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.

Condolences to Rene Saguisag

I heard that former Senator Rene Saguisag lost his wife, Dulce, last night to another senseless vehicular accident. I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences.

Mariel and I used to see them a lot together some years back when we visited my mom’s place in Palanan, Makati City. They usually went to hear Mass in a small church nearby “holding hands”. Mariel used to also say that they indeed looked like a very loving couple,”almost like teen sweethearts”. I know too that Mrs. Saguisag was a cancer survivor, which all the more made what happened so ironic. But such is Life. Sometimes “no preparation, no good-byes, just the loudest silence you can imagine” and then followed by numbing days and nights. I dare not compare my own loss however with the good senator’s. For every loss is unique, every grief so personal. But even so, we all just try to discover some meaning or purpose with each one. Because we refuse to believe that our existence is a random throw of the dice.

I have just started on my own journey of discernment. I expect it to be a bumpy, painful ride. But I owe it to my beloved Mariel to try to know for myself the whys. I know that even then she will be with me. Because she’s now my Angel. Comforting me. Guiding me.

Mariel’s Precious Gift

We had a pleasant evening remembering Mariel on her birthday. I had read to her some messages of love and longing in a letter I specially wrote today. She was a person too “beautiful” to be easily forgotten. Fortunately, Mariel had found a way to “speak” to me too.

Earlier this day, I had chanced upon a small pile of letters and cards that she kept all these years hidden away in a small box. They were mostly short notes that accompanied her gifts to me on birthdays and special occasions such as Valentine’s, Father’s day etc. These were the ones I would usually rip out from neatly wrapped boxes to get to “my” presents on those dates. Mariel probably picked them up from where I had unceremoniously discarded them and saved them for tonight. I confess to being such a “dummy”. While I had mindlessly ignored those priceless little notes, Mariel ever- caring sent me one more precious gift from Heaven. She had still found a way to console me on this my darkest of nights. Because she had managed a way to tell me– “I always love you, far more than you know”. I really needed to hear those words tonight. And there was so much more she said which I guess can only treasure forever.

Mariel, I also truly love you far more than you can know. And I will just have to live the rest of my life showing you how. Happy Birthday, Mommy.
( She loved this song and it was permanently on her playlist. I wish I can sing it as well. She knows I really mean every word in it and will always remember her as the beautiful person she was, till we can meet again )

Happy Birthday Mariel !

Mariel Bello

It’s a little past 12 am of November 6. Around this time every year I’d wake up Mariel to whisper “Happy Birthday Mommy, I love you”. After a big hug, it was usually back to sleep for her. It’s not that Mariel did not appreciate my wish to be the first to greet her on her special day, she just knew that she had to get up early to prepare Sam for school the coming morning. As I’ve said many, many times in this blog, with Mariel, Sam is THE priority. That’s why I love Mariel even more looking back. She seldom called attention to her own needs. She was happiest when she was giving. Her birthdays were normally spent having a simple dinner at home.  Many times over Max’s Fried Chicken and Pancit Canton.

That’s why later tonight, it will be her favorite noodles and chicken for us. Plus, we’ve written her short letters as gifts today. I had promised Sam not to publish her messages on this blog. Sam’s thoughts are simply between her and her Mommy. All I can reveal is that it’s filled with lots of infinity symbols.

If I can,  I will also read some really nice words of encouragement we’ve received through this blog– Mariel’s Garden. Thoughtful comments from Linda Riley (mysteryoriley blog), Grace V, cousin Annie, “Writing Grandma”, Mariel our niece, Joy L, Direk Vincent, Hedy T, Susie B, Claire Espina and her sis Joy Davy, will surely warm our hearts when we most need it now. We also plan to offer Holy Mass and prayers later. And maybe, if we are still up to it, also look at some old photographs and remember our happiest times with Mariel. There were truly many, many happy times we have indeed shared. They can however never be really enough, because she had so much to give from her endless wellspring of love.

I really wish many more people would have gotten to know her. But my Mariel came across as “very private” to some of you. Actually, she just never wanted to impose on anyone. She was not comfortable being the object of attention. She would rather give instead. She was happiest when she made others happy. And she can afford to give so much because her “cup was so full”. She is already complete, and wants nothing for herself.

Well, on the other hand not completely nothing. If there was anything she was a bit selfish of, it was about her daughter Sam (and maybe to some extent, of me) She wanted almost nothing, but to just spend moments with the three of us. Maybe she saw it coming. I will never really know. All I know right now is that I will be spending all my days in this world trying to make people, and specially our daughter Sam, understand what a truly exceptional person my Mariel was. A loving, gentle and very generous person. A person who “found her happiness in the happiness of another”.

Happy Birthday Mommy. We will always love you. You will always be in our hearts.

