Daddy

30 Jul

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We laid Daddy to rest on Sunday, July 20, among verdant greens and marble tombs, beside his mother’s grave.

We had prepared for rain, but the forecast was wrong.  The sun shone on us and gave us our first glimpse of natural light in what seemed like ages.  For weeks, we were holed up in windowless rooms, shielded from the outside world and rooted to the same spot Daddy left us in when he had his stroke on the first of July. On that Sunday morning, as we breathed in the scent of freshly-mowed grass and wet, fertile soil, we raised our faces to the sky and imagined Daddy looking down on us.

Daddy passed away alone, in his own room at the nursing home where we had brought him Sunday the 13th. In the weeks we had been in the hospital, we kept a steady vigil around him, round the clock. We never left him alone. When one child would leave, another would come to take his/her place. My youngest sister Jasmine and I were his constant companions. We stayed whole days and alternating nights until Alphonse made it known he needed me home too.

We had decided among ourselves that Mommy should go home each night to sleep on their bed. The hard leatherette couch in the hospital room was too uncomfortable for her old bones, we thought. But, unused to being separated from Daddy, she stayed wide awake most nights and puttered around needlessly, looking so often at the now-empty spot where Daddy used to sleep. So Mommy kept night vigil with Jasmine in the second week and she had her first real taste of restful sleep with Daddy in the same room with her.

My siblings and I had prayed for complete healing but by the end of the first week, after Daddy suffered new bleeding in the brain, we knew that a functional recovery was no longer possible. Even as we mentally prepared ourselves for goodbyes, we kept hoping that he would still wake up. The man who defied the odds by living through seven strokes, the one who survived a thoracic aortic aneurysm that had ruptured days before surgery, surely, he was made of sterner stuff than most mortals? He would outlive us all, we said. We were desperate for hope.

All we wanted was for him to wake up. He didn’t even have to say a single word or move his limbs. We knew we were always prepared to take care of him.

I was the pragmatist. As painful as it was to crush dreams and drag everyone back to reality, I was the one who reminded my siblings that we were fighting a losing battle. Still, buoyed by Jeff’s indefatigable hope, Joee’s incessant prayer, Jasmine’s uncharacteristic optimism, and Kuya John’s comic encouragement, I started to hang on to that sliver of hope too.

With Daddy stable and no longer hooked to a ventilator, we started to plan around a life with a sleeping Daddy. We made arrangements for family visits, divided tasks, and wrote down lists of things to bring him. A Sacred Heart picture to hang in the wall of his temporary room. His favorite blanket. His music. A large refrigerator to hold all sorts of treats for his visitors. More sundries and medical supplies.

And then, all our hopes died late in the evening of July 15. Daddy’s nurses stepped out of the room to get his midnight meal ready and when they returned just minutes later, he was gone. Just like that.the long ride

That he died alone, without any of us around him, when he had clung to life so steadfastly in the weeks we were at the hospital, makes me feel like we have somehow failed him. And yet, a part of me would like to think that he chose to face death bravely on his own. That Daddy did us another kindness by sparing us of this moment rather than let us be witnesses to it.

Daddy always knew we could not let go.

In the early hours of Tuesday, July 16, amid heavy rain, we followed the ambulance that brought Daddy’s body to the funeral parlor. Daddy never knew that typhoon Rammasun heralded the first day of his new life in heaven, but it was so like him to do things like that. Daddy never did things in half measures. He always knew how to live with kindness and generosity. And he gave so much of himself to everyone he met that during his five-day wake, we were always surrounded by people who always had a kind word to say about him. He was everybody’s Daddy Pons.

I wish you could have seen them, Daddy. All those people there just for you. Then again, maybe you did, looking down on all of us from where you are now.

I love you, Daddy. I’ll see you again, I know, but I miss you still.

Wake Up, Daddy

3 Jul

After months of preparation, my parents moved in with us just four days ago so I could help care for my dad. Dad has gotten more frail since last year and caring for him has gotten harder. Mom, as his primary caregiver, was emotionally and physically overburdened. With my husband’s and siblings’ permission, we decided moving in my parents with us would be the wisest thing to do. And because I am at home almost every day, I would be in the best position to care for and serve them.

