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I’m a daddy’s girl. With a dad like Dr. Ricky Conde, who wouldn’t be?

Happy father’s day, Dad! I love you!

1997 would always be remembered as the year that took 2 of the most beloved women in modern history, leaving behind great legacies that have elicited timeless change in numerous corners of the globe. That was the year when the world lost Lady Diana and Mother Theresa, two outstanding individuals who chose to open their arms and hearts to the most vulnerable and marginalized in society. The world lost two gems that year.

In my case, that was the year when I lost my mother.

I spent my 5th birthday in the hospital. At that time, my mother was in the late stages of cancer, and my family feared that any day could be her last. I, on the other hand, was occupied with drawing shapes on a heart-shaped box I received as a gift. 4 days later, on the 6th of April, 1997, my mother passed away, and I vividly recall my relatives bowing their heads as the white sheet was put over my mother’s body. I was brought out of the room.

My memory of that day ended there.

This event left me, my older brother, and my father spending the next 3 years with each other to hold on to. I recall those years as being the happiest of my childhood. Sundays meant spending the afternoon in Glico’s in Quad after doing the groceries with Dad and my brother. Relatives would often visit our house, and we would visit theirs. I had good friends in school and I was doing quite well in my academics.

My father gave his utmost effort to be both a father and a mother to us. He learned how to cook and prepared our milk every night. We watched Popeye while entertaining ourselves with the thought of my father getting together with my brother’s elementary teacher.

Life was good. It was as if there was no hint of a tragedy in my eyes as I was simply too young to grasp the concept of death. We went on like the Three Musketeers, and I thought that it couldn’t get any better than this. That is, until after the earthquake.

A series of earthquakes shook the metro in 2000, and living on the 9th floor of a condominium would have been a cause for concern for most people. Coincidentally, my family was celebrating a reunion with some relatives and family friends in our house, and ironically, we were asked to evacuate the building as I fell asleep while watching Godzilla on TV. As my relatives were scrambling about what to do next, my tita, my mother’s sister, went straight to the bed where my brother and I were sleeping and embraced us as we slept, then helping us evacuate the building.

Dad saw this, and apparently, this wasn’t the only occasion that melted my dad’s heart. There were other cheesy moments prior to this that I wasn’t aware of, but hey, for the second time around, Cupid struck my father’s heart. She started living with us shortly after the earthquake.

There was this one instance in the 4th grade when my teacher asked me why ‘aunt’ was written in my form in the place of ‘mother.’ I remember tearing up without being able to explain it because, aside from having absolutely no idea how to explain the whole situation, it finally occurred to me that my mother had died. I felt the pang, but acceptance is not too hard to achieve when you have the people you love around you all the time. I’ve learned to talk about my mother more openly not only as a form of therapy for myself, but as a means for others to look past the nagging and come up to their mothers with a heartfelt ‘I love you’ and a tight embrace.

Despite that episode, seeing my father with in a relationship with Tita was never an issue to me or to my brother. In fact, the transition felt so natural, as if it was bound to happen since my mother’s death.

She helped me with my Filipino homework and took me to go shopping for clothes (I had a horrible cabinet of wardrobe back then). She went to my school for Parent-Teacher Conferences, and taught me how to wear contact lens and eyeliner and become more of a girl as I reached my teen years.

Not only did she help me pick out a prom dress, but she is constantly there to talk to me about a matter that neither my brother nor my father can easily address: boys.

To me, she is perfect as a mother.

My father was happily in love again. As for my brother and I, the feeling of what it was like to have a mother returned.

Perhaps the most unnatural thing for me was addressing her. Most would assume that I should have started to call her ‘Mom.’ To this day, however, I call her Tita. My mother remains as ‘Mommy.’ 

Dad and Tita celebrated a small yet intimate wedding last 2006. Imagine, my father married into my mother’s family not once, but twice! My other aunts would joke that they would be the next in line for the following wedding.

The thought of Dad remarrying was never an issue with me and my brother. It just felt so natural that Tita settled in as our mother because through the years, she had always been there for us, even before Mommy passed away.

When my father fell victim to a mild stroke last 2008, I could have never imagined how we would have managed without Tita. She shared with me one night that perhaps the reason that she ended up with Dad was to be there for me and my brother when emergencies like this happen.

I beg to disagree. They ended up together simply out of love. Most probably the same love that my father gave Mommy some years back.

It was, however, amusing to consider the possibility of having a half-sibling, half-cousin hybrid in the family, but it was too late for that anyway. 

Most people would expect me to forever grieve about the loss of my biological mother. I’ve already accepted that fact years ago, and I treat it as a blessing now, actually, because I now have two moms: one who I’d like to think is watching over me from wherever and another who is there for me whenever.                  

I wanted to blog about how blissful and nostalgic my April was, but it’s just not in me to write today.

But the least I could do is to sincerely thank everyone who took the effort to type a short greeting of “happy birthday” to my wall 4 weeks back, and those who took the extra effort to actually be with me during my birthday week.

Apologies for this long overdue expression of gratitude, but really, one of the best human feelings in the world is, as Ewan McGregor sang, to love and be loved in return.

First stop: Josephine Restaurant

Next stop: The Mountain of Salvation

Last stop: Caleruega

People said that the 31st of December is the last day of 2011, so it’s best to make the most out of it. We did just that. I feel so fortunate to have been born into such a wonderful and (food? Haha.) loving family.

 Dad, Tita Tah, Kuys, Tito Aries and Mares, I love you all!

I always look forward to the 24th of December not just because the day after is Christmas, but because it’s also my mother’s birthday!

