‘At Lexus, we do not just transport people. We transport their senses.’
An invitation came from IMG (International Management Group). It had the word “Escape” on it. I immediately said yes.
Lexus, the luxury car company, had invited writers from Vietnam, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines to an “Escape to Amazing” five-day gourmet and wine experience at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape Festival in Perth, Australia. Started five years ago, this yearly festival has been growing and is becoming more and more popular every year.
While everyone knows Lexus is an excellent car, Lexus wants the brand to denote a bigger experience — more than mere motoring. And yes, a more fun experience in a luxurious kind of way. The car already has great features. Its comfort and feel, its advanced technology and the amenities make any journey in a Lexus fantastic, safe, comfortable and pleasurable. Akio Toyoda, Lexus Master Driver and former chief branding officer, stated it well when he said, “We do not just transport people. We transport their senses.” Lexus is also about leisure, luxury and an elegant lifestyle.
The author Jim Paredes drives a Lexus 9.
True luxury is about elevated experiences, hospitality and emotional connection. With Lexus as a major sponsor of this year’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape, its message is clear. It certainly attracts the easy-going, fun-loving set who know how to enjoy the fine things in life.
I flew business class to Perth and arrived about 3 p.m. I was picked up in a Lexus, of course. We went straight to the Westin Hotel and attended a briefing on the schedule for the next few days.
Lexus executives David Nordstrom, Charles Taylor and Robert Weitercamp explained to us what the Lexus brand wished to convey.
At 6 p.m. over cocktails of great wines and hors d’oeuvres, we watched a lively interview of five renowned chefs — namely Rick Stein, Ashley Palemer-Watts, Monica Galetti and Skye Gyngell — who talked about their approach to their craft. It was quite entertaining and informative.
We were excited to begin the escape. The next morning, we had a three-hour drive to the place where we would be staying for the rest of the tour. Russell Lanley, our driver, was happy to answer all our questions about Western Australia and the places we were going to visit.
Dominic Menor of ABS-CBN, Taiwanese writer Jimmy Mo and I were assigned to a villa at Pullman Bunker Bay. We occupied the Panorama Villa, which had an overwhelming vista of the lush flora of Perth and Bunker Bay Beach. The scenery was nothing short of fabulous. The huge house was stacked with food, snacks and drinks. And to top it off, we had our own villa chef Greg Olsen who cooked breakfast for us!
The Leeuwin Estate near Margaret River. We left our cars and were led along a lighted forest path to a campfire.
That evening, we drove to the Leeuwin Estate near Margaret River. We got out of our cars and were led along a lighted forest path to a campfire. Amidst Jarra and Marri trees, we were served wine and a few canapés while we sat around the fire. Two aboriginal performers welcomed us by way of a short speech and an ethnic song and dance. Dinner was at a refurbished barn called the Safari Club. Chef Paul Carmichael, originally from the Caribbean and now living in Australia, prepared the food. The theme of the evening was “Crafting a Feast in a Forest.” His entree was eggplant, coconut and trout roe. He also served jerk pork jowl, abalone caramel, escabeche and sweet potato, salted cod and lobster. For the main dish, he served fish head with chickpeas and hot sauce. Sides were Caulilini (a hybrid of cauliflower and brocollini), dog sauce, local olive oil, green tomato, choke, avocado, pumpkin and spicy sofrito. Each one of us was wondering what “dog sauce” was. Paul said it was a sauce originally from Barbados that’s so good, even dog meat tastes delicious with it! He was absolutely right. Everything was indeed delicious. The meal was sumptuously rich. Paul knew how to excite a meal. We savored the different combinations of herbs and ingredients, meats and fish. He topped the evening off with chocolate, rum and crème fraiche. I hardly drink alcohol. Often, all I have is a fifth of a glass to wet my palate and stop right there. That is because I easily turn red. But the wines from the Leeuwin vineyards were too hard to resist. As wine expert Phil Hutchison explained, good wine is almost entirely dependent on weather conditions. Apparently, the weather was very much in their favor a few years back. The grapes harvested in 2015 and 2016 from the region resulted in great wines which have won awards and have since become some of the top favorites in Australia and in many parts of the world. Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are truly winners.
