Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yankee Forever

It was to have been the highlight of his trip to New York City after an absence of 25 years. This was his fifth visit, but even if he was a diehard Yankee fan, he had never stepped inside the stadium (a.k.a. the House that Babe Ruth built).

So he wasn’t about to pass up a chance this time, especially with news that the stadium would be closed for demolition this year. (It did last Sunday.) He made sure that he and I had tickets to the start of the Subway Series (Yankees vs. Mets) courtesy of his nephew Andrei Marquez who picked out the prime seats and paid for them online from his computer in Los Angeles.

We were blessed with four consecutive days of fine weather. On the day the game was scheduled, rain poured non-stop. Our NYC host, cousin Telly Valdellon, said she’d keep us posted through SMS. Meanwhile, we stayed indoors at the Metropolitan Museum, he zipping through all the galleries from antiquity to contemporary, me being slow, selective and concentrating on certain periods in art history.

At 3 p.m. Telly texted that the game was on. We walked, the spring rain causing us to huddle deeper in our three-layered clothing, to the subway entrance where we hopped into a train that took us to the Bronx. We made good time despite getting on the wrong train and being guided by a guy in dreadlocks to the right exit.

Our coveted seats in the stadium were soaked. We moved up to a dry level. Some Met players were warming up on the wet field so we assumed it was still playable. He bought sodas and burgers. I was about to bite my third chunk of the tasteless, cardboard-like bun and meat when it was announced that the game was cancelled because of the foul weather and spectators were advised to leave the stadium. We asked the usher if we could just finish our snacks before standing up to leave.

But the usher was more like a bouncer. Meanwhile, I could feel the blood of one Yankee fan roiling. He barked at me to get rid of my unfinished snacks and to snap his photos pronto. Outside we tried getting in the Yankee souvenir store with other fans, but no dice. Management was closing shop early. “They don’t want our money?” a perplexed man asked.

When Telly picked us up about an hour later and drove towards home, she said she’d forgotten to buy a lottery ticket. I said the Yankee fan should stop to buy one that minute; if he was unlucky at the stadium, maybe he’d be lucky in the lottery. From the back of the seat, his tired voice said, “I don’t find that funny.”

And what do you know? The next day was sunny and dry again, but the tickets couldn’t be used for that day’s game nor could we get a refund. I tried to console him: “This only means you’re meant to return to this city and to see the Yankees play ball.”

Today he monitors every Yankee move at http://www.mlb.com/. Meanwhile, he prizes these photos of the historical stadium, sometimes referred to as The Cathedral. If you look closely, you can see his eyes tearing up. Photos by BABETH

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Save Savannah Movement

My partner is teasing me for becoming a bleeding heart. I have a ready retort : it only means my heart is in the right place.

Invites have entered my inbox to a series of fund-raising concerts in Quezon City for unborn baby Savannah, a name redolent of grasslands described in Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa. She is the second girl I know to be given that name, the other being the artist Aba Dalena. But I’m digressing.

Raymond Toledo, the baby’s grandpop-to-be, writes that the recent fund-raisers were organized by former classmates of his daughter Vida whom I know from her toddler years at the Community of Learners at its old locations on EDSA and later New Manila, Quezon City. Vida and my daughters Kimi and Ida rode the school bus together and spent after-school hours in day care.

The Vida of memory was fair, well-dressed, well-behaved, bordering on serious for someone that age. Later I worked with her Uncle Rex and found out that she had grown into a basketball player of the school team.

Fast forward to this year. Vida and husband Brian Samson learned from an ultrasound diagnosis that Savannah has congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Raymond reports: “Funds are needed for the medical procedures to save the baby’s life. CDH is a rare condition (one in 3,000 babies) wherein the diaphragm fails to properly close. As a result, part of the stomach enters the space where the lungs and heart should develop. Ideally, microsurgery should be done on the baby while inside the womb (but this can be done only in the US).

