Happy New Year from Mariel and Us

Bong, Mariel and Sam in Baguio 2006

We would not like the year end to pass without saying special thanks from our heart’s heart to everyone who had shared with us this our most difficult journey. Your visiting Mariel’s Garden has given us the strength to carry on living, even as its most precious part has now gone ahead of us to a much better place. To a place of beauty, peace and love which she had so very, very much deserved. We know Mariel is smiling from heaven and that she is thoroughly grateful for all your comfort and kindness.

Our everlasting thanks to our loving relatives and friends who have participated in the blog by sending comments or stories, our Mama Conchita, Alma and Baguie, Toots and Reuel, Mariel Bello (our niece in LA ), Annie Vicente, Ate Gertie and Margie, Joy and Charles Davy, Albert and Susie Borrero, Bob and Monet Santos, Doris Fernando- McLaren, Vincent Dy Buncio, Edsel and Sara Tolentino. Joy Lorico, Grace Villanueva, Hedy Taas, Claire Espina, Wally and Charito Buhay, Felix Santos, Monser, Mana, Malyn, Agie, Jex N., Sue Trout, Annalyn Minerva, Sansan Salud, Michelle Hay and Dr. Sally Headding.

Of course, our deep gratitude to our new blogger friends who have helped us understand the true meaning of unconditional love– Linda of Mysteryoriley, Robert of Price of Love, Writinggb of Writing Grandma’s Book and Fighting Windmills. We wish them all the happiness and peace and hope they continue their good and important work.

A Happy New Year to everyone. With all our love — from Mariel. Bong and Sam.

The Reunion

Francia Reunion at Fontana

Last December 25, Sam and I had to travel to Tarlac City for the much anticipated Francia Reunion. Mariel was an Aquino- Francia. That’s the F. before Bello. If you’d care to know, the Aquinos hail from Tarlac while the Francias come from Meycauyan, Bulacan. Mariel was also very proud of both her Tagalog and Kapampangan roots and I implore my daughter Sam never to forget this.

Mariel had looked forward to this one because some of her siblings are now living abroad and they never really had a chance to be together as a family since about 17 years ago. They have somehow managed to keep in touch through the years but this would have been really different. Of course, some things in life don’t happen as you would want them to. And for Mariel, she may have to wait a bit more for the great reunion.

That’s why Sam and myself had to make the trip no matter what. We wanted Mariel to be somehow represented. And we wanted to also assure her brothers and sisters that while Mariel is no longer with us, the ties that bind us remain strong and eternal. I mean, how can you look at Sam and not see Mariel. For Sam was her life and being.

The reunion went well. The food was great. There were fun and games for everyone and Jaih also invited us all to Fontana Resort in Clark. The kids had a chance to meet their cousins. And then of course what party can be complete without the usual karaoke singing. We ended with prayers and remembrances for Lola Mommy, Lolo Daddy and most specially Mariel who would have been so happy because she had cared so much to always see her family in rapport and undivided.

Mommy, a big hello and hugs from everyone in Tarlac. We all love you so much.

Home for Christmas

Sam at home for Christmas 2007

I promised Mariel that I’ll be home for Christmas. And it’s one that I will keep despite the expected “lumps”. Most of you know that Sam and I have lived as voluntary “refugees” at my sister Alma’s home since Mariel passed away. It’s been impossible to live at our house knowing that it’s “soul” is now gone. For Mariel was quite simply the one that made it a place to call “home”.

Christmas Eve was spent with us hosting the traditional ” noche buena” or Christmas feast at Mandaluyong for my mom Conchita, sis Alma, brother-in-law Baguie and their two wonderful kids, Trisha and Gabby, who fondly call me “toto” and Mariel as their “naning”. It was a simple dinner with Mariel’s  favorite Spaghetti and various Filipino sweets and goodies. We reserved places for some friends and of course our beloved Mariel. We had the usual gift-giving and ended the night with a special prayer for Mariel. I missed though getting those nice shirts from Mariel this year. But it doesn’t matter, I’m sure that there will be some waiting for me when we again meet.

