Sunday, May 30, 2004

Friends : Single and in the City

The marketing pitch for the TV Series 'Friends' describes it perfectly: "It's about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything's possible. And it's about friendship because when you're single and in the city, your friends are your family."

At our own version of "Central Perk"

There are 5 of us, friends who used to work together until we were "re-deployed". We lunch together, indulge in each other's dramas and adventures. There is an unspoken promise of reliance, an understood confidence that whatever we divulge to each other stays with us. We know our moods, familiar with the tempers and deal with it with respect and acceptance of each of our individuality. This is who we refer to as The Inner Circle.

Our circle extends to our other friends, each other's boyfriends/girlfriends (regardless how often they change) and relatives. And it grows outward like a concentric circle until we realize we are so much intertwined in each other's lives that we have a bunch of people now in our extended family.

What we have in common is that we are here in New York away from our families. Single, young, with lives full of promise in love and careers. It is a beautiful time for all of us.

"I'll be there for you cuz we've been here before... I'll be there for you"

Thursday, May 27, 2004

My $10.25 Worth

In Homer's the Iliad, the gods play a major role in how the mortals live out their lives. The book's characters are predisposed to the assumption that their lives are a consequence of 'divine-intervention'. And remarkably so, it is interpreted that Apollo favors the Trojans and Athena, the Achaeans.

In the movie Troy, however, the relationship between the central characters and the Greek gods are shallow, making the Trojans seem mere iconoclastics. If you hadn't read the Iliad, you wouldn't have known that Achille's mother Thetis was a goddess. And because it had been prophesize that she would give birth to a child mightier than her father, Zeus who was in love with her decided to present her as a bride to a mortal. And that Achilles is born a mortal but after his mother dipped him in the river Styx he becomes a half-god. Paris had intentionally speared him on his heel because it was known that his mother had hang onto him on this heel when he was immersed in the river, and that this remained mortal. And yet the arrow in his heel didn't seem to have killed him neither. It looks like he died more of a broken heart and the wounds he sustained from Paris' spear on the other parts of his body. That could have been the movie's Achille's heel for me.

After a spectacular movie adaptation of 'Lord of the Rings', I had hoped that Troy would also capture the awesome moments from Homer's book projected to the screen. For example, of how Mighty Aphrodite protected Paris from Menelaus in their battle scene.

...He (Menelaus) charged back with his bronze spear, intent on killing Alexander. But Aphrodite had snatched Paris up — for a good an easy feat—concealed him in a heavy mist, and placed him in his own sweetly scented bedroom.

I mean, if Gollum became the most memorable character in 'Lord of the Rings'(for me anyway), I had hoped that the Greek gods, in all their glory would have made 'Troy' a perfect cinematic achievement of breathing life into a literary classic.

The impact of some of the most touching scenes in the book are also lost or dissipated in the movie. King Priam of Troy's poignant moment with Achilles to retrieve Hector's body should invoke from the fierce warrior an emotional reminiscing of his own father. The reaction of Brad Bitt's character to the king's humility is confusing to one who is not familiar with the book. He seemed sulking and sniffing and you wonder if it is because he is tired of the savagery of the life he has chosen to immortalize his name or if he is constipated.

I guess that I had been expecting too much as Wolfgang Peterson is NOT Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings producer and director). It becomes a waste then that such a masterpiece would fall into the realms of mediocrity. It should be a crime, actually.

Brad Pitt's beautiful profile makes the $10.25 I paid to see 'Troy' hardly a redemption. And add the cost of the copy of Iliad I had to buy to refresh my memory on the book, I think this ranting will go on for a few more blogs entries.

Over Tapas and Sweet Wine

When a girlfriend calls you up for drinks on a long weekend you know there is something amiss. Don't get me wrong. I love being with her and totally enjoy her company because not only is she smart but she also has this sweetness and disposition that makes her adorable. I was only too willing to change my plans for the weekend and meet up with her and J and make my first excursion into Brooklyn's Williamsburg area.

