September 29, 2007

365 Days Later

It's been a year since Milenyo. A year since I woke up to the glare of the after-the-storm sun and saw these:

But the day after was not just about destruction and loss. It wasn't just about the prospect of dark, "powerless" nights and--as a visiting friend put it--shoulders weighed down by hopelessness. The day after was for drying out, for picking up the pieces and sponging out the mess. It was about surveying the scene and deciding that the loss is not that insurmountable.

Before Milenyo, storms in these parts were measured against Sisang, a particularly strong typhoon that hit ground 20 years ago. I wasn't around then, but I was told that the destruction was just terrible. Now, whenever there's talk of yet another storm, we pray that it won't be another Milenyo. And we prepare for the worst.

I don’t know, but where I come from, storms do have a way of drawing people together. Maybe it’s the cloud of uncertainty; of not knowing what the next day would be like after the destruction. Or maybe it is a matter of perspective: at the end of it all, it is not what was lost that is important: it is what remains.

A year later, we are back to normal. The leaves are back on the trees, houses have been repaired and we are all the wiser with memories of yet another of life's storms.

September 23, 2007

Bless Me Father and Other Quirks

This is a tag from a long, long time ago. I'm supposed to list down seven weird things about me. The first time I tried to do the tag, I just couldn't come up with the requisite seven, and so this has languished in draft.

Could it be that I'm too normal? Or could it be that I'm not conscious of my quirks? In any case, here's my second stab at this "weirdness" tag...

1. Maybe, it's the offshoot of all those years of having to go to monthly confession, but I always have to stop myself from greeting priests with "Bless me, father, for I have sinned." Once I picked up the phone, and it was the parish priest asking for Ma. Without thinking twice, I blurted: "Oh, bless me father."

2. I always confuse my left and my right. When somebody asks for directions, I have to motion with my hands so that I would know which is my right and which is my left. Needless to say, this makes for a lot of confusion,especially when I'm playing the part of backseat driver.

3. Call me gross, but I like scratching dandruff. I especially like it when the flakes practically fly. So that he can keep those dandruff-itchy fingers happy, the husband actually makes sure there's something to scratch.

4. I leaf through magazines from the back cover and make my way to the front. In short, magazine covers are really wasted on me.

5. In the not-so-distant past, when I lived the life of an urban commuter, I played a game by forming words out of car plates. My little game kept me sane through the horrendous EDSA traffic.

6. I always have to have a handful of pens. I can go without lipstick, but I can't for the life of me go without at least three pens. And four sachets of Maxwell House 3-in-1.

7. Twenty-seven years or so later, I still know the lyrics to the Candy Candy theme. (She's a girl, pretty girl, with ribbons on her hair. She's a girl with lots and lots and lots of fun and friends to share...)

September 22, 2007

Flower Girl

For nine days this month, Gianna was a flower girl. No, not the wedding sort of flower girl, but it was a "churchy" thing just the same. You see, it was our village fiesta, and there was this novena at the chapel in honor of the Virgin of Penafrancia.

After the communion, when the choir was singing the hymn to the Penafrancia, the Mother Butlers sought little girls to offer flowers. Now, Gianna is not really the outgoing type, but she has this thing for churches and altars and priests and mothers. And so there she marched, the littlest girl in the procession, inching her way toward the altar.

The first day experience must have been fun, and so she had me going to church for nine days so she can offer flowers. She did try to convince her cousin Sam to be a "flower girl," but when it was time, Sam didn't want to part with her by-then mangled flowers.

September 19, 2007

Tuning Out...

I am not cut out for meetings. I have a very, very short attention span, and when plans for a very real three-hour weekend activity branch into immeasurables such as social transformation, values formation and spirit of volunteerism, I find ways to amuse myself. Like doodling. Or dreaming up imaginary conversations. Or imagining thought bubbles coming out of the speakers.

I tend to tune out when meetings turn verbose, when two-minute monologues can be summarized in three words. I have this urge to echo something that came out of my years in corporate slavery: that Romans didn't build an empire by having meetings: they did so by killing all those who opposed them.

I have no wish to build an empire, and I'd like to believe that I have no homicidal tendencies. But I don't like pointless, just plain shooting-breeze meetings. I'd much rather doodle. Or listen to what's not being said. In most cases,it's what's not being said that matters anyway.

Weird Sister (check out Immateur Anthropologist) told of this blah teacher in high school who practically bored the whole class to death. So that they would stop short of notching a world record for simultaneously nodding off to sleep, she and her classmates devised ways to keep boredom at bay. For a while they thought reading komiks on the sly (hidden between the pages of the textbook) was the neatest thing. Until they saw this boy at the back of the class making bubbles out of his laway (saliva).

I wonder if I can pull that off during meetings :p

September 17, 2007

My Boys

I had a sort of introduction to motherhood in my early 30s, courtesy of my nephews, Chino and Eon. The boys were really boys, making mischief minute by minute. Bored at having to wait for the wedding procession to start, they marched ahead, sending the entire entourage scurrying to their places. Prior to take-off, Chino stood in front of the stewardess--who was then doing the in-case-of-emergency drill--and shouted: "okay everybody, open your mouth and lunok laway."

The boys introduced me to the world of non-sequiturs and unanswerable questions, to Jollibee Kiddie Meals and pediatricians. From Chino, who's older by two years, came questions and statements that introduced me as well to the the way the then four-year-old's mind works. Here are some of them:

"Eon, bakit kapag natatapunan mo ako ng water at sinasabi ko na lagot ka, sinasabi mo na di ka lagot? Bakit kahit lagot ka, gusto mo pa rin palagi na wala kang lagot?"


"Bakit kapag uminom ng water pakakain at nadala na ng lawayand water sa tiyan, nalalasahan ulit ang pagkain?"


"Nag-away kami ni Eon kanina. Sabi kasi ni Eon,wala daw Perlas ng Silanganan ang Bayang Magiliw. Sabi ko meron."


"Jesus, sana po i-stop nyo ang stretch ng hand ko para hindi ako makakurot."


Chino hardly speaks Tagalog now and he's much more behaved. But he still has those outrageous views. His mama--whom Eon calls "My Mommmm"--usually gives "points" for good deeds or for a job well done. The points can be redeemed for extra minutes on the computer. In one high drama moment, Chino begged: "Don't give me points, Mama. Please don't give me points. I think I'm just doing good so I can get points."

That from the mouth of a kindergartner.

September 16, 2007

My Town

You know what they say about small towns: one blink and it's gone. In a way, that's what Sorsogon is. The commercial center is made up of two main streets branching into little side pockets. When the planners laid out the town 50 or so years ago, they probably had little idea that "Berlinas" and wheels would eventually take control of the road. Or that Sorsogon would eventually be a city. Which explains why traffic can be a little off-putting during rush hours.

But there is much, much, more to Sorsogon than its seeming smallness. Beyond the L-shaped commercial district are open spaces that point to a wide, wide world. Venture just a little farther from Rizal Street and you get a heady view of the the sea and the mountains.

The road leading to my office is flanked by fields of green, with the majestic Bulusan Volcano looming right ahead.

From where I blog, the beach is but 10 minutes away. Going there doesn't take much planning; you just decide to go, and there you are.

When I was younger, I felt hemmed in by what I thought to be a small town. There was something very limiting about the way the rays of the sun slanted at 5 p.m. As if marking the end of yet another blah day.

But now there's some comfort--and a lot of promise--in the same slant. It makes me look forward to going home, and to another beautiful day.

September 13, 2007


I am a window person. Looking out provides elemental thrill, the way the scent of a new book does. I just love windows with great views: they take the boredom out of commuting, or of listening to lessons, or of sitting still.

Come to think of it, I am blessed with great views. Literally. Our classroom windows in grade school framed endless, sweeping views of the ocean and the mountains. In high school, it was a different view, but mostly of people rushing from here to there, from there to who knows where. In college, it was a little of both--the greens of Colayco Park mingling with the traffic along Dapitan.

The windows of my post-college rat race changed as often as I changed bosses: they took me from the humbling views of Intramuros to the not-quite-like-Ayala busyness of Shaw Boulevard. From the still green but doubtlessly citified NGO territories of Quezon City to the "smogness" of Cubao. From the glorious sunsets of Roxas Boulevard to the breathtaking Ortigas skyline.

My pace is now more manageable, my views just as awesome. On a clear day, my kitchen window frames the perpetually blue Bulusan volcano, the same view that takes up most of my office's western windows. When stumped, or bored, or listless, or just hankering for a view, I look out, and things fall into place. Always.

September 11, 2007

Catching Up

Last Saturday, CM Batch 80 had a mini meet-up. I had initial misgivings about going. It's been way too long--27 years to be exact--and I wondered if we'd ever find something to talk about beyond the requisite how are yous.

As it turned out, we did have a lot to talk about. Not just remember whens and stories about former classmates but stories of the here and now. Over lunch--which strecthed for three hours, we did some catching up. Kiko, he who slugged it out with the class bully, is now Padre Kiko. Rudy and Ayi, the big boys, are now much, much bigger. Philip, Larcy and Patrick are the constant contacts, providing updates on the others.

When we were in grade school,we went by our "given" names. Kiko was Francisco, Obet was Roberto, Rudy was Rodolfo, Bong was Aruello. I went by the rather unwieldy name of Anna Carmencita. Maturity has made for shorter names. And for overcoming the Catholic-school imposed boys-with-boys-and-girls-with-girls restrictions. In a sense, it has also made us kinder--especially on ourselves. Having seen much, we are no longer embarrassed by soiled-underwear episodes. Such, are, in fact, now sources of endless amusement.