Mommy I miss you and I know you were with us that night. I promise that I’ll always be home for Christmas no matter what. So be sure to have some fresh pasta ready. Have a Merry Christmas with everyone up there in Heaven. XOXOXO

Not the Usual Christmas

Mariel and Sam at Santa Clarita mall 2004

It just hit me tonight that it’s almost Christmas day. I’ve been very anxious about its coming as it’s the first one that Sam and I will be spending without our love Mariel.

Grief counselors advise you to plan for these dates. But how can one really prepare for living life without that someone who had made it all worthwhile. I’m thankful though that I have Sam. For she’s the one that can sometimes ease the numbing pain.

In a way, I was fortunate that recent urgent concerns at the office had momentarily distracted me from brooding over my situation. But since “school’s out” now and I don’t think I’d be able to escape the usual gift- giving duties that come with the season, I had no choice but to make another brave trip to the mall to try to shop for Christmas presents.

Mariel was the genius at this craft She had taken extra care to match the gifts with the recipients and consistently ended up with some tastefully nice ones. With me however it was inevitably the ones nearest the check-out counter that found its way into the basket. And they were often horribly boring ones. Did I tell you about the time when I had given Mariel a “Mace” tear gas spray as a birthday present. I actually found it romantic and even got one for myself. Of course Mariel who was always so good-natured, only laughed it off and said sweetly, “si Daddy naman..”

So let me give advance warning to all those who might receive something from me this Christmas. Mariel had nothing to do with them gifts. And if you ever find some to be kitschy or downright uninspiring, you have no one else to blame but me. All the same I had done my best to recall Mariel’s usual choices. So it will be that nice fluffy comforter for my sister and some country-themed knick knacks for some others. Oh Mariel I really wish you were with me at the shopping center because only you knew my mom’s real dress size. Its one of those things that continue to be a mystery to me.

The night nevertheless closed surrounded by frenzied midnight shoppers and unavoidable Christmas muzak. It was a scene straight out of an SM commercial. And I had never felt so alone in my life. It was as surreal as it could get. Because it had just hit me that I may not have my Mariel with us on this Christmas day.

I miss you Mommy so much. I promise to be home for you this Christmas. Please promise to be somehow there for us too. We love you so much. Merry Christmas.

For Mariel- Sam plays “Annie”

December 15, 2007 was the red-letter day for Mariel. She had looked forward to seeing Sam perform as Annie in her school community theater (Assumption METTA). Sam was playing “Annie” in Annie the Musical. Unfortunately as most of you already know Mariel had to leave us to join our Lord Jesus in heaven last Sept. 20, 2007.

Sam’s performance last night, more than anything was a tribute to her mommy’s love. For Mariel had brought up Sam to work on her gifts and to share them with others, just as she did. Mariel was a giving person and last night was Sam’s turn to give a little back to her beloved Mommy. I know Mariel would have been very proud and happy to see Sam’s rendition of Annie at Assumption. I know she was with us. I had reserved a seat beside me for her at the theater. As usual, it’s one with the best view. For the best mom in the whole wide world.

We miss you so much Mommy and we love you forever. — Daddy and Sam

Mariel’s Favorite Things

I’ll stick to the Top Twenty favorite things of Mariel. Sorry, can’t keep it to just 10. By the way, I’m doing this for the most part so that our Sam will someday remember what her mom was like– a superbly talented and loving person who could have been anything she wanted to be. But chose instead to devote her life to caring for our only daughter and me. She was a one-of- a- kind mother and wife. I really hope many more people could have known her.

Back to the list, I’m sure I’ll miss a couple, so friends please help me out. Add those you might recall. ( This one’s not in any particular order. I’m just putting them up as I get to remember them )

1. Anything in the color violet, lilac or purple– this applies to almost everything from clothes, bags, umbrellas, decor, eye makeup, electric fans and coffee mugs. A color fit for royalty, a color fit for my princess.

2. Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep- This one’s contributed by Sam. She had asked her mom to fill up her diary with her list of favorite things just last July. I often kidded Mariel that I myself kinda look like Brad. She cringed a lot. I saw however a lot of Meryl’s “sympathetic” eyes in her. Mariel was best described as one who’s very soft-hearted.

3. Leather Bags- She was famous for having impeccably matched bags with her attire. She asked me to get her some during trips abroad. Laptop bags, leisure bags, handbags, she’s got it all. I’d say she had enough to match Imelda’s collection. (Sorry Mariel just kidding)

4. Shoes of all shapes– Of course what good are nice bags without nice shoes. Mariel made frequent trips to CMG et al and always had an eye for coming sale events. She can write a book about this. I must admit she’s got taste and the best legs and feet in the world to boot. I swear.

5. Clothes, clothes, clothes- Clothes were her passion too. She was once considering to put up a boutique that catered to children’s clothes. She’s got talent and the knowledge for this. I know she would have done very well.

6. Spaghetti, T-bone steak, Nuts, Tibuk- tibok, Mango and Pomelo- Food glorious food. I must explain, tibuk- tibok is the kapampangan version of maja blanca, a pudding- like dessert made with carabao’s milk. And also spaghetti is best from Pancake House and T- bone at medium well. “Mangan naka”.

7. Floral- scented perfumes- The “flavor of the month” was Estee Lauder’s Pleasures Intense eau de parfum spray for women. It’s website described it as “seductive, extremely lush floral, with low notes of vanilla and maple”. Of course Mariel shared the love by getting me a matching Pleasures Intense for men. Lately however, I’ll find myself spraying a bit of her fave scent just to trigger memories. Oh Mommy, I miss you so.

8. Literature, Poetry- She liked Shakespearean sonnets, Jeffrey Archer despite his bad political choices and just about any printed matter. She taught Sam the value of reading books, and that’s why she does very well in school. Of course, this is also probably the reason why Mariel wrote well. Please check out “In Mariel’s Words” category in this blog for examples of this.

9.Text and Email jokes- She had a good sense of humor (not like me). She sent me txt jokes on my mobile phone and email jokes too. She sent one to me the day before we went to the hospital. It was about being married and stuff. That one stays in my Inbox forever.

10. Leg and Foot Massages- I gave her these as often as I can, to relax her or put her to sleep. I wish I had done more.

11. Home Decorating and Crafts- She was truly amazing at this work. I had mentioned before how well she had ran our household. She kept a spotlessly clean and beautiful home that is truly worthy of  a place in “Homes and Gardens”. She had a knack for eclectic matchings and was fearless with colors and prints. She also did a couple of papier tole art that will always be part of our bedroom.

12. Sinatra, Broadway, Classical music- Ol’ Blue eyes rules. Sinatra was always on heavy CD rotation. Mariel loved the romantic era. That’s why she applauded when Rod Stewart made the wise “move” and Buble etc. She also had complete Broadway original cast recordings of all the great ones. She had the biggest influence on Sam’s musical theater leanings and abilities.

13. Fresh Flowers- I could never devote enough space for her love of flowers. Stargazers, Tulips, Mums, Roses that made her day. Now I had set up a crusade to always honor her love for God’s beautiful creations.

14. Children and Cute babies- Mariel loved children and children loved her back. I was really amazed at how she was always the favorite of her little nieces and nephews. She connected with them in a genuine way and was often rewarded with sincere hugs and kisses.

15. Lifestyle Channel, Wolfgang Puck, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Project Runway- Mariel spent time relaxing keeping the cable on the Lifestyle Channel. After all beautiful things are her dedication. She may love a little bit of the “tsismis” in some of the reality shows too. Who doesn’t?

