Saturday, April 30, 2005

Me, Lately

Bea and I, March 15, 2005, at Nature's Village Resort, The School for Creative Beginners' "Moving Up" Day Posted by Hello

nature settings are where i thrive best Posted by Hello


Bea, the last time i asked her 2 hours ago, she said she wants to be a ballet dancer and to open a beauty salon so she can make people beautiful Posted by Hello


Polo, future scientist Posted by Hello


Thea, future international pop star and computer animation artist Posted by Hello


tomorrow, we all troop to Papa's house to have a celebration lunch together as a family, and in thanksgiving for Papa's remarkable recovery, in so short a time.

two weeks ago, we all trooped to Manila with and for Papa, for what we thought would be a heart bypass operation he didn't look well enough to undergo. after 8 months and 12 ICU visits here, Papa was weakening, in both body and spirit, and the heart bypass operation was deemed as a last resort, do-or-die option. actually, the unspoken thought in everybody's mind was probably the fact that it could be more do-and-die, but at least, we'd all be there for Papa and see him alive and watch him go, together.

now, Papa is not only off his oxygen tank, but has already started walking around on his own, and back to his usual talkative self. the asthma and the edematous legs and toes are gone, and the diabetes is back to a manageable level.

in the last family prayer i led for Papa before his second and last operation last April 25, i added another prayer to our original plea for a safe and successful operation and recovery for him: that he be given a new lease on life so that he may fully heal in all ways, and finally find the peace and joy that has eluded him all his life, before he finally goes, for good, much later.

strangely, the healing has not only been for him, but for us who were there with him and for him. being suddenly thrown together after so many years of just living our own lives by our selves, and being thrown together in an environment where the only concern was to make Papa as comfortable as possible and what to order for delivery for our next family meal in the hospital room, forcibly removed from our usual cares and responsibilities in our daily lives in Bacolod--contributed to making it natural for us to finally talk to each other, and to listen, and to be vulnerable and open to each other once again, even despite initial spats and skirmishes of who does what and who stays in the room with Papa while the rest go out and attend to some personal errands.

many personal and family crises in the past drove us apart from each other, but strangely, this biggest crisis of all-- the threat of the possible impending death of a patriarch whom we shared a love-hate relationship with in the past -- has drawn us all back together again in the folds of a father's difficult kind of loving, but loving still, none the less.

God has been so good to give Papa, and us all, this new lease on life!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

202 Emails! : O

the last time i checked my emails was at a net cafe last sunday, near the hospital, the day before Papa's second and -- hopefully -- final heart operation. i arrived home today to find my inbox has grown another 202 emails in just four days! que horror!

well, at least, 150 of them are butterfly business-based, so they didn't require replying to as much as they required monitoring. the rest were my usual subscription newsletter emails and a few personal emails from family and friends.

still i can't help thinking that my wishful thinking while in the ship on the way home-- to spend a day or two leisurely settling in to my life here again before plunging into it full force-- will remain just that, wishful thinking.

the ship was supposed to dock at the Bacolod port by 1 p.m., but we were delayed by another two hours because of engine trouble. Thea and Bea, who were at the port with Paolo and Papa's second wife-- who fetched us (my two kid stepsisters and i) in the family car--decided to go home to wait for me instead because of the intense heat at the port. Papa's second wife told me how paolo valiantly and adamantly held on, telling her he wanted to greet me at the port itself, no matter how uncomfortable it was and no matter how long it took.

Even if it takes tomorrow, I'll wait for my Mama, that's what she told me little Paolo said. : )

when we arrived, Paolo hugged me so tight it brought tears to all our eyes. in the car, he sat on my lap and continued to embrace me all throughout, telling me how God answered his prayers, because he prayed that i'd come on the 28th, a day before his 7th birthday. : )

we got home at around 3:30p.m., but what i thought would be a slow easing in to my old life did not come to pass. after the kids opened their homecoming presents from me and settled in to playing with their new toys and art materials, i thought to check and warm up the car, which hasn't been touched in two weeks.

to my dismay, i found the oil at a dangerously low level, and remembered that the gas might be running low too. but i was down to my last 200 pesos too, and so i had to drive out to check the ATM if my butterfly biz commission and my university salary had come in.

