becoming dad

Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial!  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial! Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

[  Paalala :  Sorry for the long absence Precious Reader, kung meron pang natitira dyan.  At least one blog friend coming across this makes the post worthwhile.  Wanted two things : (1) to have posted this on father’s day, but laziness intervened, sigh sorry Dad, and (2) to talk about recent anti-Chinese sentiment, both in NZ and Pinas.  But in the real world out-of-blog, you can’t always have what you want.  Missed blabbing with you, belated Father’s Day !  ]

MY FATHER is healthy and despite his advanced age has many long years ahead of him, but there are things we can no longer do together.  Similarly, I can no longer expect him to impart to me his memories, learnings and insights the same way he used to do (sometimes too enthusiastically) when we were both much younger.

But there are things I would have liked to share with my own kids the way my own father did, with the same length of attention, repeatability, and certitude.  He was/is a man with simple likes and tastes, but he was devoted to those things that he did.  It’s rather trite, but he lived by the saying anything worth doing is worth doing well :

Karaoke King.  As regards do-it-yourself singing for entertainment, he was ahead of his time.  Just chuck the mike into the amplifier, and play “minus one”  tapes of timeless standards and he would sing to his heart’s content.  He was the Karaoke King before the karaoke was invented, and he could match note for note any amateur singing champion, as long as the songs were by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe, or Nat King Cole.  He would inspire at least two of his children, that’s me and Eldest Brother, to sing out of love, no matter if the audience was one or one hundred.

Sadly, I have not paid forward the inspiration my Karaoke King father has given me.  But it’s never too late for that, right?

Reading for life. Like Mom, my father loves to read, and you will always find him with a book in hand, wherever he goes and whatever else he does.  He is an omnivorous bibliophile, but is partial to war and war-related novels, political biographies, and a wide range of paperback novelists, as long as it’s a good yarn.  Needless to say, the years have seen me pick up his reading habits, until I’ve now reached the day when as a dedicated and committed reader, I’m truly my father’s son.

Running buddy. In Dad’s middle age, when I was a teenager, he picked up a physical fitness fad that became a lifelong sport for him, and because he had lots of sons he could pick from as running buddies, we all had a turn at running with our father.  As years passed, most of us lost interest, but because I always identified running with Dad, I could never truly abandon it without abandoning a part of my youth.

Which was why when I ran my first half-marathon after nearly 25 years, there at the finish line, just waiting for me, was one of the most satisfying memories of a similar run at the Luneta, with none other than my first running buddy, Dad himself.

Belated happy father’s day Dad, and thanks for all those useful and enjoyable habits you imprinted on me.  Love you always!

juan tamad gets poked gives blood sees double atbp for the visa physical

hope you don't think it's in poor

hope you don’t think it’s in poor “taste” (get it?), thanks & acknowledgment to! 🙂

IT’S THAT time of the year again, Precious Reader.  Roll of the dice, shell game or single bullet in the chamber (sorry for the morbid metaphor), call it what you will, but the parchment that permits our stay in Disneyland to earn our pieces of silver another year needs to be renewed, based on many factors but mainly on whether or not the job we perform is important enough that even non-permanent residents like me should be left alone to do it.  And continue staying in the land of milk and honey by the way.

But that’s not our topic du jour prepared especially for you Precious Read.  Rather, every now and then (as opposed to every year, at least they’re not that cruel) Immigration New Zealand sees it fit that we guest workers submit ourselves to medicals and physicals to determine whether or not we are fit and healthy enough to continue working in this paradise.  That is what I wanna talk to you about today, how I went about doing it.  Or rather, how I went about having it done to me.

I had to in summary, submit to a basic physical, give blood and urine, then see the doc again if there were any issues based on the bloodwork and other tests.  Easier said than done, but it’s not like we had a choice.  Moreover, the entire thing would set me back roughly $500NZ, a pretty penny but well worth it. The doctor, a white Kiwi in his mid-50’s tried to be as professional as possible, but I couldn’t avoid  getting a creepy feeling.  I remembered him from last time, which wasn’t difficult because he touched my family jewels for a little longer than a few seconds.  He also tickled my smelly heels with a semi-sharp instrument, ostensibly to check my responses but likewise to see how Asians laugh.  But that’s just me.

