A Tubby Tabby, Three Konekos, and a Life with Hello Kitty and Autism

Archive for the 'Love♥' Category

The One Who Got Away

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I wrote this a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, with the intention of posting it as soon as it was finished. Somehow, the days slipped through my fingers and I forgot.

This is for you, A -  the one who stayed - for all the Valentines you and I have been together. Even through our sometimes difficult life, I have never hand a single moment of regret with you.

hk-unbreak-my-heart2We often wax poetic over “the one who got away.” Memories are tricky that way. Like light that passes through a prism and breaks into a rainbow of colors, memories often pass through a sieve that breaks our remembrances and filters the past of its unpleasantness. And through these tinted lenses, we remember things a little differently, a little wistfully, perhaps, with a tinge of nostalgia and a bit of longing. 

We remember the good times we lost. We romanticize the hours of pining and sweet aching. We idealize the nights of wondering about an imagined future. “The one who got away” becomes our life’s ultimate unanswered “what-if?” We think about where he (or she) could be now, what he (or she) is doing at this exact moment. Is he  thinking of you too? Do you even cross his mind? We wonder if the life we lead now is where we were meant to be. We second-guess our decisions. We live in the past.

Yet, in that rose-colored haze, we often forget that “the one who got away” is usually the one who broke your heart. The one who dumped you once, even twice. The one who cheated. The one who couldn’t commit. The one who lied.

He wasn’t perfect, that much is obvious. And so what if the timing was a little bit off?  For true hearts in love, time and space are ephemeral. You would have hocked the universe just to make your relationship work; why couldn’t he have done the same?  Timing, or the lack of it, not being emotionally prepared, not being committed —  these are all cop-outs, excuses people make up to rationalize their wanton disregard of another human being’s feelings. If he was not ready to commit, why bother to go through the whole thing? The truth is, and take it from an old hand in love, it does matter who you’re with, whether he (or she) is a jerk, a coward, or just a complete fraud. Timing’s the least of your worries. 

I can’t totally promise this, but one day, “the person who will not go away” will come. This is the person who will not lie to you. Who will not make you cry. Who will not break your heart.

You and he may not be both ready but it will not matter one bit. When love comes, and I mean true love, nothing else will matter. Not your fears. Not your doubts. Not the inconsequential little things that people seem to worry so much about.

I know too that when that day comes the “what-ifs” will no longer be important. You will realize that reality is so much cooler than imagined expectations. Chuck those clouded eyeglasses for a reality check and just heave a welcome sigh of relief. Thank God, that one got away, for indeed, you are lucky.

You got away too. ♥

What Kind Of World Do We Want?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This video was created by Alex as a gift for Alphonse’s 14th birthday last November 3. We previewed this video to relatives on our family celebration last Sunday, November 9. Alex worked over this after classes, scanning old pictures, writing and rewriting the text, and threading them to become a story. I hope you like this as much as we do. My boys make me very proud.

“Take Me, I’ll Follow”

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Some days, it’s hard to stop writing about everything going in on one’s life. And yet other days, there are things and events that are so poignant that words don’t do them justice, however much you try. This is one such time.

These last two weeks, as Alphonse recuperated from his illness, he has been less active and more prone to lying down silently, deep in thought. His two hour lunch, which also used to be time to de-stress from his morning activities, used to be a time for play and carousing. These days, he reclines in an old sofa and listens to music on a CD player as he whiles away his few hours of rest. Sometimes, he even falls asleep, and this is new as he hasn’t taken a nap since he was seven.

We noticed the changes in him but we felt that between his illness and the colder weather, perhaps, he was simply attuned to his body’s new needs. And then, we noticed something else. His nanny uses a cellular phone/mp3 player to give him alternative choices for music (a lot of old songs and some Original Pilipino Music and) and he has taken to one particular song. When this plays, he smiles and makes a grab for the phone to put it near his ear. And once the song is done, he hands it back to her and motions for her to play it again. As a result, this song is played continuously on a loop most afternoons, the only one that never fails to make him smile. The song? “Take Me, I’ll Follow.”

I just discovered this recently, and knowing this, I wondered with amazement how it is that Alphonse can speak to us without even saying a word. (Remember, his previous favorite was “Miracle Child?”) Last night, as I read the lyrics to his favorite song, the one he asks for over and over again to be played, it dawned on me that perhaps this song expresses feelings that he can’t verbalize. And with this understanding, I started to cry, more for joy than anything else, for this son who never needed the world before. 

