Mariel’s Day

Of course, never a day passes that Sam and I do not remember Mariel’s love and cherished memories. But Saturday, September 20 was one we had specially marked to gather friends and loved ones to remember her on the day of her passing a year ago.

We would like to share this one with those of you who may not have had the chance to be with us on that day, but share our love and memory of a truly beautiful person.

We love you always Mariel.

Mariel My Wife

I fell for Mariel even before we actually “met”. Call it what you want, but I knew she was the ONE even before that fateful Friday at the Gourmet Cafe. The “affinity” we felt for each other was so strong that in spite of the short time we’ve known each other then, we had already shared many of our “well- guarded secrets”. For even Mariel who was normally cautious and deliberate surprised herself with this leap of faith. We had friends calling us soul mates and our relationship “karmic”. To me however Mariel was simply a gift to me from heaven. Because the more I think about it, why else will God want to match Mariel’s beauty with my unattractiveness, Mariel’s class with my crudity, Mariel’s selflessness with my self-absorption. God must have loved me somehow because I know I had not deserved such charity. But it was a gift too that I had not come to see in its totality save for now.

One of Mariel’s many outstanding traits was her great capacity to listen. She could make you feel you were in conversation even when you were the only one doing all the talking. In my case, she would always seem genuinely interested even with my obviously boring narrations. She made me believe I was smart when deep down I had secretly acknowledged that she was intellectually my superior. And she had made me look like the “genius” in the family, especially with my friends.

She can come across as “left-brained” but she was really also very intuitive. She could instantly sense if I was feeling low or if had something on my mind. She would not however pester me with “wanting to know”. Not until I was ready to share. She usually just hugged me and comforted me without saying a word. I miss those hugs today. So I just try to close my eyes now and get an awareness that she is still there for me.

Mariel never liked to talk about money. Or let me re-phrase that, never talked about my utter lack of it. We did not have a single argument about it in all our married life. She had just accepted what we have and did her best to make us live luxuriously comfortable within our means. This may have meant that she had to probably sacrifice the usually desirable “signature” girl stuff. But Mariel was creative as she was practical. While everybody thought she had those brand-name- of- the- stars wardrobe, she had actually just made up for it with great neatness and poise.

Mariel was also the most thoughtful and caring person I’ve ever known. She had maybe considered me as her “other baby” (next to Sam). Almost every day she’d bring home “something” for Sammy and me. Whether it was my favorite sweet food or DVD movie, she’s just basically telling me that she’s thinking about me all the time. She took care of me so much that I was “lost” when I had to buy a shirt for the first time after she’d been gone. I had not done that in a very, very long time. I also missed her packing my bag for me, when I had to go on those trips overseas. She did it lovingly, even making sure I had fresh “supplies” in my toiletries kit. She was constantly looking after me, and most of that I’ve only come to realize on hindsight.

Mariel was super-efficient in running our home. She had kept impeccable records of everything (she’s not a CPA for nothing). She kept track of bills, filed all the necessary statements etc. In fact, I was primarily its beneficiary when I had to produce all those arcane documents for the “system” after she left us for God’s garden. Then also, there’s our house which had become Mariel’s “canvas” for her love of home decoration. Mariel was happiest making our little place fit for “Better Homes and Gardens”. My only problem now is that I don’t think I have the heart to re-arrange her “masterpiece” and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I can really do a better job. (But I have to try because I know that’s what she wants).

Mariel also had a great sense of adventure. You could ask her to go on an impromptu hunt for some new restaurant or make an unplanned out-of-town trip (if we can afford it) to some exotic destination. She was always ready to support my short attention span and plainly go out on a limb for something untried or untested, especially if it would make me happy. As I’ve said before she was my fairy godmother, genie in a the bottle, full-time nanny, lover and best friend, who would follow me to the ends of the earth if she had to. For love? Oh, you bet.

So now while I admit that before I had cringed at the use of the “w” word, thinking its a bit “old-school”. I now advertise it so proudly. Mariel was my wife. For wife meant loving partner and greatest cheerleader. Wife meant the mother of my beloved daughter Sam. Wife meant the only one I can count on when I’m on my way “down”. Wife meant teacher of unconditional love and selflessness. Wife meant the person I’d like to be the one to meet me at the entrance to the “pearly gates”. So then maybe I should just ignore all the “b” about “till death do us part” and just say that, Mariel is my wife, always will.

Good night, Mommy.

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.