Friday, February 27, 2009

Shall we dance?

Once in a rare while, I get to attend a dinner and dance around Valentine's Day and a few other special occasions. I go primarily for the dinner, and after I'm happily fed, I will most likely want to dance.

Last Saturday, MrBlossoms and I attended a couples' post-Valentine dinner and dance organized by the Filipino group from our church.

The deejay started with some slow music. Two by two, spouses stood up and danced what we called Sweet. As you might know, there are several variations of Sweet, ranging from Sweet to Very Sweet. It depends on one's age, one's relationship with the partner, and one's hormones, perhaps. Add deodorant (or the lack of it) to that.

When you're dancing with your spouse, you can be on the very sweet side without feeling a bit of discomfort. But then again, couples might prefer to keep the sweet at home.

When the DJ played slow music again right after the first one, people's feedback was immediate.

"Mabilis naman," (Fast music this time) people clamoured.

As partners started heading back to their seats, the DJ quickly shifted to faster tunes and people went back to the dance floor. Funny, when we were all young and single, all we wanted was sweet! Sometimes, we didn't even care if the music was fast. We still danced sweet. Now that we're married, we want the Chicken Dance and Macarena!

While music from the 70s played, MrB and I traveled down memory lane, albeit separate memory lanes because we did not know each other at that time. "I know that one. I was in third year high school.... This one's from 1974... Oh I liked this song!... I danced this with---" we blurted every now and then.

I could still recall specific events I associated with specific songs.

There was a tinge of nostalgia as we relived our partying years, which for me weren't really that much nor eventful. In fact, I totally missed the disco scene. I believe after high school I didn't dance at a party again until I was already married and mostly here in BC.

One thing that bewilders me is the seemingly undying popularity of the Macarena, Chicken Dance and YMCA at all dance parties we have attended here. They have become classics like the boogie and cha-cha-cha. I'm not sure if this is a North American thing. No matter, these three are fun group dances that allow people to have fun and laugh at each other. How can you not laugh when you see people, including yourself, in formal or semi-formal wear dancing silly.

That evening, we met a couple who were trained dancers. They led us in some dances at the party and they are willing to hold informal dancing sessions for couples if someone will organize them. MrB and I are thinking of joining that group. We have forgotten many of the steps we learned from the ballroom dancing lessons we attended 9 years ago because we hardly ever used them.

Waltz, boogie, rhumba, merengue, cha-cha-cha, anyone? Sweet!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love Letters, 1952 - The last one

Recently, I told my mother that I had been sharing her and my father's letters here on my blog. She was quite pleased. Then she regretted that these were the only letters she had kept. All the others from their pre-married years were gone.

"Sayang at sinunog ko,"
(Too bad I burned them) my mother said. It seems that my father was quite a letter writer. A very romantic one too. You can tell.

So why did she burn them? According to my mother, her father required my father to bring his father to Los Banos before he could marry my mother, as was the tradition. Unfortunately, my father was unable to meet this demand. His father was hundreds of kilometers away and travel at that time was not easy and perhaps very costly.

"Ako naman ang magpapakasal,"
(I am the one going to get married) my mother quotes my father.

And so my father left Los Banos and went back to Manila. There was no formal break up between the two of them, just as they had no verbalized agreement that they were "officially" steadies. It was a case of what some people in the Philippines called M-U, for mutual understanding.

When my father left Los Banos, there was no word of him coming back. Angry and no longer expecting him to return, my mother burned his letters.

"Para que pa?" (What for?)

As destiny would have it, when the Japanese was defeated by the Allied Forces and my father re-joined the Army, he was sent on assignment to Los Banos. He sought my mother out just to see how she was. Finding each other still unattached, the romance quickly came back. They were back together, and this time for good.

"And magsuki madaling magkabilihan,"
(Regular customers/vendors easily make a sale) as my mother would say.

They got married and this time my grandfather no longer required him to bring his father. After all, he liked my father, who worked and guarded my grandfather's homestead for many months the year before in the tradition of paninilbihan. I guess my grandfather, a strict and domineering man in a small body, realized what a good son-in-law my father would be.

So there. This is why all the love letters you've been reading in this blog are from the time my parents were already married. Here is the last one.

My mother was expecting their third child and once again staying in her hometown of Los Banos. She gives a few instructions to my father, not knowing she was to give birth two days later.

I guess there was no need for letters after this one. By the time I was born years later (my parents had another child before me who died of polio before the age of 2), my mother no longer went home to Los Banos to give birth. She went to a hospital in Quezon City.

Feb. 27, 1952

Ling Aking Mahal,

Kumusta ang aking pinakamamahal sa lahat? Kung ako naman ay marahil alam mo na. Wala na akong inaantay-antay kund hindi ang araw ng aking pag-anak. ... Kung uuwi ang kuya sa araw ng Biernes o di kaya'y sa araw ng Sabado ay bigyan mo ng halagang limang piso upang ibigay kay suki. At kung sakali naman ikaw ay uuwi sa araw ng Sabado ay hingin mo nang bakasyon ang araw ng Linggo, para maipamile kita ng pang-ulam. Mahirap naman kung lagi na lamang magpapadala kay Indo, nakahihiya naman. Kaya kung maari ay umuwi ka sa Sabado. Kung inaakala mo lamang makabubuti. At ako nama'y maghihintay rin. Baka sakali.

Pinakamamahal mong Ling,

Feb. 27, 1959

Ling My Love

How is the one I love most? As for me, I think you know by now. I am eagerly waiting for the day I will give birth... If Kuya (Indo) is coming home here on Friday or Saturday, give him 5 pesos to give to (an unspecified vendor from which they buy stuff regularly, maybe on credit). And in case you are coming home on Saturday, ask to get a leave on Sunday too so I can buy foodstuff for you. It would be embarrassing to keep on sending stuff through Indo. So if possible, come home on Saturday only if you thing that would be the best. And I will be waiting for you too. Just in case.