"We have recently received word that due to Vida’s nearing due date, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center has declined to send the documents needed for the application of their US medical emergency visas. The reason is that if Vida were to enter labor during transit the hospital would be held responsible for her welfare. Vida’s obstetrician has advised the couple on the possibility of her giving birth here in the Philippines. After birth Savannah would be incubated for at least 48 hours. Surgery would be possible when her condition stabilizes.
"Vida and Brian are still looking for a foundation that would sponsor the cost of Savannah’s treatment.”Expenses are expected to be incurred for: professional fee of the pediatric surgeon, incubation of Savannah, her medicine and her surgeryVida voices a first-time mother’s anxiety:
"I received an email from UCSF Medical Center informing me that my baby is no longer qualified for the intrauterine fetal surgery. It was like having someone throw a bucket of ice-cold water at you. I felt like whatever was left of my faith went down the drain. However, a follow-up email was sent to me informing me that my baby can still be given a chance to live if she gets operated there as soon as I give birth to her, there is a big possibility that she'll live—97 % as compared to the 10 % survival rate that the doctors here in the Philippines kept on telling me.
“If you were on my shoes, if you were a mom-to-be and you have been told that your baby has only less than 10 % chance to live as soon as her umbilical cord is cut from you, wouldn’t you feel like losing your sanity? Wouldn’t you feel like questioning your relationship with God? Why me? In the first place I never took anything that I know will put damage to my body and my baby.
"I’ve been asking myself every day...why me??? Teacher Marj told me that I shouldn’t be asking that kind of question. I should be flattered that God thinks so highly of me, that’s why He thinks that I am capable of handling such a difficult challenge.

"During the Rock The Cradle concert, Alice Sarmiento told my husband that her mom, Ms. Menchu Sarmiento (executive director of PAL Foundation), would shoulder the surcharges and taxes of our airfare in case we’ll be able to fly.

"Right now we're still hoping for a miracle, whatever miracle may that be I just hope that it would allow me to hold Savannah and watch her grow into a person that I can be proud to have as my daughter."

So faithful readers Kimi and Ida, both Community of Learners preschool alumni, pass the word and the hat. Donate funds through Vida’s savings account:

Land Bank of the Philippines, UP Diliman Branch

SA# 3076-0324-74
Swift code for those depositing from abroad: TLBPPHMMA

Let’s help Savannah see life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wanted: Host Family for Christine

We’re reaching out to Los Angeleños out there. From Menchu Sarmiento, that rare combination of literary writer and social worker, comes this appeal:

Maria Christine B---- (DOB 2003 Dec. 23) has a heart defect called PATENTDUCTUS ARTERIOSUS with aortic valve stenosis. She also has a cleft lip and palate. Her father is just a tricycle (rickshaw) driver who earns US$5(P250) on a good day. He simply cannot afford to pay for the heart surgery Maria Christine needs so that she can grow up and thrive, and also get her cleft lip and palate repaired. She's been waiting to go to Los Angeles for the past year to have free surgery as a MENDING KIDS US CareProgram patient (please see www.mendingkids.org), but first, we need a volunteer medical host family for her as she will be alone. Philippine Airlines Foundation will bring her over, and one of her host parents mayescort her back to Manila when she is all better. If you want to be part of the miracle to give Maria Christine the chance to experience life in all its fullness, please call Mending Kids: (661) 298.8000 or the undersigned.

Ma. Carmen "Menchu" Aquino Sarmiento, Executive Director, Philippine Airlines (PAL) Foundation, Gate 1, PAL Maintenance Base Complex, Andrews Avenue, Nichols, Pasay City 1309 Phone: (632) 851-2980; (632) 855-8000 extension 2563Mobile: +63917.823.1427

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Generation Y as Cuties

We were looking for a suitable birthday card for my mother’s 81st birthday. He was holding on to his collection of assorted postcards and cards possessively while I wore this expression of a mendicant on my face.

Observant daughter noted this transaction between her parents. Then out of the blue, she said, “My early memory of Tatay is he already looked like an old man.”

He used to drive her to school right up to the doorstep. Once a classmate asked her, “How come it’s your lolo who always drives you to school? Where’s your father?” That stumped her.

Recently, cousin Jing L. Deco sent some photos of our children, the fourth generation of Lolargas who occupied the house in Brookside.

