Me, My Mom and My Dad (30 Days of Blogging Prompts – 3)


My Parents, Isaac and Naida Tolentino in the 70s

This is the third installment in the 30 Days Blogging Prompts Journal Swap I am participating in for Swap-bot.  While I am trying to chronicle my entries here, the actual journal is more extensive than what I publish in this blog.

It has taken me longer to write this post than usual.  I’m doing it in installments as the thoughts take shape in my heart.  The third blogging prompt in the series is supposed to be all about me and my relationship with my parents.  Perhaps that is part of the difficulty of getting this blog post together — there is forever present a sense of loss and perpetual mourning in my heart for my Dad.  But here goes..

*To read the posts related to my 30 Days of Blogging Prompts 2013 Journal Exchange on Swap-bot, please click on that sub-category under JOURNALS.

I cannot write about my relationship with my parents without describing them as individuals and as a couple.  I also think it’s important for me to write about this blog prompt from two perspectives, the first being my relationship with them together, and my individual relationship with each of them.

I’m the living eldest child of 3 natural children, and one adopted son.  An older brother born four years ahead of me had died at birth.  From the get-go, I have been, for all intents and purposes, the eldest in the family.  Later on, we would be joined by our half sister after my father passed on in 2010.  She is younger than the third sibling, and older than our adopted brother.

My father was born and raised in Tondo.  It wasn’t the bow-and-arrow-look-behind-your-shoulders Tondo — more like the quieter and more peaceful neighborhoods surrounding the town church famous for its miraculous Santo Nino.  He was the youngest in a huge family, and he was lucky to have finished high school.

My mother was also from a huge family in Bicol.  She had come to the city to work as househelp after gradeschool to help send her two younger brothers to school.  (Both eventually made it on their own individual merits thanks to their Manay.)  She met my dad while working for a couple who needed an errand boy in their bookies business and they fell in love and got married.

My parents tried very hard to be good parents.  They worked hard to give us, their three children, the best education they could afford.  It was a wise decision on my mom’s part who only wanted a better life for all of us.  They toiled side by side, although I know my mom really ran the business.  We were comfortable and well off, but I wouldn’t consider us rich in the moneyed sense.  Perhaps there was a time we were, but the nature of our business was such that when things went south, it went bad.

Filipino families raise their children with a healthy fear and respect of authority.  They literally didn’t spare the rod but it was not like we were beaten senseless for infractions.  We were disciplined within limits.  But even without this, we knew better than to talk back to our parents or to disobey them.   My parents were strict to the point that you can call my upbringing very sheltered.  And yet in my older years, I appreciated that kind of protection from bad influences at an early age.

Whatever they may have restricted me from doing, you would never catch me saying they messed me up or caused me angst and pain that have damaged me as an adult.  On the contrary, I am very grateful for all the good they tried to bring in to my life.  Much of who I am now was because of the upbringing they afforded me despite their own deprived youth.

Individually, I was close to both of them, but I was closer to my Dad, being a Daddy’s girl.  I have a lot of good memories of the special time we spent together, and even the painful ones where I was the only one who could talk to him when my other siblings had drawn a line between themselves and our Dad are memories I treasure.  He would listen to me when he was being stubborn.  I was the only one who could really ever get mad at him — my other siblings just chose to withdraw and ignore him those times he turned against our mother and us.

My father had his sins but I loved him despite them.  He hurt us deeply when he had a second family and when he made us feel like we didn’t matter to him anymore.  He was a difficult man to understand but I never tired of trying to understand him.

When he was on his deathbed, I said goodbye via long distance on the cellphone.  I told him I was not mad at him — that I loved him, and that I was fine.  I told him it’s okay — without telling him it was okay for him to go.  It’s been almost three years since he died and I still cry from time to time.  I talk to him and tell him about the pain in my heart– and I know he hears wherever he is. 

