trying to look young, ending up feeling old


[ thanks and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Diran Lyons! ]

ALL MY LIFE, from the time I started to remember things to this very day, I’ve suffered from an alarmingly short attention span. For me, the here and now is everything. One second I’m on fifth gear, the next I’m snoozing. I could be laser-focused on a project, only to move on to the next big thing a moment later. (I’ll forget about this blog as soon as I finish it. ūüôā )

From teens to middle age, the Philippines to New Zealand, singlehood to husband hood, fatherhood back to singlehood, and back, old habits die hard. I’m still the same old eternally distracted, attention deficit-plagued OFW. I still want the quick fix, results-now type of solution, and avoid the long-term holistic and considered responses to problems.

That’s why, if you ask me whether or I want to feel good or look good, nine times out of 10, I’ll hit the 2nd button. The success mantra to be successful, you have to first appear successful, just sounds too appealing, and a lot of the time, it’s just easier to anticipate being healthy by first looking the part…

*****          *****          *****

The trouble is, when you get to be my age, which is no longer in the prime of youth, the present starts to feel acutely the sins of the past. I’ve said this more than once before, but the cheques you recklessly issued when you were young and beautiful, Father Time is already encashing every day now.

One day of sleep lack affects the next 24 to 48 hours. That previous sentence summarizes it best, can’t describe it any more accurately but since this blog requires 800 words, I’ll try: sleep is underrated as a basic human need. Whether you’re the richest dot-com entrepreneur in your neck of the woods or the humblest laborer in your work gang, adequate sleep assures you of an energetic, productive day ahead. Some people take in an all-nighter, recover from a weekend alcoholic bender, go on extended night shift for three days, and look none the less for wear. Not me, for sure. I don’t get sleep, and you can be sure I’ll be sluggish and light-headed for at least the next day.

For this reason, I don’t take coffee less than 4 hours before bedtime, prepare for difficult sleep on weeks I’m on night shift, and try to get in regular exercise to tire myself out before bed. The last few years have been more difficult than before, I put that down to changes associated with ageing.

*****          *****          *****

Too much of your favorite poisons means you die happy but still die. Like I said, no more coffee, kahit Seattle’s Best¬†pa yan. One or two beers or glasses of wine is my limit, after that I consign the morning after to blahness for sure. Days when I consumed two to three plates of rice are in the distant past now. I don’t need the calories, I can get energy from healthier sources, and the anticipated extra weight is very hard on my joints and bones, not to mention my ego.

Whole blocks of Cadbury, Van Houten, Hersheys, you name it, I’ve done it. I’m particularly partial to milk chocolate outsides and soft chewy caramel insides like Snickers, Mars, Three Musketeers that give me a sugar high for a few minutes and send me looking for another fix almost immediately. That means pastries, hard candy and other sweet things are equally welcome

Years later I learned that these slowly affect everything in your pistons and pipes, your blood pressure, blood sugar, energy levels, ability to use and get rid of excess sugar in your body. I’m just lucky I’m hyperactive and locked to a manual job. Otherwise I’d have hypertension, heart disease and Type B diabetes. I’m pretty sure I’m already in the initial stages of many lifestyle diseases and so, for the rest of my life I need to moderate and tweak my diet, in short bore myself to death, unless I want to die sooner. Sort of like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Gout, dodgy lower back, slow recovery from bumps and bruises. Those words speak for themselves. Seafood, alcohol and legumes are no longer things I can consume normally and expect to sleep pain-free. Of late, stretching has helped my sciatica, but it’s a part of the lifestyle I led in previous years. Bumps and bruises are things I can’t avoid but at least can minimize, because everytime I sustain injury, I take ages to recover.

*****          *****          *****

Now, to looking young, which in my particular life situation has its advantages.

First, God has seen fit to giving me a much younger life partner. Without sounding too boastful, I’m considerably older than Mahal, who only dresses maturely to deflect the disparity. She considers the Seventies the long distant past of ancient history, whereas it was the decade of my childhood. I’ll stop there.

