Category: Yarns


The #Austin116 Era

During the roughest years I had growing up with (and away from) Pop, I always made a vow that I would be a better dad to my future son than he was to me. After that, I’d always follow it up either with a “Or I just might screw it all up,” or “Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen to a sap like me!” before continuing whatever I was doing.

So when Bianx spoke of her plan to start a family early once we were married, it was a mix of heavy-duty anxiety and supernova elation. I understood that babies were always a handful to take care of but seeing her excitement with finally being able to start a family of her own brought me on board despite my initial hesitations.

We started by renting a condo unit in Makati, located just outside the famous Central Business District (CBD) and significantly closer to our offices. A friend of ours helped us get a good deal at one of the older buildings in the area, as we moved in shortly after New Year’s Day 2015. Aside from the convenience of being a short walk (or even jeepney ride) away from many commercial establishments and work, it was finally a place we had to ourselves that allowed us to focus on our lives together. We made quick use of many of the gifts we received at the wedding to get ourselves settled in our new place. And realizing the environment was not the best for raising our future son in, we made up our mind to stay there only for the year before moving back in with her folks in Las Piñas to help care for our son after his birth.

But from the start, it was a challenge. She stopped taking her hormone pills soon after the wedding (which she had been taking since her high school years for managing her polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS), and we knew that the contraceptive effects could still last for several weeks after that. Then there was that mean ob-gyne in Makati Medical Center who bared that as my wife was suffering from PCOS, she couldn’t get pregnant unless she lost weight and made dramatic lifestyle changes, which left her feeling miserable and angry. We managed to find a far more sympathetic and caring ob-gyne, holding clinic at University of Perpetual Help DALTA Medical Center back in Las Piñas, and her straightforward yet careful advice would be crucial to the success of the wife’s pregnancy.

For the next few months, we tried to become pregnant. Regularly throughout the months, she would buy testing kits and check the results each time. And disappointingly, each test came back with just one line instead of the hoped-for two. At times, she would get so depressed she would start crying and asking if she was the reason she couldn’t get pregnant. And while I did my best to reassure her, I started having a nagging feeling that maybe the problem was with me. I felt inept, incapable, useless and impotent. But I did my best to cheer her up and we kept on trying, while reading up on as much information as we could on how improve our chances of successfully conceiving our firstborn.

June 12. Independence Day. We were planning to head home to her folk’s place for the weekend and were in the midst of preparing our clothes when she suddenly felt nauseated. On a hunch, she took out her pregnancy testing kit and tried again. Disappointment hit us as we saw the same lonely line across the marker. However, she had left the kit in the bathroom sink as we continued packing and when she returned to the bathroom a few minutes later, she then called me in an urgent tone:

“Babe! Come here!”

In a rather defensive tone, I then replied as I approached her:

“What did I do?!”

She hurriedly showed me the test kit, which showed a faint second line below the dark upper line. At that point, our eyes met and without saying a word, we suspected we had finally done it. We decided to tell only our parents of this and inform more people once we had scheduled a laboratory test and proper examination at a hospital or medical center.

But the following day, while we were going around SM Southmall with her parents, siblings and cousins, Bianx developed severe pain around her side going around her back. We decided to head to the ER as a precaution and after much nagging, managed to request for an ultrasound that confirmed our suspicions. She was indeed pregnant, nearly two months along and were both very delighted by the news.

Further challenges would come further down the road, as pre-natal testing found Bianx had developed gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM (despite the lack of a history of diabetes in her family tree), which meant that aside from lifestyle changes (less sugary foods particularly, and no coffee or smoking) she had to regularly monitor her blood sugar levels and inject herself with insulin daily (leading to a couple of close calls with hypoglycemia). She had also been put under the care of an endocrinologist, who would help monitor her GDM until delivery. Again, the good friend of hers who helped us get our condo offered his spare blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections (as he happened to be a diabetic as well, and which saved us in expenses significantly).

As I was also on the road to recovery from my bouts with hypertension, we had decided to eat healthier and so she started experimenting with cooking her own low-sodium dishes (which we were even able to sell for a limited time, leading to the launching of our online store Love at First Bite). In addition, I began increasing my water intake while cutting back on my beloved soda. This led to noticeable improvements in our health, which spurred us to keep this going for the duration of our stay in Makati.

