Sunday, March 27, 2005

New York Girl Easter

Easter culminates the 40-day Lenten season begun on Ash Wednesday. It is, to Catholics a period of reflection of the suffering of Jesus Christ leading to his crucifixion. I grew up in a country that marks Holy Week with self-penitence, prayers and religiousness. It is also the time where people follow an exodus out of the city and to the provinces - either to spend the long weekend with relatives in provinces or to troop to the beaches for vacation.

Here in the US, the weekend also marks reunions with families and friends and the car rentals in any Avis or Enterprise outlet in Manhattan are once again over-priced, if there are at all any cars available.

Easter is like the Easter Lily that is pure in its whiteness and is shaped like a trumpet, seemingly heralding the arrival of great good news. It is about hunting for eggs that symbolizes new life, of bunnies hopping and pastel colored Starburst sour jelly beans. It also comes at the start of spring when the promise of life is seen in trees now ready to burst with flowers to end the bare and cold of winter.

This year my sister spent Holy Week with me. It was a chance to talk about childhood memories (relying more on my recall as she has managed to short circuit her memory and has more lapses than anything else) and plan ahead for the coming of our 'end of days' (will be in another blog). It was in following the media coverage of the Terri Schivo has prompted us to clearly state our preferences when our time comes. It is the seed of a living will, you might say.

Distanced from the sweltering heat of Manila's Holy Week and still freezing in the stubborn cold of winter, somehow the religiousity of Lent feels different. Despite the flurry of similar activities in most churches, I have come to miss the monotonous singing of the passion of Christ and the processions that bring the religious door to door around the neighborhood following the stations of the cross from home to home. In Cavite City, Good Friday evenings are about long processions of hushed mourners staging the burial of the dead Jesus. There os another procession before dawn on Easter Sunday where an angel descends on the mourning Mary to remove her veil and to signify the resurrection of Jesus.

"Happy Easter", we were greeted in all the shops we entered today. Some have opened, some have chosen to keep the day a holiday. Manhattan shops rarely shut their doors to shoppers so this is a peculiar time to be walking 6th Avenue with TJ Maxx and Filene's with doors shut. It felt like we were walking a ghost town and the wild wind that funnelled through the buildings didn't really help make it better. A few people are in a shopping mood, many headed to brunches and dinners with flowers, wine and food as presents. At Times Square, however, life goes on without religious bias, the Naked Urban Cowboy still pausing for pictures at the corner.

In the afternoon, tired from the miles of walking we had done since my sister arrived, we decided to stay home and play movies back to back on the DVD. Thank goodness Blockbuster had chosen to stay open for the day. Love Actually (my fifth time to see it), Ladder 49 and Bend it Like Beckham played on TV while she re-threaded my pearls in silk and I tried my hand in making my own jewelry.

At home Nicole reported that lunch was at Island Cove with the parents, Francis, Laila and the kids. In a way it feels Easter kept us together in the celebration at lunch, with Gigi and I celebrating it with a 13 hour delay due to the time zones. Celebrated with a feast on the table and with reminders that life is about family and gratitude for the blessings that have generously sprinkled our lives. And prayers that in each Easter, we would experience the hope, promise and celebrations of lives lived well despite the occassional bumps and hiccups.

Happy Easter to all!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Vanj

My family has had their share of cancer stories. My mother's sister died of cervical cancer when I was in 5th Grade. She was brought back home from the US after she was diagnosed. I have listened to my mother and the rest of the family talk about how she had suffered through most of the symptoms but how she had not sought immediate medical attention. My maternal grandfather had prostate cancer.

Growing up, what I had feared most had been to be struck with cancer. I had been very careful, seeing my OB-GYN for all the regular check-ups once a year. Moving to the US has reinforced healthy living. I now am able to manage the kind of food that I eat, trying to stay clear of salty, oily and high carb foods that I have grown up with. I go to the gym regularly, not just to tone my body but to make sure my heart muscles are strong enough to pump blood through my system.

I have known many people close to me get struck with cancer. I think the first reaction to news about someone being diagnosed with the big C is sympathy. Somehow I have equated cancer with a death sentence.

Slowly, I have come to understand that cancer becomes a death sentence when it is diagnosed at its late stage, when the disease has metastasized and has afflicted other organs. My brother is a doctor and I have learned that many illnesses including cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence especially if it is diagnosed soon enough for medical intervention.

Still, I have actively immersed myself with many causes to promote funding for further research of cancer, breast cancer specially. Since 2002, I have joined the 8 mile Breast Cancer Walk by the American Cancer Society in Central Park very October. I have done it not for anyone in particular, just the hope that by the time I, or my sister, or my daughter or my mom or anyone that I love get sick, there would have been more hope in terms of surviving the big C.

When I returned from Manila this January, my sister broke the news to me that her best friend Vangie had breast cancer. Vangie was diagnosed in December, so that cancer became her sort-of Christmas gift. I was devastated. Vangie is younger than my sister, she is just 36 years old.

The immediate question had been: why her? And my sister Gigi asks the same questions. Vangie is the most obsessive compulsive in terms of cleanliness and health consciousness. She is the epitome of the person who lives the clean life.

I guess in the lottery of fate each of us are dealt with a handful of cards that we sometimes hope we don't deserve. Who decides, anyways, what we deserve? And if you are given a bad hand, it is in how you play them that will make for a win or a loss.

Vangie has started a blog of how she is coping with her new life. Gigi got the link this morning and shared it with me as I was leaving for work. In between the meetings for the morning, I had the chance to browse through her entries and I am pleasantly amazed, proud even for her strength.

