Only For Daddy

July 23, 2008

Only For Daddy

Like the sunrise in the morning

To see you, I am yearning

Without you, it is so sad

Come back and I’ll be glad

The house seems so empty

Thoughts of you, so plenty

Looking for your warm smile

Is simply missing for awhile

Today, my life comes to a halt

Full of darkness, nowhere to start

My plans, nothing seem to matter

I feel totally in a shatter

Feeling like this, so abound

Turns me completely all around

Pouring all out , it brings

Forever, it’s love that clings

Nothing could be the same

Can my loneliness be tamed

Nobody can take your place

Only in you, I find solace.

–poem for my dad, April 18, 1992

the 27th wedding anniversary

dad paralyzed, in and out of hospital

he died July 12, 1993, almost 15 years ago

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Crossings On My Mind

May 23, 2008

    It must be the Al Pacino wet-look hairstyle or because he was a namesake of a she-celebrity. Maybe it was the low profile bearing despite the leadership he exuded. Or that he was simply extraordinary. These were but a few things about him that crossed my mind.

    I was walking one day along the school hallway. I was fifteen minutes late for a class and it was my turn to deliver an oral report. I was about to dash up through the staircase when a voice caught me. From a small distance behind me, the soft, cool voice said, “Madam, your write-up is beautiful.” It took me time before I turned around. I thought I heard the voice say, “Madam, you look beautiful.” I could not believe it. My eyes were wide open when he repeated his words, “Madam, your write-up is beautiful!” He was only referring to the article I wrote on a certain issue. All I said to him in amazement was, “Really, you read it?” He just smiled, but that lifted me up. We were quiet afterwards, realizing that we hardly acquainted with each other. That was last school year. He was the president of the student council and I was among the silent majority in the student body. His comment flattered me. A few, kind, words…

    I remember our freshmen year. He would come to an afternoon, boring class sporting his Pacino-Fonzie wet-look hairdo. He always ran in campus politics. New students would observe posters of him and wonder if his name was a male or female. He was a person of a few words and he led a quiet, school life. Many were charmed by his low-profile demeanor and many befriended him.

    Ironically, we only got to know each other after the regular four-year course. We were both involved in a post-school project. We were a committee of fifteen that met once a week. After the fourth subsequent meetings, the group dwindled to a membership of four! But, he was almost regularly present in all meetings, although he was the only one among us who lived about two hours drive away! I thought that the song group, Salt and Peppa best described him : “What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty, good man…”

    I still can recall the event of our first group meeting. We barely spoke to each other during the orientation.  After the meeting, I went home alone. I was crammed inside a local, commuter mini-bus when I saw him with a couple of his friends. They were crossing the street. As though by impulse, like he knew I was looking at him, he glanced in my direction. He smiled and waved at me. I felt like I was aboard a cruise ship that was about to sail away! His friends were not even aware of what transpired between the two of us. There was something about his charm that made me sense something different about him. Something strange, baffling, and peculiar about him crossed my mind.

    We never got closed to the extent of sharing each other’s secrets or problems. Even so, we became friends.

    My father died four months after my college graduation. I never made contact with my friends because I was depressed. Nonetheless, after finding out through a mutual friend, he attended the wake. He even stayed until midnight. He travelled from far away, and there he was, sitting beside. Uttering nothing but silence. Does silence speak of volume though? Of why he proved to be more visible than any of my other long-time friends? When some of my friends did not even dare to go see my dad in the coffin, he went so. I stared at him for a long time as he viewed my dad. He was quite long though which makes me wonder, what could he been telling my dad that he cannot even tell me nor converse with me that long? The thought crossed my mind– was I jealous?! Jealous at my dead dad at that moment?  Moreover, it was the first time he met my dad. I heard similar stories like this but friends simply dismissed this gesture as, “He is simply, like that.”

    His kindness touched my heart. A few weeks after my father passed away, he was supposed to mail to me some important pictures I needed. I waited, but there was no mail, not even a phone call from him. Then one night, on the last day of the week, at ten o’ clock in the evening, the phone rang. I thought he would say sorry for not mailing me the pictures. I was about to get mad when I realized that it was not a long-distance call. Yes, he was just in the vicinity. Lost, because he could not locate my house.

