December 31, 2009

Fat and Thin

The last time I saw Mr. Fat and Mr. Thin, I was probably still in pigtails and happily hopping along to Jack Sprat. It was a time when “gay” meant “happy,” when minimum fare was 50 centavos and when teachers can disfigure their pupils’ ears without civil rights groups breathing down their necks. In short, it was a long, long time ago.

A few weeks back, I met up with Fat and Thin. Things have certainly changed. They are no longer on the paper-wrapped, running-the-risk-of-UTI butong pakwan of my gradeschool days. They are now on something presumably healthy: on no-cholesterol, lactose-free, low-fat etc. etc soya milk.

One look, and I was brought back to the days of Mr. Hugo's store with the jars of belekoy, the paper balloons and the pakitkitan. The DC Sisters said the stuff were contraband, and were not sold at the school canteen. But Mr. Hugo's store was just a few steps away, and after school--when the Sisters were too busy praying--we would bully the sundo into walking the extra steps.

Oh well. It may be a long time ago, and Mr. Hugo has since passed on. But I am glad to see Fat and Thin again.

December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

It's one of only two times in a year when people outnumber dogs in my little corner, when the house rings with the sounds of overpopulation. The house is a mess, and the best-laid plans are nothing but plans. Christmas Eve dinner (and Christmas lunch and dinner, for that matter) will, as usual, be a testament to the convenience of take out. And despite 360 plus days of leadtime, I guess I will have to issue IOUs to the godchildren, some of whom are forever frozen in my mind as babies.

Yes, it's bedlam. And yes, it's stressful. And I love it! Here's to a happy Christmas, friends! And while we're at it, here's a repost of something Christmassy from two years back...


Story 1

It is the (mid) 1970s. I am grumpy because I did not get the (usual) box of curly tops during our school exchange gift. In fact, I did not get anything at all because I left the (usual) soapdish at home, and the (usual) exchange gift went on without me.

Because I am (probably) getting on Ma's nerves, she decides to have an impromptu exchange gift, with all of us combing the house for "gifts." I spy a bagful of red kiamoy and I wrap it up in elementary-school fashion. Our boy comes in carrying a big, beautifully wrapped present. The brat that I am, I decide to have that gift no matter what.

We draw lots, and I see that I'm about to get a "thing" wrapped in brown paper bag. My younger sister is about to get the gift. I bully my sister into trading lots with me.

The sister opens the brown paper bag and gives out a delighted yelp: there are sweets aplenty--Kendi-Mint, Bravo, White Rabbit, N-Nut, Big Boy Bubble Gum. I open the gift and I roar.

Inside the beautifully wrapped package is a bunch of freshly harvested kamoteng kahoy!

Story 2

It is 1989. My sister and I are at the bus terminal, trying to wheedle tickets for the trip that would take us home to Sorsogon for Christmas. All seats for the air-conditioned coaches are taken, the booking agent tells us. There is an extra trip, though, she continues.

And so we clamber aboard the rickety, ordinary bus, picking our way past cans of biscuits and baggage. The bus is packed. And smells of sweat and who knows what else. But there is an undercurrent of happiness, of excitement over going home for the holidays.

Four hours into what is projected as a twelve-hour ride, the engine coughs, then dies. We spend four hours in the middle of nowhere as mechanics try to resuscitate the otherwise dying bus. When it is clear that it won't go any farther, the conductor flags the next Bicol-bound bus, and asks if it would take us in. Or if we would take it.

We take the equally packed bus, and we are crammed--along with two others--into a three-seater. We are among the lucky ones. Others are standing along the aisles, separated from their travelling companions. The bus is so crowded that when someone is left behind at a pitstop his companion doesn't find out until four hours later, at the next pitstop.

For the entire trip, the tale of the lost companion becomes a running joke.

The bus breaks down twice, and we are--again--stranded. Somebody passes around a tin of biscuits, and soon, there is a mini roadside party of sorts. We watch as locals out to attend the dawn masses file past.

We transfer to yet another bus, and we spend the rest of the journey home standing. The twelve-hour ride stretches into a full 24 hours.

It is the longest bus ride of our lives. But it is worth it. After all, what is Christmas if it is not spent in the comforts of home?

December 14, 2009

'Tis the Season

The tree needs to be dusted, and the checklist is getting longer by the day. The first of the Christmas parties is up in a few minutes and I am nowhere near Holiday mode.

Oh yes. 'Tis the season when my nerves get frazzled, my hair gets even frizzier and my wardrobe screams "diet!" I am near screaming myself. I can only wish that the stress of having to put up with the "compulsory-ness" of office Christmases will go away.

And then, I can truly enjoy the real Christmas!

November 30, 2009


Like any 70s child, my introduction to the entertaining (and puzzling) world of Engrish came with free trade. With the deluge of cutesy stuff from predominantly non-English speaking countries, I had pencil boxes that had me "lookiking out the window," stationery with lost-in-translation messages and how-to manuals that were far more complicated than actually putting together seemingly complicated parts.

In church last Saturday, I found an effective way not to snooze during the homily. It was a t-shirt that put to task my (rapidly deteriorating) memorization skills. And it read:

Romantic A

What gives me a feeling and the tranquility which made us unite and the calmness.

Produce the atmosphere.

That the spot which a spice was effective againste is smart.

While it is gentle.

If I wouldn't be condemned to stew in hell for flashing my cp camera during mass, I would have snapped up a photo and sent it to this site.

November 24, 2009

Of Plans and Policies

It’s that time of year, when departments realize that there’s enough budget left for planning and team-building and looking for ways (at least on paper, hehehe) on how to improve the bureaucracy. And so I’m off, expecting nothing (but good food, hahaha). Meanwhile, here’s something from my days as a corporate slave that pretty much says it all.

Corporate Life 101
1. In the beginning was the Plan.
2. And then came the Assumptions.
3. And the Assumptions were without form.
4. And the Plan was without Substance.
5. And the darkness was upon the face of the Workers.
6. And they spoke among themselves saying, “It is a crock of shit and it stinks.”
7. And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said, “It is a pail of dung, and we cannot live with the smell.”
8. And the Supervisors went unto their Managers saying, “It is a container of organic waste, and it is very strong, such that none may abode by it.”
9. And the Managers went unto their Directors saying, “It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.”
10. And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, “It contains that which aids plant growth, and is very strong.”
11. And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, “It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”
12. And the Vice-Presidents went to the President, saying unto her, “This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company with very powerful effects.”
13. And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good.
14. And the Plan became Policy.
15. And this is how shit happens.

November 22, 2009

Go Farm!

Not since Tamagochi and Super Mario have I been this much into techie gaming.

Rice fields, fallen leaves, the vegetable patch out back. I look at these and I think “FarmVille!” I have taken to waking up really early so the strawberries won’t wilt. (At one point I forgot to turn down the volume and had to convince a grumpy husband that a cow didn’t stray into the backyard; that it was, in fact, just my digital Betsy lowing at 3 a.m. hehehe.)

At the office, I keep the FV window open, sneaking in some plowing and planting and fertilizing the neighbors’ crops in between reports and memos. I have suddenly found practical uses to math, calculating the time it will take for the tomatoes to ripen and the blueberries to wilt. The daughter, too, has plunged headlong into digital farming and has been telling everyone about our "pink" farm.

