Thursday, December 27, 2012

A little story about a song and laugh-y friends

It's been said that people come into our life for a reason, but (and maybe this part isn't said quite as often) GOOD LUCK on figuring it all out, suckerrrr!!!

Obviously, I have issues. (And a postmenstrual headache.)

I think that, after a gross oversimplification of my life, I've identified some of these reasons. The reasons range from the deep and complicated ("to make me grateful and hopeful" or "to make me stronger and wiser") to the elementary yet necessary ("to make me lasagna").

Importantly, some people are in my life just so I could laugh. And laugh hard. Laugh-like-you-don't-need-your-lungs-tomorrow kind of hard. Not the polite kind of laugh you reserve for new acquaintances and awkward questions ("Why don't you have a boyfriend?" "Hehehe." or "When are you getting married?" "Hahaha." or maybe "Is Santa real?" "Hohoho.").

*Ten points for unexpected but lame season-relevant joke*

Thanks to all these people, I've laughed a lot in my adult life. With these people, I've laughed until we couldn't breathe, until we had to pee, until some of us had to use an inhaler (you know who you are), until we couldn't drive, until our cheeks cramped, until our laps hurt from all the self-thigh-slapping.

I've blogged about many of the moments that have entertained me over the years, but thankfully, there are still a few more left to document before age-related memory loss takes over.

One particularly laugh-y night with three of my girlfriends from my college years stands out not because I remember it easily, but because we've told the story so many times to anyone who would care to listen. Two of these friends, Bong and Pia, were the same girlfriends with me that night I saw Ronan Keating. (The third friend, Glen, still hasn't forgiven us for leaving her out that night.) (Sorry again, Glen.)

So we were all in Bong's car, listening to our then station of choice, Crossover 105.1 FM (I still like this, by the way). And then our all-time-favorite song came on.

All of us after hearing the first few notes: AAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!

We were all beside ourselves with giddy excitement, and I'm pretty sure at least three of us were getting ready to sing along (ehem, were you getting ready too, Pia?), when suddenly, while she was still in mid-AAAAAAYYYYYY!!!! ...

... Bong changed the station.


Glen (angry): Bakit mo naman pinalitan!?! (Why did you change it!?!)

Bong (still excited): Eh baka may mas maganda! (There might be something better!)


Needless to say, that was one of those times when we couldn't stop laughing and Bong probably had to stop driving. That part I don't quite recall because it happened about 20 years ago and we usually stop the story after the punchline. What I do remember is being happily out of breath and thinking Bong probably had a problem with commitment.

(Note to Bong's husband: She doesn't.)

I realize now that this story is one that will never be as funny to other people as it was to us four, but I guess that's why I had to share it: so at least four people will be snickering to themselves after reading this, and at least four people will listen to that YouTube clip from start to end. And probably even play it again a few more times.

And maybe, if Christmas miracles are real, Pia will very loudly sing along. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And now, a Mama-related toilet tale

Post-tennis: Mama and some weird chick with a Rafa cap
Every Saturday morning, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 AM (or thereabouts) so I can play tennis with my parents and their friends. I have been joining this group for a while now, and I'll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I like this particular group is because I am the youngest member. This helps me cling on to every last minuscule drop of my fading youth. Sadly, in this group, age often seems to be directly proportional to tennis skills. My 82-year-old tennis friend who has undergone multiple-bypass surgery has a better forehand and the most frustrating drop shots.

After one morning tennis session, Mama and I went to the ladies room to change into clean shirts. I'm pretty sure we were the only two people in the room, and Mama immediately entered what I shall henceforth label stall #1. A minute later, I entered stall #2.

(Now I'm questioning the utility of numbering the stalls. And using the word 'henceforth'.)

While we were both still inside our respective stalls, I heard another lady (I assume she was female, given that we were in the ladies room – I'm smart that way) enter stall #3 ...

... and she proceeded to ... let's say ... unload mightily.

And by 'unload', I mean poop.

Just to be clear.

