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!