Monday, December 31, 2007

Bago Mag-alas Dose

Yikes! Huling araw na ng taong 2007. Mayroon na lang akong kulang-kulang dalawang oras para ihirit ang huli kong blog entry sa taong ito.

Timer starts now!

Rollercoaster ride ang 2007 ko. Mas OK sana kung chubibo ride, at least paikot-ikot lang siya at predictable ang pagtaas at pagbaba ng mga pangyayari sa buhay ko, kaso hindi. At kahit na 365 days akong lulan ng rollercoaster, hindi pa rin ako nasanay. Nasusuka pa rin ako sa mga biglang pagliko ng buhay.

Ayaw kong limutin ang 2007. Kahit na ito na yata ang taong nagdala ng pinakamasakit na insidente sa buhay ko. Pagkatapos kasi ng 2007, papasok na ang taon kung saan opisyal na bawas na ng isa ang mga kapatid ko. I will no longer be able to make new memories with Nichi in 2008. Talagang hanggang 2007 ko na lang siya nakasama. Di na makakahirit sa 2008. Sa panaginip siguro, oo, pero aandar na ang panahon at 13 years old na forever si Nichi—edad niya ngayong 2007.

Madalas ko ngang i-punchline sa sarili ko, kahit magkajowa pa ako at lokohin ako ng sinumang damuhong iyon, no match yon sa sakit na dala ng pagkawala ng kapatid ko. Sa jowa, pwede akong magalit, pwede ko siyang isumpa at kung in the mood ako, pwede akong maghiganti. Pero yung pagkamatay ng kapatid ko…wala akong magawa. Nakakainis na nga minsan e, pero wala naman talaga akong magagawa.

Masukal ang pagkawala ng kapatid ko at madalas pa rin akong multuhin ng mga images nya noong hindi na maganda ang kalagayan niya. Maski sa aspetong iyon, wala akong magawa.

Ang tanging tagapagligtas ko na lamang ay yung bagay na nagpapa-high kay Peter Pan bukod sa balakubak ni Tinkerbell: yung tinatawag na happy thoughts. Good times with Nichi ang bumubura sa aking pagluluksa.

Nanghihinayang ako hanggang ngayon dahil hindi ni Nichi inabot ang pamangkin naming si Nikha Yzabel, a.k.a. biby Yzee. Pinaplano pa naman niya noon kung paano niya papasalubungan ng kung anuman ang magiging pamangkin namin sa tuwing manggagaling siya sa school. Naisip pa niya yon kahit alam naman niya na sa ibang bansa naman titira yung future pamangkin namin.

Ang cute ni biby! Proud Tita ako. Kaya lang di ko pa siya nakikita sa personal. Mabuti pa nga si Jessica Soho, Noli de Castro at Dennis Trillo, nakita ko na in the flesh! Si biby hanggang picture at videos lang. Salamat na lang sa technology, nakikita ko si biby live via webcam. Feeling ko pag nagkita kami sa totoong buhay, baka maiyak ako. Therefore, ka-level niya sina Michael Jackson at Bono. Iniiyakan ng fans.

Ang sense of humor siguro ang isa pang ika nga ay saving grace ko. OK talaga na kahit tragic ang buhay, keri pa ring tumawa. Napansin ko lang nga na hindi nakakatawa para sa marami ang mga punchlines ko. Ako yata ang target market ng jokes ko.

Take this for example, last week nag-Pizza na lang kami para sa noche buena para hindi na kailangan ng effort sa paghahanda. Since malapit lang naman sa amin ang isang pizza parlor, nagtake-out na lang kami ng kapatid ko.

Cashier: (Enters our order sa cash register niya. Titingin sa kapatid ko.) Sir, ano pong pangalan [ninyo] ?
Kapatid ko: (Seryoso) Joseph.
Ako: (Hihirit) Ako naman si Mary. (Maikling pause) Naghahanap pala kami ng matutuluyan ngayong gabi. [Thought balloon ko: Pero hindi ako buntis!]
Cashier: Ano po?
Ako: Wala. Nagpapatawa lang ako.

Pangsitcom sana kung may naka-gets bukod sa akin.

Ehe, basta natatawa pa rin ako, I know I’m gonna be fine. Sana matawa pa rin ako sa 2008.

Putukan na ng putukan sa labas namin. Anak ng— Duwag pa naman ako sa mga paputok! Pag naging makapangyarihan ako, ipagbabawal ko talaga yan. Mangyari kaya iyon sa 2008? Who knows?

Wala naman talagang nakakaalam kung anong mangyayari sa bagong taon. Exciting pero nakakatakot rin. Mixed emotions.

Basta. Good luck na lang talaga sa ating lahat sa 2008.

Lacking in organic unity ang last entry ko for 2007. Nakakahiya. But somehow, it reflects who I am right now: a mess trying so hard to tidy itself up.

Shut up na ako. I’ll let the fireworks make all the noise bago mag-alas dose.

…shutting up…

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Wasn’t Half as Bad

Our Christmas wasn’t half as bad as feared it to be. It’s different alright but it wasn’t awful.