I don’t know the first thing about farming, but with FarmVille, I am living out the life my home ec teachers foisted on me when they signed me up for membership in the Future Farmers/Future Agricultural Homemakers of the Philippines (ha!). And happily I realize that Marissa is but a farm away.

November 14, 2009

Now We're Typing

There's a raging "comment" war over at my little corner of the universe. I don't know how a seemingly between-friends post about--uh hum--politics turned into an irritatingly immature free for all, but it's all there on Facebook--for all the digital world to see.

Now I don't really have this all-consuming desire to be on FB in all of my waking hours. I'm there for FarmVille, and to see what my friends from the other corners of the universe are up to even if we are too busy in our different time zones to say hello. But for more personal messages, for stuff that are supposed to be between and among friends, there's email, there's SMS and there's the occasional phone call. There I can tell them that I had corned beef for dinner, that I burped and that I am watching Lovers in Paris (not!).

The thing is,the (rabid) girls who have since traded tirades all work within an inch of each other. For all we know, they may even be breathing in the same recycled air. Which makes me wonder: whatever happened to good old catfights? Or to real conversations?

With all these social networking sites that are supposed to keep the connections going, it seems that people who should benefit from talking to each other just aren't talking anymore. Instead, they're typing. And broadcaasting.

November 6, 2009

Music to the Other World

At my grandpa’s funeral procession many, many years ago, the scratchy strains of “Theme from The Godfather” blared from the funeral car. I was too young to question why Lolo, a respected town judge, would make the final journey with something decidedly mafia-ish, but for years I couldn’t bear to listen to that song.

It was the same when an uncle’s friend died. His “farewell music” was “Don’t Forget to Remember Me.” This was the ‘70s, and the BeeGees was really big. Call it phobia, but I would get really scared whenever the song played on. I was young, and death was something I could not fathom. Death was, in fact, along the lines of ghosts and the horror stories fed to me by the yaya who lived for “Gabi ng Lagim” on AM radio.

As I grew older and got used to making that somber procession past Eternidad Street, the fear of funeral music eventually waned. It could also be that the funerals I went to had “predictable” music. From “Oh My Papa/Oh My Mama” to “I Believe” to “Lupa” to “Hindi Kita Malilimutan.” Tearduct-stimulating music, according to a funeral-march veteran. (Incidentally, my post-partum depression was triggered by canned music from the funeral car that passed by my street. A few notes, and suddenly I was sobbing like crazy, fast-forwarding to the day when my then two-day old daughter would trade me for marriage. :p But I digress, hehehe.)

In any case, my OC tendency for lumping music into imagined genres (e.g. funereal, ho-hum, ewww, ear-splitting, etc.) hit a blank wall when, at the funeral of a first-generation Chinese immigrant, they played a song that I'm sure rivals "My Way" in terms of popularity with the videoke crowd.

And as Marco Sison's trite "It's Just a Make-Believe" blared from the caro--the chorus reinforced by bystanders who couldn't help singing along--I remembered a groovy uncle who has since passed on. Maybe we should have honored his wishes. But then again, "My Sharona" is not exactly appropriately funereal, is it?

October 29, 2009


Two weeks ago, Sorsogon celebrated its 115th anniversary as a province. There was the threat of yet another typhoon, and rains threatened to spoil the parade. But the skies cleared just in time, and we were treated to yet another traffic-stopping parade. (Traffic stopping is, of course, literal. The city has only two major streets, and everything and everyone stops whenever there is a parade.)

Street dancers from just about every town lent color to the parade. It seems that the surfeit of festivals has reached this far south as well. There must be some semblance of logic to half-clad bodies carrying religious icons, but then it made me wonder if the ancestors from whom the festivals were supposedly culled had to sashay down the streets in yards and yards of uniform synthetic silk.

Despite smirks from Snarky Sister, and despite the fact that after a while the streetdancers seemed to be but blurry variations of the others, it was a happy affair. Later that night, as I stood under the shade of the sprawling acacia tree and jostled with the crowd at the park, I felt a connection to the Sorsogon of old.

As the last of the fireworks colored the sky, it felt good to be home.

October 21, 2009

Unsent Tweets

I would have sent these from the conference room, but I had to pretend that I was so into the meeting. Maybe they really should come up with bureaucratic Oscars. :p

Unsent tweets hastily scribbled on scrap paper:

3:21 p.m. At a meeting, and all I can think of is harvesting my digital farm.

3:28 p.m. My view from under the table: white pumps that went out of style with sheena easton

3:29 p.m. Four-inch stilettos. Deadly weapon, if you ask me.

3:30 p.m. In-need-of-footscrub soles resting on rubber slippers. In the office?

3:35 p.m. Yehey! Thank God for chocolate!

3:59 p.m.: Just got back from a meeting that bored me to tears. Ayayay! The travails of a bureaucratic slave!

October 15, 2009


I thought I had some semblance of kitchen experience. That all those years of by-the-book cooking made me some sort of a kitchen goddess. I thought culinary disasters were behind me. That never again would I show up for work with oil splatter turned blister, or oven burns, or tales of kitchen mishaps.

My wanting to learn to cook has nothing to do with inner Julia Child aspirations. I just wanted to go where my mom has never gone (oh, she can command a kitchen army but can never cook). I just wanted to prove to the husband that he doesn't have sole command of the kitchen.

Alas, the kitchen and I--we do not belong. And this nasty burn on my right arm is a painful reminder that I should stay clear of the kitchen god's realm.

October 9, 2009

Eavesdropping On Yaya Row

I am at the school's Yaya Row, waiting for the bell. I don't want to burden the "regulars" with thinking up topics to lure me into their conversation, so I am pretending to write. Which is actually an excuse for doing what I do best: eavesdropping. :p

The yayas are, as usual, doing the cellphone talk, their dialogues peppered with "unli talk," "textmate," "callmate." They are obviously setting each other up with that faceless voice who might just look like Gerald Anderson. Funny, but the high-tech version of the age-old flirting and fishing game is very much alive even within the gates of this innocent-looking preschool, hehehe.

The more mature ones are trading recipes and rules on discipline. One's version of kinunot is making me salivate, especially after a not-so-filling lunch taken on the run. Another claims that Aling Dionisia's granules really works.

One youngish mother is feeding on her paranoia. Her daughter, she says, often complains that her classmates don’t “love” her, and she’s wondering if she should transfer her kid to another school. She hangs around the school all the time because she says she has a compilation of "yaya" horror stories. Ugh. But before I could wallow in the same cloud of paranoia, two loud thuds came from Gianna's room.

Two yelping girls with two ugly bumps effectively ended my "productive" hour on Yaya Row.

October 3, 2009

A Prayer

It’s a little past 4 a.m. There’s a hint of orange in the horizon. There is no trace of the Typhoon Parma, and the siling labuyo is safe. For now. In the quiet stillness, I say this:

A Sioux Prayer

Grandfather, Great Spirit, you have always been, and before you nothing has been. There is no one to pray to but you. The star nations all over the heavens are yours, and yours are the grasses of the earth. You are older than all need, older than all pain and prayer.

Grandfather, Great Spirit, all over the world the faces of living ones are alike. With tenderness thay have come up out of the ground. Look upon your children with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.

