poetry and simplicity



Subjunctive Mood



Love is ever a gift

when not alone a right

when neither should nor must

but only might.


Love is pride

in a beggar’s cup

and you may walk away

or you may stop.

I take your gift

as a wide-eyed beggar child

and always it were bread enough

had you merely smiled.


But should you more than smile

then giver give your lot

give for all the times

that you did not.






Because the heart has held its tether

through your own’s uncertain weather

you think it feeds itself

on nothing but forgiving

so swing from devoted to uncaring

strain away, wing back,

dissolve, resolve with each returning.

Grow out can you of this weathervaning

this ruthless penduluming

choose either cleaving or cohesing

find your avatar!

Then oblate into forevering

might rise out of your own limning

love that is moored and unwinging

and elects its own unfreeing.



Old House Being Torn Down


How swiftly the casings of a lifetime fall

Trusses unbind too docilely when it’s time to go.

Yesterday this was a house, though none’s delight to see,

Still doing what houses are put up to do

Yet with dangled gutters and shot roof already nothing more

(nothing less!) than carapace of something,

a life maybe.

She was a small woman, querulous and shy.

I would see her pruning the crotons in her yard.

At times she would see me and talk about babies,

woman chores and woman cares

and differences with the neighbors.

I don’t recall she ever laughed.

So, babies grew up, moved out, begot their own.

Husband got past midlife, sickened and died.

One saw the house – more than the house –

bowing shingle by shingle through the years,

peeling and shedding, leaning and fading.

But now just a few more hammer strokes to fell the posts

absurdly propping squares of sky

where walls had been.

The junk man frets to haul away the pile.

A blow or two; they give, and look, uninterrupted sky.




Poems of Doris Trinidad, as contained in her book, Now and Lifetimes Ago, published by Giraffe Books, in Quezon City, 2001.


Doris Trinidad-Gamalinda is a Filipina poet who began her writing journey as a freshman writing for the campus paper at the University of Sto. Thomas, Asia’s oldest university. She has eight (8) children from her lawyer husband. One of them is the contemporary poet and teacher, Eric Gamalinda.



you are not alone

Mr. Ronald Kirkhouse reminds us, every now and then, to send a tender word. He has been a father of sort to me and I send him a hug and some tender thoughts – to go… 🙂 I will be back, folks.

It's Just Words

alone in the dark alone in the dark (Photo credit: miss vichan)

you are not alone, my dear
even if I am nowhere near

your suffering has not gone unheard
and so I now take the time to send a tender word

I think somehow there is a unifying connection
perhaps one that stretches into another dimension

and even at an unfathomable distance
linked particles share a common existence

and so you are definitely not alone
for I am here and I want that known

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Touched, humbled, too thankful


Prosperous, kind, strong, worthy, challenges and blessings… Happy New Year to all! 🙂


Image of a sunrise representing gratitude

One way or the other, your time and presence extended mother’s life. I cannot thank you enough./ mojitomother.com


This post is about gratitude to certain people – long overdue and much deserved. I understand, quite a number of you were able to read, got curious about and saddened by the recent series I posted about our mother’s life and her struggle with cancer. Our mother was indeed an exceptional person – highly intelligent, self-styled and yet, very people-oriented. She wasn’t perfect, at all…

In fact, as I was by our mother’s side during her illness, I learned about her flaws, just as I discovered her strengths. My siblings saw through mother’s defenses, way earlier than I did, for some reason. The moment she fell sick, most of them started to move on – easily able to see the huge hole mother’s departure would eventually leave. It is sad, something I have to contend with, until now. But in many ways, theirs were human reactions to a very human and real situation…


Those days and nights mother was in the hospital, there was no telling if she would be able to get out well and alive each time. The oxygen tank always looked to me as some kind of life source, literally. The medical technologists coming in and out of the room appeared to be demi-gods, taking with them specimens every so often and bearing news like missives from the heaven above. The nurses – angels – guarding mother’s frail health and hold on life.

The hospital’s corridor and elevators became familiar scenes in my mind, the pharmacies became succors, the hospital foods eventually turned nauseating and the doctors became partners of some kind – in a fervent bid to save and prolong mother’s life. I learned multi-tasking, despite myself – to be caregiver, nurse and even her doctor, at times. I learned to be precise; a little mistake could have irreversible and even fatal implications.


There were light moments, though – times when mother would not be bugging me with questions on the whereabouts of my siblings, why they were not by her side. Times when we would be contented with each other’s company, taking comfort in each other’s warmth, in the little corner of the hospital that we had. Mother taught me how to watch television, ahaha. This was something that had escaped me, for years. I have always been a big screen person – shows from the tube had difficulty getting and keeping my attention.