Just before that was the usual twenty questions, which any sane worker wanting to continue staying in New Zealand would answer no to.  Have you ever been exposed to : tuberculosis, HIV, drug abuse, any communicable disease, ever been treated for mental illness, ever been operated on, ever stayed in bed for more than a week, etc. etc. etc?  His tone was cordial, but his demeanor and eyes were screaming :  you would be crazy to answer yes to any of these apocalyptic-sounding questions, and, as I had been doing the past eight-plus years, answered no no no no no no, and for good measure, a resounding NO!  To which he replied, with deadpan understatement, that’s good then.

All very good then, but my general denials had to be backed up by my blood chemistry, x-rays and related stuff, which had to be sorted out and organized in two different clinics nearby.  Said establishments were very quick and efficient, much like seasoned workers herding obedient cows and goats to the milking stations.  Which was in a sense what we were, since body fluids and other unmentionables were gonna be secreted out of us nervous individuals.

[I say nervous because let’s face it, I had recently reached my half-century mark, and this was the time for all good men to face the reality of middle age, where lifestyle diseases start to make their presence felt, where Mother Nature tries to cash cheques your body wrote out years and years ago, and where you start paying for the foolishness of misguided youth.  You can’t blame me for thinking if any of this silliness starts looking for payback in the form of red marks on physical exams.]

*****     *****     *****

Coincidentally I had a lung capacity, blood pressure and eye/hearing test done at the workplace the previous week, but for slightly different reasons.  Occupational hazards like unacceptable noise levels, dust levels and the realities of physical exertion required that we maintain a certain level of fitness, and that we haven’t broken down from said occupational hazards, and the only way to determine this was if the employer itself conducted physicals. My BP was an acceptable 125/60, hearing and lung capacity roughly the same as last year’s, but because I brought an old pair of spectacles to work that day, I didn’t pass the eye exam.  Let’s just say if I was taking a driving test that day, I would’ve been sent home for a retest.

All told, I’m generally as fit as a fiddle for a man my age, but I’m still waiting for the results of my blood and x-rays.  We never feel as mortal as when confronted by the reality of the state of our bodies, and I try to be as realistic as the next human being.  We are only as good as our last physical, and thank you God for every sunrise that we wake up to!  Thanks for reading!

today (and everyday) is International call-your-folks-from-out-of-the-blue Day, TY to 5th Bro

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother.  as you can see, they've been taking care of themselves.  miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother. as you can see, they’ve been taking care of themselves. love and miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

[Note :  Thanks to brother Jude for reminding us that “wala lang” (or nope, no reason at all) is as perfectly good a reason as any to call your parents, especially from across the miles. Please visit when you’ve time Precious Reader! ]

VERY POLITELY, 5th Bro reminded us to call the olds more often.  (By the way, in the traditional Chinese-Pinoy style 5th bro is not my fifth brother, but is “the fifth brother” in a brood of five.)  He gently recounted that sometime during the Papal visit earlier this year, Dad suffered from a nasty bout of flu and related ailments, which he recovered from soon enough, but which gave them enough concern to review Dad’s physical activities short- and long-term.

During the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight early next month, they will all be together, the bros, folks and everyone else, and would a Messenger or Skype video call be possible Fifth Brother adds?  Guiltily I message back, telling him I’ll do all I can to assemble the rellys NZ-side (me, the anakis and the odd boyfriend / girlfriend of the latter).

*****     *****     *****

But almost immediately I want to call home, which I haven’t done since I completed paying my utang to Mom.

[ Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of Dad : he’s always been fit and healthy, especially since quitting tobacco around four decades ago.  Until around 10 years ago he ran 10k’s and fun runs, and strolls nearly everyday.  He’s begun to slow down a bit, but is still up and about and is as frisky as any 83-year-old shouldn’t be. ]

I took the cue and between the evening news and NCIS, quickly rang Mom.

