Thursday, October 30, 2008

just another normal conversation with marteens

[scene: naptime for juancho and martina. juancho was already in bed, trying to sleep. martina and i were debating the value of naps, particularly hers.]

the still-jetlagged aunt: (trying to be observational) marteens, look! juancho is asleep. he's a good boy, right?

marteens, the smartest 2-year-old: no, juancho a boy!

tsja: yes, but he's a GOOD boy.

mts2yo: no, a boy.

tsja: are you a good girl?

mts2yo: no, i'm a boy.

tsja: ok, all the boys should nap now. are you a boy?

mts2yo: no.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

afraid of commitment

i like food. wait for it ... i REALLY like food, particularly dessert. i eat when i'm happy just as much as when i'm premenstrual or sad or stressed or bored or procrastinating work or ... and now i'm just amusing myself.

embarrassingly enough, food is one of the main reasons why i decided on a month-long hiatus in chicago. i look forward to traveling mostly because i want to try out new foods (reeeally don't like the word 'foods'), not so much because of shopping or sightseeing.

(disclaimer: i DIDN'T say i don't shop or ... see things.)

when i first explored my sister's apartment, which would serve as my temporary residence during my american hibernation, i was horrified to discover that her place HAD NO JUNKFOOD.

'how will i survive?' i thought, after first being afraid and petrified (didn't get the reference? tsk tsk tsk. ms gaynor will be quite disappointed). so i proceeded to fill her (mia's, not gloria's) home with soda and candy and chocolate and chips and other little reasons why i cannot be a good role model for healthy eating habits.

a few weeks ago, during a trip to naperville, illinois, i had what i would like to call – for lack of more creative, original, restaurant-critic-type words – a cup of sugar dairy heaven.

the venue, cookie dough creations; the combination of choice, cherry chocolate chip ice cream with a huge glob of chocolate chip cookie dough on top. see pic above. you are allowed to drool.


that was me, fainting at the gustatory memory.

i tell you with all sincerity and emotion, i fell in love after the first bite. i think mia wanted to leave me in naperville because i couldn't stop raving about the ice cream WHILE i was eating it. i suppose one can take only so much of 'this is too good. aylavet!!! aylavet!!!' i couldn't believe how i survived 35 years without knowing the joy of cherrychocochipwithchocochipcookiedough. i heart choco chips. in fact, i heart choco chips on top of choco chips ... inside dough and ice cream, respectively ... you know, the aforementioned recipient of intense love.

i'm obviously not a food writer.

anyway, i was on my way to get a marriage license to show my genuine commitment to cookie dough creations, when i got a bit distracted. one thing led to another and before i knew it, i found myself in milwaukee, 1.5 hours away from my current vacation home, holding a double-scoop cone of leon's chocolate frozen custard and falling in love all over again.


(refer to previous *blag*)

now i know why people stray. around every block is a better, sweeter treat. just yesterday at sister's birthday brunch, i had the simplest but most unforgettable beignet, which is like a glorified funnel cake (main difference being that you don't really need to research the spelling of 'funnel cake'). i'm still reminiscing every powdery bite.

i'm not saying these are the best desserts EVER. i'm an equal-opportunity sweet-tooth. in fact, i'm looking forward to a free buffet dinner when i get back home in a few days. spiral at sofitel has the best hotel chocolate chip cookies.

wise men say only fools rush in.

(lame blog jokes = time to go home.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


two sundays ago, mia and i visited the brookfield zoo "located outside of chicago" (i lifted that from the website and is surprisingly not a reflection of my laziness at researching details). it was a cloudy day but it wasn't bad enough for us to develop a case of frozen joints. it wasn't that cloudy though that i couldn't see there were more food stalls than animals in that giant expanse of land.

without realizing it, we must've clocked in over 4 hours of nonstop walking. you don't feel how tired you are until you sit down briefly on a wooden bench and think it's as comfy as the magic couch back home that lulls you to sleep within the first 15 minutes of sinking into it and makes you wonder why you ever have to leave the house.

