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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Manila, Manila!

I’ve been in a Manila a little over a week and it’s been a whirlwind of activity. Of course my main priority at this time is taking care of my dad who is slowly recovering from very invasive surgery. Luckily we have been blessed with wonderful news and the surgery was successful. Another miracle that we must be thankful for and that reminds us how good God truly is to us. My dad’s recovery though is slow and there are a few minor bumps along the way. The last few days we have been encamped at the hospital trying to make sure we can help him through this difficult time. It is a bittersweet time for me. On the one hand I am so happy to be home and to have this chance to take care of my dad. But on the other, it is very hard for me to see my dad in pain and so very anxious about his recovery. The one blessing is my mom who has remained unbelievably calm and clear-headed even at our lowest points. This has been a true test to our family and I am so proud to say that we have all held on and stayed together through the good and bad.

Being home has also been a wonderful experience. Things are so familiar but also so different. It’s been almost 8 years since I last was in Manila and I am amazed at the things that have remained the same yet fascinated by everything that has changed. It’s so great to be home. It is hard to describe how I felt when I first saw my family, friends and household helper (especially those I have not seen in 8 years!). I am so happy to handout pasalubong for everyone since I’ve been planning this homecoming for ages and have been anticipating this for so long! It was surreal to walk through the house I grew up in and to visit places I used to frequent when I lived here. It is quite strange to see so many new places to visit, eat, shop and hang out. In the beginning it was hard for me to even fathom being here after waiting to come home for so long. But I got used to it pretty quickly!

There are many good and not so good things about Manila (the same as in Torrance, or L.A., or Berkeley, or anywhere else I have lived before). But it’s all a matter of perspective and of acclimating yourself to your surroundings. It’s true Manila weather is pretty hard to tolerate at first – I can’t recall it being this humid when I lived here! And the traffic is just an endless parking lot where cars crawl at a very slow pace – not to mention the crazy driving people get away with here! I am so worried that we will sideswiped one of those jeepneys or motorcycles that seem to appear almost at every turn or that one of those lumbering smoke-belching buses will ram into our car! But despite all these, it is so good to be home. It is wonderful having our helpers take care of our every little need, it is great seeing my grandmothers (both ama and guama) and a few of my aunts and uncles, it is fun hanging out with my best friend, Les, and some of my high school friends, it is awesome shopping at the Xmas bazaar, and the best part is hanging out with Jim and Joy (both of whom are going out of their way to make this a special homecoming). It just reminds me that even in all the time I’ve been away, Manila will always be home in my heart.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Today, we (Jojo, Jules, Atsi, Mark and I) went to the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. This special trip was so we could say a prayer for my dad and ask for the intercession of St. Peregrine (who has a chapel at the mission). We were supposed to be joined by my in-laws but because of the horrible air quality in Southern California (as a result of the wildfires), they had to pass and keep my nieces and nephews indoors.

Our first stop was the Mission Basilica where we heard mass.

The Church was very beautiful from the outside and moreso inside. I also loved the choir who sang exceptionally well.

There was a statue of St. Peregrine and we knelt to pay our respects. We also took some holy water to bring back home for dad.

After a quick lunch, we walked over to the mission grounds. Here are Atsi and Mark in front of the mission.

Jules and Jojo taking the audio tour and learning more about the mission.

Mark, Atsi, Jojo and I taking a breather in the courtyard.

Stopping at St. Peregrine's Chapel.

It was very quiet and dark inside. We each took time to say a prayer for dad, our family friend, Uncle Bobby, and Mark's mom, Marcia. We also purchased the novena cards so we could recite the novena.

Before leaving we wrote our petition in the prayer book.

And purchased three candles to ask for intercession.

Afterwards I felt a sense of peace leaving the place and am hopeful that our prayers were heard and will be answered.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All in Good Time

There are many things that happen in life that we are unable to explain. Life is one big picture and most times we are only privy to one little part of it at a time. It’s true that the universe balances itself out and that wrongs are righted and questions are answered. But all that takes time. The things that don’t make sense now will make itself clear later. The things that we question at present, find a way to get answered later on. Unfortunately, as humans we find that frustrating and annoying. We are a culture where instant gratification is so ingrained that having to wait for things to be explained is hard. We are a culture where having to sit idly by and be patient makes little sense.