Read the lyrics below and pretend it is Alphonse speaking:

Take Me, I’ll Follow

Tired of feeling all by myself
Being so different
From everyone else
Somehow you knew
I needed your help
Be my friend forever
I never found
My star in the night
Feeling my dream was
Far from my sight
You came along and
I saw the light
We’ll be friends forever
I can’t face the
Thought of you leaving
So take me along
I swear I’ll be strong
(If/when) you take me
Wherever you go
I wanna learn the things
That you know
Now that you
Made me believe
I want you to take me
‘Cause I long to be able
To see the things
That you see
know that whatever you do
I’ll follow you
Somebody must have
Sent you to me
What do I have
You could possibly need
All I can give is my guarantee
We’ll be friends forever
Repeat chorus
Teach me more in
Each passing hour
By your side
I know I will cover
Is it true that
You have the power
To capture this moment in time
Take me wherever you go
I wanna learn the things
That you know
Now that you made me believe
I want you to take me
‘Cause I long to be able
To see the things
That you see
Know that
Whatever you do
I’ll follow you

(How I Found) The Ultimate Love Connection

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

This is for A, love of my life, who has given me 17 great years of The Ultimate Love Connection. Thank you for loving me even when I am mental, for bearing with me even when I am exasperating, and for sharing with me the best 27 years of my life. We made this happen, you and I.

Happy Anniversary, love.


Sometimes, I wish that I had fallen in love with A much earlier. I think of our five years of friendship before we became a couple, and I regret that we were too blind to see each other as anything else other than friends. A likes to tell me, however, that it is the sum of our experiences that makes us who we are, and  we were led to each other only at the particular moment when we were ready.  Perhaps, changing the past will change the future, and if that is so, I can live with the follies of my youth.

Surviving Mr. Wrong*

Over a gallon of ice cream, my friend and I once pondered about ever meeting the perfect man. We were both embroiled in serious relationships then, two young women in our early twenties, prime examples of independent, strong-willed, tenacious creatures of the nineties. We wanted to be sure that we had what a swank yuppies’ magazine dubbed as “the ultimate love connection.”

It was late December, and we were on night duty at the intensive care ward of a government hospital. We were still too low in the totem pole of hospital hierarchy to warrant our own lounge, and so we made do in a cramped little corner of the nurses’ station, wearily scooping spoonful after spoonful of ice cream.

“What do you think, P?” she suddenly blurted in between mouthfuls of cookies and cream.

“You and he-who-must-not-be-named?” I swallowed the last bit of Oreo cookie stuck between my front teeth. “What of him?”

“You think we’ll last? I mean, we’ve gone through the answers at the back of this magazine and it says we’re doing just well. Not perfect, but it says we’re okay.” She looked at me doubtfully.
“Not perfect, huh? Then again, who has one? A perfect love connection, I mean?”

“Well, looks like you got it all right …” she replied unhappily.

“Uhm … I’m fessing up … I looked at the answers right after I bought that magazine.”

“You did not! Did you? Hey, be serious, okay?”

“Okay, I think you and he-who-must-not be-named are perfect for each other. How long have you been together, five years? Don’t sweat it, girl. You’ll stay together for a long time. You’ve finally met Mr. Right.” And with that, I scraped the last spoon clean.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Sometime in the “long time” that I predicted, they broke up.

I think of this episode in my life and wonder how I ever thought of myself as an expert in “love connections.” Throughout my adult life, I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to stories of broken hearts, as I have also spent an equal amount of time dishing out well-worn advice for the lovelorn. All these, coming from a woman tutored in the art of romantic love by a guru whose claim to fame is having had the most number of boyfriends by age 25 (I lost count after 49).

My friend and I spent hours on the phone after this most unfortunate breakup. We were each other’s therapists as she poured her heartbreak to me. One day, after months of the most grueling and intensive phone therapy, she asked me how I could be so resilient in the face of adversity.

“Simple, friend. Meet the only woman dumped by the same man twice and lived to tell the tale.”

She gasped. (more…)

Smile, Baby, Smile

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Last week, I wrote about adolescent angst and how it’s making itself felt in my household of two teenagers (technically, both my boys are teenagers by chronological ages, but the young one is still a little child in many, many ways). Of late, it has been one issue after another: late bedtimes, chronic daytime sleepiness, inattention and apparent deafness (or just selective hearing), repeated (^nth power) requests to use Yahoo Messenger, and worse, going through a PhP300 prepaid cellphone load in just a matter of days!

