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.

Letter to Mariel, August 28, 2008

Dear Mommy,

These past few days have been particularly tough. I’ve been really missing you a lot. I don’t know if its the anticipation of your coming “anniversary” next month that has been weighing down on me or just the relatively bleak weather this week. But I’ve really been thinking about you so much (and crying more than usual). Mostly it’s about feeling sorry about how the world has been robbed of your beauty and kindness by that cruel sickness. And also about being caught unawares by it all.  Yes I know I’ve been through this internal conversation many, many times these past months. But still, I cannot get over the fact that I’m here, and you’re… there. It was never like anything I had planned or imagined for us. I’m sure you’ll ask me to PRAY more right now. I think I really need to do that. And that’s why I guess you’re the real angel and I’m not. (Ok, let’s just say, I’m still a “work in progress”). I’ll maybe just need to hold on to all the wonderful memories we had shared.

By the way, I tucked Sam in bed the other night and I just can’t help but realize how much she has started to look like you. I mean many people say she is little Bong (or “Bang” as Lola Mommy would often call her). But to me, she is absolutely little Mariel. (and fortunately too, she has your nice skin). And she is really growing up so fast. Her “Ninang” Alma tells me she had to get her new size 8 shoes. I know the big feet came from me and her big “brain” from you. But I’ve now come to realize even more from where she got the big “heart” from. Because she never has anything nasty to say about anyone, much like you.

Lately, Sam has been into the music of young performers like the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato. (Yes I had to catch up on these stuff and watch with her those music videos on youtube so we can have something to talk about. I’d do anything for her, remember?). She has been doing well in school and I’ve been working too on making her more “independent”. Being able to think for herself and make decisions guided by the values you’ve brought her up with. I know I wont always be around so I’ll just have to equip her for life. She will always be our baby, our “Sammy”.

I promise not to revisit right now our travails at the hospital around this time last year. The memories are still way too painful to recollect. It still breaks my heart every time. Although I will someday try to visit those who had helped comfort us then at UST, like Dr. Lanee, and the others. If only to say thank you for their care and kindness. They did their best but God had other plans. I know He knows what was best for you most especially. I’m sure He loved you very much. So that while I still cannot fully comprehend what had happened, I will just try to humbly accept things. And pray that He will also grant me the chance to be with you again one day. I look forward to that time as the night longs for the first light of dawn. For only you can make me whole again .

I know you hear me now, Mommy. And though I was never good at telling you about these things then. I just like to tell you again that I love you so very, very much, just in case you still don’t know. I cannot find anyone else like you ever to complete me. So I guess you’re kind of stuck with me whether you like or not.

Please wait for me. I love you.

Eternally,

Bong

We Miss You Mommy

Sam as Hannah Montana
Sam as Hannah Montana

Dear Mommy,

I can’t believe that it’s almost 11 months since you left for God’s garden. I still miss you so much every day. In fact, many times I even half-expect that you’d be there when I get home from the office. And when those “tough days” come too, I wish so much that you’d still be there to listen to my lamentations. I miss having you tell me to take things in stride, with matching hugs and “Daddyyyy” trailing in the most pleasing “decrescendo” tones. Now I am lost in limbo hoping to wake up from some bad dream. But I know only too well that this is for real. And that my life will never be the same again. Or whole again.

Yesterday I had to accompany Sam to Joanna’s 7th Birthday party. I miss your having to dress her up for the “Rockstar” party theme part (Of course Alma and Mama made sure she got her costume). I miss your being there for her for the “Bring Me” game (you and Sammy always won). I miss that big smile from you when Sam had performed that short dance number with her cousins. I miss your coming out in your usual “best-dressed” style. I miss your being with me in “entertaining” the guests. You always knew how to be gracious and make good conversation. Now I just try to sit in a corner and pretend to take photographs. I miss coming home with you after a long day and just watching TV and snuggling on the bed. I miss your “reminding’ me to get up for Sunday mass or service. You know I miss just everything about you.

And I look at our daughter Sam today and I miss you even more. Because she is growing up to be like the fine and beautiful lady that you were/ are. I will miss you still eleven months or eleven years or eleven centuries from now. And I love you still so very much… We miss you Mommy.

