Monday, February 26, 2007

Into Pieces

If my grief has become a tiring topic, I am the first to ask for forgiveness. But please bear with me as I try to assimilate the new realities into my life. We'll never know, we might just learn something together.

IN MY BEDROOM

I haven't slept in my room for months. Not since the day Daddy died. I think I have never forgiven myself for still being asleep that morning he fainted while cooking breakfast. A part of me still hates myself for being fitfully slumbering, instead of helping out with the morning meal. Maybe if I was awake I could've cooked the blasted extra Spam and he would've had something to eat. He wouldn't have gone into hypoglycemic shock. My laziness has costed me a father.

Useless to blame myself now, I know. But my own ghosts has kept me from sleeping in my room. If you peek in today, you'd find books, clothes scattered on the bed. Things to distract rather than a body at rest visible on its sheet.

It was a relief, in some ways, to have slept in the hospital lobby for so long when Mummy was confined in the ICU. I think I saw it as a punishment for loving my bed too much that I couldn't leave it. And -- I will never forgive myself if I was also asleep when Mummy died. Much as sleep is an escape for me, I can't help but hold a grudge against it.

I had been living my life asleep.


Pooh 2x

I miss my Mum so much. Last night, I remembered that while she was still in the hospital, she wore adult diapers all through out. She had a catheter on and she couldn't move much. It hurt to defecate and her face will scrunch up everytime she needs to go. I often get alarmed when she makes that scrunchy-face. I'll ask her if she's okay and she'll nod. Then a minute later she'll smile serenely and write down: pooh2x lang.

Then it led me to remember how painful it was for her everytime they needed to suction the water from out of her lungs. They'll insert the plastic suction into her tubes and I can hear the swooshing noise as it drains pleghm and water from her organs. My Mum's face will turn red and then blue because of discomfort. She'll look at me wild-eyed and I often wondered what she was thinking. Was she asking me to ask them to stop? Was she asking me if she'll make it through? Was she asking me for help I couldn't give?

Getting hit by a bus and run over by a train and chopped up to tiny sisig pieces wouldn't hurt as much, I believe, as those moments when all I could do was just stand there and watch her suffer. And able to do nothing. Nothing.

If death was just as easy as asking for a hall pass from a classroom monitor, I would've demanded it there and then. Not for Mummy. For me. I have never felt so useless and powerless and pointless.

All I could do was hold her hand and hope it was enough for her and that she'll understand. I know my mother forgives me. The harder part is forgiving myself.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

drowning sorow in chinese cuisine

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It's not like we're the ones inititiating the pig out sessions... :)

Twice now, we've indulged ourselves to free-wheeling chinese food dig-ins within the same week. First time we ate at one of those Hap Chan/g restos in West Ave right after Mummy's funeral -- because it seems on her side of the family, bawal daw ang umuwi diretso sa bahay matapos ang libing. So we took it as our chance to celebrate one of our aunt's birthday and one of our uncles offered to foot the bill. Not that Hap Chan/g is a fine cuisine place, but it wasn't bad after all.

I love shrimp, so I adored every crunchy bit of the deep-fried prawns smothered with chili sauce. And the lemon chicken was scrumptious. There was sweet and sour lapu-lapu, pata tim with my favorite kuapaw (think siopao na walang palaman---yum!) and another shrimp dish with vegetables in it. Hay, busog talaga.

But it turned out, that doesn't compare to what we had to go through last night. It was torture by sheer delight. Our tita-in-law from Daddy's side took us to their reunion in Shangri-la Restaurant in West Ave and our eyes watered with kabusugan. One dish came after the other and it came to the point we were complaining if more still came. :) My favorite was the three-way peking duck (simply peking duck served in three different ways). For appetizers, they served the skin (yum, yum!) and we were to wrap it in thin siomai skin with thick asado sauce. Promise, heaven... Then as one of the main courses, they served the meat chopped up like sisig and this time you're supposed to wrap it in lettuce. And as a winding down dish, they served the bones deep-fried and it was munchy and delish.

They also served thick mushroom soup, Ella loved the crunchy pork chop, yummy yang chow rice, spicy prawns, squid and beef with broccoli (also my favorite!), fish in soy sauce, and finally (hay, kahingal), steamed king crabs. Then they served mooncake and almond jelly with lychee for dessert. As if that wasn't enough to feed an army for a year, they served empanaditas with mongo filling as a final, final dessert and this time they promised that nothing will follow anymore. We all sighed with a mixture of relief. Our death-by-heart-attack avoidance instincts probably kicked in by then.

