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‘JUST ONE MORE’ by Malu E. Gacuma , June 20, 2017

For what could be the hardest battle to win but that which we fight against our own selves? Yesterday, JUNE 20, I had celebrated my 3rd year (!)  of being nicotine-free and caffeine-free!


During those 26 years of enslavement, I was fully aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In those days, the late 1980s, cigarette boxes did not display gruesome photos of  the harmful effects nicotine causes to the human body. Vapor cigarettes they call ‘e-cig’ were not in style then. I never patronized tar guards, too.  A lighter in my pocket was just as vital then as money in my purse.They had to be together all the time. I couldn’t last long in a house that had no ash tray and whose owner scowls at smokers.

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1993- At age 27,while vacationing in Fabrica,Sagay City at my late grandfather’s house where I grew up. Holding my pet puppy,Coo-coo, a silent witness to the two vices I had in my left hand.


How did I learn such vice? Environmental influence,definitely. It seemed everyone around me smoked.Then came the brokenhearted days, when tears were not enough. So,what could be the best of friend to have, in my solitude, but a pack of those sticks to burn so I could  puff my heartaches away? I always believed then that  next to a dog, it should be a cigarette, not a diamond, that should be man’s other  best friend. So, I never allowed being left without it.

When I started working as a broadcast journalist in 1989, it was when I started chain-smoking back-to-back with coffee-drinking. While immersed with work, I must be fully-equipped with the tools of both vices: a mug filled to the brim with creamed coffee, a lighter, an ash tray and my brand of cigarettes. Without them, I got restless. Very restless. Unknowingly, it was addiction setting in.

My habitual nicotine-and-caffeine routine  became the usual butt of jokes among my work colleagues. A naughty anchorman even called me ‘Robo-Cup’, an off-shoot term from the famous Robo-Cop film in those days.Eventually, I was often remembered as ‘someone who drank her coffee like water and whose fingers always held a lighted cigarette’.

The man I married also smoked, so it was more convenient for us  both ways. We seemed to be comfortable smelling like ash trays to each other.  I only stopped –not quit– smoking voluntarily during each of the three pregnancies I had. Thank Heavens the craving dropped to a nil whenever I was infanticipating and  it lasted until I gave birth. Then the cravings returned with vengeance.

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My late husband, when I met  him in 1993.

The more I was dragged to a quicksand when times became tough and I was struggling as a solo parent. The vices seemed like a moment of respite from each long and tiring day.


How did I quit? I must admit that I owe it to a spiritual conversion. Born a Catholic, I had later on converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I never took the bread and water on Sundays considering my unworthiness.Then I started  having a deep,unwavering desire to enter the LDS Temple in Cebu City. Among its spiritual preparations is a vice-free lifestyle to give due respect to the body. It took me  years struggling to be just that, vice-free.

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March 2015: The Cebu Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Christienne Marie G. Gancayco for this photo.)

I became an expert in trying to quit a hundred times before, and repeatedly failed. There was always a good reason to backslide: stress, bills,a good meal, skipped meals, a bad memory, a nostalgic moment,people I was with. Name it. It was called ‘alibi’, per se.

For the first step away from both vices, I ended up extremely dehydrated, with unexplainable permanent headaches and my vision started to get slightly impaired. I  had to be hospitalized  for a week, first in June then on December, in 2014 . It was on June 20 that year that I  resolved never to allow both vices to overcome me.

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June 25, 2014 -During my 5th day of hospitalization at Bacolod Doctors’ Hospital.


Nicotine and caffeine never did me anything good except giving me false adrenalin shots, a fake sense of relief and an insatiable craving for ‘just one more’. Just one more light.Just one more sip. In actuality, one more just kept going on. It was very deceiving! I had been fooled for so long! When talking about vices, ‘just one more’ actually meant ‘just one…then more.’


