A Bleep In My Heart

Mariel and me in San Francisco

It was on the Ides of March that  I had first “met” the person who had changed my life forever. She was to be my wife, my best friend, cheerleader, soulmate and ultimately, my redemption. For with her passing, she had made me into the infinitely better person I can only before dream as possible. For she had taught me how to really love. To love unconditionally and to find one’s happiness in the service of something greater than one’s self.  (I also believe that she continues to offer her faithful guidance to our only daughter Samantha today.)

To my dear friends who had followed this blog… our story, I wish to again reiterate my eternal gratitude for your having been a part of my journey. I am so thankful for the comfort you had shared with me. It may seem too that I had been away from the garden for sometime now. Trust me when I say that I’m still always there EVERY single day. Only that I have chosen to bear my pain in silence. For Mariel is too beautiful to ever be easily forgotten. And greatly missing her is just something I’m doing my best to try to live with, until our next reunion .

Not long after the fateful day in March I had told Mariel that, “you were once only a bleep on the (computer) screen, now you are a bleep in my heart”. For me, those words and moments shall remain frozen in time till eternity and that she will remain always my one true love.

I love you Mommy, you are not just a bleep now, you are my heart forever.

(Allow me to share this tune from Chick Corea and Return To Forever called “Crystal Silence”, which just like Mariel’s love is both wordless and sublime.)

Hooray! School’s Out For Summer.

At Karon Beach, Phuket

I never prayed for the Summer break to come more than any other year.

No, I was not exactly daydreaming about the white sandy beaches, although they are every bit inviting. I was actually ruminating on getting back some part of my life now that I didn’t have to worry, at least for a few months, about doing homeworks and projects and quizzes and unit tests and trimestral exams. You see since Mariel left for God’s garden, I had to take her place with managing Sam’s daily slew of school work. I never really realized how much hard work when into it until now. Mariel had to deal with GCFs, LCMs, running the household along with doing her regular office work at the bank. She was truly one “Superwoman”. And she never once complained. I had a taste of it these past months and almost lost my mind dealing with mixed fractions and parts of the plant. Now I can see why Mariel had looked forward so much to making the yearly trip to Baguio or occasional outing to the beach resort. It was really the only time to get away from it all.

I asked Sam where she’d like to go for some well-earned “rest and recreation” this year. She’s still deciding, but I just can’t wait to idle away some evenings and catch up on those books still left unread. I do cherish my times with my daughter working on assignments but it’s simply that school work takes so much time away from doing the “cooler” stuff in life. I’ve been reading about some nice places to see in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) Vietnam. Perhaps I can take Sam along with me to check out its wonderfully chaotic markets in my next business “junket”. I know that her Mommy had a chance to see the place many years back when she visited sis Joy Davy who lived there for a while. She told me of its beautifully crafted art and very enterprising people. Perhaps this can be a short sentimental journey for the three of us (for I know Mariel will be with us too like the good old days once again).

So, hooray Mommy, let’s head out for the beaches.

What’s in a name?

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Wikipedia defines Mariel as “a municipality and city in the La Habana Province of Cuba. It is located approximately 40 kilometers (25 mi) west of the city of Havana. . It’s the Cuban port nearest to the United States. It is also where “in 1980, some 125,000 Cubans left Mariel and went to the United States in what is known as the Mariel boatlift, when while many reached the USA, several died traveling through the ocean.” Famed American actress Mariel Hemingway was also named after this town by her also famous dad.

To many, “Mariel” would be quite simply another form of the name Mary. Of Dutch origin, it was said to mean “the perfect one” (how very apt). I’m afraid I never got around to asking her mom why she chose this name for my wife. In fact, I also did not know her as Mariel when I first got to talk to her. I actually knew her as “omni” and then “Gina” much later. (Yes, they are all her ‘names” too but I guess you have to read further in the blog to learn how this came to be)

To some, especially her siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces she was “Mar”, short for Mariel. (I guess they wanted something more endearing.) I even remember her nephews usually going to Tita Mar when they had something they wanted to ask from their own parents but were hesitant or too afraid to tell. She was their bridge, their confidant, their angel. She was “Mar” too to her most favorite cousin Annie who had spent hours with her on the phone talking about anything and everything. Mariel was always there for those who just needed to talk or plainly wanted a shoulder to cry on.

In my case, “Mariel”, among other things, meant guide and teacher. For she had made me realize that God, loved ones and family must come before self. Looking back, I feel so ashamed at my thoughtlessness then. Mariel had shown me that unconditional love was indeed possible. Not just with words, because I’ve been witness to how she had literally given up buying “things” for herself (even as she loved shopping) and instead devoted her life to unceasingly looking after the needs of our daughter and me. She was always caring. She was forever selfless and unassuming.

Then “Mariel” was “best friend” too. For we had shared everything. The ups and downs of life and raising a family. She was my greatest cheerleader. She encouraged me to explore the most “hare- brained” schemes because she believed in me, even if I myself had doubts. She was my critic too, when she saw sometimes that I may be heading towards the edge of the cliff. She’d advice me to “cut your losses” when it was very clear that I had reached a cul-de-sac. And she was always right. She was my “foil”, my teammate, the Ginger to my Fred. She made me whole and complete, that’s why I miss her so much.

Of course, Mariel or “Mommy” (as she wanted me to call her when Sam was just a baby to help her learn the word) will ALWAYS mean my one true love. My kind- hearted wife and soul mate. For while she had come unexpectedly into my life and left as suddenly, she had changed it positively forever and gave me HER greatest gift– our daughter Samantha. She was all the best things that I can only aspire to be.