back to the potentially enriching story at hand.

there's nothing like an afternoon of communing with nature to make you realize a few things about your own nature and ... you know ... life and stuff:

1. some good ideas are actually not.

we made sure we were early for the 2 pm dolphin show. my sister and i are suckers for dolphin shows. i must've seen about 3 or 4 already and they've never failed to deliver. there's something about smug-looking fish casually jumping out of and skimming across water that makes my inner child happy.

so we got there with some good seats still available. we made our way to what i call the splash zone (or maybe that's what it was really called, i can't remember), which were a few rows close enough to water such that ... okay, if you haven't figured out what 'splash zone' meant by now, you really shouldn't be reading nonsensical blogs.

anyway, yey! splash zone! (got it yet?)

the show started and sure enough, we got splashed by the dolphins. however, i did NOT expect that the splashes would be that huge. we realized too late that walking outdoors on a cold day with wet jeans and wet jackets may not be the smartest thing to do. also, two words: dolphin pee.

2. there is a reason why swamps are outdoors.

there were a number of exhibits at the zoo when we visited. some were housed in a separate enclosed structure that were designed to make you feel like you were actually in the featured ecosystem. (ps, it was nice to dig up a word from my elementary years) (fyi, it was 'ecosystem', not 'featured') (fyi, i like clarifying for my readers).

so let me say this: swamps and rain forests should not be confined inside a building. the moment we opened the door of the swamp exhibit, we were greeted by a cold wind that smelled of damp frog and other swampy scents. notsolittle sister pinched her nose while we semi-ran through the entire display of green water, amphibians, reptiles, insects and wet foliage. incidentally, this reminded me of how older sister and i semi-ran (more like dashed madly) through the hollywood wax museum in 1991. as to why we even bother entering creepy/stinky/swampy exhibits is a mystery. i mean, screaming in horror at the creepy wax interpretation of the last supper or waiting for a snapping turtle to snap hardly qualifies as living on the edge.


one of the special exhibits at the zoo for the month of september was an area where you could get your hands wet and fondle cownose rays, southern stingrays and white-spotted bamboo sharks.


mah sister and i were game (or so we thought). we kneeled beside the shallow tank and ... did nothing. with our hands poised as though we were going to dip them, we just stared at the rays and sharks swimming within arm's reach.

a confession: i never liked stingrays. i don't like animals that look like inanimate objects. to me, rays look like terrifying evil kites that came to life one cursed day. i honestly have nightmares about a whole slew of sea creatures. what possessed me to think i could actually TOUCH them???

after about 20 minutes of just being near the water, the fish whizzing by and lots of brave, excited toddlers who were practically IN the tank, mia came up with a bright suggestion:

mia: we can do this. think of it as touching fish. we're just going to touch fish!

me: ok! good! touching fish! (2 seconds pass) but wait ... i don't like touching fish.

mia: oh. right.

me: why do we have to do this?

mia: hmm.

and so we left the evil kites and the white-spotted bamboo sharks in search of animals that looked like animals.

i realize this anecdote makes us look like a couple of chickens but the zoo needed a poultry exhibit anyway.

4. a baby giraffe makes the heart grow fonder.

i told them to fall in line according to height
this was my favorite part of zoo day – seeing the baby giraffe. and this is my favorite part of writing this entry (aside from pressing 'publish') – discovering that a baby giraffe is a 'giraffe calf' and saying it softly to myself over and over. giraffe calf. giraffe calf. aww.

hmm, i had a point.

oh yes. the ... 6-foot baby animal. when we visited, the baby was just over a month old and, for most of the time we were in the vicinity, was just standing there. just standing and looking at us looking at him. his look said, 'veeeeeeeeeery funny. who was the wise guy who thought it'd be hilarious to put a newborn on stilts?'

so it just stood there, being cute. and we just stood there as well, trying hard not to break down in tears at the cuteness of it all. we failed.

seriously. a baby giraffe. a giraffe calf! life doesn't get much better than seeing one up close.