Vangie has taken the sharp turn in her journey through life with a purpose, not hopelessness. She battles the cancer that plagues her body and sees each step toward a process to a new lease in life. She has become involved not just in healing herself but sharing each episode with others who may have the same plight.

To be striken with cancer can be the most devastating event in someone's life. You can either conquer it with a positive attitude or surrender to the depths of dark despair. Hope is easier to grasp when there is sunshine gleaming on your face and you won't see sun sitting in the corner of your room feeling sorry for yourself.



Vangie's beauty shines through eyes that see the world for all the hope it will bring. She has been fortunate to bask in the love of family and friends who have showered her with support at trying times. For me, though, reading through her blog, she has just nudged me back to reality how trivial the things I have been worrying about lately. I read through her stories and imagine her laughter and how we used to have fun together at home when she came to visit, and the New year's she stayed with us with her white Honda Civic with the name (which I forgot).

I feel envious. I ask myself if I would have had her strength if I were in her shoes. And I feel blessed because I know her enough to know that she will be fine and that she would go through this and live to tell her story.

This October I am walking 5 miles in Central Park. And I will be walking for a friend who has survived cancer: Vangie Khu.

Her blog: http://vangiekhu.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Why do I Blog?

I ran the treadmill with the M.O. today. In between gasps for breath to survive the ordeal of thinking while my brain was bouncing around, he somehow got me explain the reason for why I own a blog. I wouldn't have felt compelled to provide him with any explanation except that he started off by telling me that I own a blog and it reflects conceit, self-centeredness. To prove him wrong, I struggled to provide an explanation to the contrary:

I have always enjoyed writing. From the letters I used to write to relatives, to the short stories I typed on my uncle's antique Remington. When I experienced first love when I was in high school, I experimented with poetry and still dabble into it when the inpiration strikes.

I write long personal emails (work emails are often more direct to the point), telling stories about my life and the nitty gritty details that make up its insignificance. Insignificance that somehow gets portrayed as 'a wonderful life' simply because of how I put together the words.

It's like watching 'Seinfeld'. Notice how each episode is really about nothing but it entertains you for about half an hour and it makes you laugh and relaxes you. But when you look back to it when the credits come on and try to figure out what it was about, you realize it was really about nothing.

I write about what happens to me day-to-day, when it is worth writing. Not on a daily basis but when I have the luxury to find some quiet time to organize my thoughts and to share them with my readers. I do have a significant volume of regular visitors to my sites, including some that find their way from links from the sites of other blogger-friends (Jong, Hannahlou, Renee, Daisy among others).



I'm not very good with checking on the statistics of my sitemeter. I don't really care so much about who reads the entries as much as who responds to them. On the average, when I have a new entry I get two or three emails about it - in agreement or otherwise. On some controversial entries (which I honestly try to steer away from), I got about 25 on the last one. These emails I do not delete and keep in a separate folder to treasure. But the sitemeter does indicate that I have good readership.

I refuse to post a picture of myself or to reveal the irrelevant. I want my readership to get to know me as they read about me. Like an onion slowly peeling skin until you get to the core (then realize there is nothing there ). Maybe they will develop a false image of what I am but it would be about how they'd want me to be, not as how I will insist they see me. Except for a few guys who had emailed me pictures of themselves to justify their serious intent to get to know me better, I don't really know much about anyone who reads reflections2, let alone their reasons to come back and read future entries.

I write to share about the life of me (single, with a million friends who sub as my family, renting a studio the size of my bathroom at my parent's house in Manila, blind-dating, working in a 9-to-5 shift, non-car owner, daily public commuter, Central Park denizen, NYSC member ) living in a city like New York. Manhattan is just teeming with blogging ideas. The subway, the bus, the streetcorners and life in a small island co-existing with more than 8.1 million (as of 2003) other individuals of varied races, faith, breed, economic bracket, sexual preference or psychological and emotional maturity is a petri-dish for writing ideas.

I write about my joys, my heartbreaks, my opinions and sometimes is able to make the pages reverberate with the sound of my laughter, specially to the people who has heard it. I write about friends and their friend's friends, or drag my reader on the boredom involved in sitting through a snowstorm. Sometimes it surprises me when I get messages from friends who tell me that they can feel exactly what I am talking about and how sometimes I publish something that hits too close to home.

I own a blog because I like to share something that is close to my heart and something that gives me pleasure - writing. I find pleasure in being able to come out with a good entry not based on anyone else's judgement but by how I feel had been able to summarize my thoughts. I own a blog because I find pleasure in knowing that I am the girl whose life has similarities to everyone else's including my rants and raves. Maybe it is self-centerness or conceit indeed but whatever it is, this is one corner of this universe where I can unmask that part of me to share with whoever wants to give me 30 seconds of their daily life.

I have written about the M.O. many times. He is the one person who in the three years I have been in New York has been the single constant. I have changed boyfriends several times, residence twice and moved around work through 3 departments. I have made new friends, chosen to unload some but the M.O. is the tender image of the man who has never had bad thoughts or intent toward me and have, even now, only wished for me what would make me happy. Even if it means watching me swoon about the Italian one more time.

I realized he was giving me a hard time defending my blog because he belongs to my regular readership. He just wanted me to update it with something that puts the last sad entry to archive-mode. That way when he returns to it in the morning, right before he starts his work, he'd be assured that I am OK again.

I am always OK, as long as the M.O. keeps me running and laughing and reminds me that there are other aspects in my otherwise insignificant life that is quite significant, too.