“Advance Happy Mom’s day Mom, Noel here! (my voice is similar to all my other bros’, so identifying myself is helpful)”

“And an advance happy 50th  birthday to you!” she says, and we both laugh at that.

dumadami na’ng 50-plus sa mga anak nyo Mom I joke, and she replies with something like it’s quality not quantity that determines how old we are, how true.

I quickly hop around to the issue, asking about Dad, and as always Mom minimizes the negatives.

Oo nagkasakit sya pero very minor lang, at kilala mo naman Dad nyo, always active and about, Mom sez.  She adds that Dad exercises enough for both of them, a comment which makes me think twice, because Mom herself needs to move about too.

But is he well enough to wander around alone, I venture?

I could almost see Mom roll her eyeballs at my naivete, hearing her say as soon as I reach my pwesto (selling sweet ham in multiple locations Metro-wide) he’s gone doing who-knows-what.

I know that in his advanced age, Dad is still distracted by tight jeans and mini skirts, so I know what who-knows-what is.  That is enough to convince me Dad is still healthy and doing well.

*****     *****     *****

As a bonus, Dad isn’t eating, watching TV or napping, things that he can’t be bothered getting away from.  So I can actually get an audience with him.

HI DAD! I almost shout into the phone.

You don’t need to shout, I’m not hard of hearing, Dad says.  I remind myself that it’s the few seconds audio delay and not the difficulty in hearing that’s the issue with overseas calls.

We talk about my running, which Dad sez he’d like to take up again (wag na lang Dad) and wife Mahal’s cooking, which Dad sez is unfair on two counts : that he can’t taste it (hopefully on a visit home Dad) and that I should be doing some cooking to help Mahal (tasting na lang ang sa akin Dad).

*****     *****     *****

Out of the blue I turn senti and remind Dad of a place in Ongpin (in the heart of Manila’s Chinatown) and a resto manager who became his friend.  On Sundays in the 1970s, when I was Dad’s faithful and adoring squire, he would bring me to eat there and meet the friend.

It’s Dad’s turn to be semi-solemn : Tony’s Kitchen is closed now, he tells us.  And Yu Pak his friend (whose name actually sounds like dyslexic cursing, God rest his soul) passed away long time ago.  No more bihon guisado, and no more discounts on asado and roast duck.  But life is still good, he hastens to add.

*****     *****     *****

Before the call starts to cost too much, Dad sez he still has one more nugget of wisdom to impart, and I listen closely :

You have a lovely young wife who is devoted to you, he reminds me (no need to actually).  Your kids are all grown up and doing rather well, he observes (again, I’m grateful to be able to see that).  And you are healthy, Third Son (cross my gouty fingers).  Don’t forget to take a step back, be grateful, and ENJOY YOURSELF.  

I already am Dad.

Thanks for reading!

signs that the apocalypse is upon us

[Note : thanks to Mr Mikey Bustos for this gem, too funny not to share.  Everything else is self-explanatory.  Congrats to both Ganda and Bunso for making it to the University of Victoria at Wellington ! Cringe alert : a bit of adult content below, forewarned is forearmed. 🙂 ]

I’M VERY sorry, paumanhin po to my countrymen and women, that rather misleading title above should’ve read signs that old age (or late middle age) is upon us, but since the two titles roughly approximate each other, I’ve decided to use it.  Just to prove to you that I’m still alive and kicking, still lurking around the neighborhood and still willing to share with you what I hope are interesting things that happen to me, I’m posting a blog despite it being a Friday afternoon, one of the sweetest and meatiest portions of the weekend and despite the fact that it’s prime time for Word Battle my new favorite game, when 8-player tournaments are there for the taking.

And because I’m such an impulsive and impetuous creature, I just want to tell you something that just happened to me in recent days but which has made me pause and realize that I’m well on my way to middle age-hood and almost on the brink of senior citizen-hood, not that I’m embracing it.  It’s just a fact of life that I need to acknowledge and what better way than to tell you Dear Reader about it?