And so over Spanish tapas and sweet wine, we talked about life, love and Brazilian music. When my girlfriend, T. briefly touched on her current romance problems, J. began to share his own current dilemmas. I was surprised because I didn't know he was having issues with his girlfriend, too. As they unburden each other emotionally, I listen and glad I have nothing to contribute. Oh, I have had my own dramas, trust me. It is just that at this point, I think my current romance is at a dormant stage because it is neither on a high or on a low point. It is at that stage when it is just trying to figure out which way it should head next; call it a plateau but a pleasant one.

And as I sit back on my chair and they share their stories with me, I realize I am in the midst of a full cycle of romance amongst my friends. I have a girlfriend with romance just budding, another just started, I am in the plateau and then T. and J. are troubling themselves with crossroads - of figuring out if they were at a phase when issues could be resolved or not, if walking away was a saner solution to struggling through a dark tunnel with no light in sight.

This is more or less the romance cycle. The start where all is perfect and both of you are at a high. When both regard each other with sensitivity concern and to each other, they are the 'perfect one'. And then you move to the 'comfort zone' when you let down on some of the courtesies and then discover each other more - morally, psychologically, emotionally and in our cases, culturally. And then the challenges that come with relationships that will either make or break them.

The relationships that last, I feel retain a bit of the romance but what carries them through is the friendship and the mutual respect for each other. Without these two factors what you have in your hand is a turbulent relationship constantly on the brink and hardly with a chance to last except for reasons of other interests - financial, social or the damned 'for the kids' sake' reason.

At half past midnight, T. and I kissed our simpatico senor goodbye and walked to the train that would take us back to the city. We looked up on the clear spring evening sky and made wishes on stars. And then she confided some more that what perhaps scared her most about deciding the fate of her relationship was that she would be moving away from the only person she moved into New York for.

The longer you drag the situation the more the two of you will hurt and be bitter about each other, I told her. Stop skirting the problems, put all the trash on the table and sort it out together. Make it clear what can be resolved and what is a dead cause and then decide once and for all if you will fight it out together or not. If you can move on as a couple or not. And if the final decision is not, always know that you have friends and I am always here for you if you need someone. You can never be alone.

With that she and I said said goodbye at Grand Central. She took the train upstate and I imagine, in deep thought. I flagged a cab, got home and felt glad I changed my plans for tonight.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Melanie Marquez

If you tell me William Hung is a good singer, then you are probably one who would find Melanie Marquez smart and a good speaker. William Hung is the American Idol reject from California who squeaks his version of Ricky Martin's "she-Bang' has released an album. Nicole found his CD at Virgin Records and at $9.99 contemplated about buying it. She changed her mind and bought a compilation instead of songs bashing US President Bush. Smart girl...

So who is Melanie Marquez? A Filipina who was Ms. International 1979 and movie actress. She is pretty. As a matter of fact, she once commented that her greatest physical asset is her long leggedness (sic). She is a little on the dense side, though.

The Top Ten Melanie Marquez Quotations (I'll try to provide a translation. Warning though: I might sanitize the content and lose the impact):

1) hindi si joey ang tipong mambubugbog ng babae...talaga lang malapit sya sa mga kasi sya e... (my brother is not the kind who hits women. he just gets into trouble a lot. it's because he is pro-accident)

2) hindi ba kayo naawa sa kapatid mga kwento nya? di ba kayo napersuave ng mga kinwento nya? (don't you pity my brother.. with his stories? aren't you suave-d by his stories?)

3) ...di sinungaling ang kapatid ko! sa mga pangyayari, sya pa ba ang may kasalanan? di ba nyo nakikita?! di ba nyo nakikita?! are you dep?! (my brother is not a liar! with what has happened, you still think he is the guilty party? can't you see? can't you see? are you deaf?)

4) they (kris and joey) should talk behind the scene... (self-explanatory)

5) (in an angry and self-righteous tone) i won't stoop down to my level! (self-degratory)

6) yung std... baka sa maruming toilet lang nya nakuha yan. ( get that from dirty toilets)

7) eh ikaw ba naman durugin ang ari mo? pag di ba naman manutok ka ng baril? (i will not even try this one)

8) i don't eat meat. i'm not a carnival. (mwahahaha!!!)

