There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

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A few Christmases ago, I received an email from my husband about how he suddenly felt pangs of holiday blues hitting him once again. For the past years, the Christmas season has been a dreaded holiday for my husband. When he is in that mood, he can’t stand those Christmas carols, bombarding him from the car stereo, malls, restaurants and even in our own home. Like most of us, the holidays bring pleasant memories, laughter, family togetherness, the element of surprise, and lots of holiday cheer. Holiday blues hit those wishing to recapture feelings associated with past , real or fantasized past holidays.

I know my husband is not alone and thought of some of you who may feel the holiday blues.

Who gets affected by the holiday blues?

  1. Victims of disaster areas. For instance, those who lost their homes and work because of Typhoon Odette.

    Photo source: Twitter account of VP Leni Robredo. Scene is from Cebu

2. Families of overseas workers. They see other happy families who are together on Christmas day and wonder when they will be all together one Christmas day. The song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a classic for all those living from a distance.

3. Soldiers, doctors, nurses and medical staff who have to work on Christmas day.

4. Those who have recently lost a loved one.

5. Couples who are estranged or are apart during the holidays. Now we know where the song, Pasko na Sinta ko is dedicated to.

6. Individuals who are single and lonely and see other couples so sweet and cuddly as they walk past them.

7. Those who experience financial pressures on the holidays including purchase of gifts, clothes and party items.

8. Those who experience unrealistic expectations from friends, church or work associates to take part in seasonal activities outside of your normal routine.

9. Those who feel conflicting family expectations and demands that create guilt and resentment.

and many more who are separated from loved ones, because of death, distance and illness.

My beloved son, Luijoe and my two girls

That night I gave my husband a hug as we cuddled in bed , then told him that I have been writing the Holiday Blues and Coping and Surviving Christmas on the month of December for the past years. I fired up my browser and read those two entries to him. He smiled. “your entries are still relevant even if it is old”. What caught his attention is this portion:

You or your loved one might have a temporary spell of the blues without knowing it. There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

Then we talked of our progress the past years, especially in creating new holiday traditions, one of which was to start and take part in comforting other families in grief and even starting this blog.

I continued to cradle my husband in my arms. As I droned on and on, I suddenly heard unearthly sounds of his snoring. He must have felt some bit of comfort knowing that this too shall pass.

Not that I don’t miss my son or feel any holiday blues. I feel the pangs now and then and tears fall. I just say to myself, “this will pass. Go with the flow”. December 5 was my dad’s 13th death anniversary and I feel a tug in my heart but I also recall his booming laughter that never fails to lift my spirits.

Yes, despite the blues, it is still possible to sing ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la.

How you can beat the blues?

First, How will you recognize you have the blues?

holiday bluesHow will you recognize you have the blues?

  • Headaches
  • An inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite that cause either weight loss or gain
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Decreased interest in activities that usually are enjoyable, such as: food, sex, work, friends, hobbies and entertainment.

Second, How does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

blue christmasHow does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

For anyone feeling blue during the holidays can follow some very basic, common sense steps to help in coping with the blues.

  • Take things one day at a time and if need be one hour at a time.
  • Try to maintain a normal routine. Keep doing your normal daily activities.
  • Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  • Regular exercise, even walking, helps relieve stress, tension and improve moods.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Limit high-calorie foods and junk food.
  • Avoid using alcohol, medications or other drugs to mask the pain.
  • Do those activities or things and be with the people that comfort, sustain, nourish, and recharge you.
  • Remember the healthy coping strategies you have used in the past to survive challenges. Draw on these strengths again.

What does one do to feel less blue during the Holidays

There are several things that can help in making it easier to manage the blues.

  • Determine your priorities and establish realistic goals for the holidays.
  • Delegate some responsibilities to others.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Minimize financial stressors by setting a budget and sticking to it.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Think about giving a free gift from your heart. Your time or your presence.
  • Be around supportive people.
  • Volunteer and help someone else.
  • Create a New Holiday Tradition.
  • Find a new place or a new way to celebrate.

Just take baby steps if all these overwhelming.

Source: Holiday Blues – Feeling Sad, Lonely or Depressed During the Holidays?

Image via steamboatcounseling.com

It is not vanity that makes me show off my photos. Okay fine, I am proud of where I am today and I want to share these moments to my friends and relatives through my blog or social media posts. I want to offer hope for those who think a healthy lifestyle is not attainable beyond 40 years old. It is never too late.

