Tito Monet

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I don’t like mortuaries. They smell like death, the rotting chemical humanness of death. And still, I found myself soundly asleep there for two consecutive nights.

Perhaps, it was Tito Monet’s way of giving comfort. After all, he is one of the few people who could make me feel homey in a place that cold; he has that effect. (And I’d like to think of it that way.)

Growing up, I’ve frequented their house with my siblings and he would always welcome us with a bright smile and an offer for merienda. He would kid my brother like a tito would a pamangkin, and his laughter would fill the room. He would check in from time to time and insert a joke here and there and I could tell, he was almost a carbon copy of my dad, their brand of humor alike. (It was a matter of being happy or making people happy for him).

He was also a solidifying force for every family gathering. Though he was away most of the time for work or for treatment, when he was in Lipa, he added an extra layer of fun (for the adults, especially for my dad). And, when his first apo, Leon, came into the picture, he became more lively, often insisting that Leon looked like him with his eyes closed.

During the times he was in Manila, I often heard stories about him from my dad and tita. They would tell me and my cousins about the times he would sneak out of the house and race my lolo’s car. Then, he’d climb the roof, wake my dad up and get back in the house through a window.

Sometimes, the stories were about rescues. He was the type of brother who was always there, always strong. My dad and tita always fell back on him. They knew that in whatever trouble they got into, Tito Monet would get them out.

Their stories, it painted me a picture of intensity, and so that was what Tito Monet became to me. He was intensely happy, intensely dependable and intensely kind.

For ten years- I couldn’t even remember that it’s been that long- he’s been fighting several life-and-death situations, from cancer to fractures. All throughout, he’s been enduring his pain and still projecting a cheery attitude. Never once did I hear him complain or blame God, and never once did I feel like he was already becoming hopeless because he always came through in the end. He was always recovering.

Like one of my cousins, Jude, said, one moment we’d find him walking with a cane and then we’d find him driving the next. (He fought real hard and you could tell, he wasn’t taken that easily.)

The hardest part about this experience is the ultimate loss of a good person and knowing that even he didn’t want to go just yet. It was his time and he probably is in his best state right now, no more suffering, but he’s been such a good presence that it would be very hard not to miss him. (The turnout during the wake and burial was proof; he made several meaningful connections in fifty or so years.)

What gets me by as consolation is the image of how I last saw him. There are a lot of reasons for me to try to forget that moment, one being how I saw a strong person like him really struggle, but I keep that in my heart because even when he was so exhausted, he still put an effort to tell us one joke (which I can’t remember). It showed that sickness cannot undo him; he is still himself despite all the hardships he’s been through.

Tito, wherever you are now, I hope you can see that your life has been spent well. You have touched so many lives and the lessons and stories you planted within us will continue to live on. Don’t worry about us. It may hurt now but we will get by, just as you have showed us to never give up and to keep fighting until the end.

Tito Monet, thank you very much.

 

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Happy One Month!

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Today’s blessing: A proof that Pollen exists everywhere

More than a month ago, I was riding on a bus to Buendia when I got the email that would shift the course of my life.

I wasn’t immensely happy when I got the message. If anything, I was conflicted. I knew I wasn’t prepared to uproot myself from the life I got so used to in Lipa, but at the same time, it felt like it was about time to do so.

Things were happening so fast and I had to make decisions (all in a span of a 30-minute bus ride). I was hesitant because there wasn’t exactly a manual in making the right choice and I’ve been putting off accepting any job offer because I was so afraid of messing up the start of my career.

It was always the what if for me – what if I had to wait for some other offer? What if this wasn’t what I really wanted? What if I don’t become happy?

In the end, it all came down to me wanting to get one foot out the door. I just wanted to get this next phase of my life started already. I want to get over the messy bits, to learn about the mystical corporate world and to do something.

Now here I am and I don’t even know how to describe what I’m feeling. (Honestly, now is only the second time I’m allowing myself to evaluate my feelings towards work ever since I got hired.)

It’s been a month. Wow. A lot has changed for this potato.

I remember being one week in and still holding my breath in the office because I was worried about breathing too loudly. I also used to sit on my hands to stop them from shaking and to put pressure on my feet to calm them down. I avoided eye contact because I wouldn’t be able to hold it. And I spoke softly, quietly. I was trying to exist as lightly as possible.

But, I guess, I can say that now, I’ve set my universals. I’ve established my routine and my comfort zone here in Makati (and because of that, I’m ready to break them.)

I have an idea on what to do and I’m not afraid of just being myself anymore. I sing out loud (that’s the ultimate cue of comfort). I laugh and hang out in places other than my portion of the room upstairs. I deliberately go down to just be around people. And I don’t worry as much as I did before.

I’ve opened up to the people too. I’ve let my walls down enough to share my stories, to be interested in getting to know them and to actually care about them. (By now, no matter how much I try to deny it, I know that I’m already attached to them.)

Looking at everything that has happened now, I realize that this one month isn’t a celebration of the first leg of my career. It’s not even about my first job. It’s about me growing up in a month and me learning from the path that God has led me to. It’s about being grateful for all the help and guidance that I’ve received early on and will be receiving from this point forward. It’s about life and the human will to thrive against challenges.

Work-wise, the load is already getting heavier. Life-wise, I’ve still got a lot to learn. Me-wise, so far, everything’s been an adventure.