Peace be with you, Mommy

Sam at sacred Heart ShrineIt’s Sunday, Nov. 4. and I brought Sam to Holy Mass, as her mom always made sure on this the Lord’s day. It was off to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong, which is about a block away from our house and I really struggled to get through the Mass. For Mariel wasn’t there beside me as I’ve grown to cherish all these years. It was particularly tough when I had to “hold hands” with Sam for the Lord’s Prayer and the reassuring, familiar warmth of Mariel wasn’t there. Even harder was not feeling her affectionate embrace at “Peace be with you”. Most of you reading this may find it hard to imagine the aching pain that comes with these moments. It’s a terrible, terrible sadness that makes time stand still, or at least move it utterly slow. I even wished I were just dreaming and will at any time wake up to find Mariel by my side (and break into laughter at my silly reverie). But of course, we all know the cold reality. Mariel will no longer be there to hug me tenderly. No longer there to tell me everything will be okay after some problems at work. No longer there to unceasingly look after Sam’s happiness. Mariel was my giant shoulder to cry on. No one can replace her in my life and beyond.

It was also the first Sunday of November and the priest requested all those who will be celebrating birthdays this month to come forward for a special blessing. I asked Sam to walk up front for her mom, as Mariel would’ve celebrated her forty- something birthday in two days. Sam got a religious “bookmark”. I know Mariel got her special blessing too. I just wished there was a special prayer for me to be able to make it through the day. For time has stopped and I don’t know what else to do.

Moving through warped time and space, I brought Sam home and found my way back to the mall. I wanted to grieve alone midst the “impersonalness” of the crowd. There I can be no one. For a few hours, I did not have to hear the words “you have to move on”. Because I wanted time to be stuck at that moment when I had said “Peace be with you” Mariel. And she then replied with a smile filled with innocence and compassion.

Peace be with you, Mommy. I love you.

My Life As A Rural Bank Examiner by Mariel Gina F. Bello

MommyI remembered that Mariel wrote a nice piece about her experiences as a young Bank Examiner for their office newsletter- The Central Banker. I finally found it after some “research” and I wanted to share this one with you today. It’s the original “unabridged” version as the final one was truncated for lack of space. In this article, you’d see how Mariel truly wore her heart on her sleeve and found something interesting in the most “ordinary” of situations.

She was also the one that really wrote well in our family. Not known to many too, she was also the “funnier” one. She used to tell me that I had bad timing delivering jokes (true, true, true). She used to forward me text and email jokes almost daily that made my hectic work life a little more bearable. Read on and enjoy…

My Life As A Rural Bank Examiner by Mariel Gina F. Bello

“It was twenty-two years ago when I first joined BSP. I was a twenty-two year old, fresh-faced, eager beaver with fresher ideas in her mind. Being young, I thought I could take on anything – until that fateful first assignment.

My first assignment was to examine a rural bank in Cebu. I was very excited because I had been to Cebu City before for a brief sight-seeing tour and I liked the place. But my excitement slowly waned as the day passed. We went straight to the bus station from the airport. After waiting for two hours for the bus to leave, I inquired why the bus was not moving yet. They told me they were waiting for the bus to be filled and I said that all seats were taken. They looked at me with bewilderment, wondering why I didn’t know that filled means that people will have to fill up the makeshift seats on top of the roof. I was seated near an old woman who had a few chickens with her. The chickens were staring at me belligerently and I stared back at them. I was getting irked with all the clucking noises but was thankful enough that at least I wasn’t seated near the goat that was with the other passengers on the roof.

After 4 hours of back-breaking bus trip over potholes and unfinished roads, we finally reached the place. It was a remote town north of Cebu where the only means of transport was the bus I rode in. It comes in the afternoon and leaves the following morning and that was it. People walked to where they wanted to go because there were no tricycles, no jeeps and certainly no cars. I was covered with dust and was desperately in need of a bath. Obviously, there were no hotels in the place so we asked around if anybody would want to take us in as boarders. One resident took us in and I immediately asked where the bathroom was. I was led outside the house and right in the middle of some coconut trees was the “bathroom”. My heart sank when I saw a structure with four walls made of nipa. It sank even further when I noticed that there was no roof. Since I really wanted to have a bath, I psyched myself into thinking “kaya mo yan”. As I was about to take my clothes off, I noticed a man gathering tuba on top of a coconut tree. I asked myself on how I could take a bath with him up there having a full view of me. I waited for him to come down and I could have won a gold medal for having the fastest bath ever (of course with my undergarments on). This was no ordinary bath, mind you. Since there was no running water, the residents had to gather rain water and store this in a drum inside the bathroom. The water was clean and I had proof – the mosquitoes decided to lay their eggs in it (didn’t the DOH tell us that mosquitoes lay their eggs in clean water only?). I had to sift through and throw the topmost part of the water to get rid of the larvae.

The dinner that night was another experience. I wasn’t able to eat much because the food tasted of smoke since they used wood and charcoal for cooking.