(anticlimactic portion of blog entry: of course life DID get a teeny bit better after the tiring zoo trip. one word: sushi.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

why, wind, why?

it's been 3 years since my last visit to the united states. it was about the same time of year, when the leaves were beginning to change color and the house facades were sprinkled with fake witches and scoopy goats.

i remember many things about that last trip. i remember that Coke (capitalized for clarity) tasted better, i remember having to consider sales tax when shopping, i remember having to speak with an accent so people didn't have to ask me to repeat myself three times, i remember loving outlets and marshalls and nordstrom rack (sue me), i remember the nonexistence of small food and drink portions.

i do not, however, remember being cold.

i mean, yeah, i recall having to layer clothes and i know it was a lot colder than home ... but i don't really REMEMBER how cold it was. much like how you forget the pain of childbirth (so they say) or the sting of a steroid injection for a nose pimple.

and now i am again familiar with the cold. and how.

every time i step out, i get slapped by the invisible vengeful ice creature from ice hell and i often hear myself shout, "what is THAT??? why???" it replies by giving me another frigid slap. wind is a miserable son of a ... wind-mother.

i guess it's nice to have thin fingers aesthetics-wise but when i walk outdoors, i always wish for an extra layer of fat around them, just so i don't feel like my hands are about to fall off. the other night, i had to carry an iced drink (again, why?) from the store to the car and, as my fingernails started to turn a fashionable shade of blue, i had to ponder my IQ. i didn't get very far pondering because my neurons were in the final stages of cryopreservation.

to think it's only fall. every day i have to hear my sister say, "that's nothing. wait til winter."

thankfully, i will be back home by then, halfway around the world from this windy nightmare. take that, you miserable invisible vengeful ice creature from ice hell.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

anatomy of an older sister

i used to write for an online magazine, LegManila ("a decidedly literary site that remarked on the good and the bad in the city"). due to some business decision, LegManila was shut down about 5 years ago (not sure about this, i tried to block it from my memory) and my humor pieces disappeared into oblivion.


i've resurrected some of my essays here and there*, and today is a good time to bring one out. below is a slightly edited version of one of my favorite essays. i wrote this 8 years ago but it still makes me giggle. (if you can entertain yourself, you're set for life.)

my older sister is married and mom to two extremely pinch-worthy kids, who have starred more than once in my blog. she doesn't make life a living hell for me anymore and, on the contrary, has turned out to be one of my best friends – not to mention best shopping mate, eating mate, spa mate and salon mate. oh and she now lets me eat the full range of colors of m&ms. just fyi.

happy birthday, ate.


Anatomy of an Older Sister

by Orange de Guzman
November 2000

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. – Dennis Wholey

There used to be tan M&Ms.

Do not dare challenge the truth of this statement. There are only a handful of things that I am sure of in this world. The existence of tan M&Ms is way up there on my list, ranked somewhere below the reality of God and a little above the certainty of a hearty laugh while watching an 80s drama flick on the Pinoy Blockbuster channel.

Before I digress, allow me to introduce my villain, the true atribida of my existence. Her name is Ate. (Names in this essay have been changed, albeit quite uncreatively, to protect the unwilling victims of my diatribe. Regardless of my valiant efforts to conceal their identities, I will, most definitely, still be strangled upon publication.)

Being 4 years younger than Ate, I had no choice but to be the submissive sister. Blame it on blind obedience, but I simply never learned to disagree with her. After all, Sesame Street did not ever teach rebellion or vengeance. Sadly, the lowercase ‘n’ standing on a hill (who’s not lonely anymore, mind you) did nothing to affirm my dignity.

Ate loved to manipulate my pliable mind. While watching Discorama, Ate convinced me that Bobby Ledesma, as well as the rest of the cast, was part of a set of triplets. What other explanation could there be for three identical faces appearing on screen? That favorite camera trick was probably the height of technology in the 70s. It also marked the start of my gullible years.