Not too long ago, I was unhealthy and borderline obese.

The photo below shows me some 15 years ago. Don't you just love before and after pics? Overweight at 165 pounds then, my blood sugar was pretty high at 180 mg/dl. Perhaps it was because of my deep sadness over my son’s death that I had no desire to take care of myself.

No glow. I hated having my photos taken back then. I didn't even know how to smile.   I struggled with my overweight body until there came a time that my blood pressure shot up to 160/90 which seemed so scary. My stress test showed distressing results that the doctor thought I needed Angioplasty. An angiogram revealed no major arteries were blocked. Phew what a relief. I had to make a choice: Healthy or unhealthy lifestyle?

I know most of you will ask: Is it possible to lead a healthy lifestyle even at past 40?

I’m not too proud of the fact that I became borderline obese but if you’re struggling with health issues and overweight problems at past 40 years old, there is hope. I enrolled at Fitness First in May 2005 and embarked on a healthy diet as planned by nutritionist. I will talk more on the diet in another post.

Let me tell you how frustrating it was to lose weight during the first few weeks. Inspite of the strict diet and exercise, I lost only a measly 3 pounds for the first two weeks. The fat cells just refused to burn. But I thought eventually these fat cells would start burning. My concentration was focused on having a healthy body. I also decided not to weigh myself until someone would say:

oy, you lost weight.

And that didn’t happen until 3 months later. I was excited. I squealed with delight. Finally someone outside the family (your family won’t notice because they see you everyday) noticed. When I weighed myself, I saw that I had lost 20 pounds. Finally…

You can check out my weight loss story here. Even if I lost over 40 pounds, it was hard keeping the weight. I know my metabolism is not that fast anymore and one needs to continue with a consistent fitness and healthy lifestyle program. It is important to have fitness goals and they don't need to be complicated or expensive. My fitness goal is not weight loss anymore but health maintenance.

Here they are:

  1. Get a fitness tracker

A step count goal can motivate you to increase your activity and exercise. If you walk or run 10,000 steps a day — about 8 kilometers, depending on your stride — you’re all good.

It is good to own a fitness tracker, a device or application for monitoring and tracking fitness-related metrics such as distance walked or run, calorie consumption, and in some cases heartbeat and quality of sleep. I use fitbit but there are many other brands out there like Garmin or Samsung fit gear.

I started out with a goal of 7,500 steps but slowly increased to 15,000 steps a day.

"The Mayo Clinic recommends adding 1000 daily steps each week, so if your baseline is 4000 steps per day, set your goal at 5000 steps each day. Meeting your goal may be as simple as an extra five-minute walk, or even parking a few cars further away at the supermarket, depending on your speed and stride."

2. Of course, get good walking shoes that fits you best

The best shoe should give you proper support, flexibility, and cushioning, and compensate for any stride problems.

"You must be able to bend and twist the shoes. When you take a walking step, your foot will flex as you roll through a step from heel to toe. If the shoe is too stiff, your foot will fight it with each step. "

3. Weights for strengthening my triceps

The excess fats will always be my flabby arms so I use weights for strengthening my triceps.

I continue on at home with my five pound weights to get those leaner arms

4.  Burn calories using aerobics like walking on a treadmill or  under the trees

There is the treadmill at the gym but I get bored after 30 minutes. There is nothing like walking with nature.

The UP Academic oval is such a beautiful place to walk. I can imagine the oxygen I breathe in. All these lovely trees bring so much positive vibes. I can only go here during the weekends because there is just so much traffic during the weekdays.  During rainy weather, I walk inside huge malls.

Walking gives me a happy feeling that I look forward to. When I need additional steps and can’t walk outside for some reason , I turn on the video, Jane Fonda: Walking Cardio Workout : Level 1. I know some of you will laugh “JANE FONDA”. She is a role model for prime time women like myself. When I was 23 years old , I followed her exercises and lost 20 pounds back then.

5. Intermittent fasting , my pattern of eating

NOTE: You have to consult your doctor or monitor your blood sugar (for diabetics) before you start on your intermittent fasting.

"Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it's a pattern of eating. It's a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat."

