Sunday, February 26, 2012

Only in My Mind

We have always been taught to be polite. Not in only in our words but in our actions as well. From the home, to the school, to the workplace, we have always been reminded to be careful with what we say because the words that come out from our mouths and how we act  signify what kind of persons we are. Especially if one has kids , worst, if one happens to be a senior, in terms of age in a team. They observe and absorb the words and  all the things you do. At times it takes an effort  to keep your mouth shut or better yet, become mindful on your reactions to certain uncompromising situations.

It has been a long time that I had practiced my religion. That does not mean I do not pray anymore. Since I started working, I rarely hear mass but  that does not mean I do not visit the church. I do find it hard not to sleep, worst , snore when I do hear mass. That is one of the tradeoffs of working on graveyard shifts. And since I need to work, I just make do by simply making my religion a personal one. But there was a time  when  I dropped everything just to hear mass and that was when my teammates decided to bond together after shift.

We were newbies and still adjusting to our closing shift which was from 5:00 in the morning till 1:00 in the afternoon. Our team decided to go to church first then have lunch after that. And so that's what we did. Everything was going fine, I even joined the  singing , until I smelled something. A smell that cannot be denied, that my nostrils cannot escaped from . I was trying my best to reject the scent, but the more that I pushed myself the stronger it became. I am not sure if it was the combination of sleepiness or hunger pangs, but I was starting to get dizzy. So I told my teammate, Faith, whose name was so appropriate because it seems, I am almost running out of it, of the situation.

I told her , "If I collapse any minute, will you be kind enough to carry me?"

She immediately became worried and asked me what's wrong. So I told her the reason while pointing my underarm.
"Mommy please behave, you are inside the church."

I felt like a kid that had just been reprimanded, but I was just being honest. I mean what did she want me to do, tell the stranger next to me that I am about to faint because of her body odor? That would be impolite. Besides, we were  inside the church, hearing mass  and it would be brutally frank if I tell her how she smells.

So I asked for guidance,  enlightenment and strength to hold on. I just had one ardent wish. That is for her not to go near me, and of course that the mass would end sooner. Until the priest said, "Let us show each other our sign of peace."Heaven forbid, please spare me," I told myself. My teammates kissed me, telling me " Peace mommy." Finally, I did the inevitable, I faced the person next to me and trying my best to smile, told her "Peace be with you." But what my seat mate did next almost made me cry. She hugged me in return.

I almost died.

After I finally got a hold of myself, I looked at my teammates, and  found out they were trying their best not to laugh.

After that day, I promised myself, that if things can be avoided, I will never, ever hear mass when I am hungry or sleepy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Greatest Gift

I received a text message from a colleague the other night.  The text said that she woke up and found that her right hand  was shaking, uncontrollably and asked me why. Though I am not a doctor, by experience I knew how that felt. So I told her thru text that  it was about time to visit and listen to her doctor's advise. "And please find the time to visit the spa and have a massage. You are stressed out. All of us are." I added.

 There was a time when I was working six days a week, taking advantage of every overtime, wether mandatory or not. I know that would mean my laundry would pile up and my kids would miss me more. I even asked my mom  during those few times I visited her if I am beginning to be materialistic or too ambitious for my own good. I felt like when people look me through my eyes, they would see the peso or dollar sign in them. "No, " you are not being materialistic nor too ambitious for that matter. You have been a stay at home mom for a while. Now that you had started to earn your own money and learned that you can provide, you want to earn more because you know that money would go to more important things. You are just trying to catch up. "

That somehow lessen the guilt that started to gnaw inside me for not spending much time with my kids. They were still young then. And I know when the right time comes , I will make it up to them.

I just never thought that I will be on the receiving end when that happens.

My eldest daughter , Sam, had been very busy with her  thesis lately. She had been spending her evenings for almost a whole week at her classmates' place because their defense will be by the end of the month. She literally became a stranger to all of us, just coming over to get some clothes  and to see her siblings. She suddenly became a daily visitor to her own  home. We only get to keep in touch through  text and through I bought her a Frank Sinatra compact disk which was on sale, because she happened to love the standards. I also had planned on giving all of them a treat this weekend, only for me to learn she will not be able to make it. She did thank me for the gift, and she had relayed this through text.

