Friday, November 29, 2013

My Pride and Joy

If you’re a mom like me, I’d bet you, too, are a stage mom. You’re not? Really? Well, you must have your reasons. I am admittedly sucked into that role, and can’t help share photos, videos, art and literary works, and awards of my own children. “Share” is a nice way of putting it. “Show off” might be the naked truth, but that’s instinctive. Aren’t we all show-offs? Some in loud ways, others in quiet, discrete ways. Well, let's be kind to moms. It’s hard to carry a child for nine months, harder to give birth, and hardest to raise a child. The hardships are rewarded by the adoration and love we get from our children, and are made more worthwhile by their little and big achievements. We find great delight when our children excel in school. But achievements are not only measured by merits from the school, but through many ways where they show their interests, abilities, confidence, and positive behaviors, in and out of a structured school setting.

Isn’t it 'instinct' that we become our children’s number one fan (and critique)? With social media on our side (plus the luxury of time in my case), we itch to share new photos of our children, their works/creations, stories about how they are growing up, their school activities, trips to this and that place. They grow up too fast, and soon I know I would not have much of a presence in my children's lives, and would be restricted to viewing their own Facebook accounts, blogs, etc. 

If we are friends on Facebook, you might have gotten sick of my many posts about my kids already. As I’ve indicated in one FB status/shout-out, you can always 'unfriend' me. Haha, no kidding. Like it or not, I am a mother, and my life revolves around my children. You would seldom see my own selfies or group photos with me in them, but you would be swamped by photos and (sometimes) videos such as the one below, which is of  my daughter. She recited the poem The Handwriting on the Wall (author unknown), during a poetry recitation at school. Among the 20 pupils in her preparatory class, she was the first to recite the lengthy poem. I am not sure if she volunteered to take the first slot. She, by the way, is the youngest in her class, having just turned five last June. I would like to think that her teachers trusted that she could set the confidence level. She was confident, and I was so proud of her. Her performance wasn't the best of all, but it was her best. Credits are due to the teachers for honing her confidence through their approval and encouragement, and providing venues where she and her classmates could shine and be applauded for a job well done.

Oh, yes, of course, this is not the first time I am sharing this. I have shared this to my Facebook friends right after the activity, as soon as I got my hands on a computer. Really, half of the thrill is in sharing it with family, relatives and friends who’d take the time to download and play the video, and enjoy watching this girl.

Ooopsie, the video is taking a while to upload. You may view it through the Facebook link in the paragraph just above. Thanks for your time. 

Spreading good vibes into the weekend. Happy Bonifacio Day, folks in the Philippines! :-)  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Act of Giving

Don’t we all just love Christmas? Filipinos that we are, no matter what, no matter how meager our finances might be, whatever our present circumstances, we would always find a way to celebrate Christmas. To us, it’s the season of giving and sharing, our version of Thanksgiving Day.

As a continuation of my last post, last Saturday was a day I would want to imprint in my mind. On that day, I picked up a valuable lesson from my very own son about how it is to truly give.

We went to the newly opened Uni Qlo shop that occupies a vast three-floor space at the end of Building B of SM Megamall. While I was busy checking out discounted items, Garrett asked permission to go around by himself, to “explore,” he said. I allowed him to roam around, well, with some hesitation since I don’t really feel it’s safe for children to go around in a mall, as big and crowded as Megamall is, without a companion. After some time, he came back to me with a striped XL shirt and a pair of socks, saying he wanted to buy them for his dad. I discouraged him, explaining that I have learned my lesson not to buy his dad clothing items. He was insistent though. He said he just wanted to have something to give as a Christmas gift to his dad, and showed me that the socks were on sale, and that the total price was P400. I said, “No.” “Alright, alright,” Garrett conceded, and asked if he could further explore the store.

After around 20 minutes or so, he came back to me again, this time with a Mickey Mouse shirt, worth P400, which he wanted to buy for Gabee. I then asked him how he would be able to buy it when he had no money. I would later find out that Garrett thought he still had P400+ left with me, the balance of a cash gift he got from an aunt of mine who visited us last month. When I handed him a 1,000-peso bill to pay for a book that he bought just before going to Uni Qlo, he thought I was buying the book for him with my money, when in my mind, that was the money he had me keep for him. We misunderstood each other. In his mind, what money he had in my wallet was a few 100-peso bills and some loose change, the very same ones that he handed me before. He didn’t realize that his money got mixed with my own.

Garrett wanted to use up all the money he had left to buy his dad or his sister a Christmas gift. “So, that was why you were frantically going around?” I asked him. He said, “Yes,” in a soft, sad voice, realizing that he actually had no money to buy a gift for his dad or his little sis. Looking at him, disappointed and sad, it dawned on me how selfless he is. I knew there were other stuff (books, pens and notebooks) which he wanted for himself.

I was touched and was embarrassingly in tears as I agreed that I would just pay for the gift he wanted to buy for his sister. I praised his virtuous intention. And then, of course, I suggested that we go around again and look for something, worth P400, which his sister needs and would love to have.

