Sunday, August 16, 2020

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 54 (Hello from my quiet little corner...)


Hi, guys.

As I begin writing this now, August 16, 2020, I mark the 17th night that I am alone here at our house in Baguio.

Hello, Maddie. At this point, Mommy actually already told Achie Marge lots of grown-up things about the family. Sorry, but there’s a huge difference about what you will get or understand between 7 years old and 12. So eventually, you will be told the stories, too.

So yes, I am up here, and you guys are down there. And I am kind of sad, kind of lonely. But trying to be as happily distracted as possible. Right now, Im toggling between a nice sci-fi movie called Arrival, and little knick knacks I find on Youtube, from nice saxophone videos, to a few videos of a local singer named Morissette Amon. By the time you read this, I’m not sure whether or not she will still be making music. But thank heavens for the internet, her performances should still be accessible one way or another. You guys should check her out. By now, you guys have prayed with me on video call, said good night, and hopefully drifting off in some nice colorful dreams. Your mom just sent me screenshots of her and her friends on a video group chat.

I meant to write about far more interesting things tonight like life, and how we perceive its length, its value and some such. The movie Arrival sort of tackles that, too. Which is why I stopped watching, and starting writing this entry. And then I proceeded to search about average life spans of animals. Hoping to find some connection between how lives can be meaningful regardless of how long or how short. Like how butterflies generally live an average of two weeks.

No. Thankfully, no one in our little family is dying right now. At least not that we know of. But I just found myself thinking about it. Partly because of the movie I started (which I’ve seen numerous times before), and because of all the crazy stuff happening in the world right now.

So many people getting sick and dying. Yes, many due to Covid-19, and others probably due to complications aggravated by isolation, lack of access to fresh air and sunlight, or probably dozens and maybe even hundreds of other factors. So many businesses struggling, or simply just closing down. So many things that make us human getting lost on the waysides, because of the struggle of mankind at large to simply survive.

This year, 2020 was supposed to be another great one for our family. We had a trip to Spain booked and all, supposedly a trip to Bali with the rest of the extended family, your mom and I had our 20th anniversary trip to Japan also booked, and those were just the international trips. Who only knows what else we could have come up with?

Achie also had her grade school graduation first postponed, then ultimately cancelled and moved into some group chat affair. Mommy wanted to make more food ideas to sell, Shobe was going to study more violin and ballet, and so many other things for all of us.

But… well, pretty much all the world’s plans all got put on hold.

Anyway, I will need to post this before I ramble on too much further and end up totally failing to put this up at all.

’catch you later.



Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Letter to Future Marge and Future Maddie: Chapter 53 (071920)

Hello, Future Marge and Future Maddie,

We are writing this here together, 12-year old Marge and I, while Maddie sits in a corner watching Youtube. It's 4:36PM, Mommy is taking a nap inside your bedroom. All snuggled up. Marge is beside me here using an ipad to trace over an old photo of me and Maddie taking a selfie from 2013.

Marge will send it to me and i will share it here as a work in progress.

Maddie is now here cuddling up. i am now in the middle of your two younger selves. But now Maddie has decided to run down to the kitchen to get some chips.

It is a nice quiet Sunday. We spent the morning walking and playing amongst trees in John Hay, then ordered chicken from Jollibee while on the picnic table.

Wait, now we are heading out to the garden for a garden picnic, and some board games.

'catch you later.



Saturday, August 31, 2019

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 52 (Log of a strangely packed past few weeks that feel like a blur...)

Dear Marge & Maddie,

Hey hey hey... Welcome back.
i'm just here to put down what has been a very very tiring past few weeks.

Let's start with one's name suddenly being all over the news starting sometime in early August of 2019.
This was followed in a few days by the results of your grandmother's MRI coming out (tests dated August 1), and the rest of the family finally realizing in plain black and white that your grandmother's brain really is starting to show its age a little sooner than most.

This was followed a rather muted advance celebration of Ah-ma Mia's birthday on August 3rd, because most grandchildren still had school the week after. Thus, a Saturday celebration was decided upon to allow you grandkids to be up in Baguio with our birthday girl.

More tests were required cum August 5, which was also the day that the term "vascular dementia" entered the family's vocabulary on a much more regular basis, as delivered by one of the city's most senior neurologists, Dr. Hernandez. Daddy drives up a day or two sooner than scheduled.

This was followed by regular and very frequent visits to the hospital where Ah-ma Mia was confined in. She was thankfully discharged on August 7. Giving her a little over a day to enjoy a restaurant dinner on her birthday proper.

