Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Tis a Reunion Season - now for Andy

Yes my blog has so far been about homecomings and reunions. Christmas brings this spirit for it means being with family, relations and old friends. Its a mad week hopping from one commitment and party to the other.

The get together planned by marijo coincided with the combined BPAP/PSIA christmas party so I just had to show my face for a couple of minutes at the Crown Plaza ballroom and off I rushed to Casa Armas at the podium just in time for dessert. Actually food was gone when I arrived at the Crown Plaza earlier. When I reached podium I was in time to scrape off some leftovers :)

Andy and Rio Denoga just arrived from Union City and we were supposed to have dinner on the 21st as previously arranged. All of a sudden I get a call from marijo regarding this reunion then nick wanted us to meet again with a smaller group on the 23rd which later became 21st due to Gerry's sked. Now our pre-arranged date with Andy will now be combined with Nick's treat at Shang tomorrow night (oops its morning so it must be tonight).

I guess all my batchmates and friends from abroad do miss all of us and would like to make the most by being together at all times. Took some candid shots which I made into a collage below. Some of those present were Cynch, Edwin, Alex, Marina, Boots, Marijo, Egay, Denny, Lucille, Mito - Yoyo and Nanny made habol.

Right after the gathering, andy, rio and I proceeded to the wake of Susan's dad. Andy and Rio are close friends of Susan's sister Lulu. Tony, lulu's husband is andy's high school classmate. Small world huh? What will you expect from a wake besides some sad stories? Reunion of old friends and relatives again!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

At the wake with Susan

Last wednesday late afternoon, Susan called me to ask for some prayer books since her dad seems in a very bad state and she just wanted to pray beside him.

I told her what he needs are the sacraments so I will try to call Fr Bernie, the parish priest of Don Bosco. I called the church but they said he left to say mass at greenbelt. I called greenbelt but they said he has not arrived. I left a message to call me and mentioned the reason. I hurriedly showered, dressed and rushed for makati. There was some traffic at pasong tamo so I called greenbelt to ask if the mass was done and if I can speak with fr bernie. They said he has left since someone fetched him. I asked if my message was given but the one who answered didnt know.

I then asked my driver to make a turn for don bosco. I rushed inside and looked for fr bernie. The street children manning the food booth said he just arrived and was inside.

Someone called him to go down. I told father what happened and if I can bring him to the hospital to give susan's dad some sacraments if possible confession too. He said he will just need to introduce Fr. Anton who will be speaking at the ongoing recollection then he can go.

I then decided to fetch susan first at new world so we can be fast once father finishes.

We went straight to the ICU room which really looks big with an adjoining glass portion for the family, a far cry from mom's ICU room at that god forsaken medical center pque where I just sat on the footstool the whole time holding mom's hand while she was gasping for life.

Father gave him the sacrament of the sick. Susan said he seemed to whisper something which I didnt notice. He blessed him and laid his hands on many parts of his body. Later susan's dad's face seemed to have changed color for the better and he seemed to be at peace.

Father said once the ventilator could be taken out he will come back to give him confession. Susan told me last night that when we left, her dad seemed to be at peace and more comfortable and he even slept on his side folding his hands. She thought all will be better now.

Unfortunately the following morning he again turned for the worse and the next morning I get an early call from Susan that he passed away. She said that he must have surrendered now to the Lord unlike in the past when he tried to hold on to dear life.

I was not able to go to the wake at the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park on that first evening of friday but sent the first crown of flowers. Last night I looked for that crown and we had a photo taken beside it.

As susan and I were near her dad's coffin praying for him, we later realized that both our dad's passed away the same year, the same age, and started to go downhill in 1999.

What's with this year, 1999? I told susan that's when my dad was first rushed to the ICU at Lisbon, Portugal and I had to fly there to take care of him. That's when I moved to the main office of my employer and all my gigantic career headaches started. This was also the year susan had her major operation which rendered her invalid for a while and the source of her daily pain spells. She was no longer able to practice medecine since then but realized later that she was lucky in business.

We both reminisced yet remained hopeful that perhaps all these has a greater reason. We know our dad's are looking over us and that this wellness business we are concocting for years will succeed. Amen!

Christmas party at the Nunciature

When I received the invitation for a Christmas party from the Apostolic Nunciature, I had second thoughts of attending.

During the past years after mom's passing away, it was the only social event dad had been attending. As a matter of fact, he looks forward to this.

No matter how busy I was, I must make time to accompany dad then for he will have difficulty walking alone.

