Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thank You 2008

2008 is a mixed year, a truth now established worldwide. i call it the 'Year of the Impossible'. 2008 is the year the USA turned third world because of the sins of capitalism. it was the year an international model-turned-pop singer became first lady of france. it was the year that two very young actors from hollywood and our own showbiz died of very mysterious circumstances amidst rousing success in their field. it was the year a lefty spaniard won wimbledon again since 1954; then went on to win olympic gold. it was the year that a little known media outfit named summit commissioned less known stars in a movie entitled twilight and reached heaven.

the same impossibilities ruled my world. i almost died in the middle of the year and changed jobs at the end. the year i burned bridges with my two employers, ruled as they are by men and women who have come to worship money and to forsake friendship along the way. so it was a year of realizations - sad and bitter truths that have graced this blog. that one could really be mistaken about friends and employers. that one could experience outcomes undeserved. that the only dignified way to go through it, is to cry.

but i am where i am supposed to be. as i've said before, goodness will come out of this. so i have much to thank 2008. i thank 2008 for true-blue friends since immemorial and in the industry who held my hand and never wavered in their trust. i thank 2008 for the maturity to stand by bitter realities as they are, to not fight the truth but to face it squarely and to believe in tomorrow. i learned to trust in the adage that every day is a new day. that every new day brings hope, renewal. facing death and betrayal, i came to trust my God.

the numerologist, mr. nora, uncannily told me in december 2007 that for me, 2008 would be a year of harvesting. for me to reap what i have sown for so long. that this year will mark new beginnings. that this year, every thing i know, my specializations will coalesce into one new job, new skill. his words ring true now. his advice is that i should not hesitate in every opportunity that knocks. that i should not waver from what i have set out to do.

i have no special resolutions for 2009. i will just continue and move forward in every aspect of my life. i look forward to being more motivated into being better in what i do, than being successful. i look forward to bringing a better me in a relationship rather than just being plainly in love. i look forward to taking yaman to her first day in school come january 5, talking more with her and allowing her personality to shine than just spending 'quality time' with her, whatever that may mean. i look forward to living out my realities as a single working class mom who lives in a tree-lined street in quezon city and spends friday nights in yoga class. i thank 2009 already, for just coming.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Against all Superstitions

this would be the second time. the first time was way back in 1995. my cash was frozen in the atm by christmastime when atms in naga suddenly went out of money over the long holiday season. i had to make do by borrowing from my mom, or rather, borrowing my money from my mom since i was the one supporting her that time (and till now). this time, i am without cash, literally, because my salary (mid nov to mid dec) was not remitted by my employer this december. calls to manila confirmed the glitch between the finance dept and the bank on the ground floor. i had to make do with an apology and a promise of remittance by ja-dannn!!!...january 5.

the reason why i'm still smiling, other than because i'm good at keeping a happy face, is that i followed some nice tips in handling money. borrowing and using my credit card therefore comes as a last, last resort. these tips now have been tested and i think it's a good deal to share to you this season when money flies out faster or like me, frozen in time.

1. stash any little money you have. eversince great writer and friend, maryanne moll, gave me a moleskin last april 2008, i've kept two. one was notebook-sized (maryanne's gift) and the other was a handy pocket notebook. its back flaps could hold any paper and in it, i believed are stashed a couple of 500 and 50 peso bills for uses in emergency, as now.

2. keep your dollars and keep them handy. one of the few good advice left by yaman's dad to me. so, dollars left over from trips in australia and work i did for an indonesian friend are kept in red ampaos (for good luck actually). like the moleskins, i carry this with me in my bags for emergency. although i would have wanted to keep them longer, i think their time is drawing near.

3. keep an emergency fund. had only about 2 months and these i used mainly for christmas shopping and bills i had to settle earlier than january like rent. i had more reason now to have this replenished as soon as possible.

4. get sidelines left and right. i just watched mel and joey last sunday and one seer there said that in 2009 which in numerology adds up to 11 is the time 'para mamangka sa dalawang ilog'. for those without love lives and very bent on work, this would mean that moonlighting would rule. i haven't moonlighted that well this 2008 but money stashed a little from these sources really helped build up my emergency fund. i will be relying on this more in 2009 of course.

5. invest in security like life insurance and health care. this year i was able to fulfill my dream of providing life coverage for my two dependents, yaman and mommy (courtesy of tita emily agna and mading joey). also courtesy of my former employer, yaman and i are covered too by medicare until august next year. it is enough to provide peace of mind that in case anything happens, the coverage would pay for itself and reduce the need for ready cash.

as of today, nearing the eve of the new year, i have no special resolutions in mind. except for superstitions not to backfire. i'll greet the new year with a wiped-out bank account and not that many bills or coins to fill my pockets. against all superstitions, perhaps resolve is enough.

Monday, December 29, 2008

naga by nose: ma-ki ala bicol lunch

Naga is more than just pili. Or laing or anything identifyingly bicolano like gata or sili. in this series, like Taxi Tales, i would like to start off telling tales of foods and delicacies from Naga of old. this is my attempt at preservation; against modern and hip food crazes mushrooming along Magsaysay Avenue that may have the tendency to obliterate preference for these foods and delicacies. These are not necessarily 'native' but their smells, flavors, and the memories they evoke are special enough. i call it naga by nose because literally, i am following the smells. until recently when yaman and i saw ratatouille the movie, i also learned that cooking is most guided by one's sense of smell.



eating ma-ki in bicol lunch is a rite, a habit that every true blue member of the valenzuela clan should undergo and foster. it is a practice transferred across generations --- from my grand lolo to my lolo; from my dad and his siblings to us and my cousins; and us to our children (yaman loves it! yoohoo!). it is in our family history and much of naga's as well.

to begin with, bicol lunch is housed in one of the oldest buildings owned by don abella in general luna. it's hardly noticeable now, switched in between universal bakery and the stall formerly occupied by lacerna pawnshop. but in its heyday, the building it occupied was off-white, standing like a plaza with rows of shops in the exterior encircling living space within.

in naga city, bicol lunch is the one and only authority for ma-ki, a chinese broth filled with pork or beef pieces, wrapped in gawgaw, the soup served with beaten eggs and chopped green onions. it is best eaten with 'arroz' (as my dad would call it) or just plain sinangag riddled with leftover pork. one full bowl is P55 and the arroz is about P25. Hoyeh has its own version but it barely compares. often, the comment is that the soup looks like 'sipon' and not surprisingly, awkward glances, with hand over mouth to prevent one from gagging, would be met from friends who had far more 'class'. my friend from highschool, tess dacudao could not handle it. bestfriend angeline a little; but her husband, vincent, perhaps never. it does not take much to like ma-ki. one just had to go past the limits posed by one's sense of sight and surrender to the sensations of taste.

bicol lunch in itself is so masa its chairs are the back to back wooden seats of old, and water is served in heavy thick glasses. when my dad was still alive, he would say that bicol lunch is as old and musty-looking as it was when he first stepped inside it at age seven.

to get first pick of the best ma-ki in town, be there from 9am-10am or from 130pm-230pm. supply is good while it lasts and usually, the supply is dictated more by the predilection of the cook than the need to satisfy 'market demand'. the management is so wealthy word has it that in the past when sweepstakes was the norm, naga-based winners could just exchange their winnings at bicol lunch, for whatever the amount. it is so wealthy it does not need to keep up. two years ago, the place was renovated but only to expand to machine and appliance parts. a decision purely business. my brother jungee would joke (with a tinge of seriousness) that bicol lunch now is a machine shop serving ma-ki on the side. thank heavens, the ma-ki is as good as ever and i haven't seen nails or bolts floating in the soup.