Daddy finally drives down to Manila on Tuesday, August 13. Only to suddenly be told that he, along with the rest of the family need to appear in the prosecutor's office on Friday, August 15. But he has confirmed attendance for the surprised birthday party of your Uncle (and godfather) JJ (Johnny Yap), organized by your Uncle (and godfather) Jepet, which was to occur on the evening of August 15. Nonetheless, off to Baguio daddy went on Thursday (August 14) evening almost immediately after dinner with you guys. Then swooped back down to Manila right after appearing in court (sort of), making it in time for the birthday party at around 930pm or so.

Daddy also had to attend the homecoming event of St. Peter the Apostle School, which expelled him last 1988. He attended, because he promised to finally see the one teacher who objected (in vain) to his expulsion. That being done, daddy left the homecoming with mommy. Then lo and behold, we were told that around 30 minutes after mommy and daddy left the event, the performing band's guitarist, Whiz Francis Reyes, who is one of daddy's happy acquaintances, apparently called our daddy's name on the mic, probably to invite him to jam on stage with the Dawn, one of the best bands of our era (and still is). i still have mixed feeling about missing that opportunity. On one hand, it would have been fun, and i'm confident enough with my music that many in the audience would have probably turned incredulously towards to stage wondering if i was lip-synching. Somehow, i believe i probably would not have turned the invitation down. Plus, it was in poor taste to refuse a fellow musician a jam. Especially someone of Francis Reyes's pedigree. On the other hand however, if i did go up on stage, people at the event might have accused me of being such a limelight hog. (Yes, you know who you are...)

Then Sunday, August 18  late morning was also the party of your cousin Pia, Thankfully, that party ended rather earlier than usual.

Daddy spending August 19 and 20 at the Ortigas office, then promptly drives back up to Baguio on the evening of the 20th. Only to be informed on the afternoon of the very next day by your Uncle (and godfather) Dominic that his dad had passed away a couple of hours before he messaged you. So daddy and your Uncle (and godfather) Dick discussed meeting up at the wake on Saturday, August 24 along with some of your other godfathers (namely Uncle Bogs, and Uncle Manly). So daddy, who was scheduled to drive back to Manila on Tuesday, August 27th, found himself driving down much sooner on morning of August 24th. But a few things had to be arranged and regarded back in Baguio, which found daddy back behind the wheel on Sunday morning (August 25th), with plans of driving back down on Tuesday noon. Hopefully, giving him time to spend dinner and chat with you and mommy. And in time to direct the first day of the photo shoot of Festival Mall, one of daddy's ad agency clients.

Your Uncle Philip has hatched a plan to quickly bring Ah-ma Mia to Taiwan to see a chiropractor, and probably a few other doctors. After everyone supposedly being gung-ho about it at first, we discover the following: Uncle Wilson's passport is currently at the Japanese embassy for visa processing. Thus, he will not be able to get the passport back in time for accompany Ah-ma Mia. Uncle Pom at first said, yes. Then again demurred. Which leaves daddy as the only son, who has not backed out (or is able) to accompany Ah-ma Mia. So off Uncle Philip goes booking tickets for Sunday, September 1, with a return flight on Wednesday the 4th.

Back to the story...
But while was getting ready to drive down on Tuesday noon (August 27th), he was then told that the family had to appear in court again the next day, Wednesday, August 28th. Oops, that crosses out the directing gig on Wednesday.
But that's just one day. So perhaps 2 out of 3 shooting days wont be so bad. So daddy drives down on the afternoon of the 28th, immediately after appearing in court.

Thursday, August 29th. Day 2 of the photo shoot that daddy is supposed to be directing. He wakes up early, getting ready to greet your Ah-ma Mia in Manila, because she has a dental appointment. And so daddy does. He greets Ah-ma Mia, then leaves her in mommy's able hands. Daddy now drives himself out to far-off Alabang, because Kuya Edgar was to be left behind to fetch you guys to and from school, as well as other possible things you guys needed to attend.

Then, after shooting one scene, Daddy checks his phone. Mommy, who had Ah-ma Mia in her care, sent this: CALL URGENT. The message was almost half an hour ago. Holeeee.... Daddy calls, only to learn that Ah-ma Mia almost literally shoveled her late lunch into her mouth like there was no tomorrow, and found herself in some strange case of food shock (also uspected by doctors as symptomatic of the precursors of minor strokes, which Ah-ma Mia's have shown that she was apparently suffered from a couple of times past). She was taken to the Emergency Room for more tests and MRI scans. And that Daddy now has to bail from the shoot (again) because he was the only son in Manila, and must check on Ah-ma Mia. So daddy is back on the road. Two and a half hours later, Ah-Mia was in the house (ours), and refusing to stay for more tests, much less treatment.

