All brides are beautiful.
That was the first thought that flashed in my head as I snapped the first of a thousand pictures of my youngest sister. Radiant in white, young, beautiful, and elegant in her wedding dress, she was seated with her groom in front of the altar, seemingly lost in thought.
She hadn't seen me come in, me having missed the bridal march due to some tedious work commitments I barely managed to extricate myself from before rushing home, showering, changing into my formal barong and breaking speed limits on the way to Alabang.
No one in my family approved of this union.
Our particular reasons varied, but the common and unspoken thread was that the gem of my family was not settling down, but merely settling. She'd had plenty of boyfriends before - handsome, pedigreed and successful - all of whom met my parents' standards and each of whom was wrapped neatly around her little finger.
It therefore came as an unpleasant shock when she first brought him home. A silent provincial boy, of unclear professional standing, who barely spoke a word to any of us whenever she'd bring him around on the weekends or any of our little family affairs. My brothers and I would exchange glances and raised eyebrows whenever he was around, sitting in a corner, lost in our sister's eyes. He was her exact opposite : the ebullient, charming, winsome girl who, despite her delicate looks, was a strong-willed young woman who knew what she wanted and found ways and means to get them.
I wasn't too surprised, therefore, when one of the "gifts" I got on my last birthday was my father's announcement that she was getting married a month hence. She had become a virtuoso of escape in the house, managing to stage out-of-town trips with her beau and maintaining their relationship for around 2 and 1/2 years despite our silent disapproval. She had become adept at avoiding all possible instances where any of us- "us" being dad, me, and my brothers - could corner her and interrogate her about why she was still seeing what we had initially dismissed as a casual, if annoying, fling. My other sister was our spy, the one who kept us abreast of her movements, her comings and goings, and the little clues that finally made it clear that she was about to get married, despite all our frowning contempt for her choice of life mate.
She could have easily done so, but to her credit, she did not elope. She still sought my father's blessings, although it would be akin to saying Germany sought Poland's blessings by invading them. One fine day, after having made all her stealthy wedding preparations practically by herself, she announced that her beau's parents would be dropping by the next day for a formal pamamanhikan. I think she knew my dad would be too stunned to react, and therefore it passed that he promptly found himself with his future balaes, complete with ambassadress of goodwill from the groom's side.
I suppose my father's reputation preceded him. Maybe they thought he would simply draw his .45, dispatch them to heaven, and lay them to rest with all of the family dogs in the backyard.
Nevertheless, he obviously had failed to take into account that his youngest spawn inherited his strong will and my mother's shrewdness, and used both to her advantage. The marriage was as done a deal as the partition of Germany.
Did I say my sister was cunning? That she is, because none of her brothers was informed of this coup until after the rubble had cleared. She had ensured that none of us would have the time nor the opportunity to beat her future groom to a bloody pulp before she could drag him to the altar.
Which is how I found myself capturing her through my lens on a sun-dappled afternoon, looking more radiant than I had ever seen her before.
She beamed when she finally saw me through her veil, as I plunked my ass down in front of the altar, unmindful of the priest, and asked her and her groom to smile for me. She always had the best smile, but she gave me the brightest smile of joy I'd seen from her to date.
Then I asked them to make funny faces, which they quickly and gamely did, and then I saw my sister again. Not the furtive, stubborn, and just a little guarded young woman she had been for the past 2 and 1/2 years, hiding her plans and though mindful of her loved ones' disapproval, still determined to pursue what she believed would make her happy.
I saw my lovely sister, the one with a cool head and a boisterous confidence. The one with the only laugh to rival my own. The beautiful girl who could con all her suitors and yet have them begging to be reconciled with her, even weeks before her wedding date.
My sister, who managed to get around my father's hitherto iron will and doggedly, steadily, and determinedly pursue her own idea of happiness. Not his. Not mine. Not ours. That she managed to accomplish this without driving deep divisive wounds in the family is a testament to her will.
Or maybe her love.
For us. For her beau. And for herself.
I do not cry at weddings, but we both wept when I embraced her at the reception after all the usual post-wedding rituals were done, and we whispered private things of love and regret and forgiveness in each other's ears.
Though this may sound utterly, hopelessly cliché, I genuinely wish her all the happiness in the world. And I thank her for reminding me that while we may love them dearly, we do not exist just to make our families happy. We have to seek our own happiness, and if need be, fight for it.
But just to cement her victory, my brothers and I finally had a word with the silent groom, after all these years. We shook his hand, congratulated him, and told him to take good care of her.
And that if he ever made her cry, we would make him cry.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Nothing lasts forever, for the only constant thing is change.
We have no command over the ebbs and flows of the tides any more than we can command the moon to cease its pull on them.
I have never been King Canute, ordering the sea to obey his commands only to realize the limits of his own powers. If anything, I have always been keenly aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, and the insignificance of both when set against the oceanic expanse of fate.
My natural instinct has always been to go with the flow - a predisposition that has yielded mixed results. On one hand, letting the current take me where it wishes has led to a life of serendipitous blessings. On the other, when the winds die down, I am left stranded treading in the doldrums.
