Remembering a teacher; reflecting on life

Earlier today I read updates from friends on Facebook about the passing of one of the old teachers from my grade school years. And it came as a surprise, being that I have not really heard much about him recently, except for an exhibit by philatelists in SM City Cagayan de Oro.

Mr. Rene Abella was one of the well-known campus figures during my time in Xavier University Grade School. He handled one of the sixth-grade classes and he usually coached the science category team of the school in quiz bee competitions. He was also very active when it comes to exhibits for science investigatory projects. And he also coached the grade school’s swim team. Continue reading


Abe and Theresa


So my little brother Abe has tied the knot with the girlfriend. Of course, as the ever supportive older brother, I had nothing else to say but congratulations and I wish him and his wife Theresa all the best.

Suddenly, I felt old…

Family, Distance and Faith

The family on New Year’s Eve.

In less than 24 hours, I will be leaving Cagayan de Oro again to return to Quezon City, where my field of expertise reaps compensation more proportionate to its weight than what I would be offered if I choose to make a living of my skills in the city of my birth.

It is never easy leaving your family for several months. Especially if you belong to a family like mine which is small and closely-knit – with members meeting everytime one has a cause for celebration.

In my own direct family, my siblings, as well as my father, have professions which require them to travel to different parts of this 7,107 archipelago. Unlike them though, I do not have the capability to go home on weekends.

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From CDO with love

And this pack of goodies was delivered to the office last Wednesday. My mother had earlier told me that they were sending some stuff from CDO. And just minutes after she called me up. The guy from LBC arrived at the office and called up my last “first name” and my middle name – which was unusual to the ears of my office mates since few of them (despite working with me for almost four years now), really know my full name.

The package from CDO had two boxes of Vjandep Pastels with Yema filling; one box of chocolate krinkles; one box of butterscotch krinkles; two packs of Broas from Misamis Occidental; one pack of Titay’s Otap from Cebu; one pack of Balimbing prunes (I never knew we had this in CDO); and six small packs of various Tang juice flavors (which were in abundance at the house due to my sister’s ex-boyfriend).

I had to give one of the boxes of Pastels to the office. I know a lot of the guys there like that delicacy from Camiguin (which a lot of Metro Manilans mistake for as coming from CDO).

And so I went home with the rest of the goodies.

Once again, I would like to say thank you very much Papa, Mama, Sorene and Abe for the package and the goodies from Visayas and Mindanao. It gave me a feeling (and taste) of stuff I used to eat at home. And for some reason, it seemed to satisfy momentarily, the feeling of longing for CDO. Of course, that feeling of being with your family is different. But yeah, for some brief moment, these goodies made me feel like I was at home. Even for just a very brief moment.

Falling teeth

And I suddenly woke up from a bad dream.

In that dream, I was supposedly in this sort of inn, where I was with a group of friends were sleeping after a long day. We were sharing jokes in the earlier part of the evening, laughing our hearts out. We were oblivious to the fact that the owner of the inn told us to be careful with the next door neighbor. Apparently, that neighbor gives everyone the creeps.

And so we slept. Later, I was suddenly awakened by some noise at the door. Trying to see what it was, I quikly rose from my bed and proceeded to the door. It was ajar and so I decided to close it. But, as soon as I was closing it, I felt a push in the opposite direction of that with which I was closing the door. The push against me was so strong, I had to exert all my strength just so I could close it. The whole time I was doing this, I was thinking of the creepy neighbor the owner had told us about. 

Not able to fully close the door, I ran away from it and went back into the room, closing the door behind me. I waited for a while if someone would go barging into the door. No one came. And so I tried to go back to sleep. A few minutes later, I felt something stuck in my gums and so I tried yanking it out. But when I did, my upper and lower teeth all fell out and so I started crying. And that was where I woke up ( in real life this time) from my sleep.

Immediately after waking up, I called up my mother back in Cagayan de Oro to check on my father, and my younger sister and brother. I wanted to know if they were all at home, safe and sound. Mama told me that everyone was okay: Papa had just arrived from Camiguin Island, and my siblings were both asleep in their rooms. I was relieved. Still, at the back of my mind, there was the fear that something might happen to them over the weekend. And so I asked my mother if it were possible for them to postpone any travel plans over the weekend and take extra caution. My mother and brother were supposed to go to Butuan City over the weekend for a site investigation in relation to the family business, but she obliged. And so I felt a little assured that they are all safe and have been warned.