their servers are usually men perhaps to rein in one of the owners' mentally disabled sons. if not for him, i could eat at bicol lunch every day. so my lady friends, have a man tag along for protection. but the maki is so good that take outs would suffice. it is worth the wait after months craving for it in manila. one of the million reasons why naga remains to be home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mt Carmel

Once you visit Naga, don't forget to drop by Mt. Carmel Church at Concepcion Grande. It houses the Carmelite Convent and neighbors the Holy Rosary Major Seminary, the breeding ground for priests in the Bicol Region. This closeness invites stories of underground tunnels connecting the two and supposedly dead babies lining the canals, the product of unholy trysts between 'mother' and 'father'. But taking this aside, please do visit Carmel; if only to reflect on our Lady of Mt Carmel whose handsome statue guards its right sanctum. St. Expeditus and St. Jude, the patron saints of urgent needs and impossibility, are on the left and right sides of the altar, respectively. The church takes a 5-minute walk from the entrance, already a test of faith especially under hot summer suns or sudden november showers. One can just sit on the front pews, close one's eyes and just absorb the silence. The church echoes even with the flapping of birds' wings. During December, its highlights include the Belen fronting the altar, which every year is designed differently. never mind if sometimes it looks superfluous, the effort of decorators pay off because it is a sight to behold at a distance, especially if the christmas lights are on. so do visit this Church, my church. if i get to fulfill my dream of becoming a nun, you know where to find me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Notes to a Dad

My friend Lito's daughter is leaving for Australia soon. i think by the first week of January to take on masters studies at UniMelb. He is quite apprehensive about it, seeing his unica hija go and do it all alone in the prime city of melbourne. although the daughter has left for abroad before, this time it would be on a long term basis and in his words, 'maligalig yun',...she 'can't even make her own bed'.

i could understand that in my own way, on the leaving side. my father, who passed away in 1994 at a very premature age of 44, did not get to see me leave for australia in 1998 but he did witness me packing my bags for El-Bi in 1987. he didn't cry of course, i bet lito would, but perhaps dad have been as apprehensive as he. living in El-Bi was my first time to be separated from family and i survived it, well enough to graduate on time (hay!).

not that fathers shouldn't grieve or worry, that's pretty normal. but being on the other side, i would like to share these bits and pieces from my experience as an independent student at 17 and a budding vulnerable woman at 27. if only these could quell any doubts and make the tears worthwhile on leaving day:

1. We are surrounded by little islands. Away from the mainland that is home, I found little islands of friends and acquaintances that filled my need, quite, for family, but that was enough. social circles revolved around fellow filipinos, students and families; foreign housemates/ friends and of these, i found great friends from Singapore (Elaine) and Indonesia (Janty); friends from the academe; and even walking buddies.

2. Independence is nourishing. I credit El-Bi a lot with fostering my individuality and that need to really know my myself. To acknowledge what interests fit me or not; to know the kind of friends i should hang on to; how to express myself and be ok if it would not fit others' expectations. i learned how to balance my budget, what with my dwindling pool of funds every 30th --- i learned how to eat gulay, subsist on saba sardines, and sometimes, just monay. i learned to be content and not compare myself with others not as financially challenged as me that time.

3. The bed will be made, eventually. it's a life without rules. in bella's words, without anyone 'hovering' for you to do the right thing. one can chose to just wake up at 7am, don the pants hanging near and go to school without even washing one's face --- if that means rushing to the acctg exam, also at 7am (i did that!). in perth, i could go braless during winter with 3 shirts and 1 woolen jacket over my bosom. i could just choose to eat chicken for days. i could choose to not clean my room, leave all my notebooks and books strewn across the bedroom floor, go to fremantle the whole day and just idle around the shops and later have cappuccino. in time, though, the room will be cleaned, purpose will be had on idle sundays, and of course, i could not dare be braless in spring, summer and autumn. so normality will return but on our terms. we know responsibility, and we will exercise it.

4. We'll play it safe. i am not saying that we should all lose our virginity. it was a decision i made on my own. i chose not to be a virgin forever. something that i have regrets now (and will be the subject of another blog) but that time, i think i handled it pretty well. that's when sex education mattered and knowing one's self mattered, even more. for the record, i did not play around. chose to have relationships first then, that.

5. One needs isolation to know the values of belonging. Ask bestfriend Liza...i was so intolerable at El-Bi. i am the housemate from hell - my temper tantrums and my freakishness. perth changed all that. tables were turned when i lived with a filipino family and the girl suddenly became venomous towards me, for no apparent reason. it was like, i experienced how to be the butt of one's temper tantrums and that led me to realizing that if i could not bear it, then no one should be subjected to it by me. so i moved out and stayed at green court this time with an aussie, a newzea and an indonesian. i had to adjust. i learned to master the tantrums, the freakishness. one has to become a better person, and corny and so atenean as it may sound, indeed, for others.

We will come home sooner or later. with our bags, we bring new selves as well. we may look fatter or slimmer; our cheeks red from the cold or our skin burned black by the hot perth sun. But on the inside, we hold something more; new directions, new meanings of ourselves that make us better women and, better daughters.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Block

the wall and endless white. flying thoughts, not restless but can't be pinned down. yaman is asleep - this is my time. but what can i make out of it? the hang of writing, of committing to it everyday. wanting lightning to strike - be dramatic and real. but thud. it's a low low thunder. inspiration, inspiration, where are you now?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

chicken sitti and chicken ala roco

what made this xmas special to us are 2 chicken recipes new to our palate and cooked by no less than my younger sister, yumi. she got this from net 25, bless janice de belen and this network for introducing us to new recipes created no less by our showbiz stars. chicken sitti is of course from bossanova princess, sitti, and chicken ala roco by guess who? bembol roco. what i regret is that i did not take pictures of the dishes (kasi di ko alam na magiging ganun kasarap and unforgettable!) so here i am sharing you the recipes from sister yumi's memory.

CHICKEN SITTI

deep fry whole chicken in low fire then set aside. saute 6 tomatoes and 3 onions cut in halves. pour 1 tbsp of vinegar then simmer. put 1 pc laurel leaf, 1 tsp star anise seeds, 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp sugar. simmer. pour 1 cup of water. simmer ulit daw. put chicken in mixture and while simmering, pour over chicken to absorb taste. done!

CHICKEN ALA ROCO

marinate chicken (1 dozen choice cuts) with little salt, pepper, and garlic powder. coat with flour then fry. set aside. saute 2 large minced white onions with 1 chicken cube. pour 1 cup water then let simmer. put the chicken then pour worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and msg (or any substitute if you're health-conscious --- kayo na bahala dun). mix with blanched baguio beans, carrots, and fried potatoes (ala french fries). top with quail eggs. done!

actually the french fries and quail eggs were yumi's additions to make the dish delectable to kids --- with 10 year-old ira in mind.

i dedicate this blog to mading joey aldor who was in my thoughts while i was writing this. she cooks although she happens to live with an even better cook.

let us be happy to explore food as we go along life. happy to spend xmas this way. filled to the brim with delicious home-made cooking. thanks yums, thanks sistah!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Jesus

