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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)

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‘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.

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

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 .

 

A MOTHER’S NATURE

by   Malu E.Gacuma

May 11,2012 (Friday) @ 530 am

( artwork credits to owners.))

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” The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

What more can best describe a mother?  She,whose role in this world can be magnified close to divinity. She – who is considered a ‘primary nurturer” of her children. Her ties bind us beyond the biological aspect of Life.

Yes , ‘motherhood‘ is indeed the highest and holiest calling to be assumed by mankind. In as far as selfless devotion and service are concerned, any mother is placed “next to the angels” by respect.

No wonder ,there are countless men and women who helped shape our world history,who admitted that they were greatly influenced  by their mothers.

Who would not be grateful to a woman who chooses to render her moral duty as a mother and a homemaker– to bear, to nourish, to nurture, to care and love, to train and discipline?

Her hard ,yet ,often unheralded work is challenged only by one thing: fatigue.She still continues to assume both joys and pains of her children.Such devotion!

We can show our deepest gratitude to her  not merely by words, but by actions to make life easier for her. Her smiles and her songs would lighten up her home and radiate beyond its walls.

Maybe it is for this reason that Mother’s Day is perceived to be our modern-day calendar’s most meaningful date, next to Christmas,which  also subtly  depicts motherhood.

Unnoticeably, there is also one mother who still yearns to be appreciated, cared for, loved, respected and protected.

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She has almost all the attributes of our biological mothers : patience, endurance, productivity, self-reliance, gentleness,etc.

She also nurtures us and provides for us from the bounty of her bosom, from the abundance of her  coffers, from the  purity of her wealth, from the yields of her own produce.

Like any of our mothers, she also manifests her own tantrums ,at times even her unpredictable wrath. It is best not to provoke her.

She is almost human, by her very nature. She is  not. However, she plays a pivotal,crucial role in our lives. We cannot live nor survive without breathing her, feeling her, touching her,hearing her. She is always with us–‘from womb to tomb.’

Her name is Mother Nature.

Isn’t it about time we must see her in a more meaningful way?

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EARTH DAY, 2012:  A young volunteering mother (Mrs.Grace del Castillo) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during our ESP  treeplanting event.I overheard her telling her son :”Someday,we will come back here and this will  be a very big tree,while you will be a big,young man.” Very heartwarming!

What we take from her coffers, we must oblige ourselves to replace more than once- just like when we pay the bills to free our mothers from worries?

What we find lacking in her, we must  willingly work on to improve or enhance – just like when we treat our mothers to a relaxing day in a beauty salon or spa?

Whatever talent, resources or skills we have  we can use sensibly, such as encouraging more volunteers  to her advantage–just like when we invite our friends to help or entertain our mothers?

What we have abundantly and yet often misuse (that which we call Time ), we can offer her as our gift –just like when we choose to stay at home and bond with our mothers?

Most of all , we may use words to change her world.But it is our actions that would make her world turn better.

Only when we all share and experience this so-called ‘paradigm shift‘ ( or simply put : a change of mindset or attitude) , only by then do we  begin experiencing her gentle breeze embracing us, her whispered lullaby in the soft rustles of leaves, her graceful dance by the swaying of grasses and trees…..that is the unspoken  language of Mother Nature .

For every mother, it would be best to share this mindset to her children. The hand that rocks the cradle may not only rule the world.

It  also plants a tree.

As a signature. As a legacy.

Such is the very nature of a Mother.

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EARTH DAY,2012: With my 3 girls (L-R) Christienne Marie, Christa Lou and Christiana Claudia during our ESP Treeplanting ,Medical/Dental Mission & Outreach event in Barangay Alangilan, Bacolod City.

“PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN AS A MOTHER”

by Malu E. Gacuma

May 11,2013 Saturday (10am)

(A tribute to my Mommy,  the late ANITA ESCAMOS GACUMA)

She was born in 1935 , in a family considered quite privileged during the pre-World War 2 days,  her father being a bemedalled national athlete and a  U.S. Army Major.

Thus, self-discipline was their daily rule as manifested in their household policies and regimen: all must be around the table on scheduled mealtimes, attendance to daily prayers had to be complied, all five siblings must be home on their given  curfew time, a daughter can go out on a date only with a chaperone, each daughter had an assigned chore that must be done before lunchtime, privacy and proprietorship of personal items must be respected including diaries and mails, every nook and corner of their house must be neat and organized before their Father comes home, and the list goes on.

