Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sleigh Ride

According to Wikipedia...
"Sleigh Ride" is a popular light orchestral piece composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948.

Although "Sleigh Ride" is often associated with Christmas, and often appears on Christmas compilation albums, the song's lyrics never specifically mention any holiday or religion except certain "Sleigh Ride" versions (the Carpenters and Air Supply being examples). In fact, the mention of pumpkin pie in the last verse might suggest an association with Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.

My favorite holiday song is the instrumental version as arranged by the great Leroy Anderson. It is such a delight to finally have a visual of what produced all the beautiful sounds. To my non-musician ears, the perfect orchestration of violins, bells, cellos, trombones, trumpets, xylophones, and a "clapper" is a whimsical display of Anderson's musical genius. The horse whinny near the end came from a trumpet called glissando; which never fails to bring a smile to my face.

The uplifting and energizing musical interlude is a perfect accompaniment during a cold weekday morning drive to work. Something shifts in the air as the music ushers a season meant to bring cheers and fun. Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, one cannot help being buoyed by the excitement that songs like "Sleigh Ride" bring.

The giddy, happy feeling that the song conveys, even if just for the duration of the song, is certainly welcome during these trying times. Finger-tapping good. The kind that makes you wish you can conduct the orchestra yourself.

In 2011, Sleigh Ride was voted the most popular holiday song.

The charming lyrics by Mitchell Parish paint a great picture of a sleigh ride over snow-covered roads a la Currier and Ives. Although I'm a fan of the versions by the Carpenters and Johnny Mathis, the instrumental version is the quintessential feel-good holiday song for me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Not Feeling Guilty About Guilty Pleasures

If something gives me pleasure, why should I feel guilty?

According to Wikipedia (another guilty pleasure), a guilty pleasure is "something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it". The "guilt" involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.

Excuse me, but I don't consider my tastes "low-brow"; it's just that others do not have the same good taste that I have. Really, no accounting for taste. (Picture me clicking my fingers with an attitude.)

Young ones mistakenly think that they need to conform to be cool. But in my maturity and wisdom, I can finally claim my God-given right to state my own opinions and proclaim them to the whole wide world without fear of repercussions, without any embarrassment, or a dip in my social standing... what the heck, I deserve my guilty pleasures.

So dear readers, these are my favorite things:

1. Korean Telenovelas-

Watching Korean dramas till dawn (even though I had school papers to write early this year) and reliving lost youth with sweet romances and naivete, albeit with subtitles.

For full measure, I even had the audio turned up just to hear their voices. "Saranghae" (I love you) sounds more romantic in Korean. Lee Min Ho, Lee Dong Wook, Jo Hyun Jae... all gorgeous and unfortunately, too young. ( Ah, to be 18 again).

2. Harry Potter-

I am a Muggle and I'm proud of it. Magic and sorcery woven with masterful and imaginative brushstrokes by welfare mom- turned cultural icon J.K. Rowling. More bonding through reading, I shared Harry, Ron, and Hermione with my son through seven books, most of which I devoured in one night way ahead of my son... just to explain the eye bags the day after.

3. Books- check out my design template

By my modest approximation (and a big dent to my finances), I have close to a thousand books in my home, half of which are unfortunately packed in boxes waiting for that time when I have a bigger house.

My future library will have wall-to-wall shelves that will be bulging with my classics collection- some Agatha Christie and Jane Austen novels, and certainly none of that brain-numbing-torture-from-highschool Shakespeare nor Tolstoy for me.

My eclectic collection will display my fascination with numerous authors especially Angelou, Keillor, Koontz, Sparks, Roberts, Baldacci, Meyer, Higgins Clark, Grisham, Cornwell, Albom, Sheldon, and that queen of humor, Bombeck.

It all started at age 16 of extreme addiction to Mills and Boon romances with their British maidens and dashing foreign-born heroes; flashback to those nights spent under covers with a flashlight just so as not to disturb my mom.