Grandfather, Great Spirit, fill us with the light. Give us the strength to understand and the eyes to see. Teach us to walk the soft earth as relatives to all that live.

I hope everyone wakes up to a great morning!

September 27, 2009


My best friend Maricar and I once waded in thigh-deep murky waters near the Trabajo market. It was getting darker and darker, and we had no choice but to walk the entire stretch from Espana to Sta. Mesa. There was filth everywhere. At one point we had to navigate past a dead cat. Needless to say, it was a downright disgusting experience--one that forever opened our eyes to the horrors of flood-prone Manila.

Yesterday's and the previous day's images of Ondoy made me think of the horrors that most of our kababayans had to go through. It is one thing to wade--even swim--in murky flood waters. But to wait helplessly as the waters invaded our own homes?

A friend lost all tangible memories of her son's growing-up years, painstakingly chronicled in scrapbooks and albums. Another lost the books carefully collected over the years. Rob was trapped on the second floor with no food, no potable water and little hope of being rescued. Au stayed on the roof for two days. Yvette watched in horror from her unit nine floors up as her street became a river and deposited mud and filth into her now unserviceable barely month-old car. Camille lost everything but the clothes on her back and her laptop.

These are of course but six of the six hundred thousand stories--each in varying degrees of severity, all equally heart-breaking.

As I sat glued to the TV set, I realized that technology may have made the world a lot smaller, but it has also made so many of us feel helplessly, hopelessly isolated as we watched Ondoy's wrath from the warmth and comfort of our homes.

September 25, 2009


After basking in the singles scene for so long, my friend A finally put a period on singlehood. She got married in a quaint, middle-of-the-ricefields chapel in the best way she knew how: in style.

At the reception, the speeches were all about good wishes and hopes for a happy future. About living with and accepting (hah!) each other. Take away the good lucks, the fair warnings and the mild admonitions, and you get this: marriage is a process, not a product.

As one who is a year short of being a veteran at this marriage thing (we have yet to pass the seven-year itch, or test, or whatever you call it) I can say that really, marriage is not a destination. It is but the start of a long journey that is at times traveled on the smoothest freeway and at times on roads littered with broken plates and sharp expletives (don't ask me, ask the neighbors, he he).

The start of the journey comes with the usual--and sometimes unusual--send-offs: punch bowls, flat irons, wall clocks, the Buddha, a potty full of coins, the Bible in a Walker briefs box, coy singles dodging the bouquet and the garter. Above all, marriage is a rite of passage that effectively puts an end to the irksome “kelan kami makakahigop ng sabaw?” and opens doors to the even more irritating “may laman na ba?” or "kelan masusundan?"

Of course, A knew better. She didn't ask me to deliver my piece. :p

September 22, 2009

Last Song Syndrome

I am by my lonesome in a cold, cold office and all I can think of is "Zombie, zombie, zombie hey hey hey." Bad case of last-song syndrome really, blame it on the next-door videoke queen who is probably maxing her Video Singko rental.

And bad for me, because two clients are already here. It's an effort to keep a straight face while scanning the death certificate and trying really hard to shake off the lyrics. Zombie, zombie...

September 21, 2009

All Quiet Now

For two days, the neighborhood came alive with fireworks, parades and all things festive. The next-door videoke queen sang her signature "Happy Birthday Dear Heartache," announcing to everyone that the Video Singko machine is back on track. Cars crowded our otherwise empty streets, and afternoons rang with shouts from the makeshift cockpit just a block away.

It's all quiet now. There is nothing that hints of the village fiesta anymore--except for empty beer bottles, plates that need to be dried and kept, hopelessly soot-covered pots. That and an earful of chismis more exciting than The Buzz, courtesy of course, of the family "chronicler."

The quiet takes some getting used to. As the neighborhood gears up for yet another post-fiesta weekday, I am back to my usual nocturnal soundtrack: barking dogs, the drone of recycled air, and snoring husband.

September 20, 2009


Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless.
Bill Watterson

Some of the "pointless" things I might do this long weekend:

1. cultivate my digital farm
2. stalk Wil Wheaton on twitter
3. scrub the tiles
4. put up with unlimited texting (no thanks to "unli," the help barely gets anything done. except "texting," of course.)
5. convince Gianna that there is no such thing as a 100 in a report card. or is there?
6. take out my #26 needles and conquer the world one (cross) stitch at a time
7. go on a diet--and on our village fiesta, too!
8. play tennis, golf, baseball, bowling and boxing. but only on wii

I'm gearing up for a real, real weekend. I hope you are, too.

September 17, 2009

Vanity Fair

Ever since I fell asleep during yet another attempt to tame my hair and woke up with an ugly burn on my forehead, I have totally shunned beauty parlors. Make that parlors run by gays who can talk up a storm and categorize things and people into "chaka" and "bongga."

Last Friday, though, I put traumatic (beauty) experience aside. Friend A was getting married and there was a collective thought bubble if the gang could get me to go the extra mile. Me, whose idea of makeup is a thin film of sheer lipstick. Me, who signed up for elective woodworking and electrical wiring in high school and NOT cosmetology.

But while I could do away with dressing for the occasion, I could never resist a challenge. With Excruciatingly Thin (and Fashionista) Sister, I ventured into the path less traveled and came face to face with TWO nightmares: one who immediately went for my eyebrows and another who undid my ponytail, surveyed my hair and pronounced the dreaded "C" word.

Twenty or so minutes of facial assault--during which I thought up every possible way of exacting revenge--Nightmare One finally got out of harm's way and left me with my mirror image.

Only, it wasn't me.

Because Real Me doesn't have Bella Flores' eyebrows. And Real Me has frizzy, untamed hair. And Real Me would never make an appointment for a (re)bonding moment with Nightmares One and Two.

September 15, 2009

Drowning in Digital

I signed up for FB because I so wanted to play Farmville. And because Arni tipped me in on the picture taken more than a decade ago. Five minutes or so after (finally) getting the codes right, my inbox suddenly came alive with friend requests and confirmations. It's as if some portal opened, and techie-unsavvy me was sucked into an otherwise digital blackhole that nonetheless made the world a lot smaller.

I'm enjoying the reconnections, of course. But as I am still drowning in digital, it may take some time for me to get the lines right. And so friends, if I don't hop over to your sites just yet, or if I don't write on your walls or do the thing that I am supposed to do, I am not practising my masteral in "dedmatology" on you. It's just slowpoke me trying to get the hang of this FaceBooking thing.

And I guess learning to love it, too!

September 14, 2009

Jack's Cousin

The daycare center's "Jack feel down" found a cousin. Posted on the high school's fence is this streamer proudly proclaiming some population-related activity. And the theme?

"Educating the youth to FIGTH against poverty."

Hmm. Maybe we should educate our youth on the rudiments of spelling first.

September 9, 2009

Daycare? Daydon't!

While silently lamenting my fate at having to work on a Sunday to spread PGMA's charity virus, my proofreader's eye zoomed in on this

and this

and this.

The misplaced apostrophe syndrome, it seems, starts here. In Daycare.

September 6, 2009

Movie Moments

Buday's tongue-in-cheek take on the industriya had me mining my brain neurons for "scintillating" moments in (mainstream) Philippine cinema.