Our handa for her included a sansrival cake from Silvanas and, because of our financial abundance, three lechon. Yes, you heard it right, three…

… of these cute little pigs of yeast from Julie’s Bakeshop. Har har.

Everyone had a kick out of the piglets, especially the birthday celebrant.

We even invited some friends over to join in the celebration! So kind of them to drop by.

Happy birthday, Tita Tah! And from my family to yours, happy holidays!

I went to the 32nd Manila International Book Fair in SMX yesterday with the hopes of crossing some titles off my list of books to buy before I die. Sadly, they were either too much for my (low) budget, or are nowhere to be found in the rows of stalls in the area.

I did, however, find three books that caught my eye, especially so as they were very good copies and cost P400 in total.

Everybody knows Winnie the Pooh as the yellow bear with the red shirt whose sexual orientation still remains a mystery. Most have taken Pooh for granted by being unaware of the colorless and shirtless Pooh of A.A. Milne’s creation. I got this for P100.

The Translator sounds quite heavy with a setting in the internally-ravaged Africa. I see this going along the lines of Paul Rusesabagina’s experience in Rwanda. This was P150; I hardly saw a dent or crease in its cover or pages. I’m very particular with my books, a trait I developed just lately. I wish I had been like this early on though. I would have scolded my younger self for what I’ve done to my Harry Potter books.

I’m particularly thrilled about the third book, The Geopolitics of Emotion by Dominique Moïsi. He theorizes that the events of 9/11 have shaped a world where there exists a ‘clash of emotions’ that divide people, something of an antithesis to Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations.’ Despite having another copy in stock worth P75 only, I bought this for P150 because the other had a defect in its binding. Here’s the manifestation of my compulsiveness.

As if this week had been eventful enough with all the job opportunities, my family bought me my much-needed bookshelf for my cluttered piece of space in the house!

 

I’m so excited to finally fill this up. Soon, I shall have my own library filled with books to be considered as conjugal property with my future husband (with a self-service tea station and carpeted floors). Yes, I can just imagine. It will be bliss.

For fun, my family ate Navy Seal style tonight (within the confines of our dining room, though).

MRE stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat. These are full meals given to deployed soldiers during missions. They have different meal sets. I took the chicken breast meal. My brother had the chili and macaroni meal and my dad, the meatloaf meal. 

It’s illegal to sell these in the US, so why not get a bunch and dump them into a Third World country? Those smart Americans.

This was my dinner: chicken breast with cornbread stuffing (which was totally alien to me but then turned out to be mashed corn with breading and some celery). These packs were to be inserted into bags which heat up when some water is added (the science of electrolytes, according to my tito).

My chicken turned out like this:

It tasted better than I expected, but still quite bland even after I added some barbecue seasoning (which was included in the pack). The cornbread stuffing was like thick, tasteless mashed potato. It was not a very good meal for us middle-class civilians, but when you’re in the middle of a god-forsaken desert with a carbine in hand and the looming possibility of death by AK-47s, then there’s no complaining.

Like a little kid scrambling through the contents of a loot bag from a birthday party, I was amused to find some wheat bread with some cheese spread with jalapenos to go with it, and even a little dessert, a caramel apple baker bar.

The cheese spread was spicy.

It even came with french vanilla cappuccino. How classy can it get?

Inside that plastic are 2 pieces of chewing gum, a pack of powdered iced tea, some matches, a wet towel and toothpicks.

And look, M&Ms!

It was quite an experience, however it would have been a better simulation had we eaten it outdoors. But then, it makes me think about the soldiers of this country. If the more well-off US government is able to supply these to soldiers (and even produce surplus to dump in other countries, if this should be the case), what do our men and women in the field eat, considering that even money for boots are wasted on corruption?

Today was DLSU’s Annual Academic Recognition Day. While I was consistently on the honor roll, my dad was consistently the loudest cheerer 2 years in a row.

Here are my happy parents having some coffee at the Cybernook before the program.

My most decent picture. That’s Gio at the back. With a more panoramic view, Cy and Jaja would have been in sight. Sadly, I don’t have a picture with them with my camera. 

Then we had a small snack after. Everyone seemed to enjoy the salpicao with the huge-ass mushrooms.

Graduation is up next.

Carl Eric Montagne T. Conde. 22 years of awesome swag and counting.

Happy birthyesterday!

My Tito Aries and Tita Mares had a very intimate yet beautiful wedding last July 11, 2011 in Talisay, Batangas. Lightyears more heartfelt than the Royal Wedding a few months back, I would love to blog about each and every detail of the Kets’ Wedding, but I have to wait for the official photographs.

However, I’d like to share a conversation that transpired between me, my Tita Tes and my two cousins. We were in the veranda of the room we were staying in in Club Balai Isabel when Tita Tes told me to stop call my 2 cousins, Vic-Vic and Jacqui, what I usually call them, Vic-Vic and Ate Jacqui. Instead, call them ahya and achi, respectively. In turn, they would call me siobe.

Tita Tes is my mother’s cousin, making her children my second cousins. Tito Vic, her husband, is Tsinoy, which would explain the Chinese terminologies. Ahya is translated as ‘elder brother’ in English, kuya in Filipino while achi is translated as ‘eldest sister’ in English, ate in Filipino. Siobe is the equivalent of bunso, the youngest girl in the family.

My heart melted. Although it would take some time to accustom ourselves to calling each other ahya, achi and siobe, it just cements the fact of our closeness. What makes it more striking is that my closeness to my second cousins far exceeds my relationship with a number of my first cousins.

No vacation is complete without the both of you. Until our next adventure!