A Road I Must Travel

Grieving is a lonely road I must learn to travel by myself. There are no road maps to hasten the journey. Only anecdotes and tear-drenched stories of those who have gone through it before. And with gratitude I take comfort in their promise. There are many others too who want to join me on my passage. Family, friends and even faceless people who share my deep anguish. And I thank them all so very much from my heart’s depths for their caring and affection.

But I alone can make this trek through the valley. And hope to maybe make it through the other side. Sometimes it’s cold and desolate, sometimes so full of suffocating regrets. And I pray to God that He may hold my hand as I make the crossing. But I’m not ready to “let go” just yet. Not just yet. Please forgive me Mariel for being so spineless now. I love you so much and have only your memories to keep me going. Give me a little more time to learn to live with the pain and accept that you are in a really, really better place. And as Linda once said ” to find reasons to wake up each day, knowing Samantha is enough”. I love you Mommy. I will always love you.

( I’d like to sleep tonight with thoughts of Mariel and a song which I know she liked. This one’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Katherine McPhee)

To Love and Honor Mariel

Mariel and Sam at Sentosa I go to Heritage Park to “talk” to Mariel as often as I can. I was there again today, Sunday. No, I am not turning delusional. It’s just that I try to find time to have some moments with her in those very peaceful whereabouts. I close my eyes and feel the gentle breeze on my face as if to receive Mariel’s own gentle kisses. I also make sure that her special place is kept “squeaky clean” and has her favorite fresh flowers as much as possible.. Those who knew Mariel can attest to how well she kept a clean home and work environment for us. She had provided the order for us to thrive and blossom.

While there, I just basically tell her what’s on my mind. Mostly about caring for Sam. I must admit that I’m still overwhelmed by the task ahead of now having to raise our nine- year old daughter single-handedly. I have always been poor at understanding women. How much more now that I have to deal with a highly- intelligent daughter who is also slowly starting to find her own place in the world. Daughters don’t come with a “user’s manual. So I just try my best to assure her that I will always be there for her, no matter what. And that I will be there to “listen” to anything she may want to share with me 24/7. I know she misses her Mommy much, but has just been a little better than me at “hiding’ it. After all she “is” her mommy’s daughter. Mariel was never a “cry-baby”.

Therefore, I try to put Sam to bed each night and sing her lullabies as her mom used to do. Overall, I just attempt to “wing it” at taking Mariel’s place. She was so good at it and had put up such high standards that I can now only clumsily carry on. I don’t do it reluctantly however. Because it’s my way of showing Mariel how much I truly loved her. I love Sam as much too. But here’s another chance to serve her memory. Which is to give all my love to the person Mariel loved so very much. Our Samantha.

Mommy, please help me bring up our daughter to be like the fine lady that you were. Because only then can I be completely happy and be able to say that I have done my work well at honoring my one true love. My Mariel.

“Life After Birth” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Mariel’s passing had made me think more and more about life, and life-after- life. While I believe that Mariel is now in a really special place with the Lord, in moments of weakness, the fragile human part of me still craves for some certainty. Certainty that Mariel is now free from any more fear, any more pain ( as I’ll do anything to “protect” her). That she is finally getting her “reward”, for having given so much of herself to others, especially to me and our daughter, Sam. That one day I will see her again, to embrace and to hold, and share her love through eternity.

I came across this short video piece from Dr. Wayne Dyer which talks about “Life after Birth” or the triumph of spirit over life. I hope it speaks to you too like it did to me, that life-after-life indeed is just a transition to something so wonderful and great. And so beyond any kind of happiness we can ever possibly imagine because of our “limited” point of view.

Your Dreams Live On, Mommy

Mariel and Sam at John Hay

It’s that time of month again. I promised myself to try to not keep count. Someone told me somewhere that keeping score of the time Mariel’s been gone may actually keep her from being at peace. And God knows that I’d do anything to make sure that she’d always be kept safe and at peace. For she deserved the best, even when in life she did not get all of what she merited. Because I was a lazy, good-for-nothing slacker who never really comprehended what I had. I never came around to fulfilling many of Mariel’s dreams as I had always thought I had a lifetime to work on them. Our dreams. Not pie-in the-sky, pompous ones. Simple aspirations mainly for our daughter Samantha.

Mariel wanted some day to have her own small garden, tending to flowering plants. She loved working with them. She was happiest checking on tiny buds on their journey to bloom land. She wanted to get published too. She actually emailed the Palanca Foundation last May asking how she can join the literary competition. I cheered her on as I knew that she was a good writer. Even better, I knew she was a good writer with a good heart. Mariel also wanted to one day get a chance to see Europe. She dreamed of seeing alpine mountains, museums and castles.The stuff of legends fit for a princess. My princess.

