Monday, April 30, 2007

Ghost Stories And Strange Tales


In my desire to impress my mother with the wonders of web and the internet, i recently convinced her to have a website where she can post her personal collection of ghost stories for people to read and appreciate. After months of jitters and getting the help of the professionals at Yehey.com, her website was finally launched - -www.mimighoststories.com.ph - - her stories of ghosts and strange encounters, mostly myths, legends and folk tales from the island of western visayas, where my mother grew up and the central home of my clan - the Illenberger.

Reading her collection is like taking a trip to the world of story telling. I am amazed of the depth and understanding my mother has on local folk tales and her imagination in weaving stories inspired by actual events or taken from bits and pieces of myths handed down from generations ago. I also discovered, that some were stories coming from our family clan including her personal experiences when she travelled in Europe.

Here's one story that i like best :

Of Dreams and Undying Love
By Mimi Illenberger-Mapa

Memory is the dream we all
carry about with us…..Oscar Wilde

I dream of my grandmother whenever I am terribly upset. My dream is always the same- my beloved lola with her favorite shawl wrapped around her frail shoulders, her smiling face radiant in the soft flickering light of vesper candles. The vision is ethereal and it never fails to bring comfort and peace to me. Over the years, I learned to look forward to this dream although I can never will it to happen no matter how hard I try.

My sister too had this dream which continues to puzzle her. As a child she would dream of a church and a churchyard - and her entering it. It would be just that, the same church - old, intimidating and awesome with its moss covered fa├žade. The same dream came twice or thrice a year and always during siesta time. This went on for years until one day, as a young professional she accompanied my mother on a vacation to Valladolid, Negros Occidental. There she saw the church of her dreams for the first time ! The dream after having blended with reality , stopped coming.

Through the years, friends and office mates have offered explanations, none of which has been acceptable to my sister. She especially hates to think she has seen the place in another lifetime. She deplores the theory of reincarnation, of her soul being someone else's too. My sister simply hates the idea of her soul not being hers alone.

But there must be some rational or scientific explanation to these haunting dreams specially when it takes a bizarre twist as in the case of Freddie F. But to appreciate the story, we need to go back to the time when it all began - -.

Elena was the youngest child in the family and the only daughter. She was a pampered, strong-willed lass who openly rebelled against her conservative upbringing. She was not quite nineteen when she got herself pregnant by an much older man - a good looking balladeer in a nearby night club. The guy simply vanished from her life when she told him of her predicament.

Fearing her parents' wrath and the consequent scandal of her out-of-wedlock motherhood, she left school and went into hiding in an obscure fishing village somewhere in the outskirts of Davao. There she peacefully awaited the arrival of her child in the company of two gentle septuagenarians, grandparents of the lady security guard she had befriended in school. She gave birth sans medical attention and died a few weeks later from postpartum complications. She left a son whom she named Michael.

Freddie did not like what his younger sibling begged him to do. But how could he say no to her dying request? The grieving brother left the baby with the elderly couple and took his sister's body home for burial. Ten months later, he was back and soon after he was on his way to Europe with a baby boy in his arms.

" This is my son," he proudly told the stewardess who helped him with the baby's formula. The years rolled by.
It took a little more than a decade before he sent for his parents to visit him in England. This was their first trip abroad but they somehow knew their son was well off as evidenced by the expensive gifts and generous allowance he regularly sent them. But nothing prepared them for what laid ahead.

The sight of Freddie waiting for them in the airport - so tall, so trim, and looking every bit like an Englishman in his business suit made the old matriarch gasp with surprise. She began to weep as she embraced her bemused son, " I'd forgotten how handsome you are."

His mother was still crying when the limousine slowly pulled into the driveway of a large, turn-of-the-century mansion. The vast estate was abloom with the flowers of spring and it reminded her of a postcard she had recently received. Both spouses were so overwhelmed with the opulence of their surroundings they failed to notice the strapping boy with light brown hair and pale gray eyes seated beside the grand piano observing them with open curiosity.

