We were lucky enough to convince my brother to come back to the Philippines for Christmas and New Years. It was wonderful to have him around again and he remains Mason’s favorite uncle. And he went back to Siquijor with us for Christmas and got to experience Coco Grove Resort. It was great to see family again, but our time in Siquijor was extended 3 extra days since a typhoon came through and we couldn’t leave the island! Ironically, this happened to us 2 years ago when we visited the same place with the same brother. The island just loves him too much to let him leave! However since we got stuck in Siquijor for 3 extra days, we missed our flight and reservations to Singapore for New Years. (but we were able to reschedule that trip for February)
The beginning of September we finally got Matt’s parents out here to the Philippines to visit us and to meet their newest grandson, Blake. Matt’s brother Drew also came out to visit as well for a week during his school break. Then the second week his older sister Angela and her husband Peter joined the party. The first week we stayed in Manila and showed his parents around while Matt still had to work for a few days.
After a week in Manila, we took a plane ride and then a boat ride and arrived in Boracay! We stayed at the Shangri-La in Boracay and rented 2 villas that connected. It was a perfect set-up for our families and we felt like royalty with our own personal butler on call. We have never been disappointed with any of the Shangri-La hotels, and our experience at Boracay was the best.
More photos of Boracay here.
In 2013 we missed the yearly festivals where our family in the Philippines live by a week. So, Matt really wanted to be sure to attend in 2014. However, I was about 35 weeks pregnant didn’t want to risk having a baby in the province. So Matt started contacting our brothers to see if anyone would be willing to come out to visit us and then go to Siquijor for the celebrations. One thing led to another and in the end we had 3 of my brothers and a sister-in-law coming out to see us! The boys stayed for 1 week since they had to return to school and work. My sister-in-law stayed for 11 days and we were able to have some girl pampering time together.
The month of December was packed and full of fun. We had a full house and a lot of memories for Christmas 2013. My parents finally came to visit us and it worked out the best to have them here for Christmas. They only had 10 days in the Philippines, but I think that we packed it pretty full to make sure that they had enough to do and also time to relax. One of the highlights of the trip was taking my dad to the island where his dad (my grandfather) is from (Siquijor) and meeting his half sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. We also had Matt’s brother, Drew, come visit us since he served his mission in the Philippines and speaks Tagalog. After Christmas in Siquijor, we brought our cousin Sherwin with us back to Manila for a few days. It was his first time to Manila and his first time on an airplane!
In May while my sister was visiting us we met some cousins that moved from Siquijor and are now living in Manila (click here for the original story of our unexpected Filipino family reunion). First we met Marites (pronounced maurie-tess) and her boyfriend, Jay, at the mall. She also contacted her sister, Diana, and got her to come as well to meet us and bring her two kids, Christian age 13 and Dana age 12. We noticed that Diana was pregnant and found out that she would be giving birth around August.
A couple of months passed and we knew that it was getting close to the time that Diana would be giving birth. Then, this past weekend Marites texted us saying that Diana gave birth to a baby girl on Friday, July 26, but Diana had some kind of infection and was bleeding. We were asked if we could help since she needs some blood and medicine. Matt and I went to the hospital and entered the ICU. With my siblings and all the craziness that they do, I have seen my fair share of ICUs at hospitals…but this was NOT an ICU in America, Diana was in the “charity ward” of UERM Medical Center. Charity wards do not have the same level of care as the rest of the hospital. The ICU was a room about 20’x20′ and had 3 patients in that small area. Diana was swollen with tubes in her mouth and a scared look in her eyes. She wouldn’t let go of her husband’s hand while we were there. The doctors/nurses finally said that there were too many people in the room and that only one person at a time could be in there.
So, we left Diana and her husband to go look at the baby. This hospital is about 4 stories and the ICU was on the 4th floor and the “nursery” was on the 2nd floor. No elevators were seen and the hospital looked like it could have doubled for a WWII prison. We didn’t have to check-in as visitors, and everything was in Tagalog…good thing our relatives know some English. So we enter a small closet area to look into what we think is the nursery. But, it must have been the NICU. I have never seen such small babies in person before. Baby legs about as big as my thumb and 3-4 incubators with newborn/preemies inside. It took awhile and some talking to a nurse, but she brought over a 7 pound baby girl to show us. So that was so nice to see a “healthy” baby.
We left the hospital and gave our cousin Marites some money to pay for bags of blood and medicine for Diana. Marites broke down in tears and just hugged me so tight. This money was going to make things better! That was Saturday. On Sunday night we get a text message from Marites saying, “L0rd God plz help my sister diane 2 survive.” We responded that we would pray for her…not much more we can do late at night. We go to bed and in the morning receive a text that said Diana passed away.
We were in shock with this news. Our experience with being sick and being in the hospital means that you get better since the trained professionals are there with the equipment to make everything better. Well, that is the experience you get if you are at a “nice hospital” and have insurance, or money, or live in a 1st world country. At the very least, the doctors can help you survive a bit longer and prolong the fight. We can’t help but think that if she was in a better hospital this tragedy could have been avoided. We said that we would help with whatever we could, so we were asked to bring some food over for the vigil. I am not accustomed to Filipino vigils or death in general, but sadly our house help knows too well what is needed. We loaded our car with bags of food and drinks and took them over to Diana’s house where her body is there for people to pay their respect.
Diana passed away around midnight and we got to their home at roughly 6pm. The body was already in a coffin with make-up and lights and candles around the coffin for people to pay their respect. We were shocked to see how quickly things were done given the fact that Diana was still alive 18 hours ago. Diana’s body still looked swollen in the coffin and not like the person that we met back in May.
We spent about 3 hours at the house with family and friends. We got to meet Diana’s other sister (Devina), and her “common-law husband”. We also met other cousins of our cousins. It is hard for us to comprehend how Diana died so quickly at the age of 31, but her husband, children, and sisters could smile and chat with us. We assume that they are smiling on the outside, but crying on the inside. We know her son stayed up through the night in tears and hadn’t slept yet. I wish that I could take away their pain and sorrow. I take comfort in The Plan of Salvation that our Heavenly Father has for us where families can be together forever. There is possibility that I may have to speak before Diana’s burial since I am a relative; and if given the chance, I will speak and bear testimony of God’s plan, and that they can be reunited as family again in heaven.