Your Dreams Live On, Mommy

Mariel and Sam at John Hay

It’s that time of month again. I promised myself to try to not keep count. Someone told me somewhere that keeping score of the time Mariel’s been gone may actually keep her from being at peace. And God knows that I’d do anything to make sure that she’d always be kept safe and at peace. For she deserved the best, even when in life she did not get all of what she merited. Because I was a lazy, good-for-nothing slacker who never really comprehended what I had. I never came around to fulfilling many of Mariel’s dreams as I had always thought I had a lifetime to work on them. Our dreams. Not pie-in the-sky, pompous ones. Simple aspirations mainly for our daughter Samantha.

Mariel wanted some day to have her own small garden, tending to flowering plants. She loved working with them. She was happiest checking on tiny buds on their journey to bloom land. She wanted to get published too. She actually emailed the Palanca Foundation last May asking how she can join the literary competition. I cheered her on as I knew that she was a good writer. Even better, I knew she was a good writer with a good heart. Mariel also wanted to one day get a chance to see Europe. She dreamed of seeing alpine mountains, museums and castles.The stuff of legends fit for a princess. My princess.

Most of all however, Mariel wanted to see Sam develop into the fine lady she can be. But while she dreamed of Sam becoming a doctor some day, a pediatrician perhaps she once said. However, she would have approved anything Sam wanted to be, as long as it made Sam happy. Our daughter once told us that she wanted to be a theater director -slash- professor some day. Mariel had said yes, because she saw Sam had the gift for singing and acting well. Mariel’s eyes lit up with joy every time she saw Sam perform and get some recognition. Because Sam’s happiness and triumphs were her own. And that’s why Mariel looked forward to again seeing her perform as “Annie” in a school musical this coming December 15. By the way, I’ve already reserved her a seat. One with the best view. For Mariel always deserved the best.

Today, November 20, I promise Mommy to keep all your dreams alive. I promise that I will one day make them all come true. Because you deserve it, Mommy. Because you are our princess forever. We love you very much.

Useful Tips from Mariel

Mariel and BongThis post was originally called “Useful Tips from Mariel on what to do when your Life’s a Mess”. But my daughter Sam asked me to edit it as it was boringly long. Also she said it might be better to be “cryptic” as more people will be drawn to it out of curiousity. She’s 9 years old and I’m taking advice from her. Such is my life now.

It’s been some days since my last blog. Partly because I lost my internet connection (which is obviously back now). Also, I guess the more “mundane” stuff of life have caught up with me too (read bills, bills and more bills). Mariel had always “protected” me from these as I’ve always thought bills were junk mail meant to be dispensed with. The fog of bereavement too has lifted as most people have stopped speaking to me in hushed tones or acting deferentially. As they like to say “Life must move on”. But moving on is easier said than done when you have to care for a nine- year old daughter and deal with your clients’ egos at work at the same time . Well I guess I may have to take some tips from Mariel because “that” is what she did everyday of our married life. So I tried my best to “predict” what Mariel would have done if she were in my shoes and life’s a mess, as it is now for me. Here goes:

1) Let Go, Let God

Mariel never failed to seek God’s guidance and protection above all. In our most desperate of moments, when she was already so gravely ill at the UST Hospital, she steadfastly kept faith and faced her sickness with both courage and grace. She never once wavered as she knew that the Lord always kept her best interest at heart.

In our years together, she also never failed to remind me to be thankful for whatever little blessings came our way, even if it meant literally dragging me to Church every Sunday. She went on novenas when Sam got sick. Never one to “broadcast” her piety, Mariel always kept her prayerful life away from public view. She is still my angel today keeping me on God’s path.

2) First Things First

Mariel always knew her priorities. She always decided to do the most critically important things first above the seemingly urgent. (Stephen Covey wrote about it, but Mariel really practiced it) She also was never swayed by the socially expedient over doing the right thing, most specially if it concerned our daughter Sam. I shall always try to be guided by her example and keep myself from being distracted by the “non-essentials”.

3) Know Thyself

Mariel often advised me to accept my limitations. She was my greatest cheerleader but she’d be first to tell me to “cut my losses” when prudence dictated it. She tried to keep me from squandering precious time on quixotic pursuits and made me confront squarely my “realities”. She did this unpleasant task though with such gentleness that I had never felt oppressed. She did it too because she loved me so much and did not want to see me “get hurt” in the end. And, of course, she was always right.

4) Just Do It, Period.

Mariel never hesitated to do anything important even if it meant some personal sacrifice or discomfort. She would often bring home some work from the office and soldiered on till about 3 in the morning simply because they needed to get done. She never complained, blamed anyone or whined. She just did what she believed was necessary. I wished I had her great sense of duty and utter lack of “theatrics”.

5) Get A Massage

While Mariel believed in getting things done, she was not above relaxing or getting a good leg and foot massage. She often wanted a few minutes of massage (courtesy of yours truly) before going to bed, “to rest and live to fight another day”. She knew the value of a well-deserved pause before going back to the trenches. Don’t worry Mariel, I will be back to giving you your well-earned massages when we next meet. I love you Mommy.

“Happy Birthday Daddy”

Mommy and Me

Mariel would have kissed me as I woke up today and said “Happy Birthday Daddy”. Of course she would have already wrapped a “surprise” gift, usually a nice shirt (as she knew I have poor taste in clothes) and would have also written me some heart- warming notes like “as an additional gift, I promise not to be ‘sungit’ for one week.” Mariel had the better sense of humor. She used to make me laugh. Now I can only cry at best. And I had a pretty good cry before finally getting out of bed this morning. For I missed her so badly.

