Sunday, October 31, 2010

Red Rose/Today's Flowers #13

@ mirandablue

I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; 

only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes
is deeper than all roses
not even the rain
has such small hands.

- e.e. cummings

Posted for Today's Flowers

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nostalgia: Scents from childhood

@ mirandablue
Recently, I stayed at a friend's ancestral home in Laguna.  The house has been empty for quite a while as most of the family members are living abroad, and those who are in Manila are too busy to make the trip.  A caretaker does the cleaning and the upkeep of the house.  The house, with its echoes, reminded me of my grandmother's house in Negros.  

I stayed in the guest room.  Originally, this was the room of my friend's aunt--a single woman who died in this room from old age.  My friend was probably expecting me get spooked--he didn't realize how I love a little bit of mystery and spookiness.  But I wasn't able to sleep right away on the first night--I kept thinking about an old, frail lady dying on the same bed I was lying on (although the bed doesn't look that old!:p).  And with morbid fascination, I started to conjure images of my own death.

Instead of counting sheep, I decided to explore the room.  This beautiful antique armoire caught my fancy.  The carvings are fine and delicate--a family heirloom, I suppose.  When I opened it, the room was flooded with the scent of napthalene (or moth) balls---the scent from childhood (as my friend would later say, the odor of coffin lining :P).  As we all know, smell evokes memory.  The scent of moth balls comforted me somehow---it triggered memories of crisp blankets and pillow cases, fluffy towels and lacy curtains, of my grandmother's room with her not-so-hidden treasures of chocolates, fancy dresses and coins.

I was still dreaming the next morning when I was called for breakfast.

What scents trigger your childhood memories?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yard Art on Thursdays

@ mirandablue
Sculpture by Kublai Millan

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Everyday Life Around The World: Earth

@ mirandablue
Looking down on earth a few minutes after take off from Mactan International Airport in Cebu. Above photo is an aerial view of a part of Bohol and below is the tip of Mactan island.  The two sky-scrappers are the Hilton Hotel.

@ mirandablue

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trumpet Vine/Today's Flowers #12

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Trumpet Vine [Thunbergia grandiflora Alba]

Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature.

- Gerard de Nerval

Friday, October 22, 2010

Everyday Life Around The World: Transport

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Our means of transport at the Caramoan Peninsula.  

Posted for Everyday Life ATW

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nostalgia: Remembering Tatay

It has been thirty-one years since my father passed away---31 years today.  I like to remember my father's life, not his death.  He was 38 years old when he died...short as it may seem, but I believe he lived a full, vibrant life.

He was named after Jacob's first-born with Leah, Reuben.   Reuben was the apple of my grandfather's eye, a headstrong, playful boy and his exploits were legendary.   He dropped out of high school at 14, became a wanderer and earned notoriety by sheer guts and smarts. When he met and married my mother at 23, his new sister-in-law saw him as a good-for-nothing thug, and she advised my mom to plant lampunaya (a medicinal plant that relieves swelling) in her garden.

After I was born, my father returned to school to finish high school.  He went  on to college and was in the debate team.  Everybody was surprised that he had brains, especially my aunt (my mother's sister). A few months before graduation, 5 henchmen of a local politico attempted to murder him  in a rumble that is still being talked about by some old-timers.  How he survived numerous stab wounds, nobody knows.  There was even a myth about how he survived the deadly assault.  He was in a critical condition and the doctors were not hopeful when they talked to my grandfather. My father lost a lot blood, there were punctures in his liver, defensive wounds damaged his arms.  The doctors believed that ultimately, it was my father's will to live that saved him.  He was in the hospital for a month.

There was muscular atrophy on his arms caused by the injuries.  The nuns gave him a guitar and he played everyday.  It probably helped stop the deterioration of his arm muscles.  In the hospital, he reviewed for his exams and graduated cum laude.

He joined the Integrated National Police in the early 70's, and took Criminology subjects at night.  I was too young to care about my father's job but I remember not seeing him for days when he was on a "mission".  The strays and strange characters he brought home fascinated and exposed us to the ugly side of life.  How security measures were drilled into us about suspicious-looking strangers around the neighborhood, or at school.  Our home was always filled with his friends, some would stay for weeks.  His friends cooked non-stop, one taught me card tricks, one was showing us magic tricks, one was showing us the tattoos all over his body and the story behind every tattoo.  Men with guns would come looking for Tatay, and they would hug each other like long-lost brothers.  Looking back, I never saw my father in a police uniform until he was inside the coffin.

