Monday, March 4



This blog is no longer maintained. 

All previous posts and many more new posts, as well as all future posts, will now be located at our permanent blog website at: 







Please visit me there and you are welcome to leave comments and ask me questions.. 

Thank you! 





Arlyn "Ara" Inso
thisbe.ara 

Sunday, January 27

On Hiatus


Dear all,

I am writing to say that this blog will be on hiatus for a bit. I am grateful for this gift of being able to put writing as an outlet, and I have especially enjoyed hearing from people all over the world and random people who just write to me or even go to me and give me a hug, saying they have been inspired by my blog.

Right now, though, I am going through this very emotional moment of depression, and of loneliness. This means that I may put off writing for a while. There have been lots of drafts but I can’t seem to finish it. Does this mean there will be a new site or a new look? I have no idea. Whatever it is, I hope that when I do come back, I will be strong enough to share tidbits of my self and try to inspire.

 This blog has been going on for quite some time, and some of you (you know who you are) have been with me through it all. To you, to the readers, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart which needs mending as of this moment. In fact, as a way of saying thank you, I am signing off with one of my all-time favorite quotes from St. Augustine..

  “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain the way they are..”

I wish I had written that!

 Here’s to the future and to hope and to coming out of depression and finally letting go of things we cannot change. I look forward to our continued adventures, and I pray that it will be soon.

xoxo,


 Ara


 P.S. Please do not forget me in your prayers. Kindly include prayers for the eternal rest of my Paree Lito and our baby, Levi.


The following is a song that reminds me so much of how I feel as of this moment... 


Friday, January 25

All about Eve


the queen of our hearts, our Mommy...
Her name is Eve.

She’s the first woman in the world, and she is the first woman in mine. Many of you may not know her but she’s the most remarkable woman I’ve ever known and I could say, an epitome of love and devotion.

She’s my mom. I call her my Ham, derived from that old commercial which says—“Isipin mo na lang—ham ‘yan! Ham nga!!” And I use this line when I tease her and play with her love handles. Somehow, the nickname stuck.


Together with my Dad, she will always be my inspiration and my constant guide, my life's compass. 

To describe her means I would certainly fall short of adjectives for she is beyond description. But I’ll try my best to tell you a little about this woman who’s short of height (haha), but never short on love. 

There's not a single person in my life that I believe deserves happiness more than her. Forgive me but I will strangle anyone who would hurt her, or let her shed a tear. She has been through so much these past years.  Watching her go through the storms our family had to go through makes me feel protective of her.  I only want her to feel joy for the rest of her days.  

My Dad suffered a stroke and without hesitation or complaints or second thoughts,  she has become an instant nurse and a true hero to my Dad’s life since then. I’ve written an article about my parents. If you haven't read it yet, I encourage that you do, so you will have a glimpse of how blessed I am to have a Mom like her and to have a Dad like my Daddy. You can check it out at this linkà Living the Marriage Vows-- An Untold Love Story 
my Ham with her king (during one of Dad's P.T. sessions)

our lucky Daddy smothered with his girls' kisses
you inspire me mommy. 
So anyway, back to my Mom. I love making her feel happy and I really hope that in a way, I brought happiness in her life. As much as I want to give her the world, I cannot afford it but her reaction to what I can give regardless of price or value has the same effect-- gratitude and enthusiasm. Making her happy is such an easy thing for she gets happy with the simplest of stuff-- 5-minute massages, a phone call, a text message, a hundred-peso shirt, an ukay2x bag, shawarma, movie watching, Chowking food trips, a short visit to the mall. The last time we went to Ayala, she was like a little child seeing a zoo for the very first time, my heart melts. It is not often that she goes out of the house because she focuses on taking care of my Dad. The few times that she could go out, I adore her enthusiasm in all places new. 

my life's cushion
I spoke of Chowking food trips earlier. I have to say it here--Chowking should pay her for her brand loyalty. I don’t know what’s in Chowking. I know she and Dad used to date there when Dad was well. Every after mass in Mabolo, they would eat there so I guess the obsession of sweet and sour pork and buchi started there. What’s amusing is that if given a choice between the best restaurant in Cebu and Chowking, we all know where she would go.

She loves chocolates, but she never eats them. She hides it in a place where she knows there’s chocolate somewhere and gives it to her children in due time, instead.

my best friend at home-- my Ham
My mom is my best friend at home, I always say.

I try to talk to her every single day. People close to me are astonished and would ask what could we possibly talk about every day??? Oh, the weather. What my Lola cooked for dinner. My brothers. Our neighbors. What's on TV. What she dreamt about. Her grandchildren. Daddy. Her hair. John Lloyd Cruz. Prayers. My life. Her life. You name it, we can talk about it.

In her soul, she radiates compassion and empathy. When there is no one to turn to, I know I’ll never be alone because my Ham is there. In her devotion to Dad, she finds time and squeezes a few moments to be there for anyone who needs her—and we are seven in the family. It’s not an easy task! So when I cry, she cries with me. She cried with me when I had my heart broken for the first time, she used to be my shield against my strict grandfather (her father) when I had dates then (hehe). When I’m happy, she’s elated. She wants to know what made my day. When I struggle, she lifts me up. And in all these hurdles I've been facing, she's my constant source of strength. There are no canned words, just her soothing voice will make me strong. She is my cheerleader and she inspires me to reach my dreams in life.

