A THOUGHT OF CHRISTMAS AND A WISH FROM THE HEART
I closed my eyes and deeply wished that sleep would come to me. It has been almost two weeks of countless activities, stress and pressures. I started to feel exhausted -physically. My soul was also weary and my mind was on the edge.
Then suddenly, I was brought back to a scene in the past, in a place so dear to me. I was sitting on the couch, infront of the TV in our house in Mindoro!
Ate Mylene showed up from the kitchen and asked me to taste the spaghetti she cooked, “Oi Memen, tikman mo nga yung spaghetti..baka may kulang pa sa timpla ko…”. I smiled and followed her to our small kitchen. I saw Ate Len washing some dishes and she said,” Ang kulit ni Ate Mylene eh…sabi ng OK na yung lasa…ayaw pa maniwala sa kin”. I just looked at her and smiled. I knew that my eldest sister wanted a second opinion. She had always wanted to make things as accurate as possible- as perfect as she could.
As usual, My Ate Mylene’s spaghetti was great. I watched as she put a serving on a big Tupperware bowl and placed it on our wooden dining table, beside a bottle of Coke Litro. “Hintayin lang natin si Tatay..tapos saka natin gisingin si Bimbo..para sabay-sabay na tayong kumain..” She informed me and Ate Len.
It was a few hours before Christmas Eve, almost fifteen years ago…
While waiting for our Dad who was on duty that night (he was a policeman and he was assigned in the other town), I went to our terrace and stared at the “belen” (“Belen” , or a crèche- is a miniature nativity scene, depicting the birth of Jesus Christ). Comparing to most belen’s I’ve seen from my rich friends’ house and some of our neighbors, I noticed that ours was very simple. My Dad constructed it from some leftover “pawid” from our kubo..and we put the same “characters” from our previous belen in the past. The giant star was almost fading- in contrast to the original story’s brightness and shine. There were also, obviously, some missing characters in our own nativity scene.. the angel was absent, and one of the three kings wouldn’t stand… oh, and there was no shepherd on our belen too!
In spite of the simplicity, I couldn’t help but admire how my Dad diligently put up the wooden structure. My Dad.. he always wanted us to enjoy Christmas and that included decorating our small house with colorful lights and either recycled or improvised ornaments from past seasons.
While standing at the terrace, my Ate Len approached me and asked what I was thinking. I told her that I was trying to figure out why we missed putting a shepherd or two in our belen. She grinned and joked that most likely the shepherd went home early to cook his food for the Noche Buena. Then she advised me not to worry coz he’d probably be back in the morning too.
After a few more minutes, we heard my Dad’s footsteps and we rushed inside the house to call Ate Mylene and Bimbo (who just woke up in time) and inform them that Dad has already arrived. All together, the four of us welcomed our Dad and we rushed to him to kiss his hand (nag-mano). My Ate Mylene took the sliced loaf bread still in the plastic from my Dad’s hand and he motioned her to put it on the dining table. Then he went inside their bedroom to change his clothes. While he was inside the bedroom, all four of us sat on the sofa at the living room without talking. I knew then that we were all thinking of the same thing: “How come Dad didn’t bring us Christmas gifts?? Could he have forgotten them somewhere? Or was he planning to give us our gifts the next morning?
So upon my Dad’s signal that we’ll eat our late dinner that night (just before midnight), we took our seat on the dining set. There was nothing more than the spaghetti that Ate Mylene cooked, a bottle of Coke, and whole sliced bread. “O, kain na tayo!” my Dad blurted out. We smiled at each other and greeted ourselves a Merry Christmas.
While eating together, my Ate Len looked at me, as if forcing me to ask Dad where our gifts were. I felt a nudge under the table..probably from Ate Mylene or Ate Len…because they want me to speak out and ask Dad. I have always been the “brave” one- the speaker among the four of us. I looked at my Dad, trying to come up with a good way to ask him for our gifts. When my Dad caught me looking at him, he asked me what I want.
Dad: “Anong sasabihin mo??”
Dad: “Ano nga??”
Me: “Kasi di ba pasko?! Bat wala kaming regalo???”
Dad: “Sinong nagsabi na wala kayong regalo?? At palagay nyo, pwede ba kayong mawalan ng regalo sa pasko??? Hindi yata pwede!”