Your most loved Ling,

Monday, February 16, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - The last day apart

My father usually sent letters to my mother through town mates working at U.P. like himself. This letter was hand-carried by a certain Ilyo (probably a nickname for Virgilio). In it was enclosed 20 pesos for my mother to pay some debts and buy a hammock for Junior.

Finally my mother was going to join my father in the city. And they will be together once again--until the birth of the next baby...

U.P. Diliman, Q.C

Mahal Kong Ling,

Maraming halik ang pasalubong ko sa mahal ko bago ko ipagpatuloy ang pangungumusta. Mahal ko, kumusta naman ang aking darling? Nasasabik ka na ba? At si Junior at Fremma kumusta naman sila? Kung ako naman ang iyong kukumustahin at mabuti naman sa awa ng Maykapal at wala akong karamdaman.

Darling Ko, kalakip nitong aba kong liham ay P20.00, dalawampung piso na pambayad sa ating utang una sa intsik. Bumawas ka na rin diyan ng ibibili ng duyan.

Ling, bago tumanghali bukas ay dadating ako diyan na dala ang sasakyan. Kaya maghanda ka na. Kung maari ay magpabili ka maaga ng duyan sa Calamba. Marahil mga alas 10:00 ng umaga kami nandiyan. Hindi mo marahil inaasahan ito ngunit yan lamang and pagkakataon ko upang makaon kita diyan. Sa linggong papasok ay marami kaming pupuntahan kaya minabuti ko nang bukas ko kayo kunin. Nagapaalam na ako kay Apo. Ngayong hapon sana ngunit hindi ako binigyan ng pagkakataon ni Ilyo kaya nagpadala na lamang ako ng sulat sa kanya. Inaasahan kong handa na kayo bukas bago kami dumating diyan.

Hanggang bukas at maraming halik sa iyo at sa ating mga anak.

Ang sa iyo umaasa,

U.P. Diliman, Q.C

My Beloved Ling,

Many kisses to you before I continue my greetings. My love, how is my darling? Are you eager (to be with me)? How are Junior and Fremma? If you ask about me, I am fine by God's grace.

My darling, enclosed in my humble letter is P20.00, twenty pesos to pay for our debt first with the Chinese creditor. Get the money to buy the hammock from that amount too.

Ling, I will arrive there before noon tomorrow with a vehicle. So get ready. If possible, send someone to buy the hammock from Calamba early tomorrow morning. We will probably be there around 10 in the morning. Perhaps you are not expecting this but it is the only time that I could get you. This coming week we (fellow policemen) have many places to visit so I thought it best to pick you up tomorrow. I have asked Apo's (the chief's) permission. I wanted to go this afternoon but Ilyo did not let me so I just sent this letter through him. I expect you to be ready before we get there tomorrow.

Until tomorrow and many kisses to you and our children.

One who depends on you,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - Secure

One month after giving birth, my mother was still staying in Los Banos and slowly regaining her strength and going back to a normal routine. In those days, recovery took a long time, and there were many do's and don'ts both for the mother and the newborn. Meanwhile my father continued to work in the city and yearn for the love of his life.

During this time, my father finally finished the dresser he was making for my mother. He learned to do carpentry while he was living with an older brother who made a living out of making furniture in Manila.

My mother seemed to be rather apologetic or hesitant about having an unspecified form of enjoyment. My father told her to go for it. He was secure in her love. What did she plan to do? I wonder.

Today is Valentine's Day. Many men will be giving flowers to their significant other. I don't remember seeing my father bring a bunch of roses to my mother. Ever. But I remember them tending a whole garden of flowers together. Roses, African violets, dahlias, jasmine, daisies, bougainvilleas...

University of the Phil.
Diliman, Quezon City
October 23, 1949

Ling Nang Buhay Ko,

Bago ang lahat ay tanggapin mo muna ang maraming halik na pasalubong ko sa aking mahal. Kung ako naman ang iyong kukumustahin ay wala naman akong karamdaman sa ngayon.

Mahal ko, huag mong dadamdamin ang hindi ko pagliham sa iyo sapagkat wala lamang akong panahon upang lumiham sa iyo. Sa buong isang linggo ay ginawa ko ang tokador na handog ko sa iyo. Ngayon tapos na ay wala na akong alalahanin. Mahal ko, kung ang kinalilibangan ang sasabihin mo ay huag mong dadayain ang iyong sarili. Alam kong mahal mo ako kaya hindi ako nagdadamdam ano man ang sabihin mo sa akin.

Ang totoo ay hindi ko alam kung paano ko uumpisahan at tatapusin ang liham ko. Dahil marahil sa ako'y nasasabik na sa iyo. Ling, wala na akong pinakamamahal sa buhay kundi ikaw lamang. Ling, wala na akong maisip sahihin sa iyo kaya tatapusin ko na.

Maraming halik sa iyo, kay Fremma at kay Junior.

Ang Naghihintay sa Pinakamamahal ko sa Buhay,

University of the Phil.
Diliman, Quezon City
October 23, 1949

Ling of My Life,

Before everything else, receive my many kisses that I am sending to my love. If you will ask about me, I am fine right now.

My love, don't feel bad that I was unable to write you because I simply had no time. For one whole week, I finished the dresser which is my gift to you. Now that it's done, I have nothing to worry about.

My love, don't deny yourself of entertainment. I know you love me so I won't feel bad whatever it is you want to tell me.

The truth is I don't know how to start and end this letter. Maybe it's because I'm too anxious to be with you. Ling, there's no one that I love more in life apart from you. I can't think of anything more to say so I'll end it here.

Many kisses to you, Fremma and Junior.