The following morning, Freddie decided it was time to tell his parents and Michael the secret he had faithfully kept to himself for many years. It was not easy. His mother promptly burst into hysterics accusing him of lying to the family, his father called him a cad. But all negative feelings were instantaneously forgotten when Michael was summoned and introduced to them. It was a touching moment and soon it was Freddie's turn to cry. He was so relieved and happy when his old mother turned and hugged him too, thanking him profusely for being such a good son and brother. " I am sorry, son. It must have been hard for you too."

The years his grand parents spent in England proved to be quite memorable for Michael who decided to be a concert pianist , thanks to influence of his grandma who was a retired music teacher. Freddie too rediscovered the joys of fishing and with his dad, decided to join a well known angler's club. It was an idyllic life until his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

The oldsters decided to return to their old country. When death finally claimed both spouses, Freddie and Michael were not able to return to the Philippines A few years later, Freddie also died and it was his wish to be buried beside his parents. This brought Michael back to his ancestral home.

In was during Freddie's wake when we heard Michael narrate the story of his uncle's haunting dreams and undying love. It is an unusual tale:

Freddie was a twenty two year old student in the College of Engineering when he met the lovely and articulate English professor. Ms. Sandra C was in her early thirties; the wife of an up and coming corporate lawyer and the mother of two hyper active boys. Their chance meeting came about when he approached her for a small donation to the university fund drive. As president of the university student council, he was spear heading a campaign to raise money for the ancient school chapel that had fallen into disrepair.

It did not take long for them to discover they had so many common interests. The age gap did not seem to matter when they were together. They shared the same views with life in general, laughed at similar jokes, subscribed to the same books and magazines and even enjoyed the same past time - fishing. They were extremely compatible, they could have been soul mates.
A few days before graduation, Freddie surprised Sandra with a ”going away" present. It was a small box wrapped in ordinary brown paper.

" Open the box when you get home. But please take care of it. Be sure you do not misplace it" The young man smiled as he pressed the tiny box into her hand. "I'll see you during graduation day." The young man was graduating with honors.
" What is it this time, something to last forever?" She joked. It was such a flippant remark but Freddie always managed to bring out the school girl in her. "Thanks Fred. See you."

Hurrying to her classroom, she absent mindedly placed the gift inside the large tote bag she always carried with her. She had gotten used to his little gifts of affection - a chocolate bar every now and then, a flower he picked up somewhere along the football field, a book marker he fancied. As a popular teacher, she was used to this kind of adulation from her students and thought nothing of it. All her friends, Freddie included, knew she was a happily married woman.

When the young man failed to show up on graduation day, the teacher was worried. It was so unlike him. It was only then when Sandra remembered his little gift. To her surprise it was a square cut stone the color of pine trees set in a wide gold band. She mistook it for a well-crafted costume jewelry until she read his note: this emerald ring belongs to my mother. She said I should give it to that special woman in my life."

Sandra was speechless. She knew she could not accept such a priceless heirloom. This was not meant for an ordinary lady friend like her but for his future bride. And besides, how will she explain the ring to her husband and children without giving them wild ideas?

A few weeks later, after discreetly asking around for his whereabouts, Sandra finally traced his forwarding address to an affluent section in Makati. To her consternation, she learned that Freddie had rushed home the afternoon before graduation day. He had been summoned by his sister.

" A pity Freddie didn't get to receive his medals on graduation day." his former landlady explained, " He hasn't returned for his personal belongings either.'

No none knew what exactly happened and there was no news from him either. The years flew. Sandra and her family migrated to the United States and yet there was not a single day Sandra didn't think of Freddie. And so the ring remained hidden among the silken folds of Sandra's jewelry box which she kept under lock and key until her sudden death at age of 55. Her husband found the ring among her collection of expensive pieces and decided to give it to their oldest son for "that special woman in your life."

Meanwhile, in far away England, Freddie had succeeded to curve a name for himself in the oil industry. He worked hard and played hard and like most party-loving singles, he was frequently seen escorting beautiful women.

This accomplished executive was the company's most elusive bachelor. Friends and office mates loved to tease him about it, wondering aloud how a successful hunk like him could remain unhitched. Unless of course he had unusual preferences. His peers found it strange how he could be contented living in such a magnificent estate with only a young boy and an old manservant to keep him company.

" Don't you ever long for a more female company?"

" Of course, I do, " He would readily counter. " And I have a woman here every now and then when my son is away on vacation. But marriage is not my cup of tea."

