Cindy has an interesting writing style, a flair for vocabulary, humour, and telling a tale. The story of “Welcome Inn” is a fast moving, well-crafted plot with twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages. The eight chapters are appropriately titled beginning in the fall with thanksgiving and ending in the spring with births. They say write about what you know and Cindy clearly writes from first hand experience as an immigrant to PEI. Her humour shines throughout and I love her writing of the youngster educating the senior about the Internet! Keep up the good work, Cindy!
~ Marilyn Rice, Author of several books, including Look After Each Other
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I was thinking about you last week and I told myself I would have to write you, to tell you how I was doing, to ask how you were doing. I wonder if I was thinking of you out of the blue because you were thinking of me.
You are definitely one of the most memorable people in my life. You have done so much for me, from when I was still in high school and you were the assistant principal. I think you also taught a class or two, occasionally. I don’t remember much, but I know you encouraged me to keep writing and entrusted with special projects. You listened to me and paid attention to what I was doing. I did not think you would remember me after I had graduated. Au contraire. You were the principal when I visited the faculty room one day, when I was picking up my younger sister, who was in her freshman year in high school. Out of the blue, you asked me what I was doing, if I was working.
I was not.
“Good,” you said. “How would you like to teach in the high school?” you asked.
I was a bit flabbergasted and not sure what to say. I had a degree in mathematics for teachers up my sleeve, but I had not mentioned it. Despite my degree, I had not really thought of getting into teaching. I had been thinking of taking my master’s degree, but had not acted on it because of my personal situation at the time.
“I need an English teacher,” you said.
“Okay,” I said, excited. I could not believe my luck. I did not think I would be back to teach at my alma mater. The invitation to teach was an honor and something I also needed, not having a job just then.
“By the way, what was your major?” you asked.
“Mathematics for teachers,” I said, hesitantly.
“That’s okay,” you said. “Come in next week to do some paperwork. I want you to go to Ateneo so you can enroll for your masters. Fr. Galdon will be happy to have you.”
“Okay,” I said. “Thank you!”
“You should start reporting here in May,” you said. “We have planning workshops and seminars before classes begin in June.”
And just like that, I found myself enrolling at the Ateneo de Manila University, meeting Fr. Joseph Galdon, S.J., who has since passed through the pearly gates, and attending two summer courses, one of which was a methods class for teaching English. All of a sudden, from an intense focus on math and numbers, I was back in my milieu with several other students, most of whom were already teachers and taking a summer course for professional development.
When I was done for the summer, I reported right back to SSC and you introduced me to the other English teachers. I was happy to meet former teachers, who were equally happy to welcome me into their fold. Later, I would hear from co-teachers that I had been labeled the principal’s pet–again–because I had been given that label first by classmates, then by co-teachers. I tried very hard not to spend so much time in your office and, instead, spent more time with Me-an or Tita Medy when they weren’t too busy.
In that first year, you called on me time and again for help in editing and planning little projects. You made me the adviser for the drama club. You invited me to be your co-editor for the first literary chapbook of student works. Later in the school year, you invited me to interview some new teacher applicants. I had to take a maternity leave when I gave birth to Bianca Margaret in October and was back teaching in January. At the end of the year, you told me you wanted me to head the English area.
Things moved very fast after that. During the summer of my first year as subject area coordinator, you encouraged me to revise the curriculum for the English area. You also let me implement the initial survey for my master’s thesis, which would be a longitudinal study, following all the students for four years as they practiced using journals in English classes to learn creative writing. As part of revamping the curriculum, you let me design and introduce independent classes in public speaking for all levels and I became their speech teacher because you knew I had been a proficient public speaker in high school. You also let me start a Reading Circle and a Forensics Guild, for which I served as adviser for the first few years of their existence. In my second year of teaching, you also started to send me to other branches of SSC to deliver all kinds of workshops and seminars to other teachers as well as selected students. Because of you, I got to travel more around the Philippines–something Mrs. Cova continued when she became principal and you moved to Bacolod. I was happy to visit Bacolod to deliver seminars and workshops there. It was at those workshops that I gained a few new friends, including one who later raised Bian. I was happy to know she was studying where you were principal because I knew she would be watched over, nurtured, cared for, and loved.
We used to exchange letters quite frequently, until I became so busy I did not have time to even write. For that, I am sorry. I wish we still wrote and many times, I would have the urge to write. In fact, I did write a couple of times after I left teaching at SSC, but never received a reply from you.