So, I vowed to start giving due respect to my body. To respect its  purpose. To take care of it. I persevered and went organic. I also avoided sweets. Noticeably, the very first thing that tasted so refreshing was WATER! (You see, I hardly drank water before because it usually killed my craving for cigarettes.) I started drinking water regularly especially after waking up and before sleeping (the Japanese way, as they said) . My perspiration reeked with the smell of cigarette. This lasted for about 2  months from quit time. My hair became brittle,too. Later on, my skin started becoming lighter and my hair regained its luster.

It was alarming that I had temporarily lost my voice. Whenever I spoke, it became a squeak! No modulation at all, just a thin voice escaping my throat!  I had to write most of the things I wanted to tell my children. It seemed whenever I wanted to speak, there was not enough air to breathe and my lungs felt like bursting. I knew I was ‘oxygen-deficient’ in some way, so I must let my burnt lungs heal fast! I must get out of the house and gasp more of the morning’s cool breeze! Water therapy  also helped a lot!

1st heavy meal june 30,2014

PRUSSIAN SALAD : The very 1st heavy meal I took  (4 days since I checked out of the hospital  on June  26, 2014) Taken at Shakey’s  Pizza at Robinson’s Main,Bacolod City.



Each morning was  a test of discipline, to pursue  a routine of exercises as early as 5 am. The first 3 days were trying moments. I could hardly walk beyond 15 minutes and both knees wobbled. My lungs were grasping for air—not cigarette smoke anymore– and  I really wanted them to heal fast. In the succeeding days,the walking turned to half-jogging then to full-jogging. The next month, I was running for more than 30 minutes. Appetite increased. And wonders, I could carry a 5-gallon water-filled container with ease! Stamina was finally back!

 

 

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July 12,2014 – During one of my 5am jogging routine.


From a usual 90 lbs. frame, I bloated to 170 lbs after 6 months! To regulate this back to 130 lbs., I had to get attuned to the word ‘diet‘.

 

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2016 – Visiting our mangrove-planting area in Tuburan, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occ. Me at 170 lbs.

In-between, I kept myself busy day in and day out  by home-making, pursuing hobbies, writing on my journal,serving others (specifically the less-privileged children thru humanitarian projects I had organized), doing environmental  and Church activities, finding time to join my daughters’ invitations,then end the day by reading the Scriptures.

 

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Volunteering during a Church activity.

 

Being preoccupied with worthwhile tasks takes away the mind’s attention from  the immediate desire to give way  to the vices and redirect  the mind  to the task at hand instead .
Most importantly, the cravings just disappeared, for good. They died a natural death.That was how I believed it  and it worked! Until now.
From ‘Just one more’, the mindset finally boiled down to ‘No more’!
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(NOTE: The writer also runs a column titled ” The Diarist: On Love and Life” published over Negros Daily Bulletin.)

‘A ROLE NOT MINE ALONE’ (A Father’s Day Reflection) by Malu E. Gacuma , June 18, 2017

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As Father’s Day arrived a minute past midnight earlier today, my 3 girls greeted me “Ma, Happy Father’s Day!“, considering I have raised them single-handedly for 18 years now. They see me taking the role of both mother and father not only by provision but even with some physical tasks a father is expected to do, e.g. carpentry, carrying heavy things, staying up and sleepless to guard the house in times of danger , braving the worst of weathers and the threats of some chauvinistic men.

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Some of our countless roles  in life! (Thanks to my eldest daughter, Chickie, for this 2012 collage)

 

 

 

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December 2016- Doing the usual house painting task every Christmas (Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Angel, for this candid shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the hardest father’s task to do is coping with the financial demands of raising the children for them to be educated, decent and God-fearing individuals. It is not done with ease but more with pains, sacrifices,self-deprivation and countless tests of faith and endurance.

How many times have I been humiliated for asking assistance from people when there was no last recourse at that moment? How many times have I been subjected to verbal bullying for not being able to cope with deadlines of paying our rent? How many times have I been insulted and debased for trying so hard to cope with the deadlines and demands of the schools? How many kilometers have I walked back and forth, literally, to save every cent that I may be able to go home—as a provider– with food for the table? Countless times. Despite all efforts, it seems like there is always not enough. It takes blind faith to keep going on.