The last time I sat through an entire screening was in the late '90s, when I was "peer" pressured to watch TGIS the Movie. I can no longer recall what the movie was all about--save for the fact that it was an almost two-hour spectacle of hysterical and angst-ridden teens pretending to be grownups. I went purposely because I thought Bobby Andrews was cute. Halfway through, I realized that his range of acting mostly involved squinting his eyes and parting his lips--the better to show off that gorgeous Adam's Apple. Call it a shallow aha moment, but it was then that I realized that I was too old for TGIS.

Before (mainstream) Philippine cinema entered its The Movie phase--you know, with titles the likes of Okay Ka Fairy Ko, The Movie; Wansapanataym Da Movie, Maalalala Mo Kaya, The Movie (thank God there was no Eat Bulaga, The Movie ha ha ha)--there was an intermittent pa-relevant phase. I thought it would be a plus for then NGO-worker me to watch this glorified movie about comfort women. Unfortunately, I thought wrong.

I'm sure there must have been some semblance of story there, but to this day, all I can remember is that scene where the women beat the Japanese to a pulp with a basketful of sitaw, ampalaya at talong. My gulay! I guess only in (mainstream) Philippine cinema can veggies do that much damage, he he he.

Mainstream, of course is the operative word here. My friend Milo makes award-winning indie movies, and Cinemalaya continues to attract brilliant directors and brilliant movies. Recently, I did catch a TV run of Donsol, a movie that was shot close to home. It had none of the big-name commercial stars, (let's face it the better actors and actresses do not fit the masa's mold of artistahin), which is why it did not do as well in its limited commercial run. Despite--or probably because of--the unshowbusiness of it all, Donsol was quite engaging. If I had caught it on the bigscreen, it would have been worth my box-office money.

Oh well. If something the likes of Donsol suddenly finds its way to the mainstream, I would lift my more than ten-year-old moratorium on Pinoy movies. Until then, I will have to say that back when I didn't know any better, I did contribute immensely to Mother Lily's and Boss Vic's coffers.

September 2, 2009

A Tale of Two Parlors

Business must be bad for funeral parlor A. While its competitor two buildings away never seems to run out of "customers," there it was, almost always eerily empty. The space where "mourners" usually nurse their grief over (rowdy) rounds of gin and poker remained just that: a dead spot.

Three weeks ago, a parlor of a totally different kind suddenly sprouted on the dead spot. Feng-shui experts would probably balk at the placement, but the beauty parlor seemed to do well. Never mind that there was only a thin film of curtain separating the pa-beauty gadgets from the display of coffins.

The beauty business, however, was cut short when--after a long, dry spell--a wake was finally held at the funeral parlor. I don't know if they made the mourners more self conscious, but it must have been a challenge to cheat at pusoy with the (beauty parlor) mirrors all around.

In any case, the wake is over and it's business as usual for the beauty parlor. This reminds me of my conversation with my QC neighborhood parlorista, the one who introduced me to the wonderful world of gayspeak:

L:"Tita, shocking pero si P, ayun sumakabilang parlor na."

Then naive me: "Ha, wala na dito si P? Saan sya lumipat?"

L: "Ano ka ba tita? Tigok na as in dead, patay, dedo na sya.
Kaya ayun, may I lipat na from the beauty parlor to the funeral parlor
ang bakla."

Oh, and by the way there's another business at the back of the beauty and funeral parlors: an ice-cream factory. Ugh.

August 25, 2009


The laptop that has seen me through almost two years of late-night blogging conked out two weeks ago. I am no gadget freak, but I am close to heartbroken. You see, I have this really, really bad habit of not backing up. Maybe it's faith of the wrong kind. I always seem to think that technology will take care of itself, and so my techie friends' advice to regularly back up my files always goes unheeded.

Which means I am not sure if my precious files will ever be recovered. Or if the digital albums I have painstakingly organized will survive the crash. I don't even want to think about the music files. And Tumblebugs. And the ongoing Super Text Twist, which has surpassed the five-million mark.

Oh well, there's no use tearing my hair out. It's frizzy enough as it is, he he. I can only hope that some other gizmo and some other geek will navigate through the unintelligible (to me) tech talk and mine into the dead laptop's memory. The hardware I can live without. I don't even care if they pronounce it totally dead and cart it off to the nearest junkshop. But please, oh please, give me back my memory.

August 20, 2009

Yellow Fever

We wore yellow, never mind that it was quite unbecoming. We thought Kris was cute, and rallied her on to her dream of becoming the next Sharon Cuneta. We sang Bayan Ko and flashed the L sign, even though we were weaned on KBL and the New Society.

We were in high school, and in an era of defining moments, Ninoy's death changed the world as we knew it. As teenagers who wore angst as a badge of honor, we surveyed our surroundings and realized that our growing-up issues were nothing compared to the country's. We rallied, we rebelled. And then we went on with our lives.

Watching the People's Funeral from the comforts of home, I realized that between then and now, so little has changed. Bayan Ko--the way Lea Salonga sang it--still moved me to tears. There was this unmistakable high as yellow confetti rained down on Ayala once more. We still have the same growing pains: ours and the nation's.

Sure, Kris is no longer cute, but the yellow fever that took the unassuming housewife from her kitchen kingdom to the highest halls of power is for real. Even if sometimes we tend to forget.

July 28, 2009

I Saw a Sign

Seen at the entrance to a government office:

"Punching not your own time card is not allowed."

I get the drift, of course. And I'm sure you do, too. But this at a government agency that is supposed to educate our children?

Ayayay! I guess someone deserves some punch(ing).

July 25, 2009

At 41....

... I laughed, danced, drank and walked down memory lane with friends who had seen me at my pimple-sprouting worst;

... I finally had the courage to do the videoke thing (and failed miserably, too);

... I became a school mom;

... I bought cellulite-erasing cream, which did anything BUT erase the cellulite;

... I paced the hospital floor while waiting for the medics' reassurance that the ugly wounds on the husband's face are nothing more than superficial bruises (they were, thank God);

... I cringed and cringed some more as Mar Roxas and Manny Villar thought they'd give "acting" a go;

... I took (most) Wednesday afternoons off just so I could catch CSI: New York;

... I realized that there is such a thing as memory gap;

... I gained weight, gained friends, gained new experiences;

... I lived, loved and laughed the way I wanted to. Most times heedlessly, at times with caution.

I will be 42 in less than two hours. No, I won't be doing my version of the next-door neighbor's plaintive "Happy Birthday, Dear Heartache." Birthdays--whether first, 42nd or 78th--are a wonderful thing. And as always, I welcome yet another 365days of discovering, rediscovering and just plain living.

July 17, 2009

The Other Reunion

This being my year of reunions, I had yet another. A month ago, I was with boys and girls who I thought had been consigned to the distant past. I hadn't seen most of them since we sang "Alma Mater" 29 years ago, when we stood stiff in our starched gala uniforms and said goodbye to grade school.

I went to "the other" high school soon after and promptly identified myself as un-Milagrosinian. I made friends with Pilot School and East Central School kids and forgot about Christian Living and other private school concerns. I went from a school with two sections (then categorized into Section White and Section Blue, the colors of the Milagrosinian uniform) to one with 19.

