Friday, November 24, 2006

Leo's Leisure park

(Okay I should've blogged about this is 4 months ago but it's only until recently that I got the pictures from Marc. I was determined to blog about this though so here it is, 4 months late...)

Last July 22, I went to Leo’s Leisure Park with about half a dozen ex-colleagues. It is in not-too-far-away Angeles, Pampanga (about hmm 2 hours from Makati) and it in fact would’ve been a lot easier to find if it weren’t for the near-obscure kilometer signs on the road (we should’ve turned left after KM79 along Macarthur highway but none of us in the car saw the sign so we ended up taking a long detour).

Meann learned about this place from some TV show that she couldn’t recall. Leo’s Leisure Park was okay, but if you do decide to go here, make sure you have great company and you bring a lot of stuff to entertain yourselves with because at night, there’s really nothing to do except sing in the Karaoke bar (which unfortunately we didn’t do =)).

We got there around lunchtime and had a pretty good meal before heading out to the pool. We decided to play a couple of games with a kiddie beach ball that we “borrowed” from one of the families who were there with us. I say “borrowed” because it was just lying around the pool and no one really got it from us when we were using it. Initially, we split in two – the 30-and-up group consisting of me, Daniel, and Lucasz and the 20-somethings with Meann, Marc, Tin, and JB. The object of the first game was to keep the ball in your team for as long as you can (if the other team manages to get a hand on the ball, they gain possession).

The oldies dominated this game so we decided to change games and switch up teams. I was now teamed up with Daniel, Meann, and Tin while Lucasz, JB, and Marc were grouped together. The object of the new game was to get the ball to the goal (teams had goals on opposite sides of the pool) but there’s a catch: the person holding the ball cannot move from his or her place – they have to pass the ball to a teammate within 5 seconds of getting the ball. My team won decisively, but I have to say it was incredibly tiring! Still, it was loads of fun. We then ended up “winding down” by playing volleyball and trying to keep the ball in the air as long as we possibly could.

We decided to have dinner outside the premises. We spotted a Chinese restaurant along the road on our way to Leo’s, and I suggested that we could have our dinner there so we did. I can’t recall the name of the place, but the price was decent and the food was good. Suffice it to say, we all stuffed ourselves, which isn’t surprising considering all the energy we spent earlier that day.

After dinner, we walked over to the café right next to the resto. It was called Mom and Tina’s bakery café. It had a really nice warm country kitchen feel to it, from the selection of food to the décor. I had brewed coffee (2 cups actually) and a Mango walnut torte, which is essentially mango refrigerator cake (or mango icebox), and it was really good!
The food was so delicious and the ambience so inviting that we ended up having lunch there the next day (or breakfast – we got up close to noon and so it was our first meal of the ay). And everyone seemed pleased with the food they ordered. I ordered Shepherd’s pie (pictured below), and when Meann and Daniel had a taste of it, they liked it so much they decided to order one for themselves and share it. The bread that came with it was really good too. Meann asked them if they had another branch, and to my surprise they said they had a branch somewhere in Libis. So all I need to do is find it and then I can bring my friends there.

Anyway, going back to the Leisure Park experience, the night was spent playing Taboo and 1-2-3-pass. Seems that with this set of people, I am the Taboo king – during Richie’s despedida, I didn’t lose any game of Taboo and here I had the least number of losses of anyone (I lost just once; teams were constantly shuffled to make sure things were more or less even). 1-2-3-pass was a lot of fun too (as it always is).

All in all a great weekend. Would I recommend Leo’s Leisure Park? Probably not – I would suggest other places to go for the same price, unless I guess you want something different. However, they are still in the process of developing it so maybe a year or so from now it’ll be a much cooler place to hang out in.

I would, however, really recommend Mom and Tina’s bakery café. They really do have a wide selection of good food, and the ambience really makes you want to chill there. If I find out where it is in the Libis area, maybe I will blog about it again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

World Champions

Congratulations to Manny Pacquiao for successfully defending his WBC international super featherweight title against Erik Morales.

It was a decisive win – knockout in only the 3rd round which is a far cry from the last two battles these two boxing greats had (one going the full distance and the other ending in a 10th round TKO). I was actually worried that Pacquiao wouldn’t do that well. Mainly coz I thought that he was spending too much time working on his endorsements and heck even his album. So I was very pleased and relieved even that he won.

