birthday thoughts for bunso


always looking to the future.  happy birthday pogi!

always looking to the future. happy birthday pogi!

ON MY 30th year on this earth, a young boy came into my life.    Among all the pictures of him that exist in early childhood, there are around one or two that show him crying, but otherwise all the rest, scores and scores, show him flashing his famous brilliant smile, radiating warmth and charm three hundred sixty degrees around, and twenty-four seven. Yes, From the very start, there was something special about him.

He’s always had the easiest time with words and phrases, better than average with graphs and figures, and creative as anyone with a brush, mouse or pen.  Early on, he showed a remarkable ease being with children and adults much older than him, but was likewise able to bond with children his age and much younger.  His gift was in expressing himself, in understanding the world around him, and as a logical consequence, in relating to all sorts of people.  Almost everytime, he would leave you feeling that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, anything he set his mind to, and he had the rest of his young life to do it.  Such was this young boy as I saw him.

It is as I continue to see him, despite all the challenges and obstacles that he has run into, perhaps because of all these same challenges and obstacles.  The past year has seen milestone after milestone that he has declared for himself : first job, first term in an NZ university, first participation in a uni varsity team, first stint as a class representative, and so on and so forth.  That he has produced above average academic results while doing all those firsts shows that he is thriving in the whirlwind, and that he is a natural under pressure.  From babyhood till today, the eve of his 19th birthday, he continues to amaze his awestruck father.

These small tributes are of course natural from an admiring parent, so I temper it with a token enumeration of his adolescent faults : he burns both ends of the candle, he is an unabashed admirer of looks and cleverness in people, usually his own, and unsurprisingly suffers from intervals of overconfidence.  But look at yourself in the mirror Noel, and pay yourself a hundred  pesos for every fault of his that you didn’t have at his age.  That’s right, better start looking for those pesos elsewhere.

The day he came into my life will be exactly 19 years ago tomorrow, but he still gives me the same gift, besides the honor of being a proud father.  And that gift is the ever brightening hope of a kinder, smarter and gentler generation that comes after mine.

From Papa and all the rest of us, happy birthday Bunso, and thank you for being in my life.  As always, you make me proud.

hitting an early highlight w/Mahal & anakis 1st week of 2014


Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn't complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping.  Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn’t complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping. Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

NINETY MINUTES (at least) doing anything that’s not pure recreation, not pure rest or keeping close company with someone who isn’t your beloved, particularly on a non-working day, is hazardous to your mental health.  The only exception/s is/are (1) when it’s spent on a special day or holiday, on which thanksgiving and introspection is better spent in communion with other people, and (2) when (1) is spent with loved ones and/or family.

That is how Mahal and I convinced myself (Mahal needs to help me convince myself) despite previous postponements, to go all the way and spend a nice, all-extras-included New Year’s lunch with son Panganay and girlfriend (if any), daughter Ganda and boyfriend (if any), and younger son Bunso and partner (if any).

Which would’ve been great, had all of the aforementioned not had previous engagements, holiday shifts, basketball games, gym workouts and overtime work intervening.  In the end, we just settled on whoever was available for the Saturday post HNY lunch, which unfortunately didn’t include Panganay’s girlfriend (visiting a sick friend) and Bunso, who was at work.

Which didn’t bode well for Panganay and Ganda, who hadn’t exactly been on the same wavelength recently.  Panganay was having uncharacteristically the best of times with Bunso, who traditionally had always been on Ganda’s side, so Bunso would’ve smoothed any wrinkles between the two.

But it being a new beginning, and it being the first get-together for the year, we were all hoping for the best.

***                              ***                             ***

It turned out that we had nothing to fear.  Brother and sister both wanted to have a good time, and sister’s boyfriend, to be fair, wanted to get along with everybody.  The Beef Wellington and Heineken beer certainly didn’t hurt, although designated drivers could only drink a bottle at most.

We were all so happy that we didn’t mind Panganay bragging about his recent promotion, his anticipated work as an extra on Avatar 2 (to be filmed in NZ, largely expected as its producer had recently set up base in Wellington), and so much good luck that had come his way.  I figured, for him to appear (albeit as an extra) in a movie that had a good shot to be in the top 100 films of all time was as good as it got.  (Besides, to somehow balance it out, he also underwent a minor operation in 2013.) On New Year week, and with family around, we all had a right to feel happy with ourselves.