The other reunion had me revisiting territory that was almost forgotten. It was hard to imagine that these men and women were the boys and girls I exchanged Curly Tops and Pretzels and soapcases with during Christmas parties. Or that we "starred" in operettas together, wrote silly "dedications" in slam books and baked under the sun while playing Chinese garter.

It was hard to imagine that we were the same boys and girls years and years ago. But when we launched into our "remember whens" it was like going back to the old school. Heck, I even remembered the "Milagrosinian Hymn."

The other reunion was memorable not only because it afforded us the chance to laugh back at the absurdities of the past but because it brought us back in contact with each other. It was a joy to hear Padre Kiko (yes, the same boy who slugged it out with another classmate) say Mass, and it was a joy to lay out the welcome mat for those who hadn't been home in ages.

We are back to where we are now. Some of us are back to the grind, and some are back to where they now call home. We are, of course, all the richer for having met again.

July 15, 2009

Homeroom PTA

Oversized butts crammed into kiddie chairs. "Moving" the nominations closed after naming just one candidate. Economical introductions, the better not to get nominated.

This was my first official homeroom PTA meeting, and I'm glad I sat at the back. I'm not really the gung-ho extra-curricular type, and I refuse to stress myself out from too much "responsibility." Fact is, I have perfected the disinterested look in meetings just so I won't be called to be responsible for anything other than my usual work and the things I'm interested in doing.

I am not my parent's daughter in this respect. Dad is a veteran of elections and campaigns. Ma is the type who gets elected in anything, from PTAs to homeowners' associations to pastoral councils to federations of this and that. (At some point--and to my utter embarrassment--Ma "volunteered" me for the neighborhood Reyna Elena search. I won, but only because [as my sisters always insist] it was a money contest he he he).

Anyway, back to the PTA. I heaved a big sigh of relief when I was NOT nominated. From my vantage point I could see that my co-parents are younguish ones. The one or two "lolas" who sat in for their daughters were closer to my age than the rest of the parents, he he he. There will be more meetings, and more getting-to-know-yous. For now, I am glad that the homeroom elections is over and done with. I just don't like elections. Of any kind.

July 10, 2009

Gone Modular

I love wooden furniture. You see, I grew up hanging around my grandfather's home-office, where a stately, polished narra table held his neatly-filed legal briefs. The table never seemed to run out of surprises. Just when I thought I had opened just about every drawer, there would be one more secret compartment--an extended writing drawer perhaps, or yet another drawer within.

Because I am partial to wood, there was a time when I thought modular furniture were depressing. There's something a tad too impersonal about the sleek dividers, the uniform worktops and the ergonomic "executive" chairs. And probably because I've seen a tad too many movies, modular meant corporate power plays and disturbed--hell, psychotic--junior executive types on the verge of unleashing nuclear bombs.

Well guess what? Our office--the entire city hall, actually--has suddenly gone modular. With a wave of the contractor's wand, we went from bureaucratic to call-centerish, minus the phones and the twang, of course. There were the initial frayed nerves and flaring tempers from having to cram who-knows-how-many years of stash into defined spaces. Glass-topped office tables were stripped of pictures of children and good times and saints, and there was a tug-o-war of sorts as the more senior among us held on to their stuff and tables were hauled off to who knows where.

The dust of carting off the old and installing the new has settled, and "property" lines have been drawn. I have settled into my space and have since adopted a modular mindset. I have no choice, after all. Unless city hall decides otherwise, I will have to do all my slaving and griping and working on this table until retirement. Which, if you ask me, is still a long way off.

June 25, 2009

Back to School

I am now officially a school mom. For the past few days, I have been "stealing" time off work to see how my daughter is faring in not-so-big school. I have been in the company of moms and yayas, some of whom have been through countless first-day-of-school fever.

The "friendlier" ones have exchanged contact numbers. Somebody has already fished out a catalogue and has since been convincing me to buy Tupperware. The yayas have formed the inescapable textmate-na-tayo bond, comparing notes not just on their wards but also on boyfriends and Friendster accounts. Who knows, they might just have progressed on to comparing notes about us, he he he.

From days of hanging around "stage" (there's one who, from the window keeps on egging her son to raise his hand) and "unstage" mothers, I can say that truly, preschool is the world in micro. There are bullies and brats, there are loudmouths and there are those who couldn't care less. There are those who jump right into the thick of things, those who need a little more prodding and there are those who cling, cling and cling some more.

I really feel that I am back in school, only this time, I already know the colors and the shapes. This time, I am watching a little girl learn. And I am also (re)learning to see things from a little girl's point of view.

June 13, 2009

Defining Irony

Independence Day came with a memo directing us to attend the usual ceremonies. As these things go, the memo had the unspoken "or else" masked by the usual bureaucratic jargon and went on to prescribe the attire for the activity.

Permanent employees are supposed to come in in their Monday uniforms while those on job-order status had to be in "casual" attire.

Naturally this raised quite a stir on those whose contracts hinge on things other than performance. Some quibbled, some fretted, some made plans to raid the ukay-ukay stalls. Exasperated at having to deal with gripes in varying tones and degrees, someone stood up and proclaimed the (not quite as dreaded) bottomline: you have no choice.

On "Araw ng Kalayaan?"

June 2, 2009

Middle of Nowhere

I am no swimmer, but I do love the sea. That and boat rides. There is something about being in the middle of the sea--right smack in the middle of nowhere--that evokes a certain calm. As long as the sea is calm, of course.

And last Wednesday, it was. En route to Sto. Nino, a smaller-than-small island that is only accessible by banca, the sea was at its summer best. Mount Mayon was picture-perfect: I've seen it countless times from the air and on land, but never from the sea. And it was just beautiful!

On the hour-long ride to the island I remembered other boat rides: chasing the whales in Donsol, going after dolphins in Bais, innumerable trips to virtually unpeopled islands. Always, it never fails to put things in perspective.

Sto. Nino was a grounding experience as well. One look at this makeshift schoolhouse, and I thought that this could probably run on a single semester's tuition at Ateneo. Just about everything was improvised, and somehow, there was a sense of urgency in its construction.

When I saw some of the inhabitants, I understood the urgency. With virtually nowhere else to go, most of them married young, ending up with more children than they can probably afford to have. The one-room schoolhouse was some kind of reminder that there is a much, much bigger world out there.

Beautiful though it was, there was something constricting about the island. I saw this in the 21-year-old cradling a one-year-old and who had a four-year-old clinging to her skirt. In four months, there will be another baby, and I doubt if it will be the last. I saw this in those who practically bumped us off our boat to take advantage of the “free” ride to the mainland.

When it was time to leave, I was only too glad to return to the sea … and home.

June 1, 2009

You're Not Wearing That!

In Church yesterday, I was distracted by this young girl--probably around eight--wearing a red shirt. The print was easy to make out even for my nowhere near 20/20 vision. It said:

sexually arousing, exciting or interesting
radiating sexuality, alluring
as an illustration, see attached person

I'm no regular church-goer, and I won't even attempt to understand if it's appropriate or not. But one thing I'm sure of: my daughter won't be wearing that shirt. Not if I can help it, he he he.

May 29, 2009


On the way to the office this morning, I rode with a woman and her (elementary) school-age daughter who were into some sort of argument over the opening of classes. The girl recited her must-haves: scissors, eraser, ruler, construction paper, etc.