Of course, I’m still not a fan of boxing or any sport that requires one person to beat up someone else. I mean, losing in any sport sucks as it is. But it must suck a hell of a lot more when you lose because you’ve been hit so hard in the head so many times that you can’t even stand on your own two legs anymore. I actually felt bad for Morales. But not bad enough that I would want him to win of course.

It’s great that with Manny’s win, there is another positive headline about the Philippines (or someone from here).

On the other side of the world, massive props go out to Roger Federer as well. This guy won every single round robin match he played against stiff competition – Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian (who is one of a few people who have a winning head-to-head against Roger), and Ivan Ljubicic (although okay, Ivan has never beaten Roger ever). Then in the semifinals, he beat his nemesis Rafael Nadal (who is one of a few people who have a winning head-to-head against him) before absolutely crushing James Blake in the finals.

Federer is slowly racking up records left and right. He was the first player to break $7 million in career earnings in a single year, and then as if he wasn’t content with that, he goes on to win the Shanghai Masters and thus break the $8 million mark in single-year career earnings. He's won double-digit titles each year for three consecutive years. He is also the only male player to win 8 Grand Slam events in a three year span. And he’s also the only player to have won both Wimbledon and the US open three years in a row. I'm not gonna list down the rest of the horde of records he has now. You can look it up yourself in Federer's wikipedia entry.

This guy is only 25 years and has already won 9 Grand Slams, placing him in 6th place overall behind Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Rod Laver (11), Bjorn Borg (11), and Bill Tilden (10). If he remains fit and healthy I see him breaking Sampras’ record within 3 years.

What’s more, even if Roger doesn’t play between now and February, he is en route to take Jimmy Connors’ 25 year old record of male player with most number of consecutive weeks at #1 at 160 weeks (that’s a smidge more than 3 full years in a row). What’s more, if he continues to play as well as he has been playing, he will take the record for number of consecutive weeks at #1 male or female, a record currently held by Steffi Graf. I would personally not want him to take Graf’s record but I really wouldn’t mind. Steffi would still have the female record if ever. =)

The ups and downs of gigging

Well it’s been a pretty decent month and a half for gigging. An incredibly interesting twist for my band, really – 5 gigs in the first nine months of the year, 4 of them pro-bono, then all of a sudden 7 gigs in a row, with a few more in the pipeline.

Let me start off with a long-winded background for the gig we had five weeks ago. I had just come back from a work teambuilding event in Eagle’s Point which was held on Friday ‘til Saturday. We actually left Manila at 530am on Friday, which meant I was already awake at 430am. I had only two and a half hours of sleep before getting up, and I got to steal maybe another half an hour of shut-eye on the bus ride to Batangas. Thing was, it ended up being an incredibly jam-packed day filled with games and activities. And with a lot of partying at night, I ended up probably sleeping at past 3 (or maybe even past 4?) on Saturday early early morning. Unfortunately, I had way too much to drink while I was dehydrated so when I got up at 830am on Saturday I had the worst hangover in recent memory. The worst of it was, I was so tired and spent from the previous day’s activities that I lost my voice! The problematic trip we had back to Manila – people were late getting on the bus, bus 1 had some problems before running out of gas, we passed through Tagaytay instead of the Star Toll, thus lengthening travel time back to Manila from 3-3.5 hours to 6 hours!!! – made me even more tired. So when I was back in Manila, my voice was all but gone.

Now we’ve had gigs before where I had a sore throat. But I just knew that this wasn’t the average sore throat that can be cured last minute by some hot tea and Strepsils. It would be incredibly bad form for my band to back out at the very last minute though. So I said I’d just push through with it and see what happens. I warned my bandmates about my condition, and they kinda brushed it off, saying that I’ve had a sore throat during gig night in the past but always gotten through. It was a bit unfortunate as well that my mom had a free night and decided to watch. I told her that I had a horrible sore throat and that I wouldn’t be in my best form but she wanted to watch anyway (3rd time for to watch my gig). I was right of course – the moment we played our first song (Matchbox 20’s ‘3am’) it was clear my voice was nowhere near where it should’ve been. It was very hoarse! We performed ‘Lightning Crashes’ after that, and I guess 3am helped my open up my throat a bit because I managed to hit all the notes, albeit with a whole lotta effort. The rest of the set went pretty okay, but I did lose any and all ability to sing falsetto – during ‘#41’ I ended up mouthing all the falsetto parts and I could see that some people in the audience noticed. I was really tempted to sandbag and tell everyone in the audience that I have a bad case of laryngitis, but that would’ve been a bit too unprofessional, so I managed to be controlled enough not to mention it.