The peaceful and sanitary quiet in the room quickly became a heavy, tension-filled, olfactory nightmare, which was extra stressful for me because, while we all had to bear the stench coming from stall #3 (Aha! The purpose of numbering!), I had a feeling that Mama did not know that a third person had joined us.

Just as I suspected, from stall #1 came the resounding:

"May ginawa ka bang masama???"

(Translation: "Did you do something evil?!?")

Mama's accusation, which was obviously playfully directed to me, hung over the three stalls like a horrifying echo that bounced across the cold tiles and enveloped me, the accused, and lady in stall #3, the unfortunate culprit/victim.

Weighing all the possible next steps, I had no choice but to turn to stone. After all, what else was there to do? Should I have replied out of courtesy? "No, clueless mother. A stranger who can undoubtedly hear both of us is causing the air pollution."

I stopped moving and breathing (useful, given the current odor) and waited until I heard the frantic escape of stall #3 occupant from the toilet. I doubt that any handwashing transpired in those crucial moments of flight. Not that I blame her. Getting out of an awkward situation trumps personal hygiene.

And that was when I exited my stall and saw my mother nonchalantly combing her hair as though no embarrassing incident had transpired.

"You do know that it wasn't me, right?"

"How was I supposed to know there was someone else?"

And that was that.

The moral of the story: Never assume ... especially about ass-related issues.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Are you going to get married or ...

I don't know if Martina has been terrorizing her Grade 1 classmates, but one of her Tatay's latest stories worried me a bit.

Allegedly, Martina goes up to her classmates and asks them,
"Are you going to get married? Or are you going to just WANDER AROUND??!!"

If we must analyze this mutual exclusivity in her mind (and we must, naturally), then we have to go a step further and ... make it about me. After all, who else does she have as role models for being non-married? Well there's me from her Mom's side, and from her Tatay's side, Tita Rachel and Tito Perry.

When I first heard the 'wander around' story, I was quite amused – and jazaleetol slightly offended – that Martina could have been implying that I was going through my life without purpose or direction. Then something happened that made me reconsider the truth of my niece's insinuation.

Martina's only uncle, Tito Perry, passed away last month. He was only 48.

Although we were not related, every now and then I still have inexplicable heavy pauses, times when I shake my head and wipe away a stray tear from the disbelief that someone so good has continued to exist. Although the idea of death might never be clear to me, this particular passing has reminded me of something I probably learned once or twice but never really fully believed: I am here for a reason.

After he died, much has been revealed about Perry's generous spirit. Numerous anecdotes about his selflessness and kindness as a friend or lawyer have warmed his family's grieving soul throughout the past few weeks. As for me, I have discovered that Perry DID wander around after all.

Father Johnny Go summarized it best in the homily he delivered during Perry's funeral mass:

"... Perry would always walk around the village either early in the morning or at night after dinner. These walks allowed him to interact with—and befriend—the household help, drivers, and security guards in the neighborhood. In fact, one neighbor learned of his death only from their driver! 
When these neighborhood friends heard about his passing, they said they would surely miss him, especially the guards because according to Jesse, Perry used to hand out beers to them! 
But more than the socializing, Perry would go out of his way to help those in need. Once he spent an entire day helping the husband of a household help get out of jail."

Maybe wandering around was Perry's real vocation.

Maybe the only real vocation is to be kind to people we meet in our wanderings.

Maybe Martina did not mean to accuse – maybe she meant to challenge.

Or maybe I'm just sad, and really need to put this down in writing:

Bye, Tito Per. Thank you for making my Dad happy by bringing him his favorite Chinese snacks. Thank you for helping him with his contracts and whatnot. Thank you for making my niece and nephew laugh so much. Most of all, thank you for always saying I looked like I lost weight even when the opposite was true. I hope you don't get into trouble in heaven for that. We will all miss you, Tito Per! 


Aaand there's that stray tear again.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Wising up to the why's

"Why is that another cow?"

