Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mom Was from Mars and Dad Didn't Mind at All

I'm about to doze off when this lady who has the window seat next to mine decides that it is time for her to go to the bathroom.  Great!  I am never getting my sleep.  I stand to give way to her.  I checked my watch. We've been flying for about ten hours already.  All the while, I have been tossing and turning in my seat.

I am running a temperature, so that does not help.  As the soon as she gets back, I flop on my seat, push it back to recline, and close my weary eyes. I'm about to finally get some sleep when the sun hits my face. When I turned to look, it is her again. She turns her lights on to read when everybody else on the plane is asleep.
If only she knew what I am going through.  I'm about to growl at her when I notice the book that she has in her hands, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.  It is the same book that Mom added to our library at home.

I never gave it much thought then until now.  Maybe Mom read that book to cope with Dad.  After all, our parents were not spared from the "he said, she said" moments that couples go through. Mom must have complained to Aunt Ligaya dozens of times.

I remember Charie and I being chased by Mom back to our closets to change to our Sunday clothes. When she handed us what she had picked out for us that day, I yelled, "Oh no, I am never wearing that!"

Knowing that Dad often overruled Mom, I made sure that he heard it. True enough, he soon stepped out of the car and came to our rescue. "Dear, let them be."

Before Mom could get us, we had already taken our seats safely inside the car. All she could muster was a big, "HMPH!"

Then, there was Dad's nonchalant ways at home. Once, Mom found us heading out the door without tidying up our rooms.  Being an obsessive housekeeper, she was soon yelling all over the place for not getting any help around the house.  Then, we heard Dad snoring from the upstairs bedroom, overpowering Mom once again. We were about to break out into fits of laughter when we noticed Mom's face turning redder than it already was.  Up to this day, I wonder how he managed to lay there like a bear in hibernation.

Another thing, Dad must have found Mom too outspoken for his taste.  I saw her in action one day when I rode a cab with her.  She asked the driver, "What do you think of Imelda?"  Of all the topics to talk about, why Imelda Marcos?  It was considered a crime punishable by death to speak against the dictator, and much more, against the original Diva that was his wife!

In contrast, Dad was the epitome of self-control. Towards the end of Marcos's rule, he was the legal counsel to the Agrava Fact Finding Board, which was formed to investigate the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. All the while, he kept mum about the whole proceedings.  Nothing from Mom's bag of tricks could make him give up his vow of silence while working on the case.  He was nothing like Adam with Eve, hahaha!

So what kept their hands together like young couples in love until the end?  I guess it was what they did outside our home.  Mom was a volunteer social worker who immersed herself in community projects that uplifted the lives of the poor.  Dad, the straight guy who never bent for anyone in the government,  fought for justice until it hurt him in the end.  I am sure they both found comfort in each others arms at night after work, like two kindred spirits in an imperfect world.

Mom wrote in one of her final letters to us before she passed away, "I would like to infuse the values of love, charity, justice, and hope that each of you will never stop loving and caring for one another, know each others shortcomings, accept them and deal with them, being sure that each maintains his/her individuality. An ounce of respect for such shortcomings would help prevent havoc."

Meanwhile, I am interrupted by the announcement from the captain. "It is a sweltering 40 degrees celsius in Manila," signaling the start of our descent.  In a few minutes,  I will walk the along the corridors of the worst airport in the world, sit in traffic all day long, and read newspapers that only make me feel hopeless for all the poor people around me.  Just the same,  I know that I will never feel at home anywhere else.  Just like Mom and Dad with each other.

Monday, December 26, 2011

His Mighty Wings

It was unusually bright on a late December day after Christmas. I decided to go for a walk along the shores of Lake Ontario. After about an hour, I found myself on a mound of grass overlooking the cold, blue water. The rays of the sun felt like warm, gentle shower on my face.

After the tail of the last duck disappeared around the bend, I realized that I managed to lose the rest of the world, just for a little while. The stillness moved me to get down on my knees to pray.

As soon as I asked to hear His voice, I heard a loud flapping sound above me.  I looked up and saw a big white bird with some mighty wings burst into the sky.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


You find yourself standing in front of these two doors. You are given a key that is sure to open the door on the left. You are told that going through that door would lead to a task with financial rewards.

However, you are drawn to the light coming out of the other door. You peep through the holes. Behind that door are stuff that you have been wishing for.

"If you want to check out the other door, you may use the same key to give it a try."

"But if you do, that key will no longer work for the left door and vice versa."

Would you go for that door on the right to follow your dreams, or would you go for a sure thing?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

You Are Breaking the Law

A funny lesson happened to me one morning on my way to work. Before I left home, I read an article titled If US Officials Can Go to Jail Why Can't Corrupt Filipino Politicians.  It made a good point of how a balanced scale of justice equates with a civilized and progressive society.

I was getting riled up thinking of how our country ended up so stupid, pardon my language.  I had just posted the article on facebook accompanied by a note that said,  "Sorry for this sweeping statement but honestly, the Philippines is the Land of the Inarticulate."

What if former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is now under scrutiny for various graft and corruption charges, had my father in her case right now?  After all, he put together a successful one in record breaking time of six months against Congressman Nicanor de Guzman for gun smuggling in Pasay City, where, coincidentally,  Macapagal's case has been filed.

You see, my father's career in the government was all about upholding the law, from his days training at the FBI in Quantico, Virginia, not to mention Scotland Yard, to his last days in the government fighting no less than former Ombudsman Aniano Disierto who hurt my father in the end.  What frustrated me most was that nobody stood up to help him.  Need you wonder why the Ombudsman never nailed anyone?  Yet, our government is up there in terms of corruption in the world.

In one of his last interviews before he retired,  a newspaper reporter asked him what he thought about the rising statistics in criminal activities in the country then.  He said, "The problem is not in the making of our laws but in executing them."  Sadly for our country, my father was the last of the mohicans.

Then, while crossing the pedestrian lane to the subway station, I heard a voice say, "You are breaking the law."

I turned my back to look. There he was, an old man in his plaid coat and a brown cane on the sidewalk that I just passed, waiting for the light to turn green.  He said, "Joke."  

I laughed so hard.  That's it!  We need to speak out against those who break the law, like what that old man did to me.

More importantly, like what my own father,  Retired Overall Deputy Ombudsman Francisco Agrava Villa, did throughout his life.

Happy birthday, Dad!