But the truth of the matter is we have no choice. No matter how much we think about things, no matter how we over-rationalize, no matter who we ask, and no matter how hard we seek for answers, there are some things that are beyond us. It is at this time where our faith guides us into believing that all things come in good time. It is our faith that teaches us to be patient and to be prepared for when answers are revealed. It is our faith that gives us the strength to see us through when things don’t make sense and when we feel we are unable. It is our faith that helps us move on.

There are times I’ve faced sleepless nights wondering why things happen and why they had to happen to me (us). When Jojo was laid off from his last job, I questioned why he all of all people was let go and what would happen to us. When I left my last job, I constantly weighed the pros and cons trying to understand why it had gotten so bad that I wanted to resign – and later second-guessing myself by thinking that maybe it wasn’t that bad. I worried about not having a career and because I thought my life revolved around my job. But in time it became clear. Jojo lost his job so he could find a better one. A new place where he is challenged and appreciated more. A company where his supervisor is both a friend and a colleague. In my case, I left my job so I could spend time with my sister before her wedding. I had time for my family when they visited. And now I have time to be with my dad and mom when they need me. Questions not only were answered but everything has seemed to fall into place.

Right now, we are faced with another situation where we are desperately trying to seek answers. It is a frustrating and worrisome time. And even though we know that things will work out and become clear in time, it does little to ease our concerns and our questions. Life is full of surprises. That does not change. But the one thing that has become clearer to me now is that instead of asking “why”, I pray for the faith to be patient and strong until the why is revealed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Good-Byes Suck

These are the times I hate the most. My parents left for Manila last Thursday, while the twins left last night. Atsi and Mark have gone home to Redlands while Jules is settling in his new place in Woodland Hills. A few days ago our house was bustling with activity. Today, it is so quiet with just Jojo and me living in it. Everything seems so still and the rooms so empty. I keep finding stuff everyone has left behind - my dad's bathrobe, my mom's slippers, a couple of stray clothes that have been left in the dryer. Jim's flaming hot Cheetos, Atsi's handbags, and Joy's scarves in the drawer. I am both happy to see these and sad to find them too.

I always have such a tough time adjusting to having my family leave. I know everyone is sad when their family leaves but in my case, this is compounded by the fact that we have such an awesome time together. It makes good-byes just an extra bit harder. I wish things could be so much simpler where all of us could be living under the same roof - or at the very least in the same city! I know it's wishful thinking and a conscious choice we all made. But it sure is tough getting used to it and being away for almost 8 years has not made it any easier.

Yet, despite my feeling of sadness, there are so many things I am thankful for. Of course at the top of my list every time is being blessed with a wonderful family. Yes, we do have our differences and our occassional moments of discord. But in truth, we are all so lucky to have each other. And so while I am a bit sad today, I am cheered up by the happy memories and the thought that I can look forward to the many other family get-togethers we will soon share.

Thanks Dad, Mom, Atsi, Jim, Joy, Jules, Mark, Jojo and our honorary member - Marc, for making the last few days so much fun. Looking forward to our next family reunion =)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prayers for My Dad

I would like to ask any one reading my blog to say a few prayers for my dad. He has recently been going thru some health issues and is not in the best of health. This is a trying time for my dad and we are all doing our best to rally around him and help him through this. Your prayers and best wishes will come a long way.

My dad is an incredible person and has weathered many storms and surpassed many challenges. I know in my heart that this is another hurdle that he will overcome. Dad, I know I speak for Atsi, Jules, Jim, and Joy, when I say we love you very much and hope you know how much you mean to us. We are so proud of you. You have always been a loving, supportive, understanding and good father to us, please allow us to love, support, understand and be good to you. You have always been there to see us through our difficult times, please allow us in turn to be there and help you through yours.

Our family has been through so many wonderful times together … and I know we can equally be strong and intact when the going gets tough. Keep the faith, dad! Nothing is impossible with the right attitude, lots of faith and prayers, and the love of family and friends. Remember, dad, all things happen for a reason and no matter how difficult the situation, this too shall come to pass. We are all in this together.

Dad and Jules

Dad with mom, Joy and Marc

Dad and me

Dad and Mom

Dad, Mom and Mark and Atsi

Dad and Jim

The whole family at Legoland in Carlsbad.

The whole family at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido.
(Jim is behind the plant)

Celebrating Atsi's birthday with a dimsum lunch at the PV Palace.