Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Garci is one dog who can claim to be special since birth. It's not everyday that you meet a puppy born by caesarian section, do you? He was the son of Dharma, our terrier (who holds the distinction of being my mom's youngest child) and TJ, my sister's mini-pinscher (a gift from her former boss). Dharma apparently ate too much when she was pregnant and the five pups that she bore were too much for her little frame to bear so the vet had to open her up to get the babies out. Garci and siblings were barely breathing when the vet pulled them out of the uterus. In fact one died right there at the clinic. Funny but I felt even more terrified going thru Dharma's childbirth than my own. I guess it's bcoz I knew I was strong and brave and all that, while Dharma is just this little dog, this fragile creature who got allergies all over her body when she ate anything different. It didn't help that she had the CS just a matter of weeks after Heaven died, Heaven who my sister often claims to love more than her husband, and whom she left under my care when she moved to the US.

Anyways. Garci came to live with us when he was barely a month old. He was hyper like Yosh. I've lost count of the pairs of shoes he bit to pieces and books and magazines he tore to shreds and the many times he ran over all of us as he sped like a little horse around the house. Oh but he was also all the good things a dog should be – affectionate and fiercely loyal and kept watch over the house at night and when we went to our usual travels.

Daddy was taking him out for his daily stroll late afternoon last week when this big dog escaped from a neighbor's gate and attacked him. He had a bite on his hind leg. The vet said we were lucky bcoz it wasn't deep and it didn't go thru the bone and wasn't on a vital part. It's the same vet who pulled Garci out of Dharma's tummy. He cleaned up the wound and gave him some shots and gave us antibiotics to apply to the bite.

The bite soon dried up but Garci seemed to have a fresh wound just below it. The vet found that the surrounding area was infected and after he shaved Garci's thick black hair we saw a gaping wound oozing with blood and pus. The vet had to make like more than ten stitches and give him several shots of tranquilizers bcoz he was really struggling in pain. It just completely broke my heart seeing the wound and him being stitched up and silently weeping, with his face all wet with tears, my dog who is so energetic and loud and infuriating. I just had to get out of the clinic to cry my heart out.

I'm just absolutely devastated when something like this happens to my dogs. I'm thinking, they're just dogs, they don't do any harm, they just spread love and joy to all of us, why do they have go thru so much pain? And they're just so helpless and totally dependent on us humans to make them better. They look at you with sad but grateful eyes, and they bravely bear whatever poking or slicing up or some other painful thing the vet has to do, like they understand that the only way they can get better is to suffer some more. I mean, really, what more can you ask from these creatures? They give us friendship and devotion and courage and faith, and more decency than some humans will ever show us in their lifetime. Rommel is so right when he said that dogs give more to us than we can ever hope to give to them.

I remember Babba, the first dog I fell in love with. She was an askal with gleaming white hair and pinkish eyes that Pops brought home from Tagaytay. She was infected with the deadly dystemper virus just a few months after she came to live with us. It was a lingering illness and I spent weeks holding her tight when she had her convulsions and hand-feeding her all her favorite food. There were many nights when I wouldn't even sleep anymore and just watch over her and stroke her as she whimpered. Mama was just as heartbroken as I was and she told me that maybe Babba was still holding on despite all her pain bcoz we were still clinging on to her. And so I said my goodbyes and let her go, and she died soon after. I had to be absent from law school for days bcoz I was just so sad. I still cry when I think of her, but I know I'll see her again in heaven. I mean, where else can she be? She was an angel.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Summer Splendor

One of the best things about studying in UP is that you can bask in the sheer beauty of the campus all year round, and which beauty stands out even more in summer. Majestic sunflowers appear as if by magic and line the entire length of University Avenue. Lotus-like flowers bloom in the small lagoons on early mornings. Flame trees burst in fiery orange and red colors that scatter in the air and the ground. This ancient tree to the left of the Main Library also sparkles with cascading yellow blooms. And everywhere you look you see trees and grass and greens with so much life and vibrance and everything that summer should be.