Drive, he said
The next morning, our home chef Greg cooked us kangaroo meat with an egg white omelet and salmon for breakfast. I have had kangaroo before and I did not particularly enjoy it; it was too gamey for me. However, Greg explained that the best parts of “roo” meat are fillets and rumps. The breakfast that morning was absolutely delicious. The meat wasn’t gamey at all. Greg cooked it with vinegar, a local soy sauce, and a few herbs, and served it medium rare! At around 11 a.m,, we were gathered together to have the pleasure of driving our first Lexus. There were two types to choose from. The NX and the RX. I chose the RX SUV, which is the biggest selling Lexus vehicle worldwide. About three minutes into the drive, the car I was following accidentally hit a kangaroo which unexpectedly darted from nowhere. It was nothing serious. The poor thing had to limp to the side of the road as I slowly swerved to the right to avoid it.
Our daily ride: Lexus RX SUV
Driving a Lexus is exhilarating. On cruise control, it has the ability to sense the car in front so that it automatically adjusts its speed if the car slows down, and picks up speed again if the front vehicle goes faster. It’s not only a beautiful car, it is quite intelligent. And by the way, the model I drove did not have handbrakes. It brakes automatically the moment you switch to park.
After our drive, Paul Iskov, a very young chef who is known to use traditional aboriginal herbs and spices, took us to the bush by the beach to forage for ingredients. He picked up a few leaves and flowers and let us taste them. He said he would use these plants for the lunch. Since aboriginals do not have a written tradition, John learned everything from the elders by spending time with them and listening to stories about aboriginal cooking. He also discovered some other plants on his own. The theme of his lunch was “Bold Ingredients, Amazing Flavors.” Lunch was at the Wise Winery. He first served a concoction made of sliced macadamia that looked like cheese mixed with bloodroot and lemon myrtle. The second course was kangaroo tail, yolk, quandong (a native peach) and saltbush. The next course was wattle seed, Geraldton Wax, and muntries (local berries) with blood lime. Dessert was Riberry June, saltbush fudge, and quandong nougat. I must say, that meal was quite a unique experience. Paul blended aboriginal and western herbs and spices and the result was an uncommon gastronomic delight!
The following dinner was at the Fraser Gallop estate. The setting was, to put it mildly, fabulous. It looked like a very uppity English estate where one had dinner with Her Majesty the Queen. An English-style mansion stood out in the vastness of coiffured lawns surrounding a lake. The road to the mansion was lined with uniformed tall trees. The theme of the dinner was
“Reimagine Wine and Dine.” In charge of the kitchen was a young chef named Shawn Quade. Let me just say that what he prepared was a delight like no other. He first served spring chicken, asparagus tart, scampi roe and Geraldton Wax. He followed with a seafood concoction called Pearl on the Ocean Floor that had sourdough with goat’s milk quark, marron umeboshi and ume dashi. He followed this with lamb roasted over eucalyptus, broccoli with spring garlic miso. Dessert was a chocolate cake that looked like the 2019 Lexus ES front grill!
A view of the beach
As each course came, the subject of conversation at every table was riveted on the food. People were gushing at how heavenly tasting everything was. We actively speculated on the ingredients and spices. Each serving elicited a memory of something we had tasted in the past but tweaked in a wild, exciting way. At the same time, it was a totally new taste. The food and the presentation certainly had boldness, creativity — and yet, still elegant.
Quade’s dinner engaged us on many levels, not just gastronomically but also psychologically. We could not help but try to get into his head. It was like a theatrical experience. There was surprise and delight, mystery, an interesting sequence in the way the dishes were brought in. It also had a spectacular ending worthy of a standing ovation.
Chewing things over with Nigella Lawson
On the last day, we went back to the Leeuwin Estate and enjoyed the Margaret River Festival. People filled the grounds and patronized the tents and stalls where you could taste the wine and food offered by the different vineyards. The evening dinner was at the Xanadu Estate where we had wines, cheeses, hams, meats, honeycombs and canapés as we waited for Nigella Lawson, the beautiful host of several popular TV cooking shows such as Nigella Bites. She soon appeared. After a few photos, we went to a tent where she sat for an interview before an appreciative, almost fawning audience. She spoke about her life story, her experiences and philosophies that shaped her as a person and defined her culinary tastes and acumen. She seemed like a very down-to-earth woman. She gave a few practical tips, not just about cooking but life in general. She spoke about being present and focused which she claims can make anything you need to do daily (like cooking) always a wonderful experience.
We had a late night. We were driven back at 1:30 a.m. to the villa with stomachs and hearts full. The next day, we left at 6 a.m. to head for the airport. What an escape those five days were (just as promised). Once in a while, the heavens pull us out of our mundane lives and throw us into an adventure to remember. Amazing indeed.
Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/travel-and-tourism/2018/11/25/1871367/my-escape-amazing#PyxPEreaUqDShmkp.99
I have been hearing about Project Makinig from some people. I clicked on www.projectmakinig.ph and I discovered that it is a project by the Liberal Party to get young people involved by getting them to visit neighborhoods to find out what people think about their own lives, their dreams and the country.
It was patterned after US President Barack Obama’s successful efforts to organize his followers during his first campaign. In the US, it was a smashing success. It was only introduced here about three weeks ago and a few thousand volunteers have already joined.
The idea is to visit homes, ask questions and simply listen to their answers, and then send everything to a database for analysis. The interviewers also ask them if they wish to receive announcements, bulletins from the party. No attempt is made to foist or “correct” an opinion, or convert anyone to any side. The aim is to simply listen and write down what they say.
I went last Sunday to my first Makinig activity set in Project 3, Quezon City. We started at 9 a.m. I was with a group of five young people who had done this a few times. I was not sure whether my being recognizable would stand in the way of what we needed to do. I decided to find out for myself.
We walked down some streets in Project 3, and randomly approached people to ask questions. Yes, I was recognized but I did not create a scene. They were friendly and some asked for selfies with me. They got over it soon after and willingly sat down to answer questions.
I won’t list down the questions but I shall give you an overview of what it covers. The questions try to find out what makes them happy, or sad. What are the things that stand in the way of personal goals. What can they do as ordinary people to help the country.
We interviewed around 30 to 50 people. We actually did not have to knock on doors. Most of them were already outside hanging out on the sidewalks that fronted their homes. They were grandmothers, housewives, students, young working people, sari-sari store owners, a guy pushing a kariton, a couple of istambays, tricycle drivers and a former barangay official.
I immediately noticed how easily welcome we were and how comfortable it was for them to share their stories.
All of them said that the biggest problem facing them and their families was high prices. They all feel the loss of their purchasing power. Someone pointed out that even if they receive money from relatives abroad, or work harder, the rise in prices negates any extra income. They can’t really move ahead. A young mother pointed out that with P1,000, she could only buy milk and diapers for a week. Nothing more. A grandmother complained that she can hardly afford her dialysis and complained that she could not even line up to get help from PCSO and other agencies because the lines are too long and the help she receives is too meager.
I was particularly touched by a sari-sari storeowner who told me it hurt her to have to raise the prices of goods in her little store. She knew everyone in the neighborhood and they were all having a harder time because of inflation. So she raised the prices a little but not enough to keep her from losing money. In short, she was taking the hit for everyone else.
The second issue that was close to their hearts was jobs and services. People felt they did not have job security or opportunities to earn enough to get ahead. A tricycle driver I met who was sitting shirtless near the store was ranting about everything. He blamed the President for all the promises that remained unfulfilled to this day. He complained about the lack of rice for his six children. He said he said he and his family were eating only two meals a day. He lamented that if he did not earn P500 a day, his kids would have to miss classes because they would have no allowance.
Two women we talked to were saving for a house that they will buy as soon as they have enough money. In a few years, perhaps they can. One ran a sari-sari store. She felt good about the future because her sons were given scholarships by their church. The other was a working mother. She had two children. She and her husband both work. She described her job as “manager of models.”
When asked what they would do if they had the power to change things, one man said he would create more jobs. Others said they would make sure their basic needs were taken care of. The majority said they could not think of anything. Why? Because it was useless, they said. It won’t happen anyway.
Another issue that was brought up was drugs. Many felt that the presence of addicts had lessened in their neighborhood. One was thankful that her husband had stopped taking drugs. The barangay officials who were her neighbors had made sure to warn him every time a tokhang operation was conducted in the area. He would hide from the police. Eventually, he stopped his dangerous habit.
A kariton pusher expressed great fear of being randomly picked up and being charged with drugs. He narrated that a friend’s son was accused by police of being an addict simply because he was thin and looked pale. While inspecting him, one of the police put a sachet of meth in his pocket. Then they forced the boy to drink something from a bottle, and then brought him for a drug test that resulted in a positive reading. He said the boy is still languishing in a rehab place.
As a final question, we asked them what they could do to help the country in their own simple capacities. One person said that we must all follow the law. Mostly everyone said that a way out of our problems is “magtulungan nalang tayo.”
All throughout the interviews, I noticed how easily they opened up. They had a negative view of politicians in general. I felt a range of emotions but mostly empathy. I looked into their eyes and listened to their answers attentively. Some were clearly appreciative that they were being listened to. You could feel their pain while, at the same time, you marveled at how they could get through their suffering with dignity.
