AN ANGEL’S LETTER TO HER MOM

Dear Mommy,

Wow, I love the sound of that! If you only knew how often I whisper your name as I watch you from up here—it’s the sweetest sound, far sweeter than the melodious sound of the harps and flutes that we play here.

Heaven is such a beautiful and happy and glorious place, but there’s one spot that I would rather be in. It’s the one spot that, no matter how much time has passed, its memory still lingers with me. It was my shelter, my refuge, my comfort zone. It was my personal heaven there on earth. It was the one spot where I felt completely safe; where I knew that nothing and no one could ever harm me. The one spot where I grew to know only one kind of love. Your love.

Mom, I miss being inside your womb.

I miss your comforting voice and the funny little noises and strange sounds that you used to make when talking to me. I miss the gentle feel of your hands on your tummy each time you felt me move inside you, or when you caress me when reading me a book or when you stroke your belly in time with the tempo of the classical music you made me listen to. I miss your laughter and the animated way you talk. I miss the protective embrace you used to give me when you would accidentally bump into something. I miss everything about you, Mom.

If I could, I would have stayed forever in your womb.

But, then, God had other plans for us.

I was inside you for only three months when your world shattered and all the joy in you vanished. It was the moment you were told that I had Turner’s Syndrome and cystic hygroma. I couldn’t possibly survive those congenital abnormalities, the doctors said, so you were advised to have an abortion. But, no, you were adamant, Mommy. You fought for me. You wanted to hold on to me until such time when God would eventually take me back with Him to His kingdom.

I knew how hard it was for you and Daddy to accept our fate. (I was, after all, your answered prayer – a miracle growing inside of you, the first among your big bunch of future children.) But with your impenetrable faith and continued hope for a divine miracle, you tried to live each day with renewed energy and enthusiasm. For me.

And so, just like with a bittersweet summer romance, you continued to carry me inside you knowing that you couldn’t keep me.

You knew what to expect, but my death almost three months after still left you reeling, crushed and devastated. I knew that a part of you died with me that day.

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Pam and Ron looking at their angel inside a casket

I tried to visit you in your dreams as often as you would allow me. I wanted to tell you that I was in a better place, to reassure you that I wouldn’t mind if you decided to move on. I would have loved to see you smile again, Mommy.

And, so, when you got pregnant with Veronica, I was ecstatic!

I sensed all your initial doubt, worry and fear, and your relief after each successful prenatal check-up and the doctor’s repeated assurances that everything was fine. I saw how extra-careful you were with Veronica, afraid that one tiny mishap might adversely affect her.

I was excited when I saw all those baby stuff and pieces of furniture that you bought a few weeks before her arrival. And, oh, the baby shower! It was beautiful, Mom, and I was touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity of your friends and colleagues who threw it for you. You must have been a very good friend to them to deserve that.

When you were finally rushed to the hospital due to contractions, I was there with you. And when you opted for a natural childbirth since your insurance wouldn’t cover epidurals, I cringed. I knew that, somehow, you welcomed that chance to feel all the physical pains that labor naturally entails because, with me, you were robbed of that opportunity. But I was also aware of what was to come.

True enough, you were soon moaning and crying and shouting with the unbearable, excruciating, burning pain of trying to push Veronica out of your body. (Up to this day, it still boggles my mind why only moms get to experience all the pains of childbirth. Shouldn’t dads share those with moms, too?)

When Veronica eventually popped out, I too was thrilled to see her. But when I saw your face creased with worry when she didn’t make a single sound, I began to get scared. For Veronica. For Daddy. For you.

Mostly, for you, Mom.

Veronica was turning blue, you were getting hysterical, and the medical staff was in chaos. They rushed the baby to the NICU, and you were left dumbfounded, incredulous and disconcerted. You couldn’t believe that you were experiencing that all over again. I couldn’t either.

At least, with me, you knew what to expect. But with Veronica, you were caught completely off guard.

When we followed Veronica to the NICU, we saw how beautiful, how healthy, and how perfectly normal she appeared—and how pitiful, with all those tubes attached to her tiny body. We learned that she had a congenital heart defect, a condition that could easily be detected during a prenatal ultrasound but was obviously overlooked by your doctor.

You were heartbroken especially since you were not allowed to hold her, but with the doctor’s plan to fly her to Hawaii from Guam for surgery, you were still brimming with hope. I saw how you and Daddy drew strength from each other, and from your trust and faith in God.

Shockingly, though, Veronica left after only about 28 hours of literally fighting for her life.

Oh, Mommy, I wish there was something I could have done to take away all your pain. If only I had the power to bring Veronica back to you, I would. In a jiffy. No parent deserves to experience the agonizing grief of losing a child. Yet, you did—two times in a row.

