WHEN MY HUSBAND’S IDOL LEFT HIM

After my husband Roel’s kidney transplant in 2014, I became extra mindful of the state of his emotional health as I am aware that it has a direct effect on his physical well-being. I asked our kids and my in-laws to course any problem or serious concern that they might want to bring to my husband’s attention through me. I, then, would do the necessary filtering and the difficult task of delivering it to Roel with as much tact and care, and as little adverse impact on his health, as I could possibly manage.

The worst and most devastating news that I had to relay to him was something I received recently, on the first hour of Valentine’s day.

When I received a call from Roel’s sister in the middle of the night, I knew right away that something was amiss. But when the first sounds I heard from the other end of the line were the loud sobbing, the halting, quivering voice and the near hysteria, it became apparent to me that something was terribly wrong.

From what I could piece together from her faltering words, it appeared that Tatay Bebot, my father-in-law, was chatting with a neighbor while washing his car when he suddenly dropped. He was rushed to the nearest hospital and was performed CPR on, but to no avail.

He was declared Dead On Arrival.

Upon hearing about Tatay Bebot’s sudden and unexpected demise, I too was devastated. (He was, after all, like a real father to me in the less than 22 years that I have been married to his son.) However, I couldn’t let my emotion consume me at that time. I had a much more important and pressing mission to accomplish.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and put on my bravest face. (By then, Roel already sensed that there was indeed a problem and was anxiously and impatiently waiting for me to talk.)

“Knee, may nangyaring masama kay Tatay.”

“Ha? Ano ‘yun?”

“Isinugod siya sa ospital.”

“Tara, puntahan natin!”

“Knee, wala na siya.”

“Ano ang ibig mong sabihin na wala na siya?!!!”

“Iniwan na tayo ni Tatay. Patay na siya.”

(“Knee, something bad happened to Tatay.”

“Huh? What is it?”

“He was rushed to the hospital.”

“C’mon, let’s go to him!”

“Knee, he’s gone.”

“What do you mean, he’s gone?!!!”

“Tatay already left us. He’s dead.”)

 

And, just like that, Roel was like a melting candle.

He sunk onto our bed with a heavy thud and started wailing.

Child-like.

Woefully.

Pitifully.

Between guttural howls and whimpers were his lamentations of grief and regrets.

Knowing that he direly needed that release, I let him be for about half an hour. Then, gently yet firmly, I reminded him that we had to go to the hospital. As the eldest child, he was expected to be the family’s source of strength and direction.

Our drive to the city was the longest, most heart-wrenching drive that I have had to endure. Both held captive by our respective emotions, we were utterly quiet. The deafening silence in the car was disturbed only by the uncontrollable sobs that occasionally escaped from Roel’s throat.

Witnessing my husband in that emotional condition shattered my heart into small pieces.

When we got to the hospital and saw Tatay Bebot’s lifeless body for the first time, Roel was assailed anew by a deluge of emotions.

He only displayed a semblance of calm when he learned that Tatay did not die alone and lonely. In fact, Tatay Bebot was ecstatic because, after days of waiting, his car was finally released by the auto repair shop and he was, apparently, more than satisfied with the outcome. He wanted to bring the car to a priest the next day to have it blessed (it was recently hit by a reckless motorcycle driver from behind) which explained the late-night car-washing.

The thing with a sudden, unexpected death of a loved one is we are not spared a chance to properly say our goodbyes or anything else, for that matter, that we need to let out of our chest. That is why I decided to write this — to offer a tribute to the man who was sometimes misunderstood by the people he held closest to his heart. By writing the things that Roel, our kids and I will miss most about him, I hope to shed some light about the person he truly was and the life he lived so freely and so passionately.

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This candid shot was taken by Emar, Tatay Bebot’s first grandchild, during their HongKong trip. Here, Tatay was enjoying the view from inside a cable car.

Tatay Bebot loved driving (he was one badass driver!) and was proud of the dignity his work as a driver afforded him (he worked for almost four decades in Napocor as a driver for the Legal Dept.). He used to tell his children never to be ashamed of his job; it was, after all, his reliable partner in providing for and supporting them for many years.

He loved going to the market, particularly to the Balintawak and Divisoria Markets. He was very good at haggling, and he would always haggle with the vendors for the cheapest prices. When he does manage to get a good deal, he would buy in bulk (even if most of it would be left unused). Then he would brag about his haggling prowess. He was adorable like that.

He hated being idle. When he was neither driving nor marketing, he could be found tinkering with his car or messing around the kitchen or doing a million other things around the house.

He loved kaning tutong so much that he refused to let Nanay Leni use a rice cooker. Ever. He preferred his rice cooked the old-fashioned way.

