My friend Gilda thinks I have a decided “bakli ng utak”, an irreverent take on things. However, relative my husband Manny and my daughter, Oya, I am quite conventional. Take the case of names. My grandaughter Martina calls me Abu which is simply short for the Spanish “abuela”. On the other hand, Oya has taught Martina to call her Fairygod Oya. Manny, she calls Aga. No, not after Aga Muhlach but as she used to explain, short for “aga,aga buwisit”, until someone more proper and less humorous told her that “buwisit” is a bad word.

My English Canadian friend , Tim’s grandchildren, like everybody else call him simply Tim. “Because”, he says, “that is my name”. Very sensible, but I had to inform him that unfortunately, the use of honorifics are part and parcel of Filipino culture.

Then, there is the case of our recently acquired Belgian Malinois puppy. After Martina was introduced to the new dog, she went running to her mom. “They have a new pet,” she cried, “she is a huge dog, and Mommy, she is called Kitty!” She has yet to learn that people and names are not always reasonable. They can instead be funny.


Writing for a new book

I belong to a group of writers, known as FIRST DRAFT. First Draft has been meeting monthly for several years and at every  meeting we each bring an article to read. During our last meeting it was decided that we would gather our best articles into a book. I volunteered (just this once) to write the introduction (so that I will not have to submit the requisite 2 articles). Instead I was designated Editor, tasked to put the book together into a cohesive whole. I am awfully overwhelmed! I feel laid back me has bitten off more than I can ever so slowly chew.  Geez!


wala pang piso ang pasahe, kinse lang mula Cubao to Quiapo;

girls lang ang may hikaw

maton lang ang may tattoo

Escolta at Cubao pa ang shopping centers;  talahiban pa ang Makati

Luneta and pasyalan

Nasa Roxas Blvd. (dating Dewey Blvd) ang coastline; wala pang reclaimed area at Coastal Road

Highway 54 pa ang EDSA

Isang kwarto pa ang laki ng computer at tapes pa ang data storage

Wala pang computer sa bahay; typewritten pa ang sulat at kailangan ng carbon paper for copies

B&W pa ang TV at tatlo lang ang channel na galing pa sa Clark Air Base ng Kano

33 at 45 rpm pa ang mga plaka na pinatutugtog sa hi-fi

Si Elorde pa ang world champion sa boxing, wala pa si Pacquiao

Wala pang personal cell phone

Wala pang mall, shoe store lang ang Shoemart sa Santa Cruz

Hindi pa University ang Ateneo at La Salle kaya sikat pa sila sa NCAA

Wala pang tricycle at FX

Quezon City to Pasay lang ang suburbs, wala pang Metro Manila

Wala pang North and South Expressway



Music and me

Being myself tone deaf and hopelessly out of tune, I have not developed a great love for music nor become an avid fan of popular songs. I have a few favorite songs, carry-overs from my youth. My MP4 is loaded with the songs of Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra an Brenda Lee, which are now, it seems, classified as “classics”. (In my day, the classics were Beethoven and Chopin!)

Then, Whitney Houston died and the world mourned. I became curious. I wanted to know what I had lost with her dying. So, for the first time in my long life I bought a VCD, that of her greatest hits, and honored the expense by playing and giving it my full attention.

I was amazed. It was both an aural and visual delight, a complex and complete performance which takes prodigious talent! No wonder, Mariah Carey (I have also bought her VCD) speaks of how she has “come to myself as an artist “.

I  have upgraded and updated my appreciation of music. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I mind  too much unnecessary “oh, yeah, yeah , yeah…”






Let us watch the moon

And hum a solitary tune,

Let us be lonely together


The following poem was part of a Fieldcrest Ad  in a magazine many  years ago.  It came with a beautiful photograph of a woman with a baby in a bed covered with a patchwork quilt. My husband clipped it and gave it to me the evening he proposed marriage.

before the next snowfall, I promise you that cottage across the wheat field by the river road.

                I’ll get the well working and the chimney fixed and chase the hornets out.

                Of course, mending the doorpost where old blind Bossie blundered in might take a while, but     then, we’ve got the time.

                Besides, it’ll be a long summer, I promise you, I have a nose for seasons .

                Just gathering flowers might keep you pretty busy til November.

                I’ll have the wood piled in by then, to keep you warm in the bedroom in the firelight with your    samplers, singing the old lullabies to your firstborn child.

(The following two poems, “Nothing” and “Sunday” are part of “Love Poems for the Very Married” by Lois Wyse that came out in the Ladies Home Journal, April 1967 issue.)


By Lois Wyse

I suppose it was something you said

That caused me to tighten

And pull away.

And when you asked,

“What is it?”

I, of course, said “Nothing.”

Whenever I say “Nothing”,

You may be certain there is something.

The something is a cold, hard lump of



By Lois Wyse



When we talk

I get the distinct feeling

You are not glad

You are you

I am me

And we are we.

I detect a detached chill.

It used to worry me

Until I realized

That only a man

Who can be very attached

can also be detached.

And though at times I still detect detachment

I can weather it

For I have come to learn that

You and I, my love

Do not live in a temperate zone.




I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea

And the silence of the city when it pauses,

And the silence of a man and a maid

And the silence of which music alone finds the words,

And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,

And the silence of the sick when their eyes roam about the room…

And I ask for the depth of what use is language?

A beast in the field moans a few times when death takes its young.


Sense and Sensibility

The following is an article to celebrate Manny, my husband of 45 years.



Sense and sensibility, it seems to me, is as good a formula as any to constitute a good marriage. One of the partners should have the good sense to provide for the family’s basic needs, and, the other, the fine sensibility to enhance family life.

