By the La Trinidad Bonfire


There was nothing more delicious than the taste of marshmallows roasting on an open bonfire. Liwayway took a bite and the sticky sweet melted into a sugary blanket across her tongue.

“Is it Christmas in Australia already?” Liwayway’s younger sister was tugging on the hem of her woolen sweater.

Liwayway scrunched her eyebrows together. “I think so, Ningning. It’s around 10pm here. It should be already past midnight over there.”

Ningning pulled the bonnet with the words “Baguio City” tighter over her forehead. “Is it cold over there, like it is here?”

“No, Ningning. Tito Pacifico said that it is summer.” The little one was snuggling closer to her. Reluctantly, Liwayway put her arms over the child’s shoulders. When she looked at Ningning, two eyes as round as Jeepney headlights were looking up at her.

“Summer??? How can it be summer???”

Liwayway shook her head, exasperated, but only a bit. “It’s because they’re… down under.” Tito Pacifico had sent a greeting card through email earlier that day. It had a drawing of Santa Claus wearing shades and shorts, drinking lemonade by the sea. There was a red-nosed kangaroo beside him. “Merry Christmas from Down Under!” It said. Liwayway wasn’t exactly sure she could give a lecture about Northern and Southern Hemispheres just yet.

“So, does that mean… we’re up over?” Ningning began humming a portion of the Benguet Hymn. “Dear land of mine underneath the starry sky so close to God…” She thought to herself as she wriggled out of Liwayway’s arms. Surprise lit up her windburned face. “We are up over!”

Tita Maricor, who overheard the girls’ exchange, let out a hearty laugh. “Now what are you two talking about? I think you’re just too hungry, waiting for the Noche Buena. Come, let me pour some Tsokolate for you.”

“Yehay!” The two girls scrambled towards their aunt in excitement. But then Tita Maricor saw Ningning’s eyes cloud over slightly.

“What’s wrong, balasang?”

Ningning tried to smile. “Tito Pacifico won’t be able to enjoy Christmas as much us. It’s too hot for Tsokolate over there.”

“Oh, Ningning…” Liwayway chuckled as she took a sip from the piping hot drink. Hmm. Actually, there was something more delicious than roasted marshmallows. Tsokolate. And the tender love of her little sister.

Assignment 1 (Coursera: Writing for Young Readers)


Tis the season once again. Belt out those falalalalasbring out the keso de bolas, and spread some Christmas holiday cheer! Snow’s already been invading my blog these past few weeks, so that’s a start. But I thought I’d still do a little project, like the one I did last year with the Fire Potion thing.

I read a book entitled The Secret of Counting Gifts at the beginning of 2013. It was one of those gems which touched my heart profoundly. I think one of the biggest lessons I got from the novel is that it makes a big difference when we stop to appreciate the different “gifts” we encounter daily.

From now until January 1st, I’m going to list those gifts down. Will post on Wednesdays and Fridays, including one on a stray Monday. Care to join me on this journey?

These are the gifts that I will be counting:

  1. Gift of Memories: Seven 2013 highlights
  2. Gift of Song: Six Songs for 2013
  3. Gift of Stories: Five Memorable Books
  4. Gift of Pictures: Four Important Photographs
  5. Gift of Lessons: Three Lessons Learned
  6. Gift of Turnaround: Two Turning Points
  7. Gift of the Future: One Thing I Desire for 2014

Are you all ready? Let the counting begin!


Fire Potion

(Desktop Wallpaper from Smashing Magazine)
(Desktop Wallpaper from Smashing Magazine)

“For sweet kisses and warm hugs.”

I’m guessing it’s already very chilly now in La Trinidad, my hometown. The Salad Bowl must be already experiencing the perfect bonfire weather. I can almost feel the warmth of those orange-yellow flames. I can almost taste the gooey sweetness of toasted marshmallows, the juiciness of the sausages and barbecues my aunts and uncles love to grill. But since I’m not going home this December, I guess I’ll be missing out on our annual Noche Buena and Media Noche  traditions. I won’t be seeing any bonfires this 2012.

I will be in Malaysia. Working on the 24th (which is a Monday) and on the 31st (also a Monday)  because I have no more leaves left. Oh well. I’m not turning into Ebenezer Scrooge just because of this though.

Instead, I’m going to give out some sweet kisses and warm hugs to all of you reading this blog.

Let’s start another project/challenge now, shall we? One that will look back at the year that was. One that will look forward to the one that is to come. One that will spread warm and fuzzy feelings all around. In the span of 12 blog entries. Anyone want to sing a round of “12 Days of Christmas” with me?

  • 12 Drummers Drummin: 12 lessons you’ve learned from 2012.
  • 11 Pipers Piping: 11 highlights from each of the 11 months that have passed.
  • 10 Lords-a-leaping: 10 men who have made a significant impact on your life this year.
  • 9 Ladies Dancing: 9 women who have made a significant impact on your life this year.
  • 8 Maids-a-milking: 8 songs about 2012.
  • 7 Swans-a-swimming: 7 books you’ve read and loved.
  • 6 Geese-a-laying: 6 photos that made/make you smile.
  • 5 Gold Rings: 5 things you are grateful for.
  • 4 Colly Birds: 4 new places you want to go to this coming year.
  • 3 French Hens: 3 “wishes” for 2013.
  • 2 Turtle Doves: 2 new things you want to do this coming year.
  • A partridge in a pear tree: Paint a picture of your 2013.