 At times when I feel that I cannot take things anymore, I look up to her example. She made me realize that there's so much more that a person could give if you love another. I have seen her smile in the worst of times, I have witnessed how she was able to give advices still when she herself was hurting. It is amazing how she can be a mom to seven kids, a daughter to my Lola, a wife to my Dad all at the same time, with so much love and devotion. She never fails to make me happy just to be by her side. Her constant encouragement and pride in me has allowed me to become who I am today. Her motherhood and her friendship have shaped me into the woman that I am—independent, strong, empathic, sensitive.

i love this woman!
At times when I doubt myself, my ham helps me believe in myself. With my every accomplishment or struggle, she has been by my side. I remember when my son died, my world was in shambles and all were blurry in my eyes. It was only when she went to the hospital and touched my hand that I was able to focus a bit, cry, and just let myself be. At that moment, I realized that no matter where we are, no matter how old we get or how much success we have accomplished, when the world would seem to end, we become like little kids whose shattered world seeks the comfort of no less than that of a mother. We believe in magic touches, in the instant healing of a bruise just because our Mom kisses it. We search and search for meaning sometimes, we just don't know how much wisdom we can get just by observing our own mothers.  

I am proud to say we are raised well. No exceptions, even with our boys who are so "manly" outside. We were raised not to deprive each other of hugs or embraces when we need them, we were raised to not hesitate to say I love you when we mean to say it. We were raised to be with each other in good times and in bad and to not forsake one who needs help. We were raised by God's angels-- my Mom and Dad. We could never be more than blessed.  

I say this with the best intentions—my ham is SILLY. Hehehe… My brothers love to tease her, she’s just like an extended sister to us. She is gorgeous. She's beautiful, even if she is not adorned with glittering diamonds, or branded clothes or expensive perfumes. She is a beauty of her own, her strong character radiates that beauty that does not need external modifications. And she’s more beautiful when she doesn’t know how beautiful she is. She laughs at herself and she never takes herself too seriously.

She does not know this and she often denies this—but she is wise. Wise enough to know when to reach out and when to let me have my own space. Wise enough to brave through life and all the strikes it has given her. She has overcome and is overcoming. With all my frustrations, she reminds me to pray. When I first knew about Lito’s diagnosis, she’s one of the few I sought comfort to. In times that I felt alone and hurt, I want to run to her and just feel her embrace and I know I’ll be okay. To have an impact like that in a person’s life is a great gift. And I thank God every day for giving me an angel in disguise, in the form of my Mom.

She is someone people just want to be around. She leaves you feeling better. She brings you up, and very rarely (if ever) brings you down. To our close friends who are blessed to know her, she is a very likeable Tita, someone they can make chika with even after a first meeting. If she weren't my Mom, I'd ask her to adopt me! hehehe.. To her in-laws, she's no monster-in-law. To wit, Lito loves her so much and has been close to her since like forever. 

with my girls... at a time when i was so down, they never fail
to make me feel better after a talk. 
And most of all, and I think, this might be the very first time I will be able to say this to her--- She makes me proud. So, so, so proud to have a mother like my mom. I am so proud to be her daughter. She has braved through life with so much determination, optimism and love that it’s overwhelming where she gains her strength.

I cannot imagine living without her. Just typing that makes my heart ache.

To think that, someday, hopefully a very very long time fro now, I will have to carry on without her, it makes me lose my breath. I just don’t know how my life could go on without her guidance, without her strength, without her love, without her presence. She molded me to become a better person. She is my Dad’s hero and best friend. She is the wind beneath my wings. She is the light of my life. If God will grant me the blessing to have a daughter, I pray that I’ll be at least half the woman that my mother is—and if given that, I know I’ll be a good mother someday.

i love my Ham.. Happy Birthday!!!
She is really shy and I know that if she knew I'm gonna blog about her, she would say, "Day, ayaw uy..ulaw kaayo. " But I'm not listening to her this time because this is how i express how much I love her. I hope that I have done enough justice in describing my Mom but this isn't enough yet as I have so much more to say. I simply cannot put into words who my Mom is in my life and the impact she has given me. For she just didn’t give birth to me, she gave me life and she has taught me how to live it.

Today happens to be her birthday and it might be the first time that I cannot be with her on this very special day. I am so so sorry for that. Ham, all I really want to say is with all my heart that’s full of gratitude--- I LOVE YOU, very much. You are amazing. 

Happy Happy Birthday my Ham… 


Sunday, December 30

Being Nick Fury


looking into the light- my angel

He was happy. Like a big boulder has been lifted off his whole body and now he is free. He looked at his physical body and associated it as a worn-out rug and all he could feel was pity. Pity because, in comparison to his new body now, it was like indescribable perfection—without the pangs of dieting and heavy weightlifting. And then he saw Bungee, his guardian angel. He was about to go to him but then he stopped when he heard a cry of deep anguish.

Paree… Paree… please don’t leave me.. Please have mercy on me, God. Preee… “ He saw his wife hugging his lifeless physical body and he stopped and looked at Bungee, his heart breaking into pieces.. Without words, Bungee communicated with him heart to heart.

“She can’t be with you for now.. Her time is not yet up.”

“But I can’t leave her like this.. I’m happy but.. I know she will be devastated.. I can’t be there for her anymore..”

Bungee smiled.

“Each person in our lives are pre-destined, pre-planned to help us and nurture us to actualize our purpose.. “

“What do you mean by that”, he asked, perplexed.

“Since you cannot be there for her physically anymore, what do you think is God’s final gift to you on earth?”