I have to admit, that I miss those days when my kids and I would hang out and just simply talk about anything under the sun. Now that all of them had grown up and became very busy with school, it seems the only time I get to talk  to them and have a discussion is when they ask for some extra allowance to finish certain reports, attend a seminar or a field trip requirement. Sometimes there are even shouting matches and teary explanations in between. At times, I am almost to that point of giving up, because the last thing that I wanted was to end my day on a negative note with my kids. Such negative reactions stay in one owns psyche the whole day, worst, even affects one's sleep until it is time to go to work, only to realize it has not left you. And one tries his  best to shake it off or else, one will be all over the place.

It is very easy for us to loose ourselves, in our  relationships, in our business, in our work. We feel that we always have this ample supply of energy to give, not knowing that we are slowly depleting bit by bit. There are signs but we chose to ignore them if that would mean more money to pay for one's bills, for your kids' education and perhaps a long overdue vacation. And sadly, when we do find the time to reward ourselves, that energy almost left us that we just rather hit the sack and  catch up on sleeping instead.

I had been guilty on all these. The text I received the other night was followed by a similar one. Both came from hardworking  people who do not have kids yet but rarely have time for themselves. Not that they do not know their real worth, but  had too often forgotten to treat themselves. It was a light bulb moment that made me think of how I have been treating myself lately, of certain days how I would push myself to go to work because that was expected of me. Of dreading the weekend to come so I could at least sleep regularly and spend some time with myself. In a way, we should always think of ourselves as gifts, that should be taken cared of and treasured,  wrapped or unwrapped. Our self proclaimed financial independence or our longing  to be with someone who is, may mask who we truly are, but it would help from time to time to remember to treat ourselves, kindly. It is the only way we could give back, without forgetting who we are.

Below is a video of one of my favorite songs. I just want to share it with you and hope you find time to ponder on it.

Blog Post Hop

And I hope you like it too.

(The song "The Greatest Gift " was composed by the Academy Award Winner Henry Mancini whose compositions include, "Moon River, " " Two for the Road " and "The Days of Wine and Roses." He also composed the theme song for the movies "Rocky, " and "The Pink Panther." Credits also go to for the video.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Way of Rounding Things

The first time a close friend invited me to attend a theater workshop, I was a little bit skeptic. I asked her what's it all about. She mentioned about exaggerated gestures while acting, forming a group in circles and making your own dialogue when you're picked. My friend could  not help but laugh at my reaction. I had my mouth opened, trying to understand what she said but failed.

"Close your mouth or else a fly might mistake it for a cave, "she said in jest.

She said it was fun, instead of spending the summer of not doing anything. I told her I do read, a lot, I pointed. But she reasoned out that a theater workshop was something different and that I have to test the waters  to learn it. When I asked her who's handling the workshop, she said it was her cousin, Jun Matias. By the look of it all she seemed exited, even beaming.

"So there's the catch."

 So I asked her who's Jun Matias aside from the fact that he was her cousin. My friend answered, in near irritation, that he was a theater artist from PETA, once became a staff for a famous director named Lino Brocka and  that he also writes. I told her I am a fan of Lino Brocka movies, that it was cool his cousin writes but I am not familiar with PETA, at that time. I apologized  and told her I am not interested.

Together with Richard Reynante, Jun Matias  was the creative genius behind
 Precious Pages Corporation and Lampara  Books Publishing
(credits goes to facebook for the image)

"You might regret this one day, you know, " and left.

Luckily, my friend did not take that personally. Our friendship did not tint by shallow disappointments. Besides we were in high school. Our place at that time was still  backward. Summer workshops and self help programs where unheard of. Sadly, there had been a time that I had spent my summer just by reading pocketbooks when I should have tried other arts instead. My friend did finish the workshop and to show my support, I've watched their play, which turned out quite well.

A decade later, when local television was full of the weekly shows from Regal and Viva Films, I got the chance to catch  Jun Matias'  name. He did write, this time his name on the screen was Segundo Matias, Jr. He wrote  stories where artists like Gretchen Barretto, Rita Avila, Jean Garcia and Aiko Melendez who was just a teenager then but whose acting ability can be lined up with the veteran ones, appeared . The stories were simple, depicting of one 's ordinary life, its woes and joys, all compressed in an hour because of the commercials.

