in the game of Life, family and their brood was the only team that mattered. ¬†Challenges and adversity have come and gone, but Linda, PD, Amy and Beth have remained, and have come through with flying colors for their children, grandchildren and almost surely given their impeccable health (knock-knock) great-grandchildren to admire, now and forever.

***         ***         ***

a rarity : the last time I've seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they're all adults!

a rarity : the last time I’ve seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they’re all adults!

They’re not exactly the closest of siblings, but the last time they met, ¬†with (ahem) their father looking on, you could’ve sworn they might actually have missed each other.

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Panganay, Ganda and Bunso. ¬†New milieus, new school, new jobs, even new loves, everything has been a new taste and new sensation for the trio. ¬†So much so that they haven’t had time to compare notes and look back on their remarkable journeys from Cainta Rizal all the way to Windy Wellington.

I wouldn’t say the experience has brought them closer, but it has afforded them a new perspective with which to view and appreciate each other, if not as immediate family, then as members of individuals who’ve gone through toddlerhood and teenhood with shared eyes ears and feelings.

Almost throughout the dinner, which Mahal and I ate with them after a visit to recuperating Panganay (who was recovering from a sports injury), they were constantly wary of each other.  But only because so much had changed, around the constant reality that they would always be brothers and sister.

Take away the novelty, and what remains on the picture is the simple happiness on their faces. ¬†At least, that hasn’t changed.

***         ***         ***

By many standards I’m an old man, and yet whenever I think of my four brothers, especially about being with them, I feel young. ¬†Why? ¬†Maybe because I grew up with them, and you’re only as old (young) as you feel. ¬†And because we’re all in the same generation, I only need to be with them, physically or otherwise, to be a kid again.

I’ll bet you feel the same with your own brothers and / or sisters!

Thanks for reading!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!

this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and !

[ Note : ¬†In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then. ¬†Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most. ¬†And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department. ¬†LOLs and smileys all around after that one. ūüôā

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t ¬†claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers. ¬†Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son. ¬†Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt. ¬†The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

***            ***            ***

Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it. ¬†Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things. ¬†That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today. ¬†The first, second or third?

I don’t know. ¬†Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad! ¬†I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)

why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay. ¬†I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class. ¬†When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports. ¬†And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry ūüė¶

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit. ¬† It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and ¬†strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment. ¬†I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

holding back the years with Tita Amy and Tito George

clockwise: cousin Ann Marie B Ce√Īido, aunt Lily B Yang. Mahal, Tita Amy, Dad, Tito George, Kuya Dr Donald Bautista, and Mom

[ Note : huge thanks to bro Jude Bautista for the pic ! ]

TOWARDS THE end of our balikbayan vacation, I realized that it wouldn’t be possible to meet all the people I had hoped to see, even with around half a week left.

For every person I was actually able to meet, there were around five to 10 people I failed to engage as promised.  For every gathering that was thoughtfully organized for me, there was an equivalent event that I declined or had to cancel at the last moment.

I sincerely apologize and plead poor planning and inconsiderateness on my part; I assure you that though the preponderance of efforts to meet tends to your side, the loss is mine to regret.¬† The obvious lesson here is to plan more carefully, set aside more time, and be more solicitous of other people’s expectations, energies and willingness to meet little old me.

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

There was one singular occasion when I felt like a fortysomething kid,¬† and it was because I met people who helped take care of me growing up.¬† These people were with me during the good times, and inevitably during part of the bad times as well, when I wasn’t so easy to be with.¬† Thanks to a fortuitous birthday shindig organized for her by generous Tita Lily, I met last Thursday the 19th Tita (Aunt) Amy and her husband Tito (Uncle) George.

Tita  Amy as a young accounting apprentice also brought me to nursery school, helped me bathe, wiped my bum and talked me through all those afternoon naps so my cheeks would grow rosier and my toddler bones would grow longer.

Tito George was her stoic suitor with whom she would play Carpenters 45s on the phonograph, over and over, while I wondered why she ever gave him the time of day.  Decades later, when he would become a crafty and extremely successful agent of industrial commodities, and turned out to be not so stoic after all, gave me the hard lessons of life, without much varnish and even less garnish.

