Happy Birthday Mariel !

Mariel Bello

It’s a little past 12 am of November 6. Around this time every year I’d wake up Mariel to whisper “Happy Birthday Mommy, I love you”. After a big hug, it was usually back to sleep for her. It’s not that Mariel did not appreciate my wish to be the first to greet her on her special day, she just knew that she had to get up early to prepare Sam for school the coming morning. As I’ve said many, many times in this blog, with Mariel, Sam is THE priority. That’s why I love Mariel even more looking back. She seldom called attention to her own needs. She was happiest when she was giving. Her birthdays were normally spent having a simple dinner at home.  Many times over Max’s Fried Chicken and Pancit Canton.

That’s why later tonight, it will be her favorite noodles and chicken for us. Plus, we’ve written her short letters as gifts today. I had promised Sam not to publish her messages on this blog. Sam’s thoughts are simply between her and her Mommy. All I can reveal is that it’s filled with lots of infinity symbols.

If I can,  I will also read some really nice words of encouragement we’ve received through this blog– Mariel’s Garden. Thoughtful comments from Linda Riley (mysteryoriley blog), Grace V, cousin Annie, “Writing Grandma”, Mariel our niece, Joy L, Direk Vincent, Hedy T, Susie B, Claire Espina and her sis Joy Davy, will surely warm our hearts when we most need it now. We also plan to offer Holy Mass and prayers later. And maybe, if we are still up to it, also look at some old photographs and remember our happiest times with Mariel. There were truly many, many happy times we have indeed shared. They can however never be really enough, because she had so much to give from her endless wellspring of love.

I really wish many more people would have gotten to know her. But my Mariel came across as “very private” to some of you. Actually, she just never wanted to impose on anyone. She was not comfortable being the object of attention. She would rather give instead. She was happiest when she made others happy. And she can afford to give so much because her “cup was so full”. She is already complete, and wants nothing for herself.

Well, on the other hand not completely nothing. If there was anything she was a bit selfish of, it was about her daughter Sam (and maybe to some extent, of me) She wanted almost nothing, but to just spend moments with the three of us. Maybe she saw it coming. I will never really know. All I know right now is that I will be spending all my days in this world trying to make people, and specially our daughter Sam, understand what a truly exceptional person my Mariel was. A loving, gentle and very generous person. A person who “found her happiness in the happiness of another”.

Happy Birthday Mommy. We will always love you. You will always be in our hearts.

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.

One balmy January day in Phuket

 

Our Phuket Wedding

The first seeds of Mariel’s Garden were planted at Promthep Cape in Phuket, Thailand. On a hilltop facing the sunset and the clear blue Andaman Sea, Mariel and I got married some 10 years ago. It was in a garden too beneath a tree on a balmy January afternoon, that we said our vows to a small party of six people, and a thousand blooming flowers on the hill. Mariel looked radiant, as usual, in a purple ( her fave color) Thai princess gown, while I wore a gray suit and a white tie. We had a relaxed but very memorable Roman Catholic wedding ceremony. We heard Holy Mass at a nearby church, then exchanged vows witnessed by my buddies, Kiko as the best man and Albert, as designated driver and photographer. Both Kiko and Albert also were the wedding’s logistic planners. We rode in a teeny- weeny Caribian and Mariel never once commented about the inconvenience nor my “frugality” with the arrangements as we were stacked four- wide.

That’s how much Mariel loved me. She took me for what I was and made me a better person without ever nagging me about it. She leads in the best way possible, by example. After the wedding and raiding the hawker’s stalls in Bangkok, we went home and invited our family and close friends to a reception at Sukhothai Restaurant in Manila, where we showed our wedding home video midst giggles and tears of joy. We had the time of our lives, light and carefree as rainy showers on a December morning. It was almost as memorable as the first time we met at Gourmet’s Cafe, but I will reserve that for another time.

Mariel was the most “prim and proper” person you will ever meet but she took chances on new things. She would just dive into new hobbies like crochet, flower arrangement, paper tole and excel at it. She had the knack for learning something new, then quickly becoming an “expert” in a heartbeat. She was so thorough, very intelligent and did not mind putting in long hours on things she loved or found important.

Of course, she took her biggest chance on me. ( My friends ribbed me then that she should be given a helmet lest she knocks her head and wakes up ) For Mariel gave everything of herself to me and our daughter Sam. She would make daily trips to the mall to buy Sam another dress or book, and for me my beloved DVDs. She seldom bought things for herself anymore since we got married. She constantly looked after us as she found her happiness in making us both happy. Mariel did this in subtle ways. Assuredly but gentle as always. In fact, I never appreciated how much she had taken care of us, till now that she’s gone. She was the best thing that had ever happenned to me and I miss her so badly.

I can only promise her though that I will always take care of Sam and her “garden”. Mariel’s Garden grows here and in heaven. And I can’t wait to be with her, when she gathers some fresh blooms for our new “home” over there. I love you “Mommy”.