Pass by Sikatuna and on top of PARES is a sign in Christmas lights that reads, 'Happy Birthday, Jesus'. What a poignant way to observe Christmas. I have forgotten too, myself. That indeed, Christmas is the birth of Christ; that 38 minutes from now, several thousand years ago, a child was born in a stable, surrounded by hay and barely finished with suckling, was prevented from sleeping by three men bearing gifts of no practical use to a newborn. But he came with an even greater promise and purpose than what his parents deemed possible from his bare little hands. If we are born in the image of God, then it must be logical to say too that we are born with the same promise held by Jesus in his hands. That we are more than our physical selves; that our innate power, our faith can push us further. That we can be more for others despite failing ourselves sometimes. Jesus also faced a lot of doubts; in the end he too, he rued his pre-defined purpose in life. But in the end, he came to believe, he came to accept that this, the earth and amidst sinners he should save, is where he's supposed to be. So Merry Christmas to you all. May we all the share the faith and perseverance of Christ, despite the million reasons why we may have to stop dead in our tracks. More than the season for giving, Christmas is the season for believing.
the earliest i could remember was at 6 years old. Santa gave me an apple wrapped by a yellow handkerchief. Or was it a yellow handkerchief wrapped around the apple. The last would be at 9 years. A tea set this time, with red cups and white saucers. After that, there must've been other gifts but nothing stands out except these two. Could it be because childhood for me ended at 9?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Vampire Metaphor

ever wonder how relationships could get one-sided? it's not common to find both couples in control of her or his space, time and situation. in time, someone will give in and allow her or him-self to be subsumed in the qualities and personality of the other person. it comes to the point of looking blindly to mistakes, to the incursions and sometimes subtle means by which control is enforced. i call this the vampire metaphor when the numbing of individuality follows that of the senses. it is dangerous because it takes a while to go back, to get undone. the instinct sometimes is to kill.

many times in eclipse, jacob would call edward, bloodsucker. and that is how it works. the sucking of the blood is like the sucking of one's life force, one's own purpose, one's own control of destiny. edward is too much aware of the danger he poses. are we that aware too? do we live in blinded relationships? do we struggle to please, to lose self just to make the peace?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Falling in Love...With your Best Friend

In my current obsession with everything Twilight and Edward Cullen-istic, I stumbled into a nakaka-kilig and lighthearted video made on lead stars, Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in YouTube entitled, Robert-Kristen: Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop. I would like you to see it and be held in thrall by the silent language of their eyes and how they regard each other. I bet Kristen is holding back a lot. (As of press time, they are not actually involved. But in the end, who knows?)

The prospect of finding that you are actually in love and destined to be with, a best friend really gets to me. Perhaps because I dwell more on acceptance, on not having to pretend, on not having to strike an intelligent conversation to be listened to. As I appreciate honesty that bites but never taunts and never leaves. I’d rather be with someone who knows me like a t-shirt (inside-out), than someone who takes my constant effort to please. Hay, the prospect is past me now as I find no one interesting enough to behold or interested in me to fit the bill among my male bestfriends. I seem to have the same number as my female best friends but they are all taken by women who are living and those living in their memory (Doc, no offense ha?!). So I just content myself to seeing honest to goodness love unravel between friends and be kilig all over. You are very lucky if now you have found love in your bestfriend. Kung kayo na, congrats, swerte mo. Kung hindi pa; then well, lakasan mo loob mo. Express it, take a chance in love that’s real.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Edward Cullen

in him, stephenie meyer gave us the mythical boyfriend. he is that boy. one who stands by you at a protective stance, takes you to your car seat and even straps the buckle. insists on knowing your dad and asks permission to date. content to just talk, really interested in your history. when he looks at you, he bores through. it is difficult to lie, to not expose yourself. restraint and sexual tension combined. a cold body disguising a tortured but warm heart, and undoubtedly, a living soul. rob pattinson portrayed him well. the incarnate - animalistic, gothic yet angelic. that voracious pained look tempered by tender stares.

but what does edward cullen really stand for other than these attributes. other than being that boy. amaya says he is universal - the typical outcast who shines through without even trying, and with trying not to. my theory is that he is our longing for things past that were good and should have been. that somehow, we wished men did not lose their chivalry trudging through the 20th century. that somehow time got through them and women's fight for rights. he represented the earnest, constant and trusted lover. edward's values have been frozen in time and how we wished we could go back to that.

what man could say that lovers should save each other equally? what man could say that you have the right to live your own life, experience human things, to be you as a woman for whatever right you want to exercise? what man will love you despite gap in age, eventually? no need to diet, get plastic surgery, or even dye one’s hair. he is a once-in-a-lifetime gift. no…a once-even-in-the-after-life gift because even in death, he will follow. that is why i am confused why stephenie meyer chose to kill bella eventually and turn her into a vampire when it is the human bella that was special to edward. why would stephenie meyer succumb to the traditional ending of woman submitting to man’s nature when woman can forcefully live her own. the best way to exact justice is to die, to kill edward but perhaps, now he is, living with a vampiric bella. perhaps i will understand when i read breaking dawn.

i find edward the highest prize a strong willed woman could ever have. an equal in silent strength. but as i’ve said, he is mythical. one who lives in fiction living out a legend in its pure, uncorrupted form. is this why stephenie meyer conjured him rich in impossibilities? a virgin vampire, perfect yet extinct. so i will hold him in respect, be awed by his beauty and be content that even in myth, Edward Cullen was released from one author’s maginations to our consciousness; our deep and fervent longings of how noble a man’s love could be.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

mcdonalds at 5am

i'm here at mcdo-aim. Since 5am. Had signed up for my medical and will leave 8am. We've lost it. Within earshot, 2 men were exchanging blowjob exploits. A lady came in wobbling drunk, dumped by her bf who roared off in his bmw. Strangers, known once as teens, are smoking packs before the rooster even crowed. Then one turns to me and says, 'ate, is this seat taken?' to join 'friends' talking about mastering masturbation and scoring her korean guy. Where are these children's parents? A slap to me as Yaman is in naga and as even here in Manila, i can't be with her 24/7. But how i wish she would not turn out like these poor pathetic kids, rich but perhaps in numerous wrong ways. So a random seat in a random setting could set off wonderings like these. Not by accident but a deep meaningful purpose for one single mother. Thanks guys for magnifying the purpose. I will not lose it, for Yaman's sake.

natalie's challenge

actually it's not a challenge per se. It's the drill for writing practice, drummed into me by natalie goldberg, the quintessential soul writer, the gut believer. I write, almost everyday, but about work and it gets to me - the monotone, the regularity. So i'm going back to the basics. Mixing compost writing with lightning writing. Whatever. I'm writing here for the next 365 days, as in every day. So trust me, let me be, endure. If i should miss, the penalty is pesos 500 per day and you readers get to demand it from me. I'm pledging it now, to any charity or cause you support. 1st come, 1st served. No other conditions. I would have commanded slow death because for natalie, a day without writing deserves a shot in the foot. 1 toe a day. I can't lose my feet. I dream of walking Yaman to her first schoolday one day. So, let's bring it on. Trust me, let me be, endure.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shadow Man

i was 17 when i wrote about Shadow Man. my Shadow Man. my ideal man, who I believed then and now, still, live in the shadows of my dreams. i envy women who love and are loved by strong men; who have found their true partners in their best friends and are assured with a lifetime of laughter. it is my theory that as women begin exerting themselves, so will a filtering process occur among men - a process that filters out the contained against the boisterous; the firm against the insecure; the broad against the narrow; the shining against the crude; the true against the fakes. the barometer of a strong man is a strong woman.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Consciousness of Forgiving

It is in my nature to glorify and easily trust people. Perhaps because for someone born under the Year of the Pig (pardon the obvious), I naturally like people and expect only the good in them. I used to find it very hard to deal with people whose 'bad' and 'imperfect' sides I know. Either, I love them to death or I hate them to the bone. Surmounting this though is a lesson still being learned and along the way, my own hand has dealt my head the knocks it deserved.

There is no equality in the world. A bush is born a bush and one went on to become President of the Unites States and reduced it to being the most hated and newest member of the 3rd world in a matter of 6 years. A bamboo is born a bamboo yet its sturdiness rests in not breaking backward, although it bows forward. My point is, however I am now, I get this because it just is. Although I invested much professionalism, punctuality, dedication and honest-to-goodness honesty in work, for example, it is still possible that all my work will be set aside, belittled, and even held useless --- reduced to nothingness. It is possible and so cannot be prevented from happening. Despite all my best intentions. Despite that noble line from Little Ms. Philippines contestants: 'Gusto ko pong maging doktor...para makatulong po... sa mahihirap'. We also get things that we do not deserve and to face that squarely is to say: BRING IT ON. IT JUST IS.