Going back to the story, I ended up moving into a new account after my old account had started reducing headcount, which put me on edge since I was concerned about being without income for any extended period. And to top it off, the wife and I had gotten round-trip tickets to Bohol province earlier in the year, where we had planned to celebrate our long-overdue honeymoon in late June. While going through every terminal informing the attendants of her pregnancy was a bother, the real scare came during our long tricycle ride to the resort where we ended up traveling on very rough roads that made me fear for the safety of my wife and our unborn child. Aside from that, the honeymoon itself went very well and we enjoyed our time away from the city immensely.

It was also during these early months that I faced what many dreaded and found comical about pregnant women. The cravings.

One morning in Makati, she decided she wanted some pandesal so she sent me out to get some. And not just any pandesal, but the freshly baked piping hot variety from the small bakeries some distance away. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find it and upon returning to the condo I told her:

“Seriously, do you still expect fresh pandesal at 10 in the morning?!”

Some weeks later, we were at the in-laws in Las Piñas when she started craving for some custard-topped bread. And she made a lot of fuss about not wanting to eat anything else, so I set off. Four bakeries later, I still hadn’t found what she wanted. And when I told her what happened, she did her usual trembling lip before bursting into tears.

Despite this, her cravings tapered off by her second trimester and things returned a lot closer to normal. Now with her pregnancy being more complicated than the usual, she required more frequent checkups including ultrasound scans, all of which cost quite a bit of money. We kept it up with her maintenance insulin and monitored diet (albeit with the occasional cheat day to keep her happy) and so far our son had held on nicely.

In the final trimester of her pregnancy, her ob-gyne had expressed some concern that she wouldn’t be able to give birth normally as her pelvis appeared too small to successfully accommodate our baby’s passage. Fortunately, we had started preparing for such eventualities by saving up enough for the delivery, although we were still worried costs could quickly spiral out of range if further medical procedures were needed.

Early in December, we decided to move out shortly before Christmas and end our lease early at the condo we had rented. With the due date falling on January 5th, she had already started her maternity leave and we decided it was best to be back with her family to prepare for the arrival of our son. Being located much closer to her doctors was a relief, although I still miss the convenience and independence our year in Makati provided.

On her due date, she had her final ultrasound session and the attendant pointed out that her level of amniotic fluid was running low and the baby would have to be delivered soon or serious complications could set in. After consulting with the ob-gyne, we made the difficult yet necessary decision to schedule our son’s delivery by Cesarean section early the following morning, as there were no other available hours for that day. She was confined to a ward that evening, where she complained of both discomfort from the baby’s size and anxiety due to the pending operation. Throughout the night up until she was brought to the operating room at around 4:00 am, her blood pressure had been rising uncharacteristically, lending even more urgency to the situation. Before she was wheeled in, I was made to sign a waiver indicating that I agreed to the operation and any risks involved, including the potential loss of my wife, my son or both of them. As I started to fall asleep in the adjacent bed after having made the long walk back to the ward, the possibility of something going horribly wrong did scare me and I could only hope it would all be okay when I woke up.

A few hours later, a nurse woke me up to inform me that our son was in the nursery while Bianx was in the post-anesthesia recovery room. I hurried down to the nursery, where the curtains had been drawn and I waited for them to be opened. When several minutes passed without anything happening, I knocked on the door of the nursery and asked if I could see my son. After giving them my wife’s details, within a minute or two they pulled back the curtains and I saw the first ever glimpse of my firstborn in the incubator (which was probably a precaution recommended by the doctors given the circumstances he had been delivered into).

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Yes, this was the official post I made to announce Baby Ozzy’s arrival that fateful morning.

Although I had seen newborn babies before, it certainly felt different as I stared at him at the incubator for several long minutes before the moment finally sunk in.

“You’re a father now.”

I never thought I would ever be at this point in my life, or ever get to this moment in time as recently as just two years ago. But I was. It happened. And it was the realization that my life could and would never, ever be the same as it was before.

My wife would rejoin me in the ward hours later after the anesthesia had worn off, and although sore from the operation we would soon have the chance to hold our little one.

And to think he celebrated his first birthday earlier this month, after plenty of sleepless nights, empty pockets and myriad moments that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Brandon Austin (or Oz or Ozzy, whichever you prefer) has proven himself to be a very intelligent, energetic and healthy toddler who brightens the lives of those he encounters, most especially his parents and grandparents.

