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Sunday Lifestyle

Let me tell you a little story

LOVE LUCY - The Philippine Star
Let me tell you a little story
I asked God for a sign that Richard and I were doing the right thing. Red roses, I told Him specifically.

I started a diary again this year.  Maybe it was my way of ushering (or perhaps “cushioning” would be more appropriate a term) what I knew would be a very busy, demanding season — the recently concluded elections, or maybe it was more a tool to process racing, overlapping thoughts that is always a prelude to that.  Perhaps it was a way to simply record what is alongside what is yet to be, a little pocket memoir of sorts to read through one day when I am all of 85 years old.

Each election makes me feel like a soldier let loose in the battlefield. That is the long and short of it.  Whatever the results, any candidate takes a beating, tossed and turned as if in a storm. There are many lessons to be learned, most of them appreciated better in hindsight. It can be joyful on the good days, but exacting and cruel, too, when the going gets tough.  I’ve been away from this space for quite a stretch of time, and of the many stories I want to share I guess this one takes precedence, mainly because it is a story of faith and dozens of little letters I wrote to God.

A bit of backstory. It is a day before the last day of filing and Richard did not want to run for the position of mayor of Ormoc City, a post he ran for but lost back in 2013. Our team had no mayoral candidate to field; that was the only position vacant. Without a candidate for mayor, there would be no one to hold the front in Ormoc City where a bulk of the votes for the entire district (a post I was seeking for reelection) would be coming from. As his wife, I did not know what to advise him. I had my own political turbulence to make sense of and sort out and, suffice to say, that it was a very rough time for me. It was so easy to just bail out, to choose the safe route and just not engage the opponent anymore. What for? There was more to life than politics, especially if it was the kind of politics we were seeing — allies turning out to be otherwise, many gray areas, lots of power plays, claims that money would be the deciding factor anyway. Without going into details, let’s just say it was definitely one of the maybe eight times in my life when I sooooo wished the Lord spoke to us humans in an audible, booming voice, the way he did to Moses and Samuel in the olden times — to give specific instructions on what to do, which way to go. How simple it would be to just follow! What was God’s will for us? Should Richard run? Not run? Twice he won fair and square, only to get disqualified. Twice he lost.  What should it be this time? 

That day, we took a nap, woke up and went into a long, emotional meeting with our team. By the time we were done, a decision had been made. Richard had to run. There was no getting around that. Battle lines had to be drawn. And as the story of our political saga goes, we were up against Goliaths — powerful, with seemingly bottomless finances, a majority of the barangay leaders on their side. Odds were stacked against us, save for the overwhelming support of people on the ground. I asked God for a sign that we were doing the right thing. I am not particularly fond of the color red so I sent a message heavenwards asking God to please let that be our sign. Red roses, I told Him specifically. People very close to me hardly give me red roses, as they know I gravitate towards the paler, more muted hues, and so if I saw them or someone gave them to me it had to be THE sign.  I told no one about my little conversation with God.

The first sign came soon enough — we heard Mass right before filing for candidacy and on the altar, in between the arrangement of what I remember to be mums, were little red roses. That was probably the first time I smiled during that week with peace in my heart. That was October. The next time I saw or received red roses was Valentine’s Day, from my husband who normally gives me pink, or white or peach. But it being Valentine’s Day I did not count those roses as another message from Him. Still, it was comforting to hold a beautiful bunch of perfect red blooms.   

By January I had started my diary of sorts, where I would write many little letters to God. We were already gearing up for the campaign season so most everything was politics — breakfast, lunch, dinner, whether we liked it or not. Maybe because it was also the presidential elections, politics just seeped into the air, into every conversation, into social media, meals, classrooms, parties, bedrooms. One of our very first sorties in Ormoc City was in Brgy. Cabintan, a beautiful village up the hills of Ormoc, where residents enjoy cool weather year-round. Whenever I go there, a lady by the name of Leonila always comes up to me to hand me a bunch of flowers. Always it is milflores, also known as hydrangeas, in my favorite color, powder blue. The first time she gave me flowers back in 2010 I was so happy and I had told her that those flowers were a sentimental favorite, because we used that to decorate the church and the reception area during our wedding way back in 1998. That morning, true to our little tradition, Leonila went up to me while I was onstage, waiting for my turn to speak. She happily handed me my usual milflores, only this time there was a red rose in the bunch. I was stunned. And I clutched the flowers all the way to the car where I stared at the rose with a happy grin until we made it back home in Carlota Hills. I knew it was a hug from God, a little pat on the shoulder, as if to say that we must carry on.  My only regret was that I was too busy in the next few hours I forgot to take a photo of the beautiful blooms, much less keep a few petals that I should have pressed between the pages of my diary.

The campaign season unfolded and went into full swing. Because I cover the entire fourth district with 256 barangays, there would be days when I would speak in 18 of them. Eighteen! That is a lot. I spent most of the time in the car, traveling from one stop to the next. These were not 18 clustered barangays, where you just speak in one go and you’re done. You count 18, and you speak in all 18, a good 10-15 minutes each time. By the time I get home at day’s end (usually past midnight) I feel like a wet rag, to say the least — true, full in the heart after being in close contact with the team and all the supporters but physically tired as anything. One time, in Brgy. Marcelino, on a particularly very hot day where we were gathered in a leader’s house, I remember feeling sooooo tired and a bit disheartened after learning of the dirty tactics of the opponent. I once again told God, “Why cant you just even whisper in my ear for a second if we are doing the right thing, if we are on the right track?” I leaned back on the sofa where I was seated alongside other candidates in our lineup and as I did my eyes were drawn to one wall in the house where there were hung, side by side, two framed photos of — you guessed it — red roses, one frame each. I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

The third incident happened on Election Day itself.  Stress levels were high, sleep deprivation had taken its toll on everyone, and we were all anxious about the results. Everyone in the team had given their all in the intensive 45-day journey. Election Day was judgment day. We had done all we could, we ran a clean and good campaign that was platform-based, all that we weren’t able to do I prayed God would fill in the gaps.  I was tired and I told Richard I was going to step out of the war room to go to the house where all I wanted to do was pray and then take a loooong shower — in that order. The day seemed so long, results were due in a couple of hours, and my faith was wavering. Our daughter Juliana had arrived the day before and had brought me a present from my friend Denise. I sent her a message of thanks after saying my prayers, and told her I would open her present after the elections. I remember shampooing my hair, and I remember the exact moment when I told God: “I do not mean to be makulit, or appear to have such little faith, but dear God in heaven, today of all times I need a red rose.  Send me a red rose, please, if it is not too much to ask for. I know throughout the campaign you have given me so many affirmative signs that victory is ours but I need something to hang on to, to get by, if only so that I last through the day in one piece.”

 I was drying myself with a towel when I saw the present from Denise lying on my bed where I had left it just right before I took a shower. I had this sudden urge to open it and I knew I grabbed it and tore at the perfect wrapping almost like a mad woman, my heart beating. I saw a black box, covered in fancy cloth, with a drawer. I pulled open the drawer hoping to see red rose petals, or even just a drawing of a red rose. My heart sank. It was empty. There was nothing. Oh, Lucy Marie, where is your faith, I chided myself. I turned over the box and realized there was a lid. I opened it carefully, and when I saw what was inside tears fell from my eyes. 

In the box was a perfect red rose, a photo of which I am sharing with you here.

Hours before official results were in, I already knew we both had made it. Richard and I both won with the biggest margins ever recorded in the history of elections in Ormoc City and the Fourth District of Leyte. He as mayor, and I as representative.

It can only be God.

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