It helped that the oldest of my brothers was determined to keep our Christmas the way it used to be. He put up our Christmas tree four days before Christmas. He even summoned his friends the following day to decorate our sad tree. And they did pull it off. The decorated tree, I mean.



My only contribution to our tree this year is the hanging of a green ball ornament at the center top of our tree. Of course it represents Nichi, our green-color-loving angel.



We went through our usual gift-giving moment but I have to admit that it was undeniably gloomy despite the smile we were trying to display.

We also had our family picture taken.



But there’s something wrong with the picture so we did a re-take.



So that’s our Christmas for this year. It wasn’t half as bad as I expected it to turn out, but I’m positive that I’ve had better Christmases than it.

Oh well…

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Happens

The drawback of having a perfect life is that you don’t realize that in a time where family, love and all things good are romanticized; there are a number of people who find themselves in a less than perfect holiday portrait.

But Christmas happens. There really is no stopping it, hence the existence of less ideal Christmas stories.

Some of us may be in the company of our entire clan but a black hole called long-distance relationship pulls us out of the season’s festivities.

Some are groomed to face the holidays with newly acquired or discovered ailments. Be it chicken pox or lupus, hope is the perfect promise Christmas offers.

Some will do their best to reunite families even if it means spending Christmas in the least Christmassy places like a rehabilitation center.

Some are stuck at work. It brings in extra cash, yes, but work alone takes away the essence of the season.

Some will celebrate Christ’s birth, for the first time, in a foreign land that does not believe in Christ, let alone give a damn about His birth. Meanwhile those who had been in foreign shores for a time now will party this Christmas but will never be able to runaway from the void caused by missing one’s Christmas in one’s homeland.

Then again, some of us are forced to celebrate despite the wounds we are tending, despite our loss, despite our grief.

Because Christmas happens. There really is no stopping it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One Less Person on the List

Did my last-minute Christmas gift shopping today. Wasn’t psyched about it much unlike my holiday cramming last year.

Plus there’s one person missing on my list. Can’t help but wonder what I would get him if he were still around.

Hope he’s happy wherever he is. Wish he’ll receive a spectacular gift up there.

He deserves it!

I should know.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The First Berk Says “I Do”



Surreal.

Pero totoo talaga. One of my college berks indeed had tied the knot! And I was there to witness the event.


Shucks!

Wala lang.

Syempre I wish the new true-blue couple all the best.


Congratulations to Mr. Dodie and Mrs. Joel!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Line Starts Here

If you are not up for waiting in a long line after another long line, I recommend that you find other ways to get your passport aside from going to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Roxas Blvd.

You can pay additional pesos to travel agencies who’ll fall in line for you. Another option is to have your documents shipped right at your doorstep via Air21, 2Go, LBC and the likes. Again that will cost you extra.

But if you insist on securing a passport through the looong and hard way called DFA, don’t say you were not warned. Asserting that, “Mahaba ang pila sa DFA” is an understatement. We’re not talking about a line with 40 or 50 people in front of you. We’re looking at a hundred or more individuals standing in line before you. And the extremely excruciating looong line we are talking about is not something you go through once. There at least five lines you have to contend with where the DFA procedure is concerned.

Therefore, to prevent your severely challenged efforts and patience from being futile, you better make sure you have all correct requirements on hand before braving the series of queues ahead of you.

What are the requirements then?

For first time applicants, those who haven’t had passports issued to them, you’ll need the following:

-A copy of your birth certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO)
-An NBI clearance for traveling abroad
-Identification cards (I used my SSS ID) and make sure you have them photocopied—front and back—because you cannot submit your real ID to the people of DFA now, can you?
-3 passport-size ID pictures (you can go to the DFA website to know the required
size and background color)


For those renewing their passports, they just have to bring the following:

-old passport
-photocopy of the first three pages of the old passport (this is true to brown passport holders, I don’t know about the green ones)
-Identification cards, again have them photocopied front and back
-3 passport-size ID pictures (you can go to the DFA website to know the required
size and background color)


*For complete requirements, just visit the DFA website.

Simple. Right?

But prepare yourself for more obstacles ahead. The chaos starts the moment you set foot within the proximity of the DFA grounds. Individuals wearing IDs will approach you as if they really were employees of DFA. They will lead you to establishments that outline the DFA perimeter. They will give you application forms for free and act as if you owe them for the free forms. They will scrutinize your requirements and cleverly manipulate you into having your ID picture re-taken because yours does not meet the required size or background color. They will charge you from P155.00 to P165.00 for a picture taken in a badly lit room using a Jurassic model of a class B digital camera. They will hand you a passport jacket like you need one and then charge you for it. They will pull your leg as far as they can just so they’d be able drain whatever peso you have in your pocket.

My suggestion: don’t mind them. Enter the DFA premises right away. JUST GO TO START. GO DIRECTLY TO START. DO NOT LET THOSE BLOOD-SUCKING DIMWITS COLLECT ANYTHING FROM YOU.