I’m copyrighting this challenge (hehe) so let me know if you want to take it on, too.

So, December — are you ready? Let’s leak out some love. ;)

Marry Christmas. Again.

(Day 26 – Your dream wedding)

So I’m supposed to be writing about my dream wedding, huh? I guess it’s pretty much in season as wedding bells will be resounding once again this December — A LOT of my friends will be getting married during that festive month, you see. Pity I won’t be able to join in any of the fun. I’m stuck in My because of my passport. Anyway. I’ll just turn into a likebot then and like every single one of my friends’ pictures in Facebook.

But back to this entry’s topic. My “dream wedding”. Well, today’s fanciful story isn’t so much a dream wedding in the sense that this specific wedding is what I want my wedding to be like. In fact, it’s a “dream wedding” because the truth is that I’ve been having recurring fantasies of this specific nuptial since 2008. Lol. Four years ago, I scribbled a little story about a wedding from the point of view of a maid of honour (‘honor’ in these tales because I followed the US spelling) who was struggling because her younger sister was the one getting married while she — the older one — had no suitors in sight. I followed it up with the bride’s side of the story because I wanted to give the younger sister justice. Three years later, the wedding planner came in and put her two cents into the storyline, giving you, dear readers, new insights to learn about lurv and all that jazz. 

So now I’ll throw in another love story into this web of stories.

Twill be quite long. But I hope you’ll enjoy this one anyway. :)

Marry Christmas (Shirley’s Story) 

Mari Anjeli B. Lubrica

08 November 2012

Perfect sunshine. Perfect breeze. Perfect everything. Did everything have to be so perfect? Shirley knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help but be a very glum attendee of the “wedding of the year”.

She looked around the rooftop garden, around the deep red and forest green scene, and found herself sighing, seeing how everyone there had “somebody to love” with them. There was the exuberant bride who would waltz into the arms of her dashing groom, of course. Then there was Grace with dear old Wilson. There was Sandra, the wedding planner, with David, the photographer. And there was — oh. Laura didn’t have anyone with her. Shirley glanced at the maid of honor who was, at that moment, wearing a disdainful look that was all too very much familiar to her.

It was familiar because she was wearing it as well.

Oh, Marcus. Why can’t you be here, too???

“All right! Everyone marches in at the count of three! One – two — ”

Te-te-te-tennn… te-te-te-tennn… te-te-te-tennn tennn tennnen tennn tenn tennn te-ne-nennn tennn tennn…


Shirley heaved a sigh and willed herself to enjoy the wedding. I will not think about Marcus Reyes. I will not think about Marcus Reyes. I will not — God, what on earth could he be doing right now?

As the flower girls, the bridesmaids, and the maid of honor paraded down the rose strewn pathway, the wedding guests craned their necks towards the rooftop’s door, eagerly anticipating the giddy bride’s grand entrance. Everyone held their breath.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the bride.”

Shirley gave Ashley’s beautiful countenance a quick look over and thought to herself, Wow, Ash is so pretty.

Oh God, what could Marcus be doing now?

* * *

“Bye! Bye, Shirley! Bye, Grace! Thanks for everything! Wilson, take care of those two… Bye! Oh — and Merry Christmas!”

Was it already Christmas? Shirley glanced at her watch and saw that the clock had indeed struck midnight. Well, trust Ashley to set “The Night Before Christmas” as her wedding date. The woman gave Laura a nod goodbye, mouthing out the words, “Merry Christmas to you, too!”

It was very “un-Christmasy”, but Shirley felt her foul mood return when she walked through the parking lot with the mushy Grace and Wilson. The couple promenaded a few steps in front of her with their fingers intertwined and Shirley felt a sigh rising up from her chest yet again. Wilson had been kind enough to offer her a ride home. Now, she wasn’t so sure if she should have accepted the offer. Perhaps it would have been better if she had hitched a ride with Sandra instead.

Her disposition improved, however, once they got into the secondhand Toyota. At least there’ll be less cheesyness here, Shirley thought to herself, knowing that Wilson liked to be focused when he drove. Let’s all have a nice and quiet ride home.

But the engine had barely started to rev up when Grace popped the dreaded question. “So, Shirley. You’ve been very quiet tonight. How’s Marcus?”

“Oh, he’s great.” So much for a nice and quiet ride home.

* * *

Shirley woke up the following morning feeling a thousand hammers hammering through her brain. She wasn’t used to sleeping short hours anymore. But she had a shift at The Bean. She had no choice but to get up at that unmerciful hour that Christmas morn. 7:30 AM. She had an hour. She’d have to shower soon.

She glanced at her phone — set strategically next to Marcus’ picture by her bedside — and peered into the screen. No message. No missed call. No nothing.