Happy One Month to this working girl. Flowers can thrive in the city too. (Always be yourself and bring yourself wherever you go.)

The Doctor’s Dilemma: On Giving Advice

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Ninjas during our ninjanniversary

For several moments in my life, I often find myself listening to other people’s problems, comforting them and giving them advice. I relish in these moments because not only do I feel a sense of strengthened bond, but also, I am able to do what my heart has always been willing to do, help someone I love and care about.

In elementary and high school, I was known as the “love doctor” to some of my friends. Whenever they have emotional highs and lows about their crushes and partners, I’m the one they talk to. I didn’t have any experience back then (and until now) but they trusted my opinion because I can show them both sides of the coin, being an innocent bystander.

In college, I still retained that charm in some way. My friends know that I’m sensible enough to knock them to their senses whenever they go crazy over anything. I listen to them whole-heartedly and give them genuine and reasonable options (plural, because I try not to shove my ideas to them).

(By no means am I an expert in life or in the affairs of the heart. Maybe I just have a level head and a good ear and that’s why people tend to consult me.)

Part of me takes pride in my ability to be objective. I give advice based on the situation, the logic behind it, and most of the time, I try to remove myself from the situation in order to not to be biased. Because of that, I am able to see a wider spectrum of consequences and focus on the person who needs me. It helps me come up with what they need to hear (read as: what I need they think to hear).

The reason why I try to be objective as much as possible is because I care about the people so much that I just want to help the best way I can and I feel like doing so means balancing their emotional chaos with my reasoning. I have to be sensible for them and provide meaningful insight that they can’t see because their clouded by feelings. I’d be the stable one if they aren’t.

But recently, this way of giving advice seemed off to me. It felt, I don’t know, robotic. I found myself saying things that are different from what I want to say (because I felt like what I wanted to say wasn’t what they needed). It also felt dry and somehow repetitive because I found myself saying standard answers for similar situations. It didn’t feel like me.

One night, someone I cared about was asking advice about leaving. To me, I didn’t want that person to leave, but in a rational perspective, it was better if that person goes. How do you ask someone to stay if they have to go?

Another night, someone I cared about was feeling broken and hopeless. To me, I wanted to root for that person and urge that person to keep going, but logically, because of the situation, I thought that it would be better for that person to give the dream up. How could you encourage someone you knew wouldn’t stand a chance?

For more nights, I found myself stuck with the same dilemma. I didn’t know what to say anymore and it’s making me doubt my credibility to give advice.

Writing this post, I realized that I’ve forgotten where it all started and why people were coming to me. It wasn’t because I was good at analyzing. Before anything else, it’s because I’m their friend and they trust me.

Being a friend doesn’t always mean you’d say the right things. It means being with them through everything, listening to them just because and sharing their feelings and being honest with your own.

I want to be a friend again, really. I don’t just want to say the things I know I have to. I want to share a part of my heart too and be as genuine in giving advice as I am when listening to people. They’re worth it anyway (;they always are).

In which we attach meaning

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When you look at it this way, it’s easy to say that power is all in our head. After all, it is in our head that we give someone or something the power to mean everything.

Say for example, you find yourself walking home under unlit streetlights at an unholy hour. Your knuckles are turning white and your legs, jelly, and the only thing you feel is keeping you safe is holding your breath until you reach the gray gate you can hide behind. Of course, once someone jumps out to drag you and stuff you inside a rice sack, you’d have no choice. But in desperation, you cling onto beliefs, actions – that gush of air you aren’t willing to release – that you think would illogically save your life.

On a lighter note this time. Say, you were a baby and say, you were sad. There’s that one thing, be it a pillow, a blanket or a stuffed toy, that smelled like Mom, and it fought the monsters away. It made you braver, stronger and at one point of your life, it was impossible to let go. Until it’s gone, because, older now, it didn’t matter to you anymore.

There’s that piece of candy you’ve hidden away in one of your wallets and an old coin in one of your socks. Stuck between your favorite book is an old convenience store receipt and under your bed is a Grade 4 art project. At the bottom of your inbox is a message with a smiley at the end dated five years ago. You have a slightly worn-out shoe losing its pair and a woolly red shirt you aren’t ever going to throw. Unable to keep what they represent, you hold on to the physical; it’s all you are capable of.

In truth, we just want to get pieces of what we cannot have – our life, a smile, a moment and the beyond.

So comes the attachment. Other than naming, this is another that denotes value and finality. It means to distinguish that something ordinary is special without any special reason. Just because you said so. Doing so, also gives a false sense of permanence that the value stays and it does, as long as you’d like it to linger.

In the middle of the night, you look for a star and even if facts say it is different, you insist on the sameness and ask it to grant you a wish. We see what we see. And we love who we love.

Right now, I have a rosary bracelet around my left arm. It’s loose, barely breathing and I could almost hear it warn me to brace myself. Something is coming, I don’t know what, but the thought of my shield wearing down scares me. (I am excited to discover where finding a new one would lead me though).

The things that have power over us, those that mean the most, are valuable the way we are because we say so. To be attached is a choice and so is to escalate meaning.

It makes the world more complex in a way other than just a dumpsite of possessions. It explains why people are greedy and stubborn and materialistic. It keeps superstitions alive. It facilitates the transfer of emotions and the rest of the intangible. And, interestingly, it can even give value to what we can achieve as ourselves with a simple change in mindset.

(It’s a lovely thing, these brains of ours).