October 26, 2008

Word Factory

Yesterday was one of those decidedly OC days. I wanted to deposit some more stuff in the bodega, but first some clearing out was in order. It was, after all, groaning from an assortment of bags and boxes, furniture and forgotten photographs.

As I sorted and piled, I found a box that held stuff from the '80s and '90s. There were yellowing copies of Tiger Beat and Seventeen and Spandau Ballet posters. There were bookmarks, scrapbooks and letters from high school and college. And there, buried along with Menudo memorabilia and jigsaw puzzles, was the forgotten Word Factory.

Looking at the obviously time-worn tiles, I thought of countless bonding moments spent and made amid the racket made by the shaking of the grid. My sisters and I spent lazy summer afternoons stringing together words. In college, "vacant" periods were spent in the V office, playing Word Factory when we should be cramming for an exam or beating deadlines. Why, we even turned the thing into a full-blown competition that stretched far beyond summer writing workshops in Balayan and in Baguio! I also thought of the bouts with insomnia made more tolerable by forming words and lining the inside of the grid with a towelette to muffle the crack of the tiles.

Now, there are online games, rendering the Word Factory almost obsolete. As I hedged between keeping the game and donating it to the neighborhood daycare (along with toys outgrown and forgotten), my niece got hold of the grid and decided that it's the perfect "cake."

Looks like the Word Factory will be here a little while longer. :p

October 24, 2008


I woke up this morning to the sound of rain gently tapping on the roof. Coming from one of the "rainiest" places in the country, I should be used to this by now. But I am not. Barring the (few) times when there is the threat of cosmetics running ugly blotches down my face, I love the rain. I love walking when its drizzling, I love sudden showers, I love the sound of driving rain. I especially love soft rains when the sun is out shining. Makes me feel like I'm in some magical Kurosawa movie.

The kids in the neighborhood love the rain, too. At the first hint of a steady shower they are on their toes, marshalling the troop to an hour or so of rain games.

Come to think of it, this is one of the reasons I love this neighborhood. The kids still go out to play, they climb aratiles trees together, they organize elaborate games that only they can pull off. And they have a feel for rain.

October 19, 2008

Streamer Republic

When I joined government eight years ago, the first thing that struck me was this preoccupation with streamers. That and t-shirts. Any event--and there are many--merited yards and yards of coco cloth and the requisite t-shirts. The streamers, I soon learned, served the information-dissemination part of the activity. The T-shirt, on the other hand, served the documentation part. Uniform shirts, after all, looked good in photographs.

The penchant for streamers, however, has recently spilled over to the domestic arena. The fence surrounding my old high school is now covered with streamers in varying degrees of wear and tear, all of them congratulating this and that for passing the boards, for earning a scholarship, for being voted muse in some convention. In most cases, the "congratulations" bear the usual "from family and friends." Very much like those from-papa-and-mama birthday party balloons.

I understand the pride of family and friends, of course. Any achievement, whether big or small, deserves a pat on the back, after all. But the idea of hanging a streamer in a public place, especially when the object of the "congratulations" is not around to even read the fine print, is totally lost on me.

It may be because I consider myself part of a low-key, almost invisible generation. My contemporaries and I thrive in the background, behind the scenes. This doesn't make us less driven, less achievement-oriented. It's just that we don't make it a habit to crow about medals and awards and diplomas.

The streamers haven't escaped the attention of a friend, who is now "pressuring" his kindergartner to excel so that he'll do one better: he'll have a tarpaulin printed. Even if the kid is Best in Conduct, or A-One Child or Mission Month Boy.

October 13, 2008

Faith and Religion

I am not a regular church-goer. I did go to mass regularly up until college, but all those years barely staying awake during Salvation History has taken its toll on my attention span.

I am, of course, a believer. I believe in a higher being, I believe in angels, I believe in the goodness of the universe. My faith, though, has nothing to do with structures and rituals. It has nothing to do with preachy sermons and walking on one's knees. And it certainly has nothing to do with the Yano song that is currently playing--the kind that speaks of holy dogs and horses.

Years ago, I lived next to a crusty old woman who was known for her penny-pinching ways and her sharp tongue. She was notorious in the neighborhood for her colorful language. Because the church was within walking distance, she heard mass every day and she hosted prayer meetings in her compound.

One Sunday, she was her usual screaming, expletive-spewing self. And the subject of her tirade? Her ward, who in her words was a slow poke.

And so it goes that to this day, whenever I see the old woman my mind freezes on that particular Sunday, when she shouted for all the neighborhood to hear: "Arlene! @#$^!@&*! Demonyo ka, Arlene. Bilis-bilisan mo na at magsisimula na ang prayer meeting!

And in true Yano fashion, natatawa ako, hi hi hi hi.

October 10, 2008

Wet and Icky

I used to think that fingertip moisteners were one of those semi-useless office thingamajigs. They could find use in banks, perhaps, if one has to really count bills by hand. Or, in our case, the treasury department which keeps our--err--treasures.