Ganda, after her migration seriously stalled her academics, had rounded up enough credentials and documents to get admitted to the nerdiest school in town, a bit out-of-character for her and therefore doubly impressive.  As if that weren’t enough, I couldn’t stop smiling with the news that her devoted (so far) Pinoy BF (yes, he’s Pinoy) not only approved of her going back to school but was actually going to help her with matriculation fees (??!!) New school, new boyfriend and new outlook in life, and I couldn’t help but be impressed with Ganda, who I thought was hapless enough to have inherited my happy-go-lucky attitude in life.  I couldn’t be more thrilled to be wrong.

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. :) Proud dad moment!

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. 🙂 Proud dad moment!

***                              ***                            ***

We still hadn’t given up on Bunso, who while working was only a half-dozen blocks away in his barista job.  Instead of hoping he would join us for his lunch break, we decided to surprise him at  Istarbak, have our post-lunch coffee there and sample his wares.

I almost got teary-eyed watching him in the first job he loved (he worked a previous job but didn’t like it), conjuring coffee creations for urban addicts who were eager to sample first-hand the talented techniques of the rookie Istarbak brewer.  I was almost certainly biased, but it seemed to me that as the cafe queue grew longer, Bunso worked faster and more dexterously, never sacrificing quality for quantity.  Of course, this included our lattes, frappucino and coffee of the day.  Seeing Bunso work for the first time,  we were one proud dad and stepmom that afternoon.

Considering that I had already experienced what would probably be one of the highlights of 2014 on only the fourth day (and first Saturday!) of the year, it was a good day.

Thanks Mahal for convincing me to gamble on those 90 minutes.  Practically risk-free!

Thanks for reading!

sweets for my sweets


IMG_0038[Note : Thank you so much George, Hazel, Kimmy and Hannah from Auckland for your outstanding and thoughtful generosity; your brother/brother-in-law, sister-in-law/tita, nephews/cousins, niece/cousin are all so grateful for your gifts (shown above) from Auckland all the way to Wellington!  Maraming maraming salamat po and please hug and kiss all our rellies back home in Manila!  Advance Maligayang Pasko to all our kabayan in New Zealand, the Philippines and the rest of the OFW and migrant world! ]

THE TOPIC/S of the day are our kabayan’s outstanding performances in this year’s beauty pageants, and the despicable act of a political scion having security guards arrested just for doing their job chillingly reminiscent of Martial Law days, but the urgency now tends to a more personal topic, and one hopefully that you can help me with.

You see, for the first time in years and years, I have a little barya set aside for gifts for my loved ones.   The usual austere mood and logistics dictate that I can only think of gifts for my immediate kin, but it is still a formidable task.  I have little excuse not to think of them, they have after all been so nice and thoughtful to me this year.

More than once I saw sentiments like this posted in social networks like Facebook (actually FB is the only network I’m on) : This year I decided to have a low profile Christmas, thinking of those who can’t even have a decent celebration in their own homes, those who are still in the painful process of recovering from recent tragedies….  I have no gifts nor cards to send to family and friends….for there are others who need them (or their equivalent ) more. But rest assured, you’re always in my thoughts and prayers… Happy holidays, everyone!

I felt something similar to the above, but I JUST HAVE to send a token of appreciation to the people mentioned, especially since I hadn’t done so for so long.  Mahal, who is my caregiver (I’m cranky and creaky when I’m tired and hungry, which is often), driver, cook, muse, lover and everything else in my life; Panganay, who reminds me of more adventurous and difficult times in the distant past; Ganda, who is the light of my life and remains as malambing as the time she was in diapers; and Bunso, whose energy and inspiration never fail to brighten my day.

***         ***         ***

I have not had an ideal relationship with Panganay.  For a significant block of his pre-adolescence I was occupied with problems of my own, and ultimately he, among his siblings, bore the brunt of my neglect and immaturity. We have both made attempts (in varying intensities) to repair our relationship, but it hasn’t been an easy task.

It’s part of human nature to use Christmas and other happy occasions to improve our relationship, and as naively as an old-school father can get, I have taken the time to meet Panganay and his new girlfriend.  This time with one hand tightly clutching my pamasko and the other holding Mahal’s arm, I’m hoping that the holidays can help us form a bond that can only strengthen in time.

***               ***               ***

Ganda has always been sweet and solicitous of her father, even in our leaner, bleaker days.  I remember coming home from NZ once, and she was so afraid I would leave the next day before she woke up, that she insisted on sleeping next to me and tightly clutching my hand until she fell asleep.  Needless to say, by the time she woke up, my hand was no longer there.

