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Catching the Sunset. SFLU PH 2009.

I am a lover of sunsets.  One reason why I love going to the beach is not because I am a good swimmer (which I am not), or a good surfer (obviously not likewise), but because I am such a huge fan of sunsets.  I love seeing the mix and match of pink with orange hues, yellows and grays in various tones.  I love the serenity it showers upon the soul, the feeling that another day is about to end, and that one’s mission for the day is (probably, hopefully) accomplished.    I love that it fills the edge of the ocean with sparkling gold illumination until you see only half of the sun, and later on only a bright dot before darkness envelops the world. 

I think no two sunsets are ever the same, and I always catch myself watching sunsets in awe, every time.

I am likewise a huge fan of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince which I read in college (admittedly, I am a late bloomer in fiction reading, but I think I had substantially compensated for the late start by not stopping since I started) and since the book has so many beautiful quotes, of course what stuck with me is the endlessly cited “what is essential is invisible to the eye” line.

But as serendipity would have it, I saw this wonderful quote from the same book which seemed to have slipped through me when I read it (I read it twice, actually), and it goes: “You know — one loves the sunset, when one is so sad . . .”
‘Were you so sad, then?’ I asked, ‘on the day of the forty-four sunsets?’
But the little prince made no reply.”

I remember Jessica Zafra speaking about that in one of her essays: “That’s the thing about a great book: every time you read it, it’s different, because you are different. You have changed since the last time you picked it up, things have happened to you…”.

So it’s like hearing it from Saint Exupery for the first time, and finding out a little too late that my love for sunsets may be equated to sadness.  But it does make sense, you know, to have that dominant sad nerve in your body if you are a sucker for sunsets.  A sunset is a representation of brightness winding up, of darkness falling, probably of things ending.  I guess I did not need The Little Prince to tell me that.

As of press time I am on my way to see a different sunset in the south, my first time in the lovely city of Davao.  My heart will be too elated in wanderlust mode to think of sadness, but who knows?  Hey, they say you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness (Jonathan Safran Foer).  So let it be.


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Early Saturday morning I had the opportunity to bond with my eldest daughter, Kayla, when she brought me to her scouting activity which requires the attendance of a parent.  Although she was not feeling well, she could not miss the event because she was one of the student – organizers.  I saw her dedication to the activity, and felt proud watching her from the sidelines as she took responsibility and devoted time and effort to the event.  Later that afternoon, she was already bedridden and feverish.

Her condition worsened on Sunday with her long naps and persistent headaches, and later on her complaints of back pains.  We thought of it as a common flu and gave her fluids and meds.  I massaged her lower back and made her move to our room because we have a relatively “harder” mattress which also soothes my back pains.  Her Ading Nadine was protesting at first, not wanting her Manang to sleep in our room, but after sweet-talking her Nadine finally gave in and started checking Kayla’s temperature often as she slept throughout the day.

Monday morning we decided she should skip classes because she was still feverish, but that afternoon we began to worry because of the visible rashes in her arms and palms.  Although she was already stronger than she was the past two days, and her fever had already gone down, we did not want to take chances and decided to take her to the hospital just to be sure she is not suffering from dengue.  On the way to the hospital she wanted me to stay at the back of the car with her, she leaned on me and just comfortably dozed off in my shoulder.

At the hospital she underwent lab tests.  She got scared when the nurse got her blood samples for CBC and dengue tests and started crying, until I held her arm and did my best to assure her it’s going to be fine.  Afterwards she got ok, and while waiting for the results we talked about books and stuff and girly things we just giggled about until she took a nap again.  Thank heavens the results came in negative.

That incident made me realize how – no matter how much she has grown taller and gotten older – my eldest (and my other daughters, as well) will always be my baby.  When she cried upon being injected for blood extraction, it transported me back to the time when she was being given immunization shots as a baby, how I would hold her hand and hush her until she feels all right.  I am proud at how mature she has become, and how sweet, conscientious and understanding she is.  It also made me realize how, probably as most first-borns are, she sometimes does not get enough attention from us because of her other sisters although we try our best to make sure each one of them is well-cared for and given proper attention, love and care.  Thinking about it, I guess it’s time we practice what I heard from Ms. Maricel Laxa in one of her talks about parenting, on giving each child one day per month of bonding with parents without her siblings, just so he could get time of uninterrupted attention for that day.  I think that would be a great idea. 