Now and then, I would hear news about you. I always prayed you would continue to find happiness and fulfillment in your work.
Today, I scrolled down my Facebook wall to see what friends had been posting throughout the day and very close to the top, I saw this notice shared by Charlie Azcuna. I’m glad she shared it, because I had been thinking of you and now, I must say farewell.
Thank you for encouraging me, trusting me, and pushing me forward and upward. Thank you for believing in what I could do and believing I could do anything you asked of me. Thank you for providing me with opportunities to grow, improve, and serve others. Thank you for understanding me and not putting me in uncomfortable situations. Thank you for watching over Bian, taking her under your wing, and giving her the same opportunities you gave me. Above all, thank you for allowing me to work closely with you on several projects that were mutually dear to us both.
Dear Sr. Lucy, I will always remember you because of the many ways you have helped me become the woman I am.
You have earned your rest. May it forever be a peaceful one.
Written during the Wild Threads Writing Symposium 2019 in Charlottetown, PE, for the participants’ open mic on August 25th.The pièce de résistance.
walking into the bar at Peake’s Quay
i find a few people
a friend, and another, and another
then strangers pour in
sitting in a corner
a high school kid
at her first dance
leaving at first chance
knowing it would get better
it had to get better
a good sign
then the lounge
again feeling alone
unsure what to say
until he sweeps into the room
fills the void
no need for other talk
no room for other talk
George Elliott Clarke
loves to talk
in the presence of literary god
venturing minuscule offerings
lapping up momentary patting
atta girl! good boy!
we intellectuals we!
played a guessing game
too many strange titles
in the presence of
exclusive elusive agent
atta boy! good girl!
a short walk
jars bones awake
trotting to the Carriage House
are dead ends
with Hilary and Craig
but Laurie Brinklow
twinkled and glowed
art gallery faculty reading luscious words gushing from godly gullets that barely reached limp mike thank you, Keith
early morning coffee muffin cinnamon roll thank you Liza-with-a-Zay hello Brent Taylor-who-works-in-VA
Pauline Dakin’s on today
Julie P-Lush won’t play
Anne Simpson ramps on
a saggy mattress
extending the metaphor
until George (still on Toronto time)
sweeps in on golden sandals
Craig Pyette does play it cool
stretching the hour
processing outlines with Patti at lunch pop thoughts on cards rainbow story arcs paranormal (L)arsen mystery did the ghost do it? poof! typing magic fingers poof!
Julie P-Lush came out to play
Julie P-Lush did end the day
all of her listeners in awe of her art
shared all their big dreams and opened their hearts
and so over lobsters and oysters and steaks
down at the Row House the writers partake
of laughter and cheer and chatter and make
new friendships and memories to keep them awake
all night as they slave for their open mic takes.
Poem written during the Wild Threads Writing Symposium 2019 in Charlottetown, PE, during a workshop session with Anne Simpson on August 24th, and delivered at the participants’ open mic on August 25th. Also with a great suggestion from George Elliott Clarke!
This poem was written during the 2019 Wild Threads Writing Symposium, Charlottetown, PEI, in one of George Elliott Clarke’s sessions on August 23rd, and read during the participants’ open mic on August 25th. With some really great advice from George and some techniques from Anne Simpson’s workshop on the 24th.
My dad had a record or two or a collection of Marian Anderson’s songs and I loved listening to her alto/contralto voice. It was so rich and textured I wanted to be an alto and practiced my speaking so my voice would be lower and well-modulated. Singing in choirs and with my voice teachers, I was always put in Soprano I or II; once in a while, though, I would be put in alto when a strong lead was needed. No matter what my voice coach or choir directors said, I never thought myself a singer and I never thought I had the voice to sing, mainly because of a tape reel of us singing nursery rhymes–I was only 6 then–that my mother would play for visitors; I hated it because I thought my voice sounded awful and childish and weak. I envied and idolized singers in school with naturally powerful and musical voices but was always too shy to sing solo. I tried to audition once for the glee club but was refused; I did get to perform in a handful of musicals, mainly because they were school productions, but listening to others, I have admitted to myself, time and again, that there are many amateur singers far better than me.