There was a loud cheer from all four of us. Yehey!!!! May regalo!!!--- pero nasaan kaya???
My Dad stood up and asked us to follow him to the living room beside our small Christmas tree. Eagerly and almost impatiently waiting for a “surprise”, we all sat on the sofa set. Still no gifts.
At last, I could not wait any longer and I went to Dad and demanded: ”Asan na ang regalo namin???!!!”.
Laughing, my Dad asked us to go and get our gifts from the terrace. At the “belen” the gifts were!
Running outside and bumping each other in excitement, we rushed to the belen (almost breaking it). There were four white envelopes each has a name outside. Mylene..Len..Memen..Bimbo.
Five hundred pesos for each of us from our Dad!
Puzzled, anxious, and excited with the rather strange gift we received (it was the first time that we received “cash” for Christmas), we went inside the house to thank our Dad. He knew that we were surprised with our “gifts”- the cash, so he informed us that he wanted us to start being responsible and to differentiate what we need from what we want. He told us that he expects us to buy whatever we need/want with the money, being responsible enough to spend it on we can use. He added that the amount was from him and our Mom…
My Dad’s voice cracked at the mention of my mother’s name. “Inay” as we call her, was working abroad (Saudi Arabia) and she had not spent Christmas with us for many years. We missed her and there was no doubt that my Dad missed her the most.
Dad: “Syempre, gusto ng “Inay” na umuwi para makasama sana tayo ngayong Pasko…kaya lang, mahal ang pamasahe…kaya sa halip na ipapamasahe nya yung sweldo nya, iipunin na lang nya para sa sunod na bakasyon ay makapag enroll sa college si Mylene at si Lenlen.
“Hmp! Lagi na lang ganyan si Mama pag pasko.. lagi naman wala! Laging sinasabi na darating sha..pero hindi naman pala!”. That was my brother, Bimbo.
“Ano ka ba?! Kaya nga nagtitiis ang Inay na magtrabaho dahil para sa ating lahat…tapos ganyan pa ang sinasabi mo!” replied my eldest sister, Ate Mylene, while giving Bimbo a stern look as if ordering him to keep quiet.
I saw tears fell down my Dad’s eyes and my Ate Len also started to cry. We missed our Mom and there was no denying that fact. Soon, we were all sobbing. My Dad stood up, his voice still shaking and tears still falling from his eyes, he asked us to go to bed so we could wake up early the next day to attend Holy Mass together. He went inside their room and my brother tagged along with him.
Without saying a word, Ate Mylene and Ate Len went to the kitchen. I watched as my two sisters started cleaning the dining area and washing the dishes from our Noche Buena. I noticed that Ate Len was still crying.
Ate Mylene: “Oi Bolens, tama na naman yang pag iyak mo.. mahahawa na naman kami ni Memen sa kakaiyak mo eh!”
Ate Len: “Hindi ko nga mapigilan eh..Sino bang gusto umiyak ng umiyak? Kaso ayaw tumigil ng luha ko!”
There was a short discussion among the three of us until we went to our bedroom where we lie on the bed next to each other. Ate Len covered herself completely with a blanket but I still could hear her sobbing. I wanted to comfort her, but then I thought that crying would give her relief of some sort. After reminding me that I should wake up early for the Holy Mass, Ate Mylene fell asleep immediately.
Right there, lying between my two sisters, I whispered a short prayer and asked God to grant my family’s Christmas wishes.
Present Date: December 2010
I received this message on my Facebook Inbox from Ate Len:
Len Mendoza (Wednesday at 5:39pm): Nkkatawa lang haaay.. Pagktapos msg ko sa u knina nahiga na ko to watch tv.. Pilit ako ngpapaantok kc gusto ko maaga mgsing bukas.. Nanonood ako at madami din tumatakbo sa utak ko at alam ko nalulungkot ako.. Kaya simpleng drama sa mara clara nadala ko.. I jst found myself wiping my tears.. At imortal na eh naiiyak pa din ako.. Ang hirap mkipaglaban sa takbo ng buhay but I thank God for having u all as my family!! Ending-- I'm just missing d whole family celebrating together joyfully the yuletide season!! Kamusta nmn party bukas maga mata ko!!I'm still proud to say I have the best family!miss u all!