And so, this business of growing up--and older--isn't so bad at all.

September 7, 2007

Friday Fill-In

I got this from Yes, I am fond of Severus Snape. Sirius Black, too....

1. I admire people who can say sorry--and really mean it!
2. I crave coffee crumble ice cream, dark chocolate and Nielsen's raspberry britte.
3. I dislike crowds, litter and know-it-alls.
4. I enjoy being a girl--and a mom.
5. I wonder if there are parallel universes.
6. I want nothing but the best for my daughter.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to blogging, tomorrow my plans include meeting up with friends and Sunday, I want to take a hike--or take it easy!

September 6, 2007

Radio Days

Before FM and Cable TV, there was AM Radio. Its cackling sound--coming from the neighbor's transistor--used to herald a new day. Along with the crowing of the cocks would come the reporter's running-out-of-breath voice, telling of the terrors of the night.

But it wasn't the news I was interested in. I got my news from Junior Citizen, from Bulletin Today or from the Daily Express. To the ten-year-old me, radio was proof that there was a world out there--a world of serialized melodramas, of variety shows--the Search for Superwheel Singing Stars, ha ha--of requests and dedications, of celebrities endorsing products--and in Bicol, too.

BetaMax and FM put a damper on AM Radio's entertainment value. Suddenly, Mga Kwento ng Lagim seemed less scary. What I pictured to be hairy tikbalangs and green-eyed monsters were, in fact, prosthetics. What I imagined to be beautiful, if long-suffering Esmeralda, turned out to be Matutina. All the hit songs of the day sounded better on FM--or could it be that the cassette player replaced the turntable, the thing that you had to put a fifty-centavo coin on to stop the needle from skipping?

Almost a year ago, though, I was forced to reconnect with AM. It became, again, the only connection to the post-Milenyo world; a companion that told of the devastation of Legazpi and Bicol and the coming of yet another typhoon.

Despite an absence of over 20 years--broken now and then when the taxi I would ride home in tuned in to Kuya Cesar and Tia Dely--I realized that AM was still, well, AM.

It still crackled, it still had a string of panicky reporters. And commercials still ended the way they did: with two people--probably gossiping over the gumamela bush--hastily saying goodbye to rush to the grocery to buy all the pancit canton in the world. Or to the water district to avail of the free reconnection. Or to the appliance store to splurge the Christmas bonus on the latest videoke machine.

Yes, AM still keeps us connected.

September 2, 2007


My sisters often tease me that I have supersonic ears. Either that, or I am simply chismosa. When a topic piques my curiosity, the thing about the walls having ears becomes an understatement. There are times when I find that nothing is more challenging than trying to worm my way between two heads drawn together in a whisper: I just have to know what's brewing.

Other times, my "radar" unintentionally tracks conversations--whether one-sided or two--that are way too weird,wacky or just plain out of whack. Here are some of them:

A: Pare, saan ka ngayon?

B: Wala lang, sa bahay lang.

A: Hindi ka nagta-trabaho?

B: Ba't naman ako magtatrabaho, eh wala naman akong pakakainin. Wala naman akong asawa.


He (placating a distraught she): Okay naman yung movie ni Al Pacino, ah.

She (obviously pissed at having to sit through two hours of Sea of Love): Ano'ng okay? Mas okay pa sana kung si Fernando Poe. Pacino-Pacino, pwe. Niloloko nya ang taong-bayan.


Girl (holding up a picture of their Dad): Kuya, ang pangit talaga ni Papa, no?

Boy: Oo nga, kaya lang wala na tayong magagawa, tatay natin sya eh. Buti na lang, hindi tayo nagmana sa kanya.


He (sizing up the Jurassic Park poster): Totoo kayang "one million years in the making" yan?

She: Sus, maniwala ka dyan. E di patay na sana ang director no.

Oo nga naman...

September 1, 2007

Remembering Princess Di

Ten years ago, I woke up to a phone call. Berna was in tears, moaning about a recent loss. "Patay na si Diana," she sobbed. I remember wracking my brains for which Diana: a colleague, perhaps? A relative? Or one of Berna's many cats? "Sinong Diana?" I finally asked. "Hello, e di si Lady Di."

And this was how I learned of the news that shocked the world: in my pajamas, the tequila of the night before still clouding my head.

My tequila days are over, and it seems that the world has recovered from the death of a princess. I remember a classmate in college, she who would go to class armed not with notebooks but with scrapbooks chronicling Diana's paparazzi days. I wonder if she still goes about collecting memorabilia. Most likely she has moved on. Like the rest of us and like Berna, whose search for greener pastures has put a period on her life as an activist.

But we remember, of course. We have precious memories of our lives and the events of ten years ago. We remember royal weddings and princesses and losses. And in remembering, we connect.