December Weddings

Today I almost missed attending a friend’s wedding (Villafuerte-Espinosa) due to sore throat. Since I’ve prepared for this day so I could see this normally rugged and casual guy march down the aisle in barong tagalog to meet his bride, I dragged my aching throat and drove my way to Tagaytay.

I arrived at the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church late, but not late enough to be included in the photo op (which I swear is the most stressful part of any wedding) with other friends and co-workers.  And as if by reflex, after the pictures have been taken, I with a couple of friends sped off to the reception area at Lake Garden Hotel and arrived there first. It dawned on me that I could win an Amazing Race series if all the pit stops are event reception centers. I’ve done this a couple of weddings already.

The tables and buffet meals were set overlooking the picturesque Taal Lake. The weather was good and the view of the volcano was a perfect background for the bride, groom and all the guests. It would have been more perfect if there was alcohol to warm up our body from the chilly atmosphere. But then again it wouldn’t have mattered as I got the damn sore throat.

I left early to catch up with my doctor’s appointment. We will drink to that someday. Congratulations Rommel and Betchay.

***

Another wedding I attended this month was my in-law’s 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration which my wife and relatives had been preparing for almost two years. Although the weather on December 9 was flip-flopping, the folks in Batangas got things going early. The bayanihan spirit, which is not uncommon in their place during events like this, kicked off in high gear.

The guys butchered the pig in the wee hours of the morning and prepared the pork parts and cuts for various recipes. The ladies, old and young alike, chopped and got the spices ready, while the others cooked. The smoke-filled kitchen was bustling with activity and the aroma of typical Batangueno food reaches every corner of the place.

Despite the threat of rain, the wedding started on time at the local chapel. The males donned barong tagalog, while the females wore golden yellow dress. The little girls (granddaughters) had butterfly wings on them.

After the ceremony and photo op, inay po and itay po rode back with us in our humble Kia Pride back to the reception area that was set at the common basketball court just outside their house—another typical Filipino setting.

Due to the inclement weather, the wedding entourage tables, set under a tarpaulin, got flooded still due to the uneven portion of the ground (a remnant of the last typhoon Milenyo) but it did not stop the festive mood. Some guys who are still in barong, neatly ironed pants and shiny shoes armed themselves with dust pans and broom sticks to clear the area so that guests may be seated.

The rest of the night stayed rainy. Everyone had to wade in inches of flood to get to their tables. Others had to take shelter under their own plates while lining at the buffet area. But as most people would believe, the rain is a sign of blessing. So be it.

It is a blessing indeed for a couple to reach 50 years together. It is a blessing for their children to have such parents; for their grandchildren to have been able to see and be with their lolo and lola; and for us in-laws to have someone who trusted us with their children whom we now have as our own spouses.

I have nothing but praises for my parents-in-law. For them to be with each other for this long is a feat by itself. It takes more than just patience, love and understanding to hold on to such relationship especially in the current times where loose morals, fast-pace life, consumerism and materialism prevail. It is always easy and sometimes mushy to say, but it’s a fact that God had to be in the center of one’s marriage to surpass every trial. No more, no less.

To everyone who had or is just about to have their wedding this December, my congratulations and best wishes to all of you. I’m sure your Christmas and New Year will never be cold.

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Aging Anxieties

“How I was born, I do not remember. How I will die, I do not know” –Russian Proverb

My father and I celebrate our birthday always on the same date. Our ages are 40 years apart. And just recently, I turned 33.

My wife asked me one time, if how old my tatay will be this year. “Seventy-three,” I answered. “Do you think you’ll reach that age?” was her quick reply.

That one quick discussion made me think–and I assume she meant well. Would I still be alive 40 years from now? How would I look like by that time? In what condition would I be? Would I be financially stable by then? And a lot more questions I could possibly think of.