We’ve slowly adjusted our household rules to address these issues. For example, his late nights do not worry or bother me as much as it did in the beginning. Studies have shown that the period of adolescence brings about a change in circadian rhythms. While the the sleep-related hormone melatonin remains at a constant level from childhood to adolescence, alterations in the timing of its secretion by the pineal gland affect their sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin secretion occurs later at night, making early sleep difficult, and turns off later in the morning, making early wake-up time just as difficult.  

Alex, who used to have a 10 pm bedtime at age 12, now can’t sleep earlier than midnight, and this we understand and accept fully. On a regular school day, he averages only five and a half hours of sleep (12 MN to 5:30 am) as school starts at 7 :45 in the morning. Thus, on weekends, if his schedule allows for it, we let him stay in bed longer to make up for lost sleep.

The other issues are a bit trickier. When he “seems deaf,” do I just repeat myself? YM requests must  answer a need, and not necessarily a want (like, is it for homework, or for socialization), but I find myself questioning and second-guessing myself if I limit his social interactions with this rule. Ahh, no easy answers, it seems.

And lastly, the sudden burgeoning of his cellphone load expense. Last year, PhP300 lasted him two months, but now, we see his load dwindling in a matter of weeks, days even. To instill in him some fiscal responsibility, we decided to make him buy for himself every other load card he needs. So,  on an alternate loading schedule, we share in the burden of his expense.

I find myself thinking about him more and more these days. I worry about him now more than I do his differently abled brother. Autism is difficult, true, but at least we have a clearer sense of how much Alphonse needs us and how long we will be in his life.  With Alex, there are so many possibilities- a million potential outcomes, it seems- that I worry about the choices he makes and how it will affect his future. The changes that seem to come almost every day leave me unsettled, wistful, and nostalgic. Sigh.

Every now and then, though, I still see glimpses of the little boy who followed me around shouting “I love you, Mama’ in sing-song fashion. Of the chubby six-year-old boy who refused to leave my side. Of the twelve-year-old who broke out in song every chance he could get, singing the Les Miserables libretto by heart. 

On a day like this, when he and his father exchanged ridiculously funny messages on SMS.

And on a day like this, I just have to remind myself to stop worrying and to “Smile, baby, just smile.”

Growing Pains

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

It must be the season for adolescent angst as I deal with two hormonal young men in my household. While Alphonse grapples with his feelings of jealousy and insecurity, Alex seems to find his way into mischief now more than ever. All weekend long, he and I were constantly bickering, and I suddenly missed the days when my son thought of me as divine and infallible. Nowadays, it seems the first words out of his mouth always begin with a “But.”

By Sunday, I was worn out from all the explaining and discussing, and yes, arguing. I ignored him as long as I could; I didn’t want him to see me lose control. Worse, I didn’t want him to see me cry. I crawled into bed in the middle of the afternoon and slept.

When I woke up, I saw a piece of paper neatly folded by my side table. On it was a poem Alex had written for me. This time, I gave in to my tears.

How the heart weeps and cries,
For such a useless thing
How meaningless can a man die,
When he starts to weep and sigh

On accounting of my deeds
I’ve oft but shown my pride
I say with lack of dignity
“I’ve been all I’ve needed to be!”

“I deserve a right to do
Whatever I may wish
To rampage through lands unknown
To scour the globe with steel and bow!”

“I’ve done what I’ve needed to do!
The time now is to relax and be through!
With useless chores and laborious days
I deserve my break!”

But on reflecting of my crimes
I’ve seen with sorrow and dread
Unknowingly and grudgingly
I caused my own death

My death from times I might’ve enjoyed
If patience I had had
And times I may’ve laughed and smiled
When all I’d done was sigh

And in seeing my attitude
Of how I sit upon a high horse
I scurry down with fearful dread
And change my heart’s ways

“Have pity!” I cry
bending down on knees that creak and groan
“Have mercy, please, I beg of thee
I’ll change now and forevermore.”

This I said with a changing heart
That smiles as it did before
Before, when I was proud and grim
Before, when I was seated on my high horse

I didn’t think adolescence would be this tough and right now, we’re barely at the starting line. The days when my son tests my patience and parental control while he searches for his sense of self, his identity, and his autonomy seem at hand; I dread more days like these. And yet, as long as he continues to dialogue with me- with us- and as long as he expresses his feelings of confusion, anger, remorse in ways like these, I am pretty confident we will weather this teenage storm. I pray. I hope.   

