Tuesday, December 21, 2010

happy anniversary, mama and dad

without much introduction (or creative titles), here is a short and very incomplete list of what i love the most about mama and dad.

mama and dad on their 42nd wedding anniversary

  • when i first moved out of my home temporarily to live near my med school in the heart of manila, they surprised me one weekend by showing up with a bag of cheese clover. i cried shamelessly when they left.
  • when i found out i passed the medical boards in the wee hours of the morning, i woke them up and they both literally jumped out of bed to hug me even if they were just half-awake.
  • dad walks around like a sad little puppy when mama is not around. the first time she started traveling a lot for work, he got sick so often that i wanted to beg mama to retire and just stay home to keep dad healthy.
  • dad always makes handmade posters for every anniversary and every birthday. he makes anniversary posters twice a year: one for their wedding day and one for when they first became a couple (presumably).

      i never said dad was the best speller
    • they still hold hands sometimes but don't make a big show of it. maybe dad just does it so mama doesn't wander off.
    • mama and dad never gave me hell for not practicing (unlike some people who had nothing to do with my existence). my parents still don't know exactly what i do for a living but they never bug me about my choices. 
    • and speaking of choices, they also never pressure me about boyfriends or marriage or work or money or weight. the only time mama comments on my appearance is when she wants to borrow my clothes.
    • mama is the cutest tennis player (in real life and playing wii) with the highest first-serve percentage (in real life) for someone with zero follow-through. dad blames her when they lose but she doesn't care. i love mama for not caring (however, she MIGHT care that i posted this video without her permission).

    • by example, dad taught me the value of being punctual and organized and responsible. mama, on the other hand, taught me that being flawed, making mistakes and going with the flow can be perfectly okay.
    • they gave me a strange nickname, which (i am now realizing) is a good reminder for me to never take myself too seriously. 
    • they provide very good blog fodder.

    with their grandkids, who, by the way, also give me reason to blog

    my parents got married on december 21, 1968. they met me on september 1, 1973. that's 37 years of me being grateful.

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    boracay in the eyes of a local beauty expert

    a boracay pic completely unrelated to the story below

    this is a story set in boracay (ok, maybe the pic is slightly related), during the wedding reception of two good friends, who had no idea about what was going on while they were celebrating their happiest night.

    relieved after having fulfilled our duties as an amateur choir at the wedding ceremony, about five of my friends and i found our assigned table at nami, the reception venue. it was a great spot at a fantastic resort, and so conveniently near the extravagant buffet.

    we all settled into our seats and waited for the program and the eating to begin. without warning, a lady descended upon our table and exclaimed,

    "hi guys!!! i'm claire*!!! i'm going to sit here with you! i'll be back, OK, guys!?"

    (*not her real name. i'm not that brave. to my friends who were there: get it? claire? wink wink.)

    because of her excitement and familiarity, i thought my friends knew her. i asked them who she was, and they were all clueless. we surmised that she was the newlyweds' family friend who would double as the host that night. we found out soon after she sat back down that 1) she was the makeup artist, and 2) she wasn't a she.

    it was hard to focus on anything else that transpired at the table that night. claire was sitting right beside me so i distinctly remember her plunging neckline, low enough to distract me, a certified female. many times i wanted to warn her that her boob was going to pop out but decided against it, thinking that it could've been intentional.

    claire was so enthusiastic and outspoken that she made us – friends who have known each other for over 10 years – feel like the outsiders. all throughout dinner, she regaled us with stories of her overseas travel and rich friends, and of how she was a favored makeup artist in boracay. every now and then, she also offered free makeup advice.

    bing, one of my girlfriends at the table, genuinely felt that she needed tips, so she asked claire about the best brand of foundation. claire was only too happy to lecture:

    "you know, i've tried aaaall the imported brands and i still think the best one is san san. there are three shades of san san foundation, from 1, that's the lightest shade, to 3, the darkest shade ...

    you, bing, you're a 1. actually, your skin is so fair and smooth, you really don't need foundation ...

    as for YOU (and this was when she pointed her wicked yet manicured finger at me, while i was peacefully concentrating on my appetizers, pleased to be out of their conversation), you're a 3. blaaaack beauty."

    thanks, claire.

    shade 1 (left) and shade 3 (right) at the chapel,
    taken 3 years and so many pounds ago

    after declaring she was hungry, claire left us abruptly to get food before everyone else could attack the buffet. we were all dumbstruck at the table, looking like disheveled victims of typhoon claire. i think it took us a while before we spoke again, realizing that claire was not the only one with the gift of speech.

    claire returned to the table with her plate piled high with steak and prawns, and she started raving about the food.

    "you know this place really has the best food in all of boracay! look at this. WOW. this is really wow."

    claire then sliced her steak, took her first bite and closed her eyes, obviously enraptured. no one dared to interrupt.

    "mmmmm ... mmmmmmmmm ... it's like a butter!!!"

    everyone at the table simultaneously looked away or down or up or behind, just to suppress a reaction. i found out much later that there was also a lot of kicking going on under the table. meanwhile, because i didn't want to be rude, i continued what i hoped was a normal conversation with my new pal claire. and guess what, the steak really turned out to be amazing.

    i'll never forget 'claire' and how she stole the show that night. maybe someday i WILL try san san foundation (yes, yes, number 3 for me, of course). if we can't trust people who are passionate about beauty, boracay and butter, then who can we trust?

    oh and happy anniversary, r&r! it was an unforgettable night.

    essay flashback: blathering 'bout Batangas

    [while backing up files, i stumbled upon some more of my old essays, most of which were published in Legmanila.com (RIP). i wrote this essay in 2001 – long before my say-yes-to-anything phase, during which was coerced into climbing a mountain, going white-water rafting, zip-lining over giant trees, parasailing, and so on. i still don't think i can call myself adventurous but at least i am more willing to go out of my comfort zone. if anything, it ensures that i will never run out of stories. *booking the next flight out*]

    Mesavenir: To chance badly
    August 2001

    Main Entry: mis·ad·ven·ture   
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English mesaventure, from Old French, from mesavenir to chance badly

    I used to think that one of the best jobs in the world had to be TV host of some travel show, where he or she is paid to vacation (the concept drives me insane if I think about it too much) in exotic lands and experience various cultures firsthand. Of course, an even better job would be to get paid for becoming a veritable root crop subsisting on sodium-infused pseudofood, lounging on ultra-comfortable furniture that can double as a bed at any given time of the day (note to reader: this is a really nasty trick to achieve the desired word count and avoid the phrase “junkfood-addicted couch potato”). However, I seriously doubt that there is a big demand for this type of specialization.

    A few summers ago, my sister and I discovered what would turn out to be one of my favorite travel shows on cable. It was called ‘Travelers’ and although there were just a few episodes that the Discovery channel just kept showing over and over until you couldn’t stand to see one more parade, I still watched every time. ‘Travelers’ featured six hosts – three males and three females – who were assigned to go all over the world, try to blend in with the natives and spew out witticisms every now and then. This child of the media was thoroughly entertained.

    I haven’t really been all over the world, but I sometimes imagine I’m one of the hosts, presenting my travails with much spirit – anyone with half a brain would have a field day criticizing my misadventures. Looking back at the limited travel I’ve taken, I have to say that, all in all, I’m glad there were no cameras around. I admit it: I have chanced badly … and all too often.

    I’ve observed that most of my mishaps involve just trying to move from one spot to another. Since when has getting from point A to point B gotten so taxing? For an urban-raised female such as yours truly, international travel is a breeze compared to traipsing in the native hills and fields.