Means, medians and averages.  It wasn’t long ago that in almost any gathering or random sampling of humanity, I would find myself in the lowest percentile of age groups, if not the youngest in the group.  It wasn’t too surprising, because to begin with I wasn’t that old and the people I found myself with were usually my superiors and seniors at work.

Slowly though, the tide has begun to change.  Co-parents, colleagues and contemporaries became juniors, younger workmates and finally friends of children and of Mahal, who I don’t need to tell you is more than a little younger than me.

Just this morning, I shuddered to realize that in a first aid course I needed to attend, I was no less than the elder statesman in the class of 13.  There were one or two fortysomethings but I could tell that I was considerably older than them. Two or three were in their 30s and all the rest were in their roaring twenties, or (yikes) younger.  There was even a pair of teen-agers who were starting work early.  I’m not sure if they were aware of this unappealing fact, but I’m not deluding myself, I was the only one raising my hand to speak and when the course was over, I was almost surely the only one who thanked the trainor for her effort.  Old school, indeed.

Sleeping in.  I’ve also recently realized that because of force of habit, because of the dire consequences of tardiness at work, and maybe because I’ve heard that as you age, you need progressively less hours of sleep, it’s been harder and harder for me to sleep in, or wake up late on weekends and off days.  I used to be a master at doing it, sleeping as much as I pleased, 10, 12, 14 hours or even straight through breakfast lunch and afternoon merienda.  I knew I had slept through time zones when there were two People’s Journal editions to read through (or Abante and Abante Tonite, if that’s your pleasure) and my stomach growled how badly it missed 2+ meals.  But when you’re young and burn both ends of the candle, sleep is nearly as important as sustenance.

Not these days though.  The uncertainties of old age and preparing prescription money for all those aches and pains of your twilight years make the wages of every working day necessary, and the reality is you need both rest and nutrition.  Besides, like I said earlier, I can no longer sleep too long, as I either need to wake up for work, or the long years of strictly scheduled work weeks have crept into the weekends.  Whatever day of the calendar, I can’t stay in bed after half-past seven.  Nor can I stay awake much after midnight.  It’s a body clock that I fear will stay with me till the day I retire, but hopefully not much longer.

Is woohoo still a woohoo?  I can’t recall the last time this happened.  Recently, a night that Mahal and I set aside for a woohoo (daughter Ganda’s word for doing the nasty, taken from the video game The Sims), said event was suddenly postponed, as Mahal begged off for fatigue reasons.  I sulked and made tampo, but deep down ( I didn’t want to tell her) that I was actually just as, if not more tired than she was.  Not wanting to appear relieved, I actually insisted that we keep the schedule, but at the last moment conceded that her precious rest was a greater priority.

Which was just as well, because I still wasn’t ready to admit to myself that rest could ever be more important than sex.  The day I pass up a woohoo for a bit of shuteye is the day I start getting old, and that unwavering self-belief, I hope, stays till my dying day. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Curious Case of NOel Butones in Creeping Middle Age

Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan and friends :

WITHOUT realizing it, we have stumbled into a lifestyle almost unrecognizable from barely 10 years ago.

Empirically this owes to a number of factors, not the least of which was/is a spartan way of life demanded by guerilla migration as well as a greater reliance on muscles + ligaments that until recently were little more than vestigial organs of a sedentary paper-pusher grazing in concrete jungles and urban savannahs.

We are proudest of the bad habits we’ve discarded, not necessarily to give way to the good, but in partial recognition of creeping middle age and inevitable mortality that befall all who have unceremoniously fallen off the wagon of youth and excess.

Excess of everything, in case you asked.

Bad habits are not just decadence and vice, though it’s a good way to start the list. We’ll be off tobacco for almost three years now this November, and though we’ve never been one to kiss the bottle, having one too many brown bottles during the weekend was always a familiar theme, whether it was in front of the idiot box or lamenting a lost youth with fellow travellers in life.