You can get your FREE PASSPORT APPLICATION FORMS INSIDE the official DFA grounds. And given the length and number of lines you will be stuck with, you will surely have a lot of time to fill out those forms once inside. Also, DFA has a set of accredited photo stations inside their premises—photo stations that allow free retakes if and when the ones they printed out for you get rejected by the DFA people. There are also “mercenary” photocopiers inside for documents that need to be reproduced. And there are tiny offices that notarize legal documents that need notarizing. These documents usually are for missing whatnots that happen to be in the requirements list.

Bottom line is, whatever last-minute services you might need in getting your passport, chances are, the stalls inside the DFA territories offer them. THERE REALLY IS NO NEED FOR YOU TO TRANSACT BUSINESS WITH THOSE BLOOD-SUCKING DIMWITS WHO POSE AS REGISTERED DFA EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO ESCORT APPLICANTS OUTSIDE. [Let’s work together in killing their business. Don’t patronize them, please.]

Now on with the show…

The line starts at the entrance gate where your bags and pockets (or should I say body?) are thoroughly checked. Proceed immediately to the basketball court found at the right side if you take 50 to 70 steps from the entrance. Inside the basketball court you can get the free passport application and you can do your last-minute touch-up where your requirements are concern. Also, in the basketball court, the first official step in securing your passport takes place. The line officially starts there.



First step is the VERIFICATION OF RECORDS. Fall in line to have your application stamped by any of the two unfriendly guys on the “start here” table. Next, fall in line to get to window A. Don’t let the long line scare you because if you chicken out as early as the first step, you will prove yourself unworthy of the DFA adventure. Besides, you will trudge the coiled line that covers half of the basketball court sitting down. At that point, you can thank the heavens for providing you the plastic benches, a covered court, generous breath of fresh air, and for a gradually moving traffic. Next, you go to window B. The line here is a bit short compared to others. After window B, proceed to the line that will eventually lead you to gate 2.

Since the DFA people are trying to avoid human congestion at gate 2, waiting at the basketball court may take a while. Soon, you’ll find yourself moving, leaving the basketball court and actually falling in line outside gate 2. This time, you will have to stand in line which will lead to a room with around 25 to 30 counters. A DFA personnel will then quickly assess your papers and then point you to the counter where you ought to belong. Only then will you be able to sit in another plastic bench that doubles as the line for your particular window. In this room the second step happens. It’s called PROCESSING.

After the second step, you can then advance to the DFA auditorium for the third and forth steps.

Based on experience, the third step is the easiest one with no line at all. And what do you know? It’s the part where you pay! For some reason, DFA is quick in accepting PAYMENTS.

The final step is ENCODING. Now here you’ll experience the line of all lines. You’ll have to start from the back of the auditorium and work your way in front. This is the point of no return. After all, it is the final step. The nice things about being stuck in the longest line of your life inside the auditorium are, one, the place is fully air-conditioned and, two, the plastic seats are ergonomically designed thereby offering more butt and back comfort.

Friendly tip: If and when you feel hungry, decide right away to eat in the DFA cafeteria while you are still at the pathetic part of the encoding line. Try to ask the people sitting next to you to save your spot while you take a quick solid or liquid refreshment. But if you decide to stay loyal to the line till the very end, interacting with your seatmates will most definitely help keep your spirits up and defeat boredom and impatience.

In probably an hour, you’d reach nirvana and be assigned a computer station where a DFA personnel will encode your particulars in their database. Your business there is to check and re-check what they have entered. It is best to be meticulous in this step. Have whatever needs correction altered. Take all the time that you need to read what are soon to appear on your passport. You deserve every minute on your final seat. After all the lines you’ve gone through you know you deserve every minute on your final seat.

When you’re done, keep your receipt. You are going to need it in claiming your passport. Know when your passport will be released. You can ask the DFA people or read the schedule of passport releasing posted anywhere inside gate 2.

If you’re really done, rejoice. After which, pray that your passport will be released smoothly on the date you are supposed to get it.

Treat yourself with a hearty meal afterwards. Or you can go to a spa where you can relax. Pat yourself at one shoulder. You have got to have one fearless soul to emerge out of the DFA premises with accomplished objectives.

Either that or you’re plainly uninformed about how hassle-filled the DFA way is. Or then again, you may be one of the many people in line whose budget is just enough for one’s much needed passport.

In any case, congratulate yourself for your impeccable patience!



*Photos*


The first official line where any of the two unfriendly DFA guys will stamp your papers. It's supposed to be the first step to verification.



The line leading to Window A. You actually start sitting down, you'll know you're near the blessed window when you have to stand up.


A huge framed carpet welcomes you to the DFA auditorium.

A picture of an application form waiting to be encoded.


The ceiling of the DFA auditorium seem to resemble a gigantic space ship. I couldn't help but feel like I'm an alien wannabe [my euphemism for "tourist"] being watched by aliens.

When you've accomplished your mission, the aliens may just as well zap you towards their mother ship. "Beam me up, Mr. Spock!"


Monday, December 17, 2007

To See the World from a Maroon Haltered Long Gown

Actually the world ain’t that different.

Except that your friends suddenly notice that you are umm…uhh…a woman!

