Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Choosing Happiness

Today was one of those days when I think I could fill a page writing about how it went from good to bad to good to bad to good. I left the house at 530am, logged in at work at 640ish, not bad for the state of traffic along Ortigas extension, I tell you. I spent around 6 minutes to put on my favorite Happy Skin foundation, nude lippie and mascara; gathered my hair into a pony tail, and by 730, I had started the day and was having my second cup of coffee while responding to emails from last night  Great start.

Lunch of three-fourths cup rice, pork sisig, pakbet, and maja blanca started me off on a good afternoon. I was back at my desk by 1230, finished a draft input over a 30-minute unused lunch break. An hour later, I got an email saying that there was no need for that draft. Ok, fine. I quickly moved on. On a busy day, it's normal to get busier by the hour until you hardly notice it's 5pm because the A/C has been shut off, then it's 6pm and past cob (close of business). I pulled myself away from my PC to call Garrett before he surrenders his phone for the 7-930pm study period for dormers. 

I asked my usual question. "How are you?" I was worried his sore throat had gotten worse, I asked again rephrasing my first question, "How are you feeling?" Garrett replied, "Hi, Mom! I feel great!" Then he went on to report about today's activities and scores he got in quizzes. He said he got 30/35 in an English quiz. We ended the call after 7 minutes with many reminders like not forgetting to brush his teeth, to which he would always just say, "Yes, Mom, I do." Or "Yes, Mom, I will." It's a good measure of comfort to me talking to him and being told he is not only okay, he's feeling great! Love that. He says it's hard to study at PSHS, yet he feels great! Eh 'di wow! Hihi!

So that call wrapped up my day at work on a happy mood. I knew the line at the fx terminal was getting longer by the minute. But I felt good. In fact, I didn't have to take a paracetamol today for migraine. 😊

Until I got on the fx, a Mitsubishi Adventure. By the order of the line, I hopped on in the middle seat, flanked by two big men. B1, on my left, was easily twice my weight. And B2, on my right, had to close the door lifting his weight from the seat such that when the door closed, he had to squeeze himself in the little space left between me and the door. I had my arms straight out in front of me and my body was leaning to the right into the void that B2 could not fill. B2 had pointy hip bones, I wanted to advance instead to avoid contact, but I was squeezed, I didn't dare move an inch. B1 seemed so A-ok, I'd credit him for not making unnecessary movements. I liked B1 better though he was bigger. B2, aside from his pointy hips, was sweaty, smelling like his shirt was not properly dried. Not only that, he had earphones on and was singing lyrics from his phone screen. Agh. 

Thank heavens, he got off midway to the end of my ride! I was happy again. 

I got home to this girl. And I thought and felt ashamed of the nerve I had to complain. I am too blessed to be stressed. The daily grind is my choice anyway. Just saying because this blog has been so quiet for so long... 

Happy mid-week. Weekend is upcoming. My favorite day is Friday because it's my weekly reunion with my son. 😊

Friday, May 01, 2015

My First Eventful Mission in Bangladesh

April 25, Saturday (first two paragraphs are lifted from my DayOne entry)

Breakfast in Feni, Chittagong, Bangladesh. Barely got to sleep last night. Got scared with electricity going out twice! Not sure how I'm going to hold up the entire day for discussions with farmers, the five-hour train ride back to Dhaka, and the mission report to finish.

Add to my woes the fact that I couldn't take a decent bath. I look like I didn't take a shower, which frankly is true. Water in the shower is brown, the color of coffee mixed with 1 sachet of coffee mate!! So I had to run the water for a while until I got a fourth of a pail of water that's clear enough, and just had to make do using a drinking glass as dipper. And of course I didn't get to wash my hair. Pity. But this is development work so I can't complain.. 

Bangladesh is an interesting country. The people are warm, curious and appear sincere. I enjoyed the last 5 days getting acquainted to its landscape and people. I hope water and sanitation facilities would be improved. It's ok when you're in Dhaka and staying in five-star hotels, because everything is clean. It's when you go out that eating, use of public toilets and accommodation can become challenging to some, me included.

Much of Bangladesh consists of flat agricultural lands like this with ponds in between. 

Checking out the irrigation canals and pumps. 

We met with officials and members of water user associations at the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) office in Feni. There were some 30 plus attendees, two of whom were women. The farmers were very eager to support the irrigation improvement project that the Mission presented. The women, wearing their saris, stood up to speak as well. In this Muslim country, it's amazing how women are getting organized to rally their causes. More and more women are getting their college degrees and getting employed. This project mainstreams gender equality and requires the project to employ a minimum number of them. The downside to that is it's manual excavation labor that women would have to do, and of course, it would be those very poor that would participate.

