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The sight of a grown man crying

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Girls are emotional.  We cry all the time. Some are moved to tears at the silliest things like sappy movies. My friend Leslie was moved at the wedding of our friend, Cands, and was teary eyed. 🙂

Very recently, in class, as I was reporting about gross and fine motor development of children with special needs, I found myself crying again. And it’s been almost eight years since the runt passed. I used the runt’s hands as an example to explain how early intervention and therapy helped him to be self-sufficient and independent.  And then I couldn’t finish my sentences, couldn’t breathe as I explained normal vs. atypical development. The tears just fell and I choked on my words. My professor and classmates, most of whom know me, were quiet and let me regain my composure so that I could finish my report.  They/ we are all used to the sight of someone crying in class.

The sight of a grown man crying is different. I saw Papa in tears when his father died in 1988. Suddenly, he became head of their family unit, the one responsible for his mother and his four siblings. I saw my burly brother cry as he brought a priest to the hospital to administer to runt. My 6’2 tall 200 pound no-nonsense slave driver kind of boss was shaken and teary eyed upon learning of runt’s passing in 2007.

Yesterday, the OIC of the local police force cried at the Congressional hearing on the SAF44. He was obviously hurting and angry at the loss of lives, of how his men were butchered by terrorists, of the overkill. He choked on his words too and said he wanted answers so that when his time is up, he could tell his men what really happened. The sight of a high ranking police officer in uniform emotional, grief-stricken, his face contorted, is something. It’s heart breaking and quite painful to watch too.

We may be teachers, parents, professionals, advocates, or soldiers but we are human beings first. We all need a good cry sometimes – to feel, to mourn, to get the huge elephant off our chest, to clear our heads, to feel better. Hopefully, after crying, we can move forward with purpose.


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Martin Greenfield’s father to him:  “If we don’t survive, you must honor us by living.”                       – Voices of Auschwitz, CNN Special

Last year, I was able to visit the house on  Prisengracht 263 in Amsterdam.  It was Anne Frank’s Secret Annex, the place where she hid together with her family from Nazi persecution, and wrote in her diary.  The house was the family’s jam factory until it became their secret hiding place.

Seeing Anne’s cramped hiding place was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.  And I’ve seen a few sad things in my life. 😦 The Secret Annex had a vibe which gave me goose bumps. The room had black, heavy curtains and magazine cut-outs plastered on the walls.  The cut-outs were for Anne – to cheer her up. She cut them from the magazines given to her. The cut-outs were to remind her, the Jewish teenager, to hope amid the loneliness, fear, evil, and persecution.  Of the eight who hid in the Secret Annex, only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived.  After the war, he published Anne’s diary after a long and arduous process of authentication.  The Franks, like millions of Jews, were prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, described by historians as a most efficient killing machine. (Anne and her older sister, Margot, died in a different camp.)

January 27 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. CNN produced a special featuring the stories of four survivors, “Voices of Auschwitz”, hosted by Wolf Blitzer.  The survivors had one refrain. They had to share their story so that others may learn from it. They don’t know how they survived and their families and friends didn’t. To this day, they can’t understand why their families and friends had to be killed for being Jewish.  One said she couldn’t forgive but life had to go on and she had to keep going.  Martin Greenfield, one of the survivors, makes beautiful suits in New York City and lists US presidents among his clients. He shared what his father told him many years ago, on their first night in Auschwitz: “If we don’t survive, you must honor us by living.” Steven Spielberg, his voice breaking, said that when he visited Auschwitz and touched the ground, he could see white powder which he knew was from human remains, and he said a prayer. I’m not sure why some people trivialize the Holocaust and say it’s fiction.

Please try to catch the replay if you missed it so we don’t forget the atrocities of war and the important lessons of history. So we remember to be tolerant of one another despite our religious differences.

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Shut your Piehole

is a favorite expression of Hubby.  He says it when he’s annoyed with people who just love to yap.  And they’re everywhere – in government, in business, in the neighborhood, on TV.  Apparently, the term’s British, was extremely widespread (and considered by many to be vulgar) in the 1950s and 1960s, and has survived to this day.  It was used by Jack Nicholson in the movie, “Anger Management”.

