I know I am still grieving. Even though I smile and I laugh at things. My days are still tinged with sadness. But I will be okay.
I have told myself that whatever it was that I wanted to say, whatever it was that I never actually said to my uncle, if I send out in the universe, God will make it possible for my thoughts to reach my uncle. He will know how much he is loved, valued, oh-so-appreciated and respected. The regrets are counterproductive. It is good to acknowledge them, but it won’t be healthy to dwell on them. There is nothing that can be done about the things that I haven’t done. The opportunities have passed and I will have to trust that God will make my good plans and intentions known to Uncle Wawell.
The only way to honour him is to live the life that I am living, the life that he dreamed for me and all his nieces and nephews.
Carlos P Romulo personally asked him to join his team when Mr Romulo was appointed head of the Department of Education. Mr Romulo even sent someone to where they lived in Frisco to invite him to join him in government. Larry Henares called him an Islamic scholar. He was a proponent of the Ninth Ray campaign to introduce a ninth ray on the sun on the Philippine flag that sought to recognise the contribution to Philippine history and sovereignty by our Muslim brothers. He was highly regarded in the UP community and was well known as a poet, a writer, a scholar and a brilliant mind. He was a proud Filipino.
He was a political organism. He ran in circles with the great political thinkers and political personalities. I grew up with him saying he met with this person, or had coffee with that, and then I’d read the name in the newspapers. I know very little of his political involvement, only that he once ran for public office in Toledo, in Cebu. He didn’t win the election, but I have no doubt that had he been successful, he would have served with all his heart, only thinking of what was best for the constituents he served. He helped set up livelihood programs in various locations in the Philippines to help his countrymen improve their lives. He spent his years advocating Mindanao Muslims so that they were represented and respected as valuable, integral parts of the Philippine society, and not viewed as schismatic or separationists.
But to us, his nephews and nieces, he was simply Uncle Wawell. The uncle who wanted the best for his family. To me, especially, he was Koji. When I was little, he was the uncle who visited me and played with me. He allowed me to call him Koji because that was the name of the character he played in my dress up games. He even suffered a busted lip once because we played jump rope and my head hit his chin and he bit his lip. He was in pain, I’m sure, but he said he was okay.
I think he taught all of us how to play chess. I remember him telling me when I was looking at what piece to move that I needed to think, be strategic and plan. Little did I know he was trying to equip me for life. He was telling me that it was necessary to plan and to know where you wanted to go, what result you wanted to achieve and to consider carefully how you planned to get there. He loved his lists of things to do and enjoyed word games, particularly a good crossword puzzle. He loved a good chat and a cup of coffee, and he could talk about anything under the sun. He was brilliant like that. He believed in his nephews and nieces. He was our biggest fan and our biggest defender. He was someone who was always there if you needed to talk. He tried to give us everything we wanted, if he could. When he found out that I needed a portable typewriter for school projects, he just appeared at Don Jose one day with typewriter in hand…just because I needed one. He was like that. He once said that he would do everything to support his nieces and nephews, because he wanted us to realise our potential to make up for him not living up to the promise of his own potential. He loved us, in the way that he loved his brothers and sisters, deeply and completely.
Antonio Porchia said that “one lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” On Friday morning, I received the heartbreaking news that my Uncle Wawell passed away. Koji is no longer physically with us. I will never hear him laugh or clear his throat, or hear him call his sisters Fems, Gards, Binggay or Jinks, which always made me smile. But he is with God and he is whole, healthy and no longer in discomfort. He said once to me that he never lived up to the promise of his potential. Oh but he did! He has contributed to everyone’s lives in more ways than he can imagine. He has made the lives of a multitude of people better. He has made his family feel valued, supported and important. His memory will live on through his family, his nieces and nephews and their children, and the people whose lives he touched.
We love you Koji. We are proud to call you our Uncle Wawell. You are remembered with pride and love.
I’ve always loved blondies but they’re not necessarily not something you see in most bakery stalls because it is more often overlookby it’s more popular cousin, the chocolate brownie.
This is my recipe for these gorgeous morsels.
225g good white chocolate, chopped
125g butter, cubed
4 large eggs
300g caster sugar
2 tsp vanila
160g plain flour
150g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 170ºC.
In a heatproof bowl place the cubed butter, and the chopped white chocolate. Place the bowl over slow boiling water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of your bowl. Allow the butter and chocolate to melt slowly, stirring it occasionally. Once in a while, lift your bowl off the heat, rest on a towel and stir to help the chocolate to melt along with the butter. This stops the butter-white chocolate mixture from getting too hot and the mixture won’t become grainy. Once the white chocolate has completely melted, left the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
While the butter-white chocolate mixture is cooling, measure out the ground almonds and flour and mix with a balloon whisk to make sure they are well-combined. Set aside.
Beat the eggs and sugar until smooth, thick, moussey and a very pale yellow colour . I use a free standing mixer and this usually takes about 10 minutes on medium speed. It will take about 15-20 minutes if you’re doing this by hand (depending on your forearm muscle strength and endurance!). Add the vanilla and mix for a few seconds to make sure the vanilla is completely incorporated.
Add your almond-flour mixture in three parts, each time making sure everything is mixed thoroughly before adding more of the dry ingredients.
Pour the batter into a tray bake tin foil or a rectangular pan (about 20×30 cm) that has been greased and lined with baking parchment. Bake for 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven (this varies because of how hot your oven can actually get), until the top becomes firm and shiny and when tested and a toothpick or skewer is inserted in the centre of the bake and comes out clean (sometimes with a few sticky crumbs sticking to it). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes (about 5 minutes during a cold winter!). Once cool, gently lift from the pan and place on a cooling rack and allow the bake to get cold.
Depending on how greedy you are, you can slice this into 18 to 24 squares.
Variations to flavours:
Raspberry and rose blondies – instead of the vanilla, add 3 tablespoons of rosewater to the eggs and sugar mixture (step 4). Wash your raspberries and dry thoroughly and roll them in flour. The number of raspberries you add will be equal to how many blondie slices you want, i.e. for 24 slices, you add 24, etc. Add 50g more of flour to your almond-flour mixture because the more fruit you want, the wetter the bake. Bake for an extra 10 minutes, making sure you cover the top with foil when it browns too quickly.
Cardamom blondies – add 3 teaspoons of ground cardamom to the flour and almond mixture (step 3), instead of adding vanilla.
Let me know how you get on with the recipe or suggested variations and leave a comment please!
“May Light always surround you; Hope kindle and rebound you. May your Hurts turn to Healing; Your Heart embrace Feeling. May Wounds become Wisdom; Every Kindness a Prism. May Laughter infect you; Your Passion resurrect you. May Goodness inspire your Deepest Desires. Through all that you Reach For, May your arms Never Tire.” ― D. Simone
Happy New Year everyone! May 2018 bring you all the best that the universe can bring!