One woman said she felt very sad every time there was news about corruption because it meant money that could have helped communities such as theirs ended up lining the pockets of politicos.
I also noticed how many of them looked so much older than their years. One man who seemed to be the village drunk talked about being an old man and feeling there was nothing he could do to help. He was only 56 years old.
For years, I had only gotten a sense of how people felt through social media, a few surveys and the occasional taxi drivers who liked to express their views. Talking to strangers face to face, right where they live, gives you knowledge and experience that go beyond referring to their answers as mere cold numbers. This exercise makes them more human in my eyes, to say the least. When the istambay was talking about his kids not having baon for school, I felt his frustration. Even if I had no solution to his problem, I humbly gave him P200 and told him that this week, the kids would be able to go to school. When we had a pic together, I put my arm around him as we both smiled.
On my way home, I had a lot to think about. I was a little sad. There are so many problems that need to be solved. But they made me feel hopeful because I felt the people I met were basically good people. Yes, even those who stood on the other side my political leanings. I understood the widespread cynicism I encountered.
But I also can’t help but feel energized. Everyone wished for the same good things — jobs, peace and order, opportunities, and a better life. How do we all work together to achieve that? I thought to myself. There is so much I need to understand about my fellow Filipinos.
I am joining more Makinig sessions. I need to listen more before I can really help.
Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/11/18/1869380/why-we-need-listen-more#C8v80uM1lyF8tAwE.99
How old are you right now? Are you healthy? Active? How many years do you think you have before you slow down? How far off is retirement? Do you still have things to do? Things to achieve? Places to see? People you want to spend time with?
When you are young, these questions are hardly important. You think you have all the time in the world to procrastinate, delay, and be lazy. You may or may not be serious about your career. You may not be thinking about pursuing your calling which is different from your career. Your calling may not even be clear to you. Life to you is a series of parties, dates, hanging around with the barkada, drinking, vacationing somewhere. Tomorrows are endless. There is time to do everything later.
But think about this. There are 52 weeks in a year. This means that you have 260 weekends in the next five years. And 520 weeks in the next 10 years. That’s not a lot. Included here are the days when you will not be feeling well, or recuperating from illness. It includes time when you will be sleeping and doing nothing. All this may not mean anything to someone in their 20s, or maybe even in their 40s. But to someone in their 60s, those numbers are compelling.
I remember an older friend who got upset with his dive buddy because he canceled a weekend of diving. This was 10 years go. My friend was in his 60s then. He told his buddy that he just wasted one weekend he could have used up to do something he loved. He really does count his weekends. At that time, he figured he had about 500-plus weekends left before his body got too old to be doing anything as active as scuba.
Seniors have a more acute sense of the passing of time. I mostly groan during days I spend doing nothing. I feel I wasted a part of my life when it happens. More and more, I try to schedule doing stuff I want to do. I just want to fill my days doing or paying attention to things that are worth my time.
As time goes on, many older people may fret and worry. Some of them give in to impatience. They can lose their filters and get very straight to the point when they talk about things. They can speak more directly. They can sound quite abrasive. This may upset younger people. Some of the young will not understand where the oldies are coming from. They may think that the elderly are just being cranky and conclude that it goes with age (while it could also be the start of dementia).
I think the reason why some older people get cantankerous is because there is little time left to beat around the bush, or to engage in things that are a waste of time. There is also a lot of unfinished business. There are regrets. But their pride still gets in the way and they can’t do closure just yet. And so they vent out. They know there are diminishing opportunities left to say what needs to be said or to share what they need to share.
On the other hand, there are old people who are luckier. These are seniors who discover or rediscover their mojo at a late age. It is like they are going through some sort of rebirth. They have found their second wind. An example is Grandma Moses, an American art icon who started painting in her 70s when arthritis made doing embroidery too painful. Or Susan Boyle who joined a TV talent show and won the hearts of viewers everywhere, starting her singing career in her 60s. Then there’s Colonel Sanders (real name: Harland David Sanders) who started Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65. I could a name a few more.
For these people, age is almost irrelevant. They may feel a sense of triumph and more energy at this point in their lives than they ever did before. They must feel they have defied nature and are proud of it. Instead of mourning the passage of time, they relish where they are because they are doing what they love. They still have a sense of purpose. Their sense of urgency is not because of their age and the time they have left. It is because they have a sense of mission. Time is not a tank of gasoline wasted on driving aimlessly. It is a full tank that they are ready to use to follow the path that calls them. They wish to go as far as they can. Yes, they are using all their time in building their life’s work at this late age. They are building their legacy.