Honestly, there’s so much I’d tell you about our little boy, but more than anything else I’m just happy that he’s here as a part of our young family. And for all the challenges he and the world may pose, seeing that handsome face glow with a smile is always worth it.

Belated Happy Birthday, my son. We love you very much.

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Two years ago, I accomplished a personal goal that I never thought I’d see to fruition.

Yeah, basing on the title it’s obvious this entry is long overdue. After all, not only has it been two years since we tied the knot (oops, spoiler alert!), but our son Austin/Oz/Ozzy (more on him in a future post) is almost a year old by the time this entry launches here. Anyway, I’m straying off topic so here I go.

I was just a few months into my relationship with Bianx when we began talking about what we wanted in a relationship. We both sought serious long-term relationships where kids would be in the picture. We both felt greatly at ease with each others personality quirks. We both felt that we were ready to take the next step toward a life together. So we agreed to get married. And to that end, we set an ambitious date for ourselves: December 13, 2014. Or as the numbers would say, 12/13/14.

We started by talking to her parents about it, and we were met with conflicting reactions. Her mom, being rather skeptical of me, made us explain how we were to sustain ourselves once we tied the knot. And as the wife had warned me, she went on to draw a diagram of sorts about the kind of income we needed to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, to which we responded that we most certainly had plans to put up our own business (which now lives as our online store Love at First Bite). Her dad, on the other hand, while suggesting if we could delay our wedding day to have us better prepare for our future, was a bit teary-eyed, which suggested his mixed emotions at knowing his daughter would finally be having her own happy ending. All that time, we held each others hand so tightly that I swore I was close to breaking every bone in it. Eventually, seeing as we had clearly made our minds (and hearts) up, they gave their consent.

Next up were my parents. And when I first told my dad about it, he actually asked this question:

“Son… Is she pregnant?”

I laughed and assured him she was not pregnant, that we had simply made a decision to begin a new chapter of our lives together, and he agreed to it. Over with my mom and sisters, they took this in a more relaxed manner and gave us tips and advice about the big day and life after it. And our friends? They were excited for both of us. My friends were happy for me because they knew I was finally going to be with that person who made my life worth it, while her friends were happy for her because they said that she finally met her match (or was it the other way around?).

So then we started dreaming. How about a wrestling-themed wedding, where we enter to our own music and be wed by a judge in a referee’s attire inside the squared circle? While we both dreamed that, her folks weren’t exactly keen on the idea and wanted something closer to an”orthodox” wedding.

Having gone to wedding expos and receiving tons of advice from everyone on preparing the perfect event, in the end we decided to opt for a simple civil wedding. First, this would keep costs down since church weddings often have additional fees that add up to the over-all bill. Also, since I came from a Catholic background and she was raised as a born-again Christian, a civil wedding ensured that neither side was favored or otherwise, avoiding any potential “hard feelings”.

Next, we relied on our circles of friends and family to provide the needed services for the event. They provided key services such as photography & video services, makeup, catering and presents for the guests. We got most of these at very good rates, and we’re happy to recommend them in case you’re interested. For the wedding gown, her aunt sent her some lovely fabric, which was then made into the dress of the evening.

The months before the wedding descended into a maddening process of preparation, as we worked out each requirement as best as we could between work hours. Securing and paying our friends who provided the services? Check. Getting the Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) ready? Check. Getting that gown ready? Check. Pre-nuptial photo shoot and Save the Date video? CHECK.

Wedding day started early with the house abuzz with preparation, as everyone started getting ready to look their best. Although we had everything planned out as best as we could, it still felt strange and new. There wouldn’t be any turning back, no going back to the old ways, no “restore” button in Windows parlance. This would be a life-defining moment and we were taking the plunge.

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Minutes to midnight… Err, matrimony. Because 12/13/14.

6:00 PM. Lavides Garden Venue, BF Resort Village, Las Piñas City. Riding a car one of her friends had loaned, we made our way to the venue. We were greeted by friends and family who were waiting for us, and we soon made our way in. Despite the drizzle that evening, the ceremony was a success and everyone had fun at the reception that followed. We enjoyed heartwarming messages from our loved ones throughout the wedding, and after that we even ended up having an after-party at Mystic Brew across the street.