The farmers who stand to benefit from the irrigation improvements and innovations the project will bring.
Upon finishing the meeting, news reached us about the earthquake. I was told that there was an earthquake in Dhaka. All my companions were all suddenly on their phones checking on their families and properties. When everyone had settled down, relieved that everything seemed ok except for some buildings that sustained cracks, we noticed that my mission leader was still on the phone and looking very much worried. His family resides in Nepal and he was talking to his wife, getting as much information as he could. 

It was a strained ride back to the BWDB guesthouse. On the way back, we stopped for a stroll along a historical pond where we chanced upon some locals bathing.

The train is a primary mode of transportation in Bangladesh. It is safer than going by car
 to the other administrative divisions and districts. This coach is quite comfortable. 

April 26, Sunday

We had to wrap up the mission abruptly as my mission leader had to fly back to Nepal to help his family. Fortunately, the Kathmandu airport reopened the day after the 7.8 magniture earthquake and he was able to get a flight. We only saw how bad the situation was when we reached the hotel late night the previous day and saw the news on CNN. 

I was left at the hotel finishing my input to the mission aide memoire when I suddenly started feeling wobbly. I thought I was getting dizzy from lack of sleep and exhaustion from the field trip, until I realized that the building was shaking. I was on the 16th floor! I put on my shoes, grabbed my phone, went out my room, and got panicky not knowing whether to take the stairs or the lift!! I was scared, I was crying. I took my chances, got on the elevator and prayed hard I would reach the lobby. I know I should have taken the stairs but I thought that it would be a long flight from where I was!! 

A few minutes after, all the guests were made to evacuate the building and gather at the hotel's open parking lot. And then shortly after, we were informed that it was safe to go back to our rooms. It turned out that it was due to a strong aftershock in Nepal.

I wanted badly to go home... Good thing my flight was at midnight that day. I asked to be transferred to a room on the lowest floor possible. I packed early and was ready to go by 6pm.


If not for that earthquake, we would have concluded the mission successfully. For me, a novice to this kind of missions, it was a good six days of getting to know the project and the government officials managing it. I got to see Dhaka and its people, experienced taking the train and seeing the lush countryside with farmers immersed in their rice paddies or in the ubiquitous ponds, saw many kinds of birds, ate their food with my bare hands to mimic my local companions, shook hands with Bangladeshis, chatted with some to know more about their culture, and survived the roads which were abuzz with rickshaws, cars, buses and trucks all wanting to get ahead of each other and weaving through traffic at extremely close distance from each other.

Normal chaos on the road with drivers able to squeeze into very small spaces, honking horns along the way,
to get ahead. Their manual and auto rickshaws are the tuktuks in other countries or pedicabs and tricycles in the Philippines.

That maybe reserved but that definitely is a pose from the man in blue.

I would want to go back.

Let me end with a prayer that the people of Nepal would be spared from any more natural disasters as they pick themselves up and move on.. May Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia forge ahead and keep up or be ahead of growing new economies.

The famous rickshaws each uniquely designed and driven by brave hearts! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Holed up in Dhaka

Left to myself, I realized I really don't mind the mess. No rest from morning to night even if I'm holed up in this space. Mission aide memoire, emails, etc. have kept me seated in that chair the whole time. Crazy happy. Productive day still. There's more to finish tomorrow. Thank you, Lord. Keep my children, Let and all my family safe.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's 2015 in a few hours. Let me do a last blog post to close 2014 and welcome the new year properly. It's been quite a while now since I last posted an update. I was busy settling into a new job since September. My mind, body and, I guess, all my energy had to zone in into the new job, new bosses, new colleagues, and adjustments in my household and arrangements for the daily care of Garrett and Gabee. 

It's a good time to reflect on the blessings and challenges of the year that was. What a great year it was for me and my family, we capped it off with a vacation up north in Sagada. We had an amazing time up in the mountains, enjoying all-day long cool temperature, and exploring what we could in the three days we were there. There were just so many little anecdotes and beautiful moments that, I think that trip deserves a separate post complete or replete with gorgeous photos of that place (my family in them to vouch for its authenticity, hehe!). For now, let me just run through special events to remember 2014 by. 

Garrett and Gabee each had their moments on stage when they received their school diplomas and moved up, Garrett to high school while Gab to elementary. 