    In college, one of the courses required the class to spend a number of weeks in a rural area to carry out surveys and do a little medical work here and there. We were assigned to live in Laurel, a Batangas municipality that Tagaytay overlooks and from where you can almost smell the foliage off the side of Taal Volcano. Forgive me – my poetic license expired a year ago.

    Looking back, I’d have to say that my whole Laurel experience was like an unplanned, low-budget Traveler’s episode. Sure, we weren’t really there to lounge around, but technically, there WAS some travel involved. To this day, I still cringe at how I made a fool of myself in what was supposed to be a simple trip to the province.

    Now, in true ‘Traveler’ form, I reduce part of my life to subtitles, hoping that these would lend some mystery to an otherwise clumsy existence.

    The joyless ride.

    Laurel was still a good half hour away when I felt an all-too-familiar sensation in my intestines. All adjectives escape me now as I reminisce the horror of the longest car ride I had ever taken in my whole life: I felt like I was going to die.

    My friends and I had each ingested – inadvertently, of course – a fair amount of a spoiled kaldareta (lamb stew?) the day before. Consequently, some of us had to wake up in the middle of the night just to purge out the evil spirit that was dinner. A few did it just before breakfast. Sadly for me, the exorcism just had to kick in during a bumpy ride with no promise of running water within 5 minutes.

    With nothing but houses and trees in sight (I was expecting a gold-plated toilet bowl in the middle of the road), I considered the options. Should I a) drown in my own cold sweat and pray that my friends wouldn’t reveal the cause of my demise at my funeral? or b) abuse the kindness of total strangers by polluting their humble abode?

    You can guess which choice won. I pulled it off successfully, with the help of a fiercely loyal friend who animatedly distracted the homeowners while I was transported back to the land of the happy.

    I suddenly remembered that I promised to take this story to the grave. Too late for that now.

    Don’t go chasing waterfalls. 

    During the third or fourth week of our Batangas stay, my friends thought it was a good idea to go to the hidden waterfall everyone was talking about. Wary of any form of outdoor activity, I asked if we would have to hike to get there. I was assured by my foster parents that the number of people who trek to the falls every day have already cleared a nice, clean path. I grudgingly joined my nature-loving friends.

    As sure as my step is not, I found myself half-crawling, half-falling on moldy rocks and sharp wild greenery only meant to be looked at, not to be used as an indigenous substitute for dermabrasion. The “nice, clean path” was nowhere in sight and so were all the gentlemen.

    Finally, someone noticed that I was lagging by about twenty paces behind. It was my gay male classmate who I barely knew. It was a rather endearing vision: my skinny companion telling me, someone twice his girth, where to put my foot next, catching me when I’d take a wrong step, encouraging me that our goal was nearby. With his trusty walking stick – a sturdy branch he found earlier, he looked more like a starving hermit than anything else, but to me he glowed like any personal savior would. I offered him marriage and my lifetime admiration, but something told me he wasn’t really interested.

    P.S. The waterfall was okay. Wet rocks. Clear water. Soap suds from weekend laundry.

    An ant-ic that brought the house down.

    It was a windy morning. Together with my groupmates, I was trying to get to a teeny house in what seemed like the middle of Taal lake. We were conducting a survey of the area and unfortunately (for me), that residence was included in our area of responsibility. To reach the isolated family, we had to cross narrow soil walkways (no, that’s not what you call them), surrounded on both sides by fish pens. I suddenly knew why I had nagging doubts about wearing shorts that particular day.

    I bravely took my first few steps and realized that I was swaying dangerously in the rough winds from the lake. “I am a gymnast. I am a gymnast.” I repeated those words to myself as I kept my eyes on the serene volcano nearby, hoping against all futile hope that my body would be convinced that I can saunter effortlessly across. Going at the rate of a step a minute, I watched my classmates take the last few steps and land on the patch of land where the house was. At least I wasn’t alone – I was clutching the shirt of my friend in front and my other friend behind me really had no choice.

    Without warning, my right foot slipped into the murky water. Trying to regain my balance and whatever was left of my poise, I scrambled back to the path, this time finding my damp foot wedged squarely in the center of a huge anthill. With a piercing scream that drove most of the Batangas chickens into catatonia, I, along with my two friends and a couple million blazing red ants now affixed on our bare legs, bounded across what was left of the path. It took us around three huge leaps. And I thought it only happened in cartoons.

    As I always try to learn from whatever situation I find myself in, I focused on what falling into an anthill has taught me. Sure enough, my mental efforts paid off. I discovered that isopropyl alcohol does a better job of increasing the redness of each ant-bite wheal than it does delivering stabbing pain throughout the length of both my legs. To celebrate the moment, my two forgiving friends and I took an unflattering picture of our lumbering polka-dotted legs to remind us of why we should always give our farmers and fishermen the respect they so deserve.

    After 3 years and several other out-of-town disasters to my name, I can say that there is so much more to experience in the world. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Discovery channel is for.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    whatever you do, don't make eye contact

    i don't know if serving food at spas is a brilliant idea. i know there are spa+buffet places around town but i'm not completely sold on this. i suppose there could be some exceptions. for instance, at Let's Relax in bangkok, the price of a body scrub and massage combi includes a plate of mangoes and sticky rice – an add-on that younger sister mia and i didn't know about until we found the pretty plate in our room ('for us? really??? yahooooo!!!'). maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere after our massage or the element of surprise (it pays not to read the fine print sometimes), but it was seriously one of the best versions of mangoes and sticky rice i've ever had in thailand or anywhere. let's relax? by all means, yes please.

    the only reason why i'm wary of spas that serve real food before a massage is because of one particular experience at a small spa that my older sister (ate) and i tried out a few years ago. she had a gift certificate for two massages so we checked it out one lazy afternoon.

    we entered the communal room and there was already one client there, in the middle of her massage. i usually don't mind sharing these big rooms with other women; most of the time, i forget that they're there anyway. this particular lady, however, reminded us of her existence all too often through her loud and frequent burps.

    this was hardly relaxing for juancho
    (late warning: this is an unrelated photo)
    there are polite and timid burps, and there are BURPS. this lady was a certified grandmaster of burpery. she burped with so much gusto that there was absolutely no way to ignore her in that tiny and presumably once-peaceful room. upon hearing the first burp, i knew that ate wanted to make a funny comment or even just shoot me a horrified look. ate needed an audience badly. unfortunately, that audience was me. even if we were in a dim room, i knew with absolute certainty that ate, excommunicated from the church of subtlety, wanted to catch my eye because she wanted to share a laugh instead of focusing on her ongoing massage. any other reasonable person would choose to AVOID laugh-inducing eye contact in places that are supposed to be quiet and serene. but nooo, not ate. i heard my sister clear her throat so many times, you would think she was contracting a throat infection. finally, i gave in and looked at her for just a second. seeing that she finally had the audience she longed for, she whispered, 'bakit walang nagsabi na may buffet sa labas?*'

    we both shoved our faces into the massage table (thankfully not made of concrete), snickered as silently as possible, and just prayed that the stranger would run out of stomach gas or that it wouldn't go out the other end.

    *translation for my non–filipino-speaking friends: 'why didn't anyone say there was a buffet outside?' hmmm. you had to be there. or maybe just be glad you weren't.