Since their arrival Sunday afternoon, Dad has been playful and happy, even gamely posing for a selfie with me. Although tired from the move and its disruptions to his routine, Dad was in good spirits. His appetite was markedly improved and he enjoyed being spoonfed by Alex when he got tired of holding his spoon (ahh, the perks of being a Lolo). On Monday night, we sat down for a family dinner and Dad and his namesake, Alphonse, shared watermelon slices for dessert. He watched Godfather, his all-time favorite movie, with my sister Jasmine before bedtime. When we kissed him good night Monday evening, we did not know that what awaited us in the morning was darkness again. This morning, Daddy is asleep still, two days post-op in the Neuro ICU, after suffering a massive bleed in his brain.

Please wake up, Daddy. Alex and Alphonse are waiting for you. We are all waiting for you. We want more family dinners with you and Mom. We want you home with us. We need you. We love you.

Wake up, Daddy. Please.

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Hello… Again!

26 Jun

If you’re wondering where I’ve been these last few weeks, well, I’ve been traveling with my husband.

Kittymama in LondonOne was a surprise trip that had me gobsmacked and chuffed to bits, the other was planned since last year, with tickets that were amazingly yasui (cheap). Still, they came so close to one another that we barely had time to shrug off jetlag before we were up and away again. In between those two trips, my husband and I had to attend to our duties at work (him) and at home (me), making sure the boys would be well-provided while we were gone. We rushed our errands, paid bills, did grocery shopping, and bought medicines and last-minute necessities to keep the household running smoothly.

We didn’t really encounter a major problem when we left the kids home, thanks to my sister’s babysitting expertise. However, she reported that after a few days, Alphonse started having nighttime issues. He would not turn in early most nights and would fight sleep to wait for us to come home. When I imagine him sitting in the garage all those nights, waiting for the gates to open to signal we were home, it still makes me Kittymama in Osakafeel horribly guilty that we could not bring him along. Alas, those sleep issues will haunt us for a while, I know, as we re-condition him to having us around the house again. Wish us luck!

I’ll have more stories when our lives get back on track. I have a bit more pictures to upload and resize from my camera and my phone. Till then, cheerio and arigatou gozaimasu!

 

 

Never Too Old

3 Jun

It is said that the young brain is a malleable, amazing piece of hardware in the human body, capable of learning and storing knowledge and able to adapt and respond to different stimuli. The brain of an older person is usually described in opposite terms as our neurons die, blood flow to the brain decreases, and a host of age- and lifestyle-related diseases affects its functioning. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, we are often told, and we accept this as gospel truth.

Well, it seems that the best cure for an aging mind is new learning. After all, just like a lot of things in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it. After a whole day at John Robert Powers, learning, among other things, social etiquette and communication, this old mind is awake and ready to learn more.

The last time I was in a classroom was in the early 90’s, way back in medical school. I honestly thought that a whole day of being stuck in a classroom, much less one in JRP, would be something I would no longer appreciate, but as it turns out, if you have good teachers and well-designed syllabi, eight hours in a classroom is a breeze.

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photo from JRP website

In 1985, when John Robert Powers first opened in the country, I was a high school senior a month from graduation. It was one of those things I really wanted to try then but never got around to doing. Twenty-nine years later, I finally got the chance to do so, thanks to the kindness of John Robert Powers Manila and Mommy Bloggers Philippines. It’s an experience I am not likely to forget.

Morning classes that Sunday, the 25th, were all about social etiquette. It was a timely reminder for so many of us that grace and etiquette are still necessary courtesies even today. Although etiquette may be deemed superfluous and cumbersome in today’s contemporary world, it is one that defines our behavior as human and humane. Ms. Arlene Abiera, our teacher, taught us that etiquette is as much common sense as accepted standards of behavior and that when in doubt, the Golden Rule should serve as our ethical compass. “Do unto others what you would have them do to you” is a concept that clearly illustrates that how we expect others to behave is dependent on reciprocity or how we behave towards others.JRP 01

From a brief course on social etiquette, we were ushered into communication lessons in the afternoon. John Robert Powers prides itself in producing well-rounded individuals and forefront in this mission is the goal of fostering communication skills. Be it through traditional English lessons that focus on form and grammar or through applications in writing, speech, and conversations, lessons in the English Learning Program are structured for easy learning and relevant practice.