    It was a drizzling, cool night when I met him in the half-empty streets. His hair was combed wet due to the after rain. His sheepish, shy, and warm smile greeted me as his small face was halfly litted by a flickering lampost nearby. His droopy eyes is trying its best not to show me that he was tired but overall, he seems to be glad that he saw me, I think. He gave the pictures to me and talked less than five minutes. I guessed it was too short I forgot what he talked about. Or maybe,  it was the shock that he was really there at that moment which made my system frozen at that time. Oblivious to what was happennning and perhaps just staring at him and pretending to hear him. All that I recall was, when he said that he has to go. I thought he was like superman who retrieved my pictures at the last minute but had to hastily go, “up, up and away” to do another good deed. That night, I tried to ignore the soft spot in my heart that he touched.

    It was a shivering, rainy morning on my natal day a week later. I attended mass at 6 o’ clock in the morning. Aftrwards, I went straight to my father’s grave. It was my first birthday without my father, and it has been a barely a month since he passed away. I was sad. I remembered he never failed to give me a birthday gift. To somehow lift my spirits, I thought of making three personal wishes. The first two wishes was about my career path. It took some time to make the third one. Then, as though I was hit by lightning, an idea struck in my mind. With a smile, I swept the gloom in my face. I recalled the drizzly evening with him. I exclaimed, in front of my dad’s grave, “I wish he would call and greet me on my birthday!” Now that was a sort of a come what may wish! For one, he never knew my birthday. Secondly, if he ever would call, it would be about the project. It was a mixture of a teary moment in my father’s grave and at the same time, my heart felt very light at that moment as those thoughts crossed my mind. Crying at first because my dad was absent but I laughed at the thought of another person, him. If someone saw me that early morning they would probabaly think I was crazy!

    Of course, that was not a serious wish! I did not think about it during the rest of my day. I was about to go to sleep that night on the most saddest birthday of my life when the phone rang. From the voice of the operator, the sound of his voice, I was anxious. I thought his voice was from Mars as he said softly and sweetly on the phone, with a little creepy on the side, “Happy Birthday!” I was so surprised, I did not know what to say. I kept on asking him how did he knew it was my birthaday, but he said that was not important. For the rest of the twenty minutes on the phone, my hands shook in disbelief. What effect he has on me! Looking back, I recalled all the three wishes I had, and believe it or not, only the third wish came true.

    One night, our group friends dropped by my house, and then we all went out. I still felt weak because I have been sick for the past week. It was cold outside. Upon noticing me, he pulled out his cap and told me to wear it to keep me warm. A few minutes later, I mysteriously felt my slight fever gone! Moreover, I was in high spirits! Later on, he joined me in the table. He was looking at my purse. He seemed to fancy its flowery, hat-sahped design. He asked who gave it to me. He made a few guesses and then asked me a question that surprised me. He wanted to know what I wanted to receive from him. I could not think clearly! Was he a fairy godfather? I paused. Then I said jokingly, I wanted a Prince Charming. He could not give me that, of course.

    On the next committee meeting, my eyes were caught by the new cap-shaped purse he brought along. It was cute and I told him that it was similar to my purse. He replied in his usual charming smile that sent a message to my mind–what a mystery he inspires?

    The group did not always have meetings. One day, we went out of town. It was nice to unwind and act like kids once in awhile. At the end of the day, it was time to go home. Our friends boarded a bus on the trip back. He and I were left behind. He, of course, lived in that area. I had a childhood friend there whose house I can spend the night over. Though I refused, he insisted–ever the gentleman, on escorting me to my friend’s house. It was more than a special evening to me. It was a nostalgic trip from the past. It was quite a long time since I last visited the place where I grew up. I felt like a child again, marvelling at the place that meant so much to me since my family moved out in 1987. For the first time, I was telling him a part of myself. On the way to my friend’s house, we passed by all places that was dear to me– the apartment we used to live in, now a furniture shop. The fiesta carnival where my dad used to take me when I was a kid.  The school that molded me to what I am right now. It was odd how I openly shared this to a person who was still, more or less, a stranger to me. Yet, I felt I could tell him anything under the sun, or probably the moon at that time. We even almost slipped past my friend’s house. I thanked him and said my goodbye. As I rang the bell of my friend’s house, I kept looking at him walking down the street. I thought he might look back. He did not.