Did bachelor hood have something to do with the lady whose picture he kept in his private library? Did the red roses on the silver vase mean he still carried a torch for her? Who was she? How come he never talked about her when he was so obviously in love with her?

"What's wrong with you, Papa?" Michael stormed into his room one day. I am so tired of people insinuating you're gay. Why don't you tell us who your secret love is?"

His uncle's reply chilled Michael to the bones. " The day I tell you her name will be the day I walk out of this world. Remember that always." The boy never opened the topic again.

Freddie's recurring dreams began the day he turned fifty three. Every time he had a problem in the office or whenever he was stressed out, he would dream of her. It was always the same dream - she was seated on a large boulder by the river bank, her bare feet resting on a carpet of tiny flowers that had sprouted from the huge rock. Behind her the river flowed like pale silk and the sky shimmered with a pale incandescence. Dancing moonbeams gave her fair skin some sort of mystical glow as the evening breeze blew soft tendrils of hair across her lovely face. The entire vision was bathe in silver and as his heart raced in his effort to call out, he heard his name whispered in the gentle winds of his dream.." Freddie, oh Freddie…"

He had always been a health buff and had hardly ever been sick; his worst complaint had been a bothersome cold that had kept him indoors one wintry weekend. And so, when in the middle of a management meeting, he suddenly clutched his head screaming in pain, his colleagues were immobilized with shock.. In a matter of seconds, he was unconscious. The responding family physician immediately referred him to a neurologist. Freddie remained in the hospital for a week.

Freddie knew his days were numbered when the neurologist showed him the results of his x-rays, knew in his heart the inevitable hour was at hand. And so without much ado, he began putting his affairs in order. The welfare and security of Michael was foremost in his mind.

The doctors wanted him in the hospital a week before surgery for further tests. The day he moved into the large, sunny room in the east wing of the famous hospital , he brought only three things with him - his checkbook, a large family album and the picture of his mysterious lady friend which he promptly positioned by his bedside.

A few minutes after Freddie was finally wheeled out of surgery into his new quarters, an intensive care room only the rich and famous who wanted complete isolation and exclusive service can afford, the overwrought Michael decided to take a breather. As he passed by the nursing station which was just across his uncle's room, the young man waved at the nurse on duty signaling with his fingers he would be gone for only a hour or so.

" I'll just grab a bite to eat," he whispered. " I'm famished."

" It's okay. I'll keep an eye on him." The nurse gently reassured him. " He'll be sleeping for hours."

When the young man returned barely an hour later, he was shocked with what he saw. His uncle was already up and about , dressed in street clothes and ready to leave with a lady companion who reminded him of the actress Ingrid Bergman. The stranger was dressed in a diaphanous gown. And his uncle had never looked so happy and so vigorously alive. Who would have imagined he had just undergone a major brain surgery only hours before !

Holding each others hand, the pair walked…no, they floated towards him His uncle smiled fondly at Michael and touched his face ever so lightly, " Try not to miss me too much my son. Be happy for Sandra and me. "
Before the couple faded into the inky darkness that lay beyond the open window at the end of the corridor, Michael had already recognized the stranger. She was the mysterious woman in the picture.

Freddie F., CEO of Global Explorations, Inc. was only 55 years old when he died.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Of Birthdays and Lessons in Life


April is one month that has so many red letter days in my calendar..i call it the "birthday month". My wife, daughter,
younger sister, grandmom, brother-in-law are all April born. I have also close friends who are part of my April birthday
list.

Last April 19 was the birthday of Elaine.

I heard that she celebrated her birthday away from her family because of work and I felt sad for her.

Because people who know her well, will know, she'd rather be with family.

Elaine is a close friend of mine, though our relationship seem distant.

This gentle, spirited, funny and loving woman is the mother of my two precious children - Rachel and Chito. Elaine and I were once married. It was a relationship that, in hindsight, was unfair for her from the start. I was young, reckless and irresponsible. Our marriage was annulled and have long since lived our separate lives.

Despite our painful past, Elaine remained to be a familiar friend of my family... and as time healed the emotional scars, we have evolved to become friends -bonded by our love for our children.