Talking about the telly, spending too much time either watching reruns of reruns, stale DVDs or last year’s reality show caused us to turn our circadian rhythm upside down. Accompanied by the fickle habits of sleep, either too much or too little of it, and our manifesto to a ragged, abused and burnt-out lifestyle was complete.

The first aches and pains of not-yet-old-but-no-longer-young, that stage that we dare not give a name, started after our interminable pickup basketball games with Panganay and fun runs with Dad.

The former activity was played with a gaggle of teens, twentysomethings and weekend warriors like ourselves who had developed unsightly guts and unlovely love handles.

The latter activity was with a man at least three decades our senior but who had not only rehabbed from previous excesses himself but had also gone through a fitness makeover, having run numerous 10Ks and half-marathons, mostly after hitting 60.

When you dribble off your foot too often, fall more than half a step behind on the fastbreak, or your fingers bruise from one too many chest passes, you begin to wonder if You’ve (Still) Got Game.

Similarly, after our smile turned into a grimace while running abreast with Dad, and we no longer laughed off his challenges for another lap around the Luneta Oval, it was high time to rethink our fitness mindset.

For sure, we hadn’t gone to flab, and we had many good years before being led out to pasture. But what was wrong with our bodies, prematurely sagging and no longer able to run and play for long hours under the hot noonday sun?

Speaking of flab, we constantly need to remind ourselves that it’s not the buttons flying out that are badly sewn, or the “skinny” pants with substandard zippers but our stubborn rolls of Bill Blass ( bilbil ), not to mention our idiosyncratic man-boobs ( or the misleading moobs ) that cause unsightly wardrobe malfunctions that ultimately befall gladiators of generations gone.

Too much inactivity, too much of the soft life, and not enough healthy stress to get us lean and mean, and hopefully a fortysomething fighting machine ( how pathetic that sounds ).

To top off our disconnect with reality : the older we get, the younger or more unrealistic our self- image becomes. We concede that this discussion is better served by a full space for another day.

Till then, good luck on those fitness machines, calorie regimens, and other devices that will probably last another half – wink of an eye, or the next supersized takeout orgy in front of the Is That Talent? finals, or whatever passes for an excuse to pig out in our fat-schizophrenic household. Please rest assured, comrade : You are not alone. 😉

Thanks for reading !


Kicking & screaming out the womb at 45

8:22 pm Nicole : nkakatamad na magblog wala ako maisip. ehehe. yes nakatabi lang baon. brent says thank u 4 his books. Papa, 15 years to go may senior citizen card kna. pang discount ! 8:39 pm Nicole is offline.

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :

THIS IS the one time of the year when I don’t think of anything that comes out of this hopelessly dysfunctional mind in its vain effort to spew original thoughts and clever phrases.

Not that I’ve ever met with much success anyway. Just a few lines here and there we’ve snatched from hormonally challenged TV shows, pompous book reviews and decadent gossip columns ( a redundancy ) pondered over and stared at in grimy toilets and damp bus stops, while doing abandoned crosswords in forgotten train stations and unfinished sudokus on lonely park benches.

When we do find two phrases that agree with each other, or a smattering of words that sound good together, we just write them down in tattered pages of our dog-eared notebook, but alas ink on paper doesn’t always translate to bytes on screen, zzzz’s usually take over drooping eyelids in front of the rusty PC, but we do try to keep our appointment with the monitor at least once a fortnight.

Please bear with us when we commit to saying nothing serious today, as if we ever did no? I’ll just be yapping and chattering at nothing in general while marveling at my four-and-a-half decades of sugar-enhanced reveries and chichirya-induced euphoria. So there.

** ** ** ** **

It hasn’t been an easy transition for us, to be sure, from Third World slacker to First World slave. We use slave only in a functional sense, meaning in one day the kilojoules (calories pwede rin) we use are equivalent to probably a week’s worth of sinangag, there’s just so much work to do. Depression / self-analysis / mid-life crisis / tallying next week’s expenses / scenarios of kids back home getting into all sorts of trouble automatically disintegrate into distracting daydreams that you shove to the back of your mind once the alarms sound, signalling that the wheat bin is full, the mill bin is emptying, or both.