A full day's shoot happened at Festival Mall without much event last August 30.

Saturday, August 31, saw us heading out to the Powerplant Mall in Rockwell Makati, where we met up with your Uncle Dominic. And it is now 2am, September 1, and i am flying out in around 16 hours.

So how was that up there, huh?
Still breathing? i know i barely am sometimes.
Uncle Dominic is the tall guy in white with the puffy face.

'Catch you later.



Friday, December 28, 2018

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 51 (Let Your Old Man Vent a Little This Year’s End)

The age of forty five is a strange one. Of course, any year can and will seem strange if one chooses to see it as such. It is not my birthday. But the past year saw me hit the 45 mark. So nonetheless, kindly indulge me.
The creeping reality that has begun haunting me is that even the most reasonably healthy people usually live up to "only" their early 90s. And that is being quite generous. Even Iceland, which boasts the highest average life expectancy, clocks in an average of 87 years of age.

So yes, this is as midlife as midlife can get. And maybe even a little past that.

This is where one finds one's self at the proverbial tipping point, where the arrow of one's emotions invariably toggle to and fro between a sense of contentment and accomplishment at having gotten this far, whether by luck, birthright, or both, to a swirling haze of frustration, regret, and melancholy. Brought about also by some random concoction of luck, circumstance, and probably more than a handful of decisions i would have decided differently if i knew then what i know now.

Or maybe not.

While there is the knowledge in the back of one's head that sooner than later, it would be time to start winding one's personal party down bit by bit, that is not what weighs down upon me. I miss the innocence. I miss the dreams that once seemed so easily reachable. I miss the brashness and optimism of my youth. I miss the promise of possibility simply because i was still too ignorant to know what lay ahead.

I remember an old cartoon short that featured Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. The latter was led out running over the edge of a cliff, but somehow did not fall down. Bugs warns Elmer of his pending doom by pointing down, and simply saying: "Gravity." To which Elmer just waves it off, while nonchalantly stating that he "hasn't studied gwavity yet."

Knowledge does weigh upon one's dreams. The more you know, the more real things become, along with all the trappings that come with it. And thus, one grows up. And every morning is a wake up call to a reality we sometimes wish we can just sleep through.

I miss not feeling weary from my failures, thinking foolishly that the best is yet to come, because... i was still young. But i live still, and the things i am working in and on still live. Some barely, some quite well. Again sometimes because of luck, circumstance, and whatever came of decisions made. Whichever way, they are what they are now, and tomorrow is still another day.

But i am thankful. I am thankful for a life lived with a heart tempered by time, made stronger by scars, and most importantly, a heart now unafraid to bleed for those he wants to bleed for.

I am thankful, because the proverbial glass has been half-full with many good things. And while many dreams remain half-baked, the oven is thankfully still warm. So we keep baking.

I am thankful for friends near and far. You will be, too. But make sure you make time for them, just like they too will make time for you. Sometimes when you need them the most.

I am thankful for our larger extended family, no matter how imperfect. When they are at their worst, they fuel me. When they are at their best, they make me believe in human redemption, and why dogs will always be one of the best judges of character.

I am thankful, because i sit here tonight, quietly typing away at this piece over a week after i've gotten started at it. Thankful for this evening, which gave me time with you guys and your mom. Thankful for all the laughter tonight. The music we played on Marge's violin. The tunes Maddie screamed out to the iPad just to see the voice indicator move. The songs and passages i have been blaring out on my saxophones.

I am thankful that i can glance at you three sleeping soundly all snuggled up, while i listen to your dreaming murmurs.

Yes, this is as midlife as midlife can get.
And i am here with you.

So despite of the things going on that seem to be hanging by a thread, despite the personalities and politics that surround my life, despite all the things i wish i am and am not, and still wish i will be, and all the things i have done and have not...

I am thankful.
And after tomorrow, it will be another year.
Happy New Year.

'Catch you later.



Monday, December 17, 2018

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 50 (2018 Has Been a Most Musical Year)

Greetings, girls.

My oh my, how you both have grown!
Like i said in the title of this entry, 2018 has been a most musical year for us all.

Sometime earlier this year, Maddie was found running off to the piano on her own, and pounding away vigorously. Marge continues her violins lessons, while somehow already tinkering melodies on the piano that she has learned by ear alone.

