We Choose To Be Happy

Dearest Mommy,

The night before did not help. It was rainy, gloomy and stressful. After all, what better forebodes the events of when time had stood still, than this, the day you left us for our heavenly home.

September 20, 2007.

Twelve years have passed but still the pain is felt deeply. It was so unexpected and truly tragic. At the center of it all was your precious, little daughter Sam. She was your everything. She was all your hopes and dreams. She was your greatest source of joy and happiness.

So tonight, while Sam and I pray and remember, we choose to talk about the happiest times with you we recall. Sitting on our bed reading a book together, Sundays at Shangri-La mall, playing dress up games with Sam’s dolls. The simple times spent with you were the most memorable. The picture above however for me, was your moment of incandescence. No words can completely describe the feeling you had holding baby Sam in your arms.

Today we remember the happy times. We remember your life with boundless love and gratitude.  You are too beautiful to be ever forgotten.

Love from us,

Bong and Sam


– Sent from my cheap, Android phone 🙂

Pilgrimage to Love


“We always have a tendency to see those things that do not exist and to be blind to the great lessons that are right there before our eyes.” Paul Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Dearest Mommy,

It’s been eleven years today when you had to leave us for the Lord’s garden. It has been a long, lonely eventful journey. Oftentimes I wasn’t very sure I’d make it. But your love and abiding legacy, our daughter Sam, had pulled me through. She gives me your strength as I hold her hand every time I say good night.

I actually think of these past years as a pilgrimage, my pilgrimage to your love.

The way of a pilgrim has afforded me a lot of time for reflection. To experience every bit of those sharp, tiny rocks along the road. And hounded by the sun, the moon, the stars, and howling winds of desolation and despair, there is not much choice but quiet acceptance and stoicism. We learn to take the bad with the good.

In a way it’s been one half penance and equal part seeking closure, because some things are just truly hard to explain or understand. But while travelling had taken me to very, very far corners, it’s literally been just eventually coming home to myself. Back to where I started, although bruised, and a little wiser.

I’ve learned many things with my journey. Mostly about my lack of mindfulness. I’ve often wondered why you chose to live your life with me when you had everything going for you when we first met. You had the world as your oyster. You could have selected a worthier person. But instead you chose me.

There are no poetic answers. I had realized that you had simply loved me.

Now I truly understand what it means to love because you have shown me how. I’ve been a selfish pr**k all these times. You showed that love was never meant to please the giver. It’s always sent through a one- way street without any expectation of getting anything back. It’s loving someone despite their imperfection. And, you had loved because you simply are. It may not make sense to all, but I believe I had finally got it.

My life these days are filled with making memories for our daughter. In between the aches of ageing, I do my best to keep up with her new passions. If it’s not K- Pop or writing papers for UP NCPAG class, Sam and I just blaze across the food trails of Maginhawa Street. I was even surprised to learn that she does not have very many recollections of spending time with me growing up. I was maybe there but not really there. I was too engrossed with my many hobbies. I had left all the parenting to you. Now I try to make up for all the lost time. But I know she will do well with wherever her heart takes her, because she has your strong will and persistence. I still do however stare at her forehead at night and can see you beside, haha. We still miss you both very, very much. Every single day at least. One day we’ll have our reunion at our heavenly home. And I can then be the less imperfect husband that you had so much deserved.

I love you with all my heart and soul. Pray for us even as we pray for you too. Time moves on, but one thing remains the same, you have always been the perfect one. 

Au revoir,


You Can Count on It

Mommy and Sam in BK

Dearest Mommy,

I’m not a bit surprised when many people seem to tune out whenever I start talking to them about you. I guess most of them have already heard my many stories before. I do admit I tend to ramble on and on sometimes. I know that I may be sounding by now like a broken record, but I can’t help it because I want more people to know about your love and kindness. It has been ten years today since you had left ahead for our heavenly home. Does not really feel it’s been that long. (But then what can one really expect from a broken man.)

To me, those moments when we had laid you to rest at Heritage are still as vivid as yesterday’s sunrise. I can even remember looking at the overcast sky that fateful day, and wondering if God had been a little sadder that day. I also remember fidgeting in my ill- fitting pants, staring into the wide unknown.  I recall promising you then, as I do now, that I will make sure to give all my best to your beloved “chung-chung”– Samantha. She is after all, the ultimate personification of our love and our hopes.

Sam is now in her second year in college. She has started to test the boundaries of her independence. But she has every so often, counted on me to still cover for her when she “suddenly” forgets some very important school work. Don’t you remember how often we had to drive back to AC when she was in grade school, because she had invariably left behind some notebook at home. I could not however, get myself to get mad at her during those inconvenient times because I knew you would have done anything for her in a heartbeat. She was your pride and joy, and also she had reminded you a lot about me.

Looking at myself now, I know I was never a perfect husband. There were so many things I regretted not having done for you. Didn’t I say that you’d see those beautiful castles in Germany one day? That would have to wait a while. Of course, I could have also said more about how much I had loved you when I had the chance. So now I just try to do it every night with Sam before we sleep. You deserve that at least, for being the perfect wife that you were.

