Love and death are intertwined

Posted November 6, 2014 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: Uncategorized

November is a love month for me, more than valentine season. The remembering rites of people we love are held in November 1st and 2nd .This soul month, Ed and I prayed for our parents : Romualda Gan and Vivencio dela Torre, Cesar Villariba and Flotilda Collantes. Then we went to bond with two friend couples whose loved ones crossed over. Cha and Chuchi Cala flew from Calgary to bid goodbye to mother Mama Charing Cala . Maria Almazan and Aziz flew from Mumbai to take care of the final rites of her only brother Alec Almazan. We also paid tribute to Doc Juan Flavier in UP and remembered his parables. Why are all these rites important? Because as humans,we all share is death. Death spares no one and we need to learn why and how to face death.

I have witnessed many crossing over and marvelled how the spiritual energies soar over the human body. I cannot explain how I sense these energies but social rites and stories weave into the process of dying. When friends started requesting assistance in coping with grief and mourning during the final crossing, I would receive “messages” from the dying parent or sibling even when I was not present in the room. As I interpret the messages and send them to the family, I felt a sense that I can only describe as a loving” bilin”. When the “bilin” has been received well,there is a serenity that envelops the space where grief and mourning reside. As a witness to these rites of crossing over to afterlife, I am filled with love and respect.The main emotions humans relate well are love and respect. I think social rites of grief and mourning are precious paths to understanding this life and the after life. The mourning CIMG6309CIMG6309rites can link deep respect for the pain of the living and gratitude for the departing person. Prayers can provide the spine to weave energies into a tapestry of tributes. Yes, we all need to see death as the reason to love life and each other. For if we have never loved fully in this life, death will unveil the profound waste we made of this life.


Conceiving a Book

Posted July 20, 2014 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: Lifelong learning


desiderata 6

desiderata 2Today I started  writing a book. Why? Because life is one continuous narrative and having worked for 44 years, I have something good to share. How does one start? Begin reviewing one’s body of work.

A body of work has a head and heart. Feel the  pulse of stories by tapping ones’ head and heart which  grow synapse trees. Each synapse tree can remember a time and place where people worked with you, then write without thinking of any form. Listen and  let the hands write manually. Fill up three pages every morning without editing.

After eight weeks, use a laptop and encode what you wrote. As images rise, talk to these images and create the stories.  Another month,make doodles until the  stories come alive. After four months of tapping one’s head and heart, a  book is born.

That is how we  conceive a  book. Short and sweet. No caesarean surgery needed.

Start the day inventing a grateful mood

Posted July 15, 2014 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: health, Psychology


Today one can invent a mood. Waking up after sleepless nights of watching cable FIFA games, I tried reinventing a mood after seeing Argentinian Messi who didn’t smile nor cheer after the final match with Germany. As he went up to receive his award as the most valuable player, he showed a sour attitude. Perhaps his bodymind told him there was nothing that could make him celebrate. Poor bodymind message. Having played in many matches and be honored as the MVP is an achievement no one from the 32 teams got. Why is Messi deaf to the cheering millions fans all over the world?
He chose not to be happy enough to smile and thanked the fans.

Being alive and aiming to be the One is laudable but there is more to life than being the greatest. One can open up to the myriad of enchanting challenges that life invents. Waking up each day and being conscious is magical in itself because we are a galaxy of energies. The moment we open our eyes and our brains click to tell us who we are – means our cellular system has correctly tuned in to the moment. It is like powering a million cell sites to connect with a million websites. Every sense, visual,auditory,tactile,olfactory,muscular are on track.

If I were Messi ,Robben, Neymar and the football icons -Pele and Maradonna, I will thank my bodymind and all the people who trained, nurtured and gave me the life force to be part of a global match. I have every reason to cheer and smile no matter what scores other players got. I have a choice and a reason to be happy. I am alive.