9) My brother is not a violent person. We are lovers.

10) pls dont judge my brother...he is not a book!!!

From (INQ7):She is now married to Adam Lawyer who is a lawyer and her youngest child, a son named Adam, 2 1/2, is described by Melanie as the "Mini Me" of her current husband. "He is very close to his dad, who works as a lawyer and businessman in his home state in Utah. They only communicate by telephone, that's why he thought his dad has turned into a telephone. Iyak siya nang iyak (he cried)."

She will be publishing a book of quotations and opening a school (for modelling..WHEW!). It'll probably sit on the shelf next to ex-President Estrada's Erap Jokes. And across the aisle from the music CD of William Hung Live.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


I had once told him he looked like an angel. He blushed. I guess I did too because I just blurted it out, it was a thought said aloud. Tall with light brown hair, brown eyes that can look melt your knees and a tan that is eternal. He laughs like a child and yet his wisdom is immense. He is down to earth, his stature brought about by his job does not go to his head. He speaks with eloquence and authority and yet he is not fond of rhetoric. Direct to the point but very diplomatic.

He is Australian, working as a lawyer in Manhattan. How did I meet him? Fringe benefits of the job. In the weekdays he is in his pinstripes but during the weekends, he runs or bikes in Central Park; skis and snowboards in the winter; swims, dives and sails during the summer. I wanted to see Vermont. I got a picture of him on the snow.

I seek for him in a crowd and my heart skips a beat when I see him. Today he found me near the elevators as I was on my way home. He called out my name and I turned, almost slamming myself to the wall.

This feels weird. This feels wrong. This feels good.

...Ooh, I got a crush on you
I hope you feel the way that I do
I get a rush
When I'm with you
Ooh, I've got a crush on you
A crush on you...

Mandy Moore , Crush

Monday, May 17, 2004


What does it feel like to have Adult Attention-Deficit Disorder (AADD)? You would often feel distracted, disorganized, restless, unable to finish things, like the channel keeps changing in your mind and you can't control the remote. (from the TV ad of Strattera)

I do finish all that I start, sometimes sooner than I hope - like romantic relationships. But I have had many people complain that I am way too hyper-active. 'Kiti-kiti' was why my teacher used to scold me. "Para kang me kwitis sa pwit" was how my friends in college had put it. I might stay up for a crazy party and not hit the pillow until 3AM but at 8AM, I will be up and about. The good side of it: I am perfect at multi-tasking.

This blog entry is not about ADHD or hyper-activity. It just so happened that the TV is on and that ad caught my attention. Mwahahaha...

Flashes of thoughts I had today:

Heaven is where...
The police are British
The cooks are Italian
The lovers are French
The mechanics are German
And it's all organized by the Swiss

Hell is where...
The cooks are British
The mechanics are French
The lovers are Swiss
The police are German
And it's all organized by the Italians


Wednesday is going to be the birthday of a former crush. Crush ko siya when I was in elementary and then crush ko ulit siya when I was already working and I found him again. As the story of my life goes, he met another girl and married her. Two years ago we found each other again. Di ko na siya crush but I am glad he has stayed the great person that I've always known him to be. Very intelligent, very humble, a great sense of humor, thoughtful (calls me pag birthday ko or Mother's Day), a sense of determination to achieve and an extreme commitment to responsibilities even when we were younger. You can ask anyone in our batch and they will tell you they can never imagine him doing anything stupid even when we were younger. As though he had never had a childhood.

I feel comfortable in his friendship. I have often joked with him about my great crush on him. But that sense of admiration remains and is redeemed. He is worth all the sleepness nights of kilig when I was just a teenager.


I just talked to my daughter. It is humid and stormy in Manila, a complete opposite of the weather she had while she was in NY. Me bagyo, pangalan kaya COMELEC?


Roco conceeds to Macapagal-Arroyo per the Inquirer. Always the bridesmaid, never the President.