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that ‘70s groove


Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

I have always been a lover of music.  Sometimes I have this weird thing of intently listening to the lyrics, evaluating what emotions the singer conveys, imagining what the songwriter’s inspiration is for coming up with the words.  I have hundreds of favorite songs from different eras, although I do not really dig classical tunes, only (relatively) old songs.  Corollary to this love of music is likewise a fondness for live performances.  Unfortunately in my youth I was not adventurous enough to brave the streets of Manila to watch a good number of concerts; I was even so lazy to attend concerts at the Sunken Garden, save for one during a UP Fair, featuring bands like Eraserheads, RiverMaya, Introvoys, etc., during Paco Arrespacochaga-cuteness and Bamboo-rockstar-coolness days.  I also remember being at the Araneta Coliseum in freshman year for a Vanilla Ice concert. (LOL)

But whenever I get the chance, I immensely enjoy listening to live music, in music lounges and bars.  It warms my heart and kindles my soul to hear good performers sing pop songs, R&B, retro music and the like.

So when a good friend of mine mentioned the Greatest Hits Reunion concert scheduled in September, featuring former members of the New Minstrels and Circus Band, both popular bands in the ‘70s to ‘80s, whose members made it big as solo artists: Ray-an Fuentes, Basil Valdez, Hajji Alejandro, Tillie Moreno, Jacqui Magno, Pat Castillo, Eugene Villaluz, Ding Mercado, Chad Borja and Joey Albert, I started going into hyperventilate mode.  I wanted to watch it so badly. Even just Joey Albert, who I consider the heartbreak-songs muse in my life story, will be good enough for a concert, but all these artists?  I did not hesitate – but my “date” did.  Hubby loves music yes, but not enough to go ga-ga over concerts.  Nonetheless I went ahead and got tickets: I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

So we were there with the somewhat older crowd (it felt good that for the first time in a long time I was among the “younger” ones in the audience) last Thursday, the 26th.  The show was amazing.  They performed such a good repertoire of ‘70s hits: ballads, pop, jazz, retro grooves.  The guys belted out Barry Manilow and James Ingram classics that made the audience swoon and sigh and remember days of youth (and folly).  The ladies gave an energetic Motown number.  Halfway into the show the crowd (well, some of us), gave into the beat and started dancing, standing when we could no longer contain ourselves.  Hubby sank lower into his seat as I stood, with that cute smirk in resignation. (Did I just call Hubby “cute”? J)  It felt like a date. Hahaha.

It was all worth it, and I would have regretted not catching the show.  Next on the agenda: Stephen Bishop (It Might Be You, On and On), Michael Johnson (Bluer than Blue, I’ll Always Love You) and Side A, on October 24.  I can’t wait.





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Over dinner last weekend – I actually could not remember how it came up – we started talking about chick flicks, light romance movies that I had the privilege to watch and enjoy.  Hubby gave his girls a weak smile, admitted he also watched “While You Were Sleeping” (“What?? I’m a fan of Sandra Bullock so I watched it…” LOL) and then rolled his eyes, and left the table as we went on with the “girls talk” on chick flicks.

The topic excited my daughters, at least my two older ones aged 14 and 11 who, more or less already have recognition of “kilig” moments: the older one being a voracious reader who even recommends good reads to me, and the younger one being, well, a KathNiel follower and a Daniel Padilla fangirl.

So we launched into a cutesy discussion of chick flicks and light romance movies that make you swoon, laugh, giddy, cry, and practically…die, chaired by the expert on the topic: me.  Starting with While You Were Sleeping about a lonely train ticket booth attendant who was mistaken as the fiancée of the guy who had an accident resulting in memory loss, and who fell in love with the supposed fiance’s older brother, then moving on to Sleepless in Seattle with the tag line “What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?”, to Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (no. 1 on my list), then on to Ladyhawke, a classic favorite, about ill-fated lovers who could not be together because the lady turns into a hawk at daytime while the guy turns into a wolf at night.  Honorable mentions included: Before Sunrise, Pretty in Pink, Only You, Never Been Kissed, Benny and Joon, You’ve Got Mail, etc.

We decided to have a movie marathon soon.

But wait, the Mothersmother in me is asking: What am I doing?  Is it wise to be discussing these things with my daughters, to even encourage a movie marathon date to watch light romance flicks that may make them doe-eyed, giddy and heaven-forbid, hopeful of similar relationships in the future?

As far as practicable I want to shield my daughters from everything that is ugly, cruel and unpleasant in this world, but we all know that’s not gonna happen.  Sooner or later they will definitely meet hurdles in life, and the best way I can prepare them will be to show them what they are worth, build their self-esteem, work on their confidence and willpower so nothing will ever shatter them.