    Sunday, December 05, 2010

    the best gifts i never received

    when i was a child, my list of desired christmas gifts was severely limited by 1. knowing we didn't really have enough money for expensive toys and 2. lack of imagination.

    all i really wanted was either a Speak & Spell or an Etch a Sketch – a likely foreshadowing of my attraction to laptops and smartphones. i remember that every time i unwrapped a semi-large christmas gift from 'santa', i prayed with all my might that i would find one of those two toys. but it never happened (i eventually forgave santa, fyi) and i just went back to shampooing funny-looking-Barbie's hair (there is a whole other story about our very limited Barbie collection).

    because Speak & Spell was always out of reach, i developed a healthy relationship with our clunky manual typewriter. 

    (kids, a typewriter is a computer that does not spellcheck, cannot play music and is not compatible with facebook. much like a computer, however, it can fracture your toes if you drop it during transport. that's all you really need to know.) 

    during the summer before grade 4, i was so bored that i taught myself how to type using a typewriting book i found lying around (this explains a lot about me). unfortunately, school started just when the lesson was about typing numbers and symbols, and i never mastered them in the same way i mastered the letters (damn you, school!). i remember this trivial fact every time i have to pause to look at the keys for numbers or most of the symbols. in the interest of time, i should just spell everything out. for instance colon On september one comma nineteen seventy three comma i was born exclamation point open parenthesis i am not that old three exclamation points close parenthesis period

    insignificant note: as a result of typing every day for work and other equally important tasks, such as blogging and chatting, i have forgotten how to write. like on paper. just the other day, i had to fill out a few raffle tickets and my name looked like '/\ /\ /\ /\' and my phone number, '| ) ( ( |'. i imagine this would present a slight problem when i win and they need to send me my audi.

    my beloved but (sadly) silent keyboard
    i probably liked anything with keyboards much earlier though, because growing up, my ultimate dream job was to be a cashier. i used to pretend i worked in a grocery or shoemart (kids, that's 'SM' to you) and used my dad's big calculator to input pretend prices. the louder the punching noises i made, the better. i suppose i also never let go of my love for typing loudly until adulthood. i had a female boss that used to yell from her desk for me to stop typing loudly because she couldn't work. as to whether or not i did it intentionally to irritate her into resignation, i will take to my grave. (ps, it didn't work. she used her office power to find a new and slightly less scandalous keyboard for me.)

    speaking of which, here is today's featured martina snippet (was that the longest introduction or what?):

    martina's mommy (aka my sister) was organizing her children's toys and asked martina which toys she could pack in storage and possibly give away. 'martina, can we keep this toy?' to this martina said,

    'you can keep all of those except the CHING-CHING.'

    naturally (and shame on you for not guessing correctly), ching-ching was her toy cash register. except it wasn't really a cash register as much as it was the bottom part of a toy blender. i always knew this kid was after my own heart.

    ever since i found out about ching-ching, i've been wondering if it would be cool to give her a toy cash register for Christmas, but it might send her the wrong message (like makeshift ching-chings are not good enough). as i learned from my own childhood, a little bit of deprivation never hurt anyone, particularly growing children who find joy in every tiny ching-ching. maybe it would be just as fun if i wrap her current ching-ching* and write on a little card to say 'merry Christmas to my favorite 4-year-old. love, /\ /\ /\ /\'

    *i know i overdid it on the 'ching-ching' but i like how it sounds and it fits in rather well with the season. chingle all the way.

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    i think i'll choose the lunch

    i don't consider myself a lucky person. the truth is i don't really believe in luck as much as i believe in hard work, careful planning or divine intervention. i've won fewer than 5 prizes in my life, the biggest of which was an electric fan that i won at my first corporate Christmas party. the party host, undoubtedly feeling very witty and proud of her groundbreaking joke, hinted that the winner had a very 'colorful' name. WINK WINK. naturally, everyone looked at me, the new employee with a strange name. i said i couldn't possibly be the winner because my name was so obviously a fruit and not a color. no one laughed.

    another time, i won a box of donuts by finding a special mark on the bottom of my chair in a college auditorium. i was so pleased about the unexpected free food, i must've looked like i won a car instead of a free ticket to clogged arteries.

    a few weeks ago, a friend told us about a silent auction her NGO was conducting to raise funds. she helped me post a bid on, what else, a meal at a hotel buffet (food and me: it's a serious committed relationship). apparently, everyone at the auction was more interested in stuff like iPads and cameras and laptops that practically no one paid any attention to something so mundane as a discounted meal.

    i was a bit concerned though when i received the confirmation letter from one of the organizers. looks like i bid on something i'm really not quite ready for.

    i didn't know you could auction those off legally.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    stark contrast 101

    because i am running out of shallow things to do, i've taken it upon myself to post a Christmas wish on facebook every day. so far, i've listed:

    1. A photoshoppable life.
    2. The demeanor of a Top Chef Master, the creativity of an Iron Chef, the grace of a So You Think You Can Dance frontrunner, the looks of America's Next Top Model, the humor of Conan and Ellen, and the generosity of Oprah (and maybe a cure for my addiction to cable TV).
    3. Roddick's serve, Djokovic's forehand, Federer's backhand, and Rafa's hand ... in mine.
    4. 3D glasses that fit Asian noses better so I don't have to watch entire movies holding up plastic glasses and feeling like a poorly disguised guest at a masquerade ball.
    5. A memory that holds on to every smile, lets go of every tear and retains every single password.
    6. The absence of war, the end of injustice, the death of violence and the cancellation of TV shows with scantily clad gyrating girls and disrespectful or overpaid hosts.
    tomorrow, i'm going to wish something for or about juancho and martina, two good reasons why i look forward to weekends.

    aside from being the usual child-saturated weekend, this last visit was a good reflection of how juancho and martina are two distinct individuals. let's just say that if you wanted to know how rain forms, you would ask juancho, and if you wanted someone to dance in the rain with you, you would ask martina (who, depending on her mood, would either willingly dance wildly with you or look at you with disdain and say 'yuck.')

    we all ended up on my bed because i was torn between wanting to nap some more and wanting to play with them. i said they had to nap too and, naturally, martina wanted a bedtime story. this time, however, i was given a break and they decided they would tell their own stories (that was a lie. there was a long and heated debate between the two: martina wanted me to tell a story and juancho wanted to tell his own. in the interest of world peace and my poor eardrums, i ruled that they would tell one bedtime story each.)

    juancho's story was well constructed and surprisingly pretty funny, as far as made-up bedtime stories go (mine aren't as coherent, but i blame martina for supplying the plots). it was about a fat ant that grew too big and couldn't enter his home so the other ants had to dig him a bigger hole. i forget why, but a bigger creature wanted to enter too so they had to make an even bigger hole. and it went on and on.

    martina would have none of juancho's long-winded story and kept trying to end his tale (which i was genuinely enjoying, fyi) by interrupting with 'and they lived happily ever after. theeee end! my turn, my turn!'

    so juancho's story was quite disjointed at times, because it sounded like this:

    juanch: so they pushed and pushed but the fat ant was stuck ...
    martina: and they lived happily ever after. theeee end! my turn, my turn!

    unfortunately for martina, juancho was quite determined to end his story (hooray for me). then it was finally martina's turn.

    martina started hers with 'once upon a time, there was a girl ... and the girl's name was ... (and i swear she really paused for effect):

    alvin and the chipmunks!'

    it was a fantastic and hurried story with a tower, a smidgen of conflict and maybe half a moral lesson, which i have yet to decipher. and of course, her little story ended with 'and they lived happily ever after. theeee end.'

    naptime was cancelled.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    an encounter that doesn't count

    and speaking of embarrassing experiences that i want to share for inexplicable reasons ...

    i have a long list of random celebrity crushes, some more embarrassing than others. at any given opportunity, my sisters will always remind me that i had a thing for raymond lauchengco and once considered his cassette tape (cassette tape!!!) a prized possession. if you were ever a fan, you know which tape i'm talking about. i was in love with vic sotto (not a very big surprise) for a really long time, from elementary up to about 3 minutes ago, when i decided to write this blog and thought it was about time to end my imaginary affair with him. my first foreign crush was emilio estevez because he was in breakfast club and i liked the sound of his name. i liked john taylor of duran duran, i liked richard grieco of 21 jump street, i liked the menudo boy who wasn't the lead and wasn't ricky martin, i liked robert hays of the starman tv series, and zzzzz ...