Mother taught me how to relax. Her complaint – I have trouble keeping still. She knew I fold clothes when I watch TV, that I have my pencil and sketchpad on hand, whenever I talk to friends on the landline phone. But most of all, I am thankful that mother allowed me to read to her during her illness… Works by Chekhov and Turgenev – rather dull reading, I suppose, for somebody sick. But she usually listened, seemed to understand and certainly, appreciated them. Mother was the one who got me into reading and the only one in the family, I guess, who understood my love for it. Thank you for those moments, Inay. 🙂



Both times mother underwent surgery, she had to have blood transfusions. Friends showed up and offered help – younger sister’s and mine. They had their bloods tested – some passed and some did not. But plenty took the time, came over and extended their sympathy to mother and us. I cannot thank you enough, people, for your donation of time and love… I especially thank my sister’s schoolmates – from the best law school in the country. I hope you, guys, have good practice and wish you prosperous lives. Thank you, deeply. We will not forget you and your deed…  🙂


My friend since early college days, donated blood, both times. He was one of the few I informed about mother’s illness and who visited several times – in the hospital and at the house. For most of the time, he was there, until mother’s interment and beyond… He took me out to play badminton after mother died and with his girlfriend, brought me a puppy, to replace our dog that died. I remember these acts of kindness – unasked and simply given. I do not know how you manage to make yourself scarce, recently. But I thank you, friend, sincerely and hope that we will find a way to pester each other again, soon. And hey, the dog is still around and alive… 😉

My other friend from early college days, who took the time to chat with mother and even watched over her – to give me those 30-minute breaks. She converted our usual gimmicks to pep talks in the hospital canteen and reminded me what an opportunity it was to be with mother (her parents have been in the States for years). Came to our place in the province with two common friends, to lend a shoulder – on the day we buried mother. Took me out to lunches, the first three months mother had been gone. Thank you for taking me out of the house and out of myself. I know, you were only pretending to be in the neighborhood, hah. Those lunches, even the fries at McDo and the coffees at Mister Donut, are priceless. And here dear, deeply appreciated… 🙂


My friends, who are sisters, made me feel that  hard times need not lack cheers. I remember when they took me out to go to the mall – just like the old times. We went to Manila area, so I could get a peek of the sunset during the ride in the car. They took leave from work and did a long drive – to attend mother’s wake in the province. On the first weekend after I had gone back to the big city, they were my first visitors in the house; the first ones to check on me, up close. Took the time to talk to me, to be sad with me and to remind me what laughter was like… Dropped by unannounced, singly or together, at work or in the house, and took me out to dinners or movies. Thank you, friends, for going out of your way, for making me feel that I was not alone. 🙂 🙂

My mother’s friends, two respected teachers in the province in particular, who embraced me during the wake and whispered to me that I should go back to work at once and resume life – for that was how mother would want me to do.  Thank you, for you friendship to mother and for your care for hers… 🙂 🙂


I especially thank one of mother’s senior surgeons – who lent his service for free during her second surgery. His fee would have been considerable and free surgical service was unusual, as unexpected. On the billing statement – just the specialist’s name and no amount…  The good doctor accepted the two trays of graham pie I made, a few days after mother’s surgery and the other two I brought to his clinic, two weeks after mother passed away… We got to talk, both instances: he asked me how I could help him help his other cancer patients. I clarified to him certain government procedures and gave him names of officers he could write to or call up. Never knew afterwards if my advises helped him or his cause, any. But sure as the sun, he helped us… Thank you, Doc, for your generosity and for a chance encounter with solid, unsolicited kindness… 🙂

Lastly, mother’s lead surgeon, whose credentials, competence and consistency throughout the period, gave mother the assurance she sorely needed. His presence and knowledge were enough to give us hope during those dark and despairing times. He is a TOYM awardee, hailed among the country’s best physicians and given the best alumnus trophy by the University of the Philippines. I saw first-hand – how the doctor is an ace in his field, highly respected by peers and yet, very unassuming as a person. He led the team of doctors who operated on mother twice, conducted her chemo sessions and talked to me, always, like a stern father… Thank you, Doc, for being one of the blessings mother received during her fight. My family and I wouldn’t have it otherwise. You will always be remembered here,  forever too grateful… 🙂 


Image of a poster defining gratitude

For some reason, the heart does remember/ sujenman.wordpress.com


*** Gee, this isn’t short, huh? My apologies, folks… 😉 🙂 🙂 Wishing you all the best for 2013!


Two and a half smiles, a reckoning continued


In the years that mother was sick, I remember only three instances when she smiled. The rest of the time, she had neutral expression on her face. At times, pensive, and at other, frowning, as though a child irritated. It was very different from her usual – jolly, cheerful and glad to be here. She had a radiant personality that people normally found fascinating.

