December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Papa is snoring, and the little girl is curled up under her pink blanket, fast asleep. I have finally given up on nudging them awake. And so it's just me, the Christmas lights, the spread that will soon turn cold (and untouched) and the distant sound of firecrackers.

Christmases are simply not the same with most of the family not home for the Holidays. Over the years, they have taken on the semblance of tele-conferencing: of long distance calls and truncated text messages, of emails and virtual photo libraries.

Still and all, they are still happy Christmases. The physical distance notwithstanding, I have family who are all spending Christmas eve in pajamas in keeping with "tradition." I have friends old and new whose idea of friendship is one that transcends borders; one that spans continents and bridges barriers.

As I sit here, quietly sipping heaven in a cup, I thank the universe for putting me where I am right now: in the comforts of home, lulled by steady snores and warmed by the sight of a totally pinked baby.

Wherever you are, whatever your stations, I hope you all have a semblance of home this Christmas and beyond. Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2008

A Caroling We Went

It wasn't exactly singing for supper. But as we braved the high notes and the December chill, the realization was clear: we had joined the ranks of those who made money out of Jingle Bells and Silent Night.

Now singing is not really my thing. Whatever "musical" dreams I had were effectively doused when my high-school music teacher ixnayed my audition to the choral group. I have since developed a phobia for Magic Sing, and I think people ought to apply for a license before they can be allowed to do the whole videoke routine in public.

But there was the monumental task of raising funds to prop up next year's grand alumni homecoming. There was the matter of reconnecting with former classmates, of digging into the arsenal of once-upon-a-times and remember whens. There was the business of knocking on doors and appealing on generosities. And so we had to sing.

As "Pasko Na Naman" segued to "Jingle Bell Rock," as we tried hard to make out the lyrics from our kodigos, the caroling became less of an item on our to-do-before-the-25th-year list and more of a bonding moment. Suddenly, we weren't just a ragtag group of carolers anymore: we became giggly teenagers trapped in the bodies of fortysomethings with flashing Santa-Claus caps.

Having skipped carol practice three weekends in a row, I stayed close to where I was safe: with Gina, my "bestest" high school buddy. The intervening years between high school and the here and now may have taken its toll on the closeness, but on this cold, cold night we are huddled together. Reunited by memories of high school and the fact that 25 years later, we still can't sing if our life depended on it.

December 21, 2008

Wrapped Up

I virtually "disappeared" over the past few days. Actually, the "disappearance" has not been just limited to the virtual. Thanks to this wonderful HR innovation called "forced leave," I was a no-show at the office and had a valid reason for saying no to "official" projects.

But just when the hubby and I were hedging between spending our welcome break hereabouts or elsewhere, the flu that hit the little girl decided it for us. And so our vacation went pfft, I didn't make it to carol(!) practice, and plans of catching up on sleep disappeared because I had to be up three nights in a row to make sure that the baby was breathing properly.

In the days that I have been "disconnected," I have been too wrapped up in real life to even have time to pause and blog about it. I said my silent goodbyes to a beloved surrogate aunt, I had to play the role of "life coach" to a dear friend and--well--I just had to be me. To take stock of the here and now before the merry chaos of the holidays consigns it to the past and the irretrievable.

I'm done with my shopping, and the presents have been all wrapped up. I am slowly inching my way back into the virtual world, where friends and stories await. And tomorrow, I am back to the grind. I am about to get out of the cocoon that I have wrapped myself in all this time.

Initial Mania

First, there was FM. Then came FVR and GMA, and now we have the likes of BF, SB and a host of others who have the PR machines milling slogans, projects and what have yous tailored to their vaunted initials.

The initial mania may have taken its sweet time traveling this far down south, but uh-oh, it is here. And when the city marked the second Sosogon Festival these past two weeks, it was an all-out LD affair.

Some of the "initialed" affairs were quite appropriate:
Lingap Dalita
Larong Dekalidad
Liwanag sa Daan

Some hovered between the possible and the passable:
Lakad Daan
Lyre & Drum Exhibition
Family Love Day
Let's Dance
Linggo ng Diwang Kabataan

And some were just a tad too much:
Love Dog Services
PiLi Day
BaratiLyo GranDe

Gawd! I don't know, but since this is a national thing, I can imagine propagandists rocking in their executive chairs all day, mumbling initials like a mantra until they reach that light-bulb-eureka moment.

Whether the light bulb works or it fizzles and pops, well, that's a different story.

December 8, 2008

It Figures

Having hated math for most of my school life, I have suddenly developed a fascination for numbers. I just love it when the disbursements and balances even out, when the liquidation tallies. If I had known that I'd breeze through crunching numbers, I wouldn't have considered accounting--and accountants--boring. I would have taken statistics seriously, the same way I internalized mythology and African lit.

