September 30, 2008


Fifteen plus years ago, (okay, make that almost twenty years ago) a colleague wrote about the contents of other people's bags in her column. She riffled through my post-college bag and found these:

Book (Empire of the Sun)
unused tickets to the CCP
I Ching coins
diskettes [the super floppy kind]
a key chain without a key
a hairbrush; and
a toothbrush

Fast forward to 2008. I have since found out that, when it comes to bags, bigger is definitely better. And more prone to clutter.

The contents of my humongous tote:

Book (Everything I've Ever Done that Worked)
Two notebooks: one for official mindless jottings; the other for unofficial and equally mindless ones
a purseful of IDs
unused tickets to a charity bingo
a vanity kit (with face powder, lotion, facial wash, atomizer. concealer, comb and anti-frizz serum)
a brag book of Gianna's pictures
an "official" kit (with three gel pens, three Stabilo pens, a correction pen and four USBs)
three sachets Maxwell House 3 in 1 coffee
a mini bag of Hershey's Dark Kisses
a wallet and coin purse;
and a Ziploc with a pebble, a shell and a solitary, freshly picked siling labuyo (my baon from my daughter).

Whew! And that's just my tote bag! There's still this other bag I carry around...

September 25, 2008


I did a double take when I saw this sign. I thought: who would be stupid enough to penalize victims of the dreaded mandurukot? Would there even be enough cash left to pay the fine? Unless, of couse, this was some creative ploy to warn the unwary about presence of pickpockets in these parts...

Then I realized: I have been so used to thinking in Tagalog that it took awhile for me to recognize that the sign was in Bicol. "Dukot" (pronounced the way you say "sagot") is literally "dikit." The warning on the wall is the Bicol translation of the classic "Post No Bill."

Oh well. Posting bills may be up for penalty, but there's nothing on the wall that says graffiti is not allowed.

September 21, 2008

Fiesta Fever

The day started with the pitiful sound of a pig being readied for slaughter and ended with "Alone Again, Naturally" from the Video Singko from across the street. In between were the seemingly endless stream of people weaving in and out of houses, the beer-and-brandy-induced laughter, the neighborly exchange of fiesta fare and, much later, the wobble and shake of those who have had one drink too many.

Today is our tiny village's fiesta, and not even austerity nor the threat of Typhoon Hagupit could get in the way of tradition. Yesterday, there was a parade along our otherwise quiet streets, and the reigning village beauties waved and smiled their way under the scorching midday sun. For nine days, we trooped to the neighborhood chapel for the novena to the Virgin of Penafrancia, in the same way that the more worldly among us trooped to the improvised cockpit right on our block.

I must admit that I am new to this fiesta thing. We did have our share of fiesta fever in the old house, but between moving to Manila and beyond and coming home for good,what the fiesta was for was lost on me. It was only when I moved to this tight-knit, neighborly community four years ago that I realized that the fiesta was for thanksgiving, for celebrating life and all its gifts.

"Alone Again, Naturally" is not really the appropriate finale to this happy, happy day.

September 19, 2008


Gianna wanted it in her favorite color. Naturally, the papa--who couldn't resist toying with a can of paint--mixed and matched until he arrived at the perfect shade of girly-girl pink. Thus began yet another chapter in the so-called life of the garden chair.

For as long as I can remember, the garden set has been with us. It was here where many black and whites, Polaroids and circa '70s color prints were taken. It witnessed birthday parties and drinking sprees, courtships and LQs, full moons and early morning cups of coffee. Politicians and dogs (hmm, sometimes I just couldn't tell the difference, he he) sat here. Here was where a younger (and less cheesy) Chiz and his rah-rah team talked my dad into (returning to) politics. Where my dog Pusa sniffed at a bewildered Papa before deciding that she likes him.

Through many comings and goings away and moving ins and outs, the garden set has been a constant. And like the old GE ref (which my mom kept and used for sentimental reasons until she realized that it was such a power guzzler), it has changed color so many times. It has gone from white to green to white to yellow to white. And now, one fifth of it is pink. Waiting in the wings for Gianna's pink-filled, rosy memories.

Things are treasured not so much for what they are but for the value we attach to them. The spiffed-up set has cradled 40 plus years of life's ups and downs and in-betweens. And from the looks of it, it's going to cradle a lot, lot more.

September 16, 2008

Games We Played

Since my daughter and her cousin discovered the wonders of Playhouse Disney online, I haven't been blogging and blog-hopping as often as I used to. The two girls have developed mouse-happy fingers. and can find their way through the maze of (sometimes complicated) games. Heck, they can even mouse over to YouTube!

I don't know, but technology seems to have taken the fun out of outdoor games. There are a lot of school-age kids in our neighborhood, but they are hardly out playing on the streets on breezy weekend afternoons. Instead, they are hunched over computers at the internet shop. I wonder: whatever happened to...

Siato (and I can't even begin to describe how the game is played) on afternoons when we should be taking naps?
Tumbang preso and taguan on moonlit nights?
Bahay-bahayan and luto-lutuan under the shade of the aratiles tree?
Jolens by the shade of the High School Main Building?
Patintero and street football and all the games we used to play?