    Quite an interesting thought occurred to a colleague who coordinated with me on our project. She approached me one day and asked, “Is he courting you?” It was the most amazing puzzle of all. Nobody, not even my close friends, attempted to ask that question. I guessed it was simply because it never crossed their minds. It took an outsider to notice on few occasions the way he interacted with me. The way he looked at me and the way he talked about me. She even told me that if ever he courted me one day, I should not make it difficult for him. I wondered why?

    One time, we had a sleepless, overnight work on the project. The morning after, I did not expect the two of us to share the same commuter bus home. We sat on the opposite sides as the early, morning sun beamed through the windows. I was thinking of him. Was he thinking of me? The breeze was cool and it softly swept on the sides of the bus. From the radio sounds in the bus, came the tearful song, “Pakisabi Na Lang” (Can You Tell Him?). Would you believe in that 10 minutes bus ride, we never ganced or spoke to each other? The next thing I knew, the song ended and so was the bus ride for me. I was about to come down from the bus when he uttered, “You’re going down?” I just nodded in response and sheepishly smiled at him as I thought to myself, “Isn’t it obvious, I’m going down?”

    As in the popular song, our “thing” together would have its good days until it was the time for it to fade. Due to our busy careers, we rarely had the chace to talk again. A few times we talked on the phone regarding the project. I always wondered that whenever he talked to me, he rarely addressed me by my name. He often addresses me as, “Madam”. It irritates me. I felt that I was older or somebody superior. I never wished to be called like that. I asked him several times  why he called me like that. As usual, he responded with a smile and nothing more. I only have one probable reason, which dated a few years ago on the very first tme he spoke to me on the hallway of the school, “Madam, your write-up was beautiful.” He might never make the same comment again. He would never know, the crossings on my mind.

   

 

 

 

 

When A Hero Comes Along

February 20, 2008

    This is an open letter to my ninong, the former Senator Rene AV Saguisag and how much he means to me.

Dearest Ninong,

    I don’t know how how to begin this letter. But let me tell you how grief-stricken I am from the recent events in your life that I cannot even describe what happened to you. I still have unresolved issues with my faith because until now, I cannot accept why is it possible that bad things happen to good people like you.I am at a lost of the right words to tell you because I am heartbroken and sad. But let me attempt at least to express how I feel. I hope I will able to say it well through this letter.

    I don’t even want to talk about it. In my alone times I can only cope and take refuge from all the happy memories you gave me. It all started when you responded to my fan letter way back in 1987. How you even take the time to write to me on your busy senatorial campaign is really a big deal to me. Thank you!

    Would you believe our “pen-pal days” lasted for more than a decade? Whenever I wrote to you, I always earnestly waiting for a respond. My heart skips a beat whenever a postman  came and I saw this long, white envelope from you. I feel the envelope, hoping it’s a thick one so I can read more of you. I remember the thickest was a copy of the speech you gave in the senate regarding the historical ouster of the US bases in 1992. Now that was a good read!

    But one of my favorite letters was when I never wrote to you first but you wrote first just to tell me that you read my comments in the Inquirer that was published Feb 1992 and May 1992. You said  you like what I have written and I was a good writer. I have always been the one praising your write-ups but for you to even noticed my articles and praising it is really unimaginable. Thank you. One time, in 1995, I was having a problem with the college yearbook and you lent one of your lawyers to draft a demand letter. But one of my favorite quotes from you when you wrote me, “Marites, never cease to dream.”…You helped and guided me..Oh, ninong I missed our friendship letters.