As we settled in to go to bed after a long and exhausting day, it finally dawned on me. We could sleep together in the same bed and it wouldn’t be anyone’s business. That and I now had a partner for life, someone who I could share sunsets and sunrises with. And I hope I somehow do the same for her too.

A year ago today, I lost my maternal grandfather (Ingcong Ben Manaloto) to throat cancer and its complications. I had known him as a man strong on traditional values (always insisting I find myself a girlfriend before he died), a man who put himself through college eventually graduating with an Accounting degree from Far Eastern University in Manila, a man who survived World War II eating nothing but kangkong (according to one of his many stories), an enterprising business person who ran a lucrative Caltex station in San Fernando, Pampanga and owned several huge tracts of land in the area, and as a man known for his unconventional methods to save a few pesos when needed (such as “extending” a can of pork-and-beans by adding water and onions). And while I butted heads with him on many of his viewpoints, I maintained a soft spot for him. Each Christmas Eve for the past few years, me and the family would visit him for the traditional Noche Buena dinner, which he especially enjoyed since all of his children had grown up and moved away in the years before that. And we made it a point to squeeze in occasional visits when we could, to make sure he was okay. He had been a presence in my life for over three decades, and his passing left an unexplained void that I have struggled to fill to this day.

The whole ordeal started back in September 2012, when I was contacted by my Tita Carol (one of his daughters) that he had reported difficulties swallowing and he was only able to take in liquids. Despite this, he refused to go to the hospital and according to one of his doctors, he suspected a growth in his throat was the cause, which he wanted to have verified with a biopsy. Since my aunt was in England at the time and would only be able to return after some weeks, she asked me to stay with him in the hospital for the coming week (which I managed to file leave from work for) and together with my sister Mitzi, we drove to his house in Pampanga and managed to convince him to be admitted to the hospital for the meantime. I would stay behind with my grandfather and keep him company in his room while my sister returned to Manila to handle matters at home.

The following morning, I spoke with his doctor who told me he suspected the growth was a cancerous tumor in an advanced stage of growth. He informed me that he wanted a biopsy to be sure of the diagnosis, and he shared the rather grim prospect that Ingcong Ben’s advanced age, further weakened by being unable to eat properly, would make him unable to tolerate the standard treatments of chemotherapy and radiation. We made the agreement to not reveal to my grandfather anything about having cancer, as his already pessimistic and somewhat bitter outlook in life would make him even more uncooperative with the doctors at this stage. He was later wheeled into the operating room to get a sample of the tumor in his throat, and after a few days the biopsy results would become available.

In the meantime, as Ingcong Ben’s companion, it left me with several major tasks I never anticipated. First, I became an unofficial interpreter / mediator for my grandfather and the medical staff, since I was there to communicate with him in the vernacular (Kapampangan, particularly) and to explain the various procedures they were performing on him. I also became the link between his doctors and the family, since I communicated daily updates on his condition. And on top of that, I entertained his visitors who came to wish him well and even ran errands inside and outside the hospital once in a while.

But the most stressful part of my stay in the hospital was when the nurses would come in during the night and early morning to check his vital signs such as his blood pressure, temperature and the like. While I did understand their reasons for doing so, it caused me to lose sleep leaving me to doze off during the surprisingly less busy daytime.

With boredom as a constant companion, I made use of the TV in the room a lot as well as stayed online using my smartphone. And when Ingcong Ben had visitors, I took those opportunities to step out of the room and change my scenery a bit. I also ended up eating mostly burgers (from the nearby Burger Machine stand) or even barbecue and liempo (from the Chic-Boy restaurant across the street), since I could not travel far to get food for myself.

After a few days, the diagnosis was in. He indeed had malignant throat cancer, which was at a highly advanced stage. And with his doctor expressing concern that he could not tolerate the more effective chemotherapy, he mentioned that they would go for radiation therapy as the next option; however, he stressed that this form of cancer was less responsive to such therapy and it was a possibility that his cancer had become terminal by that point, meaning that he would have just months to live.

After consulting with Tita Carol and Mum over the phone, the decision was made to proceed with the radiation treatment as a last resort. He would then be transferred to another hospital, which had the only radiation treatment center in the entire Central Luzon region. By this time, I was back at work and Mitzi had agreed to take my place in checking on Ingcong Ben every few days (which meant her travelling by bus to Pampanga on most days) until my aunt had arrived from England.