Mr. Francis Leocadio took us through breathing exercises and their rationale, pitch, intonation, and tone lessons, as well as pronunciation drills. Most of the lessons were practical and required each one of us to step up and practice in front of the others. The young ones, as expected, took to the drills like fish in water, while some of the older folks had to be gently reshaped in their manner of speaking. As one who has spoken and written in English almost all my life, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did learn new things that day. One of these is the first thing I do each morning; these days, my kids wake up to me practicing breathing from the diaphragm and repeating this like a mantra, “One by one they went away. One by one and two by two they went away,” and so on and so forth. :-)

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The class with Mr. Leocadio

The classes I attended were simply two of the many in personality development courses that John Robert Powers offers. These courses cater to a wide range of ages and experience levels. Although programs work on a multi-level curriculum system, they are also tailor made to fit a person’s requirements and circumstances. As such, there is something for everyone, be it the very young (the 60-hour Future Leaders Program for children aged four to six), those who have achieved more in life (Executive and Corporate Programs), and even those who simply want to be the best versions of themselves (Teens Workshops, English Learning Program, Dynamic Parenting Workshop, among others). If long-term courses do not necessarily fit your budget or schedule, short courses are also available for the interested learner.

If there’s anything this experience taught me, it is that one is never too old to learn. And at John Robert Powers, they make learning possible through a lot of real work but also a lot of fun.

~0~

For more information, please visit the John Robert Powers website or Facebook page. Look for the branch nearest you and call: Alabang (01-659 0052), Makati (02-892 9511), and Quezon City (02-927 0465).

Website: http://www.johnrobertpowers.ph/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JRPManila

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A Taste of Korea

27 May

I discovered adventure in my palate late in life. Although I grew up in a family of great home cooks, I remained largely uneducated in matters of the kitchen until I got married and, by necessity, had to learn how to feed my family. I have to admit, cooking was a skill I did not master readily. It was this, however, that opened my senses to a more exquisite appreciation of food. Then too, age, wisdom, and the occasional travel gave me the impetus to explore beyond the limits of what I have been used to.

I’ve been to quite a few places over the last few years but my husband and I went to Seoul for the first time in December of last year. Not being a fan of Koreanovelas, K-POP, or even traditional Korean cuisine, I went to Seoul with a completely blank slate. No expectations.

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Kittymama in Nami Island, S. Korea

Seoul, however, was prepared to win me over. Apart from all the history I imbibed in the days I spent there, she opened my eyes and taste buds to her gastronomy. It was in Seoul that I learned to eat bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, and oisaengchae, among others. I surprised myself by my willingness to take on these new food experiences when before, double-fried chicken fastfood-style was the full extent of my Korean food knowledge.

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All-you-can-eat buffets were our favorites during our visit to Seoul

And so, Seoul left me with a hankering for more of her, and in the months that have passed, I have been unable to satiate this longing. That is, until the day I visited Leann’s Tea House.

Ten minutes away from my own home, (fifteen if I add the traffic), Leann’s is situated along Mother Ignacia St., a stone’s throw away from Burger King in Timog Avenue. A three-storey edifice which was once the owners’ family home, this unassuming place is very reminiscent of the non-chain restaurants I visited in Seoul. With its cool, simple exterior, Leann’s seems determined to let its food speak for itself.

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From appetizers and side dishes to entrees and even drinks, Leann’s offers a unique degustation experience. Although its menu is relatively simple, allowing first timers to make uncomplicated choices, each of the item on the menu is a well-prepared, well-seasoned bite of Korea.

Take its L.A. Galbi (barbecued beef short ribs), easily the best choice in the menu. The galbi, cut in thin slices across the bone, is flavorful and rich, with just the right hint of sweetness marinated into the beef. Grilled on tabletop stoves before your eyes (you can do it yourself or have one of the staff help you with it), the galbi takes almost no time to cook and transforms into a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Pair it with some kimchi, which incidentally is made from scratch by the kitchen and is not of a canned variety, or spicy cucumber slices (oi muchim), and the balance of flavors is divine.

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The spicy dak gui or spicy chicken barbecue is also a favorite. The chicken is soft but cooked thoroughly and explodes into your mouth with heat, sweetness, and tanginess.

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For soup, we sampled the seafood doenjang jigae or mixed seafood in soybean soup. Robust and hearty, doenjang is a stew made from the freshest vegetables and choicest seafoods steeped in a soybean paste broth. It’s unusual to enjoy hot soup on an even hotter summer day, but doenjang is filling and rounds up the meal nicely, especially if one is not a able to partake of the rice choices in the menu.