You didn’t have any other choice but to accept what happened and to offer Veronica up to God just like what you did with me but, for a long time, you remained withdrawn and depressed. There was no life left in you.

They say that, with the loss of a loved one, the pain never really goes away. One only learns how to live with it.

I saw how you strived to get up each morning pretending that you were alright. To the world, you were Strength personified. We both knew, though, how you would curl up on your bed each night and cry yourself to sleep, hoping that it was all just a nightmare that you could wake up from.

When you and Daddy moved to Virginia in 2000, I was one with you in looking forward to a fresh, new start.

So when you received the good news that you were pregnant after consulting with specialists and genetic counselors and undergoing fertility workups, I told myself, “This is it. We’re done with the storms. It’s now time to welcome the bright, brilliant sun!”

When you successfully delivered Aaron via CS, and heard his very first cry, we all cried with him. That time, though, the tears we shed were of unadulterated joy.

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Pam, Ron and baby Aaron visiting Patricia and Veronica

Life was good. You seemed like your old self again. You smiled more often, laughed a little louder, moved with springy strides. You found your purpose.

Little did you know that you were about to face another challenge.

You noticed that Aaron was already two years old yet he was yet to speak a single word. He behaved oddly, was prone to frequent and uncontrollable temper tantrums, and was different from other children his own age. He wouldn’t socialize with other kids, either.

Numerous tests on him later revealed that he had delayed language development and borderline autism.

Again, you felt dejected and overcome by adversity. You began doubting yourself. “Am I not really fit for motherhood?” “Does God not consider me worthy enough?” “Am I a bad person to deserve all these?”

But you didn’t allow yourself to be defeated by those paralyzing emotions. You didn’t have that luxury. You had to be strong because someone heavily depended on that strength. Aaron needed you.

Each day proved to be a struggle but you and Daddy were still grateful to God for everything. You knew that He places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight, so you felt honored that God considered you among the strongest of His children.

I really admire that in you, Mom. Your faith is simply indomitable and unshakable.

More than three years after, you got pregnant again—and that indomitable and unshakable faith was put to the test once more.

During the third month of your pregnancy, your doctor discovered that, due to a neural tube defect, the baby had no skull and her brain would not develop. She had 0% of survival.

Everyone from both the medical and clinical fields that you happened to talk to agreed on one thing—that you should have the baby aborted as soon as possible.

Yes, that sounded familiar. You were told to terminate the pregnancy too when they learned that I couldn’t possibly make it. But with this little one, your third perinatal loss, even some of  your relatives and friends advised you to have an abortion.

You knew that they meant well—they were all concerned that “prolonging your agony” would be too much for you to handle. Well, I guess, they didn’t know you that well, do they?

So like the protective mother grizzly bear that you were, you held on to the precious baby in your womb. You treasured each experience you had with her—seeing her during the ultrasound scans, hearing her heartbeat, feeling her kicks. She was very much alive, and you were her only lifeline. What kind of mother would intentionally cut the connection that was keeping her alive? Definitely, not you, Mom!

You gave birth to Angeli after a full term.

She was so beautiful, Mom, and so was the baptismal ceremony for Angeli that you specifically requested, prepared for and witnessed.

She stayed with you, Daddy and Aaron for just a total of 108 hours, but she managed to leave you with a lifetime of sweet memories. For that short a time, you were a mother to a baby girl, Moml! Knowing you, I was sure that that wonderful experience would stay with you for the rest of your life.

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Pam paying Angeli a visit

With all four of us, you cried buckets. Your heart got shattered into many tiny pieces. You experienced being thrust into an abyss of doubt, sadness and grief.

God must have seen all that, and so, he decided to reward you. Finally.

Aiden, our bunso, is such a darling. He is sweet, affectionate, obedient and, most importantly, perfectly healthy. I love watching him and his Kuya Aaron together—just two boys having fun and enjoying each other’s company. And how he loves to please you! Imagine joining (and finishing!) a 5K race so as to make you and Daddy proud.

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A picture of a happy family  (Ron, Aaron, Aiden & Pam)

Mom, I know that you’re okay now. But when clouds once again block the sun and threaten to cast gloom over your smooth-sailing life, when you think that you’re all alone and the universe is conspiring against you, remember that I’m always near. Together with Veronica and Angeli, we are your three personal angels keeping constant watch over you.

Take care of yourself, Mommy. I love you and I miss you very much. Happy Mothers’ Day to you!

Your angel,

Patricia

NELSER’S SWEET LIFE

“Baking is a passion.

You don’t bake to jump on the bandwagon. You bake because you love baking. And every time you bake, you create something that you can be proud of — that when people take a bite, they would feel your passion. Also, you don’t bake out of a cookbook. You create something that represents you.”