 

I have been on intermittent fasting since 2010.  I skip dinner each day and eat two meals, the first around 7:00 AM and the second around 11:00 PM. I take a light snack at 3:00 PM. Then, I fast for 16 hours until I start eating again the next day at 6:00 AM. It is dangerous for diabetics to do intermittent fasting but I have monitored my blood sugar and I am still within the normal levels.

Intermittent fasting is one of the simplest strategies  for taking bad weight off while keeping good weight on because it requires very little behavior change.

So now that you know my fitness essentials and tips, the next question is

"Which OPPO #SelfieExpert smartphone will help you show those good looks?"

 

It is none other than the  OPPO F3 #SelfieExpert Dual Selfie Camera.  To see and experience is to believem so I dropped at the nearest OPPO outlet to check it the Oppo F3.

Imagine the possibilities.

1. The dual 16 megapixels f/2.0 + 8 megapixels f/2.4 secondary camera allows you to fit your friends and you into the frame and get that perfect selfie.

2.  Selfie lovers will love the other options Oppo offer such as the live filters, a gif mode, and double exposure and even panorama selfies. I love the bokeh feature. Take a look at my selfie.

3. The Oppo F3 allows you to capture sharp selfies and 120-degree wide-angle view which is great for groupfie shot especially at the gym.

4. The OPPO F3 has an internal storage of 64 gigabytes with 4 gigabytes RAM which means lots of storage space for all your photos, selfies without affecting the performance of your phone.

5. The 3,200mAh battery is good enough to last an entire day with moderate use. And you don’t have to worry about charging. The Oppo F3  comes bundled with fast charging (2A output current) to quickly charge the phone in about an-hour-and-a-half.

6.  Even if not taking selfies, the  rear camera has 13-megapixel sensor  phase detection autofocus  which is handy.

I can imagine taking more selfie moments at the gym  with the Oppo F3 , the #SelfieExpert and mind you, I just want to share you the joys and trials of my fitness journey.

pet cats
I don’t know about you but I just adore cats.I have four felines at home: Billy, Missy , Zoey and Nomi.  They are the most huggable pets ever and they keep me company now that the girls are living independently .  Having a pet can be so comforting especially if one gets stressed out. For sure techniques like meditation, yoga and blogging can be therapeutic. But owning these furry lovable felines can also have many stress relieving and health benefits.  Let’s see.

1. Cats can improve your mood– Never mind if certain online characters are serial attention-seekers breathing down your necks. It’s almost impossible to remain in a foul mood when a super-soft furry cat rubs up against your legs begging to sit beside you. Once my pet kitty cat starts purring at me, I feel the weariness of the day melting away. My cute and cuddly stress-busters calm my nerves, make me smile, help me sleep better and even push me to exercise more. There is evidence that just 15 to 30 minutes of quality time with a cat can calm your nerves and boost your mood.

When you spend time with a cat, your production of serotonin, a chemical that boosts feelings of well-being, goes up, and your cortisol levels go down. Cortisol, along with high blood pressure, is a result of stress, and can lead to high cholesterol and hypertension. This means that spending time with a cat can keep you healthier in the long run

Want to be healthier? Get a pet!

cats
2. Cats Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love Cats offer unconditional love and companionship. During the day, my family isn’t at home so I end up being alone in my corner of the world. I enjoy comfortable silences with them as they snuggle close to me.

A 2003 Swiss study “found that having a cat in the house is the emotional equivalent of having a romantic partner. As well as initiating contact much of the time, studies have shown cats will remember kindness shown to them and return the favor later.”

But cats really do have the upper hand in these relationships. After thousands of years of domestication, cats have learned how to make a half purr/half howl noise that sounds remarkably like a human baby’s cry. And since our brains are programmed to respond to our children’s distress, it is almost impossible to ignore what a cat wants when it demands it like that.

cuddling

Billy is so huggable.
3. Cats Can Reduce Stress, Sometimes More Than People Of all the reasons why cats (or pets in general) have great health benefits, it is this fact– “While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also a good listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better! Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! ”  Missy, reminds me to stop working and relax.

missy and me
In fact, these cats don’t judge me; they just love me. You should check out my cat photo gallery.

Do you have pets?

depression 1

I get many emails from readers after reading my Suicide Prevention page, saying they are depressed or feel hopeless. Sometimes I also get tweet mentions calling for help.

