‘Dada’

 

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“Be a father. It lives up to the hype.”
—Charlie to Will in The Newsroom

It’s a quarter past nine in the evening as I write this. Exactly one year ago at this hour, I was in the labor room with Daphne, helping her with the breathing and relaxation techniques we had picked up from birth class. In about five and a half hours, at 2:40AM, our first child would be born—3.9 kg, 52.5 cm, and really angry. (I’m sure there is a medical term for all that wonderful screaming.) He, Xander Amadeus Guerra Tan or, fondly, Adi, would in turn birth the mother and the father in Daphne and me, new roles that we have been learning to embrace this past year with much joy and trembling, lots of prayers, and never enough sleep.

Since becoming a father, I have been asked by friends to describe how I felt that moment in the delivery room when I first saw Adi. For sure, it wasn’t what I had imagined or seen in the movies. I didn’t feel all chest-thumping fatherly. Or weepy. Or light-headed (thankfully). I felt relieved, grateful to God for answering prayers, mine and other people’s, for the safety of my wife and baby. And then I felt overwhelmed. Then tired and hungry at the same time. I looked at my brave wife on the delivery table—her lips pale and her eyes droopy—and I felt a little worried, but I also felt very proud. I raised my iPhone to take a video of my son—my son!—and I felt panicky, afraid my capture wouldn’t do the moment justice. Somewhere in all that was joy. Oh, joy!—she was merrily skipping around the other feelings as though reminding them of a choreography she had long rehearsed with them.

What they say is true: nothing fully prepares a man for fatherhood.

I remember walking down the hospital after my wife and our newborn son had been wheeled into the recovery room. A lullaby was playing. Later I would learn that it was the  hospital’s ritual to play a lullaby in the delivery wing each time a baby was born. (Nice touch, St Luke’s.) At some point I did think that I was just imagining the lullaby. After all, I was sleepless and hungry—physical realities that my consciousness was just then starting to register as the adrenaline rush began to subside.

Through these past twelve months of getting to know and caring for Adi, Daphne and I have grown so much. Our hearts have swollen to near-bursting. Adi has quickened a part of us that we didn’t know was there. He draws from us a kind of love that surprises even us, one we didn’t realize we could give. More and more, as we love him, our son in turn reveals to us the father-heart of God. And we learn to love and trust Him more, also to love other people more. We pray that Adi will love and trust Jesus too.

In wisdom and grace, Abba has chosen me to be Adi’s Dada. That is one mystery I will spend a lifetime embracing. Tomorrow, we start counting years.

Happy first birthday, Adi-buddy.

here

It’s Saturday and I sit here at a mall in good ol’ Quezon City. I still think Quezon City, especially the Diliman area, is one of the best and sanest places in Metro Manila. It wasn’t long ago when this had been my ‘hood. Before I moved to Mandaluyong two years ago, Diliman and its environs had been home to me for many years.

Today, I am a visitor. But one who feels most welcome, with nary a hint of awkwardness.

My cup of Krispy Kreme coffee has surrendered its contents into my system. I feel the caffeination. I like that Krispy Kreme makes strong, jolting coffee. And really sweet too. In my book, their concoction is perfect.

Now let’s see if this blend of nostalgia and caffeine will beget some writing.

tea

I’m capping this Sunday with a cup of hot milk tea. Never mind that it isn’t the real thing (it’s powdered Lipton tea). Instead of the usual coffee, I decided to have something different tonight—to celebrate the day’s great feat.

And what great feat, you ask?

Well, I heroically tackled domestic chores for the better part of the day. That means doing the laundry (major, major!), vacuum-cleaning (ha-ha-hatsiiing!), floor-waxing (I used the no-buffing-needed variety, especially formulated for lazy singles), and lotsa sweating (no swearing, but almost).

Total estimated man hours spent: 5.

It’s no biggie for most people, but it’s remarkable, even miraculous, for someone as domestically inept as moi. My girlfriend smiled when I proudly reported that I had finally dealt with my condo chores after procrastinating for eternity plus a day and a half. But I dared not take her to my place to inspect the outcome of my day’s striving. I’m sure the lady will find my achievement wanting. Any lady would.

But, hey, this man’s happy enough for tea. Sip, sip.

sunday

Woke up with—not one, but two!—burning, itchy, and teary eyes. I have been nursing a rebellious Right Eye the past few days and was actually hoping things would start looking up today. But Left Eye just couldn’t be left out of the “fun” and insisted on joining the pity party. So now I feel discomfort in both eyes. I still can’t wear my contact lenses. My nose bridge (it’s there, really, take a closer look) now has reddish dents, heroic marks from bearing the weight of nerdy-thick eye glasses.

I was hoping to get to the early morning service today, and later in the afternoon kiddie-party with Daphne’s family as we celebrate the fourth birthday of little Bastian (whose smile and twinkly eyes make you feel like a superhero). In between, I hoped to do some word-wrestling on a writing project because yesterday was blah and my word count has not risen significantly while my writer’s morale took a nosedive. Plus I got hit by a plastic bottle of lotion falling from the sky. But that’s another story.

From the looks of it, I’ll be spending this Sunday quarantined in my little corner of Mandaluyong. The Gurlpwend called to check on the “red-eyed mister” and listen to him whine, whine, whine—in a very, very manly way, of course. I’ve fixed myself coffee and toasted pandesal, trying to make peace with my lot.  Although I didn’t make it to church, today can still be a day of worship. And I pray to God to not just heal my sorry eyes, but to open my spiritual eyes to get a fresh glimpse of His bigness today.

(cpr)

I sit here at a coffee shop corner, satisfied with my plate of pasta and water in a plastic cup—no more coffee for me; I had too much of it earlier today. Around me strangers talk and sip coffee. I wonder at the wealth of stories and lives being shared all around me at this moment…

I feel tired from negotiating two train lines from the Manila hospital where I visited an aunt who just had a hysterectomy. The LRT was not as crowded as I had expected, and the clean and airconditioned train car I hopped on was… nice. How long has it been since I last boarded the LRT line? For a moment during the ride, I thought I wasn’t in Manila, but in some foreign city. The trip was actually pleasant, including the part where I got lost for a moment but quickly regained my bearings, thanks to signage. (I know.)

Maybe this little snippet from my day will help resuscitate this blog?

warrior

Today I felt like a Spartan warrior. I tackled a mean battalion of backlogged email, courtesy of my weeklong leave from work. After countless mouse swoops and incessant keyboard tapping the 150+ emails did get the attention they required, leaving a weary but fulfilled worker in their wake.

Now I feel sore all over — not from the email battle, but from the two-hour massage I decided to get at day’s end. My calves feel tender, but my back feels great. Hey, even warriors deserve the occasional pampering. I hope I don’t sleep too well and long; I have a morning meeting.

‘badge not honored’

I was on a commuter bus today, on my way home from meeting my sister at the newly-opened NAIA Terminal 3. Somewhere in Cubao three men wearing MMDA uniforms got on the bus. One of them took the empty seat right in front of me, while the rest walked farther down the aisle to the back of the bus.

This should be interesting, I told myself as I clicked pause on my iPod.

The bus conductor approached to collect fare, but the officer in front of me did not reach for his wallet or dig into his pocket; he simply moved his black jacket to reveal more clearly the MMDA patch on his blue uniform. The conductor was unfazed by the insignia, and then he started ranting and pointing to the sign near the dashboard: “Badge Not Honored.”

The blue-clad public servants, presumably embarrassed, decided to alight at the next stop light, to the music of the passengers’ clucking tongues. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Commuting in Manila is never dull.