Cognitive Milestones

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

This article was originally posted in HerWord.com on September 8, 2008.

A few years ago, a friend of mine rang me in the middle of the day and started screaming at the top of her voice, “He lied today. Oh, my, he has learned to lie!”

He is her nine-year old son with autism.

Apparently, he was playing hide-and-seek with his little brother that afternoon, when little brother asked “Are you in the bathroom?” Normally, he would answer a direct question with a yes or no, oblivious to the fact that his little brother was using his honest replies to tag him and get an edge in the game. That day, for some strange reason, he shouted “No!” though he was, indeed, inside the bathroom. Little brother, expecting victory on his side, ran to kitchen and asked “Are you in the kitchen?” at which time he was surprised to find his brother appear from behind him.

“No fair!” little brother cried out and tried to tell on him. Big brother just smiled delightedly.

And so, when my friend called me up that afternoon, I got caught up in all the shrieking and rejoicing, too. After all, it isn’t everyday that our children with autism get to reach a cognitive milestone.

Just last week, Alphonse reached his own cognitive milestone. For the first time in a long while, I caught a distinctive glimmer of the soul hidden behind his autism. Last week, Alphonse learned the rudiments of jealousy.

It started quite unexpectedly. My sister dropped off her infant son and his nanny here at home, asking if I minded looking after him while she worked. She had some things to finish at the hospital that day, after which she would pick up her son to go to a friend’s house. Since my house was nearer their secondary destination, she asked if he could stay a few hours here with me. “Of course,” I readily agreed, excited at the prospect of having a baby in the house. Since my next-door neighbors (my cousin and her two gorgeous children) left early this year, I had missed having little visitors come to the house to eat and play. Baby J was a little too young for rambunctious play, but he’s been very giggly these last few weeks, and he does give out the wettest, slurpiest kisses of all my nephews and nieces.

Baby J was playing quietly on my bed with the boys’ old toys when Alphonse came up after his morning class. I took Alphonse by the hand and re-introduced his baby cousin.

“Alphonse, this is Baby J. He is here for a visit. Do you want to say hello?” I said enthusiastically.

“Ha!” Alphonse grunted and waved reluctantly.

Then he inched away from the baby, preferring to watch from a few feet away. He looked disinterested, or so I thought, though I did catch him stealing a few glances from the side of his eyes. I asked him if he wanted something. He smiled shyly and turned away. Again, he stole a few glances at the baby and suddenly scowled a little. I was a little concerned at his reactions, so I thought to distract him from his preoccupation with the baby. I asked him to join me for lunch. I was rather surprised when he said no.

“No? Aren’t you hungry, Alphonse? Let’s go eat lunch,” I gently coaxed him.

He would not budge.

I decided to leave him in the room. Alphonse is a predictable fellow, and there are some things that we’ve all learned will work with him. And this is one such formula: when I leave a room, he follows. That particular moment, he stayed behind, lingering and looking at the baby intently.

Then, and this is according to Alphonse’s nanny, he made his way to the bed, sidled up close to the baby, and gently took his baby toys from the bed, away from Baby J. Smiling, he put them as far away as possible, almost near the floor. Only when he was assured that the baby would not be able to reach his toys did his face betray the first signs of a smile.

When his nanny rushed down to tell me about it, I could not believe it at first. Alphonse has never felt territorial with his toys or any of his possessions (okay, except for food); most of the time, he would not care less who touches or plays with them. But that day, he didn’t want to share at all.

In the afternoon, just before his class, he went back to the bedroom again, and upon seeing the baby beside me on the bed, slowly crept up and gingerly inserted himself between the baby and myself. He flashed a smile of triumph, as if to say “I’ve claimed my bed and my mother,” while baby J mewled softly beside him. He also kept asking for kisses and would not leave my side, despite his nanny’s reminders that it was time to study anew. I had to escort him back to his study room.

When my sister fetched Baby J, Alphonse was visibly relieved. In the following days, he seemed a little anxious, although we simply ascribed it to the minor changes in his routine. Unexpected visitors always seem to ruin his rhythm.

A few days later, however, he was back to his jovial, relaxed self. It was a good day, just one of those days when all his answers were smiling yesses, as he seems to want to please everyone.

“Are you a good boy?” Alphonse nods to say yes.

