Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Message No. 8

Every year since 1997 I would compose my Christmas message and email it en masse to all my friends. The first time it was sent out to just a handful since not that many of my friends were connected to the internet. Last year I had been delinquent owing more to the hectic pace by which my December (2004) had been set-up. And so this year I pick up where I had left off and resume with my Christmas Message for 2005.

Christmas had always had special meaning to me. I have never outgrown the excitement for the season. Somehow, it seems that all the things we do throughout the year always culminates to this special day marked by memories that we will build up to remember for years to come, perhaps to share with our children or future children.

Christmas to me will always be about my family, sharing Noche Buena at my parent's house with my Pingping, my mom, my siblings, my daughter and now, my niece and nephew. It will always be about the Chinese ham, the turkey, the queso de bola (edam cheese) and the unabashed shower of affection at the stroke of midnight with the hugging, the kissing and the 'i love you's. It is tradition that everyone be at the dining table by 12 midnight of the 24th, so much that Francis, Gigi and I had struggled through many years stressfully hurdling the traffic of Manila (because of the Manila Film Festival parade) and of Kawit, Cavite (for the Maytinis procession) to make it in time. And if couldn't make it (Francis during his residency years; Gigi when she spent Christmas 2004 in Seattle and in 2002 when Nicole came to NY to be with me), we made sure that we called up at the exact time to greet those at home, a Merry Christmas.

That is probably why Christmas to me had always meant coming home to Manila. In 2003 someone had bought me my first fresh Christmas tree, set it up in my apartment with lights and all but it never really had the same efect on me as the seven-foot plastic tree we had back home. All around me I am surrounded by the blinking lights, the Santa Claus at the streetcorner but I am not stirred, the meaning of the yuletide seems to repel me. Until a week ago, I dreaded Christmas because it meant I would have to get on another plane and travel 18 hours confined in the square foot smaller than my closet (and I have a small closet, trust me!).

Now with ticket on hand and just a few days away from my departure, I am giggly excited. I can't wait to see Nicole and hear her stories about life, love and school. I am wrapping Gabrielle's gifts and smiling because I can imagine how she will tear through her presents. I can' wait to see Liam's antics myself after just hearing about them from my daughter and my mom. I am looking forward to coming home and being engulfed in the love of my family - hearing their voices, exchanging jokes and gossips about the neighbors and just catching up with what we had missed in the past months.

This is the season for love. Whatever you call it, however your traditions take you to experience it, always cherish the special meaning that marks this time of the year. Stop a while from the pace life has taken you and acknowledge the love and blessing of those closest to your heart.

And so from my family in the Philippines and my daughter Nicole, I wish you all Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale or Happy Hanukkah and the very best for the New Year's 2006!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter Begins

On the afternoon I arrived in Lyon, flurries danced with the wind and on the TV monitors at the airport the weatherman predicted the next four days to be wintry and snowy. While standing in line with the rest of my fellow passengers waiting for our luggage I had already sent an SMS message to the Italian in panic: IT IS SNOWING!!! ARGH!!!!

His return call was quick, assuring me that winter in France was nothing like what I am used to in New York. He went on to say that anything more than an inch of snow would be a major disaster whereas in Manhattan, we are used to way more than that.

I found out that the winds from the Atlantic Ocean warms up the air and doesn't make for sufficient conditions for huge amounts of snow. Along the US East Coast, however many thanks to the many lakes that dot our landscape, winters can be very very harsh.

This Friday morning as I stepped out of my apartment building, I was confronted by a winter wonderland. Snow had started to fall at 4AM and four hours later, there must have been about 3 inches of it everywhere. My world had suddenly been painted in white and honestly, even for a non-fan of winter, this is a beautiful sight. White snow everywhere - except for the streets, everywhere else snow had not yet been touched by the salt that many use to sprinkle on the sidewalks to melt it, not yet yellow because the dogs weren't taking their strolls yet and not yet slushy. Just perfect white dusting everywhere.

As I walked to the subway station however, it felt as though I was in a snowball fight with the heavens. Huge bits of snow flew everywhere and there was no way you could get away from it. No graceful fragile snowflakes like in Lyon here - we had New York snow. The kind that was determined to beat the records in terms of accumulations.

I took more pictures from my office window, after surviving the commute. The visibility was probably a block away. They say by 10AM there was already 5 inches of snow in Central Park. Almost an inch of snow an hour had been descending on us.

And then after lunch, the snowfall stopped, the gray clouds dissipated and the sun came out. The skies were blue and it was very bright everywhere. It was even more beautiful!

The difference 9 hours can make weather-wise when you are in New York City. In the end, six inches of snow had fallen on Central Park. I stayed in the office despite the urge to play hookie and enjoy the park - my favorite past time after a snowstorm. Probably because as I child I have never had th chance to play in snow. So for me, til now it is of childish delight to walk through knee deep fresh snow on the pathways around the huge park, walk the kids sled and just embrace the whole scenery.

And winter doesn't officially begin until 21 December 2005!

In France: As a "Deaf-Mute"

Coming to France not familiar with the language can be a frustrating experience. When I downloaded for my iPod my “In-flight French: Learn before you land” I thought I was set to go. I knew my basic phrases: hello, where, how much, and what. I would realize later that I was far from being ‘set to go’. My French pronunciations mixed with my Tagalog accent was simply too confusing for most of the people I would strike conversations with. I ended up giving up and just harnessing all the charm I can muster while begging if anyone “parlez vous anglais?”

When I decided to see Paris on my own, I felt the impact of being French-challenged. From the moment I had to get a day-pass for the train and the Metro, I had to request the station attendant to help me work the ticket machine that only gave instructions in French. She had been very nice, translating each query leading to my ticket purchase in English. After uttering endless ‘merci beaucoup’ I walked away with my pass to a day of adventure in Paris. I sat in the metro and listened to the train operator’s announcements on the PA system in French, totally clueless to what he was saying. I figured if the people all got off the train then that would mean that the train was no longer in service, otherwise it still meant I was going to be taken somewhere. I listened to the sounds around me and observed how people reacted to them.

In the few times I had tried my luck to asking for directions in French, either I received them back in English or hand signals. I couldn’t help but appreciate however the helpfulness and patience of the French with a lost tourist.

Once after asking ‘ou est le metro” a man patiently mouthed to me that it is 200 meters ‘a droite’. I thought I knew my basic French and that ‘a droite’ meant to the right or the opposite of ‘a gauche’ or to the left. So to make sure I got his instructions correctly, I repeated in English: 200 meters to the right…? He looked at me with surprise and then said: “no, a droite” to which I interpreted once more with “turn right?” He scratched his head and then responded in English, “200 meters straight”.

Later I learned from my fluent French-speaking friend Joy that ‘a droite’ sounds the same as to go straight as to go right. She said it was important that you watch the hand signal that went with the words to understand if the speaker was meant to say ‘right’ or ‘straight’. I shrugged my shoulders - as though French was easy enough without the same sounding words!

Wondering around France without skill in the native language is like getting lost in the land of the deaf and the mute. I could hear the sounds around me but was totally unable to comprehend what people were saying. At any given point anyone would have sold my soul to the devil in plain earshot and I would have smiled back totally clueless. And when I mumbled whatever little French I had taught myself, no one understood me. I had to either gesture wildly or point my way around restaurants if not to resort to talking in English. And so with much frustration I ended up avoiding situations where I have to be in conversation with anyone.

It adds to the experience, however of being in a different city. I certainly taught me to take my language classes more seriously. And then guess what? Sometimes, when worst case scenarios strike, my Italian (which is about a level better than my French) had been able to bail me out of situations. Besides, dov’e la stazione de metro is far easier to pronounce than its French counterpart and I do not even have to pretend I have an accent!

France: Part Une

He who would travel happily must travel light
(by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

New York to Lyon

It seemed that Thanksgiving came too soon. The days building up to the weekend had been hectic, almost fast paced specially with the surprise visit of my sister to New York. As soon as she left on Thursday night, I started to set aside the stuff I had to pack for my trip. On Friday night, I was sure that not everything would fit, and that is an understatement.

By Saturday morning, a mere 5 hours before I was scheduled to leave, I was still strategizing on how to pack everything in my tiny carry-on luggage. My friend had come to my rescue and his solution was simple and logical: use a bigger suitcase! Stubborn me of course tried to explain my weird logic: I wanted to travel as lightly as possible since I was going to be moving from Lyon to Paris and then to Blois before zapping back to Lyon where I was to take my plane back to New York. The last thing I wanted was the weight of my luggage holding me back.