No Kindle for me. Why spoil the pleasure of smelling the books and of putting dog ears on the pages (to the utmost consternation of my son who hates putting dog ears on books) ?

Addendum: 6/12/14. Argh! I have succumbed to the temptation of convenience. Finally got a Kindle and loaded up on books since I have no time to go to bookstores anymore. On rare occasions, I have managed to sneak to the neighborhood CVS stores to buy books that I can smell and dog-ear.

4. Old-time crooners
Perry Como, Matt Monroe, and Andy Williams were respected vocalists of eras gone by, when the singing was seemingly effortless and their intonations impeccable. When the crooners looked debonair and suave in suits, or in Williams' case, sweaters. No low-waist pants with crotches on their knees worn by hip-hop artists of today (shudders). For the record... these gentlemen were actually before my time.

Listen to Perry Como's "And I Love You So". Close your eyes and let the melodious voice envelop you like a warm embrace. Sigh.

5. Norman Rockwell

One of my prized possessions was a gift of an over-sized Norman Rockwell book from a friend (Thanks, Fe-pot). According to filmmaker Steven Spielberg, “Rockwell painted the American dream — better than anyone.”

My mouth watered at the glorious illustrations of Americana. His vivid portraits of everyday life graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. I had dreamed of following in his footsteps, until my rude awakening that I can't draw bodies, only faces.

6. Food- "I see food, I eat"

Can't get the Thai Crunch salad from California Pizza Kitchen out of my mind: Interesting flavors with fried wonton strips, fried rice strips, avocado, cabbage, carrots, scallions, cucumber, cilantro, edamame and peanuts with lime-cilantro and Thai peanut dressing.

Yummy!!! Never mind that this salad staggers with 1460 calories!!!

I'm not guilty!!!!! I'm pleased. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Changing Seasons (a short [dog] story)

Dedicated to BROWNIE.

She felt the first cold lick and thought she was just dreaming. Bel woke with a start and saw a pair of big, brown eyes looking back at her. Brown fur glistened in the sun as woman and dog studied each other. He looked like a beagle but had that long body and short legs of a dachshund .

"Hey, doggie, where did you come from?"

Bel looked around the lawn cemetery for the dog's owner. There was no other living human in sight. The green lawn was dotted with bronze and granite headstones but there was no other car in the sections around her . Maybe he's the caretaker's dog.

Bel was a regular visitor to the cemetery ever since her husband Mike died after a long, drawn-out battle with bone cancer. Towards the end of his life, Mike tried to prepare Bel by pushing her back to the social scene and got her to promise that she will go on with her life.

That was 3 years ago, and Bel was still mourning. Her sadness was so profound that she just went with the motions of living to allay her parents' worries; still able to do her job as a nurse in the local hospital, but the joy had disappeared in her life.

On Saturday mornings, she had tried to schedule shopping and other errands but always found herself driving the 15 minutes to the cemetery. She usually spent one hour at Mike's gravesite, with her portable chair and the latest book by her favorite authors. When Mike was still living, they used to spend Saturday mornings just lounging in the den with their respective books. Mike's grave was lovingly tended with impatiens and chrysanthemums planted on the base of the headstone.

The dog claimed her attention when he rubbed against her hand. The dog immediately nuzzled against her knee, then offered his belly for the obligatory rub.

Bel studied the dog again. His lips were curved as if in a smile and his eyes appeared to twinkle as if he found her stare amusing.

"What's your name? Who's your owner?" Not really expecting an answer, Bel was surprised when the dog padded over to the next grave and sat in front of the marker of a woman named Barbara. Bel often wondered about Barbara's visitor. They've never met but there were always fresh roses on the grave. Glancing at the marker, Bel realized that Barbara was only thirty years old when she died.

The dog barked softly and started walking away from the graves. Thinking that he was finding his way back to the caretaker's office, Bel waved goodbye at the dog then turned to say her own goodbye to Mike.