We know we weren't supposed to eat ALL the food offered. We probably should have chosen what we thought were good dishes and ignored the rest. But that's tantamount to asking my family not to sleep for a week thinking of : ay, how did that peking duck taste like kaya? that fish thing-y? We are such hopeless gluttons.

Ayan, impatso tuloy ako today. :) And never been prouder. Wha! Last night was like the best eating performance I've had in months. Pinawisan talaga ako dun. It was an ordeal!

But sober and sick now, I have to go back to a stricter diet regimen if only because I don't want to die two months after mummy seeing that we have a penchant for dying in langkay-langkay fashion.

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Yucky raw carrot stick anyone?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Test Drive

I tried going to the office today, just to ease myself back into the whole routine. I think I had a good day seeing I didn't break down (yet) or bit anybody's head off. :) A part of me wants to feel guilty for taking almost 7 days off after my mom's death. Another part is telling me that I needed to honor the pleading of my heart and that I needed those days to putter around.

I had been taking my body for granted the last few weeks, I know that. I slept three weeks straight in a hospital lobby, ate nothing but junk, deliberately forgot sleep. But a sick section of my brain is telling me that if I didn't do that, I can never forgive myself if anything bad happened to my mom. And now that the big Bad I was so scared of did happen after all, I'm just too exhausted to feel guilty. Have you ever heard of such pathetic psychology?

Mum vs. Dad

An uncle of mine raised an issue about how my sister and I love our parents. He said, he knew that we loved our Dad much more than we cared for our Mum. I wanted to slap him silly and kill him twice with a samurai blade.

I'm young, but I know Love does not have standards nor just one definition. We're talking about two different individuals here who had to be loved in different ways as well. We love our Daddy the way we knew how to love him, and we love our Mummy the way we knew how to love her. Both kinds of love are overflowing, insistent and consistent. There was never a pause or doubt in it. There never was a moment we hated one or the other; we never detested their presence or their existence. For anybody to assume that we loved one over the other is presumptious, crude, narrow-minded and malicious.

I am weak right now from the need to be consistently strong for my sister, so I do not have the energy nor the interest to viciously counterattack his statement point per point. I'm finding that I'd rather gather my sister and myself to a quiet place, much like gathering a tattered but comforting blanket about our shoulders. Let the world rage on about us. What I know is that we are healing and I do not need to listen to maleficent creatures such as him.

Out of concern, another aunt is questioning my capability to take care of my sister and the house. Suggestions kept pouring in: sell the house, transfer to a smaller place, sell this and that, consider this and that...

I know I don't look like much of a decision-maker but I believe I am a thread stronger than the whimpering sissies we often see on teevee. My parents taught us well. They trusted us. I can take care of this. And when it comes to a problem I think too complicated for me to handle, I know how to ask for help. The last three weeks of my mum's confinement pretty much taught me how to swallow my pride and ask for assistance: financial, emotional, logistical, etc. And most of all, I can ask help from God who provided everything for us in the first place.

We will be okay.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Into the West

This song makes me cry every time I hear it...

Artist: Annie Lennox Lyrics
Song: Into the West Lyrics
(Lord of the Rings Soundtrack : Return of the King)
Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping
What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All Souls pass
Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping
Chorus
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West

Break Me

Both Mummy and Daddy loved Gary Valenciano. They always praised his energy and spirit when he's performing. They loved his songs as well. I can't help but agree --- he does write good Christian music. Mummy was still alive when I first heard this song and I knew God was preparing me for the inevitable even then.

No words are left now to be spoken
When all my promises are broken
And all excuses I have used in justifying
My actions move me so much closer to the fire
But now I know
Seems i've lost my soul
Make me and take me
Can you find me in this world
I've chosen and never let me go
Hold me and mold me
And if there's no other way
To make me whole
Go ahead and break me
Then remake me
Hold it on I won't give up
Coz I know you wont give up
On me
Grow weary of my ways pretending
Showing i'm okay when I am hurting
But now I know
Time to find my soul
Make me and take me
Can you find me in this world
I've chosen and never let me go
Hold me and mold me
And if there's no other way
To make me whole
I've been too proud
And now I don't know where to go
And like the son who came back home
Im giving you my life
My mind, my heart, my soul
I'm trusting you enough to break me
Then to make me whole
Can you find me in this world
I've lost and never let me go
Hold me and mold me
And if there's no other way
To make me whole
Go ahead and break, break me
Gently remake me
Hold it on I won't give up
Coz I know you won't give up
You're never givin up on me
No, no, no, no ,no
You're never givin up on one like me

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Losing a Parent

I asked myself if I am ready to write this piece. The answer is that I probably never will be. But maybe being ready for it was never the problem. Maybe this is where I can start threshing out my emotions and move on.