One should remember there is a difference between depression and sadness. Watch this video:

Depression in young kids may go unnoticed especially if one is hyperactive or acting out. Clinical depression is seen as deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse. It pays to visit a psychiatrist who can detect to confirm that your teen is really suffering from clinical depression.

Here are some Signs and symptoms of depression in teens

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

You can also call 24/7 HOPELINE of The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing depression to light through the use of educational lectures, confidential crisis lines and referrals to partner psychologists.

 

Information and Crisis Intervention Center

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084

In Touch Crisis Lines:

0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305
(02) 893-7606 (24/7)
(02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314
Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776

Check the infographic below for more information on depression.


Via: Canada Drug Center

argumentThe captivating news feature , Fighting With Your Spouse Is Good For Your Health caught my eye. But hold your horses, war freak spouses. Listen, it has to be a good fight . Not the cat-dog fight. Preliminary results from a University of Michigan study found couples that suppress anger die earlier than couples in which one or both partners express their anger and resolve the conflict..

Researchers looked at 192 couples in Tecumseh, Mich. during a 17-year period placing them into one of four categories. The first category included couples in which both partners communicated their anger.

The second and third groups included one spouse that expresses while the other suppresses anger and the forth group involved couples where both the husband and wife suppress their anger and brood, lead author Ernest Harburg said in a press release.

“Comparison between couples in which both people suppress their anger, and the three other types of couples, are very intriguing,” said Harburg, professor emeritus of the U-M School of Public Health and the psychology department.

When both spouses suppress their anger at the other when unfairly attacked, earlier death was twice as likely than in all other types.

Ernest Harburg clarified that “If you bury your anger, and you brood on it, you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don’t try to resolve the problem, then you’re in trouble.”

The key factor is communication. Filipinos are not too hot on a confrontational talk including my husband but with practice we found ways to argue and resolve amicably. How?

1. Avoid “You should or you should not”
At the heat of any argument, I don’t butt in and say “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “You should be calm”. When I am disappointed or impatient with his attitude, I just say “I feel sad that you are feeling that way”. By owning my feelings, I am not accusing him or making him responsible for my of sadness. Even if he seeks advice, I still say “I feel this is the right approach” . I never say ““you’re wrong.” I often try hard to look for areas of agreement and work on them.

2. Don’t beat around the bush in our conversations to control the reactions of your spouse. Guilt producing comments only produce guilt.
Hinting at what we need doesn’t work. Our spouse can’t read our mind and they are more likely to resent our indirectedness. The best way to take responsibility for what we want is to ask for it directly. And, we can insist on directness too. If I need to say no to a particular request, I make it known. If my spouse tries to control me through a conversation, I refuse to participate.

3. When I’m wrong, I admit it.
I make mistakes now and then, so I say ““You’re absolutely right, dear, I know it’s my fault and here is what I’ll do to make amends.” Even if I am NOT wrong, at least I give him the benefit of the doubt, ““I may be wrong, let’s examine at the facts together.” It’s hard to argue with that.

4. Communicate with your husband when he is out of his cave
Some husbands like mine hibernate to their cave for solitude when he is thinking about a problem. Many men withdraw until they find a solution to the problem. I don’t know if women hibernate in a cave. I know I don’t. One thing I learned is Never disturb your man while he is growling in his cave.

It pays to have a good fight when both are willing to resolve like two mature invidividuals.

Any ideas to add on how to resolve your problems?

“And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!” Audrey Hepburn

Turning 58 years old a few days ago was a day to celebrate. I know 58 is just number but it affirms 58 years of trials and tribulations that made me who I am today. I feel positive about my life. I enjoy pampering myself because things can get too busy with my writing commitments. I feel good and beautiful inside and out because I know I am aging gracefully. Feeling and looking beautiful starts with taking care of myself. It means leading a meaningful and active life; maintaining a positive attitude; taking care of my skin and eating a balanced diet. With my skin rejuvenation treatments from my dermatologist-sister, I need to complement it daily with a good skin care treatment.

turning primetime

For the past three years, I have been using Olay Cleanser and Olay Regenerist for day and night time use. My skin care routine is a quarterly visit to my dermatologist-sister who recommends a skin care cream that contains peptides.

One reason I use Olay Regenerist is because it contains amino-peptides.