Which brings us back to the subject of people. No one in our social circle are ever the same and none would treat us as equally or as expectedly. Our families, bestfriends, mentors, holy neighbors are bound to fail us, one way or another. The obvious excuse is that we are just human. But taking aside that humanity; in our experience with people, we are brought to bear on the realities of the world; the realities of our existence as earth-bound souls contending with forces beyond our control, and foresight. I think this is the reason why forgiveness is considered a divine act. Perhaps because forgiveness dictates that despite WHAT IS, we should shine through with WHO WE REALLY ARE and WHO WE ARE NOT.

Forgiveness demands more from us than what we are inclined to be. In Soc Sci 1, we are taught that the basic instincts of 'man' are sex and aggression. If these are what we are inclined to be, then civilization might not have prospered and an 'eye for an eye' should have been the Golden Rule. Forgiveness over the ages might have had a hand in our progress. Just as unforgiveness may be instrumental too for the parallel physical, spiritual and moral decay amid us now.

I like movies and this time, I'm watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in HBO. Dumbledore harks back to Harry while being possessed by Voldemort "it is not who you are, but who you are not". I think it's both. Being who you are also shows who you are not. One can choose to get as low. To join 'em and lick 'em. We are being tested all the time. So we choose. We decide always what to do in the face of options to hate, to cheat, to commit perjury, to kill, to un-forgive.

So I might have gotten what I do not deserve, at all. But I leave it to the God that lives in nature and in all things to cradle me at this time. I leave it to the wind to blow my doubts. I leave it to the sun to shine on me with inspiration. I leave it to waters for my passion to gush through to new, powerful and inventive work. I leave to the earth all the dregs of memories and all those pitiful souls who have never known fitful sleep for years of faking.

Whilst I accept. I forgive. I ask to be forgiven. I love. It just is.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Que Sera Sera

If I am not doing what I do, what will I be doing? Here are the top 10 jobs I'd rather have outside of consulting and the academe:
1. Accidental tourist. Will go incognito to 1-5 star hotels and find the best and nastiest to share to readers ala-Michelin guide style.
2. Chambermaid. To clean, tidy up, vacuum, and put those cute perfume and shampoo canisters along the bathroom mirror.
3. Proofreader. Just can't stand wrong spelligns.
4. Shoe designer. Will develop my own line - YAPAK.
5. Voice talent. Hah!
6. Theatre actress. My childhood dream actually. Any declamation/ elocution talent would. If only Dad trusted me enough to attend drama class after 6pm
7. Radio jock. Jazz, rock and social commentaries rolled into one. I'll go by the name of Alexandra.
8. Human rights documenter. Never mind, in tear-drenched pages, I will listen, and write.
9. Ads specialist. Started this with R&R Designs-USA.
10. Convent nun, as in contemplative. This is a job and vocation right? As early as 7 years old, being a nun was top priority. Not sure now though not only because of Yaman. I hope I won't get this desperate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Light

Lately, I have been praying a lot. Like for a lot of opportunities to remain patient amidst breaking deadlines, to remain cool amidst the wail of children and traffic, and to embrace serenity amidst the world, which as it is unfolding now (with the Wall Street collapse) could be anything but serene.


Palawan held me close to the sea. Walking along the 1-km kilometer coastline of Sabang, I got to realizing that Time is indeed the Sea. The Sea is Time. Footprints I make out in the sand could be readily washed away by the waves --- and the same goes for deeds, words, and memories. I take these footprints out first with earnest pride until like the Major Arcana, I reach the impasse and spiritual regrowth of the Hermit and balancing forces of Justice. Time will take away the hurts not literally but it will be less painful, more bearable until such that healing comes with the lightness of spirit, of being. And the element that is God is there. Pride that I am making my own footprints yet it is humility and divinity restored in realizing that we are just representations, manifestations of a force higher than our physical selves. Our bodies are just vessels, alive within us is the divinity of spirit. And that, is God.

So no more counting scars. I keep on veering away from the light only to realize that there is none to go but the Light. That is why I call myself 'Lightworker'. To constantly work towards the Light, inspite of, kahit na.

I cannot escape from my humanity I know. It is just how we are made; the chinks in the stone that make us interesting, unique, even frightful, and very very human. Anger has a purpose too; otherwise, it would have been lost as an emotion. It would not have persisted over Time. Perhaps the challenge is to manage anger. To rule it, subdue it, channel it. Another way of working towards the Light, of embracing our God-ness.

Light Blessings to All of You!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old Man and the Sea


Sept 26 at Sabang Beach in Palawan. Writing in front of angry, torrid waves. The sky is clearer than the earlier gray cast but no less has the sea tempered. It is as restless as before. There is no sunset where I am so this must be the south, the South China Sea. I miss Julius just by the sight of the waters. It is as turbulent and uneasy as he. But I still miss him. He who loves the waters so much he would alight from a boat in the middle of the sea to go down its soft green bottom. He could never be calm. Just like the waves, he would beat down on anyone's patience, anyone's footing. So I am here by the sea. The endless, unbecoming sea. And I touch, and smell, and breathe the Old Man of memory.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tatiana, Bugoy and the Mask of Colegio

Just a week ago, I got word from my Mom that the star dreamer, Bugoy, created such a stir in Colegio (now Unibersidad de Santa Isabel) upon his visit that Ira, my niece in Grade 3 went home hoarse from cheering. It was said that Colegio will give all-out support to Bugoy in his bid for Grand Star Dreamer of ABS-CBN that even a streamer is strewn outside the school to remind people of it. Rewind though as only 2 weeks ago, I got word, also from my Mom, that Tatiana, the classmate of Ira just brought home a bronze medal from a Math Olympiad in China. I wonder if she received the same adulation and applause given to Bugoy. What I remember is that the trip was taken by just Tatiana and her Mom, expenses all shouldered by the family and with a meager PhP3500 pocket money from the administration of Colegio. The school did not even send a delegate to accompany mother and daughter. Colegio runs agog over a singing sensation and nonchalant over a prodigious young talent?

What is my point? My point is that there is too much hypocrisy hiding behind the façade of tradition and discipline. I admire Bugoy for his unyielding spirit but the experience of Tatiana just smacks of hypocrisy and the capacity of the narrow-minded to sublimate excellence to pomp. Is it because Bugoy comes cheap through a text vote? And Tatiana would incur the expense of more than a round-trip ticket? What kind of Colegio now stands along Elias Angeles?

(Note: I was supposed to write a piece on my 'memoirs' of Colegio. A letter from USI's Promotions and Publicity invited me (and a lot others) to contribute 'fond and colorful memories' of the school. Started out with 2 paragraphs on the Paranymphus and my teachers but none really 'took off'. Except for this. So much for 'fond and colorful memories'.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bako-Bakong Daan

Hindi lang road less travelled
O kaya'y crossroads
Bawat isa sa atin ang tahak
Ay bako bakong daan
Kabiguan, being second best
Not even, baka pa talunan
Nagtatiyaga sa kung anung meron
Kung anu na lang
Umuuwi sa di dapat
Gumigising na walang mukha ang katabi
Hindi na makapagtanong
Sumusunod ng walang laban
Di na kilala ang nasa salamin
Pangalan limot na
Nawala na ang pangarap
Nalunod pa sa kabuktutan
Sa katapusan ng buhay
Makukuha pa kayang
Mangiti at magpasalamat?
O magkikibit balikat sa harap
Ng alaalang dumudungaw
Ng pusong ulilang nananaghoy
Ng katawang tumiklop na
Sa banta ng panahon

Note: I'm dedicating this to my Mom - the ever sad and ever pessimistic Mom - I got my boring side from her. But then she is just being Mom, and I still love her. Really really love her.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

ETHICS 101

What is Ethics 101, in consulting? These are unwritten rules and norms, not taught in the academe or in training halls. But rather one gathered from socialization in the world of consulting.

