Sunday, January 29, 2006


Published January 2006

Mabuhay, (ma-boo-hi) is a Philippine greeting which means to live well and thrive. J.D. and I have been good friends with a couple, Francis and Agnes for a long time. They were born and raised in the Philippines and they are two of the most lovable people in the world. Our kids are good friends and we love their five children as if they were our own. Every time J.D. walks into their home, he shouts "Mabuhay"! and they return the greeting. If ever there was a more perfect word for the days we live in, I think everyone should say "mabuhay" and mean it. The word simply is representative of the friendship we have forged with this family. Friendship formed in the joys and sorrows of life are the lasting ones. A treasure of immeasurable value.

Agnes was the one who initiated our friendship seven years ago. Her smile is infectious and she exudes joy to all who know her. She puts up with me playing with her hair which is long and feels like silk. I think of her like my sister. Francis seems like her twin brother instead of her spouse. They have a wonderful marriage and it shows in the demeanor and joy you see in their children. We love being with their family, sharing holidays and special occasions. Our daughters made their First Holy Communion together and we've shared sponsoring each others children for Confirmation. Some of our best memories have been the family times spent with them, praying together and laughing. I wish I could express what it has meant to us to have them for our dear old friends. I can't imagine what life would be like without them sharing the road with us.

When Shannon was in the hospital last year, their daughter Catherine spent long days at the hospital with me keeping Shannon company, and cheering her up. They homeschool their five children and hold down careers at the same time. I marvel at their ability to balance their work and home. Their kids range in age from 17 down to 7 and each of their children are wonderful in their own special way. Justin will go to college in the Fall and has been editor of our parish youth group newspaper and a real leader for the youth at St. Stephens. He's smart, mature and has many friends. John Paul is energetic, friendly and has been an altar boy mentor to our son Conor. Catherine is Shannon's best friend and confidant in all things teenage girl, and Jane Frances and Cecilia are Birdy's buddies. Every time I see these kids there is never a shortage of hugs and affection. They all have learned how to live well and thrive.

J.D. and Francis go to the Asian Seafood Market and shop for the things they love. The crab is not fresh unless they bring it home kicking and JD is learning new ways to prepare his seafare. Their home is always hospitable, something is always cooking and it's all delicious. When I am in their West Sacramento home, it feels like my own home. There is always a hot steaming cup of coffee or aromatic cup of tea, and if it's time to wind down with a good glass of wine, the corks a poppin'. We Irish, Italians love our friends from the Philippines and we've proudly become Filipino by contamination surely because of them. If lumpia was a food group, J.D. would be in hog heaven on the food pyramid.

What impresses me most is their devotion to their family, friends and faith. Our son Conor asked Francis to sponsor him for his Confirmation this Spring, and his reason is because "Mr. D will pray for me Mom". Yes he will and then some. Francis is tireless in everything he does. A hard worker, an exceptional cook and devoted friend. We talked a lot last weekend about the things he likes to cook and his secret is in the salt and vegetables he uses. He seems to know how to perfectly season every thing he makes. His specialty is a cold seafood and bell pepper salad, a top secret recipe no doubt because when I ask him how he does it, he responds "well it's a little of this and a little of that and voila...." No one could do what he does with this salad. It's all in the heart of the cook. I'm sure it's because Francis' was born with ten pounds of Mabuhay in him. I wish I had four ounces of it.

Agnes and I belong to this group of ladies from church who get together and celebrate each others birthdays. We started going to tea houses and it's become a little tradition. Put about four teapots and some scones in front of us and we seem to close down every tea house we enter. Agnes loves it when we all get together and I have to admit, since I've been away from home these last three months, I miss her companionship and company. There is something about the love of a dear friend that is more precious than gold. Agnes is one of those friends.

Agnes' birthday is this Sunday. Both she and my dad share the same birthday. Dad is coming home from the hospital the day before his birthday and we're planning a little welcome home birthday celebration for him. The only word that seems appropriate to say to him is the Tagalog word Agnes and Francis taught us "Mabuhay! Live well and thrive Dad" You've been through hell but you made it...and I know you will get better each day. As for my dear friend Agnes. I hope we grow old together. "Happy birthday. We love you. Thank you for your friendship and "Mabuhay!" Live well and thrive my friend.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

Sunday, January 08, 2006

We three kings of Orient are...