By the way, she talked to my mom a few months ago about giving me something “special” this year, this being my 50th. I would have wanted to tell her however that just being with her was more than enough to make my birthdays special and memorable. Her being with me today like going window-shopping at ShangriLa mall would have been already a treat. We usually went there on Sundays to hear Mass and eat lunch. Then. its off to my sister’s place in Lexington Garden Village where we would have a small “party”. Parties simply meant having “merienda” with family and friends, while Sam got to play with the other kids. This year, its something similar except that Mariel’s no longer there to make it “fun”. Feelings of joy these days it seems, come far between moments of longing and emptiness.

The only thing that brought some joy today was reading again Mariel’s birthday card to me of a few years back, which said (I know see wouldn’t mind) — “I celebrate today, the day you came into the world, for if you hadn’t I’m sure I never would have known the kind of happiness you brought into my life. I love you, Happy Birthday”.

I love you very much too, Mommy. Take care and good night.

Condolences to Rene Saguisag

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.

Mariel’s Precious Gift

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 )

Close your eyes. It’s all right, Mariel

It’s a “slow” day today, November 2. And it’s also a holiday. Most people are quietly recovering from yesterday’s big event of the month.

I still think a lot about Mariel though. Like maybe spending away lazily the afternoon doing nothing. I used to always give her leg & foot massages that made her sleep better. I know I’d like to give her some more when I can. Maybe even sing her a lullaby. And snuggle too, with Sam close by. So close you eyes, Mariel. You can close your eyes it’s all right. “Daddy’s” here to keep you safe. Sleep well, my love.

(This featured timeless James Taylor tune says it all. I know Mariel will like it very much)

All Saints’ Day at Heritage Park

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”

I believe one day…

Bong and sam at Mariel’s Forty days
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.

“The Introduction” by Bob Santos

 

Bob Santos declares the Winner

I received an email from one of our closest friends- Dr. Bob Santos- regarding an anecdote he wanted very much to share through this blog. He calls it “The Introduction” about the first time he met Mariel. By the way, Mariel was the very first lady I had formally introduced to my close friends and even to my own family too. She was after all the ONE. The only woman who really stirred my heart enough for me to joyfully shout to the world that the long wait is over. I have finally found my soul mate, life partner, wife and best friend.

I leave this article unedited for Bob to tell it like it really was. It is both funny and heartwarming.

“THE INTRODUCTION by Bob Santos

Friday was D-day. How could I forget that fateful evening in the 90’s! our very own Bong Bello, the last of the bachelors, was formally introducing his “conquest” to this band of UPSCA brothers.Now we have heard of this or that damsel he met in one of his electric forays. But a formal introduction?!!! No way! Not Bong.Not his style.Slam bam, thank you ma’m. She is probably one of those nameless ones. This I got to see.

That evening at Pilo’s Restaurant in Katipunan was quite a revelation. To my surprise Bong actually brought along a lady! It started a little uncomfortable for the rosy Mariel, surrounded by “bubuyogs” Bong, Allen, Monser and myself (Dr. Albert was out butchering patients) all ready for the roast. The guys were their usual boisterous and foolish selves, but Mariel was trying very hard to remain composed. Not for long.

so what kind of music do you listen to?” Mon blurted out. Suddenly the table was silent. For the boys, her answer was important. We were bonded together by our common love of rock, jazz and progressive music, with Bong as the high priest of guitars. The question was definitely a probe. Anything less than Holdsworth, Hendrix or Zeppelin was blasphemy! A Michael Bolton would have driven us to tears. And a Sharon Cuneta answer would have soured our friendship irreparably.

Sensing a trap, it took Mariel an eternity to answer, glancing at darling Bong, fishing for reassurance. Finally…”Gershwin”, she said nervously, hoping for acceptance. Silence followed. Then Mon, the true friend that he is, came to the rescue — “Ako rin Gershwin…Gershwind and Fire!” The table suddenly exploded with laughter with Mariel also teary-eyed from laughing. Composure definitely gone, Bong heaved a sigh of relief. At that point on, I knew it was just a matter of time.

Congratulations Bong. You finally took that leap of faith. It was now our turn to be your best-est men.”

 

Sam News # 4

Sam as Halloween DevilTrick or Treat? Those who read my previous post Sam News # 3 will remember that this year, Sam’s costume of choice is… the Devil Witch. The Halloween committee at Lexington Garden Village have decided that costumes must conform with a strictly mandated “horror theme”. So, we therefore chose to comply. Sam would have however wanted to come out as Gabriella from High School Musical 2, but.., Which makes me wonder why we all have allowed Halloween to be turned into some kind of competitive sport. Call me, a grumpy, andropausal, middle-age spoilsport but can we please go back to a time when Halloween meant painting an old T-shirt with skull & bones and making do with ketchup as fake blood. Besides, only Toy Kingdom benefits from this Hallo-hype. Nevertheless, Sam enjoyed herself today and was even a finalist in the costume parade. Well, I better start preparing for next year’s event. How about… “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. Am I showing my age? Can you help me out “Mommy”?

May I add too, that I had to fight more lumps in my throat again as I was holding Sam’s hand for the parade. Mariel’s enormous shadow looms large in occasions such as this. For she was the soul of our family. And now that’s she’s gone, I feel like a grumpy, andropausal, middle-age guy trying to write a blog about Halloween to keep himself from missing her. I really miss you so much, Mariel. I love you.

Sam News # 3

Sam as Belle

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.

Three for the Road

singapore-day-1-2-007.jpg

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.

Yes Virginia, it’s not Virus

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.

Coming Back by Sally Kennedy

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:

“COMING BACK
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
Coming Back
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
flourish.
That is good news.”

Thanks again Mana

You are so beautiful, Mariel

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.