And, people, at least those wearing pants, suddenly practice chivalry when you’re around: opening doors for you, helping you get on and off a car, that sort of things.

But aside from those, the world is pretty much the same. My jologs sense of humor remained the way it was and I didn’t emerge without a load of duties albeit my supposed “prettiness.”

Although I have to admit that I am a whiner. I whine, and at most rant, before I act. But I act just the same, even beyond the definition of my title. (Why do I sound like I’m promoting myself? Perhaps because I am.)

Going back…

I would not have worn a maroon haltered long gown if an opportunity did not present itself. But it did. It presented itself in the form of my Ate, my only sister in the world, getting married.

Of course, the obsessive me did not take easily the idea of my sister marrying off even to the man she’s been with for around nine years who also have been a pseudo part of our family for almost that long, too.

I knew that my sister, getting married, would mean I would have to share her, not only to her husband but also to her new sisters (in law) and her new family. However my selfishness would most definitely not stop her from pursuing her decision, her love, her future. Even I with my selfishness and all would not stop her from pursuing her happiness.

And so the day when we all wore gowns came but unlike the rest of us, my sister, the girl two years older than I am, the one who led me and my brother to do semi-nasty things kids do, the one who reminded me that I should start taking care myself when I was denying myself of that thing called puberty, the person who had been my roommate for the longest time, the one who taught me to sing with the aid of a mic, the one who coaxed me to bake even if I was too lazy to bake, the one who sort of informed me that I was no loser therefore I had no business locking myself up in one room and waste time which I should spend in school, my sister, she sported a pristine white gown with a veil hovering over her head leaving a long cathedral trail behind her.

My Ate has become a bride and it suits her so well, I can convince myself she was born to wear that dress.

Yes things will change after the party’s over. The gowns we wore were simply symbols of a celebration brought about those changes. After all they are the happy-kind of changes.

From my corner, I tried to find the courage to accept that in the hierarchy of things which matter in my sister’s life, I will have to take a step back to give way to something more permanent, something more for her than for me. It’s time for such thing to happen.

It’s just the way things are. People grow. They take their own paths. But even if my sister and I choose to stroll down along different avenues, I know we will never outgrow each other.

A year after seeing the world from a maroon haltered long gown, I still continue to bear witness to changes. But despite how our worlds have continued to revolve, life’s really ain’t that different.

Except that my Ate who was once a bride is now also a mom.

And I, her maid-of-honor, is now a Tita to her little angel who doesn’t look bad in her little gown herself.

***Happy first wedding anniversary to my Ate Win and Kuya Wah!***


Waking up with Ate on the big day



My parents escorting my sister to the altar



Me and my newly-wed Ate



How WE wrapped up the celebration of changes


My two-month old niece who doesn't look bad in a gown herself

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Surprising the Young's Blood

I got up and went out with a clear ultimate goal for the day: to have a specific item on my things-to-do-before-turning-thirty list crossed out.

Funny how things just worked against how I planned them. The forces of nature couldn’t have been more blatant in telling me, “Hey, your dream won’t come true today!”

My spirit which was set to accomplish an item on the list I concocted April of this year is dying. I suddenly felt like sleeping. So my mom’s window shopping at the kiosks around the food chain where we took our snack isn’t really something I was happy about. I wanted to go home badly. Perhaps to mend my soon-to-be defeated soul.

It seemed that the fates had made other arrangements for my day. As it turned out, they had something better in store for me.

I was in the middle of Carriedo Mall in Quiapo (I think) when I received a text message from a former officemate, Ces, saying that she read my Youngblood article in the day's issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (December 15, 2007).

I panicked! I didn't realize they will publish it so soon because I just sent it to them Monday night (Dec 10) and didn't get confirmation that they received it until last Thursday (Dec. 13).

When I finally found the words to tell my mom and an officemate, who was with us, what the text message that almost gave me a heart attack was all about, I almost cried. I just felt the need to restrain myself because who cries in Carriedo Mall? Right?

I was just so happy because finally, more people will know about Nichi. After he passed away, I sort of promised him that I will do that. That I will write about him and kids who are like him so that they and their bravery will be recognized.

Truth be told that, after submitting a final paper which was entitled “Coping with Childhood Leukemia in the Family” in my first serious writing class back in college, I swore not to write anything about Nichi or his disease that will give me (or my writing ability) credit. I vowed never to “exploit” Nichi again not until he gets well. I’ve decided to reserve his story at a time when I would be narrating in the past tense. When I will be looking back at Nichi’s sacrifices and bask in the glory of his triumph.

But just as my day’s goal segued, my competent article about Nichi and his disease didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. Yes, I spoke in the past tense but instead of delivering lines that confidently boast how my 13-year-old brother defeated leukemia, I served a number of paragraphs composed of lines drawn from the stream of consciousness of a distressed sister, trying hard to see the light in a quasi-tragic event.

It further proved that the fates and I have different ways of designing the future.

Just the same, my piece being published caused my young blood to rush from head to toe in a snap.