Ganda is fully adult now, mature for her age as she ever was, but she still worries for me like she did before.  Too tired, too wet, too hungry and now too old, she never ceases to show her concern and ask if I’m these things, and therefore she never ceases to amaze me.  Even when I ask her if I she needs extra funds for whatever, she almost always declines, and we can only show her some hospitality by treating her and hey boyfriend to a little lunch, dinner or merienda.

YES, her boyfriend, and they have been together for a year now.  Beyond the usual expectations and keeping my hopes up, he has been the perfect gentleman and has shown us every courtesy and concern that a Pinoy boyfriend can give.  THAT is enough for me for now, and obviously he is more than a Christmas gift for Ganda to treasure.

I have to think long and hard before giving Ganda a nice little gift, for not  only have I not given her much for some time now, she also truly deserves one, for all the reasons there can be.

***               ***               ***

Bunso is, to put it bluntly, having the best time of his life in New Zealand.  His special circumstances would not allow him to fully enjoy himself back home, but now he has the freedom, friends and supportive family in his new home away from home, Wellington.  Along the way he has shown remarkable development in his attitude, personality and smarts.   He has truly come into his own.

I honestly don’t know what to give him for Christmas, because he is just starting to discover himself.  He has combined two incredible traits, and I don’t say this just because I’m his dad : he is unselfish, and he is thoughtful.  As a son, brother, friend and colleague, he is a gift to everyone.

***               ***               ***

It’s hard to put into words what Mahal is to me, so I won’t even try : she is everything to me.  So much so that giving her a gift this gift-giving season is truly a challenge.  Fortunately, she has helped me : inasmuch as December is Christmas and our anniversary month AND her birthday, she has offered to allow me to consolidate all these gifts into one, as long as it’s special.

Can you help me think of a truly special gift for her?

Thanks for reading!

Quittable 2013 : a Pinoy’s random thoughts on smoking



[Note : Not proud of it but it’s the proper thing to say : I sincerely apologize to both Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion (publisher) and Ms Meia Lopez (editor) for letting them down the latest issue of the Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine Kabayan, I offer no excuses and humbly ask for forgiveness.  Hope that in time you can forgive me.  It’s been a great week for the anakis:  Panganay‘s hard work as a world-class Wellington film extra has paid off so well that one or even more of his scenes might actually end up (one as a villager, another as an orc) in part 2 of The Hobbit trilogy (premiering in 2 weeks!), Ganda‘s dream of rebooting her aborted tertiary studies has been given hope by the University of Victoria here, and Bunso is fast becoming one of the more accomplished baristas on Wellington’s Golden Mile!  Our fatherly heart is understandably bursting with pride, thanks in advance for the kudos!  By the by, I do a blog like this once a year on the anniversary of my quitsmoking date, and inasmuch as one of my anakis is a smoker, if this can reach that particular offspring, this post will have been well worth the effort, woohoohoo!  Thanks to Nathan P and the Curtis family for the Bryan Curtis video above! ]

More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined… Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. – US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

IS ANYONE still not familiar with the saying Do as I say, not as I do?  Well, anyone who has kids, younger siblings and younger relatives especially in the Philippines will know that this particular bit of wisdom rings so true with regard to one of the greatest health and social evils known to Man, tobacco smoking.

If I received fifty centavos for everytime I heard my folks and elders saying masama ang manigarilyo, huwag tutunan magbisyo (smoking is bad, don’t start a vice), I would have probably retired before 40 and sipping pinacoladas by now.  But because life must be lived through stupidity as well as wisdom, it wouldn’t surprise you too much to know that the more my parents sought to prevent me from trying things, the more I wanted to try them.  Go figure.

But if you were a 7 or 8 year old like me (then) and looked around you, wouldn’t you have done the same?  Dad himself was then a chain smoker, unable to perform his daily functions without a smoke (2+ packs) and both starting and ending the day with a ciggie.  My two older brothers, who were naturally my first role models, were stealing smokes in the backyard and sticks from Dad’s packs in their early teens.  It seemed that for all the opprobrium attached to smoking and blowing that smoke in people’s faces, it was, behind everyone’s backs, the cool thing to do.  All the cool people were doing it, you could see it on ads and on TV, and the “bad boys” and “naughty girls”, don’t you deny it, were doing it!  So for me, while the angel on my right shoulder kept tsk tsking whenever I stared at smokers, the horny dude with a pitchfork on my left just snickered mwahahaha Noel, it’s just a matter of time before you start puffing away.

