Dear Binatoy

Today is your birthday!

Thank you for taking over when Tatay passed away.  (It’s still hard to accept that you had to take over, but eh, that’s life.  What can we do but take it right?)

Thank you for always going to the market for our meals.

Thank you for always picking me up (also Bunso) even though you really hate that I always have to be picked up at the most inconvenient time in the most inconvenient places.

You’re a husband now, but in my head, you’re still that kid that waited for me by the emergency room and asked me, “Ate, what do we do?” You were 26 then, but I could have sworn you looked 8.

Brother 3

I will always be your Ate.  No matter how many times life forces us to speed by, makes us mature sooner than later, older with every grain of sand that hits our faces.

(I say this because Daniel doesn’t seem to age, so this doesn’t apply to him.)

A lot of people have come up to me and expressed their admiration for you when you took on the role of being the head of a family.  Each time they say that though, I get confused.  It’s not like you looked at the love of your life and saw her and her beautiful daughter as an option.  They were clearly the only choice, and that, my brother, so far, has been the best choice you’ve made in your life.

I knew it then, and all the more, now.

What makes you a man

You were raised by a man who has never shied away from responsibility and obligation.  So people should not be surprised by how you came to be.

But then again, they didn’t know Sir Boy.

So yeah.  Keep making choices as good as the last one.

Happy birthday.

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For the love of postcards

Do you still believe in postcards?

I ask this question now because as of late, I’ve been travelling a lot.  As of late, my niece Machiko Skye has been learning to write.  With a command of language and comprehension beyond her years, she never fails to ask for a postcard whenever she would hear about my departures.

Source:  Instagram - @margoks

Source: Instagram – @margoks

My Paris trip definitely amped up my creativity.  The City of Lights were not short of picturesque postcards.  I immediately sent her a couple, and if it weren’t for the faulty postal service in the Philippines, it would have arrived before I came home.

Source:  Instagram - @margoks

Source: Instagram – @margoks

Source:  Instagram - @margoks

Source: Instagram – @margoks

During my NJ visit, Machiko wrote letters for her cousins.

Machiko Skye New Jersey Postcards Letters

The NJ kids enjoyed it so much, we actually had a letter writing day just so they can reply to her!  And she was more than happy to read them!

Source:  Instagram - @margoks

Source: Instagram – @margoks

The advent of technology is phasing out the relevance of stamps and mail couriers, but there really is no better way of practicing handwriting, communication and interpersonal skills more than letter writing.  I’m very blessed to have so many of my family still in love with old school pen and paper.  Even the little Jared Franco.

Source:  Instagram - @jannicasusi

Source: Instagram – @jannicasusi

So… do you still believe in postcards?

Back to regular programming

So the last three weeks came and went, and I am now back in the Philippines.  As much as it breaks our hearts (hyuck), Le Beau and I are back to regular programming, Facetime and iMessaging forever.

But then I cannot deny the joy of dating him for the last three weeks.  It was absolutely divine.

What I am most enthused about is the time I spent with my nephews and nieces.  I don’t think I would have gotten to know them well if I didn’t take this vacation.  I now have new breakfast buddies and new park buddies.

Breakfast with Miko and Marcky

Juliana Louise and Myah Alyssa

Lily and Madie

I got to take care of the youngest member in the family, the beautiful and fast-growing Olivia Mackenzie.

With Olivia

I am so ecstatic to be part of this memory.  I remember her visit from last year.  She welcomed me from work, I came home past lunch time.  The first thing she said, “You’re not in iPad anymore!”  Ah, Lily.  <3

Lily's First Day

I met Le Beau’s best friend and his family.

The Almanzars

I never imagined that I will be back in this house after ten years.

Yale

But then again, I never imagined this either.

Love and I

Life sure knows how to surprise you.

Meet Olivia Mackenzie

So here’s the thing with this trip:  not only do I get to be with Le Beau again, I also get to meet the newest addition to the family.

I remember that excitement; it’s definitely a different kind from the one I felt on my way to claiming my luggage.  I was just giddy.  I wanted to meet her already, and from the pictures I saw at the beginning, I believe she has my cheeks.

Le Beau was laughing.  “You’re much more excited to meet her than to see me!”  Of course that wasn’t true.  But at the same time, it was.

He was saying we’ll pass by the Goethals Bridge.  I have no idea what that was.  But when we turned the corner to that street in Elizabeth, I wanted to leap out of the car already.