When I was in high school, I made a pact with God. I begged him to take me first before any of my parents die. I told him I will not be able to stand the pain and that it would shatter me. It was a one-sided pact, of course. Deep inside, I knew I was asking for something selfish and improbable. But the nightmare of losing one's parents had always been the pressure point of all my carefully constructed defenses. I lose them, I lose myself.



Ten years later, the worst does happen. In the span of two months, I had to go through the cycle of grieving twice. With Daddy, it was a bit more sudden and the shock was severe. I felt numb from the neck down. The only thing which proved to me I haven't died yet is the fact that my head is a jumble of thoughts and the tears won't stop flowing. We've lost our protector and our provider. His role in the family was so integral and now I'm expected to step up to replace him. Except that there would be no replacing my Dad.



With Mummy's passing, the shock may have been overtaken by extreme disbelief. There was no time to be numb, there was just time to be angry and despaired. After countless novenas, strings of the rosary and signs we were being heard, I really thought she would make it through. It never occured to me she'll die. I thought she was just temporarily hit and she'd get well, and we could start anew. I kept promising her I will take her to Tagaytay and we'll eat pansit and drink buko juice. She was happy to think about those plans. She kept making the "deal" sign every night I visited her. She was going to fight; I was going to fight for her fight. She was going to be better.



But like every bastard thief, death came --- and in her loneliness without Daddy, she answered. I was angry at her. At Death. And only a great fear of God is keeping me from being angry with Him. And yet, I knew what lay ahead of her had she not died. There was only misery in it. There was only suffering. If she had not gone, she would still be attached to that evil ventilator machine inside the hospital right now. She would still be alone inside the CCU. And ahead of her would be her last six months now that it seems cancer has stricken her down.



Sometimes, I wonder if she would still be alive if I made other decisions. Should I have taken her out immediately, even if unstable, to transfer to another hospital? Should I have asked her to be transferred to the charity ward where we would be there 24 hours to cheer her up and sacrifice the quality of medical service? Was she depressed when she died? Did she feel like we abandoned her? Did she lose complete faith in me as a daughter?



Looking back, I know I gave it my all. What hurts me the most is that my best wasn't enough to keep her alive. The world is stripped of its borders now and I am at a lost what to do.



I haven't gone through the whole cycle of grief yet, unfortunately. I can see that there's still a lot of ground to cover. I would still be hurting like this a week from now. I would be alternatingly angry and disbelieving. I would be nostalgic and depressed. I would be relieved and exuberant. I would be grateful and faithful. I would be amazed at the kindness of friends and family and doubtful of whether I deserve their generosity.



I would be insane.



This is how I lost my parents. This is how I was broken. I have shattered to a million pieces, and I am leaving it up to God to put me back together. Maybe He'll make me into something better. Only time can tell.





In memory of a family who knew how to smile.

Monday, February 19, 2007

...

Breath-stopping.

Like the last conscious moment of a person drowning.

That' s how it felt when God decided to give my family one fell swoop.

Friends keep telling me to never question God. He works in ways too mysterious for us to comprehend. I tell you, it's maddening to hold on to faith when you don't understand. To keep believing when you cannot even begin to see why it had to happen to you. To a non-believer, it would look foolish. But my parents' legacy had been strong faith above everything, and I do not intend to fail them by disintegrating into hatred and confusion when what I should be doing is stepping forward to the frontlines which I have inherited.

I believe my Mummy had a hole in her soul when Daddy died. And with her heart in tatters, it would have been a miserable life. I know she tried to hold on for my sister and me. But... God had better plans for her. No more sorrow. No more misery. No more hardships.

She had been God' good soldier, just like my Dad. God just chose to give her the eternity she had earned doing good on earth. He gave her an eternity with Daddy. Together forever now, exactly on Valentine's Day.

Now, it's time for my sister and I to fall into line, to fight their good fight, the one that works light into this increasingly darkening world. And as I have done during their dying moments, I stand straight beside them and their memory, the line of my spine a final salute to my loved ones, brave soldiers of the past.