It was a second household law for them to be resourceful and creative. To ask for something wanted ,not needed, meant to earn it and deserve it.Otherwise, she and her sisters had to make the most of what they had during those times when they were growing  up in  the economic remnants  of the 2nd World War.It was how they were trained to help their father who was always assigned elsewhere to serve our country thru the U.S Army.

At a tender age from 7  up to 9 years old, she learned to help her mother sell homemade “maruya” ( a banana delicacy) and ” tapioca“,among other food items by a railroad track in Fort Mckinley , Rizal ,where a train filled with soldiers and locals pass by everyday.What she earned, she would keep in her piggy bank,to use for her school needs  when War would be over.

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A pre-World War 2 photo of my late mother with her mother and sisters.(L-R) my mother , Anita,aged between 3-4 yrs.old; the late Teresita or `Tita Tesing’,Quezon City-based  Emerita or `Ninang` as we call her, and their eldest sister,now US-based Leonida or `Auntie Leonie`

She always told me and my own siblings about how Filipinos starved  and died of hunger and  of  diseases  and malnutrition  during Japanese Occupation  of our country in WW2.

While her three older sisters were among those  youth enlisted by the Japanese troops  to work under ‘forced labor’  in a nearby camp during  daytime , my  mother  was spared by her young age, and stayed at home with her youngest sister to help my grandmother.

They hardly cooked every  ‘small can of rice’ her older sisters earned each day. Instead, they kept it for the worst times, and for their Father’s homecoming. Their daily meals were vegetables and beans. Fruits, fish or meat were scarce. Their daily ration of U.S. corned beef,sausages, flour,butter and milk temporarily stopped at the height of the War.

This was, according to my  mother, how she learned to “ extend the life” of each meal to suffice for every family member . Her  eventual culinary expertise,including her impressive German pot Roast , potato salad  and meat dishes,  stemmed from such trying moments.

Their darkest times as a family  happened when her father was imprisoned  and tortured and among those 80,000 soldiers who were forced by the Japanese  to join the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942.

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My late maternal grandfather,U.S. Army   Major Juan ‘Johnnie’ Tambanillo EScamos

But her family’s  deeply-religious faith, with their resourcefulness  and ” a lot of common sense” , helped them survive. She told me how they never experienced looking shabby despite the poverty brought by the War.

On late nights,they painstakingly shredded her father’s old Army socks, and used the shreds as thread to sew and make their dresses from the yards of cloth that  a  love-struck , young and  good-natured Japanese officer kept giving her older and teenage  sister as a gift each time he visited their house. He left for Japan as their troops retreated, leaving a Japanese-English translation book to my Mommy as token of their friendship. My mother said it was the kind heart of that officer that prevented her from hating all Japanese.

I vividly remember her telling me, with a smile,how she –at age 9–loved to write and read despite the absence of any pencil, paper or books which the  Japanese troops confiscated from schools they had raided. My mother and her young friends used fresh “gabi” and  banana leaves and  sticks or twigs   for writing. They played games about their past lessons to keep these in their memory,at least until war would be over.

This was the experience that has drawn out  her artistic nature which she eventually formalized with a Fine Arts Major from  the University of Santo Tomas, alongside her AB Philosophy degree, which she both finished with Honors.

Students were forcibly made to learn Japanese subjects, including Nihonggo which my mother hated. She said she made sure to bite her tongue and refused to open her lips whenever they were made to sing a Japanese song.

She was too young to realize her own patriotism” burning in her soul,”as she said.

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Mommy,then newly-married,in a stolen  shot taken by  Dad. (early 1960s,Fabrica)

Her suppressed nationalistic inclination was eventually expressed in her piano-playing and her passion to write.

She nurtured her  passion for reading (which became our  family habit,especially on lazy afternoons, or after dinner or before sleeping) and perhaps, a ‘certain degree of addiction’ to English crosswords. Never a day passed without her doing the crossword at any given time.

My grandfather escaped the Death March and made it back to his family. But my mother’s eldest brother, Uncle Eli , died from the  Japanese soldiers’ bullets buried on his chest, for covering his friend, another Filipino soldier-officer, who survived.

