happy thoughts and worthy causes

Archive for June, 2013

My Wedding Vows for Toni

My Dearest Toni,

 I stand before you now, ready to take the next big step towards having a life together.

You came to me unexpectedly, bringing  joy and sunshine just when I needed it most.

You brought me laughter, you brought me peace. Most of all, you gave me strength.

These are things you gave freely, willingly and maybe even without realizing it.

Every day, for over a year now, you make me feel your love and sometimes it leaves me speechless and in awe. Never have I felt so cherished and loved as when I am with you.

I still marvel at how easily and how quickly you seem to fit into my world…that finally, everything is perfect.  I now know that the Universe indeed conspires to make things happen if it’s meant to be. 

Today, I give you my heart and everything that I am, as I take you as my spouse;

I promise to love you and care for you, to put you and our family first before any thing or any one.

I will be your shelter and your sanctuary, as you are mine;

I promise to always be here for you, never leaving your side whether in good times or in bad.

I will wholeheartedly share with you every thought, every smile or tear, and give you all the honesty your trust deserves.

 Most of all, I promise to be worthy of your love and all the patience, understanding and respect this life-long bond requires of us.

I hold your hand now, clasped within my own, never more certain or prepared to face the future with you as I become your partner for life. I love you very much.Image

Captivated by Capiz, Enamored with Roxas City

The first thing my friends told me when they found out I was going to Capiz was to bring some garlic and/or salt with me to ward off the infamous aswangs. That impression is by far the single most notorious belief about Capiz, and I would say it’s rather unfair too.

To dispel any other myths and misconceptions about Capiz, the locals organized an Aswang Festival a few years back. Their way of poking fun at themselves and their detractors upset the clergy so much, that the priests convinced them it was a bad idea. The apparent influence of the Church in these parts just shows the religiousness deeply ingrained in its people, contrary to its reputation of being the land of the aswangs.

Landing in Roxas City, I got a great view of the sea and the nearby beaches. Although in the same region as Iloilo, Guimaras and Boracay, Capiz is not well-known among avid beach-goers as a popular tourist destination. Yet I am told that it boasts of the same pristine waters and white, powdery sand in many of its islands and coastal areas. In fact, nearby Olotayan Island, just a few minutes boatride from Roxas City can give Boracay a run for its money.

Fortunately, one of Capiz’ redeeming qualities is its being known as the Seafood Capital of thePhilippines. If anyone wants to gorge on shellfish, seaweed and a wide array of bounty-from-the-sea, this is the place to head off to. With its coastline and river networks still abundant with mangroves, it’s no wonder crabs, shrimps, clams and oysters are teeming in these waters.

While there are actually many restaurants within Roxas City to have your fill of seafood, a good place to go to is the Seafood Court and People’s Park at BaybayBeach. Just a stone’s throw away from DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ home, its open area has a short promenade and a great view of the nearby islands – Mantalinga and Olotayan. The beachline is currently being renovated with establishments being moved away from the coastline itself, but numerous seafood restaurants and resorts line this boulevard of sorts.

For the budget conscious, there are many cheap hotels in the city proper. Most lodgings are reasonably priced and within walking distance from food establishments. Tricycles, the major mode of transport in these parts, are easily available at every turn and will take you anywhere within Roxas City for a mere P8.00 fare.  Most tourist sites are also quite accessible.

Named after its most famous son, the first President of the Philippine Republic Manuel Roxas, the city’s significance in Philippine history doesn’t begin or end with him. The local museum that houses various artifacts and some memorabilia on the late President Roxas and other illustrious sons and daughters of Capiz, was built at the turn of the century and used to be an old watertank. Beside the “Ang Panubli-on” museum is a mini-park with a statue of President Roxas. This small enclosure also serves as a favorite hang-out of the local senior citizens and is a cozy, shady sanctuary in the sunny albeit humid city.

A few steps away is the riverbanks area which is surprisingly very clean and well-maintained. While there are a few boats navigating its waters and offering rides, it has not been commercialized enough to cause undue pollution. Reminiscent of some American architectural influence, there is a grand pavilion referred to as the Roxas City Bandstand. Constructed in the 1920s by Jose Roldan, the first Filipino headmaster of the Capiz Trade School, it’s where one can take a photo with a picturesque background of the Panay River and the Roxas City bridge. Built in 1910, the Roxas City bridge also known as the old Capiz Bridge, connects the political center to the commercial areas of the city and has historically help usher in development to Capiz.

A similar Western flavor can be seen in the city’s central water fountain which also serves as a “rotunda” of sorts for vehicular traffic. Lighting up in colors in the evenings, this fountain has the Provincial Capitol, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the City Hall bordering it from two sides. And somewhere in the busy maze of streets and ancient buildings is the ancestral home of President Roxas. But unlike most ancestral houses which have been transformed into self-supporting museums, theirs is still currently occupied by some descendants and hence, not open to the public.

Nearby churches and belltowers are a testament to how entrenched the Spanish colonizers were in these parts. The Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral within the town plaza is one of the oldest in the region and was constructed with the blood and sweat of Filipinos coerced into Forced Labor by the Spaniards. Read any Filipino history book and know that many uprisings occurred in the region, including the Panay revolt of 1663 started by a babaylan turned Christian named Tapar.

Near the very modern Government and Business Center and Villareal Stadium is another park with memorials to Capiz’ war heroes. One image on horseback is a tribute to General Esteban Contreras who rebelled against the Spanish and American colonizers with a motley crew of peasants. An obelisk-like structure as well as a smaller memorial with embossed names are dedicated to the heroes and victims of the Japanese Occupation in the 1940s. In fact, the nearby Capiz National High School with its famous 48-step staircase was once used as a Japanese garrison. Quite aptly, the office of the regional vice-president of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines is located nearby.

