You are 67 today. I wonder how you are, half-thinking how stupid that sounds when I know that you are in a place with only love, peace, and joy. Still, I wonder how you are, always, and I do not know if I ever can stop.

Lately, my dreams about you leave me puzzled and troubled. You are sad in my dreams. Perhaps this is only my own sadness, my grief, projected through you. Perhaps it is you reaching out to me, reminding me of the words you told me, when I brushed your hair, or held your hand, or kissed you. You always told me that you did not want me to be sad when you’re gone because my sadness is your sadness. “We are one heart,” you always said.

I remember you, more intensely for the last months. I am capable of crying again, perhaps that is a good thing. Last Christmas, I set a table for three. Papang was surprised, but we both knew it in our hearts, we needed you to be there. Papang and I looked at your place in the table, and we both said, “Mamang, Merry Christmas.” I cried, unashamed on the dining table, and for the first time in front of Papang.

I have a notebook that I try to fill with details of you—random things, the silliest and smallest details, our inside jokes, secrets, mannerisms, your favorite things—details I never want to forget or miss or leave to the inaccessibility, or unreliability, or betrayal of future memory.

There are still stories that are written in my heart that I cannot yet write on paper. There are memories I visit, but am always hurrying to leave. I still deny the truth in these memories. They are too painful and when visiting them, I find it difficult to recover, to bring myself back again to the here and now.

There are details that I cannot yet name. I do not care if I be called immature for not calling the reality as it is, for refusing to describe you in that word I just cannot still accept. I tell stories about you as you are and as you are still here with me.

Your love is perfect.

Growing up, I have never been someone who wished to be a princess, who wished to meet a prince charming, who dreamed of weddings, or of finding a husband. I treated romantic love as it is, but I never considered myself as one to actively participate.

I never searched for romantic love. I know why that is. It is because of you, Mamang. I have always been contented of your love. Your love has always been enough for me, so that I never found it in my heart to search for it somewhere or in somebody else.

Your love is perfect. I know I will never be loved in the same way again, as I know in my heart, I can never love anyone as much as I love you. They say we can only have one great love in this lifetime. Even then, I have always been a firm believer that love should not be limited to romantic love. It is because I have always known you are my one great love. I told you this, and you said I am yours, too.

I did not know how much love I had in me until I learned to serve, sacrifice, devote, hope, endure, let go. I did not know how much love I had in me until I learned both the joy and the pain that come with it. I did not know how much a love survives and remains alive in spite of the longing, yearning, grieving, and mourning.

So, you see, until this time, you continue to teach me, train me, correct me, equip me, lead me, mother me. Until this time, you still give yourself to me. Your love is limitless and unending. It is a love that continues to give, a love that strengthens, a love that survives. Your love is perfect, Mamang.

On your birthday, let my heart be with you. I know this birthday is special because now, you can only know of love, peace, joy, and of course, without pain. I wish you do everything you missed in those two years, like eating all the food you want, or swimming, or cooking, or organizing, or reading, or giving counsel to the people who seek your wisdom and advice. I wish you meet all the people you loved and lost. I wish you celebrate to the fullest. Be glorious like your name.

Happiest birthday, Mamang kong pinakamahal. Sending you all my love. We are one heart.


‘Tis the Season of Intentional Gift Giving

In Bea Johnson’ book, Zero Waste Home, she shares the 5 Rs of the Zero Waste Lifestyle. The first and second of these Rs or principles address the prevention of waste:
“Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need.”

As I’ve shared on this blog, I’ve been trying to move to an intentional and simplified lifestyle this year. The first step I took was to simplify my wardrobe as I’ve shared here, which so far, has brought me peace and contentment. The second step I took was to use the first and second Rs of the Zero Waste lifestyle as two of my core guiding principles. The third step is to make my own natural cleaners, which I shared here.

I have been refusing freebies a lot, especially those that I do not need and do not intend to use. I have also identified the source of my every day waste, which are shampoo and conditioner sachets, liners, and tissues. To reduce my every day waste I now buy the big bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and have also taken the switch to use cloth liners instead. So far, I have been quite successful in my journey, but I do have a weakness. I have no intention at all to stop buying and hoarding books! Book hoarding sparks joy in me, so I better keep at it. Right?

The biggest challenge I encountered thus far are with gifts. I am blessed with such generous friends who never fail to shower me with gifts. When I see the effort and money that they are giving through the gifts they give me, I just do not have the heart to refuse the gift even when I do not need it.