An hour before my bus departure from Grand Central Station, we were on our way out the door leaving behind a bulk of sweaters and other clothes as well as books and other stuff I had planned to bring to my French hosts. I figure these would have to wait until my return to be shipped to them to double as Christmas gifts.

The trip from New York to Paris was an uneventful 6 hours and nothing compared to the transfer to the transfer flight. Charles de Gaulle Airport has got to be the apex in confusion in airports worldwide. I arrived from New York at Terminal 2F and then was whisk away in a bus to Terminal 2C for my forward flight to Lyon. As the bus wiggled in and out of the terminals, we finally arrived in Terminal 2C. After the customary check-in and security check, upon boarding, I found myself boarding another bus to take me to my plane. The bus circled through the airport, taking such a long time that I wondered if this was actually the bus that would take me to my plane or this was the bus that would take me to Lyon!

In Lyon

I arrived in Lyon on time, promptly as the heavens released the first flurries of the season. It coincidentally also marks Europe’s first coldest week of the year. After a half hour cab ride from the Aeroport Lyon Saint Exupery I arrived at the hotel. Located right across the Parc de la Tete d’Or, the room was a huge suite with a living room, a terrace that looked out to apartment buildings, a fully-modern kitchen, a bathroom with a large bathtub and a bidet (!) and a separate toilet. It was bigger than most apartments in Manhattan and definitely more than twice bigger than my Manhattan studio!

After a brief rest, my friend and I had lunch and a preview tour of Le Vieux Lyon, the old town. The weather had not been cooperating as snow changed to rain and then to sleet while we walked the cobblestone streets of the old city.

The view of the Fourviere Hill is breath taking from the Passerelle du Palais du Justice. From across the Saone River, the Cathedral St-Jean, the Cathedral De Notre Dame de Fouviere and the Tour Metallique de Fourviere, the Lyonnais counterpart of the majestic Tour de Eiffel.

We toured the traboulles in Old Lyon. The traboulles are corridors that linked the buildings in Old Lyon. These secret passageways were used during the Renaissance period to protect the silk that had become Lyon’s main trade from the weather. Eventually it became useful in moving the people to safety during the war. The passageways or traboulles are now embedded as part of residential buildings. As part of the tourist attraction of the old town, however, most are open to tourists from the old courtyards.

The next day we decided to go on an adventure of the city, starting with a walk across the Parc de la Tete d’Or. We then tried to find the local Metro that took us back to Old Lyon, only to get lost and to find ourselves instead north of our target and crossing the Pont Morand into the Hotel de Ville area where we couldn’t get a cab to bring us to our final destination.

Not being adept in the French language can prove to be a very challenging when in France. I had been lucky though that now and then I had come upon some locals who had patiently tried to help me out with directions in their fractured English. I was so grateful that they would take their time to help out a lost tourist. I, for one would honestly admit to being ‘not too friendly’ when I am approached for directions by tourists in New York. While in Lyon we have had a man find his way through giving me directions in English, I am guilty of counseling someone seeking out a Starbucks in midtown with ‘keep walking you’re bound to find one’ (which although very true is still not a very hospitable way of showing the city off to visitors. But then again, I am not the city's ambassasor of goodwill!).

After two days in Lyon I took the Bus #47 down the Boulevard des Belges to the Lyon Part Dieu TGV station. I have learned that the only way to truly experience a city is to be one of the locals – to move around on foot, riding the subway or the bus and eating in the restaurants that they also frequented. In the bus, I felt like and was treated like the native Lyonnais and it felt wonderful. I disembarked in front of the Galleries Lafayette but not before asking my bus driver where the TGV station was. He knew I didn’t speak French and so with his fingers pointed to the building across the street from the bus stop and mumbled: TGV.

I was able to book my train ticket to leave Lyon at 10:00 AM and was on the train in no time. I took the very last car in a seat bank meant for 4 people with a table in the middle. As my friend had warned me, the view on the TGV really wouldn’t be much since it would simply be flying by me in full speed. I took a few pictures, installed my iPod into my ears and then napped to Il Divo’s music.

I arrived on time at Paris’ Gare de Lyon and as per instructions from Joy, transferred to the Paris metro to find my way to the Les Halles station where I took the RER train to get to their town. When I called her from my mobile, she thought I was just arriving in Paris. She was surprised to hear that I was a few meters away from her house, waiting to be picked up!

This is how I have always wanted to travel, not helplessly dependent and putting a burden on my hosts. I had been proud of myself for figuring out how to get from Lyon to Paris on the first time I was traveling to the cities where I had absolutely no idea how to speak or understand the language. This to me, is the experience of travel. I knew this was going to be a wonderful start to a brief vacation

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving: Year V

Today is my fifth American Thanksgiving and I still feel like Alice in a Mad Tea Party whenever I am confronted with the lavish spread of turkey, yams, cornbread and stuffing. Despite enough said about the Indians and the Pilgrims, I still cannot relate. I imagine that on a day dedicated to Thanksgiving, people would serve the kind of food that had a more palatable variety other than turkey (am not a fan), cornbread, pumpkin pie and matzo balls (wooops, wrong holiday!). I imagine that on a day called Thanksgiving, people would reflect on the true meaning of the day, of giving gratitude for the blessings in their lives and not have to rant or gossip or whine.

And so for me, after having acknowledged that this is a holiday I do not necessarily need to be part of, I celebrate the long weekend in some other way. Last year I went off to Boston with my friends and partied until 3AM at Faneuil Hall. This year, my sister who decided to surprise me with a visit woke up early and took the subway to Central Park South where we watched under-inflated and low-flying giant balloons challenge the gusty autumn winds. It was emotionally traumatic to watch Uncle Sam plummet to the ground but I think after bingeing on sushi and tempura at Minado’s eat-all-you-can for lunch, we were pretty much recovered. We walked through Central Park and strolled through damp fallen autumn leaves that littered the paths. And when she finally allowed me take a picture of her next to the notoriously expensive horse drawn carriages at the park, the horse decided it was time to pee.

Certainly something to be grateful for is a blessed life. Gigi always reminds us that we – Francis, her and I (in chronological order) have a charmed life, a gift to always rise above the challenges and to breeze through the tough times. It is as though we have a direct line to the heavens whenever misfortune strikes. Of course we have our share of ups and downs but the dips are never too low that we lose sight of the rainbows. To start, we were raised by a set of loving parents whose depth of understanding and coolness were immense blessings to us as kids growing up and helped shaped us to be pathologically self-centered individuals that we are...

This year my Thanksgiving has a bigger meaning. Twenty one years ago today, I had a beautiful baby we named Nicole. She grew up to become one of the most intelligent, smart and level-headed woman I have ever met. She has the face of an angel, the eyes that can read your soul and the smile that can thaw the arctic. She is a gifted writer who had just earned the co-editorship of her school paper; she is the spoiled unspoilt child who is wiser in her years than I had ever been. She is well-traveled even when she was barely 10 years old and whose accomplishments have been far greater than what my siblings and I had collectively when we were her age. She is the sweet child that makes every other success in my life just a far second. She is my darling and forever will be the baby I cradled in my arms.

Today is my perfect Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I leave for Europe.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Countdown to Europe

So it becomes final: I will be travelling to Europe 3 weeks from now. I will leave in time for the extended Thanksgiving Day weekend and will be touring for about 10 days.

With my complicated itinerary I have decided not to bring my notebook so most of my uploads will be depedent on the temperament of my friend's computer. I will be bringing my camera of course (it is with me everyday anyway - so what else is new?). Hopefully I will be able to upload pictures often enough that I wouldn't get paranoid about accidentally deleting the images en route from one destination to another or on the way home.

I will mostly be roaming France, staying in Lyon a few days and then taking the TGV to Paris and then a very brief visit to a family friend in the Loire Valley. An old acquaintance has invited me to cross the border to Switzerland to see him and other friends in Zurich but with 6 hours each way via the Eurail, I have no choice but to turn down the invite with a promise to try to visit another time (Spring 2006?).

I have had friends email me today about the riots in Paris and were concerned about my safety. I consoled them that if the riots find its way to any of the cities in my itinerary and it would really be insane to proceed then I can always cross the border to Italy and change my plans. Everything is just a few hours away with the convenience of the Eurail anyway.

But I would have to see Paris. I have already bought for Joy her 'Hi-Ro' cookies and I have enough to make any customs officer to be suspicious of my unusual 'baon'. I have planned to see the Sacre Coeure, walk the promenade near the Champs Elysees and hope to be proposed to at the Tour Eiffel by some handsome French man who will sweep me off my feet (ngek..di na original) - hehehehe.