I said to myself, I know dad would like me to go but at the same time it will be the first time I will be going there alone. The only reason for my presence in the nunciature events such as the Pope's day was because of dad. When mom was alive I used to miss some of them since mom was always there but when she was gone I had no choice. I had been his only official other 'half'.

A week prior to the event, I received an email from Sister Claire who worked with the nunciature for decades but now had been based in Brazil after her Bethlehem assignment. I mentioned my predicament but she encouraged me to go.

Since I was so tired from the previous days appointments, I decided to rest the whole day of Saturday. Dad had always been very early in leaving for the nunciature for he never wants to be late.

We would be one of the first if not the first people to arrive.

I said to myself I must do the same and leave early for Taft Ave is always a traffic maze. Unfortunately I overslept when I took my afternoon nap so when I woke up I tried to make a dash for it. It didnt help that I couldnt find the right pants for my blouse :)

Nevertheless I rushed and as expected experienced the holiday traffic, not really at Taft Ave but at the expressway. It was close to 630pm and we were just at the skyway. I could feel my dad at my back getting upset. Luckily, taft avenue was clear and I arrived shortly before 7pm. There were lots of cars lined up along the three gates of the nunciature.

I asked my driver to go inside the gate as the custom of dad during his last years for it was a feat for him to walk lengthily.

The nunciature staff may not be familiar with the car I was bringing, my silver gray Honda Civic since Dad had always used the green Nissan so they had to check who was the guest coming through the driveway.

The trusted staff recognized me and let us through. For the first time however, I see the staff giving food to the driver before I alighted.

There were dozens of people inside the hall. I tried to look for familiar faces, specially the sisters but there was none! I was surprised for usually I will at least see the sisters in their gray habit. Later I learned that all the sisters were changed to a new batch.

I greeted the Nuncio, His Excellency Antonio Franco who customarily greeted his guests as soon as they go down the vehicle. I then see Mariella and later Fr Reuter seated with the other priests.

A few days ago, I texted Msgr Quitorio asking if he will be attending this christmas party but unfortunately he had another commitment out of town. We usually update ourselves annually either during the Pope's day or the christmas party.

I didnt see any bishop I knew. Well I didnt see any at all but the muslim and buddhist delegation were all present.

Some people started greeting me but I actually didnt know them. Just formalties I guess.

After a few mins, His Excellency asked everyone to be seated so dinner could start. He said some may have been late (many tables were empty) but we needed to start for he knew many were hungry. Mariella seated me in one of the tables in front. I had been wondering where I will actually sit for dad never wanted to take the front tables. He has always wanted to leave early.

Little did I know I was with some Italian embassy people. A filipino couple (who I guess wanted to be chummy with the embassy) chose to stay at our table too.

I met Susan, seated beside me who apparently just got married last year to her italian diplomat boy friend whose name escapes me at the moment. Maybe I will ask mariella tomorrow. He must be important for many people wanted to meet him.

Seated right across me was the owner of L'Inconntrue, dad's favorite Italian restaurant. I actually couldnt remember where I saw him but I was starting at him for he looked familiar.

Susan later told me if I know the said restaurant for they served good authentic Italian cusine and that man was the owner. Of course I said! It's dads favorite place :)

The usual program started after dessert emceed by His Excellency. Susan said it has been their third year attending this party. I said Dad has been attending this even before I was born. The traditional raffle prizes were given but I noticed there was great care in making the raffle numbers right now. They came in intricately colored and cut Star of David papers. I was so happy because I won one of them. The nuncio's right hand priest told me it was one of the best raffle prizes I got for he himself wrapped it :)

Susan also won a raffle and I took her photo below while receivng it. Unfortunately her back was turned. The guests all sang christmas carols and for the first time a copy of the lyrics was given to all of us. After the raffle, the Nuncio led in a christmas toast then it was time to leave. I brought my trusted old camera as always and we had some photos in our table shown in this post and some shots with the group. I saw Sister Jean this time and asked her where all the sisters are. Thats when i knew they all had new assignements - she in Antipolo and Sis Gloria in Tuguegarao.

His Excellency asked how I was and left me with some encouraging words that my dad will always be there. I was trying to hold back my tears but I really became teary eyed and coulndt speak much. I told him I had second thoughts of coming but he said I must always be there for dad will always be with all of us even in spirit. When I got to the car, I felt happy knowing dad was smiling as I did one of what he treaured most during December.