Nanay’s Vignettes

Posted January 24, 2014 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: health and food, Lifelong learning, Love and marriage


ImageFlotilda Nieva Collantes Villariba aka NENE

Nene’s Diet :Nene grew up as a girl in Atimonan, Quezon. Her daily menu consisted of food and seafood. She enjoyed fried pork with soy sauce and Ginataang Súsô, fresh shrimps, and mountain ferns or pakô. Her parents, Mariano and Beatriz Collantes, cooked good food. Mariano’s favorite dish was Prihil with grated papaya. Prihil is dinuguang manok. During her stint in Liliw, Laguna as a student, Nene ate bread pudding and learned how to cook/bake it with old bread.

Nene’s Menu as a young wife and mother :When Nene started teaching in Tongho Institute, she served fish and vegetables. I remember four vegetables that were served daily on our table.

  • Upong Bulanglang or Upo with some shredded meat
  • Tortang Talong  or Inihaw na Talong
  • Patola with miki noodles
  • Kalabasang Ginataan

We also had special Chami and the Sotanghon dish that Ate Fedy served which was Tatay’s favorite food.

Nene as Home Economics student :Home Economics classes ( H.E. 1950-1953) withMrs. Catalina Vicuńa as teacher.  Under Mrs. Vicuńa, Nene mastered the following :

  • Menu planning
  • Balanced diet
  • Deboning Bangus
  • Bangus relleno
  • Spaghetti
  • Baking cakes

Nene as a crafts and arts learner : Earlier in 1947, as a young teacher fresh from college Nene taught in Plaridel town locally known as Shain. She learned to sew and make dresses from her landlady. As early in grade six, she could already sew, embroider and make flower arrangements. Weaving and beadwork are Nene’s other skills and she learned it from asking weavers and bead-seamstress how they do it.  Macrame weaving and beading became a passion for Nene. We remember our cousins Ellen and Isabel Valonzo learning from Nene how to make beautiful macramé bags and beaded purses. I learned how to string beads and make floor rugs from Nanay. We had lovely beaded cocktail dresses made by Nene . My black cocktail dress Nene made has survived up to this decade of 2014.

 Nene’s Beauty tips  : Washing with care our “flower” and douching with a spoonful of vinegar in a can of water, changing panties before they smell, and washing these panties instantly while bathing. Her underwear due for laundery  were fragrant . I wondered how Nene kept herself smelling good after working the whole day  While I could smell myself going the way of “anghit or maasim” after a day in school. Liwayway Gawgaw .We learned  how to starch (almirol) our uniforms and iron them, especially the collar and sleeves, from Nene. We would let our skirts stand on the table to check how well we starched them.

When we began menstruating, Nene taught me to use “pasador”, those soft flour canvas cloth that are folded in rectangles. I remember our cousins Ellen and Isabel Valonzo  going to the river with me to wash our napkins. With so much  blood stains, we used our feet to squeeze  and wash  the napkins. I remember our relief  when commercial cotton napkins came to the stores that saved us from washing blood-stained pasadors  but these products  would clog the environment with non-biodegradable napkins.

Nene as a Womb Mentor : I saw my mother through 6 birthings – from Jojie who was born at home to us in Zamora street, to Melo, Ceres, Heidi, Caloy, and Mina. The last three siblings’ birthing, Deeda, Phey, and Paul were assisted  by our aunts and cousins in the hospital. Nene birthing was fast and easy and would go to the doctor by herself then send notice to us to inform Tatay where she was confined. She would stay for a day or two, then come home with a new baby. After a week in the hospital, she would return to work in Tongho and let the baby be cared for by a big household of relatives who were our parents’ scholars. We always had cousins, close and distant kin, who lived with us to get an education from high school to college. As a result of her managerial acumen, the babies had ample attention and we never were left alone to fend for ourselves. We always had our “Ate” and “Kuya” to bring us to the park ( there were no malls then) and play. I remember Nene teaching each “Ate” to bath a baby and take care for he/she when she was at school. From hindsight, Nene trained many family caregivers and house managers who became good in it when they graduated from college.

When it was my turn to give birth to Ayen, my mother called but couldn’t fly in time to be present on the day Ayen came. But after several months, Nene flew in to Holland to help me care for Ayen. She bought us many gifts but the most precious one was –  knowing she would always be present for us all. She went to mass daily and dedicated her days and nights thinking, thanking God of the growing harvest of grandbabies in her time.