Garrett has taught me a lesson on the act of giving. Give all that you have. Think not of yourself. I was again in tears as I related what happened to his dad and to his sister when we got home.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Boy's Unspoken Wish: Granted

The big shoe and bag sale at the Mega Trade Hall lured Garrett, my sister Jen and myself last Saturday. I'd say shopping for the Holidays has been staved off a bit. There wasn't a big crowd when we went. Well, judging from the ease by which we looked around for the items we wanted and how well we were attended by sales crew, it didn't yet quite feel like it was just a month to Christmas. It comforts me in a way surmising that Filipinos have the right reasons to cut back on their usual Christmas shopping madness. 

We went there with two pairs of shoes in mind - canvass shoes for Garrett and rubber shoes for my mother. Garrett is now in his pre-teen years, and gives more attention to shoes over clothes. He has simple tastes. I knew he had been for many months now eyeing easy slip-on canvass shoes. But like the good, simple child that he is, he doesn't really ask for stuff (save for books, that is). It's me who feels that we have been depriving him way too much. He had to wear out his previous pair of Puma shoes for more than two years until they had to be retired due to outgrown size. His dad made him wait several months before buying him a replacement at a super sale price, bought from a factory outlet. His sandals, which he needs to wear with his ethnic attire at school every Wednesday, are already small, with his toes and heels peering out at both ends. But he's not complaining. 

And so, the shoe sale over at SM Megamall last Saturday was a chance for me to make my little man happy. We arrived past 2pm. The crowd was thin. There was quite a number of participating brands including several that I have only encountered for the first time. Garrett had something in mind but he is as picky as his dad. After over an hour checking out all the brands, he went back to the first one he initially wanted, and tried three different styles, and then finally settled on a pair of faded black canvass shoes, which were exactly what I liked, too. There was Garrett, giddy with joy, and couldn't hide that he was overly happy with his purchase. He didn't bother to remove them anymore. He proudly wore them right there and then, almost skipping as he walked. His outgrown sandals went home in the box instead. Seeing him that way, crazy happy, made me really happy as well. It was worth every hard-earned peso (of his dad).  :-)  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overcoming “This Writer’s” Block: Super Typhoon Yolanda

Hi! I'm back from another blogging hiatus. It's almost the last week of the month and if you click on November on the right margin of this blog, you'd see that this is just my third post for the month. No, it was not a case of the proverbial writer's block. I just couldn't bring myself to sit and write, to share the bliss in my life the last couple of weeks. It didn't feel right to do so. Actually, until now it just feels off to blog about anything not relevant to the horrific aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan). I've been intending for days now to put down in writing my own thoughts about it, but I haven't gathered enough guts, fearing my total lack of first-hand experience in what has happened would have me blabbering for naught. I've no family among the millions affected. The nearest connection I'd say I have is having a close friend whose mother resides in one of the towns of Eastern Samar.

As luck would have it, I couldn't recall having been directly affected by a typhoon. I grew up in Manila. When Ondoy inundated it, I was conveniently away. So, I feel I am not in any way capable of offering my opinion on the issues surrounding the relief operations that are now, as many say, underway but hardly felt by the victims across the Visayas.

I did ride on the social media trending ST Yolanda. I would share on Facebook news or blog links, but I tended to share only the ones angling more on the positive side, and avoided posting criticisms about how the government has prepared for and responded to Yolanda's strength and the devastation it left. But I know I would have felt differently, maligned the government’s efforts had I a relative among the victims who've gone for days cold and hungry, and desperate for a sign of help, or worse, had I lost a loved one or even just a friend to the typhoon. I would have thrown out vindictive comments out of frustration over the government’s handling of relief operations.

Had I been in the middle of the aftermath, a witness to uncollected cadavers strewn along the streets, to the almost apocalyptic scenes as was the CNN veteran reporter Anderson Cooper, I would have a better sense or grasp of the situation as it were. But sitting in the comforts of my home, watching the stream of the first graphic photos and videos that came out, most of them two days into the aftermath, I was witnessing it from afar, disconnected from the reality. Yes, of course, the images were so heart-rending that like you, I cried watching the news.

CNN almost became a local channel with a number of reporters reporting live from Leyte, Cebu and Manila. When local channels moved on with their local programs days after the height of media coverage, CNN remained steadfast in flashing updates and reporting on the situation in the Philippines. In fact, on that Friday when Yolanda made its first landfall, I was tuned in more to CNN as they were giving more frequent updates, and highlighting the typhoon’s record-breaking strength and speed as it made its first landfall. Their report was scary. Local channels on the morning of that day featured interviews of some local residents who said that they were used to typhoons and would evacuate only when they see the need to do so. Clearly, many who were living along Yolanda’s predicted path did not understand the weather forecast of possible storm surge reaching up to 5 meters high. No one thought of the possibility of Yolanda wiping out Tacloban City and other towns in Leyte and Samar, along with the small islands that were right smack along Yolanda’s path.

Despite the painful scenes and heart-breaking stories, somehow, I would find myself (unusually) tuned in to the TV and radio (while in the car), wanting to hear updates, to feel one with the nation during these most challenging times. In my heart, there was a yearning to help. While my family did help in small ways, what help we gave feels so inadequate. In my diminished capacity now as a full-time homemaker, I wish could do more.