He who is waiting for the one I love most in life,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - Recovery period

In case you didn't know, I'm publishing my parents' love letters (3 more to go after this one) from 1949 to 1952 in honour of their unshaking, exceptional, deeply committed, for-better-or-for-worse, till-death-do-us-part love and devotion to one another that spanned a total of 59 years till my father passed away almost 5 years ago.

It is a marriage that I am blessed to be a product of, and it's a legacy I am proud to have and to share with my children and my children's children. That is a generational blessing, a heritage that God will bless for generations to come because two people held marriage sacred.

To my boys, embrace this blessing! You will reap its fruits. That's the promise.

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 30, 1949

Ling, Mahal Ko,

Tanggapin mo ang aking pabaun sa liham kong ito. Ang maraming halik at yung lips to lips ha. Sina Junior at Fremma kumusta sila? At kumusta ka naman? Ako'y wala namang karamdaman dito.

Ling, P25.00 lamang ang aking napadala pagkat marami rin naman akong pinagbayaran dito. Uuwi na si Itay sa Oct. 2, 1949 at si Ibing ay babalik daw sa La Union sa Oct. 5, 1949.

Ling, hindi ba ngayon ka maliligo? Dalian mo ang magpalakas upang ako naman dito ay huag tuluyang mangayayat. Alam mo, napupuna na rito ang mabilis na pangayayat ko.

Ling, hindi ko kahahabaan baka wala na akong ibalita sa ibang araw. Kumusta lamang kayong lahat diyan. Huag mong kalilimutan ang pabaon kong halik.

Ang Iyong Naghihintay
Fredie Senior

Note: Pinasama ko si Gening kay Saro para maka vacation naman diyan.

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 30, 1949

Ling, my Love,

Receive my many kisses with this letter, lips to lips, ok? Junior and Fremma, how are they? And how are you? I am fine here.

Ling, I was able to send 25 pesos only because I have many expenses here too. Father is going home on Oct. 2, 1949 and Ibing is returning to La Union on Oct. 5, 1949.

Ling, aren't you taking a bath today? Regain your strength soon so I won't continue to lose weight here. You know, people are noticing my rapid weight loss.

Ling, I won't make this long because I might have nothing more to say for next time. Just give my regards to everyone there. Don't forget the kisses I'm sending with this.

One who is waiting,
Fredie Senior

Note: I let Gening (my mother's younger sister) go home (to Los Banos) with Saro so she can have a vacation there.

The University of the Philippines police force. That's my father near the middle. (Photo taken in 1952.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - Advocate

The day after the previous letter, my mother gave birth to a son, my only brother, who was affectionately called Junior by my father in this and succeeding letters. My father went home to Los Banos and spent a few days with my mother before going back to UP Diliman.

When he went back to U.P. he was greeted by a problem arising from a misinformation that had reached their chief, a very stern and upright man, it seems, whom everyone feared. Apparently, one of my father's co-workers had gotten married secretly unbeknownst to their boss, whom my father referred to as Apo, an Ilocano term for an older and respected man.

The rumour was that this coworker was living in with a woman, which seems to be unacceptable for policemen at the time, or at least for this police unit. Extramarital relations were considered a serious offense. It looks like Apo was very mad and the guy concerned was in big trouble, and everyone else was affected. Now comes my father, their only hope to speak to the boss for them and iron out the mess...

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 25, 1949

Mahal Kong Ling,

Bago ko ipagpatuloy ang pagbabalita ay hayaan mo munang kumustahin ko muna ikaw, si Junior, si Fremma, at kayong lahat diyan. At bago mo ipagpatuloy ang pagbasa ay tanggapin mo muna ang tangi kong pabaun sa aking mapagmahal kong liham, ang maraming halik ko sa iyo.

Ling, awa naman ng Dios ay natulungan ko rin si Lazaro.... Ngayon tinanong ko naman (si Apo, Mr. Arana) kung ano ang kasalanan nagawa ni Saro (Lazaro). Ang sabi sa akin nambabae raw. Sinagot ko naman at tinanong tuloy kung gawang kasalanan ang gawang pagaasawa. Sinabi kong legal ang kasal nila at si Itay pa ang ninong. Sinabi ko na noon pang isang linggo ikinasal. Ngunit mayroon daw nagsabi kay Apo na hindi raw (sila) kasal at maari raw patunayan hindi sila kasal.... Itinatanong ko naman kung sino ang nagsabi ngunit ayaw sabihin sa akin ang pangalan. Kaya sinabi ko kay Apo na kung sino man yaon ay ibig lamang magpasama nang kanyang kasamahan. At sabay pakita ng kasamiento nila. Kaya nabigla rin si Apo nang malaman tunay pala ang kasal nila. At yung dalawang araw na palya ni Saro ay mayroon pang bayad. Ako pa ang sinisi (ni Apo) kung bakit hindi ko raw sinabi sa kanya.

At alam mo noong dumating ako noong linggo ay lahat ng kasamahan namin dito ay nagsilapit sa akin at gawan ko raw ng paraan ang nangyari. Ngunit walang makapagsabi sa akin kung sino ang palasumbong. Lahat sila ay nasa akin ang pag-asa tungkol din lamang sa pakikipagusap kay Apo. Mabuti na lamang at napatunayan kong walang kasalanan sila.

Hanggang dito na lamang at hanggang sa muli. Maraming maraming halik sa iyo at kay Junior at Fremma.

Ang iyong mapagmahal na
Fredie Sr.

Ling, pag-iingatan mo ang iyong sarili at kay Fremma at kay Junior upang sa sandaling kayo ay lumabas na ay maaari na kayong makapunta dito.

Fredie Sr.

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 25, 1949

My Beloved Ling,

Before I continue with my news let me first ask how you, Junior, Fremma and everyone else are. And before you continue reading, receive my many kisses that are the only thing I can send with this loving letter.