And light up I did, after high school at around 18 although the first crowd I hung out with in college were exclusive school geeks like me and never even tried smoking.  Unfortunately the next crowd all lit up before and after classes, and even tolerant professors allowed smoking in class.  So it quickly became a way of life for me, in permissive, bohemian Diliman, where even cannabis smoking wasn’t that unusual, as long as you knew where to smoke it, and believe me, in campus, there were lots of places to suck on those funny cigarets.

Even Dad’s short bout with a lung infection mid 1970s didn’t deter me, or my two elder brothers who were already moderate to heavy smokers.  All-too-expectedly, since I was young, fit and healthy, it necessarily followed that I’m bulletproof, and nothing, not even all the health and mortality statistics, my hacking cough, black sputum-congested throat in the morning and that repulsive dragon breath would make me stop, for another 24 years.  By then Dad made a complete turnaround, became a strict anti-tobacco reformist, much to our chagrin.  Everything even remotely connected to smoking, ashtrays, the slightest smell or hint of tobacco smoke, was all but banished, for good reason, from our household.

After I got married, when the stress of family, work and sedentary living creeped in, smoking became an inevitable crutch and my one reliable friend.  All the rationalizations were there : I need it to deal with all the stressors in life; I don’t have any other vices; can’t I have just one outlet for my hard work?  and all other nonsense that ultimately wilted against the fact that I had burned out struggling alveoli and was slowly strangling the remaining healthy lung cells I had.

***               ***               ***                ***                ***

It wasn’t any epiphany that allowed me to confront and slay my tobacco smoking, fire-breathing dragon in 2007, despite the fact that  I was a wheezing, overweight and pasty-faced Pinoy attempting to stay in New Zealand.

It was rather a combination of several reasons that made me to decide to just stop cold turkey : the $11 to $12 cost per 20-pack of cigs was something I could ill afford; my sister-in-law wasn’t saying it out loud, but she didn’t approve of smoking in their house, where I was staying until I could rent a flat of my own; and at 42, I thought that the time was right to stop smoking, after nearly a quarter century of playing Russian roulette with my lungs.

Literally, however, you need just one reason to quit smoking : to continue living, and continue living a healthy life, at that.

Because of Divine Assistance, exercise that helped keep the withdrawal jitters away, and the cold realization that an early death would prevent me from seeing my children grow up with families of their own, I have kept away from, and have in fact been tobacco free for the last six years, the sixth anniversary falling last 17th November.

I would be less than completely truthful if I didn’t admit to you, kabayan and friends, that I’m not completely free from smoking, mentally that is.  Not a day goes by without me thinking of smoking.  Every time I see a person or persons smoke, I imagine smoking myself, especially after a full meal, when imbibing alcohol, and all those other activities you associate with smoking.

The reason for this is that there is a cocktail of powerful drugs released in every hit of tobacco smoke that goes directly into your bloodstream from your lungs and straight into your brain.  These drugs cause your brain to produce dopamine, which is closely associated with the body’s pleasureable feelings and sensations.  There is no denying it : six years after quitting, I still can’t deny that smoking gave me pleasure.  It’s just the health and social costs that has made me stop.  THAT’s how powerful smoking is.

There is no magic formula to quitting smoking.  The two pieces of advice from this lucky quitter : seek professional help if you can’t stop cold turkey, and better to not start at all.  It’s that simple.

Please spare a thought to quitting today.  Too many people have died, or are now dying from smoking for you not to.

Thanks for reading!

repost courtesy of Bunso : “The Elusive First Job (in NZ)”


woohoo!

woohoo!

[Note : Actually, this was the second job my son Bunso successfully applied for, but this was the first time he actually liked the job. 🙂  So he was gracious enough to write about it after a local Pinoy newsmagazine in Wellington invited him to do so.  I liked it so much (his story) that I am reposting it below, with permission of course from both the publisher and the author.  You may access Bunso’s online version as well by clicking on the link in this paragraph.  Thanks again Didith Tayawa Figuracion and Meia Lopez of Kabayan Magazine in Wellington, and anak for your generosity! ]

KNOWING YOURSELF is one thing but describing yourself is another.  On finding a job, one of the most important things to remember is to put your best foot forward.  You have to present yourself as the best candidate for whatever job you’re applying for without sounding arrogant or too proud.

