Sunday, January 29, 2012

Manny Pacquiao's Long Lost Relative

It was an ordinary summer afternoon. Most of the kids in our neighborhood had just finished playing hide and seek, hopscotch or monkey, monkey Annabelle which I think was our local version of tag it. It was about 5 o'clock and the sun was about to set. At about 6 pm  most kids were expected to be home by then. This was in the 70's where children played on the streets the minute the sun was no longer that scorchingly hot. It was the easiest and cheapest recreation at that time. And we only have an hour left to enjoy our play.

My brother Xavier, who was fondly called Sonny was about 7 years older than I am. There was a time that I was like his shadow, always on tail him because our dad  only  allowed me to play as long as my brother saw to it that I do not get hurt that much. My dad was very protective of his  two daughters and I happened to be the eldest.

Perhaps my brother had  gotten bored of my clean clothes whenever I get to play. Perhaps, his definition of play was getting  muddy clothes, having bruises and smelling like a dog. Or maybe he had a sudden burst of creativity that he wanted to try it out on his little sister.

We were about to go home when he called his childhood friend, Nick, who happened to be our nephew. He whispered something that made Nick look at his uncle, asking him if that was a good idea. And since my brother had always been a charmer, (sometimes to the point of being manipulative), he was able to convince Nick of his plan. I was on our way home when my brother called me and said, "Have you ever watched a boxing match? "And  the first thing that came to mind was a man wearing boxing shorts in boxing gloves falling flat on his face while trying to get up and another man wearing white long sleeves and black pants with a butterfly tie around his neck is counting, waiting if the boxer can still get up.  I do not know why but a  knockout scene was the first thing that that came to mind.

I told my brother "yes" and he said, "Good, I have set you up for a boxing match with Ton Ton."

I can not believe what I heard. I told my brother that I really do not know how the game works, how does one win. He then answered that it was just easy. That I just have to protect my face from getting punched. And he said it a matter of factly, like he get to be punched on his face everyday. He added that I need not to worry just as long as I follow what he told me.

Hmm. I smelled trouble.

But since I always looked up to my brother (which, I sometimes wish I didnt' ), I went ahead and accepted the challenge.  Besides, my opponent was our nephew, Nick's youngest brother, who was also a playmate and  played chess very well especially if I let him cheat so he could win.

The arena was at our Aunt Naty's backyard. My brother and Nick had connived to have it staged there so that my dad will not suspect nor hear what the commotion was about. The other kids in our neighborhood had joined in to watch. Ton Ton's face looked like that of  a monster, about to eat its prey and I felt like a lamb about to be sacrificed.

The match started. I could hear yells of all sorts, telling me what to do. I am not sure if they were cheering for me or if they' re enjoying the set up for the match. My brother was yelling me what to do and since I can't hear, I tried to look at him and then


I dont' know what happened but I think I  just saw some stars and felt my left cheek hurt.

My brother yelled for a timeout.

He told me I need to learn how to protect my face. That I should learn how to fight for myself. I almost told him that in case he had forgotten, that Ton Ton is a boy and is bigger than I am. I was about to when he said, "You can beat him even though he is a boy and is bigger than you are. Just follow what I tell you."

I gritted my teeth in silent anger and frustration. I had no time to tell him that I just saw the Big Dipper and Orion and now has a throbbing cheek because I was trying to follow what he was telling me but can not hear it.

The match continued. I think I've heard some kids are in favor of Ton Ton. I even heard bets and gambles in the background. What a great neighborhood we have.

Because my left cheek was still hurting, I decided that I do not want to give him the benefit of doing the same thing to its sister. I threw my tentative jabs in the air, missing him. Darn, he was quick. So  quick that I started to get dizzy. The yells and cheers were getting stronger.  I can still hear my brother yelling me what to do and then something hit my belly,  so hard that I thought I am going to throw up.