Peptides are tiny fragments of protein molecules that are found naturally throughout the body. Along with glycerin, peptides hydrate and enhance the stratum corneum, or outer layer of skin. This helps allow for the natural production of collagen, which can help to firm up skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

For women my age, the Olay Regenerist is the answer to aging skin. I still don’t have wrinkles. Though I have brown aging spots , I easily hide it with a concealer.

olay miracle duo

Recently, I got introduced to the new Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-Essence and Micro-sculpting Cream. ” or the Miracle duo . My skin rejuvenation starts with a good skin care regimen.

Let’s take a look at the Miracle Duo and how it helps me age gracefully.

olay regenerist miracle boost

The Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-Essence is designed to boost the penetration of anti-aging actives of your moisturiser to increase skin cell metabolism and renewal. The first drop starts renewal of a million surface cells and helps visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, pores and firms the skin.

olay regenerist youth essence

Its unique auto-dropper packaging ensures the exact and right amount of the pre-essence is delivered in every single application. I apply the Olay Miracle Boost Pre-Essence after the cleanser and before the cream. The smell is refreshing and not too overpowering. The combination of Miracle Boost Pre-essence and Olay’s Micro-sculpting Cream work together to boost renewal of surface cells.

olay miracle duo2

Now, the sculpting cream my skin with a concentrated formula of Amino-Peptide Complex that stimulates my skin to make more collagen and progressively hydrates my skin to lift, firm and micro-sculpt.

Olay Miracle duo1

Both Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-essence and Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream are called the Miracle Duo .

If you’re like me, I look at the ingredients to understand what each component does to my skin. I have already been aware that my Olay Regenerist cream contained Vitamin B3 and Amino Peptides. There are two other ingredients : the Lys’lastine (natural extract of Dill seeds) which enhances skin elasticity and OliveM  (Antioxidant from Olive Extract) which improves penetration of anti-aging ingredients .

noemidado aka momblogger

I know that as I age, collagen that supports and makes my skin firm, gets destroyed and not replaced—causing winkles and sagging. In fact, collagen production begins to diminish starting at age 21. If you are in your early twenties, it is best to start a skin care regimen now with Miracle Duo. Continue to take care of your skin even as you reach your prime time just like I do with the help of Miracle Duo.

Stay beautiful everyone.

You can purchase the New Miracle duo (The New Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-essence and Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream) at Lazada. Make sure to check out www.olay.com.ph, like Olay on Facebook or follow @OlayPhilippines on Twitter and @OlayPhilippines on Instagram for more updates.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me for Olay. All the facts and opinions are mine since I have been using Olay a for the past five years.

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” – Eudora Welty

I love taking photos . I got that quirky habit from my daddy old boy who kept snapping away every single moment when my siblings and I are touring in some place . I also love good photography and capturing the moment in time. Around 40 years ago, my mom hired a studio photographer to take our family photo. I am glad she did because this is our one and only decent family photo of my parents and siblings. My dad , mom, and two siblings have passed away since this was taken in 1972 but I have this photo that holds this moment from running away. Aren’t we stiff?

 

family photo in the seventies

Five years ago, my husband and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. I knew I just had to get Mimi and Karl to take our family photos. It was just natural that we chose the UP campus (where we met) for our silver anniversary photo shoot and the celebration of our then 37 years as a couple on March 7. Dragging my two girls to join us, the two hour photo shoot was sweet and poignant.  As Butch wrapped his arms around me, I loved how the soft breeze cooled the scorching sun hitting us between the branches of the tree.

mimi and karl

Now this is a better family photo, where we are all relaxed even if we were guided to do this pose. We held our daughters’ hands as we walk around the campus where their parents met 37 years ago.

family photo

Such a beautiful day, because in 2010 my daughters were still living with us. I get sentimental when I look back at these photos and reminisce that afternoon. We watched the sunset as the photo shoot ended with this pose.