So observing “cheats and tricks” to keep up the illusion of being only slightly older serves me well. I do the following:

Follow her every fashion suggestion. Cut my hair short. Dress to accentuate the positive and avoid the negative. (Although in my situation, I hardly have anything to accentuate anymore.) Dress to the occasion. Try not to overdo it. And other, sensible things.

Treat hair and skin as precious commodities. A lot of my contemporaries have now lost a considerable part or all of their head hair, and the overwhelming majority of us of have retained such hair are now turning gray or at least grayish. I can’t deny the aesthetic benefits of dyeing such hair to its former glory, but only because the greater part of my head (for now) is still black. I know that in time I will inevitably surrender to the preponderance of gray, but on balance, black is still the winner. As it is, I’m lucky to still have hair at all.

Skin is a different story. I use super moisturizer, anti-ageing serum, and sculpting cream while Mahal applies her own beauty regimen. It can’t just be vanity and obsession with skin health on my part, as mentioned I’m fighting an uphill struggle with Father Time and I’m severely handicapped, the ravages of the years, deadly vices and occupational hazards (night shift, manual labor etc) combine for the perfect storm I continually avoid. Every advantage I can use to maintain skin and hair, I will unhesitatingly use.

Exercise, exercise and exercise. Did I say exercise? Physical activity begets a vicious cycle. You clean your tubes and get your internal machine running, which makes you lose weight, which gives you more energy and impetus to do more exercise, repeat the cycle, on and on. Plus exercise leads to clearer skin, extended hormones (for those in my age bracket who are losing it), lubricated joint and ligaments that make daily physical activity, and therefore daily life, much more enjoyable and easier. Isn’t that, in a nutshell, feeling young? For this reason, and against my id, I try to run a few Ks everyday, huffing and puffing around the block, despite the cold, despite the early (or late) hour, despite myself.

*****          *****          *****

Going back: The original thesis was, between looking and young and feeling young, my instinctive laziness and results-now mentality makes me go for the former. But my experience has taught me that you can, ultimately, go for both. I won’t even try to tell you that between looking and feeling young, the latter is better for the soul. And they’re not mutually exclusive.

Mabuhay and 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. ūüôā ]

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. ūüôā

Thanks for reading!

brothers & sisters, photographs & memories


believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have teenaged grandkids!  The lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial.

believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have nearly-teenaged grandkids! The lovely lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial. Mom is on the extreme right, and the fellow who looks like John Lennon is my Tito PD. Tita Beth and Tita Amy are their younger sisters.

[ Thanks Tita Dely Imperial and Tita Rose Lizo for use of the pic! ]

WHETHER THEY love or hate each other (or somewhere in between), cherish or annoy each other to bits (or somewhere in between), avoid each other or play practical jokes all the time (or somewhere in between), brothers and sisters share more than blood and childhood memories. ¬†They are bound by a psychic connection that will not be severed by time or space, and when they reconnect after a long while apart, let’s just say the emotional whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

***         ***         ***

My mom and her three siblings more than deserve to give each other a pat on the back. ¬†After all, they’ve endured a hard childhood, worked through school, successfully raised families and are now enjoying their grandchildren, all in the span of 70 years give or take. But every now and then they like to reminisce about the happy days they spent in their island hometown in Masbate, where the air was pure and nature was free. ¬†Because they had no other choice, they learned to depend on each other, where in the game of Life, family and their brood was the only team that mattered. ¬†Challenges and adversity have come and gone, but Linda, PD, Amy and Beth have remained, and have come through with flying colors for their children, grandchildren and almost surely given their impeccable health (knock-knock) great-grandchildren to admire, now and forever.

***         ***         ***

a rarity : the last time I've seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they're all adults!

a rarity : the last time I’ve seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they’re all adults!

They’re not exactly the closest of siblings, but the last time they met, ¬†with (ahem) their father looking on, you could’ve sworn they might actually have missed each other.

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Panganay, Ganda and Bunso. ¬†New milieus, new school, new jobs, even new loves, everything has been a new taste and new sensation for the trio. ¬†So much so that they haven’t had time to compare notes and look back on their remarkable journeys from Cainta Rizal all the way to Windy Wellington.