A decade back then, when I reached my early twenties I said to myself that I’d be happy to reach the age of 50. I used to fear the thought of getting old and helpless, I just don’t want myself to be in that situation.

But as I grew older, started to work and soon got married, I’ve come to appreciate life even more. Now the age goal has to be extended—as if I can do something about it. Every now and then, I would daydream about a laid-back, idyllic farm setting, my wife and I just lazily sitting outside while we watch the golden sun set over the horizon. Children and/or English bulldogs running around are always included, of course.

Sometimes though, these hopes of living longer would be snapped out each time that I would get sick. I’m often so paranoid that a little bit of headache would send me thinking of my mortality. Only the paranoid survive, right? Thankfully, I recovered and got medications for my “new” migraine. Now I can once again start dreaming of happy thoughts.

Whatever will be, will be or Que sera sera, as nanay would often sing. So true. Whether I like it or not, I’m indeed getting older. And one obvious fact would be the number of white hairs my wife has been plucking so eagerly from my head. On some days I would ask her to leave it alone as I would feel proud having those and see them in the mirror peeking out of the black ones which are still the majority for now. Until when it would be fully covered in white locks, I can only guess.

God willing, I will appreciate it a lot if the time comes that I would be 73 yet still be able to walk, to enjoy each day and still be together with my loving wife. And so, until that time comes, I’ll let my favorite daydreams continue.

Born in 1974?

Life is full of ups and downs. The trick is to enjoy the ups and have courage during the downs – Author Unknown

November 30, 2006 was one of the most exciting times of my life. And the week prior was just as eventful.

I have been writing my birthday as Nov 30, 1973. I just know the date. Lately, though, while processing my Transcript of Records from where I got my Bachelor’s Degree, I had a frustrating and confusing time at the registrar’s office. I learned that they’re reading—or rather interpreting—my birth year on the photocopy as 1972 instead of 1973.

Ti abi. How could this happen? I’ve been using 1973 in my passports, government issued IDs, and licenses, gun license included (I don’t know if it would have helped convincing them if I brought this one along). But it all fell on deaf ears. I was short of choking someone’s neck that day. Good thing, my good side prevailed (play Psycho movie music here).

I left school that day wondering if I would be turning 33 or 34 this year. So yesterday, I anxiously went to claim my birth certificate from our local NSO (National Statistics Office). And there it was, legibly typed written on my birth date space, is nineteen seventy-three. 1, 9, 7, and 3. I’m indeed a certified 33-year-old man.  Never before have I appreciated my age.

***

November 29th

Driving from Starbucks Shangri-La Makati, by the wee hours of the morning, I was made to decide which way would take me home. Going right of the intersection leads to the Skyway ramp while left is a road that looks a lot faster via Coastal Road. So left road it is.

It was wrong decision—I entered a one way street. Upon exiting the lane, I was apprehended by a policeman. His back-up also arrived and both implied that I could get an easier way out of my traffic violation. “Birthday mo na pala bukas…ang layo mo pa,” the apprehending officer said as he takes a look at my driver’s license. He obviously wants me to bribe.

I was in another dilemma. Part of me was anxious to get over it and be home but I’ve been a firm believer that bribing makes one become part of the problem rather than the solution. So I got my ticket and left the policemen with nothing but my driver’s license. I drove away disappointed but proud of what I did. It will cost me more, but at least I made my stand.

***

November 28th

This day was unique for the T3 folks—my wife’s group. Instead of the usual Japanese buffet at Saisaki, this time they turned Chinese. We had dinner at Tong Yang Hot Pot in SM Megamall and surprisingly, majority of the guys are newbie to this sort of dining.

Nevertheless, they enjoyed preparing their own hotpot and grilled foods. There were oysters, dimsums, tuna, salmon, chicken innards, and veggies just to name a few. The men’s favorite was of course present—free flowing San Miguel beer for only P50 ($1). (And if you’re wondering, yes I followed the one bottle per hour rule for drivers like me.)

