Blue Cheese

There’s an afternoon I remember distinctly. I think I was around 5 or 6 years old. My maternal grandfather, Lolo Angie, was taking a nap in the spare room of our homeMy mother’s siblings and parents are all based in the States — and visits like this were rare. I had been sitting in the kitchen (probably polishing off a sugary treat — pasalubong from Lolo) when I heard him calling me.

I rushed to the room. He was holding a piece of foil containing an unfamiliar chunk of food and some crackers. He handed them to me: “Tikman mo.” I gingerly took the crackers & spread on the unknown substance. I took a bite & made a face. My grandfather chuckled. I’d tasted blue cheese for  the first time and I was not happy.

I took a bite & made a face. My grandfather chuckled. I’d tasted blue cheese for  the first time and I was not happy.

Still, I’d see him  having a bit of cheese and crackers during his stay and I’d have a nibble or two — in between games of “sawsaw-suka”. Sawsaw-suka is  a finger game and we played the Bisaya version…it involved  a boat, a kulasa (girl) and a buwaya (crocodile).

By the time he was set to fly back to the US, I loved that moldy cheese so much that was fixing our snacks myself. My grandfather had that effect on many people. The things he loved just rubbed off on you. He’d never insist you do something or like something — he just showed you and let you experience things for yourself.

The evening I turned 30, I was enjoying a chunk of my favorite Roquefort when this particular afternoon with my Lolo Angie came to mind.

I suddenly became aware of where I was — in a beautiful house that he helped build but never set foot in. Like my lifelong love for cheese, he was responsible for so many good things in our life even as he lived miles away. In our family there was simply no room for doubting Lolo’s (and Lola’s) love — you simply knew you were loved.

Even if we spent so little time in the same space together; Lolo Angie left deep imprints on my character. He taught us all that family came first. He was the eldest of his siblings and he put them and his nephews and nieces through school. He showed us all that hard, honest work has its rewards.

Above all, Lolo Angie demonstrated an unwavering brand of faith — the kind of faith in God and in others that makes this world a far better place than when we first came into it.

Thank you, Lolo Angie. Thank you and enjoy the cheese platters there in heaven.


Angelo Taala Acuña | May 30, 1924 – June 12, 2016

“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away,

and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.

2 Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in”

Is. 57:1-2





Age Matters: What I Learned Growing Up

Remember being 6 and wishing life would hurry up? How about being in fourth grade and admiring all cool high school kids? Or better yet, do you remember being in high school, crying on your sorry ass and mumbling “someday, someday I’ll have my revenge?”

I sometimes wonder what made me think that becoming an office monkey in my twenties would be better than being a snotty kid in gradeschool or a high school pariah.

Being a kid affords us one great thing: it is a time to hope for great things. The word disillusionment was something we didn’t know at that time…I don’t think we could have spelled it either.

Am not so much disillusioned as disappointed in myself. Though I have done particularly well, I’m not sure my six year old (or even 16 year old) self would approve of my current 23 self. (Or, my sixteen year old self might be surprised to hear that the world did not end on that fateful night in 2002 when I thought it would.)

Here are five glaring differences between my young self and my present self:

1. I used to equate hanging around the family house with free food, fun and laughter.

Today, however I equate hanging round my family for too long to having a stress-induced hemmorage. Growing up and deviating from your family’s religious and political beliefs can be difficult. Moreso, if those particular beliefs clash.

2. As a kid, I believed I could become a rocket scientist.

Then I went to a crummy science high school that shattered all my faith in the Philippine education systems’ capacity to breed great minds (or retain great teachers, for that matter).

3. At 16 years old; I used to have my own brand of fiery optimism. I’d never let anyone get in my way even if I was insecure with 120 pound, four foot nine self.

30 less pounds later and no inches added; I still am optimistic. But if anything, I think I’ve become more confident, feistier and a bit more caustic. I’ve become more rigid, believing that things “should just be so or not at all”. I think that my twenties brought out my hidden type A personality.

4. At 18 years old, I had no aspirations. I had no life plans.

Today, I have detailed schedules and a manageable life plan. It always surprises me when I realize how “on track” my life is.

5. When I was younger, I had faith in people. I believed that the government was good and that public service was a priority for politicians.

Today, I pay my taxes and grumble. If anything, I’ve gone from hopeful to critical to cynical in one decade. And while I’d still like to believe that there is hope for this country; Filipino politics is simply a hopeless cause nowadays.


Side note: I discovered the “Let’s be logical here”, breathe in, breathe out and steady your nerves combo when I began working for corporations. Today, rather than blow my top publicly and be done with it; I nurse my seething hatred till I finally find a loophole to get back at whoever pissed me off/ On that note; I’m not as forgiving as I was ten years ago.


The Necessity of Being Human

Late Friday evening, I nursed a solitary glass of wine while trying organize my weekend schedule. I had many things planned. I’d listed down work-related writing assignments to finish and events to go to. I also wanted to write on a number of things as well.

I woke up on Saturday to my dog’s insistent barking, jumping and tugging. He had put my ringing mobile phone on my forehead, made a hole in my nightie by tugging it, put my hand bag beside me and lay waste my vanity table.

I had to surrender. I sleepily looked out my window.

I was not prepared for what I saw.

Our family house’s backyard was flooded. The tall coconut trees in our backyard were dwarfed; half their trunks covered in flood water. The Lagarian Creek, which flows behind our house had overflowed. I saw shanties on the other side of Lagarian being swept away by flood water.

I was in a Quezon City suburb, in a house on a hill and we got flooded. While we surveyed the damage from our balcony, my grandfather remarked that “this has never happened since the house was built in the 1950s, we weren’t prepared because we could never have known.”

My heart goes out to all our neighbors in Kamuning, whom we could not go to immediately; whose houses were filled with floodwater. From our balcony, we watched in horror as property was swept away, as people clung to the roofs.

If I had known this would happen, I would not have grumpily remarked on Friday that there wasn’t anything “exciting” in my life to write about. I regret the many nights I cursed those noisy, videoke-wielding neighbors in my head. I should have told my grandmother off when she said: “Buti bumaha, nawala mga squatter.”

It was a moment to be kind, to reach out and help. This weekend, as all my plans fell into mud and floodwater; I reflected on my family’s so-called Christianity.

I realized that though we (myself excluded) were faithful church-goers; we had failed to carry out the great commission. Christ called us to serve, to love others and to help those in need; not to be cloistered in our cushy suburban homes once we realize that we have been spared from disaster.

As I walked around the neighborhood, asking my neighbors if they knew what happened to the people on the other side of the creek; I was touched with how concerned they were of the people living in “number 39” (our house). Chilhood friends, jeepney drivers, tricycle drivers, mga tambay, the woman who used to do our laundry, nameless familiar faces… I met them all on the street that day, all of them full of neighborly concern.

At the end of it all, we are not measured how big our houses are or how many cars we have. Ondoy should be a lesson for us all: we shouldn’t just be prepared for catastrophes, we should be prepared to respond.

Not much comes close to disasters, in highlighting the necessity of being human and our futile attempts at mastering the earth. The price of arrogance and selfishness if far too high. Let’s help each other out.