Another bark made her turn around. The dog seemed to be waiting for her. As she walked towards him, the dog started to wag his tail happily. As Bel bent down to scratch the dog's ears, he just leapt into her arms and started licking her face.

It was a gray, dreary, and chilly late October morning when she arrived at 10 o'clock in the morning. In just one hour, it had become much warmer, and the bright sun reigned bright in the cloudless sky. Bel breathed in the crisp air as she stood in an almost postcard-perfect autumn day.

Although the grave markers around her should have created an eerie and incongruous sight against a backdrop of red and gold leaves from the maple and dogwood trees, they had somehow created an ethereal but peaceful display of life's reality. Death surrounded her but the beauty of living still manifested itself in the vibrant colors of the fall foliage. The changing seasons reaffirmed life in the midst of sadness; after the fall comes winter, spring, summer, then fall again. Life goes on.

The panorama before her brought a sense of peace and happiness. The beauty of the autumn colors transformed her. Just as these feelings washed over Bel, she felt her depression lifting away as the tears flowed freely down her cheeks. The tears were not of sadness, but allowed her the catharsis for the grief that had trapped her for three years. As she looked into the dog's eyes, she remembered Mike's insistence for her to find a new love. She had nodded her agreement to placate her dying husband, but in her heart, she felt her emotions draining from her heart. She had thought then, "How can I love another one man when I have given you all my love?"

The dog snuggled closer to Bel. As she felt the dog's warm fur tickling her nose, Bel started to giggle uncontrollably. The unfamiliar sound of laughter bubbled out of her until she fell back on the green grass. The dog was running around in circles, his tail wagging in sync with Bel's laughter. She had not felt as light-hearted and as carefree for many years now.

Bel crouched in front of Mike's marker. Mike had always been the optimist; and he would not have approved of the cloak of sadness that Bel had wrapped herself after his death. At that moment, she realized that she needed to move on. She had finally freed herself. She realized that there was no guilt in finding joy in unexpected places.

In the caretaker's office, the receptionists did not have any idea who the dog belonged to. Bel was the first visitor to the cemetery that day, and the residential and business areas were much farther away. When Bel suggested that she wanted to leave the dog in the office just in case the owner comes back, both ladies reluctantly refused because they were leaving for a party after their shift.

Bel was forced to keep the dog with her, but left a brief note in the caretaker's office. She didn't write a description of the dog, just her office number.

In the car, the dog dutifully sat on the front passenger side. Driving back to her house, Bel kept a running commentary of the stores they passed. The dog did not bark throughout the ride, but looked at her with the same strange expression that she could only interpret as a smile.

"Doggie, you need a name. Just can't keep you calling Doggie until your owner shows up. How about... uhmm... Brownie?" Bel chuckled at the unimaginative name.

Brownie showed his approval by barking twice and moved his head up and down.

The days passed without any word from Brownie's owner. Bel had been in telephone contact with the receptionists from the cemetery office. There were no inquiries about a lost dog. Bel even left a note in the local ASPCA.

Brownie settled happily in their routine. During her work days, Bel dropped the dog at her parents' home for the day. Coming home had become the highlight of her day as Brownie welcomed her with unabashed joy. Ignoring the treats she had given him, Brownie's attention was focused on his "temporary" master regaling Bel with his frantic runs around the house. After drifting aimlessly through life in the past 3 years, Bel finally had someone who needed her. As the bond forged between her and Brownie, she dreaded finding the dog's owner.

Winter 2009

The new Bel had weaned herself from visiting the cemetery frequently. It was a month later that Bel visited Mike's grave with Brownie. It was only late November but the ground was covered in fresh snow. The bare trees and the snow icicles hanging from the branches created a magical scene straight out of a Currier and Ives winter scene.

Bel brushed the snow from Mike's marker, and somehow, ended up brushing the snow on the next grave, Barbara's. Her flowers from a month before were buried by 3 inches of snow. After a few minutes, Bel decided to leave, but noticed that Brownie was circling around her as if he still wanted to play.