In our team at work, we have this tradition of giving notes or cards to the birthday celebrant. For my birthday this year, I was specific that I did not want to receive birthday cards or notes. I did not get one, much to my delight, but still there was an effort to make me a paper flower bouquet and a surprise printout of a bearded Chris Evans. I was told someone did not get much sleep making those paper flowers and because I care about that person, I did not have the heart to complain. To be honest, I’m still thinking of ways on how to dispose of that paper flower bouquet. I also was delighted to receive vouchers instead of more unnecessary stuff. On that birthday I also specifically said I did not want wishes of a “Happy Birthday” because it just was not a happy birthday. I was grieving and dreading to celebrate a day without the company of the person I love the most. I said that instead of wishing me a “Happy Birthday” they can wish me a “Peaceful Birthday” instead.

There are three things I learned from that birthday incident. The first two lessons are echoes of what Bea Johnson shares in her book:

  1. “Refusing comes with its challenges. In a society where accepting has become the polite norm, refusing can appear to go against the grain of good manners.” And then she adds, “But it’s up to us modern parents to teach our kids that it’s okay to politely decline a well-intentioned offer…Refusing requires tremendous courage, but kids build lasting confidence when they meet challenges like this, and they become examples for others.”
  2. Let those with whom you exchange gifts with know about your current lifestyle. “Timing is everything. Let them know before they bother to gather or buy objects for you. It is easier to refuse ahead of time than on the spot.”
  3. Communication is key. People are most likely to respect what we communicate well.

So on this holiday season, when gifts abound and all are merry and bright, my thoughts are on gifts. In fact, there was one incident just last week about a fan that I know I would not use, so I refused and gave it away. Unfortunately, the giver insisted that it was specifically handpicked for me so I should keep it, and again, the better person in me just thought I needed to think of a better plan to dispose of it later.

I stumbled through this Instagram post, and I thought it was just appropriate. I do think that “hate” is too strong a word to use to describe how one feels about a surprise gift:

photo from @minimal_influence

There are many reasons why people give gifts, with the most important ones coming from the goodness of the giver’s heart and the intention to express love, thought, and care through a gift. When I think about these reasons I also have come to a resolve that I do not want to be a hindrance for the giver to experience joy and to express their love through gift giving. I would rather encourage everyone to be mindful and practical in giving gifts this holiday season.

Sharing with you some tips on practicing intentional gift giving:
1. Ask what the person needs. I think this is the most practical and most important gesture. There is nothing wrong in asking. This way, you’d be sure that the recipient would be really happy about the gift and they would not waste it. One friend did this for me just lately, and as a result I appreciated and valued both the gesture and the gift even more.
2. Give consumables. Put together a list of the products your friends are using. You will need their input on this one. I think I might have to do this soon, so I can keep coming back to the list for future reference. Surely, you can buy one of those products.
3. Treat the person and spend time with them. Invite them to lunch, snacks, dinner, or to a movie. Pay for them. Sit down, talk, and spend time with them.
4. Give vouchers. Vouchers are sure wins because they give the person freedom to choose what they want. They may not yet need anything now, but they might need something later. That free voucher will come handy in time.
5. Food. Chips. Drinks. Still consumables, only better. Nothing beats a happy tummy. In my last birthday, I got coffee from my friends enough to last me through half the year.

The best gifts are the ones that bring mutual joy to the giver and the recipient. Give well. Receive well.


10-85: 33-0
1-17: 65-31
33 years apart: I see you.
34 years apart: I’ll see you again soon.

Thoughts on Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral

photo grabbed from Google

Finally got to watch Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral today. I was upset how, despite the film opening just last September 5, there were only few cinemas and schedules left that were showing it. So, despite the bruise on my face that made me look like I just went through a fight, I had to go out and watch Goyo today, afraid that I’ll miss it. Right after the movie, my thoughts were all crowded and loud so I’m making some notes here on what I thought about the film.

Disclaimer: I’m not a film critic, just a regular moviegoer. 🙂

First rule: Watch Goyo without setting Heneral-Luna-expectations. Although this is a sequel, and it comes from the makers of Heneral Luna, Goyo is a film of its own, and it deserves to be seen with fresh and unbiased perspective.

While Heneral Luna‘s storytelling was theatrical, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is more artistic and cinematic. In Goyo, we are treated with grand displays of Philippine skies and mountains–mga bagay na hindi napapalitan. One scene that was most magical to me was a frame with the rising or setting sun as the background and with silhouettes of the army marching in line on top of the mountain as the foreground. That was beautiful! Goyo also ties in some magic—the agila in the sky, the moments with a sort of premonition—scenes that were not available in Heneral Luna.