It was summer when Ches wrote to me that the sunsets are not as beautiful as when he sees them with me. We had gotten pretty close the second sem of our third year and we would often walk home together to Philcoa as the sun set along University Av. He took summer classes while I volunteered in an NGO. I had thought the distance and time away from each other would quell whatever emotions he claimed to be feeling for me, but instead he gave me that letter about the sunsets. So now you know why UP will always be special for me. It's where I met the love of my life.

I even wrote an article entitled “The Beauty of UP” in Sinag, our college newsletter, where I had a column and edited the features and wrote mushy stories anonymously. For my efforts I was given a regular honorarium which wasn't much but definitely augmented my student's allowance. I wish I could have hung on to that job, doing what I love best – writing – and even getting paid for it. Oh well. At least now I work right across UP and I can enjoy the summer splendor of the campus once more. And, more importantly, I can go home early enough to catch the sunset and marvel at the breath-taking beauty that nature has to offer everywhere and everyday.

I guess you never really can have it all. But sometimes what you end up having is enough. Or even more than enough.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I love Crash and all (it's my favorite Hollywood movie for 2005), but I felt sad when Brokeback Mountain didn't win best picture. I guess, I was thinking, it could've been the one happy thing that happened to it. It's just that everything about the movie breaks my heart and an Oscar win would've given me a cheerful thought to associate with it for a change .

Rommel gave me a copy of the soundtrack. The theme by Gustavo Santaolalla that plays at the start and all thru-out the movie evokes images of the remote mountain and the barren Wyoming landscape in the film. (I've read one suggestion that E. Annie Proulx may have chosen the name 'Brokeback' for the mountain to intimate something crippling, which, come to think of it, is also one way to describe the love between Jack and Ennis.) The song “A Love that Will Never Grow Old” has these poignant lyrics: “I've this crazy old notion that calls me sometimes, saying this one's the love of our lives” and “Who cares where we go on this rutted old road, in a world that may say that we're wrong”. “I Don't Want to Say Goodbye” succinctly laments what Jack and Ennis must feel: “I don't want to say goodbye, let the stars shine thru...all i want to do is live with you”.

I so agree with Ang Lee when he said in his Oscars acceptance speech that Brokeback tells us not only about the love between gays or between men and women but also about the greatness of love itself. For me, the story of Jack and Ennis stands for all the forbidden loves we've ever had, like a forbidden love for a cousin or a married neighbor or a priest or whatever. All of must have had something like that at one point or another. The movie beautifully captures the reckless passion that ignites such a love, the anguished restraint and agonizing frustration of all the years spent not being together, and the devastating sadness when it finally ends.

But I'd like to think that it doesn't really end there, that in another place and time ill-fated lovers will be free to live together and love each other all they want.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Popsy's Places

Pops never brought us to Jollibee or McDo when we were growing up. He was always taking us somewhere different and exciting, like the slides in Luneta or the bikes behind CCP. As we got older he brought us to Jose Rizal's house in Calamba and Emilio Aguinaldo's house in Kawit and Taal Lake. In all of these he knows just the perfect place to stop by for a good meal. And it's not any usual fast food. In Tagaytay, it's Diner's, which serves bottomless bulalo soup that even my young nieces and nephews could not get enough of. In Baguio, it's Star Cafe, this unassuming Chinese place right smack downtown, where our favorites are the fried chicken, chopsuey and lumpia. (He tried bringing us to a kambingan place in a hilly part just outside the city once, and everyone hated it, so it's always been Star Cafe for us from then on.) In Pangasinan, there's Dawel, a group of restos by the beach, where we feast on talaba and fresh seafoods. Last weekend, after a shopping spree in 168 (on the pretext of buying stuff for our soon-to-arrive baby girl in the family, when all we really bought are Hello Kitty stuff for my sis and export overrun Abercrombie and Hollister stuff), he took us to lunch in Jonas somewhere in QC. The food was good, fast and amazingly cheap, and we also learned that Ma & Pa have been eating pares there since way back when they were still dating in college.

