Archive for the ‘Fambry Ohana’ Category

Or Why I Can’t Talk About My Dad without Feeling Conflicted.

When I went back to the Philippines in March, it was to accompany my grandmother back home so she could see her oldest son sworn in as he took command of the Philippine Navy.

This also meant days upon days of ceremonies, parades, luncheons, dinners, and general hob-knobbing. It also meant that I would tag along and be introduced by my uncle as “Alex T’s daughter,”…”Yes, that Alex T, Class of ’77.”

It was odd and awkward.

Most of the current Generals of the Military, the Admirals of the Navy, and the Chief of Staff of the Philippines were Class of ’77. They all knew my father. They all told me stories.

Some stories I had heard before from years long past. The same stories that made me look up to my father and idolize him completely. Stories about how he stood up for a fellow “plebe” during “hazing” and ended up being beaten by a steel pipe. A few broken ribs later, that fellow classmate became his friend for life. Some stories were funny, like using spit as a quick shoe-shine during inspections. Others told about his slightly reckless, often brave acts during guerrilla fights in the South. Still, there would be a few officers who would just smile, shake their heads and say, “He was so young when he died, wasn’t he?” I would nod and confirm, “44, sir.” A hand would be placed on my shoulder. “He would have been up here with us, no doubt. He was on the fast-track to Five Stars.”

In moments like those, I would hold my head up, smile, nod and be proud that I was his daughter.

But no one ever tells stories about the darker side of a person. No one ever goes to someone’s kid and tells them what an awful father she had. No. But I know. And it is because of that knowledge that I cannot simply smile and be proud. Instead, I feel ashamed that he was such a good man in some contexts, and such a terrible one in another.

I know we cannot expect our idols to be forever perfect. We cannot expect to grow up and not find out some terrible things that our parents did when they were young. But my mom once told me that it was my father’s sins and the secrets that he kept that ultimately killed him.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just my mom being hurt. But I do know that I cannot talk about my father without that double edged sword sliding in between my ribs and stabbing me.

I loved my father. He was my hero.

He also ultimately fell from grace, and yet despite that, I still remember being a seven-year-old, watching wide-eyed with pride as my father suited up and pinned all those medals of honor on his uniform.

A fallen hero is still once a hero. That doesn’t change.

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Yesterday, my uncle passed away.

It’s so sad because last week, he just gave away his youngest daughter in marriage.

Later, he went to the doctor for further testing. They gave him a year to live. He didn’t quite make it.

His passing comes less than a year after my grandmother passed away. Less than two years after another uncle passed; less than five when still another uncle fell ill and died. 13 years after my father died. It’s great having a big family, but only tragic when you have to count them out one by one. I remember how it felt to lose my father and it hurts so much to know that so many of my cousins have felt the same way–have seen and lived through the same kind of loss.

I don’t know how I feel about the news. Almost numb. An almost-careless, self-protective sense of “well, it was inevitable, I guess.” But that feeling is coupled with a bone-deep sadness that I just don’t have the strength to express and tap into again right now. It will come to me, eventually.

The sadness that comes with the death of a loved one takes a huge toll. My family has been steam-rollered by it. It’s almost scary to let myself feel that much pain again. But in time, I will. I have to. Because he deserves my mourning, my reflection and my love.

He was one of those quiet men who was the support, the backbone of a family. He never took on the spotlight, but he was always there. He raised amazing children, and those are some of the cousins that I absolutely looked up to when we were kids playing tag through our grandma’s gardens. I still look up to them to this day. He suffered quietly through his illness. He always had a gentle smile and kindness in his eyes. That’s what I will always remember.

Rest in Peace, Tito JR.

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Gratitude: it’s underrated.

I think people need to practice gratitude more often than they practice the Art of the Whine. My friend, Evan, introduced me to the Gratitude Project which really is as simple as it sounds: Be Grateful for Something Everyday.

So, I’ve decided to actively do that. Remember when I joined in on Seth’s idea to not complain for 30 days? I don’t really know if I passed or failed that test, but I do know that it made the entire Bar Studying Experience a lot less of a thing to whine about than something I just had to do.