When the title of a film is a name, we expect for the movie to demonstrate the greater qualities of the titular hero, the things that set him apart from everyone else. In Heneral Luna, we witnessed that, so that everyone immediately applauded and idolized Luna. In Goyo, it is not the same. While Heneral Luna (the film) was loud and aggressive, Goyo (the film) is quiet and a bit laid-back, further confirming the external struggles portrayed in Heneral Luna versus the internal struggles portrayed in Goyo. The beauty in Tarog’s Goyo lies in his representation of the internal struggles of identity, ideals, and loyalty of his charming young hero. All of these echoing the question that Luna left us: Bayan o Sarili?

Tarog’s Goyo does not sugarcoat or redefine the young general. Tarog does not deny what we have read about the young general in our history books. In fact, Tarog’s Goyo confirms it. Totoo pala ang tsismis.

We are provided images of how Goyo was as a womanizer, a natural flirt and charmer who leaves a string of women brokenhearted in every town he goes. (Side note: Paulo Avelino is effortless in delivering the charm.) Our own opinions about Goyo are also satisfied when we are shown how Goyo is a “minion” of Aguinaldo. Tarog allows his titular hero to be called a dog and taunted with howls by Manuel Bernal. “Bulag na nga, bingi pa. Tahol, Goyo, tahol!”

In Heneral Luna we were charmed by a hero who has the war for a wife, one whose principles have been shaped by his experiences and his identity. In Goyo, we are charmed by a hero with his good looks and charisma with women, but one whose principles are still incompletely formed.

At 23, Goyo has not yet formed his own identity. He is constantly reminded by his brother, Julian, of who he is. He is still trying to form himself, stringing together pieces of himself from Aguinaldo, his brother, his best friend, Vicente, in the women he’s charmed, and in the fans and fame he acquired. We see a boy who considers people’s opinions of him, hinting how his person is not yet solidified, unlike Luna. In Goyo, the struggles are internal, resounding Luna’s sentiments that the Filipino’s true enemy is himself. In the face of war, we see how most people are also at war with their own selves. Goyo, the general, is not an exception.

There are also other details that I liked about the film. The scene where Goyo leads Julian and Vicente to a late night swim. He was playful and free, reminding us all that this general is still a boy after all. The scene where the two women, Remedios and Felicidad, discuss ripe mangoes was funny enough. I wish I could recall that conversation. Looking back, it seemed like a metaphor about Goyo himself, unripe to be picked, and not just about his womanizing.

As for Goyo and his blind loyalty to Aguinaldo, I think Goyo represents the common Filipino. It was war, but does any one really know for what cause he stands by and fights for? Or, was everyone just picking sides, following that side’s principle, all too lazy and tired to form one’s own? All sheep but with choices of the shepherd to follow.

I, myself, have had strong opinions against Goyo when I learned of him from history classes, but I have this film to thank for a shift in perspective. It is because of the portrayal of Goyo in this film that I understood how we need to take a step back and put our feet in Goyo’s shoes before we can judge him.

Imagine this: At 23, you are an ambitious and conceited general, good in battle but with still so much to prove. Along comes somebody, the president no less, who trusts you and believes in you. Wouldn’t you be faithful and pledge full allegiance to this person? We are all drawn to the people who believe in us, that’s human nature. But without maturity, we lack the discernment between belief and manipulation. Goyo was not yet mature enough to know the difference.

I felt how lost Goyo was. I felt the weight that was put in his shoulders, the expectations, the leadership, the responsibilities, the decisions that he had to do, while on the side, he was also being questioned about his person. Thanks to Paulo Avelino’s portrayal, those emotions were captured raw and were unfailingly translated on-screen. Goyo was still starting to form himself, his own ideals and principles, his own fight and love for his country, but sadly, he did not live long enough to complete that journey.

Overall, I really love this film and I appreciate the shift in perspective that it has caused me. I have such high respect and admiration for Jerrold Tarog and his team. What compels a man to retell these forgotten tales of history to this generation who so badly need it? It must be a true and worthy cause. I’m excited to see more works like Heneral Luna and Goyo and will keep on supporting Philippine cinema.

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is still showing. Please go watch it and support Philippine cinema.


It is the simplest things that leave us undone with complexities.