Otherwise there’s absolutely no compulsion whatsoever about us staying here and no illusion that life would be any better back home. We don’t doubt for a moment that the minute we pack up, scores of ravenous replacements would knock at the figurative door and the mill boss would begin screening and shortlisting these miserable wretches, without even waiting for the dust to settle.

My gratitude is magnified more than thrice over by the fact that I hold a job that could very well be done by a local, and that while things have improved somewhat, there have never been more Kiwis not drawing a steady paycheck in recent history.

But it would be remiss not to see the big picture. Although the flow is skewed in favor of Third World going into First, migration happens all the time, with work preference, lifestyle choices, higher education, marriage and family issues all pulling their weight in solving the migrant formula.

From an alien’s super-hi resolution eyepiece above, we must resemble ants going round and round in circles, with nowhere to go in particular, very nearly fooling our intergalactic voyeurs into assuming that we are being transported by Brownian movement of molecules, when in fact our mindless instinct to survive; our resoluteness in pursuing the better life for ourselves and our progeny; and our relentless pursuit of the American / Pinoy / Asian Dream are what cause us to forever seek fatter fishing grounds and greener pastures in whatever stage of life.

It sounds so baduy and self-serving, but health science and wellness notwithstanding, 50 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30, and of course, 30somethings are practically pre-pubescent babes. ( Didn’t I say I wouldn’t care what comes out of this keyboard today ?)

Well beyond that, it seems improbable but setting up camp in a brave new world gives one the impetus to learn new skills, forget temporarily that Age is creeping up on you, disabuse oneself of the notion that family, friends and community will always be there to support in tight spots and tough times.

It’s presumptuous to call it a Second Life, but granted the chance to stay here any longer than we already have, in a few years time we will have rendered ourselves unrecognizable from our previous incarnation as underachieving NINJAs back home. As if you didn’t know, not only do we carry baby samurai, shuriken origami and dress like suman tiptoeing across pagoda tops, we also have No Income, No Job and most pathetically, No Assets with no prospect for change. At least here, we’re active NINJAs in a strange land.

** ** ** ** **

Which brings us to even more useless bits of information we are compelled to share with you. The Internet grants us the rare pleasure of validating some of our deepest, darkest beliefs, which we would otherwise never share with others and therefore cannot find kinship and justification for if not for the secret joy of finding out that we are not alone.

Without fanfare :

(1) Kate Beckinsale voted (wow) one of the most beautiful women in the world. From Underworld to Van Helsing, she proved that you could be hot either as a vampire or as a vampire hunter. Who could ever do that??? From then on, she was Hot Mama Number One for me, ever and ever. I haven’t seen her much in other movies, but those two were enough to feed my testosterones the rest of my wimpy life.

(2) Celtics beat Cavs in NBA Eastern Conference semifinals 2010. This was more than a minor upset. It was the old guard versus the young turks, taped ankles and slow-healing sprains versus youth and speed, one-for-the-road vs. one-and-done. You don’t have to be a fan to know that it symbolized everything that was old world against the rampaging future. And guess what? The old guys won. Is it still a wonder why this was significant for us? Yes, there is a God.

(3) LeBron James is a bigger jerk than Kobe Bryant. (sorry for the bluntness) Yes, the media sometimes forces us to assume two personas. The public persona is that PC one, saying what people want to hear and being the humble, effacing and charitable persons that we will never be. Both LBJ and KB8 have through the years become experts at doing this, but the desire for a bigger media market, the desire to become a one-man show (which is not far from the truth), the wish to evolve into a sports icon without actually having accomplished anything yet have exposed LBJ into what he is : a perennial superstar who hasn’t proven himself, and who is in danger of ending his career as such. Because of No.2 above, LeBron was recently exposed. We thought Kobe was bad, but LeBron actually made him look like a good guy. Grabe.