Most of all however, Mariel wanted to see Sam develop into the fine lady she can be. But while she dreamed of Sam becoming a doctor some day, a pediatrician perhaps she once said. However, she would have approved anything Sam wanted to be, as long as it made Sam happy. Our daughter once told us that she wanted to be a theater director -slash- professor some day. Mariel had said yes, because she saw Sam had the gift for singing and acting well. Mariel’s eyes lit up with joy every time she saw Sam perform and get some recognition. Because Sam’s happiness and triumphs were her own. And that’s why Mariel looked forward to again seeing her perform as “Annie” in a school musical this coming December 15. By the way, I’ve already reserved her a seat. One with the best view. For Mariel always deserved the best.

Today, November 20, I promise Mommy to keep all your dreams alive. I promise that I will one day make them all come true. Because you deserve it, Mommy. Because you are our princess forever. We love you very much.

Useful Tips from Mariel

Mariel and BongThis post was originally called “Useful Tips from Mariel on what to do when your Life’s a Mess”. But my daughter Sam asked me to edit it as it was boringly long. Also she said it might be better to be “cryptic” as more people will be drawn to it out of curiousity. She’s 9 years old and I’m taking advice from her. Such is my life now.

It’s been some days since my last blog. Partly because I lost my internet connection (which is obviously back now). Also, I guess the more “mundane” stuff of life have caught up with me too (read bills, bills and more bills). Mariel had always “protected” me from these as I’ve always thought bills were junk mail meant to be dispensed with. The fog of bereavement too has lifted as most people have stopped speaking to me in hushed tones or acting deferentially. As they like to say “Life must move on”. But moving on is easier said than done when you have to care for a nine- year old daughter and deal with your clients’ egos at work at the same time . Well I guess I may have to take some tips from Mariel because “that” is what she did everyday of our married life. So I tried my best to “predict” what Mariel would have done if she were in my shoes and life’s a mess, as it is now for me. Here goes:

1) Let Go, Let God

Mariel never failed to seek God’s guidance and protection above all. In our most desperate of moments, when she was already so gravely ill at the UST Hospital, she steadfastly kept faith and faced her sickness with both courage and grace. She never once wavered as she knew that the Lord always kept her best interest at heart.

In our years together, she also never failed to remind me to be thankful for whatever little blessings came our way, even if it meant literally dragging me to Church every Sunday. She went on novenas when Sam got sick. Never one to “broadcast” her piety, Mariel always kept her prayerful life away from public view. She is still my angel today keeping me on God’s path.

2) First Things First

Mariel always knew her priorities. She always decided to do the most critically important things first above the seemingly urgent. (Stephen Covey wrote about it, but Mariel really practiced it) She also was never swayed by the socially expedient over doing the right thing, most specially if it concerned our daughter Sam. I shall always try to be guided by her example and keep myself from being distracted by the “non-essentials”.

3) Know Thyself

Mariel often advised me to accept my limitations. She was my greatest cheerleader but she’d be first to tell me to “cut my losses” when prudence dictated it. She tried to keep me from squandering precious time on quixotic pursuits and made me confront squarely my “realities”. She did this unpleasant task though with such gentleness that I had never felt oppressed. She did it too because she loved me so much and did not want to see me “get hurt” in the end. And, of course, she was always right.

4) Just Do It, Period.

Mariel never hesitated to do anything important even if it meant some personal sacrifice or discomfort. She would often bring home some work from the office and soldiered on till about 3 in the morning simply because they needed to get done. She never complained, blamed anyone or whined. She just did what she believed was necessary. I wished I had her great sense of duty and utter lack of “theatrics”.

5) Get A Massage

While Mariel believed in getting things done, she was not above relaxing or getting a good leg and foot massage. She often wanted a few minutes of massage (courtesy of yours truly) before going to bed, “to rest and live to fight another day”. She knew the value of a well-deserved pause before going back to the trenches. Don’t worry Mariel, I will be back to giving you your well-earned massages when we next meet. I love you Mommy.

“Happy Birthday Daddy”

Mommy and Me

Mariel would have kissed me as I woke up today and said “Happy Birthday Daddy”. Of course she would have already wrapped a “surprise” gift, usually a nice shirt (as she knew I have poor taste in clothes) and would have also written me some heart- warming notes like “as an additional gift, I promise not to be ‘sungit’ for one week.” Mariel had the better sense of humor. She used to make me laugh. Now I can only cry at best. And I had a pretty good cry before finally getting out of bed this morning. For I missed her so badly.

By the way, she talked to my mom a few months ago about giving me something “special” this year, this being my 50th. I would have wanted to tell her however that just being with her was more than enough to make my birthdays special and memorable. Her being with me today like going window-shopping at ShangriLa mall would have been already a treat. We usually went there on Sundays to hear Mass and eat lunch. Then. its off to my sister’s place in Lexington Garden Village where we would have a small “party”. Parties simply meant having “merienda” with family and friends, while Sam got to play with the other kids. This year, its something similar except that Mariel’s no longer there to make it “fun”. Feelings of joy these days it seems, come far between moments of longing and emptiness.