Since I am allergic to most crustaceans, it took more than seafood for Capiz to impress me. But with its rich historical and cultural traits, as well as its natural beauty, I was completely enamored.

My Toni and Baby IV

Being in my early 40s, I finally made like Brad Pitt and became a parent. Of course that began with finding my own Angelina Jolie first. Right, Toni? 😉  But I think my own Dad was roughly my age when I was born to him and my Mom. Funny that my partner, Toni is around my Mom’s age then, and we laugh about the many parallels we share with them now.

My Dad used to joke that he was already having court hearings at Vigan’s city hall while my Mom was a high school student playing volleyball at nearby St. Paul’s campus in the 1960s. Meanwhile, I told Toni my first visit to Tuguegarao was in the early 2000s when I was with the National Amnesty Commission giving out amnesty grant certificates to former NPAs. I visited their Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral and marvelled at the old house at a street corner where young Paulinians kept walking by. How was I supposed to know that was her Lola’s home and she could be one of those cute colegialas I was ogling.

My parents had a 12-year age difference, while Toni and I have 13 years between us. Could that be a problem, you ask? Didn’t bother my parents then, and so far it hasn’t been an issue with Toni and myself. Her youth brings energy and laughter to our relationship, while my maturity hopefully gives a bit of stability and wisdom to our partnership.

Like my Mom who came into a built-in family since my Dad had four young children from his previous marriage, I too became an instant parent with Toni’s 2 year old baby girl. And just as my step-brothers and sisters treated my Mom, I don’t think it matters to baby IV if I didn’t really have a biological participation in her coming into this world. She’s only concerned if I willingly wake up in the middle of the night to prepare her another bottle of milk, or if I help her mommy change her stinky diapers each time she soils them, and if I come home to them from work every day. And that explains why both baby and mommy don’t like it so much if I travel too long – they have separation anxiety and it disrupts their daily schedule of joining me for breakfast and of waiting for me for dinner.

I honestly enjoy all the travelling associated with my official work and various advocacies. But lately, I am hesitant to leave for any trips that will involve more than 2 days. Although I still get excited about visiting new places, I always end up wishing Toni was with me and I couldn’t wait to go back home to see my little girl.

Yes, there is a great “slowing down” happening in my life right now, but it doesn’t mean my world has stopped spinning or that my environment has “shrunk”. Parenthood just opened up new doors for me and my everyday life is like a merry-go-round and ferris’ wheel all rolled into one. Baby IV has us on a dizzying cycle of milk bottles, diaper changes, baths, feeding, and play times. There are lots of highs and lows of quality family bonding time at home, field trips to the zoo, emergency visits to the doctor, and pressure from extended expenses. Our bedroom once sacred and devoted to sleep and “sexy time” is now a venue for ruckus and rumpus even at 12 midnight. And as she is quickly growing up on us, she has learned to pick her own dresses and shop for her own shoes. Yup, she is already “Imeldific” at age 2 and a half.

 Yes, I have officially entered middle-age and my life is crazy, happy right now.

On My 43rd

This year’s birthday affirmed so many things for me and reminded me again what this singular life is made of. Once a year you get to look back and be grateful for being born on this earth, and you remember  the important things. This year, I am especially thankful for my family, Toni and baby IV, and all the wonderful possibilities there is yet to come.

Not all of my birthdays were happily spent, mind you. While I remember awesome celebrations of my youth like that costume party on my 7th birthday, and the unique “come-as-you-are”- themed debutante’s ball on my 18th, there were also great upheavals occurring on the eve of my natal day. There was the time I had to leave home and make it on my own, thereby cancelling a scheduled birthday party. There was a relationship break-up as well, that couldn’t have come at a more opportune occasion.

There were also at least three (3) birthdays I had to be on the road for work. There was that time the  Office sent me to La Union to conduct a Fact-Finding Investigation, another time I was sent to Region X for a KALAHI-CIDDS gender monitoring-exposure trip, and just last year, I was in Palawan to lecture on RA9994 to my dear senior citizens. At some point, the local officials took pity on me and threw me a bone. Then-FO X Regional Director Ester Versoza sent me to Camiguin island to cheer me up for my birthday in 2003, and the local social welfare officer of Puerto Princesa managed to arrange for us to visit the Underground River even if the tour was fully booked in May 2012.

Every year, my physical body has several reminders for me too –  a few more gray hairs on my head that needs to be dyed, that seeming proclivity for early bedtimes after skipping those late night outs, and that inevitable reliance on maintenance drugs to control my hypertension and high blood sugar.  These are gentle reminders of our mortality and why we must make each day count before our final exit. I accept this with great humility as evidence of time passing.

The amount of birthday greetings one receives is also a glaring proof of how many people you have met in this life and who actually remember you fondly. This is true even for your own family members and close friends. Your siblings and cousins may forget to greet you, but the one person you owe a tribute to is the woman who gave birth to you. I’ve known Moms who forget to greet their own child, but on my birthdays, the first person I always remember to call is my Mom. I always get her something to celebrate with – flowers or her favourite seafood goodies. So notice how my Facebook photos always features her every May 28th.

And speaking of greetings, I have been fortunate to have “lived many lives” in my 40-something years. I treasure all the people I’ve met, all the places I’ve been to, and each and every life I’ve come to know. I marvel at how old classmates from high school re-surface just to greet me, how sorority sisters and fraternity brods from college who manage to re-connect with me after all these years, friends from law school who sneaked in a little time from their admittedly very busy work schedules for a short greeting. Know that like everyone else accumulating the years, when there is a seeming dearth of true friends, these bday greetings from all over the world are nevertheless deeply appreciated by yours-truly.

For me, every birthday is living proof of life and love – how it touches and changes us. So never make it about just the years passing, remember to make it a celebration of life.