I wouldn’t say the experience has brought them closer, but it has afforded them a new perspective with which to view and appreciate each other, if not as immediate family, then as members of individuals who’ve gone through toddlerhood and teenhood with shared eyes ears and feelings.

Almost throughout the dinner, which Mahal and I ate with them after a visit to recuperating Panganay (who was recovering from a sports injury), they were constantly wary of each other.  But only because so much had changed, around the constant reality that they would always be brothers and sister.

Take away the novelty, and what remains on the picture is the simple happiness on their faces. ¬†At least, that hasn’t changed.

***         ***         ***

By many standards I’m an old man, and yet whenever I think of my four brothers, especially about being with them, I feel young. ¬†Why? ¬†Maybe because I grew up with them, and you’re only as old (young) as you feel. ¬†And because we’re all in the same generation, I only need to be with them, physically or otherwise, to be a kid again.

I’ll bet you feel the same with your own brothers and / or sisters!

Thanks for reading!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!


this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and http://judebautista.wordpress.com/ !

[ Note : ¬†In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then. ¬†Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most. ¬†And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department. ¬†LOLs and smileys all around after that one. ūüôā

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t ¬†claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers. ¬†Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son. ¬†Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt. ¬†The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

***            ***            ***

Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it. ¬†Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things. ¬†That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today. ¬†The first, second or third?

I don’t know. ¬†Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad! ¬†I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)

old wives’ tales pamahiin & urban legends certified 100% pure pinoy


Quiapo, Manila procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thought to earn forgiveness of sin for all participants.

Quiapo, Manila procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thought to earn forgiveness of sin for all participants.

MORE THAN once you’ve heard in this space that if you’re looking for scholarly research, hard statistics, or cold immutable facts, then I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint more than a little bit. Bad enough that sometimes I’m so lazy that anything outside TriPeaks Solitaire and my new discovery Candy Crush Saga gets little more than a hmm from me, but to do anything beyond humoring a stray bubble of imagination or spark of interest in the big wintry world outside my room would probably be asking a bit too much these days, after fighting the cold, finishing chores and finding a little quality time with¬†Mahal.

The only thing I can do is give voice to whatever wacky and loony thought entertained in my cranium, play with it a little bit and finally run it through the guys in WordPress, who have incidentally been world-class in hosting my little blog and have been very accommodating in allowing me to vent and rave about my life as an accidental (but for the moment quite comfortable) pinoy migrant in Middle Earth.

Speaking of Mahal, we enjoy attending Pinoy Mass, as we just did last week. ¬†Not only do we recharge spiritually, but we also meet kabayan who we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, get access to native dishes sold by enterprising co-faithful, and commune with others in prayer and thanksgiving. Beyond that, I also found occasion to notice something about Mahal after Holy Communion, during which she kept her lips tightly pursed, and I had to ask if anything was the matter. ¬†Evidently, it was first priority for her to consume the holy Host without so much as chewing any part of it, as it was drilled into her from childhood that the latter is/was a definite no-no.

Really??? ¬†It has no foundation in either the Scriptures or church law, but allowing the Communion bread to melt in your mouth is the accepted thing to do. ¬†Anything else and you are asking for trouble, I realized, and as I scrutinized the people queuing up and receiving the sacrament, it was true that nearly everyone I saw kept their mouths closed. ¬†And those who didn’t, proceeded at their peril.

If you’ve spent any appreciable length of time in the Philippines as a native or visitor, you’ll know that there are quirky ¬†beliefs resulting from religion, tradition, or a combination of both, that have survived generations as well as urban legends that have been so imbedded in our popular culture that to Juan dela Cruz he accepts it as truth :

rest after that filling meal, but not too long!

rest after that filling meal, but not too long!

