BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Our maid was crying hard when she called me on the phone at 5:30pm. I was in El Faleh shop (the third branch I visited on the same afternoon!!) looking for the red shirt uniform for our volleyball team. It was hard for me to understand exactly what she was telling me in between sobs, but I came to know that her 1 and a half year old daughter in Mindanao was sick and she wanted to send money for her immediately. I asked her to calm down and promised to help.
After I bought my uniform (a shirt from El Faleh in Olaya and the pants from Ghornata in Malaz--- I didn’t know why don’t they have all the brands in one shop?!—DUH!!!!), I asked Eric to accompany me to Enjaz in Um Al Hamam Area on our way home. That was already past 7pm.
We reached Enjaz and it was prayer time. I saw some men waiting outside and I hoped that the queue inside was not long, if ever there was…because I wanted to attend our badminton practice which will start at 8:30pm. Unfortunately, after waiting for almost 30 minutes outside Enjaz, one of the staff came outside and informed us that they will not accept any further customers anymore and we should come back the following morning. Tsk…Tsk…The heck!
Upset, I told Eric that we have to find another way to send money because Enjaz was already offline. I called my brother who was in a basketball practice that time, but he said he could not do it for me.
Still thinking of how I would send money for the sick baby, I went home and get dressed for my badminton practice. I met my maid on the doorstep and she asked me if I already sent it. I sensed that she was deeply worried. She had so many questions and she was begging me for help. I told her that I was not yet able to send it, but I assured her that I will do it. At the back of my mind, I was afraid not to send the money right there and then because it may cost a baby’s life.
So at past 8pm, I was dragging Eric to Sulaimania Area. I knew it was not easy for him coz he was limping from his severe knee pain, but he was patient enough to accompany me. All the Enjaz Branches were closed and we found out that they didn’t open after the last prayer time.
Just when I was feeling almost a little hopeless, I spotted some Indians or Pakistanis (*still can hardly tell the difference*) in a Quick Pay/ Money Gram shop, I asked Eric to pull over and park the car nearby so I could go inside and inquire if I can send the money through.
There were three members of the staff and five other customers. I sat down in front of a Customer Service representative. There were still two men ahead of me.
While waiting for my turn, I looked around the room and noticed that there were three ATM’s- two of them saying: “Withdrawals are not allowed in this machine”. I wondered why.
After waiting for fifteen minutes, Anwar, the Customer Service Representative, called me. I told him that I wanted to send money to Philippines immediately…but I didn’t have any idea of their draft/ remittance service. He politely explained about Money Gram and Quick Pay and I understood that for a fee of 30 Saudi Riyals, after only 10 minutes—TEN MINUTES--the remittance will be available for pick up in any agent (M Lhullier, Cebuana, etc.) in the Philippines.
He asked for my Iqama (residence card) and gave me some forms to fill up. I had to open an account with Al Ahli Bank/ NCB before I could use Money Gram or Quick Pay. The procedure was not difficult though. The requirements were also simple- just a valid Iqama and some patience on filling up a lot of forms. The Customer Service was great and all members of the staff in the branch I dealt with were friendly and polite. They even gave me some freebies- a wallet, a bag, a key holder, a can opener, and Sawa load (how’s that?)- because they said it was my first time visit them.
Five minutes before 9 o’ clock the same evening, I had opened a bank account at Al Ahli Bank/ NC, got an ATM Card, and I already sent my remittance through Quick Pay. That was more than a breath of fresh air. I sent a text message to our maid so she could forward the reference number to her mother in Mindanao and to inform her that she could pick the money up in any agent after ten minutes (which she did, by the way!).
At the end of the day, I felt relieved from the guilt of not being able to help someone in need. I am thankful for the blessings that I have including a husband who had to endure a “long walk” and hours of waiting amidst a very painful knee (*a slight grin on my face, thinking about it), my two kids who constantly inspire me, good health, good job, and a wonderful set of family and friends around.