It took a while to get my first job but finally, after sending in numerous CVs (both physical and online), my efforts have paid off.  When I finally landed a job, I was ecstatic!  (I honestly can’t put my feelings into words.  But it was comparable to how I felt when I passed the entrance exam for the university I wanted to attend back home in the Philippines.  I felt really happy and blessed.)

So here’s my take on how you should prepare to get that (first) elusive job.

Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.  Customise your CV and always point out skills and qualities you have that other people might not have.  Make sure to relate these to the job you are applying for.  Some jobs require you to be independent and some require you to be in a team.  If you like to do both, say so but don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not.

Your CV must speak for you especially for jobs you apply for online and situations where you won’t be able to see the prospective manager/boss before getting an interview.  Put together an image of yourself based on your personality (are you friendly and helpful?), experiences  (have you interacted with people from different ethniticities and backgrounds giving you that cross cultural perspective from your travels overseas or interactions in school?)  and skills (are you good with managing your time, multitasking or prioritising?).

Get the best referees possible.  Ask your high school (college) principal or your parents’ friends if they are willing to be your referees.  Get someone who knows you and is willing to help and can vouch for your professionalism.

Do your homework.  It helps a lot if you know the employer or have referees working within the workplace you are applying at.  Find out as much as you can about the company where you are applying.

During interviews make yourself very presentable.  From your clothes to your demeanor, you are being observed.  Wear clothes feel comfortable in and always appear open and approachable.  There is not one job in the world that would turn away people with those qualities, if there were they would probably be jobs most people wouldn’t apply for. (ha-ha just kidding.)

Now comes the hard part — asking for prior job experience when it’s your first job (locally).  Most jobs you apply for need prior experience but how can you get experience without getting a job?  I can only think of two ways to convince the employer to give you a chance.  Work for free for a specified amount of time depending on what you’re open to, for example one to two weeks, whatever floats your boat.  The other is to ask for an interview and character reference check and if they like what they hear then they might give you a shot.

So, when you do get the job, you better show them that they picked the right guy/gal.  Cheers and good luck to all the young people out there looking for employment, it definitely isn’t easy but it’s all worth it.

You go guys! 🙂

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. 🙂

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!)

hi-definition bonding with kids is even cooler when they’re your own


It's Friday casual. As usual, I will hide from Mahal after posting this w/o her knowledge. ;)

It’s Friday casual. As usual, I will hide from Mahal after posting this w/o her knowledge. 😉

[ Note : “high definition” : high resolution, greater detail often on a wide format of viewing.  “Bonding” : Establish a relationship with someone based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences. Thanks for reading this extra long post! ]

AN ETERNITY AGO, when there were more sons and daughters in my age group than mothers or fathers, I often bristled at the slightest impression that any parent of  my contemporaries had a favorite (or worse, favorites) in their brood.  Bad enough that the folks had to apportion their affection among multiple offspring, were they that awful that they couldn’t even distribute such affection equally?

Many years later, now to be exact, I know now this inequitable maldistribution of wealth to be an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life.  Should you ask, it’s because the naive son has become a naive father (and quite possibly a naive lolo in the near future, need you ask again), and mainly because one, there is simply no way love and affection, spoils and favors can be dealt out in a perfectly symmetric way to sons and daughters.  Two, in your brood there is always the one who seeks you out just a little more, appreciates you more and is a little more demanding of your time.  The resulting surplus of communication and appreciation, despite what many parents deny, is what manifests itself as a show of favorite/s, the Joseph among the Twelve or maybe John the Beloved among the Apostles.

So it shouldn’t be too much of a shock for me to tell you that whoever among Panganay, Ganda and Bunso communicate, share more of their time and show a little more concern more often is for that particular point in time my favorite.  I’m too old now to worry about offending them, they all know that I love them as much as I love myself (which is a lot), but then and now whoever is closer to me is that, closer.

That evening it was Bunso, who on his own asked if he could have dinner with Mahal and me, which of course we obliged as we hadn’t seen him much since he got his first job, and then his second job at a superpopular cafe chain.  Engaging with people is a natural skill with him, so we were so happy when he made the move.

Except that between this dinner and the last, I was unaware that Bunso had quickly grown from a laugh-a-minute, outspoken and gregarious individual into a brooding, intense and introspective 18-year old.  Sure he was still talkative, animated as life itself, and never shied away from controversy, if it meant defending the things he stood for.

But there was a seriousness with him, a loss of innocence that only a recent milestone of adult life could’ve made possible.  Yes Mahal, Bunso had fallen in love.  And was fortunate enough to have survived it.