People may tire about my circular reminiscences. But I will never tire about telling them and the world what a lucky bastard I was to have been a part of your life. You are a truly special and beautiful person who has shown us what it is to love unconditionally. For this, I will forever try to prove myself worthy of your love.

I know you hear me Mommy. I love you and would someday like to continue on those conversations we could have had. (Always pray for your daughter too, she loves you dearly in many other ways.) And until that time, Sam and I will both try to live the life you would have wanted for us. You can count on it.

With love and fondest remembrances,


Wish You Were Here


Dearest Mommy,

I will never forget waiting for Sam on the top of the stairs at U.P. “Bahay ng Alumni” on her first day at the university last August. It was a very rainy afternoon and I had for the very first time dared to let go and give her the chance to find her place in the wider world.

There were many anxious moments, especially when for quite a while, I couldn’t reach her phone. I already had wild ideas of bandits lurking in dark corners. Imaginings brought perhaps by my loneliness and the stark reality I had no one else but her to remind me of the love we had once shared. We had hoped too that someday she becomes all the best things we can only dream of for ourselves.

So I could not help but shed a tear, as I saw her walking a long way to get to the steps at the Alumni Center. I knew she was very tired and confused with a brave new world facing her. And I had wanted so much to come to her rescue as I often do when she stumbled when she was very young. But I also knew that I had to “let her step to the music that she hears” and dance to the beat of her own drum. I knew you had looked forward to this day with Sam in U.P. But I also somehow knew that you were never really far away, for your love was with us at that moment.

It’s been 9 years since that unimaginable day in September. I had grown much older and hopefully a little wiser. But as I had promised you then, as I promise you now, that I will make sure that your dreams will live on through our daughter. She is in many respects, all the best that you were. I still watch her sleeping and see you there. You have never really gone.

Thank you again for the love you had shared with us. You will never be forgotten because you are too beautiful a person to ever forget. We love you so very much and we will love you forever. Please watch over us, as we find ways to always be worthy of your love.

We love you so much Mommy.

With all my love,





Light from the Darkness

Mariel and Sam in Baguio

Bong’s Note: It’s 8 years since. Feels like only 8 weeks, or even 8 seconds sometimes. It will never be the same again but I’d like to believe that some light can be drawn from all the darkness. Thus, I share this short piece from Sam which she had written for the required ‘personal statement’ in her College application. Yes, she’ll be going to college next year, but she will always be our baby. We love you Mommy forever, more than any blog can imagine.

How Darkness Can Bring Light
(An Essay by Samantha Bianca F. Bello, August 2015)

“In the early morning of September 20, 2007, I received the most devastating news of my life – one that probably changed me permanently, and defined what I am today.

My dad woke me up to tell me that my mom had just died. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. Ten days earlier, she was just fine – the healthy, loving, and doting person she always was. She had been stricken by a rare and cruel sickness called Interstitial Lung Disease. This was a kind of autoimmune disorder that was impossible to predict and didn’t seem to have any cure. I didn’t know this at the time. All I knew is that she had some kind of flu, and that we’d be going home soon. However, I was horribly wrong.

Just like that, the light of our home had been extinguished. It wasn’t easy dealing with this. In fact, the days that followed all seemed to be a blur. There was a kind of void created in our lives that can never be replaced ever again.

The first thing I learned from it all was the value of the acceptance of God’s perfect plan. We may not know why things happen the way they happen, but we have to trust in Him anyway. No matter how bad things get, He cares for us through people and circumstances that come into our lives.

I also learned humility. In the days that followed, I was cared for by my grandmother and my aunt while my dad was grieving. I learned to receive help from other people with gratitude. Through this, I learned we cannot do everything ourselves, and we must realize our human limitations. No matter how self-sufficient you think you are, there will always come a time that you will have to rely on your neighbor to get you through.

I’ve always thought that my mom would be around forever. I thought that she would be there to provide for my every need. However, things had to change. I had to understand that I had to do certain things on my own. I was proud of myself for receiving academic honors, but I was so sure this would come to an end because my mom was no longer there with me by my side. Somehow, I was able to keep my class standing through hard work, persistence and the belief that my mom would be proud of what I’ve done on my own. I actually did it for her.

Then, there is courage – the strength to carry on even when we are unsure that success is guaranteed. I have learned that nothing comes to you easily. There will be challenges, but these challenges can be overcome through a strong faith in God and hope that there is something better for us if only we push ahead. There was a time when I was frightened to go back to school, and I constantly wanted to go home and avoid activities that normally reminded me of my former life. However, I was able to conquer this by focusing on each day as it came, and it’s been 8 years since that fateful day.

I learned to value family, friends, and the time we spend with them. Some things are temporary, so I find time to hug my dad every day and thank him for the love and care he’s shown me every step of the way. I also learned to say thank you to my cousin, Trisha, who has learned to be more understanding of my teenage ups-and-downs. I cherish my friends, and the time we spend together watching movies, laughing at almost nothing, and telling stories about each other. I love them all.