Three years later, my second daughter asked me if I wanted a photo shoot with her.  Why not? She was leaving for Europe and I wanted to hold this moment in time.. She discovered this wonderful photographer in Tumblr that took great portraits. I soon found out they were two photographers (Aaron and Anabelle) of Sunday Morning Studios,  wedding and lifestyle photographers and lovers of natural light. We again headed off to the UP campus and took mother-daughter photos as well as solo photos.

sunday morning studios

Here is one of our mother-daughter photos. Isn’t she lovely?

mother and daughter

Unfortunately, Lauren could not join us that afternoon.  I told that we should have a photo together one day.  Two years later, we found the time to have this photos shoot on  Mother’s day , a sunday morning with Sunday Morning Studios.

sunday morning shoot1

This time, we wanted a photo suited for a LinkedIn profile , with a twist of  both lifestyle and corporate look. The scene we envisioned was a coffee shop so we chose CO/OP Goods & Eats in San Juan where we also had our Mother Day brunch. Another lovely photo of my daughter, don’t you think?

me and my daughter

 

I really like how Anabelle and Aaron took our portraits.  Anabelle guided us on how to pose by making us imagine an emotion or an idea.  The simplicity, elegance, beauty and life caught in each frame.  The moment captured forever.

 

A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety. ~Ansel Adams

April 3 is the 16th death anniversary of my younger brother, Oscar. He died from a failed stem cell transplant. He was only 40 years old. Oscar was diagnosed with Acute myeloid leukemia (AML-M4) on September 1, 1996. Getting sick of leukemia is a logistical nightmare especially if one is looking for blood type AB donors.

A caricature of my brother in 1982 when he managed our bakeshop, Sally's Home Bake Shop

A caricature of my brother in 1982 when he managed our bakeshop, Sally’s Home Bake Shop

Our family worked diligently to support Oscar in his search for a cure, spanning hours and hours of research and inquiries through the internet and electronic mail. Research revealed that Oscar needed a stem cell transplant upon remission but unfortunately, he relapsed before we found a hospital within our budget. Cost of stem cell transplant ranged from 7 to 20 million pesos in 1998. The cheapest transplant was in Israel. To raise funds for his transplant, we put one of our properties for sale.

Fortunately, Oscar was eligible to participate in a Clinical trial at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Bethesda, Maryland. My sister’s friend who worked in that institute informed us of the clinical trial which was already in Phase 3. This phase is the second to the last step prior to making it a protocol among doctors. The stem cell transplant , medicines and hospitalization were free. Luck was also on our side because my sibling-doctor was an exact tissue match. The hospital required us to raise money for his board and lodging outside the hospital. Total budget for the 6 month stay was estimated to reach only 600 thousand pesos. Everything seemed perfect.

Oscar made the brave choice to undergo a stem cell transplant, knowing that there was a 50-50 chance he would survive, and that he had to take that risk. (View videotape of his reflections after the transplant )

The stem cells never had a chance to grow because of sepsis. After 6 months in NHLBI, the doctors sadly announced that he had to return to the Philippines. I guess the doctors decided they couldn’t do anything for him so they sent him home. Oscar, thin and black from the radiation treatment arrived on March 29, 1999. I held his frail hand and prayed quietly that God deliver him from his pain.

He smiled at me ” At least, we did not have to spend our inheritance to pay for my treatment

We talked until he was tired. Knowing his days were numbered, I slept beside him that night .

Oscar held on to the hope that there was a chance to recover . Inspite of his optimism, he prepared for his death. He videotaped instructions for his two sons on how to run his lechon business, deposited college funds , dictated his last will and testament and discussed other matters.

On April 3, 1999, Oscar suffered a brain hemorrhage and died a few hours later.

When a sibling dies, all future special occasions will be forever changed. There will be no more shared birthday celebrations, anniversaries, or holidays. There will be no telephone calls telling of the milestones of a nephew or niece. The sharing of life’s unique and special events will never again take place.

In tribute to the memory of my brother, I created a memorial site which includes midi files of his compositions and some photos and legacies. I can just hear him playing his award-winning musical piece, Pangarap ng Musmos which is now a church song. Oscar is having a blast playing the piano with my son, my mom, dad and Ruben, another brother in heaven.

PlayPlay

Attending the recent #WeAreBeautiful event brought out a lot of interesting statistics about how Filipina girls thought of themselves. In a locally-commissioned study by Dove on young Filipina adolesecent girls, the result reflected that 2 out of 3 girls feel pressured to look beautiful coming from external pressure from peers and friends. This does not stop the same girls from being hopeful about their future. What is interesting though is that 81% of the respondents still consider their mom as their role model, which is much higher than the global average of 55%.