She slipped on the snow and fell on her back facing the bright blue sky. Brownie sat on her chest, with his now-familiar expectant face. His tail thumped heavily on her sides; clearly, he wanted to play. Feeling playful and unusually happy, Bel spread her arms on the fluffy, powdery snow and created her Snow Angel. Brownie jumped around her as Bel abandoned all inhibitions and relived her childhood memories.

Life is beautiful. No worries, no grief. Just happiness at finding hope again.

She dreamt that she was in the middle of winter wonderland; her dog was frolicking on the snow as she continued to play Snow Angel. Bundled up in heavy winter clothes complete with scarf, gloves and hat, Bel was completely comfortable. The disturbed snow flew around her and she stuck her tongue out to taste the snowflakes. Brownie resumed his position on her chest and watched Bel curiously . Then at the sound of an approaching car Brownie stirred and barked excitedly.

Mortified, Bel sat up suddenly. Her words of caution died on her lips when Brownie bolted straight into the arms of a man.

"Max, where have you been? I've been looking all over for you! I miss you."

Bel sat transfixed in her spot. Brownie is really Max? And his owner is here to claim my baby? Am I going to lose Brownie?

The man was tall, with a kind and handsome face. He stared curiously at Bel before he came to her and offered his hand.

"My name is Jack. The receptionists in the office told me that you found my dog. I never thought to look for him here because we live one town away." Jack hugged Brownie/Max, ruffling the dog's fur with undeniable affection.

When the wind picked up, Bel's beret fell off her head and her hair flew wildly around her face. Not normally self-conscious, Bel felt embarrassed at the picture she presented, with her red cheeks and nose and snow all over her. She tried to get up from her sitting position, but kept on slipping down. She finally accepted a helping hand from the amused Jack.

Jack deposited his bouquet of flowers on Barbara's grave. "My wife. Max's original owner." Surprised, Bel looked at the dog, but he seemed more interested in chewing the fringes on her beret.

Bel relayed the story of finding "Brownie" and how the dog had changed her life. The question of how the dog ended up miles away from home and at Barbara's grave remained unanswered. Brownie (or Max) was happily ensconced in Jack's arms while Bel spoke. Her voice broke a little at the end. The dog moved over to Bel's lap; he must have sensed her growing agitation about their forthcoming separation.

Jack looked at Bel for a minute, then he smiled, "I guess we should discuss joint custody arrangements."

PS. Our own Brownie had been a delight and a treasure since he came into our lives, but now, we mourn his passing. We miss him so much. 9/8/2012

Part 2:

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Where have I been? I could have used a pick-me-up during one of those lousy mornings. I just discovered the Awesome blog (

It is a countdown of 1000 awesome things, those simple joys that make you smile and say "awww". This feel-good blog was launched in 2008 and had spawned a best-selling book, "The Book of Awesome" and had garnered the Webby Award.

The writing is optimistic without being saccharine, a much-needed antidote for cynicism and a welcome reminder of the simple pleasures that we sometimes overlook or take for granted.

This post evoked several responses. This is my favorite.

"Seeing old people holding hands is a simple expression of long lasting affection that fills our hearts with hope. They show us a future world exists of tied-together hearts and long lives lived with someone we love.

This cover song of a John Lennon classic by Mary Chapin Carpenter is a fitting tribute to a lifetime of love.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Soldier, the Nurse, and the Skyline Pigeon

He had only one eye. And he was my real big crush as a 19 year-old student nurse in a military hospital in the Philippines.

It was our group’s clinical orientation at the Plastic Surgery ward. The patients in that unit usually stayed longer than those in the acute surgical units as they awaited reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation treatments.

The horrors of war with the insurgents in Southern Philippines rendered the soldiers with varying degrees of disfigurements, limbs lost and faces marked with the weapons of war. They had barely survived their physical injuries but their emotional scars ran deeper. Most of the soldiers were mostly the young recruits who had been ill-prepared in battle warfare. Their lives were forever changed.