I believed with all my heart that it was very magnanimous of Ate to take charge of dividing M&Ms between us. (I also believed that I would never have to use the word ‘magnanimous,’ so you can pretty much imagine how adulthood has corrupted me.) Every pack was carefully opened and the contents laid out on a table of questionable cleanliness. Somehow, I always ended up with the dark brown and tan M&Ms. While Ate had all the bright colors melting in her hand (yes, they DO melt in your hand), I had to settle for my blah-colored candies.

One time, I mustered up all the courage my feeble spirit could generate and asked her why I had to eat the brown ones. Her answer?

‘But those taste better! The brown ones taste more chocolate-y!’

How could I have doubted my idol? Even after I stole and tasted a bright yellow M&M from her pile, I convinced myself that my pieces DID taste better than hers. She was right all along.

For one with semiformed values, I was forgiving to a fault. I easily overlooked the times when I woke up with large scribbles all over my legs. I learned never to fight with impeccable reasoning (‘But Mama, it’s so nice to write on skin!’). Somehow, I always ended up playing with Bad-Hair-Day Barbie, whose short blond locks adamantly refused to be tamed, while Ate reveled at the way her doll’s shiny hair moved gracefully in the breeze. Thus was the story of my childhood: too Brand X for words.

One glaring proof of how badly she treated me still remains to this day. Back then, she called me Engot – the closest English translation of which would be ‘stupid’ or some other terms I cannot mention right now, on account of my refined nature. I’m still trying to fathom what possessed her to give me such an endearing nickname. Unfortunately for me, the name stayed around for 25 years. My family and dearest friends now call me Eng, a blatant reminder of my singular childhood with Ate. I’m just monumentally grateful that I didn’t get stuck with the less-appealing shortcut Ngot, which sounds downright foul, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t grow up writing dark, angst-y poems about the harsh blows life has dealt me in the form of an evil sister. I don’t even remember hating her. Not even when I realized that the layered look, which she instructed the gay stylist to give me, would not be in style until a good 10 years later. Did I mind that I looked like a hairy lizard in my elementary yearbook picture? Not one bit. Forgive me for the visual torture.

As a matter of fact, we’ve become good friends. A 4-year gap becomes negligible as siblings grow up. A priceless bonus I’ve gotten from all those years of harassment is that I’ve become tougher and less sensitive to teasing. I don’t remember ever being called pikon. I suppose it’s because no one comes close to Ate’s creativity in dishing out pure agony. Either that or I’m just all cried out.

Besides, we’re on the same team now. I’ve become an Ate myself. My younger sister, who arrived 8 years after my birth, thinks I’m the funniest person alive. And why shouldn’t she? I treat her infinitely better than how my Ate treated me. Need proof? Ask my little sister. I call her Gross.

Revenge is sweet. (About as sweet as tan M&Ms – but then again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

*someday, i'm going to resurrect ALL of my old humor essays ... and then some. watch out for that. oooooooooooooo.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

a bigger blog (title)

not that anyone cares, but i've slightly changed my blog. i've had to update my blog's look to incorporate some new features, but i can't really change my main template (whose official name, by the way, is "dots dark") because my first-ever blog entry was about it.


on the upside, my blog name is now a bit bigger. whoopdeedoo.

on the downside, i can now clearly see how i've been so lazy the past two years. i wrote 79 ... note: SEVENTY-NINE ... blog entries in 2004, when i started blogging in june and i was still a full-time employee.

in 2007, when i was already working as a freelance writer, i wrote only ... well just LOOK. the number is on the left side of the screen. it's beside "2007". it's in parentheses. it looks like an "8".

upgrading can be a bitch. a bitch that will slap me silly into writing more often.

i'm from pasig. look it up.

two weeks ago, i was on a plane on my way to chicago for a month-long vacation, trying to contort my body into a shape that could possibly induce sleep, when i heard my seatmate – who was majorly awake – ask, "where are you from?"

hearing the all-too-often-asked question brought me back to 3 months ago, when the same question came from the lips of a middle-aged white man and was directed to me and a girlfriend. we were hanging out in front of our beach hotel, enjoying the sun and a fantastic view of the water, when the guy came up to us for small talk. because i was usually the noisier one, my friend expected me to answer for us. the problem was i didn't.