Shower, Shirley, she told herself. You have to shower.

The 25-year-old stripped her pajamas off and dragged herself into the bathroom. As she turned the water on, she felt the hot water beat down her back like rain on a hot summer day.

Rain. Marcus is so much like the rain, Shirley thought to herself. You don’t know when he’s going to call or message you. You don’t know if it will be a torrent or a drizzle. All you know is that, sooner or later, he’ll drop by a hello. But you just don’t know when. He really is like the rain. So very, very, very unpredictable.

She turned the water off and wrapped herself in a fluffy light blue towel, the one Marcus gave her last Christmas. It was her favorite color. And her boyfriend knew that she liked anything warm and fluffy, thus the well thought of gift.

The truth was, Marcus was a really sweet fellow. He was an awesome boyfriend. He was an awesome person, really.

But because he was so awesome, he just had to take a couple of months off for himself to go to an art exposure trip to Europe. Right now, Shirley didn’t know whether her boyfriend was in Paris, Nice, London, or Madrid. Well, the last postcard that she got from him had a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in it. But that was a month — or two months — ago. When they Skyped the previous week, he said that he was in Venice. Well, who knew where he was now. She hadn’t heard anything from him since that voice chat.

Shirley put on her Bean’s brown uniform and glanced at her phone again. Nothing.

Right. It was time to get to work anyway.

* * *

“Hey, Shirley! Wassup? Merry Christmas!” The barista was busy refilling the coffee maker when David Sanchez came in.

“Hello, David! Merry Christmas to you, too! What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home with your family?”

“Haha. Yes. But I stole a couple of minutes — well maybe it’ll turn into a couple of hours — away from the house. I’m here to meet someone.”

“Oh, okay. Can I get you anything?”

“Just a glass of water for now. Don’t want to get too caffeinated just yet. I’ll place my real order later.”

“Sure thing. A fake order of water, coming right up.”

The photographer laughed as Shirley filled up a glass for him. “Thanks, Shirl. By the way, how’s Marcus doing? Has he called you up to greet you a sweet, sweet Christmas yet?”

Shirley made a face. “No, he hasn’t. Now why does everyone keep asking me about Marcus???”

“Uhh, maybe because he’s your boyfriend?”

The barista scrunched her nose up. “Yeah, maybe that’s it.”

David threw her an understanding look. “Everything going well with the dashing painter?”

The was no other customer inside the coffee shop save for David, so Shirley took the seat in front of him as well as the opportunity to talk to him. “Swell. But to be honest, I don’t really hear that much from him these days. Our last Skype was, like, last week. I miss him.”

“Well, you have to extend your patience and understanding, you know. He’s a busy man. He’s always on the road. He’s always got a paintbrush in his hands. He’s — “

“He’s always got the time for everything except me?”

David smiled. “C’mon, Shirl. Don’t think that way. Marcus loves you very much. You know that.”

“Then why doesn’t he show it???” Shirley was really thankful that nobody else was at the coffee shop to witness her unhappy outburst.

“Well, men have different ways of showing love, I guess. Come on. Think, girl. I’m sure Marcus does show his love for you — in his own Marcus ways.”

“Well, he did give me that towel. Okay, that doesn’t sound so romantic, but that was sweet. He gave me flowers once. Chocolates, too. Paintings. Lots and lots of paintings.”

“You see! He does show his love for you. I think gifts are Marcus’ love language, Shirl.”

“But my receiving language is time! I need him to give me time! Words, too! Though I do love gifts very much…”

“Well, you can’t demand too much of that from him right now.”

“I can’t demand anything from him right now.”

“Patience, dear. Give him time. Give him space. How long is the program going to last, by the way?”

“I really don’t know. It’s still indefinite. Sometimes I get the feeling that he’ll only come back when his money runs out.”

“Again, I tell you — patience. Well, he’s out living his dream. So go and live yours out now. Enjoy life. Enjoy the learnings in this time that you and Marcus are apart. Besides. It’s not like you guys are already “one” right now. You still have your separate lives. But you’ll get there, girl, in time.”

Shirley shook her head and got out of the chair, hearing the entrance bell ring, signalling the arrival of a customer. “Why are you so sensible, David?”

“Because I’m totally awesome. Isn’t that right, Sandy?” David called out to the newcomer.

Sandra rolled her eyes at him. “Yes, you are totally awesome. Hey, Shirley. Can I have a short caramel macchiato, please?” She reached out for some bills from her purse but David stopped her.

“No, no — it’s on me. One short caramel macchiato for the lady. One tall americano for me.”

“One short caramel macchiato and one tall americano coming right up,” Shirley quipped.

David caught the barista’s eye as she headed back to the counter.

“In time, my friend. In time.”

Sandra raised her eyebrows at the photographer who in turn winked at her. The wedding planner rolled her eyes.

Suddenly, Shirley’s phone began to ring. “Hold up, guys. I’ve got an incoming call.”

David and Sandra looked at one another and gave the girl a significant glance. “Merry Christmas, Shirley!”