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.

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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 short embrace, then its back to sleep for her. It’s not that Mariel did not appreciate my wish to be the first to greet her on her birthday. She just knew that she has to get up early to prepare Sam for school the next morning. As I’ve said many, many times in this blog, with Mariel, Sam is”the” priority. Which was why I loved Mariel even more. She seldom called attention to her own needs. She was happier when she was giving. Birthdays were usually spent having a simple dinner at home. Over Max’s Fried Chicken and Pancit Canton.

That’s why later this evening, it’s her favorite noodles and chicken for us all. Plus, we’ve written her short letters as “gifts” today. I promised Sam not to put up her messages on the blog, its between her and Mommy. All I know is that it was filled with lots of infinity symbols. I will also read some really nice words of encouragement we’ve received through 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 sis Joy Davy will surely warm our hearts when we most need it. We also plan to offer Holy Mass and prayers tonight. And maybe, if we are up to it, look at some old photographs and remember our happiest times. And many, many happy times together we have indeed shared. But, it can never be enough with Mariel because she had so much to give.

I really wish many more would have gotten to know her better . For Mariel came across as “very private” to some. Actually, she just never wanted to impose on anyone. She was not comfortable being the object of attention. She would rather be giving instead. She was happiest when she made others happy. And she can afford to give so much because her “cup was so full”. She had “everything”, that is why she wanted nothing for herself.

Well, not completely nothing. If there was anything she was a bit selfish of. It was about her daughter Sam (and maybe to some extent, me). Because she wanted almost all the time in this world spent with just the three of us. Maybe she saw it coming. I will never really know. All I know right now however, is that I will be spending all my time in this world trying to make people, and specially our daughter Sam, understand what a truly exceptional person 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”