When I married my husband, Manny, I believed he had the practical sense to earn our living. I, on the other hand, would provide the sensibility. I thought myself cultured and refined, to be well versed in history, literature, art appreciation, and psychology, having been schooled in an “exclusive” college for women.

My husband got a “no-frills” education in public school and as a working student, took the highly technical course of Industrial Engineering. When I first introduced him to my friends, I didn’t get unreserved approval. He was not, after all, part of our collegiala circle. He was, indeed, by my friends’ standard, a poor boy.

But they did concede that he was not bad looking. He had attractive, dark eyes and the perfectly classical nose. He dressed simply, very neatly, and one couldn’t fault his manners.

Although my family was much better off than his when we married, I saw no reason to feel superior, to even think that I was marrying “beneath my  station”, (aside, of course, from the truism that “all women do”). Though well educated, I came from peasant stock (and don’t my toes show it!). My father was a “risen peasant”. It was his exceptional intelligence that won him a full scholarship in college, a Civil Engineering degree and good well-paying jobs that raised his own family’s status into upper middle class. My mother had claims to a Hispanic heritage. Her grandfather was a “peninsulare” who came to the Philippines as a member of the Guardia Civil stationed in Pangasinan. But she was born and grew up a provincial and only came to urban Manila as a young bride.

Manny may have grown up in the school of hard knocks, but he comes from “fallen aristocrats”. His father grew up in Intramuros . He was a true gentleman of the old school who stood out at my wedding wearing  a decidedly elegant white suit. And the rest of his forebears are decidedly Manileno. His maternal grandfather, Godofredo Dancel, was Secretary to President Manuel Quezon. His grandmother was pure Castillian so he has more Spanish blood than some of my Spanish speaking friends, if Spanish blood is at all a measure of personal worth. And his great grandfather, Antonio Dancel was once Governador of Rizal.

As a child, he would tell me, he used to ride his three wheeled cycle in the passage around his maternal grandfather’s living room in a grand, old bahay-na-bato  in Tondo. The house, unfortunately, became one of the casualties of the American Liberation of Manila in 1945. I have no such memories. My own grandfather had a large 3-level house at the edge of his coconut plantation in Calauag,Quezon  but it stood by the railroad tracks, next to the train station and its proudest wall ornament was the graduation photograph of my not-so-good-looking father.

It was his mother, Ana,  who “fell” from grace by eloping at 16 with a handsome man who was and remained a small time bureaucrat and having ten children by him.

But even poverty could not erase nor diminish the innate fine sensibility and good taste derived from her “aristocratic” heritage. To supplement her husband’s meager income, she fashioned exquisite children’s dresses that were exclusively sold at Tesoro’s and bought by Manila’s wealthiest families. She was already in her sixties when my daughters were growing up, but she paid me the complement of making them each a particularly lovely party dress. I could and did sew my children’s dresses too, but I didn’t have her way with ribbons and laces. They lived in a small rented apartment but the few ornaments  were delicate porcelain figurines and the finest crystals. My daughters used to love to visit their Lola Ana and listen to the musical Lladro figurines. She also had a way with dish gardens. Instead of planting a small garden, she turned the 10- 12 sq meter space in front of her apartment into a beautifully arranged display of her dish gardens. Her sense of proportion was faultless and her attention to the most minute detail, remarkable.  On the other hand, having borne seven streetwise sons, she could cuss like the best of “kanto boys”, a habit I had to train my husband to unlearn.

I was to find that sensibility is an innate quality of the mind, a cultivation of proper feelings, a control of the senses that is not, necessarily, learned in school nor derived from ones upbringing. Schooling and upbringing could, of course, help in increasing and refining it. But  it is ultimately a product of one’s heritage. People coming  from  a long line of “buenas familias”, I must concede, have a better claim to refinement than most. My grandmother used to say that, “It takes three generations (of good genes, careful upbringing, and education) to make a lady”, keeping her fingers crossed, I imagine, that she had, perhaps engendered a gentlewoman in me.

I also find that sense and sensibility are not mutually exclusive.  Everybody has both in varying proportions. “Aristrocrats” may not necessarily have a larger share of sensibility than sense.  And the common tao is not always just commonsensical.

Manny inherited his mother’s fine aesthetics and used it with practical sense in setting up an advertising art studio that generously provided for me and my two daughters. The girls trust their father”s taste and share his love for things that are exquisitely designed and well made. They prefer to have him with them when shopping, especially for shoes. I do too. But I always find the best buys, fine things at more reasonable prices.

I am not very good with ornaments (I hate clutter!) so I keep a very simple and practical home with emphasis on the good use of space.  The few ornaments in the house are gifts or Manny’s acquisition. And t was Manny’s best friend Onib Olmedo who provided most the many wonderful paintings that have filled the walls of our house . Perhaps after all, Manny has the greater share of sensibility and I have the more practical sense. It really doesn’t matter.

Because after all is said and done and having been married for almost 45 years, I am truly grateful  that he had enough sensibility to love me, and even gladder,  that I had enough good sense to marry him.

The Forgetful Magpie: Practical Shopping

I have always been a practical shopper, I used to go out shopping only when I needed to buy something. I considered availability , price and usefulness. If the item will be difficult to find elsewhere, the price is not beyond my means and I can certainly use it, then I would buy it. In our senior years, my husband and I have tended to go to the mall more often but mostly to dine out, window shop and take a stroll. Since my needs have become so much less and the considerations for shopping still apply, I hardly buy anything. I love the freedom from inconsequential desires and life gone very simple. Though I still love to look out for things I can get for the people I love. Within my more limited means, of course.