If you’ve just finished a meal, don’t engage in intense physical activity. ¬†And if you suffer a bump on the head, jump up and down to reduce and ill effects of such bump. ¬†I combine these two because I never bothered to figure out if they’re sound health advice and I heard about them from way, way back. ¬†Right after lunches and dinners, one of the worst things we could do was to start playing tag, habulan, dodgeball or any of those hysterically active games. ¬†According to the elders and the killjoys, intense play so soon after eating would inevitably result in appendicitis or some other horrible, dreadful juggling of your innards until you’d be sick to your stomach, literally. ¬†About the jumping around after a nasty bump, it reportedly would sort of mitigate the trauma caused by the contusion. ¬† It’s been so much a part of routine that a lot of people in my generation accept it as common-sense truth, although I’m not that sure now.

Don’t take a bath on Tuesday, don’t whistle at night, and don’t sing lively songs on Holy Week. ¬†The last one is self-explanatory for Catholic Philippines, where the only holidays taken as seriously as the Semana Santa break are Christmas, New Years Day, general elections and, used to be, a Manny Pacquiao prizefight. ¬†The solemnity and rituals observed during such feastday week were such that until recently, modern music and regular TV programming were taboo. ¬†Whistling at night, according to elders, was an invitation to malevolent spirits and other denizens of the night. ¬†And the first? Just another remnant of the old days when every day of the week represented a different day of Creation.

Funerals and wakes. ¬†Pregnant women are advised against attending funerals, I’m unaware exactly why but it surely has to do with the unborn child’s welfare and the recently departed who I assume is between the world of the living and the dead. ¬†We’ve known ¬†from our earliest years that ¬†it’s accepted practice to give money to the bereaved during funerals, in fact if you are close to the dead’s family you are expected to give a little something. ¬†It is acceptable and very few will frown at people conducting games of chance and gambling during the same, on the rationale that a portion of the winnings are set aside again for the mourners.

According to the UK's Daily Mail, our Fabella Memorial Hospital, at three moms to a bed, is the busiest maternity ward in the world (blush!) :)

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, our Fabella Memorial Hospital, at three moms to a bed, is the busiest maternity ward in the world (blush!) ūüôā

Pregnancy. ¬†On pregnancy itself, the expectant mother is advised against having sex until the very end of her long wait, on the ground that the baby’s head will be harmed by the father’s emissions; ¬†the baby itself soon after delivery is bound by a cloth so that its abdomen will not expand (this is more for cosmetic purposes but is widely practiced to the present time), and cruelly, mothers are advised strongly against bathing or showering for a month after delivery because it will be harmful to their health. ¬†I’m glad I won’t ever be a mom, because I can’t abide by these strange practices, no matter what their benefits are.

Where's the guilty were-reptile? Your guess is as good as mine. :)

Where’s the guilty were-reptile? Your guess is as good as mine. ūüôā

Urban legend.¬† I have only two here, because any more and I won’t stop. ¬†On Balete Drive in the older part of Quezon City (the largest city in the Metro Manila region) there is a persistent story about a ghostly female presence that frequents the area, and there have been so many sightings and testimonial evidence that at least one movie has been made about it. ¬†Crazily, dozens of people have sworn that there is a half-human, half-reptilian creature that preys on unsuspecting women inside fitting rooms in the vast Robinsons Galleria mall. ¬†This urban legend will not die a quiet death, as it has returned again and again the past few decades.

Quiapo procession.  And before I forget, it was a part of my childhood to witness a little portion of the famous Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo Manila where my father managed a printing press in the 1970s.  No matter how sinful you were during the year, if you participated in this yearly procession in your bare feet, you could at least get forgiveness for  most of your sins, assuming of course you did the penance or punishment.  No wonder so many Catholic faithful participated in this event, pictured above.  (Now, whether or not your sins were actually forgiven is probably a matter of conscience and conviction, I guess.)

