Letter to Cid

(This post was a “letter to Cid” who passed away suddenly on Dec. 16, 2013.)

My dear Cid,

I never imagined that I will be writing you a letter as sad as it comes. I am in shock. Your Kuya Do (Texas) gave me the news yesterday morning via email, followed by an email from our Tio Francing San Miguel (Philippines), that you’ve suddenly left. Since I just got up, my thoughts were perhaps this whole thing was a dream. I grabbed the alumni directory but the pages seemed blank and couldn’t find any names to call. So I called your Ninang Juling who tearfully told me. I yelled to Uncle Bob to tell him, we were beyond words. I called your Nanay who told me that Mena was out making your funeral arrangements. Phone calls, texts and Facebook posts descended, grieving, asking what, when, where, why and how.

Cid, I hope you’re watching sistoh Mena and Mitzi. They are crying endlessly. Mena said it was so unfair you left suddenly and that you did not give her a chance to talk to you. I don’t mean to give you a guilt complex, but I agree with her.

In all fairness, your final bow to us at last Sunday’s PYMA election is unprecedented. You left us laughing while taking our pictures with your hands raised when Mena and I were elected, then posted on Facebook. Although the pictures are somewhat dark (sorry I had to tell you!) they glow with brightness and happiness. Oh, I also want to further comment on the photos of you and Mena on the beach last Saturday morning. You said it was hard to walk bare feet, so I said perhaps you should just go shopping to buy Mena a Christmas gift. Mena read that and told me you already bought her gifts, all wrapped under the tree.

The thought of sending an announcement to the Morong Community pained me, but I had no choice. Mitzi sent me the details on my Facebook PM. Uncle Bob said to work on it while he did our Christmas cards. It took two hours to complete the announcement. My mind was blank, my heart ached. I had to call Marie and your Ate Cora as I couldn’t think of your surviving siblings’ names – Edong and Chita. Suddenly I thought of your Kuya Ayboy, my friend, classmate and singing partner, who left in May.

Finally the announcement. I stared to collect my writer’s wit on how to sum up. Cid, please read this carefully as this is my send off:

There are no words to express the feelings of loss on Cid’s passing. In reading through the Facebook pages, the Morong Community grieves. People seek an answer on the loss of such a vibrant, caring and loving person. In a page was Cid and Mena standing on the beach last Saturday morning walking bare feet. In my timeline were two photos Cid posted on Sunday night immediately after our PYMA election. There are many more. Hearts are broken. Greetings of humor turned into sadness. To many of us who know him, he is truly one of a kind – always there, smiling, grounded, everyone’s friend and kuya to many, every fiber of his being glows with humility and tenderness. That’s Cid. To Cid, thank you for being a great husband to my sistoh Mena and a friend to all her friends! By the way, cheer us on at the tea party! You were the one who told me to go ahead with it, finally. To Mena and Michelle, you are loved forever.

Your Kuya Do is also in shock and sent me a message to read at the wake. I have to practice that as tears will roll. Say hello to Ayboy for me. Tell him I thought of him before reading the news – thank him for waking me up, my problem with that is the sadness. With heavy hearts the tea party will happen with the five sistohs, five fab ladies and friends.

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Sharing wisdom

Normita Fenn
Normita Fenn

My very first manager at General Electric, my employer where I spent many years and where I retired, gave me a copy of a poster of “Desiderata”, a compelling poem written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann. This poster was a treasured gift. I gently placed the poster in a folder at the very front of my desk cabinet and glanced at it from time to time. Through the years every word of the poem was set in every fiber of my heart. The poster is nowhere to be found now as the file cabinet got reshuffled as my career in the company changed, but the many embedded lessons remained and conjoined with homegrown wisdom of humility, generosity, pride and compassion. Here is the text:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata

I come from a poor family who left the bosom of my parents at a young age, with the determination to better myself in order to be better for my big family and for others. The pride of having met many generous people like my host family In the U.S., Jaime and Dativa Millare, loving parents of Lynn and Mattie, my first GE manager and those who walked with me every day, encouraged and taught me, are my treasured gifts along with those I walk today – they are the fruit of the wisdom shared by the poem, “Desiderata”.

Most sincerely,

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The road travelled to a dream…

Normita Fenn

Normita Fenn

On April 5, 2013, the Morong community in my hometown in the Philippines bore witness to the realization of a dream: to establish a historical museum. The ribbon was cut, the guests ascended the steps to the Museong Pambayan ng Morong. I looked up in the sky and said softly, “Thank you to those who waved at us in our journey. In every stop you took our hand until we reached our final destination, together.”

That morning was filled with aura of pride for our town of Morong to have its museum to honor the past, a way of life, images of people going about their business, artifacts as reminders of how life used to be.

Walking from room to room that day, there sits the familiar tapayan used to
fill for drinking water, in middle a sewing machine where dressmakers sew clothes out of materials bought at the palengke, before ready-made was invented. There are many more. The museum is here.

The work that a few started in 2006 has been rewarded with having many talented, committed and generous members now in the common thread. They will help to showcase the unmatched Morong’s traditions, artifacts and documents for generations of kababayans to appreciate and enjoy. Worthy of gratitude goes to the phenomenal outreach through social media, personal connections, alumni, kababayans and endearing homegrown relationships. It took time and perseverance, but in the end, Morong wins.

