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.
Table of Contents: (links will be created as posts are published)
- Days to 1 to 4: Manila
- Day 5: Taal Volcano
- Day 6: Pagsanjan Falls & Mall of Asia
- Day 7 and 8: Basketball, Shopping, and Church
- Days 9 to 11: Bohol & Panglao
- Day 12: An Unexpected Family Reunion in Siquijor
- Day 13 and 14: More fun in Manila
- Days 15 to 17: Coron Island
- Day 18: Wrap-up
After several business trips to the Philippines (June 2011, Sept 2011, Feb 2012), I was successful in convincing Tia that we should spend our summer vacation there (without kids!). As mentioned in the first post regarding this vacation (Day 12), it would give us an opportunity to see some amazing sites and attempt to explore more of Tia’s family history.
The rough agenda had us staying around Metro Manila for the first week, including a few days in the office, and then island hopping for the final two weeks (returning to Manila on the weekends). The islands we visited are Bohol, Panglao, Siquijor, and Coron. Each offered a variety of great experiences and memories which we’ll attempt to capture in this family journal through an ongoing series of blog posts.
Highlights from the first few days include:
- Attending Church a short walk from the hotel
- Manila Bay Dinner Cruise
- Rain taking us to a professional basketball game (PBA)
- Tia’s first experiences shopping at the Manila super malls
- An evening with Toto & Ava Jill, who took us on a tour of
* We ran into not one, but two, good friends at the Houston airport! One was an old family friend from Sacramento, and the other was a co-worker from Australia who was passing through on his way home from Miami to Perth. (the same co-worker I met up with in Manila several times on previous business trips)
* On the plane from SF to Tokyo, we were surrounded by a group of young men in their 20’s dressed in basketball warm-ups. Turns out they’re a traveling Christian Missionary Team, and their coach is from my old highschool in Sacramento! (he wasn’t a coach when I played for the school, but said he recognized me)
* At the Sacramento airport (we had an overnight layover, dropping off our kids with their grandparents), someone who had the same brand of luggage as me took mine by mistake (and left). Luckily, I managed to locate his luggage and worked with the airport staff to contact him. He came back to the airport to exchange bags with me. Close call!
* Leaving Sacramento, upon check-in, our reservations showed an unknown error and would not let us proceed. The lady at the counter had to call headquarters not once, but twice, to get the mysterious error cleared. It was a pretty tense 15 minutes or so standing there with our fingers crossed (and even then, Tia’s connecting boarding pass from Tokyo to Manila printed out fine, but mine would not! I had to get mine printed at the gate in Tokyo).
* The flight from Sacramento to San Francisco was delayed due to weather. If it was delayed more than an hour or two, we would have missed our connection to Tokyo (luckily it wasn’t).
* Returning to the U.S., I was denied check-in at the counter in Manila due to a red coloration in my left eye. I knew it was being caused by a cold sore on my eyelid, but they escorted me to the airport doctor for examination. Despite my plea that it was a harmless cold sore on the eyelid (that I’ve had reoccurring since my teenage years), he still wrote conjunctivitis on the diagnosis form (which is highly contagious, pinkeye). Luckily, he also checked the box that says I’m clear to fly.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of visiting the Philippines for the first time and wrote a short blog post about it here. Luckily, I was able to return for a second business trip the last two weeks of September.
This second trip was long enough to permit a weekend with my brother Drew, who is serving a two year LDS mission in the Cagayan Valley (a one hour flight from Manila). It was great to spend some quality time with my brother after not having seen him for nearly two years. It was also fun to see him as a missionary, participate in missionary activities, and hear him speak Tagalog fluently. He finishes his mission in December 2011 and will then attend university at BYU Hawaii.
Similar to the last trip, I was taken yet again by the kindness and warmth of the Filipino culture. I guess you could call it culture shock, but with a positive connotation. This alluring contrast was even more pronounced in the small city of Tuguegarao where Drew lived. Over the weekend he taught me a few phrases in Tagalog which served me well throughout the trip (‘How’s it going?’ ‘Thank you sir’ ‘Yes sir’ ..etc..) Most of these attempts at Tagalog were received with a very surprised smile and a bit of laughter.
The photos below illustrate some of the highlights of the trip, and the rest can be found here.