As great as the No Whine Project was, it focused too much on something negative (i.e. not doing something). That’s why I think the Gratitude Project is genius because it makes us think of the positives of our day (and still preserves my right to whine when things go wrong, mwahahaha!).

So, the way I’m going to do the Gratitude Project is to find one person, one thing, and one event per day that I am grateful for and explain why. Easy.

I hope.


1. Person: Jessica P.

Jess and I have been friends since my first day at JLHS when I sat slightly away from everyone else on the bleachers while Coach Rod introduced himself. I had 2nd Period PE for my first class of the first day of school on my first time in an American school. I probably had the deer-in-headlights look. I had terrible listening comprehension (I thought Americans spoke way too fast), could barely trust myself to speak the English words I had studied all those years in my classes, and was generally just a NERD/GEEK/FREAK/OUTCAST. I didn’t know a smidgen about fashion (I had worn a uniform since I was in kindergarten from 6 am to 6 pm every day of my life, and on weekends I wore more uniforms for sports so fashion was never an issue); I was obviously a tomboy and wore a XXL shirt and baggy pants that three other people could have fit in with me; and I didn’t understand all the cultural, social, and socio-politico-economic implications that was life in an American HS (I had gone to the same school with the same group of people from kindergarten to high school…and there were only about a hundred of us in our graduating class…there were no boys in our school…nuns walked the halls and taught us. Drama? What is that?) I doubt there is anywhere else in the world where high school is so angsty and confusing.

So enters Jessica. She looked at me over her shoulder, climbed the bleachers to where I sat and said Hi.

I had never been so grateful for that word in my life.

She smiled that big smile, “I’m Jessica, you must be new. What’s your name?” She had a big voice and an even bigger personality. When she found out that I wasn’t just new to the school but to the country, she took me under her wing. I found shelter in her friendship that entire year. She introduced me to everyone she knew — and she was popular and well-liked (and was voted Class Clown with Nate), which made me an instant-part of any group she was in. She introduced me to speech and debate and to the people who would continue to be my family to this day.

She invited me to parties and sleep-overs and she never asked me to change who I was. She let me learn from her and I am grateful that she is still one of my best friends ever.

We both had our hearts broken over the past year and yesterday, we sat and talked about our lives over burritos (ahhh, typical of us), and laughed over our predicaments. Left and right some of our closest friends are getting married and neither one of us could see that in our near future. But it was okay because it was something we both could laugh about and support each other through.

Jessica reminds me everyday that it can take something so little as a smile and a “hi” to change a person’s life and the way they see the world around them. Every time someone new comes around, I will always remember to make them feel welcome, and to stay with them until they feel like they belong, too. It’s so simple but it’s so powerful.

2. Event: Meeting Bryan H.

I was a little lost in UC Davis King Hall. Then I was extremely bored in UC Davis King Hall. I was about to pass out from sheer boredom when a deep purple shirt tucked into perfectly pressed pants stopped right in front my fading line of sight. “Hey,” says a voice.

I look up and smile. “Hey.”

“I thought you were APALSA for a moment.”

I roll my eyes at him. “Because I’m Asian?”

He shrugs. “They were here before you.” He looks at my table, goes around the table and pulls up a chair. “Mind if I sit with you?”He was already seated, so I shrugged.

Talking with him made the rest of the three hours bearable and time flew by in a blur. He was engaging. He was annoying. He was funny. He was chauvinistic. He was strangely humble and yet arrogant at the same time. It was like every time I would think he was awesome, he would say something completely opposite that I would instantly change my opinion of him. And then he’d say something incredible again, and I’d be impressed again…and so on and so forth. It was almost weird never really finding a comfort zone talking to this guy, but that was okay with me. Like I said, time flew by with a quickness.

We talked about Tie Tuesdays (why he was dressed so nicely), the Marines, Military Service, JAG, law school, life, being a drill sergeant, motivation, and just very random things. Next thing I knew he was standing up and saying, “Hey, I have Contracts now, will you be here tomorrow?”