Also on the Inquirer, FPJ claims to have won the elections. Teka, saan tally board nanaman siya nakatingin? Lekat kung saan saan siya nabaling kasi eh. Kung saan siya nauuna. This whole presidential candidacy decision for him is another badly written movie. He ought to know when to pull the movie off the theatres - pag di na kumikita sa takilya.


My friend Jong has once again fulfilled his commitment to patriotism by volunteering with the NAMFREL in the past elections. Kudos, Jong! Saludo ako sa iyo. Magaling ka na mag-Kodak, me pananagutan ka pa bilang isang tunay na Pilipino!


Jasmine just did a FANTASTIC rendition of "I'll never love this way again". I'd vote for her kaso I don't want to be included in the uncounted votes for 'The American Idol'. Same reason I do not vote pag election. I hope she wins, and not just for the sympathy votes.


I'm on a diet after the extreme eat-out spree I had when I had visitors come in and out of Manhattan since Nicole came in. That's why I cooked baked macaroni today. Hindi ko kakainin! I'll bring it to work tomorrow to share with my barkada.


ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Ano ulit number ng Podiatrist ko? Tsk, tsk, tsk...


P.S. I like it when I get emails about my blog entries. Means people are reading it and absorbing/analyzing my thoughts. One of my readers has complained: sabog daw utak ko. Lekat naman, nakikibasa ka na nga lang me reklamo ka pa.

P.S.S. :-)

Saturday, May 15, 2004


May 15 is the Feast of San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. This year, I spent the morning scouring the aisles of IKEA for $6 area rugs to put in my apartment. If I were in the Philippines I would be packing the car and driving with my daughter to see the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban and Sariaya towns in Quezon Province.

The annual pilgrimage has no significant religious meaning to me. It started when my boyfriend brought me and my friends there one year and then the next year I decided to go with my family. I was enchanted by the 'bayanihan' (teamwork) spirit of the people in presenting an awesome event in honor of their patron saint. Since then we’d travel there regularly, my daughter and I often taking the long way into the town, eating lunch at a restaurant (forgot the name) along the way that has tables floating on rafts and what seemed like islands on water. The grilled tilapia is fresh, tastes sweet and are cloud-like in its feel. The shrimps would be cooked in garlic and butter and would literally just want to jump off their shells and into your mouth. The oysters just lightly steamed would be juicy and tasting like the sea. And of course, you end the meal with delicious yellow mangoes ripened from the trees. You now either have the energy to hike the streets of Lucban at the foot of Mount Banahaw, or siesta under the shade of the mango tree.

The first sign that you have arrived is the long line of cars parked along the sides of the narrow streets. The main area of the town near the church and where the procession route would take place is off limits to vehicles. The only way around is to ‘cadillac-ad’ – to walk. So you park your car, load yourself with the camera and some water and then lock it after a prayer that it wouldn’t be broken into or worse, be car napped while you are amusing yourself for the rest of the day.

As a gesture of respect, pass by the cathedral and say a prayer. If you did not have the time to pass by the restaurant or if you just want to have a taste of it, order some pancit habhab from the many vendors in the church courtyard. It will be served to you on a squared piece of banana leaf. Realizing you have no kubiyertos (fork/spoon) to lift the mouth watering meal to your mouth, dive in and enjoy the feast straight from the leaf. That is what habhab means. The habhab noodles are unique to this town and made only here. Of course, some restaurants in Makati and Manila now make their own versions of the Habhab but nothing like the ambiance of eating it straight from the banana leaf and under the huge canopy of trees in this picturesque town.