My mother I have always been close but we became closer when she came to New York to help me take care of my son immediately after he was born.  We have always had a high regard for each other, although sometimes we had a love-hate relationship where it came to my Dad.  We were on the same page as far as condemning his womanizing, but there was often a tug-of-war between us somehow when it came to the things that were not of much significance.  Petty things..

Mom is turning 73 on March 9.  I see her maybe once a year if I’m lucky — and I notice that her gait is different, her face shows the passing of time — something my siblings don’t see because they are always with her.  I cherish the times that we get to spend together when I am home, like when we do our pilgrimage to Manaoag, going to mass together even if it means taking the bus to do so. 

I always miss her and wish she would come to visit.  She’s too busy trying to keep busy back home.  At this point in her life, she hasn’t quite come to terms with aging.  She still thinks she has the strength she used to have way back when she ran the business and held the reins.  Because we collectively put our foot down when she insists on doing things she is not capable of anymore, she thinks that we are disregarding her matriarchal prerogative and feels like we are ganging up on her.

Yet she knows her children love her.  I am praying that she be with us a few years longer… She is our anchor as a family.  Through the years, she held us all together and she still does.

Midnight high

I’ve started drafting my next blogpost on the 30 Days of Blogging Prompts Journal I’m putting together, but the second prompt is a tad bit too deep for me to write as quickly as the first I attempted last night.  I’ve made a list of what make up three of my legitimate fears (and how they became legitimate), but it’s not as simple as listing them down.

I’ll get to it tomorrow.

I really should be off to la-la land now, but my siblings called and we had an hour to chat and catch up.  I even got to speak with Mom.  That is always good, except when she’s upset about something and she was okay today.

DSCF0220My mom turns 73 on the 9th.  I was in Manila to celebrate her birthday last year.  That celebration of the woman who made me who I am today was one of the few happy memories of 2012.  This year, we’re celebrating birthdays apart, but I’m trying to convince her to come over.  That is if the Embassy gives her the requisite visa when she goes for her interview on the 12th.  I’m not too worried.  I’m more worried about convincing her to take the trip after the visa renewal is granted.

Mothers are a strange specie, and I say that as a Mom myself.  But what would we do without them?  Where would we be if they weren’t around?

I love you, Mom.  We all do.  I hope you’ll give me the chance to spend some time with you soon here on my side of the world.


My Christmas Eve

It’s not even 10pm but I feel exhausted as if I had stayed up the whole night.  I have put away most of the Christmas fare we had for dinner, (early noche buena) but I’m too tired to start putting away the leftovers.  So I’m here at the dining table blogging in the dark while listening to Jed Madela’s “Perfect Christmas”.  I had a little wine but not enough to get me tipsy.  I’m just plain tired from two days of cooking and wrapping gifts and putting up cards on the wall.

The boy has opened all his presents, and he’s enjoying his DVD of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three while clutching his Star Wars Ultimate Anakin FX Lightsaber.  There are at least half a dozen other toys but they are too many to mention.  He tries to feature them online via his Youtube channel, The Angelo Report.  (We still can’t quite figure out how he can have one video with 135,000+ views and another with over 50,000!)  The important thing is that he is happy, and happier still that his handmade Christmas frame from school with a picture of him in it is my favorite present this year. =)

Please excuse the grainy pic but I have no energy to grab the camera beyond the blackberry.  Isn’t he just handsome?  He tries to have me rock him like a baby but I keep telling him he’s now too big to be carried that way.  He still insists.  And I still try.  But he’s growing up soooo fast.

It’s these precious occasions when we connect in a different way as only a mother and her son could that makes all the hard work worth it.  He loved the roast chicken when it was cooling but gave it a thumbs down at the dinner table.  Sigh.. picky eater that he is, I am still trying to get him to eat more.  Fortunately, he is a carnivore and took to the chateaubriand instead.  (I veered away from the prime rib roast this time around and stuck to the smaller serving of beef, wrapped in bacon.)