    *waking up from self-indulgence–induced nap*

    somewhere on that list of random celebrity crushes is ronan keating of ... just a sec ... (and i cannot believe i had to search the net for the name of his boyband) boyzone. i'm not sure what i liked about any of my celebrity crushes and ronan was no exception. at that time, i thought he had a cute face (what, you expected me to admire his curriculum vitae?), and it was all over music videos and tv ads, especially when he visited manila to promote his solo album.

    around the time of ronan's manila visit, i had a really late dinner with three girlfriends. as you've probably guessed by now (and if you haven't, you probably have better things to do than read a silly blog), ronan was in the restaurant. we found out because one of my girlfriends saw him walking behind me and her eyes popped out and landed on the nachos (just kidding, they were cheese fries).

    'ronan is here! he's going to the men's room! run after him!!!'

    ok, first of all: WHY? second of all: WHY THE HELL? was i going to propose marriage or offer cheese fries (or maybe some toilet paper)? being the shy, introverted person that i was, i refused to move from my spot just to stalk a celebrity. one of my friends, let's call her friendly friend, couldn't care less about ronan keating but she was excited for me and lovingly shoved me out of our booth. she used to be a professional celebrity stalker and thought nothing of hiding in the bushes to jump on unsuspecting basketball players (just kidding, she hid behind cars).

    because of all the hesitation and prodding, ronan had finished his business already by the time we got to the men's room. so there we were, friendly friend and i, mortified and plastered to the walls of the very narrow passageway leading to the toilets. needless to say, ronan saw us there and my friend was able to muster a friendly 'hi' (she's not a pro for nothing). after he maneuvered his way around us, i casually informed my friend that i needed my life to end that very second. she didn't believe me and we walked weakly (me) and happily (my friend) back to our table.

    we stayed at the resto until about 2 am and left because the service crew was starting to switch the lights on and off and throw bar stools in our general direction. as we exited, i saw that there was a van parked directly in front of the restaurant steps. it was ronan's ride. and ronan was still there, signing autographs for another group of girls. friendly friend was again beside herself with excitement and pushed me toward the singer (there was a lot of pushing that night). meanwhile, my brain had switched off again and all i could do was stare blankly.

    'paper! give me paper!' my friend asked, with urgency.

    i threw my folder of scratch paper at her.

    'ballpen! do you have a ballpen!'

    i looked at her with zero comprehension, because at that moment, i really had no idea what she was saying. what is a ballpen? who is talking to me? why am i here? look, blond guy near big moving thing with wheels!

    to make a boring story short(er), friendly friend found a cheap blue pen in my bag and went over to ronan like the expert that she was. my friends then admired the blue scribble on my dirty paper and skipped away, leaving me standing by the door, still looking at the skinny pale guy who was trying to get into his ride and escape the strangely inanimate fan staring at him.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    i feel like an overgrown, overfed barbie

    i plopped face-down on my bed this afternoon and said out loud, to no one in particular, 'i'm tired.'

    martina, who was right behind me, said, 'i can give you a massage!'

    i had no energy to run away so she promptly found a comfy seat on my butt cheeks and proceeded to ram her tiny fists into my back. it was not unpleasant and i was starting to fall asleep.

    thankfully, this was not the brush
    she used today
    suddenly, martina grabbed my arms, pulled them closer to her, and started to wave my hair brush over them. when i asked what she was doing, she said, 'i'm putting butter on you with my butter brush.' i was not warned that our massage session would turn into a little barbeque and i was the corn for roasting.

    [note: i stayed put because i was still pinned down to the bed and i was silently laughing into a pillow.]

    it got confusing after that because martina reverted to being a health and beauty guru. 'i'm going to shampoo your eyes now!' so 'shampoo' my eyes, she did. thankfully, i had enough presence of mind to shut my eyes before she laid her sticky fingers on my lids.

    and then, as though this was a logical progression of events, martina announced ... 'i'm going to make a cake on your head!' but instead of a mixing motion, she 'kneaded' my hair with a tremendous amount of energy for a tiny 4-year-old.

    as a final touch, she began to spread some imaginary icing over my whole body, carefully using the same hair brush (the 'butter brush' from a few seconds back) as a spatula. she 'iced' my legs carefully and, after careful consideration, shouted (more than once),

    'your legs are too big!!!'

    [note: thanks, marteens.]

    despite the gargantuan logs she had to deal with, she continued her self-imposed job of turning me into a very relaxed, clean, buttered and fully iced cake (or corn?). after she was satisfied, she jumped off my behind and ran off, possibly to inflict her imagination on some other unsuspecting living plaything.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    whiny martina's wish

    martina was unusually irritated today because of sleepiness disguised as boredom.

    marteens (in a whiny-but-still-cute* voice): i have nothing to dooooo. i don't know what to dooooo.

    me: maybe you can jump on the trampoline.

    marteens: noooooooo.

    me: maybe you can paint.

    marteens: noooooooo.

    me: ok. in a nice and clear voice, tell me what you really want.

    marteens: i want two sisters.


    (yahoo smileys: how did i survive without them?)

    *biased much?

    if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to mock it ...

    a few weeks ago, i tweeted a random thought:

    is an embarrassing moment only embarrassing when you're around people?

    no one replied to my tweet so i am re-posting it here (and expounding on it unnecessarily) where even more people can ignore me.

    i suppose everyone has had a truly embarrassing moment at least once in their life. my earliest embarrassing moment happened at a kinder presentation although i'm pretty sure i had an accident earlier that school year in the playground, which involved a certain unsanitary act in a wooden playhouse. fortunately for my ego, there were no witnesses (or so i think – i'm still waiting for the hidden camera footage). i was bullied enough in kindergarten and an incident such as the aforementioned would have certainly driven me to quit school and turned me to a life of drugs and hate crimes.

    it's a bit hard to recall truly shameful moments that are good enough for storytelling. i think after a while our brain automatically files away these experiences and encrypts them so that we can, at the very least, get out of bed in the morning without fear of being laughed at.

    no one saw one of my most embarrassing moments. or at least i think no one did.

    i was in my freshman year of college and was starting to make new friends among my classmates. a few of us watched a movie after class and everything was pleasant up to the time we all had to go home. it had started to rain while we were in the theater and by the time we got out, it was pouring and there was already some flooding in the streets. i didn't know how to drive yet and needed to commute back home. one of my classmates offered to walk with me because we were going the same way. i had no choice but to walk in ankle-deep flood water while trying to carry an engaging conversation with her. i think it was one of our first conversations and i didn't want her to think i was a flood snob.

    anyway, as we parted ways in the rain, i waved cheerily (bye!!! bye!!!) with possibly inappropriate affect, given the dreary weather and the fact that i was going to see her the next day anyway. while walking away, i remember thinking, 'i really like this day even if it's raining now and i have to ride a jeep with wet seats', when suddenly and without warning, i found myself waist-deep in flood water. it took me a few seconds to realize that

    my whole left leg had fallen into an open manhole.

    try as i might, i don't remember how i managed to get back whatever little poise i had, let alone get back on level ground. i know i was holding a flimsy umbrella and i must've had a school bag or something else. i'm sure it wasn't an easy or dignified feat. it was one of those moments that i have effectively (but only partially) blocked out. however, i remember looking around after falling to check if any classmate had seen me. no one did. i don't think the passersby cared either – everyone was too busy getting out of the rain and couldn't be bothered by what must've looked like a vertically challenged girl laughing silently at herself.

    i wonder if it's on youtube.

