When I told my folks I have a business trip to Mongolia, my dad's initial reaction was a big "WHAT???!!!" I traveled with my colleagues and bosses for our annual conference last September, so everything went great. Well, except being held at the immigration for ten minutes. Yes, of all places, in Mongolia. My boss breezed through the immigration but when it was my turn, I handed my passport to the lady. She flipped through several pages, pointed to the room across the hall and said "Immigration Office." I tried to keep my calm while talking to the officer. I answered all his questions with a blank face and showed our hotel bookings, event flyers, round trip ticket etc etc.

Death is sad

Someday, in a place so far away, we will all meet again.

Perhaps the saddest thing about death is the fact that you will never see the person ever again. You will never hear his voice, his laughter. You will never get to hold his hands, touch his face. 

My mom has this wonderful habit of calling her siblings on the phone from time to time, when she's in Manila or even at the province. She enjoys long phone conversations with my aunts and uncles, which revolve around just about everything. I am close to my mom's siblings because I know what's going on in their lives, in part thanks to my eavesdropping skills whenever mom's on the phone. 

There were always the good news, and of course the bad. My mom's family was deeply affected when we learned that my uncle Jun was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent an invasive surgery and became okay. Mom, my aunts and uncles visited him and phoned him each time. Then just months ago, he had difficulty eating. He lost appetite and felt something was wrong with his stomach. Another surgery said the doctors, which we all thought will make things better. 

After the procedure, the family rushed to the hospital to see him. He was okay- thinner but okay. They fed him intravenously. My mom and her siblings would alternate visiting him, seeing his health deteriorate at each visit. They thought they can bring him home 2 weeks after the surgery, but 2 weeks became 2 months. He went home, home to our Father. 

My mom asked me this morning if I can help her prepare a short eulogy for Uncle Jun. She said the priest last night told them one of the siblings will have to talk after today's mass. Then tomorrow, before cremation, my cousin Jenny will give the eulogy. 

I asked my mom to describe to me my uncle, and all the fond memories she had with him. I teared up while writing. I wondered why he had to live so short a life, I wondered why we all have to see him suffer so much in the hospital. I have so much questions but I know God has a reason for taking him. 

Uncle Jun, thank you for providing for my mom when she was young. From her stories, it seemed to me that you became her second father. I knew you were happy and proud that time mom showed you that tiny newspaper clipping of the Taiwan scholarship article. Until now I feel guilty that I was not able to visit you when I went home last October 5. I feel bad not seeing you for the very last time. 

Thanks to Facetime, I was with the family this afternoon while they were watching over you. I call it "online lamay". I heard your grandson CJ telling you to wake up. He's so cute, I'm sure his presence lessens the sadness of everyone, especially Ate Jenny. Ate Jenny took such good care of you uncle, she must have had superpowers to be able to juggle her clinic hours, being a mom, a wife and a daughter who was always by your side. 

Among the nine siblings, you were the first one to go and meet with lola and lolo. Ne-John might have given you a big hug when he saw you  up there. Please look after the other eight, and us- your nephews, nieces, your family. We are happy that there are no longer tubes and machines attached to your frail body. You see us crying, but we try to be happy because you are now in a happier place, away from all things painful. 

Death is sad. Everything about death is sad. But we all have to let go and hope that someday, in a place so far away, we will all meet again. Rest well, Uncle Jun.

Birthday and other things

When I was 11, I was excited to turn 18. I thought turning 18 was something so magical. I had a fairy-themed party, complete with bubbles spewing out of a machine, an antique swing that looked a bit lost in the middle of a garden, friends turned fairies (I think they still hate me until now :P). I remember planning my 18th birthday party down to the last detail- that was 7 long years ago.   

Now that I'm in my mid 20s, I'm trying to recall anything significant that I've made over the past. But I can't seem to remember any. And I'm worried. I know for a fact that I can't change the world, but when I try to close my eyes and think of things I've done, nothing really stood out. 

Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes I feel accomplished, but most of the time not. It's strange how I tend to evaluate my own life and end up hating my self, but now at least I have a motivation - a challenge to make this 25th year worthwhile. Big or small, I aim to do something that will contribute to the greater good (haha!). 

I'm grateful for all the surprises, the birthday greetings, all the love coming from everyone. The special people who made my ordinary day an extraordinary one. They who never fail to back me up and remind me I am loved and never alone. I am forever thankful for friends, for family. What is life without them anyway? I don't know why I'm surrounded with such great people, they truly are the best blessing I have ever received. This was the simplest birthday ever, yet one of the most memorable. 

On other things… I went out with my great great Korean friend Judy the other night. I was just so amazed with how she has everything planned out for her life. So much plans that I was getting overwhelmed upon hearing what she intends to do. I was on the verge of saying slow down, but then I thought it's her life not mine. On my way home, I was thinking about Judy, her plans, her determination. I hope I'll have the guts to do the same. 

One of my bestfriends' sister, who I became close with when she took a 3-month Mandarin program here in Taiwan, got married last week in Manila. After I have complained about how infidelity and mistresses are becoming too mainstream in Philippine media, I was able to witness two people who promised to be faithful, for richer or for poorer, until death do them part. I wish them forever and happily ever after.

One of my wishes for my birthday was for the healing of my uncle who took good care of my mom when she was young. I still couldn't believe how his health has deteriorated that when my mom sent me his photo when she visited him, my heart sank. I can hardly recognize him. I don't know why bad things happen to good people, I don't know why at some point in their life, they have to suffer- when all their lives they've worked so hard in building a family and helping others. I guess in a way, they become God's instruments to make us value life. To make me feel better, I think of my mom's side of the family- how they are so close and bonded, how they never left each other during difficult times. I'm just so proud of them.