But doldrums are far preferable to maelstroms, and I have been swept into the middle of one.
It is curious that I find myself battling the waves this time around. Not all fish swim serenely with the ocean currents. Salmon die as they flop and flail their way upstream, back to the place of their birth, where their instincts dictate that they return and spawn the next generation.
Why do we so defiantly fight the currents? Far easier to go with the flow, as usual.
Perhaps it is because as we grow older, we recognize that for all its great beauty and treasures, the deep blue sea holds a great many terrors as well. And therefore shallows become calm oases, safe harbors from the many predators lurking in the deep.
But opposing currents have converged and once caught in them, there is really no choice but to spin with the vortex.
So let's spin to the ocean floor.
Crash to the other shore.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
In The Indolence Of The Filipinos, Jose Rizal opined that the hot climate" is a reasonable predisposition for indolence. Filipinos cannot be compared to Europeans, who live in cold countries and who must exert much more effort at work. An hour's work under the Philippine sun, he says, is equivalent to a day's work in temperate regions."
My cat, then...
...while technically Persian...
...and not quite Muning ...
...must have the right idea.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
If you're starting to see red, just calm down. And welcome to March. Named after Mars (Greek: Ares), the God of War.
According to Astrologycom :
"In general, Mars, the god of warriors, rules physical energy and efforts. His placement in your chart expresses the strength and direction of the physical force that drives your ego, your will to achieve. Mars fires your emotions and energizes your passions, but also powers your mental endeavours and communicative skills.
Mars describes male relationships and associations, risk-taking inclinations, and the physical challenges you are likely to encounter. Well-placed, Mars endows powerful energy and an indomitable will to succeed, but when poorly placed can mean accidents, injuries, fits of anger, rage, warfare or other forms of violence, according to the inclinations of the sign and house concerned.
Mars retrograde gives rise to irrational action; introspection; depression and self-assessment; sexual issues and relationship conflicts. Major rethinks and reorientation of current projects are also often required."
Ah, the retrograde. This site says that from December 20, 2009 through March 10, 2010, the planet Mars will be in retrograde motion:
"When Mars is retrograde, it depletes the vitality so that it is never a time to initiate. Whoever initiates loses— a new project, a great love, an argument, a lawsuit, or an international war. With a new project, it will fizzle out and never really go anywhere. With a hot romance, it too fizzles and it rarely gets to the altar. With an argument, the hostility will come back to haunt you later. In legal matters, stoke your opponent into initiating the lawsuit first. It will be etched in granite that they will lose. In an international war, whoever fires first will automatically lose or ultimately withdraw. Matters commenced while Mars is retrograde will be frustrated and plagued with disruptions until they finally fizzle out. At this time, people become irritated when activities do not run smoothly. The anger may disrupt indirectly and inappropriately – like getting a traffic ticket when you feel annoyed with your job."
Infinitynow has a refreshingly direct take on what happens when Mars is in retrograde:
Mars is all about action. It’s the male libido, the life force, energy. Mars rules the motor nerves, ladder and adrenal glands, the head and face, red blood corpuscles.
Mars is the energy that helps you go for it, win that race, it’s all out there, extraverted, aggressive, competitive, anger, war like, defensive.
Every 2 years Mars decide he needs an R & R period, and he goes retrograde...So what happens when Mars goes Retrograde?
Mars Retrograde makes a perfect compliment as the Martial energy is held back, instead of impulsively jumping into the fray, we weigh out our options in a more clarified well thought out way. Its more Taoist Art of War, never wasting any energy, conserving, balancing, harmonizing. Instead of haste making waste, pausing makes growth.
Loss of recent gains, or rehashing of plans will happen during the retro mars phase...Your energy will be lower. You will be entertaining thought so why bother to try so hard? Questioning what that EGO thing is that drives you so hard, and for what?
Everything will slow down, its as if the world will be feeling a large Intermission on the collective world stage of Life, and all the actors and actresses are sitting in their dressing rooms, rethinking their roles, their whys, with the ability to question and detach from the play itself and see it for what it is.
Mars Retro gives you time, a very precious commodity. Slow down and breathe, appreciate the now, no need to go faster. Complete old projects. Enjoy the now. The wheels of progress grind to a slow halt. Life becomes simpler, less rushed, simpler. Leo types may be grump and out of their element trying to stir up the old drama games, but not many takers."
And, as Lynn Koiner echoes:
"...using passive-aggressive techniques, manipulation, arbitration or subtle power plays may be more appropriate at this time. 'If you are normally non-assertive, you have be forced to defend yourself. Whatever your tactics, you must give thought to what you are doing. If your tactics do not work or they are inappropriate to the situation, your anger will continue to build while Mars is retrograde. You can expect the anger to manifest full-blown by the time Mars turns direct. If you have seriously wronged or angered another with…acts of aggression, you can expect the backlash as Mars turns direct.' ”
Mars returns full-throttle after March 10, but won't be redlining until May 17th. The Fixed Signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. Scorpio is likely to be particularly hard hit, Mars being the traditional planetary ruler of Scorpio.
Till then, though they may be deep, let the waters of March lie still.