And in a moment, he smiled and said, “Ah yes, I get it… “

Bungee nodded in amusement and said, “At your own choices, Lito. It’s your final gift for her, until you meet again…”

He looked around and the first person he touched was Malyn, Ara’s sister. Malyn wrapped her arms around her older sister and cried with her and she just said, not knowing it was Lito whispering with her, “I will be here Te. We won’t leave you behind.. You will get through this…”

Malyn just held Ara’s hand while she wept and wept.

Through her hand, Lito was able to course all his love. He hovered over her and wiped her tears without her knowledge. He looked at her and said, “Ssshhh… I will always be here Paree.. I may not be there for you physically but I have left parts of me to some people. You will know when the time comes. We will meet each other again. Be happy, Paree. I love you, until eternity. I’ll take care of Levi, I’ll take care of you through these pre-assigned people. Soon, you will understand… ‘Til then Crazy wab… “ And then he hugged her so tight and kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her nose, both her cheeks and her lips. He then motioned a nod to Bungee saying, “I’m all set”.

  In the physical world, Ara just felt a cold wind enveloping her. She smiled amidst tears, nodded and said, “Til then Paree. I love you so much…

My angel.
that scheming smile of his makes me wonder-- Could he have known?
Had he planned some last things for me? 



***
This is what I want to believe, a scene that I’ve been concocting in my heart and mind. I may be creating my own world, and might be self-diagnosing schizophrenia. But it tides me by. I would like to believe this.

You see, it is so uncanny and it is so pre-planned how the people in my circle now remind me of Lito. It’s like the opposite of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, like distributing bits and parts of his soul to people who would help me in my misery of his absence. Each person has their own message of Lito, like a walking quote cloud, like walking post-its, walking reminders of his love for me.

Lito with my fam
Like Malyn, for example. My only sister. In lieu of the rest of the family, she reminds me of how Lito was so supportive of how I love my family so much. She reminds me that I still have reason enough to live and survive because my family still cares for me.

AG, Irene, and our Tyty, who lives with me in our house, remind me of Levi, me and Lito, of how it would have been had circumstances been better. My heart just melts seeing them together, but not out of envy, but out of happiness, that I get to be a part of their family, that I get to experience what was taken away from me..

Gerald and Janice reminds me of Lito’s childhood, of how he was so passionate with what he sets his eyes into. Their love for each other (the cute karinyong brutal) reminds me of how we used to be as well. Gerald’s personality speaks so much of Lito was in terms of computers, being a braggart (hambugero!), photography, etc.

Fafagraphy!
Fafagraphy friends remind me of how he used to be the life of the party, how he was able to gather everyone around and remind us that it’s important to meet monthly and that these friends are for keeps. Each member of Fafagraphy reminds me of how great of a friend he was. He was the adviser, the joker, the confidante, the clown and he was a leader.

with Mama MM and Fafa Ahia Ching
MM (Ozamis) reminds me of Lito as a photographer and how he was able to inspire his clients, his friends, those he mentored. His photography speaks bounds, of his personality, not just on how he angles his subjects but how he touches their hearts. 

during Lito's 28th while he was in the US
 Lito's family from Papa, Mama, Bryan, Stanly and Mona—they are constant reminders of the son that he was, how inspiring and motivating and influential of a big brother that he was and how he values his family as well. His cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, etc. also remind me of how fun he was and how he can easily be approached.

cheap rigs. irie lan party
Cheap Rigs. The Cheap Riggers is an organization of computer hardware enthusiasts formed by Lito months before he passed away. They remind me of how passionate he was with INSOtec, and how he was as a businessman, how he treats each and every client like friends, like he would spend time to each and every one, not minding that he doesn’t have that much time. The Riggers remind me of how accommodating he was, of the essence that above all, friendship should always matter—that people are not bad, they just do bad things. 

cheap rigs. original founders
Even Jake, our “boy-boy”, reminds me of Lito in that way he treats people equally no matter what status. He was supportive of Jake, he trusted him as his assistant in his wedding assignments,


The Ninja Group- can you believe it has reached to 500 members? In less than a month to its FB Formation, these people from different walks of life has helped us in our journey. They have stayed, til now, even if their Ninja went to his Sensei..Most of them still text me and message me with encouragement, pushing me to see the better things in life, to look back at the past with a smile and to know that you have made a great impact in their lives. With them, I can see you pushing me to continue inspiring people.



Lastly, to my council of best friends—this, by far, is Lito’s pure ingenuity of coming up together with a group of friends from different aspects of my life, so different yet they bring one goal—to tide me by. Like, who else has a council of best friends? It’s hard enough to find one yet I have five! I love Lito’s final gift to me. It’s kind of forming the Avengers and sometimes, I smile at the thought, him acting like Nick Fury at this dark times—Team, we have a situation and we need to gather a set of mutated (LOL) individuals for this particular purpose. Hahaha..

with Bespren
Belle (Bespren)—reminds me of friendship longevity and patience. She exudes that characteristic of Lito who patiently understands me in my rollercoaster of emotions, someone who just keeps silent but you are confidently aware that no matter what happens she’s there. The confidence arises from the fact that you have been friends for the longest period of time, same as Lito and I.

with Jabee and Mysis
Vianney (Mysis)—got that motivating factor of Lito’s. She reminds me of Lito in such a way that she encourages me to do the impossible. She also makes me laugh at my weaknesses and yet helps me up. And beyond that exoskeleton of strength, we can just lie in bed, talk about everything or talk about nothing and just cry. 

Eda (Labing)—got both Lito’s serious side and humorous side. She makes me laugh at the most inappropriate of times—like in Lito’s wake (hahaha) or in the middle of tears falling. But above that, she is the one who snaps me out of my stupor and just tell me straight—So, what next? We talk about plans, what we should be doing in the future and how God’s grace will always guide me to the right path.

