Surviving LDR

My husband and I have been on a long distance relationship since 2008.  Summer of said year, I went home, together with our kids, to my old and ailing parents.  He understood perfectly that there was no one else to care for them but me. It wasn’t practical for him to come with us so I left him there, living alternately between a small staff room in the police station where he is assigned, and our house.  To say it was the biggest decision and sacrifice we had to make is an understatement.

 It was so difficult at first. We missed each other terribly. Sometimes we won’t see each other for a month.  I used to cry long into the night, wishing he was beside me and feeling his warmth and the security of his arms around me.   But my days soon got so busy caring for my parents and the girls, who were at that time, still in elementary school.   We lived on daily phone calls, with me whining and wailing every time how much I miss him.  There were times when I felt so alone dealing with so many things all by myself.  But he would always quietly encourage me to hold on and think of the greater purpose of our sacrifice.

When both my parents passed away, we considered it was high time to go back and live with him. But by then I already had a job and our eldest daughter was about to attend college.  She was planning to study library science and this course is not available there.  Also, the college where I work provides free tuition for employees’ children and it seemed such a good opportunity to miss, especially that fees in private schools are expensive.  For their part, the girls vehemently refused to go back and leave their friends here.  So, here we are, still living apart, albeit for different reasons.

I guess we both got used to the situation in the long run.  What I’m thankful for though, is that our relationship did not suffer much.  Oh yes there were times I feared that he’d change, or that he’d be unfaithful.  And I lament that I wasn’t able to take care of him the way I wanted to, that I wasn’t there for him all those times he needed me, or when I needed him.  And I feel sad the girls are growing up without the constant presence of their father.  But we found our way through all the fears and doubts and longing, and held on.  Someday, I don’t know when, we will be together, like, everyday, again.  I am so looking forward to that day, so I can tell him how much I missed him.

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Capitalizing on Faith

Last month, on a spur of the moment decision, my co-workers and I booked promo flights to Cebu.  We had no itinerary in mind; we were just stressed out employees desperately wanting a break.  So last week, we hopped on the plane for a thirty-minute flight to the Philippine’s oldest city.  I have been there a lot of times in the past but they were usually career-related trips like seminars and conferences.  Thus, I was never really able to go around and see the sights.  At that point, we had planned out (more or less), our route: We go on a city tour and then proceed south to visit a shrine of the Virgin Mary.

2015_04_11_10_07_16I’ve never seen anything like it, though.  Well, it’s not surprising as I’ve never been anywhere near Europe, where towering cathedrals and magnificent squares inspire awe among millions of tourists. Of course, these monuments are now valued only for their historical significance.  But, this is not so in the Philippines.  We take religion very seriously here, albeit, in my opinion, too seriously and not always to our own good.  So, upon arriving at Simala, where the shrine is located, I was dumbstruck by the sheer size of the place and the building; what immediately came to my mind was the implication of its cost, and it’s even a long way from being finished. Gigantic statues of the Virgin were everywhere.   About a hundred steps on the stairway led to the Church, where masses were held every hour, at the center of the palatial edifice.  The inner sanctum housed more statues, the most revered among them was that of the weeping Virgin.  There was also a museum with vast paintings and hundreds of religious memorabilia, some looking very expensive .  The walls and glass compartments around were littered with hundreds of petition letters and their corresponding miracle testimonials. 2015_04_11_10_09_09

Chiefly, we went there to pray and offer petitions. As it was my father’s death anniversary, I wanted to light a candle for him.  The candle cost me Php 35.00.  I also wrote down prayers, but I donated Php100.00 for that. In a nearby booth sat a dour looking nun with a thick pad of receipt in front of her. I learned later that those who wanted to have pamisa (these are specific intentions announced at mass) have to pay in these booths and they get a receipt. And I was like: 1) wow, how much money does this place make in a day?; 2) wow, is this practice found in the Bible or what?; and 3) wow, does the receipt mean they pay taxes? I always thought religious institutions were tax exempt. On second thought, they do need lots of money to keep this enormous place up.  Which got me wondering why they had to build it like this in the first place. I mean, when the miracle of the crying Virgin happened, did it mean she wanted a palace built for her? Well, she sure did attract the attention of millions of devotees. Nonetheless, I believe she and the founders of the shrine were at cross purposes. 2015_04_11_10_19_29

We went up to pray some more, and explore the museum.  It should have been a really solemn place and occasion except that one could hardly concentrate because there were literally thousands of people going about, taking photos, but mostly falling in line to see and ask for Mary’s intercession in whatever struggles they were going through at the moment.  Again, it got me wondering if people came here to pray for their own interests only? Judging from the testimonials, it would appear so.  But I sincerely hope not. I find it disturbing, despite my faith, that people reduce God, to rephrase John Green, as a “wish granting factory.”

My Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

“The hardest thing about having a dream is living with whatever happens to you when it dies”- Matt Posky

Shit happens, they say.  And, for a long time now, I’ve been wading deep in some. So yes, I could honestly say most of my dreams have  died along the way, and it always feels like some part of me also dies whenever I give up one, and I’m always left alone to grieve and to pick up the pieces of my shattered life.    It can really be bewildering at times–being lost and unsure about what to do next, or where to go from the many slumps.  Indeed, living with broken dreams is the hardest thing.  And the hardest part is that there isn’t the comfort of blaming somebody else.

But I realize how minimal my choices were.  I had to give up those dreams and build new ones, hoping against doubts and uncertainties, that they will somehow pull through, and pull me through.  And when I consider the alternative, like, for instance, giving up, I couldn’t bear the thought of letting down people I love, or the fear of what will happen to them if I let go, or let go of them or of the dreams we share.  As Dorothy Parker says, “might as well live”.  A liberal construction of living would imply dying an existential death and still finding a way to live through the devastation.

So I wonder, do dreams really die? Or they just get replaced by something better or something less than they are?  Or they just get deferred?

To aN eNcHaNted tRee…

Image
you've been there since longer 
than before I was four,
would whisper when i pass by,
secrets-- some wicked, some I'm too shy
to versify.

you've been an object of many speculations:
enchanted, haunted, and other such notions
like fairies, elves and witches;
so we pay you due respect and say
"tabi apo" when on our way.

i walked past you to my abode,
on many youthful summers down a dusty road,
on winters we shook together in the cold;
and you knew when i did something unusually bold,
or when there were angry tears i try to withhold.

Decades rolled,the neighborhood got old [and new],
Whilst you grew thicker, sturdier and i suppose, older too;
Halogen lamps have drowned moonlit and starlit nights 
When your mystique shone bright and inspired fright,
And children playing tag screamed in delight.

Seemingly indifferent, you stand alone and proud today
But you have lost your magic and your mystery,your history
forgotten even by once little girls like me
No birds nest nor rest on your brawny branches, 
nor dogs howl even in dark midnights that need torches.

But i'm happy they have left you be,
i fear they might fell you, you see;
i want my grandchildren to know
how special you are to me, 
you enchanted, mystic tree.