 A Real Accomplishment : Giving birth to thirteen (13) babies, then harvesting 44 apos, 6 great grandchildren or apo sa tuhod.

Nene ‘s mission : from Womb to Tomb “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

 –Stephen Covey

PagpapaHesus : the rites of pagtatawid or crossing over

Nene is a much-sought after “magtatawid”, a guide through the “final boarding phase” as my Tatay would describe a person’s life in its  final moments. She would administrate “PagpapaHesus” to the dying and supervise the process of insuring a peaceful and graceful internment. In one of many services I witnessed, Nene gave Tita Cecilia Patron, her best friend, a very lovely wake and internment. She chose what picture to display, the menu to be served during the wake, and all the prayers that need to be recited each day.

I began to go with Nene to wakes when I graduated from college but it was only when Nene couldn’t attend wakes in Metro Manila  that she asked me to stand for her and Tatay.Initially  I paid my respects the way I saw it  . I didn’t know how to pray for the deceased in Nene’s style and it was only when Nene came to fetch me one day to find a cousin, Rorie Salvanera – Mercader, whom she sensed were in her final moments. We didn’t know her exact home address and got Phey to drive us. With Nene’s determination, somewhat like a spiritual GPS, we found Rorie in state of dying alone with only one daughter present. Nene gave her the “PagpapaHesus” as I cried profusely. There was a moment of recognition by Rorie and she followed Nene’s prayers. When we got the rest of the family to prepare Rorie, we bid goodbye and promised to offer masses for her peaceful journey. That was my first on-the-job-training. Since then, we have been giving succour to the dying and learned Nene’s pagtatawid.

 It was understood tacitly by the family that I would be Nene’s proxy in wakes where she cannot attend due to her physical state. I would  call her whenever a friend, a relative, a friend of a friend would ask for prayers in the final boarding phase. When I reached fifty, I already had Nene’s  tacit blessings  to carry on the services that she willingly gave to the final departees. Thus, I am now the family magtatawid.

Nene learned pagpapaHesus  from her mother, Beatriz Nieva Collantes. It is simple. The dying person is asked to repeat these lines in Tagalog or the dialect she is familiar with.

“I love Jesus, Jesus loves me. I love Mary, Mary loves me. I love Joseph, Joseph loves me. I commend my soul to Jesus, Mary, Joseph.” This is what I recite  as a  prayer when assisting a departee cross to the after life.

Our Filipino people will rise

Posted November 22, 2013 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: Economic and social growth

Our Filipino people will rise

Jess Santiago song on 7 thousand islands

Google Image Result for

Posted November 22, 2013 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: Storm resistant homes

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Rural reconstruction is necessary after Yolanda ravaged our country. Bamboo designs can help rebuild homes and prepare families for zero-casualties during disasters.

Freeing one’s mind

Posted November 8, 2013 by Girlie Villariba
Categories: Babaylan, health, Psychology

Tags: ,
Art for the heart

Art for the heart

Filipinos have a habit of quieting one’s consciousness. We do tunganga, a state of mind free from stress. It allows us to be quiet,no distraction,simply being. How? Staring,looking far from window sills, or people on the road squating  the Asian way, serenely letting life flow.

Why do Filipinos do it?  Simply  to be , breathing with the energies within, sensing the kalooban merging with a bigger kalooban. This state of tunganga is similar to mindfulness and Zen , it is knowing there is a bigger mind and entering  it. When we need to be  whole,we enter the inner canopy of our kalooban. But it takes long practice of tunganga to find this canopy and gather strength to remember and recreate.

I do tunganga everyday to gain a sense of wholeness. This may seem somehow unproductive for people who have a routine list of tasks.  Life gives us a wider access to its challenges and mysteries.It is like the movies Gravity,Inception and Time – one enters a state that seems unreal or surreal but when one’s mind expands, we discover a canopy of life inside us that thrives on creativity.

Try it from time to time. Go placidly into your inner self and breathe. Inside you will  discover moments of clarity, moments of flow, moments of grace.

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