JB (Jabee)- being the only official “guy” of the council, got Lito’s manly protective nature. He is an extension of my brothers, my bodyguard, you could say. He doesn’t speak much but when he does, it’s straight to the point and can make you think. He reminds me constantly that I was a good wife and that I was a good friend and tells me that I deserve to be happy.

with Bru2x
Norman (Bru)- Okay, how do I start? Norman insists that he got Lito’s good looks. I disagree but he’s my Bru so let’s give him that (Lito table flipping in heaven). First off, Lito got me really good in Norman because he gave me someone named Norman. I had an ex named Norman so I usually find it funny that one of the closest people in my life right now is named Norman (hahahaha. Nice one Paree!). Norman is Lito’s constant reminder that I am accepted for who I am, no matter how bratty or how crazy I may become. He exudes an aura of love and protection, of being able to sacrifice your time and love for a friend, even though sometimes that friend is not worthy.



***

There are so many tidbits of Lito in people I've encountered that I can't mention every one here. I just smile  in awe.  I guess he must have planned this all along. 

It has been 4months since he’s been gone and so many times have I said that it’s not getting any better. The memories just come rushing to me, like waves drowning me until I can no longer breathe. However, I would like to think that Lito loved me enough that he must have known that his absence will provide the darkest of times for me, that moving on will be very hard. He always wanted me to be happy, it would make him happy that I will be okay. And maybe, I guess, he provided me with the best people during the darkest of times.  And with these people, you will forever be alive in my heart. For that, I am forever and eternally grateful, Paree… Thank you. I love you until eternity...We will meet again.. 

at our place

** 
Happy New Year to all! :) 



Wednesday, December 26

Christmas with Anchovies



Dear Readers, 

I know that I have been out of touch lately. I tried to keep myself busy just to get my mind off things. I thought I was doing better but I am nothing near okay. Memories come flooding by at the most appropriate emo times-- like when I'm alone or when I'm about to sleep. His face, his smile, his voice, everything about him, is still embedded so much in my memory. It should be fresh still, after all, it's still 4months since he's been gone.

My Christmas was a bit melancholy but I tried to keep a smiling face because most of my loved ones tried their best to cheer me up and they deserve a smile from me. It is my first Christmas since he went away. I miss him so much. 

Here's a story that's been bugging my mind lately during the holiday season. The point of this story is-- Christmases might not be perfect but as long as you are in the arms of your loved ones, the spirit of Christmas lives. After all, Christmas is about love. 

I pray that you had a great Christmas and a bountiful New Year ahead... 

***


Banburry was such an alien place. It’s two hours down Perth, Australia and Lito and we drove there 3years ago, to have a change of scenery while our friends went on their pre-planned Christmas trips.

our family Christmas picture in Banburry

lots of grazing cows
Lito and I drove amongst fields of vacant lots, with lots of grazing cows, weird scarecrows and no convenient stores. To fight off the weirdness of it all, we turned on our music player and sang our hearts out.

It was the 24th of December when we arrived at what seemed to look like a ghost town with no cars passing by and all the stores were closed. They said, most people fly off somewhere to spend their Christmases somewhere. Australia at this time has unpredictable weather but mostly dry.

weird scarecrows! yes this is their version of scarecrows hahaa
We scavenged the place for somewhere to eat and the only place open was a Chinese restaurant which served bland Chinese food. We laughed instead at our situation, as he told jokes about Chinese people. He said he will write all original jokes and he told me that he wanted to be a stand-up comedian.


Banburry-- the ghost town. :) 
pre-Christmas lunch at a "Chinese" resto
We toured the place and laid down on the road as there were no passing cars. Lito wanted me to feel  Christmasy, as this was his idea and it was my first Christmas away from my family. So he let me stay at our B&B place while he searched for the perfect Noche Buena food only to come back with cans of soda, junk food, a box of pizza and some ice cream. It was nearing midnight so after we Skyped our families and drooling at their food, I prepared his food “finds” and tried to make do with what he scoured.

When I opened the pizza, I closed it right away because I found out it’s anchovies. And we had this petty “lalis-lalis” over the pizza:

Me: Paree. The pizza has anchovies.
Him: Yeah I know. Eat na ta.
Me: But… do you even know what anchovies are?? You don’t even eat fish!
Him: Uhmm.. what are anchovies? They just sound so “sosyal”.
Me: Paree… it’s fish. Like ginamos. Spread all over the pizza. Smell this.
Him (with a silly grin on his face): Oops. Ice cream then?
Me (just stared him down)
Him: Okay, okay I’ll eat the pizza!
Me:  You better.

And he ate like 3slices even if his face had this funny eekie look on it. He gave up on the 3rd slice and said:
Him: Okay, my bad… I’m sorry. Ice cream instead??
Me: Paree, you should have asked me or we could have gone together to order food.
Him: Yeah but I wanted you to rest. Please Mommy… (He was holding Levi and Muriel and let them kiss me all over my face until I laughed)
Me: Okay.. The important thing is we are together, right?
Him: Yes, Merry Christmas. I love you.


Prior to 2011, we would always refer to that Christmas as the eeriest and probably the saddest because we are alone in a ghost town, with a box of uneaten anchovies pizza and ice cream for Noche Buena.

Last year’s Christmas hit us hard because we just lost our son, Levi. I thought it was the saddest. We vowed to always be together in all our trials and to try again with another baby, to travel and to strengthen our businesses. Little did I know that the year after, 2012, I will be spending Christmas without him.