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December 26,2001 in Quezon City : Our 2nd Christmas without their father. With my daughters, Chickie, Angel and Clay ( then aged  6, 4 and 3 yrs old, respectively).

As a once abandoned-then-widowed wife, I may have all the reasons to take pride that today, Father’s Day, I deserve my children’s greetings to validate that I have lived up to the manly role far more better than my husband.

However, that mindset is not what I am instilling to my daughters’ individual character. I always remind them that Father’s Day belongs solely to their late father, Christopher. Regardless of his shortcomings or absolute negligence as he battled his own self when he was alive, he now remains –even in memory– as their father, in essence. Nobody can or must take away that role from him. Not even I. My children got the point.

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For this, I will still, with the least respect due him and his memory, greet him today, “Happy Father’s Day, CTG, wherever you may be.”

And as Father’s Day will end tonight, I can sleep soundly. For a day well-defined and well-remembered. ❤

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‘THE FAMILY THAT LAUGHS TOGETHER…’ by Malu E. Gacuma, May 12, 2017 ( Friday, 11:58 am)

Sometimes, our family conversations can abruptly shift from sensible to insensible or vice-versa, depending on everyone’s mood ,which usually borders to the crazy mode! But it always leaves me dumbfounded with my kids’ surprising lines! Consider these instances:

*(When I suddenly received little surprises from my 3 girls as they arrived home)*

ME: (happily) “Where do you get money to buy all these?
ANGEL (Christienne) : (naughtily) ” Don’t worry,Ma! No matter what happens, our kidneys will always be intact!” (*winks*)   (laughter)
———————@——————

*(Last night, while overhearing Chickie’s song playlist, mostly R&B , all of which are totally unfamiliar to me -both the songs and the artist/s, my curiosity heightened what made her so inclined to such genre)*

ME: ( giving Chickie a quizzical look) ” How do you ever find them? Why do you like those kinds of songs?”
Before she could answer, Claudia butted in:
CLAY: “Ma,don’t worry! Manang Chickie is a girl who is attuned to her own century.”
———————@——————
*(One morning, we overheard Chickie, who is petite with her 5 ft. height, sigh in relief, as she hung some washed clothes on the clothesline at our front yard.)*

ME: (teasingly) “Finally! You reached it! That’s a sign of progress!”
CHICKIE: (replies jubilantly, raises eyebrows) “ Well,that’s easy,Ma! If I can reach my dreams, how much more that simple clothesline? ”

 

See?
To think I just taught these girls their ABCs!!

 

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My daughters Christa Lou ( Chickie), Christienne Marie ( Angel) and Christiana Claudia (Clay) Gacuma Gancayco

 

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(Note: Originally posted on my Facebook wall, 11:58 am May 12,2017 ,Friday)

‘SHOTGUN MARRIAGE: A Myth Born Out of Some Men’s Alibi’ ( by Malu E.Gacuma, April 9,2017 Saturday @ 11:00 am)

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I remember having met a couple in Iloilo City before, in the mid-’90s, where the husband was dashing and handsome in his 40s,while the wife was the opposite in physiological terms, not to mention that she was more than 10 years his senior.

Not for anything but the woman showed a very possessive, nagging and inconsiderate attitude towards her good-natured husband. At one point of our meeting, this husband confided that he was only forced to marry his wife when, out of a drunken stupor, he bedded her and became the first man who did.She told her parents and this led to their ‘untimely’ marriage.I heard these lines too often.

Shotgun Marriage. That’s how our culture terms it. In this odd scenario, it is always believed that the woman ends up hugging victory! She got the man she wanted or she is obsessed with! Forget how.Just think she did,at all cost!

By those two words, one’s imagination would play up seeing a trembling man beside his grinning wife as they wed, and behind them is a father-in-law with a double-barrelled shotgun pointed at the guy! One false move and the unwilling groom wouldn’t make it to the door!