A Pahiyas Scene

Then it is time to see what the Pahiyas is all about. Pahiyas is a Tagalog word meaning ‘to decorate’. And that is taken to the extreme by the residents of this town on this yearly festival. Used to be, homes were decorated according to how the family derived their main source of income, often farming. Strings of beans, eggplants or other vegetables would be hung to cover the fa├žade of the residences as part of a paganistic homage to the patron saint for a good harvest. These days I think it is more of ‘anything goes’ since a majority of the residents are no longer dependent on farming. Straw hats, abaniko fans or the coconut broom have found a purpose as a display item during the festival. And the creativity of concept that is used by each house is brilliantly unique and is always worthy of a photograph. Some homes are open to anyone for some free San Miguel beer in tubs of ice that is so especially refreshing since this is also the peak of the summer season when temperatures are apt to climb to the 90’s. Some homes give away locally made yema candies or the more generous, welcome you to partake in their feasts. An open house, really!

Bands make a round of the streets - playing popular local songs or some marching tune. On a street corner an inpromtu ati-atihan (people with painted faces dancing wildly with loudly pounding drums) could be creating mayhem. A karaoke party might be ongoing in another corner.

A Kiping Decoration

The ‘kiping’ is seen everywhere - colorful wafer-thin sheets of rice that the natives use to make chandeliers or painstakingly cover their homes with it. How is it made? From a paste of ground rice, colored, and then it is molded on huge leaves and baked. It is a lot of work to make these kipings, all to please the visitors and tourist who descend into this town at the heart of Quezon Province. And yet I know each one of the locals look to this day every year with anticipation.

Not all the houses are decorated. Only those along the route of the procession from the church and every year, this is changed to allow everyone to share in the celebration and at the same time allow for a year or two of reprieve from the expenses of the grandiose celebration. But everyone prepares for the influx of visitors regardless if your house is decorated, within the procession route or not. The feast of San Isidro de Labrador is celebrated all throughout the town and to other farming towns in the country.

As the day is almost to an end, you round the corner that marks where you have started and you breathe in the hospitality of a people, the vividness of its celebration, the chaos of a sea of tourists in various stage and degree of amusement. The warmth of the summer day is often broken by a slight cool breeze from the mountain. Fresh clean frigid water runs along the canals of the town from the mountains and drains into the lower towns of Laguna. Old ancentral houses with balconajes and capiz windows make for a more beautiful canvas. This town is even lovelier to visit sans the decorations and the mayhem. Picturesque and always welcoming.

You heave a sigh of relief to find your car where you had parked it with nothing missing or broken into. A day tour of special interest is done. The journey back to the city might take a longer toll as traffic mounts. But you have your day’s souvenirs in the back of your car – some pancit habhab noodles to cook at home, lucban longganisa (secret? lots of garlic), lengua de gato cookies and some ‘kiping’ you had snatched from an unsuspecting house. The music is jazzy and the aircon keeps you cool. Trust me, one excursion and you will be back next year.

I wish I was there right now.

NOTE: There are a lot of other sites to find out more about the Pahiyas or other fiestas and the Philippines. Entertaining is inherent on our culture. We love to invite, cook and feed our guests great meals. The fiestas that are celebrated all through the year in honor of different saints reflect this very well. Feasts that not only are to please the appetite but the other senses as well.

For more about Pahiyas, you might want to check out:

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Martial Law Baby

They call us Martial Law babies, the generation who grew up under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. The children who were force-fed images of a perfect society. Martial Law however was about stringent media control, economic plunder and rigged referenda and elections. It was not surprising that we grew up to the most vocal and politicized generation of Filipinos. By the time we reached voting age, we had become seditious and defiant. Grown up, we aligned ourselves with Edgar Jopson, Chino Roces, Lorenzo Tanada and many others who aspired for freedom and democracy.

And so when Ninoy Aquino, Marcos’ main political adversary was gunned down at the airport tarmac on his return to Manila from exile on August 21, 1984, a majority of those who took the reins to oust Marcos were the idealistic youth. We joined Ayala Avenue’s yellow ticker-tape parades, sung “Bayan Ko” with clenched fists raised in the air and tied yellow ribbons all around as a symbol of protest against the crony dictatorship. Our elders who had been stifled by the harsh sweeping actions of Proclamation 1081 (the Presidential proclamation that had put the whole Philippines under Martial Law) remained cautious but we were contagious. There is something about youth that makes us think we are immortal that affords us the luxury of boldness.