the main reason was i was trying to figure out if he was the father of a friend we met the day before. thinking about it now, that probably didn't make sense because if he were that guy i suspected he was, he wouldn't have asked the question in the first place. i also had to pause a bit because of a mild case of foreigner anxiety. i'm 35 years old and i suspect every nonfilipino who tries to talk to me wants to kidnap me. i refuse to justify my illogical thoughts.

however, the most embarrassing reason why my vocal functions didn't work at that time is the simplest one:

i do not like saying where i'm from.

it's not because i don't love my country and don't want to declare it. it's just ... ok, say i answer "the philippines", i always get the follow-up, "where in the philippines?" and i have to say "manila" with a heavy heart. everyone knows where manila is, sure, but am i really from manila? i have to restrain myself from overexplaining, "i'm not really from manila MANILA. i'm from pasig. which is in luzon. an island. where manila is. but it's not near manila. at least not by car. and not during weekdays." it's enough to make me want to live in manila, just to avoid the apprehension.

i should probably just say "pasig" and educate the world. but "manila" rolls off the tongue so much easier. and i like having weird dilemmas every now and then.

aaaaand there you have it. two minutes of your life down the drain thanks to reading my useless mental script. how to drive people to boredom/insanity 101.

anyway, after a painfully long 15 seconds of dead air, my friend realized i wasn't planning on speaking and answered, "manila." (yey.)

"oh i know where that is," he replied and scrambled off towards the water, where he would undoubtedly find more amiable creatures. my friend said we should've just said "siquijor" to challenge his knowledge of philippine geography. except i didn't really know where siquijor was either.

back to my long-drawn-out airplane story.

if i were back in med school, sleeping in cramped spaces at odd hours wouldn't have been a problem at all. when i was an intern, all i had to do was lean on a semi-clean wall and i would've dozed off instantly for a precious 30 seconds. ok, that was a lie. i would've slept even if the wall was filthy.

however, med school years are way WAAAAAAAAY behind me (this deserves another 'yey' ... so, um ... yey.) and it's not as easy to doze off. even with an empty seat beside me, it was really hard to pass out. i lost count of the number of times i tossed and turned in my teeny airplane seat, constantly waking up to be greeted by the number of hours we had to go before landing.

(incidentally, those airplane monitors that show time until destination, speed of plane, outside temperature, time at destination, time at place of origin, number of calories in airplane meal, future of my career, meaning of life, etc, ARE HEAVEN-SENT. the fact that i love those is probably connected to habits of wasting massive amounts of time watching candles burn until the wick runs out, checking the clock every other minute and being hypnotized by progress bars.)

without warning, a 30-something korean guy took the empty seat beside me and energetically tried to start a conversation in the dark with sleepy me. why. explain.

"hi there!"

of course he had to spray me with saliva every other word.

"hi." i turned my back on him to strike a stereotypical napping pose – yknow, for him to get the hint that i was trying to sleep. and to protect my facial orifices from his oral fluids.

"where are you from?" (see first paragraph of this blog entry to establish coherence of said entry)

i faced him and after a lightning-fast inner debate, answered "manila." i closed my eyes again and covered more of my body with the airplane blanket. i was not very fond of the instant in-flight saliva shower.

"oh i had a filipino maid for 5 years! she was good!"

i smiled faintly, trying to convey a multitude of thoughts with one tight-lipped expression: acknowledgment of the outstanding qualities of filipinos – maids or otherwise; a silent apology for not having the strength to continue a decent conversation; and a sincere plea to LEAVE ME THE HECK ALONE ... at least until a) i've had at least 30 minutes of deep sleep or b) i've found an giant umbrella.

proving that miracles are alive and well in the 21st century, the man moved back to his original seat. and i, having given up on sleep completely and having watched all the interesting movies and short films in stock, stared at the monitor again. after all, 6 hours and 37 minutes of staring is nothing, what with a plane going at 540 mph at 39,500 feet above sea level.