Summer was memorable as it was the first I got to spend the whole time with the two kids. It was the best three months of my one-year extended leave from work. I was completely at their service, packing for trips, taking them swimming, to bookstores, and fast food chains (KFC, McDonald's, and Jollibee, in the order of which one we visited more frequently). When I had their dad's blessing, we ate at our favorite  Cafe Mary Grace. I was just always hesitant splurging my husband's hard-earned money. Heehee! Their dad to his credit treated them to more fancy restaurants like Chelsea, Crystal Jade, Lugang Cafe, Abe, if only to show them how to eat properly in a more refined dining setting. It's difficult to teach table etiquette when we really don't practice fine dining, with all the works, at home.

We had staycations in the metro, where the two kids had a blast getting their fill of reading books and buying pens and stationery from Fully Booked, Power Books and National Bookstore, strolls at nearby malls, and swims in the late morning or afternoon. The first official summer outing was with my side of the family. We spent one weekend at Thunderbird Resorts Rizal. It was the first time for all of us at that resort. We enjoyed the pool with a great view of Rizal's greenery, and dinner at the resort's restaurant. 

We then went solo as a family to Pico de Loro in Nasugbu, Batangas, to celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary with my super loving, super provider hubbs. It was also a great first time in that cove for all of us, and we would want to come back and take with us our extended family. I wrote about that trip on this blog. We loved the infinity pool and swam until night fell. 

For Mother's Day, we checked into Holiday Inn with my 90-year-old Lola, my mother, siblings and nieces. We grabbed Holiday Inn's promo selling rooms at 4,000 pesos a night for Mother Day's weekend. Garrett, Gab and their cousin Bash who loved staying in hotels enjoyed the most. Us adults enjoyed the buffet breakfast. 😉

Summer was extended as the school opening was moved to late July following DEPEd's move to allow schools to align their calendars to the international norm with most schools opening in August globally. It was a very opportune change as we welcomed back to the Philippines Kuya Butch and his family, balikbayans from California, who arrived June first. From the airport, we travelled the next day to Laiya, San Juan, Batangas to celebrate Tatay Ike's birthday at La Luz Resort, the same resort we visited at least six times for the last eight years. I wouldn't be able to describe to you how happy and excited everyone was. My husband's side of the family was complete, full house, with three of their cousins also in our group. I always enjoyed snorkeling in  Laiya, I would bet, every one did, too. We took great family portrait photos in the same spot of the resort. It would be interesting to do a timeline and see how the kids have grown, and how the adults have remained young-looking, hehe, despite the obvious weight gain. 

The rains came early but we had our final hirit during the school break in late June. We drove up north to Baguio and spent three chilly nights and four foggy mornings there. One of the highlights was our tour of BenCab museum and breakfast at Sabel's Cafe. I posted photos of our Baguio trip on this blog. 

Then came school opening and Gab's entry into big school. Gabee didn't take any time at all to settle in as she was already familiar with the school, some teachers, and Kuya's classmates. Her friendly ways helped to blend her in in no time. 

Garrett skipped fifth grade because of the K to 12 program. High school came a year earlier than expected. And with it came more complex projects and requirements and multiple field trips. This school year, I'm happy that he has found a couple of best friends, and he now mingles constantly with certain classmates. He had some come over the house for his 12th birthday. 

We took advantage of a long weekend in August and defied the rainy weather with a quick trip to Subic. We stayed at Kamana Sanctuary where monkeys freely roamed in the mountains at the back of the hotel and the beach in front gave us a great view of sunrise and sunset. 

I went back to work in September to a new post, in a new department. It was a good move and I feel very blessed being reabsorbed permanently, resuming all my benefits and, of course, having regular money in my ATM card. :) 

Garrett completed the Kumon reading program in June and was recognized as an Advanced Kumon student at the Kumon Advanced Students Forum held in Sofitel Hotel last November. That was a big moment for him. We will be back in next year's forum where he will receive the completer's award. 

Christmas came quickly. The week before Christmas, the wonderful news that he qualified to study at the Philippine Science High School, Central Luzon (Clark, Pampanga) campus came out. Wow, we all said, almost in disbelief seeing his name among the 5 percent or 1,000 plus of 23,000 plus takers. He didn't land a spot among the top 240 who qualified to enroll at the main campus. But OMG, it was just a try, with only self-study using MSA and PSHS reviewers, which I bought a few months before the exam. Hats off to my voracious reader! 

