Posts Tagged ‘UPCC’

Tonight I am writing about a dog. Actually I am writing about two dogs. Two dogs and a new friend, who is now an old friend. Sometimes when life is going by, you are more of an observer than a participant.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a faraway land, I was a singer in a chorus. I didn’t do much else in that season. I certainly wasn’t getting good grades, I was lost and adrift. I was anchored to the singing group and the friends I made. I was very lucky, and the group was the UP Concert Chorus, and the conductor was the genius and angel Rey T. Paguio.

Now that I am fifty-two, I realize that life is an ocean and waves bring treasures from the deep. People I thought were washed into the past keep rolling up onto shore like rare seashells.

Back in 2005 I got out of the hospital and was driven to get in touch with my old friends who were in the area. We began the back and forth, tossing out possible reunion houses, and dates. One of my friends who lives in Kuala Lumpur nudged me to invite Norma Ramirez.

Norma was a jazz vocalist back in the day. By the time I joined the Concert Chorus, she had moved on to singing with a great band, Bong Penera’s Batucada. She had a hit, “Samba Song”.

Back then, I was an alto two who couldn’t read music, and Norma was a goddess. When I got the nudge, I hesitated because I didn’t know what to say. Would she remember me? So I picked up the phone and called her in New Hampshire. Her warm voice filled the space and I listened.

We had a lot in common because of our hospital experience. She had a rich and interesting life. Being wheelchair bound didn’t seem to affect her joie de vivre. I had deep empathy for her situation, and we made arrangements to have the reunion at Bugaboo Creek because it had handicapped access.

On the day of the reunion, she and her trusty sidekick, Sasquatch the service dog made a grand and merry entrance. Sasquatch trotted alongside the power chair. He settled under the table for the duration of the lunch. Oh, how the time flew. Such a beautiful day it was.

Not a week after we met, I got the news that Sasquatch was afflicted with a brain tumor. The news was so devastating, and I cried because it seemed so cruel that she would have to go through this loss. The news made me catch my breath and relay it to the kids in a panic. I was so shaken with the bad news.

The UP Concert Chorus family rallied around her and raised money for treatment and saw her through Sasquatch’s treatment and apparent remission.

This this spring sorrow came and Sasquatch succumbed. The whole story is on the blog http://newdogfornorma.blogspot.com

In the painful weeks after Sasquatch’s death, a grass roots fundraising campaign was set into to motion to get a new dog for Norma. The initial hurdle was $2,000, the necessary amount to open an account at NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans). NEADS was founded in 1976, and is a top rated charity, certified by Animal Charities in America, and Best in America Charities). Their executive board is top notch, and their reputation is stellar. They are a beautifully run, professional non-profit organization that anyone should feel honored to support.

An anonymous donor gave a large amount. UP Concert Chorus friends jumped into action. Facebook opened doors. Friends of my effervescent daughter Mercy, Bud’s high school classmates, our neighbors here, and my online classmates gave money. It added up and in no time we were at the necessary threshold of $2,000.

Then, this week, the good news came. A new dog had been found for Norma, and the match was perfect. Just like that, the sorrow has receded, and I could sense joy in my friend’s voice.

Now that NEADS has matched a dog to Norma, the fundraising will continue until the necessary $9,500 is raised. Donors can give at the site, and be assured of seamless recording of donations at this top rated charity.

Please visit Norma’s new page at NEADS and give if you are inspired to do so. In a world where so many things go wrong, it is good to know that places like NEADS thrive and match service dogs with people who have lost a lot, but who have not lost hope.

Hope has four legs and a wagging tail. Check out this wonderful organization, and donate if you can. Donations begin at $10.00. Here is Norma’s NEADS donation link http://neads.org/about_us/client_view.php?id=180

When my adventure with Norma began, I had no idea that sadness was just around the bend. I had no idea that I would be stretched and tested in my abilities to pull rabbits out of hats, to keep calm and hopeful and believe that the money would come in. We achieved our goal and then Cozy, the new dog, came along. Thanks to everyone who helped, and thanks to those who will be inspired to help in this new phase. God Bless us all!

Meet Cozy!


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Yesterday morning, the sun came out and we went downtown for the commencement at Nativity. As I wrote before, the daughter of dear, dear UP Concert Chorus friends was a teacher there, and passed away in May.

We went downtown to represent her family. It was fitting, because the UP Concert Chorus, is one of my essential families. I will be bound to them and the memories of our years together always. There is no falling away, time or distance does not sever the ties that bind our hearts together. I am so fortunate to have had this experience of being part of them.

When my daughter sings on a subway platform in NYC, that musical inheritance¬† is pushing through the years. That is where it comes from. When I missed the Chorus during my mommyhood years, I would play music and sing and dance with the babies. We’d have our own little choreography in the living room. Is it any wonder that they all sing?

But…back to commencement. We went downtown and walked up the hill a little bit. The leafy neighborhoods of the West End began at the top of the hill on County Street. The other end of the ground was the harbor, the very Atlantic Ocean. Seagulls were flying and squawking, and that high clear wind that is so fresh was sending all the flags in the breeze.

We walked up the hill and into the miracle that is Nativity. After greeting dear faces who we met through grief, we found our way to the auditorium and took our seats.

That feeling was shooting around the room. It’s what I call grace, it’s a divine feeling. It feels like high hearts, and hope fulfilled, and joy.