we are beautiful

I used to have beauty anxiety when I was a young child up to my early teens. My uncles would often tease how dark I looked.  Perhaps the teasing came about because my mother was fair-skinned. I grew up feeling ugly until I reached 14 years old . Looking at the mirror, I smiled at my image said to myself,  “I am beautiful” . Well, I looked more beautiful if I smiled because my non-smiling face makes me look angry. The facts and figures surrounding beauty anxiety in young girls and the pressure to squeeze into rigid definitions is a cause of concern. It affects their self-esteem . I should know. During my elementary years, my grades were below average even failing Filipino or Sewing class. It was only in High School that I realized I was smart after all.

beauty legacy

Dove affirmed that mothers have the potential to be catalysts of change and create a future of empowered women. Dove added that every “Dove girl is a mother who taught her to believe in her own beauty”. The video “Dove Legacy” made me reflect about how moms felt about their bodies. In the video, the featured moms were asked how they felt about their bodies. The same question was posed to their respective daughters. The results were surprising. The insecurities of monthers were clearly mirrored by the insceurities that their children have developed. The same goes with what they are happiest about with their body.

The film emphasizes the role every mom plays in the formation of her daughter. Because daughters often mirror their mothers’ actions, moms wield the power to mold their children into confident, empowered women. I asked myself if I had somehow mirrored some of my actions to my daughters. Only my daughters can affirm this because I know I made mistakes that I have passed on to them. One thing I know for sure is I often complain of my body weight. Being fat is not just a beauty concern. It is a health issue so I keep checking myself for body mass index. I hope my daughters think it is not just being vain. Going to the gym for the past nine years is taking a pro-active approach to battle the bulge and being fit. I am glad my daughters also bring exercise in their lives by enrolling in gym class, dance class or yoga.

beauty legacy

As Lee Haney said “Parents must lead by example. Don’t use the cliche; do as I say and not as I do. We are our children’s first and most important role models.” If there is a beauty legacy I want to impart,  it is that I want my daughters  to love themselves first. To love yourself, you first need to know yourself, to realize and appreciate your unique, individual ways. A discovery late in life taught me that a loving relationship with myself works because it leads to a loving relationship with others . Loving yourself will eventually show in every action one takes. When we believe in ourselves, we shine with the confidence and vibe we exude.

Real Beauty, undeniably, comes from within.

Do you believe what your daughter feels about herself starts with you?

my children beauty legacy

golden girlsA few years back, my husband and I facilitated a grief support group for Grief Share . My friend, Cathy assigned me to 4 lovable golden girls, with age ranging from 67 to 81 years old. I was turning turn 50 years old that time. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but smile at these brave and feisty widows . Laughing, crying and talking with these golden girls opened my eyes to living old gracefully.

After going through the discussion on the “Emotions of Grief”, I asked Eden (not her real name) on how she manages to look so young and bubbly at 81 years old. Eden showed a calm disposistion and sparkle in her eyes .

In her perfect , modulated English diction, she listed three tips.

1. Of course you know, eat a healthy balanced diet. She added that she doesn’t take pills for any ailment. Just vitamins and minerals. Oh wow , and here I am taking prophylactic medication for my high blood pressure and diabetes.

2. Exercise regulary. I play tennis 4 times a week.
(I was pleasantly surprised at her stamina. Imagine I was 49 years old that time and I begged off playing badminton with Abe because of my shoulder aches.)

3. And most importantly, peace of mind.

I asked “how do you achieve peace of mind?”

Eden continues “I lift all my problems of the day to the Lord. Every day I have problems but when I pray before bedtime, I know the Lord will take care of me”

Of course I knew that. My thoughts rattled off. I was captivated as I listened to this “time machine” who shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Eden is not done talking yet . She explained that when her husband was still alive, they’d both pray together every night without fail. “And you know what? we never faced any heavy burden the next day”

Ack, I twisted my hands.

I felt guilty. A few days ago, my husband and I had a small argument over who did more work on the house improvements. Apparently , he felt guilty that I did most of the work. I tried to lift his spirits “you did a lot of work by giving me the money to buy this house”. He continued to whine. Getting impatient with his self-pitying tactics, I shut myself in my bedroom. “I have no patience for this”. Staying in my room while he got holed up in our meditation room downstairs helped us cool our heads off. But we should have talked it out again and prayed before calling it a night.

Eden’s tips to living old gracefully is not new. We all know these secrets but to actually see 4 single young-at-heart women assured me that old age is something to look forward to.

Ask any golden girl her secrets and you’ll probably get the same answers.