It was a sincere and softly spoken question from Elle, the 3-year-old daughter of Dennis, my friend and then-driver of the car headed towards our weekend vacation venue. We were driving past some fields and every so often pointed out a mountain or an animal to the only child in the car. Dennis was used to his daughter's queries and, with a bit of wit and probably some resignation, he answered, "Because it's not the same cow."

*Slow clap*

I, on the other hand, was still processing the question. I don't remember being as puzzled by a question as much as I was puzzled by Elle's. I had to repeat it loudly to myself (and to my small captive audience in the car) a few times. "Why is that another cow??? Why. is. that. another. cow??? WHY IS THAT ANOTHER COW!?!"

I loved that question.

Elle, probably thinking of another amazing question
("Why are they always trying to feed me?)

I loved how I couldn't even begin to deal with how potentially complex and mysterious it was. The rational side of my brain knew that all Elle really wanted to ask was why there were so many cows by the roadside, or something. Something simple. But the way her new-ish brain developed the syntax of that question using her current vocabulary threw me off-balance for a few long minutes (also, there was nothing else to do in the car). I couldn't handle it. WHY IS THAT ANOTHER COW?

Why, indeed.

I think I've had my fill of why's recently. One particularly big 'why' is still resounding in my head after one fateful day in June.

It was June 13, 2012 – two days after Rafa (Nadal, for anyone who does not know me or has not seen my Facebook wall) won his seventh French Open title. Interestingly, even before Rafa won, I had frequent happy thoughts of how my life was good and perfect. So after he won, I was beside myself with glee (the kind of glee not associated with that sickening TV show that everyone assumes I like). However, at the same time, my gut was telling me it was the proverbial calm before the storm and that I should brace myself for the inevitable curve ball.

And a curve ball of curve balls it was.

The phone rang and woke me up. It was my friend Joemar. He needed to tell me he had cancer.

Cancer. Joemar. Advanced cancer.


After that unforgettable call, my days were filled with one befuddling question after another, each one heavier and messier than the next. Questions on disease and faith and life. Questions I have been trying to put off ever since both my parents, at different times, were also diagnosed with the same illness. In dealing with parents though, I discovered that, when faced with their chronic or major medical conditions, I was a doctor more than I was a daughter. Although it doesn't always work, at least I have a handy coping mechanism for whenever my parents' health becomes an issue. (Or so I think. To whoever is listening: This is not a challenge! I do not want to test my coping mechanism!!!)

Unfortunately, having to deal with the same kind of major disease in a very close friend brought out a kind of panicked, unreasonable, emotional state that should manifest only in noontime gameshow contestants and bad actors. Like an inconsolable fool, I fell asleep every night on tear-soaked pillows, which I dutifully refreshed with new tears when I woke up. For almost 2 weeks, I failed to deal with anything else except work and the barest of hygiene, and drowned out the why's in huge piles of junk food and dessert. Life became just one distraction after another. I handled the news so poorly that when my sister saw me during that timeframe, all she could say was, "You look like hell."

(Sisters: When mirrors aren't enough.)

Joemar, on the other hand, had the kind of healthy, positive attitude most doctors could only hope for in their patients. One could say that he is relatively young (Sorry for the 'relatively', Joemar. Cancer doesn't get you off the hook all the time.) and fit so it's probably easier for him ... but cancer is cancer – being diagnosed with it and having to deal with treatment and its complications are life events you could not possibly prepare for mentally or spiritually. And yet there he was, being all happy and hopeful and grateful.

Ever since the day we found out he had cancer (it turned out to be advanced lung cancer) and after getting most of the technical treatment-y stuff out of the way, I have not seen Joemar particularly sad or worried about anything. Naturally, the time he had to tell his family and friends about his disease was a heavy one, not without his own tears and apprehensions. But negativity could not and will not overwhelm or paralyze his spirit (it also helps that he has 14,263 loved ones praying for him). To my knowledge, his biggest recent 'issues' have been where to eat for lunch, what will happen next on "Be Careful With My Heart" (the local soap that coincides with his radiotherapy schedule, according to his excuse), how not to be fooled by the fake parking slot in the hospital basement, how to explain Charice's indescribable hair on X Factor Philippines (OK, this is more MY issue than his), and what to give his oncologist (hi Tito Dennis!) for his birthday.