The mother was unconvinced. They'll buy the supplies, she said, when they are already needed. Or when the teacher asks for them. She launched a (redundant, I suppose) spiel on times being krisis-laden and all and that the daughter should make do with left-over supplies from last school year.

AND THEN, as an afterthought, she told the girl to ask her dad for money. "Humingi ka ng pera sa daddy mo ha? Ipa-straight natin ang buhok mo."

I swear, it was an effort to keep a straight face. SO much for priorities, huh?

May 21, 2009


My phone met an unsanitary death while we were out on field, and for something like two days, I was cut off from the digital world.

For two days, there were no urgent "txt bak pls" messages, no truncated, virtually indecipherable SMS, no calls at the most incovenient hours. I was incommunicado. And happily so.

I would have preferred a much longer mobile-phoneless existence. The thing is, even this little corner of the universe that I call home also operates on fast-forward mode. There's always something "urgent" cropping up: some meeting, some accident, some document that needs to be signed, some "issue" that needs to be resolved. And so I had no choice but to reconnect.

Getting a new phone is easy. But rebuilding a directory--reconstructing lost contacts--takes some doing. I should have learned my lesson in "back-upping" the first time I lost a phone. Or the second and third times. Alas, I am now on to yet another replacement phone, and I am none the wiser. :p


Still on the subject of being incommunicado, I've been out of the (blogging) loop for a month now--and I haven't realized this till now. Life has been one busy swing after another. And it's only now that I am catching my breath.

April 20, 2009


School's out, and somebody I know has loaded her kid's schedule with activities, activities and more activities. There's Kumon, speech and art classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And there's taekwondo and swimming on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. All these, she says, so that her tweener won't get bored during the two-month lull.

I wonder: whatever happened to carefree, school-less summer days? My friends and I never had any of these organized activities and yet we were never bored. We climbed aratiles trees, we picked fights with the kids from the other street, we read komiks on the sly, we played patintero under the full moon.

Having none of the pressure to excel, or to make productive use of our school break, we discovered the joy of reading. Our minds did not atrophy from doing nothing--or from the lice that happily romped on our sun-baked heads. We built imaginary castles and scraped our knees scaling fences.

Times have changed, of course. There's the undue pressure to produce wonder kids. And in a world that runs on Counter-Strike mode, inactivity is synonymous to boredom.

Crazy, but I suppose in due time, there would be organized activities for kite-flying, climbing trees and breezing through the summer break.

April 15, 2009

Post Reunion Notes

On Black Saturday, we celebrated our 25th batch reunion.

I wouldn’t say that it was perfect; that it went according to plan. It wasn’t and it didn’t.

At the last hour—or was that last minute?—we learned that the singing was the finale: we had to change into our dance “costumes” fast and back into our “ball” attire faster. There were frayed nerves and flaring tempers. There were snags and hitches and more than enough factors to trigger hypertension and near heart attacks.

Two years of preparation, and when it came to call time, we were still a bunch of bumbling performers. Very much like the way we were when we were in high school.

In short, it was as if the 25 years never happened. Jay never aged a bit, and Nena towered as ever. Marissa laughed the same infectious laugh. I looked for traces of the old us in our newer, heavier figures and I was not disappointed.

We didn't lack in performers. Singers--and non-singers--hogged the videoke, while the more garrulous among us entertained with intoxicating renditions of their life and love stories. One girl went up the stage to do a monologue on the definition of chemistry and our bane of having to fertilize our practical-arts plots with dung. And when it was time for the ball and the program, we scraped past with our not-quite-as-perfect numbers. Heck, our kids even beat us by a mile.

Miscues notwithstanding, it was a happy, happy affair. We laughed hard as we rehashed old jokes, we cried some as former mentors gave touching--and teary-eyed-- testimonies, and we laughed some more as we revisited forgotten territory.

And yet, the homecoming was not really all about our former, younger selves. None of us have remained exactly the same. We have, in fact, changed in ways that all of us wouldn’t have imagined. The reunion took on some semblance of an Amazing Race pitstop: a breather, a chance to recoup before progressing to the next destination.

When it was time to leave, there were no formal goodbyes. All of us have since learned to live with countless hellos and goodbyes that we no longer observe timelines. What is important is that we know that we will meet again. Next year, perhaps. Or in another 25 years.

April 7, 2009

Quiet Walks

For two weeks now I've been going home at 9 p.m. In Sorsogon, this is already quite late: most of the stores close at 7 p.m., and by 8 the two main streets are literally asleep. Barring the times when I can bully the Papa into picking me up, my new-found friends (and former classmates) walk the quiet stretch to the terminal, where we each go our separate routes.

The evening walks have reacquainted me with the Sorsogon I knew: the Sorsogon I grew up in in the era of last-full shows and house calls. The moviehouses are now gone, but the end-of-the-day stillness remains.

The walks have also reacquainted me with the boys and girls I practically grew up with. This time, though, talk centers not so much on crushes and movies but on children and real lives. We talk of husbands and children, choices and how life turned out to be. We talk about what and who we are now, and how much we enjoy these walks. We talk about everything and nothing.

When this is all over, I know that I will miss going home at 9.

April 2, 2009

In a Jam

Having survived those horrendous Edsa jams, I am naturally patient when I happen to be caught in the middle of a pileup. After all, traffic in these parts translate to nothing more than five minutes on the L-shaped business center. Barring the usual rush-hour traffic--caused mostly by tricycles in an illogical rush--our main streets get clogged only when there are parades and processions. Or during the Holiday and Holy Week breaks, when cars crowd out the tricycles.

Last Tuesday, I was caught in a particularly long queue on the outskirts of town. The Sorsogon State College had its graduation ceremonies, and the graduates and their parents and probably entire clans really made navigation impossible. There was an unusually large number of kibitzers as well, and when I saw the humongous streamers I understood: the SSC invited Jinggoy Estrada as its "commencement speaker."

A celebrity--make that any celebrity--who happens to venture this far south, is sure to draw traffic. Toffee Calma can, even though nobody is really sure who Toffee Calma is. In the 80s, I went to school with a girl who did a cameo role in some Tagalog movie. Naturally, she was a celebrity for the rest of her grade school days.

I am sure that the crowd that trooped to see Jinggoy wasn't there for whatever "inspiration" he might impart to the new jobless. I have sat through graduation speeches before, and in all, I was too busy dreaming about the future to care about semantics. I don't even remember who spoke at my college graduation.

I asked a friend's son who was part of the crowd what Jinggoy said during the ceremonies. He couldn't remember. All he could say was that Jinggoy didn't look like an artista at all.

March 23, 2009


There are so many subjects that I’d probably get a C- in, and dancing just happens to be one of them. I barely scraped past PE 2, and I’m not exactly dance troupe material. Sure, I can pick up a step or two. But the thing is, I just don’t have the passion. And the grace.

So when I got a message inviting those who cared to join to a production-number practice, I was a no-show. Apparently, so was everybody else. This merited a second, more demanding, message: we had to dance, period.