Geneva is also just two hours via the train north of Lyon. It would be grand to be able to get off the train station and just walk the Jardin Anglais and view the Jet d'eau from the stretch of the Promenade du Lac facing the Rade de Geneve.

Like Lyon, Geneva also has a very rustic Old Town with cobblestone streets and rich in history and culture. There is so much to do and see that I have accepted the fact that I will literally just be breezing through many beautiful places and will miss a lot more than I will see. Still it is a wonderful adventure and I am overwhelmingly excited.

The trip would be the same time when my daughter celebrates her birthday. Of course, I know the adventure would be much more enjoyable if she could be with me but she has school and whilst in the midst of her thesis preparation and overwhelmed by the responsibilities as acting Literary Editor for their school paper, there is just no justification to pull her out of school for two weeks.

She will also have her chance to see the world. She is young and has a bright future ahead of her. Already much travelled at her age, she has the wanderlust in her, too. There is just so much to experience when travelling that cannot be learned in school or by reading. The smells, the views, being immersed in the culture, colors and flavors of a new location has no equal.

I will try continue to blog while I am away but mostly by long-hand to a notebook with lines instead of a screen and a keyboard. When I return home to New York then I will share them with you.

Pick me. Choose me. Love me

That was from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" episode a few weeks ago when intern Meredith Grey desperately asked the handsome Dr. Derek Shepherd to choose her over his returning repentant adulteress wife.

It may sound melodratic but I realized that it does hit a common spot for any human being - the need to be needed.

We all yearn to be loved. We all need to know that there is someone on this earth who is our soulmate, who the Ying to our Yang. Being in love is such a wonderful feeling that anyone experiencing the excitement of a new romance exudes the radiant glow of happiness and has a twinkle in their eyes. People in love have a sing song kind of tone in their voices, and laughter is easy to come by. The world is a friendlier place when there is someone to weather the storms shoulder to shoulder with. Ah, all the many ways to describe the perfect love and yet such an elusive myth, this love.

In turn those who gamble shamelessly and jump head first into the depths of its passion tend to come out bruised and maimed. Very few have come out of it unscathed and they will tell you that it is only because they have mastered the art of distorting reality to suit the shape of romance.

It is a game I have played since I learned about love - in Grade 3 when Noel Ramos handed me my first Valentine's Day card in the schoolbus. It was a beautiful feeling until he eventually outgrew me before I outgrew him in Grade 4 so I ended up debuting into the pangs of a broken heart. And boy, was that was painful! I discovered that they called it broken heart because it felt hollow exactly where the heart is.

I survived my 'Noel Ramos syndrome' but was badly scarred for life. I have never really opened up to anyone enough to make them feel like I reciprocated their feelings fully. I always made sure that something else was my life priority - not seeking a husband or marriage. To most, I probably earned the title of being the sarcastic unfeeling witch who drained the love and life out of them.

I am now with someone who may turn out to be smarter than any of my past casualties. He is consistent about his feelings and ignores my mumbling doubts about the viability of what I had labelled our 'impossible relationship'. He is painfully honest about his feelings. He jolts me with admissions that he doesn't ask me questions because he fears it would open conflicts that would be difficult to resolve. And yet when we have time to linger on the telephone we dip our hands into the dirt and grime of our insecurities and disrobe our souls to each other. It is an uplifting feeling - to be honest with someone and to know that you are still accepted, loved, chosen.

Old dogs are hard to teach new tricks, however. I am still not comfortable about completely surrendering my heart and soul to someone for fear I would subject myself to hurt. In my head I create back-up scenarios of what to do in case one day I will find myself without him.

Deep inside I want this, I want him and I want what we have to last so badly I know I would just as well die if I lost something so beautiful this time around. How easy to say the words now but he will probably never hear it from me ever. My insecurities overwhelm me that what I have to offer may not be enough and that there is always the constant fear that he will find someone else who is prettier, taller, smarter, slimmer and more perfect. I am comforted by his love day to day, praying that he will continue to see me as he does - my flaws somehow invisible until forever.

Silently I am screaming: pick me, choose me, love me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rome bans goldfish bowls

ROME, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Rome has banned goldfish bowls, which animal rights activists say are cruel, and has made regular dog-walks mandatory in the Italian capital, the town's council said on Tuesday.

The newspaper Il Messaggero reported that round bowls caused fish to go blind. No one at Rome council was available to confirm this was why they were banned. Many fish experts say round bowls provide insufficient oxygen for fish.

So I asked the girl in the next cubicle at work, "How did the scientists know that the goldfish was going blind?"

"They keep bumping the sides of the bowl?" she shrugged.

Finally we concluded that they lower a fish eyechart and see how well they can read it. I wonder though why there aren't that many goldfishes with eyeglasses though. Contact lenses?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Nostalgia Galore

I received an email from Oscar a few months ago, noting that he had found my link from a friend, Jong. He had requested permission to include one of my archived entries into their compilation of articles titled "Nostalgia Galore". He had referred me to his website and I read through the previous complations he and his team had done before. It was impressive but I thought to myself that I would probably get eliminated halfway through the selection process.

This week he emailed me back and sent me the link to the final copy of their "Nostalgia Galore".

To be acknowledged for something you enjoy doing is just too much flattery. It humbles this blogger to be in the company of writers who I feel are way above my standard of writing. It certainly gives me motivation to continue to write.

Thank you Oscar Alvarez to you and the rest of your team.

Grazie mille! Maraming salamat po!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Superwoman for a Day

I did it: I have made twice my initial fund-raising target after a friend closed my donation page on Saturday night at $200.

I did it: crawled out of bed on a perfect Sunday morning and joined the masses that converged on 72nd Street in Central Park for the Annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5-mile non-competition walk. And right on time, my team were on the Start Line at 9:30 AM.

I did it: weaved through the park from the Bandshell at 72nd Street north to 100th Street then crossed towards the west side and then back down to 72nd Street. I have trained myself for the past weeks to build the stamina and realized that after all the hard work, 5 miles is a breeze - a stroll in the park.

I did it: 5 miles in an hour and a half. I broke away from my team halfway with their permission and proudly danced across the pink canopy of balloons. I grabbed my goodie bag (with just juice and an apple; last year we had chocolate bars and candies!)

I made it: from 72nd Street I hopped on the C train that took me to Brooklyn in time for our tennis court reservation at 12 noon. Wally and I played for an hour non-stop. I didn't know where my energy was coming from. In love? Inspired? Or just plain crazy.

We made it: took the train from Brooklyn to Queens where Wally and I had Vietnamese lunch and then walked a half mile (10 blocks) to the Filipino store where I bought salted duck egg, otap, Choc-Nut and fried 'tuyo' (dried fish). Then I took the train back to Manhattan and home.

So I am dead tired and am crawling back to bed to look forward to another hectic week at work. That is, after I send an email to my Italian which I plan to sign: Superwoman....

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cats, Dogs and Dinosaurs

When she about 4 years old, my daughter must have heard me describe the rain in terms of ‘cats and dogs’. Somehow she coined her own version when she surprised me on a really bad stormy day with, “Look mommie – it’s raining cats, dogs and dinosaurs!”

Since the weekend, the heavens have given way to a deluge, drenching the northeastern part of the United States. In Manhattan, we’d have more than 10 inches of rain since Saturday. And based on forecasts, it seems we won’t be expecting Mr. Sunshine soon.

On Wednesday I hopped out of my bus just as the skies broke loose a dense and heavy curtain of rain. I gripped my umbrella close to my head to keep it from being blown away by the wind but it was useless. It felt as though the rain was going sideways. Despite just being 15 steps away from the bus stop, by the time I made it to the entrance of my office building I had looked like I just stepped out of the shower. My suit was drenched, my shoes was squishy when I walked and best of all, the hair that took me half an hour to dry and style with a curling iron was soaked, straight as a stick and lay totally lifeless against my scalp. It was enough reason to call it a day at 8:30 AM and head back home but when I got to the office….voila - everyone else looked as bad as I did or worse! Better still, some of the women looked really monstrous because instead of flattening out, their hair curled like a fur ball. So those totally made me feel much better. But to cheer everyone up, I put my ipod on the computer and started playing music from the Beach Boys.

For lunch on Thursday, two friends and I had planned to sample the very popular Peruvian Food Festival at our headquarters and we also decided that the rains weren’t going to stop us. We walked a short block and a half and by the time we were seated and the waiters had asked us what we wanted (for drinks I understood later) our reply in unison was: a hairdryer!

