Miracles Happen

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Photo by Image Nation Photography

I witnessed a miracle on that sunny Sunday afternoon as a young bride walked down the aisle on her own, towards the man of her dreams.

The walk was already an amazing thing to witness in itself but for this particular bride it was nothing short of a miracle.

You may have heard of the story of Raissa Laurel. Just two years ago she had lost her legs in a bombing during the De La Salle University bar examination due to a fraternity war. She had the worst injuries and it was a devastating time for her family and friends. But despite her circumstance, she praised the Lord. When she was on the ground after the blast waiting for someone to help her all the to way when was carried to the ambulance and rushed to the hospital, she was singing worship songs to God.

For the past two years she has been going through therapy with her prosthetic legs and learning how to walk again.

And on this Sunday, she was a bride walking down the aisle in the garden of the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay, with more than 300 awestruck witnesses. This is what made her walk a miracle.

There was a second miracle. It had stopped raining.

It had been a rainy weekend and that morning the weather forecast said that the rain wasn’t about to stop. I later learned during our conversations at the dinner table with the wedding gown designer that the organizers were pressuring Raissa to make a decision, whether or not to set up inside the hotel or outside for the ceremony. But she just asked them to wait.

The clouds were grey in Manila. On my ride to Taal Vista, it was raining. It seemed as if the rain wouldn’t stop. Amazingly, when we got to Tagaytay there was no trace of rain. It was no doubt a miracle.

I had to stand up and walk closer to the aisle to get a better view of Raissa walking. In fact, a lot of the other guests stood up as well. It was a sight that could not be missed.

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Photo by Image Nation Photography

“How can I stand here with you, and not be moved by you?” sang the wedding singer to Lifehouse’s ‘Everything’ as Raissa walked down the aisle. This probably captured everything we were all feeling as we witnessed this miracle. The groom, Raine, was in tears. And not just as men would excuse themselves and say, “sweating from the eyes”, but he was really weeping. I couldn’t blame him. I was weeping myself.

Raissa was all smiles as she half walked and half wobbled down the aisle. The sun was shining bright as if smiling back at her.

During the ceremony I sat in the back under the shadow of the trees. Behind me were elderly ladies who I assume were relatives of the bride and groom. They commented on almost every sponsor that walked down the aisle, and especially on the artistas like Coney Reyes, Vicky Belo and Rica Peralejo.

“Nandyan si Coney Reyes!”

“Saan?”

“Yung mataba.”

Typical.

I decided to ignore the noise by going to the back-middle of the aisle and watch the rest of the ceremony.

Everything was beautiful that it overshadowed all the mishaps of the day.

All except for the horrible host. He was something else. He just kept on talking about himself and adlibbing in the middle of special numbers. He wasn’t even good, yet he just kept publicizing himself. It was pathetic.

I went home that night laughing at all his bloopers and awkward improvising. There was no point in being mad; the miracles I had witnessed that day were too amazing to allow anything to ruin the day.

Miracles happen once in a while, I’ve heard it said. I am just grateful that I was able to be a part of this occasional miracle. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

___

This column was written as a requirement for my J103: Opinion Writing class under Sir John Nery of The Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Laments of a grown up child

A poem written on October 31, 2010 about being frustrated because of who I have become. Of course now I do not feel this way. I think, though, it was very amusing to recall this moment of my life, that I may always move forward and learn from my mistakes.

Why do I feel like I am floating?
Today as I look back, I realize
The child I was, was worth boasting
How did she come to such demise?
She used to be so strong
She used to be so wise
What had gone wrong?
Who is that which I do not recognize?
How can she but not recognize.

I have fallen short again
I have let her down
She aimed and she began
Living dreams she had back then
If she knew, she would frown
At how things have turned out.

The child she was had grown
I am what is of her left
If only she had known
She would have sighed and wept.

An Observer’s View on Life

Here’s a poem I wrote for my Biology 1 class. We were given 30 minutes to write a poem about what life is. This is what I came up with.

Life is hard to define
Through words, through actions or through time.
No one cares while you are alive
Yet they weep and cry when you die.

Life is something everyone has
Yet at the same time, not all do.
Some people live in a lie
Some people wake up to the truth.

Some wait for their time to come,
Some act like it’s already done,
Some waste away till the dawn,
Others strive to win till they’ve won.

You can choose the way you will live.
You can let life pass you by.
You can live all your life asleep,
Or you can live all your life alive.