My brother yelled timeout! In anger he told Nick that they agreed on what parts of the body should be hit. Nick reasoned that it can not be avoided because that is how one plays boxing . I was looking at both of them, now tired,  and then went to look at Ton Ton. I may have imagined it but he was leering at me. The maniac looked like a leech.  I am starting to hate this game, this set up and wished I never have  listened to my brother. I wanted the game to be over and go home.

He must have seen it  because he took my by the arm, gently, perhaps because  he knew most of my  body parts were now hurting and then he whispered, "Let's finish this game and go home. Then, unaudibly, he spelled and mouthed the words, "Hit him in the groin."

 I can't believe what I've heard.

He reasoned that I can not let myself loose, because they  had  broken the rules and started to cheat. He even added, "You are not letting him cheat on you again, are you?"

And that made me angry. So angry that I made sure this last round will be mine.

The match resumed. Ton Ton was so confident that he is going to win. While he thought he was trying to wrap me around his finger with his moves and jabs pretending to hit me  to frighten me, I got the opening I was waiting for. And  then

Wapak!!! Wapak!!!

I heard laughter and yells, the loudest was from my brother. It was Nick's turn to get angry but my brother was deaf. Ton Ton almost kneeled on the ground because of  what I did. Still he was able to get up.

"You were cheating!" " That was foul! " yelled Ton Ton who was still in pain.

The nerve. I preferred not to tell him how many times he cheated on me when we played chess and hide and seek. Instead I decided to just show him the difference. So I yelled back.

"That was not cheating! "

Wapak!!! Wapak!!!

I think Ton Ton got to see some constellations and a meteor shower. He was also touching his cheek but I decided to give him a taste of an uppercut.


 I did not even give him time to blink.

"That was boxing! "

Ton Ton was very angry. He was about to grab me when Nick said, "That's enough you two,"
As he was trying to control spoiled sport Ton Ton,  my brother carried me and raised my arm and yelled


Yells and laughter followed. I felt a different kind of high not sure if it was the combination of my smelly spectators or because I won the match.

 Turned out, the bets were on me.  Really, such an awesome neighborhood  we have.

I might  just be  tempted to try boxing again

That evening, both me and my brother were grounded by my dad. And because I was innocent, I was not allowed  to go and play outside for a week. My brother on the other hand, was not allowed to watch his favorite tv shows for two weeks.

And despite the bruises and my hurting cheek, somehow, that felt so good.

(credits to for the  image)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Through the Years

I told my mom that there will be a medical mission near our place where people can have their usual laboratory tests- uric, blood sugar, urinary and what have you at a discounted rate. She immediately told me to have her registered . She added, "Take care of the registration fee and I will give it back when I get paid."

 I can not help but smile on how smart that sounded. My mom had gone back to tutoring kids. In our place where word gets around easily, she was always referred to by other people as "the  old woman who had a reputation for teaching, " a profession that she had always been proud of until now. It was not just her bread and butter but her vocation, just like motherhood.

My mom came from a dysfunctional family. Being the eldest of 3 kids, she had learned the word responsibility at a young age. She once mentioned that there were days that she wanted to come out and play but instead  stayed indoors to look after her siblings. Good thing she loved to read. Perhaps she may have not realized then but it was by reading where she met many friends, gone into places , and where she started building her dreams.

And that was what she did.

Mom has always been a source of inspiration to me and my kids

Every time she went to school she made sure she excelled. Every task given to her, she gave her 110 per cent. She was  focused, driven and pro active. It did not matter if she had to cross a river just to study when she was in high school or  tutor her landlady's kid just to pay for her rent when she was in college. She wanted to become a lawyer, an ambition that was far fetched at that time because they cannot afford it so she chose teaching instead, but  made sure she will not just be any ordinary teacher.

She left her hometown when she married my dad. She was barely 23 years old then, perhaps even younger. She was obliged to learn a dialect she never knew and get along with people including those that were hard to deal with. Enviousness perhaps runs  in every family circle, negative traits that my mom have no time for. To her every man is basically good, and  it is his choices that makes  him what he is.