I love you Mariel. You are the name that forever will be etched in my heart. Till me meet again, good night my sweet princess.

Letter to Mariel, February 29, 2008

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Dear Mommy,

It’s been over five months now and I still miss you so badly. I promised myself not to keep count but what can I do, when I still think of you almost every minute of the day. You know I talk to you all the time and I’m very sorry to keep bothering you with my trivial issues. But I have had no one else since you left for God’s garden last September 20. And there’s so much more I wanted to say to you.

Most of all, I never had a chance to say good-bye properly. They had to let me leave the ICU at 11pm the night before and all I can do was to give you those little kisses on your feet. I was very afraid to give you ‘germs’ for I know they were giving you those immunosuppresants. Plus, I thought you really needed some rest. That’s why I can’t understand why I suddenly woke up at around 3:30 am with the very high fever and that bad case of gout. And how can I ever forget Alma (my sister) getting that fateful call at 430 am from the doctors telling her that they were administering CPR on you already. I was in shock to put it mildly and I wanted to rush down to the ICU to be with you. But I can’t even stand up. I wanted to be brave and be with you like you always wanted, but I just couldn’t walk. Was it God’s way of saving me from seeing you in such a desperate state? Alma told me later that you decided to “go” only when she told you that she will take care of Sam. And she has really delivered on that promise to this day. She truly loves Sam like her own but I still weep knowing Sam can no longer have your embrace. (It hurts now so much just thinking about this, Mommy. Please help me finish this post, it’s too painful.) And yes, I remember how peaceful you were when I was finally able to go down to see you (and kissed you once more) that day.

Sam misses you too very much, Mommy. But she would not talk about it much. She takes after you. But I guess you already know that. By the way, do you want me to bring her to the salon for a haircut? We’ve had some “spirited discussions” about getting it some days ago. Although I can’t believe how much she is starting to look like you, specially with the longer hair. She is as beautiful as I’ve always remembered you. And she has your “flawless” skin too. Don’t worry though as she is fine and is generally starting to “recover” from that little dip with her grades. She’s still number one in her class (I know you’ll hate me for writing this), that’s because she really takes after her smart and beautiful mom.I also got your little message the other time. I know you’re really always there for me, especially when I get those usual “setbacks’ at work. I’m still not 100% but I do try my very best for you. I know you want me to succeed in life for our daughter Sam and I promise not to fail you. (Even if it’s the last thing I do before my own exit) I still can’t do much traveling these days, although I really think I need to do it so I wont miss any of those opportunities in Thailand and Vietnam. Mama promised meanwhile to look after Sam whenever I’m away. Besides, school’s out in a few weeks. Don’t worry Mommy, it will just be for a couple of days at a time. I vow to make you proud of me again.

It’s kinda late and I also know you want me to go to sleep now. I will write again soon but then I hear you in my head all the time, so you know where to reach me (hehehe). Also, please keep “reminding” me if I sometimes “go astray”. After all, you’re my Guardian Angel now. And I ‘m very happy because not very many people get to call their angels by their first name. I miss you Mommy. Please stay “close” to me always. I also really look forward to that time when I can be with you again, “to love and to hold” forever. I love you so very, very much.

Good night Mommy.

With all my love,

Bong

P.S. Here’s a song I thought you might enjoy listening to before you sleep, ‘love you.

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.

Sam at Avilon

It’s been another week and I can’t really say this one has been much different from the others. Days seem to just whiz by when you’re grieving. Nothing makes it exciting even with Terrell Owens hysterics or Britney breakdowns in the news. Of course some days are better than others, but the little glimmer of sunshine you get, if any, are plainly unremarkable. And I can’t seem to get that “old” joy back into my life because Mariel’s not there anymore to share it with me. So at times, I just try to imagine going out on carefree adventures with Mariel and Sam as we would usually do on Sunday afternoons. And that’s exactly what I did in the last one. Oh, to be our family once again.Sam and I went to check out the new Avilon Ark in Ortigas. I was a far cry from the real deal in Montalban, but ‘ey it’s 15 minutes from where we live so I shouldn’t complain. It’s of course a petting zoo so the usual suspects are there. Miniature horses, exotic birds and certainly highly paid rabbits who get to eat from you for a fee. Sam, as some of you know, loves animals but only to look at from a distance. Yes, she was even scared of the nosy Ringneck Hens lurking around. But she had fun overall because it was definitely different from the accustomed mall fare. Mariel would have enjoyed the day with us. It would’ve been as always another opportunity to bond with just the three of us. And, I guess that it really may have been. I knew we were a family again at Avilon.Let me share some snapshots on January 13 at Avilon Ark with Sam, me and surely, Mariel too.

Phuket Revisited

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Today being January 8, I thought that I might share some photos from our lovely Phuket, Thailand wedding some ten years ago. On this day we were married in a memorable Catholic ceremony midst the pristinely beautiful Promthep Cape near Nai Harn Beach. We had our civil wedding vows in the Philippines a few days back, then flew to Thailand for this one. It was something that was surely made in Heaven. Mariel and I had our whole life ahead of us… and had many, many dreams.

And I now promise to Mariel that I will try till my own last breath, to fulfill most of them for her and Samantha. I hope I can make her proud on that day that we again meet. When once more I can have her “to love and to cherish”… forever. I love you Mommy.