I was sitting there feeling it, and trying to define it, but tears came to my eyes.

Then the processional and the boys came in with their mothers, one by one, their mothers holding a single red rose.

There were moving speeches, and awards and Bud and I were called to the stage to receive the award for dear Melanie.

The boys were handed their diplomas, and that feeling stayed in the room. Blithe. Light. Happy.

There was a slideshow, and a tribute to Mel. Teary eyes all over the auditorium.

Afterwards, so many people to greet, and pictures with the scholarship recipient, and the principal, and promises to be back to volunteer.

I won’t believe the bad news about the educational system, when people talk about how hopeless it is. I know, that next to the harbor, in an old American city, there thrives a new Ateneo, with children who appreciate their education. The Jesuit saints names are as familiar as childhood. Their work goes on. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. What else, what else could it be?

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Guest Blogger: Mercy Bell

Hey guys!

My mom’s dear friend Norma’s service dog Sasquatch died recently. Norma had a virus which spread to her brain and left her disabled. She lives in Manchester, NH and is a trained concert singer, but the virus has also left her without the lung capacity to sing. (Here is a recording of her singing back in the Philippines for a hit record there http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPWALYnkAQo )

If you are at all familiar with service dogs, these pups become like family/nurse for people with disabilities. So when Sasquatch lost his battle with cancer, it left Norma with the grief of losing a best friend plus the problem of needing a new service dog. Training raises the price for these canines, and Norma needs $9500 to achieve this.

I feel a lot of you probably have good networks to send this to, and this is a trustworthy cause. A) you all know me! b)Norma’s a dear family friend c) I loved Sasquatch. It is a true loss and also vital to help her.

But I think that together, dollar by dollar and the power of networking and the internet we can help her out. Let’s see how fast we can get this done!

Read her story here:

You can immediately donate through PayPal & ChipIn:

Could you pass this along to people who might be able to help?

Thanks for your help guys,


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Sasquatch, the angel dog

sasquatchI really don’t know how to begin this. It’s been a couple of days of things happening that are little earthquakes. My good husband was served by an out of state opponent. We have necessary and thoughtful work to do to protect and defend ourselves.

That unpleasantness, was eclipsed by the sad news of the night before. That was the news that Sasquatch, our dear friend’s Ram’s service dog, had died. I wrote about Sasquatch here, a few years ago.

Let me set the scene. After my stroke and ventilator pneumonia hospitalization, I felt an urgency to connect with my old UP Concert Chorus friends. We had a little reunion not six weeks later in January of 2006. Ram and Sasquatch came.

Not three days after the reunion did we get the news that Sasquatch had a brain tumor. That was a little more than three years ago. He made it this long, and had a swift decline over the past month.

We learned close to midnight of April 1st, that he had left his earthly life. The next day, yesterday, April 2nd was Bud’s birthday. All through the day, while essentially celebrating around this sad news, we could not but think of Ram and what she was going through.

Today I called her. It is all very sad. He did so much for her. Sasquatch amazed me with what he could do. He also amazed me with what loving animals can do and be for their human companions.

So while we as friends, feel the immense loss of Sasquatch, I remember that it is just a tiny bit of the loss Ram must feel.

Back in the past when the days seemed sunny and long, and the wind blew in off Manila Bay, Ram was a singer. She sang with a band called Bong Penera and the Batucada. Bong Penera is a genius, and Ram had a hit song called, “Samba Song”. You can listen to it here.

In the weeks to come, we, her friends, are going to band together to fundraise for her necessary new service dog. A service dog is key to Ram’s continued independent life.

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December 2, 2008

Another warm day in December. It’s odd, because we brace for the cold, then the cold does not come. I hope it shows up because that would be NORMAL and we need lots and lots of normal, even if I don’t necessarily love the cold. Cold in New England is how it should be.

I got this great photo today. I love these people. I especially love these people at Christmastime because I remember all those days when the UPCC was poor and we had to sing around Manila. We’d dress up and go to a lobby of a fancy-schmancy hotel and stand in the corner and sing. People would walk by, sometimes they would stop and watch. Japanese tourists would pose and take pictures.

We had a repertoire of classic Christmas carols and lovelorn Filipino Christmas songs. Sometimes it would take a long time to sing, and my feet would be hurting and I would be homesick for my parents who were in Hawaii. But I sang, and sang and sang some more. We all did.

While we were singing, life went on all around us. There were the Christmas decorations in those grand hotels, the shoppers, the business men walking quickly. Meanwhile in Manila the whole huge merry-go-round spun round and round. All over the city there was music, and food and people living and dying.

In Malacanang Palace, Imelda counted her shoes and Ferdie thought of his endless reign. And we sang in those lobbies, or took a bus to sing on the edge of Taal Volcano and we went for the camaraderie and the free lunch that my aunt provided.

Then one Christmas those of us who were orphaned sang at the midnight service of Prof. Paguio’s Methodist Church. After “Joy to the World” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, those of us who were left congregated in the courtyard of the church. We greeted each other with tears, these grown children with half-hearts. Parents away, sweethearts abroad, missing Baguio, whatever it was that made us cry. We were standing under the clear midnight Manila sky and smiling and hugging and crying.

Then, decades later we find that we can still instantly connect to all that shared history, all those endless afternoons and evenings when we sang for our supper and then went on to have huge lives.

And that is what makes us smile on an ordinary weekend at the end of the year when we are so lucky to share a meal and memories.niceupcc

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