And speaking of birthdays, it's Joemar's birthday today.

*Cue "Blow out all the candles ..." and the Bellestar dancers*

To say I'm grateful for Joemar is like saying I'm just somewhat thankful that my mother gave birth to me or I'm just a bit satisfied that my father was a good provider or I just kinda sorta like hanging out with my sisters. I do not have enough superlatives in my arsenal to quantify the value of a good friend. For now, suffice it to say that Joemar is the brother I never had and the friend I aim to be someday. And that I hope this birthday is his happiest yet, despite of – and, somehow, because of – cancer.

"Why is that another cow?"

"Why does oneofmyverybestfriendsinthewholewideworld have cancer?"

Maybe some why's don't need to be answered. Maybe 'why' was invented to send our cerebral gyri into a frenzy and slap our complacent cheeks into an instant but full appreciation of the present. And what could so easily be taken from our present.

"Why ... were we taking our picture at the hospital?"

These days I can think like a doctor again. I'm calmer, I've forgotten most of my petty issues, my eyes are dry most of the time, and I can be a functional driver-secretary-assistant-lunchmate to whoever needs me, particularly that masked person in the picture on his way to healing who has made me more thankful and hopeful and at least 10 pounds heavier.

(Note to Joemar: Weight gain, schmeight gain. I will still claim that Dilly Bar from your freezer.)

(Note to Joemar, epilogue: Happy birthday!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Photojournalism entry #2: How to convert yourself into an anime character using nature

I love my bangs (that's 'fringe' to British folk?). I've had bangs for a while now and I don't see myself letting them grow out anytime soon. I know I have a particularly large forehead (many people have pointed it out to me – thank you, many people) so bangs are also quite useful in my efforts to cover up. 

This is me. In my head.

I'm not saying that wide foreheads are ugly, OK? I don't want Tyra to get all up on me. ('All up on me' – who the heck am I?). 

For some people, having beautiful bangs comes naturally or is the result of having enough money to have stylists on hand. 

For instance:

Acck! Please don't hurt me.


New girl, new bangs era


Beautiful bangs with a beautiful guy
on the side

Or even:

... with a beautiful monkey on the side

I, on the other hand, need maximum effort and time just to make my bangs behave, stand in line, and not look like they are having more crazy fun than their human owner (me).

So this is a pic of me taken in Macau, where it was cold and blowdrying was a breeze. Note the decent bangs. Note the smile. 

Little did this smiling tourist know what was ahead

Now here's what I discovered: a little frigid rain can turn one into a rather disgruntled-looking anime character. I didn't know my bangs had run amok until I saw my sister take one glance at me after our outdoor adventure and burst out laughing.

You can tell I was holding back some expletives

You are also allowed to laugh. Loudly, if you please.

And now to cancel out the Dora and Pinay anime images from your head ...

Are you SURE we don't look alike? Fine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Watching the first 80 minutes of a movie is overrated

I feel like I have to apologize for another blog post about my niece Martina. So here goes: Sorry to all accidental readers who hate children, especially smart, cute children with squishy cheeks. I hope you can find something else to read online. I hear the Internet is big.

Now that that's out of the way ...

Martina and family have been spending a lot of time here, on account of it being summer and all, and probably because a certain sister is tired of cooking for her family (no judgment). They were here again yesterday in full force. After lunch, Martina watched a movie in my room because ... I don't know. Maybe she wants my work to be extra challenging, or maybe she likes my bed. Just like me when I was about her age, Martina has discovered the comfy joy of surrounding herself with pillows and calling it her 'house'. I remember those simple days ... *nostalgia break* ...

Ridiculously cute
Her movie of choice was 'Lilo & Stitch 2', in which I wasn't particularly interested (Did YOU know there was a Lilo & Stitch 2?) I asked Martina to keep the volume down (she was in my 'office' after all) so I couldn't really follow the story even I wanted to. After about an hour and a half of work, I decided to take a break and joined Martina on the bed. Unfortunately (as it eventually played out), I caught one of the last scenes of the movie. Let's all keep in mind that this was a movie I knew nothing about.