Rest, Mummy. Thank you for your blessings. I love you with an intensity that can scorch mountains and I know you can feel it in heaven.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Need Part-time Job

I am posting this call for your recommendations. I am in dire need of a third job, one which I can work evenings for. No green ideas now. :) I don't think the world's oldest profession would even think once to hire me.

I am currently looking for the following opportunities (NCR, Philippines):
* Night shifts in call centers (inbound preferred)
* Graveyard shifts in coffee shops (barista)
* English tutorials for non-English speakers (i.e. Koreans, Thai, etc.)
* Home-based tutoring for kinder 1 to grade 6 pupils any subject.
* Ghost writing essays and researches for high school & college students.

My strength is that I work well with people -- I believe I've got a friendly demeanor and patience to get lessons across. UP-educated, graduated with honors, excellent grasp of the English language, solid background on Psychology, both parents academicians... I'll stop here and just send my resume if you guys can recommend anything. :)

Limiting factor is that I am keeping my day job so the required hours for the positions are preferably somewhere between the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot.

Know someone / someplace / something? I may be reached through my email: livburgos@yahoo.com or leave a comment here.

As the sole breadwinner in my family, this would help me keep our financial resources from reaching catastrophic levels. Any help would be a great help already and may save my sanity. :) Please?

Thank you, guys.

In Hidden Places

Book in Hand: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer ( thanks for the gift, Mariel...)
Song in Mind: This single line from a 70's song that goes, "far, far away..."


Life is a little surreal at the moment.

It is a viable defense mechanism to remove yourself from a distressing situation. Since I cannot physically remove what is hurting me at the moment, I let my brain do the excising of what I can control --- emotions. Without it I can numb myself from further pain. At least, I think it works that way.

It was easy to find strength at first. Because it was readily there. Because it was abundant and overt. But after the novelty of being strong has worn off and the necessity to be strong hasn't, I find myself flailing.

Now, I believe what I have to do is to find strength in hidden places.

Under crevices, in hard-to-reach niches, in places that never knew sunlight, within and without.



Sunday, February 11, 2007

Unbearable Sadness of Being

Liv was swallowed by the Night. There were no other words to explain the hell she went through last night. She felt as if black tongues of despair licked her face and limbs and she was halfway through the mouth of darkness; it threatened to swallow her whole.

She was saved by the unknowing hand of her sister who, as she slept, held on to her. Liv listened to her even breathing and felt the warmth of her hand barely clasping her increasingly numb fingers.

The barrel in her chest was too heavy. It was too much. Liv's mouth opened and out came a wail -- a keening so loud that it cannot be heard by human ears. The sound/non-sound was not meant to be heard on earth anyhow. It was a distress signal for the armies of heaven-- the angels and the saints who watch with keen interest our little human affairs.

'I am so near broken. I am nothing -- having nothing, almost hoping for nothing.'

It was the darkest, blackest night of her soul and what saved her was just the miracle of morning breaking over the horizon. Nothing else but the sun rising could dissipate the insiduous tongues, the grasping mouth of hell. And even now at the height of noon, her borrowed strength is fading.

Without sleep, without strength, without resources, without any idea how... Liv holds on to the frayed edges of her hope and her faith because she absolutely have nothing else.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

you learn something new everyday

I've been reading a series of essays in this book entitled "One World, Many Cultures."

It's interesting. In a span of two nights, I believe I got more information about how other people from other parts of the world perceive their world. Want a sampler?

Initiation of a Massai Warrior

The Massai people are a semi-nomadic tribe living in Kenya and parts of Tanzania in Africa. Just like in the Philippines, they believe in circumcision. But whereas Filipinos claim its for hygienic purposes, the Massai circumcise their boys as a rite of passage to manhood.

What struck me the most is how much ceremony it takes for them to circumcise one child. It will take three days, and the circumcisee will have to undergo the rituals of being insulted, frightened and finally, circumcised without anesthesia. A circumcisee must not whimper or show pain or fear. Their honor as a man and of their family depend on it.

They believe that circumcision should be painful for it symbolizes the break between childhood and adulthood. It is a taking leave of the past and an aggressive way of facing the painful world ahead.

With all due respect for their culture, it does make sense --- this use of pain as a symbol for growing up. It does feel like breaking away and yet breaking down is not an option. I can't help but feel they've got the concept right.


Lovely Art of Killing

The Chinese are exceptionally innovative. Having been around for centuries probably helped them discover myriad ways of dealing with all types of carcasses to be turned into food or leisure items. I guess, they had all the time in the world to discover these things. :) Not for the queasy, I tell you.