The continuous coverage about Yolanda in a way sensitizes us to the gravity of the conditions of our fellow Filipinos that Yolanda left without houses and livelihood, and in sorrow over the loss of loved ones - family, friends, and neighbors. While we feel involved in the first days or weeks after the typhoon, we would be inclined to disassociate ourselves, to continue on with our lives. But I pray that we would keep the victims in our thoughts and prayers everyday until Leyte and Samar, and the rest of the severely affected provinces have been restored to normalcy.

This article about the typhoon that hit Leyte, Samar, Panay Island, Cebu, and Mindoro way back in 1897 had striking similarities in terms of its path, the storm surge it caused, and the devastation it left. It inspires hope and belief that if the communities then were able to overcome the tragedy and rise from the ruins, so can and so will the communities now. Tacloban City and Ormoc City will rise to be better than they were, more resilient and better prepared. I would want to believe that God would give them time to rebuild, and that He would not let a typhoon of such force happen in the next 100 years, not again over the Philippines’ side of the earth. The Filipinos have been fully awakened to nature’s wrath, but have a long way to go towards disaster preparation, or in the words of the late, beloved Sec. Jesse Robredo, “disaster-proofing.”

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Simple, Fun Vacay in November

The past week was family time. We did go out of town but only to visit with family in Bulacan on the hubby’s All-Saints’-Day birthday. It was the children’s short break from school. Although I would have wanted to take them for a short vacay away from home to discover and explore new places, the week has turned out to be fun and memorable – bonding to the max as we were always together the whole time (well, except for a trip to Divisoria with my sisters, which I could not skip, este, resist).

We had a “staycation” at Bonifacio Global City where the kids enjoyed trips to bookstores, impromptu trick or treating at Bonifacio High Street, and swimming.

For my part, I secretly enjoyed that we had to dine out a number of times. We have discovered a new restaurant that has easily become our new fave – Lugang Café at SM Aura. They serve Taiwanese cuisine. It’s a bit expensive but lucky us, we dined at 50% off on a credit card promotion. 

The kids also loved it at Café Mary Grace where Garrett got to write a short note to the owner, hoping it would end up displayed on one of their tables, inserted under the glass top.

The week has been blissfully packed with bonding – talking, eating, sleeping, swimming, together. And we even managed to squeeze in some biking for the kids. We went to the Quezon City Circle, and were pleasantly surprised by its nice park. I have for so long wanted to take the kids there. It was ages ago since I was there last. The playground is pretty impressive. Check out the pictures.

Of course, there is nothing more precious than time spent with family. The kids, as always, had a blast spending a day with their cousins.

Tomorrow, we go back to our routine, recharged with happy memories. We all caught the cold virus though, must be due to the change in weather and yes, the busy (but FUN) week that was.  

We now await the Holidays. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

That Symbolic Christmas Tree

Have you put up your Christmas tree yet? In the Philippines where the Christmas season starts on the first of September, mall displays build up the Christmas fever.  TV shows and radio stations start their countdown to Christmas day. Soon after, streets and parks take on a glittery landscape with trees and buildings bedecked with Christmas lights. People start buying decors and houses brighten up with Christmas lights and lanterns.

By November, after Undas (All Saints’ Day), preparations would pick up. Christmas is now undeniably around the corner. We decorate our houses, make lists for gifts, and we start spending more. Most everything would be on the uptrend – business profits, income owing to bonuses, OFW remittances, hotel occupancy, flight bookings, etc. Most people are also in high spirits, more giving, more forgiving. But some who have just lost loved ones by whatever circumstance, or have been through tough times recently might want quiet time, and opt to skip the revelry. We should respect that.

For many Filipino families likes ours, Christmas without that symbolic faux pine tree just doesn’t feel complete. I remember as a child I would go to great lengths to put up a Christmas tree from out of dried twigs or branches, assembled in a can wrapped in nice paper and containing big rocks to hold the weight. At the time, my family was living in a small apartment sitting out-of-place in an “exclusive” subdivision in Quezon City. I had a playmate who had this huge Christmas tree with pretty decors. I wanted my own, too. My mother would buy multi-colored Christmas lights and small balls in assorted colors, some shaped into apples. We would then have our own improvised but charming Christmas tree every year. There was also always that “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” banner that we would post on our wall, and that glittery long garland (usually in red, green, and silver) which we would shape into a star and thumb-tuck to a wooden wall (Hope you can picture what I mean.). Christmas trees I recall were expensive back in the 80s, only the rich could afford them. Or maybe that was just how it felt at the time; I was around nine years old, and my youngest sister had just arrived – to enjoy the twinkling lights. J

Fast forward to 29 years later, I now have this Christmas tree which I’ve enjoyed putting up with the help of my little girl. Actually, this tree is now eight years old. I just keep buying additional decors every year to spruce it up. This year, I am very happy with the additional elves, snowmen, and Santas, which I scored from a Uratex factory outlet very cheaply. J

I love love love our Christmas tree, and everything that it symbolizes for me, and the Christmases they remind me of.