My dear friend and classmate Anna Marie sent me a scanned page of a book about Baguio that had a profile of my grandmother. Anna Marie lives in California, I live in Massachusetts, we’ve been apart since 1978 – but we know that does not matter, right? With the age of instant communication and the magic of scanning and the internet, something so precious lights up my day.

For years I have wondered about the minutiae of my grandmother’s life. Where did she live in Manila? What school did she go to? When I piece it together I understand why so much was lost. The war took up a lot of my mother’s childhood, then it was time for her to prepare to study abroad. After college, she got married and moved away. Mama had her own busy life – there were eight of us children. Then, in 1966, my grandmother died.

This entry may well be the only general biography of my grandmother in existence.baguiobookcover


Mercedes J. Joaquin, one of the most active and widely known society matrons of Baguio was born in Gasan, Marinduque on September 24, 1911 to Mariano de Jesus and Gavina Verdotte. Following the custom of the country where girls used to be send to the prominent Catholic boarding schools in Manila mainly for social and cultural purposes, she was educated at St. Theresa’s College, Assumption Convent, Centro Escolar de Senoritas, Colegio de Sta. Rosa, and Philippine Women’s College. Shortly after she represented her province as Miss Marinduque in the 1927 Carnival Beauty Contest, she met and became engaged to Francisco G. Joaquin, a prominent mining engineer and the two were married in Manila on January 19, 1930. However, Mrs. Joaquin’s native ability rose to the surface in spite of her piano and voice education, her culinary abilities and her time-filling duties as wife to a prominent clubman and mother to five children.

She plays a dynamic role in business trends in Baguio. As the only lady sales office manager of the Cebu Portland Cement Co., for seven years and at present the authorized agent representative of the same concern, she has shared actively in the rehabilitaiton of the city and Mountain Province in the equitable distribution of this important commodity. It was mainly due to her able and zealous management that the cement black market has never flourished in Baguio. But her best share in boosting tourism in Baguio is Casa Blanca, a hotel widely known and patronized by residents and summer vacationists for its quality service, efficiency and swanky restaurant, El Patio. Familiarly known as Mercy to her intimates and friends, she takes active part in several women’s organizations. She is moreover a member of the Baguio Chamber of Commerce, a distinction enjoyed by very few women.

She is the mother of two married daughters who graduated from a well known college in the United States and who are happily married to American professionals and are residing in the States, two young sons and a teenage daughter. A devout Catholic, Mrs. Joaquin begins every morning with holy mass and figures prominently in religious and charitable activities.

This year, I’ve had the chance to look back on my life. Barring a few bumps along the road suffered before I became wise, my life has been very blessed. I have a wonderful marriage, six great children who are making their way in the world. I live in a warm old house, and have the leisure to read, write and do whatever I want.

My cancer adventure has been blessed with reunions, cards, well wishes, heartfelt prayers and healing. While I am not done with treatment yet, I feel confident that I can handle what comes at me thanks to my faith and NeuroPositive training, which I put to use every day.

I’ve given up fear and replaced it with a common sense faith that has its roots deep in my childhood. While my childhood was not perfect, I’ve always known that my parents loved me, and that they would do anything to help me if they could. We were lucky to have not had a materialistic childhood. There were books, siblings, cousins, and food. There was an old rambling bungalow on an Air Force base, my grandparents’ house in the mountains, and a beach resort called Cresta Ola.

Early after my diagnosis, when I was scared, I prayed for healing. I asked Jesus, who is the same today as 2,000 years ago, to reach out and heal me. I reckoned that since He loved me more than my parents did, and that He never said no to the sick multitudes in Galilee, that my prayer was in His care.

A few months later, after chemo, I prayed for a healer, because doctors today are more specialists than healers. Hypothetically, a primary care physician is supposed to be the conductor of the wellness symphony, keeping as eye on my many situations (diabetes, hypertension, lupus anticoagulant positive, thyroid and now cancer). In real life, they don’t communicate with me, nor do they offer any guidance regarding the interactions between diseases.

I have had significant graces during this season of illness. One is Dr. Kelly Turner’s book, ” Radical Remission”. The other is Tong Ren.

From the beginning of this adventure I’ve had a deep intuition that I had become out of balance. I felt, while walking in the lush springtime of New England, that whatever made the plants grow and flowers bloom was what I needed to be healed.

