How Can I Say Thanks for the Things You Have Done For Me?

Things so undeserved
Yet you lived to prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to thee

Now Playing: “My Tribute by Andrae Crouch

MANIBAD SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH: Manibad, Mambusao, Capiz, Western Visayas, Philippines

My grandmother is responsible for the existence of at least six churches, and we visited one of them the day after we buried her. That morning, little children were passing out cupcakes to women in the church, greeting them for Mothers Day. Seeing us walk in, the girl leading the service grabbed the microphone and said, “We’d like to welcome the Fortin family and invite Miss Jillian (read: Jeel-yahn) to the pulpit to give a message to her mother. And also, will you sing” (both of which were statements, not questions, and also the first I had heard of it).

I had no idea what they wanted me to say, and based on the way the congregation was looking back at me, they didn’t either. But then my eyes fell on my mom, sitting in the back row, wearing the last two weeks on her face and shoulders (and also maybe a look of fear, equally unsure of what I was about to say) and the words started flowing on their own, beginning with gratitude to the members of the church who had attended my grandmother’s service the day prior as well as the ones who came every night since her passing to lead worship services for the tens and twenties who visited around the clock, each day.

I went on to continue that it was strangely appropriate, celebrating Mothers Day after two weeks of celebrating my Lola Nanay, and despite how bittersweet it was as well, my mother had proved time and time again through arguably one of the most difficult times of her life that she is Nanay’s daughter – strong, steadfast, forged by fire and led by God’s hand.

Mom, I said, you are the strongest, bravest, most courageous woman I have ever met. You have the biggest heart that no one knows about because you choose to show your affection through your actions rather than your words, just like Nanay did. You have devoted yourself to a life of service – to your family, to your friends, and to countless others whose hands I shook but names I do not know who were able to send their children to school, build their churches, and care for loved ones who fell ill. You are this amazing woman because of the amazing woman who raised you, and every day is an education in how my sister and I may one day live up to the examples set for us… that we may be worthy testaments of your life like you are for Nanay’s exemplary and fulfilling one.

My sister joined me on stage after handing the A/V guy her phone, the track queued up and ready to go. Joanna only had one song stored locally on her phone, and since there was no internet connection available, it would have to do. Like the occasion, the song title and its lyrics were also oddly appropriate, something I made sure to point out before the two of us began to sing “My Tribute.”

We sat down once we were done singing, only after telling our mom how much we loved her. She smiled. She also let us finish her cupcake.

Jillian's mother, pointing at a cupcake with a flag on top that says, "World's Best Mother"

Lazy Sunday at Adventure Park

Barangay Talon, Roxas City, Capiz, West Visayas, Philippines

I was fetched by Tito Guenie at 9:30 AM before I had a chance to brush my teeth. I had just finished eating breakfast when he arrived at Tita Elna’s. Tita Elna and her helper, Lynn Lynn, had prepared an impressive spread of chicken longanisa, boiled purple chamote (sweet potato), suman with mango, and Edna cheese omelette served with rice, buttered and toasted pan de sal, and a plate overflowing with citrine colored tambis. And to my delight, there were macaroons and cups of brewed coffee for dessert.

Now Playing: “Pagdating Ng Panahon(When The Time Comes) by Aiza Seguerra

Continue reading “Lazy Sunday at Adventure Park”

Ping Ping & Jing Jing

Mambusao, Capiz / Western Visayas / Philippines
The last time we read together (June 2009)

She was sheepish, “tahimik” when I first met her. She couldn’t have been more than a head and a half tall, only having just turned two or so.

Now, still just as tahimik, she stood up to my ears— an exact replica of her older brother, her eyes kind where his was stern, her smile playful where his was absent.

“You’re Manang Jeel-yahn,” she whispered.

“Do you remember me?” I asked. She paused for a moment, as if she already knew the answer but needed a second to figure out exactly how she should answer. A while passed before she decidedly shook her head.

Continue reading “Ping Ping & Jing Jing”