“Do you like ice cream?” Yes.

“Do you want a kiss?” Yes.

“Are you happy?” Yes.

And even “Do you have body odor?” Yes. (For the record, he does not have body odor.)

So it was turning out to be one of those funny days when he says yes to all you ask, but my sister just happened to ask this question: “Do you like Baby J”

Alphonse smiled and shook his head.

“You don’t? Oh, my poor baby!” my sister cried.

Alphonse kept smiling and shaking his head. No. No. No.

My thirteen year-old son, my Alphonse, is jealous of a little baby. Oh, what a glorious day!

Lost-And-Found Daddy

Friday, August 29th, 2008

This was written by my youngest sister Jasmine. I asked her permission to put it here in honor of our Dad’s 67th birthday today. I am not able to write about this as bravely as she has and so, I am borrowing her words today. Thank you, Jas.

Daddy and his first grandchild, Alexander

And to our dearest Daddy, the first man I ever loved, the man who gave all five of his children the sun and the moon and the stars- Happy Birthday! We love you so much.


Lost-And-Found Daddy

by Jasmine N.O.

My father smells awful.

And I am glad.

Most days, the smell of sweat, cigarettes, rust and hard work cling to him, trailing his every movement. It is an odor that has followed him every working day of his life. And for a time, during my adolescence, I found it quite embarrassing.

But now I welcome it.

It is the smell of a self-made man.

When I was growing up. My father made a decent living managing a factory he single-handedly built from the ground up. Daddy worked incessantly, day and night, weekdays and weekends- always with the seemingly untiring precision of a clockwork figure.

During those early years, we lived in a modest house half-perched on top of the factory. And each day, he would descend the stairs wrapped in a cloud of soapy freshness. Yet he would always come back smelling like the chemicals and metals of his trade.

As a matter of routine, upon returning home, he would lie down, still reeking like a sack of rusty nails. Then we would scramble up his bed and sidle up next to him, unmindful of the odor.

As we grew, his business flourished. Daddy’s hard work provided us with all we could ever need, and much more besides. We were by no means spoiled brats, but all our young lives, we never knew what it was to want for anything.

We lived a privileged existence. Pampered with more books and toys than we knew what to do with, chauffeured to and from the best private schools, encouraged to bloom through dance, art, and music lessons. We had the best of everything, all due to his tired, sweaty factory smell.

As the youngest child, I was Daddy’s Girl. On shopping trips, when a clean-shaven and perfumed Daddy would firmly tell me that a certain purchase would be my last for the day, I would turn on the charm and get him to agree to buy me the last, last item. And the last, last, last after that. And the last, last, last, last after that. And so on. I was loved. :-)

When I was about four years olds, I lamented being born three days before Christmas. Much to my dismay, I would always get joint birthday and Christmas presents from relatives and friends. To make up for this “gross injustice,” Daddy declared that my birthday would officially begin on December 1st and stretch all the way down to January 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings. True enough, beginning the first of each December, I would receive little presents from Daddy.

To be sure, Daddy was not a selfish man. The success of his kamalig (translation: warehouse), as he liked to call it, allowed him to send all five of us to college, and the other four on to medical or law school. But he always kept his widowed mother and younger siblings in mind.

The kamalig allowed him to provide jobs for his younger brothers and sisters. It allowed him to build a spacious house of his own and an even grander one for his mother. He was a father to the entire extended family. Even down to our less fortunate cousins, majority of whom he sent to school.

But in 1992, a series of strokes and a family dispute put an end to life as we knew it.

While in his sickbed, Daddy was accused of theft by the siblings he loved and employed. Never mind that he gave them more than he ever kept for us. Never mind that the deeds to majority of the property he had accumulated were in their names. Never mind that he had to do without a lot… for us, for them.

Confused, weakened, so much unlike himself, he yielded. And he lost everything he had ever worked for, save for the home and the cars. He lost the kamalig and with it, that kamalig stench.

I was still in college then. And pretending like nothing was different, I plodded my way through school, surrounded by the din of friends and classmates, many of whom were none the wiser to my new predicament.

When left to my own devices, I would try not to cry. Yet sometimes, sorrow and anger would get the better of me and I would wrap my fists tightly around a bunch of coins. Then I would wait. Wait for the rusty smell to grow on my sweaty palms. It was almost like that kamalig smell. It was comfort when I needed it most.