The Italian finds it amusing that I can humor myself despite how depressing our weather had been. I told him there was just no other way to deal with it. I could have tried screaming at the heavens but I was sure my voice would be drowned by the howling winds. And besides, when you start allowing the weather to dictate how you should feel about your day then you know you are in desperate need of some sanity check.

I have found my raincoat packed in my scarf drawer (go figure). I have my trusty umbrella that opens and shuts automatically and tomorrow I am on a mission to purchase for myself a pair of galoshes. I don’t care if I look like a 3 year old on my way to school with my get up but I will arrive at my destination dry and happy – despite cats, dogs, dragons, dinosaurs and elephants pouring from the skies.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Every Mother's Nightmare

A mother sent her daughter away for vacation with about 100 friends, classmates and chaperones. If she had trepidations about letting her go she was appeased by the thought that she is 18 years old and will be on her way to college soon. She also knew she could trust her daughter. She had just graduated from high school with honors and had earned full scholarship at the University of Alabama. She was proud of her and with these thoughts in check, saw her off at the airport to fly to Aruba for a one-week unofficial school trip. She never came back.

Natalee Holloway’s story is every mother’s nightmare. While it is primal that parents ensure the safety and well being of their children, at a certain age the parents realize the need to also pull away and learn to let go. But what if the timing of letting her go eventually becomes the decision you, as a mom will regret the rest of your life?

Natalee’s mother Beth Twitty rushed to Oranjestad in Aruba to search for her daughter. Her persistence had brought the FBI to descend into the island and the Dutch government had deployed their own military planes to assist in the search. Tourists and residents all helped in combing the island for the missing teenager or for any clues that could lead to her, with no results. The three teenagers who were last seen with her were arrested, questioned and eventually released. The main suspect, Joran van der Sloot then fly back to Holland to go to college. This week in the news, they featured him in an interview. He tried to clear his name from any criminal misconduct and told the reporter that it was Natalee who had aggressively pursued him.

“She had a lot to drink. At Carlos 'n Charles she grabbed my hand and took me with her to take jelly shots off her. And afterward she asked me to buy a shot for her, buy her a shot to drink.” He narrated to the interviewer. “And she climbed on the bar. She laid down on the bar and she called the bartender by name and he got her a jelly shot and I took a jelly shot off her belly.” And then van der Sloot continued to tell of how she had gone with him to the beach and had insisted that he stayed because it would be her last night in Aruba. Then he claims he and his friends had left her on the beach to sneak back home because he had school the next morning. He also claimed that he didn’t even recognize Natalee when they showed him her picture when she went missing. To him, he was just another girl passing by the island paradise wanting to have fun.

The last images of a mother of her daughter as told by a stranger.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How do You Measure a Life?

I celebrated another birthday on 18 September. Subtly, quietly I celebrated without the fanfare that had always marked the previous years. I embraced the passing of another year contented with the decisions I have made with my life and with the acknowledgement that I may not be able to stop the sand of time from trickling down my hourglass but that I have the power to enjoy the journey to my sunset. It was milestone celebrated with brunches, lunches, dinners and a surprise barbeque party. It came as a card from Nicole with an early celebration of my Europe trip and with flowers unexpectedly delivered at work – stargazers whose fragrance will forever remind me of a daughter’s love. It came as three dozen red roses and a quiet dinner amidst candlelight. It came as numerous greetings from people who did not have to be reminded. They just knew.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure -- measure a year?

How had time had passed so quickly? My sunsets have weaved the days to weeks and months and eventually into the passing seasons. The seasons have segued from winter to spring to summer and so suddenly, it is autumn once more – brisk mornings that forewarn colder mornings to come as another winter draws near. Each second is marked by a step toward a destiny uncertain but yet already determined. Sometimes I wonder if I am deceiving myself in believing that I am in charge of my future.

How do you measure a year in the life?

I would gauge this year with my acknowledgement of what I am and what I cannot be. I will never be a child again but I can still see my world with the curiosity and the fascination of one so that my heart will forever be young. I can never go back in time and be the 18 year old debutante but I can still laugh out loud when I am happy, be flirty and be bold with my decisions as I had always been. My limbs and my bones have seen me through the tough times but now I can run or jog and play tennis better than any other time in my life. I have also acknowledged that I will never be a dress size zero, have legs like Anna Kournikova or the memoryI used to enjoy. Yet I realized that I can be happy just being who I am if I stopped trying to please the whole world and just gave up struggling to be to be the perfect anybody to anyone. And I have realized that with age come the wisdom that I will be accepted and be loved just as I am.

How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love

Love is the most important part of my life. I thrive with it and I constantly need to be assured that it is there, unrelenting. I need to always hear the voices of the people who matter most to me – my parents, my daughter, my siblings. I find comfort in the childish giggles of Gabrielle as she reminds me that: "I miss you Tita Mavic". These bring me home wherever I am. Home is where there is love and acceptance without question.

This is the year I learned that there is true love, that it survives time and distance. I have learned that true love isn’t always about the dashing young prince sweeping me off my feet in a fairytale love story. I have learned that true love is about my prince who has come to climb my tower to rescue me from myself. I have learned that there are happily ever afters – if you will only stay long enough for the real ending.

Five hundrend twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundrend twenty five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundrend twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
how do you measure the life of a woman (or a man)

Lyrics taken from the song: Seasons of Love
From the Broadway play 'RENT'

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Bald Eagle

A few weeks ago Kathryn Eisman at NBC’s ‘Today in New York’ talked about the male version of the Brazilian wax. It caught the attention of a lot of girlfriends. It is about time, some of us cheered after having been plucked, shaved and waxed all our lives. For our own vanity – the eyebrows need to stay neat and arched; the legs had to look smooth and feel soft to make us feel sexy. The armpits and the bikini areas were trimmed more for hygiene and odor control.

While we struggled through these rituals of our femininity, most of the males only needed to brush and bathe and they were done. Sometimes I think they assume it is even acceptable for nose hairs to stick out and blend with the moustache and beard. And facial shaving - sometimes the five o-clock shadow is sexy but oftentimes the rough growth cause us pimples when they rub too close to our faces.

HA! Finally, the great equalizer has arrived – the SUNGA! I tried to blog about it but often digressed to sensitive issues on the first 3 drafts! So I asked Jong to help out...

This way to his blog.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

My Life as a Bum

Since Wednesday I had been staying up late, going online at crazy hours of the morning, staying in bed until the sun is up and have given up heels and suits to denims and sneakers. Since Wednesday I had been enjoying life as a non-working New York denizen. I LOVE IT!!!

Non-essential staff had been advised to file for vacation during the span of high level plenary meetings at Headquarters to prevent further straining security details. So we classified ourselves as non-essential and planned ahead for an extended weekend with my family in New York - my friends.

It had been a wonderful lazy long weekend. No running after the clock to make it to the office by 8:30AM, no meetings to attend, no correspondences that need to be read and acted on.

The Italian and I rendezvoused online at 2AM EST every night and I don’t slide between the covers until it is 4AM. I played tennis with Wally at NYSC facilities at Boerum Place in Brooklyn in the mornings with my hair in a ponytail and with hardly any makeup on and it was liberating. In the afternoon we went malling at Atlantic Avenue where there were neither lines at the cash registers nor crowds at the fitting rooms. On Thursday we took the subway to Queens after our game where she treated me to buffet-style Filipino food at Woodside then we headed to her apartment where we romped with her playful dog, Tobby. On Friday after having eat-all-you-can sushi lunch (yummmy!)with my aunt at Minado in midtown, I met up with Renee to shoe shop at DSW (I got two pairs of high heel strappy sandals which is a crazy decision since it will be autumn soon) and then visited the apartment she and her fiance were renovating at Stuy-Town. On Saturday morning I met up with friends to run the Reservoir and then binged on omelettes and waffles at Yura at the Upper East Side for brunch. I spent Sunday away from Manhattan after brunch with Lucia and enjoyed the final weekend of the summer before autumn officially marks its start on 22 September.

There wouldn't have been a better way to spend the last glorious days of summer. La dolce vita…

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Alpha and Omega

The beginning and the end.

My last entry reflected on the end of life that despite a personal message that I had advanced to assure friends and readers that all was fine with me, I am still amazed that many had taken time to email and make sure I was really alright (I am, I promise).

This morning as I screwed up my sleeping hours and ending up being wide awake at 2AM, Mayan IM'd me of a new entry in her blog that she had been excitedly working on beyond midnight. Wonderful news, great milestones....see for yourself.