Ask any Filipino, especially those living in Metro Manila past and present about any of the items above and you will likelier than not get a half-hour lecture on their origins and veracity. ¬†You will emerge either amused, outraged or a true believer. ¬†Don’t say I didn’t warn you. ūüôā

Thanks for reading!

why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running


a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay. ¬†I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class. ¬†When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports. ¬†And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry ūüė¶

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit. ¬† It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and ¬†strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment. ¬†I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

ay Papa hindi ko pa nasabi, may boyfriend na ako :) [or btw Papa, i’ve got a boyfriend]


don't tell me if they look good together... but if she's happy, I'm happy :)

don’t tell me if they look good together… but if she’s happy, I’m happy ūüôā

We all want to fall in love. Why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive. ¬†Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality is shattered and we are flying into the heavens. ¬†It may only last a moment, an hour, an afternoon. But that doesn’t diminish its value, because we are left with memories that we treasure to the rest of our lives. ¬† ¬† –from a Google search ūüôā

[ Note : just so you know the backstory and ¬†there’s no inadvertent loss of perspective, Ganda for the first time in her young life¬†now in her first serious relationship has a boyfriend. ¬†Here’s a letter I wrote to her spontaneously, half-wanting to tell her not to make mistakes, foolishly remembering that in my advanced age, I’m still making new ones everyday, and half-wanting to tell her to be as happy as she can be, without (grrr) letting her boyfriend know. ¬†He seems like a good fellow by the way (and plays excellent basketball in the local Pinoy leagues here);¬†happy 2013 to all and thanks for reading! ]

Dear Ganda :

First of all, I want to let you know, as I’m doing so now, that I’m so so happy, over the moon for you. ¬†I remember you telling me not so long ago back in the Philippines that being the eternal romantic that most Pinoys are, that in this big big world of ours there was someone out there waiting for you, and for whom you were also waiting. ¬†I also remember you asking me (who didn’t have a clue on what to tell you) Papa, why is it taking so long? ¬†I smiled inwardly at your young confusion, as to why Love hadn’t been happening to you as soon as it was to your peers, friends and contemporaries. ¬†Well, as you very well know, it’s happened. ¬†And if anyone deserves it, it’s you.

But I also want to tell you that just because it’s your first time, that just because it’s a life-changing experience for you, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened before. ¬†I know it sounds simplistic and elementary, but like everything else about Life, Love is based on human experience and is a learnable activity. ¬†There is no textbook manual for what you are enjoying now, but sources are plentiful on the subject, and because I have the benefit of ¬†(painful) experience, I audaciously appoint myself an authority on the subject, at least for the duration of this letter.

Like the quotation above, and as Eminem makes quite clear in one of his collaborations (with Rihanna), Love is what happens when a tornado meets a volcano. ¬†It’s a groundswell of emotions, physical tumults and explosions all put together in a transaction of feelings between two people, especially if one or both of them are in love for the first time.

Because of such, I will try to say this as diplomatically as I can to you, but during the course of the time you are in love, especially the first few months, you can’t expect to be in your right mind. ¬†Eight times out of ten you shouldn’t trust yourself to make the correct decision. ¬†Things that you would 99% of the time choose the correct and commonsense option, you will gloss over in favor of Love. ¬†( I am being diplomatic again here, when I say “Love” I actually refer to your boyfriend.) ¬†It is the way of the world, bonehead decisions you would laugh at years and years later but which you would do for Love without a second thought right now. ¬†Trust me on this one, please.

I don’t think I need to get into specifics, but I do need to give you the soundest piece of advice because of the Truth I just revealed to you in the previous paragraph : on matters of Love, seek often and heed the counsel of your mother, who I’m sure is giving you tons of advice, most of it unsolicited. ¬†She has the painful benefit of falling in Love early in life, reaping all its consequences, and surprisingly surviving it all. ūüėČ ¬†If there’s anyone who is in a great position to anticipate road bumps and challenges for you, it is her. ¬†For the soundness of her advice, it’s about as good as money in the bank.

Look, if I’m beginning to sound like a doomsday soothsayer about something that should be giving you oodles and oodles of happiness in your young life, I’m sorry. ¬†But combined with my ecstatic joy that you’ve found love is a concern that you stumble, fall and make the same mistakes that many young people, including Your Loyal Papa (once upon a time), have done.