16. CSI- Crime Scene Investigation, the series was her absolute TV favorite. She even got the DVDs before they hit Metrowalk. Las Vegas was tops, then New York and Miami. She however could not stand usual trite remarks written for the lead actor in the LV episodes.

17. Soft pillows and snuggling on cold December mornings- Look I love them too. But Mariel just loved being in bed with us on cold mornings talking of our dreams for Sam. I miss this a lot, she was my anchor and my compass. I still feel lost today.

18. Crash Bandicoot, Tetris and Super Mario- Even before I met her Mariel was already the Super Mario champion of Mandaluyong. When she was heavy with Sam, she spent hours on end mastering PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot. Which she actually did. Mariel excelled in anything she puts her mind into.

19. Jewelry- Who would not want some diamonds. Unfortunately, I gave her teeny- weeny ones for our “wedding engagement”. Pearls too were her love. She wore them almost daily at work. She always told me that she was “collecting” these for Sam. She told me this two weeks before she passed away. Her most precious one however, was our simple gold wedding band which was never off her till the last. That says a lot to me.

20. 9- ball pool and Efren “Bata” Reyes- One would have never thought this. She never played the game but loved following Efren’s battles on ESPN. It again showed that side of her that loved to cheer for the underdog. She was always all heart.

( I will end tonight with Efren’s youtube clip of one of his “magical” pool shots that Mariel and I had watched so many times. I’m sure Mariel’s watching now. I love you Mommy, Good Night. )

Happy Birthday Mama!

Mama with Mariel and us at Disneyland

Today, December 8 is Mama’s Birthday. Mama is none other than my mother, Concepcion “Conchita” Bello, of course Mariel’s favorite mother-in-law. (The favorite part is a private joke between them and is maybe worth retelling one of these days). You know, Mama was more than an “in-law” to Mariel. She had in fact considered Mama as her own mother, especially when her own mommy passed away a few years ago. Any happy news or event was never complete without her being able to share it with Mama. Mariel never failed to call Mama on the phone to “report” whenever Sam had received some notable commendation in school. More than that, she was also Mama’s personal fashion consultant and was always asked to tag along numerous clothes-shopping trips to give that all-important second opinion. As far as I can recall, except for a few awkward moments when Mariel and I were newly-weds, the two of them always got along very well. They oftentimes literally provided stereoscopic critiques of my many, many bad business moves. Even conspiring to keep me off my beloved high- cholesterol diet. They loved each other genuinely. That’s why I ended up loving them both doubly.

I’m sure Mariel would have been first to greet Mama a happy birthday today. So I had decided to share with you a short tribute which Mariel read to Mama two years ago on the occasion of her 70th Birthday. So, to Mama, this one’s for you. Always remember that we all love you always and that we appreciate much how you have constantly looked after us even to this day. Happy Birthday Mama! (To our international readers, please bear with the many expressions in our Filipino language. We will try to translate some of these for you sometime. The article was never really intended to be shared with a wider audience but we thought it may be a fitting tribute today to these two exceptional women.)

(UPDATE: Mama joined Mariel in our heavenly home on October 2010. They are both terribly missed)

CONCEPCION VENTURINA BELLO: A WOMAN FOR ALL SEASONS

By: Mariel Gina F. Bello

Why do I call her a woman for all seasons? Well it’s because she’ll always there for us in all seasons of our lives and when I speak of “us”, I am referring not only to us her children but to everybody else in this room and even to those who could not be with us tonight.

              She is there in the spring of our lives, when we feel happy or excited about something, when we are about to embark on something new, whether a job, the coming of a new member of the family- a baby or a spouse or a new suitor maybe- we always felt the need to share the news and the events with her. We are happy to share this feeling with her because she genuinely shares the feeling – “kinikilig” din siya pag may bagong suitor and sometimes even acts as a matchmaker.