If you’ve read this far, you either have too much time on your hands, or we have imposed beyond reason. Having said this, we will thank personally all those who greeted us, but for now we are grateful for having remembered our special day : QueenHedy, DocGerrySo, SonnyTan, StefVictorino, PilarAngSi, EuniceCobankiat, ArleneAyuste, FranciscoManaig, AlmaCastroFerreros, SimonSy, JhunMontenegro, RowelBarba, MalouMoyco, AllanRefuerzo, EvelynSyYu, CoraRosales, CesarComia, DianeReyes, JeffLu, RichardYao, MaryAnnReyes, FranzDiosana, VeronicaUy, AlanDeniega, JocelynChanTan, ImeeSy, CarolNgSy, LucylindaLee, Tedditudes, EasterBocoboMendonez, BoyetteSanDiego, GraceChuaTan, ValAsiddao, RonaldDylanConcepcion, DennisSy, SusanSilverio, CarmiSio, JaimeChan, RodneyDiola, JoelYuvienco, TomAgustin, InengMontenegroAgustin, DocMarciaBautista, IreneChua, AnjAgcaoiliRoman, MaribethAngWong, MelanieLim, TessSyChingkaw, MaryAnneOngCarranceja, CatherineViClausen, JoeyFlora, BabesNoriega and VickySuarez.

If I have left out anyone, a thousand pardons and I will make up for it manyfold in the future.

Mabuhay kayong lahat!


The Mortal Vanity of My Immortal Ego

We're not in autumn yet, probably late summer of our lives.

We saw this on Prof. Vince Ty's Multiply account & couldn't pass it up, early fall in NY. Thanks Vince!

 Dear kabatch, kabayan and friends :

WE HAVE an uncle we’ve known practically all our life, who we thought would live forever. Not even his love affair with markang demonyo, his two-pack-a-day habit with suki Philip Morris and his weekend binges with whatever form of alcohol & barkada that happened to be available could disabuse us of the emotional conviction that he would be around for at least five more Olympics.

We also cherish a cousin from way back, who in his wild wild years could drink in one swig one bilog (Crazy Horse, they called him, and wouldn’t you?), with just water for chaser, and yet was strong enough to lift one end of the water trailer that was constantly linked to his pick-up, never lost a staring match and had the battlescars to back up his bloodshot stares.

And lastly, someone we consider as close to us as anyone was on the valedictory of his / her dramatic weight-loss / fitness regimen, after spending most of last century overweight and lardy; on the way to losing the final 10 kg needed to bring him / her over the hump of lifestyle confidence and health security. This was the eye before the storm, a meniscus ligament tear that seriously stalled his / her efforts towards a lifechanging makeover.

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The first guy, the uncle, is unsurprisingly saddled with TB, emphysema, and in the kindest terms possible, his liver has seen better days. His quality of life is such that to extend him another 2-3 years would not be doing him much of a favor, what with magnified aches and pains, an ordeal just to get through the day, and most of all the profound regret sustained by irresponsible debts of youth that make us pay with the compounded interest of twilight years.

Two years ago, the cousin felt the prelude of tightness around the chest, zipped to the hospital, and made it smoothly through a minor heart attack before the doc told him matter-of-factly that micro-tears and deep ridges riddled his aorta, and even though rehab and taking things slowly have helped, he is surely no longer the same wild, reckless and devil-may-care sort of iron man. But he’s one of the lucky ones, very easily cheating Death on the latter’s off-day.

The last fellow ? Well, his only fault was living as OC as one could the rigors of daily exercise, making up for years and years of living on saturated fats, refined sugars and meaty, greasy megameals. Ironically, if not for a routine check-up he wouldn’t have known that his knee was living on borrowed time, succumbing to the intensity of extended workouts and marathon badminton evenings, he would never have known, too, that the meniscus tear would reveal severe osteo-arthritis that had burdened his lower limbs the majority of his adult life. Just to be able to walk normally now for him, post-therapy, would be a Godsend.