This was another bitter life experience that made my mother decide to be a doctor. She eventually finished her second degree, in Dentistry, at the University of the East, as a University  scholar and  was among the Top 3 in the  Dean’s List.

It was in U.E.  when she met my father, Dr.Oscar D. Gacuma, her first and only boyfriend whom she eventually married in 1958.She turned  her back on a promising profession as a Dentist and declined an offer from the International Red Cross abroad, to devote her time as a mother  and wife.

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My mother (extreme right) and her sibings with their parents,U.S.Army Major Juan Tambanillo Escamos and Mrs.Elvira  Alonso Escamos.Her sisters were (L-R) Isabel, Emerita Teresita and Leonida.

In a home managed by her highly-conservative mother, she grew up accustomed to the so-called “old school of thought” where it was a household law to maintain modesty in words and actions ,whether in private or public.These were “household laws” handed down to my own generation and even to the next  (among my 3 girls now).

My mother gently reproached us, as kids, with the Elton Camp poem ,saying  “Elbows on the  table were a crime…and not permitted at any time.” This line evolved as we grew up to a simple reminder of “ Elbows off the table, please.”

As a mother, she had a keen eye on propriety, ethics, etiquettes and manners. It was not in a puritan or obliging manner.It was more of her own way of packaging self-respect and present it to the eye of society.

Manong Oggie and his yaya Puping

Yaya Puping with my late older brother. manong Oggie

She and my father also imposed the  use of English as ”mother tongue” in the household , not even our  then-unschooled nanny named, Puping, could escape! The imperfections in Puping’s grammar and her daily conversations with my Mom and Dad are now among favorite household anecdotes.

However, it was my mother who patiently taught Puping how to read and write, until our nanny finished a basic culinary crash-course that changed her life, when she finally had a family of her own, which Puping raised single-handedly thru  her small baking business in the latter years.

Memories about my mother will always lie deeply buried in my heart and mind. She will always remain a revered person, quiet and shy as she was.

To write about her silent achievements is a tribute to her not of words, but of love. Mommy and I  may had bonded, argued, cried, laughed,shared Crosswords, whispered secrets to each other and shared most chores and decisions in life , but her conservative Tagalog nature of not being physically expressive, unlike my Dad , made us feel subservient to her and got used to it.

Her hugs were rare but meaningful.To us children, it was like a Grand Prize for something good we did.She would always kiss us but  only on our foreheads. I grew up always having that arm’s-length feeling about wanting to embrace her everytime i wanted to, without the funny feeling of like stepping intrusively into someone’s sacred ground. I surmised it must be deep respect for her as a person that gave me that feeling.

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Mommy at about 42 yrs. old, 1977

As a budding teenager, I would not have learned how to deal with the growing pains hadn’t she  guided me with her letters and wise counsel, with never-ending emphasis on strength of character and reverence for God. One would never get tired of repeatedly reading her letters also because of her beautiful,disciplined handwriting that were, most often than  not, devoid of mistakes.

A man can only go as far as a woman would allow him’” Never make the first move if you like a man. A sincere man will always find a way to let you know once he likes you back.”…..“Never let the sun set on a quarrel”…. “A mother’s prayer is the sweetest music to God’s listening ears.”

These, i suppose, were her wisest counsel to me along the years. She loved to quote  poets, philosophers, icons and the Holy Bible in her advice.Before she passed away  last June of 2007, our last meeting was the culmination of all that I wanted to know and feel.She was seated on her wheelchair, which bound her for almost 2 years due to diabetes complications.

I was kneeling in front of her, cutting her toenails, when she suddenly embraced me so tight and with tears streaming down her face, she kept repeating how much she loved me and trusted me so much!

There we were,both crying as I vowed to her that I would live up to what she raised me for.

For the first time, I heard her ask for forgiveness,for her shortcomings as a mother and as a person and I asked her the same. She entrusted to me all that she valued, which I took as a gesture of the trust she professed. It was a beautiful moment  which I will always treasure beyond any biological connection I have with her.

Few days later,my mother fell into coma and passed away.Only her beautiful memory will now remain.

I love you so much,Mommy. I am always proud to be your daughter.