               She is there in the summer of our lives. When we are at the height of our career, when we do well in school or business or simply running the household and taking care of the family well, she’s always there to congratulate us and tell us we’re doing a fine job. She basks in our glory and is eager to tell everybody of our achievements.. It is not uncommon for us to hear her say, “heto ang manugang kong cardiologist”, or ang apo kong pinakamarunong sa klase, ang kapatid kong director sa ATO, etc.,etc.

               She is there in the autumn of our lives. When things and situations are not going our way, she is there to listen to our woes and drama sa buhay. Daig pa niya si tiya Dely sa dami ng problemang narinig niya and sa dami ng taong pinayuhan niya. When we’re sick, una pa natin siyang tinatawagan kaysa sa doctor. Well of course lately, humina ang practice niya kasi may ka-compitensya na siya na talagang doctor. But if you shoud see her, murmuring on the phone – it just means nagpre-prescribe na naman siya pero mahina lang kasi baka marinig ni Baguie. Para ka na ring pumunta sa doctor kasi tatanungin ka muna ng symptoms, then kung kailan nag start, ilang araw na. The dun pa lang siya magpre-prescribe. Minsan, pag sinuswerte ka, may libre pang gamot ang consultation. If being a full-fledged doctor were only based on the number of testimonies ng napagaling niya, eh matagal na natin siyang dapat na tinawag na doktora.

And finally, she is there in the winter of our lives. When things are really looking bleak and there is no where else to go, she joins us in our prayers for whatever is ailing us. She is there to console, to listen, to lend a shoulder to cry on. She helps in whatever way she can. She is incomparable sa tiyaga niyang magbantay sa ospital ng maghapon, sa pakikiramay sa namatayan, or in just simply visiting a brother to offer companionship.

She is a woman for all seasons because she too had gone through and weathered the best springs and worst winters one can go through. Some of her best springs were when she was hailed as one of Isabela’s budding beauties- of course with brains to boot and when she had her three children, Bong, Toots and Alma.

All of us know that her worst winter is when Papa had a stroke and she was tasked to care and provide for the entire family. She was a plain housewife with no job, with a husband to take care of and 3 children to send to school. If she were made of lesser stuff, she would have succumbed to self-pity and would not have known what to do. But God in his infinite wisdom knew that He can give this woman her cross because He had blessed her with an indomitable spirit. Mama had to go on and go on she did. She used her gift of gab to sell jewelry. She was a very good salesperson, might even make you buy a bridge from her (joke lang). But seriously, she managed to keep house and provide for her family’s needs through sheer determination and a lot of prayers. To this day, she tells me na napalaki niya sila Bong na hindi nanghihingi kahit kanino. Her children turned out to be responsible, decent and kind individuals who can only wish to emulate her ways in raising their own families.

They say that when one marries, she marries not only her husband but his entire family as well. I am glad to belong to this family and am happier to have mama as a mother-in-law. At first, I was a bit apprehensive because of what she might think of me. Will I be good enough for her Bong? At first, I thought that nobody will, in her eyes, be good enough for her favorite son. But that was in the beginning when we didn’t know each other well and nangangapa pa kami pareho. But as time went by, I found out she can be the kind of mother-in-law that a daughter-in-law can treat like her very own mother. Oh di ba mama, ako ang favorite mong manugang, may kadugtong nga lang, favorite na manugang na babae dito sa Pilipinas (as if meron pang iba na ganun ang description). Just shows you how wacky and witty she can be. I love watching her in parties, being the center of attention, telling stories, nagpapatawa. Bong, noticing that I have been looking would tell me, O si mama, bumabangka na naman. She really is in her element during such gatherings.

I have lost my mommy last year and I still miss her a lot. But what eases the pain is knowing I still have a mama here with me who treats me like her very own. Mama, there were times that I know that you feel na parang we do not mind you as much but please know that we may not say it often, but deep in our hearts “WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH”. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE WOMAN FOR ALL SEASONS AND FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS.