June 24, 2007

Seven Random Facts

This is a tag from PillowTalk. I'm supposed to list seven random facts about me and tag seven others to come up with their own random seven. So here I am, at random and in bullets:

  • I watched Pulp Fiction on the big screen four times. My friend Arni and I wanted to get the sequence right.
  • I wore uniforms all throughout my school-age life. That's 15 years of blue-and-white fashion.
  • I am a word geek. I love crossword puzzles, Word Factory, Scrabble and Text Twist. (Three years ago, in a bout with pregnancy-induced insomnia, I scored my Text Twist high of 500,000 plus points :)
  • I learned to ride a bike at the ripe "old" age of 21--thanks to my seven-year-old brother
  • Ice cream makes me yawn, yawn and yawn
  • I learned conversational Pilipino from reading komiks. (The Pilipino subjects in grade- and high school were so text-bookish they wouldn't stand a chance on the streets of Manila, ha ha.)
  • I consume at least eight cups of coffee a day.

Now for the tagging part. I'm really more of a democrat, so any volunteers?

June 23, 2007

Moving on

In a few days, I'll be saying my "official" goodbyes. The old boss is moving on, a new boss is moving in. I am saying so long to this building that is slowly losing the battle to termites, hello to the spanking new city hall. I am trading six years' worth of speeches and press releases for who knows how many years worth of personnel files, personnel actions, personnel conflicts.

Technically, it's not a change of career. I'd still be in the same office, doing the administrative job that I signed up for in the first place. But such is the way of the bureaucracy: along with the changing of the guards comes the cleaning of the house.

I should be no stranger to this. I've had ten bosses, all of whom taught me--in no uncertain terms--that change is inevitable. That change is always good.

And yet, as I sift through the accumulated paper and photographs and documented memories of the past six years, I find myself not hankering for change. I'm perfectly happy in the company of Asia and Helen and Papiyo. I'm okay working with Orly, John, Roel and the three Als.

For six years, our team tried to give a little sense of "urgency," a little zip to the workplace. We set and met deadlines. We went beyond the usual projects. We had more than the requisite eight-hour workday. And we were happy. Tired, yes. But happy just the same.

In a week's time, our little team will be taking on new and separate assignments. Asia goes to Environment, Orly and John go to Planning, Roel and Alvin go to Licensing, Papiyo goes back to Public Affairs, Helen and the two Als go someplace else. I end up in Health.

As a veteran of leave-takings, I know that it won't be long before we settle into our new assignments. But as I look at the things that have to be packed and the files that need to be sorted, I wish I won't have to start all over again.

Maybe, I am getting too old for this business of moving and moving on. No matter how good the prospects are.

June 22, 2007

Friday's Feast # 1

Name a funny habit you have.
I tend to make faces while on the phone.

If you could instantly know how to play a musical instrument, which one would you pick?
Piano. I've had lessons, but then as a kid I hated structure so I never really got around to learning.

How long is your hair?
Long enough to hide my face in, but short enough to escape ponytails.

Main Course:
When was the last time you forgave someone, and who was it?
Last night. My daughter smacked me hard in the face. She gave me a lot of kisses afterwards, though...

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
My electric mixer. Makes beating and mixing and baking a breeze. I love how it makes the batter look so shiny and perfectly smooth.

Thursday Thirteen # 2: Simple Pleasures

There's endless pleasure in the littlest things. Think starry skies and "What a Wonderful World" and you get the tingles that come with life's simple joys.

Here are my 13 "pleasure" points:

1. Boat rides
2. Take-offs and landings
3. Full moons by the beach
4. Flowers in bloom
5. The scent of bonfire
6. December mornings
7. May showers
8. The sweet smell of freshly mown grass
9. A good read (my book-of-the-moment: Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven)

10. The gentle swish of waves upon the shore
11. Misty sunrises
12. Fields of green
13. Freshly ironed sheets

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

June 20, 2007

Milk in the News

Two items on the news caught my attention last night: (1) breastfeeding advocates baring their boobs before the Supreme Court to protest the government inaction on the Milk Code; and (2) the Bureau of Food and Drugs ordering Wyeth to recall 2 million cans of infant formula.

Under the Milk Code, manufacturers of infant formula aren't supposed to advertise or promote their products. The breast-baring mamas have it down pat: breast milk is best for babies. They have figures--okay, numerical figures--to show for it too.

The Associated Press, which picked up the story, cited the following:

  • Unicef legal counsel David Clark said the Philippines has the lowest breast feeding rate in 56 countries in Asia and the Pacific, based on the worldwide Demographic Health Surveys in the last 10 years.