We’ve heard stories and stories of this sort almost every month of our lives, from colleagues, friends and loved ones. The difference is these particular anecdotes strike a bit too close to home.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

The trouble with this loyal batchmate, friend and kabayan is that, in the face of all logic and evidence, we still believe that such a thing/s could not happen to us.

It doesn’t matter that we have led a more or less healthy lifestyle after the youth of excess and bad decisions. It doesn’t matter that we have had a typical family history of the usual : hypertension, diabetes, tumors and various conditions that dot the landscape of Modern Urban Man’s health and fitness chart: fair to moderate, with clouds of high blood pressure and thunderstorms of malignant neoplasmas. scattered diabetes and prostate enlargements on the horizon, unless we’re lucky. Umbrella or raincoat ? No thanks, we’ll wing it and head for the nearest McDo if it pours.

Just an unbelievably naive faith that we live a charmed life, and bad things happen to everyone. Just not us.

There’s a fundamental disconnect between the jaded eye with which we view the ailments and physical misfortune of others, and the disbelief with which we view any kind of similar condition that may befall us, now or in the near future.

But why should we be any different from the next guy? We were born in the same hospitals, were exposed to the same pollution, tried the same vices, and now attempt to live life with the same kinds of compromise. Well and good, NOel. But underneath the pale skin and rickety bones, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts (and bodies) of men?

You’re only young once. I’ll try anything once. Pick your poison; try a new drug every week. Gosh, did you think you were bulletproof or something? Youth is truly wasted on the young.

In your teens and baby-blue 20s, when you’re so young it hurts, it’s almost a tradition to live life on the edge, live life dangerously, live life as if every day were your last. JFK, James Dean, Princess Diana, MJ, Rico Yan, even Miko Sotto all exited at (nearly) the prime of their lives and this defined their identity as celebrities that never fulfilled their dreamy potential. 

Because it became cool to contemplate leaving your earthly existence while beautiful and young (or young and beautiful), you could combine looking perfectly and living recklessly. At least, that’s how some young people lived and continue to live in recent generations. Some nerds called it the dilemma of existentialism, others called it the solace of nihilism.

But come a certain age, you begin to look askance at all the wrong and incredibly stupid things you did without a second thought, like sample every kind of funny cigaret within reach ( well, you could always say I did not inhale right? ), derive happiness from chemicals of every color, and treat your throat like a testing ground for aspiring baristas, bartenders and cocktail mixers.

After you hit the big three-oh, some of the vices you loved so well begin to lose their luster, and by four-oh, they lose their appeal completely.

We’ll never be able to reverse anything negative we started in life, but we CAN try to limit their far-reaching effects, and at least try to live life happily in proportion to whatever boo-boos made in the past. Here are a few non-binding guidelines we set for ourselves :

Take life in small, measured increments. One thing for sure, we can no longer contemplate life by the gulp, lunge, or leap of faith ( faith that you can bound over whatever distance you foolishly didn’t measure ) that characterized so much of our behavior before. Easy does it, and small steps are better for those no longer able to leap without looking, and pay for all its consequences.

Savor the past, the good parts, because it’s immutable. Moreover, we can select morsels and chunks that help us get through life, through its inspiring and valuable lessons.

Lower expectations, which isn’t a good idea when you’re an up-and-comer and young-man/woman-in-a-hurry, but not that bad an idea when you’re mid-40s and at a crossroads. When the day ends without one major upheaval, without too many dramas, and with body and soul intact, then maybe you can consider it a day well spent. As they say, you live to fight another day.

That’s the short list.

Suma total, we ultimately won’t be able to live life the way we truly want, and the end in all probability won’t be pretty, but we can at least enjoy the present, live in the moment, and count our blessings.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the memories !


PS. Uncle has plateaued, cousin is doing much much better thanks, and ka-close is patiently waiting to heal, before continuing with the makeover. Thank God for small (and big) blessings !