Saturday, July 26, 2008

Subic Gurl Friends

Diana Limjoco,and Kahna Verzsa.I took these photos last month. A fun night was had by all.
Cheryl Singzon and Kahna Verzsa cutting up. I met some new "old friends" in Subic in the last few months. Cheryl Singzon who arranged for us to be extras in the Filipino movie, "My Best Friend's Girlfriend", has been a great resource for information and is fun to hang out with! It's always fun and nice to meet other confident and modern ladies. (In the top photo L to R: Cheryl, me, Khana)
Cheryl Singzon and Kahna Verzsa cutting up.Then she introduced us to Kahna Verzosa, whose family owns the Subic Park Hotel and she is it's GM. What a great gal!! We had them both over one night and starting goofing around! I plied them with wine and we all got silly! So here are those shots wine induced me to take!
Actually I am old enough to be their Aunty, so I have adopted them and am now their Aunt Mame!
I got really bad leg cramps the night before last and it left my
calves knotted up, so last night I threw a massage party here at the house and had them over to luxuriate and relax together! Now that was relaxing!

Gotta love being a gurl!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Health, Wealth and Happiness

I have thought about what people say about health, wealth and happines. Of late I am missing the health part, and I can tell you all the rest don't mean much without it.

I have been having a battle with health most of my life, but the last few years have been an swim upstream!

Just when my life is so full; a great hubby, a baby in the house and I'm finally near my parents and living in my beloved Philippines after spending most of my adult life in the United States, my health has taken a real down turn.

It's so hard to keep my spirits up when I can't get my body to cooperate! Yet I am still filled with so much gratitude for all the other blessings in my life! I figure, it could be even worse. Especially when I look all around me and see other people in much more difficult life situations.

At least I am surrounded by those that really love me, and the natural beauty of Subic is so aweinspiring.
I took that photo of the Oriole in the tree outside my bedroom window!
Ahh well, enough self pity. Time to go play with Alysha, I hear her wanting attention!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Raising Alysha

Diana Limjoco holding Alysha with Dave Dewbre in the background.Raising a baby at the late age of 59! It's not always easy for me, I must admit. I want to do the right thing for her always. But my patience isn't what it could be.

Watching Alysha from infancy, at 1 week old, to date at 7 months has been a revelation! I am often times filled with awe, interspered with perplexity! She is so smart and is fully aware of what is going on around her. She notices anything and everything around her! 



Alysha Ariela Ricaplaza
I am really looking forward to the day that she can talk! Even a child talking back has got to be better than the squeals and grunts a baby makes! This challenge I am up to! It's the not knowing what she needs that frustrates and bewilders me!

As far as baby's go, she is really a good one! And since Dave and I love to shop for her, she is quite the fashionista already!

The Only Poem

I wrote this poem when I was 9 or 10 years old. I didn't think about it, it just came rolling out of me. It's the first and last poem I ever wrote!

“Long ago in an ancient and forgotten land,

We strolled through green meadows hand in hand.

Eyes gazing upon a foamy billowy sea and there we sat, just you and me.

You told me stories of your adventurous youth,me, my girlish fantasies.

Oh! How we laughed, not a care in the world except for one another.

But that was long before life took us both Into her gaping mouth and sucked us into her belly.

Now not years but lifetimes since, I can still see your sparkling eyes and Eternal spirit.

And love is not the childhood dream I once held and lost.

It is more. Yes! much, much more.”

Never A Tomorrow

For us dear, Never a tomorrow.

I fell in love when I was 16 years old. After having endured the Helen and Diana Limjoco in Switzerland 1967.traumas described in previous blog page named "A Child No More", I was ready for some magic.

I was not your average teenager by then. Falling in love changed my life’s path forever. I always held an ideal of what the man I fell in love with would be like. It seemed like everyone I really liked then was spoken for or simply wouldn’t be caught dead with me. I decided I’d rather have boys as friends because I couldn’t stand it when they got all fawn eyed and gooey. I wanted a man who knew his own mind and could teach me things I didn’t know about life.

Diana Limjoco at 17 years old in Manila, Philippines
When I was 16
Being alone with so many secrets I just wanted someone to love me...truly love me.