He was a devotee of Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast coincides with his birthday. Every year, he would hear mass in her shrine in Retiro before the family heads to a restaurant for his birthday dinner.

From the ’80s until each of his kids got married, all of them would always receive a 1,000-peso cash gift from Tatay for Christmas Day. That tradition persisted with his grandchildren, each of whom would receive the same amount during Christmas and their birthdays. Really, somebody should have taught Tatay Bebot the concept of inflation!

He was a voracious eater —this despite him being diabetic and hypertensive. He especially loved sweets. In fact, he always had a pile of chocolates stashed in their fridge.

He loved doting on his grandchildren. I remember when our kids were younger, he learned that they had taken a liking to kambing dishes. Tatay Bebot bought a whole goat and had someone cook adobong kambing, kalderetang kambing, papaitang kambing, sinampalukang kambing, kinilaw na kambing —every kambing dish imaginable — for his beloved grandchildren. He also wanted to be part of all their milestones. Once, he even traveled all the way to Cabanatuan City (where we used to live) just to attend his apos’ preschool moving-up day.

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Tatay Bebot with his wife, his children and his grandchildren

He had this funny mannerism of furiously scratching the back of his ear when he was exasperated or annoyed. It was kind of his trademark (something that Roel inherited from him). And, oh yes, how could I forget his phenomenal cussing! When provoked, he could beat Duterte in a cussing match. Hands down.

Another one of his enduring traditions was that of making rounds to distribute leche flan/ubeng haliya/bibingka to his old work colleagues every New Year’s Eve. I bet that they, too, will miss Tatay if only for that.

He was a practical joker. One of his old colleagues from Napocor shared to us during Tatay’s wake this particular anecdote. They once had an officemate whom they all suspected was a closet queen. To solve what they considered then the world’s greatest mystery, Tatay took matters into his own hands. He found the perfect opportunity when he chanced upon the co-worker one day, standing at the side of a road while waiting for his ride. Tatay, driving an unmarked vehicle with heavily-tinted windows, sharply turned the wheel to where his officemate was standing. In surprise, the clueless victim shrieked and jumped, his arms flailing wildly —while my father-in-law laughed himself crazy at his own antic. He was very proud of himself and is, up to now, widely known among his officemates for being the one responsible in unveiling the mystery surrounding the sexuality of their colleague.

He was a diligent employee. In his 39 years in service, he only had 4 absences, all of which he accrued when his mother, followed by his father, died. He consistently bagged the tardiness award, though.

He was known among family and friends to be frugal. He would always find ways to get the best possible deal. But, he also knew how to effectively manage his finances. He invested in real estates and in old cars that he would refurbish before selling, and he put his remaining money in an investment vehicle that would yield high returns — all because he didn’t want to be a burden to his family. He didn’t spend much on himself when he was still alive (even for hospitalizations) so he could leave enough for his loved ones.

He was street-wise and cynical, but he could also be compassionate. Under any other circumstance, Tatay Bebot would file a formal complaint against the motorcycle driver who recently bumped into the back of his car. But when he saw that the motorcycle was irreparably wrecked and that the driver was shamelessly nagged by his wife despite him being injured, Tatay took pity on the poor driver. Instead of obliging the driver to shoulder all the repair expenses on his car, he let the guy walk away free of any obligation to him. He even gave him some money to have himself checked at the nearest ER.

He never failed to buy lotto tickets, hoping that he would be the country’s next multi-millionaire. His ultimate dream was to build a big house with 4 floors, with each floor allotted to the family of each of his children. He wanted all of us to live together under one roof.

He was sweet. According to his niece, they were surprised to see Tatay Bebot in the audience during her graduation day. They did not  tell him about it but, apparently, he found a way to know the details so that he could witness one of the momentous events in his beloved niece’s life.

Finally, Tatay Bebot was a living proof that life can be short, precarious and fragile. I can’t emphasize that fact enough, friends. We don’t truly own our lives; all of us are living only on borrowed time. Today, we might be inadvertently neglecting our loved ones. Tomorrow, they might be gone forever — leaving us with nothing but a void so great and a long list of i-should-haves, what-ifs, guilt and regrets that no amount of tears and self-reproach can ever ease or even diminish.

GRABBING HAPPINESS WITH BOTH HANDS

In a world seized by too much violence and hatred and bigotry, it is imperative that we all do our fair share to make it a little better and more tolerable — not only for ourselves and for the people around us, but more so, for the generations that will eventually inherit it.

Wouldn’t it then be nice if, instead of complaining, wailing and whining incessantly, we choose to see the beauty and goodness in everything? That, instead of fretting and fussing, we choose to look at things in a positive way? That, instead of thinking of the worst of people and circumstances, we choose to be happy with the here and now? That, instead of comparing our situation with others’ lot, we choose to be satisfied and content with whatever is thrown our way? That, instead of expecting and demanding from other people and from a higher being, we choose to be grateful for all the blessings we continuously receive?