Other than the fun and enjoyment of watching these light romances I will be giving out a stern warning that they cannot expect relationships to be that sugar-coated, all bed-of-roses kind of thing.  Further, that they cannot expect to always find the perfect leading man, the flawless character, the impeccable knight in shining armor.  But…as I was raised, I would like them to know they are special, capable and should never settle for less than they deserve.

Now bring it on, chick flicks. 




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deserving goodbyes


Last night while watching the news, my heart bled for a mother who lost her little boy, yet another addition to the number of senseless deaths in the present Zamboanga crisis.  They were made hostages, and later human shields, and had to hide in a dirty canal to protect themselves.  Unfortunately her son got hit by a stray bullet and died within hours.  This is one reason why I sometimes deliberately refrain from watching the news; sad news like these affect me and my supposed “down-time” after a long day’s work.  The news today presents too much violence, oppression, and too much unhealthy “pork” it’s enough to make the viewer gag.

At the start of her interview the mother seemed okay, a little bit too okay for someone who just lost a child, but as more questions were being asked and especially when she was asked what her message is for her son, she just broke down.  I can only imagine the pain of knowing that when she wakes up the next morning she will be missing her little boy, which just goes to all levels of worse as the day progresses – not hearing his laughter, not pacifying his cries, not preparing his meals, or just simply not seeing him around.

It’s been five years that way for me.  Losing my Mama after three weeks of hospital confinement, others would think I should have been more ready than those who lose their loved ones to tragic, senseless, unexpected (as though there were “expected”) deaths.  But no, not really.  Despite her old age and prolonged sickness I was not ready then to let go, there were still so many plans and dreams I wished to share with her.

There will always be that word left unsaid, that deed left undone.

Five years later, I still long for her company.  I still clearly see our late afternoon chats in her room, with the sun peeking, about to set in the horizon, as we talked about my day at work, about the kids, about travel, and books and dreams yet to be fulfilled.  At times of loss, confusion and weakness, I still talk to her in my mind and heart, sometimes apologetic, other times in resignation.

Are we ever deserving of goodbyes?  Is it any easier to know you have limited time with loved ones to be able to express how you really feel, what you really want to say had you known you will soon lose them?  Will it compensate for the longing you will feel afterwards once they are gone?  I think goodbyes may be too overrated.  There are probably instances when we should no longer expect goodbyes but just leave things be, one way or another those left behind are meant to cope, to move on, to find their own closure in their own terms.

I miss you, Ma, every single day.


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It started out as a seemingly harmless pain in the nape/ neck area.  Being a migraneur for more than two-thirds of my life, I simply dismiss it as another episode which, if turning out to be unbearable will just be pacified by one of my life’s BFFs, Flanax. In a couple of days however, the pain had spread to my shoulder blades and down to the middle of my back.  At first I thought it was related to my Coke (soda, not cocaine) withdrawal – been trying to get “sober” from Coca Cola for the past 20 years – and surprised even myself that I have finally gone on four straight days without it.  References online (LOL) warned me of headaches, dizziness, mood swings and mental fogginess (which worried me most), so I dismissed that initial slight pain in the neck/ nape area as just one of those withdrawal symptoms.

As I was already set to see my cardiologist last week (I was scheduled for my check up in April, actually), I told her about my nape pains, and touching the problem areas she said she needed to refer me to rehab med.

Never in a million years did I imagine I will say (or post a status) stating: “I’m in rehab.”

But hey, wonders never cease.  Turning 40 in a couple of years, I guess my life is just about to begin.  So ok, I’m in rehab. Physical therapy and rehabilitative med, but “rehab” nonetheless.

And then it hit me, that this rehab thing came at a point in my life when I had altogether decided to go easy on my Coke intake.  For the first time since elementary, I finally found the courage (and the sense?) to go for days without it.  I used to be in shock whenever my lab results come out each time we have an annual medical exam at work, and my blood sugar remained within normal limits (I always get the feeling my blood samples have been switched).  Given my intake of soda since I was younger I wouldn’t be surprised, but for some reason my body chem has so far been really, really weird.  Take for example the muscle relaxant given for my pains last week.  Doc warned that I should take it after dinner because I’ll get really drowsy or dizzy afterwards.  After drinking it the first time and the  night thereafter I was awake till about 1:30 in the morning.  Weirdness.

