Archive for October, 2011

She sees things that only her heart

can understand –

the fragile glass holding a blue candle

the beauty of a flower

the  clock that tics slowly in her ears.

She dreams.

She counts the minutes.

Does she know

that he is not coming back?

Does she know

that she would no longer hear his footsteps?

Does she know

that he left for good?

And yet –

She waits.


While she  watch  the candle flicker in the wind.







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I have started reading two books, Eat, Pray, Love (I’m giving it another go) and a lovely book on St. Francis of Assisi given by a priest friend from Rome. The latter is that kind of book that you don’t just read in one sitting, because every word is meant to be absorbed and reflected on. Nissa gave me Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me as a birthday gift though and I was kind of curious what the book was all about after queuing for a number of hours just to have the book signed last Friday, October 28 at The Podium.  I started it last night, abandoning the first two and I slept late trying to finish it in one go.

This is not your  typical book review though, I just want to share a bit of what I observed and felt while reading the book. I initially started with so much anticipation, this may be something special, better than Safe Haven which is the last book I’ve read of Nicholas Sparks. I  smiled at the thought that this particular book was signed by the author himself and I kept looking at his signature while reading it. Does that elicit a special feeling because I met him personally?  The answer is a big YES because I saw  him describe his previous books and how he was inspired by personal experiences in writing them. I’ve always said that when it comes to describing emotions (the high and low of it), why are guy writers seem to be more sensitive? I am not saying that they are better writers  than the rest.

I’ve read several of his books and I think that The Best Of Me is not really one of the best reads  I found. Or maybe I am expecting too much. I enjoyed reading it but the characters are forgettable except perhaps that of Tuck and Dawson. The first few chapters were okay and I even had a notebook on hand to jot down quotable quotes. At the latter part of the story, the character build-up has gone astray from the beautiful dialogue between Dawson and Amanda while they were reminiscing about high school days and how Tuck touched their lives. Seemingly at the end, all the minor characters were given equally important roles to play but the ending though was not predictable. I like the touch of paranormal that was introduced at the beginning and finally woven as one of the important aspects of the novel in the end.

I kept looking at the front cover of the book when I reached Chapter 12 and I quote:

The final stretch of the drive ended at a small cottage nestled in a grove of ancient live oaks. The weathered structure , with chipping paint and shutters that had begun to blacken at the edges, was fronted by a small stone porch framed by white columns. Over the years, one of the columns had become enshrouded  in vines, which climbed toward the roof. A metal chair sat near the edge, and at one corner of the porch, adding color to the world of green, was a small pot of blossoming  geraniums.

He has exactly described the picture on the book cover so you would not just imagine how it looks, it’s  right there jumping before your eyes and I love it.

I read somewhere  that this one will be adapted on the screen too. I really hope that one of these days, I could read a Sparks novel with all the trimmings of  a Barbara Taylor Bradford.

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You may laugh at this and you may even think, I am whining over some inconsequential things which others normally pass off as nothing, nada, kaput. My son gifted me with Chocolate Fudge Cake on my birthday last week.

Red Ribbon’s Chocolate Fudge Cake consists of layers of chocolate pound cake with yummy chocolate fudge filling, generously finished with fudgy chocolate icing. I am really not so fond of chocolate except the dark variety, never mind  if it is just a simple Goya Dark or a big box of Toblerone, “dark” being the operative word. This one has that certain feel of melt in the mouth goodness, not too sweet and a slice is just perfect for a hot cup of green tea.

I digress. There is really nothing wrong with the cake itself but I hate how Red Ribbon assembles their cake boxes which makes you figure out where to open it without destroying the box itself. Why do they have to make it a little complicated? Why can’t they just put a box cover as simple as those they make for shoe boxes?There, I told you I am whining again but I just realized it takes me more time figuring out how to put the box lid back in its original fold. Big problem indeed..haha:)

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I was a typical celebrity fan for a day, shouting, laughing and cheering with kindred souls while waiting for Nicholas Sparks at the Podium yesterday. Gosh, if Nissa was excited to give me her gift, I was just as excited to take a glimpse of one of her favorite authors, Nicholas Sparks.