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The japchae (glass noodles with beef and vegetables) and bibimbap (mixed rice) all received rave reviews from my feast mates, although I had to abstain myself from the temptation.

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 Temptation…temptation… I love japchae!

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Look at all the vibrant colors in this bibimbap! Does it scream “eat me!” to you?

A house special, the tonkatsu kimbap, was also a big hit, and because it was served as small rice rolls wrapped in breaded pork, I was able to allow myself one for tasting. It was, indeed, as yummy as it looked.

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Leann’s also offers a wide variety of drinks and cocktails, as well as shakes and smoothies that are good enough to be dessert. Soju, Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage, is the base for most of the cocktails and can give one a good buzz. Worth mentioning is their Paradise Passion smoothie, which is peanut butter, banana, vanila and oreos blended in a chocolate smoothie to die for.

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Soju on the Beach + Paradise Passion = a very good time!

At the end of the meal, dessert teas (in lemon citron or honey jujube flavors) are given, compliments of the house. After such a generous repast, the teas are refreshing palate cleansers. Light and aromatic, they are a perfect ending to the meal.

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If there is one word that describes Leann’s Tea House and its food, it is this: honest. With its sedate and calming interiors, food prepared authentically and sourced from the best ingredients, and service that is heartwarming and welcoming, Leann’s takes the best of family restaurants and makes it a culinary experience worth coming back for.

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Drop by and say “anyoung haseyo” to Leann’s Tea House at 105-R New World Town Homes, Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City or call +632-411-8902 for reservations. You can also check out offerings and events at Leann’s Tea House’s Facebook page here.

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Special thanks to Leann’s Tea House for hosting such a gracious meal and to Mommy Bloggers Philippines for the great company!

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Kittymama, All Grown Up

22 May

I started blogging in 2007 after a particularly rough period in our lives. In the beginning, not knowing what I really wanted to write about, I wrote about the one thing I knew best: Hello Kitty. Looking back, I realize how shallow and superficial it may have seemed then, never mind that it developed a fascinating following on its own. Then again, I have no regrets. This blog saved my sanity many, many times in the past years and opened my world to people I would not have met in my ordinary life. pinky curler

In the last year and a half, I neglected this blog as I went on a new direction. In the course of that that venture, I was tempted to leave this corner of the Net altogether. I could not decide if I wanted to continue or shut down this blog. Even as I felt I was being pulled in too many directions, I was hesitant to pull the plug on this one. Now I know why.

I’ve decided that this blog is worth keeping alive. After all, it has seen me through seven years of bliss and darkness and seven years of the best and the worst in my life. I have rejoiced in it, wept in in, exalted and despaired in it. It contains the many joys and pleasures of my simple life, just as it holds the many tears I have shed over the sorrows I have lived through. In the process- sometimes by choice but more often by circumstance- I have grown and changed with it. And while I do have to acknowledge that age is catching up with me, presbyopia, white hair, creaky knees and all, I am grateful that growing old has given me the gifts of wisdom, gratitude, and friendship. All of these with curlers in my hair. :-)

So today marks a new day for this blog. A new page, a new chapter. My life story is still unfinished and there are many more blank pages to fill. I am who I have always been- wife, mother, writer, teacher, autism advocate, sister, friend- yet today, I am also so much more. I am the woman who dons Hello Kitty shamelessly like second skin and flaunts Blythes brazenly. I am an avid storyteller of Sylvanian fantasies.  I am a gamer, collector, fangirl, crafter, DIY enthusiast.

All of these are me. And my life is still a roller coaster, albeit one that is steered by the grace and mercy of the Almighty.

I am Kittymama, all grown up.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day for Mommies and Friends

19 May

This year was the first Mother’s Day I have ever celebrated without my family since I officially joined the ranks of moms in 1993. The funny thing was my friends and I didn’t really plan it that way. When we started talking about a weekend trip to visit another friend in the Queen City of the South, the thought of Mother’s Day didn’t even cross our minds. Weird but true.

A few weeks before leaving, however, I noticed the small print in one of the pages I was following on Facebook. I had to do a double take when I realized that Mother’s Day this year was falling on the very same weekend my friends and I would be out of town. What to do… what to do…

So I did what I do best. I worried.

This was what started the vacillation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through with it after thinking of what I will be missing. I’ve never traveled before without my husband. I’ve never taken a plane ride without him by my side. Now that I think of it, I’ve never been anywhere without him! In almost 23 years of marriage, the longest we have been apart were the days he had to go overseas for work meetings, and those have been few and far-in-between because he hated being apart from us. So as much as I wanted to go on a new adventure- this time, by myself- I was still very much afraid.