When she would enter a room, faces naturally steer towards her direction, to take a glimpse perhaps of that sunshiny person, come to stir some happenings. She was like that, as though people ought to be glad of her presence. She would make it worthwhile for you, that seemed to be her personality’s promise. And for somebody small and who wasn’t keen on talking much, that was a lot. She was very sparing with her words, always believed that the less said, the better.


When we were still young, our mother would always tell us that one word is enough for a wise man. Of course, my siblings and I barely understood what she meant by that – we only wanted to argue our way into our mother’s favor or to get at each other’s throat. And what did she really mean by being wise? We only took it to mean one-upmanship or at least, not to have a brother steal your share of food.

We had no inkling that what mother meant was diplomacy, statesmanship and public bearing. It was she who was the public person, true and through. People always sought her for opinion, guidance or help, although she was not in anyway in an elected post in our locality. She was a teacher, a social worker and an Avon lady, haha. But she had many other roles – facilitator, trainor and a playwright. Oftentimes, even an arbiter of conflicts. She wore many hats. People would come see her all the time.


larawan ng isang orasang pandingding na walang kamay

Those were the times I was wishing for the hands of the clock to stop/ chriscorrigan.com

When mother got sick, it was time to put most of those hats down. Her physical state limited the things she could do, the places she could go to and the people she could see. Definitely, her heydays were over. She could no longer spin like the busy top that she was. Her body needed rest and plenty of it. It also demanded medications of varying sorts – to heal the wound from surgery, to arrest the pains, to supplement nourishment and to put her to sleep every night.

She was weak when she went home with me to the two-story house where I have been living with younger siblings. The sister would leave home early for work and come back from evening class by 10pm. The brother had stopped working two months before mother got sick, but  would also leave the house by 9am – to go about gallivanting. We would engage a house help every now and then, but most of them leave after two or three weeks, out of boredom –  it’s a house with no kids. For most of the time, it was just mother and me, arguing about medicine intakes.


For as long as I remember, our mother hated taking medicines. When she became gravely ill, this attitude even worsened. So time-for-your-meds was a time for arguments between us. She would come up with plenty of excuses not to have to drink one. And she needed to take several – five kinds every eight (8) hours. After taking one, she would try to outsmart me and say that she need not take the others. It was a challenge and an ordeal to make her drink those drugs and vitamins.

We had a chart for recording her intakes. At times, mother would tamper with the record, put a vertical line where there should be none yet. Then, she would make up yarns about how 30 minutes ago, I made her drink the blue capsule first, or the yellow. Oh, how excellently she wove her stories! Even I almost believed her fabrications, were it not that my memory was still working. She would always try to exempt herself from the ritual, even by just one tiny bit. So, completing the process turned to be a game of sort between us.


Mother would often scream from pain. According to her, it was coming from different directions, in varying intensities, in indescribable manners. She would groan, wail or shout – wishing the pain stopped. The younger brother said, it was this wailing he could not suffer, could not even bear to look at her. So, he would get away from the house as early as he could, to escape from what was becoming our regular domestic sound and scene. He broke up with his serious girlfriend a few months back, stopped working and months later, seemed to have drifted and was spending lots of time before the billiard tables.


Cancer just about forbids people from touching the afflicted. The ill person normally complains that being touched is like being attacked. Every part of the patient’s body hurts, making it difficult for the sick to move and to perform activities that otherwise require little or no effort. To touch our mother during her illness was often to invite further screaming and irritated groans. It was what she needed – to be touched, to be assured that she was still alive, loved.

For the duration of her illness, our mother was actually not bedridden. She had to be assisted, however  – to get up, to sit down and to go from one place to another. When lying down, she had to be turned the other way every 30 minutes, to prevent sweat from clotting on her back. She was the touchy-feely type. Her body’s new reaction to being touched baffled her, as much as it did us, her children. It was one of the most excruciating parts of her battle – to see people around her, to look and not to be able to touch. She would eventually resort to nagging.