I am an only child. I had never been good at sharing – until one day, I realized how much I had received in my relatively young, but eventful life. I consider myself lucky for having so many blessings that when the time came to organize something for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, I felt free to give away some of the precious little things I’ve collected over the years. I know this is a small step, but I promise myself to give more and more whenever I can.

I have so much more to realize in life, but if there is one thing I really believe from all I’ve gone through, it’s living life for a purpose. I used to think I was so unlucky, but then I now see that all the unfortunate circumstances I’ve been through were meant to prepare me for something bigger than myself.

I am not completely sure about why God had decided to take my mom away at my young age, but I’m pretty sure that all the challenges that came after that gave me the strength to pursue my dreams and to discover my real purpose in life – which is to make God and my mom proud.”

Seven is a Good Number to Remember


Dearest Mommy,

In Math, the number seven is called a happy prime. It is one of those numbers that is both ‘happy and prime.’

To others, seven it seems has come to represent completion. There are many examples of this even from our Bible. Some even refer to it as the number of perfection.

And these thoughts are why the promise of today’s anniversary sounds a bit dissonant to me now. For I still find myself nowhere happy, nor near completing many of the things I know you would want me to do.

I however want you to know that I really am trying hard and somewhat already on my way. It is the least I can do to honor your love and everything you stood for. Most of which is about making sure that Sam grows up to be the best she can be. I’d be happy for her to be just even half of the beautiful person you were, you are. And I never tire about reminding the world about this.

By the time you may be reading this, which I guess in heavenly terms would probably be a blink away, I would have finally found the courage to pack away your things I have left untouched at our Mandaluyong home since the fateful day. I’ve avoided doing it or visiting our once lovely home often because they will make me sad. But grief I guess truly is the price of love. I take some pride however today in being able to start ‘donating’ your things to those who may need them more, as you always like to do before. (I may even ask Mang Tom, our neighbour, if he could help ‘rescue’ some of them. Our street in Sto. Nino has never been the same since you left.)

I would however keep a few mementoes for myself.  To simply remember, like your favourite pajamas, perfume and Jeffrey Archer pocketbook.

The years have not been too kind to me. But it seems that remembering is one of those I am still good at, especially when it’s about you.

Like, I have not forgotten your love for Gershwin, or those magnificent castles in France. On reading up on Shakespeare or watching the Lifestyle Channel on TV. With catching up on Efren Bata Reyes even when I know that you never once held a pool cue in your life. On snuggling happily in bed on those cold rainy nights. And collecting things that come in purple, or hunting new DVDs. In eyeing new bags and shoes, and designing that next Christmas tree. And talking about your dreams for Sam, and our growing old together. Watching waves, sharing jokes, eating out, reading a book, talcum on your feet, Estee Lauder, and Dendrobiums, I can go on and on and on, because they keep me wishing and hoping. For that day, we could just continue from where we last left off. I know that day will come.

I miss you terribly Mommy, especially now. I am not sure I will ever be good at this moving on thing. But I try, I will keep trying. Because I know this will make you happy.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me Sam. Thank you for the life and love you shared. You are forever special. You will forever be in our hearts.

Seven is a good number to remember. We love you always Mommy.

Forever yours,


How Fast Does Love Travel?


It’s been another year Mommy. Three hundred sixty five days, or rather three hundred sixty five nights of missing you still.

 Sam and I pray each night and  wish you good night like always. We simply wish you all the love our human brains can manage to imagine and send them across the heavens and the universe. We pray too that these would reach you somehow, because we hold on to God’s promise of one day sharing our heavenly home with you. So now I wonder how fast can our love really travel to you.

On the other hand, time travels fast, as it loves to do. Sammie is grown now, and is no longer the little girl we once had so many dreams planned for. She has started now to make dreams of her own, as I only wish that I’d still be there somewhere too. She is independently-minded and sometimes a little headstong, but who really was not at her age. In many ways, she is a lot like you, iron-willed yet willing to follow, pragmatic yet overflowing with compassion. So that’s why I miss you even more today.

I also look at our old photographs together and see how much older I’ve become. The seasons  it seems have not been very kind to me. I only wish I can photoshop a few wrinkles in you too, if only for a few moments of make-believe, imagine that you are still there with me. But I shall always remember you in your perfection, forever young and beautiful as the day I first met you at the Gourmet Cafe.

With regard to the moving on thing. You know I try to keep pushing forward, although sometimes it feels like Sisyphus up the mountain. I will try to be brave and hopeful if only because of Sam. Please do hold my hand  through these and replace my fears with  your comforting embrace.

I have many times asked to hear your voice even for just one more time; I haven’t had much success with that. But I have lately also realized that maybe you actually continue to speak to me. Through the stories about us that I hear from your friends, through your old birthday cards, through your poems and letters, through your funny but insightful jokes, through your purple- colored knick-knacks, and of course, through your life of grace, beauty and love.

Sam and I love you Mommy, now and through eternity. Please always remember that.

So then how fast does love travel? Surely faster than a hearbeat, faster than the waves of your beautiful memories, even faster than and as often as I can whisper your name each night.

(I always come back to this video just to remember and get a good cry)