I am not a fan of teleserye’s and I don’t have any idea on the story of Mara Clara lately, so I don’t know why she said that she cried a lot while watching it. However, I perfectly understand why she’s missing the whole family celebrating together. How could I not feel sad when I have exactly the same feeling?
Yesterday, I was chatting with my sister in UAE and when I asked her where on earth can we find a Merry Christmas these days, she replied, “..saan may meri xmas??? Syempre sa mga puso natin, sis!”.. I knew it was a joke half meant.
When my Mom retired from her 14 year job in Saudi Arabia as an X-ray technician, I graduated from the university and I found a job in Manila. For a couple of years, we spent yuletide season together as a family in Mindoro. We bring friends from Manila to spend Christmas with us, and we always had a lot relatives and friends visiting us during Christmas and New Year.
Now I realized that nothing beats spending Christmas at home- with the entire family. It’s one Filipino tradition that I am proud of. However, no doubt, I have overlooked it before.
I miss the cold wind of December in Mindoro. It’s heartwarming and relaxing although it has never been any colder than the winter air here in Riyadh or at any place I’ve been. I miss attending Simbang Gabi with my Lola in Mindoro and going to the church in Manila with Jake. I miss the puto bumbong, bibingka, and the “manang” who was selling those delicacies right outside the Sto Nino Cathedral. She used to give me extra puto bumbong whenever I asked her to. I miss the long queue in GE Grocery store and then in Citimart in Calapan—don’t we Filipinos love last minute Christmas shopping! I miss those little kids from the neighborhood with their empty milk cans and barbecue sticks on their own rendition of classic Jingle Bells. I miss my Ate Mylene wrapping our choices for school’s exchange gifts. I miss Ate Len always giving us the most expensive gifts! I miss Bimbo who always receives the most number of presents. I miss the big Santa Clause banner we used to put in our terrace and whereby we hang those socks for Santa to put on our gifts.
I miss the warm hugs from my Dad and his cheerful dance on Christmas Days. I miss my Mom cooking her “broasted” chicken recipe which she learned by heart during the many years of her work in Saudi Arabia. I miss my Dad’s humba, caldereta, pastel and menudo. I miss Ate Mylene’s spaghetti and pancit…Ate Len’s magical fruit salad and Bimbo’s pulutan.
There’s just an endless list of people and things that I really do miss. Until realized that believing on a Christmas wish was one of them.
So, four days before Christmas, I am convincing myself to believe, once more, that Christmas wishes do come true, although of course, I’m not pretty sure if I could have even a slight glimpse of the Christmas star on Christmas Eve as to where I should whisper my wish at. Nonetheless, I’ll keep it in my heart for the meantime.
It’s a single wish I have- a fervent one that is… I’m not gonna spill it out to anyone…not just yet.
Please do visit my previous blogs at: http://medylene.blog.friendster.com
I knew she was apprehensive when she joined our department. She didn’t have any background in Pharmacy. She was a dark, petite lady from India who came to Riyadh to be with her husband.
I befriended her without any hesitation and she was so thankful to me. She often praised me for being so gracious and accommodating to her. Whenever she sees me in the hospital or near their accommodation, she used to introduce me to her friends and relatives, saying that I am the kindest and probably the best Filipina she ever met in her life. Indeed, she was so proud of me that she even took our pictures together to India and showed it off to her family and friends.
When she heard the news that I was leaving the hospital we were working at, she approached me and held my hand tightly, her hands were cold. I felt slightly awkward when she started to cry, telling me that she will miss me terribly and that she felt I was leaving her alone at the workplace. If it was for any consolation, I assured her that I’d stay in Riyadh and she could always call me anytime of the day.
It was an ordinary friendship- the kind you make with people at the workplace but you keep even after you transferred to another job…but it was special because our differences in color, race, beliefs, and religion made us both interested to learn more from each other and appreciate what we both have in common.
It is not very often that we meet people in our lives who believe in us, accept us for what we are, trust what we say, and love us like a family. It is through those seldom meetings that we learn how to value people and what difference they make in our lives.
Yesterday, I was shocked when I heard the news that she passed away. My hands felt numb… and I sensed a splash of cold wind all over me. The sad part was that the consultant doctors from the hospital where we both worked at, failed to identify her heart disease so she was not treated in any way.