When I started fiddling with GameBoy and PacMan and Super Mario on the PC (in the era of floppy disks and Wordstar) I remember swaying along to every press of the keys. Now, kids sit zombie-like while killing, bombing, sniping and engaging in the complicated virtual violence of Counter Strike. They don't even blink!

This technology thing sure has its perks, but few things can top the thrill of playing outside, sweating it out and enjoying a very, very real goal, a homerun, a score and a save.

September 13, 2008

Water Therapy

I grew up by the sea. Technically, that is. While the house I grew up in was right in the heart of what was then a small town, there was always a body of water nearby. A few steps away, and there was a creek we would wade into. The beach was just a 15-minute ride away. The school I went to had windows that framed a pretty view of the bay. I only had to look out, and suddenly I'd be sailing past those boring lessons.

My mother believed in the therapeutic power of fresh air blowing in from the sea. There were the early morning drives to the beach so that we'd have "strong" lungs. A few sniffles and the onset of colds merited a trip to the pier. (It was here, I recently learned, that our younger selves slugged it out to settle some "guy" issues back in high school.)

I have since discovered the wonders of "water" therapy of the not-so-physical kind. There's nothing like the sight of calm waters to soothe frazzled nerves. Or to wash away the stresses of the day.

When I need a quick getaway from the depressing dose of dog bites and death certificates, I head out to my favorite lunch spot: by the baywalk, in one of those faux bamboo sheds. And when I feel like winding down, it's back to the bay for one of those colorful, calming sunsets.

Truly, there is nothing that water can't heal.

My favorite lunch spot

(Yet another) Sorsogon sunset

September 6, 2008

Me Time

I can't remember the last time I had lunch by myself. Where I am, there is always someone to take lunch with: family, friends, people from the office, people from the not-so-distant past dropping in to say that they're still around. I relish long lunches not so much for the food as for the conversation, the connection.

Yesterday, I found myself without a lunch partner. There was no one I could badger at the last minute. Besides, I don’t like eating in at the office. Not on someone’s desk, anyway, with pictures and perpetual smiles beaming beneath glass pads.

And so it was that I ended up in a corner table in a not-so-crowded restaurant, with a plate full of pasta, a thick slice of pizza and a bubbly glass of Coke. There were no familiar faces, no one to share the table with, and for an hour, it was just me.

As I leafed through Lesley Garner’s Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked, I remembered countless by-myself lunches in the past: table-for-one affairs when I had all the time to read, to dawdle, to think up stories of and about people at the other tables. I remembered notes hastily scribbled on paper napkins.

That one hour was like revisiting a familiar almost forgotten place and discovering that I can always come back.

September 3, 2008


Between getting out of bed and going out to work, there are about a thousand things I cram in. "Mindless" things, really: things that don't require that much brain power. Like folding the sheets, plugging in the airpot, downing a mugful or two of Maxwell House 3 in 1, taking a shower.

Because I am so used to doing these things day in and day out, doing them seems so automatic, so effortless. Like cruising on autopilot mode.

In the shower today, I mindlessly slathered on the seven or so preparations--from body wash to shampoo to conditioner and other things in between. After 20 minutes or so, I got dressed, had breakfast and started getting ready for work.

Just when I was about to leave, I noticed that my hair smelled "different." It was nice alright. But different. Not the usual subtle green tea but a stronger scent. Could it be that I forgot to rinse out the conditioner, I wondered. But no, it wasn't that. Not the shampoo, either. Nor the leave-on.

As it turned out, I botched up the bottles. I had to go back to the shower to rinse the scent of feminine wash off my hair!


If it's any consolation, it wasn't just me who had a case of autopilot gone awry. On the way to the office, we picked up a colleague whose husband had to rush back home. And why the rush?

Because he forgot to put on his pants!

September 1, 2008

Holiday Mode

I woke up this morning to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” With a start, I realized that (1) it’s been almost two weeks of intermittent, not-so Smart connection (2) the dreaded Month of the Hungry Ghosts is but another page torn off the calendar and (3) Christmas is almost here.

The first two, I easily shrugged off. There's no use fretting over things that are beyond my control. Or things that are over and done with.

But the thought of Christmas had me scurrying for my to-do list. Must start shopping. Must resurrect the Christmas tree. Must send out cards. Must update the Christmas list. Must include Bruno. Must, must, must...

The onset of the "Ber" months always makes me feel that there are so many things to do, and so little time to do them in. But its a pleasant kind of rush, a kind of semi harassment that I welcome. If anything, the first of September always puts me in holiday mode.

Today, as I flipped the pages of the already thinning calendar, I thought of the things labeled "for filing," "for action," "pending" and all the 8 to 5 stuff waiting for me at the office. There are so many, many things to do. But with Christmas just around the corner, I know that I'm in for a pleasant ride.


Blue skies, blue waters, blue mountains. This is Sorsogon Bay, on a lazy, hazy Saturday morning.