And then there are these remarkable oldies, some of them I have met. They have figured out that the best way to spend the remaining time left is to do nothing and to not strive for anything. Some people may gasp at the idea. How can that be? But I have met happy retired people doing just that. At their age, they have mostly settled their issues. They have forgiven their enemies and have come to accept themselves fully. They have paid their dues and all they wish to do is smell the roses and be in the moment wherever they find themselves. Sure, they have some routines that they do to keep themselves groomed and healthy. A lot of them also meditate. But they have no sense of urgency to achieve or acquire more things. They are more into what can be described as… simply being.
Simon and Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) comes to mind:
I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy.
I am probably somewhere between the urgent and the driven type, with a little bit of the last one thrown in. To be in the third category, I think I have to work out a few things. It would help if I had money to feel secure enough to not have to do anything. No more striving for things you do not own or possess.
That may be the easy part.
The harder part is embarking on peacemaking with everything and everyone in the past. It also means to come to terms and accept who you are with all your faults and talents, pluses and minuses. It means letting go of guilt, pride and being in that sweet spot where you can appreciate however life shows up.
I am counting on the next 520 weeks to get there.
The author Jim Paredes (right) with (from left) Martin Nievera, Ric Segreto and Rico J. Puno taken about 30 years ago.Rico J. Puno: More than just ‘macho gwapito’
I was awakened last Tuesday morning, Oct. 30, with the news that Rico J. Puno had passed on. I learned from friends that he had done a gig the night before. After the show he complained of chest pain and went to the hospital. It was there that he had a fatal heart attack.
I was in shock. I was getting and reading texts from colleagues who felt the same way. Even if I knew that he was struggling with health issues the past three years, his death still came as a surprise to me. I guess we tend to remember people as we last saw them. In my case, it’s been about two years since my last encounter with him. This felt so sudden. Death is indeed like a thief in the night.
Rico was a guy who loved crowds. He loved being around people. He always had a joke to share. Whether he was talking to a huge concert crowd or just a few people in a room, he was the same. He was always full of zest. He often seemed bigger than life itself.
When I first met him, he was already famous. The APO was still on the make. He enjoyed his status immensely. He loved the trappings of fame. He wore gold watches, bracelets, necklaces. He was often seen in the company of beautiful, sexy women. He enjoyed the mass adulation. For many, he was the embodiment of what a Filipino pop star was if we ever saw one.
APO and Rico, together with the singers and songwriters of the ’70s, knew we were breaking new ground musically and even culturally. We were making modern original songs strictly for the local audience. We wanted to gift them with songs in the vernacular that spoke of genuine Filipino experiences. We were creating what was to be known later as OPM.
I was working for a record company called Jem Recording. I would bump into him in the studio where we recorded Hajji Alejandro who was the antithesis of Rico. Where Rico’s appeal catered more to the masa, Hajji’s pitch was aimed at collegialas. They were both talented and they had their own following.
There were many talents who were recording Filipino originals then but Rico’s songs dominated the airwaves. People loved his soulful voice and his songs that talked about the simple joys of love. “Namamasyal sa Luneta na walang pera” was a phrase from the song Alaala (a Tagalized version of Barbara Streisand’s The Way We Were) which resonated with the hearts of listeners everywhere.
His voice was soulful. He could convey pain, romance, joy, naughtiness, humor and passion with it. His style was unmistakable. When his songs played on the radio, there was no mistaking it was him. He was a brand. He did both originals and famous English songs often translated to Pilipino. Onstage, he had great showmanship. He had command. He also exuded a lot of charm. And he loved to talk. He had great rapport with his audience because of his songs’ popularity. His talking and dishing out jokes enhanced and raised the intensity of the audience bonding to a fever pitch. At the end of his performances, he would often take off his coat and throw it to his audience. He always exited with a bang.
As an older performer later on, he loved to tell green jokes onstage. Sometimes, it would turn some people off. Others loved it. I remember a conversation with him where I asked why he made risqué jokes when he clearly did not need to. He already had the repertoire and the talent and charm to please the crowd. I guess he just liked to do it. He loved to walk the edge and shock his audience.