Congratulations, my dear friend!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A non-Elegy and Rossetti

Each generation is marked by an event that it considers is a milestone. To my grandparents it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii; to my parents, it was when a young American president was assassinated in Texas; to a majority of those that belong to my generation it would be 9/11, New York City. It is a point in our lives that make us halt the routine of our daily lives and contemplate on our mortality.

On a perfect sunny September morning, with the accompaniment of a lone violist, the names of those who periled in the attacks were recited by relatives along with personal messages of love and yearning. Then in a pool at the footprint of the towers, roses were floated, prayers said and again, the tears. Grief, renewed.

I wonder - do we do these rituals to comfort the living? Would this kind of remembering be what those who have died wanted? And do they hear our messages of love, smell the flowers that we bring to their graves and hear us ask for forgiveness after they have gone?

Death is the only certainty about life. When it is my time to face my final curtain, I hope it will be quick. I always ask for good health when I pray because I fear burdening those I love about taking care of me as I slowly and painfully slip out of dignity and of life. I don’t want a major production to draw my life to a close. My siblings know that my wish is to be cremated and so I shall be, with my ashes returned to the earth. Throw them to the sea so that there is not one place to remember me if there should be reason to.

And on remembering: remember me as how I laughed, how I have loved with all my heart until there was nothing more to give; for trying to give as much as I could and not with the value of what I could give.

I don’t want tears - for any reason. Not for forgiveness because most likely I would have already forgotten, if not forgiven. I do not carry bad thoughts with me – my secret to a happy life. So that given, your thoughtlessness and evil ways is your burden alone and not mine. No tears for remembering either because I have lived a wonderful life. I have, at this point, had more dreams come true than I ever imagined possible and whatever else the future holds would be icing to the cake.

I don’t want eulogies nor tributes. I don’t want people talking about me as though I was dead. I would like to leave as though I was the breeze, having passed through, bringing a moment of pleasant comfort and then gone.

I have a favorite poem by Christina Rossetti, one I have memorized even when I was young, that seems apt with this entry:

“When I am dead my dearest, sing no sad songs for me
Plant thou no roses
at my head, nor shady cypress tree.
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet
And if thou wilt, remember
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows
I shall not feel the rain,
I shall not hear the nightingale
sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember
Haply I may forget”

P.S. I am healthy, I am happy, I am not depressed and am NOT even with a hint of sadness. This entry is just a reflection about death so don’t email me with concern, no?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Seeking Home

As the summer segues softly into autumn, Christmas draws near and soon I will once again be on my way home.

Home is a strange confusing word. This week, the Italian and I exchanged questions about where home really is. He has labeled us ‘emigrants’ - residents of a foreign country. To be an emigrant in this country sounds more long-term than my intention at any given time. I have no plans to live in New York long-term. I asked him then where home should be. Is it where you trod at the end of the day? Is it where you have the title of the property to your name even if you are never there? Or is it where you were born and raised and where most of your family still lives?

Home for me was a house on the street that bore my grandfather’s name in the country and city where I was born. This is where my father grew up and where my mother moved when they married. It was where I was raised and where my siblings and I learned about life and where we witnessed many joys and tragedies. It is where the neighbors who have remained for generations have watched me take my first steps, learn to ride a bicycle and then to drive a car. They will remember my laughter, I hope, much more than the mischievous life that I have led.

Yet when I go home for the holidays, I spend a full week trying to adjust to being ‘home’. The familiar faces that come to greet me outside on my return are marked with the years that have passed by. And even before I am used to ‘being home’, after New Year’s it is time to pack again and to go ‘home’ - to New York.

When I look out the window of the plane and the familiar skyscrapers of Manhattan come into view I am often overwhelmed by the comfort of the familiar. This is where I have my home for the rest of the year - a small studio that gouges almost half my salary every month. This is where I am queen and slave. This is where I have done most of my ‘growing up’ in my lifetime regardless I have only been here 3 years. This is my residence, my corner in the sky and the single location on earth where I find comfort when the entire world is wrong. These walls have seen me at my happiest and my confidante to the tragedies I have kept a secret to everyone else. It is privy to my frustrations and knows more about me than myself.

I have planned to live in my life in as many places possible, like the gypsy I have always dreamed to be. There will be many more places that will bear the label home for me, eventually. So far I have lived in Asia, in the US and later, possibly to Europe. Maybe if I am lucky, I would still have the chance to establish another home, albeit temporary, in South Africa before I finally call it a life and sign off.

There is joy in overcoming the challenges of setting up a new life - of reinventing yourself to adapt to a new culture and world, of changing from stranger to native, of getting familiar with its flavors, hum its music and speak its language like it is your own. Today I received a handwritten note from the Italian scribbled in the language of true romance that took me a full day to translate with genuine interest to learn to speak and understand it.

Home doesn't have to be a single location I guess. If you are lucky, it could be many places that would have significant meaning to your life. Places that have helped shape you as a person and have molded you to be who you are.

"Let the world change you and you can change the world."
by Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (1928-1967)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Heat is On

It is summer in New York.

The good part about it is the heat. No more layering of clothes. No more the long ritual in the mornings just to be able to get out the door to get something from the deli - cashmere socks, boots, sweater, jacket, scarf and gloves. Goodbye to them all. Hello silky blouses, strappy sandals, flowing skirts and clothes that show arms, legs, neck and more skin! Hello hunks with the toned biceps and biceps and shoulders and tight abs (wooohooo!).

The bad part about it is ...well, the heat. Flabby men with hairy backs and bulging tummies walking -no, jiggling up and down the streets gasping for breath glistening in the heat with sweat. To be fair -fat women going with the fashion with tiny tops and xtremely low-cut bottoms - flabs bursting all over. And also women who wear high heels and mini skirts despite legs that replicate the interstate freeway system of the United States. I have sworn off taking the subway since the heat gets trapped underneath the asphalt streets and a two minute wait for the train feels like a two-hour immersion in the sauna.

This is the weather East-Coast style. You always have the weather to talk about - when it is too cold, too hot or even when it is just perfect. "Great day we are having," you will find yourself smiling to a stranger in the elevator on the way to your floor and then you discuss about the weekend weather until one of you stops on your floor. A good way to meet people.

I have no idea if I should complain about the heat when I have already made winter my least favorite season of all. My first winter on the East Coast stretched for 6 months. Winter and snow are beautiful at the start. Initially I was in awe at the beauty of fresh fallen snow blanketing everything in pristine white. I had my first white Christmas with Nicole in 2002 and we played like children hurling snowballs at each other and gleefully running and flopping on the knee high snow. Then came January when snow is an everyday part of life. Its novelty started to wear out. It was too much trouble to love the snow especially after it has turned to slush. And the layers of clothing you had to put on to stay warm and then shedding them off just to be able to enjoy a simple movie or dinner; then putting them on again before you set out to the streets. It was too much trouble to stay in love with anything. On Valentine’s Day weekend we were dumped with more than 20 inches of snow and we aptly dubbed it the Blizzard of 2003. Temperatures for weeks lingered below freezing and it had started to get overwhelmingly dismal. That was it for winter for me. Zilch love around here for cold freezing weather.

Autums are more dramatic with the changing of colors and the leaves falling to the ground with the breeze, almost fragile. Trees become bare, the air starts to cool and emotionally you mourn with the trees in their farewell to life, to prepare for a long sleep.

The good thing about being in New York is you dress for four seasons. Expensive but how much better to enjoy everything - tank tops and sandals or flip flops in the summer; bright pastel skirts and silky blouses in the springtime; knee high boots, tweed jackets and velvet scarves for the autumn; and, errrr.... down blankets and christmas trees in the winter.

For now I will bask in the sunshine, and not complain about the humidity or the flabby smelly man walking past me on Third Avenue. I will have my lunches at the park on 47th with the fountains and the pigeons. I will walk as far as I am comfortable on the way home. I will bike if I can find the time, at Central Park or the promenade next to the East River or the Hudson River Park. Or I will travel upstate to my friend's house to enjoy the pool :).

C'est la vie. Everything just passing by, hopefully a beautiful day at a time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Walk to Save Lives!

My first "Making Strides for Breast Cancer" walk was in October 2002 in Central Park. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the massive turn-out of people for the 8 mile walk around and across Central Park on a crisp autumn morning. It was my officemate, Tess, who invited me to join. At that time she was also mourning the demise of a close friend who had been a victim of breast cancer. She had all the works - pins and banners and balloons. In 2003 I joined the walk with my friend Ludette and her friends and then last year I went by myself but not really alone because I joined with my organization's team.