My love was doomed from the start. I met “Leo”, a pen name, to protect the innocent, in the office of a friend, who happened to be a dentist fixing a bridge for him. A totally unromantic setting to meet the man of your dreams. But no, it mattered little because the room disappeared and I could see only him, and the look in his eyes, the world seemed to have become this vast and expansive universe, with only the two of us in it. We seemed to be looking at someone we had known all our lives, finding each other again after a long absence. It happened in a moment, a mere flash in time, but that moment has lasted my whole life in it’s glorious splendor. It was like a scene from a movie, a love story, and it was happening to me.

Diana Limjoco in London 1967We both spoke the words "It's you!" My friend said, "Oh you both know each other already." Stunned that we both had said the same thing at the same time, we said, "Actually no, we haven't met". We were both still amazed that we had said "It's you!" at the same time.

He immediately took my phone number. The next day he and his driver, picked me up we went to lunch. Nothing mattered except that when we were next to each other or even thought of each other, our heads would swim and we had little control of this feeling. It was like a tidal wave of utmost passion and love, and it would crash down upon us, not even in gentle waves did it come to us. Until now when I think of those days, my heart still quickens and my pulse begins to race, and my breath will come in tiny gasps. The tiny hairs on my nape and arms will rise and every pore aquiver, I still shiver in pleasant ecstatic remembrance. After all these years! It is life’s gift to me.

Unfortunately it became such a tragedy for me and cast shadows over my lifes’ years in my 20’s and 30’s. Perhaps the memories now are a consolation, in that I have learned to forgive him, and forgive myself for my complicity in loving him, as it turned out, a married man. Oh woe the day I found out he was not divorced. But I get a head of myself.

In him I found someone who would listen to my ideas about life, or even answer my questions. He didn’t treat me as though I were a “mere child” but as an equal. The thing I loved about him, aside from his debonair ways, was his MIND. God gave me an inquisitive mind, and as soon as I could think I was pondering the meaning of life and I wanted to know everything about everything.

He was an affluent, self made millionaire/businessman at the age of 31 when I met him. He had also studied chemistry in college and had a brilliant mind for how things worked, in fact, he worked with some other chemists who came up with the very first formula to mold capiz into those lovely articles encased in mother-of-pearl these days. I have one of the very first objects made with this molded capiz, in the form of a praying hands, with an inscription on the back that states that it is “the first of it’s kind”. He was brilliant. He could talk about anything on most subjects. He called me his “little genius” his “diamond in the rough”. He saw the mind God had given me and wanted to help to mold it. He loved opera and could hold his own singing in soprano, versions of “che gelida manina” from the Opera La Boheme.

He loved to sing to me and play the piano, and I would blissfully listen, conjuring up dreams of our charmed future together. He was aside from other things, a VP at a popular Manila Newspaper and he introduced me to photojournalism first hand. I was thrilled. Photography was a love of mine since my dad gave me my first “Brownie” camera when I was about 11 years old. Dad was the first to show me how to use a camera. But I stray. He let me go out with the writers and take photos of their sessions so I could learn get the experience I wanted.

We were always careful and discreet in where we went together. My parents would never have allowed me to even begin seeing a man of this age or go on assignments with writers, altho he was always with me for these. After 3 months of basically hiding this affair from my parents, “Leo” said we should “come clean” because after my classes I had no more reasons to be going out of the house as often as I had. We then both went to my parents and “confessed” our feelings for one another, and he surprised me by asking for my hand in marriage! My parents looked as though someone had punched them in the stomach. But upon my protestations at their disapproval and avowals of love from both of us, they relented to a test period of engagement; that were could proceed with the courtship in the open and with their blessing after that.

Oh joy, of joys. To love him openly, to be with him and my family together as one.We both loved to dance and when we danced our bodies were one, and our rhytyms were in tune, and it was a glorious experience to be led across a dance floor by him. Often people would stop and watch, as though we were Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. He spoiled me mercilessly. I had never wanted for much from my family, and being a sickly only daughter, I was spoiled by them as well. On my first birthday with him, he told me to go outside, we were at the Newspaper office, which I did. I saw a car filled to overflowing with roses. Roses!! Thousands of red roses..when I opened the door they spilled out and the fragrance of them made me dizzy. Taped to the steering wheel was a card and the keys to the car and a note that there was still another present hidden amongst the roses in the car. It was a dainty Rolex Orchid to fit my delicate wrist!!