Ling, by God's grace I was able to help Lazaro.... When I asked (Apo, Mr. Arana) what offense was committed by Saro, I was told he hooked up with a woman. I responded and asked if it was a sin to get married. I said his marriage was legal and that Father even stood as sponsor. I said they had been married since last week. But someone had told Apo that they were not married and he could prove it... When I asked who said that, he would not give me the name. So I said that whoever he was he only wanted to get his colleague in trouble. Right then I showed the marriage certificate. Apo was surprised to find out that the marriage was legitimate. The two days that Saro was absent became a paid leave. Then I was blamed for not telling him (Apo about the marriage) earlier.

And you know when I arrived here last Sunday, all my co-workers came to me and asked me to do something about this problem that arose. But no one could tell me who the tattletale was. Everyone depended on me when it came to speaking with Apo. It was a good thing I was able to prove that no one was at fault.

This is all for now and till next time. Many many kisses to you and to Junior and Fremma.

Your loving
Fredie Sr.

Ling, take care of yourself and Fremma and Junior so that once you can go out, you will be able to come here.

Fredie Sr.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - Family's coming

My father was originally from the northern province of Isabela, more than 300 kms. north of Manila. He moved to Manila and lived with relatives in search of better opportunities. I remember him repeating that his life would not have improved had he stayed in the province.

In the following letter, he talks about his father and siblings coming from Isabela and La Union, another northern province, to visit my mother in Los Banos. My mother was expecting to give birth any time.

In the same letter, my father narrates an incident that happened at his workplace involving a co-worker caught sleeping on the the job. Read the rest of the story...

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 21, 1949

Ling, Mahal Kong Dar,

Bago ang lahat ay hayaan mo munang ibalita ko sa iyo na ako ay dumating dito na maluwalhati. Kumusta naman ang inyong lagay? Di pa ba ako uuwi diyan? Kumusta naman si Fremma, at kayong lahat diyan?

Ling, ako'y lumiham sa iyo dahil sa mayroon akong ibabalita sa iyo na mahalagang bagay. Ngunit maya-maya ko na sasabihin sa iyo para masabik sabik ka naman. Ling, noong Sabado ng gabi na ako'y nandiyan ay nahuli ni Mr. Arana si Cabangbang na tulog sa puesto. At alam mo, isang buan daw pinagvavacation. Ngunit alam mo naman ako kay Mr. Arana, yaon isang buan ay ginawa kong isang linggo, walang bayad, bayani namin siya ngayon.

Ling, dumating ang tatay ngayon umaga kasama ng manong. Sa Sabado ay pupunta sila diyan sa Los Banos. Sa Juebes ay pupunta sila ni Mining sa La Union upang kaunin ang kapatid naming bunso at saka sila samasamang pupunta diyan.

Ling, hihintayin ko lamang ang kaun sa akin. Huag mong kalilimutan na ipatawag mo ako kung ikaw ay mayroon nang nararamdaman. Ibig (kong) katulong mo ako sa mga sandaling iyan. Kailangang nandiyan ako. Kaya, huag mong lilimutan, sa Sabado pupunta sina Geneng, Mining, ang Tatay at ang bunso naming kapatid kung may awa ng Dios na makaun nila sa La Union sa Juebes.

Ling, hanggang dito na lamang at hanggang sa muli. Maraming maraming halik sa iyo. Ihalik mo rin ako kay Fremma.

Ang iyong
Fredie, Mahal Mong Ling

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
September 21, 1949

Ling, My Dear Dar,

Before anything else, I want you to know that I arrived here safely. How are all of you? Don't I need to be there yet? How is Fremma and everyone else?

Ling, I wrote you because I have some important news to tell you. But I will tell you about it in a little while so you will get excited. Ling, last Saturday evening when I was there, Mr. Arana (Chief) found Cabangbang (a fellow policeman) sleeping on his post. And you know, he (Arana) told him (Cabangbang) to go on a one-month leave. But you know my influence on Mr. Arana, I got him to turn that one month into one week, without pay. He (Cabangbang) does odd jobs for us now.

Ling, Tatay (my father's father) arrived today with Manong (older brother). They are going to Los Banos on Saturday. This Thursday they will go with Mining (younger sister) to La Union to pick up our youngest sister, and they will all go there (to Los Banos) together.

Ling, I am just waiting for someone to pick me up. Don't forget to call for me when you feel like you're going into labour. I want to help you when that happens. I must be there. Don't forget, on Saturday, Geneng (my mother's sister), Mining, Father and our youngest sister, God-willing they are able to get her from La Union, will all go there on Saturday.

Ling, this is all for now and until next time. Many kisses to you. Kiss Fremma for me too.

Fredie, Your Beloved Ling

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Love Letters, 1949 - Expecting

Shortly after my mother and sister joined my father in U.P., my mother got pregnant with their second child. Close to her due date, she and my sister stayed in Los Banos to wait for the baby's birth. In those days, women commonly gave birth at home by "hilot" or local midwives. Meanwhile, my father stayed in U.P. working and waiting for word of my mother going into labour.

In the following letter, you can sense his great eagerness to be with my mother on that important event.

U.P. Diliman, Quezon City
September 7, 1949

Ling, Aking Mahal,

Bago mo ipagpatuloy ang pagbasa ng aking liham na punong-puno ng pagmamahal ay hayaan mong kumustahin ko muna kayong lahat diyan, kay Fremma, at lalong lalo na ikaw, maraming halik ang ipinaabot ko sa iyo. At kung kami naman ang iyong kumustahin ay mabuti naman sa (awa ng) Poon Maykapal at sa tulong din ng mongo naming ulam araw araw.

Ling, sa ngayong ay wala akong maibalitang bago sa iyo. Ang tokador mo ay yari ngunit wala pa lang pintura. Maraming nahihili. Maganda raw.