Here are a few quotes (It should be obvious by now that I’m a huge fan of quotes and idioms and adjectives and similes!) that will show us that, indeed, happiness and satisfaction can reside in our hearts — if only we learn to let go of negativity. Remember, no one has ever injured his eyesight by looking on the bright side!

 

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“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” – Tom Wilson

 

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“A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead, and dreams of a faraway place. A traveler on the plane sees the farmhouse below, and dreams of home.” – Robert Brault

 

 

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“Don’t think of organ donations as giving up part of yourself to keep a total stranger alive. It’s really a total stranger giving up almost all of themselves to keep part of you alive.” – Anon

 

 

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“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” -George Carlin

 

 

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“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” – Horace Walpole

 

 

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“There were two boys who, one beautiful day, were exploring their neighbor’s farm and came upon an empty barn that smelled of manure. The first boy said, “We got to get out of here, this smells horrible.“, but the second boy said “Oh boy, this is great; there must be horses around!“.” – Terry

 

 

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“A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping-stone to the optimist.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

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“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

 

 

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“Look down at me and you see a fool; look up at me and you see a God; look straight at me and you see yourself.” – Manson, Charles

 

 

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“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

 

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“I wept because I had no shoes. Then, I met a man who hadn’t a single limb.” – Anon

 

 

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“Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with.” – Thomas Carlyle

 

 

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“Life is a bowl of cherries. Some cherries are rotten while others are good; it’s your job to throw out the rotten ones and forget about them while you enjoy eating the ones that are good! There are two kinds of people: those who choose to throw out the good cherries and wallow in all the rotten ones, and those who choose to throw out all the rotten ones and savor all the good ones.” ― C. JoyBell C.

 

 

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“Time may be a great healer, but it’s also a lousy beautician.” – Dorothy Parker

 

 

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“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” –Bill Vaughan

 

 

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“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” ― Wayne W. Dyer

 

 

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“In this treacherous world, nothing is the truth nor a lie. Everything depends on the color of the crystal through which one sees it.” –Pedro Calderon de la Barca

 

 

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“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” –Tim Burton

 

 

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“When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds, or a thousand wishes.” –Anon

 

 

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“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right.” –Tony Robbins

 

 

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“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” –Richard Bach

 

 

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“We look up at the same stars and see such different things.” –John Snow

 

 

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“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” –David Mccullough, Jr.

 

 

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“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” –Winston Churchill

 

 

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“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” –Morticia Addams

 

 

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“Don’t feel bad if people remember you only when they need you. Feel privileged that you are like a candle that comes to their mind when there is darkness.” –Anon

 

 

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“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, could be someone else’s fairytale.” –Wale Ayeni

 

 

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“The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s green where you water it.” –Anon

 

 

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“They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same.” –Jonathan Davis

 

 

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“A pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds, and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; an optimist doesn’t see the clouds at all – he’s walking on them.” –Leonard Louis Levinson

 

Beautiful things are not normally presented to us on silver platters, or swathed in colorful gift wrappers and topped with big red ribbons. They usually come to us disguised as misfortunes, problems, challenges or setbacks. It is only after we have fought tooth and nail just to keep afloat do we realize that, indeed, these things happen to us for a reason — a beautiful, sometimes even life-changing, reason.

Everything is just a matter of perspective.

 

 

 

Photo Credits: crazy-frankenstein.com (roses), grigsby.homestead.com (home amid the fields), twitter.com/seanfaircloth (organ donation), leiphone.com (donut), plus.google.com/knealemann (glass of water), erniehaddad.wix.com (masks), pinterest.com/jesscumbie (farm boys), qedfoundation.org (stumbling blocks or stepping stones), slowtracksociety.com (dancing in the rain), animalwall.xyz (giraffes), wallpapersxl.com  (surfer), expatmedia.net (Nick Vujicick), cnn.com (diamonds), ginandcrumpets.com (cherries), simorqmedia.net (time), happynewyear2017imagespics.com (fireworks), cnmuqi.com (bench in the field), cnbc.com (fortune-teller), vulture.com (Tim Burton), mrwallpaper.com (dandelions), courtneydefeo.com (excited boy), de.pinterest.com (bowl of butterflies), tumbnation.com (star-gazing), stevenewolf.com (mountain climber), funandfulfilled.com (fish bowls), it-mama.com.ua (spider web), sknms.com (lighted candle), seerockcity.com (fairy), borongaja.com (green landscape), friendskorner.com (laughing old lady), taringa.net (walking on the clouds).

