ang pagbabalik: raw notes coming home and the first 24 back home

thanks and acknowledgment to naira forum!

thanks and acknowledgment to naira forum!

It’s not even the first 24 hours, but I’m not drunk, I have a keyboard in front of me, and I don’t have a pressing engagement.  Not that I have any pressing engagements the next few days, weeks, or the rest of my stay back in the Philippines.  I’m here (1) to visit family, (2) to attend a nephew’s wedding, the only son of our eldest brother, the first of the next generation, and (3) to spend vacation leave like a real vacation leave.

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As usual, we left a lot of odds and ends unsorted and loose strings unattached.  Ideally I think, after nearly a decade of going home and travelling 24+ hours at a time, the best time to prepare for a trip back home is around a week before.  But hey, who knows what’s best for each person right?

If you prepare too soon, the preparations you make will lapse or will need new preparations.  if you prepare too late, well, you’ll be late.

things like, someone watch the car please so batteries won’t go dead and won’t get shat on by birds? (we don’t have a covered carport.)  Anyone please watch the flat so the personal property inside doesn’t get stolen and unnoticed till we return? (our backdoor neighbor and daughter Ganda and boyfriend have graciously indulged.) Anyone please bring us to the airport and pick us up when we arrive?  (bless their soul, somebody has raised their hand.)

Milk going bad, too bad, frozen goods stay frozen, what? no pets to feed? and Noel, don’t forget to turn off the automatic water heater to avoid needlessly wasting energy.   Check, check, check?  That’s it.


Because you don’t plan for these things, and it’s nearly beyond your control, it’s almost a given, that :  (1) there will be a baby or babies either next to your seat, behind you, or in front of you.  The chances of this happening are directly proportional to the length of your trip.  Please let me explain.  WELLINGTON to AUCKLAND, 45 mins. = very little chance of a baby in the vicinity.  Remote, if you ask me.  AUCKLAND TO WELLINGTON, approximately 3 hours.  = chances go up moderately.  If you’re lucky, you will hear cooing and gurgling sounds, in the 3 meter radius.  If you’re unlucky, they’re distressed, needing a good breastfeed or needing a major diaper change.  AUCKLAND to MANILA, 7-8 hours = chances go up dramatically, exponentially in fact.

It goes up even higher if you’ve been stress-free (meaning baby-free) the first two legs of the trip, probably 75% to 90%  A few Hail Marys would be useful now.  But looking at the baby carriers, eyebagged parents and feeding bottles around you at Sydney International, you know it will be a long trip.

As soon as you settle in your seat and fasten the seat belt, baby #1  starts crying.  This of course stresses out baby #2, and starts crying too.  They are both within 3 rows of yours.

[Sorry for the extra detail.  Raw notes, after all.]


(Eight hours later.)  It’s not as bad as we dreaded it to be.  The babies actually kept quiet, would you believe a one-year old had his iPad keeping him occupied?  the unmistakable Aussie twang of the Qantas pilot cheerfully informed us that the flight was 20 (twenty!) minutes ahead of schedule, no traffic! he joked.

Alas, traffic welcomed us outside NAIA Terminal 1 to render the time saved totally meaningless.  The trip between the airport and the temporary hotel (we booked a day late, promo was negated by a non-discounted first night), around 15 kms away, took as a little over an hour, shocking in New Zealand terms but actually shorter than average for rush hour travel.

I can’t name the hotel because we didn’t choose in advance, the price was reasonable and they were quite friendly, but the carpet was threadbare, sheets smelled strongly of cheap fabric conditioner and cheap disinfectant (I’m sure the price difference between the next higher brand/s is centavos per kilogram), and the toilet flushed veeeerrrry slowly, a constant worry for me.  Of all the whines, moans and groans this paragraph, only the last one was enough for me to never recommend it to anyone; it is a famous, iconic brand that has seen better days, and is right next to the favorite mall of the snake-daughter.

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Backpedalling a bit to the airport: I made the basic steps: looked for my brother’s driver, booked a week in advance (he was exactly where Eldest Brother said he would be, dressed in the polo barong that he was supposed to wear and crew-cut hair), bought a SIM card and replaced the New Zealand one in my phone, SMS texted the most important people first: Mother, Eldest Brother, Second Brother and Fifth Brother (I am the Third).  Only Fourth Brother remains overseas.

As soon as we stepped outside the air-conditioned NAIA airport complex, the hot muggy air hit us: not as bad as we anticipated, as there was a low-pressure area that just left Metro Manila.  Maybe 19-20 Celsius.  The carbon monoxide definitely flavored the air, and as I mentioned earlier, what should’ve been a 20-25 minute ride tops in Wellington took us around an hour and a half.

Welcome home Noel.

hacking the genome sequence of the Pinoy relationship DNA (with Pinoys Pinays either or both)


carefully posed “couple” picture.  We were actually harassed and stressed at the time.  

(Note : thanks for indulging me with the longish title, and thanks Glenda Laserna for reminding me. 🙂 Happy birthday Karen Hulleza-Luna and Spencer Tee!)