I actually kept quiet for virtually the entire break we had between sets to take care of whatever was left of my voice. Also, during this time, lots of people in the audience actually told me what a good job I was doing, which made me think that they seemed to pick up on my condition and were trying to express their appreciation for my efforts. But from a vocal standpoint, neither of those seemed to help because my voice was even hoarser in the 2nd set. Looking at the bright side, I was quite surprised that I was able to ‘force’ the high notes of ‘All I want is you’ (I really thought I would be horribly off-key but luckily I wasn’t), ‘Where the streets have no name’ (by the end of the song my voice actually cracked on one of the high notes), and ‘All along the watchtower’. I was also still able to hold high notes in ‘Grey Street’ and our version of ‘Selling the drama’. The coolest thing though happened during ‘Ants marching’ – at the point where the rest of the band drop and I sing ‘People in every direction’ a cappella, most of the folks in the audience sang along with me. That gave me an idea: I wouldn’t sing the next line and see if the audience would sing instead. That turned out to be a great idea because the audience did sing ‘No words exchanged, no time to exchange’! Amazing! I looked over at Bunky after that and he gave me a nod of approval (he doesn’t mind the audience singing for as long as I don’t actually prod them to sing).

By the time I headed home, my voice was, for all intents and purposes, gone. I would speak one sentence with maybe 6 words like ‘Sorry we couldn’t sing your request’ and my voice would crack five times! I don’t really understand how I managed to sing the rest of the second set like that then completely lose my voice the moment we were done. Adrenaline maybe? Mind over matter? Whatever it was, I am very thankful I got through it!

Anyway, for a couple of days, I could barely speak. I ended up trying Pei Pa Koa, this Chinese herbal extract which is supposed to be good in restoring one’s voice. I am not sure whether it was working because by the end of the week my voice was still a bit hoarse but at least I could sing better. I had another event on Friday night and it was so loud that you would end up shouting instead of talking to make sure other people could hear you. As such, I had another sore throat. But at least it was not as bad as my sore throat the week before.

I was still struggling quite a bit, and my falsetto not very good, but at least my voice was clearer. The main problem we had during the gig was that we were very unprofessional. We are supposed to start anywhere from 930-10 assuming there is a large enough crowd already, but this week we started at 1015. Which was the wrong week to start at that time because there already was a pretty sizable audience by then. During our sound check, I step off the stage to listen to our sound, and the manager actually tells me that we are killing him by not having started yet. The rest of the first set goes okay but after we had played 7 songs, Bunky’s string snaps. We play ‘Lightning crashes’, probably the 8th song of the set, when Bunky breaks another guitar string! We had to end that set prematurely after that song. The only good thing about that is that sets are normally about 7-9 songs long only, so at least we could act like we completed a set and not seem like we missed playing 4 more songs. Luckily, Ipe had spare strings. The bad thing was that at the start of the second set, we realized that Bunky’s guitar wasn’t tuned properly so after one song, we ended up with a lengthy lull while Bunky re-tuned his guitar. I caught a glimpse of the manager during this lull, and he really didn’t look pleased.

Anyway, we played a couple of songs – 'Big-eyed fish' and 'Bartender', both by Dave Matthews band – which we haven’t played in a while, and it was clear we were a bit off in them. We played one more song before the manager told us to take a short break to give way to the San Miguel Bar Tour. During this break, we had a quick band meeting. Oz was concerned about the sound, but Ipe said we couldn’t do anything about that so we needed to play our best despite that. He also asked the band to play with more conviction, whatever the song was. I was really pleased he said that, because now the words were coming from him and not me! =) Being the band “father-figure” kinda gets tired sometimes, and what you say loses impact at some point as well. Anyway, when we started the second set with out ‘All I want is you-Where the streets have no name’ pseudo-medley, it was clear that we were hell-bent on putting together a fantastic show. And the continuation of the 2nd set was amazing. With one small low point – right as I was about to sing Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’, someone in the audience approached us and asked if he could sing that song. I thought he was a friend of one of the folks in the band, but I found out later that everyone else thought he was MY friend. Anyway, he sang, er, well, hmm, not all that well to put it lightly. But it was at least an interesting experience. =) The rest of the set went very well. The highlight for me was our cover of Candlebox’s ‘Far behind’. That’s another song we haven’t played in a long time. But Ipe, who still wasn’t in the band when we played it the last time, knew all the lead guitar parts very well. Throughout the song, you could feel a vibe from the audience that told you they really loved it and the fact that we were playing it, and I also felt that they thought we did it justice. Even the waiters behind the bar were cheering! =)

