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.
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 )
It’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.
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”
We had a simple commemoration of the 40th day of Mariel’s passing last October 29. We had Holy Mass said by Fr. Ginu from India and had dinner with friends and family at Lexington clubhouse. It was also a time to thank all those who had helped us through our time of great sadness.(as I now also take this opportunity to say “Thank you” to all of you who were “there for us”. I’m so humbled by all the care, kindness and comforting embrace)
By Christian tradition, “Forty Days” is the time when we affirm that Mariel has finally joined our Lord Jesus in heaven, as He did himself ascend to be with the Father for the same number of days after Easter. This is a central belief for us Christians as it promises that we are after all, merely “passing through” this life on Earth. And that we are really meant to re-join one day Jesus and those we love in our real home in heaven.
I hold on dearly to this belief. Because someday at God’s chosen time, I too will be called to join Him and to again be with my Mariel. I await that time with deep hope and yearning. For on that day I will again touch her face and tell her that at last we can have each other for eternity. Please wait for me Mariel, my love, and prepare that place for us, as you have always done so well.
It’s Saturday, Oct. 27 and I’m at the office finishing up on some work as well as tending to “Mariel’s Garden”. Sam’s away with my sister Alma doing trick or treating somewhere in Pasig. Every year, Mariel prepared for “the” Halloween event. Last year, she personally designed Sam’s Cruela De Ville outfit. Before that, it was Belle and characters from the Disney portfolio. It’s all for fun and games. And the chance to dress up the “doll” of her life, Samantha. Mariel was very creative with costumes and stuff. Well actually, she was good with just about everything. Decors, crafts, clothes, writing etc. I even hate to admit it but she was way more creative than me, and I’m the one that actually does it for a living.
This year, Sam’s outfit will be of the “witchy” kind, courtesy of Tito Baguie, who had picked this costume in a recent US trip. Everyone has been so kind and helpful to us both, trying to ease Mariel’s absence now from our lives. We truly appreciate all the love and care we have received.
But while Halloween too shall pass, it will never the same at least for me. For I no longer have Mariel to “tease” about having some-other- kid’s-costume- as- being- nicer than Sam’s. Or having a rare, special day spent with just the two of us as Sam’s out trick or treating for the rest of the afternoon with her cousins. Instead I’m alone at the office, flailing at my old computer, grasping at fleeting memories and wishing I had Mariel beside me now to say, I love you “Mommy”.
Happy Halloween everyone.
Mariel had always looked forward to planning Sam’s yearly Birthday celebrations. It was mostly coming up with fantasy themes like Kim Possible, Winx Club etc. and would have a nice excuse to make Sam wear some unique and colorful costumes. Or worrying about some clown or emcee that preoccupied Mariel on those June days. Surprisingly, this year however, she suggested doing something different. She proposed instead, for us to go on a trip together. It was an “expedition” to Singapore that coincided with the annual “Great Singapore Sale”. Those who knew Mariel know how much she loved to shop. I also wished this one so she could “relax” a bit, as she had been unusually busy at work in past months. I then made quick arrangements ( just a day before our trip) with the travel agent and off we were to our Great Singapore adventure.
It wasn’t our first trip out of the country together. Since about two years earlier we also brought Sam to the US for the usual Disneyland, Universal and Statue of Liberty jaunt. Back then, we had traveled with my mother – Conchita, who was quite close to Mariel. Uncommonly, this time however, Mariel wanted our travel to be an exclusive one. I even partly resented the idea thinking that we could have more fun with a bigger party.
Of course, I did not know that in about three months later, Mariel will no longer be with us. Had I in some way known this, then I would have done more to treasure our every moment in this trip. I would have taken more pictures of the two of us together.(I got only one). I would have taken more time having that leisurely breakfast at Wisma. I would have made sure to be with her more in her shopping excursions rather than waste time on my own selfish bargain-hunting. For in the end, all I had left are the memories, random snapshots and a deep regret that maybe I should have been more mindful of the “clues”.
Things like, Mariel not buying anything for herself despite the great lure of “the” sale. She had bought tons of presents for everyone but left out her own wishlist.Very puzzling. She had made sure that Sam enjoyed the Sentosa attractions even if it meant braving some rainy Singaporean episodes. She had even wanted me to have that fancy wristwatch I could only lust for at the watch store. She was giving me extra “attention” in the Singapore trip but I had not really taken notice. Maybe, because I’m was so used to her taking care of me. Because I had always known that we will someday grow “old and gray” together. Because I had always thought that we will have many more “Great Singapore” shopping trips to make.
And all I have now are these snapshots. I miss you “Mommy” so very, very much.