The Best of Me.

It’s the newest book by Nicholas Sparks which was launched yesterday at the 2nd floor lobby of The Podium. I told Nissa earlier that I won’t be caught dead lining up for hours just to have a book signed. Signed or not, I could still enjoy reading it , right? Nissa asked me to just try since this is the first time that a very popular and well-known author is visiting the country.  I am sure there have been so many authors who visited the country before but Nicholas Sparks is “the Nicholas Sparks” if you know what I mean. So I decided to go to The Podium and take my chance on a raffle that would pave the way for my book to be personally signed by the author. What a frenzy, the excitement  was contagious, so to speak.

The Podium.

I arrived at The Podium before 11am and I was quite surprised to find that a lot of people are lining up the corners of the 2nd floor. I asked where the end of the line was and somebody pointed up, meaning, it’s on the upper floors. I reached the 3rd floor and it was the same, the 4th floor was like the first two. You could just imagine, I was finally able to join the line on the fifth level of the mall.  What would you do with six hours of wait if not to know people who are in the same line with you? Chat them up, right and discuss about books, Nicholas Sparks books in particular. There I met Abby and Cielo and even before we reached the registration counter, we have already exchanged e-mail addresses and had a few shots or two with my cam.  The line was very organized and it was fast.

The joys of being lucky to draw a YES for a signing pass. Earlier on, we said, what if we are qualified in the draw, are we going to shout for joy? We heard so much shouting of a YES when we were at the upper floors. When it was my turn, I silently prayed, “Lord, let this be another birthday gift for me”. Answered prayers! 🙂 Cielo wasn’t as lucky though. I met Cryss later and we had our pictures taken at the stage before I left for Robinson’s Galleria for lunch.

The Wait.

I went to Robinson’s Galleria for lunch at Kenny Rogers,  a favorite hangout with the kids. I was supposed to meet Tere, a friend at AFCC but they arrived late so we didn’t have the chance to see each other again. I spent almost an hour at Bestsellers. I was disappointed to see Samantha Sotto’s hardbound copy of Before Ever After  selling at P499.00 at Bestsellers, same price I bought my trade paperback copy. Bakit ganun? This is the first time I saw a book selling a the same price – a lovely hardbound and trade paperback  copy. Lesson learned: Ask before you buy!

By 3pm, I was back at The Podium and  saw almost everyone squatted on the floor, with a lively hum of voices excited to see the start of the event. I had a chat with another soul, Camille, who said that she only started reading when she was  in college and she said further that she missed all those opportunities of reading lovely and interesting books. I told her, it’s not too late.” Books will find you“, I said, ” not the other way around.” We talked about several things, her mom who died of cancer and how my treatment went.  It’s kind of funny that it was so easy to talk to people you have just met and all because you have one common subject to talk about – books.

At Last.

There was shouting when 5pm came, we were all eager to see Nicholas but he appeared on stage at around 5:20pm. There was a riot and everyone was standing but we were all disciplined. Cameras flashed and he was all smiles when he came up the stage. Oh my, since this was my first time to meet a well-known author, I was just like, “Oh gosh, it’s Nicholas Sparks!” Talk about the disadvantage of not being tall enough to angle your camera the right way. The guy in front of me was kind enough to take zoom shots from my camera.Nicholas  briefly talked about how he wrote all those bestseller books. He talked about loving all of them but one particular book stands out as his favorite, A Walk To Remember. The Notebook was his third book and  he was inspired to write it by the grandparents of his wife who had been married for more than sixty years when he met them. And when he said, “I am Noah”, everyone was shouting, probably thinking of the lovely book and the equally touching movie. I read the book twice and watched the movie adaptation several times.

There was this lady who was awarded the “early bird” . She was there at 2am. They called her up the stage and her book was the first one signed by Nicholas. Lucky, lucky lady. Then there was this other reader who wrote about her encounter with A Message In a Bottle.