    The funny thing I guessed is that all those years of letter-writing, we only met two or three times? The first time I remember was in 1998. I remember I met you in one of the villas in Clark and your wife, ninang Dulce quipped, “At last, the two of you finally met!” Did you know, I even have my hair and make-up done? Looking back, what was I thinking? Funny, isn’t it? But of course the most unforgettabble was the day of my wedding because you and ninang were my sponsors. Remember, there was even a typhoon on my wedding day? But the bad weather never dampen my spirits because you were there on the most important day of my life. I wanted so much to hug you ninong before you left but I was just too shy. Who would have thought that a simple girl like me have a ninong like you. But that was the last time I saw you…

    I have never told you this because you might think I am crazy but I will tell you this anyway. Back in 1987, one night when I saw you for the first time in television, you were having a debate with the other candidates for senator. You were just speaking so intelligently. So right there and then, I was your instant  fan. The next day, now this is funny, I cut out a picture of yours in the newspaper, a small one and put it in a small picture frame. At times when I have problems, I would hold this picture frame and tell you how bad I was feeling with matching tears. Funny, huh? One Sunday, after hearing mass, I saw few of your leaflets scattered in the streets. It was on that day, that I thought of writing you and I told you if I can help you in the campaign. At 15 years old, what was I thinking? I was not even eligible to vote. But you wrote back and thank me and “you thought my letter was touching.” That was the start of our letter-writing each other and as they say, the rest was history. I was 15 then. Look at me now, I am 35 years of age. Time flies indeed… 

    I loved my dad even though we were not close. My only regret was when he passed away in 1993, I never told him that I loved him. So, right now, let me tell you ninong this, “I love you”.Just the thought of you, warms my heart. Remember when you sent me a MABINI  shirt? You wrote with it, “gratis et amor”. With gratitude and love…

    By the way ninong, your son Rebo is amazing. You should be proud what a fine man he has become. I saw him for the first time in television and he is sort of a spokesperson for your family. He is like former New York mayor Guiliani after  9/11. In spite of the crises, Rebo is very strong, calm, collected, brave, articulate and held it all together for your family. Like father, like son!

    I am praying that you have speedy recovery. Please rest in the love of your children because I know how they love you and ninang very much. I am so proud of your children. At this thought, I hope you still find strength and happiness in your heart for your loved ones. They are all blessings and that is worth waking up in the morning.

    Like every letter we have in the past, will I earnestly wait for your reply? It is a wishful thinking though. You told me…”never cease to dream”…

                                                  Your number #1 fan forever,

                                                  Marites Tan Gerona

                                                  tesstantan@yahoo.com

My Epiphany

January 17, 2008

     In 1987, I was trying to fit in a new school in high school. My family transferred to the province. I just thought of contributing an article to the school paper, Cor Unum. My article was about my experience in the 1986 Edsa revolution.I remember it was entitled “Turning Back”. It was not about the revolt but how a teenager like me was there in a swam of multitude. My sisters and I  were  eyeing for cute guys. It was published and I was appreciated. The feeling of being accepted somehow began my start of loving to write.

     It was also that year when I wrote a letter to aspiring senator, Rene Saguisag about my admiration of him. That was a start of more than a decade of correspondence. He never fails to respond to my letters. Why he gave time to read a fan letter like me is still a mystery to me. He thought I write well so that inspired me all the more to continue writing. Since he was a big influence on me, I began to write articles on political issues. I shared my comments on the Inquirer and my write-ups were published in the Letters to the Editor. That boosted my confidence. Senator Saguisag’s  good words and college classmates were very generous of their praises.

     I recall very fondly a classmate of mine one day blocked my entering the classroom.  He then recited in front of me the memorized two long lines from the article published on the Sunday Inquirer magazine! He told me this story that on that Sunday, his dad was having a long call of nature in the bathroom while reading the sunday newspaper. He then out of the blue shouted so proudly to my classmate that he read an article made by me! His dad and him end up laughing but admired my article.

     I remember one time I wrote an article about a controversy involving the school administration and was published in the Inquirer. I posted myself as anonymous. A week later after that, our college has a rally and the school admin was there for a dialogue with the students and this was brought about what I wrote because the school officials made reference to it on their speech. The issue was resolved in favor of the students. Everybody was asking who wrote the article but I just keep mum about it. Inside, I was smiling.