thankfully both were there, and so i withdrew the maximum amount for the day and proceeded to the gas station to have the car refueled full tank and the oil refilled full tank too. then, remembering that the maid told me how the kids have been going without their usual favorite snack foods the past two weeks as the ex only brought in the basic groceries and meal items, i thought to do some quick grocery shopping at the nearest mall.

little Bea went with me. i was also concerned when the maid and Thea told me how she fell off our bed the day before, head first on to the floor, and how she vomitted afterwards. she's okay now but i told her we're going to the doctor first thing tomorrow. i'm also concerned to see her sniffling and coughing, and how her fine brownish silken hair had grown much too long and unkempt. so when we got to the mall, i took her to our favorite beauty parlor to have her hair and nails trimmed, which brought a big grin to her face. i also brought her the usual pediatric meds for her runny nose and cough, and her favorite pizza and ice cream cone, after which she dutifully assisted me in my shopping for their snack items and out-of-stock toiletries at home. next i bought a special chicken and pasta dinner, and some ice cream, for us, as a sort of homecoming celebration and a pre-birthday party for Paolo tonight.

i still have to unpack but the pc and the net calls me, especially after i got text messages from my uncle in New Jersey and my mom in Georgia, to go check my emails ASAP for a series of rush orders i had to facilitate with our supplier here.

and that's when i found my 202 emails.

now, even as i go through my emails one by one to clean up my inboxes, i look up and see bills pouring out of the wall bills envelope. i make a mental note to my self to do that later tonight, preparing my payments so i can pay them tomorrow, even as i also go to some other offices tomorrow to process papers for updating our mortgage, taking out a new cellphone so i can finally give my present one to Thea, and even go to some offices at the university to submit some papers and meet with some people on really urgent matters-- even while im still officially on vacation leave!!! i remind my self too, to enrol the kids for the next schoolyear, and to take them to the dentist for our annual free prophylaxis, before my current schoolyear's health care privileges expire. and how about my phd long-overdue papers which i have to submit in a week, before we meet with our professor?

phew. it's back to multi-tasking mode again.


life presses on, despite my wish for a more leisurely kind of settling in. i have been gone for two weeks and so much has happened to me and in me outside my usual life here.

i feel disoriented.

well, i always do after coming home from travelling, especially if the things i've done while away are not the usual things i do in my regular life here. but this has been the longest time i've been away from the kids -- aside from my 3-week trip to Hungary and Romania in 2001, but i was still with their father then, and not with their father now-- so the feeling of disorientation is graver, i guess.

i am still me, and yet not me anymore, and also more me.

one of these days, when i get a sense of where i really am again, perhaps, i will write about it here. along with that promised blog on the various trips i've taken lately.

till then, my heart.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Papa's Heart

it's been 8 days since Papa checked in here at the Chinese General Hospital in Manila, and 7 days since i arrived here (he took the plane with our doctor sister-in-law, we took a ship).

he was originally scheduled to have his heart bypass operation last april 16, but he looked so weak and wan when he arrived that his doctors decided against it and ordered him for another angiogram instead on the 16th.

we spent the whole of the 17th waiting for his angiogram results. by evening, one of his four doctors came in to discuss it with us. we learned that although his heart is still medically viable for a heart bypass, there are just too many blockages in his veins and arteries (5 major ones counted, another 5 minor ones seen from the angiogram pictures...), coupled with his failing kidneys because of his diabetes, and vulnerable lungs because of his 40plus years of chain-smoking, to render a heart bypass quite a very risky procedure.

Papa and us were basically scared too, with the idea of opening his chest up and sawing through his rib cage to get to his heart, and opening one of his thighs to get the good blood vessels from there to graft into his weak heart blood vessels... so in a way, the news was a relief to us, even as it temporarily closed a door for him.

good thing there is an option, and it's an advanced kind of angioplasty, where the doctors just do a minor incision in his groin area, insert a catheter to balloon his blood vessels AND then insert a "stent" -- a springlike meshwire tube (his model involves an advanced version of having drugs released into his system to keep his vessels strong) -- to keep his blood vessels opened up for easier blood flow, "for life" (as the doctors said).

it's a more expensive option, though, at 125 thousand pesos per stent. multiplied by 4-5 stents for his major blockages, that would amount to half a million pesos, excluding his other hospital and doctors' bills.