In previous years I passed around the American Cancer form and collected checks from friends who donated to fund my walk. This year I decided to do it differently, by putting up a website care of the same organization and this would hopefully help ease registration. This year, I have also decided to dedicate my walk to a friend, to give it more meaning. I have decided to walk for my friend Vanj. This strong woman has for me and many others who follow her blog been the torch bearer for various breast cancer advocacies. Our mutual friend Jong has also emailed me about his plans about putting together a team of cancer survivors alongside his Manila Dragon rowing team.

There are many types of cancers that afflict women. You realize when you read the statistics that cancer does not pick its victims by race, by age, social status or by any other standard. Victims are afflicted from as early as birth to as late as senility.

Cancer research is important to find a cure before more lives are lost to the disease. In 2004 more than half a million people died of cancer, second only to heart disease which claimed more than 700,000 lives. Of this number, 27,281 women died of breast cancer which makes it the second deadliest kind of cancer after lung/bronhus kind of cancer. Unfortunately, based on the same statistics from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the only kind with almost the same rate of mortality based on records since 1930. The same research proves that there is more than a 75% survival rate to breast cancer and most specially if it is diagnosed in its early stages. That is why early detection is crucial.

Do you do regular self-examination of your breasts for any abnormalilities? If you are more than 40 years old, you should ask your OB/GYN about annual mammograms. Be reminded that the most careful and most diligent are not safe from breast cancer.

What causes breast cancer? Is it in the food that we eat? Is it hereditary? Is it in the air we breathe? Is it in the bra we wear? The deodorants? The cologne? The baby powder? Was it because you took the Pill or because you didn't? Was it because you had children? Was it because you didnt? So many questions and we need all of them answered. No more speculations but something more concrete, more accurate.

My cause is simple - to make breast cancer a disease that would have a prevention and a cure for the sake of all our barkadas, girlfriends, cousins, aunts, sisters, daughters, mothers and for ourselves.

A small amount will make a big difference for lifesaving research, patients services programs, advocacy and education.

P.S. Thanks to my first batch of donors (despite just a trial email to a handful of friends) who have surprised me by making me meet my initial target. Thanks Jojo, Bechay, Remy and Irene!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Swiss Missed

It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon. I decided to stay home, in the comfort of my air conditioner and while ripping CD’s I found an unmarked disc and played it in my computer. The music wasn’t mine but I remembered who owned it. I played it a while then ejected it. It just wasn’t the kind of music I wanted to listen to on a rainy weekend afternoon…or ever, for that matter. That should have been the tell-tale sign, I told myself. After receiving this CD from him it should have set off the alarms in my head that he and I just weren’t meant to be. And as I was returning the disc to the shelf, I caught a glimpse of another memento I associated to the same bossa nova aficionado.

It was a picture book: SWITZERLAND, it read across the front cover with a picture of the Matterhorn. I took it down from its repository and leafed through its pages when some inserts fell off – letters, greetings cards and very fragile dried leaves.

It was Manila, in 1998 all over again. A time when my world was about Zurich and learning to say ‘Danke’, ‘Guten Morgen’ and ‘Guten Tag’; it was about emails when the internet was still young and long distance phone calls and all else that was so kilig. My company had been taken over by the Swiss principals in a buy-out that prevented it from solvency and the Swiss came marching in with their stiff accents and were immersed into the business culture of the Philippines that was less formal, more sociable. They were pampered from the moment they stepped into Manila’s international airport and jumped into their waiting limousines that would whisk them away to their 5-stay accommodations in the middle of the business district where everyone wore suits, dressed stylishly and smelled like French cologne. They were embarrassed by the extent of logistics involved to guarantee their comfort and safety whenever they were in town. I took care of most of these arrangements because I was the assistant of the second-highest ranking officer of the company. To most of them, it was an endearing personal touch and they were very grateful. To one of them, it developed in to something more.

Business relationships crossed into personal relationships. He was the Regional Controller for Asia and Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand. He made Manila his hub for all his trips to the region and we found time to spend together. The dinners at CafĂ© Havana and the stroll around Malate afterwards; a weekend drive to Tagaytay and his curiosity about the rock salt beds along the roads of Cavite; after-office drinks at the mezzanine of the Peninsula Manila’s lobby; walks in the rain and quiet lunches in his office which I am sure raised some eyebrows amongst the gossip-mongers in the department that he heads. When the office rented him a condo unit in Makati for a year, he installed himself in the building right next to my own condo and we often had dinners even when he had no business being in Manila.

There is another book about Switzerland that I surmise is now misplaced. Three greeting cards – each accompanied a box of Swiss chocolates, the music CD and something else which I now cannot recall. The fragile dried leaves were those he had picked up on his way home to share with me the colors of autumn. I had pressed them in the book and has lost its reddish golden color. What remained is just a fragile remnant of what it once was.

As with all stories, there were conflicts that got weaved into our tale. I cannot even remember anymore the details - just phone calls with Lizza and lots of tears. Everything else: a blur.

I left for New York in January 2002 with very few friends knowing what my plans were. When I was settled with my job and life, I tried to contact him once but he never responded. I heard he is now working for another company, also in Zurich. I also heard that he was supposed to be married a while back but found out his fiancé was two-timing him so he called off the wedding -by email copied all their friends. Weird.

As the rain poured outside, I took the book from the shelf again, lounged on my couch and browsed through the pages, reminiscing how we sat on the floor of my apartment in Makati and how he excitedly told me about each and every place in the book. I will be in Europe in the autumn and he would just be 6 hours on the Eurail from me. I sent him an email today, not with the intention of reviving any romantic possibilities but with hopes of re-connecting with a friend.

Sometimes, to live your happily-ever-afters I thought, you need to tie the lose ends. Or at least try.

Friday, August 12, 2005

POETRY: untitled

A long, long time ago, in a world now seemingly far far away I had always found the inspiration to be motivated to write poetry... or something like that. Nothing grand like how my daughter or Mayan does them. My masterpieces were often in the same category as Mother Goose's - often with no rhythm, rhyme or meaning.

I wrote this while in Mactan, Cebu on business (mixed with a bit of pleasure of course). One thing I remember was showing this to someone I used to date regularly and about a year later he called me up again, asking about the poem I wrote about him which he had to describe in detail for me to remember (eh kasi naman I DIDN'T, I never wrote it for him noh!!!). It was a DUH moment but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I'm always too nice (canned laughter: mwahahahahaha!) I sent it to him and I am sure he had sent it to some unsuspecting girl pretending he had written it. Argh... glad I got away from that one!

Angelic face, bedimpled cheeks
Soft soothing voice from cherry lips
You are the image that reside in my dreams
Fulfilling fantasies of girlish whims.

Cast to winds my cares as they may.
Set aside that fickle minded disposition
Soft touches never lost in the translation.

Lingering my lips over your sweet mouth
A kiss so light like a feather, a pace so slow
Tenderly as my fingers caress thy skin

Memorizing your arms, your neck, your back.
Soft suppleness I will long for tonight.
Skin to skin we slithered waking sleeping senses
Peaking emotions surging as one.

Another attempt at poetry: 4 December 1999

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Performance Evaluation

This is the part where my blog becomes a self-help reference site. Today I am teaching newly promoted supervisors on how to manage those torturous mid-year performance reviews.

As you probably have already realized it is easiest to accomplish the evaluations of the good performers and sometimes, the kiss-ups. For those who are non-performers, motivationally-challenged or initiative-deficient, you will seem half witch and half monster trying to impartially evaluate their contribution to your company’s operations.

Take some tips from these real quotes taken from employee performance evaluations as forwarded to me today by my officemate and friend Erin (also, the lead singer of the band Echo):

1. "Since my last report, this employee has reached rock-bottom and has started to dig."
2. "I would not allow this employee to breed."
3. "This employee is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definite won't be."
4. "Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."
5. "When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."
6. "He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."
7. "This young lady has delusions of adequacy."
8. "He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."
9. "This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."
10. "This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better."
11. "Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."
12. "A gross ignoramus--144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus."
13. "He doesn't have ulcers, but he's a carrier."
14. "I would like to go hunting with him sometime."
15. "He's been working with glue too much."
16. "He would argue with a signpost."
17. "He brings a lot of joy whenever he leaves the room."
18. "When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."
19. "If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he's the other one."
20. "A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on."
21. "A prime candidate for natural DE-selection."
22. "Donated his brain to science before he was done using it."
23. "Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming."
24. "He's got two brains cells, one is lost and the other is out looking for it."
25. "If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week."
26. "If you give him a penny for his thoughts, you'd get change."
27. "If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean."
28. "It's hard to believe he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm."
29. "One neuron short of a synapse."
30. "Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled."
31. "Takes him 2 hours to watch 60 Minutes."
32. "The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The First One who Broke my Heart

The Shaun Cassidy of my youth

Fridays at 7:30 PM. I remember so well when the ‘Hardy Boys’ series was on TV, starring Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson. Everyone in my family will attest to my crazed obsession with Shaun Cassidy. When my sister visited my aunt in New York before I lived here, they had a chance to watch him on the Broadway play Blood Brothers and giggled through the whole show remembering.