     On another occasion, I wrote something about presidential aspirant Jovito Salonga and another about a friend in need. Both were published in The Inquirer and weeks later, I received letters from the readers of the newspaper. I was happy. I want to be this kind of person who touches people’s heart. Through my writings I hope I will be able to continue this because as it warms my heart, I hope I will also share that same warmth and more.

     On my early 20’s, I began to write stories and poems on love. I kept them all intact. One of my fiction stories, “Crossings in My Mind” was published in a local paper and its the first time I won an award. My other inspiration was my late dad and I wrote poems about him as well. I also try insert my dad in my fiction stories as well. My fondest memory of my dad when he was alived was that day when one of my articles was published in the letters to the editor column of the Inquirer. He bought a copy and proudly showed it off to my titas. I was not that close to my dad but if I can write thousands of articles just to repeat this scene again, I will do so but my dad is long gone and so as my passion for writing?

     Somewhere along the way, I set aside my love of writing. Priorities shifted like I was concentrating on earning a living and getting married got in the way of my love for writing. Years were counting….

    Last Christmas, I gave my two nieces autograph books and I was delighted to sign them. I was surprised and  did not realized how I enjoyed writing in a slum book! My mom and sisters began to teased me that I was taking too long answering the autograph book. They say as if I was writing a novel. But I was delighted to have the chance to impart my love thoughts for my nieces through writing it. How I am proud of them and I also imparted my words of wisdom. Their smiles upon reading it was priceless and their mom, my sister was kinder to me. She even commented that my nieces got their knack of writing as well from me!

     Two weeks later, my husband and I went to Divisoria and it was my first time in years. I was looking for supplies for my shop and we wander with weariness in different markets there like lost souls for we cannot find what we were looking for. The muddy road, scorching sun, swamp of people and foul smell did not help at all. As we thread thru aimlessly in different directions, we went inside a big, closed-roof market. This was really a big one but as soon as we were in the middle, I began to feel the thinning of air as stalls were in very close proximity of each other like sardines so to say.

     I search for the nearest exit to grasp for air and there I pointed from a far distance. I saw the outside street from inside the crowded market  like the feeling you were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  Where it leads is still unknown though. I was happy to finally get out but still have not found what I  was looking for. In that street, I was surprised. I read it was Carmen Planas Street, Binondo. Like a light-bulb moment, I suddenly have an epiphany. I realized that this is the place where a former classmate in college lives. He was my inspiration for writing, “Crossings in My Mind”. After almost 20 years, why I suddenly thought about this makes me feel weird. Maybe it is a sign to get an update on this person? I tried to search in the internet but it was futile after how many days.

    Last week, my sister, who is also the mom of my 2 nieces drop by my shop and told me just out of the blue, “Hey, since you love to write, why don’t you have a blog?” I was dumbfounded as she tries to explain me how and I was thinking maybe she is saying this because she read what I wrote on my nieces’ slumbook? Did I make an impression on a autograph book?Funny.

     When she left, I almost totally shrugged off her idea but then again, I suddenly have another epiphany, a light-bulb moment. Was searching for my former classmate a wrong move? Was I not listening carefully to what all of these means? At one point, I was at a lost in a big market and then on the other, I smiled at this street. Was it telling me to go back to this place where I once found joy and that is… through writing? It must be not the physical person I am looking for, but the story I made about this person. The hands that made this person come alive…through writing.

     Strange circumstances though…but were nevertheless clues…the autograph books of my nieces, Divisoria market and my sister telling me to blog.

     I wish to recapture my love and passion for writing and I hope it captures me back. Welcome to my weblog, world!

Postscript: Was it a divine providence? My wireless internet in this laptop keeps on disconnecting itself since I opened it up for hours already but as soon as I began writing this very first-write up of mine in years, this wireless connection is cooperating with me! Just a thought…

Marites Tan Gerona………..January 17, 2008