In the scene, Stitch (the alien) was unconscious and Lilo (the ridiculously cute Hawaiian girl) was holding him (is Stitch a boy?) in her arms, saying 'No! Please don't go, Stitch. No!' This was followed by a lot of heart-wrenchingly childlike sobbing and sniffing from Lilo and a lot of non-movement from the alien.


I knew it would happen. I felt the all-too-familiar lump in my throat, threatening to make me burst into hot, painful tears. Meanwhile, I noticed that Martina was tense beside me. Suddenly, she covered her face with a pillow and shouted, 'I'M GOING TO CRY!!! I'M GOING TO CRY!!!'

So we cried and wet the pillows. Because that's what we do.

What I learned today: Martina is not devoid of human emotions and might be a sap like her aunt.

Another thing I learned today: Never stop working. Never ever stop working.

(Spoiler alert: Stitch didn't die. I mean, seriously – It was on the Disney network! Did you really think that ... oh wait ... Bambi was a Disney flick, wasn't it? So much for that.)


[Warning: this next bit has a spoiler. Sort of.]

The above anecdote takes me back to the time I took a nap in my parents room, just when Mama was about to start watching 'The Notebook' on HBO. I refused to put myself through that torture again so I went to sleep. I slept soundly for most of the movie.

Unfortunately (again, as it eventually played out), I woke up just before THAT scene. You know, when the present-day elderly wife realized it was HER and it was HIM and there was hugging and crying and ... you know what I'm talking about. The second I saw it, I started sobbing like I earned a living from crying at useless stuff.

One thing I learned that day: Never stop sleeping. Never ever stop sleeping.


So ... what was Lilo & Stitch 2 about anyway?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's going to be a blah blah blah summer!

It's officially summer in these parts. Seems like just yesterday when nephew Juancho started grade 3 and niece Martina, kinder 1. Wasn't it just last week when I was tearing up at the sight of Martina in her first-ever uniform? I had the sinking feeling at the time that it would be all downhill from there. Soon enough, Juancho would be too cool to like me (I'm needy and chock-full of childhood issues) and Martina would stop asking for naptime stories. *SOB*

But wait, maybe all is not lost just yet.

Just the other day, Juancho (9 years old but knows how to fix his hair with clay – take note, not gel) and Martina (5 years old but still wears her clothes from 2 years ago) were playing some hidden clue game, which, if I understood correctly, involved Juancho hiding drawings of family members throughout our house and giving Martina clues on where to find them. Side note: it was the kind of game I would've invented and loved playing in my childhood. Why was I not invited to play this game??? (Like I said, chock-full of issues, man)

Anyway, I accidentally saw Juancho's drawing of me and immediately did what any touched auntie would do in this day and age: I shouted THISISSOCUTEJUANCH!!! ... and posted it on Facebook.

I can handle 5 tennis balls without even looking

There are so many things I like about this drawing. First of all, Juancho drew me with bangs, which, for some reason, makes me think he's really smart (obviously, I have my own unique logic-generating apparatus). Next, I love the smirk and crazy eyes, which were most likely unintentional yet so accurate. Oh and the tennis racket (I am assuming it's a tennis racket on account of the round balls spewing out of it)! How detailed is that???

I love this kid (Juancho, not the kid in the sketch).

That same day that I saw Juancho's drawing, Martina asked me for a story before we took a nap. She wanted a loooooong one this time, she said. She wanted it to be as long as (*big gulp of air*) "like if Lolo Jesus stood on top of Lolo Rene and on top of Tatay and on top of Mom and Tita Mia and you and Juancho and EVERYBODY!!! THAT'S HOW TALL AND HOW LONG I WANT MY STORY!!!"

I said no.

(Well, no to the tall/long story but I did end up telling her a short-ish story later on. I'm not heartless.)