Our journey together may have long been over,but the memories all told, have made me become a better man.She has taught me that for a relationship to prosper, it must be a two-way partnership. A give and take. Never one way. She made me realize that reaching out is far greater than proving a point. That being gentle means: the laughter and hugs, the i love you's, i miss you's and those little simple things in life; and that they are very important, for they add the solid footing and foundation in a relationship.

She made me realize that family matters the most in life, and the ties that keep the family intact,comes in different shape and form. She also taught me that when one listens with a heart, the relationship becomes deeper. And often than not, a simple voice call to say "I am sorry" can save a relationship from breaking apart.

I am now happily married with Lyne, whom i love so dear. I try make it a point as much as possible, to call her...hear her voice and to listen with my heart...this routine has kept us together despite the ups and downs.

Today's blog is my way of saying, thanks for everything Elaine.

And that i still do think of you particularly on days like today, when i reminisce my youth and remember, lessons i have learned.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Inspiration



My children. Chito and Rachel. My inspiration why i created this site.... My life has been full of twists and turns...and have been working like a dog for as long as i remember. I just woke up one day and realized that my children have grown up...I discovered their friendster accounts by accident.... and soon dawned on me that they have come to consider the internet as their friend of sorts... and seemingly have come to learn about things,that as a father i should have taken the responsibility to teach them...i observed that they have come to shape their own impressions about life...very much influenced of what they have learned and processed in the internet. It was a painful realization for me...that i have missed many important stages of their growing childhood. I am trying my best to make up for lost time. And am taking it one day at a time. So far, it seems to be paying off. My son and i have begun to bond together..and am slowly discovering Chito for the man he is growing up to be and not as someone that i "want to him be"...I have opened my arms to my daughter, Rachel. Embracing her for all her shortcomings...for i know that all her mistakes in the past was a result of my absence as a father....and i should never fault twinkle toes ( nickname i fondly called her when she was 5 years old) for that stage of her life. It seems that as i write this blog, that the internet has now taken a different role in my life..from a cold, statistical data as a communication platform...into one that i can openly share my thoughts, my shortcomings in life, and a therapy of sorts...to release the emotional burden that i carry. Now, it seem that i am beginning to understand on why the internet has evolved to become a close friend of my children.

My First Entry


My first entry....after 43 years in this planet, after over 10 years working at Euro RSCG, one of the world's largest advertising agency, after handling major campaigns that utilizes the internet as a platform, it took me over 3 years to finally take the time and legitimize the revolution that is changing the landscape in advertising and communications including the life around us. I attempted to create my podcast months back, but ended up just recording my voice over the garageband....the photo i decided to choose to dramatize my first blog entry is a souvenir shot taken during my trip to San Francisco,where i had my face-to-face encounter with Google - - one of the global giants behind the revolution of today. I remember that i was totally in awe of just being inside their office....how i got gooze bumps as i walk in their corridors...what also made the visit memorable was how i felt talking to the Google executives ( the visit was work related)...I've had many occassions meeting with global executives (during my singapore cross-posting) but this was one of the few occassions that i felt, should we say, intimidated by them.. the moment i was introduced. It was maybe because that i have entered into a new communication discipline that i am still rather in a learning curve ( i've been trained in traditional advertising)...or maybe because, deep down, i felt i wasn't ready yet to clash and exchange views. The turning point of that said meeting was when i saw these executives...after sometime...sweat!. i told myself darn, they do perspire..and they are human after all! My learning : One should never be intimidated by the appearance of global gigantic technology brands or by the mumbo jumbo of new technology...at the end of the day, consumers remain the center of it all...and they are people...a person with feelings...emotions...reacts and responds...and behave based on the experiences they have encountered : - )

Time Capsule


We are in the midst of a revolution....a revolution that is driving radical changes on how we live life...how we communicate...how we search for information...how we conduct business...(even how parents are raising their children to become productive citizens of society! )..this revolution started when people discovered the internet and since then, is like a blackhole...taking us to a journey of never ending discoveries of its applications to our lives. This is my attempt to mirror that revolution...to catalog my struggle to evolve and survive the revolution...a journal created to share with my friends and more importantly,for my children - - and possibly, including their children, so that they may someday get the chance to read and refer this series of blogs as a"time capsule" of sorts, giving them a snapshot on the era of which i have lived.