With all my love,

Bong

Back To The Garden

They say that it’s time to go home when you start to look like your passport photo. I think I might have actually outdone myself. For the past three weeks have not only taken me away from my beloved “garden” but had literally robbed me of all energy to write even a couple of lines. Singapore moves at such a frenetic pace that it allows almost no room for introspection. The city is totally about commerce and completing that ever-present “to-do” list. I’m sure Mariel would have fared better because she was always organized and was unfazed with those corporate skirmishes. I however feel that I may be getting a bit too old for these “games”. And as some would say, “I’d rather go fishing”.

Being away however has made me again review my priorities. Why do I even have to sit staring at my computer in another nameless hotel room toiling on that to-do list. And more than ever, I had come to realize that it is simply all about my Sam. She is after all Mariel’s “life’s work” that I must today dutifully continue. She is all the best things her mother was. She is my life and my only hope. And I now must make sure she gets the best chance at life.

So while I’d really prefer to be somewhere else “fishing”, part of it now is just invariably working on that “list” and of course being away sometimes for Sam. At least I’m sure Mariel is never really far behind.

Good night, Mommy. I’m home.

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.

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.

It’s Sam’s Birthday!

It”s Sam’s birthday tomorrow, June 9. It’s also the first one that Mommy wont be with us to celebrate on this very important event for us. Well, I would like to correct myself. I know Mariel will be with us still, but only in ways that we’ve not had before.

For her birthdays, usually it was some creatively- staged children’s theme party that Mariel had tirelessly organized each year (see my most recent post). But the last one was different. As Mariel had suggested that for once we should try to spend it with only the three of us. At the drop of a hat, she had set up a short trip to Singapore for a family outing which had included a fun day at Sentosa resort . We were so tickled with the “scary” cable car ride then and had a nice time too at the entertaining pyro and laser show. I can even recall that it was raining hard when we arrived but simply nothing could have stopped Mariel from booking that one essential “package tour”. And I never saw it coming. For in about a month after we’ve returned from that vacation, Mariel will so suddenly fall ill.

I also remember her to be so unusually insistent that we made this Singapore jaunt. And that she had wanted Sam to fully enjoy her unique birthday treat. Although we’ve made other trips before, this one had, on hindsight, a burning sense of urgency for Mariel. She had even “orchestrated’ a mini-reunion at the Changi Airport with her brother Gerry and sister Joy who was merely passing through Singapore on a connecting flight to South Africa with her family at that time. It was another unusual but very memorable experience. Imagine meeting at the Airport visitor’s lounge at 1230 midnight for some much- needed bonding and coffee (only hours after we just arrived from Manila ourselves). But then maybe Mariel was really just “unconsciously” trying to squeeze in as much time with us as she can muster with an apparently slowly closing agenda. I will never really know for certain. But I am just really glad that she did it it again with her ever- efficient signature style. And that after all, she was just being herself and as predictably she was just again doing the “right things”.

If she was with us today, Mariel would have already arranged all the finer details of Sam’s little party tomorrow. She would have sent out the invites much earlier, planned the menu and ordered the cake and cute “loot bags”. Of course now, I have my mom and sister Alma who had so generously pitched in because they know I’m really poor at these things. But I also still miss Mariel’s presence because only she can provide that anticipated “order” in our lives.

But we’re not having anything “grand” for tomorrow though. Just your basic poolside get-together for some BBQ and games. And by the way, Sam wouldn’t have anymore of the standard kiddie stuff of yore as she is currently into NBB, Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus these days. She even requests a bit of some “rock star” accents to enliven the party if possible. Of course, I’d approve. Because I’m sure Mariel would’ve. And it’s such a tiny gesture to make. And assure Sam that nothing has intrinsically changed with her “connectedness” to her mom. For Mommy just can’t be with us “physically” on the big day. But still all the emotional and spiritual bonds remain strong. For the love Mariel has shared with us persists and endures through eternity.

To “Samanting”, Happy Birthday from Mommy, she loves you so very, very much.