Category Archives: Bring out the scuba gear…we’re going deep

A lesson about living from the dying.

There are times when I complain about not being given enough time to make a decent campaign. And then I met those who only had a few weeks to live.

That was the thought running in my head while my partner and I got involved in a charity project for hospice care. We spent several weeks talking to patients and their families, caregivers, nurses and hospice staff. It was emotionally draining to say the least (in a way, it dampened my happy birthday mood). Although, death is not an alien concept in my family, having a few loved ones who had passed on, I still can’t help being affected by the reality that surrounded me. Death looming on every bed. Casting it’s shadow on an old man abandoned by his family. Playing hide and seek with a 3-year-old girl who’s just learning to play with other children like her. Yes there were children and old folks, and people my age. All with terminal illness and given a prognosis of 6 months or less. Yet in spite of their condition, they manage to laugh and find joy in the littlest of things. You’d think in a place where futures are measured in mere months, hope is the last thing you’ll find. But no. We found it in the patients whose faces light up when we take their pictures, in the caregivers and nurses who speak with so much love for what they do and the people they care for.

And here we are, most of the time, consumed by work and bills. Thinking our work is the most important job and the world. Defining our lives by the amount of recognition we receive. Pursuing happiness with every swipe of our credit cards. (And starting each sentence with a participle. Intense emotions really do things to my brain…)

An exercise like this truly gives one a different perspective. What it also does is prepare yourself for that final journey. For me, it’s like being told, don’t hold back. Do everything you can today for others and for yourself too. Do it like it’s the last chance you’ve got because you never know.

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“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon sang this to his baby boy. I had planned to have a little boy myself, and a little girl to sing to. But that doesn’t seem to be the life I’m supposed to live.

I had planned to leave my college with a degree in tow but I instead I went AWOL and started working before graduation.

I had planned to follow after my aunt’s footsteps and become a lawyer but I ended up in advertising.

I had planned to shift careers but more than a decade later, I am still in the same job.

I had planned to share many years with loved ones but they passed on earlier than expected.

Am I disappointed that none of my so-called plans have been fulfilled? Not entirely.

I always believe that things turn out a certain way for a reason. While some are borne of my own decisions, others, well, it’s life taking over. For those times that my mind can’t comprehend, I can only pray to my Lord. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Most things in my life have not turned out the way I wanted them to. They actually turned out better.

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Cheers to Mister Hall of Famer

Bosses come in all shapes and forms and I am extremely lucky to have worked with and learned from the best of them. There was Ompong, my first boss who taught me to persevere, to be diligent, to tell stories from the heart. Then David who taught me how to have fun, to free my mind from the boundaries of my cubicle, to love my craft. And then there’s Richard.

The first two were inducted into the Creative Guild’s Hall of Fame a few years back. This year, Richard is in the spotlight. I’m sure he must have been overwhelmed as he is extremely shy, never wanting to be center of attention. And I’m equally sure that in his speech he’d have mentioned every single person who’s been with him through every step, thanking them with all sincerity. For that’s how I’ve known him to be. A selfless mentor. A giving counselor. The peg that propped you up at your lowest point. The light that let others shine. Now, it’s his turn and credit is finally going to where it’s due.

Like the other awards and citations he’s received in the past, this one is truly well deserved and rightfully earned. And I, like the rest of the creatives who grew under his wing, am honoured and blessed to have known him and worked with him. A boss and a friend with a tireless heart, who taught me to be true to myself and my work’s purpose, and to believe that in a world of half truths, integrity is one’s greatest strength.

And yes, he also said, there’s no such thing as free lunch.