I now take back the "semi-useless" tag.

I was at this department waiting for the clerk to check if my papers are in order. We were making small talk when suddenly he stuck out his tongue, licked his fingertip and started leafing through my documents with the finger. I was almost tempted to gag at the "unsanitariness" of it all!

As it turned out, the clerk isn't the only one with the habit. There's this woman at the office who does the same every time she thumbs through notes, books, anything. And then there's this client who, after wetting his fingertip and riffling through his papers proceeded to tap me on the shoulders.

I swear, I almost jumped! And I swear, I'm going to include fingertip moisteners in this quarter's request for supplies!


Speaking of laway ("saliva" sounds so scientific, :P), here's an upside:

For three days last week, I had an inexplicably bum stomach. The kind that goes with sweaty palms, beads of perspiration on the forehead and the very real threat of dehydration. Loperamide didn't help, and neither did a doctor's prescription. Somebody suggested that perhaps I was the unknowing victim of someone who had "sibang" (usog in Tagalog, which doesn't really have a western translation.) And the antidote? The laway of one who has sibang!

And so it came to pass that after three days of being all-too-familiar with the toilet bowl and just about every brand of loperamide, all it took was a thin film of a friend's laway rubbed on my belly. It may be grossly unsanitary, but what do you know? It worked!

I guess it's true: there are some things that science just can't explain. :p

October 9, 2008

So Much for White Rabbit

The news recently had me walking down White Rabbit- and Haw Flakes-lined memory lane. These--along with Kendi Mint, Fat and Thin watermelon seeds and plastic balloon--were my sari-sari store staples. Semi-forbidden stuff that I hoarded on the sly. I especially loved the filmy, plastic-like coating of White Rabbit and the way it melted in the mouth.

Now, with melamine casting dark clouds over just about anything and everything China-made, I feel a certain sense of loss. Goodbye, White Rabbit and Haw Flakes. No more making the side trip to the "Chinese" corner of the grocery for kiamoy and dikiam. I look at the colorful array of preserves and my inner monitor says "don't even think about it." I crave for tocinong Intsik, and an internal alarm buzzes.

Sad, but my nephews can't expect their usual from-the-Philippines hoard of Peanut Nougat and Peanut Cake anymore. "Pretend" Communion won't be the same without Haw Flakes. And White Rabbit? I now wonder what chemicals go into the melts-in-the-mouth coating. (The fine print doesn't help any. I once looked up the ingredients for Haw Flakes and guess what I found? Haw and water! As if I know what haw is :p)

There are other oriental brands that I am oh so familiar with; ointments and liniments often encountered in terminals and in airports and in piers. White Flower, Tiger Balm, Katinko and Essential Embrocation may be melamine-free, but their point of origin now makes them suspect.

Really, this melamine thing is giving most of us a bad case of paranoia.

October 7, 2008

At last...

This is where my weekend went--and I planned it to be a blogging weekend, too!

Years ago, a friend, who was going through a semi-monastic, "enlightenment" phase, gave me this advice: "torture yourself with the things you love." For the better part of three days, I did just that. I sorted and matched, fitted and tried. I revisited the Monk in me and was completely, happily OC. It took some doing, but I finally built my castle.

How wonderful when the pieces fit and things fall into place!

October 1, 2008


There is a black-and-white picture that really spooked me when I was a kid: Lola Miling on her deathbed, hands clutching a crucifix, a white ribbon tied around her face. Surrounding her on the bed are a grieving husband and the somber faces of nine children.

The picture was taken in 1948, and my mother had just turned eight five days before.

Because Lola died when Mommy was still young, the little that Mommy remembers of her sweet-smelling Mama are memories of fleeting, postwar years. Of a basketful of apples every time Mama went to the market. Of the scent of homemade tsokolate and freshly starched bedsheets.

What I know of the beloved Mama I knew through snippets of conversations. I grew up as an audience to Mommy's stories. This was also how I got to know the colorful characters that peopled her past.

There was Lola Mimay, Ma's fiery grandmother who took on mothering duties after Lola Miling died. They could do be really naughty from sunup to sundown, Ma said, and Lola Mimay would never give a hoot. But after six, after Lola Mimay has had her bottle of anisado, the "recitation" of even the day's most minor infractions would begin and all nine children would have an earful. Lola Mimay went by a rather fierce name: Maxima Laban. Laban to the max, he he he.

There was also Madrasta, whom I knew when she was already much mellower. By all accounts, Madrasta was the typical telenovela kontrabida: she had eyebrows that were perennially arched and she had a son from a previous marriage who mysteriously became the proprietor of Lolo's estate. Madrasta bet on jueteng and played entre cuatro. And in true telenovela fashion, she made life miserable for Lola Miling's children.

When I was a kid and Ma and her sisters would talk about things that kids aren't supposed to know, they would talk in conspiratorial whispers, which would send the naturally curious me angling for the perfect within-earshot spot. Now, I am in on the secrets, and am weaving my own stories into the stories of those who have gone before me.