It was worth the long hours of waiting.  It was quite tiring but who cares,  the personal encounter was just wonderful. When it was my turn to have my book signed, I said, “Finally, finally! Hi Nicholas.”  Then he answered “Hello”. I was in seventh heaven.  I had a picture with him, I really hope I can post it here soon.

(Thank you National Bookstore for these pics, thank you for giving us a chance to see Nicholas Sparks).

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THANK YOU Lord for the gift of life, thank you for the gift of presence, thank you for the gift of friends, thank you for the gift of family and most of all, thank you for giving me a second chance at life. I could not ask for more, I am blessed, I am loved.

Thank you too for giving  me the chance to meet all these people at AFCC. They enrich my life everyday, they move me to tears sometime but they are always tears of joy.

Thank you Mama Mary for helping me move on with life, no matter how difficult the journey was.

(A short  prayer I posted at our Apostles Filipino Catholic Community.)

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Don’t be fooled by the blog title, that reads, it’s the day or night before my birthday, whichever part of the globe you are right now.  Anyway, what I mean is , I consider birthdays as new years in our lives because we begin counting another year right on our birthday. What could be more fitting than to celebrate birthdays anticipating another fruitful, blessed and happy and joyous  year ahead.

I’ve received lovely thoughts and greetings from my friends at Facebook, some say they could not wait to greet me, hence the advance birthday wishes. They made me teary-eyed and made my heart swell with joy and pride that these people remember an important day for me. Why do I get a little sentimental and nostalgic for every birthday in my life? This morning, my mom was singing happy birthday while pushing a P500.00 peso bill in my hands. I laughed and she said, “buy a cake and blow  a candle tomorrow.”  I guess I am too old blowing candles and making wishes, but yes, they do make the occasion happier. Can I celebrate it without spending time in the kitchen and laboring over the hot stove to prepare a birthday dinner?  My kids always ask the same question every year, “What’s for birthday dinner Ma?” I don’t want to disappoint them so no matter how I sometimes loath cooking on my special day, I have to prepare something for the whole family.

Nissa told me to attend the book signing of Nicholas Sparks at The Podium on the 28th of October. If you regularly read my blogs, I said earlier that I saw his latest book which will be launched  on that day and he is here in the Philippines for the book signing. Nissa said she’ll buy the book and I have to be there earlier than those who will be qualified to attend (you see, if you buy a copy, you’ll be given a raffle coupon and will have the chance to be counted  for the 650 fifty guests for the book signing). But if you’re there early, you’ll also have the chance to get in without the winning raffle ticket in your hand. Frankly though, I don’t relish the idea of waiting for five hours just to have a book signed, if it’s Richard Paul Evans, I probably would. Nissa bought all my books of Nicholas Sparks and gave them to me as birthday gifts or as Christmas gifts. I am blessed to have a daughter who is a bookworm like me because I won’t need to say, buy that book for me since she herself collects certain authors that I like. It’s one thing we do appreciate doing together, buying and hoarding books.

A few more hours to go before I’ll be officially turning 55. Ancient? Maybe. I don’t feel my age  though because I don’t think of it as getting older. Getting wiser would be more like it.

So it’s new year’s eve…another year to remember and another year to look forward to. Thank you Lord for the blessings you have continuously bestowed on me and my family.

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When you think of the place, you associate it with calesa (a horse-drawn carriage which is the best way to enjoy the streets of Binondo), Chinese shops, hopia, Tikoy and authentic Chinese food, you name it, the place is teeming alive with commerce, yes, the Chinese way. Not to be left out is the beautiful Binondo Church which is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Binondo Church is also known as the Shrine of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint who was born of a Chinese father and a Filipina mother.


I think Ongpin is the heart-throb of Manila Chinatown. It is where you could find Chinese herbal stores, restaurants, groceries, jewelry shops, and some local banks.  Street vendors abound in all corners of the place.