I’d be remiss not to recognize the work of Mayor Jojo Buenaventura, Councilor Ira Dean Reyes and the Sangguniang Bayan who understood the importance of historical preservation – they listened and acted. Salamat po at Mabuhay!

Normita Fenn

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I lost my dear friend, what is there to say?

Normita Fenn

Normita Fenn

Losing a dear friend pinches the very core of the fiber of one’s being. That insurmountable feeling seems to paralyze the heart and mind. Exactly that was how I felt on December 3, 2012 upon hearing the passing of my dear friend Janice Carter, Director of Library at Golden Gate University. She was not only a colleague but she was someone I shared many happy and sad times. Even though she was ill for a while, there was that ardent hope that she will recover to continue her magnificent work.

Speaking at her memorial service, I said, “My brain doesn’t work, no words will spill, my heart is broken, so I wrote this down.“

I lost my very dear friend Janice. What is there to say?

I know Janice will understand if I don’t say nor write a word, yet somewhere in my heart longs to share some of the times Janice and I had. In our quiet moments, we talked about archiving the many documents and photos stacked in the other room. In between the chore, she asked me if I have been to Velia Butz place, I said yes, Pat Angel and I went but you couldn’t go with us that day. You should go with John Fyfe next time, Janice, that’s a place where you can see forever.

Then we moved on to finding the Nagel T. Miner books and asked if I had one, I said yes, the Development Office gave me one. Then I think Janice was worried that I may be bored from retiring as GGU Alumni President and came up with the idea of forming a Library Board. Then one day, she sent me to Alice Dietrich so she can help me create an online newsletter to complement with my printed community newsletter. Lately, she suggested that since I finished my journalism I should volunteer as a tutor in writing here at GGU. After our lunch a few weeks ago, I showed her the flyer and promised to contact the coordinator.

Janice travelled to China for an immersion trip with a number of GGU staff. One of Janice’s wish is to travel to one of the universities in the Philippines to hold forums on organizational development, library research technology and continued learning for staff and professors. Everything was set in the Philippines, sadly, a couple of months before the scheduled date she found out she was ill. In spite of that, she sent documents and materials to the university president, hoping that someday she will make the trip. I can go on and on. That is Janice to me, always caring, always sharing, always thinking the best for people, never for herself.

Our lunches were lively. We’d explore the San Francisco Soup Co., the pizza place on First St., Boudin’s and Neeto’s. Every lunch was in a different place, but once in a while we’ll do brown bag so she can help me with my research. Then last year was mostly at nearby Neeto’s and I learned to eat what she was eating, quietly, lacking the joy and glee, but we get to walk shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, leaning at each other.

003When I was studying for my journalism, I interviewed Janice about why she became a librarian. This is Janice in her own words: “I actually have always wanted to be a librarian…. I basically grew up in libraries. I remember before I was eight years old when our family moved I would go to the library every day in the summer and I would just check out stacks of books, I’d go home and come back the next day and get more, it was such a wonderful place. You could wonder through the stacks and find what you want. I remember when we moved I would often go to the local branch on the way home from school and that’s where I would do my homework. I did my best works in libraries…. And there was always something exciting there. You could just wonder through the stacks.”

My dear friend, Janice, you will be missed by many for your generosity, knowledge and humility. Continue wondering through the stacks. I will miss you.

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This is destiny…

By Normita Fenn

Normita Fenn

At last my lifelong dream to become a journalist will be written, the unpaved and smooth road revealed. How sad I was when after high school my parents told me that there was no money to send me to journalism school.

Beside the kerosene lamp, I wrote the final article for my high school newspaper. As best I can remember, this is what I wrote:

As I Lay Thinking

I think about my hopes and dreams, my love for writing,
I think about the songs I’ll sing, with melody sweet and loving.

I feel the wind gently blowing, the rain endlessly dropping,
I feel the warmth of the rising sun, the birds flying and chirping.

I dream to make my parents joyful; this house has so much sadness,
I dream to mend my broken heart, with a future filled with brightness.

In my journey I met many notables and will meet many more, but there is no one more relevant to me than the everyday people trekking the same road as mine. They enrich my being, my life.

Finally I am here, with my journalism education and a successful career. The piercing sadness and the broken heart of the 16-year old are but a memory. Dreams are fulfilled. And now it’s time to build new dreams. This is destiny.

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The pope and our apple tree

By Normita Fenn

Normita Fenn

This past summer we were treated with a delightful harvest of apples from our dwarf apple tree – varieties of Gala, Fuji, Mitsui, Jonathan, rooted in one. There were so many, we gave them away for others to enjoy.  “They are large, juicy and crunchy,” said one of our neighbors. We even got a thank you note from a five-year old boy across the street.

I remember when we got this tree from Arden Nursery in Livermore – distinctly recollecting that day. As Bob and I were driving to the nursery, breaking news came that Pope John Paul II died. As I google the exact date, the pope died on April 2, 2005, the day we got the apple tree.

Fenn apple tree

The tree took many years to give us this bountiful harvest. Many hours were spent to tending, pruning and watering, along with surrounding the tree with lavenders recommended by the nursery.

I look to tend at this tree  in memory of a pope revered by his flock and the flock of many religions during his time. If he were still around, I know he will have a Facebook page and a Twitter account to reach out and share his message of love, peace and joy. For sure I will Like and follow his tweets.

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