**Note: To all my friends in Saudi Arabia who have not tried the Money Gram/ Quick Pay service of Al Ahli Bank/ NCB yet, I suggest that you do open an account with them. It’s a small procedure, but in case of emergency, I think their service is very useful for the following reason: Talk about convenience. There’s no need to wait in long queue’s to send money to your beneficiaries, because the customer can do the transfer fast and easily through any Al Ahli Bank or NCB ATM in the kingdom- 24/7.
PARA KAY LOLA
“Ipunin mo yung mga damit na may punit para pagdating ni Inay, mapasulsihan natin…”
That was my Mom, asking me to collect torn clothes which my Lola usually repairs by hand. At the age of more than 80, my grandma could still stitch our clothes manually- and she never used eye glasses- not in her whole life.
When I was in primary school, my Mom left us to work abroad. My Lola used to visit us in Calapan (which was not yet a city then) almost every week. She used to check on us to make sure that we have enough food for the coming week and ensure that our school uniforms were clean (read: washed carefully and pressed properly). She always bring with her fruits- pomelo, guava, calamansi- mangoes, bananas- and vegetables- sitaw, talong, okra, etc from her backyard farm in Victoria.
During my Mom’s absence, her mother, our Lola, was there to take care of us. Whenever someone gets sick in the family and everytime my Dad leaves for his out of town training or mission she was there to look after us. And oh, it is worth mentioning that my Lola remembers every birthday of anyone in the family—all my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my nephews—just about everyone’s birthday- she knows them by heart.
Funny, I remember how she shouted at me many times for catching me climbing up the trees at the back of our house with my childhood friends. Her worried face for fear of me falling down had always been followed by a “kurot” somewhere.
During my early childhood, it was from my Lola that I learned how doing sacrifices and piety equals religion. Not only does she attend Holy Mass, at least three times a week, but she does it with full conviction. She wakes up early morning to walk her way to the town church which was like thirty minutes walk from our house. Inside the church and during the mass, she knows all the gospel songs by heart, she responds to the priest aloud, and even after the mass, she stays in the church, praying and still praying some more. There were too many times that I went with her and I asked myself what could she have been praying for because I noticed that she does not only pray the rosary once or twice…but she does it over and over again. Would our God really require us to repeat the prayers a thousand times before He replies? Naïve, I am.
One evening, while I and my Lola were reciting her novena in our bedroom (I was actually just watching her in awe although she may have thought that I was praying with her), I asked her why her prayers were always lengthy and why does it seem as if she’s repeating the prayers over and over-all the time. I remember how she smiled at me and holding my face fondly, she said, “Pinagdadasal ko kayong lahat…ang iyong Inay dahil malayo sya sa inyo, ang Tatay mo para ilayo sya sa tukso at kapahamakan…at kayong apat para makatapos kayo ng pag aaral…”.
That time, around twenty years ago, although I was, perhaps, still too young to exactly understand those caring words from her, I have never forgotten the sincere look in her eyes and the love that transpired through the warmth of that simple touch on my face.
In 2006, after 5 years of working in Saudi Arabia, I went back to Philippines to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was also Alia’s first time to visit Mindoro. (**http://medylene.blog.friendster.com/2006/12/**)
In short, it was one of the best Christmases in my whole life. I was with my family, my parents, my aunts, uncle, cousins and my Lola and we went around Calapan, Naujan and Victoria’s scenic and historical spots. We visited other relatives who were not able to join us in the unplanned tour. Alia was very happy to meet most of her cousins. I was joking with my Aunt that the “next generation” of kids in our family are more aggressive (and a lot noisier!) than my “batch”…but we were more beautiful and refined.
As we were all having fun, chatting, giggling, joking and catching up with so many stories between me and my Aunts and my cousins, I noticed my Lola sitting at one corner and observing us. Every now and then, she laughs and plays with the kids who were running and shouting all over my Uncle’s house.
It has been long ago since I last spent time with her. From afar, I noticed that her face has now become old and she lost much weight. Maybe she noticed that I was staring at her, and she called me.
