to Crazy Good Son on the eve of your birthday

Crazy Good Son in a visit to our home

[ NOte from NOel  : Forgive our candidness, but we think our children are the only people on this earth who can make us laugh, cry, turn crimson with anger or misty-eyed with pride, growl with irritation or turn goose-pimply with unreserved happiness, in short make us zoom through the spectrum of emotions (and back) without which Life simply wouldn’t be Life… Among the immensely talented group of finalists on this year’s A.I., two hopefuls are both confident and crazy enough to try Queen and Nirvana songs (particularly unsafe for the time and talent invested), and a 90% falsetto and harmonica-dominated performances.  So much that we’ve heard the judge/s call them “crazy good”, and given all our history, we think it’s a worthy modifier for Panganay, who from hereon we dare to call “Crazy Good Son.”  Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

Dear Crazy Good Son :
COMPARED to an anything-goes, cross-country road trip to Auckland via Lake Taupo and Rotorua, I don’t think a birthday dinner of sinigang na hipon and pork inihaw (BBQed or steak-style, take your pick) would be fair competition, I wish you well instead and hope you enjoy the adventure of your life on the eve of your 23rd.
Arrayed with options galore, unattached, with no responsibilities and with your life barely begun, it is mostly an alien situation to me, and I can only begin to imagine the anticipation you have for the limitless expanse of life that awaits you.
That you begin a parallel quest to discover a second home in this beautiful country makes your story twice as interesting, as you negotiate the convoluted twists and turns, the unexpected developments, the lifelong friendships and of course, all the romantic encounters (if any) that will undoubtedly spice up the plot of  your young life.
I just hope you don’t forget, as I know you probably won’t, to thank all the people who have helped you reach this point in your life.  It doesn’t matter if they are friends or relatives, allies or foes, buddy or co-backpacker, mentor or peer, in the boulevard of dreams.  A simple personal, written or online acknowledgment would go a long way towards confirming what I already know : that you have made an auspicious first step towards maturity, and that you are a fine young man any parent would be proud of. 
Just a few details I never passed on to you, realizing now that it would’ve been impossible for your mother to know them, that humid night of April, 23 years ago.
                **               **               **               **
You were almost born on the 25th, but a mildly difficult delivery (as most first deliveries are) extended the delivery room ( DR ) time till around one in the morning the next day, in what was then still something of a community hospital but almost surely one of the overgrown, metropolitan hospitals in Manila now.  You were lucky enough to have a doctor for an uncle, and not only was he there at the DR to cheer your mother on, he was also there to warn me of the dangers of a wayward umbilical cord complicating delivery, less than unlikely but still a possibility. 
I even remember the hospital bill, which was dramatically reduced because not only did Tito Doc save up on IV fluids, syringes and gauze bandages (still allowed then), he took care of the OB-GYN‘s professional fee.  Pared down to the room fee (the O.B. ward), the anesthesiologist and DR free, it was a quite reasonable P3,000 which today won’t even be enough for the meds needed for a normal childbirth.
Those days newborns were still kept away from the moms till it was time to go home and so even for the healthy babies there was a nursery with the traditional viewing glass through which well-wishers could view you.  But even before that, your first visitors just a few hours after you were born were Ninong Dennis (Sy) and Ninong Raymond (Ong), who kept tabs on you even before you left your mother’s womb.  Your uncles and Lolo visited you later in the morning, and were thrilled to see only the 2nd member of the new generation.  While all these transpired, I was only beginning to contemplate, while beholding your tightly bundled, serene presence, the overwhelming responsibilities that the next years of fatherhood would bring.
There are many more details, but that’s enough for now.
                **               **               **               **
I’ve probably said this one or two times during awkward reunions and the few times I was forthcoming enough to say so :  More often than not, I’ve lashed out at you in anger rather than a fatherly instinct to discipline and admonish.  Better than half the time, I’ve allowed laziness and lame excuses to intervene rather than take a genuine interest in your studies and interests.  And too often, I’ve given you baon that barely provided for your transpo and merienda.  Awful stats for any self-respecting father, and more justification than you would need for a dysfunctional adulthood.
But if you had anything going for you, it was your immense belief in yourself, a belief that no external source could crack.  When no one believed in you, when I even sneered at what I thought was your misplaced confidence, when everyone except your Nana was a doubter, you had a self-confidence that could not be shaken.  When I saw your graduation pictures last year, I had to tell myself that I was wrong and you were right.  You had what it took to lay the foundations of success, and my self-righteousness turned to shame,  coupled with pride that I had a son like you.  Then as now, you deserve every bit of congratulation anak, from a father that fully admits his error.
               **               **               **               **   
Odds are, you’re probably snoozing right now at the backseat of your best mate’s Nissan, on the Motorway somewhere between Auckland and Wellington, or squeezing every precious dollar out of your birthday money in a roadside McDo or Burger King.  You’ve filled your phone cam with the exhilarating sights, taken in the pure autumn breeze of Lake Taupo, or marveled at the geysers of Rotorua.  
Besides the pair of friends with you, you are by your solitary self, with not a care in the world.  You deserve the luxury and carefreeness that youth provides, especially on your birthday.  Just don’t forget to thank God for creating you, your mother who helped bring you into this world, to think of your siblings back home, and when you have time, whisper a prayer for your dad who continues to love you and think of you every so often.
Happy birthday anak, I love and miss you always, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.