It’s not just getting pregnant, being a young mother, then being a single mother that bothers me, let’s push that elephant out of the room. ¬†If you just pause before doing anything, give your head and your heart equal face time, and as Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind, you will avoid what your parents had to contend with at the time : being mapusok and allowing the heart to rule the mind. ¬†But it’s not just that.

Asking basic questions like : is this what I would be doing regardless of my current relationship status?  Am I thinking of us, or am I also considering myself alone?  Am I being in love with my boyfriend, or am I being in love with the concept of being in love?  I know these sound philosophical and like so much nitpicking, but they (the answers) are worth considering.

Knowing you, I know you will just push this letter aside as the rantings of an old man making mountains out of molehills.

To balance it out, I am happy that you took the time to invite your boyfriend to your Tita H’s shindig, that you asked permission before asking him to visit late at night, and that you introduced him to me and Tita H the morning after. ¬†It’s also quite decent of him to introduce you to his entire family for Christmas dinner. Those are little things, but to me they matter.

It indicates to me that you still love me as much as you did when I was the center of your world.  I know those days are long past, but you have grown up very well.  It also shows (dapat lang, as you will surely retort) that he loves you to bits.  Well, so far, so good.

Above all, I am ultra-glad you have fallen in love sensibly, if that is at all possible, and that you have fallen in love with a (so far) decent, sensible and respectful young man.  I wish you and Pinoy Boyfriend all the blessings in the world.

Nawa’y kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos anak.

my paradigm-shifting dad on father’s day


with grateful thanks to Jude Bautista for the pic, from left: esposa, me Tita Lily (Yang) and Dad.

[ Note : Despite NZ Father’s Day and Philippine Father’s Day celebrated on different dates, I will use any excuse to remember my dad, who is very much alive and quite healthy by the way,¬†and besides his birthday is less than three weeks away.¬† Happy dad’s day to everyone! ]

MY DAD, whether or not he realizes it, is a product of at least two aspects of his generation.¬† First, that of the reality that Asian fathers are more or less emotionally inaccessible to their offspring, and possibly even to their spouses.¬† Second, he grew up in a traumatic war period where to utter or make any gesture considered disrespectful to our Japanese invaders often resulted in dire, sometimes fatal results.¬† The result is many fathers coming from his generation consider it not only normal but also practical to be distant from most members of their family, to both survive and to carry on “normally” as many Asian families do.¬† Leave the feel-good and mushy stuff to Moms and female members of the family, I could almost hear this generation say.

That’s why it took a sea change for my own father when his turn came to be a dad.¬† He wasn’t touchy-feely and the type who announced a “group hug” all the time, but he never spared any efforts to show how much he cared for all of his sons.¬† He never hesitated to give (or for that matter, ask) for a hug and kiss from me whenever he got home from work.¬† Asians are famous for being “inscrutable” and circumspect, and in that respect Dad was/is traditional, because he had a countenance that was perfectly neutral in front of new acquaintances and strangers.¬† But before friends and loved ones, he always chose to engage rather than resist exposing his feelings and emotions.

He never ignored the template though.  He expected and received unconditional respect from all of his sons, and in return he gave them his unconditional love.  He made all the final decisions that concerned the family, but most of us knew that Mom was just letting him say out loud what made her happy.  Appearances and saving face, after all, still counted in the traditional Pinoy family.

At the end of the day, when I think of all the good¬†things my dad did to me, did for me and did despite me, nothing trumps just being there and being both a towering and nurturing presence in our lives.¬† In his child’s eyes, a father cannot help but¬†come to his life¬†great and awesome, it is his life’s challenge to humanize himself, bring himself down to his/her level, and hold his child’s hand forever.

This you did with flying colors Dad, and I will never stop being grateful for that.¬† I love you so much, advance happy¬†birthday, and for the second time this year, happy Father’s day!

the last great pinoy addiction


our favorite food-trippers and their best friends… thanks to archiefans.com for the pic!