Jump

A soft voice calls to you.

You open your eyes.

You know you are alone as you stand on the edge. The edge of what, you aren’t sure. All you know is that you are following his voice.

Promises – easily made and easily broken. His voice is playing in your head.

As you remember your last moments with him, tears start falling and they don’t stop.

You could see he is deep in thought. “Finally,” he says, looking up to the sky. He looks back down, walks past and you don’t take your eyes off him.

You don’t understand. “Finally?” you ask as you follow him.

“Yes. I finally met the girl of my dreams,” his tone is unexpectedly solemn as he answers and continues walking.

“Oh, so you’re thinking of leaving me then?” you joke.

“Be serious.”

“Come on, I was just having a little fun.”

“I’m trying to tell you something. Please listen to me,” he says unamused.

“I don’t get you,” you chuckle to ease the tension.

“I’m in love.”

“What?”

“I never thought I’d find myself in this situation. It’s just too weird, you know?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t you get what I’m trying to say?” he asks.

You shake your head in confusion.

“I gave up on love a long time ago. My heart was badly broken and I swore to never fall in love again. But now, I can’t help but give my heart away. This time I know I’m making the right decision.”

“You really don’t sound like yourself. What happened to you?”

“I’m different now,” he says.

Silence.

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” he looks away.

“Are you saying that someone changed your life?”

“Hmmmm.”

Silence.

“Oh, baby,” you utter.

No words needed to be said.

You will never forget that day.

You find yourself wrapped in his arms and he softly whispers, “I will never leave you.” You believe him wholeheartedly even if you know you shouldn’t.

You close your eyes.

‘How did I get here?’ you ask yourself.

You think back. If you start where you ended, you’ll realize that you will wind up exactly where you began – at the edge, following his voice.

(Read the story – including the title – in reverse order)

See You Later

(A short story)

Jerome looked different. This eight year-old boy, whom I would regularly see running wildly around street with the wind in his hair as he played tag with other children, was always full of life. When I visited him, however, he was weak and lying on a hospital bed. He had lost all his hair and his pale face was almost unrecognizable. His familiar sweet smile had been wiped off his face.

“How is he?” I asked Bea, my best friend, while our parents quietly talked in the opposite corner of the small hospital room.

“Okay,” she answered absentmindedly, not taking her eyes off her brother as he lay unmoving.

It was Christmas Eve. This was a time supposedly devoted to pigging out with family and close friends, singing Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts. But this year’s festivities were cut short. Right after dinner, without even bothering to open any of our presents yet, my family headed to Medical City where Jerome was confined.

As we drove to the hospital, I couldn’t help but remember the time when we first moved to Remville, a small group of town homes at the edge of Mandaluyong. I was seven years old, and Bea, whom I have literally known since birth, was finally my neighbor. Their house, which looked almost like a reflection of our own house, was right in front of ours.

After bringing the first truckload of belongings, my parents headed back to our old house to fetch the rest of our stuff. They left me in Remville with our new neighbors, Bea and her younger brother Jerome.

“What’s that?” asked the 5-year-old Jerome as he pointed to a circularly folded fabric that I had brought with me.

I surveyed him from head to toe before answering. His hair was messy. He had obviously just been playing with the other neighbors. You could see the droplets of sweat forming on the tip of his nose. His knees were dirty and he had many wounds on his legs. These ‘battle scars’ were typical for a boy his age.

“It’s a tent,” I answered finally.

“Can I play with it?”

“Jerome, leave us alone,” Bea butted in. “Let’s go to the attic,” she said as she dragged me to their house and away from her brother. We went up three floors to the attic where the television and all their toys were. I started going through their tapes to pick something to watch.

“I wanna watch ‘Barney’,” Jerome suddenly appeared out of nowhere. There was no getting rid of this boy.

“We’re watching ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” I said as I inserted the tape in the player.

“But I don’t want to watch that. It’s yucky.”

“Go downstairs if you don’t want to watch,” said Bea, pointing towards the staircase.

“I wanna stay here with you guys.”

“Then keep quiet.”

“Why?”

“Cause we’re older and we say so!” I snapped. He was getting on my nerves.

If he is going to be my neighbor for the next few years I will have to devise some plan of avoiding him,’ I thought. ‘He’s gonna follow me and Bea everywhere. We’re never gonna get to do anything fun with him around.’