WOW..EXCITING!! I didn’t even know how to drive!! My parents drove me everywhere I need to go, or we had a driver. How was I going to get this home, and let’s see, my dumb luck, it’s a stick shift too!! Well I faked it....drove that puppy all the way home. How I did it I will never know, but I managed it from remembering the times my mother explained it to me. The gears, the pedals etc. I was beet red from exertion, that when he met up with me he even asked why I was so red!! I think I blamed it on the heat! He was fond of buying me fine jewelry, extraodinary sets in custom. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, matching earrings, tiarra, necklaces, bracelets, rings, he showered upon me. Some of my female relatives collected and wore such baubles, pearls, diamonds, emeralds etc. They always mesmerized me but I had no overwhelming desire to seek them out on my own. To me they were tokens of his affection and the size or quality mattered little to me.

One time I wanted to eat Chinese food, he asked me to bring my passport to lunch, and had his driver pick me up. I was taken to the airport where I met him and off we flew to Hong Kong for Chinese food. How romantic! How could I not love this man with his wonderful surprises?? Hong Kong was just over a couple hours away from Manila by plane.

He made the simplest things seem extraordinary and he marveled at my ability to grasp politics, his ideas on chemistry, philosophy, history. For hours on end we would discuss these things, that is, when we could pry ourselves apart from a torrid embrace or lingering kiss. Eventually of course, Manila being the small town that it was and is, we found out “Leo” was not divorced at all. That he was still living with his wife and 6 children. At first he would make excuses that his wife was fragile, he couldn’t tell her right then, or that there were legal complications. So in love with him was I that I wanted to believe these blatant lies. I wanted to believe he couldn’t have done this to our love, but soon enough it was all too clear that he had lied to me from the very first.

To say that it broke my heart would never describe the total devastation I felt when I realized he had betrayed my trust in him. I felt like a fool, and I even talked to his wife, who also eventually found out, telling her I’m sorry, I didn’t know. It was so awful to face her but it was a catharsis for me, and ll the while a part of me was screaming, “I don’t care if he lied, I love him anyway.” But no, for me it was over.

All the rivers in the world could have been filled with my tears when I told him it was over. He begged me to forgive him, and even showed up with a suitcase one night saying he’d finally done it, he’d left her. But I knew I would never trust him again, and I never wanted his children to say it was me who tore their father from them. I wanted to keep him, but in my heart, I knew it was wrong, and I had to let him go. My mother took me on a trip to Europe to get me away from him. To help me forget him. But when we arrived in Switzerland, he was there to meet us at the airport with a limousine waiting outside, saying, that we had to say goodbye properly, that it would all work out, that he loved me, and would love me forever and to please be patient. I never saw a thing in Switzerland but him...through my endless tears. My poor mother was so overwrought.

We all tried to be civil during this trip, we had dinner, tried to pretend all was well. Leo and my mom talking about possibilities for my new future. It’s all a daze to me. We went on to London, and again he met up with us. I couldn’t escape him. One night he opened up three velvet boxes with sets of matching bracelets, rings, necklaces, tiaras; one rubies and diamonds, the other diamonds and emeralds, and the last diamonds and blue sapphires. He said he had gotten them at a bargain for only $1 million dollars each and that they were for me, as a token of his love and affection. I felt as though he was trying to buy me back and I hurled them across the room and fled weeping. Finally realizing it was a futile trip, we came back home to Manila, just in time for my brothers wedding.

It went from being the fairy tale romance of the year to a future I didn’t know I could face without him. One night I was so distraught I took every pill I could get my hands on, hoping to die. I guess my parents found me and rushed me to the Hospital to have my stomach pumped. I was shrieking for them to leave me alone to let me die. I was cursing the doctor. When the pills didn’t work, I crashed my car into a sea wall, but was once again saved and taken to a hospital to be stitched up. Life had no meaning for me.

Life was a cruel joke on the innocent. God was cruel and uncaring. I was at war with God and the world and most of all myself. I felt so alone, so very alone. I had planned a life of adventure with him, and now to face it alone, I could not. I tried so many ways to do myself in, and none of them worked until I simply gave up and went through the motions of life to try to recapture the love of life I had before him.