Hubby and I had the chance to explore some of the streets in Chinatown this morning particularly Ongpin. I was looking for a simple set of necklace and earrings to buy and my daughter  suggested that we visit the place.  I’ve been to the place several times but this is actually the first time that I looked at every nook and cranny trying to find an inexpensive jewelry that would fit my budget. I brought my camera and took lots of pictures but as usual I could not upload them here yet. Such a pity really since I am excited to share what made me love the place this morning despite the noonday heat. I came prepared of course by bringing an umbrella but you won’t really use an umbrella while exploring. I should have brought my sun hat instead.

We decided not to bring the car and just had a commute from our place to Cubao, then from Cubao, we took a taxi  and alighted near Binondo Church.  It was still early when we arrived but the place was busy with morning traffic, tricycle rides/tribikes (why should you ride on a tricycle/tribike when it is far easier to walk?), street vendors selling different kinds of fruits, Chinese stores gaily decorated in mostly red and the  faint smell of horse dung from some calesa lining up the side streets.  First stop was a Chinese jewelry shop but I was taken aback when I asked about a simple bracelet and they quoted a price way beyond my reach.  Where could I find something that would fit my budget?

After about five stores, we found this friendly Chinese couple selling not onlyjewelry  but also big Chinese figurines like Buddha in different shades of stones, mounted rocks that have stones in them (I am not sure what they are called) and several accoutrements normally found in Chinese stores. In Ongpin, you have to haggle with the price and meet halfway. You can have a big discount if you know how.  I told him it was a gift  for my birthday in a few days and fixed a price which he said was way too low. There comes your flair for drama –  told him we came all the way from Cainta (which is true), a two-hour ride to Ongpin,  and I also told him that I will use it for my daughter’s wedding in three weeks (see, I am not lying) and I only got enough money to buy that set, to have lunch later and bring home a couple of Hopia. He gave in and hubby told me later, “sana tinawaran mo pa, papayag din naman pala.”  Meaning, we could still haggle with the price. But the vendor gave me a gift, a three-inch tall gold-plated rabbit figurine mounted on a flat black wood. It weighs a little heavy and he said, “pampaswerte”  which means it is for good luck. The thing is, I was quite surprised when he didn’t give the items all at once but placed them instead in a bowl of metal and had to spin the sides with something resembling a thick spoon to produce a sound which was like ethnic music to my ears. He did it twice, once with the set of earrings and necklace and one more time with the rabbit figurine. Then he placed the set on a lovely box and made me choose which color. I was grinning like crazy when we went out of the store. By the way, he even allowed me to take pictures of their shelves with all the colorful array of Buddha figures, Koi fish, green balls and such.

We had lunch at Hap Chan and ordered fried lumpia, siomai and different kinds of balls set in a bed of Pechay Baguio. Simple as it was, it was yummy. It came with free hot tea in tall mugs. After lunch was time to really explore the place. I took shot of the sleeping Calesa driver, took shot of the guy selling large Durian fruits (he even requested if he could see the picture so I showed it to him) and he smiled and said thanks. I took shot of the guy selling sugar cane. Yes, you heard it right, a long cane of about six feet costs P60.00, ready to eat, because he would peel it for you when you buy one. Castanas which are only common in department stores during Christmas season were pegged at P200.00 per kilo. Seedless grapes were sold at P180.00.

A trip to Binondo or particularly at Ongpin would not be the same without buying the specialty of the place which is Hopia. Best known establishments selling tasty and delicious hopia are the Salazar Bakery and Eng Bee Tin Bakery. I was craving for it so I bought some in Salazar and some in Eng Bee Tin. Hopia Pandan is P40.00 per pack (five pieces). Hopia Mochipilia Ube Macapuno costs P44.00 and a Special White medium-sized Tikoy  is at P160.00 per box. Hopia Mongo and Hopia Black Mongo cost P38.00 each at Salazar’s while Hopia Ube special is P40.00 per pack. Tikoy and a  bagful of hopia and hubby was laughing at me when he saw what I bought. “Naubos ang pera ko dahil sa hopia.”  Gee, I spent all my money on hopia. I was delighted to find an old-time favorite called Haw Flakes.