It was my husband who broke my indecision. After I exhausted him late into the night with all sorts of “what if” scenarios (the truth was, I wanted him to say “don’t go” and just be done with it), he told me this: that were it all up to him, he’d prefer that I stay, even if my tickets have been paid for, but the decision must be mine to make. He also told me that were I to tell my friends I wasn’t going with them anymore, I could not use my family as an excuse. He could very well handle the house and kids by himself over the weekend so I could not and should not use them to justify my decision. “Say you changed your mind and own it,” he reminded me.

Cebu 07I guess I don’t have to tell you all that I married a very wise man. In the end, he made me realize that I needed to do this for myself. And so I did.

On May 10 this year, long before the sun was up, my friends, C* and K*, and I were at the domestic terminal waiting for the plane to bring us to Cebu. It would be short flight and my lovely girl friends would fall asleep on me on the way over, heehee, but we would have two days all to ourselves.

We were met at the airport by our gracious hosts, Ch*, her mom, and her little daughter. That short weekend would be a hodgepodge of touristy things and gastronomic pleasures, but it would also be a weekend of some real girl bonding- a meet-up with a young and lovely doll collector/crafter named Vicki, late night chitchats while gorging on Cebu’s famous chicharon and ice-cold Coke, playing with dolls till we could hardly keep our eyes open, snoring competitions, and shopping for souvenirs, toys, and fabulous plus-sized clothes!

Here are pictures from our weekend trip to Cebu. Unmarked pictures are not mine and belong to my friends because most of the time, I was actually busy talking, eating, or snoring, haha.

The Lapu-Lapu Shrine

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The girls, Nimes and Antonia, didn’t mind the heat at all.

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Kittymama with her dear friends- K*, Ch*, and C*

(Photo taken by Ch*’s six-year-old!)

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Our dollies in a group pose- yay for girl dates!

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I love this picture of Ch* and her wonderful daughter. I fell in love with this little girl and I still miss her.

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The Pilgrim Center of the Santo Niño de Cebú Basilica, picture taken on Sunday amid a throng of moving people

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Magellan’s Cross, encased in this tindalo wooden cross for protection, was set on this exact spot on March 31, 1521.  History always gives me goose pimples. *geek mode on*

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The small octagon-shaped building was built in 1834. The murals on the ceiling, done by Serry M. Josol (1932-2006) and Jess Roa, depict two events: the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his household and the erection of the original cross on Cebu shores. 

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Cebu’s lechon is a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Crispy skin tops evenly cooked layers of fat and meat. It is salted well and is not bland, thus, one hardly needs sauce or sarsa to make it work.  You can just eat it as is. :-)

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A take on bitter gourd (ampalaya) as a salad topped with dilis or crispy anchovies. this is served with onions and tomatoes and slightly sweetened vinegar. The combination of the salty dilis and the sweet-sour vinegar cuts down the bitterness of the ampalaya. It is surprisingly refreshing!

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At the Happy World Museum in Cordova, Cebu where we all went giddy posing for pictures! This is one of my favorites as you can see how the illusion works. Poor C! She had to rescue a blue whale, hehehe.

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Posing for more pictures!

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As you can see, I have not given up on the dream of becoming a ballerina. <3

Dainty as a ballerina…

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But strong enough to receive a punch from the PacMan!

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BFFs share BFF fries!

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If I  were to list down all the little things we did and talked about to fill those 48 hours, I’m sure one post would not suffice. We missed our families and longed for them, and yet we were also grateful to be in the company of these wonderful women who showed us how to appreciate the little things we often take for granted in our busy lives.

It’s not often we get to chuck the roles we play as wife and mother. There’s often little freedom to be the silly, fun-loving, doll-playing girls we once were, but for those few short days, we were young, fanciful, and carefree. We breathed in the air of youth and savored the friendships we made and choose to keep. And if we were to think about what Mother’s Day really is- a day to thank the mothers in our lives- then we honored that by nurturing the mothers and women in us.

All in all, it was a unique Mother’s Day experience.  Thank you, dear friends. I had a great time with all of you.

~0~   

P.S. C*, K*, and Ch* are codes to protect my friends’ privacy. K is not K but she insists on that letter, hehehe.

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