It was in the late 1990s' that his name became such a revelation. I have read in the newspapers that he had been publishing books. Love stories at that, just like the Mills and Boon and Harlequin local versions. But it was in 2003, at  my son's recognition event that I had one of  the biggest surprises in my life.  An alumnus will give a short speech about his younger days and humble beginnings. Turned out the visitor was nonetheless, Segundo Matias, Jr fondly called Jun Matias. He was already then  a businessman, the man behind the famous Lampara Books Publishing and Precious Pages Corporation.

He had gone a  long way. His giftedness, popularity and humility was so overwhelming that I had been speechless when he handed me the medal so I can pinned it on my son. We even had our picture taken but for some reason had chosen not to post it here as I looked very different then, lost even. I could have said something like, "Your cousin is a very good friend and we came from the same town. I am so sorry that I was not able to attend the theater workshop you spear headed then."

Lately, I have learned he had chains of  Precious Pages outlets in most major malls in the Philippines. When I visited one of his stores, I even had the gumption to interview some of his staff. They said  he was a good hearted person, fun to be with and easy to get along. In fact they even knew his birthday which was just a few days away then. They asked me if we were related. I told them we were and we came from the same place. Recently I learned that he still writes, had become a Palanca awardee and now visits schools to promote reading which is a very good advocacy.

This  store found at the SM Mall of Asia, is just one of the many store outlets
that Jun Matias handles
( credits goes to for the image)

Funny it took decades for us to meet. I did not plan nor envisioned it will happen but somehow fate did find its way. Before I could not help but ponder the meaning behind all these but now I know.Though I am not regretful of that missed opportunity because of my age but given the chance I can still attend theater workshops. As for us having a connection, he is a facebook friend and I did send him a message about what happened many summers ago. It is also  true that we are related on my grandmother's side as  told by my aunt and my mom. Strange though that  meeting him  was like  the gift of writing or any other God given gift for that matter. One can set it aside, forget it even until an incident or a person perhaps sent from Above will point out that gifts were given so they can be harnessed, and shared so people can learn, be inspired and perhaps realize that they too have gifts lurking within, waiting to come  out. Meeting him finally, was like finding my creative voice, which somehow found its way home.

I know one day when I get the chance to write a short book for kids, he will be the publisher and his autograph will be the first one I will have.

Because now I know that  life indeed  has a way of rounding things.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Call Me "Beautiful"

I have often heard that  beauty is in the eye of  the beholder.  I am not sure though, if that was said in half truth. As a young kid, I had learned that beauty comes in different packages. At times, even in the strangest ones. And being that young sometimes make it confusing, even laughable for that matter. Good thing it was not only me who shared that feeling, at that time.

My only sister, Xenia, had always been inquisitive and verbal on things that she found odd, sometimes to the point of getting into trouble. Some people may find that cute while others would rather have told her to mind her own business. But one rarely discourages a kid's curiosity and stubbornness, especially if one encounters it almost every day.

My sister and I had lived the first six years of our school life with my mom and her colleagues. Since we were surrounded by adults after school, we can not help but notice and learn a lot of small talk about teaching and every thing in between. Funny, my sister and I kind of enjoy hearing (and learning) school gossip with our naive ears. And with all kinds of topics and personalities that have been talked about, one person caught my sister's attention. So much that she had the nerve to ask my mom this question.

"Mom, is she a male or a female?"

My mom was not able to contain her laughter upon hearing this. My sister was referring to the big boned woman who always wear pants when she should be wearing skirts for their school uniforms. (This was in the 70's when women teachers were required to wear blouses and skirts for their uniforms). She did kind of look "odd" not just because she dressed up differently. There was something about her that my sister and I can not understand, at that time.

And my sister just got more annoyed with my mom's answer.

"What do you think?" I think she even added, "You may want to ask that question yourself."

So the next day, after school, when most of my mom's colleagues  were about to head for home, my mom told the story. What more, the big boned woman, who my sister referred to was there. And to my sister's surprise, the big boned woman took her hand and squatted so she can be at eye level with my sister. Then she said,

"My name is Sada,  Starting today, you can call me "beautiful."