From school, I would often return to a quiet and darkened house. To a grieving family suddenly thrown into hard times.

We were not used to worrying about money. But more than that, we were not used to having to take care of Daddy. He always took care of us.

Robbed of his pride and his notion of self worth, he withdrew into a deep depression. His strokes left him with virtually no physical deficits and yet he remained bound to his bed. His work-calloused hands and feet grew soft and smooth from disuse.

What disease could not do, his siblings and his mother did effortlessly.

They broke him. They defeated him. They all but killed him.

Whereas before, he hardly ever raised his voice, he became prone to fits of rage. He lost his laughter- a man who once seemed invincible, reduced to muted tears of anguish and anger. Gone was his enviable zest for life and living. In its place was much sadness and thoughts of death and dying.

He became a stranger to us.

That above all was the greatest loss. Far greater than the loss of money, property , or extended family.

He was robbed of everything that made him who he was. And we found ourselves just as lost as he was. Perhaps more so.

A very good school friend who knew a similar fate once told me how much of a stranger her own father had become. “I love him,” she said sadly. “But I no longer like him.” For a time, that summed up how I felt about my father. I could not find even a glimmer of the man he once was. And that is a horror and tragedy that I never would have thought was possible.

But opiating forgetfulness is kind.

In time, the gaping wounds healed.

Grandchildren brought back a twinkle to daddy’s eyes. He found his laughter again. He regained his pride.

The sale of the lavish residence, so close to his mother’s and siblings’ homes, gave him renewed vigor.

It was like cutting ties again. Only willingly this time. And permanently.

We packed up our things and never looked back.

And from the sale of the house, daddy constructed a new home. And a new factory. A modest one that can’t compare to what he once had, but it’s his. All his. Pabrika (translation: factory), he now calls it.

And each day, he leaves the new home under a cloud of soapy freshness.

And each night, he returns, the smell of sweat, cigarettes, rust and hard work clinging to him.

Like old times.

Well, almost…

A Fairy Tale Come True

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

I was officially released from my “husband-imposed quarantine” (sorry, hon) last Friday, when A, Alex and I took in the third-to-the-last show of Cinderella at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). By then, while I still couldn’t wear abrasive clothing (like jeans) which would scratch at my healing abdomen, I was well enough to put on a soft, slinky dress (imagine me in a dress!) that A had bought for me and stay out till late at night.

As soon as the lights went out and Lea Salonga’s voice filled the hall, I wept like a hormone-addled PMS sufferer. I couldn’t help it. Something about her voice evokes that same reaction every single time. Indeed, Ms. Salonga’s voice has definitely grown more refined and more elegant with time, mirroring her emotion and thoughts with subtle changes in inflection, tone, and body. And as old (at 41) as I am and as jaded as I am now of real life, I still wept when she finally found her Prince.

A held my hand tightly in his. I think he was a little afraid I would pass out from the excitement. I saw him glance at me a few times in the dark, as he wiped a tear or two from my cheeks. :-)

A got good seats for us, just four rows from the stage. We were so close we could see the microphone stuck on the actors’ foreheads, heehee. And much like the four-year-old child I was when I first saw Disney’s Cinderella (technically, Disney’s Cinderella is much, much, much older, having been created in 1950), I had my mouth open for most of show, in turns guffawing in laughter, holding my breath in excitement, and weeping with happiness. Moreover, I was enthralled by the details- the lavish costumes, the wonderful colors, the elaborate sets, and the lightning-quick changes (Ms. Salonga changed from servant girl to fabulous-princess-of-the-ball in less than a minute). The production values were excellent in every way.

I loved Cinderella, loved it so much that I begged A to watch another show with me, even just a matinee. I knew, however, that with Alex’s exams coming this week, our weekend would have to be spent at home. I was sad to go but A always does the sweetest things to cheer me up. He gave me a souvenir program, a CD of the international tour cast recording, and a charm bracelet (with slipper, pumpkin, and Cinderella charms) to bring home. On the car on the way home, Alex was already singing lines from the song. When he asked me which song I loved the best, I said it was this:

Prince: Do I love you because you’re beautiful,
or are you beautiful because I love you?
Am I making believe I see in you
a girl too lovely to be really true?
Do I want you because you’re wonderful,
or are you wonderful because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream
or are you really as beautiful as you seem?

Cinderella: Am I making believe I see in you
a man too perfect to be really true?
Do I want you because you’re wonderful,
or are you wonderful because I want you?