When I was turned down by the glee club, my brother (with a powerful singing voice and, of course, my mother’s darling) was rehearsing for a musical. I met their voice coach, who somehow convinced me to sing a few bars, which led to chords and, before I knew it, she had convinced my mother to allow me to take vocal coaching from her and to join a choir she was putting together. In her words, I had a “lovely voice”. I could not believe it because I never really heard myself sing except on that awful tape with our nursery rhymes, but it opened up a small dream I had tucked away as a little girl. I soon found myself rehearsing after school and on weekends and, before I knew it, the choir was booked for a gala performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. (I shall post photographs when I find them.) We were all fitted for gowns (my first gown ever!) and I was excited, singing in Soprano I or II for most of the concert.
After our gala, we started rehearsing Christmas carols because we would be caroling for our sponsors and donors, who would host us (and boy, did they feed us!) as we sang for them and their guests. We went to around 4 or 5 different homes, each grander than the last, but that kept us on the road past midnight. Somewhere past 1 a.m., I was finally dropped off at home where I faced my mother’s extreme ire. She ranted about what kind of people stayed out so late at night, got angry at our directress, and forbade me from ever going to another voice class or rehearsal. I was devastated and disappointed and embarrassed all at once, because my fellow choir members would occasionally call and ask why I wasn’t attending anymore. I told them the truth, that my mother would not let me.
A couple of years after, when I was in university, I joined a youth ministry group which worked with communities and did a lot of singing, and I could stay out as late as I wanted because I no longer lived at home–at least most of the time. I joined several extra-curricular activities, including a dance company, the school paper, the math society, the forensics society, and a reading club that I formed, so I spent a lot of time doing all sorts of activities after school and late into the nights. I also sang, danced, choreographed, and co-directed a couple of original musicals staged by the scholars in the program I was enrolled in.
I occasionally picked up a tiny solo part in choirs but I always felt my voice disappearing when I was asked to sing. The one time I braved it was when my close group of friends and co-teachers in the high school where I taught decided to perform in a benefit concert before the whole high school audience. That brought the house down–the whole concert, that is, but not so much, I think, because we were accomplished singers (we had a couple of really good singers) but because the students had never seen us perform that way before! Besides that, I did sing a lot for my kids when they were little. I haven’t really sung in a long time and am often tempted to join a choir but for the time. I have far too many other things to do, as it is, so I am saying good-bye to my singing aspirations. I was more of a natural at writing anyway, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
And that, my friends, is my singing career in a nutshell.
Thank you so much to everyone who follows me, likes my posts, shares my posts, and comments on them. I know I haven’t said it much and my lame excuse is I frequently have so many reactions to my posts that the most I can do is like them. Of course, sometimes I will respond when it is warranted, and sometimes I choose to reserve my comments in order to preserve the peace and friendships!
Thank you to all my new friends in Canada, all elsewhere around the world. Even if I have never met many of you, I feel that I know some of you well enough to call you friends rather than acquaintances. I have looked forward to your support as shown by your likes and the hundreds of greetings I get on my birthday, at Christmas, and even sympathies shared when I express grief. I can never express how much warmth, love, and acceptance I have felt through those little ways of communicating because you affirm my existence and add to the meaning of my life.
I am not good at expressing my emotions and cannot easily post what I am feeling most of the time. I am good at posting what I think, however, and when the feeling is indignation, I am very capable of expressing that. But when it comes to the part of me I hide deep within my heart, my tendency is to be silent and withdraw. It could be the fear of rejection or the fear of seeming weak, no matter how I tell others that being emotional or admitting deeper feelings is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Sadly, my strengths lie elsewhere.
But because I am celebrating 12 years in Canada today, I figured it would be a good time to open up a little. In two consecutive years, I have lost two women, both very dear to me, both of whom always had my back and always encouraged me. One was a mentor–a lovely woman I first met when I was still a high school student, who always believed in me and continuously challenged me to do better. She always gave me more responsibilities and opportunities to show me how much I could accomplish. And she told me all those things–how much she believed in me, as well as how much she loved me. She had been my role model since I first met her because she exuded confidence, determination, and accomplishment. She inspired me and I have to admit that I seriously considered taking a history major because of her. (It was the thought of memorizing dates and names that convinced me not to do it.) When I started teaching, she was Vice Principal and, later, Principal. Even when I took a hiatus from teaching, she kept in touch, kept me in the loop, and continued to build my confidence by trusting in me. She was instrumental in my return to teaching with her as my Dean. She always wanted the best for me and continued to nurture my fragile ego by inspiring me to achieve even greater accomplishments.
