October 21, 2007

All in the Family

"I think the family is the place where the most ridiculous and the least respectable things in the world go on." Ugo Betti

When you come from a large family, with extensions to the left, right and center, things have a tendency to turn surreal. Just when you thought you have cemented cracks with an industrial-strength dose of high drama while singing "If We Hold On Together," for example, a daughter-in-law packs her bags and suddenly war the magnitude of tribal proportions breaks out.

Although my nuclear family has steered clear of the war, it amuses us no end how something as trivial as a Christmas star can trigger catfights, scathing text messages, another daughter-in-law flying the coop and yes, a divorce. We look back at the many "episodes" in the past: the day uncles and aunts from the "third family" carted off everything [yes, even the kitchen knife] from Grandpa's house; the day uncles and aunts from the first and second families fenced out Third Wife's grave from the family mausoleum; the day Youngest Tita pulled off a performance worthy of an Oscar because, well, because her birthday was coming up and no one has greeted her ... yet.

In a few days, the family will again gather for the wake for an uncle. Everyone's on edge. Will the warring tribes clash yet again? Or will there be hugs and kisses and fireworks over starry skies? Who gets front-row seats and who minds the protocol? Will there be, perhaps, another "community" singing of "If We Hold on Together?"

On his deathbed, the uncle--and he was the family comedian, too--said that he'd bring the family together. And when his kids opened the radio after he died, guess what was playing? Surreal, but it was that song.

October 17, 2007

Things I Learned from the Parlor

I'm not really that fond of beauty parlors. I have long resigned myself to the fact that I have a bad hair life,. And since I fell asleep while having a [zigzag] perm and woke up with an ugly burn on my forehead, I've been making sure that under no circumstances should I ever, ever, ever allow myself to be lulled to sleep by:

a] the steady drone of the hair dryer
b] the sound of scissors nipping and clipping away
c] the hushed--and sometimes not-so-hushed--voices providing a running commentary on showbiz, on politics, on fashion, on Manny Pacquaio and Ara Mina, on Kokey and on the latest batch of PBB housemates.

[Of course, I have also learned to stay away from parlors with "Shoppe" "Hauz" or "Beauticare" attached to their names.] In any case, my hair was again flying off in different directions. More than the usual, anyway, and so, armed with a volumeful of sudoku, I dropped by the parlor for the usual trim. As it turned out, there were four or five people waiting for Norma's ministrations. So I waited, waited, waited and eavesdropped.

Here's what I learned so far:

That a simple comment [Wow, nice chinelas] can lead to Australia and who knows where. [Haveanas to, P1,200. Imagine tsinelas lang P1,200 na. I use this when I'm off to conferences... My husband was in a conference in Australia, and when he asked me what I wanted as pasalubong ... yada, yada,yada...]

That the slim young-looking manicurista is actually a mother of ten and that she has no intention of going on the pill.

That if you look disinterested, they won't ask peddle you beauty products, or logganisa, or a house and lot.

That the tiny, portable idiot box commands much more attention that anything--and that the parloristas can really get carried away by all the drama on Pinoy Big Brother.

And that, yes, the network wars is very, very real. Tired of all the gushing over PBB [that is a reality show???], I was going to let on that I'm really Kapuso [sort of]. Good thing I didn't.

After all, I couldn't risk another bad haircut.

October 15, 2007

Earth Prayers

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

In the '90s, I came across this wonderful book of poems and prose about Mother Earth. Compiled into Earth Prayers, the book eventually spawned a collection of music, aptly titled Earth Songs. If anything, the book led me on a merry, inspiring search for Native American wisdom and writings. I'm sharing some with you guys in observance of Blog Action Day...

Oh Great Spirit [Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota Tribe]

Oh Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me!
I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother
but to fight my greatest enemy--myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when lilfe fades, as the fading sunset
my spirit may come to you
without shame.

Earth Prayer [Black Elk, Oglala Sioux]

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold
me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.
You lived first, and you are older than all
need, older than all prayer. All things belong
to you--the two-legged, the four-legged, the
wings of the air, and all green things that live.

You have set the powers of the four quarters
of the earth to cross each other. You have
made me cross the good road and the road of
difficulties, and where they cross, the place is
holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are
the life of things.

Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.

With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed.

Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.

It may be that some little root of the sacred
tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!

Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.

October 14, 2007

Memory Gap?

You know how it is: you misplace your phone and you pester someone to ring you up so you would know. Or you turn the house inside out for that elusive pair of glasses only to realize that it's been sitting on your head all along.

Similar things have happened to me countless times before, and when I do, those around me invariably point to my "getting on in years" as the culprit. As if forty is old.

But since 40 is the new thirties, and since I can't attribute my forgetfulness to a. depression; b. dementia; and c. side effects of strokes, injury and alcoholism, I have found ready answer in d. side effects of drugs.

Not that I am--or was--a junkie. I had my fair share of anaesthesia when they were prepping me for C-Section, and those who'd taken the route before me swore how surgery affected their memory. In any case, if I make a fool of myself and do the following:

1. Forget to rinse off the conditioner [and go to the office wondering why my hair is particularly slippery-smooth];

2. Hand over my fare to the driver by saying "Mama, hello";

3. Jog my memory for the name of a person only to realize that the person is actually the hubby;

4. Chat up a storm with someone, all the while mistaking that person for someone else;

5. Wear a skirt with the slit up front [when it should be at the back] and when someone notices, say that it is supposed to be that way;

it's not memory gap. Blame it on that little stitch in my tummy :p

October 12, 2007

11th to 20th Commandments

Today is my De-cluttering Day, and while I was leafing through mountains of paper, I found this gem. This one's for you, A, and for others out there who could use some picker-upper.