    Sunday, November 07, 2010

    the troath will set you free

    i'm a sucker for free stuff. i love free food tasting at the supermarket (s&r and the rare visit to US-based costco come to mind), free meals at parties, free haircuts, free giveaways with purchases, and free wifi, to name a few. in the past two years or so, i've discovered a new favorite free thing: free trial classes.

    i've attended a free pole-dancing class, where i discovered the value of thigh cellulite in hanging on to cold metal bars to save yourself from crashing to the ground. needless to say, i did not go back to pay for further humiliation. i've attended a free barre3 class, where i realized that it's important to wear the right exercise top if you don't want to distract yourself with your own cleavage. i've also attended a few free yoga classes, where i learned repeatedly that i really don't like yoga.

    to be fair, i liked some of the classes but i might be too distract-able to really get into it. instead of transcending to a more peaceful state, i hear my thoughts more loudly. sadly, i cannot turn off the running commentary in my head. i think about how my mat is gross and slippery from my own sweat, or how i can hear someone's phone vibrating on the wood table near us (you know who you are!), or how 'yogi' reminds me too much of the bear, or how i like (or despise) the outfit of the woman in front of me, or what to eat after class.

    but mostly, i'm just trying hard not to laugh.

    if i were serious about pursuing yoga, the first thing i would do is stop going to these classes with friends who like to laugh as much as i do. and it's not just that they like laughing, it's that they laugh at the smallest things, which ordinary adults would ignore or forgive.

    during one of my first free yoga classes, i went with TWO such friends who were also yoga newbies. we made a deal to distance ourselves from each other and not ever make eye contact, for fear of disrupting the class with our outbursts. even with those self-imposed rules, that particular class was more challenging than we had thought for reasons other than yoga.

    for one thing, instead of being calm and patient, our teacher was rather dismissive and assumed that everyone knew something about yoga (despite knowing there were beginners in the group). it was easy to ignore her attitude though. it was also easy to ignore my stomach rumbling. it was also quite easy to ignore the peripheral vision of my two friends in awkward positions. so i thought it would be a breeze to control any laughter, until the yoga teacher said,

    'breathe using ujjayi, breathe with a partially closed TROATH.'

    oh no oh no oh no please don't let her say it again, i thought. i was so successful at being serious and namaste-ish. but nooo. she said it about 10 more times after the first. ignoring a mispronounced word is nothing, but hearing it over and over again in such a solemn environment while not really knowing what the heck she was talking about is another thing. where is my troath, teacher, and how do i partially close it? each time i heard 'troath', i felt bubbles of laughter slowly rising from my gut up to my ... well, troath. i was also certain my friends were going through the same thing.

    much to my relief, i was able to hold it in until after the class, where i finally reunited with my friends, who were in physical and mental anguish because of the whole deal with the less-than-friendly teacher issue and the trying-to-suppress-laughter-because-of-'troath' thing. one of them angrily ate more than her share of free bananas in the dressing room as 'revenge' for the extra-long session. and when someone finally broke the deathly silence by giggling, i went to a little corner and laughed loudly for a very, very long time.

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    sparkly, sparkly night

    juancho and martina stayed with my family for 2 days while their tatay was being monitored at the hospital for dengue complications. if i had known i would be an instant mother of two last weekend, i would've eaten more carbs the week before. not that i don't have enough carbs in my system. it just would've been a good excuse.

    juancho, 8, and martina, 4
    one of the things i like about sleepovers with my niece (and nephew, when he was martina's age) is having to develop original and customized bedtime stories. it has to be said that juancho and martina are two very different creatures. my stories for juancho always turned out epic, with many twists and turns, mostly because he provided me with opportunities for creative plots and rich scenarios. my stories for martina, on the other hand, just turn out to be rather ... strange.

    on sunday night, the stage was set for the next classic tale by yours truly. martina and juancho were clean and in their pajamas, and we were all tucked under our blankets. the story was more for martina because juancho is old enough to read (that's an understatement. i think he's gone through so many library cards already, they're running out of stock, haha). i knew he still wanted to listen though, so i planned on making it entertaining enough for the 8-year-old.

    earlier that day, we saw a commercial for zhu zhu pets (they're hamsters, that's the extent of my knowledge on zhu zhus) on the disney channel so i used that to kick off my story. if we used my work, my story would've started with an invasive fungal infection, and no child wants to hear about candidiasis. i think.


    me, storyteller extraordinaire: once upon a time, there was a hamster. and the hamster's name was?

    martina: zhu zhu sparkly!!!

    (naturally, zhu zhu sparkly. she couldn't have been named 'martina' or 'kim' or something simple like that.)

    me: ok, the hamster's name was zhu zhu sparkly and she was colored?

    martina: purple!!!

    (because the story needed to get complicated at the outset.)

    me, wanting to insert as many moral lessons as possible: zhu zhu sparkly the hamster was sad because she was the only purple hamster in the world. all her friends were brown. she cried to her mother, 'why am i purple? all my friends are laughing at me!' zhu zhu sparkly's mommy (try saying that 10x) said, 'it's ok to be different. you're different because you're special. when your friends laugh at you for being purple, just tell them it's ok to be purple.' (moral lesson #1) so zhu zhu sparkly had a friend, and her friend's name was?

    martina: SPARKLY NEEVER!!!

    (at this point, juancho and i burst out laughing but i tried to contain myself as soon as i saw martina's face all scrunched up and about to cry. it took very strong resolve and good neck and jaw muscles to keep a straight face that night, i tell you. i dare you to say 'zhu zhu sparkly and sparkly neever' without even the slightest twinkle in your eye. i'm still not over the name, by the way. sparkly neever. SPARKLY NEEVER!!!)

    me: zhu zhu sparkly and sparkly neever (i paused for a few seconds to rein in my laughter every time i had to say this phrase) went to the park to play basketball ...

    (yadda yadda yadda. i'll skip the relatively boring details. it's enough for you to know that i continued the story peacefully and was able to inject moral lesson #2, practice makes perfect, and #3, eat when you are hungry. i don't know if this is a good moral lesson to include in a kid's story, but it's never too early to know how to prevent hypoglycemia.)

    ... they went back to zhu zhu sparkly's house to have a snack. and they had?

    martina: popcorn and 'memomade' ... ALL MIXED TOGETHER.

    (juancho almost fell off the bed, ROBL-ing to his heart's content while i was so obviously suffering.)

    me: so zhu zhu sparkly and sparkly neever had popcorn and memomade all mixed together (the pause was longer after this sentence – i was controlling laughter, tears and a bit of pee) and they were very happy.