Ellen DeGeneres, A beautiful person inside and out  
(image credits to people. com )

I almost laughed when she said that. Not just because of my sister's reaction but because, judging from what I understand the word "beautiful " then, Ms Sada will, in no way, fit such description. Not that I am being rude. When I heard the others  laughed, I knew we shared the same opinion. Almost all of them told us that Ms Sada was lying. That she should not let us misuse or abuse the word considering that we were kids. And that made it all confusing. Which elicited more laughter from the group.

So from then on, my sister had a new found friend whom she was obliged to call, "Ms Sada, the beautiful." But that did not stop her asking my mom again.

"Why does she wear pants? She is a woman right?"

It turned out that  Ms Sada, who was also a teacher happened to be a lesbian. She requested to be transferred to the same school where her object of affection was assigned, who was mom's friend. They were actually befriending my mom  so Ms Sada can get to know her more. She did not care if that will put her work at risk because they were in the school premises. A woman to woman relationship at that time was still considered taboo.

Well to me and my sister, it was not only taboo, but also confusing. I have to admit, I was kind of aloof when I learned about that.  Somehow  that did not lessen my respect for teachers. Perhaps because they were authority figures . Perhaps  I was just too busy studying, even too young to care .

Until one day, when my dad left me and my siblings to buy some materials for the house repairs, we were surprised to get a visitor. It was Ms Sada, and when she learned that she was in the right house, she welcomed herself in, like it was her home. She always exuded that authority figure, which made me more aloof. She asked where my dad was, and after telling her where he went, she lighted a cigarette and started to smoke. I also noticed that she walk, time to time, as if she was trying to relax herself. Odd, even , that she did not oblige my sister to call her "beautiful," which had become a greeting of some sort, when they were in school.

When my dad arrived, I told him we have a visitor. Ms Sada introduced herself, and without further
explanations, she told her why she was there.

"We  rushed your wife to the hospital. She was bleeding. I think she had a miscarriage. Sofia is with her."

So mom's friend  ultimately became  Ms Sada's girlfriend. She had won her heart and trust, including my mom's, despite how unconventional their relationship was.

"My dad, upon hearing my mom's condition, excused himself, saying he just need to change clothes. But what Ms Sada did next surprised me and my siblings even more. She entered the room and barged in while my dad was in the process of changing. My dad did not know how to react with this sudden invasion of his privacy.

"Please hurry," she said, "she had lost a lot of blood. " 

My dad  did hurry, not only because a woman was watching him dressed up but because of my mom's predicament. After telling me to watch over my siblings and that he will be back in a short while, he and Ms Sada had left.

Years had passed, and all of us had grown and out grown a lot of things. The last time I saw Ms Sada was at  Xenia's wedding, when she requested to have her picture taken with the newly weds. She is still with Ms Sofia. 

My mom and I  still talk about the two of them. The last time I've heard, she told me that Ms Sada had been in and out of the hospital and that the findings were not good. Finally she told me that Ms Sada had cancer. And that Ms Sofia is still there to take care of her. They were still together.

I could not help but feel sad about what I have learned. The big boned woman who insisted on being called "beautiful," who had been the center of laughter, and who stunned society because of her unconventionalism had been a good friend to my mom. And after all this time, I still can not figure why she came to accept that even then. So I asked her why she did not disagree with their relationship at that time. I even pointed out that she was and still is a conservative person, yet she became Ms Sada's friend.

She told me that, Ms Sada had a heart of gold. Not only that she was fun to be with, she was  also easy to get along. It may be true that she chose a life that was less traveled at that time, a life that elicited a lot of small talk because she had followed her heart, but she really cannot find fault in that. Besides, they were both single, and because they both loved teaching they made sure  their relationship will not get the way when they work.  She added that she will never forget that day when she almost bled to deathbecause of her miscarriage and Ms Sada and Ms Sofia were there to help her.

"You still remember that, do you?" she asked.

I told her I still do.

And I'm glad I asked. 

(I visited my hometown and spent Mother's Day with my mom and seven kids. Mom  told me  that her good friend Ms. Sofia, had crossed over last March . Ms Sada, though very ill is still alive . Though it tears me so much to visit her and see her condition, I  just chose to repost their story on friendship and undying love )