I might opt for take out for New Year’s eve.  Right now I’m just thinking of the champagne, crackers, cheese, pate — and I’d be happy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Getting the Noche Buena going

ATC: Christmas Ornament no. 6 - Red and GreenThe leche flan is done, the bolognese is simmering on the stove.  It’s an almost tomato-less recipe except for the two tablespoons of tomato paste, and no garlic.  It does use a cup and a half of whole milk and around 2 hours of simmering.  I wanted to get this done for tomorrow’s lasagna.  The chateaubriand should be a breeze (I hope..) and there’s a roast chicken to complete the meal.  I think I’ve got a good headstart.

Angelo and I wrapped the gifts just before dinner and we’re all set.  Tomorrow, I’ll help him tape the holiday cards we got along with the Artist Trading Cards I received in the swaps (around 30 more or less) on the upstairs landing like we always do.  It’s so heartening to see my 8-year-old all excited about the holidays.  He had made a gift for me which he has been prodding me to open since yesterday, but which I told him I’d like to save for when we actually open the gifts.  I told him that is my favorite gift of all.

It’s been a busy, busy day for me.  I have an inch-long burn on the backside of my right hand as it hit the “roof” of the oven when I took the llaneras of leche flan out.   It still stings a bit but I simply put some toothpaste to help “cool” the surface immediately after, and now I’m good even if I feel a tenderness and sensitivity around the area.  Hazards of cooking.

One more hour of simmering and a quarter of a cup of milk more to go, and I can start cooling the bolognese.  It’s a little bland for even my bland preference, but I’d rather wait until the end to adjust the taste with seasoning because I’m skimming the fat off of the top before I add the milk two to three tablespoons at a time.

It’s noon in Manila right now, Christmas eve.  I miss Mom and the siblings who must all be busy getting the noche buena ready.  We’ll probably talk later, closer to their midnight.  It would’ve been nice to spend Christmas in Manila — but I’m not complaining.  It’s nice to be spending Christmas in New York again, more so since Angelo has grown so much and is now actually participating in preparing for the holiday.

He’s promised to get me a sketch book for my next Art Journal. =)  That’ll be a trip to Barnes and Noble sometime during the holiday.  My boy is telling me to pick something I want and he’ll pay for it.   So I turned to him and asked if he would still do that — take me shopping and pay for it when I’m older.  Yes, he said he would — as long as I show him what I’m getting before he pays.  (Makes sense if he’s picking the tab..)

I have my tiny queso de bola (but the original “Pato” brand) and some sliced ham.  We’re not really big on that, but I will cook up some tsokolate tomorrow for breakfast on Christmas day itself.  I’m tired but very happy I accomplished what I have on the day I planned it.  It lessens the stress of tomorrow considerably.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Ten-minute blog post on "Happy"

It’s 11:30PM and I’m tired, but I thought I’d blog before hitting the sack because it has been a day full of “happy”.

Happy that I’ve arranged my jewelry making supplies organizers into a neat stack in one of the closets — and keeping my fingers crossed that I can get creating again.. soon!

Happy to have had lunch with my cousin, Mia, who has moved to New York.  It always feels good to be with family — even if among her three sisters, Mia, being the youngest, must have the foggiest memories of me.  That’s the advantage of being older, though — I remember more.  Lunch at Bryant Park Grill — and a date in the works.

Happy to have finished my first ever artist trading card.  I’m still pretty nervous about sending this off for my first ever ATC swap, but I figured waiting and not doing anything is not going to make me better at it.  (More on this at a later time..)   Creating I go.

Happy to continue to be creating new layouts in my happiness journal.  How much happier can you get than a pink rose bouquet on a two-page spread?  (Now trying to think of a graphic to use in the next spread which is an almost teal or teal blue.)

Ten minutes are up.. More tomorrow.

My Altered Book: HAPPY - Multi-leaf layout

Artist Trading Cards, etc.

I’ve been cutting up extra freecards (of which I have quite a lot!) into the denominated size of 3.5 x 2.5 inches with my paper trimmer, and have been creating sets of backgrounds, much like I did with my mail art postcards.