And there she was, in all her sleeping and yawning glory.  She smells like milk and feels like cotton against the skin.  Beautiful limbs.  Ten fingers, ten toes.

Hi Olivia.

Meeting Olivia

My mother and her iPad

My mother is modest.  She was never attentive to designer labels or overseas travels.  Not luxury cars or big houses with walk-in closets and large kitchens.  She has always been self-assured and has always known what she wanted.  And the things she wanted were simple.

Nanay portrait

The third among four siblings, my grandparents raised them in a modest household, where giving is a mandate and food is always shared.  I have never seen my mother — or any of my uncles and aunt rather — want more than what they can afford.  What they have always taken pride in was the fact that their family was raised by parents, who never even made it past grade school, that worked hard for them to finish college.

Nanay graduating

My grandfather passed away some years ago, but my grandmother just turned 90 this year.

Nanay in the province

My mother grew up in a household where cousins and second cousins stay and go for free.  They have shared clothing, housing, food, basically everything, without expecting anything in return.  They are the model family of selflessness; they are the change they wished to be in the world.  They have worked hard in making sure that we, their children, become as giving as they are.  We hope to never disappoint them in that respect.

So when we realized our mother is turning 60 this year, we only thought of one thing to give her:  an iPad.  She looooves the iPhone I handed down to her when I upgraded to the iPhone 5.  She uses it religiously, playing Candy Crush to relax after a long day at work, streams iWantTv whenever she misses her soaps.  She doesn’t really use it for the purposes it was originally intended to be — managing contacts, businesses, emails etc. — but it’s her source of entertainment.  And it’s such a small screen.

The iPad is the perfect gift for her.  Because she will never get one for herself.  Because she will just keep saying she doesn’t need it.  That it’s too expensive for her.  That there’s no need for it really.

But there is a need.  We need to make her happy.  We need that validation that, in spite of the emotional roller coaster of the past year, we can make her so damn giddy still.  That we can get her something she finds expensive.  That we can take care of her whims as she grows older.  That she can have whims now as we are here to get it for her.

AND IT WILL BE A CHALLENGE TO SURPRISE HER BECAUSE SHE IS A DETECTIVE TO THE BONE.  My brothers and I worked extra hard to keep the gift under wraps because the woman that is my mother — or rather ALL mothers — have this uncanny manner of finding out everything effortlessly.

My mother loves Japanese food so we took her to Mangetsu in Jupiter Street, Makati for dinner on her birthday last May 15.  She was completely unsuspecting.

Mangetsu 1

Mangetsu 2

I love the food here, and I’m happy that my brothers trusted my taste.  I ordered for everyone on the table.  Prepare to drool.

(L-R, clockwise):  Salmon Sashimi, Spicy Tuna Sashimi, Chicken Thigh Karaage with Three Kinds of Salt, Beef Sukiyaki, Pork Gyoza, Shio Ramen

(L-R, clockwise): Salmon Sashimi, Spicy Tuna Sashimi, Chicken Thigh Karaage with Three Kinds of Salt, Beef Sukiyaki, Pork Gyoza, Shio Ramen

My brother couldn’t wait anymore.  He was too excited.

Screencap

So I handed over the gift box that she opened ever so slowly.  Ted captured it all on video:  Nanay and her iPad.

Nanay reading her card

I have never seen her smile so big in her life.  Moreover, WE MANAGED TO SURPRISE OUR MOTHER.  That is the true accomplishment for the night.

Nanay and her iPad

We filled the iPad with her favorite apps:  Facebook, Candy Crush, iWantTV.   Now, she wants Clumsy Ninja installed also.  We even arranged it in order of priority.  Hahaha.  We set up her Apple ID and put Facetime right on the first page so she can call our relatives in New Jersey whenever she wanted.

And of course, every single photo of our father that we can scour.

I think to date, she’s still in awe that we gave her something like that.  I mean, for some people, you’d think that a gift like this is easy peasy, but not for my modest mother.  She wouldn’t even think of getting one for herself.  It’s too much for too little a function for her.

Now, this is how she watches her soaps.  Hahahaha.

Now, this is how she watches her soaps. Hahahaha.  Lola doesn’t get what the fuss is about.  Hahahaha. 

But then, we all know mothers more than know better.  They deserve the best.

Happy birthday, Nanay.  You do not look a day over 40.

Working Nanay