As it’s recently been the day of hearts, love and relationships, we’re putting on our relationship analyst hat, being eminently qualified with the requisite number of relationships (each one I’m grateful for), number of heartbreaks (most of which I’ve survived) and mental state (as the sign on the door sez, quietly going crazy in an outwardly sane world, kaw rin no).  Now dear Precious Reader, whether or not you’re crazy enough take the pieces of advice below is entirely up to you,  caveat emptor.

Love is universal.  Kabayan like you and me (and everyone else) are sensible enough to avoid the conceit that Pinoys and the way they love are unique, with a few minor exceptions, love across homo sapiens sapiens is consistent, predictable and, given a uniform set of facts or situation, will produce a uniform outcome.

But Pinoys are worth mentioning that we blend the traditional with the modern, the religious with the secular, the zealot with the infidel, the parochial with the cosmopolitan.  We cannot be a cookie-cutter, love-is-love and happily-ever-after love culture.  We have to have our teleserye complications, twists and turns, conflicted inner and outer conflicts and wishy-washy crazy-love lunacy that defines Pinoy love.  (Obvious ba na love-scarred ang inyong blogger? :p )

In a relationship, Pinoys are self-centered, Pinays like to be indulged.  Notice I didn’t say selfish, there’s a difference.  The reality in a relationship is, Pinoys like to think in terms of me all time, a result of history, culture and gender.  What is my breakfast?  Is my underwear ready?  Am I going to do the nasty tonight?  And so on and so forth.  Now, see how his counterpart thinks:  What breakfast will I prepare?  Have I fresh underwear for him?  Is he gonna ask me to do the nasty tonight?  Whether or not you are comfortable with this or want to tweak the relationship somewhat is entirely up to you, but in a nutshell, that’s the template.

Conversely, in return for all this me-me-me preoccupation with themselves, Pinoys acknowledge that recognition, respect, tributes (meaning gifts), especially faithfulness and loyalty, and we’re-not-worthy posturing should regularly be paid to their girlfriends-spouses-partners.  It’s just part of the equation, without which there would be serious imbalance to the relationship.

Frequent hugs and kisses.  Oh-I’m-the-luckiest-man-alive!  exclamations.  Gifts and presents for no reason at all.  Complete surrender of the finance and budget portfolio to the missus.  These are just part-and-parcel of the philosophy of, in return for treating you like a king, treating your woman like the princess that she is.  Good bargain, if you ask me.

Holding your tongue at any and all times, especially when it concerns the following :  Her appearance, specifically her figure, her pretty face, and how she perceives herself.  The standard response may vary (a vigorous yes, regurgitating whatever self-opinion she has of herself, artfully rephrasing what you know is her self-image), but the simple formula is : absolutely yes, you are 100% percent correct, my dear.  There is no deviation from this timeless formula.  Stay the course and relationship success is assured.  Stray from this winning solution at your peril. Nuff said.

Acknowledging the sacred cows of the relationship.  with some Pinoys it’s family.  With others it’s religion.  With still others it’s a combination of the two, children of a previous relationship, politics, what-have-you.  Whatever, it’s a quirk of Filipinos that our very strong family ties, Roman Catholic upbringing, regionalism, etc etc etc will frequently impose themselves at some point on the relationship.

Rather than push back, resist or fight centuries-old institutions that will not easily go away, methinks it would be best to be like the bamboo and bend with the wind, not break and in the process thrive on the chaos.  Admit that sometimes, relationships take second place.  Go through the motions of following Catholic practices (I will probably burn in hell for this).  And if your Pinay sez Ilokano is better than Tagalog, or Bisaya is better than Waray, just nod along, who knows who is correct, in the ultimate scheme of things?

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It sounds simplistic, but many, many relationships I have seen and experienced have survived on knowing these simple truths.  It doesn’t matter if only one or both are Pinoy and / or Pinay.  It works.  Not all the time, but it works.

Happy Relationship or Freedom from Relationship Day everyone!

belated congrats to Ganda!

nicole-gradI’ll never get tired of saying this, but as soon as you become a mom or dad, your life is no longer just about you (or at least, you alone).  Your dreams, energies and aspirations are focused on your family, specifically on the little bundle of joy you’ve brought into this world.

This is why I was beside myself when after three schools, two countries and countless dreams, daughter Ganda picked herself by the bootstraps (does anyone still use that idiom?) picked up lessons from textbooks, her colleagues and the streets and alleys of the world, and along the way picked up and earned herself a double Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management last December from the Victoria University of Wellington.

All guardians and elders but particularly parents can relate to this:  an education is by far the best gift one can ever impart to the next generation.  It’s a gift that keeps giving, and a legacy that pays itself forward far beyond the immediate lives and generations concerned.

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And as parents, grandparents and guardians, we can choose whether or not to do so, but every little (hopefully) positive thing our children, grandchildren or wards do, we can claim as a reflection of ourselves.  It may or may not be fair to everyone  concerned, but that’s just the way it is.  The apple never falls far from the tree.  Kung anong tinanim, sya ring aanihin.  

On balance, Ganda has been more a source of pride than anything else for me.  Her double degree, graduation and entrance into the work force is just a culmination of all the happiness she has brought me.

I don’t know what else to say here, but Ganda, your life is just beginning.  You can do anything you want, and your potential is limitless.  Your graduation is just a consequence, and not a cause, of your winning attitude.  I love you always, and mabuhay ka!  Congrats again!