From cheesy to sublime : How Kiwis perceive Pinoys

Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, Aklan, the Phil...

Image via Wikipedia

NOte from NOel : Belated happy birthdays to Doc Jeanette Jao and Mary Jone Tan (15th April), and happy birthday to Grace Chua – Tan (18th April), you’re all sorely missed !  Mabuhay and thanks to Christchurch NZ Pinoys for accepting us into their Yahoo!group, kudos to Auckland NZ Pinoys for their team’s performance in Super Rugby, and let’s all pls lend our physical and moral support for The Filipino Artists in New Zealand’s  Ati-Atihan project before a potential 2.5 billion TV audience of the 2011 RWC World Cup! ( OMG and wowowow! ]
WHICH is to be honest, a pretty presumptuous and across-the-board title for an email, as (1) the Kiwis we’ve met are limited to workmates, friends of Pinoy migrant families and members of Kiwi-Pinoy blended families in central Auckland, North Shore City and Lower Hutt, Wellington; (2) we hardly ever pop the question of “So what do you think of us Filipinos, huh?” lest we get stung by a snappy comeback to a vain-sounding, compliment-fishing question, and (3) we hardly think that we could in our wildest dreams accumulate an accurate cross-section representation of how our hosts see us.
What’s authentic though is that when we’re lucky, we get a genuine unscripted and unedited opinion of how New Zealanders think of us, everytime we collect the guts to ask just how much fun we are as guests and migrants in this Middle-Earthy, rugby-crazy and D.I.Y. conscious nation of theirs.  Results range from the tacky, baduy and antiquated to flattering, blushworthy and fulsome praise for our lahing kayumanggi.
No return, no exchange.  It started when a 60-year old co-worker not known for his political correctness ( he probably wasn’t even aware of the term ) mentioned, upon hearing our nationality, that a brother of his almost married a Filipina a while back.
Cost him a lot, too, before he got cold feet.  Probably paid around three grand for her.”
“Pardon me?  Did your brother buy his bride-to-be?  Or ex-bride-to-be?”
O’course he did, young fella.  Big group a’them too.  Didn’t get his money back though, all sales are final, so they said.”
O’course, part of us wanted to retort in indignant outrage that such practice back in the Islands was both unacceptable and now illegal, that the idea of women as mail-order brides was abhorrent and outdated, but breaktime was only 15 minutes.
I silently acknowledged the social reality prevalent back home in a bygone era, slapped my friend on the back, and said, “Never too late for love for you and me, eh?”  And that was that.
Stereotypes. It’s flattering, but unless the New Zealander has more than the cursory encounter with Juan (or Juana) de la Cruz, it’s hard to get out of the stereotype absorbed through the media and urban legend.  For Pinoys, it’s the eternally polite, team-playing, American-English speaking and shorter-than-average Asian, coincidentally qualities this writer is identified with. 
For Pinays, they’re even more typecast : a contractor I often spend breaks with commented that he usually associated Filipinas with “small, pretty girls” (his exact words) that he often mistook for teens just out of middle school.  This, coming from a six-foot four, hundred-kilo plus bloke, who undoubtedly would seem a giant if ever he courted a kababayan to be his potential wife.  Given the fact that his thumbnail sketch of a Pinoy fit me to a T, and that most of the Filipinas I (and he) knew were petite and youthful looking, I decided not to debate with Mr Contractor.
Spring rolls, horror stories and ATMs. Others because of a lucky friendship or two had a more textured image of us.  A colleague’s best mate married a wonderful cook who never came out of the kitchen without a dish of spring rolls or spicy pancit canton, someone who he later learned came from the Philippine Islands (they seem to prefer this term over the Philippines).  She never seemed to run out of stories for the kids, especially about how hard life was back home and how lucky they were to be born in Aussie (where they resettled from NZ).  To balance it out, my colleague remembered that as soon as she satisfied everyone’s hunger pangs, it was off to the mall for her, armed with hubby’s ATM card.  This was a common scenario every weekend, and on the whole it was something he looked forward to with his own future Pinay wife.  It was hard for me to add any commentary to that pretty picture painted, so I just smiled at his tale.
Graceful exit, cheerful goodbye.  But however you think of fellow Pinoys, you can’t help but smile when you realize how many Pinay (and Pinoy) nurses and caregivers are perceived, as I heard this from someone whose loved one passed away in a nursing home:
Of all the caregivers, I noticed that the ones who really knew their job and tried to give the most comfort to my dad [ in his last days ] were the Asian ones, and I was surprised to learn that they were mostly Filipinas.  They were cheerful and treated him as if he were family, and I knew it ’cause I was there often, they smiled at everyone like they meant it… if they were tired, and I’m sure they were, they never showed it.  They made life easier for my dad his last few days.
I wanted to tell him that most of the caregivers he saw were RNs (Registered Nurses) back home just waiting for better gigs; that many of our medical professionals were trained in the art and science of giving extra comfort to the very ill; and that Pinoy nurses commonly go the extra mile and treat their patients like one of their own, but it seemed almost rude to disturb the mental image and memories he had produced, and I merely nodded my head, reinforcing the positives whenever Filipinos came to mind.  He seemed to appreciate that.
                **               **               **               **               **
We’re not perfect, we’ve got our own quirks and shortcomings as a people, but on the whole we’re doing well as guests in our various adopted lands.  Because of this the good karma gets paid forward, not just to our countrymen and women but to later generations who’ll walk in our footsteps, and follow our happy trails.  Salamat kabayan for putting your best foot forward !
Thanks for reading !