The last time I saw my grandfather alive was at the second hospital he was staying in, which was just a few weeks before Christmas 2012. He hardly gained any weight, although he returned to his usual jovial mood upon seeing me, my sisters and my niece and nephew. He still had difficulty communicating with us, despite undergoing the radiation therapy. We managed to pose for a picture with him, which is shown here.

My maternal grandfather "Ingcong Ben" Manaloto lies in the hospital bed flanked (left to right) by my nephew Mikhail, my sister Mitzi, my aunt Tita Carol, me and my sister Fran. He was undergoing radiation treatment during this time.

My maternal grandfather “Ingcong Ben” Manaloto lies in the hospital bed flanked (left to right) by my nephew Mikhail, my sister Mitzi, my aunt Tita Carol, me and my sister Fran. He was undergoing radiation treatment during this time.

So when we received word from Mum in the early morning hours of February 11, 2013 about Ingcong Ben’s passing, we made quick preparations for the upcoming wake and cremation. This time, I was asked to watch over his remains during the week-long wake, for which I quickly filed leave from work yet again. My role was to entertain the many relatives and friends who would pay their last respects in the coming days, which mostly happened during the day into the evening hours. Tito Jon, Ingcong Ben’s eldest son, kept me company each night I slept in the family room of the funeral parlor, then would head home in the morning before returning again in the evenings.

The cremation was scheduled for February 18, 2013, with a mass held in the morning before a short procession to the crematorium for the final handling of my grandfather’s remains. The cremation was completed by mid-afternoon, with Ingcong Ben’s ashes housed in a white marble urn. These would finally be placed at the family plot in the local cemetery on his 90th birthday, which would have been March 31, 2013. His ashes would then be united with the remains of his mother, siblings and infant son.

This was our first Christmas without him, and it felt different. I had come to realize that a lot of what he said and done in the years before had wisdom behind them, and I felt thankful for that. I may not have always agreed with him, but I still learned much from him and it was now time I put these into practice.

And with that, I bid a final farewell to my grandfather. Rest in peace, Ingcong Ben. And thank you.

This post was originally written on August 25, 2012. However, it was not published as intended due to ongoing issues at the time. This entry has been published in its original form (with some minor revisions for accuracy) to celebrate the fist anniversary of the first-ever Smashing Pumpkins concert held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines. Enjoy, cheers!

* * * * *

Much has happened since my last entry that I am waiting to peel off on. Sadly, the severe writing block that has hampered my usual output of opinionated and oddly passionate prose has continued to plague me and I have struggled to get back on track to revive my dormant writing bug. But me being me, I have no plans to stay down forever.

The rainy season is in full swing, and although the sun has been more visible than usual, this was not the case just two weeks ago. Despite Typhoon Haikui missing the country entirely making landfall in eastern China, it intensified the seasonal East Asian (southwest) monsoon which brought heavily-laden rain clouds to much of Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon. Rain began falling nearly non-stop from August 6-8, which caused severe flooding in the affected areas and brought back traumatic memories of Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) record-breaking deluge over the same regions three years earlier. Life in much of the country’s largest metropolitan area slowed to a crawl as water began to drown property and lives. The rains had gotten so bad that the national and local government units cancelled classes in most schools and work for government and private businesses.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the business process outsourcing (BPO) or call-center industry having clients and customers from other regions of the world, these companies requested for an exemption to allow daily operations to continue as normal. The government then countered that they would grant the exceptions, only if the safety of their employees could be guaranteed and that they be given just compensation for their effort to report to work under the said circumstances.

Although I was working for one of these companies, by a fortunate stroke of luck I had filed leave on one of the days the deluge peaked followed by my usual two days of rest. So while I had the fortune of being stuck in the safety of home, many others ended up camping out at the office unable to head home. Worse still for others, their own homes became a trap with the rising floodwater surrounding them. So each day, I found myself glued to the television and Internet for updates on the ongoing disaster, while keeping in touch with some of my closest contacts on their respective situations. While nine casualties were confirmed, it was a far cry from the 464 left dead in Ondoy’s wake and thankfully, no one I knew was among the victims.