  • ... health care firms spend billions of pesos in advertisements every year to persuade mothers to try their products.

  • ...Filipino families spend P21.5 billion yearly to buy infant formula when breast milk is instantly available from nursing mothers.

  • ...formula-fed babies are 14 times more likely to die from gastric ailments, sepsis, meningitis and other illnesses than those who were breast-fed in the crucial first two years of the infant.
Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with active mammary glands. While I had already psyched myself into breastfeeding my baby, I had to turn to the bottle when lactation was nowhere in sight. I did lactate three days after giving birth, but the milk wasn't enough for the guzzler that is my daughter. I ended up mixing formula and breastmilk,and even then, my natural supply only lasted two months.

It's not that I didn't try. I religiously took doctor-prescribed supplements that were supposed to keep the milk flowing. When those didn't work, I was game enough to try this weird concoction of buko, malunggay leaves, camote leaves and what have yous swimming in coconut milk.

Still nothing. So I reworked my budget to include P900++ for a 900-gram can of infant formula every five days. When the baby turned two, the P900 went down to P803 for a 1.6 kg can every 10 days.

I was perfectly happy with the formula that was touted to nourish gifted young minds. Now, though, I'm not so sure. My daughter's formula is among those that figured in the BFAD list on News No. 2. There's some kind of relief in seeing that the manufacturing date is fairly recent, but then again, am I expected to memorize all the other manufacturing dates on all the other cans?

Times like this and motherhood becomes a one-way ticket to paranoia.

June 18, 2007

Customer Complaint

I am rarely crabby. My friends can vouch for that. Oh, I would complain about politics and showbiz and about my pesky officemate E. I would whine about clogged toilet bowls and people who don't know their biodegradables from their non-biodegradables. I would object to careless, if callous remarks. But to rant about something for three days in a row? So very not me, definitely. Unless we're talking coffee.

And we are.

At the grocery over the weekend, I grabbed a big bag of instant coffee that had "new and improved" or something to that effect proudly bannered on the package. The tag alone was enough to conjure--where did I get the phrase?--coffee-clouded dreams. In my mind I pictured myself out on the garden chair, waiting for sunrise and warming up with a steaming, heavenly mugful.

Alas, "new and improved" is relative. One sip, and I thought how do you improve something that is already perfect as it is? I mean, this is the same coffee that serves as official pasalubong to an equally coffee-loving sister in NY. And now, it's no longer distinct from the nicely packaged but otherwise unremarkable "stateside" instants. Boo hoo.

The blah-ness of it all urged me to e-mail customer service. No, I did not rant. The "new and improved" version is much too weak to make me raise hell. I did tell the company that the coffee is much too sweet. Adding water makes it taste more like sweetened caffeine-spiked water.

I know, of course, that coming up with something new and improved takes months of experimenting, of brewing this and mixing that, of research and stuff. I imagine test tubes and flasks and supermarket kiosks with blindfolded housewives choosing between Brand X and Brand Y.

My mind and my tastebuds scream for the old "original," though. I have already raided the grocery for the old stock. Pretty soon, I know that I'll have to do my version of the Brand X and Brand Y debacle.

Better yet, I'll go back to brewed. In which case, I'll have to go to the store for a new and improved coffee maker.

A Tale of Two Dads

My Dad grew up without a father. His parents separated shortly after he was born, and he was left in the care of his maternal grandma. And so it was that when he became a father at 32, he resolved to always be there for his kids.


As the eldest--and should I add guinea pig?--I've had more than my fair share of Dad's literal "being theres." While I was out dancing on my first prom, he was right downstairs, shooting breeze with the guards. I ended up going home at the teener's ungodly hour of 8 p.m., just as the prom was revving up. (It would have been perfectly all right if I stayed, but I didn't want to risk the chance of being caught attending the prom with Dad.)

He was there, too, on my first day in college. Patience was never one of his strongest traits, but there he was, patiently waiting for me the way yayas waited for their wards in preschool. And he was with me on my first job interview. He had a meeting in the area, he said. But of course I knew better. I knew that he wanted to be the first to congratulate me (if I got the job) or console me (if I didn't). I got the job, and the literal "being there" slowly switched to figurative mode.

My husband, Papa G, grew up the same way my Dad did: without a father. His Dad had to go away, leaving his Mom to take care of one daughter and eight sons. His Mom had to attend to the logistic side of raising a handful and was out of the house most of the time. Papa G taught himself to cook, to look after himself and his two younger brothers, to survive.

When we got married, Papa G promptly claimed the kitchen as his domain. I wouldn't say, though, that he embraced fatherhood with the same confidence. Sure, he busied himself with the doables: washing the baby things, sterilizing the baby bottles, buying the baby stuff. But when it came to soothing a colicky baby, he often gave me this "lost" look, as if asking for the operations manual that came with the baby. As if I wasn't just as lost.

Luckily, Papa G soon realized that a baby needs more than just clean diapers. And he soon realized--the way my Dad did--that fatherhood doesn't require a template. It is, in fact, a matter of faith.

And faith they have a lot of.

Happy Fathers' Day, Dad and Papa! And Kidkid, and Kenneth and Jeric. And a happy day too, to all the dads, papas, tatays, fathers and dadas all over...

June 15, 2007

What a Character

D, our office messenger, passed away on Tuesday. It was truly an independence day for D, his friend said. Finally, he was free from the disease that slowly ate up his liver. Finally, he was free from the pressures of not knowing how to say "no." Finally, he was free from the loneliness of an empty home.

But D was anything but lonely. To the outside world, that is. He was a constant source of laughter. Barring the few times that he would sulk in a corner, nursing a bruised ego (the way a child does when the world doesn't seem to meet expectations), he would go around the office cracking jokes. Never mind that the jokes were usually on and about him.

When we learned of his passing, we were quiet for a while. We were clinging, perhaps, to our individual pictures of D. Disbelief turned to quiet remembrance, and eventually to happy memories. And then we were all laughing. For who could forget the day when ...
  • D showed up with a tub of Star Margarine, when the boss asked him to buy a copy of (The Philippine) Star?
  • He summoned an officemate named Elmer when D was asked to get stamps enough for "airmail."?
  • He happily displayed $10, which he pocketed from among the stash of Salvation-Army shorts that eventually landed on the ukay-ukay?
  • He came to a party armed with a mic and videoke CDs of Matt Monro and Engelbert Humberdinck?

Because D had no immediate family, the office was left to take care of all the arrangements when he died. When it was time to settle the bill, the hospital said they forgot to ask D to sign the Philhealth papers. A thumbmark would do, they said. Either that or the office would have to pay the whole amount.

And so, two hours after he expired, D thumbmarked his "release" papers from the cold stillness of the funeral parlor. Obviously, he remained a character to the very end.

Thursday Thirteen #1: The Me of the '80s

This is my first foray into the world of memes. It's supposed to be viral or something--in the context of blogs, says meme guru Gary LaPointe, "it's some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on. "

I'm doing this "Thursday Thirteen" meme as some kind of initiation. And since I've been going on a trip down memory lane these past weeks (thanks to e-groups and Music and Lyrics), I might as well start with--ahem--stuff that remind me of the '80s. Join me as we take the road oft travelled...

1. Aquanet. The 80s was all about hair--the bigger and higher, the better. In the era of gravity-defying bangs, a can of Aquanet provided the height and the style. Other '80s hair musts: mousse, mineral oil, gel, petroleum jelly even. Obviously, we were so into "hair," or why would there be a group called "The Gelboys"?

2. Falcon Crest and Knots Landing. The Channings and the MacKenzies injected primetime Sunday nights with just the right mix of mystery, intrigue and an intricate web of not-too-real relationships.

3. "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and "Walking on Sunshine." The former was the ultimate party perker-upper; the latter, the ultimate happy song.

4. SNHS Batch 84. We laughed some, cried some and basically winged it through four years of high-school superficialities. Twenty-three years later, our batch is still mostly intact, thanks to e-mail, blogs, and all the trappings of the high-tech universe.

5. Pops and Martin and Penthouse Live! I happened to watch the episode where Martin swore undying, everlasting love to Pops. Good thing most of us don't get proposed to on live TV, ha ha ha.

6. That's Entertainment. Back when Billy Crawford was still Billy Joe, there was this college kid who just had to go home early on Wednesdays to catch Romnick on the tube. Don't give me that look: I liked the Monday Group (think Jestoni and Lotlot and--heavens--Ronel Victor) better.

7. The Catcher in the Rye. I read this in the summer of '85. Like Holden Caulfield, I, too, had noble ambitions of erasing the unmentionables from the walls and protecting the kids from the cuss words of the world. Unlike Holden, though, I grew up and realized that ignoring the unmentionables is just as effective as wiping them out.

8. Balayan, Batangas. Starlit nights, bonfire by the beach, sketching souls and building castles. Ah, who can ever forget those wonderful, wonderful bonding moments with The Varsitarian?

