Hello, December. You’ve always been my favorite month of the year. And after a hard bout with the flu and taking some time off from a very hectic schedule the past two months to recharge I initially thought of coming back to this space with something else — a myriad of wonderful little moments, a lot of which involved burgers, cold chocolate drinks and even colder nights, beautiful skylines and long walks, perfect omelets and crisp sheets.
But this very moment, as I write this in my sister’s house in Ormoc City, a beautiful sunset before me, I am anxious about typhoon Ruby coming our way. It has just been a little over a year since typhoon Yolanda and I can’t wrap my head around the thought of another super typhoon coming to shake us up all over again. Dear God, please, not again.
I’m trying, but I can’t seem to follow a single thread of thought right now, I can’t seem to tie together the jumble they are in as answers to the many what-ifs in my mind go this way and that. And so in an effort to snap out of all this anxiety (what good will it do anyway, really!), I will think a happy thought. Or perhaps a series of them would be better.
I will think of the beautiful treehouse I never had as a child but still want now, the beautiful trees I never climbed, the jams I want to learn to make, the many books I have yet to read. I smile when I recall how I kept a diary as a young girl and how, when I found out my cousin got the key to open my drawer and read it and I caught an aunt of mine leafing through it, I stopped putting my thoughts on paper. For the longest time.
Until I found a diary (of sorts) about four years ago that asks one question each day for five years that I am supposed to answer in one sentence only. It is liberating to be limited to that one sentence that best encapsulates the answer to the question of the day. It has taught me to edit, literally and figuratively. Like how, even if it falls in the wrong hands, it will never reveal too much.
By the time 2015 comes, I will have started in my fifth year. I gave the same diary to one of my best friends, Denise, and we have agreed that when we complete the last line of the last page we will have a fun time one fine night over dinner, and read randomly from its pages. It is quite fascinating how drastically different the answers to the same question can be from year to year.
Right now, I would also like to think about our late Lola Apyang’s delicious banana loaf. She who wore long dresses cinched at the waist, her hair always in a neat bun. She lived during that time when a dress cost only P5 and I remember being endlessly amused at the thought because in my world then the same amount was equivalent to two and a half packs of Chippy, or five sticks of banana-cue (I was in grade school), and an almost whole loaf of bread. Lola Apyang, bless her soul, always bought me more of the fat charcoal pencils I wanted, and allowed me and my siblings to eat endless cups of Maggi noodles. Anytime. She was the one who turned me on to eating these noodles with white rice, something I should do again one of these days in loving memory of her. Lola Apyang was the nanny of Daddy and his siblings and I remember also the orange soda she would always bring as pasalubong, the stampitas she had of different saints, the leaves she put on our backs when we had the flu. To this day I do not know what kind they were but somehow it always worked. That was, I think, my first awakening about how we do not have to always know what we do not know. Some things you just have to let be. And thank God that we do not have to understand everything! She always had this little wallet and my sister remembers how she would religiously put inside whatever she earned from the malunggay leaves she grew and sold.
When we were in college in Cebu, during breaks between classes, we would sometimes go to her little house in the ancestral property in Bungtod. My sister and I and a couple of our cousins would go there alternately and she always had a bed with fresh sheets for anyone of us who came by to visit. We would lay in bed, by a window, the afternoon wind blowing through the colorful cotton curtains, kissing our faces, lulling us to rest. I miss Lola Apyang and her toothy smile that made her crinkle at the sides and disappear into tiny slits. I remember her kindness and I long for the raw and beautiful simplicity of those days.
What else? The Sound of Music taught me to always remember my favorite things, so aside from raindrops and roses (both of which I do like very much) I’d like to, right now, steep in thoughts of juicy barbecued pork, homes that smell of freshly baked cookies, Hong Kong, the “Claire de Lune” painting by Hidalgo that still haunts me, the same one I wish one day will find its way to me, blue and white checkered tablecloths embroidered with little red flowers. Then there is my nephew Valiant who wears a cape and believes he is a superhero, and the family’s youngest angel, talkative and beautiful little Julia who is her daddy Julio’s mini-me and is way too smart for her age. She speaks clearly with a thick Visayan accent, wears pink shades and lip balm and can already say “Telor Swip” (Taylor Swift). Then there are all those old songs I love, the kind you hear in nice coffee shops, malted milkshakes and instant coffee, candlelight, the fragrance of garlic sautéing in butter, orange cake from Bellini’s, a sister like Caren, chicharon bulaklak dipped in pinakurat vinegar, Spam.
I sit here, typing away, and I do go in and out of worrying about the typhoon and what it can do to an already scarred and traumatized people. The rains, the possible strength of the winds, both together, all this uncertainty, the not knowing for sure — heaven help us. But then there is the power of prayer. I rest in the truth that God’s mercy is new each day, and that His blessing always finds its way to each of us — in different ways on different days, yes, but always, it is there.
Tonight, I will think of the Christmas tree I am excited to decorate when I get back to Manila, all the nice wrapping paper waiting for me to use for the presents I’ve bought all year round. I hope I receive a few postcards this year (how come no one ever sends postcards anymore?!). But first, I will take a glass of thick, cold milk, the way I always did as a child, pray the rosary, curl up in bed, and believe as I count sheep that truly, all shall be well. Come what may, the sun will shine again.
Hello, December. Do know I have every wish that you will beautifully and wonderfully be all that you are meant to be?