“Memen, Ineng..”, she said. “Paki abot mo naman yung isang bangko (chair) at ng maitaas ko yung paa ko..”.
I immediately approached her and brought the chair towards her. I asked her if she’s okay and if she’s feeling any pain. She told me that maybe because the weather was cold and because she was sitting for long, her back started to hurt a little…But she also assured me that it’s normal with her…at her old age.
I sat beside her, concerned, I was. She looked at me and told me that I lost weight. I smiled back. I knew I wanted to start a conversation with her, but I just couldn’t find the right story to tell.
Looking at Alia who came towards me for a random hug, in the middle of her playing and running with her cousins, my Lola told me that Alia looks more like my husband than me. I smiled and nodded back. She asked me several questions about Eric, his family, my work in Saudi Arabia, Bimbo, my sisters, and many others. It was a light conversation between my Lola and me. But it was one exchange I never knew I’d miss.
New Year’s Day came and my relatives came to spend it with us too- because it was also time to celebrate our town fiesta. As usual, my Lola was with us, although she was quieter and she stayed most of the time sitting and just watching us.
One afternoon, I came home from the city, and I saw my Mom sobbing in the kitchen. I was so worried and I asked her what was wrong. She was hesitant to tell me the reason why she was crying but she probably knew that I will not let her go without telling me too.
She told me that she was so upset with her Inay, my Lola…. I was puzzled.
According to my Mom, she saw my Lola took a leftover, half-filled softdrink bottle (which was probably left out by my nephew, Justin, who usually opens a bottle of cola-- drinks half of it and leaves the other half anywhere in the house. That time, my Mom was talking to my Ninang. With the half-filled softdrink leftover on my Lola’s hand, she approached them (my Mom and my Ninang), saying, “Alam mo Ineng (she was talking to my Ninang), palagi na lang akong umiinom ng mga tirang soft drinks dito.. kagaya nito…binubuksan lng nyang si JJ tapos iniiwan na..sayang naman..”
In between my Mom’s sobbing while she was telling me the story, I also started to cry. I felt for both my Mom and my Lola. My Mom was probably embarrassed in front of her kumare—thinking why would she let her “mother” drink a leftover?”. She assured me though, that she would never allow her to drink any leftover. I believed her. She had always been asking my Lola what she wanted to eat, or if she needed anything, and if she wanted to eat or drink anything in particular- our refrigerator, our kitchen, everything in our house was at her disposal.
My Mom explained her side although I told her that she should not because I knew how she felt and I perfectly understand the situation…and that it was not a big deal. If it was for any consolation, I also told my Mom that she should be more understanding with my Lola because she is already very old…and maybe she is now more (or was it less??) sensitive.
At the end of our discussion, my Mom asked me that if she reaches the same age like my Lola was (84) that time; would I be taking care of her too? She also asked me if I would be half as loving as she was with her own mother.
I assured her that I would love her more than any daughter in the world would do so.
During our most recent vacation, I had seen my Lola only twice when I visited her. I brought her some strong pain relief medications for her growing pain on the knees and back. She lost further weight and she could hardly walk without help anymore.
As I kissed her hand (“pagmamano” is a family tradition we have), I let Alia and Aisha do the same thing like I did. Alia did, but Aisha just stared at her, afraid to come closer. I told Aisha, “Baby, yan si Lola …sige na, mag bless ka na…”. Aisha, looking puzzled, turned to me and said, “La-la???”. I smiled and I noticed that my Lola smiled too. Looking at Aisha, she said, “Oo Aisha…ako si Lola…lapit ikaw dito..”. And Aisha bent over and did it.
Before I left her that day, my Lola held my hand and said, “ Nakakatuwa naman at nakita ko sina Alia at Aisha.. lalo na si Aisha, mabuti at nakasama mo ngayong bakasyon at nakita ko sya… Si Aisha, Ineng, kamukhang-kamukha mo…ikaw na ikaw ang itsura nya nung maliit ka pa…”.