I had to hold my breath until I saw my name on the Youngblood byline for myself. It took four new stands for me to do that. The other three ran out of the PDI issues. And on our final stop, the vendor had only three copies left, all of which I bought.

Of course I told her, “ang saya ko po talaga!

Soon I realized that I just hit a different item on my things-to-do-before-turning-thirty list. An item different from the one I programmed myself to accomplish for the day. And that is, if it’s not yet obvious by now, to be published in Youngblood again.

I am, therefore, no Vanilla Ice as Jack McFarland of Will and Grace once put it.

I am no longer a one-hit-wonder where Youngblood is concerned.

I am a two-hit wonder. It took three years and another dead person before I proved that I can write something publishable.

Still I am genuinely thankful for my day’s jackpot prize. And I thank the fates, too, for surprising my young blood.

As I shared my latest PDI-published thoughts with people who were reached by the PDI paper and website, I would have liked to thank everyone who had been a part of Nichi's journey. I am grateful for them for giving my family more time to spend with Nichi, for taking out a large chunk of the financial burden Nichi's treatments entailed and for their untiring support from which Nichi and the rest of our family drew strength. The words, “thank you” is simply not enough…

At the same time, I also would have wanted to thank everyone who helped us come up with gifts, balloons, and face painting surprise for the brave bunch of kids at the Philippine Children's Medical Center during their Christmas Party last December 7.

If Nichi were around, he'd tell those guys, "more power!"





To read my Youngblood piece, just visit: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20071215-106990/The_brave_bunch

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bakit May Mga Taong Umiiyak sa Pantry

Sa Ika-27 anibersaryo ng aking pagiging isang Katoliko, naatasan akong magbasa ng Prayers of the Faithful sa misa sa aming opisina, hindi dahil mahalaga akong tao, o dahil mahusay akong magsalita,o dahil pala-simba ako. Actually, ipinasa lang sa akin ang task ng naunang in-assign (ni Kuya—nye!) dahil hindi siya Katoliko. Simple.

So ayun. Misa. Misa.

Si Father Jerry Orbos ang pari. Ang laki pala niyang (holy) mama! Nagulat ako.

Kaso kung bakit ba naman panay ang dikdik niya na, “mapalad tayo dahil buhay pa tayo ngayong Pasko.” Meron pang, “Mayroong iba sa atin na hindi na makakasama ang kanilang mahal sa buhay ngayong Pasko.” Pero panalo talaga ang, “Ang mga taong makakasama natin ngayong Pasko ay maaaring wala na next year.”

You see, ang problema kapag attentive ako sa mass, naiiyak ako. Minsan na lang nga ako hindi tamaan ng ADHD sa misa, naiiyak pa ako!

I couldn’t afford to cry. Bukod sa nakakahiya sa mga katabi ko, magbabasa pa kasi ako ng Prayers of the Faithful.

Ewan ko ba naman kung bakit pagkatapos ng misa, pinagpilitan kong lapitan si Father Jerry?!

“Father, muntik na akong maiyak sa misa kanina.” Siyempre kinailangan ng supporting statements ang aking telling sentence para kay father. “Kasi po my brother died just this July. First time po naming magpapasko nang wala siya.”

Ayun na nga. Di ko na napigil. Cryola ang lola niyo. Que se jodang [di ko alam ang spelling] kaharap pa namin yung head ng HR sa opis.

At, by the way, nasa pantry kami noon. Kumakain kasi si father.

Mabuti na lang malapit lang ang C.R.

Dun na lang ako nagtago. How glamorous!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Personal Acknowledgments

A week after crashing the party of some patients at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, which as it turns out, was headed by Project: Brave Kids, I’m coming out with a list of people I wish to personally thank.


They are as follows:

My family—Dad, Ma, Ate Win, Soy and Migs—for agreeing with me that exposing ourselves to children like Nichi is a good idea despite the pain we are nursing.


My berks—Joy, Arjane, Joan, Lowny, Leng, Jen, Nikka and Kistna—for an outright, “Yes!” when I solicited their help which they kept to from the gathering of funds, to the buying and wrapping of gifts. I am so grateful to them for staying and assisting us during the big day.



My gifted artist-friends—Kate, Kokoy, Chris and Ferdie (friend na kita!)—whose talents in face painting are directly proportional to their patience in handling their cute canvases: the more talent they shared, the nicer they were to their bunch-of-brave-kid-clients. Thanks also to Ging for her abundant and beautiful photos.



Our balloon decor coach, Kuya Bing, and his wife, Ms. Isay, for the free crash course on balloon art, for their time, and for lending and sharing their balloon gadgets and other resources for the party.



For my officemates and even my bosses (Product Management and Marketing Group) who are soooo supportive! I thank them for pouring their time, talent and passion in preparing those export-quality, especially handmade gift tags with matching original and inspiring messages. Of course, thanks also to Joy and her officemates (Tok-Tok-Tok staff) for preparing their set of gift tags albeit their busy schedule.




The doctors of PCMC for entertaining my endless queries from the moment I started bugging them about how I can help make their patients be extra happy this Christmas. I thank them for suggesting that my family and I become part of the party and for trusting me with a couple of tasks during the party.