During my media days with DYWB Bombo Radyo Bacolod, in a program I had anchored (a 5-hour-program then called ‘Good Morning,Philippines’,) this topic had been raised. During the last 15-minute part of the program’s Interview portion, I struck the question “Nagapati bala kamo nga may Shotgun Marriage okon wala?  (“Do you believe that Shotgun Marriage exists or not?”) It was so amusing how the influx of calls came from men,all amenable and always with a regretful tone! “Ginpilit lang ako!” (“I was just forced into it!“)- the ruing gentlemen lamented on the phone.

Marriage is a choice and a major decision in anyone’s life. When confronted by a question whether he wants to get married or not, a sensible man needs to choose between two answers: yes or no.There  is no gray area compelling him to say ‘Yes,but..” .Remember, it is a choice. We all have freedom of choices.

For a man to profess that he was just forced into the marriage ,well, that’s the lamest alibi that can exist ! (Strike 1.)

Worst, their declaration is always preceded by another common alibi:” I was drunk and accidentally bedded her!” (Strike 2.)

Failure to make the right choice often leads to that need for an alibi, to justify the failure done ( whether wittingly or unwittingly).

Ergo, ‘shotgun marriage‘ was born out of collective alibi of men who refuse to admit they failed to make the right choice of their wives. It paints a picture of a woman as a scheming villainess who is out to build her coven with an unwilling husband as her first prey. It paints another picture of that unwilling husband as a submissive man bound for eternal martyrdom.( Let her be damned? Blessed he be? )

I always have high respect for the moral hierarchy of a man in a family structure that is brick-layed by a sacred and God-centered marriage. I’m talking about a man who is embodied with character values making him worthy to be vested with his ‘Pillar of the Home’ title.

It is the worst alibi of weak men who made a mistake, refused to accept that mistake and choose to live a lie for the rest of their lives, blaming it on their wives rather than repairing themselves.

Personally, I do not believe in ‘shotgun marriage’ or anything close to its definition.With all the aforementioned, I have all the sensible reasons NOT to believe.

Without any shotgun behind you, would you?

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Credits to photo owner

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‘Lum-Lum-Poy’ Mystery – by Malu E. Gacuma (April 25,2017 @ 10:20 pm)

Speaking English at home was a cardinal rule stemming from my paternal grandfather who wanted to mark it as his legacy to our clan.

Not only the house helpers were caught in this rule. Even his own party guests became obliged to speak English, especially  when we, children, were around.

One such guest was a close friend of my grandmother . Lady M. was  a lumber yard owner whose rags-to-riches story was locally known.And she talked highly of herself,too! ☺️

During Lolo’s birthday party, Lady M. enjoyed her bragging rights to the fullest, in broken English. When it was time for her to go home, she asked my grandmother to let her take home some of the dishes she loved! She would always remind my grandmother or my Uncles or Dad to have the food wrapped with what she insistingly called   as ‘Lum-Lum-Poy’.

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Some of those parties held at the house of my paternal grandfather in Fabrica, Sagay City,Negros Occidental.Philippines.  Lady M.’s husband was  among the gentlemen  at the top photo.

When party ended, she went to the kitchen and asked for her ‘food-to-go‘. So, my Lola gave her some in plastic containers. She protested and wanted these in ‘Lum-Lum-Poy’ again!

My Dad intervened and asked Lady M. to point at what she meant.🤔

Lady M. scoffed at my Dad ,and with a curt remark she said:
“Ay, Doctor ka, you do not know ‘Lum-Lum-Poy’?

She pointed at the kitchen pantry, at the shimmering,silver thing marked ‘Reynolds Wrap’!

Lady M. meant ‘Aluminum Foil’ !.

The ‘Lum-Lum-Poy Mystery’ was finally solved!

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A Reynold’s Wrap aluminum foil  (Credits to photo owner).