9. Menudo. Weird Sister wangled a hotel room pass, and promptly learned everything she could about Puerto Rico. She also bought just about every album--including the obscure Spanish recordings. Which is probably why she aced her Spanish subjects...

10. People Power and sardines. Rumors of food (and toilet paper) shortage were heavy in the days leading to the EDSA Revolution. So that we wouldn't starve, we hoarded two boxes of sardines. The Revolution was done in a matter of days. Not our sardines, though. EDSA 1 has since been trivialized by succeeding EDSA revolutions, but to this day, I still can't get myself to eat canned sardines.

11. Crushed. For three years, I had this major crush on a neighbor: a law student who was also a "congressional" son. I thought I really had it going when he asked me to dance. One question, though, effectively put a period on three years of pining. On learning that I was in journalism school, he asked, in the most serious of tones: "So, you wanna be a newspaper?" Really, I wanted to be a television...

12. The Ricefields of Gerona. Picture two girls and a boy on a moonlit midnight, walking three (or was that ten?) kilometers with the end nowhere in sight. The ricefields of Gerona in Tarlac, shimmering amid the surreal glow of moonlight and echoing the creepy baying of farm dogs, did provide the perfect backdrop for college friends out for a weekend of discovery.

13. Reyna Elena 1986. Hilarious, but Ma "volunteered" me for the Search for Reyna Elena in our subdivision. Even more hilarious, but I won. If you must know, it was a money contest.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

June 12, 2007

How Sili Can You Get

Mention Bicol and the word "hot" easily comes to mind. Hot, as in the lava that flows from Mayon Volcano. Hot, as in the steam that spews out from the geothermal fields of Albay. Hot, as in the men and women who, if we go by surveys and statistics, seem to have no regard for family planning. Hot, as in the siling labuyo that grows in just about every backyard, ready for the picking.

I don't know exactly why, but the Bicolano tongue seems to have a higher "spicy" threshold. Sinigang isn't complete without its dip of crushed siling labuyo in fish sauce. Grilled fish is a bore without the requisite soy sauce spiked with sili. Even veggies--especially if they're swimming in coconut milk--have a certain bite to them. A bite that will send the non-initiate running for a glass of water.

My tolerance for the hot and the spicy did not manifest until when I was already out of Bicol. Call it the latent Bicolano in me, but I never really thought that I have the "hot" tongue. Until my dormmates pointed out that my soup seem to be hotter than theirs. Or that my dip is a lot spicier. Or that I seem so happy wiping the sweat from my brow while eating spicy ginataang santol.

The sisters and the cousins who have since moved elsewhere are one in saying that they miss the sinus-clearing cuisine of home. Talk about scorching, but we do pride ourselves in eating Bicol Express, a truly fiery concoction where the chili is not merely flavor enhancer but main ingredient. It's one dish that is definitely not for the faint of heart: I have seen one too many first-timers getting all teary and sweaty.

There are, of course, tamer versions of the fabled Bicol Express (which, I believe is named for the train that used to penetrate the heart of Bicol) with a lot more meat than chili. There are also the pinangat and the laing--both made from taro leaves. For me though, and for most of the fire-eating Bicolanos, it has to be hot, hot, really hot.

June 11, 2007

Ten Things About Gianna

I have three posts in draft, all waiting for the middle and the end. I'm doing yaya duty this weekend, though, so I might as well kiss my "publishing" hopes goodbye. For now, at least.

What do I blog about then? There's this terrible two who seems to be growing up really fast. It amazes me--as I'm sure all parents are--to see their kids go from a colicky baby to a plucky toddler. While I sit and wonder where the time has gone, she does some other thing that tells me that time does fly. That I'd better capture the moment--the here and now--before she launches into one of her many transformations yet again.

In any case, here are Gianna's great loves. For the moment.

1. Big words. She learned her first "big" word--congatulations--at a family wedding in December last year. When she's in a big-girl mode, she gets a thrill out of saying 'indelable' ink and 'ticycle divey' and 'monsignoy'. Her latest big word? "Initiative."

2. Captain Von Trapp. It's a ritual: whenever Christopher Plummer appears onscreen for the first time in The Sound of Music, she babbles excitedly at how "gwapo" Captain Von Trapp is. She wants to learn to whistle the way the Captain does, she wants to go to Vienna to see the Captain, she has pretend conversations on the phone with--you guessed it--the Captain.

3. Dora, Blue, Barney and Annie. The kid is a certified "Doranian," has a handy-dandy notebook and knows the "I Love You" song by heart. Every so often, she carts away Lolo's cane and uses it as a mic for "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile."

4. Pink. Back in the days when mommyhood was farthest from my mind, I swore that if I had a little girl, I would never dress her up in pink. The kid must have heard me even then and today insists on dressing up only in pink.

5. Books. She can rattle off her favorites: Jack and the Beanstalk, No Jumping on the Bed, Lift-the-Flap Board Book, Mimi's Toes, Bard's Rhyme Time, Mr. Brown Can Moo. There are days, of course, when she uses the books to swipe at Sammy...

6. Radish. She likes them crunchy, not soggy. She also munches on carrots, green beans, sitaw and cauliflower.

7. The beach. Bacon Beach is but 20 minutes away from where we live. The kid is no swimmer--yet--but she sure loves getting her feet wet and running after waves. She has also taken to calling just about every body of water "Bacon."

8. Church. Funny, but the little girl is the regular church-goer in the family. On Sundays, she insists on going to church with Lola. She has this thing for religious icons, and when she turned two she asked for nothing but the "big Santo Nino." When the church bells ring at 6 p.m., she makes motions that pass off for the sign of the cross and recites "in the name of the fadey, the son, dalopiyit amen."

9. Courting danger. There are days when I feel that I am too old for this motherhood thing, when all that comes out of my mouth are along the lines of "no, don't, stop that, don't do that, no no no and a thousand times no." Still, the kid gets a high out of courting danger. In December, she chipped her front tooth when she fell flat on her face. Not that the chipped tooth stopped her from running...

10. Digging dirt. Give her a pail and a shovel and she'll be quite happy digging a hole in the backyard. For all her pinky-pink favorites, she is one girl who enjoys getting dirt on her hair.

June 9, 2007

Counting the Whys

My friends were totally floored when I decided to get out of the city. “Why leave?” they asked. “And why Sorsogon?” Years later, people invariably ask me the same thing. So why am I here? Let me count the whys…

Easy drives. The nearest beach is but 20 minutes away, and I don’t have to stew in traffic to get there either. On longer trips, I get spectacular views. There are no factories spewing poison, no smog blighting the landscape.

St. Joseph’s Church. The past calls out from the walls, from every corner of the Barcelona Church. It’s like being caught in a time warp: I expect Padre Damaso to pop out of the convent any time.

The twilight zone. Dusk from where I live is a truly magical thing. The air is nippy and carries now and then the smell of bonfire, of leaves and twigs and paper burning. Overhead, ridges of fiery orange and bright pink wash the sky before the pale gray, and later, the yellow-studded black take over. There’s the sky stretching on and on. Feeling lost in such huge, endless space is perhaps the best feeling in the world.

Bulusan Lake. Forever cool and misty and serene, Bulusan Lake invites solitude. In there, there are no deadlines, no pesky whispers, no politics. There is just me and the lake and our shared secrets.

P100 can go a long way. I don’t have to panic every time I am down to my last P100. I can always find my way home anyway. If there’s no food in the fridge, there’s bound to be some in the neighbors’…

The view from Pepita Park. Like a sparkling jewel, Sorsogon Bay glistens in the tropical sun. The view from the grotto is worth the steep climb: there’s the sea weaving its way through islands laced with coconut trees and tiny houses, nourishing Sorsogon.

Food, cholesterol-rich food. Never mind that it’s bound to show in the hips, or end in ugly bulges. The kinunot and fat, juicy, aligi-rich crabs are simply to die for.

Moonrise in Bacon. Full moon by the beach, with the gently swaying tide echoing through the stillness, is one of the best reasons for staying. How many full moons are there in a lifetime? Not that many, really, but in Bacon, it’s perfectly all right to let out the little lunatic in you and me.

Starry, Starry Night

I am used to brownouts. Where I blog from, brownouts, blackouts and typhoons go together. In May last year, when everybody else was stewing in the summer heat, a strong typhoon mowed down my beloved aratiles tree. It also plowed just about every power line, leaving us powerless for something like a week. It was nothing, of course, compared to the 29-day blackout brought about by Milenyo in September, followed by the three-week post-Reming blackout from November to December.

So when the lights went out tonight at 8 p.m., I dismissed it as just one of those minor irritations. Never mind that the neighborhood echoed with a collective "awwww." When you really come down to it, Maria Floredeluna is even more irritating, anyway.

What to do then? Stepping out was the best option, if only to beat the oppressive June heat. And when I did, it was just beautiful. As if God and the power company conspired to put on one magnificent show.