Growing up, Nelser had no exposure to baking as no one in her family knew how to bake. She just happened to stumble upon an old cookbook when she was in fourth grade and, on impulse and out of curiosity, she copied a recipe straight from that cookbook, invaded her mother’s kitchen, and proceeded to bake. Her first attempt at baking was a resounding success. Her family loved her spritz cookies.

With her parents’ support, she gained the confidence to dabble in baking other sweet goodies. The cookies soon became macaroons and, later on, brownies.

But, despite Nelser’s apparent passion and talent for baking, that parental support did not extend to allowing her to enroll in a culinary school or to pursue a degree in baking and pastry arts. Her parents wanted her to follow in the footsteps of her father who, at that time, was a lawyer. So, Nelser took a pre-law course in the University of the Philippines.

When she got married fourteen years ago and had kids soon after, she became preoccupied with nurturing her young family.

NELSER AS A PASTRY CHEF

It was only when her two boys got a little older that she found the time to revisit her beloved hobby. Initially, she would only bake for family, relatives and close friends. But as her reputation as an exemplary pastry chef circulated far and wide —and as more people requested to get a treat of her phenomenal generosity and a free taste of her sumptuous dessert offerings–, she eventually decided to make a business out of her hobby.

Her first “paying” customer was Ambassador Preciosa Soliven who ordered boxes of food for the gods which the kind ambassador gave as token to a royalty in the Middle East. In exchange, she gave Nelser walnuts and dates.

Today, armed with years of baking experience, Nelser already has a wide and impressive array of baked products that her loyal patrons and new customers can choose from. Although she only bakes on a per-order basis, she makes sure that the packaging of her products –everything comes in attractive boxes, tin cans, bottles, mugs, or plastic containers—is elegant, and her pricing competitive enough, to send the clear message that they are not the work of a mediocre baker, but of a pastry chef par excellence.

Her sweet concoctions used to bear the name “The Bakeshop by nelser”, but her business started to thrive only after she became actively involved in her parish church. So to honor the sole source of that blessing, she decided to change the name to “Bits of Heaven”. However, the name can also be easily construed to mean that a bite of any of Nelser’s treats is like having a taste of a bit of heaven.

Here are some of her to-die-for sweet treats. Be ready to drool!

1carrot-cake
Two-layered moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and generously sprinkled with walnuts

 

 

2chocolate-truffle-cake
Three-layered moist chocolate cake filled with hand-whipped bittersweet ganache and covered with rich chocolate icing

 

 

3caramel-carrot-choco-cakes
Caramel cake, carrot cake and chocolate cake. Decadent and buttery, the caramel cake is slathered with rich caramel icing

 

 

4ombre-cake
Ombre cake. 7-layered vanilla cake with caramel filling covered with creamy vanilla buttercream

 

 

5mango-walnut-torte
Mango walnut torte. Three layers of walnut meringue smothered with whipped cream and fresh mangoes

 

 

6dobos-torte
Dobos torte. A Hungarian sponge cake with 8 layers of chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel

 

 

7banoffee-pie
Banoffee pie. Banana cream pie smothered with homemade caramel sauce

 

 

8almond-cream-puffs
Cream puffs. Profiteroles filled with pastry cream, drizzled with caramel, and topped with almond slivers

 

 

9food-for-the-gods
Food for the gods. Moist and chewy and generously peppered with walnuts and dates, this is perfect for gifts  this coming holiday season

 

 

10banana-nutella-muffins
Muffins. Moist banana muffins with Nutella filling

 

 

11chocolate-chip-cookies-dark-chocolate-macadamia-cookies-and-oatmeal-walnut-cookies
Chewy and old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies

 

 

12cinnamon-cookies
Snickerdoodles (cinnamon cookies). Butter cookies rolled in cinnamon, they are mostly popular during the Christmas season probably because they fill the kitchen with that wonderful cinnamon scent when they are baked

 

 

butterscotch-blondies
Butterscotch blondie bars. Dense and sweet, they resemble the brownies less the cocoa

 

 

13brownie-cupcakes
Perfectly moist and chewy brownie cupcakes packed in tin cans to seal in their freshness

 

 

14blueberry-cheesecake-cupcakes
Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes. Baked cheesecake topped with blueberry filling

 

 

15caramel-cupcakes
Caramel  cupcakes

 

 

16devils-food-cupcake-w-marshmallow-icing
Devil’s food cupcakes

 

 

17red-velvet-cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes

 

 

capt-america-cupcakes
Themed cupcakes. Aside from these, other themed cupcakes that Nelser already tried include butterflies, Spidey, Ferrero, minions, balls, Legos, Avengers, Dora, Angry Birds, cars, Wimpy kid, Mr. Bean, etc.

