Happy Father’s Day from Mariel

I would have been awakened today by Mariel’s gentle kisses and a nice, big box with ribbons and stuff. You see I always looked forward to this day because Mariel had allowed me the complete freedom to wish for anything today. Yes, I was so “spoiled” on Father’s Day. I would have customarily dropped “hints” some days before on what special little thing I might want for today and it had usually “materialized” in gift box on the day. Whether it was some “i”-something-gadget or another useless toy in my collection, Mariel would have taken pains to seek it out. But It was never really about just the gift. It was more like being able to tell me that she cared enough for things that I like and also another chance to say “I love you Daddy“, which was not something she had blurted about easily or took lightly.

But instead I woke to an aching foot because of another “gout attack” today amidst reveries of times passed and things that could have been. Nevertheless Mariel had left me an undated (so I can open it every year) greeting card that even played a tune from the 70s movie, Love Story, on the background. It was another gift. It might even probably deserve a separate post, but for now I’d like to share with you Mariel’s message to me. It was one with quotes from writer Linda E. Knight and it goes like this:

“To My Husband (and Very Best Friend) on Father’s Day.

We share a bond too deep for words and friendship I celebrate every day of the year. It feels so good to know you’re always there for me- listening to my dreams and being interested in my world…

The moments we spend together talking, laughing, and listening have made the years so special and given me a treasured gift of memories I cherish. We’ve been through everything together– pulling for each other and revealing strengths we didn’t even know we had. What really makes our family special is you- your sacrifice and support, understanding and faithfulness, strength and love. Though the years will bring changes, you will always be perfect in my eyes. Though life may bring challenges, you’ll always be first in my heart.

You’re the sunshine of my life, the hero in my world, and I love you very much. Happy Father’s Day, my love.– Mariel ”

Thank you too for always being there for me Mommy. I love you so very much.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommy

“Things are not always perfect between us, but you’re still the only valentine for me… Dear Daddy, Happy Valentine’s Day!  I love you, Mariel”

And so goes my last Valentine card from my love– Mariel. It was one I discovered serendipitously while running through her things after her passing. She kept every little memento between us, and now I can only treasure this one for as long as I live. I do believe it was Mariel reaching out across time and space to me.

Mariel was never overly sentimental about anything, or at least she did not display her feelings for the world to see, unlike me. Oftentimes, instead of blurting out “i- love- yous”, she would much rather remind me about watching my diet , lest I get another one of my gout attacks, or buy me another nice shirt. That was her way of telling me how much she cared for me, And that was my wife Mariel’s way of showing, how deeply she had loved me. I’m sure she knew too how much I loved her deeply. And it goes without saying that she will always be my one true valentine.

By the way, Sam and I have some special cards for you today Mommy, be sure to read them please. And always remember that you will forever be in our hearts. And that we longingly wait for the day that we can be all together again, and share our love through eternity. We love you so very, very, very much. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommy.

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.

“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.

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…”

On Mothers

“Lola Mommy” Aurora at our wedding reception

Mariel loved to write. She once told me that she really wanted to be a journalist, but her dad had prevailed upon her to take up Accountancy at the University of Santo Tomas instead. Don’t get me wrong, Mariel was a darn good CPA, but she really wrote very well, as someone said with such “gentleness”. For truly Mariel was a gentle person in every way. And this came out naturally through her writings.

She wrote the following short piece for their office newsletter for Mother’s Day last May 2007. It was about Mariel’s own mother- Aurora, but it never got published as it arrived a bit late for press time. Well, Mommy (as I lovingly call Mariel), it’s about time for the whole world to know what a great writer you were. And more importantly, what a good (and gentle) heart you’ve always had.

MOTHER By: Mariel Gina F. Bello

“Why do most people think that mothers live forever? Maybe because a mother seems to have super powers so it just follows that she must be immortal as well. Or maybe because we tend to think that since she has always been around it must follow that she WILL always be around.

I had been one of these types of people. I had always seen my mother the way I saw her since I was a child. I saw her as the strong woman who was able to raise nine children, send them to school and marry them off to raise families of their own. I saw her as a rock steadfast and hard in the face of adversities and as an anchor who kept me grounded and safe when I was feeling lost. I saw her as a teacher who painstakingly taught each of her nine kids to write their names and do their homework. I saw her as the kind neighbor who took two orphan girls under her care till their relatives were finally able to take care of them. I saw her as the epitome of what a proper lady should be – one who would never raise her voice or hand in anger. I saw her as a saint who’d go to her daily masses and communion; who’d say the rosary not once but several times a day; who’d have calluses on her knees from kneeling and who’d have several novenas and prayer books by her side so she could pray in her idle time.

Just as I saw my mother in various ways, there are as much things that I failed or refused to see. I refused to see the silver hair, the slower gait, the minor aches and pains normally associated with the elderly. I refused to see these things because being elderly bode of staring one’s mortality in the face. In my mind, my mother cannot and will not leave us – her children.

I failed to see the loneliness in her eyes whenever I had or found time to visit her. I failed to hear the yearning and longing in her voice when I had to hung up the phone after a short talk with her. I failed to see these things because I was too wrapped up in my own concerns. I have lost track of how many of her phone calls I did not return. My husband Bong used to ask me to call her up but I always tell him that I’ll do it later, when I’m not so busy anymore.

Now I’m not so busy anymore, but she’s no longer there to take my call.

Mariel is truly the “World’s Greatest Mother” in my book and in Sam’s. We love you Mommy.