The sky was a diamond-studded black, lit up once in a while by streaks of summer lightning. Everywhere I looked there was something twinkling. The lights inside may have been put out, but the lights outside, up there, were just magical.

Last year, in the long days and nights of literal "powerlessness," we had to think up ways to entertain ourselves. Complaining would not get us anywhere; it would only mean hot tempers and hotter nights. So we rediscovered the magic of full moons and starry skies, of neighborliness and friendly stories, of childhood games played on the street. We bedded down at 8, woke up at 4, and realized that life does go on, with or without electricity.

Starry, starry nights are the stuff of poetry, of paintings, of inspiration. Of getting in touch with some primal, long-forgotten self in each one of us. A friend once told me that she had forgotten how beautiful the night was--until the lights went out and she whiled away the time out on the roof.

Gazing out at the great starry void, I am transported to the beach, waves caressing my feet. It may be sweltering inside, but I am cool...

June 8, 2007

Missing KC

Finally connected with my friend KC after five years or so of silence. Back in college, when it was okay to wear angst on your sleeves, we were really close. We rode the bus together, we shared secret fears, we even shed a tear or two.

Things simmered down after college. I wrote, KC tried to figure out the corporate jungle. I drifted, KC got married. I lived the single life, KC started a family. Sure, there were the reunions and the chance encounters and the standing invitations. But other than the not-so-regular meetings, which did anything but thread the already loosening ties, we were pretty much on our own. In the business of making our own separate businesses, we lost track of each other.

Until last night. Funny how a few minutes of online chat can make a difference. As if the intermittent years never were, as if we were back in Governor Forbes, talking about everything and nothing while waiting for the bus. And funny, too, how we seem to have retained different versions of the same event. KC, for example, remembers the movie. I remember the beer. KC remembers Project 6. I remember West Avenue.

For all the confusion over the "us" of ages ago, one thing remains clear: that we did--and do--miss each other and our friendship.

So here's to you, KC, and to me. To the way we were, and the way we will be.

June 7, 2007

Safety Issues

On our way home for lunch, Papa G and I nearly sideswiped a kid on a bike. The kid--a gradeschooler--had no business riding a bike on a busy street. Yet there he was, pedaling furiously from a side street right into the middle of the highway. Good thing Papa G veered to the right just in time.

Initially, we were a little jogged. For a while we thought hospital bills, insurance claims and one very worried mother. Make that two. Shock eventually turned to irritation when we saw the boy speeding off in his spanking new bike as though nothing happened. As if accidents don't happen in school zones on rush hours.

The whole thing got me thinking about safety. On TV last night, there was this news about a first grader who was hit by a truck while crossing the street on the way home from school. It couldn't have been the truck driver's fault entirely, but then who else gets the blame in cases like this? The victim? The parents? The community at large?

The kid on the bike sure needed discipline. I told the school authorities that much over the phone. I don't even think gradeschool kids are allowed to ride their bikes to school, especially if school is right downtown, I added. The principal promised she'll take the matter up during the first PTA meeting this week. They're too loaded to be expected to look after the kids, she said, but she'll do the best she could.

I am not totally reassured, and I am thinking: isn't it too much of a confidence on the part of the parents to allow their kids that much freedom? Sure, we can't tail our kids all the time but we can caution them against using the highway as a playground. Biking on parks and on out-of-the-way streets is okay, but on the highway, along with trucks and cars and tricycles and motor bikes?

Kids are kids, and they do tend to forget safety when they are having fun. A year or so ago, a gradeschooler fell off his bike and was ran over by a truck. He and a cousin were jostling each other on their bikes, unmindful of the passing vehicles. Three months ago, an eleven-year-old was hit by a car on the highway. He fled the confines of his subdivision to hunt for spiders on the other side of the road.

Stories such as these, especially when they happen close to home, give me the scare. I look at my daughter and I wonder if I'll ever get past my fear of letting her out into the street by herself. I will have to eventually but I know that I will have to fight the urge to get her all the protective gear in the universe--spells and mantras included.

June 6, 2007

Gianna and Sam

That's my daughter Gianna and her cousin Sam showing the world that they love each other.

Looking at these pictures, I am reminded of "Define Love," that classic slumbook question. I am reminded of classic gradeschool answers as well: "Love is what I feel for Mama and Papa." "Love is evol spelled backwards." "Love is like a rosary. It is full of mystery." Ha ha ha.

Of course, these pictures do not tell the whole story. The camera does not capture Gianna strangling Sam, or Sam scratching Gianna. It does not tell of the many times that they get time out for hitting each other, or for conspiring to put one over their nannies. It doesn't tell of the herculean efforts that go into dressing up Sam, or getting the two of them to the clinic.

