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.

Celebrating Mariel

I had originally called the post “Waiting for Mariel” as I did exactly that when work brought me to Singapore this week. And it was also exactly a year since Mariel had unexpectedly asked that we go on an impromptu holiday trip to the “Lion City” for Sam’s 9th birthday.

My trip this time however was one I had found very difficult to make. Because I know it will surely bring back an avalanche of memories. So while I had tried to focus on preparing for some needed business meetings there, I just can’t help but see Mariel, Sam and me strolling down the same Orchard Road and browsing through those ref magnets at Bugis.

Now I appreciate even more why Mariel had wanted so much to spend more time with us then. She was literally trying to cram every bit of memory she could get because time was not on her side. I remember too how she was not even interested in shopping even while being in the midst of the so-called Great Singapore Sale. She was busy instead planning for the little tour to Sentosa which should give us more bonding experiences. We took that hair-raising ride on the Cable Car with its glass-bottom cabin, hobnobbed with celebrity fishes at Underwater World and even got our family photo taken at 100 meters above the trees at Siloso Beach. It’s the vacation trip that will forever be etched in my mind. And I now return for the first time to the same memorable places to remember and thank Mariel for the wonderful life she had shared with us.

While there I also decided on a lark to grab some breakfast at the “Toast Box” at Wisma Atria. It just happened that the only available table at this place was the one I had shared with Mariel a year ago. For a few moments I had gone back in time leisurely drinking coffee with her and Sam and still being a family. Of course now I just have to be content to nibble on these tiny bits of memories being somewhat afraid they could run out someday. It was one of the “longest” breakfast I had taken in my life too.

At the airport, I had instinctively dialed Mariel’s number on my mobile phone because I had come across something “remarkable” during the trip. It took a second later before I had realized that she was no longer there to take the call. That she was no longer there to share my “excitement” and that things will never be the same again. I miss her so much. And I just continue to thank her for giving me the best times of my life’s and its happiest memories that I now treasure forever.

I love you Mommy, good night.

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.

Three for the Road

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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.

Why Mariel loved flowers and why we love Mariel

Mariel with flowers in MalaysiaMariel 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.)