Ate Esther for the ride from our house to the hospital. Although I have to admit, I doubted that she can make it (on time). But, alas, she did make it! Suswertihin na ang bagong pick-up niya dahil sa sangkatutak na blessings na isinakay namin doon.

The generous people who contributed money which made purchasing 150+ sets of 16-color Crayola crayons, 2 Monggol pencils, a drawing book, eraser, sharpener and 2 sheets of stickers; gift wrappers; adhesive tapes; balloons; and a set of face paint possible. Thanks also to the ones who donated coloring books, hotdog balloons, and another set of face paint.



Those who expressed their intentions to share what they have but weren’t given enough time to gather and turn in their gifts. Just hold on to those goods, this Christmas gift-giving would definitely not be the last!

To the organizers of Project: Brave Kids for providing a venue for people like us to heal especially at this time of the year.




Most important of all, I thank the brave bunch, Nichi’s friends, the exceptionally special kids (redundancy intended) at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center who continues their fight, and in the process, displays their amazing genuine courage. You are an inspiration to many! Laban lang, mga bata. Siguradong may reward sa inyo si Papa Jesus dahil sa katapangan ninyo!















Salamat. Salamat!

With all your help, you made it possible for us to bring happiness to a lot of kids! You also did a wonderful thing to the hearts of each of the members of our family.

Again, salamat. Salamat!

If Nichi were here, he’d tell you, “More Power!”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Finding Strength in the Season of Hope

I consider myself lucky to have been in the company of the bravest bunch of people one can ever meet in her lifetime. And this group of people I am referring to, they are not trained to develop courage the way soldiers are. Compared to stunt performers, they are not paid to defy certain laws of nature. And unlike thrill seekers, they do not cheat death just for the so-called rush.

They are brave because they are in a predicament that forces them to be brave. They fight because losing for them is not an option. Everyday, they do their best to defeat the challenges nature’s glitch has in store for them. They cheat death because as far as they are concerned, staying alive is the better choice.

To top it all, they are kids. Kids who happen to be sick. Kids who happen to have cancer.




I wish I could say that there are only a few of them but the turn out of sick children during last December 7th’s Christmas party at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, sponsored by Project: Brave Kids, proves that they are far from being a handful. And the faces I saw in the said party, they are only a portion of ailing children from one department of one hospital here in our country. The more disturbing fact is that there are plenty more of those kids out there.

It used to be that these children and their special cases are something that would pinch my heart for a minute or so. I would feel sorry for them but it will only last until I flip to the next page of the newspaper I’m reading or until I click to another channel that shows something lighter than a bald, sick kid asking people for help.

Everything changed six years ago when my youngest brother became one of them—when at the age of seven, Nichi, my brother, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).

Sick children ceased being statistics or mere pictures to me. Sick children became a reality that hit me, as well as the rest of my family, so hard it seems impossible to recover from its blow.

But Nichi, just like his friends, was brave. Probably the bravest. I never expected he had it in him to fight but his disease made a warrior out of him. He would offer the doctors his hand, his back and even his pelvis for the injection of chemo drugs, intrathecal, and bone marrow aspirations. He’d try to forget about the tortures of his regular medical procedures by focusing on his immediate incentives: a McDonalds meal, an order (or two) of a Chowking Chao Fan with soup, a KFC meal, or a sisig at Dencio’s.

Nichi had a way of looking at a glass as if it were always half full. Amidst all his treatments, he always remained positive that his sacrifices, enduring the pain of one needle after another puncturing his young skin, will be rewarded. He never lost his sense of humor, not even his “star qualities.” He continued singing and dancing as if nothing was wrong with him. He never stopped dreaming and building ambitions for a future he never doubted will be deprived of him.

Of course, Nichi had his low moments. Sometimes he cried but he didn’t let feeling sorry for himself rule him. He knew when to admit that he was afraid which just made him several times braver. At one point, he lost his left eye’s vision, yet it didn’t stop him from winning drawing contests. He did worry about his good eye, but I remember him telling me, “OK na rin lang na mawala yung isa kong mata. At least, hindi ko na kailangang mag-alala parati.” [It’s ok if I lose my good eye. At least, I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.]

Despite religiously following his doctors’ orders, Nichi’s body found its limits. Early this year, his trying-hard-to-be-healthy body started to deteriorate. This happened a few months after he lost his left eye’s vision. Armed with his strong will, Nichi did everything he can to remain in control of his body. Although he could hardly hold a Magic Sing microphone, he still tried hitting the notes while lying down because that was who he was, a performer who just wanted to sing. Even if his motor skills were betraying him, he did his best to press the keys of his green PS2 control pad because that was who he was, a child who just wanted to play.

Eventually, his body’s weakness hindered him from doing all that he loved to do, prompting him to cry and say, “Wala nang adventure ang buhay ko. Parati na lang ako tulog-gising, tulog-gising.” [My life lacks adventure. All I do is sleep and wake up, then sleep and wake up.] He was in tears because ultimately, who he was was a 13-year-old boy who wanted to live.