But the pictures do tell that these girls are adorable--and that they adore each other most of the time. Barring the times that they bite, kick and shove each other, they get along fine. They are cousins, playmates, sisters even. They'll grow up to have their own definitions of love. For now, they miss each other when they are apart, they hate each other some of the time and love each other most of the time.

Who says love can be easily defined?

June 5, 2007

Not-so-manic Monday

Items on my Monday to-do list:

1. Get started on the state-of-the-city address
2. Prepare invites for the citizens' charter launch
3. Finalize management comments on the audit observations
4. Request for a transfer of assignment
5. File, file, file

My progress so far:

1. I'm done with the first line. "Ladies and Gentlemen" is a line, right?
2. Hooray on this one! (Microsoft didn't key in cut-and-paste for nothing, he he).
3. Wish I could just brush it off with "no comment." This bureaucratic jargon is lulling me into a state of absolute catatonia. I can' t, for the life of me, get past the "failure to obtain the authority from the trustors to use the unexpended balances for other noble projects" part without spacing out.
4. Scratch this one. I tell the HR people and they give me this "who-are-you-kidding" look. I might as well request to be transferred to the slaughterhouse...
5. Pile, pile, pile

Mondays in government--especially when a new set of officials is due in three weeks--is like navigating EDSA on Good Fridays: unclogged, uneventful, uninspired. You know that there are traffic signs, but hey, who's minding anyway?

This Monday is no different. I got in early enough, in time for flag ceremony and First Monday Mass. As the day wore on, though, I felt less and less inclined to accomplish the tasks on my to-do list. The secretaries have a case of Monday sickness, the boss is on leave, the clients are nowhere.

So here I am, just coasting along. Physically present but mentally gone. My mind should be on the bond paper paid for by Juana de la Cruz, but it is way out there, in the blogosphere. I am going, going, gone.

Ahh, where would I be without the blog?

June 4, 2007

Golden Sunday

I woke up this morning to Engelbert Humperdinck. The next-door-neighbor--still whoozy perhaps from last night's drinking spree--was singing along to "Quando Quando Quando." Engelbert and the neighbor are just about the perfect introductions to yet another "Golden Sunday."

As far back as I can remember, Sunday sounds have always been like this: lazy, hazy, at times crackly, hinting of needle scratches and age. It's as if Sundays offer a chance for the DJs to raid their arsenal of nineteen-forgotten songs, of re-living memories of barn dances and the stuff that are in our parents' memory banks. Sundays are for Tom Jones and Matt Monro, Perry Como and Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Elvis the Pelvis.

How many of us practically grew up to the oldies but goodies because of Golden Sundays? A, my twentysomething rocker of a friend, is just as familiar with the Fab Four as she is with Pong Pagong, her childhood hero. J at 16 can sing along to Paul Anka and JLo on the Videoke Channel. I myself knew the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's songs even before "Duets" came out.

Gonden Sundays bring back "musical" memories: I remember Dad's stack of 45s and LPs, and I vaguely remember red and green vinyl records. These we played on a portable attache-case like turntable and eventually, on the Akai Stereo. When older cousins came to live with us, we were introduced to the music of AMB Junior, Cinderella and the Hotdogs. We "swung" to VST and Company. And when we were in high school (okay, when I was in high school and the sisters were in grade school), we had Candy Candy, Lea Salonga's Small Voice album and Stars on 45.

Still, I have always thought of Sundays as the day for playing the music of "my folks." Until I heard Janet Jackson singing "Let's Wait Awhile." Yikes! They're now playing our songs on Golden Sunday! Aarrgghhh!

June 3, 2007

Five Questions from Toni

These are my answers to Toni's questions. This is a tag, and if you want me to ask five questions, please read the interview rules that follow...

1. So Anna's Tasa, how do you like your coffee? Strong, but not black. And definitely not decaf. (Who was it who said that drinking decaf is just like kissing your brother? Ha ha)

My coffee has to smell heavenly as well. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had to totally give up caffeine. There were days when I just had to brew a cup to take in that sinfully good aroma...

2. What was your favorite childhood game? Siato. I cannot exactly remember how the game is played. But I do remember sticky summer afternoons playing this sticks-and-stones game and rousing the neighborhood with our cries of "siyaaaaa-toooooo." Sure beats Pacman and Gameboy...I also loved street football and all those fun games played on the kalye.