Baby Mice

There is a certain delicacy in a province of China where a common house pest reigns supreme. Some restaurants in one part of the region have caged mice which they encourage to procreate. And of course, given the nature of mice, they do create countless number of baby mice. Now, newborn mice are usually still quite pinkish or white and only as large as the last segment of your little finger.

This Chinese specialty involves harvesting some of the baby mice and preparing a complicated sauce with herbs and spices. Then, with a chopstick, our mainland gourmands dip the baby mice into the sauce and eat them alive. Hmmm.. squirmy.


Fur, anyone?

Hares are quite common in China. The short-haired ones are killed commonly enough for food, but the long-haired hare are killed for their fur. The measure of a good fur is how less the amount of hair will fall off when you rub the skin. The latter are the ones that fetch a good price.

So one specialized way of ensuring good fur is as follows:

The furrier makes use of just one instrument - a long metal rod flat at one end and covered with a wooden handle on the other. This rod is heated until it is seething red. Then he takes the hare and caressses its spine. This soothes the hare and it soon settles down, its eyes turning a bit sleepy, and... raising and twitching its tail which in turn exposes its anus. At this split second moment, the furrier jams the rod into the hole and as the hare opens it mouth to scream, rams the rod out through the mouth. This unusual and surprising death secures the hare's hair in a death grip.

Good fur, bad death. Long-haired hare anyone? I didn't think so.

In any case, a Chinese guy wrote this. I'll get back to you on the name because I quite forgot it with what such impressionable details he presented. So this essay was not meant to be discriminatory. It was just a documentation. And I'm saying this in case anyone accuses me of taking amusement from racism. Believe me, I'm not. Next time, I'll tell you about the weird things Pinoys do to cook their food. :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

V-day Rush

*groan*

not again...

What's with all these people running around asking for flower prices and chocolates and whatnot? And why the heck should one watch Hugh Grant's movie "Music and Lyrics" at P300 per person when you can watch it for P81 per lovestruck fool? I haven't even recovered from the Christmas rush and here comes another commercialized season out to suck the money from the masses.

You may say I don't know what I'm talking about because I am just reciting the litany of the dateless geek goddess, but I miss the days when people make their own St. Valentine's Day Card. There was something amusing about all those lace and glitters that tends to stick to your fingers. I miss being 10 years old.

I miss believing that Michael J. Fox was the greatest, cutest man on earth. That the perfect Valentine's Day would mean your teacher giving out little heart pins to the neatest, the quitest or the brightest. I miss the prolificness of those days when I wrote about robots falling in love and getting married on V-day (yes, I was that geeky...)

But as they often wont, things change and the only Vday celebration I can expect this year is dinner with a laptop and dozens of articles that needs editing ora mismo.

Hmmm... I wonder... are those little heart pins with stuff written on them still available anywhere? Or am I the only one remembering it now?

Monday, February 05, 2007

I am navigating a strange country. It doesn't matter if I have walked these streets countless times before. The echo of my footsteps are different. The buildings I see and the lay of the land before me feels unfamiliar. Even our favourite places seems to hold a forbidding glow: the tree-lined Acad Oval in UP, the paved pathways of Lawton, the Countrystyle Donuts stall in SM Fairview -- they warn me not to get too close or I will only find tears.

No wonder I have become an alien to the familiar. I am seeing it with a Daddy-shaped hole in my soul.

Friday, February 02, 2007

25 years old & hitting the ground running

There's no denying it.

I have entered the portal to the adult world and there's no turning back. The air is thick with the scent of confusion, and the very atmosphere feels like an unguent I have to slosh through. Ah, the wonders of growing up! Barely a week into my 25th year, I am now in heavy debt, completely unsure of what the future holds despite the careful planning I made when I was still a bravado-fed novice.

Not having a decent night's sleep seems to be the in-thing anyway. So, I'm just going with the flow. No wonder people are dying younger every year. I mean, not to whine, but, this is crap.

And yet again, it makes me teary-eyed to think that people are not as unfeeling as they are made out to be. When I have every right to feel alone, despairing and hopeless, friends and family pour out their support to keep the starboard straight. I am financially in debt, yes, but the warmth I received from people overflows. So, at 25, I am poor but overwhelmingly rich.

The Irony in life keeps it interesting. Enough to keep me hanging around and holding on for, maybe another 25 years.