Proud moments that been when we as a people stood by each other on EDSA on February 21, 1986 for People Power when Marcos was ousted from his grip to power with a helicopter ride in the darkness of night like a fleeing thief. A proud moment was when we finally give birth to a new fragile democracy with Aquino’s widow; when the bull returned to the stock market and the economy gained confidence. Proud moment was when finally, employment was abundant with the mushrooming of export processing zones.

It seems only like yesterday when those proud moments afforded us to walk with our heads held high. When it was easy to declare that you are Filipino. I wonder now if it is the same now that 20 years after our freedom from Marcos’ reign, seems nothing has changed. Politically, the same old faces are back, just under a different parties. The people we have entrusted the future of our country on are now selling us piece-meal, it seems. How easy we forgive, easier still that we have forgotten. The economy is in a stagnant stage, the exodus of people who wants to work and just be elsewhere continues. The brain drain is creating a vacuum even at the Philippine Senate and Congress!

Hey, but who am I to speak of heroic nationalism when I am in another country oblivious to what goes on in the Philippines. I have not voted in 2 elections and I couldn’t care less if the peso fluctuated against the dollar for it’ll mean more value to the dollars that I send home. I probably shouldn’t give a rat’s ass if the majority of the population voted for another action figure (nyek!) actor pala for the presidency. In the end, I can always retort on this stupidity that you get what you deserve or that you reap what you sow.

But I do care. I carry a Philippine passport, I speak the language, I was born and raised in that country where in my many explorations I discovered beautiful beaches, wonderful people and a culture so varied, so unique and so rich that I still take pride of owning it. I would like to raise my child to be proud of her heritage.

Sadly, though, it seems what the country needs to go beyond the rhetoric. It needs a moving spirit that can stir up once again the nationalism in this country and empower the people to determine their future and for the next generation. Hopefully, it will not be another hero in a coffin nor a devious selfish ruler who will slap us back to patriotism.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

By: Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World

My mom is the most beautiful woman in the whole world. An opinion I most likely share with her number one fan, my dad. And alot of other people. I have always dreamed that when I grew up, I’d be just like her. When she was young she had many a men try to woo her. She grew up in a very strict household and was chaperoned to parties even with my dad on the week before their wedding. Even when she was married and had kids, many men continued to flirt with her at the supermarket or in my school.

My mom was perfection. She kept everything in order, knew what medicines would make us well no matter what ailed us. She kept secrets and gave us the best advices in our lifetimes. My dad’s friends and their wives always made extra effort to be friends with her though she rarely kept favorites. She did however, keep a very small circle of people she comfortably calls her close friends. My aunts and uncles call her Ditse, a term of endearment for the second eldest girl in a family. They loved her company and enjoyed her cooking. Whenever she traveled to the US, they would organize a mini-reunion to be with her, often in San Francisco. I think I have been treated fairly well as the favorite niece because of their respect for her. She was always the center of our universe.

At a time when most women went to work, I grew up knowing that if I came home at any time, my mom would be there. When I was in 5th Grade I remember her attempting to return to work but after a year giving up because she felt she was needed more at home. Although Gigi and I cook, we will never be able to master my mom’s kare-kare, adobo, mechado and murcon.

I got my sense of humor from my mother. When Francis, Gigi and I had our bickering when we were kids she often shocked us to silence by giving each of us knives and telling us to settle the issue silently. She taught me to laugh at myself and never ever to take myself seriously. Even when I was young she and I would have our conversations about any topic – tv shows, boys and school and even in high school when I was rebelling, I don’t think I had a friend amongst my peers to whom I considered my confidante but my mom. Actually, even my friends from high school and college went to my mom to seek advice. She had taught me, Gigi and Nicole the love for books and the best written novels would often change hands between us until now. A copy of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ traveled with me from NY last Christmas, was read by Nicole, traveled to Seattle and Puerto Rico with Gigi and is now returning to Manila for my mom to read.