In the show we put on three weeks ago, one of my dearest friends Raych (who now lives in Australia and was here for a few weeks) came to watch us. She got there in the second set which was good because if she arrived during the 1st set she wouldn’t have gotten a seat. This week, my voice was also crystal clear. I was on top of every single high note in Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” and I held the “Grey Street” long note pretty well. I also have to say, Candlebox’s “Far behind” has now officially become one of our “ace” songs. We played it again and with my voice in tip-top shape, I sang it better than I ever had before. I really wish we had taped it or caught it on video, coz I am not sure we (or I) can pull that song off that well again.

The gig we had two weeks ago was probably the most, er, “dramatic” I’ve ever been on stage. I always used to sing Third eye blinds “Jumper” a bit ‘bouncily’ shall we say until it hit me – this song is trying to tell someone not to jump off the ledge of a building so why am I being bouncy or angry when I sing it? (Maybe coz there’s a line that goes ‘The angry boy…’) So last week, I changed my delivery of that song, and acted more like I was trying to convince someone that it wasn’t worth it ending your life. With “Better man” I started singing some lines my own way and not singing the normal melody. And with “One” I was pouring my heart out. I guess the frequency of our gigs is making me very comfortable singing our songs again, and I’m starting to perform them with more heart as compared to the 5 gigs we had before that.

Now they say that there’s a first time for everything, and last Friday we had our second set cut prematurely for the first time ever, but this time it wasn’t our fault. We had played a solid first set. I was also feeling a lot more comfortable than I have been in the past interacting with the audience. So I was kinda ready to kick ass in the second set. We were in fact planning to play 17 songs that set, and since my voice felt clear and strong I was confident that my vocals would last the entire set. But midway through our third song, the sound system went haywire – it was like we had a horrible feedback sound coming out of the speakers and it lasted for the entire song. The sound technician was frantically trying to sort the issue out to no avail. We kept trying to isolate the problem i.e. which instrument was having the problem – first it seemed it was the violin, then it seemed to be my mic, then the lead guitar, then the rhythm guitar – but well it seemed that when we figured out the problem, the deafening feedback sound would come up again. Eventually the manager told us that the sound guys couldn’t fix the problem and we’d have to pack up. Awful! I was so ‘bitin’ especially since I felt so ready to play more than a dozen songs more that night.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we can throw in another good (great?) gig this week. And if we decide to do ‘Far behind’ again, I hope we do it really well once more. Just funny, I’m willing to bet all my friends who had never heard me sing alternative rock or seen me perform with my band would probably never think that I could pull this song off. Then again, prior to joining my band, neither did I. =)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Idol classic: Bo Bice performs "In a Dream"

Another classic performance from the best rocker (and arguably the best stage performer) Idol has seen so far. Bo Bice began season 4 under the radar as the camera spent most of the time focusing on the other rocker Constantine Maroulis. When he got to the top 24 though, he quickly gained ground with one awesome performance after another, turning himself immediately into one of the frontrunners. He faltered a bit in the middle of the season then proceeded to blaze his way forward again. During top three week, there was no question who deserved to make it to the finale. His renditions of 'Don't let the sun go down on me' and 'I can't get no satisfaction' were fantastic, but it was his a capella version of 'In a dream' by Badlands that made brought him legend status.

There's a slight bit of a snag in his last note, but his gutsiness at attempting to sing a capella in the penultimate round of Idol (something no one had ever done before or since, at least for an entire song), combined with the raw emotion and power in his voice made this performance one to remember.

Birthday celebration part 4

During the Ramadan holiday, I met up with my high school barkada for lunch. It was initially planned for dinner but then the government declared it a holiday so we decided to meet up for lunch instead so that it wouldn’t be too late. Again, because Mitch had to be in the Ortigas area so that she was close to her home, so we ended up having lunch in Fish & Co in Shangri-la mall. I thought that would be a cool place to celebrate my birthday as well mainly because neither Joyce nor Iona had eaten there yet.

We ended up not being very smart with our orders. Practically everyone ordered the best Fish and Chips in town or the New York Fish and chips. I ordered the Baked Salmon which I recall was very, very good the first time I had it, but that day the skin was a wee bit too ‘malansa’ for my taste and so I wasn’t as impressed with I as I was the first time. Iona thought that the New York Fish and Chips she had was ‘nakakaumay’. So I guess we ended up not all that pleased on average with our lunch choice. (I was thinking afterwards that maybe we could have simply opted for Gloria Maris which I haven’t been able to eat at since the first time I was there a few months ago). But well it was still their first time to eat there so it's not all that bad.