It was not surprising that my siblings and I had fared well in school. I thought then that was because  my mom taught in the same  school where we went to. When all of us had gone to other schools, even stopped schooling for a while especially in my case, I found that it was not true. She tells us often  not to stop reading and to continue learning, be it watching informative shows or meeting people. She also  reminds us to remain humble of one's achievements and to always look back at one's humble beginnings.

There had been a year when my mom had been in and out of the hospital due to multiple strokes. My family  knew that she was not getting any  younger. That things were not the same as they used to  especially now that she has diabetis and osteoporosis. Year 2009 had been a bad year for all of us.We lost our eldest brother  due to a heart condition. All of us had been devastated especially my mom. All of us could not believe that my brother had gone too soon. We were worried  that she might  not be able take it all.

But my mom had never been a quitter. She had always faced life heads on. A few days after my brother's cremation, she told one of my  daughters, that she  does not want to live in a hospital anymore.  That she is still needed especially now  that my brother left a wife and 3 sons. Besides, if she was able to move on when my dad left us ,  she can not see any reason  why she can not do that again.

And so that's what she did but this time, she did more than that.

Mom and I enjoying a cozy afternoon with our relatives

She decided to be productive by accepting tutorials even though she was underpaid. She continued to be active in our place senior citizens' group where she used to be the auditor, but now the vice president which worries me at times because that would mean more responsibility to the group, in which she just gave me, a deaf ear. Lately, I have learned she attended birthday parties of other senior citizens' members, even telling me that  she had worn the blouse I gave last Christmas. She had never stopped reading that she  knows Harry Potter very well after reading all seven books. And never grew tired of knowing Dan Brown, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell through their novels.

Life had been kind to my mom. Financially we may not be well off, but  both mom and dad made sure my siblings and I were brought up with the things that really matter. Basic things like the times spent with each other, stories and laughter  shared, and the freedom to know and learn what life was all about. To be good in one's  chosen field, and by paying things forward  especially to those who need it. It may not have been  much, even trivial to others, but as we go along our lives when most  of the people who matter had gone before us, we come realize that it is not  the fancy, worldly things, that we long for, but the very simple ones that we want to take back, hoping that this time it may not be too late.

My mom just turned 77  last January 20th. When I talked to her  over the phone, she said that my daughters' classmates had read my blog and mentioned how they liked it. She added that she will find the time to read it,  now that she knows what a blog is.  And that really made me smile.

In fact, it really made my day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Wonderful World of Autism

Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians, special education, therapy sessions, Persons with Disability ids, these were some of the words I first heard when I learned that I have two kids with autism.

Sidney and Red were born full term.I never had problems with both when they were born. Both were breastfed. They fed,wailed, laughed like any other babies and had no problems with psychomotor abilities. They were not even picky eaters.They love pasta, fruits and veggies especially Sidney who enjoys munching carrots and potatoes. They look normal, even good looking as what most people have told me. It seemed nothing could be wrong until they became toddlers.

When Sidney turned 2 years old her speech was delayed. Though she was able to catch up just like the other kids, it seemed something was not right. Her words were advanced for her age and she  learned to read and speak fluently in English even before she went to school. She also loved to read and tinker with computers that her ability to absorb words, places and phrases including online games were faster compared to other kids even way beyond her age.

With Red it was different. His vocabulary was limited until now though that had improved because he goes to a special school. His music is his language as he hums, sings like a jazz singer and never off key. Before he does this when he was agitated or nervous like when we visit his pediatrician or had his head stitched due to a playing accident. Now he sings for no reason at all. While at play, on his way to school or when he wants you to follow him sing with his new learned tune.

Odd looks. Cold stares. Annoyed glares. Angry neighbors and sometimes misplaced sympathy.These were the reactions we get when I take them to the mall or for a short stroll even before I 've learned about their disability. Perhaps one cannot find fault in that. Autism to some maybe a less interesting subject until one gets hit with it. One may take the blow hard, others may go into denial thinking it may just be a virus, a disease that got one infected and can be cured by a shot.

We have gotten used to it.We have grown accustomed to such questions like "Where did it come from?""Why you let it happened twice?" worst "what have you been doing when you were pregnant?" thinking maybe that knowing the answers can make a difference.