Jerome stopped arguing and sat down at the back of the room as the tape began to play.

As the movie ended an hour later, I realized that my tent was missing. Jerome had disappeared as well.

“Bea, Jerome stole my tent!” I yelled. That was it, the last straw. ‘When I find him I am going to kill him!’ I told myself.

We ran down the stairs and searched the rooms for him. He was nowhere in the house. We decided to go out to the garage. There we saw my tent. Jerome had set it up by himself. I rushed towards it and opened the flap. When I did so, we saw before us a banquet of Chips Ahoy, chocolate, and milk.

“Welcome!” Jerome greeted and motioned us to come in the small tent.

“Where did you get the food?” Bea asked.

“I asked mom for snacks. She gave me some cookies but I told her I wanted to share with you guys so she let me bring milk and chocolate.”

“Thanks!” Bea grabbed a cookie and bit into it.

Jerome handed me a glass of milk and a cookie. “You should dip the cookie in the milk first. It’s yummy.”

I followed him. It did taste yummy. “Thanks, Jerome. You’re the best,” I said.

He smiled at me then got a cookie for himself.

___

“I think he’s getting better,” said Bea.

She broke the silence and also my train of thought. We were back in the small hospital room. She had a tinge of hope in her voice.

I nodded, but I had a feeling that it was futile to be optimistic.  The meningitis that had taken hold of him refused to let go. It was already December and he had been in the hospital since September.

It was at six the following evening when we received a call. The doctors were removing his life support. We arrived at the hospital twenty minutes later but it was too late. Jerome was gone.

Relatives and friends who were not allowed inside the ICU room filled the small hallway and mourned his death. I peeked inside the room and saw Bea kiss his forehead for the last time. Her eyes were bloodshot red because she had been crying for the past twenty-four hours. Equally exhausted, his dad and mom were hugging as they wept by his side. It was heartbreaking to watch everyone, including the doctor, shed tears for the sweet little boy who had passed away so early in life.

I never got a chance to say goodbye, or to even thank him for being my friend. I tried to cheer myself up with the thought that he is in a better place.

Two days later, as we released balloons in the air during his funeral, I looked up to the sky and watched as the colorful balls floated higher and higher and slowly disappeared from sight.

“I’ll miss you, Jerome,” I whispered. “But I know I will see you again, for this is not ‘goodbye’, this is just ‘see you later’.”

The field that once was

A van of teenagers arrived. The sign engraved on the left side of the gate read “Lexington Garden Village.” It even had a butterfly carved right on top of it. After passing through tight security and explaining to the guard that they were guests of a homeowner, the black and yellow striped bar was lifted and they were finally allowed to enter paradise.

A row of trees surrounded them on both sides the moment they passed through the gate. They towered over as if shielding the van from the heat of the sun. Another long strip of trees in the middle of the road divided it into lanes for leaving and entering the village.

A haven in the midst of chaos.

That was exactly what my high school classmates thought of Lexington when I first brought them there. My family had just moved in to the village and I wanted to bring my friends over for a little housewarming and bonding.

“Welcome to Lexington Garden Village,” I said as we entered. A sign in the middle of the road read the same thing.

We came to a circle where the roads divided into three. We took the second road and turned to the first street to the left. The car drove up to an off-yellow two-storey house. A tree stood in front of it and cast a cooling shadow over the house. Grass enclosed the short path that led to the white front door. We had arrived home.

After giving them a tour around my small and quaint three-bedroom house, leaving their belongings in my room, and ordering pizza over the phone, I brought them outside and led them to my favorite place in the village.

I brought them to the small field right in the middle of the village, which was just a short walk from my house. Trees and small bushes encircled it like a fence, guarding the oasis against unwanted trespassers that could possibly destroy its untouched beauty.

They all flocked to the field and sat on the ground. Almost immediately a joke was cracked. Everyone started talking. Someone brought out a guitar and the singing began. No one even noticed the mosquitoes or the heat of the sun.

“The pizzas are here!” someone screamed as I returned from the house carrying all five boxes. The moment I placed them in the middle of the circle of people, they began grabbing slices of pizza and devouring them as if they had not eaten in ten years. Five minutes later it was as if the pizza never existed. The talking, laughing and singing started again.