As it turned out, not even two left feet, or stiff joints made stiffer still by the passage of time, could stop us from strutting our stuff. On the first day of practice, there were groans as limbs on the verge of arthritis were stretched and extended and exercised. On the second day, what passed for dancing took on more rhythmic patterns. Third-day practice was sidetracked as the much younger—and sprightlier trainer—begged off, leaving us a mass of uncoordinated, hyperventilating mess.

We’re doing the dance again later today. Crazy, but everyone seems to be excited. We’d probably never pull it off, but then it’s not so much perfection were after as the chance to reconnect, to laugh at our past and present selves.

Call time is roughly two weeks from now. Call it temporary insanity, or call it a manifestation of strength in numbers, but this time, I am very much in on the dance.

March 20, 2009

Ahh, Summer!

Summer started while we were out on field. All throughout the morning, the beach was a constant presence. We could hear the waves--could even feel the soft breeze--from where we were. But there was work to do, and the beach had to take a backseat.

At 1p.m., when the crowd started thinnning out and nothing remained of the just-in-from-the-sea lunch, we rounded the corner and there it was: the white sands of Paguriran.

It was low tide when we got there. The bigger outcrop--which on high tide becomes a lagoon--was within wading distance. The powder-fine sand was a treat for sore feet. The afternoon sun was just perfect, and so was the catch.

Paguriran could very well be Boracay, except that it has none of the the crowds, the amenities, the nightlife and the commercialism of it all. Which is just perfect, if you ask me.

For the past days, we'd been drenched by heavy rains. With a quick trip to the beach and an hour of watching the turn of the tide, summer is finally here!

March 16, 2009

Wishing Away the Flab

I blew the dust off a boxful of 25-year-old photographs, and now I am quashing the urge to max my imaginary credit card on all the slimming gadgets on Home Shopping Network. Having gone from skinny to solid--and altogether missing "sexy" by a mile--I now understand why people actually worship Belo and Calayan :p

The slimming frenzy going on in the office does not help any. Girls who think they have weight problems have suddenly regained horizontal spaces, thanks to this Chinese slimming coffee. The thing is, I love coffee and I don't want any other flavor messing with my poison. Not even if gives me Bebe Gandanghari's figure. Also, I am not about to trust my excess pounds to something whose fine print totally escapes me.

Which leaves me wishing away the flab and not physically doing something about it. If I had known that I would develop bulges when I tipped the Big Four-O, I wouldn't have made candy out of Propan in my skinny days.

Oh well. Life.

March 14, 2009

Turning SIlver

Our 25th high school reunion is up in a few weeks. I thought it would be a cinch: we've been working on the homecoming for over a year now. But with reality staring us in the face, I am having some sort of a panic attack. As I'm sure the rest of the class are.

The panic comes mostly from the details that we have to wade through. Reunions are a tall order in these parts, especially for the silver belles and boys. Aside from planning the activities for our batch, we are also expected to host the grand alumni homecoming. That's roughly 70 batches, not counting those who have since moved on to more celestial reunions.

But queasy feeling aside, there is also the heady anticipation of being with old friends once more. Some of them I haven't seen since graduation, when we sat under the scorching afternoon sun and patiently waited as 700 plus graduates marched up the stage to get the rolled-up bond paper that summed up four years of our lives.

We have all changed, that’s for sure. Most of the girls have taken on new, sometimes-hyphenated, surnames. As the years piled up, so did the inches on the waist and the excess poundage in the most unflattering places.

We have all become what our school paper painted us to be: the salt of the earth. We have taken forked roads and have since realized that graduations are merely beginnings. That high school is but one of life’s many phases.

Still and all, it would be fun to go back to the old school. Already, we have unboxed old photographs and memories. It’s like going back in time, and getting to know our mirror images of 25 years ago.

Surely, this business of turning silver is a journey worth taking.

February 14, 2009

Rex Smith ... and Rey Valera!

In the era of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat, Rex Smith was my all-time poster boy. His posters--magazine centerfolds, of course--adorned my bedroom walls, crowding out my sister's Scott Baios, Shaun Cassidys and Leif Garretts. We were young and TV-less, and magazines and second-run movies were our only connections to the world outside. Albums, singles and cassettes, too.

"Forever" and "Let's Make a Memory," are such lame songs. Corny even. I realize that now. But lately I've been having a bad case of last-song syndrome. And all because Rex Smith is all over media town. Obviously, he has joined the ranks of (formerly famous) foreign acts who have found a ready Valentine audience in good old Pinas.

Truth to tell, I was almost tempted to make the trip to Manila. Better yet, to Bacolod or Cebu. Oh, to go back to the heady days of the early '80s, when I thought Street Hawk was the coolest show ever! Alas, traveling isn't the spur-of-the-moment, pack-up-and-go thing that it once was. And so it was a trip down memory lane instead, where I realized that I may not remember the name of the person with whom I shook hands just minutes ago, but I could very well remember the lyrics of almost thirty years ago. Talk about selective memory, huh?

In any case, it's not just "Simply Jessie" that's forever playing in my internal player. Ate Dina's "favorites" have been rubbing off on my daughter, and the three-year-old has taken to belting out Rey Valera's "Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo." As in.

February 8, 2009

Tree House

Gianna saw it first: the tree house on Seventh Street. Sitting on the sturdy branches of a mango tree, it hinted of blustery summers: of kites and blue skies and magical childhood days. Checking on the tree house became a routine--and Gianna and I would often dream of the time when our own mango tree is big enough to hold up our own tree house.

The other day, though, there was no more tree house to check on. It had been unused too long, said the man who built it for his two kids. The children are long gone, rebuilding their lives in faraway places. He is too old to climb, and there is little chance that the grandchildren would ever come home.

And so, he tore down the tree house. Better a cleaner skyline, he said, than a lonely structure that rings with memories of days lone gone.

Years ago, when the country was on a building frenzy, I felt a sinking sense of loss when they tore down a graceful mansion in QC to give rise to one of those impersonal developments. The house belonged to a president.

It was the same loss I felt when a they took down a quaint house along West Avenue. The same loss I feel now with the old tree house.

Alas, some of the monuments of our lives are not meant to last.

February 4, 2009

My Way

Yet more reasons why I love traveling this road: blue mountains, green trees and zero traffic.

Going home at the end of the day is one stress-free ride.

January 31, 2009

Of Brain Itch and Earworms

I would like to believe that my daughter came out into the world to the tune of "La Chupeta." In the four days that I stayed in the hospital after my C-Section four years ago, this makes-no-sense-to-me song supposedly about pacifiers kept ringing in my ears. I tried muffling it with earphones and a dose of post-partum Alanis Morisette. I tried thinking up the lyrics to a super jologs song that is deeply embedded in my memory courtesy of my childhood yaya. I tried walking around the hospital lobby in search of that blasted player.

To no avail, of course.

It was only after the baby and I were in the safe confines of home--and I still heard fragments of that song--that I realized that it was playing in my mind all along. (As it turned out, the nonsensical La Chupeta was my OB's ringtone. It was the last thing I heard before I drifted off to anaesthetic light-headedness.)

In any case, this post had me thinking "La Chupeta!" No, it didn't make the list of GetBack's 10 worst brain-itch songs. Apparently, it lost out to "Who Let the Dogs Out," "YMCA," "Mmm Bop," "Mambo No. 5" and "I'm Too Sexy," among others.