[ Please note that “great” in the following context refers to magnitude and extent of influence in my life, and not to other potentially positive attributes, as the word is often expected to¬†project.¬† Condolences to the family of Sec Jesse Robredo and the¬†Pinoy community of believers in public sector reform, congrats to Pres. Noynoy on his outstanding choice of Prof Ma Lourdes Sereno for Chief Justice of the Phil. Supreme Court, and awesome kudos to the NZ All-Blacks for their clinical dissection of the Wallabies last night to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th straight year, sorry to my former news ed Mr Raul Zamuco, woohoohoo! ]

BECAUSE¬†THE excuse of a busted bike gave me free rides from SuperBisor¬†all week last week, I had more than the usual moments with my lonesome¬†after exercise, and before chores and time with esposa hermosa.¬† I had in fact an epiphany while looking at my pathetic self in the mirror, realizing the following : (1) it was less than three years before I would hit the half-century mark, a milestone that just a few years ago I thought was positively ancient; (2) instead of shedding off unsightly balikbayan poundage since returning to the grind July, I had actually ADDED to it, and was now around 10 kilos above my normal fighting weight (which you don’t need to know by the way, just believe my shameful admission); and (3) my promise to myself¬†to consume either oatmeal or cereal every morning, avoid the decadent Breakfast-Value-Meal-like breakfasts that gave me so much more cholesterol, transfat and lipid-rich slush in my plumbing had remained just that, a(n unfulfilled) promise.

Guess how I celebrated discovering this nugget of self-discovery?  I uncovered a tub of ice cream I hid in the furthest corner of the freezer, half a liter bottle of Regular Sprite (not diet or Sprite Zero) that nobody wanted, heated up one-plus servings of gooey lasagna that was part of my baon the next few days, microwaved leftovers of the last two days (rice, igado, kaldereta etc), brought out banana slices, apple slices and macadamia-corn-flakes cereal that I missed for breakfast (the only healthy part of this orgy) and demolished, ate it all.  Everything on the enumeration just gone by.

It’s no excuse, but my blood sugar was low, just missed both lunch and breakfast as I had to accommodate an overdue run around the block, I wanted to reward myself for the run, but I only realized the¬†cringe-inducing and disgusting nature of my deed, as usual, after the last grain, crumb and drop had rolled down my throat.¬† Sa huli ang pagsisisi.

You’ve probably guessed that I’ve been guilty of these acts¬†throughout most of my life.¬† I’m not only a binge eater, I pig out on midnight snacks. ¬†I eat way too much sweets, I love salty chichirya, all the junk food that a person like me is supposed to avoid, and my only excuse is I deserve a little break every¬†now and then.

The only problem is now and then is too often, a little break has become too regular for me, and I simply can’t continue to eat with too much sugar and too much salt in my daily diet.¬† As it is, there’s already a proliferation of sodium and sugar in an average of six meals of the male Pinoy, daily rice intake itself is already the molecular equivalent of half a dozen teaspoons of sugar, with the only difference being that you can’t pig out on sugar cubes.¬† The way I’ve been brought up, the media and information culture I grew up in, and my predisposition to certain foods will almost surely consign me to hypertension, Type B diabetes, cardiovascular illness and a host of other related conditions before I reach the last two decades of my life expectancy.¬† And there’s no other way to put it : it has a lot to with my sugar and salt addiction.

thanks to donenrique.blogspot for the pic !

I won’t mention the deleterious effects of the said chemicals C12H22O11 and NaCl, because you all¬†know it, it’s just that the intelligent part of our brain shuts down when confronted with gorgeous pastries, glistening french fries, caramel frapuccino, and colorful kakanin.¬† For thousands of years, the scarcity of food and our unending struggle with the elements has taught our bodies to evolve fat-retaining properties and sugar-containing systems, a self-defense mechanism gifted to us by God and nature.¬† Because of the plenitude of food afforded by science and the industrial revolution, we don’t need to keep extra food in our bodies anymore.¬† We don’t even need to hibernate anymore.¬† But because eating is always pleasurable, because we are by nature lazy and hate to exercise, and because the instinct of food business is to make us continuously addicted to its ever-changing products, fourteen percent (14%) of the world is now obese, one in three Americans are grossly fat, and one in five New Zealanders are unacceptably overweight.

self-explanatory. thanks to ehow.com!