I smiled while listening to her. Still holding my hand, she added, “Ineng, may balak ka pa bang mag anak ulit?? Ay siya, pag may kasunod pa ang dalawang yan, malamang ay hindi na ako makikilala..”.
Those words pierced through my heart. I knew deep within that what she just said was not next to impossible.
Early on a Monday, I received a message from my sister, saying: “Update.. si Granny nakadiaper na.. at parati umiiyak dahil hirap na hirap na.. Di ako mkakontak sa tin.. pakisabi kay mommy.. dumalaw na..kasi daw baka cia na lang hinihintay..c momy na lang di nkakadalaw..”
I felt a cold shiver all over my body.. I suddenly felt my knees got weak.. I wanted to reply to my sister’s message but I could not find the words to say.
I called my Mom to ask about my Lola. She told me that she’s really in pain and her condition is deteriorating… I need not ask more.. coz I was sure that my Mom was trying hard to sound braver, if not breaking.
Now I wish I could be there to tell my Lola how lucky I was that I became her apo- how much I appreciate her kind gestures and the lessons she taught me about faith and goodness; about just being always ready to help and to listen.. I may not be her favorite grandchild but I respect her a lot for the love and care she had given us especially when me and my siblings were still young.
There were times when we fell short of criticizing her ways of showing her concern…but we shall always remember her words of wisdom and encouragement- for my Lola’s love was as extraordinary as herself and because her legacy will linger through countless years in our family.
Tonight and in many other nights in the future, I will remind Alia and Aisha about my Lola… the woman who had been a very special mother to my Mom and to me…
A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIP
Please do visit my previous blogs at: http://medylene.blog.friendster.com
When I was younger, I have been overwhelmed with the many kinds of people around me- in my lifetime, most of them come together, some of them quietly pass by and a few of them choose to stay. I don’t know where a good number of them are right now, but some still keep in touch. But as I grow older, I realize that there are only but a few of them I can be or am friends with. Real friends are treasures we keep through life- and it is a privilege to always have them around.
There’s a friend who sits on the porch, says nothing at all, and makes it one of the best conversations you have on a day.
When I told you last week that I was so down in the dumps, your reply was,”I hope you get through this sadness and I’m sorry that I’m too far from you to give a hug.” That was a breath of fresh air- a warm hug was all I needed. Sometimes, we do not need long stories or advices…we only need a few seconds to send love across-- for words are too powerful that they touch the hearts, no matter how many miles they are apart.
There’s a friend who needs you… and although you do not have anything to give, you will find a way to extend a hand.
A friend… a sister… a family. When I need you, you were always there for me. How could I not help you in return? We had our own differences- our beliefs are almost, always, contradicting… but our friendship is priceless. For me, you are “family”. Sisters do not have to be biologically matched.
There’s a friend who makes you smile without even trying so hard—it just comes so natural.
When I need a smile, a pat on the back, I can just send you a message and I’m sure I’ll get a reply – super fast. You are always there to remind me how beautiful life is and how funny a gloomy day can be. Your light spirit cheers me up and gets me through a boring, lifeless day.
There’s a friend who neither wants to be regarded as one nor be called such…but you know he is.
The best advice you gave me is to never lose hope—because as long as we breathe, there’s always a reason to anticipate a happier and peaceful life. You constantly give encouragement for my dreams to come true. Nobody has taken care of me the way I always wanted to be taken care of like you once did-- you made me and you broke me—but you are the very reason I became stronger.
Although real friends need not be told how special they are because they should know it, I am so happy to have you born in my lifetime. Ciao!
DIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA AND LOVING IT
It was long ago in a warm Saturday afternoon of August 2009 when I wrote a blog about my first official badminton game (http://medimaldita.weebly.com/2/archives/08-2009/1.html). I can’t say I’m already good at badminton right now, but it’s safe to say that I, somehow, already learned the basics of it.