My wife went creative too. She got me a cake delivered by the waiter right to our table as a repertoire of birthday songs played over the whole restaurant. And it was all for me, for my advanced birthday party.

After the belly busting dinner, a bowling match followed and to cap the night we went to Nipa Hut bar in Pasig where we met up with a couple of ex-Intellites. We also had a couple of sisigs and gambas. And what could be more perfect match to those killers than beers. Yes. Beers. One bottle per hour again. Hik.

***

November 27th

The longest day. Wifey and I together with friends played at Lotus Badminton Center Inc. for almost six hours with rest and lunch included. (If I remember it right, we started playing badminton three years ago and fairly enough, we have improved our game.)

We left the court by past 3 p.m. On our way to SM Dasmarinas I was pondering on pampering ourselves with much needed body massage and hot oil treatment and that’s when our car broke down.

Luckily I was able to park it at the mall and did the troubleshooting right there. It was a busted alternator again (I replaced it approximately six months ago). I had no other choice but to buy a 2nd hand part that cost the same as the painting my wife was planning to buy. Ti abi.

I went home tired and dirty instead of refreshed and shiny.

***

November 26th

As a Sunday routine, I bought my copy of the Philstar (www.philstar.com). I was surprised upon reading that one of my favorite writer Max Soliven (also this paper’s Publisher) passed away last Friday, November 24th, while on his way home from Japan. Sanamagan.

I’ve admired him for his articles in By the Way. He wrote with courage and charisma and his style of writing almost never fails to amaze me. Well, that’s life I guess. Although I know that the list of writers with such caliber as Max are now dwindling in numbers, I just do hope that someone will come at par with the way he does. Wherever you are, may you rest in peace.

Memories from the Construction Site

Old walls down. Damaged concrete and dirt pile up. Rusty galvanized iron roofs ripped. Loud hammering from sun up until sun down. Dusty air and diggings here and there. Just total chaos and destruction, isn’t it?

Welcome to our house renovation, something that brings me back to my childhood days for a couple of reasons.

Sight and feel of the construction area

I could very well remember back in the days when I was yet a grade one elementary pupil. We used to live far from school and our parents decided that we transfer just near where my sister and I study. I can still vividly remember that since my father would supervise and sometimes help out in the construction of our new house, he built a temporary hut for him and his stuffs and tools right inside our 200 square meter lot. I loved eating in the hut even it has to be done by hand and while seated on the floor during the whole meal.

Every now and then after school hours, we’d drop by and play in the construction area. We would climb and roll down on the pile of sand; run along the ditches where concrete hollow blocks and posts are yet to be erected; play hide and seek in the unfinished rooms and do any other things which I soon learned later in life are very unsafe conditions. Likewise, the smell of anti termite solution, paint, saw dusts and wood shavings attract me—yes, I like all of it. Safety training at work would soon make me realize that these are considered harmful and wearing mask is required when working around them.

There also other things that never fail to amaze me: how the wooden scaffolds are built, and how the hose leveler works. During that time I couldn’t grasp the idea of how the workers refer to the water level as the correct level for doors, windows, walls and flooring. These to me are magic.

Made me appreciate how lucky we were

How young some of the laborers who work in our home project are, made me say that I was lucky. The man whom I got to do the job was Mang Narding. He has two sons whom I know are in their teens but are already working with him. I just hope that they’re in their legal age, or I’ll be guilty of violating the child welfare act. (Or I can just pretend that this is also their on-site exposure just like mine.)

When we were young my father works as a panday which means a carpenter just like Mang Narding. I realized that his job, with its meager pay, was just enough to support our family. But still, father didn’t require me to join him in his work even after high school. It has just dawned on me, how both of my parents strived hard to keep us going from elementary to college.

