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.