Mind you, I am proud of what I do in business development. The writing and design of projects, really gets me going, a feeling I described to Mading Joey like ‘electricity pulsing through my fingertips'. In writing I live out my ideals. I am given free rein to design a 'perfect' glitch-free project. In that moment, I am Queen of my domain. It is a world cut off from harsh realities 'outside' of the business, the wheeling and dealing, the backhand deals, the favors that one has to grant, the occasional 'lutong-makaw' bids and the ever present brokers and commissioners from within us and those in the halls of the powers-that-be. With such outside forces, the industry poses the threat of corrupting not only young minds but even the oldest and most idealistic women and men holding their stake in consulting.

It is an industry where social cues guide the norm, a golden yet invisible thread that guard relationships and friendships forged in fragile bonds called trust, integrity, word of honor. These constitute the bedrock of Ethics 101. It does not need telling what ethics these constitute, they just are. It is until these norms are broken or eroded do we take notice.

Like for instance in simple associations to do a project. A and B form an association; first initiated by a call then meetings take place until an agreement is set. It is taboo for any of the firm to say offhand, ‘We’re partners here but no touching of billing rates, ok?’ When any company rep says that, he/she deserves a slap in the face! That statement is bristling and goes beyond the line. A social norm is broken. Because essentially in consulting, billing rates are a ‘no-touch zone' by any firm other than the one holding the experts. Any issue against the billing rates of a partner is taken out in the open. Either you change your experts, find relatively less expensive ones or re-negotiate the rates. That’s how it goes.

There is no manual, no written directive on this, that this is how it is done. It is well understood by the parties from the social cues; that one should show respect and not break the trust of the partner. So to change the billing rates of your partner behind her/ his back is tantamount to treachery, betrayal, breach of trust ---- name it, it cannot but go with something ‘evil’. It says a lot too about the company culture, the leadership, the management style, the people representing it, young and old alike. If this partner can play dirty as early as business development then what more when the project is won and ongoing? How dirty can they get? And that act of one company says a lot about the industry it revolves in. How dirty has the industry gotten?

Once upon a time, there was a consulting industry that was very clean. As in, competitively clean. Then suddenly, one firm dared to bribe the awards committee of a certain agency. Subok lang, try lang, if one can get away. And they did, they won the project! Pwede, it can be done on the sly, with this strategy. Then another firm takes note and looks the other way and does it also. Until majority of firms in the industry got ‘infected’ with the bribe virus to the point that bribing became normalized, became very very ordinary; became part of the game. This is the slippery slope. Go down and you go downhill.

So the example above of billing rates is a bad precedent. Especially for an industry where quality-cost based selection is applied. Among firms that compete, the one with the lowest financial bid gets the full financial score. That is say 20 points for an 80-20 split between technical and financial bids. Or 30 points for a 70-30 division. There may come a time when associating firms would submit bogus financial bids. Bogus, such as with very low billing rates just to get the project and to adjust these later on when the project is won. It’s like a ‘submit now and adjust later’ strategy. It is a downhill slide for that industry.

Ay, I really sound like moralizing. But say whatever you like, this is naman a personal blog, my space, so I can write whatever I want. Moralize na nga.

So Ethics 101 is fragile. And now it is being eroded. On a macro scale, it is like our mother Philippines where Ethics 101 in the government is all but a sigh. To me, our industry is just a microcosm of what is happening on a grander scale. Infection to the core.

So what does this tell us, my sisters and brothers in consulting? Do we need regulation? Can we self-regulate? Are we beyond saving?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lessons from on Top a Roof


I have been asked how my outlook in life has changed since the Iloilo disaster. This close call does not go unheeded and so I’m sharing with you some snip-bits of practical realizations looking over a submerged basketball court last June 21 in Jaro, Iloilo.

1. Invest in insurance. But of course with the general rule of buying these from reputable agencies like PruLife, Philam, Prudential and many others surviving well our economic storm. I have about three (3) from PruLife and am planning of getting another one from Philam within the year. I am not into clothes, am really a lousy dresser. And I’ve controlled the impulse of buying shoes for the knack of it. But insurance, hmmmmm, keeps me satisfied and secured. You could choose to shell out quarterly premiums where you have at least 3 months to save. Or take a monthly one that is at the same time an investment. I have 2 from PruLife, for Yaman’s education and my retirement. This may sound morbid, but pray, that your body gets found should you succumb to a disaster. There should be a body of evidence that you’re dead for insurance to take effect and your beneficiaries to benefit from your death. Period of contestability: 5 years.

2. Build flood-proof homes. Buy a house in high-elevation areas, or if not, save enough to build a second floor. Make sure that you have ladders outside, or ladder-type metal structures along the sides. If you can’t find or save for one, always have a back-up plan and money to pay for it. Here at Desamparados, one Kagawad readily booked his family a room at Amigo Hotel; while one moved to close relatives at the City Proper.

3. Before a storm, stack up on supplies and money. Hunger doesn’t come in until later so keep jugs of water, candles, flashlights and fresh batteries; including milk for the baby. Canned goods would generally do because they don’t need cooking or reheating (except if it’s corned beef). And blankets, have lots of fresh blankets. When you do donate, try giving out blankets, rather than sardines, for a change. Up in the roof, I dreaded the cold more than the hunger. And money, money, money. The electricity will go off and so will the ATMs. Withdraw an amount good for 5 days at the least. And keep loose dollars in your wallet. There is always a money changer around.

4. Keep your documents on top. Some people I know lost their most important documents --- birth certificates, school records, diplomas, not to mention books, and other files kept under beds or in bottom drawers. Stack them up the second floor or on top of the cabinets in your first floor.

5. Take pictures. Not only to document experience but also to keep a record for use in making claims – for insurance or medical reimbursement. This is one good reason why everyone should upgrade and have a cellphone with camera. With my cellphone, I was able to portray first-hand experience. That night, bestfriend Cora just texted me, asking how was I. I answered back, ‘here, on top of a roof’. And she wouldn’t have believed me if after the text, I haven’t sent a picture of me drenched and quite helpless; and truly, on top of a roof! Meanwhile, the picture of my right arm is now part of documents of accident claims for Prulife.

6. Invest on a handy leather bag with lining. I highly recommend Manel’s. The bag strung over my neck was a Manel’s bag, which I bought in February of 2007. Its only defect is the thin screw holding the metal buckles at the side. In both sides of my bag, these screws snapped so I had to tie buckle to buckle. Anyway, during the storm, in it was my passport, brown wallet with credit, ATM, ID cards, and cellphone. It got submerged when I got close to drowning around the curve at Desamparados. But when I opened it on top the roof, all my things were intact and dry. And my cellphone was the only working, sending texts and taking pictures. I owe it to this sturdy bag.


7. Take heart. Again, bestfriend Cora, upon listening to my account, blurted out that she wouldn’t be able to handle it as well. She with the faint heart. But no. When one comes face to face with a threat, natural or human-made, the will to survive will naturally rear its head out. It will just come. Some call it adrenaline, some presence of mind, others instinct. But I tell you, it’s all heart. You can climb up that roof, hold on to that railing, stretch yourself out. You can do it, don’t lose sight of that.