Ling huag mong kalilimutan ang mga sinabi ko sa iyo. Huag na di ka magpapunta dine kung darating ang oras. Kung maaari pag nakaramdam ka na hanggang maaga ay ipatawag mo na ako para ikaw ay matulungan ko. Huag mong kalilimutan, ipatawag mo ako agad pag ikaw ay nakaramdam na para matulungan kita.

Hanggang dito na lamang at hanggang sa muli.

Nagmamadali ako pagkat ipinadala ko lang ito kay Memeng.

Ang nagmamahal mong

U.P. Diliman, Quezon City
September 7, 1949

Ling, My Love,

Before you continue reading my letter that is full of love, let me first ask how everyone there is, Fremma, and especially you. I'm sending you my many kisses. And if you will ask about us, we are good by the grace of our Creator and with the help of the mungbeans that we eat everyday.

Ling, sa ngayong ay wala akong maibalitang bago sa iyo. Ang tokador mo ay yari ngunit wala pa lang pintura. Maraming nahihili. Maganda raw.

Ling, I have nothing new to tell you. Your dresser is finished but still not painted. Many are envious. They say it's lovely.

Ling, don't forget what I told you. Don't fail to send someone here when the time comes. If possible as soon as you feel anything call for me so that I can help you. Don't forget, call for me at once when you feel anything so that I can help you.

This is all and until next time.

I am in a hurry because I am sending this through Memeng.

Your loving

The dresser my father made for my mother. It is now in my sister Fremma's house in the Philippines.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Love Letters, 1948 - Long days, lonely nights

As early as I can remember, my mother and father were almost inseparable unless my father was at work. After he came home in the afternoon, they would have coffee then went to the U.P. Coop store to buy groceries. When my father repaired TVs on weekends or evenings in people's homes, he brought my mother along. When he went to Manila to buy electronic parts from Raon St., they went together too.

Because we lived close to where my father worked, he was able to go home for coffee break at 10 am and for lunch break at 12:05 pm, work day after work day.

Occasionally, my father's job sent him out of town. When I was in high school, this became more and more frequent until many years later. During these times, my mother worried a lot even if she did not talk about it. I sensed it. She wasn't the same. Her spark came back only when my father was safely back.

In the letter that follows, it seems that she had been this way from the beginning. Read about it in her letter to my father...

Batong Malake
Los Banos, Lag.
Dec. 9, 1948

Ling, mahal ko,

Bago ang lahat ay bayaan mo munang kita’y kumustahin. Marahil ikaw ay nasisiyahn pagkat ikaw ay napawalay sa salbahe mong asawa. Kung kami naman ay huag kang magalaala. Si Mama ay lalo ng napakakomik ngayon. Awa ng Dios siya ay hindi nagkakasipon. Ako naman ay paris din ng dati na walang nararamdaman. Lamang ay hindi maalis sa akin ang pagaalaala sayo. At alam mo Ling, kung ako’y nagiisa na sa pagtulog ay nagiiyak ako. Talaga yatang hindi maari ako na malayo sayo. Pati ang mga araw ay kinaiinipan ko. At kahapon alam mo, pag ako ay kumakain, ay naaalala kita. Kaya hindi ako nasisiyahan.

Hoy Ling, halos ako’y himatayin sa galak ng dumating sa akin ang iyong sulat. Ang sarap-sarap eh.

Siyenga pala Ling, si Pareng Cinto ay nagsadya dito sa bahay at sinabi na si totoy ay bibinyagan na sa Dec. 18, 1948 araw ng Sabado. Ngayon kung makauuwi ka sa araw na iyan ay umuwi ka. Kung hindi ay si Mauro na ang hahawak ki Totoy sa pangalan mo lamang.

Siya Ling, hanggang dito na lang at tanggapin mo ang maraming halik namin ni Mama ha?

Frema Lana

Batong Malake
Los Banos, Lag.
Dec. 9, 1948

Ling (Darling), my love,

Before anything else let me first ask how you are. Maybe you are glad to be away from your bad wife. As for us us, don’t worry. Mama (Fremma) is even more comical these days. By God’s grace, she isn’t catching a cold. Me, as usual I am fine. The only thing is I can’t stop worrying about you.

And you know, Ling, when I am alone in bed at night, I cry. It seems I cannot really bear to be away from you. I am impatiently counting the days. And you know what, yesterday (during the feast), as I was eating I was thinking of you. That’s why I did not have fun.

Hey, Ling, I almost fainted with happiness when your letter arrived. It felt so good. By the way, Ling, Pareng Cinto came here to our house and said that Totoy will be christened on Dec. 18, 1948, Saturday. Now if you can come home on that day, do so. If not, Mauro (my mother’s younger brother) will hold Totoy in your name.

Ling, this is all for now and receive many kisses from Mama and me, okay?

Frema Lana (their combined first names and last names)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Love Letters, 1948 - Pioneering

Sometime between the last letter and this one, my father's work situation changed. He, along with a group of townmates in Los Banos, were recruited by another townmate, Mr. Arana, to provide security in the still to open University of the Philippines campus in what is now Quezon City. Here is what the U.P. website says about that:

The U.P. Diliman Police had its roots from a group of pioneering men who were hired as security guards and special watchmen to keep watch over the few colleges and administrative offices that initially constituted the U.P. Diliman campus in 1949. The unit was given the primary mission of securing University property.

My father was among those pioneers. His group actually came to U.P. in 1948, not 1949. The University transferred to this site from Manila in February 1949.

This was to be a turning point in my parents' life as it marked the beginning of more than 4 decades of life within this campus which today remains the place I consider home. It's like the womb where I came from. It permeates our family history.

Here's a letter my father wrote to my mother when he was just starting in his new job. Below the English translation are a few more anecdotes.

U.P. Site
Dec. 8, 1948

Ling aking Mahal,

Kumusta ba ang ating fiesta diyan? Ipagtira mo naman ako kahit na buto. Eh, kumusta naman ang aking ling na mabait, at si Mama kong kalikutan? Marahil ay nalulungkot na kayo ano? Hayaan ninyo’t aayusin ko na ang ating matitirhan. Kami ngayon ay naririto na sa barracks mula pa kahapon. Ngayon lang kami nag-umpisa ng servicio. Ako ay napatama sa pang araw.