Lito would always joke around if I would like to go back to Banburry and spend Christmas there again. And I would always reply with a big resounding NOOOOO..

Lito on overspeeding. Charmed his way out with
 a grin and a singsong voice, "Merry Christmas, Officer!!!"

our Christmas "dinner"  hahaha
It’s ironic that during Christmas Eve and on Christmas day and this holiday season, I would give my everything just to have that eerie Christmas with you again—with the anchovies pizza, with the babies, with your silly grin, with you..


Merry Christmas, Paree.. I miss you so so much. I am sure you are just with the angels, laughing as you recall our memories and about Chinese restaurants and having that dreamy look when you talk about me. J Assuming much? I love you so so so much. Until eternity.

By the way, Paree… I got great gifts this year.. I am missing your flowers on special occasions.. I love you. I hope you can hear me talking to you every chance I get. 




Here's my song for you this Christmas: 



Friday, October 12

Until Eternity



Ed Note: The following is my eulogy for Lito before he was sent to his final resting place last September 30, 2012 at Mactan Memorial Garden. Writing this was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. He died last September 24, 2012 after 2 days in Intensive Care strongly fighting against sepsis, when his body had no natural defenses. This blog might be idle for a while as I go try to find myself and honor the pain that Lito has left in his passing. I will be back writing as I owe it to Lito to share his story. Please pray for the eternal repose of his soul, that he will go into Jesus' embrace. Please pray for the strength of those he left behind, that we might be able to endure the emptiness of Lito's absence. Farewell, my ninja, my wab, my life.. I love you until eternity.

the rain cleared for Lito- Sept 30, 2012. Photo by Ryan Raymund Yu

When Lito and I got married three years ago, I never imagined that this day would come soon enough. I was one of those arrogant people who takes life a little bit for granted and assumes that there’d always be another day, another hour, another minute. It was only when Lito and I had our battles that it opened my eyes to this fact that life is short and we don’t have a hold against it. It is cliché to say the least that he is in a better place.. It frustrates me to know and accept that wherever that better place is, he's not with me anymore. 


The past few days have been a blur. When people ask me how I am, I would always say—lutaw (floating). Not just because I didn’t have enough sleep for more than two weeks, I guess. But it’s like I’m floating, like all of these are just a dream, like Lito would just come out of the coffin and say, “haha.. joke!” It sounds crazy but I feel he’d be the only one who could pull off that prank. So many times have I pinched myself and slapped myself to remind myself that this is really happening.

I can remember last Monday when I rushed to his side while the doctors pumped life into him. He was lifeless, bloated, bruised, exhausted. He can’t talk and his body was attached to a lot of tubes from the many antibiotics and medicines.  I was screaming when I saw him that they had to let me out. Lito fought hard, and he really wanted to live. When they tried to resuscitate him, he was even revived the first time. So I asked all the doctors and nurses inside if they could leave me alone with my husband. Since he can't talk, I was the one always saying, “Pree, I love you. Thank you for fighting. Please fight more… Please pree.. I can’t live without you.. Please take me with you if you’ll go… “I tried to kiss him but he was full of tubes.. I then stopped and looked at his tired face, my heart gripping in pain with his state. This was a warrior who never gave up til the end and I felt that yes, he must be in so much pain and how well he fought! So I finally said, “Pree, kung maglalis ta, ikaw man jud masunod. If ako ang imo pabut-on, (Pree, if we argue, you are always the one who wins the argument. If it would be up to me) I’d rather you be here no matter what it takes.. But if you feel tired already and decide to go, I’d respect that…” Minutes later, his heart rate went down and they had to revive him again but can’t. I was praying and crying outside when a cold whisp enveloped my body, like it was hugging me. I stopped crying and told my sister who was with me the whole time, "Day, it's so cold, so cold". I never believed in these things til then. In my mind, I told him I love him.

I was with Lito on his battle since day 1 or negative day one. Flashback December 2011 when we had his biopsy and we were dreadly awaiting for the results during the holidays, I remember we were lying on the bed and we were facing each other. Both him and me just did our research and came out with the results that it might be leukemia. We were just staring at each other until I asked him, “Pree, what if it is?” And he said, “Then wana tay mahimo pree. Kayanon nato…(We can't do anything about it, Pree.. We have to endure it)” I just nodded and we held hands, secretly promising myself that whatever it takes, I’ll be there for him.

When the doctor finally announced last January 2 that indeed, he had Acute Myleoid Leukemia, I was crying in front of Doc but not Lito. He was so composed and said, “How long do I have?” the doc wasn’t able to reply and told him about the treatment, etc. Finally, he broke down when we entered in the car and said, “Why me??” I didn’t know the reason then but somehow in the last few days, I felt like I could answer that question now.

Lito's memory wall-- Because the FB wall is too mainstream
It might be painful and yes, I have my questions. Why Lito? But then again, when he started treatment, in and out of chemo, etc. , never had he let his fighting spirit down. He was so positive and jolly he could make it. He made sure that even in pain, he could make others smile. During lots of bone marrow biopsies, it seems like you’re drilling a hole through his bone marrow. Lito had more than ten of those. Yet, the Hema-Onco department and his doc never saw him cry. He even made up a Lito face in that pain chart. He called it negative pain scale because he’d be laughing amidst the pain. He made it all look so easy when others would easily crumble. So why Lito? Because nobody could fight and face those battles with bravery and grace just like him.

