mama’s boy

My Ma will live with me for a month or so starting April. And I’m pretty excited! Thinking about it makes me feel warm inside – around the tummy area, to be exact. Can’t wait to partake of her heavenly cooking! Hehe. When we were planning the visit last December, I was sure that the first thing she’ll wonder about the moment she sets foot in my apartment is how on earth she could have raised such a topsy-turvy, domestically inept son! (She has long suspected this. Now living with me will dispel all her doubts!) So as early as last December, I told her (and I have repeated this once or twice during our weekly phone conversations): “Ma, before you enter my apartment, take a deep breath. And remember that I am your son. That you love me despite…uhm, my mess.”

We’ve had several of my housemate’s family stay with us on several occasions, so my hosuemate Jireh is cool about having my mom visit. (Incidentally, we’re looking for one or two more guy housemates to join our “happy mess” starting May or June! I may not be the most organized and neat of housemates, but I am mighty entertaining and nice – on most days. And Jireh is absolutely the best housemate! He has pet fish we can feed and DVDs we can watch. And, oh, he’s a mighty great cook!)

I’m sure Ma will work her motherly magic on my pitiful domestic situation. But that will be such a daunting task that the least I can do is ensure that she is kept entertained. So I’m (finally) getting a decent TV set. After all, what’s she to do during the day when I’m away in the office? I am officially retiring my black-and-white TVlet – with a screen no wider than an index card – that I have been putting up with the past few years. I’ve asked my Ma to start compiling a list of things she’d like to do while in Manila. The weekends with her should be interesting. I’m looking forward to talking with her at length.

Just recently, seconds after a phone conversation with my Ma, my cellphone rang again. It was Chikay, my six-year-old neice in Davao, using my mother’s cellphone. “Tito, ibalik mo si Lola ha. One day lang s’ya dyan ha.” She sounded serious, almost threatening. I was amused. So I teased, “Hmmm… pag-iispian ko…” Being the youngest in a brood of four, I was never really used to fighting over my mother’s affections. Until three creatures, much younger and cuter – the grandkids – entered the picture. There was no way I could win. But, at least, I’ll have my Ma even for a short time. After over a decade of being away from her doting, I can be a shameless Mama’s boy again.

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bestman

Wedding smiles. Thanks to Joy and Lem for the pic. 

Yesterday bespren Roovin tied the knot. I was his bestman. I stood right next to him at the altar as his beautiful bride, dramatically silhouetted by sunlight beaming through the cathedral’s open door, walked down the long aisle to his waiting (and trembling?) arms. We had the same view of the breathtaking image in white gracefully walking towards us, but without doubt our thoughts and feelings were worlds apart: In a few moments, I would simply take my seat on the front pew, while Roovin would kneel before God and make a lifelong commitment of love and fidelity to Maela.

It was my first time to be bestman. I felt a little awkard, unsure of what was expected of me. Not quite familiar with Catholic matrimonial proceedings, I flipped through the liturgical program for help. To my relief, it contained instructions for the wedding participants which were being read aloud by the commentator as the ceremony unfolded. So I simply watched out for when my name appeared.

Dadalhin ni John Miguel Florendo ang mga singsing sa altar
(John Miguel Florendo will bring the rings to the altar…)
Luluhod si Roovin at Maela…
(
Roovin and Maela kneel…)
Hihinto sa pagpaypay sa sarili ang Pangunahing Abay na Lalaki na parang kasal niya ito…
(The bestman will stop fanning himself nervously as though this were his wedding…)

Okay, that last one wasn’t in the program. It did specify that I assist in the contract-signing towards the end. That was easy.

At the reception, I operated the projector and cued the audio-visual presentations. I also took it upon myself to start clinking the glass every opportunity I got to elicit a kiss from the couple. Of course, Roovin happily obliged each time, with a naughty twinkle in his eyes 😉 I sang two songs: Roovin’s all-time favorite love song, “How Did You Know” (popularized by Gary Valenciano, but Roovin has loved it ever since Chiqui Pineda’s original take) and Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” For this average singer, both songs were re-arranged (read: simplified) and transposed to lower registers by the talented cousin of the bride. There were a couple of miscues and missteps in my rendition, which I tried to offset with humorous banter. The audience, thankfully, was kind and generous so I didn’t really feel like a complete loser. Hehe. I gave the ceremonial toast after singing Groban’s song, wishing the newlyweds well as they embark on the journey of being “a cord of three strands” with God as the third.

The wedding is over, but I know the duties of the bestman have just begun. I shall continue to pray that Roovin and Maela would continue to seek God with all their hearts and find in Him a greater love that will bind them for a lifetime. Mabuhay ang bagong kasal!

 

my gifts

Some are loved because they are worthy.
Some are worthy because they are loved.
-Thomas Merton

The gifts I got for my 28th birthday arrived in all sorts of packages, very few of them actually wrapped in paper. They came as heartwarming text greetings, a thoughtful breakfast on a tray at the office, a moving “eulogy”, phonecalls, sweets (yummy!), wishes written on hand-shaped cards (“May you have more gifts than you can hold”), cheery renditions of the birthday song, heart-baring YM chat sessions, a dinner date despite a hectic pre-wedding schedule… and more!

I didn’t deserve any one of them. Then again, who deserves gifts? In its essence, gift-giving is an act of grace. And so is gift-receiving. When you’re at the receiving end of someone’s generous expression of love, you are placed in a position of humility and awe. An instinctive reaction is to immediately think of some way to return the favor, to repay the giver. But that somehow diminishes the power of the gift, degrading its grace-filled wonder to mere transaction.

The best response to a heartfelt gift is gratitude and a sober understanding of how undeserving and nonetheless loved we are. Do not resolve to repay the gift-giver or attempt to even out the score. Instead, work to improve your love for others: Love harder – less fearfully, more fiercely. You will find that your love, when it is full, inevitably wraps the most thoughtful of gifts – from the simplest to the most extravagant – that convey the deepest, most affecting messages which only the heart can open, unbound by any expectation of reciprocation.

* * *

To friends and family who have made my birthday special, Thank You! In you own little ways, you have plowed and watered a long-arid ground where hope, joy, and peace have once again sprung to life. Your love, as shown in your thoughtful gifts, is a resounding call for me to worship the Giver of “every good and perfect gift.”

a prelude to joy

I haven’t been blogging because there is a dearth of things to blog about. At least that is what I tell myself. The reason that’s closer to the truth is that somehow I have managed to put my life in suspended mode, allowing only for absolute necessities like work, sleep, hygiene, food, and occasional prayer. Keeping social interactions to a minimum, not really taking notice of anything in particular. Ignoring most things, in fact. Especially those that remain obstinate sources of sadness and pain. For now, it is much more manageable to live as though everything around and about me was a blur. There is a fear that if I start to dwell on the details—the rude intricacies of my present personal situation—I would break down and shatter into a million pieces. Assuming I haven’t yet.

Maybe this is escapism. But I can allow myself that if only for a time, can’t I? The events of the past months have left me broken in many places. It is only now that I sense the wounds—where they are and how bad they are. Mornings, it’s all I can do to tell myself that the sun has once again risen, a blinding reminder that life goes on and I should to. It takes heroic strength to muster enough momentum to subject myself to partake of life’s daily concoction of laughter, frustration, exhaustion, pollution, emptiness, confusion. And then, at nightfall, when all is dark and silent, to be prey again to the merciless ghosts of pain and brokenness.

Ahh, my words flow effortlessly when poured by gloom. I look forward to the day when I would be wordless because joy and peace have graced me with their company. I have a strong feeling I will relish that moment of utter muteness—one too joyful to blog about.