Inaantay ko na lamang ang disposision ng Mr. Arana kung alin ang maaari natin matirhan. Ngayon ay maaari na kayong magbalotbalot sapagkat oras na ako’y mabigyan ng kuarto bago magsueldo ay sa 16 o kaya sa 17 ng buang ito ako pupunta diyan upang kaunin kayo. Kung hindi sa araw ako makarating ay marahil sa gabi na pagkatapos ng servicio ko. Kayat kung maari ay makiusap ka na rin ay Mang Tebo o sa mga jeep sa atin at oras oras ay maari natin gamitin.

Kumusta naman ang inyong viaje ni Itay? Kahimanawari kayo’y nakarating ng malualhati. Hindi ba naman nagliligalig si Mama? Sabihin mo sa kanya’y magpapakabait siya.

Ling, ang buhay ko ngayon ay para na naman buhay sundalo. Kung minsan ako’y nag-iisa rito sa aming tinitirhan sapagkat naglalakuatsa silang lahat sa barrio.

Tatapusin ko na Ling ang liham ko baka maubusan ako sa susunod. Ihalik mo na lang ako kay Mama at para ka na rin humalik sa akin. Kumusta na lang silang lahat diyan lalong-lalo na sa inyong mag-ina.

Ang hindi maaring lumimot,


U.P. Site
Dec. 8, 1948

Ling (short for Darling) my love,

How is the fiesta (Feast of Immaculate Conception) there? Leave some food for me, even just bones. So how is my kind darling and my Mama (nickname for Fremma) who can't keep still? You may be feeling lonely, right? Don't worry, I will arrange a place for us to stay. We have been staying at the barracks since yesterday. We just started work today. I was given a day shift.

I am just waiting for Mr. Arana's decision regarding where we can stay. You can now start packing because any time I am given a room before payday, I may be able to get you on the 16 of 17 of this month. If not during the day, perhaps at night after my shift. So if possible, request Mang Tebo or any jeep owner there for the use of their vehicle any time.

How was your trip with Father (my maternal grandfather)? I hope your trip went well. Is Mama making a fuss? Tell her to be good.

Ling, my life right now is once again like that of a soldier. Sometimes I am alone here because all the other guys gallivant in town.

I will wrap up my letter here, Ling, because I might run out of things to say for next time. Just kiss Mama for me and it's like you are kissing me. Regards to all especially to you and our daughter.

One who will never forget,



U.P. at that time only had 2 buildings, barracks and quonset huts. The all-male security detail, which became the U.P Police, stayed in one barracks in the vast expanse of the university, 493 hectares in all. My father brought my mother and sister to live with him at the headquarters. My mother and sister can therefore make a claim to be the first females in this campus, like I have heard my parents say repeatedly.

My parents have many stories from this time. One I can remember right now is about my sister, how she would be startled by the siren when it went off at the headquarters and screamed for as long as it was ringing. She was said to chatter a lot too and endeared everyone in the barracks.

A quonset hut. I still saw a few of these when I was a child. (Image taken from

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Love Letters, 1947 - ten days later

In 1947, my father was 23 years old. At 23, he had been orphaned by his mother at 11, sent to live with relatives and served them in exchange for board, lodging and education, had done odd jobs, joined the army, fought in World War II, became a POW, survived the infamous 97-km Bataan Death March, gotten married at 21, and had a child at 22. Now he was taking responsibility for raising a family and trying his luck in Manila, away from the wife, my mother, and the daughter he dearly loved. He went home on weekends to my mother in Los Banos when he could. It was about 65 kms south of Manila, not far by present standards. But the days they were apart were almost unbearable for this very young couple. Read about it.

Here's another letter... (English translation at the bottom)

#10 Ruiloba, Sampaloc
Manila, P.I.
February 20, 1947

My Darling Em',

Bago mo ipagpatuloy ang pagbasa sa liham kong ito na sabik na sabik nang makapiling kayo ni Fremma ay hagkan mo muna pagkat bago ko ipinadala ito ay pinupog ko muna nang mga matatamis na halik na tanging pabaon ko.

Darling, ako'y umaasa sa ating Panginoon na araw-araw ay pawa kayong mga walang karamdaman. Kung ako naman ang tatanungin ay awa rin ng ating Lumikha pagkat ako'y walang karamdaman.

Buhay ko, dinaramdam ko ang hindi pagsulat sa iyo pagdating ko rito sa Maynila noong Linggo pagkat wala akong pagkakataon. Pagdating ko rito ay nagtuloy ako kaagad sa Dimasalang at ako na lang pala ang hinihintay. Nang ako'y dumating sa bahay ay alas 10:00 na ng gabi. Sila'y nagpunta sa kasalan ng Insik kaya sila ginabi.

Em' aking giliw, kung ang lagay ko rito sa trabajo ang ibabalita ko, ay alamin mong hindi ako nasisiyahan pagkat gaano man marahil pagpipilit dumito sa Maynila kung hindi rin lamang kayo makakapiling ay ako'y malulungkot. Laging pagod ang katawan ko pagkat wala kayong umaaliw sa aking kapaguran. Lalong-lalo na pagdating sa bahay, laging nagbubulong ang Manang Belang. Ibig ko mang umuwi dian kung meron lamang mapapasukan kahit na peon lamang.

Ako'y nagpapaalam dito sa aking amo pagkat meron akong mapagtrabajoan na iba ngunit maghintay pa raw ako pagkat wala pa raw makahahalili sa akin. Hindi ko masisiguro kung makauwi ako sa linggo darating ngunit abangan mo rin ako baka sakali. Aporado yaon papasukan isa kaya't pati ako ay naghahanap din (ng) driver.