Brent’s High School Graduation and Chuck Lidell (via Text and Photos by Jude Bautista)

Gratitude and deepest thanks to brother Jude for posting this on his site, so many feel-good memories and senti thoughts go your way bro! I can never return the favor, but please let me try ! (hikbi hikbi !) 😉 love you bro!

Brent’s High School Graduation and Chuck Lidell Written and photographed By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista Elijah Brent Bautista graduated high school from Sienna College Tay tay last March 29, 2011. His Social studies grade was the best for the batch. He is th … Read More

via Text and Photos by Jude Bautista

Lolo NOel vs Tatay NOel : Why Lolo Will Win

Grandchildren with their Grandparents

Image by Rockin Robin via Flickr

 [ NOte from NOel : They’re nowhere near that stage, and we want them to enjoy their young adulthood / disposable income stage, but just the thought of seeing Panganay, Ganda and Bunso produce 3rd generation NOelitos or NOelitas is enough to get a rise out of us each time we surrender to the temptation of such thoughts. We wondered why we were so confident of being a better grandpa, and came up with these reasons. Please include in your prayers not only the 3 OFWs executed in China but also those imprisoned in Thailand, Malaysia and the Middle East. Thanks for reading! ]

Lots of room for improvement – Let’s face it, we went through the motions, gave it the old college try, but on the whole, we were less than mediocre at fatherhood. We paced the obligatory pacing area at DR, bought the cigars and drew up the ninongs/ninangs list, excitedly showed off the neonates at the nursery ( newborns were still kept from the moms until they were ready to be brought home ), but from there everything went downhill.

We won’t be remembered by the suplings for educating, providing and inspiring, which traditionally are the pillars of examplary daddyhood, and coupled by our absenteeism and constant cutting of corners, we left much to be desired. On the bright side, we made so many mistakes we’ve got practically a library of what-not-to-do and what-to-avoid tips ( still sore from pounding our head to keep from repeating such ), which we’ll only be too glad to impart and pass on to the apo’s, captive audience that they are.

Selfish reasons – You want to see the kids be good parents, or at least be better than you ever were. For that, you’ll do everything in your power to help them to raise their kids right, and of course there’s the additional incentive of having great grandchildren (not great-grandchildren, haha). If only for that reason, we’ll be there for the kids’ parties, doc’s appointments, soccer / basketball games, and summer vacations. If ever they need extra advice, an extra hug ( or even extra baon ), you can count on us to be there, as sure as our own folks were there for Panganay, Ganda and Bunso.

Patience, tenacity and conviction – To our mind, these are the cardinal qualities needed by a doting Lolo, and for some reason we feel we will own them. To be sure, we’ve never known ourselves to be a patient parent, and for sure you won’t hear that description from our progeny, and deservedly so. Many times, our short fuse, frustrated sighs and dismal E.Q. generated tampo, dour moods and a disproportionate amount of grief far beyond the flash of irritation we gave vent to.

But over the years, we learned that extra patience, biting your lip, counting to 10, and exhaling were all useful devices in dealing with someone in their own learning years, learning to crawl / walk / text / dribble (substitute the memorable activity your descendant was trying to learn with your help) and moreover, they were extra grateful for it.

Tenacity, cuz 99 out of a hundred situations, kids need only the extra effort, extra step and extra move to get them over the hump of unfamiliarity with whatever they’re learning. the extra ingredient to do it? Love and enough concern to make sure that they can start doing things on their own. Not a moment sooner too, as we certainly need the break 🙂

Conviction, because you know after years and years of experience, hard knocks and muscle memory that by being a darn good lolo, you are doing the right thing. And no temporary distraction, middle age crisis or carnal pleasure can convince you otherwise.

** ** **

And if after everything, you still needed incentive to become the best ever “winning” Lolo / Lola there is, you only have to dwell on the thought that mega celebrities like Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and ( sorry to put you in their company ) President Noynoy will in their lifetimes never be able ( or won’t be allowed ) to become card-carrying grandparents the way you are on your way to be. I know the last one’s a weird thought, but let’s count our blessings, be grateful for each day given us, and thank God if the opportunity to see our future apo’s is a realistic one.

Thanks for reading, and mano po Lola and Lola !