Beginning the year right | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It is said that one must begin the year doing what one might want to be doing all year round.


Well, we’re off to a good start. We’re flying to Singapore and Penang, while kasambahay Lani is away herself on a two-week home vacation.


We’re welcoming the new year with a celebratory sense of adventure and flight, not just to escape housework we’d have to do ourselves, although that’s enough reason. We’ll be back two days after Lani herself returns; that should give enough time to rest before putting the house back in the perfect condition she left it, so that we may come home to a setting fit for good fortune.


In my senior book, this beats wearing polka dots.


We are arriving in Singapore with plenty of time, as the appreciation requires, to see the Impressionists show that features the Juan Lunas borrowed until March from the Louvre. We are going to do things on our own time and pace in familiar Singapore.


Since it is my first time in Penang, and Vergel insists that I see as much of the place as possible in four days, we booked ourselves on tours, leaving us only one free day. After our visit to Japan, only in late October to early November last year, it became obvious we had taken too long between pleasure trips together—years! The urgency for us, I guess, has sharpened with age.




I used to walk fast, like dad up to his early 70s. If he shuffled after that, it was not to show off but to keep himself steady. I find myself walking like mom instead in her 80s—slowly, although in my case, I do it deliberately with some attempt at grace, which is hard because of a tendency to waddle, which mom never had.


I have recently surrendered to wearing a neck chain to keep my glasses on me even when I need to keep them off; otherwise, poor eyes and memory would keep them lost until I sat down on them. Mom had her eyeglass chain in gold and silver and in a string of tiny pearls, and they were matched to her walking stick and general attire. I’ve kept all that for when my day comes.


I’m open to being wheelchaired at the airport if the check-in line is too long or the departure gate too far and there are no horizontal escalators, which is rare. It’s amazing how much I’ve become like my parents so soon.


There’s more to learn out there, sometimes from our own peers. I sat beside second cousin Macó (that’s what we call him, to distinguish him from the other Marcoses in the family: Marquitos, Quitos and Mark) at our traditional Christmas lunch at cousin Ninit’s. I noticed he ate very small portions. He said his cook of 30 years had finally mastered cooking for one in just the right portions. He prefers simple, easy-to-prepare food, anyway. Whenever he’s in the mood for slow-cooked food, which has to be cooked in large quantities, such as the fabada we were just then having, he eats out.


I thought his small portions explained why his clothes size had not changed through the years—until dessert time: He refused to split any of them with me, or anyone else. “No,” he said with covetous finality, “I never share desserts.”


He must be doing something right, or he’s just one of those lucky guys with fast metabolism, like my husband, Vergel. In that case, I must have taken after my mother, who ballooned to points of no return, especially after 80.


No glasses


Another amazing thing about Maco is that, at his age, which is close to mine, he wears no glasses and continues to drive his now teenage CRV, whether on short or long trips, no matter how late at night.


“Don’t stop doing what you used to do, because once you stop, especially at this age, you’ll never do it again,” he counseled.


I myself learned to drive out of necessity when we lived in the US, but stopped at some point, much to the relief of my family and the rest of the motoring public. I also stopped baking pies when my American oven died and have not baked since, much to the disappointment, on the other hand, of my husband, whose continuous pining, even if only for Christmas, has not moved me.


But we compromise on Pote Gallego—he’s been having it for one of his daily meals this season.


How quickly the season has gone. I usually have mixed emotions at this time and have never explained it to myself until James Donelan, S.J., did, in his New Year’s Eve homily shared with me by dear friend Dada Moreno. No one could have said it better:


“January is a demanding month, a frightening month, perhaps more frightening than a birthday. It requires more than remembering to put the right year on our letters and our checks. It is a threshold, a passage, and every threshold makes us pause. Every passage leaves us different from the way we were…


“Can I begin again? Every beginning means something in the past must die. Something in the future must be risked… The Gospel proclaims that today is different from yesterday, that we are not finished with life because God is not finished with us. This is why Christmas means so much to us. Without it, New Year’s Eve would be a parody, a farce, a bit of mock heroics…


“So January starts with hope… It is an invitation to reconsider our lives. It is a challenge to view the commonplace and ordinary in a new way, to see the sacredness of our days and our lives…


“January is a reminder that there is hope, that we can always begin again.”


May God grant us the courage to begin again.