I have a few that have been gessoed over, some have been pasted with used brown paper bags and book pages, and tonight, I tried to do watercolor and acrylic paint backgrounds straight on the matte side which is the side you are supposed to address and write your message on. Those pieces are currently drying. I did them in between cooking the rice, frying the petite fillet and heating the roasted potatoes on the stove. Ha! I’m just happy to have had the chance to put together a home-cooked meal for the family which even my usually picky mother-in-law liked.  It’s not that easy to serve her up savory dishes when she has her diabetes and heart condition. We try.  I’d have done more if I wasn’t feeling under the weather. I’m ready to do my first batch of Artist Trading Cards.

And I have my altered book resting on my lap right now. I just can’t stopp myself from going page to page even as I have yet to start with the dedication which I will work on tomorrow.

Except for photographing and sorting postcards in my collection, I did manage to keep away from trading or dealing with the trade like I had promised myself yesterday. I had dropped off quite a bunch of postcards at the post office Saturday with the majority of the cards heading for the Philippines.

I’ve found it very heartening that people are now into postcard trading even if it feels different because of the preference for cards being sent postmarked. Back in the day when I was actively collecting, I preferred to get my cards in an envelope.

With new online projects like Postcrossing where postcard trades are randomly assigned on a pay-it-forward basis (it is not an exchange but rather, participating means you will get a postcard from someone else you don’ t know), I see more and more people participating more for the experience of the exchange rather than seriously collecting postcards. As for me, I am happy to have received noteworthy additions to my maps, lighthouses and Philippine postcard collection. (I am still eagerly awaiting the postcards from the Philippines, which, given the literal snail’s pace that the postal office moves at, should be arriving in my mailbox any day now.)

I’m still trying to learn the basics and rudiments of ATC trading.  Unlike postcards which can be bought to add to your collection,  ATCs are traded.  Postcards are usually chosen, too, by the intended recipient and traded for something the sender prefers.  ATCs may be traded blind, meaning with no agreement as to which piece or pieces will be exchanged.  Swaps can also be of multiples and are sent to and then sent out by the swap host.

Well, I’m still a long way away from trading — give me a couple of days more.  For now, it’s cutting and creating…cutting and creating.

Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: My Special Someone

I was going through all the schoolwork Angelo had brought home at the end of second grade and chanced upon this essay he wrote on his “special person”.

He wrote:

My special person is someone who gave birth to me.  She is female.  I’ve known her for all my life.  She likes pink.

What that person like(s) to do is spend time with her family.  I play with her and she always eats with me.  I go to her job.  I go to a restaurant with her.  I sleep with her.

Me and this person are different and similar in a few ways.  I am male and she is female.  We both have (the) same last name.

This person is my mother.  She is 45 years old.”

He wrote this a month before my birthday, and while I was in Manila taking care of some family business in March.  Precious indeed.  Sometimes I want to keep all the paper he brings home, but not all of them are gems like this one.

He’s just growing up so fast.  I really must get started on that memory quilt I have been planning to make from his baby clothes and linens.  Most of it I had given away to my mom’s beneficiaries in her hometown in San Vicente, Bulan, Sorsogon, but I kept one or two baby blankets, plus I still have the crib liners we never used because of all the safety warnings against it.

I thought it would make for a good topic for an Art Journal Every Day post, so I photocopied the essay onto an exisiting watercolor background.  I also used one of his watercolor projects where he painted his name in different colors.  I worked my own background around the two elements by Angelo and then wrote my journal entry side-by-side with his essay.

Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: My special someone

I love the way I’ve managed to create journal entries using Angelo’s own work.  It doesn’t only give me a chance to react to his work through my art journal, but it gives me a chance to keep these special projects in the journal I hope to keep for posterity.  It’s better than just keeping it stashed in a memory box or some folder in the closet.

New discovery: Sharpie Oil-based Paint Marker in blue.  Glorious to write with on watercolor!  I thought I’d buy one piece to try and work with but I will now be getting the Sharpie Oil-Based Medium Point Paint Markers 5-color set including Gold, Silver and White next.