Since Nicole is staying with me in New York, my parents have also taken advantage of not having to be readily available for her to vacation in Baguio City. When they returned she complained to me that it feels different to be vacationing without the rest of us. I thought that it drove them mad to have Gigi and I to be constantly doing military logistics for our outings on activities, meal planning and other vacation details. Suddenly my parents find themselves on their own and they miss the noise, the mess we make and maybe even the ‘bickerings’. For Mother’s Day this year, Francis, Gigi and I have booked her and my dad for an extended weekend at a resort. Francis will drive them to the resort with Laila and Gabrielle and treat them first to a special ‘Mother’s Day’ lunch before leaving them there to rest until Tuesday. On the phone yesterday as we were finalizing arrangements for their vacation (yes, we also do this long distance now – ‘don’t forget to bring your blood pressure monitor, etc….’) she proudly noted that they were having the best time of their life with all the spoiling they were getting from their brood. In her words, “ang sarap naman ng buhay naming ng Tatay mo…”.

Rightfully and deservingly so for the mother who has dedicated all her life to caring for her husband, three kids and Nicole. The mom who made sure that there was warm meals to keep us from getting hungry everyday, that maids were supervised to make sure our clothes were laundered and ironed, our rooms kept clean but our privacy ensured, that phone calls we missed were noted down, scraped knees kissed. A mom who assures us that we were better, smarter and greater than anyone else. The mom who told that us that we could be all we wanted to be if only we put on hearts into it. And probably the biggest influence in our lives to be accomplished as we are.

My mom now is 66 years old. She still stands and walks gracefully despite being bothered with mild arthritis. She is more relaxed now with just my dad to take care of and Nicole in the weekends. She still cooks the meals at home, supervises the maids in the other tasks and directs the activities at home. And she still has the most beautiful smile in the world. Her comforting advices continue to fuel my spirit when I hit rough times. She remains her kids' number one fan.

I have seen much more of the world than she has. I have met a lot of people from many walks of life, from many cultures and I have had many other women take care of me since I have been away from home. But to me, she remains the most beautiful woman in the whole world. Not just with the way her face lights up with a smile but with the way she wears her heart on her sleeve, the way she shares her love to all who comes close to her. It is a beauty that is unmatched.

To my mom, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Capturing Beauty with the Lens

Minaret, Sarajevo

The first time Marco showed me his photography, I was plesantly surprised. I had known him a while and hadn't realized that he had this artistic pursuit. When he left New York, we left some of his work with me and they now proudly hang on my living room wall. Pictures from the vantage point of an artist, someone who sees beyond what the regular foks can see. Depth, color, emotional impact captured by his camera.

Bicycle, Albania

The photographs here are mostly from the Balkan region of Central Europe. A very turbulent region even before Christ was born. Marco has patiently tried to explain the region to me and the more I try to comprehend and add the research I do on my own, the more confused I got. And maybe the more frustrated he feels that he cannot seem to get the valuable ideas he wishes to share across to me.

Grandmother, Albania

Regardless what its future may have been or if an impending war may once again disrupt the temporary calm, I see in his photographs a people trying to live their life day to day. Raising families, earning their keep, celebrating their lives and it is a cycle for each and everyone. A cycle of seasons, of birth, life and death, of war and peace.

Easter, Macedonia

The profoundness of its history and the secrets of its ancient mountains will continue to amaze the foreigner. I, merely a second-hand spectator, seeing it from how Marco expresses them to me with beautiful pictures, will continue to be in awe with its paradoxial elements.

I have always had great admiration for people with the artist's eye. Marco certainly tops my list of those whose photography makes me breathless and at a loss for words. It is a rare talent. He is a rare artist.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Political Awakenings

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
By Rabindranath Tagore

They call us Martial Law Babies. The generation that grew up during the Martial Law era which began September 21, 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos put into effect Presidential Proclamation 1081. This began the spate of a dictatorial regime that plundered the country, curtailed the basic freedoms and enriched those who were in the graces of those in power. To the outside world it painted a pretty little picture. Underneath, it brewed unrest, disconcentent and a longing for democracy. I was born to the presidency of Marcos and until I was married and a mother did not know of any other president.