During our school years, I had to ask for my balon (school budget) daily because mother doesn’t want me to havemy allowance received on a weekly basis. Despite all that I was able to finishmy schooling and was able to work after four years of college education. Myyounger sister likewise graduated and we are now both working for one giant computer company but are assigned to different positions and countries.I’m still here in the Philippines, she’s in the US with her own family.

I hope and pray that Mang Narding’s sons will later discover that it’s not yet too late for them to continue their studies and hopefully, they’ll graduate and be able to help alleviate their parents’ situation and provide a decent life for their own family in the future.

Missing a Bully Named Styro

One night, after an intense badminton game, I arrived at home expecting another routine I follow when home alone—park car, open door, dump sweat-soaked clothes, watch the late news, and then hit the sack. I was so surprised though when I noticed our Handycam on top of our center table with a sticky note. It says, “…Watch the video! Bulldogs are beautiful! Miss Styro!…” It was from my wife (she’s on graveyard shift that night) who recorded a 30-minute excerpt from a Martha Stewart show on TV which I presume is most likely a rerun. The episode featured English and French bullies. Among them was Tyson the skating bulldog which we have seen first through a forwarded email.

Watching the show brought back memories of a bully named Styro who stayed briefly with us after we adopted him from my aunt. I remember my wife being reserved on the idea of having a dog at home but the moment she finally gets to meet the white bully I knew that the 20-lbs dog did win her heart.

Prior to Styro’s arrival, I diligently researched on how to handle dogs specifically English bulldogs. Unfortunately, on the very first night, the preparation didn’t quite work. What I must have missed was that this wrinkled, snub-nose, big-head creature does already have his own idea of a good night sleep. This is because before sleeping that night, we tried placing him in a cozy corner inside our house to sleep on (barricaded by a makeshift fence of washing machine, cardboard boxes and shoe racks) and what we got instead was total resistance and minutes of hide-and-seek game with him.

Eventually, we gave up the chase. But while re-thinking our strategies, we got another surprise when he just went straight to our bedroom, dropped his stout body on the floor right below our bed, and almost immediately went to sleep and snore. He wants to sleep with us.

So there goes the cozy corner outside the toilet and the start of us having an instant baby who will be between us, on top, on our feet, on our face or whatever its sleeping mood dictates every night for the next months to come.

I cannot exactly remember how long before we adapted to this new company of ours and a new nightly routine introduced to us by this cuddly dog. For the most part of his stay it seems like our subconscious got programmed to get used to his daily activities, one of which was his “peepoo” time which I still think he scheduled himself to happen between 12:00 midnight and 1:00 am daily.

Every time I think about it, I cannot comprehend how I was able to wake up every night during that time. It seems like he has managed to control my mind the moment he sits beside me while waiting for me to get over with my REM and to finally accompany him outside the house while he does his “peepoo.” Well, the saying may be right, “You don’t adopt a dog, the dog adopts you.”

Styro also has his own favorite meals. This dog was a voracious spaghetti eater other than his regular canned or dry foods. And not only that, he knew which spaghetti sauces were cooked well by my wife and which one weren’t. He sips the pasta just like any person does. And although we knew from books that chocolates are bad for them, we occasionally gave him a taste of choco-flavored ice creams, which he likes a lot especially during the summer season.

Having a breed like Styro is a feat almost similar to having a baby. Regular trips to the vet is a must and what’s funny is that during that time we don’t have a car yet, so going to the clinic means taking him through a local transport — tricycle. In the sidecar, a mixture of awe, fear and adoration is what we’d usually get from the drivers to the people we’d pass by with most faces hinting of wondering if it’s a cartoon character they’ve just seen. Even in the clinic, while waiting for our turn, other dog owners would also spend time patting and playing with him which is usually the reason why their own dogs would whine or bark to take back their attention.

Sigh.

Well we can’t actually claim that Styro was the greatest dog among others, but we can be sure that he did left a mark in our hearts when he left us just more than a year of staying with us. He was never just a pet but a family member whom we dearly miss.