Still, it tops the list of songs that that have the embarrassing way of (unintentionally) coming out of my usually unexercised vocal chords. Along with "Brother Louie," "I Will Survive" "Name Game" and--our dearly-missed messenger's favorite--"Quando, Quando, Quando."

January 29, 2009

A Real Headache

I went to church last Sunday and went home with a migraine. No, it wasn’t from the homily. It wasn’t from the pressure of being “good,” either. Instead, it was from the squeaky heels of this toddler whose parents obviously do not know the difference between cute and irritating.

As if the toddler with the squeaky shoes was not enough, there was this little girl who walked up the altar and proceeded to mount her own concert. Watching her teetering on the edge of the stairs—and eventually on the small foothold at the base of one of the cathedral’s columns—was disturbing enough. But what really stressed me out was the fact that the parents or whoever was with her never made the effort to get her to behave.

I don’t know, but there are some parents who need a dose of discipline themselves. They look the other way, not giving a hoot if their child is growing horns or assaulting the neighbor. They laugh off irritating pranks as innocent, harmless things that will make the kids more “macho,” more “street-wise,” more “worldly.”

I know of these parents who thought that they were doing the kid a favor by letting him have his way in anything. Well, the kid is now a pre-teen who drinks, gambles, smokes, swears and bullies.

I won’t stress myself any further thinking what the future holds for the two kids who gave me a migraine if their folks would continue looking the other way. This much I know, though: disciplining a child can be a minor head (and heart) ache. But better a slight discomfort now than a real headache later.

Scenes from a Seminar

A participant leafing through a catalogue
Slippers shared by two participants – and wayward shoes unceremoniously shoved under the chair
A stifled yawn
Heels, heels, uncomfortable heels
Know-it-alls biting more than they could chew
Me shuttling between two windows when I should be documenting

BUT really, this seminar on ethics and accountability is NOT boring. How can it be, when it is peppered with colorful glossary such as:

Anak ng Diyos
Backdoor entry
Barya-barya lang
Daya Time Record
For official’s use only
If the price is right
Kagalang-galang na magnanakaw
Republic Act 1530

I guess it’s true: corruption knows many languages. And no matter how you call it, it's still corruption. AND, sadly, it is every where. Tsk. Tsk.

January 22, 2009

No Kitchen Goddess

In my restless 30s, I fancied myself to be a kitchen goddess. Blame it on an overdose of Jude Law and Music from Another Room, but I had romantic visions of me slaving away in a small bakeshop with huge display windows. I wanted to bake fancy cakes, make truffles, cook up a feast.

For a time, I did good on the baking part. I took lessons, tested recipes, basked in the wonderful scents of cinnamon and vanilla. In those blissfully unattached times, I realized that I could figure out the science that went into a thousand pan de sal, but I could not come to terms with the intangibles, love and commitment included.

But then, baking became a business and the novelty wore off. I moved on to the cooking part for either one of two then very pressing reasons: (1) in anticipation of the days when I would have to cook for myself OR (2) to impress future attachments, in-laws most of all.

Today, my cookbooks are gathering dust. The day I got married was the day I kissed my kitchen-goddess aspirations goodbye. The husband is decidedly the better cook, and from Day One he made it clear that the kitchen was his and his alone. There was no room for another cook; not even for an apprentice. I have since been banished, and I can't say that I am complaining.

My sister, who has recently been raving about squash soups and santoku knives, continues to stoke my interest with her "gourmet" reading fare. In my past life, I would have gobbled up titles like Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant; The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen; The Art of Simple Food. Who knows, I might just have time for them again. For now, though, I am happy being the kitchen god's wife. :p

January 16, 2009

Rained Out

The relentless rains of the past months finally took its toll on my cashew tree. While there were no storm signals up over Sorsogon, we have been bombarded with heavy rains and strong winds since the first day of December. And now what passes for my side garden is a mess.

The cashew tree is but the latest in the long line of "natural" casualties. The aratiles tree that shaded the front gate was felled by a sudden storm three summers ago. The avocado, the santol, a host of mango and pili trees, the lonely gumihan that could have told a thousand stories if it could speak ... all these are gone now. Once-upon-a-time markers in this cycle of construction and destruction.

Some other tree will grow in the cashew's place. Already, there are signs of new growth. Weeds are crowding my backyard as well. The rains have made them thrive, and now they are happily choking what is left of the vegetable patch, creeping up and over cracks and crevices. When the weather clears, the gardener-on-call will have his hands full.

I have learned to live with the rains, of course. They may have set back some of the plans I had for life and for the garden. They may have messed up my calendar, and made me want to do nothing but curl up in bed all day, but they are essentials for growth. For rebirth and for renewal. Besides, when summer's scorching heat strikes, I know that I will be wishing for this kind of cool.

January 6, 2009


Here's the upside to this taking-down-the-trimmings thing that used to give me the blues:

Finally,they're getting rid of the hideous thingamajigs passing for Christmas decor in front of the City Hall.


January 5, 2009

Not My Year, Huh?

2009 is not supposed to be my year. Astrologers and new age gurus making the rounds of pre-new year talk shows have all been harping about the sheep/goat not being "friendly" with the ox. Consequently, they concluded that the year of the ox won't be a breeze for those born in the year of the sheep/goat.

The Chinese New Year is still weeks away, but I can't say that the first day of 2009 had been relatively easy. What promised to be a sunny day at the beach turned out to be a short lunch that had us shivering from the driving rain and the cold, cold winds. It was a "powerless" day, too, as the whole city didn't have electricity from 9 a.m. until around 7 p.m. The restaurants closed early, and all we had was this lame chicken and cold leftovers.

BUT, sweeping predictions and bad starts aside, I know that my 2009 will only be as good--or as bad--as I make it. And it will be good. As good, in fact, as these post-New Year's Day, post-brownout photos.

This is late, I know. Just the same, Happy New Year, everyone!

January 3, 2009

Post-Holiday Blues

The last of the guests had been seen off, and the madness that spilled over to the living room is now a manageable mess. The street is back to being quietly normal, the dogs are no longer jumpy and the fridge is groaning with calories and cholesterol. I will deal with the leftovers tomorrow. Tonight I will allow myself to wallow in post-holiday blues.

I guess this is the downside to being--and staying--home: people are always saying goodbye. There are early-morning goodbyes, when cars that used to crowd the curb disappear into the mist after one last blowing of the horn. They won't return until the next long holiday; sometimes not even then.

There are hasty goodbyes said at terminals, amid last calls for boarding and the excitement of arriving passengers. Whatever catching up is crammed in the hour-long drive to the airport. For my daughter and her cousins, the catching up will have to be done much later, when they are old enough not to squabble over toys, over the attention of the grandparents, over invasion of private spaces. When they are old enough to understand the concept of family.

The house is all quiet now. It will be so until somebody comes home again. I longed for this kind of quiet when the next-door neighbor belted out "Tragedy" from the videoke machine at 2 a.m. a lifetime ago. I wished for quiet when there was a houseful of whining and wailing toddlers. When firecrackers set off the baying of four dogs and the annoying whimper of six puppies.

It will be another long stretch before family and friends visit what they used to call home. It won't be long before I settle into the new year. Life will be back to normal tomorrow, and I won't have time for the blues.

Tonight, though, I wish it isn't this quiet. Oh well...