‘A QUESTION UNANSWERED’ by Malu E. Gacuma (April 17, 2017 / Monday, 3:50 pm)

In 1978,Google or internet was still unknown, I was barely 12 yrs old . One summer day, I was euphoric to have finally outwitted my late father, Dr.Oscar D.Gacuma (a very well-read man of science) when I suddenly asked him:

ME:” Dad, how do you call the shape of the Earth?
DAD: “Simple! It’s round!”
Me (shaking my head) “Nope!Another guess?”
Dad: “Aha! Trying to outsmart me,ha? It’s circle!”
Me: ( this time grinning):“Wrong.Give up?”

The rest of our family started laughing. First time my Dad conceded.

Me:” It’s called OBLATE SPHEROID. Like a dead potato.”.
Dad:(validating) “ Really?! Let’s see. Where did you read that?”
ME: “New Book of Knowledge.” ( I cited the page of that Grolier encyclopedia). The rest of the family teased Dad! 😀

Since then on,Dad would coax me to outwit my uncles or his ‘scholarly’ patients or his ‘nerdy’ buddies. I always won and  took pride!

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My late father, Dr.Oscar D.Gacuma,Sr. in his dental clinic, as Resident Dentist of the Foundation Hospital in Sagay City during the late 1970s to mid-1980s.

••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜

Decades passed. I became a parent. One day, Dad was with us at our sala when my youngest and 4-year-old daughter ,Claudia, suddenly asked me something that floored me down.

Clay: “Mama, why do dogs have whiskers?”
Me: ” Ah…er…” (No answer at hand! Incidentally, I was with Grolier at that time).

••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜

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Me with Clay, who was turning 4 in this photo.

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At the corner of my eye,I saw Dad laughing silently. When our eyes locked, he naughtily winked at me, as if saying: “We’re on the same page now,kid!” And he started explaining to Claudia the answer.

That was the day my wayward pride was put back to its proper place!

Thanks to you, Dad!  I loved you more for that!  

••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜˜”*°°••••°°*”˜

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Claudia, now at 18, reading (her passion) at The Spectrum office of the University of Saint La Salle, where she is currently its News Editor.

‘REMNANT OF HOPE FROM AN EASTER CANDLE’ by Malu E.Gacuma (April 16,2017 @ 9:00 pm , Saturday)

What significance does Easter have in my life? Looking back,during the most tumultuous chapter of my life as a newly- abandoned, jobless wife left to raise 3 young toddlers, how can I forget that evening of 2003?

We were in Manila then but I couldn’t be employed because no one can tend to my children, then aged 7, 5 and 4. So I did sales. Despite all the emotional hurt, I did all best to tackle both parental roles.

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With my 3 children,namely: Christa Lou  (then 7,in blue blouse), Christienne Marie (5, middle) and Christiana Claudia (4) .

One day, due to sheer hard work, I  fainted on the street and got bedridden for days.


Consequentially,as sole provider, it led to unpaid electric bill,so we suffered several nights in the dark. I couldn’t even afford to buy candles! With a storm preempting, I struggled to get up and took my kids to the nearest Church (since I was not with the LDS fold then) and sought help. I needed to protect my children that very evening!

The kindhearted seminarians gave us groceries ( from their own supplies). and candles,among them a big or life-sized EASTER CANDLE! Seeing me pale and thin, they even took us home.

That night, while my children were fast asleep, I stared at their innocent faces.The Easter candle, with all its intricate design in green, yellow-gold and red, kept us company. Its muted presence lorded over the small house where we stayed.

 

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A candlelight in our home in Bacolod City.

It symbolized HOPE! It was a cue from the Lord for me to accept that I was a solo parent already.I did and profusely thanked the Lord for the realization,that it was time to keep the fighting spirit! I spent that night praying,in tears yet in peace, talking to that Easter candle , as if it was the Lord himself!

The next day, I applied for for a job and was immediately hired to work in a radio station. We eventually transferred and the struggle keeps on until now, for a better,more decent life for my children.

But a life that has a semblance of Easter in every passing day.

That Easter candle may have long been gone, but its light of hope will always burn in my heart

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 2017, our family after attending LDS Church Sacrament .