So how was it I was able to sit out the worst of the storm in the safety of my home? This actually began several weeks before, when The Smashing Pumpkins announced their first-ever live performance in the Philippines, to be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on August 7. Although I had known of the Smashing Pumpkins since their rise to stardom in the 1990s, I only started seriously following their music once I had my iPod (Vesper) and got the chance to listen to their greatest hits. After missing chances to watch bands such as Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, and Vertical Horizon among others perform here live, I made up my mind not to miss seeing and hearing this great band in the flesh.

So about two weeks earlier, I managed to get my ticket and filed my leave to be able to attend the said event. While we were several people who planned to attend the event, unforeseen circumstances eventually whittled the group down to me and my teammate Morris.

And then, the rains came threatening to force a cancellation of the concert. After receiving reports about the severity of the weather, the band’s lead vocalist Billy Corgan announced on Twitter that the concert would be moved to the following day, August 8, to allow weather conditions to improve and give more fans a chance to attend. My first reaction was that of approval and relief, as it was a huge gesture for the band to have to adjust their schedule for those who planned to attend.

Morris and I met up at the Araneta Coliseum, where we quickly proceeded to find our seats. As misfortune would have it, I forgot to bring enough cash to buy band shirts and the standing policy was that we could not leave the venue and come back later. On the bright side, my teammate tipped me off about the venue being much more lenient with bringing in cameras, so I borrowed my sister’s high-quality digital camera for the event. I also ended up meeting one of my former officemates and one of my current bosses at the venue, which was a testament to the continued popularity of the band.

Despite the inclement weather that left many areas of Metro Manila flooded, the band known as The Smashing Pumpkins put on a spectacular show in their first live appearance in the Philippines. Yes, the high has not yet fully worn off.

When the concert began, people went wild seeing the Smashing Pumpkins live for the first time and gazed in awe at the ball-shaped projection screen showing images related to the songs. The band started off by running through the entire Oceania album, which was their latest release under their massive Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project. While many fans were appreciative of the sound of the new album and gave applause after each song, a greater number expressed their interest in hearing their earlier hits as shown by chanting “More! More!” during the brief intermission. Those present would not be disappointed, as classics such as “Tonight, Tonight”, “1979”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Luna”, “X.Y.U.” and many more. All in all, they performed a total of 29 songs, far longer than any setlist in their earlier stops. And toward the end of the concert, fans even had the chance to get the drumsticks and guitar picks used at the concert. All throughout the event, Billy Corgan and the band continually thanked those who made it to the event and promised a return in the future for those who weren’t able to make it (an apparent reference to the large number of tickets sold despite the somewhat lower-than-expected turnout, which in turn was caused by the heavy rains).

The following day, the band shared their gratitude on Twitter for the strong turnout despite the inclement weather, again expressing their intent to hold another concert here in the future. And as of this post, the high I experienced hearing and seeing one of my favorite alternative rock bands perform has not yet fully subsided and I consider the event a highlight of the year.

The floods have mostly subsided in the affected areas, but we are only headed towards the peak of the rainy season with two tropical cyclones slamming into northern Luzon since the concert. And while the recovery (and much of normal life) continues, the Smashing Pumpkins’ own turbulent history and continued success are reminders of the ups and downs that remain constants in our lives like the storms that ravage the country annually. But as with Ondoy three years ago, it is with typical Filipino humor and tenacity that we weather it and become stronger afterward.

*****

My elder sister Mitzi has always had a soft spot for animals. So much so, in fact, that she has switched to a pesco-vegetarian diet in support of animal rights. In short, she gave up eating all meat in her diet except for seafood such as fish and shellfish. And as I mentioned before, we rescued a Chihuahua and a turtle from their difficult situations.

Right before the torrential rains, my elder sister Mitzi started to take a more proactive stance towards helping animals when she rescued a native dog named Chessie who had been the victim of a hit-and-run near our home. She was brought to PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society) and assessed to have serious leg injuries. Rather than putting the dog “to sleep”, she decided to care for Chessie until she was well enough to undergo an operation on her leg. As of this writing, we are awaiting further word on Chessie’s condition after her recent operation.

Since then, we have provided foster care for another dog (Matty, a Labrador-native mix) and several cats (Muning and her daughter Andy, as well as another kitten named Kitteh) and we are currently offering them for adoption. If you are interested in adopting any of these wonderful animals or would like to know more about them, please send me a message on my Facebook account or post a comment here.