Another question that I have in the midst of my frustrations is, “Why now??” After braving through all the chemo cycles, after all the reverse isolation, after everything, why now? That I cannot answer. Lito didn’t die of cancer, by the way. He was cancer free when he died. He was on remission. It was sepsis that killed him. In a way, he won the battle against the Big C. And he really fought hard. When people visit the wake, most of them would ask how young Lito is and I would say, “29”. Of course, they would say, darn, he’s too young. Too soon. But then again, how young should he have died? Could the pain be any lesser if he died at 15? Or months after we got married? Knowing Lito, and I share this with him, he doesn’t want people to say he’s sayang. Or to pity him or me. In fact, when you look at his wake—all those success and achievements and the evidences of people whose lives he touched—those are things that should not be pitied upon. At 29, Lito was able to live a full life. He was raised by good parents, he had a great time with his siblings, he had a computer shop, did photography, bought what he wanted, traveled the world, did his own workshop, made a name for himself. In fact, the more people shared about him, the more proud I am of how well he did all those 29 years. Too young, yes. But his passion and kindness has made him do things not all people his age or his generation could ever achieve.

One of the things that I am proud to say is that, during Lito’s passing, I or I dare say, we, didn’t regret anything. There were no words left unspoken or actions left undone. His battle has toughened both of us to express ourselves without any qualms. We talked about anything and everything. Like how proud he was of siblings when they do good, and how he would always think of ways to reward them when they do good. He was talking non-stop about how great a father Papa Lito was and adamantly telling me he’s one of the best goddamn lawyers in this country. He was telling me that he was so happy of Mama’s support and that he wishes he could support Mama now in her state. Pa, Ma.. he was so proud to be your son and he was struggling to keep that pride. To Bryan, Stanly, Mona. You guys don’t know how much he loves you. He always wanted the best for you guys. He may not be able to express it well but he means well in everything.

He loved my family as much as  I loved them. His good heart emanates from within. We are not rich and we are not blessed financially and Lito never saw this as a barrier to our relationship. We couldn't afford to have shoes for our youngest once after we paid for his tuition. Lito surprised him by buying shoes for him. He also helped in my Dad's physical therapy when he had a stroke. He loved my Mom, my Lola, my brothers and my sister and my Dad. This was one of my number 1 qualification for a husband and he had that naturally.  

During Lito's "sendoff party"/eulogies. Marg Carangue sang a song from one of Lito's favorite bands, Boyz2Men. A second voice is so audible during the 3rd minute of this video. We believe it's Lito. 

He was also a good friend, we talked about our friends and their situations. He was happy, so happy, especially when he did something good. He does not choose friends, and he can make you feel so warm and comfortable even when he’s in pain or even when you just met. He can relate well to professionals or to janitors, walay pili. He was so easy to love and so hard to forget.  The latest LAN Party in SM—he wasn’t supposed to be there because I told him not to but he insisted and said, he wanted to surprise Elmer and be there for his Cheap Riggers. He was so happy he went there and he was so proud of Cheap Riggs. In Fafagraphy, he was looking forward to the next time we’d pundok2x. He’d make it a point that he’ll be there. He loved Fafagraphy so much, each and everyone of us. The last pundok (get together) we had was I think Peter’s wedding. He was so excited to surprise Peter. I was laughing because that speech he made was written and re-written a couple of times, rehearsed, and begged the doctors that he’d go out of the hospital even for a few hours just to deliver that speech. Oh, how he loved his friends! Dali ra pud maikog si Lito. He doesn’t take advantage on anyone and would never step on anyone. He always wanted to do good. He was so happy when a foreigner gave him a tip for great service. He would always tell me to be kind to them because they also need people to understand them And when people misunderstand him, he would ask, “Pree, unsa akong sala? (What have I done wrong?)"And even if he did wrong, he’d be man enough to say sorry. Like when we have our fights, how he makes it up can make me forget why we fought.

Lito was OC—every detail should be considered no matter how minute. He would tell me about the lighting sa camera, even the lights in Jarvis, his computer; he would tell me why it is important to leave everything behind to face the customer and to always do good maski pa walay mabalik sa imo (even though nothing is given back in return). In a way, even his death must have been unconsciously prepared by him. He made sure that I am surrounded with support from friends and family. I dread the days to follow but I know it might be a bit tolerable with all the love and support of the people whose lives he touched, great enough to stand by me through this grief. With that, I would like to thank each and everyone of you most especially Papa, who took care of everything maski wala na siya pahulay, (even though he hasn't rested yet) his siblings, his cousins, his relatives, my family, my best friends, Belle, Norman, Vianney, JB, Eda. My fafagraphy family, my Cheap Riggs family, my iSTORYA.NET Family and everyone else. I apologize if I cannot mention you one by one but you know who you are.

mini exhibit of Lito's work in photography during the wake

Lastly, today, paree, I feel you. I can feel you beside me and if you could hear me, I’d like to tell you thank you so much mywab. Thank you for being the best husband anyone could ever hope for. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for never failing to say and show you love me. Thank you for loving my family. Thank you for our baby talks. Oh God, I’m gonna miss you so much. Our stuffed toys won't have voices anymore. Thank you for reminding me to take my vitamins. Thank you for making me feel beautiful even if I don’t have make up. Thank you for the kind words, the friendship. Thank you for defending me, thank you for pushing me to do the things I love to do. There is so much to thank, so many memories that it puts a grip in my heart to say this, that I call your name and talk to you as if you’re here. I may be getting crazy but I can still hear you replying. I’ve known you for years, Pree, boyfriend-girlfriend for 5years then married for 3. But all the things we’ve been through, it feels like we’re married for 50. 