I’m going to try to incorporate other elements beyond just drawing or doodling on my art journal entries — hopefully doing some collage and the like.  Watch out for that.

If you want to see more of my Art Journal, please click here, or you can always choose my Art Journal Every Day page from the list on the top left of the blog page.

I invite you to view the Flickr Group dedicated to this endeavor byclicking here, and be inspired to create your own art journal. (Artistic talent optional.)

Happy birthday, Dad

My father passed away two years ago, a week after his birthday, which is today.  I miss him dearly, and I often think of him.  Many people who knew him used to tell me when I was younger that I was just like him.

I was the closest to him and yet our relationship was strained.  As I used to say to my half-sister who nursed a lot of hurt in her heart for my Dad and her Mom’s shortcomings as far as she was concerned, Dad loved her — it’s just that he didn’t know how to show it the way we would have wanted him to show it.

I was the favorite — when everyone else refused to speak with him, they made me face him and negotiate with him.  When he was dying, they called me from his deathbed and I told him between sobs that I was not mad at him, that I loved him.  His death was expected but it hurt me deeply when I got the news.

There is so much that I want to say to him now and I know he would listen silently, furrow his brows, and if I unloaded my burden to him, I know he would just keep silent and listen.  He would understand.

I would normally have wished that I was there to take care of him, but his final days were full of strife and pain.  I guess in a selfish way, it was good that we were oceans apart.  Less angry words were said although there were angry words exchanged.

I’m just glad he’s at peace now.  I know that wherever he is, he isn’t having difficulty breathing — he isn’t in pain.  Knowing that makes it easier to accept that he is gone.  And whatever sins he had committed, he has been forgiven.

I miss hearing his voice — and hearing his laughter.  I have many snapshots of him in my mind I keep going back to.  And even in my grief, he makes me smile when I remember his antics and his jokes and the happy times.  I dwell on the happy rather than the sad.  There is enough sadness knowing he is no longer here with me.  At least when I stick with the happy memories, my heart smiles, and it helps me deal with the grief better.

Happy birthday, Dadang.  I know you know we all love you deeply… and we always will.  I know now that my fears as a child that I would end up in heaven and you would be in the other place are unfounded.  I know you will be there to meet me when my turn comes to go into the light.

Dear Mama, Happy Mother's Day!

I had my Mother’s Day conversation with my mom last Friday.  I’m just finishing my Mother’s Day weekend with my boy here.  It has been meaningful because of him.  Eight Mother’s Day have passed where I was finally one of those being celebrated, and I look forward to more years with Angelo.

Motherhood is one of the most challenging roles for me, but which I play to the hilt because of the inspiration his love gives me every day.

But today, I want it to be about my Mom, the woman responsible for making me the mother that I am today.  I have always said that you can only give what you already have — and to my Mom, thanks for giving me all that I needed to be a good mother to my son.

Dear Mama —

Happy Mother’s Day.  You know that though I am 10,000 miles away, I am there with you.  Thanks for the call last Friday.  I know you miss me dearly because you said you dreamt of me.

I’m doing okay, don’t worry.  Sometimes the one we miss the most visits us in our dreams.  Sometimes the one who misses us the most gets to cross time and space and be with us in our dreams at least.  Like I tell Angelo that I will always be in his heart come what may, so are you.

I know that we’re both getting older.  You just turned 72.  Every time I go home, I see you shrink just a little, and I see more lines in your face.  I notice a difference in your demeanor.  I think that I am most fortunate to be seeing this and appreciating the changes that ageing has thrown your way, because I don’t think my siblings who are with you everyday see it and appreciate it for what it is.  I keep telling them, “Mama is getting older.”

I wish I wasn’t so far away.  Then we’d have more dinners together.  We’d go to Manaoag more often, and on Wednesdays, I might even muster enough energy to wake up as early as you and brave Baclaran before the crowds descend upon it.  But life has put this distance between us as I started my own family.  I know you know that you are here in my heart.  In the meantime, I look forward to having you visit… hopefully soon?  I know.. you are busy taking care of many things there, but I am going to keep bugging you about it.