 

 

rotary-cupcakes
Nelser also bakes for various occasions. Aside from these, she already did oblation-inspired cups for the UP Pamp homecoming, egg-designed cups for the Easter Sunday, heart-decorated cups for Valentine, green-and-red  jolly cups for Christmas, etc.

 

 

NELSER AS A MOTHER HEN

Baking might be something that Nelser immensely enjoys doing (and it is proving to be a lucrative and reliable source of income to boot), but she has never allowed it to mess with her priorities.

As a consummate homemaker, she considers her family her utmost priority. She ensures that their house is a beautiful, spotlessly clean and welcoming haven that her husband and sons would always want to go home to after a particularly long and exhausting day. Her kitchen is constantly filled with the tantalizing aromas of all the food she is weaving her magic on for her family. And their dining table? It always looks as if Nelser is presenting her gastronomic feast for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s scrutiny! She could even turn the simplest culinary spread into a visual extravaganza, an ordinary meal into an extraordinary Instragram-worthy moment, and seemingly unpleasant leftovers into delectable dishes through her impeccable food presentation. (It’s actually one of the valuable lessons she learned from her mother — that it’s not so much the food one serves, but the way it is presented, that makes a big difference.)

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Aside from being a kitchen magician, Nelser is also a devoted and dutiful wife to her husband, and a nurturing and protective mother to their two boys, Cole and Chesco. She is her sons’ personal driver, strict tutor, and constant date.

Nelser is also quite well-known among her boys’ teachers, classmates and co-parents because of the yummy, varied, well-thought-of and nicely presented lunch and snacks that she packs for Cole and Chesco each school day.

 

NELSER AS A SERVANT OF GOD

Believing that the best way to show one’s gratitude for all the blessings one receives is by serving the Lord with a joyful heart, Nelser is an active parishioner of the Our Lady of Sorrows parish. She is a member of Leccom and of the Parish Pastoral Council, and an officer of the Apostolado ng Panalangin. Also, despite her husband’s erratic and hectic schedule (Dax is a doctor), she makes sure that they fulfill their Christian duty of hearing mass at least once a week as a family. Cole and Chesco, both prepared for Christian service at a young age, are members of the Knights of the Blessed Sacrament of the same parish.

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Another way of showing her gratitude is by living a life of charity. The recipient of the family’s philanthropy is the Casa Miani, an orphanage in Lubao operated by Somascan priests. Doc Dax provides his medical services for the children there, free of charge.

Additionally, there are two “parking boys” from their parish that Nelser helped send to school.

 

NELSER AS AN ALL-AROUND GIRL NEXT DOOR

As if her life is not busy enough, Nelser still finds the time to do tutorial service. She has three students she diligently tutors every afternoon. And the ever-dependable Nelser is the usual go-to person when any one of her relatives, friends, colleagues or co-parents needs an extra hand. She might be a little loud (She is, after all, Kapampangan!) and may whine from time to time, but people can count on her to get the job done. Always.

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Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that Nelser has no house help? Yup, she is your Wonder Wo-mom in the flesh!

 

NELSER ON DE-STRESSING

Even superheroes get tired and worn-out. They need occasional breaks from the hassle and bustle of the daily grind. They require time to recharge to restore their sagging spirits, spent strength, and depleted energy before they could don their capes once again.

So, how does Super Nelser go about this?

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She allows her residual artistic juices to flow freely by sketching, by coloring and by honing her talent in calligraphy. She also enjoys decorating and re-decorating their home, and looking at her vast collection of Starbucks coffee mugs. Meeting friends and taking trips with her family don’t fail to provide welcome respite, too. And never underestimate the power of social media! Nelser is fond of taking pictures of almost anything that catches her fancy and sharing these with her social media friends. The likes and online conversations they manage to elicit are enough to put a smile to this supermom’s face.

 

NELSER’S DREAM

With all the things that she has so far accomplished and everything that she is capable of doing singlehandedly –considering the limited time and energy that we, lesser mortals, are usually restricted by–, one would be inclined to think that Nelser is already content with her lot. After all, she’s one girl that’s very easy to please.  Seeing people’s happy faces when eating the food she serves, receiving messages of gratitude and compliment from satisfied customers, knowing that her kids refuse to eat other cakes and cookies because “they are not as good as hers”, and watching her family finish everything on the table in one sitting with lots of ooohs and aaahs — all these have the power to take her to Cloud 9 in an instant.

But, no, Nelser has no plans of hanging her cape anytime yet. She still has one dream that she is now furiously working on. She wants to have her very own quaint country coffee shop soon.

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And all of us who are familiar with her inherent determination know for certain that that dream would become a reality. Sooner than later.