Wherever she is right now, I hope and pray that she finds relief and happiness—that kind of bliss she never had in her life before.
To Shahida, I will always remember you, and I will miss you. Thank you for being a friend, for calling me a sister, and for looking up to me as a mentor.
Children and My Taz Profile Picture
One late Wednesday evening, while me and my two little girls are tucked on the bed ( we were waiting for Eric to declare “lights off”- a signal that the three of us (Me, Alia and Aisha) should already sleep**meaning: close our eyes and stop making any noise*), I asked my five year old daughter, Alia, what she wants for Christmas. Looking surprised, she asked me if she can wish for anything and if it will happen or if I will give it to her. Playfully, I nodded and assured her that she can make a Christmas wish and it will come true. She smiled mysteriously and I noticed how she thought for a while before she blurted out: “Candies! I wish I have lots of candies for Christmas!”.
The next morning, I opened my Facebook account and I noticed that most of my friends’ profile pictures were some cartoon characters. I clicked a friend’s name and I saw this post on her status message: ” Change your profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children.” I smiled to myself, thinking that the post may be one “meme” among others that have been popularly spreading across Facebook and other social networking sites. **(The term, “meme” or “internet meme” is used to describe either a concept or cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures or most commonly via the internet.) Nonetheless, I still checked my collection of cartoon character images and decided to post a picture of Taz, the Tasmanian Devil (my sweet, devil-ish alter ego) from Looney Tunes. After four seconds (that fast!), a friend “liked” my profile picture and after a few more minutes, I read from my News Feed that 28 among my Facebook friends changed their profile pictures like I did. I couldn’t help but grin on that.
Two days after I borrowed a face from Taz for my Facebook profile, I was not surprised to see almost all my friends having the same cartoon-style profile photos. Some of them had some rather very old (*when I said “old”, I wanted to mean that I haven’t seen those cartoon characters during my early childhood years *) cartoon characters while most came up with any one from a long list of adorable and cute princesses, fairies, superheroes and others.
Then, I started wondering how many, among my friends, could have possibly read the embedded message on the “post” (calling) about the campaign to stop violence against children. Many, I hoped. Most of us have, in one way or another, either witness or heard a story, in any form, of violence against children.
Around the world, across different beliefs and sometimes, idiosyncrasies, millions of children are continuously abused, exploited, trafficked, abandoned, forcefully gotten married with, beaten, terrorized and killed. For me, it is a very simple issue though: hitting (or hurting) people is wrong and children are people too. What’s equally depressing is the fact that, inside some families, children sometimes become miserable subjects of an old dogma, so-called “allowable punishments” from their parents.
A number of parents run the risk of abusing their parental role and inflicting harm on their children. Personally, I adhere to the notion that I should become capable of honestly experiencing myself in the shoes of my child while taking a disciplinary action. I also insist this matter to Eric, who, sometimes, has a different corrective “style” than me. I remember reading an article months ago about international advocacies focused on preventing violence against children, how the UN carried out a comprehensive, global study (following on from the previous global study that had looked at the particular impact of armed conflict on children) some years back.
The key message of the human rights-based gesture is that no violence against children is justifiable and that all violence is preventable. Through channeled reports, member nations conducted interview research with children and parents where children may feel empowered to speak out more about their experiences in their homes and schools. Unsurprisingly, children tell us how much “routine” violence, and adults’ acceptance of it, hurts them, not just physically – but also how badly it hurts them “inside. Children are human beings. They are different than adults but they are equally valuable in the society to function well. We, adults, should learn from their meekness, innocence, simplicity and honesty.
Whether the Facebook-cartoon profile picture was merely another internet “meme” or a real campaign against violence on children, I hope that everyone learns a lesson or two from that “post”. We all have been a little child before and we know how essential it was for us to be cared for, nurtured, and loved. It is our “calling” to do the same to all other children around us-whether they are part of our family or not.
As a Mom of two little girls, I don’t have the exact words to describe how proud I am of them and how blessed my life has been since I have them...but I can only share the joy of having kids and how beautiful and complete my life is, with them around. That’s freaking way too far from being a “Taz” myself eh?! Oh, and by the way, this morning, on our way to Alia’s school, she told me that she changed her mind about her Christmas wish… she said that she didn’t want candies anymore … instead, she wants either an iPhone or a Laptop.
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..