And to end the year, as I have mentioned, we pulled far away from the city and communed with nature, closer to God, in the ancestral mountains of Sagada. 

It has been a year to remember, filled with God's grace and overflowing with blessings. I pray the year ahead will see even better days. May all the good even get better. I pray for all that's best for you and your loved ones. I pray the country's elected officials step up and direct the flow of economic gains toward those still living at and below poverty levels. May we all help do our share to help for the good of all. May God keep us in His favor. 

Happy New Year!! Blessings in 2015 and beyond. Thank you for being a part of my little world. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Road Affair

It's Wednesday, my public commute day. I left the house at 5:50 am, now it's 6:14 and the fx I'm riding is crawling, covering just a couple of kilometers since stopping to pick me. This is Ortigas Extension. Traffic while common everywhere in Manila is heavier on this short stretch, a major road linking Rizal to one of Manila's commercial business districts. If today was another day of the week and I were driving, I would have taken a long detour going inside Cainta from Taytay to skip traffic along several subdivisions to Cainta Junction, and save 10-15 minutes, crucial minutes that would determine my road affair for the day, which would usually spare me from getting squeezed on all fronts and sides, and the silent fight against bikers and speeding (despite the traffic) PUVs. 

It's now 6:33, and this fx has finally inched its way for its turn to cross the junction. Haha, I've gotten rusty writing a blah-blah post. It's been almost three months since my last blog musings. Work has taken over and filed my hours. Traffic is a major time filler, too, sadly. 

I've gotten used to waking so freaking early at around 4am, eyes still closed but fully awake. Mornings start quiet save for the AM news and the witty and funny rejoinders of Chico, Delamar and Gino on FM radio. I spend between 40 and 60 minutes in the car going to work. This is one of the things I did differently this time. Before, I opted to take the public commute because I thought it was a better choice, saved me gas money and effort. Now, I realized driving despite the traffic and spending on gas made for a slightly better quality of life. I am no longer rushing to get off work to avoid the long queue at the fx terminal. That I realized was a major source of my stress before, never mind the blaring radio in the fx or the loud conversation of the driver with his co-drivers on transmitter radio, or being squeezed by other passengers, or being forced to listen in to small talk of passengers or a passenger's side of conversation on his/her mobile phone. Some drivers are funny and I would silently laugh over radio exchanges, and kind of decoded some of their radio signals. 

We're making progress now having passed the hazards/accidents that caused the heavier than usual traffic. I'm cutting this short now. Happy mid week!' :) 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lord, I hope this day is good

This song would play on my iPod during my morning walks, but I only listened closely and appreciated its beautiful lyrics and melody the past three weeks. If you're one of the few wasting time on this blog (hehe), you'd remember I mentioned in one recent post that I am not into music and just listen to whatever songs are on the iPod watch, which I only use when taking walks. The songs are grouped under several playlists, and before I would take off every morning, I'd choose a playlist which had more than enough songs to run the course of a 30-minute brisk walk. I was anxious the past weeks waiting for the day when I would go back to work after more than a year of being on extended leave. As I walked, I would look up and pray for the job I wanted to take up when I return to the same organization. This song was right on. I prayed that I would hear good news on that day, and every day. It summed up how I felt, "Lord, I hope this day is good."

I thought I'd share it here, and inspire even just a couple of you out there. I have successfully attached a video so you could hear it. It's the same version (Lee Ann Womack) as the one saved on my iPod watch. Anne Murray also has her own rendition, but it was originally performed by country singer Don Williams (whoever he is).

Lord, I hope this day is good
I'm feelin' empty like You knew I would
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord, I hope this day is good

Lord, have You forgotten me?
I've been praying to You faithfully
I'm not saying I've done all I can
But Lord, I know You'll understand

I don't need fortune and I don't need fame
Send down the thunder, Lord, send down the rain
But when You're planning just how it will be
Plan a good day for me

Lord, I hope this day is good
I'm feelin' empty like You knew I would
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord, I hope this day is good

You've been the King since the dawn of time
All that I'm askin is a little less crying
It might be hard for the devil to do
But it would be easy for You

Lord, I hope this day is good
I'm feelin' empty like You knew I would
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord, I hope this day is good
Lord, I hope this day is good

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My UPCAT Experience

It's UPCAT today and tomorrow. My fb newsfeed this morning tells me that several of my fb friends and their friends' children are taking the college admission test of the University of the Philippines, or what is more known as UPCAT. I happened to be at UP Diliman last Thursday to inquire about registration for my hubby's re-entry into UP as a graduate student and at the Diliman campus this time around. He's successfully gotten into the MBA program. Yay! :)

Last Thursday, guide signs as to building names, parking areas, drop-off points have already been put up. Exam takers, one sign says, are to be dropped off within 10 seconds. Now, that says a lot about the exam takers. Many will be bringing private cars. I know it's saying the obvious, but let me just say that those from the lower middle, middle, and upper middle classes have a better chance at passing, and that profile of UP students would reveal this. 