More than a year after that “first” badminton challenge, I’m ready to dive! J
While I was busy trying to learn how to be a badminton “pro”- (raised eyebrows, anyone?), Eric took up a diving course at the Red Sea Diving Shop in Riyadh. Although I have lived almost my whole life in the island of Mindoro, just thinking about the sea –underwater breathing, sharks- gives me goose bumps.
It turned out that Eric enjoyed scuba diving too much, that he almost had to give up his tennis games and badminton practice sessions just to go diving on weekends. I refused to understand it at first, because of the expenses involved in acquiring scuba diving gears and stuff—and also the travel time to Jeddah, Yanbu, Khobar- at wee hours of the night. That’s not to forget the books he had to read over and over again and the video CD’s he watches several times which made me think that he had to learn the art of scuba diving by heart.
As a non diver, I joined Eric in a Boat Dive in February 2010 but the weather was not conducive for diving so it was cancelled. I met the group of Scuba Divers who hailed mostly from Al Khobar and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. They call themselves Pinoy International Scuba Diver (PISD). Back then, my sole reason was just to accompany Eric on his out of town trips, so I did.
However, by end of Ramadan 2010, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during the Eid Holiday (and my birthday, actually!) Eric had finally convinced me to try scuba diving. It was the very first time in my life to use a snorkel! I was so afraid to go by the deeper part of the pool (even with snorkel on). Although I had enrolled in a swimming lesson during a recent vacation in Mindoro, I didn’t have the confidence to swim by myself or even try to use the swimming techniques that my swimming instructor taught me.
It was a good thing that our Diving Instructor, RDA was very patient with me and my buddy, Maesyl. We were both beginners, although Maesyl had tried snorkeling before and she knows basic swimming too.
The First Dive. Discovery. Test Dive.
Everything felt strange although my wet suit fitted snugly on me. The other gears looked either too bulky or heavy—and the tank? I didn’t know if I could carry its weight. The mask felt awkward on my face. The BCD seemed too big for me…the regulator, the SPG, alternate air source, etc. (which one’s on the right and which one’s on the left??).
For one hour and a half… I did my best to grasp as much idea on the basics of scuba diving. I listened to the instructor, observed him and my buddy, and tried to follow every instruction he said. Geez… I still was not sure if I could do it.
The Second Session. Adaptation.
On the next day, still in Jeddah, RDA, the instructor, tried to teach us some basic skills underwater. Oddly, I found myself a little bit more relaxed than the previous night. Boy was I breathing underwater!
The Third Dive. Practice.
Two weeks later, another confined water dive training session was scheduled for me, my buddy and some other diving newbie’s from Riyadh. It was held in a swimming pool in an Esteraha. Excited as we were, I and Maesyl stayed on the pool from 4pm till 10 pm! Now, that was beyond saying we wanted to learn scuba diving fast. With the pool water getting colder through the evening, I bit the regulator’s mouthpiece so hard that Eric had to replace it the next day!
The Fourth and Fifth Dive Schedule. Open Water.
When we reached Halfmoon Beach in Al Khobar for our First Open Water Dive Training, I was so anxious. Friends warned us that the salinity in HalfMoon Beach was very high and it would probably hurt our eyes. It was a relief that most members of the PISD (Pinoy International Scuba Diver) Group were there not only to assist us but to encourage us too.
To say that the open water training is different from the confined water exercise was an understatement. It was totally different and it was scarier for me. Think about real-time salty water and no pool bars to hold on to?! I remember holding my instructor’s hand and practically dragging him along with me because I was too afraid to be left alone (which, they assured, would never happen). I was afraid to sink, I was afraid to breathe in and out (even with the regulator on my mouth!).
Until I realized that I could do it and I should. That was my second dive on the same day of the first open water training when I instilled in my mind that I can dive and I will. The result was just amazing…
Salty as it was, I felt the warmth of HalfMoon Beach water on my face and on my hands as my body was covered with the wet suit. I kept telling myself that my instructor was with me and he will not leave me alone so I had nothing to fear.