While in Western cultures, dreams of falling teeth are often times interpreted as the unexpressed anxiety, for us Filipinos, it signifies death. And whenever one get to have that dream, among the soonest people you’d like to know and be warned are those you love the most – your family. Despite my being educated in a Jesuit institution; professing a belief in logic, science, and history; and appreciative of the works of the scholars of the Western classics to the contemporary studies from different corners of the world, I still cannot take away the traditions, customs, and heritage I grew up to. And those include how I interprete my dreams. I am, despite the use of English language, enabled with Western thought, and having the facility of using the Internet, still a Filipino, bound by the folkloric beliefs of my ancestors.

My mother though had a different view. While she also understood the bad dream in the same manner I interpreted it, she said that maybe my grandfather was reminding me of his death anniversary, which was last May 9th. My Lolo died on that date in 1983 after several months of hard-fought but fruitless struggle against cancer. Being the first nephew and grandson in the family, I was close to him. Through the years though, it has been very difficult to visit his grave since he was buried in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte. And the last time I paid him my respects was in 2006. Mama suggested that in order to appease the possibly clamoring soul of my grandfather, I should attend mass and offer my prayers. I think that would be the least I can do to show that I have not forgotten about him.

While I am now somewhat appeased that my family has been sufficiently warned, I still cannot lay off the fear I have in me. I have been seeing several friends, including my girlfriend, lose some members of their family over these past few weeks. I hope and pray mine would be spared. Before I go, I’d like to remind everyone, it’s Friday the 13th and there’s the second planetary conjunction later. I guess this weekend will be full of superstitious beliefs and fears. Still, I will try to take comfort in these lines from Emerson: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

Back to reality

It’s back to work for me today. I had to since my leave expired yesterday. It actually kind of feels weird being back at work here in Quezon City. Being someone from Mindanao, where the language, culture, and even traditions are different from those here in the Capital, my vacation in the land of my birth have actually rekindled thoughts on the differences between the people in the Capital and those from Mindanao. Yes, there is a difference, and one can only tell that if one is from Mindanao and has spent considerable time here in Metro Manila.

The burden with being away from the family has never escaped me. Despite being assigned to so many places in my previous jobs, I always feel melancholic whenever I leave them at the end of a visit or the Holidays. I guess that is the result of being born into an insular family. But while some may say that this is immature and pathetic, I would say that me feelings are what sustains me to work where I am and live my life for my family. Where I am I am not only here for myself but also for them. I am here because of my family’s dreams, my family’s hopes, and my family’s future.

Still, being one who hails from the southern, often misconstrued as violent, part of the country, I can only feel at ease and at peace whenever I am with my family and my people, in the land of my birth. Call me a fanatic but I do think much of my place, and despite having been able to work and lives somewhere else, I am able to appreciate better how different it always feels to be in the place of your birth, your childhood, and all the precious moments in your life.

It’s funny that this country of mine often spends much time discussing the fate of migrant workers in the Middle East and yet not one among the policy-makers, has ever thought that much of the people here in the Capital are actually migrants from the provinces, and the experiences of these migrants are as bad, and in some cases, worse, as those encountered by my countrymen in other countries.

Such is the fate of the migrant worker.


It is just a few days before I once again leave Mindanao and go back to reality in Quezon City. I already feel melancholic and I have no one else to blame but myself. I myself decided to work away from Mindanao and in a place where few really know me. It was a decision made in consideration of being near the woman I love and out of the desire to carve out a life for my own, being that I am fast growing old. But being born into an insular family really bites back.

I grew up to a family where gatherings are all about family members e.g. cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. And almost everything that is being done is by and between relatives. And majority of these relatives live, study, and work in Northern Mindanao. Incidentally, it is the same set up which actually made me who I am, and also shaped my need to be away from the family should I grow old.

Now that I am old however, I am starting to feel the need to be near my family. I mean don’t get me wrong, I do love my girlfriend and I would really want to marry her, but I do feel the need to be near my family when I decide to settle down. What complicates things though is that my girlfriend is from Luzon and she also needs to be in a distance relatively near her parents as well, since her parents are like mine, fast growing old. We agreed that the best compromise would be settling int he central part of the Philippines, particularly, Cebu. I guess that would be the best thing to do. But since these things have yet to take shape in the future, I will think about them later.

For now, I will cherish the last remaining days with my family here in Mindanao. And make the last few days full of memories to last me the next time I come back and be with my father, mother, brother and sister, again. At least, I am with them for the New Year’s Eve celebrations.