So, rehab.  I’m liking the sound of it.  I’m liking the way you roll the word in your lips and tongue.  I love it in so many levels because it speaks of hope; of doing, being something better; of welcoming change.  They say we learn from our mistakes if we aren’t too busy denying them.  I am now set for 6 sessions of physical therapy at 50 minutes each of solitude, soft music and electrodes.  50 minutes with nowhere to go, but just to be still, (hopefully) to NOT think or worry about anything while in the process, and just be.  Rehab is love.


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the remedy

Another long weekend, and we’re still having gloomy weather. Sure we had short glimpses of sunshine for a good part of Saturday and Sunday, but the sudden warmth had somewhat taken its toll on my lungs.  I woke up Sunday morning with a grainy feel to my throat, signs of an impending bad cold, and a semi-killer headache (to distinguish it from a killer-killer headache or “migraine” in my book).  Not a way to start my weekend (yup weekend officially starts Sunday for me, so a long weekend for most is a normal weekend for me. HA!).  Anyway, we went to my in-laws for a birthday party. Their home is in San Luis, with a “province” feel to it, and on a clear day shows a grand view of the seashore of La Union.  I always get excited whenever we plan to spend weekends there because the atmosphere is really just so cozy I fall asleep almost instantly when my back hits the bed (or even just the couch I tell you).

Anyway, this Sunday was no exception, especially so since I was really not feeling well.  I left the kids to watch horror movies with their cousins, and amidst the chaos and screaming I tried to enjoy my current read, The Mighty Storm, a contemporary romance that makes you swoon and feel quite-high-school-giddy.  After finishing the novel (my achievement for the day), I had a nap.  I woke up half an hour later, and I thought: nothing a nap won’t cure.  I felt a bit better.

Going back to the living room I saw that the kids have started another movie, this time a Tagalog film: Four Sisters and a Wedding.  I am a huge fan of Filipino movies, mostly dramas.  To date I have in mind a number that I really want to watch but haven’t yet, and I am promising myself to watch them real soon.  They provide a nice breather, some cheap thrill, and when I do get to cry (which is often), some soul-cleansing of sorts.

Four Sisters and a Wedding is no exception.  I loved it.  I love the funny lines courtesy of Toni Gonzaga (loved her in My Amnesia Girl, too), and a good part of the movie is just really hilarious. Plus, the story really hit home.  We have 3 headstrong daughters, and given their varying attitudes, opinions and smarts, I’m afraid they will have their own differences and conflicts as they grow up, but like the movie beautifully portrays, family is family, and the ties that bind will surpass any and every trial that may come among siblings.  It warms my heart, and gives me so much hope.  So after the movie I changed my mind: laughter is still the best medicine. But sleep plus laughter? That is the real deal.


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not about the ending














The depression streak continues.  Your friend here is still under the weather…if beneath under the weather is even possible, that’s where you’ll find me.

It’s actually my eldest daughter’s fault. But wait, before you think my 14-year-old is into some despicable rebellious behavior, I would have to stop you there.  My firstborn is actually still in her best behavior – almost, except for the occasional angst and annoyance and whininess I think she is more or less entitled to at her age – and so far she has not shown manifestations of finding an accomplice to give her parents a headache (like a guy, or something).  Not yet, and I hope I don’t conjure up anything with this (note to the universe: no wishful thinking intended with the observation).

Do you remember your own parents prescribing books for you to read when you were younger? My Mama was not an avid fan of fiction books, and back then what she egged on for me to read was Health and Home, and the Word Power section of The Readers’ Digest.  Of course, given that I was stuck with Readers’ Digest I also managed to read the other sections, and my first taste of fiction was from its condensed book section.  I only had my own dose of fiction in fifth grade, with Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High pocketbooks.

Anyway, times have changed. In my sweet little universe, my eldest daughter who reads much faster than I do, now gets to recommend books I should read.  She knows me well, and already has judgment as to what I should read next after what I read last.  I do not exactly act as strict judge on what she should and should not read, except in extreme cases entitled Fifty Shades of Grey, and Bared to You.  Mostly I do trust her judgment –  that broken down into: 40% faith that we are raising her well, and 60% faith because I pray really hard that my kids will always have good judgment.

For months now she’s been asking me to read “The Fault in Our Stars”, a John Green novel about star-crossed lovers: teenagers both afflicted with cancer.  I have hesitated for months because (1) I met John Green through “Looking for Alaska” and he made my heart ache for days; (2) Reads like these do not sit well with me on days like these; (3) I remember her knocking on our bedroom door the night she finished reading this, crying. No, bawling, actually; and (4) With a premise like that, what else should I expect?  But finally I did read it, and had a good, long cry which left my eyes really swollen, my heart really torn apart, and Hubby and kids really in shock.  Even as I was reading only the first few chapters I knew the story was doomed, but I gallantly moved on because…for one, I’m no quitter.  Also, I believe I am just simply a sucker for horrible endings.