It's really the part I love best about these places. The food is great, alright, and often surprisingly affordable, but what's truly amazing is the sense of history behind these places, that they've been there a long time, long before we were even born, and it's comforting to go back and find them still standing year after year. They make us realize we have a lot to be grateful for, bcoz our family is still intact and still going on these road trips and food trips together.

There are some places we visit where Popsy's favorite food joint is no longer around, or sometimes he just wants to try something new. He seems to have a knack for these things bcoz he often makes great choices and we're all satisfied with it. Once he took us shopping for good quality and really cheap slippers in Liliw and we ended up having lunch in this bahay kubo that served the yummiest ginataang suso ever and offered a lovely view of Mount Makiling besides. In one of our regular trips to Antipolo Church he found us an out-of-the-way resto with regular fare like chicken and vegetables, but we had quite a picnic just the same bcoz lunch was served in benches amid tall trees and lush plants.

For me, the best place Pops has ever brought us to is Digman in Cavite. The halo-halo there is to die for. The ingredients are all so sweet and luscious and even the shaved ice tastes different. It's like you never want to reach the bottom of the glass and just want to eat and eat forever and ever. Gosh, I have dreams about Digman halo-halo. If I snap and commit some gruesome crime and be sentenced to death, I already know what I'm going to ask for for my last meal, and Digman halo-halo will be in there somewhere.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Feisty Females

My sister-in-law found out early Friday that she was going to have a baby girl. It made for great news to kick off the weekend, quite the extreme of the coup threat and state of emergency of the past week. I was so happy bcoz I figured, even if Ches and I couldn't make a baby girl, at least I'll maybe be able to experience raising one vicariously thru my niece. I'm sure it'll be so much different from raising a baby boy. I can just see myself being such a hands-on tita (to the point of being atribida, another favorite adjective used by Rhoel and Jon to describe me).

But then when I got to the office I had an email from a friend whose dad was dying of cancer. She said it was just a matter of time now. She has a toddler too and she was explaining to him that Lolo was going away on a field trip. But he asked, how can he go on a field trip with his dextrose? And he said he would lock the door so Lolo won't be able to leave. And he was getting upset bcoz everyone was crying. It was heartbreaking. It's agonizing enough to have to deal with the death of your father, much more to have to explain it to a toddler. There should be a rule somewhere that would disallow children below 12 to experience the death of a loved one.

That night I had dinner with a friend who was leaving our former law office for a job that will pay her twice as much but will require her to be on call 24/7. She had all these apprehensions, like whether she'll still be able to see her daughter, or whether she'll get along with her boss, or how long she can endure the demands of her new job. She's a single mother and one of the smartest, bravest women I know.

My worries were along different lines when I moved to a new job last year. I knew that I was going to be less stressed and would be able to spend more time with my family, but I was worried whether we'd be able to manage with my drastic paycut, whether I'd get properly appreciated (not to mention compensated) by my new bosses and generally whether it was the right career move for me.

We have another friend who left the law office and stopped working altogether to be a full-time mom. This girl graduated at the top of her class and even topped the Bar so you can imagine that she had one bright future ahead of her in the legal profession. But I remember that one of her reasons for taking the plunge was that she wanted to spend more time with her son, who was lagging behind in pre-school (he was still in “A” while his classmates have moved on to “E”). Her son is ok now (perhaps even reading faster than the rest of them) and my friend seems happier than ever.

And you think girls are just these flighty creatures who would shop from dusk till dawn if that's how long the stores are open, and fragile beings who shamelessly cry in theaters over movies like Brokeback Mountain. Well, we are all those things alright, but we also have strength and endurance in the face of death, and self-denial and resilience in the name of motherhood. And we have the grace and tenacity to deal with life's blows on a daily basis.