Some twenty years ago, I was among the thousands that flocked to UP Diliman. I took the UPCAT at the daunting UP College of Law building, in a large, air-conditioned lecture hall. The testing room I was assigned put me to the very edge, my hands clammy and my insides churning. I was nervous lining up, well, the whole time I guess. At the end of the exam, I had to nurse a one-of-a-kind headache, the worst I had gotten I think. I put so much pressure on myself. I had to pass because it would be embarrassing if I didn't as both my two older sisters passed it and already got their UP diplomas. Add to them my father who is also an alumnus, and imagine how much I wanted desperately to also make it. Plus, I was born in Los Banos, in a small well-knit community right outside the UPLB campus. So growing up, UP was always in my radar, and I felt I had to study there, too. 

Thank God, I did make it. During my time, there were no established review centers yet, or none that I knew of. There was just the stock knowledge to rely upon and a bit of self study before the exam. I didn't pass with flying colors though. I didn't make it to the course of my choice which was nursing, but I did make the cut for UP Manila, only that I had to find a college that would accept me because I did not have any course of 2nd choice to take there. 

I decided instead to get into UPLB (my second campus of choice) for practical reasons as I had grandparents there who were more than glad to feed me and support me through college, with the help of my sisters who were already working and my generous stepfather.  I applied for scholarship but the application for STFAP was so complicated I just gave up my bracket 4 or 5 (can't remember now).   You had to indicate how many electric fans and TV sets you have and your siblings' incomes as well! I was lucky I did not have to worry about board and lodging, thanks to Lolo and Lola. There was enough money for my weekly roundtrip fares to Manila and my daily expenses for photocopying and snacks. Tuition was only P225 per unit, and one semester only cost less than P6,000. But the "Seventeen" shirts I liked buying from Cinderella store I got mostly from extra money I earned from being a student assistant.

My freshman year was difficult, I had to catch up especially with Math, even communication arts. Majority of my block mates were from the upper middle class, I could tell from their clothes, confidence and the way they talked to each other. It was a good thing there were two others who were not as "sosyal" and who talked in Tagalog just like me. Hehe, we got along and were kind of the outcasts in Block 37. :)) My blockmates' social profiles were not however representative of who were in UPLB that time; it was skewed to the upper class maybe because most of my block mates came from families who were hacienderos in light of our course -- agribusiness. Now, why did I take that course which was worlds away from nursing? Simply because it was my sister's course. I wanted to follow her footsteps so to speak. 

Was UPCAT difficult? English was not, Math yes, and Science was really difficult for me. Those studying in science and exclusive schools or very good private schools have an edge. The lucky passers who come from public schools and private schools that are not in the category of the really good (synonymous to expensive) ones are mostly the top,  at the least, 20% students of the graduating batch. I scored poorly in Science, it was a good thing that my scores in English and Reading were high enough to pull up my average to make the UP Manila minimum university predicted grade or UPG. I was not smart, just diligent and had a thing for the written word. And that was it. 

A UP education paved the way for my first employment that came even in advance of the April graduation. And thanks to UP, I found the man who was to be my husband. We took the same course. And he is doing well in his career, as with all our common friends from college. 

If you're diligent and motivated and from humble roots, UP is almost a sure ticket to success. So it's really worth taking that one chance, the UPCAT. 

Incidentally, I had time to kill this morning while I was waiting on my son who was attending a career orientation, organized by his school. They invited all the high school students from grade seven up. Representatives from schools like Mapua, University of Asia and the Pacific, University of Santo Tomas, Saint Scholastica, Saint Paul and Arellano University gave presentations. The students warmed to UA&P's fantastic speaker and slides. 

Garrett now is thinking of enrolling with UA&P. And I found myself convincing him of making getting accepted into UP his priority. I have five more years to convince him. But in the end, I will have to step back and let him make the decision on which university to go to and what profession to pursue. He knows I'd like for him to consider medicine. But he has other thoughts like video games programming, oh no! :)