Perhaps, that was the most painful part in letting Nichi go. We all knew that given a choice, Nichi would rather keep on fighting. After all, he had all the reasons to live. But what had to happen was beyond any of us. And on the night of July 24th of this year, my youngest brother, the bravest person I know, let out his final breath in the presence of the people who loved him most.

Until his final hour, Nichi was aware of what was happening to him and he knew that it wasn’t long before the inevitable comes after him. My dad mustered the courage to tell Nichi, “Kapag pagod ka na, pwede ka nang sumama kay Papa Jesus.” [You can go with Papa Jesus anytime you feel that you’re tired.] Nichi topped Dad’s courage by nodding.

Nichi died peacefully. He didn’t struggle. He didn’t show any signs of fear. And his lifeless body was decorated with a smile on its face.

This year’s Christmas Eve will mark the 5th month of Nichi’s death. I’m afraid that it will be our saddest Christmas of all.

It is in this light that I insisted that my family and I be part of the Christmas party for children like our Nichi. So that the bereaved sister, brother, mother and father in us will still feel the beauty of Christmas. So that after losing what little strength we have in our grief, we can draw ounces of courage from children who, the same as Nichi, really have no room for fear in their lives.

Nichi, with his short life span, has become my family’s source of strength. Now that he is no longer around, we are all somehow lost. But being in the company of sick kids who probably are the bravest bunch of people one can ever meet in her lifetime, my family’s broken pieces have partly been healed, maybe not as a group, but just the same, we each needed the strength those kids radiated. We needed to be infected by their bravery if only for us to hope that, despite everything all will be well some time soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Isang Dipang Pasko

Disyembre na.

Wala pa rin kaming Krismas tree.

Dati-rati, pagsapit ng birthday ng mommy ko sa November 10, automatic Pasko na sa bahay namin.

Pero iba ngayon.

Ang weird din kasi kung magtatayo kami ng Krismas tree. Mas weird kesa sa obvious fact na OP ang bahay namin pag ikinumpara sa Paskung-Pasko na neighborhood namin.

Sa tapat ng kwarto ko, kumukutitap ang ilaw sa dating ordinaryong lamp post dito sa amin. Heto na siguro ang counterpart ng "Isang Dipang Langit" ni Amado V. Hernandez nang malagak siya sa piitan.

Ang aking isang dipang Pasko.
At kagaya ni Ka Amado, pakiwari ko, isa rin akong preso. Lalo na sa dapat sana ay masayang panahong ito.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pwede

Habang nakasakay ako sa taxi kagabi, pagod sa pakikisali ko sa Christmas Party ng mga bata sa PCMC, napaisip ako kung bakit nga ba ako nakisali sa party na iyon. Pwede namang nanatili na lang akong nangangarap na gumawa ng something special sa mga batang katulad ng yumao kong kapatid. Hindi pa ako napagod, nadagdagan ng gastos, nagpaka-kapal ng mukha para manghingi ng pera sa mga tao sa paligid ko, nagpagka-demanding sa mga kakilala ko na tulungan nila ako, at hindi sana ako na-stress.

Siguro nga yan ang mga iniisip ko noong mga nakaraang araw kaya naman hirap akong makatulog. Habang lumalaki kasi ang party kung saan pilit kong isiniksik ang aking sarili kasama ng mga taong napapayag kong makisali rin, nagiging mas malalim ang involvement ko sa party na yon. Kaya lang, kasabay noon, natatabunan ng mga responsibilidad ang tunay kong dahilan kung bakit nga ba nagpapakabiba ako.

Pwedeng nangshoshota lang ako ng doctor. Akalain mo, naging textmate ko rin si doc for quite some time. At maliban sa kanya, may iba pang doctor akong naging textmates. OK din siguro silang i-add sa aking roster of friends.

Pwedeng gusto ko lang i-redeem ang sarili ko sa mga kasamaang nagawa ko at kaya kong gawin kaya naghanap ako ng saintly thing to do. Hindi ko naman maitatago ang aking pagkamaldita (bitch) especially when under pressure. Hindi ako proud doon kaya sa paggawa ng mabuti sa kapwa, baka ma-compensate noon ang katarayan ko.

Pwedeng naghahanap lang ako ng adventure sa buhay ko. Ang boring naman kasi kung ganoon na lang ako parati kaya why not get myself actively involved with a noble cause? At least yon magiging busy ako ulit over something. At magkakaroon naman ng saysay ang buhay ko.

Pwede rin naman nagpapalapad ako ng angel image. Parang isang pulitikong nagpapaganda ng imahe sa mga taong potential na mai-impress sa kanya.

Pwedeng sobra sobra ang pera ko kaya gusto kong mamigay. Kaya lang ang sobra kong pera ay short para sa mahigit 150 na bata kaya namalimos rin ako bandang huli.

Pwedeng namimiss ko kasi si Nichi kaya umaasa akong makikita ko siya sa mga batang matutulungan kong tulungan. Sa gayon, kahit sandali lang at least nakapiling ko siya.