I just want to set the record straight. Mariel’s illness was not caused by any virus or something like it . It’s not something she caught in our recent trip abroad or acquired thru something she did or did not do. It’s not SARS, Bird Flu, not even TB. Mariel was healthier than just about most of us until something probably triggered the chain of events in her system.
I’ve been told that Connective Tissue Disease is simply her OWN antibodies deciding to stage a mutiny. The very same antibodies which are present in ALL of us, suddenly deciding to attack the very same person it was meant to protect. In this case, the love of my life, Mariel.
It’s a cruel disease because it gave no real warning. Unfortunately, its also something Medical Science has not really found a true “cure” for at the moment. At best, Medicine can just try to mitigate or slow down its harmful symptoms. I beg doctors who may be reading this to please jump in and enlighten us all on this dark, treacherous disease.
People have noticed that the color lilac and its siblings have always caught the eye of Mariel. Yes, you can check out her coffee mug, toothbrush and of course, her wardrobe and you’ll immediately see an obvious theme. Mariel’s well developed fashion sense however, does not preclude all the other lovely colors like pink, orange, red and apple green, all of which she adores too. But, Mariel it seems has a special fondness for this special shade of royalty. My princess loves everything about it. I used to kid her when we go window shopping that she can’t resist any blouse or dress in this color specially when its on sale. My very first gift to her in fact was a purple jewelry box ( without any jewelry, by the way) in that special color. I, of course, promised her to fill up the case with the desired content someday.
Today I remember her purple jewelry box, violet umbrella, lilac mini- electric fan and ube-tinted shades with special fondness and some sadness. My princess has now gone to the great purple paradise in the sky and I fervently wish I still could still add one more lilac- colored something to her collection. But alas, I could now only shed purple tears and hope to meet her as soon as God allows in our lilac garden and purple- themed house in heaven. I love Mariel.
I just received an email from my friend Mana ( Happy Birthday, Mana, its her birthday by the way). I found the article by Sally Kennedy thats been helpful and also very appropriate for Mariel’s Garden. Here goes:
By Sally I Kennedy
Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were
taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
The plant that “would grow anywhere” looked dead as a doornail. The
flowers behind it weren’t looking so good either. Limp and fading,
they appeared to be on their last leg, too. Ironically, the
surrounding weeds were thriving, growing great.
Fading, limp, wilting, or a goner. Have you ever felt this way, in
your spirit, body, or emotions? I’ve been there, and I have learned
the truth of the principle of being rooted in Christ.
This plant was sprayed with an insecticide, but the large dose burned
it. For us, circumstances, relationships, job situations, can batter,
or burn, us pretty good sometimes. That’s life.
On the surface, what is visible, is what I call “in the night”. Things
seem dim, cloudy, even dark. But God is not a God of confusion. No
matter what is going on, He is still sovereign, still watching over
you, and involved in every facet of your life, working all things out
for your good.
On either side of this burned-out plant are two sturdy, older bushes,
and the roots of the plant have grown deep down into the soil below.
This plant will come back. It will have fuzzy green leaves again. It
will have bold sunny yellow flowers.
Stay rooted and grounded in Christ. In Ephesians 3, Paul says, “May
your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.”
Persevere, no matter what. Hold on to the hem of Jesus’ robe, to His
mighty and powerful name. We will not only be survivors, but we will
That is good news.”
Thanks again Mana
When I first met Mariel, we would sometimes talk endlessly on the phone. Now I can share a dark, little secret, I used to sing her a cappella the beloved Joe Cocker song- “You Are So Beautiful”, over the phone. Do I hear yikes? ( I had this one sung to her at her wake by my good friend and artiste Binky Lampano and I will have that one posted as soon as I find time to edit, it’s as honest and magnificent as Joe’s.)
Mariel used to gush over my ugly, untrained voice and found it beautiful. I know she’s not tone deaf because she coaches my talented daughter Sam at singing. Somehow selective perception has kicked in then and she saw something she liked. That’s why I love her so, she has taken me with all my imperfections and made lemonade instead.
Mariel “you are everything I hoped for, you’re everything I need, you are so beautiful to me”. I know you are now in God’s bosom. One day we will meet again and I will sing your song to you.
I loved Mariel so much. More rantings about Undifferentiated Connective Tissue wont bring her back. But, as much as it hurts retelling her illness, I must try to find out. So that others wont have to suffer. So others will stand a chance. Mariel would have google- searched till she gets an answer. She is thorough. Saving others will surely make her happy.
Is low hemoglobin count a relevant marker or precursor for her sickness? She had this come out of her blood chem results consistently the last few months before she went to the hospital. But as usual she was asked to take Iberet or Iron supplements and come back after 4 weeks. Just asking?