The 11th to 20th Commandments

11. Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.

12. Thou shall not be fearful, for most of the things we fear never come to pass.

13. Thou shall not cross bridges before you come to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.

14. Thou shall face each problem as it comes. You can only handle one at a time, anyway.

15. Thou shall not take problems to bed with you, for they make very poor bedfellows.

16. Though shall not borrow other peoples' problems. They can better care for them than you can.

17. Though shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill, it is forever gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now.

18. Though shall be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own. It is hard to learn something new when you are talking, and some people do know more than you do.

19. Though shall not become bogged down by frustration for 90% of it is rooted in self-pity and will only interfere with positive action.

20. Thou shall count thy blessings, never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings add up to big ones.

October 10, 2007


Gianna had another terrible-two moment last night. She was in her pyjamas, and we went out for a stroll in the neighborhood prior to having dinner. When I saw that there were people in the chapel, I asked her if she wanted to say hi to Mama Mary.

She said yes, she wanted to, but she has to go home first to change. I said it was okay, because other kids were in their pambahay, too, and there was no Mass anyway. She started whimpering, and the moment we entered the chapel, she made it clear that I wasn't going to have my way.

First, she tried to take off her clothes. When that didn't work, she started biting her pyjama top's strap, all the while whining "bihis, bihis, bihis." No amount of assurance can convince her that what she was wearing was okay.

When we got home [we had to make an early exit because her whining and her whimpering were already reaching annoying levels], she made for her closet, picked out a dressy shirt, asked her yaya to put it on and declared "I'm going out now, Mama."

"Out," this time, was at the neighbor's, which was just two houses away.

October 7, 2007

Awww, An Award

If I were any sprightlier, I would have done triple somersaults on a balance beam. Or a victory dance, complete with costumes and all. You see, Rowena had this chicklet waiting for me on her site, and it really, really thrills me no end.

I feel so much like Manny Pacquiao really, except I'm not all beat up and bruised. When I started blogging in April, I thought that I would just be keeping an online journal of sorts. It never occured to me that I would be read, or that I would be part of a friendly, if opinionated, community. It never even occured to me that I would spend the better part of my online time hopping from one blog to the next, and enjoying kindred bloggers' stories.

So thank you, thank you, Sweet Rowena, for this my first award. And to spread the cheer, I am passing on the chicklet to these lovely ladies whose blogs I really, truly love:

Em Dy

Hop over to their blogs and you'll see why!

October 2, 2007

Smells Like ...

A colleague, fresh from a seminar in Davao, brought fresh durian to the office today. The moment he opened his Tupperware, there was a chorus of "yucks." Somebody opened the door to air out the room, and it took awhile before we decided that the smell was, well, bearable.

It wasn't as bearable, though, for the others who dropped by our relatively small space. One whiff of the durian-scented air, and somebody who wanted to have her blood pressure taken retreated. She didn't want to risk a heart attack, she said. A client, who was waiting for a relative's death certificate to be reviewed, wrinkled her nose, wondering perhaps if she was smelling death. Another thought she smelled antibiotics.

E, goading us to try the durian, repeated the oft-quoted durian lover's line: that it smells like hell but tastes like heaven. Maybe it really takes some getting used to, but I just didn't like the gooey, mushy texture. I just don't like my food all gooey and mushy at all. It may take some more tries before I can say that durian tastes like heaven. for now, let's say that it's ... interesting. And yes, it's more bearable with an icy glass of Coke.

October 1, 2007

Me, Myself and I

There's this one character who is so into herself she thinks the whole world revolves around her. To say that she is self-centered is an understatement. She loves hearing herself talk, and in most cases it's always about me, myself and I. As in "I" alone did this. Oh, "I" have this wonderful, wonderful idea. "Yours truly" thought up the whole thing.

Once, Ms. MMI was asked to comment on/edit/correct a manuscript. The manuscript came back virtually untouched, except for the part where the members of the team were listed. Across her name, alongside her official designation, Ms. MMI added a "few" more titles: chief of this and that, chair of this and that, head of this and that...Obviously, the other members of the team were just, well, members. Ms. MMI had to be a member and a star.

Ms. MMI just can't resist hogging the "limelight." In one training sponsored by her well-staffed office, she put on a one-woman-show of sorts. She emceed, she led the opening prayer, she conducted the national anthem, she introduced the guest speaker (mercifully,it wasn't her), she did the closing remarks and she acted as the facilitator and lecturer. Ironically, the training was about empowering and motivating the staff.

Recently, Ms. MMI raised hell because some little usherette forgot to pin a corsage on her. She shed (crocodile)tears and went up to the usherette's boss, moaning about how insulted she was and how, given her stature, she should have been given that darn corsage. To her credit, Ms. MMI can really do a Vilma Santos if she wanted to. To cut an unbelievable story short, memos were issued, program designs were written and a whole bunch of "experts" were flown in to lecture on workplace ethics. And all because of one frigging, cheap corsage!

For all her self-centeredness, Ms. MMI might as well borrow this monologue thought up by a colleague from a long time ago:

"Okay, enough about me. Let's talk about you. So, what do you think of me?"