The clinical instructor warned us that the patients were eagerly anticipating the new batch of student nurses that were assigned to the unit, each one of them ready to move on to their new crushes. In other words, the new group of nurses was “fresh meat” who brought much-needed excitement and distraction to the soldiers from their otherwise boring and mundane existence.

Our tasks included dressing changes and wound and stump care. Our most important mission: to provide cheer and hope in a unit full of men depressed by inactivity and uncertainty. The student nurses were the “happy pills”. We were the bright points during the patients’ stay in the hospital.

Mr. Bernabe cautioned us against being too friendly with the patients and that we should accept their fawning praises with a grain of salt. Any nurse caught accepting the advances of the soldiers would be suspended. And so, on our first day at the unit, we armed ourselves with our professional smiles and our firm but polite “Sorry, I can’t go out with you. I have a boyfriend already.”

My first assignment in the Treatment Room started auspiciously as the grouchy regular nurse whined about the endless tasks that she had to do. Mr. Bernabe placated Lt. Morales by assuring her that “Miss Cerrudo will take over the dressings today. So don’t worry. I will be supervising her.”

Not surprisingly, my first three patients all tried to pepper me with personal questions about my “boyfriend”. Just as I was ready to call for the next patient, I heard someone ask my instructor who was at the door to get the regular nurse instead. He was a little sullen and did not want a student nurse tending to his eye. I felt my ears getting red as he questioned my instructor about my skills. Bless his heart, Mr. Bernabe vouched for my academic knowledge and technical prowess.

At that moment, our instructor was summoned by another nurse to another treatment area. Despite my earlier resolve, I was fuming mad and intended to give the rude patient a piece of my mind about his pissy attitude. I was tired, and did not appreciate how ungrateful that yet-unknown patient was.

I remember feeling a jolt of awareness when the patient came into the treatment room. He appeared awkward and uncomfortable. As I stood there in silence, he softly muttered, “I’m sorry.”

Psychology 101 made me realize that his gruffness was because of his sense of vulnerability. It must have been difficult for the man to be looked at, not with interest but with something akin to pity. Suddenly, I felt ashamed for not understanding so I nodded my acceptance of his apology and gave him a welcoming smile.

“Sammy” was a soldier whose left eye was enucleated from an injury in the battlefield in Cotabato. My assignment was to change the dressings on his empty left eye socket.

As we locked eyes, a shy smile broke into his dark, handsome face. His beautiful brown right eye was fringed with the longest lashes I’ve seen on a man. His strong jaw, aquiline nose and full lips combined to give him a rakish but a totally masculine look.

He sat dutifully on the chair as I stood over him and gingerly unwrapped the dressing over his left eye. A look of pain and embarrassment crossed Sammy’s face as he sat exposed with his hollow left eye socket.

As I ministered to him, he was observing me closely, searching my face for any sign of revulsion. But all I felt was a deep respect for the soldier and the man. Like all the other soldiers in the unit, Sammy had sacrificed his future in service of country.

A warm feeling suffused me as I watched him watching me. My cheeks felt warm and my heart palpitated. I was perplexed that I felt both relief and sadness when I finished the job. Sammy thanked me quietly. We both smiled at each other.

As we settled in the routine of the unit, our instructor allowed the nurses to engage the patients in free-wheeling but good-natured group discussions. The unit seemed more alive. Because the patients were forewarned that they will lose privileges if they disrespect the nurses, they were all in their best behavior.

My interactions with Sammy were limited to the dressing changes and the vital signs-taking. We were aware of each other. It was an exhilarating feeling for a 19-year old girl. Distracted by his proximity, I almost shot the mercury from the sphygomanometer.

He always managed to stay back in line for the daily dressing changes. As my last patient, he was able to linger a few more minutes in the treatment room and he began to open up about his wait for his prosthetic eye. As with all the other soldiers, he was not bitter about his injuries, and he was still committed to serve in the military. Sammy confided his dream of finishing his engineering studies. He also made sure that I was looking at his good side during our conversations.