8. Heroes come from all walks of life. Need I say more about Reynald Ibuna? God bless him for the rest of his life. But I include here too the Kagawad of Desamparados, the one who billeted his family in Amigo Hotel. At around 10pm, with the help of some men, went roof to roof delivering Dunkin Donuts, mamon, and monay to the stranded. The men of Desamparados who helped a drowning man to safety, those who helped take out GI sheets to free people trapped down below. Mercury Drug in Jaro who provided credit to all needy people lining up the counters. To Dra. Optician who fed ‘refugees’ in and outside of Doña Maria Bldg, with hot arroz caldo the morning of Sunday. To the mighty police force of Iloilo --- these muscled men in tight shorts, to the momentary joy of Sheryl. And all those volunteers from the Red Cross, the PDCC, and all those ordinary women and men for whom the lives of strangers, mattered.

9. Yet superheroes don’t exist. When I was up there, how I wished, Superman was real, and so is Batman, Spiderman, even Lastikman and Captain Barbell. Just so for someone to save me, save us, save Grandma from the floods! But on second thought, and with a secret laugh, I chided myself – what was I thinking??? The extraordinary could be done by who else but us. It is left to us ordinary mortals and we are not as helpless as we think we are. It’s an emboldening thought. We can do so much…despite this government…in the face of climate change…we have our mighty selves!

10. ‘Trust your head’ – a slogan in Murdoch University reminding women to take charge of their safety by listening to that little voice in the head when it warns of danger. Coming after this, actually, is a nagging feeling. I say, trust it, because one way or another, it’s true, it’s dependable. With floodwaters raging outside the barangay hall, I just couldn’t shake off that voice telling me that staying inside spells doom. If I hadn’t believed, then I could just have been a statistic. Well, at least there’s a body… and my family could claim the insurance…so you wouldn’t really lose in insurance....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Iloilo in Me

june 21 2008, floodwaters were raging in jaro, iloilo and i was there. just at 215pm, after shopping for food, an extra panty pack, and getting a haircut, i found myself with two of my officemates, sheryl and tess in the middle of a street in jaro wading over knee-deep floodwaters. the taxi we were riding could not go on any farther than jaro bridge so we decided to walk. we were walking arm in arm, laughing and crying out 'picture! picture!' oblivous of the danger. then danger came.

as we were rounding the bend to desamparados, en route to tess' apartment, the current swerved and submerged us with its might. sheryl let go on my left while i still held on tightly to tess at my right. i felt like drowning if not for tess and in 2 seconds, the brown havaianas i was wearing was gone. my handbag which now became a neckbag (strung snuggly over my neck) was wet and dripping but it held on strong. sheryl i think was able to hold on to a post and led me and tess to safety at the side of the barangay hall. when we entered the bridge, the floodwaters were just above the knee; now it was near my waist. a man in red shirt led us inside the barangay hall, saying that we are safe inside while tables, filing cabinets, and a tv set were floating precariously. tess climbed a table near the door while sheryl and i shared one next to the window on its left. while we kept on calling out to the man to please ask for some rope (his friends were on the other side of the street, beside the market stalls), the man was egging us to leave his things to him so he can keep it up the kisame of the bgy hall. on my left, sheryl was able to contact one of our engineers, calling for help while crying. i told her not to cry; it was the only thing i can do in a situation nearing hopelessness and helplessness. and still the man in red was calling out to get our things. perhaps in what i have shared before here as the wisdom of split-second decisions, sheryl and i decided to leave our spot, brave the murky and dangerous floodwaters to go outside. it was hopeless to stay inside, we have nothing but the ceiling. outside we could go up the roof and stay afloat. although getting there was one thing.


(The submerged main street in Jaro. Within minutes, the waters rose knee-deep to lampas tao. At this time, DPWH and city dump trucks could no longer enter because of the current.)

sheryl was the one to go out first. when it was my turn, i didn't see her outside so i panicked and shouted her name 'sheryl! sheryl! where the hell are you?". i thought she has been carried by the raging floodwaters! we had to go left and negotiate another left to reach the roof. while doing so, we were holding on to the window grills (thank God it had window grills!) because the floodwaters were now chest-deep in a matter of 10 minutes. when i turned the second left, that's when i saw sheryl up the roof beside a bearded man wearing a long pink shirt, with sleeves torn. he turned out to be our savior.

i am fat at 150 lbs and it was no better time for me to regret it. to be this fat, really. so there i was hanging by the windowsill and i could not reach up. the gutter was made of corrugated iron with the ends showing and i don't want to cut my hands! i write with my hands! i could not stand over the top side of the grills, my 'bilbil' was in the way. up the roof, the man was calling out in ilonggo perhaps to say that i heave my body upwards which i just could not do. but i tried. so one heave up and splash! my feet slipped and i fell down the floodwaters. good that i was holding on to the grills still and it did not give way because of my weight! so another try; i climbed up the grills again. i wanted to cry. cry out of frustration! because i could not heave my body up! until i just saw the man in pink down in the current, he was perhaps planning to just push my body up anyway. i didn't care. until over the raging rains, i called out to him' manong, is it ok if i step on your shoulder?'. he nodded and that's just what i needed! so with the indiana jones soundtrack running in my head, i heaved my 150-lb body up flat on the roof. i had to squirm to get past the overhang; otherwise, tess could not go up. so i was able to get up there in the roof. drenched, covered with green grime and mud yet i was laughing. that's the only way i could react. i could not cry.

when tess finally got up, the man in pink led us to the adjoining roof of a house because up there in the bgy hall's , we were exposed to the elements. when i sat down the rickety roof (the GI sheet was very thin stepping on it gave off crunchy noises), i saw that my right arm was swelling to a light green. no cuts so far.


(Sheryl beside the Man of the Hour, Mr. Reynald Ibuna)


(Tess here didn't want her picture taken nor of any of us. Later she said it was great for 'proof' of what happened.)

funny that circumstances had a way of unraveling. while the man in pink arrived timely to help us, we also arrived at the proper time for the family inside that house. their first floor has been submerged. inside was a 95-year old bedridden woman being cared for by her 20ish-something apo and her tita. while i passed by their window, the tita was crying because they didn't how to escape should floodwaters reach them. so with our help, the lola was carried to the roof, in her mattress and covered with blankets after sheryl and the man in pink ripped apart the wooden windowsill. it was 8 of us on top of the roof; the man in pink, tess, sheryl and myself with the lola, the tita, granddaughter and a dog named cutie. we were to stay on that roof from 3pm to 1am in the morning of 22 june when police on an amphibian lifeboat rescued us.


(In front of me is this sight. A basketball court in water. Just on the farther right is Tess' apartment. About 5 vehicles, including a white CRV have been totally submerged.)

how did i feel when i was up there? did i want to cry? was i angry because help did not arrive so soon. yes, i was angry, at first. when we were down the barangay hall, i was already texting mr. ito, our japanese pm of our situation but his reply arrived at only 6pm. i kept on calling al fruto, a dpwh official but he can't give any assurances. so at first i was disappointed because sir henry and mr ito were not able to do anything; but later on, i came to understand it. no help could come at such time. the floodwaters were raging; lampas-tao that the dump trucks could not enter. iloilo city is not prepared for disasters as it has never encountered one. the province had only 1 lifeboat. what more could i expect even if i was calling on al-dpwh to send over a helicopter save us? it was a flashflood so the barangays were not ready. there was not even an organized presence of the barangay as a source of help at that time. none was prepared for the situation.


(Bestfriend GG notes my pensive look on top of the roof. That's life.)