My parents sent me away from him to San Francisco to take up classes in fashion design which I thought I would enjoy but didn’t. We were so close that one time it came into my head that he was downtown at the St. Francis Hotel, and on an impulse I called the hotel and he was indeed there with his wife.

We were always running into each other in the oddest places, hotel lobbies in Los Angeles, or at the airports on our ways here and there. And always, the fervent looks, and he would whisper that he still did and would always love me. It was something we both knew, it was something we both knew we could never recapture again in this life. We always loved each other in a special way all his life. He died a year or two ago, and I knew when he died, when his soul left this earth. Though we could never be together, but in the special way of kindred spirits I knew when his indomitable spirit left this earth.

When I remember him now, it is no longer the torrents of passion, but a simpler, kinder love for each others souls and indomitable spirits. To him I want to say, “Thank you for the love and even the pain, that has molded my life into one of great meaning and depth.” And as always my dearest friend, even though you are gone now from this earth, and for us, “never a tomorrow”, I hope you are at peace and happy now where ever you are.(as much as I’d like to put up photos of us, this mans wife is still alive and his children, I would not wish to hurt in any way, should they stumble across this diary)"

This song by Queen reminds me of this love affair to remember:

Words and music by brian may
Theres no time for us
Theres no place for us
What is this thing that builds our dreams yet slips awayFrom us
Who wants to live foreverWho wants to live forever....?
Theres no chance for us
Its all decided for us
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever?
Who dares to love forever?
When love must die

But touch my tears with your lips
Touch my world with your fingertips
And we can have forever
And we can love forever
Forever is our today
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever?
Forever is our today

Who waits forever anyway?

A Child No More

Diana Limjoco at 13 years old
At the tender age of 13 my life took an awful turn.  It irrevocably tore whatever remnant of childhood might have lingered in myself. I only remember that my parents were out of town in the provinces...in those days, no cell phones, not even a phone in the province (bukids) for my parents to call and check on us.

A lot of the details of this incident are now vague, my brains' protection against the trauma I suppose. I remember asking my brother to take me to the beach in Batangas, I cannot be more specific and later you will see why. He did. He dropped me off, I assumed he would come back the next day to fetch me, which he did not.
After he left, I went to one of my real blood uncles beach house which I assumed I could use but was closed for some odd reason, even the caretaker was no where to be found. I strolled down the beach till it became dark and I came upon the home of a family “friend” allied by friendship since my grandfathers time. I knocked and my two “titos” were there playing cards and drinking, I’ll never forget, Johnny Walker Red! I asked them if they could put me up for the night, which they did in a cabana type screened in room.

Not long after I retired, one of the “titos” (everyone is a tita or tito back home that is older) to the door and asked me to let him in. I don't answer. Next is on the verandah, I can see him through the screen, inches away from my head, once again whispering, “let me in, I won’t hurt you, I just want someone to cuddle with”. Oh wow...this definitely NOT a good thing. Instinct tells me I am not in a good situation here. I’m thinking, what do I do, and where do I go now? The middle of the night, hours away from home, no phones, and I don’t really know anyone else I can stay with. There is another door which exits to the beach, but if I get up now, he will see me. I pretend to be asleep.

He comes back in the house and tries the inner door, while he is doing this, I literally leap from the bed and rush for the outer door, and dash into the moonless night on the the beach. My heart is pounding so hard I am sure everyone else can hear it. I hear voices, I see flashlights, and soon both of these “titos” are in pursuit of me. I am now prey for for the drunken mindless male predator which the alcohol has unleashed within them. I look to and fro, I slip under nipa huts as they go past me, hiding in the deepest shadows, barely breathing, heart still pounding, mind racing. I’m wondering, “why is this happening to me?”

I slip into the dirt roadway and see a house lit up, and people on the upper verandah playing mahjong, I recognize a woman who is an acquaintance of my family, I dash up the stairs, trying to be calm. I tell her my brother has not come back for me, may I sleep here in the house till morning, surely someone will come back for me then. She coos over me, her maternal instincts kick in and she leads me to a room where I promptly fall asleep from exhaustion. These men had been hunting me for most of the night and by now, it’s about 3 a.m.