Both: Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream
or are you really as wonderful as you seem?

While Cinderella and the Prince sang this song, I was reminded of myself and how I saw myself through my eyes. Sometimes, fairy tales do come true. At least, it did for me.


I looked for this article which I wrote years ago and I read this to Alex when we got home that night. He was asking too many questions, wanting to understand why that specific song resonated loudly in my life. I think he understands now.

The Beauty of Loving

Early on in life, I knew I was no ravishing beauty. At an age when many little girls dreamt of becoming Miss Universe, I knew as early as then that it was useless and foolish to pine for this impossible dream. I didn’t chance upon this conclusion by myself. One of my earliest memories was that of my paternal grandmother pinching my flat nose and saying, “Eto, pango, hindi talaga maganda.” (This one has a flat nose, not beautiful at all.”) I was only three years old.

My younger sister Joanne (the one who grew up to call herself Joee), well, she was the beauty of the family, everyone agreed. She was lithe and petite, whereas I was chubby and chunky. Her complexion was golden and creamy, whereas I was pasty and white like a ball of dough. She had deep-set eyes fringed with long eyelashes, while mine were hairless Chinese slits I inherited from our father. She had pouty lips that I tried to imitate, only to end up looking like a fish without gills. She even had dimples — on both cheeks! Hands down, my Incredible Hulkette was no match for her graceful beauty.

Foolishly, I took all those against her while we were growing up, as if she had any choice on the matter at all. I deeply resented her luck. Thankfully, she didn’t quite catch on that I didn’t want to be around her most of the time. I’d devise ways to get back at her, though she always put one over me, no matter how deviously I tried. Looking back, I was a rather lame evil sister. I’d play with her Barbie toys and leave them lying around (so she’d get scolded by my mom), and as soon as I turned my back on her, she’d be running around the house innocently gumming and chewing on my Ballerina Barbie doll’s leg. By the time I rescued Barbie, my sister had already dripped drool all over the doll’s hair and painted face. She even decapitated it accidentally.

I was the big sister she desperately wanted to close be with. She hounded me like a sweet little puppy and tried to insinuate herself into my life. I kept her at bay and distanced myself from her. At family reunions, I’d sit as far away from her as possible so that our critical and tactless relatives wouldn’t have to compare her to me.

A funny thing happened when I reached adolescence. I sprouted a foot and a half overnight. I grew breasts and curvy hips. My face developed a semblance of cheekbones as puberty distributed the fat in all the right places. All of a sudden, I was no longer fat and plain of face. Sure, I was still no beauty, but I didn’t think I looked all that bad. My sister, on the other hand, remained a child for some years after I had grown. Because she was always small for her age, even in adolescence, she remained smaller than most. I got to wear hip, teenage clothes while my mom forced her to wear baby dresses with Peter Pan collars and Dumbo patches, much to my sister’s chagrin. I almost pitied her then.

When she finally caught up with me (I think she started to grow and develop around her junior year in high school), I lost steam again. Ah, that was it, I gave up. I felt that I had no chance of ever competing with her in the arena of physical attributes so I buried myself in books. I stayed up late at nights to do more work for extra credit. I made myself adhere to a rigid schedule of study and it paid off. When I got a science scholarship in high school and later on got in the state university, I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, people were no longer wont to notice my funny-looking face or my large figure, only my brains.

There was a commercial advertisement many years back that struck me on a personal level, not because of the message but because of the character they employed to get the message across. In the past, I often identified myself with that girl in the commercial. Rosa Axion Bida had pimples on her face, a few blackened teeth, a large flat nose, and an ungainly, awkward build. In short, she was pimply, fat and ugly — a cruel stereotype of household help. Many days, I felt as ugly as she was depicted.

I carried that image in my heart for many, many years. I even dreamt of her, and in my dreams, I was Rosa Axion Bida. Her image was seared in my brain.

I didn’t realize it then, but when I finally acknowledged that I could achieve something on my own by sheer hard work, I stopped becoming preoccupied with physical beauty. I learned to laugh more. I learned to laugh at myself. I laughed from my belly and from somewhere deeper down, a layer I hadn’t known existed. I ran and played and enjoyed myself. I became comfortable in my own skin. And somewhere down the road, I forged a real friendship with my sister, never mind that she is and will always be the ravishing beauty of the family.

Still, I didn’t chuck all the cosmetic trappings; rather, I learned to use it for my own pleasure. I dressed to please myself and I made myself up not for anyone else but for my own satisfaction.