As it turned out, my diagnosis also included a severe Vitamin D deficiency. A healthy level is between 50-70, mine was 6.

I was not surprised because I’ve hidden from the sun these seventeen years since leaving San Diego. During the summers I’ve stayed out of the sun during the peak hours, otherwise under hats and sun screen. During the cold months I go out rarely.

I turned myself into a pale Dickensian book worm. Look if you wish for correlations between Vitamin D deficiency cancer, thyroid, diabetes and many other modern plagues.

We need sunshine. Artificial sunshine (tanning beds) in short doses works better than supplementation. (Of course read beyond the skin cancer caveats). For me, a child of the tropics, staying out of the sun was probably the worst thing I did for my health. But that is in the rear view mirror too.

Dear readers, forgive this ramble. I’ve gone on and on.

What I really want to say is that health is wealth. We all start off with stunningly wonderful health. Or at least most of us do. Then through choices and lack of information, we get off track.

As long as there is life there is hope. With the next meal we can move our cells toward health. With the next walk we can move our muscles.

The next time we lie down we can quiet our minds and meditate, resting our minds.

We can feel love and send it out wherever we are, across the world, across time. We can create something that didn’t previously exist, and thus share in the contentment or being little creators.

We can say thank you, and ask for help. When we ask for help, we can write it down and date it, so we will know how long it takes for an answer to come.

And answers will come. We may be surprised how they show up, but that is that amazingly fun part of this adventure called life.

I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. As much as you can, surround yourselves with goodness. Look for the sparkles, look for the fairy dust, look for the road as it emerges.

Good Luck!

Some incredibly valuable resources right now.

Dr. Kelly Turner & her book, Radical Remission


Tom Tam and Tong Ren



Viviscal hair vitamins. My hair is growing back better than ever!


It’s been three months and 17 days since diagnosis, and again I am a new person. I feel terrific, amazing, energetic and alive. Cancer has taught me some strong lessons. I have to be able to bark at dragons and remember that the most powerful element I have is my mind. I cannot afford to squander any of my thought time on negativity or fear.

Still, if I wake at three a.m. before I can gain control of my mind, there might be phantoms of fear hovering, waiting to scare me. I say, “Stand Back!” and I pray and give thanks for the many amazing blessings I have in my life. Every bad experience I have ever had in life shows me how God has returned me to a life of love and blessings. These are personal miracles and I count them every time.

When I am done with all this treatment, I will tell you the stories that need to be told because they are important, and they make a story more compelling. Standing alone they don’t have power, but are huge nuisances. Let me say  this, in cancer treatment in Western medicine, the bogeymen of healing, negativity and arrogance still ride fast on strong horses. There is no mention of nutrition, or other healing modalities in the oncologist’s office. These are things that must be sought with a convert’s zeal on the patient’s own time and without fear.

During my search of alternative healing modalities, I knew about and went to weekly acupuncture sessions, which I believe helped mitigate the effects of chemotherapy. My blood counts throughout chemo showed this. They were perfect all the time.

I pray a lot. I’m lucky that I am not a perfectionist and don’t hold myself to impossible standards. This makes it easy for me to believe that my Creator loves me without criticism and helps me every day. My very specific prayer on August 2nd was answered quickly. I prayed, ” Please help me find a healing modality which is not in conflict with my religious beliefs.”

I’ve responded well to treatments of all sorts. The tumor, according to my latest CT scan, and my own observation, has shrunk. I don’t know what the shining star  is – chemo, medicine, prayers, nutrition, energy healing, acupuncture, Tong Ren, meditation, sleep – it all works and it is all under God’s permission and watchful eyes.

Of all my treatments that I go to, I love Tong Ren the most. The community in Quincy is fantastic. The stories of healing are astonishing. They are, to me, the opposite of my Western Med interactions. I love it too because one day a week, I get to immerse myself in an Asian world, an Asian mindset, a world where things are different and inexplicable to the doctors.

Last month, Bud and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. Our kids gave us a wonderful party. We have had a very happy marriage and the years have melted away. Yes, the obstacles have been heaped upon us. But these burdens have been carried and set down and healed. So we push forward. Through briar patches and mud, and rainy days, to the sunny patches of happy everyday life full of love and blessings.