The only thing that brought some joy today was reading again Mariel’s birthday card to me of a few years back, which said (I know see wouldn’t mind) — “I celebrate today, the day you came into the world, for if you hadn’t I’m sure I never would have known the kind of happiness you brought into my life. I love you, Happy Birthday”.

I love you very much too, Mommy. Take care and good night.

Don’t Keep the Good Things by Mariel Gina F. Bello

Mariel at Work

The following speech was delivered by Mariel before her Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas colleagues last Dec. 4, 2006 as part of their Monday Flag Ceremony. She was asked to talk on the topic- Don’t Keep the Good Things and also include a short eulogy for the former BSP Governor- Rafael Buenaventura who had died a few days before. Mariel was particularly proud of this address as she felt she was able to “connect” with her intended audience at that time. Mariel had the ability to “move” people with her words as she wrote “from her heart”, with true compassion and grace.

Don’t Keep the Good Things By: Mariel Gina F. Bello
Most of us are at one point or another guilty of this. How many plates have we bought that are stored because “sayang naman kung gagamitin baka mabasag.” Or how many toys have we bought for our kids which are kept in their original boxes and stored in the cabinet? Or how many mommies have cried out on seeing their kids secretly playing with these toys, “magaling, magaling, magaling- Miguelito, ibalik ang mga iyan sa kahon at baka masira!” Para bang “commercial”? Reminder lang po, ang laruan po ay para paglaruan hindi po para idisplay.

We do not only have the tendency to keep the good things, we also have the tendency to keep good people to ourselves. I am reminded of the story of my friend. He had a younger brother who was very handsome, very intelligent and very kind. One day this younger sibling asked their mom if he could enter the seminary as he wanted to be a priest. The mom’s reaction was one of shock and out of despair, she uttered these words, “Bakit yung pinakamatalino, pinakaguapo at pinakamabait ko pang anak ang gustong magpari? My friend’s heart broke when he heard this. It was not so much that his brother with whom he was very close to was going away to live in a seminary. It was the realization that his mom would have wished that it was he who wanted to be a priest and not the favorite son. My friend said to himself, “ok lang pala sa nanay ko kung ako na lang ang magpari, kung ako na lang ang mawawala, wag lang ang kapatid ko” “Para na rin niyang sinabi na bakit hindi na lang ikaw, bakit siya pa? His mother’s words drove a dagger to my friend’s heart. Imagine the hurt that these words gave to my friend but imagine the pain that our Lord must have felt when He heard this. If my friend’s heart was pierced with a dagger, our Lord’s heart must have been severed with a sword. Our Lord must have said, I do not deserve the best pala. He must have felt like a father who asked and was offered not the best but yung “tira-tira” lang.

If we can be this selfish to God, imagine how selfish we can be with our fellowmen. Let’s us not keep the good things, but let’s use them and share them.

Speaking of keeping good people to ourselves, we have recently lost another good person and this is our former governor, Governor Rafael Buenaventura. Most of us felt sad and said “sayang”, ang bait at ang galing pa naman nung tao. Again, we cannot let go of a good person, even to God; because we feel that he could do a lot more here. But then again, God would have said, I lent him to you for several years and he had done much good. Isn’t it about time he comes home to me and enjoy the fruits of his labor? Please let me enjoy the pleasure of his company, just as you have enjoyed his’.

I do not know the man personally. But I do know that he espoused policies that showed his concern for the underprivileged; an example of which is microfinance which he said was one of best the ways to break the cycle of poverty. The newspaper -The Philippine Daily Inquirer- had an article about him last Friday. There were two quotes which the Daily Inquirer attributed to him that struck me and these are : Gov. Buenaventura said, “I will not have my name on an instrument where only the rich will benefit and the poor will suffer. It’s strange that those who want high interest rates are those who have money.” Another quote is “ I want to be remembered not as someone who made a lot of money because these things pass, I want to be remembered as someone who made life better for others.”

He had a lot of degrees, both from here and abroad. He held various positions from prestigious banks from being President to CEO and ultimately to being Governor of “the bank” – the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. He earned a lot of accolades, a lot of local and international awards and citations. Sure, he will be remembered for all of these – but the most important thing is that he will be remembered for his concern for those who had less in life. In the end, we say “Gov., we know you’re with the Lord right now and you certainly got your wish, We remember you just as you want to be remembered: not as a banker, not as the “Man of the Year” and not even as our former governor but we remember you as a human being who did not keep the good things to himself but who fought battles especially for those who had less in life and certainly made life better for others.

Let us have a moment of silence and offer a prayer for our dear Gov. Buenaventura and for ourselves that we learn not to keep the good things but learn to share these things just as he did.

Thank you and a pleasant morning to you all.