When I hug Angelo, I hug him for you.  You two have such a special bond that I find so precious, since I know it took a lot of effort to take care of him the first three years.  I have been so lucky that you were still young enough then to afford me that chance to have you take care of my son, and to show me the rudiments of motherhood firsthand.

I miss those days when I’d see you two playing with each other.  And I remember the last time you two said goodbye this previous December, how your grandson teared up as we neared the airport, as it dawned upon him he was leaving his favorite grandma.  Even I was surprised at that show of emotion from my then 7-year-old.  Precious.

I cannot ever thank you enough for making me who I am today, Mama.  I know that life hasn’t been kind to you, robbing you of the chance to have a proper education beyond elementary, but you made sure my siblings and I went to the best schools, and that we got as close to the fulfillment of our dreams if not the fulfillment of those dreams itself.

I know that these days, you often think we don’t understand you, or that we are ganging up against you.  That can never happen.  You are the precious bond that ties us all together — and will keep us tied together as a family long after you’re gone.  In our minds and hearts, you are the best mother we could have ever had.  So please forgive us when we hurt your feelings and make you feel like we are not being mindful of hurting you — we have your best interests at heart.  We just want you to let us take care of you this time around, as you’ve worked so hard to take care of all of us these years.

Time to let go, Mama.  Your children are no longer babies.  Let us take care of you now.

We love you deeply.

Your children

Sisters: Bestfriends for life

I have two sisters.  One, I have known for almost 45 years, practically all my life.. the other came into my life rather belatedly, and we rediscovered our sisterhood only when my father passed away almost two years ago.

Both are very special to me, but my “little sister”, Ofie, is like a half twin.  “Half” because we don’t quite look alike — but we are in many ways, joined at the hip.  While like most siblings, we have our moments when we want to grab each other’s hair and yank real hard, I have always considered my sister and I to be very close.  All four of us are — Ofie and my two brothers.. and we are pulling my half sister, Pam, into the fold.  But Ofie and I are bonded for life as girlfriends are.

My favorite story has always been how she wouldn’t hesitate to borrow my underwear or even my toothbrush,  but she wouldn’t use the same spoon I used at the dinner table. =)

When I came home to bury my father in July of 2010, my bestfriend told me that my sister, Ofie, had some health issues.  She had to have an operation to have something taken cared of, and when I left, I wrote her and asked that she take care of it soonest.  I even pleaded that I needed her healthy because if anything happened to me, I wanted her to  be there for Angelo.

The months passed until my father’s first death anniversary came and went, and when I came home in December 2011, I nagged her about taking care of it again.  Finally when I saw her this March, she said she was already having prework done.  Last week, she had the surgery, and it was more radical than even I thought it would be, and she has been very brave through it all.  I would’ve been a nervous wreck if it was me — like I am trying to not to think of my own diagnostic procedure which I have postponed and which my gynecologist then postponed and which is finally happening this week on the 12th.

We haven’t heard about the results of the biopsy but I’m praying very hard that it is nothing to worry about.  I wish I could be there when she goes back to the doctor for her post op check up on Wednesday.  I had bugged my brothers right and left about why no one was going to be there when she went under the knife except my sister-in-law.  I admonished my brother to make sure he got the explanation from the doctor about what the procedure was all about and what the findings were.  I wanted to be there.

As the eldest at 46, Ofie is 44, Abril is 42, and Nikky will be 28 soon..  I worry about them meeting an accident or getting involved in some mishap or other — but in my mind, they are healthy as can be and will grow to a ripe old age with me.  I’d still like to believe that, even now.  So at a time like this, I’m rattled.  I worry about Ofie.. I pray she’ll be fine.  I pray she recovers and heals quickly.  I wish I could be there to take care of her.

Get well soon, sis.  I’m here if you need me.  Take care of yourself because I need you to be around for as long as I am… life wouldn’t be the same without you.  I love you, Suzy.