Wow, that completes my Binondo trip and I really want to go back and try the food at Nueva St. It was a fine day for exploring and Binondo is such a lovely place to do it. A day would not be enough to know the place but it definitely makes it memorable.

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Yes, it was another busy Sunday for the family but I must admit that no matter how busy it was, it was fun all the same.  Sundays are always the best , I think, because we are usually together at breakfast and the simple meal of fried rice, left-over pancit bihon and scrambled eggs look like a feast to us. It is the best time to catch up on news with every member of the family. We are counting the days actually, we call it the Big Day since Nissa’s wedding is the first in the family. It’s three weeks to go and we are all excited.

We offered mass for Dad and our departed relatives. We’ll be celebrating All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day in a few days, another chance for most of us to visit cemeteries and offer a prayer for our dear departed.  Compared to Halloween which is greatly celebrated in other countries, the two earlier events are always something to look forward to. We are definitely catching up on celebrating Halloween but it still could not compare with the solemn  remembrance of what all saints and all souls day mean to us Filipinos.  All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for all Catholics and is celebrated every November 1st of the year. It is also called All Hallows or Hallowmas. October 31 was declared a holiday until November 1.

I remember Fr. Michael’s homily yesterday. The gospel was about the two greatest commandments – love of God and love of  neighbor. He said in his homily that “love is 1% emotion and 99% commitment”. Do you agree? I do, but maybe, add a little more on the emotions because when you love, the heart is always at the realm of it.  And before you can commit yourself to someone, you have to feel that strong force which your emotions dictate. Gee, falling in love and being in love are not really the same, are they? Suffice to say, for you to stay in love, you need commitment and it’s such a hard act to follow if you are not sincere enough  in what you do.  It might be easy to fall in love but it is harder to stay in love.  So much for this, let’s leave it to poets and romantic at heart.

And the best part of the day was having one of Nissa’s friends  way back in college for a sleepover. Bonding time so to speak. Mumai is the maid of honor on Nissa’s wedding.  We had a good laugh at reminiscing their college days and the times they used to stay here to make school projects. She gave me an advance birthday gift of ube cake, had some of for midnight snack with Twining’s  Raspberry & Echinacea tea. I love tea more than I love coffee. And I love drinking them on dainty tea cups while having friends around. You name it, I have Earl Grey, Banaba green tea, Peppermint tea,  and lately, I’ve been drinking Salabat brew. There was a study made that ginger is good for cancer so I am making it my regular hot drink from now on.

Time really flies so fast. It’s my birthday in three days, another year to be grateful about.  I remember the time I had my chemotherapy treatment on my birthday two years ago. It’s definitely another year of blessings and celebrating life.

Thank you Lord for the miracle. Thank you for the second chance. Thank you for the gift of life.

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We prayed the rosary early today. It’s a common ritual for the family that when All Saints and All Souls Day come, we prepare something for our dead relatives and make an offering at the altar and recite the rosary just for the intention of praying for their souls and all souls in purgatory.  And as usual it’s pancit bihon and bibingka. Since Mom will be going home soon, she told me that she will lead the rosary prayers in our dialect which is Pangasinan. I am not really well-versed with the translated version so she prays in Pangasinan , hubby answers in Pangasinan too while Josef and I pray in English. So you could just imagine that sometimes, mom gets lost because of it.

Anyway, that isn’t why I am writing this blog. I want to capture Mom’s mood right after we had our afternoon snack and she was humming an unfamiliar tune in our dialect. Then she asked me  if I want to listen to it so I just nodded. With a smile on her face, she got a small typewritten piece of paper inserted in her  Pangasinan prayer-book and showed it to me before she started singing. I was amazed when she told me that Dad wrote it for her decades ago. There was no title except these words: “This song is heartily dedicated to my one and only love.”   I had goosebumps reading it and thought of Dad and everything that I remember about him when he was alive.  I knew that he used to compose songs and play them later on the guitar but this was the first time that Mom showed these lines to me. I could not completely decipher the meaning of every word but the thought was all about true love.  I am sharing it here so I could go back to it and will try to translate  it  in English when I have time. It was written in five stanzas, four lines each.