“Is it time to go already?” I asked, in shock, pleasure, and another strange mix of disappointment and relief.

I’m grateful for him keeping me company and just…being. I don’t know why I’m grateful really, but when I thought about it today, he was one of the first things that popped into my head as me being grateful for. So, there you go, Bryan. I’m grateful that I met you.

3. Thing: Air Conditioning

This should be self-explanatory. California has been suffering from an onslaught of extreme temperatures. I was in UC Davis and Sacramento yesterday for work, and boy was it H-O-T. Granted it might not have been as hot as Los Angeles, but it was still a scorching 103. I was so glad that everywhere I went, I was greeted by a blast of cold air, thanks to this marvelous invention.

I think I might have had an aneurysm if AC didn’t exist. Whew!

Gratitude Project Day 1: Check.

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On Sunday, my mom woke me up extra bright and early at 7 am.

I squinted as she opened the blinds, wth? It’s still too early for church.  I shaded my eyes and sort of focused on the being awake part of things and realized that my mom was talking a mile a minute.

But what really jolted me awake was this part of her long, long speech:

“…his name is Beau, and I think you’d really like him.”

*blink, blink, blink*

Say what???

Did my mom–no, scratch that–did my Asian Mom who has always discouraged dating of any sort really just try to set me up?

I had to clarify.


“He’s in the Marines. He’s a very good guy.”

That didn’t really answer my question, only reinforced the whole “encouragement to date” thing. I felt like I was slipping into a weird parallel universe where my mom didn’t criticize my dates or tell me at every opportunity about how I should focus on everything else but the guy in my life.

“Wait, what?”

“He’s my friend’s son. You’re coming with me today. Meet him, talk to him, keep him company.”

And wow. I felt like I was being officially Matched. It felt almost like an out-of-body experience…like watching a sitcom starring me and my mom, but knowing in the back of my head that this couldn’t be my life cuz it was just too darn…well, impossible.

I had grown up fighting with my mom over boys, guys, men, boyfriends, guy best friends, and in whatever form the male of the species came in. I mean, this random break-of-dawn conversation came at the heels of another weird mom conversation.

Me: …so yeah, he was really handsome and he smelled really good, too!

Mom: Handsome and smells good, that sounds dangerously close to being gay. Are you sure he wasn’t gay?

Me: uh…

Mom: (without missing a beat)…because if he was gay, I’m completely okay with you having a gay boyfriend.

That conversation, as strange as it was, is more in-line with what my mom thinks about me and dating in general.  On the other hand, I did go and meet this Marine. He was everything my mom said he was. Except that I couldn’t exactly “date” him with both of our moms watching in the sidelines.

So, I told my mom that he seemed like a really nice guy. Period. Nothing more.  She gave me a look, put her hands on her hips and said, “At least be friends with him.”


Maybe not.

Even though he was kind of cute. He was very courteous. Great manners. Amazing arms. He was a Marine. And my mom already liked him per se. But still.

It’s just too weird, no?

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I’m back in the Bay Area and moved in (I use the term to loosely mean all my stuff is in boxes in the garage) to the new house my family has moved into. They moved in before I saw the place, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The house is old, but I can already see my mom’s touches all over the place. She clearly adores the house. The kitchen is super bright and airy. It’s the place to be in this house. Oh, wait…no…we have a backyard.

A REAL backyard.

We have never had a real backyard. By that, I mean with grass and trees and all. The largest house we had lived in here in CA had a big backyard completely cemented over. Obviously the previous owners did not like mowing the yard or gardening.

At this new place, it’s the complete opposite. There’s a back porch and the side of the house has a deck. It’s so awesome!

And like I had already excitedly texted @Sigh, there’s a cherry tree, an apple tree, a lemon tree and an orange tree. There are roses (which some have already pricked my butt as I backed against them carrying furniture)! Thus, I do believe my Sunflower would be completely at home if I plant it outside.