The highlight of the day which turned out to be a bit of a let-down in the end was that Vhong Navarro had lunch there at the same time. Joyce is a HUGE fan of Vhong and she became speechless and her jaw dropped the moment she caught a glimpse of him. Joyce was constantly in two minds as to whether she should approach Vhong. On the way out, I was telling her I’d help her ask for his autograph but she said no, and then when we were about 50 meters away she all of a sudden wanted to go back. It felt too weird for me to go back though so Joyce asked Iona to accompany her. Iona felt however that it was not very appropriate coz Vhong was having lunch (or enjoying post-lunch conversation with his companions) and she felt it be intrusive to butt in.

After that, Mitch ended up buying us all coffee and dessert in Goodies N Sweets (did I spell it right?) because she had just gotten promoted. We hung out until around 330 I think because Joyce needed to go to Katipunan coz she was going to tutor someone at 4pm.

Two more birthday celebrations to go (one of which has already been celebrated and one more is still waiting). Although now that I think about it, I probably owe one more set of my friends a birthday blow out as well. But I'm not saying who lest they hold me to it. :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Idol classic: Fantasia singing Summertime

Arguably the best ever Idol performance ever. The song was not as technically difficult as a lot of other songs that have been performed in the history of Idol, but Fantasia reached out to the audience in a way that no one else did and she connected with a song on a deeper, more soulful level. People knew that something magical was happening while watching it. Fantasia sang this song a couple more times on Idol, but this first performance was by far the best, most chill-inducing of them all.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Rockwell was the site for two Halloween celebrations last weekend. So my mom and I decided that we would take my nephews out to celebrate Halloween there.

Saturday was ‘Camelot’ day. This event was actually an event of Rockwell club, but it was opened even to non-members. It was held in the Multi-purpose court. It was a good idea to bring my nephews there because both of them are into dragons, so a Camelot setting would be perfect. CJ in fact came in a dragon costume, while Ciera was wearing a king’s crown and robes. We were actually quite late getting to the event mainly because traffic in Edsa was horrendous. So I’m not really sure what we missed when we got there at around 230pm. But there were quite a few activities there that kept both of my nephews interested the entire time. There was a large, er, "inflated dragon" where kids could actually go in and keep jumping and tumbling without getting hurt (argh! I can't remember what you call those things, ah well). CJ and Ciera actually got into it a couple of time. There was also a fishing area – the 'fish' were goody bags and each ‘fisherman’ had about a minute I think to try and snag as many goody bags as they can with a makeshift fishing rod. Again, CJ and Ciera tried this out twice. The first time, CJ actually managed to catch a goody bag by himself which was so cool. I helped Ciera get a goody bag for himself too. The second time they tried it, there were only two goody bags left so the facilitators actually just handed them to us, but my nephews wanted to “catch” them so they did. There was also face painting (CJ had a dinosaur painted on his face), a magic show, photo opportunities (there was a 'Sword in the stone' area), and prizes given out to the best costumes. The program in the multi-purpose court was capped off by a performance by the musical group 'Trumpets'. After which everyone headed out to the different Rockwell buildings for trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, there were waaay too many people and the trick-or-treat event was more difficult than enjoyable – there weren’t too many stops and it took forever just to get a couple of candies. So I told my mom that we should just leave – I still had some chocolates left over from the ones I bought for the trick-or-treat activity we had at work and we would still get to go trick or treating on Sunday. So we just ended up having dinner before heading home.

I told my mom that we needed to be early on Sunday because the ‘Superheroes Convention’ which would be held in the Rockwell tent (next to Powerplant mall) was just from 1 to 5. Ciera came as The Flash while CJ came in as Superman. Since this was a Powerplant event, it had more advertising and as such a whole lot more kids were there. When we arrived at 130pm, there was a large projector showing an episode of Justice League. Face-painting and glitter tattoo were available to all participants but the lines were too long so we decided to just line up for the Velcro Wall. The line was quite long, and each kid would get only 5 minutes in the Velcro Wall but there aren’t lots of opportunities to experience it, so we figured the wait would be worth it. As it turns out, one of the kids threw up in the entrance area right after Ciera and CJ got in. The facilitators took a while to figure out how to clean it up (eventually they just moved the Velcro Wall to cover the area where the kid threw up – the wall was inflatable so it could easily be pushed) so I reckon my nephews were probably there for twice as long as the other kids were.