                                    1. Say sipan kod sica

                                        Talimaey katooran

                                        Say datngen kon irap caermenan

                                       Sicay papel na liknaan

                                 2. Siglaot na malet tan arowan

                                      Solo Patey so mamocnal

                                      Say aroc tan say magter con laman

                                     Signot mon kien legay bilay

                               3. Sasalien ililibang libang

                                    So nonot cod sican naynay

                                   Adarom laloc ya nanonotan

                                  Diad isip agnabural.

                            4. Gala pani ta punas moy ermen

                                 Ed singim iran pacatempey

                               Tano onia permi lilicnaen

                              Pilit ya datnen koy patey

                        5. Bagta licnay agnalambenan

                            Dicta cay puson lingkuran

                            Labien coni naandi yan bilay

                          Aleg labat lan manlamang.

Back when I was in grade school, I used to see letters written in lines and curves and I was curious how they can even understand each other writing that way. I asked mom about it and she said it was in Steno. I learned later that Stenography is a course in short and swift writing  by using symbols to shorten the words. That early curiosity lead me to take up two semesters of secretarial course before moving on to get my degree in Economics. Yes, it was because of the Steno that I enrolled in it. It was not a piece of cake, it was harder than I thought.

Looking back, I remember the times when Dad was already weak due to dialysis treatment. He still found time to share stories on what life was  after World War II, the struggles he had to undergo to make both ends meet, so to speak.  I never saw them quarrel infront of us, their children.  If there is one thing that I could say proudly, Mom is lucky to have been loved by a man like Dad. And I am sure it was true love.

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I finally had my much-needed hair trim today at David’s. My favorite hairstylist assured me that the remaining  three weeks  before my daughter’s wedding is long enough to have my hair grow a little longer. I do wonder why  it gets unruly (because it has a natural curl) when I grow it longer than my usual boy’s bob (if you can even call it that because I have thin and fine hair strands) and it does not bounce like those what you see on TV commercial. I had a good chat with her as usual. It’s pretty common to befriend people in beauty salons. Believe me, if you do, you’ll get immediate attention and don’t forget the tip – something for the hairstylist and something for the assistant who shampooed, rinsed and blow-dried your hair with matching back rub while waiting for your turn.

Perfect time to make another visit to National Bookstore.  I am looking for a copy of Bible Diaries for 2012, the Claretian publication, but they told me that their orders haven’t arrived yet. I saw their ad on Nicholas Sparks’ book signing on October 28 at The Podium.  Yes, it’s that high-end shopping mall near Asian Development Bank.It’s only limited to 650 guests and will be done through raffle if you buy his newest book,  The Best of Me. Nicholas Sparks is the author behind those touching movies like The Notebook,  Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember, to name a few. I asked the saleslady why they don’t carry Richard Paul Evans who I think writes better than Nicholas Sparks. I am not being biased just because the former is an online friend at Facebook and I read most of his books too, some special finds in  my many trips to NBS.  All of my books of Nicholas Sparks were gifts from Nissa on several birthdays and Christmas holidays.

Next trip (sounds as if I’ve gone on a long one) was a visit to my book lady friend at Booksale. She was all smiles when she saw me and  she was excited to show me all the new arrivals on their shelves. If only I could bring them all home. I brought home two books though, after a thorough search on their shelves. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, what more could you ask for?

I was quite amused watching the man behind the counter of Sisig etc. It’s one of those small stalls where you could buy cheap snacks inside the mall. He was chopping the  fried pork in rhythm, with animated hand gestures. It’s like watching a conductor in an orchestra, slow then fast music, only this time, it’s the music of the knife touching the base of the chopping board  until it ends with the pork chopped finely ready for the sisig he’s about to prepare. He must really love his work.  And attitude makes the difference, there was a long line of customers in front of his stall.

Observing people sometimes makes me smile. They have their own style of  being noticed and appreciated.  It was a lovely afternoon, alright.

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