There must be a reason to all of these that most of us may not be capable of understanding and that there will always be questions, lots of it. But if one continue living this life with such questions, one may not live long enough  to that day to finds the answers.

Doors, windows opened. Opportunities knocked. Interviews. Stories. Insights shared. Learning to look at the world differently, enjoying the simple things in life, seizing those moments. Like Sidney's saying "I love you " out of nowhere and Red's constant act of wiping your tears, uncontrollably shed. Such are these milestones, making you smile and think things may not be that bad after all and eventually will turn better, if you choose to look at it that way.

I have come to realize that there was so much that I have gained when I accepted them as they are and learned to live my life day by day. Respect, admiration, understanding even from total strangers now turned into friends. Meeting parents and relatives who share the same struggles like I do. Teachers, gifted beings who take care of my kids when they are in school, giving them the same tenderness and caring especially at times when they need it. Becoming a member of an advocacy which continuously look for ways to make this world a more forgiving place, knowing that now I am no longer alone.

I hope that one day, more people would stop, listen and care to know more,  this wonderful world of Autism.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Written In The Stars

I sometimes believe that the people we meet and the choices that we make had been written in the stars long before we have been born. That there is a very thin line between coincidence and fate. This  is what I have come to realize when a  friend's grandfather's contributions was posted in Facebook. He was a poet, known not only in Pampanga  but in the world as well. He also happened to be my mom's first mentor  as he was her first school principal when she was just starting out. My mom was originally from the southern part of the country that one has to literally board a ship and take a  bus to get to our province. She moved when she married my Dad and she had very limited knowledge of the dialect, only the basic ones. Such was her challenge, every time she teach. Add to that, she had to ride a boat to get to work, rain or shine. That's how much she loved teaching and how she was dedicated to it. After  a few years,with my dad's encouragement, my mom was transferred to a different school. In the mainlands, where most of the provincial busses from Manila going to Olongapo and Subic Bay would pass by. It was an accident prone area but  she taught there until she retired.

A world-renowned poet laureate happened to be my mom's first mentor.
[image credit: Center For Kapampangan Studies Facebook Page]

When I was  just starting in high school, I met a girl who always caught everybody's attention because of her  black hair and beautiful eyes. She did not know then that I already knew her name because she and  her friends usually pass by our house  on their way home. I think she introduced herself because she was seated in front of me. She loves plants and flowers and was good with crafts and arts. She also loves to sing, in fact we like the same kind of music and later found out that her mom was also a teacher. How coincidental. We could not stop ourselves from giggling of the things we have in common. That warm feeling stayed with me on our way home that I told my Dad about my new found friend though it was kind of odd because he was not a bit surprised. He said"your friend's mom  taught in the same school when your mom was just starting and that their boss, the school principal, is her grandfather, Mr Delfin Quiboloy."

Because I was very young and was so exited about what I've learned, I planned to tell my friend the next day. I thought of surprising her. But it seems I was the one who got surprised. She said, "my dad told me we are related. Our grand mothers were cousins. That either our great grandmothers or  great grandfathers  were siblings. I am part "Mallari" too.

How odd life is.Before I was just drawn to this girl, just wanting to be her friend only for me to learn later that we are related, that we come from one tree. Perhaps, it was too much of a coincidence that her  grandfather was my mom's mentor, observing her teaching, giving feedback and suggestions, making her feel home to a place she had never been and barely being able to speak, more so understand, a dialect very foreign to her. Her grandfather. A Poet,Teacher, Mentor, Friend. And all of these happened  when my friend and I both have not been born yet.

How humbling it is to be grateful to someone you never met before. Of the things he have done, not because he will gain a lot from it financially, but because he felt it was his job to do so. Sharing  his  gift for writing not only to his fellow Kapampangans but to the world as well,  and choosing a profession so noble, that he extended his knowledge, not  just only of the dialect but his love for teaching to those who needed it, including my mom.

Poetry.Teaching.Friensdhips.Perhaps it all had been written in the stars after all.