The people in my life attested to this change. They never flattered me and called me beautiful; that would be hogwash, of course, but many complimented my grace and my spirit. Some loved my feistiness and my grit, others my determination and my persistence. They loved my laughter, which they said was natural and devoid of artifice. They admired my words, which they said could evoke strong feelings in them. I was happy. I was being me.

I met my husband when we were both thirteen. When we were eighteen, he said I was the most beautiful human being he had ever known. I punched him hard in the arm and guffawed. Me — beautiful? He must be joking! He took it all in stride and punched me back lightly in the arm, all the while grinning and exposing his pearly whites like crazy. He learned never to call me beautiful again.

Then late one night, a few nights after I had just given birth to our first son, I awakened to the light rustling of sheets as my husband sought to swaddle Alex in flurry of blankets. I heard him crooning softly to our newborn baby. “You’re the luckiest baby in the word,” he said softly. “I love you, do you know that? And you are as beautiful as your mom.” My heart leapt for joy. Fast-forward to today. My son is ten, and beginning to appreciate the different faces and figures of people. “Human beings are like art, Mama,” he says knowingly. “Some are abstract art, but their colors make you happy. Some are beautiful paintings, but they leave you cold inside.”

“What about me, then?” I asked in jest. I wanted to see what he would say. I remembered suddenly, with a twinge of pain, how in kindergarten, he wrote about his mother being the kindest woman he had ever known. He added that his best friend wrote that his mom was pretty and had a nice figure. Why didn’t he write the same of me? “But, Mama, that would be a lie.” I had to smile despite myself.

“You, Mama?” I heard him breathe deeply. “You are the most beautiful painting in the whole world because you make my heart sing. I love you.”

I should learn a thing or two from the people who love me. Maybe I am beautiful. In their eyes, anyway. And if so, it is their love that makes me that way. So today, in the midst of eyebags and stretch marks, cellulite and thunder thighs, I no longer see myself as Rosa Axion Bida. I am beautiful, this I’ve learned from those who love me.

I am beautiful because I accept. I am beautiful because I forgive. And I am beautiful because I love.

The Kitty Business

Friday, August 15th, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post new pictures of my Kitty purchases. The pictures are not complete; I chose only the pieces that I really, really like. My seller-friends know what I got from them, and that’ll have to remain between them and myself. (Procrastination excused!) But I wanted to share some, because they’re just so darned beautiful or because as simple as they are, they brought so much joy to Alphonse and myself.

This is a denim visor I got from AJ a few months back. Alphonse picked out the blue one himself. I think he thinks he looks cool in it. :-)

These are new bookends I got from Vivi and they go very well in my bookshelf. But wait…

Alphonse loves the vibrating Kitty strawberry toy Vivi sent as a gift! See the smile on his face? Suddenly, my purchases all seemed rather unimportant. How much is Alphonse’s smile? Absolutely priceless. Thank you, dear Vivi! 

This is Alphonse’s favorite clock from Nancy (it goes very well with his Kitty timer). For now, it hangs in our room while it awaits a permanent place in what will be Alphonse’s work area. The classic red and apple Kitties are his favorite. Most touching of all, Nancy and Vivi wrote Alphonse short notes which I have read to him. I know he loves being remembered and thought of. :-)

Now, this is my current favorite, a scientific calculator which I got on a clearance sale at Nancy’s. I’ve been dreaming of this for quite a time (it was quite expensive in other sites) and I was fortunate to have snagged this before anyone else did. Now, I’m looking for another one for Sweeney, who I think will be able to use this in her high school algebra and trigonometry classes. Oh, I do hope I find another one!

And for my Oriental-inspired living room, here are my newest add-ons:

a pair of gorgeous Kitties from Allen to watch over Akemi, my Japanese baby doll

a lucky manekineko gold plush from Gift Gate


and an elegant Japanese Kitty from AJ

I don’t have a specific room to house my Kitty collection. More often than not, you’ll find her here and there, scattered in the different corners of my home, proof of how she has insinuated herself into my life. Each piece reminds me of something, of Alphonse’s smile as he looks at Hello Kitty tenderly, of Alex’s clumsy but ultimately successful attempts to worm himself into my good side (a mommy bribe, he calls it), and of A’s willingness to sacrifice his own interests and desires just to accommodate mine. It’s not so much as the Kitties but the story behind them. And that story is always about love.