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."