Aside from that, there is a whole heck of a lot of work still to do. I haven’t decided yet how I feel about living at home. I think for the next week or so, I am in hermit status as I unpack and make my place here.

After that…I’ll figure it out.

For now, I’ve got some busy work to keep my mind off of things.

Now, off to unpacking!

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June is always a bittersweet month for me. I get all these emails and ads about father’s day. I see commercials on tv and restaurant offers for coming in with your dad.

It’s also the month my father passed away. It’s when I get emails from family and family friends, I get prayer cards and reminders to pray for his soul.

Ah, sweet, bitter June.

On a humorous day, I wonder if I can borrow someone’s dad so I can eat at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse for $30. On a somber day, I receive a phone call from my mom reminding me to have a moment in silence for my dad’s death anniversary.

It’s one of those cruel twists of fate when dad dies around father’s day. The one day you wish no one would remind you that you didn’t have a father is also the day the whole world reminds you exactly just that.

I sometimes think that I don’t miss him anymore. Next year, I would have lived exactly half my life without him. How could I miss someone I don’t know anymore?  But I do miss what I remember.  I miss having a hero. Someone who always pushed me to be better and someone to whom I always wanted to prove that I was getting better.

Daddy! Watch me!”
“Look, Dad! Look at what I can do!”
“Daddy! I did it!”

“Do you know why I get so angry when you don’t listen? It’s because I love you.”

Daddy, wherever you are now, look at me now. Look at what I can do now. Are you proud of me?

Daddy, wherever you are, I did listen. I remember everything you tried to teach me. Thank you for loving me.  Happy Father’s Day.

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Playing at the Beach

Clear waters, white sands, yes please...

Relaxing Cottages

My cousin Vinny went back to the Philippines for a mini-vacation. He went to the beaches in Cebu and Palawan. I’m so jealous. I really miss being back home. The clear waters, the white sands, the warm, balmy weather, island hopping, snorkeling…sigh.

I think I might go back for a couple of weeks. Who wants to go vacation with me to the Philippines?!?

Boat for Island Hopping

On the Boat, you can see right to the Bottom

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While hiking through Yosemite National Park we pass by this hollowed out tree. I wondered out loud what could have done this to a tree. My youngest brother, graduate of Stanford Engineering, Physics and Material Sciences immediately pipes in, “Lighting.”

But of course, because he is so full of random information, he just has to continue. For the next ten minutes, we stand in front of this true as he explains how the intense heat and energy of a lightning strike causes the sap in trees to expand so much that it literally splits from the inside out and becomes hollowed.

I never knew that.

Now I know.

I’ve also learned about catastrophic failures when things break, and different kinds of glass cracks. Way to go for having a walking encyclopedia like my brother.

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Sadly, another one of my father’s brothers has been diagnosed with cancer.

It’s happening again.


He was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It is the same one my father was diagnosed with more than sixteen years ago.  But there is hope for my uncle. His was diagnosed at Stage 1 and the technology has vastly improved in the last 16 years.  My father, being the stubborn butt that he was, ignored all the pain, the headaches, the frequent nosebleeds.  His cancer was not diagnosed until Stage 4. At that point, he was given a year to live.

My father fought his cancer for six years. We traveled all over the world searching for technology, science, medicines, religion, and any semblance of hope. The cancer took its toll on my father. The chemotherapy weakened him such that he weighed little more than 98 pounds at some points, the radiation burned through his vocal chords that for years he could not speak, he was unable to eat solid foods, and he was constantly in pain.

It’s really hard watching someone you love go through something like that.

I wish my uncle the best. I wish his family strength and hope. I also wish the rest of our family the same. Our family has lost so much in such a few years.

Here’s to hoping.

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I have amazing relatives!

I just got a surprise package in the mail from my aunt in Dallas.


2 dresses, 2 pairs of new slacks for work, 5 blouses, 1 cardigan, 1 pair of shorts, some make-up, bracelets…yay!!!

…and I didn’t even have to have a birthday or anything. Haha!

Just sayin’, I have awesome relations.

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