Together they were the classic baby boomer couple who almost non-chalantly achieved the Filipino dream, and produced in their brood the Ateneo lawyer, HSBC VP and Montessori teacher.  In the process they (again) talked me through the highs and lows, smooth and rough spots, and probably because had some emotional investment in me, were in equal parts concerned, alarmed and proud when I became a husband, dad and middle-ager myself, wondering where all those years went.

It was a chance for me to be a kid again when I recounted all my adventures overseas, and they had to give wry smiles and winks when I introduced to them esposa hermosa for the first time.

Though it had been some time since we last met, it was like we had just resumed a long-running conversation on life and love, and it took off like we had never stopped.

I hope it won’t be too long before we meet again, Tito and Tita.¬† Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip !

what to expect when you’re expecting, and not getting, a jay-oh-bee

I’M CURRENTLY under a media embargo against spilling silly facts, useless details and meaningless statistics and keep the same to myself.¬†¬† But really, you can only stay purposely vague for so long before you go nuts.

As a compromise between my pseudo-journalistic ethics and finding something to blog about (and keep my pathetic blog-tummy filled), I’ll just chronicle the last 48+ hours of YAPECTOM (a deceptively Russian sounding acronym for Yet Another Person Close To Me), scrupulous readers beware.

***     ***    ***     ***     ***

Even for YAPECTOM (Yap for short)’s¬†¬†humble standards, he had become insufferably difficult.¬† Hardly visible on the premises, he had cocooned himself further into his cave, had become (to me) more withdrawn than usual, failed to do even the minimum chores that he occasionally did, woke up late and burned the midnight oil, and lately didn’t even bother to get along with the few inhabitants of his physical and social world.

I wanted to bare my fangs and snarl him into reality, but esposa hermosa held fast my trigger finger.¬† Sunud sunod na syang bigo sa interview, awat ka muna sa mga sermon.¬† Bayaan mo munang manumbalik ang kumpiyansa nya, cautioned¬†my Muse and Voice of Reason.¬† OK, but who’s gonna take out the rubbish again tonight, my dear?

[ Careless Edit : a loose translation of the above Tagalog phrase : he’s had a brush-off burnout the last few interviews, go slow on the scoldings and allow him to regain a bit of confidence pretty please?¬† That’s translated a bit too sweetly, but there you go ūüôā ]

It didn’t help that his defense mechanism¬†and natural bravado annoyed me incessantly.¬† No jobs for me other than the ones I¬†schooled for,¬†anyone who¬†discourages me (from what I want) is a hater (his world and the Facebook world of likers and¬†addicted post-ers had become startlingly similar), I’ve gone this far, might as well hold out for the¬†ideal job for me.¬†¬†The longer he stayed unemployed, the more unrealistic his array of¬†cushy gigs and juicy wages became.

To top it all, I was copping the flak for his avoidance of household duties, and the last straw was his failure to clean up after himself.  When I asked him what was up, he simply mumbled studying for Java as a cryptic clue.  This simply would not do.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Just when I was at my wit’s end, wondering what was up with Yap, a sudden news flash came from an unlikely source, flatmate, who mentioned to us that Yap might have finally resolved his employment challenge.¬† And suddenly it started to add up.¬† He had kept to himself all this time preparing for his shortlisting and final interviews.

We had mistaken his cramming for an IT admission exam (the¬†Java excuse suddenly made sense)¬†as¬†inexplicable reclusiveness; his decision to totally focus on the task at hand, a momentary descent into anti-social behavior.¬† I was a bit taken aback that he didn’t tell me first about probably the defining milestone of his young life of migration, but¬†I realized that I myself had been misjudging him for the few days past.

When you’ve been vainly searching for livelihood for more than a year, success must feel so earth-shattering that you’d feel like telling the first person available, who just happened to be our flatmate.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

The corner takeaway that doubles as a Korean resto after dark was the consensus choice for a belated celebration of Bunso’s 17th, and because we had to fish coins from the piggy bank to celebrate, the guest list was the barest minimum.¬† Yap, Ganda, the celebrant, esposa hermosa, and me.¬† Japchae, bulgogi, and deep stir fried veggies and meats, liberally sprinkled by kimchi everywhere.