In college, I actively campaigned for the opposition, joined the yellow ticket tape protest rallies on Ayala Avenue, enlisted with NAMFREL (National Alliance for Free Elections) and guarded the votes until they were counted. I had put myself in danger against the gun-yielding soldiers of the Armed Forces from Sangley Point and had only Joe Arnaldo to thank for because during that election day in May 1983 he was my only shield against these Marcos loyalists. When the counting of the votes were altered on their way to the COMELEC, I protested with the rest of those who belong to the ‘new generation’ of Filipinos who have had enough of political manipulation.

I actively joined the rallies of the Catholic Church for Cory Aquino, tied yellow ribbons on all our cars’ antennas at home and joined the singing of political hymns with a clenched fist. And that fateful date in February, 1984, I left my daughter at home with my parents and with my husband joined the millions of people who came to EDSA to make a difference. And we eventually made history by ousting a tyrannical regime and hoped we have found ‘democracy’.

Flash forward to 2004, twenty years later, I am a widow with a daughter on her way to graduating from the university. I am based in New York City and she is in Manila. When we talk she tells me about the politics and how pitiful the country had turned out to be - corruption abounds, an economy on the edge, rampant criminality and the political arena being staged for the upcoming elections next month is a circus. Somehow I feel embarrassed that this seems to be my fault, my generation had not been able to successful ensure that theirs would have something to be proud of. Where did we go wrong?

Democracy is the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community. That's according to Webster. To me democracy is being allowed to enjoy a life based on what you've worked for, have the freedom to speak out with an opinion and having to life without fear of losing life at the cost of a bullet - stray or intended. I also believe there is no single meaning for democracy that applies to all people.

In 2000 when Joseph Estrada was elected to the presidency, I watched in disbelief as the country went from workaholic to torpor. No one said said movie stars cannot run for public office. I had just wished that Filipinos had given more value to their ballot by using their coconuts when voting. The qualities that you are searching for in one who entertains you musn't be the same as for that who'll run your country for you. I shook my head in disappointment when jokes about the president’s lack of social skills, lack of skill in the English language and his love of family (he has 4 wives) became the daily media diet. Short of hitting these people on the head to remind them that this president was how we reflected ourselves to the world, then hollering at them : BOBO! (stupid).

At another crossroads in y country’s history, a vote is will made on May 11 for a new president to lead the country. The choices are few and the choices run from the devil to the deep blue sea. Gloria Arroyo is the current president, put into power by the ousting of Estrada in 2000 after another show of power at EDSA. What she lacks in charisma to the mass-based electorate she makes up for brain power. Filipinos, however, I feel have gven up on the basis on intelligence for the presidency. I think they disappointedly have banked on so many intellects to run the government and then realized it had brought them nowhere beyond the slum dwellings, meager income and mediocre life. Her challengers include Roco, another intellectual choice but who never seem to find his way into the masa’s heart; Lacson, Estrada’s rumored henchman; Eddie Villanueva, a religious preacher who had a vision that God made him run (and did the COMELEC had the same vision for letting him run?); Eddie Gil, the candidate who said he'd help pay for the country's debt with his own money (I fell off my chair after reading that one) and the most possible contender, Fernando Poe Jr. (or FPJ), another movie star, best friend to Estrada whose English is worse than Estrada and whose only credit to his name for this exercise is that the people from the movie industry and the mass based are voting for him. Most likely, too, he will win.

Where is the reason? Where is the hope? And where have all the braincells among my countrymen been busying themselves with? WHAT HAVE I DONE TO HELP IMPROVE THE SITUATION? Sadly, embarrasingly, nothing. My friends and I planned to register at the Philippine Consulate in Manhattan in September to vote. That didn't happen. So who am I to complain?

I understand that one or two acts of nationalism doesn't count as a contribution to democracy. Democracy requires vigilance. I remember Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB reminding us that democracy is not a handmaid of the indolent. Vigilance and consistent hard work are the only guarantees to an orderly society.