Ang isang inaayawan ko rito ay ang pagkain. Libre comida na galing sa iyong bulsa. Kung minsan wala akong pera ay nag-aantay ako ng pagkain. Ang oras ng pagkain ay ito. Ito raw ang oras ng pagkain nang mayaman. Sa umaga alas 8:00, sa tanghali alas 2:30, sa gabi alas 8:30, kayat kung umuwi ako ay alas 9:00 na. Hindi ko dinaramdam ang lampas sa oras ng pagkain ngunit ang isinasama lamang ng loob ko ay gutom ka na, lalo ka pang magugutom sa makikita mong pagkain. Naku, darling, ang sasarap. Isang platong tutong at isa at kalahating kamote. Ganon din sa gabi. Sa umaga ay isang tasang kape at 2 tinapay. Kayat kung wala na akong pera sa bulsa ay pikit mata na kung kumain ako.

Ngunit hindi bale ang lahat nang ito. Pagtama ko sa Sweepstakes ay maniwala ka Darling pakakainin ko sila sa restaurant maghapon. Alam mo bibili ako nang ticket na sigurado tama...

Darling, napapahaba yata ang sulat ko kaya't hanggang sa muli na lang. Wala na akong papel, eh! Kumusta na lamang lahat dian. Pero ito ang mahigpit na yapos at halik ko sa iyo. Kay Fremma ihalik mo rin ako nang maraming marami.

Ang asawa mong nagmamahal na walang kapantay,

Fremma Lana

#10 Ruiloba, Sampaloc
Manila, P.I.
February 20, 1947

My Darlin Em',

Before you continue reading my letter, which is very anxious to be with you and Fremma, kiss it first as I kissed it many times with my sweet kisses which are all I could send with with this letter.

Darling, I am trusting our Lord every day that you will be in good health. If you ask me, by the grace of our Creator, I am also well.

My life, I am sorry for not writing you when I got here in Manila last Sunday because I had no opportunity. When I arrived, I went straight to Dimasalang and it turned out I was the only one they were waiting for. I got home at 10:00 pm. They had gone to a Chinese wedding that's why they were late.

Em' my sweetheart, talking about my work situation, know that I am unhappy because no matter how hard I try to stay here in Manila, I am lonely without you. My body is always tired because there is no one to cheer me up in my weariness. Especially when I get home, Manang Belang (older sister-in-law named Belang) is always murmuring. I want to go home if only I could find a job there even as an ordinary labourer.

I have told my boss about my plan to resign because I have found another job. He told me to wait until my replacement can be found. I am not sure if I can come home on Sunday but expect me just the same, just in case. The new employer is in a hurry to hire me so I am also looking for a driver (to take my place).

One thing I do not like here is the food. Free food that is out of your own pocket. Sometimes when I don't have the money, I wait for food. Mealtime here is like this. This is supposedly the time rich people eat. In the morning, 8:00, lunch at 2:30, supper at 8:30, that's why I leave for home at 9:00. I do not mind eating late but what I feel bad about is that you are already hungry, you become hungrier when you see the food. Oh, darling, how delicious. One plate of burnt rice and one-and-a-half sweet potatoes. It's the same for supper. For breakfast, one cup of coffee and two buns. So when I don't have money in my pocket, I eat with my eyes closed.

But I consider this nothing. When I win the Sweepstakes, believe me, Darling, I will treat them at a restaurant the whole day. You know I am going to buy a ticket that will surely win...

Darling, my letter is getting long so till next time. I have run out of paper! Regards to everyone there. But here is my tight embrace and kiss to you. Also kiss Fremma many times for me.

Your husband who loves you without equal,

Fremma Lana

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Love Letters, 1947

This being the month of February, I am serializing love letters between my parents when they were newly married. I want to preserve them for my clan and family so that we will always remember the kind of lovers my parents were.

The letters were written between 1947 to 1952 when my father, Fred, moved to the big city (Manila) in search of a job. Meanwhile, my mother, Emma, stayed in her hometown of Los Banos, Laguna with her family and their first child, my sister Fremma.

I tried my best to translate the letters originally written in Tagalog into English for the sake of my children who have grown up in Canada. I am not a translator and I admit some of the thoughts and emotions in the original will be lost in translation. But I'll do my best. The English translation follows the Tagalog original. Here's the first one...

#10 Ruiloba, Nagtahan, Manila
February 6, 1947

Em' Aking Mahal,

Bago ang lahat ay tanggapin mo ang mga matatamis na halik na tanging pabaon ko sa aking liham, at madadatnan naman kayong lahat na pawang maligaya at walang karamdaman. Kung ako naman ang iyong tatanungin, ay awa nang Maykapal ay wala rin naman akong nararamdaman maliban sa kaunting sipon.

Mahal ko, tayo ay magpasalamat at magdiwang kay Bathala at dumating ang araw na ating hinihintay. Hindi ko masabi sa iyo ang laki nang aking tuwa nang ako'y makapasok sa trabajo. Tayo ay kinaawaan din. Naluluha ako sa tuwa nang kahapon ay sabihin sa akin nang hindi ko man lamang nikikilalang driver na nagtatanggapan dito sa pinapasukan ko. 

Una'y nagmanejo ako ng jeep na pampasahero, ngunit hindi ako nagtagal pagkat inirikuminda ako nang isang chauffeur na ako raw ang magmamanejo sa cotche ni Sr. Quintin Paredes, kinatawan nang Abra (Congressman). Kaya't kay Sr Quintin Paredes ako ngayon nagmamanejo. Hindi ko akalain na makapagmanejo ako nang bagong modelong cotche. Ngunit nang ako'y tanungin ay sinabi kong matagal na akong namamanejo nang di usong sasakyan kaya't pumayag na rin. Hindi ko pa matiyak sa iyo kung ilan ang aking sasahurin pagkat ako ang tinatanong kung magkano ang ibig ko ngunit wala naman akong sinabi. Ang sabi ko lamang ang ibigay nilang tulong sa akin at sa aking pamilya ay taos puso kong pasasalamatan. Dito sa akin ay walang alalahanin pagkat sa pagkain ay libre. Sa tulugan ay kung ano ang gusto ko.