I drifted away from the group and walked towards two metal structures near the end of the field.  I made out that they were both soccer goals. One was lying horizontally on the ground and the other stood erect. I sat on the lying goal and hung my hands on the second goal.  I watched my friends laughing and talking in the middle of the field. At that moment I was reminded of why I loved that field so much. It was different from any other place in the village. In fact, it was the only place that had grass. It was peaceful, and relaxing just to have its greenness penetrate everything in one’s vision.

My thoughts were interrupted by Mico, a classmate who had just transferred to my school that year, as he sat down next to me on the metal bar.

“Deep in thought?” he teased.

“Actually,” I agreed. “I’m admiring the beauty of the field. It’s just so pretty.”

He didn’t say anything but in his silence he agreed with me. Suddenly Jem, another classmate, came with her DSLR camera and snapped a photo of the two of us. She then ran away, laughing.

“Hey!” shouted Mico. “Come back here, you!” He jumped off the bar and chased her around the field.

I too jumped off the bar as I laughed at both of them. I stood and looked across the field. I sighed in happiness.

Three years have passed and I stand at the same spot. I barely recognize the field that I had loved. Instead of grass, all I see is dark soil. It, which was once perfect and undamaged, is now a soccer field. While nine or ten boys are having soccer training, mini dust storms form due to the constant kicking of the ball between orange and green cones placed on the ground. The metal bars I had sat on three years ago are the same ones these little boys are using as soccer goals.

The coach screams “water break” and all the boys rush to the side of the field where they placed their jugs and sports bags. Only then is the field empty again. My favorite place was destroyed because of these little boys. What was once luscious green was now plain dirty brown. At least the mosquitoes were still there. Only they are what remained from the field that once was.

A soccer ball rolls in front of me and is followed by one of the boys that were playing. I look at him and wish him well in my head.

“Enjoy the field while you can, little boy. A few years from now, you will probably not recognize it anymore. If worse comes to worst this field might even be cemented off and be made into a parking lot.”

I watch him as he rushes past me and heads towards the middle of the field where the other boys have started training again.

Prove her wrong

Jessica watched as time slowly ticked away. The grandfather clock that stood in the middle of the living room told her that it was 8 o’clock in the evening.

It was another one of those wasteful weekends where she had tons of schoolwork due the following week but instead of finishing them off, she spent the time either watching television, sleeping, binge eating or day dreaming.

This weekend was wasted on contemplating. She was frustrated with the way the year had turned out. It was only her first year of college and she had already failed a subject, crashed her mom’s car on the lamppost right in front of their house, and got into a major cat fight with a gay classmate over Justin Bieber. The worst part of all was that she did not even know if she was in the right course.

My life is pathetic. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know why I’m still wasting my time studying. Why do I always have to be so –”

Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted by her mom’s screaming, “Jessica! You’re staring out into space again. Get your butt off the couch and help me fix the table for dinner.”

Her mother – late 40s, round and petite, dyed brown hair – was looking down at her from the staircase that was adjacent to the couch. She walked down the stairs and went to the dining room as Jessica sluggishly followed.  

15 minutes, two place mats, two plates, two coasters, two cups, and two sets of spoons and forks later, Jessica found herself sitting with her mom at the dinner table.

“How was your day, dear?” her mother asked just before gulping down a fork-full of angel hair pasta.

“Fine,” she answered without even looking up from her plate.

Awkward silence.

“Sumer yet?”

“Almost. I have one test left tomorrow. I haven’t studied for it yet though.”

“You had a whole weekend to prepare for that,” her mom stopped eating and raised an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you?”

Jessica shifted from her seat, “I didn’t feel like studying.”

“Why are you always like that?” she asked after another moment of silence.

“Like what?”

“Ever since your father passed away –” she stopped as tears started flowing down her face. “You’ve stopped caring. I’ve been trying to reach out to you but you always push me away. What are you doing with your life?”

Jessica had enough. She hastily stood up from the table and walked out of the dining room just as she heard her mom say, “You’re such a disappointment.”

In her room, she plopped down on her bed in frustration. She opened her laptop to get her mind off things. Her homepage popped open and she read, “Pre-enlistment for summer class now open.”

She shifted her eyes from the screen to the family picture on top of her bedside table, “She doesn’t understand me, she never has. She doesn’t know who I am.” She looked back at the screen, “I’ll show her exactly what I’m doing with my life.”

She moved her courser towards the “pre-enlist” button and clicked it. “I’ll prove her wrong.