Pwedeng naghahanap lang ako ng mga bagay na makakapagpaniwala sa akin na mabuti ang mundo, na may dahilan ang lahat, na may kabutihan sa likod ng mga masasakit na pangyayari sa buhay natin.

Pwedeng natatakot kasi ako ngayong Pasko—ang unang Pasko kung saan nalagasan na kami ng isang miyembro ng aming pamilya. Nag-iisip ako ng paaran para naman madama pa rin ng pamilya ko at ng mga kaibigan naming nakikisama sa aming pagdadalamhati sa pagkawala ni Nichi ang sayang dulot sana ng Pasko.

Ewan ko. Gusto ko sanang umiyak para malaman ko kung ano ba talaga. Gusto kong sabihin na ipinursige ko ang dagdag surpresa sa mga bata for the pure and right reasons pero may selfish side to it talaga.

Nagagalit ako kung bakit, kagaya ko, ang tadhana ay kailangang maging hindi perpekto. Kung bakit ba naman kailangang maging extra harsh nito? Kung bakit pati mga bata ay kailangan nitong parusahan ng walang pakundangan?

Sa aking pangungulila, nagagalit ako dahil sana hindi na lang namatay ang kapatid ko. Sana nga hindi na lang siya nagkasakit. Sana ni-love ko pa siya lalo noon. Sana binigay ko na lang lahat ng hiniling niya sa akin. Sana hindi ko na lang siya inaway at pinalo noon. Sana hindi ko siya inasar. Sana nadala ko man lang siya sa Enchanted Kingdom kagaya ng pinakangako ko sa kanya. Sana napakain ko siya ng masarap na pagkain. Sana naipasayal ko pa siya sa mga lugar na napuntahan ko. Sana nakapagswimming pa kami ng maraming beses. Sana mas madalas ko pasiyang pinansin noon. Sana naging favorite brother ko siya. Sana mas nakasama ko pa siya. Sana nakipaglaro ako sa kanya ng kung ano mang laro yong gusto niya. Sana binilhan ko siya ng mga toys na gusto niya. Sana nasurprise ko pa sya ng madalas. Sana kiniss ko pa siya nga maraming beses. Sana niyakap ko pa siya ng mahigpit. Sana tinabihan ko pa siya ng matagal sa pagtulog. Sana nga di ko siya tinulugan nung last night nya e.

Ang daming "sana." Nagagalit ako dahil di ko na sila magagawa. Tinutuon ka na lang ang energy ko sa kabaligtaran ng nararamdaman ko.

Nakatulog naman ako ng masaya dahil nakita kong maraming bata ang nag-enjoy sa party nila. Pero hindi ko maitatanggi na malungkot ako dahil sa pagtatapos ng party na iyon, parang natapos na rin ang Pasko ko.

Subtext sa text

Madalas, may hidden messages ang mga bagay na sinasabi natin. Iyon ang tinatawag na subtext. Pwedeng sadya nating ikinukubli ang tunay nating mensahe sa mga salitang kaya nating sambitin. Minsan naman ang mga natatagong mensahe, o subtext, ay dala ng pagkakaiba sa ating thought process at sa ating kakayahan na ipahayag ang ating mga sarili.

Ipinapakita ng palitan ng text message sa ibaba ang konsepto ng subtext:

Boy: …Sana ikaw na lang ang girlfriend ko. As if naman papatulan mo ako.
[Subtext: Ihihirit ko na, baka makalusot pa.]

Girl: As if nga papatulan kita.
[Subtext: Mabuti na ang malinaw!]

Boy: Ganoon ba ako ka-unattractive?
[Subtext: Aww, nasaktan ako doon, ha?]

Girl: Hindi naman… Hindi lang kita type.
[Subtext: Hindi kita type.]

Yon.

Gets?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Throwing The Trillanes Tantrum

The next time I get pissed off over something or someone, I’d probably throw the Trillanes tantrum. You know, walk out, get some people to join my side, then head to a hotel I most prefer to crash.

Astig noh? And Trillanes has done it twice. His big-time tantrums.

Sosyal sya. Senador na kasi. Kaya from Oakwood he aimed for something more shala like Manila Penninsula. And just like a kid he surrenders to his parents, the government, muttering but submits himself just the same.

What do we learn then from Trillanes’ number last Thursday? That the military can be Hollywood-like. They can drive a tank through the lobby of a hotel, although they really need more practice. I mean how many bangs does it take to crash Manila Penn’s main entrance? James Bond could have done that with a sleek car in one hit. What else? That media people in plastic shackles make an excellent subject for a photo op. Heh.

But don’t think I took the failed mutiny as a joke. I was texting my Dad and brother to go home early so as to comply with the 12am to 5am curfew. And when GMA went on air to say her piece, trying so hard to say, “Hey, I’m the president. Mocking me will never go unpunished,” my eyes almost welled up. I was thinking, “What has our country come down to? Is this the nation I insist on serving?”

I guess what I am trying to say is that my Pinoy morale just dropped several notches. A few more coaxing and I’d really be pissed off. Maybe then I’ll walkout of our demi hell-hole and crash a hotel in a land other than ours.