I love the expression for its candor and creativity. I think it’s a pretty useful insult and could come in handy.  It’s applicable to celebrities who share too much information and wash their dirty linen in public.  It may be used for government leaders who are clueless about good timing and don’t know what to say when.  It was a constant thought bubble for a former boss who was just nasty or a former colleague who loved to bully others.  It may be used for those who talk loudly but do not make sense – like many news anchors on TV who think they know but don’t.  It may also be used for people who have foot in mouth disease and talk first before thinking.

True story that still makes me uncomfortable whenever I remember it.  Several Januaries ago, when I was still doing communication work, we presented departmental plans to the president.   My ex-boss started to show a video of Elvis Presley singing “Don’t be Cruel”, the point being that it was an initial presentation; hence, the Executive Committee should go easy on us.  To my (and the Excom’s) discomfort, she finished the entire video clip and started to sing too! Cringe.  It was mind-numbing, I willed the earth to swallow me ASAP. Knowing what I know now, I think that that would have been a perfect opportunity to tell her nicely to please shut her pie hole!

I’m not sure why people need to have their air time or love to hear their own voice so much. I just don’t get it when there are a lot more powerful voices than one’s own.  I guess we’ve forgotten how to listen and listen well.


photo credit:  zazzle.com

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A Quiet God

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I must confess, I haven’t been to communion in a long time.  To be exact, since the runt died on the morning of October 29, 2007.  For some time after he passed, I didn’t hear mass.  I waged a boycott of sorts. Going to Sunday Mass is a celebration and I just didn’t have the energy to celebrate.  I was grieving, what/ why would I celebrate? Mama respected my need to do things my way, didn’t judge, and didn’t insist on anything.  Maybe she just kept on praying that I would find my way back, as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. And I did, eventually, after grappling with the chokehold of grief on me.

I’m not sure when I started going back to church and Sunday Mass.  But for many Sundays, I was just in church sitting, not necessarily praying, not even listening, but always trying not to think.  Of course, my mind often wandered. How our chapel needed repairs. How many of our neighbors had passed on too just like Papa and chose to hold their wakes there.  How the runt’s friends have grown. At mass, in deep grief, I often thought about our many discussions in Fr. Francis Reilly, SJ’s philosophy class in 1993. About how hard it is to reconcile a loving God with vile diseases and human suffering. About evil and a loving God. About going through a rational inquiry to prove God’s existence. Fr. Reilly gave me a B+ in that class but fast forward to 2008, the B+ really meant nothing.  I asked the same questions that we tried to answer in Fr. Reilly’s class all over again. However, this time, I couldn’t answer many of these questions with certainty, unlike in my philosophy orals. I was changed by my grief experience. And it hurt that God was awfully quiet. And I couldn’t ask Fr. Reilly who had joined the company of the saints by then, like Papa and runt.

It’s been almost nine years since Papa’s passing, eight since the runt’s, and things have somehow gotten better.  God is still a quiet God, just as Fr. Reilly had depicted Him.  I know that God exists even in the saddest of events, despite the evil and suffering in the world. I think He’s there in the stillness, in prayers offered by a contrite heart, in good and sincere intentions, in efforts big and small to make the world a better place.  I think God loves (and is amused) by the hoopla, fanfare, and noise, but prefers solitude. Fr. Reilly and I could always be wrong though. 🙂

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My nurse friend in FL, who visited the Philippines last year at the height of typhoon Glenda (Ramassun), shared a thoughtful observation which got me thinking. “The class divide seems to be growing… there are more upscale malls and commercial establishments but the number of shanties and beggars has increased too, no?” Yup. I said the politicians talk about “inclusive growth” all the time because those two words have a nice ring to it, especially to multi-lateral institutions. But this remains a dream, objectively speaking.

I think of inclusive growth in view of Pope Francis’ Manila visit. The excitement is palpable – like the “Thrilla in Manila” way back in 1975 or “Michael Jackson Live in Manila” in 1996. Some are excited for the wrong reasons though. Gushed one aging TV star, “I’m just excited to shake hands with him and be part of it!”  Shows will be staged, songs will be sung, prayers will be said, and people will be on their best behavior. If only the country’s problems can be solved by singing songs, chanting slogans, or doing a special TV coverage.