In the morning, early at first light by the looks of it, I am awakened by this “lady family friend” and am told that she has arranged a ride back home with another friend, and that their driver was outside waiting for me. Roosters are still crowing vigorously. I thank her profusely and enter the car. My eyes close on their own, from the lack of sleep, and it’s a long drive back home. When the car stops, I can’t even open my eyes, I assume the driver is getting some ciggies from a street vendor before the long ride home... suddenly both of the doors in the back where I am, open and I am now surrounded by the two men who pursued and lost me in the night.

Oh my God, this has got to be a nightmare. This stuff only happens in horror movies. But no, they are real, still drunk, eyes bloodshot and in very bad, malicious frames of mind. I am trapped, I’m only or 13 or 14, I don’t have the cunning or conniving mind to get out of this one. They say do not worry, they will take me home, which I can sense is a lie, but hope it is not. Their malevolence is palpable. I do not know what to do, I’m so scared. I’m so angry at God again for letting this happen to me.

After driving for awhile I realize that they are NOT taking me home. We are somewhere in the outskirts of Manila and the driver pulls up to a house, I suppose this must be their “safe house”. Many powerful and wealthy males kept them to bring their mistresses to.  I’d heard about them. Now I am at one. This can’t be happening to me. I will not leave the car, I say, “ OK I’ll just drop you off and this is fine, my parents have a flat in Manila I can stay at, your driver can just take me there.” But there’s gun in my face now, and “ no, you will come with us or I willl blow your head off.” This is unbelievable. I’m so afraid I’m shaking uncontrollably, and they lead me into the house, where they lock the door from the inside with KEYS!! I’m sunk and I know it.

I make a dash for the bathroom, I lock the door, and I sit on the floor shaking and crying, and trying to think but too stunned to. I hear them twisting the door knob. Then silence. I’m trapped in here, there are bars on the windows..no way out. They leave me in here for what seems hours. Taunting me with words, calling me names from the other side of the door. Now cajoling, now threats, now silence. The humiliation I feel disgusts me, they disgust me. I throw up, I can’t even make it to the toilet bowl. Suddenly as I crawl for the toilet bowl, to continue my retching there, there’s a loud bang and a kick and the door slams open, I am grabbed my my hair, I feel a slap across my face, I am thrown down onto the bed and pinned down by these two animals. They just sit on me laughing, their breath befouling me. I am thrusting out like an animal, primordial survival instincts over ride thought. I’m biting anything that gets near me, I am reduced to an animal, I am willing to bite off the arm they are holding me by if only I could. I am slapped more, my hair is pulled more, my shirt is ripped off me, I want to kill them, I look for the gun to shoot them with, but one of the others is holding it on me, I can’t reach it. I am crying and the sweat of fear is rolling off me and my arm becomes slippery and I am able to twist to my side, roll off the bed and make a run for the door. He grabs my arm, another shot goes off, but the bullet misses me. I run into the living room. The front door is thrust open, and new man walks in, I drop to his feet, cling to his legs, “save me, save me” I am hysterical, inside me I am now screaming, but my throat is so constricted from fear my voice will not raise above a quivering whisper. “Help me, please help me.” I BEG.

He looks up and sees the disgruntled appearance of the two, I’m sure he too can smell their alcohol breath. He asks them, “Who is this?” they are silent, they look at me rapaciously, slyly. I answer him, he knows my family, my fathers' reputation for revenge, his bad temper. He is stunned, he literally seems to fly at them from across the rooms and grabs them and slams their heads into each other! Whack, cracking sound. They are dazed, fall to the floor...”Mga Ulol, mga gago” he says ( YOU idiots translated.) “What there aren’t enough putas in the world you have to befoul one of our own?” “Stay where you are”, he commands them, though I can see he is clearly younger than the two. He looks at me apologetically, he goes to another bathroom and fetches me up a towel to cover my ripped shirt. He looks from them to me, his hand rubbing his head in indecision. He apologizes, he asks my age, I tell him, he’s shaking his head now. Cussing and swearing at the other two.

He says “ I’m sorry, but now we really have to kill you. If your father finds out about this it will cause a blood war between our clans and this I cannot allow.” I go white, he pulls out a gun which I now see was under his jacket, I realize I’m going to die now, how sad and so young too.