My father loved learning---evident in his love for books. He encouraged us to read, read, read anything.  He made sure that we had enough reading materials at home.  Aside from the books in the bookshelves,  he subscribed to Readers' Digest, Time and Newsweek, the daily broadsheet.  He also brought home illustrated classics which we devoured with enthusiasm--illustrated Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Robinson Crusoe, The Scarlet Letter, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, Crime and Punishment were some of my favorite.
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges
A health-conscious guy, he was into physical fitness and healthy diet.  Quite ironic for somebody who had a relationship with booze.  But he was a man who could hold his liquor well---we never saw him inebriated. He lifted weights---my sister and I were the weights for his bicep curls.

Tatay was in no way perfect.  He had girls alright--and he would always ruffle my hair or kiss the top of my head when I threatened to go on dates as soon as I graduate from high school (he said I was trouble waiting to happen :p). My sister and I would inspect his wallet and interrogate him about where he'd been. He was passionate about his fighting cocks and spent money on the roosters' food and vitamins.  Generous to a fault, he would give the last money from his pocket to help out someone which drove my mother up the wall.  He made enemies because he didn't like to be anybody's puppet.  He was even-tempered but I saw him lost his temper with my sister who had bad temper tantrums, and when he found out that my brother cut class and lost his school ID in a movie theater.

My most vivid memories of my father were the times he would wake us up as soon as he comes home--even at 3 o'clock in the morning. He would tease us, tickle us until we're fully awake. Sometimes, he would bring home siopao and we'd all be eating siopao early in the morning.  In hindsight, he was probably making up for the times he was not home.

Story-telling was huge in our family when we were kids.  Tatay believed that TV makes people dumb so after dinner, he entertained us with stories. We never got tired of listening to stories about the court-room adventures of Clarence Darrow, John Dillinger, Django, the coffin-dragging gunslinger, the rescue-mission in Entebbe, "The Godfather", Al Capone, "A Bridge Too Far", "The Eagle Has Landed", "The Bridge on the River Kwai", among others. I would cry at the end of John Dillinger's story, and he would whistle the tune of "Red River Valley" to make me smile.  He told us anecdotes from his childhood, about aswangs and supernatural encounters.

Music was something we all enjoyed with our father.  One of his favorite guitar pieces was "Forbidden Games". I was the family performer, and he would ask me to sing "Evergreen"; my sister and I would also sing together, even Nanay would sing along.  Friends and neighbors also joined in our impromptu jam sessions.  I could still hear Patrick's cool and soothing rendition of "Ebb Tide", and Chino crooning "For the Good Times".

My father was a tough guy who could dance.  At 10, he taught me how to boogie, and I kept stepping on this toes.  He was a kind of father who wanted to know everything--about my crushes, my favorite subjects in school, what I was reading or drawing, who my History teacher is. And he would "dream" out loud of the day when a boy would court me, or serenade me at home!  I was about 13 when he had somebody fetched me from a workshop and met me for lunch with 5 of my classmates.  It was the first time my classmates and I were in a "real" restaurant with a menu and we could order anything we want. We couldn't stop talking about it later in school and I was shocked to learn that my classmates had a crush on him and thought he's so cool!  All I could say was---"He's sooo old!"

A dream of becoming a lawyer got Tatay into law school. He was on his third year when he got sick with a deadly type of infection and died nine days later after three surgeries.  My father had cheated death a couple of times in the past  that when it finally came, it was a blessing.

Thirty-one years after his death, and the stories and memories of him live on.

I still think of him as the most important man in my life. I remember his laughter when I am celebrating life's small victories.  His strength becomes my strength when I am swimming against the tides.  His love inspires me to be a better version of myself.

"For what is to die, but to free life from its restless tides and seek God unencumbered."  ~ Kahlil Gibran

This post is linked to hosted by Rose at Nostalgic Marveling

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plumeria rubra/Today's Flowers #11

@ mirandablue

Franginani, Calachuchi [Plumeria rubra]

To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music;
it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy,
than to attempt to fully understand.