This is America. These friends of my family have roots in Nepal, Philippines, Portugal, Ghana, Seychelles, England, Sicily, Portugal, Ireland, Jamaica, Sweden and many other countries!

My cousin in Georgia once told us that America started with an idea. This is my optimist’s musing about the good old USA.

The thing I love the most about the Fourth of July is that a bunch of commoners said, “No We Won’t.” and had a grand idea that all people were created equal. Americans don’t grovel to kings. It is when we remember that we started as rebels that the spark lights up again and we feel the power of being able to choose our own paths, our own destinies. That’s the American spark. We dream big and achieve great things. That’s the American optimism.

Americans come from all over the world and from America itself. It’s a big melting pot. To maximize the happy American vibe, people should get over their ideas of division, superiority, race, religion and all those things they learned at home and from nasty neighbors. Think about what Jesus would do, and do that!

As an American with roots and history in the Philippines, I love both countries dearly. Americans can do that. Embracing people from other lands is a very good thing to do. Spread the love.

When I was at Harvard for grad school in journalism, (I have two Harvard degrees – it is the only university I have ever graduated from, but not the only one I attended, but I digress). For my Harvard capstone I wrote about the Wampanoag People, the Native Americans who met the Mayflowers folks. We should all learn about the amazing gifts of all the Native American people who were the first folks in this land. Learn about them, and learn about yourself while finding the things that resonate.

A really good tip for having a good American life is to become a positive person. There are lots and lots of things to do to change yourself. Be a good American.

No matter who you are, where you come from, you can always start over. I’ve started over multiple times. Don’t like the school system? You can homeschool somewhere. Don’t like the commute? You can work from home, be your own boss. It’s easy in America. You just have to find your way to do it.

One of the great things about American life is that you can find out who you are and live your life without other people controlling you. Finding out who you really are is something that not everyone gets to do. The gift of being different is that you can step back and think about why you think this or that. I am a left-handed mixed race person – I know what it is to be different, and in America that is OK. Embrace the difference, be uniquely who you are. It’s much easier in American than in conformist places.

The past disappears into dream land and this great country is big enough to have a place for any of us. Like liberal ideas, there’s Cambridge and Berkeley and many more places! There are maps out there that show where people live. There’s something for everyone in this huge land. More of the conservative sort, well, there’s lots of room for you in lots of places. Need to go 24 hours in a sea of diversity…there’s NYC, need surf, sand, laid back living? There’s a HUGE coastline. Need roots, wings, forgotten real estate and so much ocean? Well, there’s this little city called New Bedford.

I’ve lived in many states. Georgia, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. They all have wonderful and unique aspects and treasures to enjoy.

Most of the things I have achieved since I’ve been an adult have come to me thanks to my American citizenship. It’s fun to live in a free country. I don’t spend much time looking at the downside, and don’t read negative commentary or listen to dire political or religious media.

I look out the windows every day, see mostly blue sky and maple trees. I go to the library to pick up books that I requested over the internet. We walk at night in safety, and live on a quiet block with people from many other countries. I can choose which of many masses I want to go to on Sunday. We have freedom of religion. The government, while unwieldy at time, does a good job providing us with affordable healthcare.

Think about that for a moment. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, and have gone to many appointments, treatments, have had one surgery and will have another next week, will have more surgery in the months to come, and radiation and it is all covered. Thank you Affordable Care Act. With our last health insurance company, our deductible was $5,000 and we were paying $1500 a month.

Here is a short list of some of the things I’ve been able to do because I live in the USA.


Become an eBay powerseller

Open a small press

Publish a little magazine

Ditch the rat race (my husband did this)

Buy a 1910 house for 130,000.

Graduate from Harvard twice

Be a very devout Catholic

Have all the kids I wanted without government interference.

Do what I want most of the time.

Publish books

Be who I am

Have lots of pets

Have dependable power, water, roads, health care, access to information and education

Become a Licensed NeuroPositive Life Coach through the Applied NeuroScience Institute

Travel easily to other countries

Meet people from all over the world and eat their food and enjoy their culture

Really, we are all only limited by our beliefs in this country.

So, I’m a happy camper this Fourth of July. I’m proud that my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors all fought for Independence. It’s a beautiful country, a grand place of amazing opportunity. God Bless America. Be who you were meant to be. Spread the Love. Think Big, Be Optimistic. It’s a great place to call home.