babies saying goodbye to their daddy
Ours is a love that knows no bounds, and that can surpass anything, including the Big C, the loss of a son, and at this point, separation from death. For love does not die. It lives. And until eternity, I will always love you.We are always together that right now, I cannot bear the fact that I'd be doing things without you.. Things have been easier when you were here.. Now I am so lost, I dont know where to start or how to go through this ordeal without you pushing me forward, without your embrace. I am pained by the fact that I cannot kiss you anymore or laugh with you, cry with you.. Watch our tv series together, buzz u in the midst of work and tell you I love you Pree, I’m gonna miss you so so much. Every “Ewow, crazy, realest.. every hug, every smile, every kulitan.. I will miss rubbing your hair or you tickling me so I can snort, I will miss being treated like a princess. I will miss our food trips, our travels, I will miss your laughter and the way you look at me. I will miss our away2x, our lalis in the car when i drive, the tahnayts and our mushy conversations. you were not afraid to show your love... Pree, you have done so so much for me and though I am in pain, I am grateful that God gave me you and gave me those wonderful years of being with you. I love you so much.

Our final conversation was when you were in delirium and you were refusing the respirator. We had to restrain you and it was one of my most painful decisions.. I asked you who I was.. And you gave me that boyish smile of yours and said, you are Ara Inso and you are my wife and I love u so much...and you pouted your lips for a kiss and behind my mask, I kissed you not knowing it would be our last..
With that, pree-- you are THE Lito Inso, you are my husband. I am proud to be your wife and i love u very very much...

that smile is present in most chemo sessions.
he made it so easy for us who took care of him
People say I am strong because I sacrificed a lot for Lito. I want to correct that statement that there was no sacrifice there. It was done with passion and Lito made it so easy for me to be by his side during everything. I believe deep in my heart that if I were in his shoes, he’d take care of me as well. I am strong because Lito guided me to be strong. He would always remind me to take my vitamins so I will have energy for the day. During his last days, he was even considering my well-being and naikog siya ngano grabe ko atiman niya (he was considerate that I didn't have enough rest while taking care of him). I just want you to know Pree—I never got tired of taking care of you. It was my honor, my pleasure, my love.. If I could give you my life, I would. 

I remember this conversation we had. We were joking and I was saying, “Pree. I have a deal with God that I will die before you.. “ And he jokingly said I was selfish. And in a serious tone, he said, “Ako siguro mauna pree uy… (I might go first,  pree)“ And when I asked why, he said, “Because di nako makaya wala ka.. (Because I cannot bear to live without you) You, on the other hand, are strong enough to live even without me..” I didn’t concede and I don’t know if I am but I owe it to him, to continue his legacy, to continue that goodness and to continue to live. I guess he’d want that. Lito always wanted the best for me. Pree, you have always wanted to be Wolverine with Ultimate healing powers. Well, I would like to imagine that you are in that place where there is no pain, and there are no intermittent internet connections, where there is no sickness, where you can rest and not have a care in the world and where you can take care and play with our son…  I love you so much pree that for my final gift, I’ll try to survive without you so you can go rest in peace.. I will live a life that you can be proud of… Pree, ok ra ko (Pree, I'm fine..) Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. We will be fine. Your family and I, your friends—we will take care of each other. Ikaw rest na… (You take your rest) We will always remember you and we will always miss you. So pree, go into that ray of light you were talking about with happy people. And please, tell Levi that I love him so much. You can now play with our son. I wab you, my wab, my pree, my best friend, the realest, craziest wab in the world.. I love you. I love you.

smiling for my wab.
during my 31st bday, days after he passed away
During weddings, Lito has this technique to the groom that says, “Okay, give me a smile for the bride…” And then after, he would say, “Okay, give me a smile for Lito..” and the groom would always laugh that and he would capture that. So before we bid our final goodbye, let us all cherish the memories he gave us and give him that smile he always want from us.

I love you so much. Until eternity my wab. ‘Til then.. Take care of Levi and I’ll see you both when it’s my time.
















Sunday, September 2

Making it LAST


The last bottle of the last cycle.

The catch word- last.

LAST.

How ironic that this word is a venom to most achievers while we feast on its significance in our case.

How many bottles of Cytarabine has it been? I have lost count.

How long has it been? Today, September 2 is exactly 9months from the day you were officially diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Prior to the official diagnosis, you had your first ever bone marrow biopsy just to check why you had 150,000 WBC count in comparison to the normal range of 4000-10,000. It was after Christmas.

I remembered we both did our research (which reminds me: DO NOT TRUST EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THE NET. Not all cases are similar because we do have different bodies, different reactions. If you depend on the net so much, you will get scared. Trust your doctor. Trust in God). Anyway, we both did our research on the net and all our searches led to the same diagnosis-- leukemia or some kind of blood disease. Do you remember we were even trying to be hopeful that this could be some sort of infection?

And I remembered that one night we laid on the bed, each of us lost in our own thoughts. And I broke the silence by asking, "Pree… what if…" I can't finish the sentence for fear that I might be correct. What if it's leukemia. What if I lose you? What if? So many questions. Bottomline is, I was afraid. And I know you were, too. Did you remember, you held my hand and we faced each other and you said, "Wala na tay mahimo, atubangon nato… (We can't do anything about it, we have to face it together".  I just nodded my head in meek reply, not really wanting to believe,  partly shaking my head in the hopes that all those were just parts of a dream.