 

 

 

MOM ON A MISSION’S 2015, IN A NUTSHELL

Every new year, I was told, is God’s way of giving us an opportunity to start anew – with a clean slate, a fresh page, a blank chapter. It is our chance to make amends for our past misgivings and to live out the lessons we have learned from our past mistakes. That is probably the reason behind the tradition of coming up with New Year’s resolutions.

But, since I’m not really good at keeping resolutions, I decided to usher in 2016 with my personal reflection on the year that was. To take stock of my life. To find hidden lessons in every test, reasons in every occurrence, silver linings in every cloud, and blessings in disguise. To, somehow, prepare myself for everything and anything that the coming year has in store for me.

Thinking back now to my 2015, I realize that it has been exceptionally good and kind to Filipinos in general, and to me and my family in particular. It was filled with divine favors and graces that, in hindsight, I am not sure we completely deserved.

After eleven days of hospital confinement following Roel’s successful kidney transplant in December 22 of 2014, we were discharged on the eve of New Year. My personal battle cry then was “New year, New kidney, New life!”

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Our first family picture for 2015

In mid-January, I was one with the entire nation in celebrating the arrival of Pope Francis in the country for a four-day state and pastoral visit. With his messages of mercy and compassion, the Supreme Pontiff created ripples of positive energy that lingered on even after his departure. For days, we were gripped by what we dubbed as the “Pope Francis fever”.

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photo credit: pinoyambisyoso.com

On March 15, my Baldonado family celebrated our father’s 70th birthday. After suffering two major strokes two years prior that left him partially paralyzed, we were blessed to have that day to show Tatay how important he really was to all of us by gathering relatives and friends from near and far – even those he hasn’t seen for decades – for a surprise party.

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photo credit: Jhon Arellano

On April 06, right after the Holy Week, my husband got his back-to-work clearance from his nephrologist. Under strict orders, though – no unnecessary stress and no strenuous activities; no exposure to possible sources of germs, bacteria and viruses; and no missing of medicines, diagnostic tests and medical appointments. His bosses, fully understanding his condition and temporary limitations, pulled him out of his field assignment and gave him an office-based position as a member of the division’s Training department team.

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photo credit: Ashley Kaye Lim

Our children – Emar, MD and Lala – continue to display diligence in their studies. In fact, a few years from now, we are expecting to have a chemical engineer, a pharmacist and a doctor in the family! (*insert photo here)

On August 05, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. 20 years! We spent the whole day together and capped it off with a romantic treehouse dinner date that is every woman’s secret dream – flower centerpiece, a litter of rose petals, candles, white draperies, a five-course meal, the works! The attentive hunk by my side only made the night perfect for me.

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In mid-September, I decided to act on my long-time dream of becoming a blogger by launching my blog, Mom On A Mission. Just two days after that, I received an offer from Filipino Migrant News, a community newspaper in New Zealand, to have my first article published. Countless private messages between the owners and myself and seven articles later, I am now the paper’s Manila correspondent! Still couldn’t wipe this silly grin off my face.

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On November 08, our family celebrated the 20th birthday of our firstborn, Emar. That day also marked our 20th year as parents – 20 years of putting someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own, 20 years of doubting whether we’re doing the right things or not, 20 years of fears and worries, excitement and pride, and heartaches and joy. 20 years that we will never trade for anything else.

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On December 21, I rejoiced with the entire nation when Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, bagged the most coveted Miss Universe title. She was able to end the country’s 42-year Miss Universe drought. The closest the Philippines got to winning the crown was in 1999 and 2012, when Miriam Quiambao and Janine Tugonon respectively secured a 1st runner-up place. In a very controversial turn of events that night, Pia was able to show the whole world her grace under pressure, in defeat and in victory. One proud moment there for all of us, Filipinos, especially for a beauty pageant fan like me!

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photo credit: usmagazine.com

A day after that, on December 22, I posted this on Facebook in remembrance of the successful kidney transplant that my husband underwent exactly a year ago.

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Our family spent the remaining days of 2015 in the warm and comforting company of our loved ones. We had our Christmas in Bataan with the Baldonado and Del Rosario clans, our annual get-together with our long-time Chinoy friends and their families, and our New Year in Caloocan with the Aquinos and Manalaysays.

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with the Baldonados on Christmas eve

Undeniably, 2015 was also filled with adversities. The world, our country and our family were bombarded with various challenges that tested our individual and collective strengths and our faith both in humanity and in the Almighty. I just choose to dwell on the positive things that happened because they far outweigh the negative ones.

Let me leave you with these beautiful words from a certain Allen Klein.

“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture, and your picture begins to lighten up.”

Let us all welcome the year with renewed faith, steadfast optimism and rejuvenated strength.

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Have a blessed 2016, everyone! 🙂