The mood was cautiously confident, and the air doubly celebratory.  One young man was at the brink of adulthood, while the other youngster was at the cusp of earning serious bread doing the work he loved.

Being wrong about Yap didn’t sting as much as it pleased me to be proud of him.

Thanks for reading !

a Pinoy appreciates Dad on father’s day

Dad is the handsome guy in red next to Ganda. Behind them are Tito George (Apostol), his wife Tita Amy, forever pretty Tita Dely (Imperial), Renato (Jhun) Montenegro Jr carrying daughter, his mom Ernani B Montenegro, Tita Beth (Javier) and Bunso.

[ Note : Please indulge a blog we wrote a few years ago on our high school Yahoo!group, condolences to the family of the late Asuncion C Sy – Ang, mom of our dear kabatch and friend Ms Pilar Ang – Si.¬† Happy father’s day to all ! ]

MY EARLIEST recollections about Dad are quite ancient.¬† Very early in the morning, hardly out of diapers, he would bring me to the Luneta (Manila‘s biggest public park)¬†to enjoy the sea air from Manila Bay.¬† I was particularly enthusiastic about these trips as I would be bundled up together with my walker, and toughen up my toddler’s gait under his benevolent eye. This was probably 1965 or 1966.

Years later, on rapidly microwaving Sunday dawns just before the 1980s, Dad and I would be in the same venue, jogging around the block right in front of the Luneta Grandstand (measured by him to be 1.2 kms in circumference) but not before I went through the drill of being woken up by marathon crazy Dad, peeling off me my bedcover, pillow and blanket and sprinkling water till I had no choice but to get up.

Still a few years later, on sunny weekday afternoons, to the same Luneta breakwaters, Dad would bring little Panganay, only his second grandchild, for kiddie boat rides, viewing nearby Cultural Center and Corregidor Island in the distance.

For a pre-postmodern dad such as mine, there was no such thing as quality time.¬† He had nothing BUT time, when it came to me, and probably the same thing was true with my other siblings.¬† You just didn’t realize it till you were all grown up, and your kids think nothing of asking the same of you.

As fathers, though our bond with our kids may not be as strong as the mother-child relationship, it is equally emotional and nearly as dramatic.

We are there initally to lend mothers a helping  hand in the raising and nurturing, but in equal parts we educate, inspire and guide our children into becoming the human beings the world expects them to be.

Without a doubt we take a back seat to moms in the development of our young, but by being the best that we can be, we stand tall as models when the next generation looks for people to emulate.

By being the first people they are exposed to, we can do no less. I can only think of a few examples.

The picture of the affable, authoritative yet approachable¬†(not authoritarian) dad belongs to my high school classmate and now Dr Evelyn V’s dad, who I addressed as Mr Lee. Bumming rides with them , I would often see him in the car ride home from school. I would hear him crack jokes with his kids, ask them about school, and sometimes ask me about my own¬†dad, who he got acquainted with in the 1950s. Mr Lee no longer fit the remote, stern profile most Chinese Filipino dads of the 60s and 70s assumed, and could easily bond with his kids.¬† I liked him for that.

I had less encounters with another high school contemporary Dennis (Sy)’s dad, and will probably not do him justice.¬† If memory serves, he was a soccer enthusiast, and supported his two sons’ many interests, which probably inspired them to pursue varied sports and music.

The chummiest Dad I can remember though is bosom buddy Raymond (Ong)’s, who would often pause from his work to strike up a conversation with me whenever I chanced to visit their Ermita store, as if I were a long-lost customer. He exuded a warmth that would disarm the gruffest exterior, and it would be a legacy to all his sons.

Almost gods in our eyes, we later discover, sometimes sadly, that they are as human as we are, prone to the same failings and temptations.

We can only strive to do as well as they did, and hope that in their eyes we do not fail too miserably.

Thanks for everything Dad, and Happy Father’s Day !

Related articles

“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.

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

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.

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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!

happy birthday Panganay !