In so many words he told us  that it was both an exhilarating and sobering experience, but that was it.  No other juicy tidbits.  We were privileged to have been part of his milestone, yet respected his privacy enough not to ask further.  It was all I could do to restrain myself from asking a million and one questions, for after all could you blame me for thinking that the baby, the youngest of the litter, was now nearly a full-grown man?

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Beyond this, Bunso also told us something we hadn’t expected.  Panganay, from whom we hadn’t heard for some time, was down with something, but couldn’t tell us what.

It was high time for me to give Panganay a long overdue call.  Overdue mainly because he had been busy with his stuff, but also because the latter didn’t sound too much like he needed any presence other than friends and the current ladylove of his life, who I was also more than a little curious to see.  Almost immediately after Bunso left the next day, I called.

Anak, kumusta ka na?  Ano na’ng nangyayare sa buhay mo?  I wanted to know all about his mystery ailment, but also wanted to give him the chance to open up first.

“Wala Pa, may nabugbog lang akong muscles and full bed rest ang recommend ng doc.”

I knew his condition was a tad more serious than he let on, so I probed a little further.

Kailangan mo raw ng medical procedure anak?

“Oo, pero nagiipon pa ako.”  That last  statement of independence melted me a little, so I tried a half-joke, half-expression of concern.

Kung barya na lang ang kulang anak, tawagan mo kami agad ni Tita H.  I think he knew we were half serious because Mahal reinforced the offer a minute later.

Now, on to more important matters.

May girlfriend ka na raw Anak?  At superganda pa according to Bunso?  At supersexy? 😉

“Linoloko lang kayo ni Bunso” Panganay stammered, but more out of modesty than anything.

Anak, I semi-scolded him, kapag sinabing maganda ang syota mo, umoo ka na lang.  At kapag sinabing sexy ang GF mo, sabihin mo OO NGA.

We both had to laugh at that.

We couldn’t end the call without an offer to cook him and his new girlfriend an authentic, adobo and sinigang Pinoy dinner very soon.  Hopefully, while he’s convalescing from his momentary setback.

The moments are few and far between, but when you reconnect with the younger generation, you feel a bit younger again, and the years of your youth come back for a while.  It’s even better when the reconnection is with your own kids.

Before I forget, may I just add one more crazy piece of advice for you after reading this blog, from someone who has no business giving advice anyway : try bonding with your chikitings about things they care about, things they do and things that affect their everyday lives.  It just might work one of these days.

thanks for reading!

[ Postcript : Just in case you feel Ganda might be left out here, her boyfriend is an above average basketball player, so anytime I watch one of their Pinoy community league games, I can bond with them easily.  So there. 🙂 ]

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!) 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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 😦

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!

the day bunso came full circle


did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? :)

did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? 🙂

SEEING A person off on a journey into the vast unknown is one of the more popular metaphors lent to parents bidding goodbye to their adult children.  Part of you is so happy for them, being a front-seat witness to the first of their many milestones.  And yet you know that on many levels there is no turning back, as there are certain thresholds that, once crossed, can’t be uncrossed, can’t be undone.

Given his communication and learning skills, it had taken Bunso an inordinate time to find a job in Migrantland.  Each IQ test had given him so much encouragement, each interview had given him so much hope, and each hiring officer had practically promised him that the job was his for the taking.  Why, then was this his umpteenth job interview, and the latest in an endless stream of heartbreaking you have great qualifications, but just not a good fit for the position we’re offering right now?  It just seemed that they never ran out of ways to make you feel good and at the same time shut the proverbial door in your unbelieving face.

Which was why, after a month of not hearing from Bunso, we were very happy to hear that he had already started work after a short training period.  Just when he thought he had had enough of sincere-sounding but indecisive and non-committal employers, one supermarket chain finally cut him a break and told him to report for work the next day.

It was of course nothing fancy, minimum wage, work the graveyard shift that nobody wanted, fill the shelves and man the checkout counters at all hours of the day, don’t even think about choosing your hours.  For Bunso, just having a job was seventh heaven, and a passport to the life of being able to start saving for things meant a lot to him.

And the icing on the cake ?  Bunso remembered to treat us to dinner, which was a first for both me and him, meaning him treating me and me, well, being treated.  Free food certainly tastes better than usual, and even more when it’s from someone you’ve loved all your life.

From you taking care of the baby to the baby now taking care of you, Bunso has certainly come full circle, sniff-sniff! 🙂

From Tita H and me, thanks so much and love you always Bunso!