While I have no wish to revisit the confusing algebraic expressions that put an end to my graduating-with-honors aspirations, I really wish I had paid better attention. I am told that grade four students already have some semblance of algebra in their curriculum. I wonder if I'll have it in me to guide my daughter through the maze of XYZs when the time comes.

Sitting through a particularly engaging presentation at the office, I realized that, while I am averse to reducing people to mere sticks in mounting statistics, figures do matter. How can we map out emergency response, for example, if we do not have the statistics to back us up? And how can we come up with adaptation measures if we have no grasp of the real, factual situation?

It boils down figures, really. And as late as I am in the game, I am glad that I can now see clearly the connection between numbers and real life.

December 5, 2008

Field Work

Some days at the office have the feel of the soft breeze, the scent of the sea and the proximity of crowds. It is on days like these that figures take on faces, when we know for certain that life--planned or unplanned, in full color or in monochrome--just happens.

This is our office on field, where there are no walls. Where there are only people and a lot of stories. Theirs and ours.

December 3, 2008


We were about to go out on Monday when the Papa pointed to the night sky. There, in perfect alignment, were two stars, with the crescent moon right below them. From where we stood, the stars and the moon looked like one of those Smiley widgets.

Mr. Moon would accompany us as we made the quick ride downtown and back. At one point, with faint clouds streaking across, it looked like a friendly bearded face. Like some favorite uncle, or a beloved grandpa.

I have long been fascinated by night skies and starlit nights. For years, I purposely chose arduous 12-hour night trips over 45-minute plane rides so I can watch the moon reflected on the beaches of Quezon. I remember climbing through the window and onto the rooftop, scanning the pitch-black skies for falling stars. And how I loved Molave Street on full moons, when we neighborhood kids would scare each other with stories of mananaggals and tikbalangs!

As it turned out, the smiley in the sky was the picture drawn by the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the moon. (Geek talk: a planetary conjunction, also called an appulse, occurs when two or more planets appear very close together in the night sky as seen from the Earth.)

Conjunctions between Venus and Mercury and fairly common, and one is bound to occur three years from now. But with the moon in the picture? It won't be for another 44 years. Which makes me feel that I'm blessed to have witnessed a rare celestial spectacle.

And which had me on a frantic memory jog to my virtual bookshelf and Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky:

...we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well, yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. ...How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

(Source: Xinhuanet through this)

December 1, 2008

Star Wars

The road to Legazpi—just a little past the invisible line dividing Sorsogon and Albay—is again lined with Christmas stars. There they are, parols in varying shades and sizes, lending a burst of color to the stretch of handicraft stalls in an otherwise lonely highway.

From the little that I recall of the mandatory copies of Junior Citizen, I know for a fact that the parol is, among others, a symbol of unity. The star that led the Wise Men to the manger was the same star that shone on the shepherds as they watched over their flock. The Christmas star is then seen as a guiding light, one that crosses manmade demarcation lines.

But as two of my aunts will haughtily tell anyone who care to listen: “unity, my foot!” The War in the D clan has been raging for years now, and there seems to be no letup in sight. Truth is, it gets all the more fiery when the cool winds of December start kicking in.

Four years ago, Aunt A, who is known for her major production numbers and whose department always took home the prize for “best Christmas décor,” wanted a whole crateful of red-and-green abaca lanterns shipped to her. Her pride, it seemed, rested on that shipment: she was on the wings of retirement, and more than anything she wanted that best-décor plum as her coup d’ grace.

Aunt B, sensing that a crateful was just too much of an effort, couriered one instead. She timed the delivery on December 16, so that Aunt A can plunge right into the Christmas spirit. Logistics aside, the solitary parol—Aunt B felt—packed a lot more meaning than the 50 Aunt A wanted. After all, didn’t the Wise Men and the shepherds follow just one star?

As it turned out, Aunt A didn’t see the wisdom in Aunt B’s decision. To her, it was all or nothing. And one was definitely an insult. Reunions--usually capped by a teary rendition of "If We Hold on Together"--have since been put off. The more important and unavoidable of life's ceremonies--baptisms, weddings and funerals--have also been occasions for toeing lines, biting tongues and walking on tightrope. More than half a century’s worth of emotional baggage has been set off. And all because of a blasted parol!

BUT just when I thought the parol episode was the pits, the D clan is threatened by yet another war of (possibly) epic proportions. And the bone of contention? A glassful of protein-rich, osteoporosis-inhibiting taho.

From Star Wars to Taho Wars? Some families sure are strange. Make that strangely funny.