The other two object. Now they are saying, “Wait, maybe we better run her over to make it look like an accident.” The other, “No! Maybe we should drown her in the pool to make it look like an accident.” They cannot decide how to kill me. I whisper “Please, don’t kill me, you don’t want evil to come upon your own daughters from this do you?” This hits home...they listen.

I say “I promise, I will never tell anyone about this. No one will ever know”. He says, “No you are a child and will not keep your word”. I look him straight in the eyes, “NO, I am no longer a child, I WILL keep my word. I have only one brother, one father, I do not want them to die at your hands, I will be silent. Please think of your own children, and the sins of the father”. We stare at each other, one imploringly the other, confounded.

He scratches his head...he curses the other two for drawing him into this. They cannot decide whether to trust me. He apologizes again to me, but he grabs me up, runs out to the car with me, opens the trunk and throws me in. I hear muffled arguments, they can’t trust me to be silent, they will drive somewhere and think about how to dispose of me, they are screaming at each other. No wonder I hate small enclosed spaces till this day. We drive, it seems hours again. “It’s so dark in here, walls closing in, can’t see, so hot, help me, help me. Can’t breathe, so dark. Mind sinking, sinking, now breathe, remember to breathe, deep breaths that’s it, don’t think, can’t think. I’m dying, I’m dying and I’m so young. It’s so black, I can’t see, panting. NO NO be still...don’t breathe, then I will die and this will be over. Why is this happening to me, let me out of here. Oh God, I’ve gone mad, help me.”

Finally when the car stops and open the trunk it is dark. We are in a grove of coconuts trees, still no moon, so dark. They open the trunk...I’m afraid to come out clawing at them. I hold out hope I can still talk them out of this. I sit up slowly, dazed and still in shock, I am crying again, I hate that I am crying and so weak and helpless, I BEG them again. “Please let me go, just leave me here and I will make up a story why I have been missing that will fool everyone, you will see.” Thinking of their own children now perhaps, and Gods wrath on judgment day (being Catholics) they relent. The younger one now says, “Ok we will leave you here. You must find your own way home”, he thrusts some money at me, “here,  find someplace to eat, busfare whatever, and if we ever get wind of this, if your father and his men come for us...YOU WILL ALL DIE. All of your family from cousins to aunties, ALL will die, do you UNDERSTAND ME CHILD?”

I climb out of the trunk, I look him in his eyes, I swear I will not tell my parents or anyone ever, to myself, I swear they will pay to God for this.  More curses are tossed at his brothers for getting him into this mess. He shoves the other two into the car before they can change their minds, as they were objecting to my release all along. They say I will destroy their lives, it was a mistake on their part, they were drunk they had no control, blah blah blah... “ No! The younger man screams to his brother, get in the car NOW”, which they reluctantly do. They drive away into the night. I am alone, I don’t know where I am.

They had thrown a sack out of the window when they left, I open it, in there a new shirt and pants to put on, probably bought at one of the stops, while I lay sweltering in the trunk. They fit, a tender mercy.

I feel befouled. Humiliated beyond belief. The air feels thick with humidity, my skins is crawling, my face a frozen mask of defeat. I’m so broken. I feel broken all over. I begin to weep, my knees give out and I fall to the ground face down, I pound the dirt, all I feel is pain, and more pain. Please let me die. I’m cursing life, I’m cursing God again, I vow revenge upon them. I know hate. I am a child no more.

I did an interview about the experience in June of 2007 for Cheche Lazaro, for ABS/CBN Probe Team, National Filipino TV show. It was called "Isang Estoyra ng Tagumpay", in English it means, "One story of  Triumph". Because I am a survivor; no longer a victim.  I felt I was a victim until I grew tired of hating. They took away that part of my life, my teens and midway into my 20's, I decided the best vengeance is to have a good life. And I have. One fabulous, amazing life. I guess you could say, ultimately I have forgiven them. Forgiven myself for thinking I might have deserved it.

I am in my mid 60's now and I have the life I always wanted. My life is a treasure and all those in my life are too. I truly love my life and am grateful for everyone and everything in it.


Here is a behind the scenes video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8xiaX0KT5s


No Strings Attached


At the Batangas Ice Plant
My first big crossroad came when my parents took me to pay their respects to my auntie whose son was hit and killed by an automobile while he was riding his bicycle. I think I might have been about 15. All I remember are the pictures in my head still so vivid. It must have been soon after the incident, we were at the mortuary, his body had not yet been prepared.

