Sunday, January 25, 2009

Letters to Marge (Chapter 6): Everything in Due Time, and Money Can’t Buy Everything

My Dear Marge...

So I’ve mentioned the wedding of the Garcias. We had to bring you along since your nanny was just on her way back from Baguio after a round of chicken pox. So yeah, it was technically your first formal event.

But that’s not the highlight of this entry.

The highlight was when I was carrying you around, and we stopped at a corner where some toddlers were running around and playing. You were craning and spinning your head about, looking at the kids playing, and you were smiling at them, while cheerfully gurgling. When I put you down, you were happily flapping your arms the way you do whenever you were happy or excited, or both. You were also leaning in various directions and stomped your feet a bit, the way you do when you move in your walker.

I so wanted to see you running around and playing with the children. If only I could buy a couple of years to make you old enough to walk, run and play about. But this time, your grandmother’s money can’t do a thing. Sooner or later, I see it anyways. So you, your mother and I are just going to have to be a wee bit more patient.

Which brings me to this entry’s two lessons:

Lesson Number One above will be extremely applicable to you because you’re a girl. And hopefully, in the future, when your hormones start running about and working themselves up, you will know that making love should also be done in due time.
Like that time when you wanted to run about, I could have let you go and crawl around. But that would’ve hurt you, and you weren’t ready for it at all. So I held on to you while you stood smiling and giggling as things went on. I didn’t let you go.

But one day I’ll have to.

One day, I’ll have to start letting you go and watch you play about. Standing just a few steps away to pick you up, in case you fall. Please know that I always will. But I also hope you will know within yourself when the time is right for certain things, so that when you fall, you won’t fall so hard that you can’t pick yourself up.

But I will always be a few feet away in case you do.

As for Lesson Number Two, the Beatles have a number one song about what money can’t buy. But some things like the right time, an additional two years, along with brain and muscle development, and such are things beyond my control to give to you. Toys R’ Us won’t mean jack this time.

When you get older, and realize thankfully that you will grow into a family of relatively comfortable affluence, you may occasionally feel invincible. It’s quite heady, frankly. I sometimes find myself defiantly looking at some things other children have, thinking that should you eventually want those things, I can buy them for you.

But that night, I couldn’t buy you two year old legs that can run about and play.

So I defer back to Lesson Number One. Hopefully, you will, too.

Catch you later…



Letters to Marge (Chapter 5): Two New Year Birdies and One Guy Stoned… (Holidays Times Two for You)

Dear Marge…

As I write this, your grandfather is royally pissed at me (and most probably at your mother, too).

But before I get around to explaining that rather usual occurrence above, I would like to let you know that being half-Chinese, you get two New Years. Yep, count ’em. TWO. The first one is the one with a Catholic Mass, supposedly lots of food at midnight, a nominal degree of fireworks (which you should leave for others to handle while you watch the skies from afar), and the replacement of your wall calendars (if you’re using them, by the time you read this). That one is considered a rather more universal New Year and follows what is referred to as the Gregorian calendar. This happens every January First.

The other New Year has become semi-universal due to the fact that the fucking Chinese are everywhere (yes, you and me included, kiddo…). It’s called… What else? CHINESE NEW YEAR! This one’s got a lot of frills on it. There’s Dragon Dancing, Pasty Rice Cake Giving (a.k.a. “Tikoy”), and an obsession with things red, gold and round. This one is a little trickier to schedule since it requires what is called a “Chinese” calendar, or sometimes referred to a “lunar” calendar.

"...there has been some undeniable drifting between me and your grandfather for too long..."

As a child, Chinese New Year usually meant that uncles, aunts, and grannies hand out little red envelopes containing a bit of money (a.k.a. “Ang-Pao” with “Ang” meaning red, and “Pao” meaning wrap, or pack). So as a child, Chinese New Year usually ended with me and the rest of the cousins with pockets bulging with red paper and moolah. But for most of my adult life, I usually neglect anticipating the second New Year above. Although there is an easy reminder in that your Great Grandmother was born on New Year’s Day according to the Chinese calendar. So that’s a cool two celebrations in one, supposedly. Until your grandfather and his siblings started having one petty quarrel after another (and I mean PETTY), then the whole Grand Golangco Get-Together started going downhill… Slowly turning first into some sad masquerade party, and currently little more than the sad echoing of two or three glasses clinking empty toasts amid stories of past family glory, and looking for other people’s misery to feel better about themselves.

In most Asian countries, Chinese New Year is a humongous deal. And usually means that in the two weeks revolving around Chinese New Year’s Day, expect to not have transactions with countries like Singapore, Taiwan, China (d-uh!), Indonesia, too (I think), and other similarly chinky eyed populaces.

But anyways, my point is that today I was in a bit of error. Your grandfather sounded very disappointed that we didn’t make a single iota of effort to see him today, which is a Sunday happening to be the eve of Chinese New Year. And instead chose to devote the entire day’s efforts on the next-door neighbor’s wedding, which was scheduled at 2pm. In retrospect, we should have at least taken him out to a brunch or something.

In my defense (and your mother’s), there has been some undeniable drifting between me and your grandfather for too long. And I grew up with him justifying many things with a simple statement that “He said so.” I never bought that for some reason. And while we don’t necessarily take the effort to avoid him, we honestly don’t do too much in making time to see him. But I suppose today was different. It IS Chinese New Year, after all.

In the future, as you grow older, we’ll be going through many different holidays and traditions that you may not readily understand. But please do ask. I promise I will take the time to explain things, how these traditions came about, what they mean, the stories behind them (sometimes they’re even amusing), and if it’s important to me and to our family, I would like to ask that you try and give it a get go.