(Taken later in the office. This is how my arm looked like come Sunday, June 22. Now Friday, it's purplish-green on the sides. Red spots are now healing to a light yellow).

on top of the roof, i was calm and strangely i know i'm prepared to die. perhaps because i could understand the inevitability of death since losing my 44-year old father to heart attack in 1994. perhaps because i understand that in the bible, the thief in the night is no one but death itself. perhaps because i invested much on insurance, and just 2 weeks ago, on a philamlife accident insurance from my brother. perhaps because i pray enough so submission to God's will is easy. perhaps because i'm the type of person who has done everything i want to do (almost) and regrets little. i know i have a daughter of 2 years and 7 months, but i also know i have a caring mother, sister, brother --- a whole brood who knows deep within the meaning of family. i was just ready.


(Tales of heroism abound in Iloilo. This is a snapshot of a band of men rescuing the man in knapsack from the waters below. He just came out of nowhere. He was pulled to safety by means of a rope. What do you think is that man on the water doing? Pulling on his shorts? No, he's balancing on a red grilled gate, with only the top showing.)

the man in pink is reynald ibuna. he is a simple man who cannot speak tagalog but understands it with his heart. he may be a bum, a jobless man, a wife-beater, but in that instant he was our angel; the one who saved us from certain death. i could not imagine how i could go up that roof if not for him. he was calm, just sat there with us. by 6pm he went up the roof and suddenly was gone. he recounted to us that he just returned to recover some of his sister's things when he chanced upon us at the barangay hall. before then, he had helped his sister to safety at jaro bridge. with whatever he may be, i learned that one just cannot judge people. he may be a thousand of negative things, but for us he mattered, really mattered like life itself. right there i learned a lesson in forgiveness. everyone deserves to be forgiven because all of us, even in one single second, we all have done something good, something heroic; something that may have mattered to just one person, and that act deserves all the kindness, all the forgiveness in the world. i hope he survived the flood. i hope to see him again and just thank him.


(Taken on board a car en route to the airport on Monday, June 23. This is the Barangay Hall. The grills on the far right I hang to for dear life, to get to the roofside on the right).

while some may be were ruing the day they stepped in iloilo, i could only stare and look out at the floodwaters in front of me. i want to work full-time in the iloilo flood control project. i will go back to iloilo. there is so much to do.

it's time to learn ilonggo.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

YAMAN


the relaxed, unfazed, tender look of an innocent. you can never miss those big round eyes. thanks anak for coming into my life. muntik na, i would have lost you to fear and cowardice. muntik na, i would have been coming home to nothing but work and more work. salamat for bringing me to parenthood, to making me a mom most of all which i did not even imagine or daydream to be. to just go home to a 1-sofa flat and sleep was just the vision i had for myself. deadlines were the highlights of my weeks. a gray world easy to maintain.
i read in the bible once that children are not ours to keep but rather, are just passed on to us to prepare for their own becoming. i think that's just half of it. children prepare us too. to become full persons through the paradox of losing ourselves, subjugating what we want to what is necessary, finding release by just depending.
i was a pregnant single and it was not easy, despite how strong i am believed to be. deep inside i wanted to cry out that i needed a man; someone to be man enough to be strong for me, to be the strong one this time. the time i needed him, the twin soul failed the test and instead looked the other way, opted for the easy cowardly way of rejecting his seed. this is the reason why i believe that he will never become a full person, he is stuck to being a 13-year old because he never bore the real sacrifice of self. he deserves pity, not anger.
looking at yaman, everynight in bed, her breathing close, i always thank God for giving me the body, the womb, and the spirit to bring forth such a miracle. at 2 days old, yaman recognized my voice instantly when i called her name at the nursery. her eyes opened as if searching and she held out her left hand. i bore witness to hope.
in the first 12 months of motherhood, i had trouble weaning off from a single life. in manila, i always found excuse in work, to stay out late and be home when yaman is asleep. i could never go to church just with her, there has to be an assistant, usually my mom. to put her to sleep, it would still be mom.
until i cured like with like. deliberately, i left yaman with my mom in naga after her 1st birthday to experience and recover again that sweet sweet life of being single. in those 2 weeks, i moped instead. in a house filled with winnie the pooh, smelling of vinagre aromatico, and brightened by the tender touch of baby pink, yellow, and blue colors. whatever i do, escape is not the way. i am a mother now, with and outside of yaman's presence. i bore witness to faith.
so yaman now is 2 years, 7 months, and 7 days old. she is my 'abalantung-bantung' and we share a unique exchange of 'agatash-tush' and 'babamsh'. i have barely done anything close to what my mom has accomplished for us her children, and even, to her grandchildren. but i am part of that long line and everyday, i bear witness to not only hope and faith, but also to joy, completeness, love; and to 'highs' i have trouble describing in words (an irony for one who makes a living out of writing).
but really anak, my abalantung, gratis for this renewal, and thank you for this love. now, we may be separate by 377km and in the future, my dreams may separate us physically. But we are in each other, and love will always, always be there.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

taxi tales 2


this is how bad traffic gets in manila --- one can afford to write while sandwiched by a provincial bus on the right and hems of taxis on the left. i am at EDSA Main and heading for a 930 meeting with the boss and 2 of my favorite consultants, really. before this, i changed blouses twice, said out loud that i don't want yumi or jungee to die prematurely; and had 3 meals at breakfast: cold champorado, pandesal dunked in white coffee; and corned beef with rice. when i got back at the house to change, yaman had awakened but still not at her element up to the tricycle stop.
the poorer my handwriting gets, the longer the lines stretch out of control, the better the riding is. we're moving better. while going past are 9 cars of the MRT, hauling people like sardines; the cubao station a melting pot of sweat and short tempers.
so the reality of manila traffic is this --- stopping and giving way are essential elements to survive. every taxi driver and taxi rider knows that. rushing and inching one's way in are tools one gets by through age. one gets grey hairs just beating traffic. standing still and letting others pass you by are the root of learning. that one is just a speck in that thread of traffic, one cannot brag but just accept and be humble about one's insignificance.
the aircon is wearing thin. this taxi has gone through lighter summers before climate change became a household word. it has earned its keep, my respect just by running. two kilometers more and i'll be at Prestige. a little perspiration here, more creases there but still intact. thankful to have survived the test of mondays and life's lessons at EDSA.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Living in Guijo


i live in a tree-lined street named Guijo. it is in project 3, just at the back of the lrt station (purple line) where all the streets are named after big sturdy trees. Almaciga, Aguho, Molave, Tindalo. i didn't know till then that Tindalo was a tree. i've lived in this same 2-storey apartment for nearly 4 years now; its walls and floors and the air surrounding it, breathing in my expectations, liberations, sorrows, and anticipations since i moved in to start anew with a live-in partner in 2004.
here i moved into two jobs from QC to ortigas, conceived and had a baby at 34, worked on several sidelines for doc san pedro and woodfields in the living/bed rooms and kitchen, where i borrowed and uprooted my mom from naga, where i was cared for by a manang, and where i went from maxed-out credit card user to a conscious 37-year old late-bloomer money-wise.
it is a house that has seen too much pain from the cold and open hatred, the altercations, and later, the fistfights of warring twin souls. its rooms are heavy by both the stench of separation, and the sweat and tension of intense love-making. this house has stood by me, when pregnant and alone, i would mope in its corners and just inhabit the darkness with my gloom and frustration.
outside are two kamias trees. mine sits at the eastern side of our blue gate while the other flanks the western side of my landlady's red gate. it is a filipino belief that the kamias tree, sowing forth fresh green fruit sour to the taste, spells sorrow; thus, perhaps, my poor non-existent love life in this house. i attribute it more though to a distorted SW section which rules love and marital harmony. the kamias tree i love so much especially when its fruits, as fat and stubby as my fingers, circle the bark - bountiful, lush and looking like tassels bunched together.
through its highs and lows, it would be a heartache to leave this house. even though i have been amiss lately. the linoleum needs changing, the floor now scarred than ever, the gray cement peeking through ugly strips borne by the traffic of too many feet. because this is a house meant for visitors and dwellers alike. in moving in, i hanged a cross-stitch frame on the north wall that says, 'there is always room for one more'; with no inkling that this house would be melting pot of ilocanos, bicolanos, warays, and tagalogs; and even of balikbayans from the US and new zealand. it is where two families lived together after one of the worst typhoons manila has had in 2004. also the table needs changing; from one that used to fit the usual 3 to one that could accommodate a minimum of 6.
so this house is the home of my tomorrows as it is the testament to a dramatic past and well-deserved todays. if only i could buy this house. if only i could convert the laundry area out front into a porch and extend the back into a yard for washing and hanging clothes, for Yaman to run around. but change physically it cannot. the apartment is just a section of an ancestral house; built over and re-designed to fit the whims of my landlady and her sibs.
one day i would leave to head for my dream house; would cross the blue gate never to return. on that day, i would kiss the walls and floors of this house to just pay homage and say thanks, thanks for a life unexpected but well spent. perhaps the house would miss me too. its ceilings would yearn for my weight; its floors and walls to grieve over the loss of my laughter, my voice, my life-ness.
i lived here too. cherished every sordid and joyous moment in this house along a tree-lined street named Guijo.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the ummphhh of split seconds