To distract her from the idea of a story that could possibly go on for 2 weeks, I asked her what her kinder teacher wrote in her goodbye note (Aww! Did my teachers ever write me goodbye notes?). Martina knew it by heart:
"Dear Martina,  
Be a good girl ..."

I cut her off and asked, "Wait, do you know how to be a good girl?"


"So how do you become a good girl?"

"Um, you do blah blah blah things."

"What are blah blah blah things???"

"Ask mom. She knows."

*Staring contest with Ms 5-year-old Smarty-pants*

Not the actual staring contest but a pre-enactment

It's going to be a long summer ... really long, like if Lolo Jesus stood on top of Lolo Rene and on top of Tatay and ... you get the point.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First lesson of 2012

Did we need more proof that I'm losing my neurons?

(Talking about Chinese New Year)
Friend (to Chinese Friend): 2012! Year of the dragon. 
Chinese Friend: Actually, water dragon. I was born in the year of the fire horse
Me: Ah! I didn't know you were born in the year of the dragon.

(After a few long seconds of Chinese Friend thinking about whether or not he would point out my stupidity ...)
Me: Oh wait. A fire horse is not a dragon.

(Slow clap)

(But honestly, isn't 'DRAGON' a better name for 'FIRE HORSE'?)

(Don't respond to that.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Why I cannot be trusted with impressionable children

I used to think I was a smart person. I probably was, too, maybe in my teenage years, when I had more sensible things to do than watch drag queens (love you, RuPaul) and play Bejeweled on my phone until I feel my pillow getting drenched from eye-fatigue tears. The more I age though, the more I question my brain's abilities. I think I am slowly becoming my mother, which is not really necessarily a bad thing. I could be a good subject of someone else's blog someday. If I'm lucky.

Unfortunately (well, fortunately for the other party), the regression of my intellect is proportional to the progression of Martina's. Over the weekend, she caught me off-guard again by hurling another random barrage of questions at me. It was much like the math-related series from the previous blog post, with similar elementary errors from me.

(Warning: To all those who will be tempted to send in their corrections, I know my answers aren't always accurate, so please just let me be. Martina has the rest of her life to figure it out. I, on the other hand, have stopped caring.)

I remember a time when I liked tricking children but now I am in serious danger of actually and unintentionally miseducating them.

I was supposed to remember this. I was there.
Martina: What do lions eat?

Me: Other animals. (She wasn't as bothered by this bit of information as I thought she would be)

Martina: What do deer eat?

Me: Hmm. Smaller animals. Oh wait. Maybe plants because they have a smaller mouth.

Martina: I think they eat carrots. Remember we fed them at the zoo?

Me: Wow, you're right. They can eat carrots. (*slapping my forehead for not remembering*)

Martina: What do pandas eat?

Me: Bamboo!!! (Yeeessss. An easy one.)

Martina: What do ants eat?

Me: Our food.

Martina: What do birds eat?

Me: Seeds ... worms ...

Martina: What about eagles?

Me: (*realizing eagles are birds* ... wait, are they?) Oh hmm. Eagles can eat mice.

Martina: Can they eat you?

Me: No, maybe not.

Martina: So they can eat only medium-sized things?

Me: (*burning all my M-sized clothes*)

Martina: What do kangaroos eat?

Me: Oh my g ... Small things. We should really ask Juancho. Where is Juancho??? (I rely on smart 9-year-olds now)

Stop watching football and answer your sister's questions.

Me again: Hey Marteens, want to learn a new word? (I was feeling particularly clever at this point and was hoping for redemption)

Martina: OK!

Me: So when an animal eats just plants, it's called a vegetarian.


Martina: OK.


Martina: What?

Me: I'm wrong! Wait. OK, so when an animal eats only meat or other animals, it's called a carnivore.

Martina: A CARNIVAL???

Me: No, carnivore. (*secretly thinking 'carnival' is a better word*) And when it eats only plants, it's called a herbivore.


Then she started tickling me until we both fell asleep from laughing.

... My stories never end the way they're supposed to nowadays.