I had to go to the bathroom, I followed the directions and wound up opening a door, alas, my eyes behold my cousins’ broken and bloody body, on a wooden table. Blood everywhere, his arms akimbo, broken, broken everywhere it seemed. I stood paralyzed and stunned in morbid fascination. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t take my eyes off this horror. It shocked me to see a thing which was only earlier human, alive and vibrant. I think this is the first time that death was made real to me. I thought “where are the strings attached that animate us”. He’s only meat now, a carcass, an empty shell. I thought perhaps we were marionettes, that somewhere someone was pulling the strings, but on closer inspection, no strings. How then is it that one moment we are here, and the next laid out like this on a wooden slab?

I was too shocked to cry at the time. Thoughts reeling through my head. Where do we go? How is that life can be so fleeting? Abet was only a teenager, maybe a year or two older than me. This too could happen to me. Where is the dignity in this? What is the purpose of living if we wind up as meat? The next time I see him, it is at the church in an open casket. I see down the corridor of church benches, a nice coffin sits on a stand. Flowers everywhere, cousins, aunties, uncles, all seated about.

I join my younger cousins in doing the stations of the cross. Perhaps out of nervousness we begin to giggle, perhaps something silly was said, I start to laugh, and laugh hysterically and then torrents of tears and my chest heaved and my breath was taken away by sob after sob, and it seemed I couldn’t stop crying.

Everyone is looking at me, I wasn’t so close to this cousin so they must be wondering what’s wrong with me. “Hysterical” I hear someone say, aunties move to console me, I press against my mother who is trying to console me. She says “ go say goodbye, you will feel better." I do, I stand in line to view his body. It’s been cleaned up, he looks peaceful now, but oh woe! I see ants crawling up his neck into his ear!!!! Tiny little ants!!!! Oh horrors! No longer human, only meat. This is the last straw, I grab my face as though it will explode without the confines of my palms pressed against my cheeks and begin weeping again. People think I am crying for Abet alone, yes I am for his life cut short, for all the days he will never see, for his family who will miss him, and for ME, that I too someday will die!!

I saw the impermanence of life. All that I do or say will be erased in one fell swoop at the end of MY life, which apparently could be whenever those strings attached break.This was the beginning of my rebellion against rules laid down by elders that didn’t make sense. All the more I wanted to know, why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Why do we follow blindly the dictates of society and culture only to be laid down upon a cold slab as cold dead meat? After that, when ever my parents asked something of me, I wanted to know why?

It must have driven them completely mad. My father and I would sometimes come to blows over my belligerence. He would tell my mom “tell YOUR daughter, this or that” as though he himself could not relate to me. My mother would say “you cannot force her, she will not comply without a fight”. I would not do one thing without trying to understand the underlying reason as though all things in life made sense, which I have learned that they do not. I was determined to go out fighting, kicking and screaming if only it helped me to understand why we are here.

This experience pressed me on to quest for answers. I would go to the church and pray to God to show me the meaning of life. To make my life worthwhile. Children my age stopped being of interest to me. I plunged into books on the occult, religious experiences of saints, the bible, trying to make sense of life. None of it made sense, too many dichotomies, compounded by the fact that I soon learned that not all people believed in Jesus. That there were indeed other religions with other Gods. Oh my! Will the real God please stand up.

No dictates for me, this stuff didn’t even make sense half the time. I stopped going to church. I would pray to the “unknown God”. This faceless being. No answers in my head clearly outlining my path, no blueprint for me. Alright then, I’ll make my own choices and live with the consequences later. Thus began my path into the adventures of a conscious life. I’ll live for today and cry about it tomorrow.

Today, my truth is that God is in ME. That I am never away from God, and I cannot escape God. Whatever I do in my life, I talk directly to this inner being that animates me. This is the only God I know. I don’t seek God in churches or books, because I know that everything I see or am or do, is a part of God. Thus I cannot see where God is not.

Yes I know there are those in life who are what we call evil...I have personally been the victim of such people. Yet, I have found it in my heart and soul to forgive their transgressions because I have been able to overcome many more things in life BECAUSE of the strength I can now draw from those “BAD” experiences.

Blog of Diana J. Limjoco of the Clan Limjoco