Here they are at Innoh’s first birthday (he’s the boy the red shirt and shorts). No longer that wide-eyed innocent, he’s a college kid at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila taking up computer science. Elder cousins Kimi and Ida help him celebrate his big day along with his nanny, Tito Rolly and Tita Babeth. Hmmm. Ida’s right—her Tatay already had a headful of gray.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Day and Yet Another Birthday

We both woke up during that “darkest hour before dawn” on Sept. 6, but I beat him to the toilet. When I stumbled past him as he took his turn to pee, I embraced him awkwardly, said, “Happy birthday”, climbed back to the bed and promptly fell asleep again.

When my daughter and I woke up, the sun was high, and he was calling us down for breakfast. Robert and his young family were there to wish our old man a happy 58. They brought tinapa and longganisang Lucena. We had been craving for those for months already so the stash was put away in the fridge. Instead, we breakfasted on champorado, fried saba and Benguet coffee, all prepared by the birthday boy.

Not even the New York Yankees losing to the Seattle Mariners could dampen his upbeat mood. I wasn’t about to ruin it by asking if I could leave earlier for Camp John Hay as somebody was waiting for me. That somebody had to give up on me.

And so we let him have his way the whole weekend. Drink beer even if his sugar was unstable. Work even if he was entitled to a birthday leave. Prepare lunch from salad to main course.

Why, at the rate everything was going, it was like a typical day/weekend in the life of one Rolando Fernandez. Fuzzy photo by BABETH

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hang in There, Ninang Jane

When I was this wee, I was a bit resentful of my other siblings when they would address my baptismal godmother and first cousin on Mommy’s side “Ninang Jane.” She was my ninang, I would rage inside, so why were they laying claim to her? Why can’t she just be Jane to them the way her brothers Shorty and Fritz were to us? Yes, I admit to having been proprietary toward her as only the immature could be.
When I still didn’t know what the word glamour meant, Jane Pearl Server (standing left with her mama, Nazaria Dula Server) was already firmly installed in my mind as the epitome of that. I have a faint memory of her wearing white gloves and bending down to whisper goodbye to my ear before she enplaned to the US to study at Marymount College. A still fainter one of accompanying her to Ben Farrales’s shop in Ermita and stepping out, looking up at the elegant awning and admiring that stretch of road. Was it an unintended early lesson in aesthetics?
She sent me Dr. Seuss books at about the time I was learning to read, and The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and A Fly Went By made the interminable hours of childhood tolerable. Years later, she came home married and introduced us one by one to tall, handsome Hans Banzhaf who formally shook our hands.
My chest constricts as I write these words. Hans went ahead of Jane two years ago. Meanwhile, widowed Ninang Jane is fighting for her life at the ICU of Asian Hospital. I think of what a great friend she has been to her four children Pipo, Tina, Dada and Yammy even if she isn’t the baking-cookies-from-scratch type of mom. Right now my wish is for her grandchildren Olivia, Georgia and Max to continue to experience this special being the way she once graced my youth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Longing for Longga

One time I was writing something—I’ve forgotten what it was—but I needed to use the Latin phrase “Art is long, life is short.” I texted two pals who had an Ateneo education, sure that they would remember the original Latin. Amadis Ma. Guerrero said sorry, he couldn’t quite recall the words precisely. Butch Macansantos attempted something that had “longa” in it, adding that it just made him hungry thinking of longganisa. Recently I ran into the expression in a book: “Ars longa, vita brevis.” Yes, the longa part is evocative of those ropes of longganisa at the Baguio public market. Tip from restaurateur Edna Anton (but she has sworn off meat as she is recovering from an illness): choose the Tuvera brand. Photo by BABETH

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nostalgia Bites

Can I allow nostalgia to bite me viciously? I give it permission a day after Baguio Day. Cousin Allyn sends this photo from her iPhone all the way from Virginia and gets sentimental, too. Lady with a head of white is none other than our lola, Telesfora Lolarga, with my sister Evelyn who must’ve been taking a semestral break around ’74 or ’75. Allyn writes: “Ah, really nice memories of Baguio. I get quite nostalgic, too, thinking of Lola's vanity table full of lotions and powders, the pictures and novelty items on her shelves and piano, looking over her photo albums, digging up camote for our merienda, cutting a rosal or rose bloom, walking to Session Road and eating Tesoro empanada,,, so many more!” They can't take those away from us.