If you want to learn to live a more positive life, get in touch with me. I have a lot to share.




We went to a healing mass in Attleboro, Massachusetts, at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. The ride out was glorious, the forests were green and along the way fields and farms stood out in prim New England style. Stone walls, graveyards, corn – blue skies and cottony clouds fed our eyes and spirits all the way there.

There was a good crowd at the shrine. People of every nationality and infirmity were there. Father Andre Patenaude (Father Pat) took up his guitar and sang with a beautiful tenor. We all sang along. I felt like we were being “softened up” or made to be more comfortable.

The mass was solemn and beautiful and he preached a fine sermon on Sts. Peter and Paul and their personalities. After the mass was over, those seeking healing were invited up to be anointed and prayed over. It is a very simple and ancient thing. I was surprised at how many people there were. Was I really one of those asking to be healed? Oh yes, I was. Illness is a great equalizer. It is something to pray for a job or a house, another to pray to meet the right person. But to be healed is a deep human request.

I felt quite vulnerable. There was a lady who stood behind everyone as Father Pat made his way down the line – she was there to help people if they fell. I didn’t feel like falling, and wondered if I needed to. But no, I am too repressed and proper to let go that much in public. I began to wonder what it all meant, and how it all worked. And then….

And then Father Pat was in front of me, anointing my forehead with fragrant oil, and praying over me. I guess it was one of the ancient formulaic prayers of the Catholic Church, one of those in the Ritual. I couldn’t discern what he was saying. But I heard the words, “Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” Then he had move to the next person.

I moved away from the altar steps and walked over to where three women were praying over a lady who seemed to be recovering from cancer. Her hair was short, as though it was growing in again after chemo. She looked frail. I waited until she was done and took a seat between two of them, with one lady behind me.

One of them asked, “What is your name?”

I said, “Kathleen”.

She said, “Kathleen, what is the matter? What can we pray for?”

I started to cry. “I have breast cancer, I have six children, I’ve been married to my husband for 30 years this year.” I felt this huge load of emotion pour out and they began praying with urgency. Suddenly, Bud was in front of me, grabbing my hand, his eyes full of tears. I said, “This is my husband.”

One of the ladies smiled and  said, “We figured as much.”

Then the leader said, “Give her the oil”.

I was handed a bottle of oil with a label that said, “St. Raphael’s Oil”.

“Put some on you and pray every day.”

I know that St. Raphael is one of the archangels, the agent of healing, happy marriages and meetings.

I said, “Thank you.” I felt as light as air. Off we went to get ice cream and to look at the beautiful, beautiful afternoon.


This afternoon a small package arrived in the mail. I looked at it, and saw gold. I thought, “Fireflies”. I always remember the miracle that happened to my mother and her family during World War II. During a dramatic do or die moment, as they were struggling up a mountain path in the pouring rain, next to a raging river, my grandfather cried out to Our Lady.

“Cover us with they mantle O Blessed Mother of God, that we may be saved from every evil and temptation, every danger to body and soul”.

Suddenly the fireflies appeared. Our Lady’s Mantle, they said. And they made their way to their destination in complete safety. The story has been told again and again and it has fed me personally my whole life.

But never more than at this time, when the stakes are high and I am calling for help.

“Cover me with your mantle.”

So this afternoon as I looked quizzically at the package, I couldn’t figure it out. Then I read the note. It was from my dear friend Rose, in the Philippines. It was a piece of the mantle of Our Lady of Manaoag, from a shrine in the Philippines, close to my ancestral land of Pampanga and my childhood homes of Clark Air Base and Bauang, La Union. The crowned image of Our Lady has had many custodians through the centuries, and this piece that came to me, came from a private collection of regalia used in the 1950’s.

Our Lady’s Mantle came to me.

Tonight we went for our usual walk up and down Maple St. It is an easy mile and absolutely gorgeous on nights like tonight, with the crescent moon rising against a Maxfield Parrish sky. Right before our block I saw two fireflies. “Oh let’s go see the fireflies at the zoo!” I said.

Minutes later we were down at the zoo where a piece of lawn backs up to the woods. All through the woods, the fireflies danced high up in the trees, down amongst the shrubs, around the lawn. It was a spectacular little show.

Fireflies, Our Lady’s Mantle, the Healing Balm of the Church…. All shall be most well.


Link to the Official Site of the Manaoag Shrine:



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