I collected his records – in vinyl, nonetheless and they’re still at home at my parent’s house with the life-sized poster that came with the first album. It used to hang in my bedroom among many other fan paraphernalia I had collected – Tigerbeat magazines included. In 1979 he got married to Playboy playmate Ann Pennington and I cried for a week. Thereafter, that embarrassing chapter of my youth I hoped I had closed and moved on.

On Friday, at dinner with my girlfriends we started exchanging stories about our first heartbreak. Always the one who will shift the discussion from sad and dramatic reminiscence, I had to share ‘my life’ with Shaun Cassidy. I volunteered and divulged stories from that significantly psychotic period of my life. We were laughing so hard I am sure we were a tad away from being kicked out of the restaurant.

And after they thought they’d heard enough, as we were walking home I remembered something. I took out my ipod and played a song that I shared with everyone. It was Da Doo Ron Ron Ron by Shaun Cassidy. Six women then resumed a laughing marathon at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 79th Street at 1AM.

Three times married, twice divorced; this is Shaun Cassidy now.

One tiny note: In November 25, 1981 Shaun’s daughter Caitlin Ann was born. Three years later on the same date I had Nicole. I only found out about it today as I was searching the internet for Shaun Cassidy’s pictures.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Love Story

Once upon a time, around the 1960’s, a young woman working in New York met the man of her dreams. He was dashing, educated in Princeton, and was madly in love with her. She is a petite sweet intelligent lady and together they lived in the city of their dreams, away from their own country that was at war.

They had two children – a daughter who is so much like her mother and a son who is just like his father. They probably went through the usual ups and downs of families – especially of raising kids in the city but anyone who had met them will guarantee that these were well-bred children who were level headed, respectful, loving and smart.

And the couple continued to grow in love. She stayed in New York for work while he often traveled and stayed away for work-related assignments. Absences rarely caused bumps in their relationship. And she has assured the cynic that distance is only physical; true love defies miles.

Early last year, the mother was overwhelmed with the arrangements for her daughter’s wedding. And like a regular mom, she returned to work with many pictures to share to everyone. The son followed suit and was married this year. She continues to talk about them with so much pride and her husband, with much love and always giddy, like a teenager. The children were the rewards of a life they had struggled through - to keep in Ivy League universities and to instill the values of their culture.

The husband was now relaxed. The responsibilities with the children were done, there is money in the bank, they have retirement waiting to be claimed soon. He dreamed about taking his wife back to their country now in the infant stages of democracy and maybe travel the world in leisure.

This was suppose to be a story of ‘happily ever after’ but it isn’t.

On the 4th of July weekend the husband suffered his first heart attack. His wife and the children, who kept their homes a few blocks away from their parents, rushed him to hospital. He survived, was brought home and for a while he was doing well. Until last week when he had another attack, this time fatal. He was just 55.

She is broken. The funeral was held on Friday and she was inconsolable. The friends she and her husband had collected through the years were grief stricken just to see her. She held on tightly to the hands of her daughter who will bear them their first grandchild next month. She had lost the sparkle in her eyes and she had not spoken to anyone. Her children were worried, she had been refusing life as well since he had been untimely taken away from them. And there seem to be no words to ease the pain.

They have lived their lives as a piece of each other. How do you find a way to step back into a life as you had known it alone?

To my dear Saeeda, I do not have the answers but I know that you will find life again. In spirit he will urge you on. And you will realize that love never ends. His love will make you smile again – in the vignettes of memories that you had shared, in the future that he may have missed but with you he will continue to live.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tagged Twice

The rule is: what are the things you enjoy, even when no one around you wants to go out and play. What lowers your stress/blood pressure/anxiety level? Make a list, post it to your journal… and then tag 5 friends and ask them to post it to theirs.

I've been tagged many times before but is guilty of not keeping the ball on the court. Often because I've not had the time or something else was due for blogging. This weekend Ms. Hannah tagged me and backed it up with the sweetest private email. How could anyone refuse?

So here are five things I enjoy doing with someone special but if the limitation would be unavailability of company, I can happily go solo.

1. Go to the park and watch children play. I can sit myself on a bench for hours just listening to the shrieks of laughter. This makes me forget the troubles of my own weary soul and get engulfed in each child’s play world. Then I get reacquainted with the richness of life and regain a level of optimism for the great possibilities that lie ahead.

2. Walk. It started as a motivation to get back into shape after my metabolism started to slow down and extra padding appeared everywhere. Now I enjoy the walks through Central Park, the FDR’s promenade along the East River and during the weekends, around the Reservoir which is a few blocks from my apartment.

3. Hop in the car and drive with no specific itinerary or destination.

When I it shouldn’t have to be really outside:

4. Watch DVD’s

5. Experiment in the kitchen, or what is sometimes called cooking (if it is edible).

All these are guaranteed to lower my stress level. My therapy is in shutting the rest of the chaos of the world out and then having time to think, away from the maddening crowd. When things get really crazy I go for quiet time alone and it always works. A time for silence so I can hear myself think and to clear my mind.

This came out in my MSN Space:

Three names you go by:
1. Mavic
2. Victoria
3. Mavs

Three screen names you have had:
1. m-princess
2. riverdalegurl
3. harmony

Three physical things you like about yourself:
1. color
2. my hands
3. my 'behind'

Three physical things you don't like about yourself:
1. my feet
2. my feet
3. can't think of anything else

Three parts of your heritage:
1. Malay
2. Cavitena
3. still to be determined - mwahahaha!

Three things that scare you:
1. error in judgement that would affect loved ones
2. to grow old alone
3. to lose my cool

Three of your everyday essentials:
1. camera
2. cellphone
3. lipgloss

Three of your favorite musical artists:
1. Najee
2. Buble
3. Groban

Three of your favorite songs:
1. 'The Gift' by Brickman
2. 'Mi Mancherai' by Groban
3. 'Feels so Good' by Mangione

Three things you want in a relationship:
1. humor
2. acceptance
3. comfort, calm

Three lies and truths in no particular order:
1. You're not good enough.
2. Everything in my life will be perfect if only....(fill in the blank)
3. I never lie.
1. We each determine our destiny.
2. We are a bit of everyone who we hold close to our hearts - parents, children, spouse or friends.
3. We all NEED to love and to know that we are loved (i know its mushy...)

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to you:
1. tall
2. articulate (fine...its not physical!)
3. neat
PS - there is more to a man than what is physical. Most important for me is strength, intelligence, responsibility, tenderness and the maturity to understand that you are two separate individuals with different traits.

Three of your favorite hobbies:
1. My Blog
2. Travel
3. Photography

Three things you want to do really badly now:
1. go to the beach and just sit on the sand
2. go take my masters
3. hug my daughter

Three careers you're considering/you've considered:
1. Psychologist/counselor
2. Journalist (though was briefly, in college)
3. Go work for a humanitarian mission

Three places you want to go on vacation:
1. anywhere in Italy
2. Madrid, Spain
3. Havana, Cuba

Three kid's names you like:
2. Andre
3. Tristan
4. Patricia
PS - 1. would have been Nicole but I have her already; I'll work on the 3 soon

Three things you want to do before you die:
1. Work and live abroad (doing that)
2. Fall in love and grow old with a friend
3. Write a book

Three ways that you are stereotypically female:
1. I love clothes and shoes and shopping.
2. I flirt (ALWAYS).
3. I like adventure.
4. I refuse to be a stereotypical female.

Three people I admire:
1. my dad
2. Kofi Annan
3. the late Katherine Graham (Washington Post)'re it!

Now I tag Bu, Olivia, Zarah, Vanj and Renee and ask them to post the answers to their blogs. I’d tag Jong also kaso di naman yun papa-tag eh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Googling Earth

Francis and I were on yahoo chat on Saturday night and discovered Google Earth. You can go to the site and download the software then you are on your way to jumping from city to city anywhere in the world in the comfort of your computer chair next to the popcorn bowl (ew, greasy fingers on the keyboard...kadiri ah!).