In one of the treatment sessions, Sammy caught me humming the song “Skyline Pigeon” by Elton John. We shared a laugh as he corrected me when I mistakenly called it “Turn Me Loose”. It was a sweet moment. It was also the first time that I felt sad that our time together would soon end.

On the last day of our month-long clinical rotation, the patients gave us a surprise party. For a month, we distracted them from their mundane worries, made them laugh, and gave them hope. We were appreciated for the excitement we brought to the unit.

Sporting a black patch over his left eye, just like a handsome pirate, Sammy brought out his guitar and sang “our song”.

Turn me loose from your hands
Let me fly to distant lands
Over green fields, trees and mountains
Flowers and forest fountains
Home along the lanes of the skyway

The song is about a man’s yearning for his freedom; of flying towards his dreams. But I was the one flying away. As a young nurse, I was on the verge of a future in the United States. I wanted more , not only for myself, but also for my family.Somehow, Sammy understood.

Sammy’s voice soared earnestly. “Skyline Pigeon” is not a love song but it felt like one to me. I felt a lump in my throat. We’ve never talked about our feelings , but the song told me that he was letting me go. Then he winked at me.

Saying goodbye was difficult. Maybe his friends maneuvered it, but we found ourselves alone at the treatment room. He confessed that he was falling for me, but that he did not want to hold me back. I had told him before that I was planning to go to the States. It was not a right time for any romance.

That was more than 25 years ago. And today is Veterans’ Day. Maybe that’s why I am remembering him now, the soldier who sang an Elton John song to me.

Coincidence or not, actor Sam Milby appeared on my TV screen. The aquiline nose, the strong jaw, the full lips, and the incredibly beautiful eyes fascinated me.

The resemblance to Sammy was so uncanny. I hurriedly paused the videotape I was watching. Crouching in front of the TV, I put my hand over Sam’s left eye, imagined the soldier Sammy with his eye patch and it felt that I was transported back in time to that military hospital.

I wonder where he is now, Sammy, and his Skyline Pigeon.

November 11, 2010
Revised: March 20, 2012




Monday, November 1, 2010

Music: simple joys

I am a frustrated singer. As a Filipino, not being able to sing is a disadvantage during Karaoke time. Such a shame since I'm not known to be shy. My sister-in-law's beautiful voice is wasted on her because she would only sing at home and here I am just waiting for my spotlight. As a firm believer of using the talents God gave us, I thought that He played a joke on me. Oh well.

Here are the songs that I would have on my IPOD if I have one. They don't necessarily define me, but rather I choose them for the simple joys they bring. The songs range from the sweet, haunting melodies to the head-banging and who-cares-if-they-see-me-rocking kind of songs.

One August day, I was rocking to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" on the way to work minding my own business and singing at the top of my voice. Then seeing the look of amusement on the faces of two young men in the car next to me. It was a sight to behold, lol. I didn't know who was more embarrassed. Then at the end of the day, finding this in my inbox...just the funniest version with Niles from The Nanny rocking in his skivvies. Move over, Tom Cruise.

Karen Carpenter died too soon. I thought of this song "I Have You" when I saw an elderly couple walked hand in hand. And then I thought of lost loves and of what could have been.

"How Did You Know?"- by Gary Valenciano. The lyrics say it all. The poignant melody in a tear-jerker of a movie just rips into your heart. Fair warning,you can end up the next day with swollen eyes.

How did you know
I needed someone like you in my life
That there was an empty space in my heart
You came at the right time in my life

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen was made more intriguing by its ground-breaking promotional video. Accdg. to Wiki," the song has no chorus, instead consisting of three main parts: a ballad segment ending with a guitar solo, an operatic passage, and a heavy rock section." I don't care how weird Freddie Mercury was, but nobody can deny his genius. The audience just erupted into a massive sing-along. Talk about full audience participation.