    (the tale continued until the hamsters' dinner time, when zhu zhu sparkly's mom invited sparkly neever [WAHAHAHA] to stay for a pizza dinner. then it was time for moral lesson #4, always ask permission from your parents if you want to have dinner at a friend's house, and #5, say 'thank you' to whoever feeds you.)

    the story ended, we all slept in different stages of fatigue, and the morning came.

    at breakfast, i 'tested' them to see if they remembered the story. juancho, el smarto, got all my questions right: from the flavor of the pizza to who said what to the exact snack formula. martina, on the other hand, who was the reason for the night's literary feast, replied by putting her hands over her ears and making an unsparkly face.



    ps: i really have no right to laugh at strange names.

    photojournalism entry #1: people never change

    i don't remember making faces as a kid, but (as the picture below proves) i must have. in the picture, i was looking at relatives trying to make me smile for the camera. and this face was the reaction they got. i was probably a big whopping bundle of joy.

    an actual toddler
    over the years, at least two people have told me that i looked like elmo. ELMO! (was that link really necessary? is there anyone who doesn't know elmo?) elmo, the sesame street character! elmo, the nonliving thing if it weren't for the hand inside it! i have never had red fur or a squishy orange nose so i do not see how more than two distinct individuals have come to this conclusion separately. i also do not see how informing me of such an observation could lead to any sort of personal pride or happiness.

    pretending to be an adult while
    hiding the red fur
    these days, i catch my reflection in the mirror and laugh. not really because i'm happy or trying to be happy. i literally laugh. because of my face. this could be an asset someday. especially if i start growing red fur.

    adult with better makeup
    in the meantime, i should simply accept that i look like a cartoon on most days, like i have since birth. and while i'm at it, i should also cover some mirrors.

    caricature or really bad photoshopping

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    a rather delayed music-related apology

    like a rough version of a disney princess sans the talking animals and poofy skirts, i burst into song every now and then. there was a very long phase when i would hum or sing the first few lines of 'if i believed' by patti austin without even realizing that i was audible. i'm not sure why though – it was just something to sing when it was too quiet, like when in the toilet, while waiting for ... um ... important events.

    i like hearing people sing in public, especially those who don't really mean to call attention to themselves. during a visit to a small grocery nearby, i heard a chorus of voices from different aisles singing along with the britney song playing. it was strangely mood-lifting, even if (or maybe because) one of the singers was a pre-pubertal boy. i quietly joined them.

    my older sister was never really a burst-into-song type of person but she likes some kinds of music. when ate was still single and living with us, we had random sleepovers where, before sleeping, she would order me to sing entire songs of the sentimental kind. i don't know why i obliged. maybe it was some residual effect of her bullying me my entire childhood.

    many, many years ago, ate and i had to buy a few items at some computer store at the mall. with everything i needed, i headed for the cashier with my sister behind me. as i was paying, an air supply song started to play. i was starting to snicker as the song was nearing the refrain, when all of a sudden, i heard someone belt behind me,


    i was so startled that ate would sing so loudly and boldly in public that i whipped my head around to tease her with an extremely naughty 'i-never-knew-you-were-a-singer' look.

    in a perfect world, that story would have ended with me and ate laughing our heads off and walking away for some window shopping. but this is not a perfect world ...

    and it was not my sister behind me.

    in other words, i had given a complete stranger what probably seemed like a piercing 'what-the-hell' look. i felt awful. i still do. needless to say, she stopped singing after she saw my facial expression change from mischief to utter remorse.

    wherever you are, stranger, i'm very sorry. please keep singing. i really don't mind. what would we be without music and spontaneity and self-expression? we need more people who are not afraid to express themselves while waiting in line to pay for printer cartridges. at the end of the day, we really do need ... less lonely people in the world.

    all together now!!!

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    listening fail

    i'll be the first to admit that i don't speak very clearly or loudly, especially when caught off-guard. i'd like to blame it on my small mouth, but shouldn't, given that i am supposed to have a basic grasp of the physiology of voice production (didn't that sound impressive? i like pretending i know stuff).

    in high school, i was forced to join an extemporaneous speaking contest because, apparently, no one else had an unholy fear of teachers. i only won it because the night before, i guessed the topic correctly and practiced an entire speech before sleeping. if i had guessed differently, i probably would've mumbled illogically until they took the microphone away.

    this flaw often gave me problems way back when food delivery service was still low-tech and they didn't keep computerized customer records.

    one time, i called to have pizza delivered (most likely thin-crust garlic and cheese from shakey's) (aaaand i just made myself hungry). after i gave my contact info to the lady on the other end of the line, she asked me to repeat my address – our street name in particular.

    'topaz,' i said as clearly as i could, short of showering saliva all over the phone.

    'what is it again?'

    'TOPAZ,' i said, giving my vocal cords a workout.

    'can you please spell it?'

    'T ...'

    'ok, T,' she repeated after me.

    'O ...'

    and it continued, that cycle of dictation and confirmation, until the final letter.

    'you got it?' i asked. 'topaz! topaz!'

    'ahhhhh ok,' she exclaimed, relieved that she finally recognized the word. 'KOOKAK, right?'

    righty-o. because 'kookak' is how you pronounce t-o-p-a-z and, you know, there is really such a word.

    i don't remember if the pizza was good (who am i kidding? it's always good) but i suspect that 'kookak' has been permanently etched into my memory, sufficiently displacing more important information, such as friends' birthdays and the tv schedule of ace of cakes.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    the search for a purple dress and two hands

    it's not always easy to figure out what kids want to say. my nephew juancho is now 8 years old (which is so dangerously close to puberty, i want to cry) so it's not really a challenge to carry a decent conversation with him. he who used to tell the best stories and had the cutest way of talking has turned into a smart boy (when he's in the mood) and doesn't give me as much blog fodder as he used to. he does, however, lend me his diary of a wimpy kid books so he still plays a very important role in my life.

    speaking with 4-year-old martina, on the other hand, is still pretty hilarious.

    martina's 'work'
    she calls the house every now and then, sometimes just to report that she is sitting down (whoohoo!) or that she 'was sick tomorrow'. these days, i hear her say that she is 'very busy with work'. one time, she left me for a while and came back with the product of her labor. it was a piece of paper filled with red scribbles and her name written at the top. when i asked her what it was, she said it was a letter and proceeded to read it to me:

    'i love you very much, tita eng. dear, martina.'


    (she can learn about the proper use of salutations later on.)

    one boring afternoon, i thought it was a good idea to force-feed martina with so you think you can dance videos. i think it was because i saw marteens krumping to a justin bieber (deeber, according to her) song. i showed her the krump performances from sytycd and didn't stop there. i must've shown her more than 10 dance routines that day. she seemed pleased.

    the next time martina visited, she wanted to see more sytycd dance videos. i happily obliged but she was looking for a particular number.

    'where's the one with the purple dress?'

    try as i might, i couldn't remember which dance had purple costumes, so i pressed her for more details.

    'you know, the one with the purple dress, and fur ... and the TWO HANDS?'


    we searched high and low for that elusive dance number. i felt like i disappointed my new convert. every time i saw her, she asked me if i had found the video she wanted. during one of those times, i futilely asked, 'was the dance fast or slow?' slow, she offered. i honestly don't know what possessed me to clarify.

    a few more weeks passed and i still couldn't find the purple-dress video. little did i know that insomnia would prove serendipitous in my quest. it was about 4 am and i was watching a sytycd rerun when i saw a samba number by katee and joshua of season 4. i sat upright on my bed when i realized what i was looking at:

    a purple dress. with fur. and the dancer had two hands!

    that had to be it!!! i felt ecstatic, much like when i found out i had passed the medical boards (i rejoice in big and miniscule victories equally).

    when i was finally able to show martina the precious video (which i saved on my phone, mind you), a smile slowly formed on her face and she whispered reverently, 'it's the purple dress.'

    she watched the video a dozen times in succession that day. i watched it with her, not so much because i was scared she would drop my phone, but because i knew i had to savor every moment before she turned 8.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    remembering inang

    and speaking of stairs and falling, i miss inang.

    inang was mama's mama. she lived with our family from the time they moved from an apartment to the house where we still live to this day (tangential sharing: i was born around that time, so i'm as old as this ... extremely young house).