It was 12 midnight and I was at our Makati office pounding away on the internet when I got a “page” ( pre-yahoo messenger, this meant an instant message sent by one user to another within the same ISP- Internet Service Provider). And all it said was “Hi Mon, how are you?”. I was surprised since I never liked the idea of paging and did not even know user- “omni”. It turned out that omni or Mariel was actually paging my good friend Mon Ser who at one time used my internet account to page some users on the net probably expecting to lure young, nubile women ( just kidding, Mon). It turned out too that Mariel had just received her computer from repairs that day and was thus offline for quite sometime. She had merely wanted to test the machine. What happened next was probably cooked up in heaven, because we ( Mariel and me) both will not be able to explain to this day why it just happened.
I said to her that “this is not Mon and I am Bong and Mon is away on a business trip to Jakarta. She said why on Earth was I at the office working at past 12 midnight. Well I said I was actually in the office licking my wounds because of a love relationship gone bad that day. Mariel being probably maternal as she can be started to console me. I instantly poured my heart out to a complete stranger and told all. (My daughter Sam will probably shriek in horror and say “eeew” at this confessional but this was the way it really happened). Mariel even then, did not try to preach, she just listened to my heartaches and rants with the patience of Mother Teresa. So that pages or online chats turned into emails that turned into long phone calls. A few months hence, on a lark I took a chance and sent her this email: ” you were once a bleep on the screen, now you’re a bleep in my heart”. I guess that sealed it because after a few more dogged attempts, Mariel agreed to meet me for the very first time.
Mariel of course being aware of internet fiends in the lurk, was also very cautious. At this point, while she had indeed shared with me her interests, hobbies, dreams and other life concepts, she had left out giving me any personal data such as, her last name, address, mobile number etc. And she thought it best for us to meet in full public view at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon at Gourmet’s Cafe at SM Megamall. But… not until she finishes with her MBA final exams. (You know the recurring theme with Mariel is that she will start on something new only after making sure to complete any pending task. As such, she has learned to stick to important priorities at the expense of hedonistic pursuits. Of course, you can look at the opposite end of that spectrum and find old bohemian me).
On that day in May, having prepped her by asking her to watch out for a Keannu Reeves lookalike (it’s about the hair thing in “Matrix” the movie), I was able to get her to give me her cellphone number just in case I got lost. Fiendishly, I had planned to dial her mobile number from afar, look first and check if I liked what I saw, and make a great escape if I did not. Necessarily, I executed my plan with the precision of Seal Team Six.
I programmed the cellphone number for speed dial, I looked casually at the menu from outside “Gourmet’s Cafe” and secretly dialed the number. From the corner of my eye I saw someone waving at me. I looked and there was my Mariel. She asked if I was Bong. And as I approached sheepishly, she told me that she knew that I was the one calling and that was why, she wasn’t answering. I was floored, surprised, frozen in shame. For I was caught. Mariel was indeed more than a match for me. I had once thought that I was the best at the game. And there was this one person who conquered me “in style”.
And someone with a high sense of style, was also what best described Mariel. Aside from always being impeccably dressed and groomed, Mariel showed class inside and out. For she never once talked to me again about any of any of my online revelations during our married life. Never once did she use any of what I had told her before. Even at the height of our little arguments. She had real style. She was a decent person. But most of all, she had truly loved me very much. She took me warts and all for the frog that I was and turned me into her “prince”.
Mariel, my princess, I miss you now and love you so much. One day we will meet again and will never be apart forever.
Mariel loved flowers. She would try to have fresh blooms at our home whenever possible. She also loved to work with orchids at her mini pocket garden. Vandas, dendrobium, cymbidium and other exotic names gave her some bliss. For she had a way with plants and greenery. It was her caring and gentle nature that showed when she patiently arranges every twist and turn of some wayward stems. She would even just breath new life into a bunch that looked sad and somewhat dejected.
Of course, she cared for me and her daughter Sam very much more. Her caring and gentle nature came to surface as usual as she made us feel alright when we’re sometimes down. She however rarely called attention to herself. I was so clueless that she was starting to suffer from that strange “connective tissue” illness that took her from us. In the midst of this, she even arranged a short vacation to Singapore for the three of us and made us happier than ever.
I also later found out that she had orange “salsa” roses placed on her office desk almost everyday. Like her, orange roses represent energy and enthusiasm. Now I make sure to have these kind whenever I visit her resting place at Heritage Park. Flowers they say are a symbol of “welcoming”. They also perk you up and positively change your mood every time. I guess that also best describes my Mariel. She will cheer you up when you most needed it. That’s why we miss her so much. So we look to the flowers and remember that Mariel was the very best part of our lives.
(By the way, if you wanted to know, I only remember giving her some tulips once in our years together. She of course never complained, she was too busy taking care of me.)