To paraphrase a line from “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward…”

Catch you later, kiddo…



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The No-Cost Phone Upgrade

A couple of nights ago, while preparing to leave for the bus station for my ride to Baguio City, I transferred a nice photo of Marge happily shrieking at the camera last Christmas Eve.

And just like that, whenever I look into the screen of my crusty three year old Nokia, with the model number I can’t even remember, I’m looking at a million bucks.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Letters to Marge (Chapter 4): Make No Wasted Moments

Greetings, Margaret…

As I write this, I am five days late from greeting you a Happy First New Year! You are running through the eighth month of your young and smiling life right now…

And to illustrate how beautiful, but fleeting life is. I would like to share with you a lovely video I stumbled upon online:

Which brings me to this entry’s lesson: MAKE NO WASTED MOMENTS

Life is short enough as it is. Assuming you will live a life of reasonable health, you may live to see around ninety years. But for most fast-paced lifestyles that involve Quarter-Pounders with Cheese, instant noodles, foods with ingredient lists as long as half a page of the phone book, radioactive appliances and a lot of other dangerous things, some things prop up by the mid-fifties. Things like tumors, high blood sugar, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow, or whatever it is that may be killing yours truly right now… err… there’s quite a bit, but let’s move on…

I originally intended to tell you to “enjoy every minute of your life as much as you can.” But looking back through my own life, I can’t honestly say I enjoyed every moment. At this point, I won’t really change a single thing from my past. But having said that, every so often I take stock of what has made me what I’ve become. And in most cases, I can remember something that happened that shaped how I would face the things that came my way.

Of course, some moments were simply passing through, but even they meant something. Probably a breather of sorts, little moments when I catch my breath and take a quick look around me. But simply put, good memories are kept to be enjoyed over and over. The not-so-good ones are there for us to learn from.

When you try something and fail. Don’t think for a moment you wasted your time. But hold on to that failure and study the many ways you can avoid it in the future.

I’ve always believed that every single person’s life is a full life depending on what we choose to see, to hear, to feel and to keep for the rest of the time that we have remaining on this earth.

In a nutshell, your time can only be wasted if you either don’t enjoy it, or don’t learn anything from it. But always know that time only moves forward, so make every moment count in even the tiniest ways.



Friday, January 2, 2009

Letters to Marge (Chapter 3): The Distance Between...

Hi, Marge…

Ready for more history? Rhetorical question really, since I intend to blabber on… hope you stay logged on…

* * * * *

There was a period I remember when your grandmother would take me and your uncles to different hotels and have snacks at their coffee shops. Usually on Saturday afternoons. The ones we frequented were the Westin Philippine Plaza (now called the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Heaven only knows what these hotels will be named after x number of years…).

There was something cute in the Intercontinental Hotel or “Intercon” for short. (Yes, it’s still called the Intercon…) Their coffee shop was called “the Jeepney.” And more than any fancy hamburger, what set it apart was that they had jeepney cabs for dining booths. These cabs were open on either side, and had dining tables between the seat rows. You have to understand that for a kid like me, the food didn’t mean much. But the jeep cabs… now those were cool. If there were no jeep cabs available, I threw a tantrum like the brat that I was and refused to sit at a regular table. Although I believe they ultimately made me do so sooner or later… I may have been bratty, but I didn’t always get what I wanted.

Let’s fast forward a bit to the time after your grandmother hastily left the country (more on that later… maybe… or maybe not… ask your mother), and me and your uncles were left with Fely (the long time “major doma”), the revolving door of tutors (the most memorable one bring Elizabeth Lim, who gave more advice and lessons than the actual homework required), the revolving door of drivers (most notably, Edsel Lopez, who left and came back after a few years in time to give me my first few hours behind a steering wheel), and of course, your grandfather.

"...It was in those times that I leaned a lot on my classmates... with whom I have thankfully built friendships that have lasted me for over two dozen years and counting..."

Now your grandfather was (is) a rather mixed bag. In retrospect, I must state on record that your grandfather is a good man by most standards. But a good father he wasn’t. There, I’ve said it. That’s officially off my chest and out into cyberspace… so if you notice a bit of distance between me and him, just feel free to ask me or your mother about it. But all things aside, I am still ready and willing to throw him a line if he needs it.

During very much of my early teen years when your grandfather could have capitalized and become my friend, he was mostly out. I honestly didn’t wonder much about where he supposedly spent those evenings. Frankly, he and I hadn’t gone through enough in the “together” kind of way for me to truly have missed him in those times. I would credit those to him trying to find some solace from your grandmother’s estrangement. At least, that’s what I’m desperately trying to hammer into my own head.

It was in those times that I leaned a lot on my classmates (almost all of whom are your godparents), with whom I have thankfully built friendships that have lasted me for over two dozen years and counting at the time of this writing. (more on friendships later, girl…) Your Uncles Pom and Wilson were still too young for me to lean on them at that time.

I also looked up a lot to your Uncle Jan Gary Golangco (my cousin in the first degree), who was the big brother I never had and truly needed at that point in my life. He also gave me a lot of hand me downs from clothes to things like perfume and stuff since your grandfather rarely took your uncles and me shopping for stuff. Your Uncle Jan practically guided me through much of my adolescence. But this sort of thinned out when he got married and was pretty wrapped up with getting his life on track. Thankfully as of this writing, he’s been doing great.

There’s a lesson here that I must preach, despite only barely succeeding (if at all…) at practicing. No matter what he has and hasn’t done, your grandfather is still my father. Love is supposedly inherent. But if it isn’t, then at the very least, people deserve to be treated like people. This is where you will learn that I am not the totally nice guy I sometimes seem. But I’m trying. Seriously.

But this is all getting too serious. Will cut this short and move on to lighter things…

Catch you later, girl…