it's another good thing that Papa prepared well for this rainy day. we used to think he was very miserly with us, providing us only with the basics, and training us to work for what we wanted, but his lifetime of thrift has at least released us, his family, from having to additionally worry about his medical expenses, as he's paying for it all, even including our plane and ship tickets and stay here in Manila. it's funny that Papa is the one who should be needing us, yet, up to now, he is still the one taking care of us in very basic ways. a living model of a self-made and self-reliant man, that's what Papa is.

anyway, we decided on the latest coronary stent implantation procedure. he had his first two stents implanted yesterday, april 19, with the next 2-3 stents on monday, april 25. his doctors advise against implanting everything at once, as they want to see how his body will take it. the doctor for his kidneys advised against two successive stents, too, one after another, because the dye used during the procedure might overload his kidneys. so after more discussion and further consultation for auspicious feng shui dates, april 25 was set.

before Papa's procedure early in the morning yesterday, i gathered the family together and asked for a small prayer for papa. we, who have never been public "prayors", especially with each other, now prayed from the heart, all focusing our thoughts and energies and love for Papa's safe and successful operation and recovery.

and you know what, our very specific prayer was answered. even the doctors were amazed at how easy it was for them to conduct the procedure, which was over in 45 minutes. Papa looked well and more upbeat, too. he even went off from his oxygen mask, for the first time in months. so everyone felt optimistic that the next operation would be as safe and successful.


this time with Papa has been a blessing in disguise for me too.

it has afforded me time to be with him and to take care of him, and for him to get to know me all over again, as the adult woman i am now, who has her own mind and spirit and who knows her heart and speaks her truth.

among us three siblings, while growing up, i was the wallflower: mousy, quiet, seemingly passive and submissive, rarely speaking up-- even if just to make small talk and socialize among family and friends. although i was the eldest, my younger sister overpowered me with her arresting beauty and bubbly personality and my younger brother overpowered me with his commanding presence and loquaciousness.

but strangely, in this time of crisis for our family, my father and i are finding out my own strengths and special gifts.

although we are many here around him-- our childhood nanny who's also become Papa's nurse at home when he started getting sick, my cousin whom Papa sent to school and who eventually chose to live with our family even after he finished school, our aunt and Papa's only sister, his two girl children from his second wife, my younger sister, my younger brother and his doctor-wife, and i-- when night comes and everybody is tired and fully asleep, it has fallen upon me to wake up for Papa when he needs someone to take care of him in the middle of the night.

i'm the one who wakes up and takes care of Papa for his coughs and little pains and necessary bodily excretions-- because im the only light sleeper among all, and because i seem to have the requisite gentleness and calmness and good cheer and patience (so my years of solo parenting my very young kids, even during a lonely marriage, has trained me well!) to attend to a cranky old man and soothe him, in the unholiest of hours.

in these special dark hours, while attending to Papa's needs and humoring his complaints, we start talking-- or rather, he starts talking and i listen.

in these special dark hours, when everybody is asleep and one who is awake feels so alone, Papa starts telling me about his past, about his hurts and pains, and about his fears for the future... and i start telling him of mine (more of hopes and dreams, not too many fears now) too.

in these special dark hours, when one suddenly wakes up from nightmarish visions, i give Papa his little sips of water and i start massaging his swollen and aching legs and feet, until he relaxes and the swelling disappears and he falls asleep again. (he has grown to look forward to my foot massages he now can't fall asleep without them! : > )

in these special dark hours when it is just Papa and i, alone together against a sleeping world, i am finding my own worth as a daughter and as a person in his eyes, and i sense he is discovering in me the treasures of my quiet strength and inner serenity and calm optimism, which he has rarely noticed in the usually competitively boisterous business-centered day world we live and have mostly seen each other in.

in these special dark hours that Papa and i have been spending together, i am finding my way to Papa's heart at last.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Today, I Leave

today, i leave for manila with my sister, our two kid stepsisters, and our longtime nanny, to be with papa for his heart bypass operation on saturday at the philippine chinese general hospital. our brother will be meeting us there, as well as our manila-based cousins and uncles and aunts.

i don't know when i'll be back. if all goes well, i'll be back pronto, for sure.

we need all your prayers and well-wishes for my papa. thank you very much.

i do believe in the power of concentrated and positive thought directed at a single desired outcome, whatever you call it -- prayer, wish, visualization.

i hope to be back pronto.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Papa, Again


i try not to think about it too much, but the days are approaching.

papa is scheduled for his heart bypass operation this saturday, the 16th, and my sister, Honey, and our two kid stepsisters, and our long-time nanny, will be going with me by boat to manila on the 14th.

