On April Fools’ Day I was surprised not by a prank, but by an article by Alicia de Leon Torres, published in our local newspaper. In it, Alicia profiled my writing, the day job as a Filipino phone interpreter, and my years long involvement with arts projects in San Diego. It was an honor and delight to be acknowledged in this way. Read the article by clicking on this link: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/someone-san-diego-should-know/story/2021-03-31/someone-san-diego-should-know-marivi-soliven-blanco
I should have known strange times were brewing when a freak storm blew off our chimney spout two weeks ago. I’d been collaborating for months with Access Ink’s Anne Bautista, Esq., Bob Stewart, and Susan McBeth of Adventures By the Book to plan our Saving Beverly Literary Fundraising Adventure and things were not looking good. Ticket sales were slow and I spent many sleepless nights calculating the number of friends I could persuade to attend our event just so we could break even. More than just breaking even, I was determined to raise more money for Access’s Legal Program, which, under the leadership of Anne, helps immigrant survivors of domestic violence gain residency under the Violence Against Women Act.
The Friday before the event a low intensity headache began throbbing on my left temple. Odd bumps swelled on the left side of my neck. Sunday night, another flurry of emails produced a surge in ticket sales,the trickle of reservations finally swelling to a drizzle. By Monday I knew we were in the black, but physically I was a wreck. My left eye felt as though it were being gouged out every time I blinked and little red bumps had appeared on my left forehead and eyelid.
Oh for God’s sake – adult onset acne! Did this have to happen now? Irritated, I called my physician brother in Louisiana. He advised in no uncertain terms to drive to the nearest Emergency Room and be seen. Sounds like you have varicella. Don’t wait till tomorrow to see a doctor. Go right now.
I sat in the Urgent Care waiting room at UCSD Medical Center for the next five hours, staring at a TV on mute and trying not to look at the large, sluggish men in SD Prison jumpsuits and shackles who shuffled in for treatment, attended by sheriffs. A dwarf in a hospital gown dragged his IV bag to the chair next to mine and sat down. He reeked of cigarette smoke. I was too tired to move to another seat.
My turn came up around 1 a.m. The young doctor seemed unreasonably chipper given the late hour. After examining the sores on my face and palpating the bumps on my neck he declared “The good news is, you aren’t contagious. The bad news is you have shingles.”
Anyone who’s been in the ER in the middle of the night knows that it is fertile ground for sprouting self pity. Shingles, the good doctor explained, usually broke out when one’s immune system was down because of inadequate sleep, and excessive stress. In recent weeks I’d suffered from both while dealing with assorted crises associated with planning the fundraiser. Hearing this, my first thought was Punyeta naman. ‘Di ko na kaya ‘to. I can’t handle this anymore. My head feels like it is exploding and I will have open sores on my face. How can I stand before all those people on Friday and ask them to donate money for this cause?
Then just as quickly I remembered the original impetus for organizing this event: every day thousands of other women go to work or school or raise their children with black eyes, or torn lips or bruises in parts where no one can see, because they have no way out of their abusive relationships. The legal clinic at Access offers them the option of leaving their tormentors. Of saving them from the fate Beverly suffered in The Mango Bride.
In light of their struggles, an attack of shingles seemed relatively trivial. So spackle on more make-up and bring on the Percodan, because this show must go on.
Come Friday afternoon, over a hundred people had registered and more kept trying to buy last minute tickets. My husband and I met Ambassador Thomas and Mithi at the airport, transported them to their hotel and spent the remaining hour packing books, a change of clothes, and a poster into the car before hurrying off to the Joan Kroc Center for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.
Everything flowed smooth as maple syrup after that. Kim and Annabelle, half of Quartet Nouveau began playing at 6, as guests began to arrive:
Access’s dedicated volunteers stepped up to welcome guests to the event and manage the opportunity draw prizes.
Joy de Guzman and her fellow Silayan Filpina members came in full force…
Will and Diana Tiao braved Friday night rush hour traffic and drove down from LA…
Lem and Darren drove in from Tempeh, AZ.*
Even Ambassador Thomas brought his sister and brother-in-law to the party…
Being an obsessive compulsive micromanager, I thought I’d prepared for every possible twist to the evening’s proceedings…but serendipity pulled a last minute surprise. I’d solicited most of the prizes from literary agents, writers and friends, and had not planned on buying a raffle ticket but a last-minute donation from a last-minute guest caught my eye: a 108-pearl necklace donated by the sustainable jewelry manufacturer in the Philippines who had somehow caught wind of the fundraiser and urged her partner Judith Compton to attend.
What the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, I thought, as I bought a roll of tickets. Then Karma played her hand. “Esperanza,” our valiant domestic violence survivor pulled out a ticket and read it aloud. It was one of mine.
As the evening wound down and guests headed home, I toasted to the fundraiser’s spectacular success with Gil Magnaye. After driving 9 hours from San Francisco to attend the party, my college friend well deserved a drink.
We needed a good night’s sleep to recover before proceeding to the after party the next day…
Over brunch at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, both Immigration Attorney Lem Carlos and Development Director Gil Magnaye declared that the previous night’s gala had been a true inspiration. Now they both plan to replicate it in San Francisco and Tempe, AZ next year. All they need now is find the VAWA beneficiary in their respective cities.
I thought Saving Beverly would be a one night spectacle. Now it looks like we’ll be taking the Saving Beverly show on tour…stay posted!
*photo credit: Adventures by the Book.