Dear Panganay :

In many ways you have not changed much.   You still leave your room in the same chaotic state, especially when you leave for work or for your dance practice, clothes strewn about, bed unmade and the windows open. I know I specifically asked you to allow air in to get rid of your musky aura, but just the same I make clicking sounds at the cold autumn air coming in.  I shake my head and prepare a lecture for you, before remembering that my own room when I was your age was just as hopelessly disorganized.

I still bang on your door when you get carried away practicing your swag, ask you often what time you will be coming home (if at all) so I can leave the door unlocked, and remind myself not to eat too much lest you suffer a munchies attack and scrounge around the kitchen for leftovers.  Buti na lang Tita H always cooks enough for three.

Yes you haven’t changed much, except that you’re taller than me now.¬† Your hair remains curly just like your mother’s, your eyes as large as mine are small, and I see evidence that you try scores of outfits and combinations before you decide on one, right down to the specific hat and shoes.¬† I chuckle at that, because when I was your age, I was probably just as vain.

On other levels you and I have changed as well.  Our relationship is no longer one of provider and ward.  I badger you weekly for your contribution to rent, make wry comments about how you can have time to endlessly surf the internet and yet have none at all to vacuum the common areas in our flat, and remind you constantly to do your share in the kitchen and toilet cleaning.  You  pretend not to hear, and I pretend not to notice that you pretend not to hear.

But in the grand scheme of things those appear, and rightfully remain trivial and a source of funny memories when you are a bit older.  Soon I know you will be making your mark in things you care about, and if your legs carry your there, you will probably even find yourself in Australia, the US or elsewhere.  You have as many options as there are dance moves in your YouTube clips, which I privately view and smile at.

In short, I may not always say it, but every passing day I find more ways to be proud of you.  I love you always anak, thank you for being my son.  Kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.

Happy birthday Panganay !

Love always


The last day before the rest of your life

[¬†Note :Because of recent events, two years to plan for NZ has become two months.¬† In the haze of applications, transitions and goodbyes, it will probably be a good thing for them, and I’m writing a letter before things finalize for Ganda and Bunso.¬† Hope you don’t mind proofreading for me! ūüôā ]

Dear Ganda and Bunso :

WOW, SO glad you breezed through your medicals.¬† For a while I thought Bunso’s ECG was going to be a source of worry, but I’m glad the doctor signed off at the last moment.

I’m sure you think that it’s a pity that you can’t say proper goodbyes to your friends, relatives and classmates, monies for get-togethers and shindigs have all but dried up, I hope you understand that as it is, I’ve effectively set aside any hope of saving for the next few months, as your mother has likewise, I’m sure.

But the prize is great, that is seeing you here sooner rather than later, allowing you career and educational opportunities that wouldn’t be available back home, and of course seeing you grow into young adults full of hopes and dreams in a brave new world.¬† Neither your mom nor I would think twice about the little sacrifices needed, in comparison.

If I may say so, you have the best of both worlds.  I say this because you have grown up in the country we will love the rest of our lives, P.I. of course, and you will never forget how it is to have grown up there.

On the other hand, you have the rest of your lives to build your careers, your families and things you can be proud of in a country that rewards you for hard work, initiative and honesty.

I see lots of kids here who are lucky the way you will be lucky, but they missed out on Pinoy culture and values, which is for me something like a vacuum considering they are dyed-in-the-wool offspring of Pinoys and Pinays.  They still speak Tagalog, but haltingly and would rather just reply in English in what usually turns out to be one sided Tagalog conversations.

On the other hand, there will be your contemporaries who are equally talented and hard-working as you, but will never have the opportunities and jobs that you will have.¬† That’s why I believe you have the advantages of dual cultures and multiple options.¬† You have an amazing view looking forward, but you have a rich vista¬†of homeland memories as inspiration for fulfillment and success.

In return, all you need to do is be the best that you can be, be passionate about things you enjoy doing, and not be afraid to start the adventure of a lifetime.

I¬†love you always and can’t wait for you to get here.¬† Kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos !


PS.¬†¬†Just a few reminders :¬† soak up your telenovelas, they don’t air here; munch up on those chichirya, Piattos and Nova aren’t available except in Asian stores; and don’t fill orders for any pirated DVDs; they’re not worth the hassle ūüôā¬† take care!