More than nine months after my last entry, I began to stir. My eyelids began to twitch. My fingers began to move. My breathing changed and became more regular, more consistent. And then, my eyes opened to a blur that gradually cleared up.

I awoke from my long coma and the first thing I saw was… Wait, I need to get the back-story straightened out first.

Almost five years ago, after breaking up with my on-and-off ex, I considered that my last best chance to have a meaningful romantic relationship. Good thing the universe surprised me by proving me wrong with her.

Before my maternal grandfather Ingcong Ben died earlier this year (more on that in a future post), I recall that in his last years he had always wanted me to have a girlfriend. He was of the traditional thinking that a proper man would never be complete without a proper woman in his life, and he was naturally crazy for grandchildren and great-grandchildren. While I would dismiss it as mere ranting and an odd sort of impatience, he would ask that question over and over each time we were together. At one point (having a reputation for being the ladies’ man since his younger years), he tried setting me up with a saleslady he met at SM City Pampanga by introducing me to her while taking a stroll with him one afternoon. Feeling embarrassed and shocked by his gesture, I apologized to the woman and grabbed Ingcong before continuing our way. I made it a point to stress to him that I was not going to  find a girlfriend in such a way, and that if the universe would conspire to leave me in my solo pilot state, I would do my best to be contented with it.

It had been nearly five long years since my last relationship ended after six on-and-off years (click HERE for the full story) and despite my struggles on many days, I was actually getting by fine as a single guy. I enjoyed the new-found freedom I had with no romantic partner to always bug me about when I was coming home or where I actually was. And with each day, week, month, and even year that passed, I somehow felt I had accomplished more than the last and I was actually ready to spend the rest of my days in solitude if meant to. I had even survived a potential “one who got away” scenario despite my deep disappointment and managed to keep going as I had for the past years.

And then I met this girl. Well, before I met her, I actually met her friend Annie who happened to be a member of some community page on Facebook, who eventually introduced me to Bianx (her real name being Bianca Marie Teodoro). We got along very well due to our love for pro-wrestling (particularly WWE and TNA) and sports such as basketball, our wide knowledge and opinionated view of historical and current events, our strong humanistic ideals, and our beliefs which ran contrary to our upbringing (with Bianx being an atheist in a born-again Christian family and I being an agnostic theist in a Roman Catholic family).

We were soon regular chatmates on Facebook and we talked about all and sundry almost everyday. And because she was celebrating a personal milestone and we had yet to meet in person after two-plus months of knowing each other, I proposed to meet up with her one weekend and have a one-day road trip to Pampanga so that she could try the food in my neck of the woods. She agreed and on a Saturday in late April, we met for the first time at the Five Star bus terminal along EDSA to take a bus to Pampanga. Our first stop was Robinson’s Starmills in San Fernando City, where she enjoyed the unique Kabigting’s Halo-Halo (due to its usage of carabao’s milk and pastillas made from the same as toppings). We then headed to Aling Lucing’s in Angeles City, where by a stroke of misfortune, they had run out of their famous sisig forcing a change of plans. I took her to my favorite haunt Didi’s Pizza nearby, where we had some tasty homemade pizza and sisig. We then headed back to town and I took her to Susie’s Cuisine, where she got plenty of treats for her family and friends. We then met up with my dad over at the nearby McDonald’s, where he had offered to bring some of his manggaditas (tarts filled with fresh mango jam) since the stores nearby had run out. We dropped by Jun-Jun’s Barbecue and Bibingka in San Fernando as a last stop, and she immensely enjoyed the special sauce created for their pork and chicken barbecue, before heading home.

We met again a couple of weeks later at a coffee house when she aired her frustration with some recent issues that had arisen, and she greatly appreciated the time I offered so that we could talk. But it was a simple SMS sent during my stay with the family at a beach in Dasol, Pangasinan that served as a catalyst for what would happen next, as I simply told her:

“I am having a great time here at the beach. I wish you were here to see it. I miss you.”

So, she stated, it made her giddy with excitement to the point that she was “squealing like a schoolgirl”. I felt a unique closeness to her that I never had with almost anyone before, but I was hesitant to act on it and felt it was best to leave it as a friendship for the meantime.