We discovered that you could zoom in close enough to Cavite City to see the roof of my parent's house and the car parked outside our gate. And talk about details... at Francis' house, the water tank was clearly visible among the trees. The new technology was so fascinating and at the same time, freaky. I mean, if you placed your 'hand' on top of the roof of my parent's house you'd be able to identify its exact longtitude/latitude location!

Cavite City with the runway of Sangley Point Airbase clearly visible.

I ended up staying up until 2AM (so, I need a life - hahaha!) jumping from city to city in the Philippines in a nostalgic frenzy. I remembered Davao and Iligan City and the many weekends I had spent there working for the old company. And then there was Cebu City (I zoomed into Plantation Bay and Shangri-La Mactan hoping I'd see me there). And then there was Mamburao Bay in Mindoro Island where we have our farm and I reminisce past summers when we spent whole days on the beach or just bingeing on the fish and lobster freshly speared from the deep by local fishermen.

Mamburao Bay in Mindoro

Google Earth can zoom in so clearly that you can see the cars in the parking lot of the Coronado Hotel in San Diego.

My Neighborhood

Zooming into New York City, if I made the software locate and pinpoint all the restaurants then the whole island just got buried in the knife and fork icon. Oh, silly me to forget that eateries, delis and restaurants almost sit side by side in the city! And that picture above is my neighborhood, the Upper East Side. For reasons of sanity, let's not pinpoint my apartment building but if you're single and you think you might be my type you can email me your picture and vital stats and maybe I can send you my exact address - hahaha! Yup, I am 4 blocks away from Central Park. And that huge mass of water there is the Reservoir where I do two full laps every morning during the weekend to keep in shape (give me my yabang points).

New York to Italy across the Atlantic - so close and yet so far

Then I tried to figure out a way to connect the dots between New York and Italy, hoping if I flew back and forth enough times on the computer I'd actually be tele-transported and find myself in Milan where hopefully someone waits for me. Until I realized he'd be on his way to another part of the world by that time...which means even Google Earth won't be able to pinpoint him because he just moves so much around.

Ah....fancy the internet and the wonders of GPS and googling everything - from myself, my blog, to everything on earth...literally!

Friday, July 08, 2005

London 7/07

On Thursday morning as I slipped out of bed I automatically clicked on the remote control for the morning news on TV. It is routine as I drag myself out of dream-mode and into day-mode, not necessarily to gear up for a work day. I froze as I stared at the images on the screen – panic on the streets of London, bloodied people emerging from the London Underground and those words uttered over and over again: terrorist bombings. Apparently, not just in one location but reminiscent of my own experience in Manila on December 2000, several bombs within the span of an hour was detonated in three subway carriages and a double-decker bus. It was meant to be carnage and nothing less.

As I listened to the monotoned narrations of correspondents clutching microphones and staring blankly onto the cameras, I got on the phone with a friend and we talked about how this would have the same fingerprints as those who had slammed two planes into the World Trade Center towers on a fine September day almost 4 years ago. But still, we talked about it like two people detached from events that was unfolding about 3,500 miles away.

At work, our international representation is predominantly European with majority coming from the UK. Although there are 8 Americans 3 are second generation Italians, Irish or of British descent; two are Scottish, three are British, one is German. Then there are the three girls including myself who are all Filipinas and then one Indian, one from Belize.

I asked around if they had family and friends accounted for in London. Generally, the reply had been yes but I forgot to ask someone. Eventually I learned towards the middle of the afternoon that he had been calling up hospitals in London in search for his brother who had boarded the train just a few minutes before the blast. And then he was never heard of again.

No one at work knew of his dilemma and he didn’t really want to make a big deal of it. He sat through his scheduled meetings bravely and when he had his breaks, dialed London from his office to continue on his search.

This morning when I arrived, I asked about our friend and realized that he had indeed been able to confirm that his brother was one of the victims of the bombing of the train at King’s Cross station. He had contacted a hospital in London at 1030 PM and was informed of his critical condition. My friend immediately traveled to JFK airport and boarded the next plane to London, leaving behind his wife whose passport has expired.

From London he called up apologizing that he won’t be able to attend some meetings he had scheduled or submit reports that were pending. Needless to say, anyone in the office would have volunteered to cover for him if not that his boss cancelled his scheduled vacation for the whole of next week to take on his duties. It was a way to try to console him and remind him that we understood that there were more pressing matters on hand that demanded his attention.

He shared that his brother had been brought in for another round of surgery to save his legs although both had already been damaged by the bombings. He was almost dead when he was found by the medics and his condition is still very fragile.

This is a young man who went into the subways with no extreme political agenda. He is just another person going through the chores that makes for a regular day to a regular person. He is special to his family and friends and a girlfriend who had seen him walk out of a room to finish some errands not expecting that he would be walking into the trappings of a mad person’s evil doings. In the same way that he is no one special, just a regular person on the street trying to live his life.

Why is this war waged on people like him? What message do these extremists need to send to the world by killing innocent people on their way to work just trying to make a living? Students just trying to get through school to live promising lives, tourists who just want to go away to see a beautiful city all become targets. What rights have they to bring the young or old or joyful lives to a halt to publicize their political agenda? What religion had empowered them to yield death’s sickle?

For the meantime my daughter worries about me endlessly. She emails me to be careful and to stay clear of the subways. Sadly, to travel from my apartment to work, both ways require boarding public transport – either the bus or the subways. I try not to worry her by hopping on the bus instead and hoping no crazed man on this day will plan to blow up my ride into pieces to validate a political or religious statement.

Friday, July 01, 2005

POETRY: distance

how do you measure distance
is it with the span of a bridge
to link one solitary land to another
or is it in the length of time
to travel from your space to mine?

is distance defined between two hearts in love
that neither wait for time
nor measures the miles?
knowing that each star from my horizon
will shine later in your night.

measure distance between two hearts if you must
by the depth of each breath
and a leap in the skipping of my heart
as your voice echoes in my mind.

in reminiscing the past
and to look forward to the next chance
when i can touch you and hold you again.

distance is soon overcome
bridged in a span
of two hearts, beating as one.

Note: I wrote this in March, 1999. Attempts at poetry....

Monday, June 27, 2005

New York's Gay Pride Parade 2005

36th Annual Pride Week Parade in NY (click on the picture for slideshow)

The crowd that stretched from Bryant Park along 5th Avenue created a street party all the way to downtown. Every year, the weather had always been most conducive - the heat and humidity allowing everyone to bare and show off their toned bodies. Almost as though everyone was oblivious to the fact that they are in the middle of the city, instead imagining that they are on the beach enjoying the season highs. I go for many reasons - the fun, I enjoy being surrounded by so many beautiful people(men, women alike) and to show support for their causes.

The first Gay Parade in New York dates back to 1969 when about 500 people gathered at Washington Square Park a month after the 'Stonewall Riots'. Annually, on the last Sunday in June, the tradition continued. These days, the celebration is now called the New York Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride March.

I grew in a society that didn't have much tolerance nor understanding for the diversity of humankind. Sometimes I blame it on the predominantly Catholic upbringing of the people that tend to divide everything to either black or white. To be accepted you had to be like everyone else and if you weren't you were either the sideshow freak or the outcast.

'Free your mind' is the slogan that caught my eye, suitably for the narrowminded whose opinions and ideas follow a one way street often absent of any self-reflection. Free your mind and realize that there is more to the world than what was there 20 or 10 years ago. Free your mind and wake up to the spectrum of colors in all hues and values and tints that surround this universe. Free your mind and accept that we as human are as diverse as each rock on the riverbeds. Free your mind and realize that non-conformity to the standards to which society had set does not make anyone a lesser individual.

Sexual preference is as varied as anything and it doesn't make one less or more moral than the other. I am a straight female whose preference had always been the straight male (European, tall, tan, young, smart and articulate being my weakness *wink*) but some of the friends I keep closest to my heart embrace diversity. I know their aches and their lives are often misunderstood, burdened with secrecy.

I believe that safe sex promotes not only good health but planned parenthood so I shake my head when people make a big deal out of a condom. I believe that same sex couples has the same capability to raise intelligent and emotionally, socially and intellectually balanced children as any other couple. I believe that couples regardless of their gender has a right to a marriage and that their choices of who they want to spend their life with should not be dictated by church or state but by heart.

That person who you find 'different' is not only a fag, a 'bakla', a 'tibo' or whatever else they are called. Remember that they are also brother, father, son, sister, mother or daughter. Remember also that they are also prime ministers, governors, senators, congressmen, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, writers, singers and most of all: like you, human.

I go to the parade yearly to bask in the joy of freedom, even for just an afternoon. I know at the end of the day, these people go back to their lives and their struggles until society becomes more understanding.