Anyway, the tent was too crowded and to join the games you had to register (and it was too much of a hassle to try and register) so we opted to just head out to Powerplant and have something to eat while waiting for the trick or treat activity to begin (it was supposed to start at 5pm). On the way out, we had one stop to have a photo op with two men on stilts. Anyway, we headed to Dulcinea (Ciera had a lot of churros, while CJ read the menu and decided he wanted to have a tuna sandwich), and as it turns out, Dulcinea was one of the many trick-or-treat stops on the mall and they ended up giving us some stuff already even if it wasn’t 5pm yet. As luck would have it, lots of the places in the mall were already giving out goodies even if it wasn’t 5pm yet. There were ‘Heroes welome here’ signs in most of the trick-or-treat stops, but some other places didn’t have that sign, so we would just ask the people whether they were giving out treats or not. There were a lot of other families going around as well – I guess they all headed out of the tent earlier as well to escape the maddening crowd in the Convention. But it was good that we ended up getting an unintended head start. We actually just made the rounds of the 2nd and 3rd floor shops before CJ and Ciera’s baskets were filled to the brim with goodies. In fact, my mom and I ended up having to carry some of the other goodies they collected coz their 'pumpkins' had no more room. By the time we had gone through the 3rd floor shops, both my nephews were really tired. And since we already had a truckload of stuff, we decided to head home and skip the basement and 1st floor shops. I ended up seeing some of the shops on our way out of the mall, and the trick-or-treat lines were already really really long. So it was good we got there before most of the other kids.

All in all, a very fun Halloween. Very tiring but my nephews did a lot of stuff and got to enjoy quite a bit so it was all good. And their supply of goodies has still not run out. =)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saint's Day

My cousin Ana died last week.

It was maybe a few years ago when she was taken to the hospital because she had a tumor in her brain. I’m not really sure whether I have my facts straight anymore but I believe she had brain cancer. The entire family was very concerned during that time because we weren’t sure what was going to happen to her – the doctors said the tumor was quite big and it was in a bad location. She made it out of the hospital and I still got to see her for a couple of family reunions after that. In fact, one of the parties that my family had was set up as kind of a thanksgiving party that Ana had made it out of the hospital.

Anyway, last my week my brother texted me saying that Ana had passed away. I think I couldn’t really, hmm, connect to the fact that she was gone. That is, up until I went to her wake with my mom, my brother Clemence, and my nephews (who are Clemence’s sons) last Saturday after the Superheroes Convention (I’ll post about this later on). Tita Nelia and Tito Chito, her parents, seemed to be very tired (obviously). I looked into Ana’s casket – she looked very peaceful and beautiful – and at this point I think the whole reality struck me. She's a year younger than I am and now she's no longer with us! I felt a wave of sadness wash over me. But I kept things under control because I didn’t want to be the impetus for both Tita Nelia and Tito Chito to become more emotional. They needed strength from the people around them, after all.

She was cremated yesterday, on Halloween, at noon. There was a mass for her in the morning and the cremation would happen at 12nn. I had work to do in the morning so I decided to just take an extended lunch break. When I got there, I ran into my dad who, along with a few other people, was helping Tita Nelia get to the hospital. Apparently, she had collapsed and was now on a wheelchair. I saw her being helped out of Loyola Memorial and words can’t begin to describe the agony and exhaustion that were painted on her face.

There was one upside to this. I saw so many people in my extended family there. I had just missed my mom and Clemence who were there earlier in the morning but so many of my titos, titas, and cousins were there even if it was a workday. It felt great to see the support that my family gives to each other in times of need and difficulty. In fact, my other cousin Charisse was actually celebrating her birthday that day, and despite she was there, crying along with everyone else. By the time the pastor started talking about what was going to happen, I lost it. I think for the entire ceremony I had my handkerchief over my face. They opened the casket for one last viewing and then they proceeded to roll her down to where she would be cremated.

The pastor told us that only immediate family was allowed in the actual cremation area to see Ana before she was actually cremated. But Tita Nelia was in the hospital and that left only Tito Chito there (Ana’s siblings were in the US and both of them were unfortunately unable to come home). So as it turns out, the whole family joined Tito Chito. It must have been the saddest I have felt in a very long time.

This has been the hardest blog post for me to write. And I hope that I don’t have to write anything similar to this anytime soon.

We love you, Ana! And may the Lord bless your beautiful soul.