    with no exaggeration, i believe i am who i am today because inang was a big part of my childhood. as to whether this is something she brags about to her angel friends in heaven, i'm not exactly sure. inang passed away in 1998 but i still remember many amusing and amazing grandmothery things about her.
    • she taught me not to step on books because we should love them (which is also why i don't step on family members, select friends and many kinds of cheese).
    • she told us there is no such thing as utang (loan) among family members so what's mine is my whole family's (why did i document this?).
    • she insisted that we finish everything on our plate and nap every day after lunch (i've happily discovered that these are so much easier to do in adulthood).
    • she taught us how to pray, mostly in front of a picture of Jesus with such a piercing and haunting look, it gave me and my sisters nightmares throughout our whole childhood.
    • she was into recycling way before 'earth-friendly' was even a concept: she never threw away any article of clothing. when she saw us attempting to dispose of shoes, she would adopt them even if they just gathered dust and mold in her cabinet. she never threw away food and would rather eat expired or rotten food than spare her health.
    • she thought it was an absolute sin to sing at the dinner table or while washing the dishes because it meant a life of being single (wait ...).
    • at the table, she always pushed the food away from her and nearer to dad, her favorite. dad always ended with a fortress of food and plates around him because of all the rearrangements inang made.
    • she hated it when people went out of the way for her. she never put herself ahead of anyone or anything. no snarky comments from me about this one. 
    • toward the end of her life, she suffered from alzheimer's and went into illogical episodes. one time, she wanted me to get the big knife from the kitchen so she could hurt herself. i tried to reason with her on this one.
    very agitated inang: 'bakit di mo kunin ang kutsilyo?!' (why won't you get the knife?!)
    me, trying to be funny: 'inang, wag. masakit yon.' (no, that would be quite painful.)
    inang: 'ayaw mo ha! ayaw mo! ikaw nalang sasaktan ko!' (you don't want to get it? i'll hurt you instead!)
    me: 'wag. apo nyo ako, diba?' (don't, i'm your granddaughter, remember?)
    inang: 'ah ok.'
     she took a nap after that.

    and as i wipe away the hot tears that have fallen from all this reminiscing, i recall that i started by talking about stairs and falling. eherrrrm. regrouping for a second ... and another ... ok back to my little story.

    after we had the second floor built, inang liked sitting at the foot of the stairs. one time, as i was going down our stairs with a friend, i accidentally missed a step. if you have fallen down stairs even just once in your life, then you know the kind of rapid panic and gut-wrenching sensation it brings all in the span of a few milliseconds. if the staircase is long enough, you can have your whole life flash before your eyes. if you fall just a few steps, you'll probably remember breakfast.

    my friend wondered why i disappeared from her side and started laughing (screaming?) as i rolled down the steps ... on a straight course towards my poor unsuspecting grandmother who had her back to us. despite the pain, i was able to summon all my energy towards stopping my freefall so i wouldn't knock over my fragile inang. let me just say: that was not the easiest thing. when she saw me in my awkward position behind her (she was deaf and probably didn't hear me shouting while falling), she scolded me for being careless. i laughed and cried at the same time. i think. or maybe i passed out.

    i still think about inang a lot. i think about how she would've loved juancho and martina to bits. i wish sometimes she was still alive because now i have my own money and could buy her ice cream and cake and slippers. i think about how she would've been so proud of me now, not because i passed the medical boards or that i have a steady job, but because i almost always finish my food.


    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    the power of dried mangoes

    this is the story of two store owners ... or a lesson in subtraction ... or why dried mangoes will someday rule the world.

    my sisters and i spent a weekend in hong kong for my older sister's 40th birthday. because i knew i would see her, i had brought five small bags of dried mangoes from cebu for a chinese friend who absolutely loved the stuff. interestingly, many of my friends from hong kong adored dried mangoes, but little did i realize just how popular they were. all it took was one fateful morning for me to find out. 

    5 – 1 = 4

    to meet my friend for lunch, my sisters and i walked a few blocks from our hotel to a nearby mall. in theory, it should've taken 15 uneventful minutes at the most. instead, on an almost crowd-free sidewalk, i fell. i fell hard. i fell like no adult should. it was one of those moments you're not really sure is happening because of the level of absurdity of the situation.

    battered right knee
    (glad i was wearing jeans that day!)
    one minute i was walking casually and looking into small shops, the next minute i found myself in an intimate relationship with the tiled sidewalk while very much aware of the searing pain traveling from my severely bruised knees to my shocked face. i had tripped somehow and instead of being able to get back my balance, a small group from behind me had (accidentally?) shoved me further down. i looked like i was ready to do push-ups on the street. after a few (REALLY LONG!!!) seconds, my sisters realized that i was immobile from the pain and helped me wobble to a sitting position in front of some random store. the store owner, who witnessed my embarrassing spill, quickly offered the couch inside his little shop and gave me some of his medicinal oil (in lieu of the ice i requested) along with a quick lecture on traditional chinese medicine. after gaining back some strength, pride and confidence in my ability to walk upright, i timidly offered the kind man a bag of dried mangoes in gratitude. i had wanted to buy something from his shop to pay him back for his generosity, but he was selling jewelry, of all things. i really wasn't in the right financial state or age bracket to buy a jade dragon ring. thankfully, the owner's face lit up when he saw our little gift and declared his love of dried mangoes. perfect. and that is how five became four.

    4 – 1 = 3

    my sisters looking profoundly concerned
    and affected after my accident
    after profusely thanking mr jewelry store owner again, we continued to walk (hobble, in my case) towards our destination. completely forgetting that my every step felt like torture, my sisters veered off our beeline to look at much-needed items, such as wii accessories and phone chargers and ipods. i let my sisters shop and haggle to their heart's content while i sat motionlessly on a spare chair to prevent anything from hitting my swollen knees. the second store owner we encountered that day was quite eager to do business with us, maybe especially after he saw the four remaining bags of dried mangoes sticking out of my little gift bag. after my sisters paid for their purchases, the store owner deftly (maybe a little too deftly!) got a bag from my stash and smiled as though we handed it to him willingly. we just looked at him incredulously, knowing we couldn't possibly repossess our goods. or maybe we could have, but we were getting hungry (and i really needed some ice). and that is how four became three.

    although i ended up giving her only three bags, my friend was still ecstatic about the dried mangoes. we told her what had happened to the other two bags and she laughed knowingly.  maybe dried mangoes is the key to world peace.

    (ps, i iced my knees when i got back to the hotel late that afternoon but not before more shopping at the mall. my sisters, on the other hand, ventured out again in the guise of buying me dinner but came back with more hong kong finds and a cute consolatory bag for me, the injured one.)

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    sliding food and talking heads

    i spend most of my waking hours in front of my computer, to the left of which is a big, inviting tv. non-important factoid: i'm addicted to cable tv. so imagine how much temptation i have to fight (and succumb to) every day, trying to build up some kind of work momentum for a decent amount of productivity. my workspace wasn't intentionally designed as such; i had to move my original 'office' out from my bedroom (talk about temptation) because i realized – after numerous tear-filled calls to the poor dsl provider who i thought had exceptionally bad connection problems at the time and was out to get me – that my room had some kind of invisible, hateful force field that repelled wireless signals from our router.

    the view over my right shoulder
    so on a daily basis, i try to ignore the tv on my left, and another source of distraction on my right, the stairs. every now and then, the people from downstairs (ie, the rest of my family) slide items across the floor to deliver them to me instead of taking a few more extra steps to actually hand them to me, like what normal people do. i suspect topi has invented her own form of shuffleboard in her head, where instead of pucks she uses my telephone bills, loose change and the occasional dhl package. dad has also recently unknowingly joined the game, and often gives me different kinds of food (ok, fine, it's always chips) by forcing whatever through the balusters. one day, i'm going to find chicharon or clover on the floor and stairs.

    every now and then, dad's head appears to ask me something about the computer. the questions range from 'how do you remove a paper jam' to 'why are the letters in my email all slanted now!?' (it's called accidental italics, dad ... or a haunted computer). very rarely, he asks me about grammar.

    the other day, dad asked me which was correct for a business letter, 'had' or 'have'. it seemed like 'had' was more appropriate so i told him how to word his sentence properly. he looked at me quizzically and said, 'isn't there a rule that you can only use had if you mention a date?'