i just could not find the word for it. perhaps in writing about it, i would. indeed, split seconds separate our life courses, one uphill and the other down, knowing in the back of our minds that perhaps, if i do a little of this, mustered up the courage to talk to someone about this, bent over backward a little, adjusted just a line, removed a period or a comma; that infinitesmal speck, that flash of action will send us to deliverance, redemption, a lifetime break or to hell. one split second was when i erased monash in exchange for murdoch; when over at max's, i just blurted out at doc that i'd be willing to work for woodfields. like annabel printing the wrong file when she should have asked and now has lost a valuable reputation in efficiency. ever wonder, how just a flash of light, a flash of clear reasoning could spell the difference! amazing! chaos theory in perfection!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

what else to write about?

1. YAMAN and life
2. the parents
3. what keeps me on edge
4. why stay single
5. bestfriendship
6. what it is being the older sister
7. forensic mind
8. the tragedy of soulmates
9. why ricefields are the #1 sight in the world
10. working in the 23rd floor
11. corruption and a community of practice in consulting
12. my hand bag
13. adventures with polgas and pugad baboy
14. the idol: pepe smith
15. true hands
16. ............................................................................

Monday, March 31, 2008

Coming to Terms

when the new year stepped in, i was amazed in realizing that for the nth time, or roughly for the past 21 years, i have been writing down 'get slim' as my #1 resolution. funny, i got stuck in this mill, getting nowhere but sad as i let pass chocolate-laden desserts, crispy chicken skin, luscious layers of fat in pork liempo or just the heartiness one gets from a sumptous meal. so after examining my legs, my round torso, and the logs which are my arms, i decided to let go. let go of too much violence on the psyche. let go of the frustrations of not eating, scrimping, dieting and all those depravations from the life of food. i decided to write on this just this afternoon after tasting to the last morsel, richmonde hotel's chocolate cake topped by chocolate icing decked by chocolate chips. i declared to my boss 'how sinful but how delicious!...' there i stopped and sensed my natural love for food and my decision last jan 1 to end my war against it. i know that my exercise - the weekly gym and yoga - is getting me nowhere to slimming because i still eat, i mean eat normal to the normal that i know. gym and yoga is giving me benefits in other areas like stamina, flexibility and a long lay-off from asthma. who would believe that with my frame, i could stretch out my legs to my head while lying on the floor? or that i walk fast and fit for 2 hours? and i get asthma only when i don't exercise? but amidst this, i eat like a queen during breakfast and lunch, and until 5pm, i munch on finger foods. i've stricken out 'diet' from my memory only because years of doing so have slowed down my metabolism; a physical anomaly that i am dealing still up to now and hope to repair with normal eating and regular exercising. so i have come to terms with myself. to accepting that the miracle of jackie lou blanco is one that fitted her lifestyle and her eating and exercising choices. this is my choice and i am comfortable with it. and i look forward to the next buffet lunch and the HEAT in edsa-shangrila. salmon sashimi, japanese salad, lengua, roast beef, peking duck, pistachio ice cream, asparagus shoots, and sugpo ---here i come!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pregnance



the moon and the sun. poppy leaves. gold flowers. the chalice and the blade. my strengths. there are no more specifics to these. random. catherine is sexy. grissom is hot. thinking sheep. there is no end to promise and change. woman is season. life death life. death life death. i am in autumn, in spring Yaman will come. omega beta alpha. rearing of the soul. seeing. blessed light. i come home for dinner. the happiness of solitude. the glory of surrender. all things must be. no questions. the life of me. what my daughter inherits is the fearlessness to make decisions and to think fairly. to talk and live one's principles. not just be confined to talk and in reality be hollow. who's to say i did not try. we howl at impertinence. we become alive. clarity of thought. becoming me. i am not that girl anymore.


16 APRIL 2005 (6 months before giving birth to Yaman)

Friday, March 14, 2008

i read


it was not a hard decision. when shinette garbanzos invited me to be trained on tarot reading - for free; in exchange for giving back just two hours of reading each week, it was evident, even prescient that i should be doing this. i read the tarot, interpret its meaning --- for free. i do not accept payment, even the 'commissions' due me from DA SEEKERS COVE where i read. reading is reward enough. it allows me to give back to the universe something which is priceless, allows me to be a light in whatever way to one who for that moment is searching affirmation, looking for hope to hold on to, even for just a little tinge of happiness, a little relief to make one's heart smile. do i have rules in reading? sure:

1. i get to set the scene, the mood. just silence and none of the interruptions from phone calls or text messages. in naga, i do sessions at home starting 10pm when yaman and my two nephews are already asleep. in manila at THE COVE and inside my office in SDS after 6pm, and only with permission from my boss as i could extend until 9pm, with the lights and air conditioning on! so i cannot imagine reading at the banchetto -- i will invent reasons not to.

2. i only read to the willing. i do not nudge or force or even say 'try-try' lang. the reader should want it, allow the universe to come into the fold and unite with her.

3. please do not touch my cards until i tell you to. i had a querent (the one being read), who because she did not approve of the interpretation, literally gathered three cards in spread, and pointed at those remaining for me to interpret. ugh, i could feel the 'contamination' instantly. the next thursday, i was on board THE COVE 6pm-9pm and had no clients. even the tarot cards were still revolting over the insult.

4. when all else fails, the cards prevail. there is always tension between a reader and a querent; the former for the latter to open up and the latter, for the former, to always give a positive reading, one in her/his favor. so when a querent is mum on the matter and diabolic cards are on the spread, what should one do? one should always trust the cards. surrender to the truth waiting to be told.

tarot reading has not changed my life, like some earth-shaking event. i still go to work everyday and write and design projects and badger consultants with the quality of their output. i just find time every thursday, when at 5pm i close my office door to light incense and meditate before i head off to THE COVE. i just had to endure the quizzical stares and raised eyebrows of friends who perhaps cannot reconcile the overly frank and sharp-tongued vitti with a serene reader concentrating on tarot spread over silk. i look forward to the time when yaman and i are sitting cross-legged on the floor, examining each piece and sharing thoughts on a spread. i would like my daughter to know me as someone who balanced life, poured her heart out to the material as well as the intuitive power of the universe. the tarot is defining me.

finding sadness


stumbled upon it
way back when the storm just cleared
having none to fight about
or just not fighting at all
when all the answers have fallen
notebooks in place, files in perfect nooks
there is nothing
and it's frightening...
how come when one expects elation
a release from the toils of the day
not moving despite the impulse to move
not wanting to break from the peace
of belonging
and sadness smiles
holds out her hand to embrace
one who is not prepared