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NGT 846

My father drove a yellow car. I barely recall what kind of car it was, must be a Celica or a Mustang, one of those pointy-looking cars that strutted the streets in the 70s. At my age then, 7 or 8, I didn’t have a clue and it didn’t matter anyway. He drove us everywhere in it – to my grandparents in Nueva Ecija, to the CCP and Philtrade for an early morning jog, to Aristocrat in Roxas Boulevard, to the Magnolia ice cream parlor in Aurora Boulevard, to my school, to Rizal Theatre, to the hospital where I was confined for a whole month when I was 9, to my auntie’s graduation from law school, to my mom’s own graduation. It was this way, every Saturday, so I’d wait for the car Friday night. On a good day, it would already be parked outside our house and I’d see it as I came down from my school bus. My dad worked for the government as a trade agent, (not the James Bond type but he did carry a gun) and was usually assigned to some far-flung city which meant he was only back with us on weekends. Having him around was already a treat in itself. If we weren’t in the car going around town, I’d be playing with my cousins for a while then spend the better part of the day being my dad’s shadow and the center of his attention.

Being his only child and daughter (well, that’s as far as I know from my set of parents), I was proud to be told by people that we look like each other. My mom said I take after him, in a lot of ways. He loved the arts, he drew well, he loved building things for the house, he danced and sang well too. Sometimes I would sit with him as he wrote calligraphy to label my books and notebooks for school. I’d try it myself but Speedball was just so messy so I didn’t enjoy it at all. What I loved was dancing with him. He’d put a record on the turntable and we’d dance the cha-cha in the living room. He’s a great dancer, sexy in a daddy sort of way and we looked really funny bouncing around the house, all 6 burly feet of him and me, half his size. We also shared a love for Rocky Road and Double Dutch ice creams, Hershey’s chocolate bars and kisses and homemade chocolate porridge. One time, he went all fruity and tried making papaya ice cream which turned out bitter and mushy. Although he never failed with his original recipe pork barbeque and chicken soup with pasta he made from scratch. My uncles and aunts loved his cooking and they would troop to the house whenever he was home.

One weekend, when I was ten, just after Christmas, he came and left. I didn’t see him drive away. I wish I did so I could have hugged him and kissed him before he was gone. I waited for the car to come back weekend after weekend but it never did. The weeks became months that became years. And every time I’d see a yellow car that almost looked like my father’s car, my heart would stop and I would stare at it and try to catch the driver’s face or the plate number — NGT 846. My memory of that car’s color might explain my love for yellow. I do wonder how I could recall such an odd set of letters and numbers. Maybe, because in my head, it’s the last strand of connection I had with him. I forget that I am his living memory.

The other night, by some strange imagining or wishful thinking, I saw him again…in my dream. We were on the road, in a car. Was it yellow? It wasn’t so clear. He was leaving, so what’s new. But this time I get the chance to hug him and kiss him goodbye. I thought I would never hear his voice again. I know it was just a dream, and probably just my subconscious processing an episode of Heroes. But his words, I will keep in my heart, together with all the happy times in that yellow car and the wonderful man I first danced with. Papa.

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Happy Birthday, Mama!

“…Think about the days of me and you…you and me against the world.” No song was as meaningful as this one was to me in my younger days. It summed up how my mom and I were, right after my dad went AWOL. I related to every word, including the line about being frightened by clowns, because truth be told, I was scared of clowns, mascots, and even the ati-atihan folk who used to go from street to street during fiestas. I used to run and seek out Mama so I can be “safe” from them. Mama’s my shield, my best friend, my sounding board, my greatest fan, my guide, my reason to dream big.imgp2858.JPG

We were “you and me against the world” for a long time, until I got married. But one thing I made sure was my husband accept that me and Mama were a package deal. I didn’t have to convince him because he already knew it was not negotiable, and I loved him even more for that. He and Mama are so close now, sometimes it feels like, them against me. Haha. Mama turned 61 a few days ago. I wish we were in Manila with her or she with us here like last year. I gave her a call, I know it’s not enough but I hope she felt all my love. Happy Birthday, Mama! Now there’s you and me and Mike… but the days of me and you will always be a special place I go home to.

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