    'what do you mean, like 'before September 1, 2010, i had been to that place?'

    'are you sure? i remember some kind of rule like that,' dad said.

    'dad, that is really very oddly specific.'

    he laughed at himself and went back to his computer. i, on the other hand, went back to work, even more unsure of my own grammar, and a teeny bit more wary of talking heads on the floor.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    beauty in the eye of the drunken beholder

    i have a longstanding love-hate relationship with beauty. mostly because i grew up feeling like i got the short end of the stick in the looks department. at the risk of feeding my self-absorption, i've written about it a few times to get some of my demons out. this will be one of those times. i promise to make it short and non-pathetic.

    my london-based (or who the hell knows where she will be by the time i publish this) friend ana always tells me i'm in the wrong country. maybe i am. more than once, friends (hmm) have advised me to move abroad where people would probably 'love my skin color' or my 'general look'. does that mean i look like a slug in my own country? maybe. unless of course the foreigners come over to appreciate me.

    last month, in boracay, i met a very friendly and interesting canadian couple. of course most people are 'friendly and interesting' after half a day of drinking. i liked talking to the girlfriend, in particular, because she kept saying that she 'couldn't understand why all filipinas were stunning.' to this i replied, 'it's only because you're used to seeing people who look like you. here, people who look like you are considered the prettiest.'

    she couldn't understand what i was saying (i blame the alcohol) and insisted (with a drunken slur) for maybe a dozen more times. every now and then, i wanted to explain the social aspect of beauty and the effect of media on our perception ... but the truth is i didn't really want her to stop. she said i was 'stunning'! about 3 or more times! it was like being in a fun parallel universe where being white and having a high-bridged nose were liabilities. plus she let me taste her jager bomb. like i said, it was a really FUN parallel universe.

    blog makeover

    in 2004, it seemed like a good idea to choose a random blog template and comment on it.

    today, because the blog darkness was getting me down, i decided on a quick makeover. it's the blog equivalent of getting a trim: quite boring but fresh. and fewer split ends.

    a brighter blog is always a good sign.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    a twenty for your thoughts

    ... a nickel for a kiss ... a diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime ... oh wait. not the point.

    it was a happy day in february 2010. rina was throwing her best friend gailey a bridal shower at nail tropics in serendra and my sister and i were invited. apple and i were a bit early but decided to check out the place. on our way there, we saw rina and gailey unloading the food for the shower from their car. there was a whole truckload (fine, 'carload') of food, and we all grabbed a few bags and trays and bottles so it would take just one trip from the car to the venue.

    so picture four relatively well-dressed, well-bred (ahem) women with fingers and hands nearly bleeding from holding overstuffed plastic bags (sorry, earth). and then picture that one of them saw a twenty-peso bill on the ground.

    'uy! twenty pesos!'

    for some reason we all stood around it, like a strangely hypnotized, bag-wielding coven around a magic brew. except the magic brew was a filthy, dirt-encrusted, wrinkly, folded twenty-peso bill that we were just staring at because no one had a free hand. i was seriously contemplating kneeling on the ground to pick up the bill (along with a few dozen microorganisms) with my lips.

    i don't know why twenty pesos was so attractive at the time. i doubt that anyone in that group was greedy or hungry. and yet, for what felt like a very long time, we stared. and stood there. still holding the food (and vodka!).

    after minutes of nothingness, a man who saw our helpless state picked up the twenty and held it out to us. as if it weren't embarrassing enough, the man looked slightly distracted and tired, like he just came from a full day's worth of manual labor and had no time for silly girls longing for twenty pesos. we insisted that he take the money instead but he said nothing and just inserted the bill in one of our clutched hands.

    there was nothing to do after that except to laugh at our own absurdity. and to start drinking, of course. vodka waits for no one.

    in-flight lessons

    i'm quite ambivalent about cebu pacific gimmicks – not just the recently viral dancing-to-in-flight-safety-demonstration gimmicks, but also the contests they hold just after the seatbelt light is switched off. if you haven't been on a cebu pac flight, here's a quick rundown: they ask passengers to show an item (like a 'bring me' game for lazy folk) and the person who raises the item the quickest gets something exciting. like a purse. with the cebu pac logo. whoohooo.

    christine and i took a cebu pac flight to boracay last month. christine is someone i consider to be very laid-back. she's seen it all, she's been through a lot, she's done it all. it would seem that it would take a massive effort to impress the woman who has traveled the world for work and pleasure and knows a million (and a half) people from everywhere. although from almost 20 years of knowing her, i know that she'd always had a competitive heart, i also know she has become more grounded and relaxed on many levels (except when 'attacked' by harmless little fishies, but that's another boracay story). so a tiny cebu pac game couldn't possibly interest her, right?

    true enough, when the mechanics were being explained, christine seemed almost half-asleep, probably from her hectic work week prior to our mini-vacation. i had also started to doze off myself ... probably because i like sleeping. i kept my sunglasses on because the window was open and i was pretending to be a paparazzi-hounded celebrity.

    the flight attendant's voice was very faint in my ears at that point: 'who can show me a pair of sunglasses?' without warning and with lightning-fast hand speed that should be reserved for life-or-death emergencies and tv gameshows, christine grabbed the shades from my face and held it up frantically while sounding like she was stifling a scream. i, on the other hand, had let out an actual scream of pain. if you've never had sunglasses snatched while you were wearing them, then let me explain why in my usual verbose manner: OUCHY.

    life lessons learned:
    1. we never really change.
    2. do not wear shades inside a moving plane. especially not beside type A types who want to win insignificant items with an image of a smiling yellow plane on them.

    ps, christine didn't win. she thought she did though, and looked really disappointed when the flight attendant gave the prize to the person seated behind her. i think christine finally went to sleep after that.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    mama mushu strikes again

    my sisters and i have always told mama to bring a bag with her wallet and phone – or a least some form of identification! – every time she stepped out. actually, we thought we had already driven the point home during one malling weekend. mama left us to use the ladies room but didn't have her phone with her. she was gone for about 20 minutes or longer and we had no way of knowing where she was. after being convinced that she really *was* lost, i went to some toilets and, not finding mama in any (don't ask how i checked), almost ran through the mall shouting "mama!" in a theatrical panic. thankfully, i found her a bit stunned (and tired from all her aimless walking) on one of the many escalators.

    "mama, please, never again." i don't remember if she agreed. i threatened to tattoo her name, age, contact info, diseases, medication, blood type and life goals on her back (and it might fit, too) if she refused to bring her bag again.

    tonight, we went to church and i noticed her familiar baglessness. "mama! not again! i'm really going to have you tattooed!"

    she then excitedly asked, "with a dragon?"


    yeeees, mother. you need a dragon tattoo like i need a boyfriend with a drug problem. then again, maybe he would know about inks.