The following weekend, we were chatting on Facebook as usual, when she popped this message:

“I don’t quite actually know how to put it but here goes… we’re getting to know each other and all, but are we doing it as just friends or are we shooting for something else? I know you’re a sweet person so this is kinda vague for me. I’m still in the getting-over-someone stage and at the same time I think you’re a really great guy and I love spending time with you, but I’m not sure how this question would change things, you know. Like the other day, when I posted the Ipagpatawad Mo lyrics. One of the people we know (I’m not going to say who) asked me if we were dating kasi he/she saw our conversation. I answered, “I don’t know.””

I told her that we were in a platonic relationship at the moment albeit with a special closeness, and then she also went on to say this:

“I mean, yes, we really aren’t “quite there yet”. But we basically admitted to each other that maybe we’re almost there. Otherwise we probably won’t consider talking about it. I probably would have shrugged it off if it’s just pure friendship. Here’s the supposed reserved bluntness. I don’t think we are “friends” per se. I mean of course we are, but we have to admit there’s more to it than that. And I’m not just saying it because I’m sad, or that I feel insecure or something. I don’t know. I hate saying I don’t know. We are dating, as far as I can tell. We are getting to know each other, in that direction. Correct me if I’m wrong but we sort-of “reserved” ourselves for each other today.”

“I’m not saying we should recognize each other as boyfriend-girlfriend, but at the very least… man, this is not platonic. Or maybe it’s just me… in which case I will be ready to bury my face in the ground later”

I then admitted that with the special closeness we had, we had to make sure to know each other before we acted on whatever we felt. She then replied with this:

“That’s fair. But here’s a rebuttal. I actually like you. Look I’m not saying we should be an official couple. All I’m saying is.. why the hell are we talking about this if it’s nothing?”

So we started opening up about our pet peeves, our fears, our hopes, our dreams and what-have-you. And we then made plans for our first romantic date ever the following Friday, where we would spend the evening over at Glorietta shopping mall.

The evening started out nicely with a dinner at Burger King, and after going around the mall for a bit we ended up at her favorite haunt Chocolate Fire Cafe in neighboring Salcedo Village. She mentioned that she loved the cafe for two reasons: Their wonderful chocolate-based items and that she could torture herself seeing happy couples in the shop every time. We had agreed to behave like a couple to see how things would be like, and we started out holding hands, hugging and even kissing at various points. It was such an enjoyable evening that by the time we got to the cafe and got comfortable on the couch after we ordered our drinks, we started making out like crazy. At one point, a patron passed on a note to Bianx before leaving, wherein she expressed her disapproval of our overt PDA (Public Display of Affection). We then decided to call it a night, and after a walk to Ayala Avenue where we exchanged tender kisses in between, I helped her board a cab home and rode the next available bus. Ironically, I forgot I had to cross the street to take the right bus home and ended up going in the opposite direction. I got down at the corner of Taft Avenue and Buendia (near the LRT Gil Puyat station) and took a bus the right way home.

Just a few days later, I asked her to be at Market! Market! early the next morning where I was assigned to the night shift due to recent changes at the office. I  was with my friend J-Mee and I let her in on my plan to make our relationship official. When Bianx showed up, I told her we were now an official couple. It was May 27, 2013, and nearly five long years after I had decided to resign myself to my version of solitary confinement, I was freed from this internal prison by a woman I never expected to meet in my travels. And while my long solo pilot flight may have ended in a rather whirlwind fashion, I can say that finally I know what the rest of my life should and will look like.

I have had the privilege of meeting her family and friends in the weeks since, and they have shown a largely overwhelming approval of our relationship. I am now working to get her to meet my people from my side of the fence, after receiving great reception from my sisters, niece, nephew and a few of my friends. But whatever happens, whatever reception she gets, whatever storms life chooses to blow our way, I can finally say that I have found the one that I can share my sunsets with.

With her being a big fan of sunrises, however, I can say in all fairness that a new day has indeed dawned for us. The adage stating that “Anything worth it will never be easy” has never rung so true.

To the one who now holds my heart, thank you for loving me as no other girl has before. I love you so much, and I promise to be the best and only partner you’ll ever have and need.

And so, for only the second time ever, I’ll post something from YouTube as my way of putting a lid on my blog entry. This scene from the movie Fools Rush In (1997, starring Matthey Perry and Salma Hayek) simply says it all. Cheers!