At this stage, I started to focus on my diving experience while learning from it and practicing the skills from our confined water exercises. In a total of four dives, two of each on a two consecutive Fridays in October 2010 at Halfmoon Beach. I started to gain confidence and I slowly conquered my fear of being lost underwater. Although there was not much to see as there were only a few wrecks and a few species living underwater, HalfMoon Beach provided a shallow bay for a real adventure experience for beginners like me- that included seeing a big blue angel fish and a sea snake at depth of 25 feet.
PISD Group was very supportive of us, being always there to help us from assembling our gears to helping us carry them through diving, and sharing the fun experience in land and in waterJ.
First Boat Dive. Jannah Island Adventure.
I was so excited to join the PISD Group for my first ever Boat Dive on October 22, 2010 in Jannah Island- 2 hour boat trip from Jubail Coast.
On my wetsuit and scuba diving gears (including that giant cylinder on my back!), I’m ready to jump!!
Descending to almost 35 feet below, I discovered that there is far more delightful array of life underwater. Suddenly, there was too much marine existence in front of me. It was an adorable sight- the coral reefs, different species of fish- all beautifully colored on their own uniqueness, and other equally awesome sea creatures. Salt water in Jannah Island was not even a quarter as salty as that in Halfmoon Beach- which allowed me to do mask clearing more comfortably- a skill I needed to clearly see what was in front of me- coz I didn’t wish to miss seeing all those splendor underwater.
Unfortunately, during our first dive, there was a strong current and we were drifted for almost 50 meters from the boat. A smaller boat nearby where we surfaced was a relief.
After an hour surface interval (that’s the term they use for a diver’s break), I’m all set for my second dive of the day.
Slowly, we descended to a deeper spot. My SPG read 38 feet. Looking around for something interesting, I had unconsciously tipped off the regulator from my mouth! Wheeew! I was so afraid but thank God I was able to put it back fast, just as we have practiced during our confined water training. Even though, I still felt so frightened. At the back of my mind, I was thinking maybe I would have died right there and then if I didn’t put it back on. Of course, this was a bit of an exaggeration because my Instructor RDA was there with me as well as my Diving Buddy Maesyl and Divemaster Jun.
When I finally got over the regs- tipped- off-experience, I was again ready to explore the island below the surface. I followed the group (RDA, MA,and FLJ) around, watching every life form present in that part of the sea. When I looked up, there was a school of fishes passing by… I wonder what they were up to. Were they even bothered that we were there?
As we go through taking pictures and enjoying the fascinating creatures of the submerged world, I realized why Eric and all the other divers I’ve met enjoy every minute of scuba diving. Underwater, there’s just so much beauty everywhere your eyes may gaze upon. The quiet life at the bottom of the sea looks both tempting and inviting. For once, I run out of words to describe such a liberating experience!
I knew that I will be signing up for more and more dive trips here and there—probably anywhere I’ll get a chance to. I’m sure I’ll even have to come up with more excuses from work and other activities I have just to keep diving. Addicted I am!
At the end of the day, my first scuba diving experience, from training till the first Boat Dive will forever be etched in my heart- for it was through “diving”- this great, often feared activity, that I realized I could conquer just about anything in my life with enough groundwork, determination and good thinking.
To my instructor and my diving buddies at PISD—thanks guyz! I ‘m so happy to be a part of the group!
So, tara!! Dive na!!! J
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me- my family, my husband, my two beautiful girls, my friends and colleagues.
Life itself is a happy experience. The world is a happy place.
I had my own share of struggles, life was not easy for us back then but my Dad taught me how to believe in myself, work hard , be kind and to be strong. He inspired me to go out of my comfort zone. He used to tell me that the possibilities in life are endless and so I believed him.
l Iost him quite a few years ago but he has left me with so much inspiration to follow my dreams - to visit places I have only dreamt of or have seen in the movies when I was little and to do things I thought were only for the privileged few.
Wherever I go, I always remember my Dad, wishing he could see me from afar and somehow be proud of me as I have always been so proud of him. Life is short and I promised him that I would make the most of mine.
Travelling makes me happy and in all other things, I choose happiness. We all should- always..