3. If you were to come face to face with your 14-year-old self, what advice would you give her? Two things: that fly-away hair isn't the end of the world and that 40 (Ma's age then, my age in two months) is not ancient.

4. Does your heart rule your head or head over heart? Heart over head when it comes to kids, head over heart in everything else.

5. What do you love most about yourself? I can cry about my mistakes one moment and laugh about them afterwards. And the fact that I love "new" beginnings...

Interview Rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you my five questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to these questions.
4. You will include explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

June 2, 2007

On Weddings and Ceremonies

The marry month of June is upon us. My boss' calendar is full, and I am cringing at the thought of yet another pair begging us to please, pretty please squeeze them into the mayor's already tight schedule.

Since I joined the city government in 2000, I have seen all sorts of (civil) wedding ceremonies. There are those who come in truly dressed for the ocassion, white gown and all. There are those who couldn't care less about the attire: as if signalling to the universe that this is just one of life's many ceremonies. And then there are those who are in a state of total bewilderment, probably wondering what the ceremony is all about.

There are the more memorable ceremonies. A couple that had "escaped" from the hospital, with a barely 24-hour-old baby in tow, begging to be married so that the baby would be "legitimate." (Asked why they didn't marry early on, they replied that they thought the baby won't be due in another week.) A couple in their 70s, childhood sweethearts "united" after more than 50 years. A foreigner in his forties and his young bride, they who rode off into the sunset in a carruaje.

When I was a lot younger, I wanted a storybook wedding. And then, classmates, friends, cousins and sisters started getting married. So did nephews and nieces. It was then that I realized that you have to have a lot of lead time to pull off fairy-tale weddings. The great procrastinator that I am, I knew that I would never live past the wedding ceremony if I had all these wedding planning people breathing down my neck. (To her credit, Excruciatingly Thin Sister is great at organizing events. I didn't want my wedding to be an "event" that she could organize, though.) Besides, I had seen a well-organized wedding self-destruct right before the altar when the mother of the groom snubbed the mother of the bride during the part where you are supposed to "give one another the sign of peace."

And so one quiet April (so okay, I did not get married in June) afternoon, Papa G and I took our places in the subdivision chapel, listened to the Monsignor's touching sermon, and said our I dos in front of a hundred or so friends and family. It was the simplest ceremony ever: no flower girls, no secondary sponsors and only two pairs of ninongs and ninangs. (An aside: Some of the guests knew about the wedding only the day before. Their initial reaction? "Why the rush? Is she 'on the family way?'". )

Still and all, our wedding ceremony is one for the books. And not because Papa G and I took our first journey together to the tune of some candidate's campaign jingle...

June 1, 2007


"What's the latest?" officemate A asks officemate B as she settles into what looks like another uneventful workday.

"Yilmaz was a no-show in LA, Miss USA fell on her butt, Dennis and Marjorie called it quits," comes the disinterested reply. B is not really that chatty in the first place.

A leaves in a huff, telling every body within her line of vision that B is in a bad mood. "But B is always in a bad mood," C chimes in, and for the better part of the day, A and C--along with D, E & F--spend their energy talking about B, her moods and more.

Such is the way with gossip. You ask, you get a reply. But you don't really listen. You digest only what you want to hear, draw your own conclusions, inject your own opinions and pass on the story as "straight from the horse's mouth."

Or you see something (even if you don't have 20/20 vision), you imagine hearing something (but you don't have ultrasensitive ears) then go blabbing about "what happened" from the first-person point of view.

Or someone floats the idea of something, your mind goes "aha, so that's why..." and the story goes on and on and on, losing all semblance of the truth as it goes on its merry way.

For sure, chismis is the byproduct of idle minds. In the office, for example, it almost always starts with departments that have seasonal peaks, or those that are so over-manned that killing time is the primary function. Or during over-extended coffee and cigarette breaks. In neighborhoods, gossip travels over gumamela bushes and through gaps in fences, from sari-sari stores and barber shops. In the palengke it starts as cheery banter between the vendor and the vendee and is dissected (and deboned) during the off hours, when there is just way too much time.

Showbiz chismis is, of course, an entirely different thing. Names and industries are made because of rumors-- the nastier, the better. And this is why you get the likes of Ruffa and Kris, washing their dirty linen in public and begging for privacy in the same breath.

It drives me crazy every time some star tearfully pleads to be given breathing space while the talk show host nods along condescendingly. But showbiz chismis does perk up Sunday afternoons. And makes for good enough conversation at the office on lazy Monday mornings. Unless something crops up at the office that has definitely much more meat and juice than Annabel and Ruffa and Kris combined...