This Pope is a rock star, no doubt about it and I like him.  He’s a renegade Pope and renegades make things happen. He did the unexpected, or many unexpected things that got us thinking and reflecting. He rocked the boat and preached about liberation theology: end world hunger by stopping food wastage. He responded to the call of the times by asking, who are we to judge gay people. He talked about basic Gospel values:   compassion, forgiveness, humility, peace, love. He emphasized prayer that leads to practical action.

Sometimes, people forget that it’s not about him, not about the show and who gets to offer something or have an audience with him; not about hoarding the souvenir items with his face in it. The Pope’s simply a messenger of Christ, just as we all are. 

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Hubby and I woke up early today and forced ourselves to exercise.  It’s a yearly ritual, this trying to be active at the beginning of the year.  He’s turning 45 this year and I’ll be 42. I’m not sure what happened and how we’re suddenly in our 40s.

There was only one motivation this time for exercising.  Diabetes runs in both our families. Relatives’ legs have been amputated because of it. There were three of them as of last count; the third passed on just after his retirement. Relatives have had strokes too because of it. One was severely paralyzed, her face distorted, her speech slurred, and half her body weakened.  Her energetic, feisty soul was trapped in that body for nearly 10 years until she passed away.  All of them love/ loved to eat. (Who doesn’t?! 🙂 ) They probably forgot that there’s payback time.

We have friends with diabetes too.  One collapsed as he was preparing to go to work.  Thankfully, the hospital was several blocks away and he got immediate medical help.  This friend, a he, ate with gusto, having unli-rice (unlimited) and Coke, even as he was on insulin already.  He’s fine now but needs regular therapy to improve his motor skills.

“Run! Move it,” Hubby barked as he left me.

“Can’t! I’ll just walk,” I shouted back.

And for the next 45 minutes we exercised, along with the park regulars and their obese dogs.  As we cooled down,  I asked Hubby to please take a picture of our shoes.


“Because we keep doing this at the beginning of the year, trying to eat healthier and exercising but failing to sustain it by mid-year! Maybe I’ll print and enlarge it to remind us both!”

Limbs getting cut off is a powerful motivator. We’re scared sh*t of developing diabetes as the others have.  This year, I’m sure that we will try harder.  We will walk faster, longer.  We will take better care of ourselves. We can’t alter our genes; only our lifestyle and choices.

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Land’s End

My former boss is a golfer and that’s how I’ve heard of Land’s End. He had a catalog of golf shirts in his office by that name.

It’s the Christmas holidays and we’re spending time with family in SF.  When we’re in this city, there’s hardly ever enough time to see the nooks and crannies or discover hole in the wall food finds. This time, we decided that we would stop by Land’s End. (Well, Hubby made that decision for us since he was driving.)

It was Christmas morning and the sun was up. We’re always lucky because every time we’re in SF, the weather’s absolutely picture perfect. At Land’s End, people were up early doing tai chi or walking their dogs through the trail. I’m amazed at how the dogs can run at breakneck speed, have some form of GPS, and know when to put on the brakes or they’d go hurtling down a 30 foot ravine. I took my sweet time, breathing in the smell of the cypress trees and the ocean water as I walked, and pausing to read some factoids about the place. Apparently, American Indians were the first inhabitants of Land’s End. How they braved its harsh winters remains a mystery.

“Merry Christmas,” chirped an elderly Chinese gentleman with a kind face, in an unmistakably American accent. I smiled and greeted Merry Christmas back. Most Americans say Happy Holidays and I thought it was just wonderful that he greeted me Merry Christmas. I said I didn’t know that Land’s End was quite beautiful and I’m glad we tried to stop by. I asked if he was also visiting. He said that he’s a resident of SF for the last 60 years but it was his first time at Land’s End too. I laughed, bid him goodbye, and wished him a happy Christmas.

As I walked back to our car, I thought about what he said. Wow, he’s a resident and hasn’t gone there until now. We proceeded to our cousin’s house for the annual Christmas lunch which was a 45 minute drive. At the dining table, we chatted with one another and traded stories about our lives as we always do, picking up from where we left off last year. I mentioned that we stopped by Land’s End to Henry, significant other of our cousin, Dorothy. “Oh, I’ve heard about that place! Never been there too!,” he laughed. I said it was because he’s a resident, just like the old man. I told Henry that he’s quite old already 🙂 and that he must visit and not wait to grow older before doing so.