But I had a good cry.  And I was able to share a few hours of my life knowing Hazel and Augustus, and those are awfully sweet precious moments in my book.


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Again I would like to blame it on the weather, but I won’t. I love the sound of rain.

But yes, for some reason all is not well in my universe again.  After a fabulous four-day weekend, and sleep, lots of sleep, I knew there was a catch. The four glorious days in bed was the universe telling me to prepare, because a huge challenge is underway.

At times I would receive e-mails from readers, telling me that my article that week was nice, that the way I talk about family is very enlightening, that I do inspire them in my own little way.  Sometimes office clients would ask if I was the one writing for Sun*Star Baguio, and tell me that they find my articles funny, inspiring and ‘light’, that some feel good after reading it.  A former law professor who is now a co-teacher at the UC College of Law told me he enjoys reading my column, but that sometimes I use language for “bagets” and he could not fully understand what I was talking about.  That made me laugh, Sir, but for the record, our age is just a number and there is no crime against feeling young, all the time. Hahaha.

These feedbacks are very inspiring, and I cannot believe we have been couch chatting for five years now.  It only feels like yesterday that I started this column.  I am grateful for my readers, couch visitors, couch tambays if you may, especially those who thank and give praises for the “alleged” inspiration I provide.  But I would not pass up this opportunity to thank you, for giving me this couch likewise, to enable me to share my thoughts, air my observations, and oftentimes articulate my feelings. At times it feels like purging, like distributing the weight of the world to be shared among us; sometimes it feels like reaching out to an unknown audience, and getting a clear message across not waiting for a reply, just some good old inspiration and denouement.

Like right now.  I am under the weather not only literally, and the gloom of the actual weather is not helping.  But I have reached this far and thus far survived, and I am not going to stop trying now.  You see, it is not all roses and butterflies in this side of my couch.  But if you are going through much in life and happen to read this article, it would be wise to know, and accept, that giving up is never an option.

Pray, and keep the faith.  Life is never easy, but it is worth it, one way or another.

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through,

how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over.

But one thing is certain:

When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.

That’s what this storm’s all about.” (Haruki Murakami)


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(n. monotony, dullness.)

It must be the season, the long days of rain and drizzle, or just the gloomy, grey weather this morning, or the overcast skies.  It must be something to do with hormones, or maybe the (slightly) lowered sugar level in my system.  But yes, I’m coming out in the open, acknowledging that lately I am experiencing a down time, a humdrum buzz that persists on the side of my head, much like a busy fly near my ear doing its best to be noticed.  I want it swatted ASAP before it gets the better of me.

On better days, this is curable by a box (!) of chocolates, ice cream, or just a can of ice cold Coke; never mind that they go directly to my midsection.  That is a common mistake, I guess, equating a happy tummy with total happiness.  Now I know better (uhm, kind of J).

So how do we deal with days like these, without necessarily engaging in self-destructing behavior like binging?

Read an exciting book.  Excitement is relative, so choose according to what subject matter excites you.  For example, Fifty Shades of Grey may be exciting for some, but boring to others (gasp!).  Reading will allow you to travel far from the usual fanfare of your existence, and meet new “people”.

Engage in a new hobby.  I came across this online article on the perks of engaging in a new hobby or finding a new activity that will put an end (albeit temporarily, hence merely suspend) to a monotonous daily life.  It discussed how learning something new, and doing it well, will surely give a jolt to your seemingly dull day.  Lately I have been trying calligraphy, and although work gets in the way (haha) I try my best to squeeze several writing exercises into my schedule.  Find something that is both fun and useful, although just fun will definitely do.

Rummage through old picturesSome points in your life may not have been this dull, you know.  Why not go over old photographs, or even relatively new ones, but showing different scenes like travel destinations you and your family and friends have been to?  Treasured moments are no doubt a foolproof antidote to boredom. You may even find great pics for those “throwback Thursdays” thingy. Stern warning though: steer clear of photographs or mementos that may evoke bitterness or heartaches.  Which makes me wonder: haven’t you discarded those by now? LOL.

Watch something funny.  My absolute Prozac: Friends, the NBC tv show.  Next best thing: The Big Bang Theory.  Whatever works for you:  Just for Laughs, Just for Gags, Mr. Bean (really? Ok, no judgment here).

Sleep. They say a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for everything. So, if all else fails, hit the sheets.

I feel so much better now.











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