it would just be a simple heart bypass operation, with the chances of success quite high, i know. but papa has been in and out of the ICU for almost 9-10 times in the past nine months, with his trips to the hospital getting to be more frequent lately, due to complications caused by his diabetes. his lungs can barely be seen in the x-rays too, having been eroded by around 50 years of chain-smoking...

what causes me dread, though, is his general demeanor every time i see him. he seems to have gotten older and frailer and weaker and more despondent every time. add to that the fact that his falling out with his mistress-- the mother of our two kid stepsisters -- is not doing him any good emotionally.

maybe, it is just his mistress' way of coping with the situation -- prettying her self up ( i do that, too) -- but family talks behind her back, saying she has another man. one time, we did talk, while we were at the hospital. she cried when she told me how difficult it is living with a man like my father who was so controlling and pessimistic and quite verbally abusive... i understood her pain and told her so. and despite the pain she has also caused our family, i feel sorry for her. i actually choose to believe her, rather than all the evil things family says she's been up to, like only wanting our father for his money and leaving him now that she sees she won't be getting much from him at all (our only brother helped papa settle his papers and his will some months ago and everybody has an idea of where things are at)...

what am i doing, rambling on like this, shaking up the skeletons in the closet?

i am just sooo scared i guess.

nobody talks about it, but the common decision for us children to come together and be with him for his heart bypass operation is our silent way of acknowledging the fear and the possibility that this might be the last time we see him alive, and that at least, he has all of us his children around him when he goes.

still, i am so scared.

papa is only 66.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sunday, April 03, 2005


the kids and i just got back from a four-day vacation at the world famous Boracay. needless to say we're all tired and tanned but happily so. we enjoyed our selves and did as we pleased, thank God for the comfortable budget we were able to bring with us (thank God even for the ex, their dad, who helped out quite surprisingly generously, when i told him where i was taking the kids and if he could help but it's up to him...)

on tuesday, i'll be off to another 5-day vacation trip, this time with my colleagues at work, where we will go on a package tour to Camiguin, somewhere far south of the Philippines.

on april 14-15, we department chairs and our dean are supposed to have a working beach excursion just somewhere north of our island, too, but i might not be able to make it as i would rather go to manila to be with my dad, who will be having his heart bypass surgery...


i will write more extensively on these trips later on, when i catch my breath and am able to collect my thoughts and impressions again, but for now, all i can say is that i've always welcomed the chance to travel, ever since i was a kid.

one of my most perused books was Disney's Wonderful World of Travel, and my other hobby when i was 8 or 9 years old-- aside from reading and writing-- was cutting out the coupons in magazines for free travel brochures and mailing them at the post office, so i could get all these wonderful travel catalogs back (of course i lied about my age heehee).

as with books, i think travel is the other best way to expand one's experiences and perspective of the world. not the touristy, shopping mall kind of travel, but the real kind, the kind where one engages in the lives of the natives more intimately by travelling as they do and eating as they do and living close to how they live.

it's not just a physical "trip" to another geographical location. in many ways, it becomes a mind trip to other states of consciousness and even a soul trip to other levels of being.

i grew up living in the mezzanine floor of what used to be my parent's store in a public market. i didn't have the "normal" childhood of playing physical games in lots of open spaces, or even just playing with dolls (my father thought it was an unnecessary luxury).

my childhood was spent working at the store, from sweeping the floor and wiping the dust off the merchandise, to helping in the inventory and tending the cash register as soon as i learned to count well, then on to attending to customers and suppliers and all the myriad sorts of strange people one gets to meet in a public market. there were no weekends nor holiday vacations (not even Christmas!... well only Good Friday, and even that was just half a day...), as weekends and holidays were the busiest store seasons too. we were forbidden to play too much with the other street and market kids because of their coarse manners and foul language. thank God my mother had the insight and foresight to provide us with books and lots of paper and pencils and crayons to at least let our imaginations run wild and free even as our physical bodies lived in cramped and dingy surroundings!

that's why i always say-- my father gave me roots (for his introducing us to the harsh realities of life at such tender ages), my mother gave me wings (for her introducing us to the value of imagination and dreams and following one's passions).


i have written a lot of my love for books and writing here, but rarely so of my love for travel. so in the next few blogs, i think i will focus more on these mind and soul trips, even as they take me physically to real geographical places.

hang on for the ride!