Mother and I had to go to the hospital three times a week as an outpatient – for the chemotherapy, for the check-up and for close monitoring. At times, she would need infusions, especially when her vital statistics were going down due to her body rejecting nourishment and her system’s inability to metabolize. Had to go scout for nutrients stored in 500 ml plastic bags – glucose, amino acids and one other compound – in hospitals and drugstores in the metropolis at dawn.

Transfusions had to be done in the mornings. I suppose the process is an artificial process of ingesting foods, mixing them in the internal systems until they swim properly into the bloodstream. I would call a drugstore branch and salesclerks would say they have the last bag of amino. Upon reaching the place, it would turn out somebody had beaten me to it. Securing those frozen bags was a chase, nutrients that would sustain mother a couple more weeks, hopefully. At that time, the cheapest of the bags cost almost 5ooo pesos. The most expensive, more than 7000. Mother always needed three  – her 3-in-1 package – her combo.


The hardest part was still about procuring mother’s drugs. Most of them were pain killers and sleeping pills, substances that could instantly kill and prone to abuse. They were highly regulated – both at the hospital end and at the drugstore counters. Before mother had cancer, I knew prescription to be a one-page document, written on the doctor’s pad with his signature and license number. With cancer drugs, one  needed several Rx pads, complete with stubs that were color-coded – to be presented to the drugstore clerk, checked by superiors, verified at the inner office via several phone calls.

I imagine, it is several times easier to get prohibited drugs off the street. I’ve seen in the movies – passwords, a few minutes of waiting time, exchange of substance versus the money and then go – deal concluded. Getting mother’s medicines wasn’t as easy. Her surgeon would prescribe the least quantity, good for only a couple of days then one had to get another round of prescriptions. Depending on the drugs and their efficacy to kill, most of them must be bought at daytime. If one tried to get them at night, especially the sleep meds, the counter would sell you only two pieces, after interminable wait.

And yes, the clerks would eye you with suspicion, much like the drug dealers at the black market who look at the customer askance – could possibly be the one to tell them off to authorities. The odds that one’s going to use the drugs for suicide was let’s say, high – what with your haggard looks, your desperate pleas and the unholy hours you choose to buy them. Let’s put it to caution against assisting in suicide – there’s the pharmacy’s permit and the doctor’s license at stake. Those people were doing their jobs. Your mother was at home waiting, wailing, watched over temporarily by a sister with more than sleepy eyelids and a thinning patience.


It took more than a year after mother had passed away before I could bear to look at the major drugstore in the Philippines, much less enter one. My mind seemed to automatically shut off upon coming across any branch of that pharmacy. I would not even let it into my peripheral vision. For a considerable time, it did not exist – the scenes of my anguish, my debasement, my bargaining with the powers-that-be.

I would beg the money to buy from the oldest sister and then beg the drugstores everywhere to let me buy the full prescription. In between were the trips to the bank and to the hospital – to get the Rx from only three surgeons I knew to be duly licensed and authorized to prescribe them. Desperation became not just a word. It was a way of life.

Our financial situation did not improve. Prior to mother getting sick, household expenses were all on me. It did not in any way occur to brother that he needed to contribute, while sister’s salary was barely enough to cover her schooling expenses. With mother around and sick, our expenses seemed to rise dramatically. My savings would have been enough to see me through at least two years.

With the new situation however, funds seemed to evaporate like water on a humid day. There was never enough money. Adult diapers alone was running up a bill. Oldest sister would not deign to pick the tab on that. There were also the transportation expenses – mother could not be taken anywhere not riding a taxicab. And then, the miscellaneous expenses – they all add up, oddly. I had to accept freelance writing assignments, to be done while mother was sleeping.


It was only the oldest who would bother to visit our sick mother regularly. About three times a month, on the pretext of some business or the other, sister would drop by and see mother, all the way from the province. But the two of them would hardly be talking, two proud personalities that I barely knew to be in good terms. The sister has never been demonstrative, as far as I know.

Mother came from a well-to-do background, what people call, the leisurely rich. She had issues with her oldest daughter’s  harsh and hurried way of getting rich. The two women could hardly approach a topic during those visits. Impending death seemed to cast a shadow between those two proud souls. Sister admitted that she was also confused by mother’s illness, distracted and severely afraid. But unlike the other siblings, she would show up.


Mother’s first smile happened on her last Christmas day. The second, only half a smile actually, was caused by oldest sister’s friends visiting her at the hospital during her third major confinement. The last was about three months before she passed away – when she learned how to run and manipulate her wheelchair on her own. She was smiling widely, like a child proud of herself, calling the attention of her mother. Except it wasn’t her mother she was calling. She was calling her daughter, me, as though saying, “Look Ma, no hands!”


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