Pre, I remembered our first.
The first hour we cried on the car together.
The first meal with Jayson and Aisee at Dimsum Break in Mango, I was so lost in a trance and you were trying to be funny, Jayson and Aisee not knowing what to do.
I remembered our first day in the hospital, we were hesitant of the nurses and doctors,  who after a few days and up till now, became our friends.
I remembered the search for your blood donors, the making of the ninjas, your first vomit, your first trance, your first chills…
As I am writing this, all those are in my head, circling as if in fast forward and yet in slow motion too. It just felt so overwhelming that you know, we made it to here.

Can you believe that it has just been 9 months? Last year, we had different sets of problems--- problems which we thought were so big and so trivial we felt it was the end of the world. And now, in comparison to what we achieved, those problems we thought were so big seemed so small..

9 months. We both changed so much. And yet, some things remained the same, if not, they are just getting stronger.

And now we are down to the last cycle.

Again, the word LAST rings a bell. It makes me realize that in this journey, you don't always have to be first to be win. Sometimes, being last is a good thing because it means you LASTED. You survived. You never gave up. And things are getting brighter.

Would the last mean the end of it all?

I still can't say.

All I know is that we've toughened up so much in this battle to face whatever the future brings along the way. Together- with faith, hope, and love. Isn't that what's most important? Isn't that worth fighting and living for?

I say it always is.

****

Here's a video I'd like to share of a song that has helped me so much during this battle:



 A summary of our battles: http://www.arainso.blogspot.com/search/label/Lito%27s%20Battle 

Monday, July 9

Digging through Empty Pockets



The pharmacy section of Chong Hua Hospital is a myriad of stories. If you listen carefully, your ears and your heart will bleed out with the many challenges that sickness can bring when it comes to finances.

Today, for example, in the 3 cashier areas, here’s what I heard:

Cashier number 1:
“Ma’am, bill nimo kay P1,300.” (Ma’am, your bill is P1,300.00).
P700 ra man akong kwarta. Pwede nimo kuhaan na ang uban para mahimo P700? (I only have P700. Can you take out some so it can be at P700?).

Cashier Number 2:
“Ha?? Ingon ana ka mahal… mag withdraw sa ko Miss..” (That expensive??? Let me withdraw first).

Cashier Number 3:
“Ma’am Ara, declined ma’am.. “
That was credit card number 1.
The bill was around P20,000 plus, just for daily medicines, particularly his antibiotics. Yes, that’s daily.
I shelled out credit card number 2. Declined still.
I was praying so hard that credit card number 3, my last one, will not fail me.
“Ma’am, approved na Ma’am”.

I let out a sigh of relief with that statement.

It’s never easy when one is sick in the family. For one, it drains you emotionally. And it also drains you financially. For months, I have been talking about the former, never about the latter. Maybe because this is a challenge that we try to work on our own, trying not to bother others with its nitty-gritty.

But for once, I would like to talk about it. Especially that I am always at the transacting end when money is about to be vacuumed out of my pockets and out of my cards.

I abhor statements like, “Ay okay rana uy, dato bitaw na sila! (That’s okay, they are rich anyway..) and I have always heard it said right in front of my face, in conversations, in comments, etc. It’s never okay to have cancer, no matter your social status, no matter how much money you have. It’s never okay to see your hard-earned money go down the drain for something like the Big C. It’s never okay.   

The truly rich are those who are perfectly healthy. If you are healthy, then thank God for that fortune.  Lack of money is a problem but there are worse problems, like lack of health. When it comes to the Big C, it doesn't choose as to who has the money and who does not. Steve Jobs died of cancer, same as that taho vendor who we never knew the name but died of cancer anyway. 

Cancer robs you unguarded, that’s for sure. But it can never leave you empty, unless you allow it. The financial difficulties have been a rollercoaster for me. And I am amazed with the wonders our Lord Friend has surprised me with his provisions. With Him, we are never left empty.

There was one time (months ago) that the credit card money that can be swiped lacks P803.50. It was around midnight so I didn’t have the guts to call my friends in the middle of the night. The pharmacist told me I can add up cash or with another credit card. All my cards were maxed out then. So I told the pharmacist to give me a few minutes to think. I don’t want to bother Lito with P803.50.

So what I did, I talked with my Lord Friend over my head. I said, “Please help me, help me.. “ In a trance, I scavenged my wallet. For those who know me, my wallet  always looks like it went through a mini typhoon. I do not arrange my money or my receipts, much to my organized friends’ annoyance (hehe).

I scoured through my wallet and took out bills, coins, and set it aside. There were rumpled hundreds and fifties. I counted all of the money after and I had goosebumps when I came up with P803.00. It lacked 50cents so I scoured some more and found 2 25cents. I tried to look for more but there was none. So, I had an exact P803.50. Exactly what I need, at a time when I thought I was left empty. I cried out of miraculous awe and wonderment at His doings. His humor and timing and everything leaves me in a stupor as I went to the pharmacist and gave her the exact amount. She was smiling when I did.

This is a true story. Seriously. And I realized that it’s so funny how much you can dig and how awesome God’s surprises are at a time when you felt you have nothing. I guess, we also have to empty our hearts and trust in Him. He will provide, in one way or another. He did for us and these are His little miracles—anonymous bank deposits, former clients who just shelled out cash, school alumni getting together and sharing some of their cash, new projects, new businesses, new clients.

Cliché as it may sound, they say and I believe, “Do your best and God will do the rest”.  Empty your pockets, empty your hearts. When you have so much, where will He put His blessings?

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