Emma ng buhay, hindi ko matiyak sa iyo kung kailan ako makakauwi pagkat ang aking pinagmamanejoan ng cotche ay araw-araw lumalabas. Ang damit ko ngayon ang problema pagkat sa lagay kong ito ay kailangan malinis lagi ang suot. Biruin mo, itong amo ko ngayon Big Shot, isang tanyag na abogado, isang kinatawan o Congressman nang Abra, kailangang akong malinis pagkat panay na matataas na tao ang kanyang kasama sa cotche.

Em', marami pa sana akong ibabalita sa iyo ngunit baka wala na akong sasabihin sa iyo pagdating ko riyan. Bukod dito ay nagmamadali ako pagkat wala kaming tinitigilan. Tinatanung nila ako kung gusto ko raw kunin kayo rito ngunit sinabi kong wala pa tayong pampasahe.

Em, mahal ko, hanggang dito na lamang at tanggapin mo mahigpit na yakap at halik ko sa iyo at ihalik mo rin ako kay Fremma. Kumusta na lamang sa lahat diyan walang liban.

Ang mapagmahal mong asawa

#10 Ruiloba, Nagtahan, Manila
February 6, 1947

Em' my love,

Before anything else receive my sweet kisses which are all I can send with this letter. May this find all of you happy and in good health. If you will ask me, by God's grace I am all right except for a mild cold.

My love, let us thank and rejoice in God because the day we have been waiting for has come. I can't tell you enough the great joy I felt when I found a job. God had mercy on us. I had tears of joy yesterday when a driver I didn't even know told me that there was an opening here where I now work.

At first I worked as a driver of a passenger jeepney, but I did not last there because a driver recommended me to be the driver of Mr. Quintin Paredes, congressman of Abra. So now I am driving for Mr. Quintin Paredes. I never thought I would be driving a latest model car. But when I was asked (during the job interview), I said I had been driving old vehicles for a long time, and I was accepted. I cannot tell you exactly how much I will earn because when I was asked how much I wanted, I did not mention any salary. I simply said that whatever they can give to help me and my family I will be very grateful. My food here is free. Lodging is up to me.

Emma of my life, I cannot tell you for certain when I can come home because the man I drive for goes out every day. My problem right now are my clothes because in my situation I have to wear clean clothes all the time. Imagine, my boss is a Big Shot, a well-known lawyer, congressman of Abra. I have to be clean all the time because everyone who rides with him in the car are people in high places.

Em', I have many more things to tell you but I might run out of things to say when I get there. Besides, I am in a hurry here because we are on the go(?). They were asking me if I want to bring you here but I said we still don't have money for transport fare.

Em, my love, this is all for now and receive my tight embrace and kisses and kiss Fremma for me. Regards to everyone there, no exception.

Your loving husband,

Sunday, February 01, 2009


On New Year's Day, hubby bought me a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. It came in a really nice box you wouldn't think it cost only $5. I was totally okay with a jigsaw puzzle gift at $5! Better than a $50 perfume I will hesitate to use. Sayang!

That same night I started working on the puzzle while everyone else was either watching TV or eating Media Noche leftovers or playing on the computer. Occasionally, one or two sons joined me as I was "puzzling" on the dining table. They came and went, came and went, but I hardly left my seat.

"Mom, are you still doing that?" Gabriel asked late at night. "That's not how you do it. You don't finish it in one sitting," he added.

But I'm a little obsessive, you know.

I finished the puzzle past midnight after everyone, except Markus, had slept. It took me about 6 hours straight. Only Markus witnessed the last glorious minutes as I fitted in the last remaining pieces. Woo-hoo!!

The next morning, they were all pleasantly surprised. The finished product was so pretty I kept admiring it. "I will frame this," I said proudly.

"You finished it already?" hubby asked. "We were supposed to do that together."

Awww, I didn't know that was supposed to be a together thing.

Last week, I took out a bigger box of jigsaw puzzle that I bought from a garage sale last summer. It had 1,500 pieces in all. The picture was more intimidating, it took me this long to start it. It has the half-body of King Tut with a wall of hieroglyphics behind it. Very difficult.

"I need to have some mental exercise," I thought to myself. The brain needs exercise too. You have to challenge it. I'm done a season of crossword puzzles. I like to do jigsaw puzzles this time.

As I laid out the 1,500 pieces on the bedroom floor, I realized this won't be done in one-sitting even if I tried. The whole puzzle is about 3ft by 2ft big and the pieces are tiny.

Finding and piecing the edges together took me two or three nights already. "How will I ever finish this?" I asked myself.

One week later, I'm still working at it, with a long way to go. I sometimes wonder if I should just pack it up. But the obsessive person that I sometimes am, I keep plugging away. Can't quit now!

This morning, Markus joined me for a little while.

"Jigsaw puzzles teach you patience and concentration," I told him.

"Mom, you have to sort by colours," Markus said.

"I know. I did that already. I'm close to close to being done," I said. Close to close to being done. It was my puzzling way of saying I have a long way to go but getting there.

I think this puzzle will take me months. Sometimes I listen to It's A New Day on TV or to First Century Foundations on the laptop so I don't feel like I'm totally wasting my time. Sometimes I use this time to think of deeper things in life. But often I'm just trying to look for pieces that match.

Life is like a series of jigsaw puzzles. Individual pieces don't make sense. But as you persevere in putting them together one piece at a time, the picture gets clearer. Whatever the final picture--good or ugly--you always learn something in and from the process.