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April 26, 2011


A couple of Sundays ago Vic and I went to Pampanga for no particular reason, and for a lot of reasons that had to do with emotions and feelings and nostalgia. My daughter Vida drove for us, and Vic's caregiver made a fourth in this unplanned and unscheduled excursion.

We left just before noon, picked up Vic's two sisters Mely, who was here from the US on a brief visit, and Lety, their youngest who's been undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer for the past two years. We had thought of visiting some relatives whom Vic and his sisters hadn't seen for some time—actually, for more years than we can remember—but since it was lunchtime we decided to first look for Abe's Farm in Magalang, and take our lunch there. The place had been written up in the lifestyle section of a daily because it is owned by the late Larry Cruz and was named after his Dad, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, more known and remembered especially in media as "Abe." We thought, since it was an out-of-the-way place, and in the province at that, it might be closed, or at most, have very few diners on a weekend, but we decided to take our chance. Surprisingly, when the guard opened the wooden gate, the parking area was full, as was the restaurant. Not surprisingly, the food (mainly Kapampangan dishes) and the ambience were worth the long drive on a hot afternoon.

After lunch, we set out to look for the house of 'Tang Ben Reyes, an uncle-lawyer who had gone "spiritual" in his later years and become actively involved with a Catholic fundamentalist group. Last we heard about him he had built a chapel near his house in Pampanga. Several questions and directions later, we finally arrived at the gate of 'Tang (abbreviation for Tatang, a form of address for an elder, or an older relative) Ben's place and were greatly saddened by the information from the man who opened to our knock, that the man we were looking for had passed away last year.

We were invited to come in to a spacious yard with some giant mango trees heavy with fruit (very sweet fruits as we would discover, for we were given two large bags full). The chapel, a low white structure, stood to one side, right beside the house. The entrance to the house was also the entrance to the chapel. One can imagine that 'Tang Ben must have spent many prayerful moments of solitude within its peaceful, quiet interior. Vic's eyes were tearful as he listened to the widow talk about his late uncle who had been quite a good lawyer in his time (he was a classmate at UP Law School of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile).

Our next stop was at a cousin's house, still in Magalang, and along the various roads we passed I caught glimpses of what provincial life was like, especially on this quiet Sunday afternoon. It's a life to be envied and have wishful thoughts about—far from the madding crowd, far from noise pollution, and on that sleepy, lazy afternoon, certainly seemingly remote from the horrors that confront us daily in our city life.

Pacita, the cousin, and a contemporary of her visitors that afternoon, was a midwife, and quite a looker in her youth and prime, courted by many prominent and quite prestigious men, and finally won by someone who, sadly, did not live up to expectations and surrendered himself to the lazy, happy-go-lucky existence in a laid-back town.

He passed away a few years ago, and Pacita lives with her youngest son Cyril who, fortunately for her, is a very enterprising young man with sharp, shrewd mind for business, and has managed to give his mother and himself a very comfortable life. While Pacita still shows traces of her former good looks, she has absolutely no interest in striving to look young. I think she's just a happy soul who's content to live a simple, uncomplicated life, secure in the knowledge that she has someone who will always be there to take care of her as long as she needs him.

Back in San Fernando, we took a side trip into the village where Lety, my sister-in-law, had bought a house she would move into when her friend Cora arrives in June, after her retirement in Canada. It's a house with a garden (Lety loves to garden), in a gated subdivision, with a church close by that she can drive to everyday.

I realized, as we drove back to Manila after dropping off Mely and Lety, that this Sunday afternoon had turned out to be a soul-searching excursion as well. My husband Vic was unusually moody on the long drive back to Quezon City, and I wondered if he, too, was thinking as I was, that the visits we had made had each shown us that each one of them had found their own place in the sun. Their own plans had been made, perhaps, as in 'Tang Ben's case, a dream had been realized before he died, and for Pacita, her son had assured her that she would never be alone or lonely. And as for Lety, her unwavering faith (in her God and in her doctor) is also her greatest strength as she looks forward to years ahead of her.

Arriving home after a long and fulfilling afternoon, one would think the next thing on the agenda was an early dinner and a good night's sleep, especially for Vic who I imagined would be exhausted. But there was that invitation to his friend Dixie Vicente's birthday dinner that same evening, and when my son Martin asked his Dad if he was still game for a party after that full day's journey, my husband nodded, and in half an hour we were on our way to Quezon Circle where the party was.

"Awesome at 80!" the invitation read—and indeed, Dixie, (who was also a godfather at our wedding anniversary celebration), was no less than awesome in a red t-shirt, jeans, longish (though gray, not dyed) hair, and a tiny glittery stud on one ear. The fact that he looked rakish, not ridiculous, helped a lot in projecting the image his children (two doctors among them) wanted to project. I know Vic was glad he attended the party, and I was glad that he was glad.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HerWord or BusinessWorld.

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