That night, as I lay down a bed which has seen better days, I cried my heart out because I was felt so sorry for myself. I wasn’t asking for a 5-star accommodation – I just wanted the “basic necessities” and food that didn’t taste like smoke. I wanted to pack my bags and go home. I vowed that as soon as I reach the office after this assignment, I will hand in my resignation. But of course I didn’t. An incident the following day made me decide to stay on and do my job as a rural bank examiner.

The morning after, I was in the bank early and had a chat with the employees. I found out that this was the only bank in town and that their clients were mostly farmers who, previous to the establishment of this rural bank, got their financing from a person offering what is commonly known as “5-6”. It was a vicious cycle; the farmers will borrow money for the planting season and will have to repay the amount after harvest time. More often than not, there will be little money left since the interests levied on the loan are excessively high. So the poor farmer has to borrow again to pay for his family’s keep. It gets worse when typhoons or calamities come because the farmer will have no recourse but to borrow again for replanting. He now is saddled with three or more debts thus making him and his family even poorer. Later during the day, I saw for myself these farmers. Most of them leave their muddied slippers outside the door before entering the bank. Their sun-burned and deeply lined faces mirror the hardships they endure. I felt a twinge of guilt from what I have heard and seen. It was then I knew what role this bank plays in this community but more importantly, it was at this point that I realized how important my role is in seeing to it that this bank continues to exist to serve these farmers. It is only this bank which can provide these farmers with the much needed financing at a more reasonable and more “humane” rate. I felt a little ashamed of myself for wallowing in self-pity for the little inconveniences I had to endure as compared with the hardships that these farmers go through in their lives.

I had a different perspective from then on and I took in stride whatever inconvenience I had to suffer in doing my work. As to my problem regarding the bathroom, I learned that the wearing of a sarong while having a bath certainly does the trick. As to the food, it’s an acquired taste really and after a while I got used to it and I didn’t mind the taste so much. Now, if I can only deal with those pesky mosquitoes…”

Close your eyes. It’s all right, Mariel

It’s a “slow” day today, November 2. And it’s also a holiday. Most people are quietly recovering from yesterday’s big event of the month.

I still think a lot about Mariel though. Like maybe spending away lazily the afternoon doing nothing. I used to always give her leg & foot massages that made her sleep better. I know I’d like to give her some more when I can. Maybe even sing her a lullaby. And snuggle too, with Sam close by. So close you eyes, Mariel. You can close your eyes it’s all right. “Daddy’s” here to keep you safe. Sleep well, my love.

(This featured timeless James Taylor tune says it all. I know Mariel will like it very much)

All Saints’ Day at Heritage Park

It’s that time of year when the three of us ( Mariel. Sam and me) try to be out early for the November 1, All Saints’ Day commemoration.

Mariel will have prepared the usual “basket of flowers” for my dad, Manuel, as we head out for ” Libingan ng mga Bayani” to visit him at the memorial place. She made our “field trips” enjoyable and eventful. She made sure to have the much- anticipated spaghetti and “ensaymada” for everybody at lunch. It was a time of uncommon lightness and positive vibes on this somewhat “morbid” occasion. Mariel was also always glowingly regal on such events. She was always smartly and appropriately dressed and added a touch of “class” to what is perceived to be as an ordinary yearly chore.

We all know this year will be a little different.

We’ve made sure however to have spaghetti and ensaymada as usual. And of course, the flowers she loved were all there too. (Only white ones, please) It was also an occasion no less “regal” as Mariel was without a doubt also in our midst. You can feel her serenity and grace in the air. Her lightness of spirit. Her warmth and reassuring presence.

We were there with Mama, Alma, Baguie, the kids, and our other loved ones at Heritage Park for the day and the evening. We tried to remember all those November Ones we shared with Mariel. But while we’ve made sure we had spaghetti, ensaymada again, we also knew some things can never really be the same too. Because we will no longer have Mariel’s melodious laughter or calming speaking voice to hear. Or will ever wake up early for All- Saints Day anticipating to have a great day, on a morbid holiday, as only Mariel can make it. We miss you “Mommy”

I believe one day…

Bong and sam at Mariel’s Forty days
We had a simple commemoration of the 40th day of Mariel’s passing last October 29. We had Holy Mass said by Fr. Ginu from India and had dinner with friends and family at Lexington clubhouse. It was also a time to thank all those who had helped us through our time of great sadness.(as I now also take this opportunity to say “Thank you” to all of you who were “there for us”. I’m so humbled by all the care, kindness and comforting embrace)

By Christian tradition, “Forty Days” is the time when we affirm that Mariel has finally joined our Lord Jesus in heaven, as He did himself ascend to be with the Father for the same number of days after Easter. This is a central belief for us Christians as it promises that we are after all, merely “passing through” this life on Earth. And that we are really meant to re-join one day Jesus and those we love in our real home in heaven.

I hold on dearly to this belief. Because someday at God’s chosen time, I too will be called to join Him and to again be with my Mariel. I await that time with deep hope and yearning. For on that day I will again touch her face and tell her that at last we can have each other for eternity. Please wait for me Mariel, my love, and prepare that place for us, as you have always done so well.