Published January 8, 2006

Epiphany is a feast day celebrated within the liturgical calendar of the Church wherein we remember the famously historical Three Kings, who traveled far and wide in order to pay homage to and worship the Christ Child. In honor of their visit, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts were significant, not only in their symbolism, but in their value. Certainly one would wonder, why these things? I am sure Mary and Joseph could have used some other things to care for the Divine Child. After all, tradition says he was born in a stable or cave, humble surroundings no doubt. It wasn’t so much about the gifts and what was done with them afterwards, but the revelation of the Kings themselves. They knew who He was. The gifts were the symbols of their own epiphany. They knew their station was far below that of a greater King.

When the kids were born, especially with our first, we were showered with gifts. It was amazing how many onesies, booty socks, car seats, diaper pails, bath items, clothes, and layette items one can accumulate because of the love and generosity of friends. We didn’t want for anything when it came to the birth of the kids. How thankful we were. It made the road easier to face and it made us excited about the impending birth. There is something about being prepared that makes the task ahead less daunting.

When the Kings set out, they set out not knowing each other. They came from different parts of the world. Melchior was King of Nubia (also called Arabia), and it was he that bore the gift of gold. Because his kingdom was near the Red Sea, they said the gold had a red hue to it and was the finest in the world. The next king, Balthazar, came out of the land of Saba or Gondolia, and because of the spices that were grown there, the finest in the world, he carefully bore his best incense, or frankincense, which came from a tree and resembled the consistency of gum. The third king, Jaspar or Gaspar, came from Tharsis, and was Ethiopian. In the isles of Tharsis, myrrh grew more plentifully than on any place on earth. It grew like wheat and waxed thick. It was used as a preservative and they anointed the dead with myrrh. It was very expensive and in some part of the world, was worth more than gold per ounce.

Apparently they did not meet until Jerusalem. They had followed the same sign, a Star…something foretold long before they met. Isaiah had written many years before, “Jerusalem arise and take light for thy Light has is come and the joy of God is upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall in walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising”. Melchior arrived by way of Calvary. Balthazar arrived by way of Olivet or the town of Galilee. They say timing is everything, because it was at this point where they both hooked up with Gaspar. The Kings were told by their astronomers to follow the signs in the sky until they could not longer see the star. Apparently a cloud of darkness had covered the star and veiled their way at this juncture for the first time. You could call it a holy stop sign. It’s the only word I can come up with anyway.

All three met on highway beside of the hill of Calvary and greeted each other with joy. Figuring they all received the same signs and with the same intent, joined together to complete their journey. Although they spoke diverse languages, they were able to communicate. They rode into Jerusalem at the uprising of the sun. With a brief stop to confer with the highly suspicious and insecure King Herod, they would learn that Bethlehem was the place they needed to be. After conferring with Shepherds who had seen the same Star, the veil was lifted and it shone brightly over the place where He laid. It’s interesting to note that tradition tells us that before paying homage to the infant Jesus, the Kings bathed, put on their best robes and arrayed themselves to be worthy to be received by the family who dwelt in a cave. Rather than reveal their findings to Herod. They took their “epiphany” home with them. But they took the long way rather than return by way of Jerusalem again.

As to the symbolism behind the gifts, many books have been written. Gold was symbolic of the power of a king, for gold pertains to tribute and justice. Incense is symbolic of divine majesty and is likened unto sacrifice. There could not be any Old Testament sacrifices with the shedding of animal blood or the burning of incense at the altar. Myrrh is given to symbolize the mortality of one because it is used in burial. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of the Child who was born to die.

What many do not know is that the three Kings were later baptized by Thomas the apostle in India, they were consecrated as archbishops and they ordained priests. They all died around the same time and a great star shone around the time of their death. When Helena, mother of Constantine, sailed to India to search for the bodies of the three, which she recovered and later returned to Constantinople in the church of St. Sophia, it seemed they had reached their final resting place. But nay! After the death of Helena, the bodies are given to Eustorgius in Milan, who then, in bargain for an alliance with Archbishop Rainauld, had the relics transferred to Cologne, Germany, wherein they lie in the church of St. Peter to this day.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at