He recorded Yakap Sa Dilim, one of APO’s big songs, for one of his albums. I saw him perform it live and it was an experience to relish. When he got to the middle part and the line, “Heto na and pinakahihintay natin,” the atmosphere turned electric. While singing he was naughtily thrusting his hips forward and back to the beat of the song. The audience went wild and broke into roaring laughter and raucous applause. It was crazy!
During the past few years, I have been reminding myself to be aware and present with every person I encounter, especially with old friends and colleagues, since it is quite possible that it could be the last time I will see them. When I hear of the sudden death of friends, the moment when we last talked comes back to me. Of course, there is no way of knowing when a person will die. That is why I make it a point now to consciously pay attention so that every conversation I have with anyone will at least have some meaning.
I remember being in a dressing room in GMA-7 waiting to be called for a TV guesting and having a talk with Francis M. He opened up and talked about the trumped-up raps some policemen filed against him for extortion purposes. He was upset. I listened to him. I did not know that would be our last conversation. Some months later, he died of cancer. I also remember being with songwriter Snaffu Rigor attending a Filscap board meeting. A few weeks later, Boboy and I did a show with some artists to raise funds for his medical bills. He was soon gone after that.
I can’t even remember the exact last time I saw Rico. But in life, we crossed paths during concerts, local and foreign tours, recordings, promos, and TV guestings. We weren’t close. But when we saw each other, we would talk about our kids since they were almost the same age. We would exchange a few laughs. We often used the same musicians for our gigs. Our common friends Hajji, Nonoy Zuniga and Rey Valera loved to share stories about Rico’s stage antics.
He also had his philosophical, serious side. He recorded inspirational songs that were huge hits. Kapalaran, May bukas pa and Lupa were some of them. They were soothing and reassuring to the Filipino soul.
Rico J. Puno will be greatly missed. And he will be remembered as one among the great OPM legends who defined music and left indelible happy memories in the Filipinos’ collective psyche.
Mabuhay, ka Rico J.
Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/11/04/1865561/rico-j-puno-more-just-macho-gwapito#L6tCKQziMwWx6gD2.99
I just came from visiting my parents at Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. There were quite a number of people in the crypt below the cathedral that it took time for me to find my parents resting place. I had to go back and forth a portion of the corridor 4 times before I saw it. In truth, I was getting anxious. I felt like a lost child who could not find his own parents.
When I got there I suddenly got emotional. I touched their names on the stone and started to cry. I prayed. All of a sudden, I missed their love big time. I opened my heart to them and not to long after, I actually felt their presence. My mind was saying it was just my projection but I truly felt their love. I asked them to pray for all my sibs.
To my surprise, a vision came to me. It was my dad carrying me in my parents room. I was 3 years old. That was new to my memory. I felt his love.
In our conversation, I told them that I had too many questions about life and how I envied them because they already knew the answer. I also said sorry because I may not have lived up to their expectations in many ways. But I have always strived to be a good person. I thought I heard my mom say, ‘Oo naman’ in her reassuring way.
We kept talking. I told Mom and Dad that I did believe in the after life. I asked if they could give me a sign to let me know if I was right to believe. Then I hesitated. I told them that even if I do believe, I do not want to base everything on a sign. I was already sure about it anyway.
I changed my request. I asked them for a confirmation that we actually had this conversation and it was not just my imagination conjuring up all of this. I requested them to let me encounter someone from the past that was somehow connected to us.
I stepped out for awhile and bought 2 strands of sampaguita from a vendor outside. I placed them in the crypt, said a prayer, and bade good bye.
Some 45 seconds later as I walked out of the crowded corridor, I felt someone tap my shoulder. When I looked I saw people’s faces but did not recognize anyone. I thought that it may have been just an accident. Then an old lady called out my name and came close to me. She asked me if I had ever lived in Boston street many years back. I said I did. That was the house my parents built and where I spent a big part of my wonderful childhood. She then introduced herself. Her name was Evelyn Bernardo. She used to live close by next to the De Paz Sari-sari store at the corner of Boston and Lantana where I used to buy soft drinks. She then mentioned the names of our common neighbors, the Lopezes, the Sta Marias.
What a moment! I had a major case of goosebumps. THERE was the ANSWER, THE SIGN. I told the woman what her calling me meant to me. I got emotional. She hugged me in a motherly way and told me not to cry. We talked for a while. She asked about the rest of my siblings. I said that thank God all 10 of us were still alive. I said goodbye with tears of joy.
Dear Mom, and dad. Everything in this world will wither and die. Only love is eternal. Thank you for your continuing love. I love you.
And yes, you also showed me that there is an afterlife.