The second woman, I lost just two weeks ago. We met in my second year of teaching and became even closer with each passing year. She became the older sister I had always wished I had and she treated me like her sister. More than just a sister, however, she was a dear friend, a confidante, a staunch supporter, and defender. Despite my reticence and reluctance to share my feelings openly, she could read me and knew exactly how to respond. She was ready to stand up for me and she even tried to stand up to my mother for me when I was unable to. She was more expressive than I am and I would be there for her to confide in, to seek advice, to help out in many different ways whenever I could. Even when I had taken a different path, we were still there for each other stayed in touch, catching up on everything we’d missed sharing whenever we could. Losing her has been a huge blow and I miss her dearly.
There is a third lady, another former teacher who has become one of my very best and dearest friends on earth, although I look to her more as a mother than anything else. I know she isn’t old enough to be my mother, but she saw me through so many emotionally difficult spots without my needing to explain how emotional I was. With her, I learned the simple joys of letting my hair down and enjoying things I had grown up not doing because we were trained not to do those things. She never judged me and, like my history teacher, helped me learn to be kinder to myself, understand myself and the relationships in my life that had always been challenging and often painful, and helped me build up my self worth. She taught me how to love myself, something that still comes to me with difficulty, but that I am able to celebrate every now and then–and even more now than then. I cling to the knowledge that she is still around and is there whenever I need someone to listen to me, someone who knows me inside and out, someone who is proud of me and my accomplishments, and who makes me feel that I can take pride in myself and my accomplishments as well. If, God forbid, something were to happen to her, I would be utterly devastated.
These three women have done so much to help me be who I am today, and I am and will be eternally grateful for their love, support, encouragement, and friendship.
As much as I would like to continue writing about all the people who have meant so much to me, who have touched my life and seared their marks on my soul, I will reserve them for other writing.
In this 12th year of a new life in a new country, I have decided to open up more. I have decided to take definite and positive steps towards living my life on my terms and creating my own opportunities rather than following wherever opportunities took me. All my life, I grabbed opportunities that led me down different paths; I allowed myself to be led along by people I trusted; I shied away from any personal confrontation, even if it meant losing my children; I let my heart and my curiosity lead me even if I knew better; I kept my emotions to myself, always trying to be in control, trying to keep a brave front, because every time I had let go, I ended up being embarrassed, blamed, shamed, bullied, or ridiculed. I always tried to learn as much as I could and always do everything right so I would not call attention to myself and would not need to ask anyone for help; besides, it gave me a bit of satisfaction that I could do so many things well even if other people did not care or only cared when it benefited them. I put up with being bullied if I would only be noticed or accepted by girls who had what I did not have: confidence, talent, and many friends.
In this 12th year of a new life in a new country, I have decided I will follow the path I have wanted all my life. I will immerse myself in what I love doing and make a career of it. I will learn to enjoy little simple pleasures without feeling guilt. I will try to share more of my deeper feelings because I know that doing so will not make people respect me any less. I will try to remember that there is nothing wrong with admitting fears or weakness, and hope you all understand how difficult that is for me and forgive me if I do not easily or quickly admit to pain or grief. I hope you do not think I am seeking attention or approval when I share my joys and triumphs and accomplishments because I trust that you will sincerely share the same feelings with me, just as I will be happy to share your joys and triumphs and accomplishments with me. I hope you do not think me aloof if I sometimes am unable to express how I feel about some things, or if I sometimes forget a birthday or miss greeting you on anniversaries and other celebratory occasions. Sometimes, I am too busy to check in or sometimes I am too emotional and do not want to see all your joyful moments as they remind me of what I never had or might never have. I also hope you do not think me cold and indifferent because I might be afraid to admit that what you are sharing reminds me of painful events in my past, events I cannot talk about easily without opening up old scars.
I can promise that I will be honest if you ask me questions, but I cannot promise I will always be ready to volunteer information. Some people need their privacy more than others and I know I am one of those people. Although my life might be an open book, my heart might not. But I will not lie, and if I cannot tell you openly, I might send you a private message. Because I am writer and an artist, I will be expressing most of my thoughts and feelings in what I create: I wear my heart on my pages and bare my soul on my canvases.
My birth certificate says I am Cynthia Paulina Fabella Lapeña.