Now, being addicted to both sugar and sweet isn’t too bad for me; it is one of the few addictions that are socially acceptable in the modern world.¬† Even being obese is not so bad if you can bear the stares and snickers behind your back, witness the stats on fatness the previous sentence.¬† The only snag in the stitchwork in my personal case is that I’m on the brink of senior hood, when middle-age spread (or bilbil that won’t go¬†away)¬†takes a¬†herculean effort to counteract, when the occupational hazards of eating everything in front of you ( I am to please ) begin to show up in the form of various diseases and when the cheques your body wrote during the wildness of your decadent youth are coming back to haunt you for encashment, with interest.

The bottom line is that like many of you similarly placed, the urgency of common sense and self-preservation has coerced me into giving up most of my addictions.¬† Tobacco was the easiest habit to pick up but the hardest to break.¬† Alcohol made for¬†good conversation, but through the years you just realized that throwing up too often wasn’t that hard to give up.¬† And funny cigarets altered a lot of your ways of thinking but didn’t do you too many favors¬†being perceived¬†as a normal person, so that wasn’t too hard.

It’s eating and eating food that’s bad for you (but which tastes so good) that is the addiction nurtured by a lifetime of bad habits, and therefore takes the remaining portion of your life to undo and change.¬† That’s why, beyond all common sense, after eating food that could have fed three people, I’m looking forward to Chinese takeaway dinner¬† with the obligatory¬†MSG, secondhand cooking oil and food coloring all around.

Thanks for reading !

the last weekend of winter with Ganda & Bunso


not only did Ganda, Mahal and Bunso have fun, they also managed to look awesome and cool ūüôā

I’M NOT¬†one to indulge in psychobabble or armchair psychology, but I can’t resist self-diagnosing : if you’re anywhere being a half-decent Pinoy (or otherwise) parent (notice I didn’t say good parent, that’s presumptuous), you can relate to my saying that your kids are the only persons on this planet before whom you never need to put on appearances; by nature and/or whether you like it or not, you are simply yourself, nothing more and nothing less.¬† Among the many reasons for this : It is good for their mental health and yours; they already know (or are on the verge of knowing) you very well from head to foot; you can’t deny your true self to the people of whom you are a part and will always be a part of you, long after you have left this life.

Having said that, I once again had a chance to affirm the above law of the universe after spending a tiring but fulfilling weekend with Ganda and Bunso still intoxicated with the afterglow of permanent resident status ; a window of sunlight, showerless rest days, and snow on Mt Ruapehu certainly a confluence of pleasant events to greet recent happy events in our family.

The unintended sidelight of all these was that despite all my attempts to sound sage and ready to dispense with wisdom of the ages, my daughter and younger son saw me for what I am : an excited father just as thrilled to see his kids enjoy life, irrepressible youth, and the rare milestones of successful migration.

their first-ever sightings of snow as young adults, the sled rides and ski lifts over snowed over hillsides were all highlights symbolic of their new lives as NZ permanent residents : in just a few weeks their daily routine of waiting and idleness had turned into frantic paperwork and countless details that needed to be furnished, added and confirmed.  The wintry respite was a much needed break not only for the budding New Zealanders, but also for their parents, who had not shared a day off together in over two weeks.

In between, the much needed interaction surfaced not just between generations but also between would-be travellers in different stages of the migrant journey.  Ironically, Ganda and Bunso were far ahead of me, a guest worker, in our common quest to become NZ citizens, though I would unconditionally be happy for them in every goal they attained.

And on the ride home from the winter wonderland,  if ever I thought that I remained the ageless dad from whom they would owe their looks, Bunso hit me with the joke-of-the-day : natatakot ako tumanda Papa, kasi nakikita ko sa yo magiging hitsura ko.  The punch line was brutal, but at least the smile was disarming.

Whether or not his joke penetrated any vital organs, such frankness from Bunso would serve him well as NZ resident for years to come.

Thanks for reading !