We are not prodigies, sadly. But the love of music is evident, and as imperfect as it is, it shines bright in our home.

And i am filled with joy in anticipation of what you two will bring soon.

'Catch you guys later.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Letters to Maddie: Chapter 49 (Keep Singing Your Heart Out)

Hello, Maddie!

Been quite a while i have not visited. I've explained why in a previous post.
But anyways, this is amusing.

Hi, Marge! Of course you can read this, too. :)
But yes, i am directing this one more pointedly towards your sister.

tight shot from aforementioned
beach house
Because one morning on the way to your grandmother's beach house, Maddie just kept singing one or two songs over and over. Songs were by either Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. I'm not sure.
So, Maddie...
i was spying you through the rearview mirror, and caught you singing along, while alternately looking out the window and on the iPod. You had no care whatsoever whether or not we were listening, whether you were in tune (mostly yes), whether you got the words right (mostly no)... You were just having a little time of your life and loving music.
It was an absolute joy to witness.

DJ Maddie
And i wish that you remain so for the rest of your life: uncaring for criticism, and simply living the moment.
Oftentimes, as people get older, they worry too much about what other people think and say. And many who do end up paralyzed with fear of shame and public opinion. I hope you never do.

So yes, keep singing.

'catch you both later.



Friday, July 08, 2016

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 48 (Well, hello there...)

Good morning, my dear girls.

When i started writing this, it's almost 10am here in Baguio on a gloomy, rainy, grey Saturday morning. i wake up with the usual slight groin discomfort which seems to be more commonplace lately. But your mom and i have our regular annual-bi-annual check-up coming up in a week or so. So hopefully, we will get the usual news that everything's normal as normal can be considering the circumstances.
To the left of this photograph is the group of jars for my morning drink: coffee, brown sugar, and Milo. Those are two boiled eggs which i suddenly decided i would like to have this morning.

Now it's a quarter to 11 and i'm already at the store. i expect to hopefully finish by 11am to do some rounds and earn my keep, so to speak.

i slept at a wee bit past 3am earlier today/last night because i had so much work to do, and i sort of ended the evening/early morning with fixing more of the literally thousands of photographs im going through for printing. Your mother is old-fashioned and still wants prints of our family and vacation photos. i'm not objecting at all. But it IS a lot of work.

I was hoping to sleep in 'til about 9am to hopefully get around 6 hours of sleep at least. It is a Saturday after all, and your grandmother is supposedly on her merry way down to one of her beach houses. So since she's the main focus and reason of having to be at the store early, i guess i COULD sleep in a bit, right? But... as luck would have it, she rings me up at exactly 7:28am. Surprisingly, i also your grandfather on call-waiting during the tail-end of this phone call.
me getting this blog post started.

this is what those eggs looked like before i ate them
Your grandmother was calling to tell me that it was raining bad, and that i need not trouble myself with visiting her down there tonight for dinner, and that she would need one of the househelps to stay at her house since was dragging every one of her own helps down with her. And also to ask me (again) if i can take care of myself lunch-wise. (Update: your Uncle Wilson just called telling me they are going to country club for lunch and was inviting me. i hate going to the country club. Every so often i agree to the invitation, but today i happily declined.)

Your grandfather was calling about a piece of property that her sister (your great aunt) is selling, and about who was buying it, how much it was worth, etc. etc... He also called to tell me that his prostate biopsy was going to be this coming Wednesday. He sounded all like his jolly self, but not quite. Hell, the word "biopsy" is scary for anyone. Hopefully, i wont be writing here again anytime soon about that. No news is good news, guys.

Then the phone call barrage continues in the form of your very own mom who is bemoaning the basement water pumps which suddenly decided to conk out in unison. So your mom is stressed out with visions of a flooded basement, and she is calling me to tell me just because. Yep, just because.
This was followed by a couple more phone calls from your mother again about things i have absolutely no power over. But anyways...

Another couple of phone calls from your grandmother later, your mother calls again telling me that its 9am and that i should forget any notion of any further sleeping. So i do get up, and proceed to start off this gloomy weekend.

Point of this story? Always take the phone calls from people you love. Many times, we don't feel like making that phone call. But at the very least, let's pick them up. Not because you we need them. But more importantly, because THEY might need US. And yes, your mom and i WILL call you from time to time. DO pick up.

'Catch you later.

Love you both so much.

No connection to the above story. Just a gratuitous family photo from our East Coast vacation. This was the Niagara Falls leg. But i guess you guys know that from the view of the background, right?