"Kumusta Ka" by Nonoy Zuniga. My favorite Pinoy balladeer.

This Filipino song is a whimsical take of that awkward moment when former lovers meet after years apart. The man continues to pine after the woman; but he becomes tongue-tied and all he could say is "Kumusta ka?" (How are you?)

"All By Myself" by Charice- big things come in small packages. Thanks for You-Tube. I just gave her a standing ovation at home, never mind that my son and nieces just rolled their eyes at me again. The power and the confidence just astounds me...boom...boom...boom. You just realize that you have to pick up your jaw from the floor. She will be a true global superstar.

Louie Armstrong and his trumpet... just sexy. "La Vie En Rose" - oooh la la, sultry and hot.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tigadong, tigadong (Rosas Pandan)

I was surprised to find this marvelous rendition of "Rosas Pandan", a Visayan (Filipino) folkloric song by an Austrian chorale group. Seems like this piece had been covered by Russians, Chinese, Americans, and Koreans.

Rosas Pandan is a Cebuano folk song written by George Hernandez about a pretty mountain maid who loves to dance the balitaw. The vibrant melody and intricate harmonies lend to a joyous celebration of music that transcend differences in language.

5th world choir games gala concert lala vocalensemble Graz Austria

Moscow's Boy Choir

Associação Canto Coral Porto Alegre

Here's the original Rosas Pandan by the indomitable Pilita Corrales, Asia's Queen of Songs:

It has been a delight to see other international choirs embrace the beautiful melodies of Filipino folk songs.

Czech Choir sings "Ikaw" with Ateneo College Glee Club

Libera Choir performs "Bayan Ko"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections on 9/11

September 11,2010. New York

Nine years ago, I stood on the platform of a Manhattan-bound E train to spend my birthday morning at the bookstore cafe in World Trade Center. Just as the train was pulling into the station, something inexplicable gripped me. I turned around, crossed to the west-bound platform to the train back to home, to safety. I was given the chance to hug my son again.

September 11, 2001 started as just an ordinary day; clear, blue skies on a mild summer day in the normal hustle and bustle of New York City. Just an ordinary day suddenly pushed into the annals of history as the day when the world stood still and New York City went dark.

I was spared, and it made me much more grateful for the gift of life from God and for the chance to spend it with family and friends. Thank you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love Poems

Looking back at poems I've written during the 80's... those bittersweet romantic times of loves found and lost. Some maudlin sentiments.

Like the birds in the clear blue sky
I falter, yet never stop to fly.

Met a man, held eyes with him
I blushed and remembered feelings long forgotten
Something like ... deja vu.

Last night... I dreamed of you. and of us together
I reached back... retraced the path to our yesteryears
And I closed my eyes, just long enough to remember
Just long enough to cry.

I would catch myself staring blankly
And I would remember far beyond in time
Of wondrous moments, of that beautiful feeling
And oftentimes...
I would reprimand myself for being such a sentimental fool.

I wish you never loved me
I wish you never even cared
And at times, I wish we've never even met
For dear friend, it hurts to say "No"
And to know that things just couldn't be so.

I barricaded myself with insurmountable walls and built gates so high
Not wanting someone to break through my defenses...
So afraid to be exposed and let the world to see...
the nakedness of my spirit, the vulnerability of my soul, the weakness of my emotions
I don't want to be hurt again.

I found you
You found me
Why is it we found we're not for each other after all?

If I meet someone... how could I tell him that I have no more love to share?
How could I admit that all these emotions have been drained from me?

I dream of chasing rainbows
But they would disappear once I'm on the verge of touching them
And I would then dream of you chasing me offering a plate of little rainbows
I would then turn my back and continue chasing my own rainbows
And when I wake up
I think of you and me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Starting Over- (a short story)

"Go for it, Andy."

"Uncle Frank, mom thinks I should reconsider. I will be the only divorcee in the family."

"Life is too precious to waste on a scumbag. Start over."