~ Henry Tuckerman

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yard Art on Thursdays

@ mirandablue

The Archer - Garden Sculpture at Fort Ilocandia Resort

Posted for Yard Art on Thursdays hosted by Mary the Teach

Monday, October 11, 2010

Everyday Life Around The World: Friendship

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A friend is a gift you give yourself.  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.  ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Desert Rose/Today's Flowers #10

@ mirandablue

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.  - Buddha

One of the flowers I noticed in Luneta Park one rainy Saturday night.  It's called Desert Rose. 

Posted for Today's Flowers

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nostalgia: For my brother, Brian

Today is my brother's birthday, so let me tell you something about him.  Without his knowledge, of course.  Brian was born 23 days before my first birthday. His arrival filled the vacuum of our grandmother's longing to spoil a grandson. We are the first two grandchildren on both our parents' families.  I was everybody's pet but Brian was our Lola's bon enfant, her Baby Bon.  Truly, I cringe at the thought of Brian as Baby Bon!  But yes, Lola had only eyes for him.  After dinner, you would find them together sitting on the floor playing bug-oy, a game of shells, or blowing bubbles in the air, playing taksi (tatsing), or simply staying at grandmother's kitchen, keeping her company.  Of course, Lola disciplined him when he was naughty.  She spanked him with a strip of coconut leaf we call lukay that was more ticklish than painful.

From left:  moi at 6, Brian at 5, Zhallyn, 3 and 1-year old Brix

Brian slept beside our grandmother since he was a young boy.  We all slept under a huge mosquito net but nobody could sleep beside Lola but Brian.  We would inhale Lola's baby powder scent, play with the loose skin under her arms, listen to her stories, but when it's time to sleep, the pillow beside her was reserved for Baby Bon.  

When Brian graduated from grade school, while his name was being called and he was walking towards the stage, Lola was looking at him with such love and pride that the emcee announced "Indi n'yo na paglantawa ang ma-graduate, lantawa na lang ang iya Lola!" (Don't look at the graduate, just look at his grandmother.)

He walked with a slight bounce that kept me in gales of laughter when we were kids. (Nowadays, the "bounce" is one of the similarities that distinguishes us as siblings.)  I was eating chocolates one afternoon when I saw Brian helping our uncle lift a bench, moving it to the far corner of the room.  I started to giggle when I noticed his bouncing behind, and choked on chocolates that almost landed me in the emergency room. 

Because of his closeness to our grandmother, he seldom stayed home and spent most of his time at our grandparent's house.  He was about 9 or 10 when we noticed how spoiled he was, acting like an unico hijo that he's not!  To get our father's attention, I told him that I saw Brian "swaying" (true!), and that he might be gay (sorry, bro!). Faster than you can say que  barbaridad, our father made sure that Brian stayed with us rather than with our grandmother. His first night at home was hilarious.  He couldn't sleep and was crying softly, afraid that our parents would hear him.  Around 3 am, mother found him sitting  on his bed, hugging his pillow, crying and asking for Lola. He had trouble sleeping night after night, and to soothe him, our grandmother sent him one of her used house-dresses that became his security blanket.

Naturally, we didn't let him forget the crying incident!  He had quite a temper and to get his goat, we called him by our Lola's pet name, Baby Bon.  And to our delight, it drove him to fits of anger!  At the end of the rumble, we all got grounded.

X'mas morning, 2009

Brian, our Lola's favorite apo, the most good-looking nephew according to our aunts, a walking encyclopedia according to his first-born, my defender against bullies at the playground, teachers' pet, hot-tempered, opinionated, a great cook, frog-killer, with a nose we can only envy, a closet sentimentalist, history buff, my partner-in-crime, is all these and more.  If only he would step out of his comfort zone and start over.

Happy Birthday, Bry!

Posted for Nostalgic Marveling at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Everyday Life Around The World: Light

@ mirandablue
 A soft and warm morning light teased my sleepy eyes on that first morning in Caramoan.  My first sunrise in a long, long time.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.  ~a Maori Proverb

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brazilian Plume/Today's Flowers # 9

@ mirandablue
Brazilian Plume, Megaskepasma erythrochlamys

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
The world of the flower, the whole of
the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth
of the blossom:
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

~ Zenkei Shibayama