Andrea "Andy" Guzman remembered this conversation from a year ago. Her uncle provided unwavering support when she divorced her philandering husband against the wishes of her ultra-religious family. Her mom's quiet recriminations hurt more than the breakdown of her marriage.

And now, three months after succumbing from a massive heart attack, Uncle Frank is still protecting his niece. He bequeathed his 3-bedroom Victorian house in North Carolina to Andy. He gave her a chance to start over.

A new home, a new life. The house is her safe haven from the bitter memories in New York. And as a nurse practitioner, she landed a job at the local hospital where her uncle used to be the supervising doctor. Tomorrow, the local contractor that her real estate agent had contacted is coming to talk about renovations for the house.

Andy groaned at all the unpacking facing her. The bedroom’s walk-in closet needed more shelves on the back wall. As she bent to retrieve her bag on the floor, her head hit the wall, and the wall gave way.

A door to another walk-in closet? A secret room? Andy groped for a wall switch. The room illuminated, it was as if she stepped onto a woman's boudoir. One side of the wall was a rack of stylish women's suits and signature bags. A full mirror reflected her confused look.

" Uncle Frank had a mistress?”. Not surprising since he was proud of his gigolo reputation. Judging by the quality of the clothes, his mistress led a busy social life, a 'fashionista'".

On a small desk near the door lay a keepsake box with a rich wood finish with her uncle's name engraved on the top. The box contained letters and poems in her uncle's and another person's handwriting.

Some letters were written by someone named Alex. "Probably, short for Alexandra.".

Andy skimmed through Alex's letters that spoke of stolen times and the writer's longing to "stop the pretense". Reading the emotional upheaval that the woman was going through, Andy wondered about the obstacles that she was writing about. The letters spoke of forbidden love, but also of the cherished memories shared with her 'soul mate'.

Alex wrote, "My son even noticed that I look happier when you are around. He understands what we are going through." It finally dawned on Andy that her uncle was carrying an affair with a married woman.

One note hinted of the couple’s matchmaking plans, "Your niece Andy has your kind eyes . I wish my son Jordan can meet her".

Just as suddenly, Alex's letters stopped. Then Uncle Frank started writing short poems. The family used to make fun of his writing skills describing his journalistic writings as methodical with military precision, and therefore devoid of emotions. He had always scoffed at maudlin sentiments.

Uncle Frank wrote, "Last night, I dreamed of you. I reached back... retraced the path to our yesteryears. And I closed my eyes, just long enough to remember, just long enough to cry. I embraced the pillow and pretended it was you. And now, it is too late."

Andy's heart skipped in fear of what's to come next.

A folded newspaper clipping revealed an obituary for a middle-aged man. It read of the passing of Alex Smith, respected newspaper columnist, and a divorced father of three from a car-crash a year ago. The picture was taken at a happier time. Alex had an engaging smile that reached up to his light-colored eyes.

Andy remembered her uncle’s distracted air as they strolled in Central Park a year ago. He advised, "Start over. And when you build your new life, make sure you leave room for love. When you finally found the love of your life, you have to fight for him."

Wrapped in her own misery, Andy had dismissed her uncle's agonized look as a reflection of her feelings. She did not know that his profound sadness was because of the loss of the love of his life.

Shocked by the revelation of her uncle's sexuality, Andy bemoaned his uncle's tortured existence. She cried herself to sleep. In her dream, her uncle's tentative expression changed to a grateful smile when she hugged him in total acceptance.

The next day, the contractor arrived to discuss the renovation project. He looked familiar. His blue eyes mesmerized Andy as he introduced himself.

"Hi, I'm Jordan Smith."

You remind me I live in a shell
Safe from the past and doin' okay but not very well
No jolts, no surprises, no crisis arises
My life goes along as it should
It's all very nice, not very good

And I'm ready to take a chance again
Ready to put my love on the line with you
Been livin' with nothing for show for it
You get what you get when you go for it
And I'm ready to take a chance again with you