Friday, March 30, 2007

Lent in Another Life

By this time, in another life, I should be looking forward to a long vacation either to our family farm in Mindoro or another beach location, just like everyone else in the country. Or more likely, I would opt to stay at my parent’s house to observe the Holy Week where we would have front and center view to the many rituals that make up the holiest week for the Catholics. Another life, of course is my life BNY – Before New York.

Predominantly Catholic, many public and private offices close on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in observance of the culmination of the Lenten season. Many people start their exodus out of the city as early as Palm Sunday weekend but the mass of humanity would fill the bus terminals, airports and seaports all through the week. Often by the morning of Maundy Thursday, Manila and Makati would literally be a ghost town. And it would be my favorite time to drive when I would zip from Makati to Cavite City in 30 minutes.

There is so much in terms of memories related to Holy Week that I take with me to New York. There is the monotonous singing of the passion of Christ emanating from the PA system of the Catholic Church a block away. Its repetitive tune would eventually drown any other music in my head and then coupled by the intense heat wave that always descends onto the country on this particular week and the unpredictability of the electric power, the last thing in my head would probably be thoughts of holiness.

Good Friday begins with a procession of about 30 to 40 men and women with their faces covered and flogging their own backs with tiles attached to a whip until their backs bled. This would often pass by the front of my parent's house where I would watch it from my bedroom window ont he second floor because I am too squeamish. Towards the back of the procession, three crosses or more are dragged on the concrete streets by robed men with covered faces. There were many stories why people self-flagellate, often for religious reasons, others as a ‘panata’ or a pledge made after a prayer is answered – often the recuperation of a very sick loved one.

By noon, there would be a staging of the last hours of Christ and culminating at three o’clock in the afternoon with his crucifixion. There was a year when our town had a grand theater presentation of the Passion of Christ and many of the main characters were played by the people in the neighborhood. To cool off from the searing weather, my family had sat by the front porch praying more for a breeze than anything else when a motorcycle rolled in front of our house and the driver, a costumed bearded actor, presumably Christ inquired about the location of the local elementary school. About 2 minutes later after he drove off, a jeep with three men, costumed as Roman soldiers stopped in front of our house and asked the same question. We found it hilarious that both Christ and his captors had gotten lost on the way to the execution and we had become part of the general programme. A few minutes later they are reunited and they walked the street in front of our house again, this time in their role as persecutor and persecuted. It became even more hilarious when we found out later that children cried after Judas had hung himself on a tree (guilty reaction to turning his back on Jesus for the price of pieces of gold). Let me explain - the actor who played the part was the man who would play clown and do tricks for kids at birthday parties so imagine their horror seeing him ‘hang himself’ as Judas. In the evening, another procession of the dead Christ marched almost noiselessly down the street.

It is weird that because 81% of its population is Catholic, there is a general conclusion that everyone observes Lent. Aside from all offices closing its doors from Thursdays, the many malls that dot the country, movie theatres, all media – press, the radio and TV, are also shut down. If you landed from another country on Good Friday it wouldn’t be difficult to come to the conclusion that the city just had been annihilated by some nuclear catastrophe. So what do people do when there is literally nothing to do? We eat. Due to the hot weather, we made halo-halo, guinumis and sago gulaman. In Cavite City, we also have a one of kind kakanin that you can add to the sago gulaman and it looks like tiny broken pieces of cooked spaghetti. They call it chin-chao.

On Easter Sunday there is another procession called the ‘salubong’. Held before dawn, there are actually two processions -one with the statue of the mourning Mother Mary and another with the risen Christ. These two processions converge in one location where an angel (usually a child hung from a rope cherubically costumed) hovers over the mother and then removes her black veil to symbolize the end of her grieving and the end of Lent.

And so everything returns to normal when the mass of humanity floods back into the city. By Monday morning, traffic once again becomes an excruciating experience, people though relieved from a long weekend of gallivanting, sunburned and relaxed would be pleasant at work for a while and then like everything else, slides back to a normal mode of whining, complaining and backbiting. The television shows come back on with the dance numbers and the gag comedies and then of course, politicians start lying and corrupting again. So what was Lent observance for?

I am sure that once upon a time Lenten observance had much more meaning to it. Perhaps in some far off province it continues to be of religious significance but with the modernization of the urban areas, in my last years in the Philippines, Lent had just become an excuse for people to get off school or work and to take a vacation.

Another tradition lost to modern times but a chance to be with family.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Brave New World

These are days when I am glad that I am no longer a new parent. I enjoy kids and have been fortunate that I had my daughter before the advent of the internet and when music with explicit lyrics were not given air time at all. Despite its extreme censureship, there had been some blessings in how the Philippines maintains a tight lid and old fashioned sense of control on media. I cannot sing enough praises that when my daughter was young it was far easier to control what she listened to and watched and that her biggest workship had only been the Hanson brothers. A big slice of her day had been to tinker and tweak her massive Barbie estate collection in quiet play which she neatly cleaned up after. Yes, people, my child is perfection right from the very start.

Last weekend, however, I had the pleasure of spending time with some friends who are new parents. I appreciated the hard work that they had to balance out whatever their four and seven year old kids picked up on the internet, the TV, the billboards or the radio. And I realized it is much harder now to be a parent. They shrug, however and said that it is hard if you get lazy and of course, it is so easy to get lazy. But you think about how they will grow up and what kind of people they will become then there is motivation to push on with the effort to talk to their children about what is right and what is wrong. Character building is a hit or miss thing, you have to get them while they are young.

I was impressed. Not so much with the children but how the parents patiently took on the role of parents as how I have known it once upon a time - as how my parents were. They are authority figures that the children did not even try to defy but at the same time, they weren't feared. Children defer to their parents out of respect and acknowledgement of authority. My friends say that they talk to them kindly but in the household the kids know who are the parents and who are the children. The parents do not attempt to be friends or chummy with them but they do converse freely about anything. It was so refreshing!

In a world where new parents have lost control of the household because the children are made to validate the major decisions, this was such a welcome idea. It is so true when my friends noted that when you get the children used to making decisions for you, you cannot turn the tables around when they reach teenagehood. So how do you enforce curfews and limit other behaviors when they are much bigger when they are used to being 'the boss' and you, the parent, are just an equal?

Kudos, Mirza and Robert Silverman! With the current baby boom among our friends, I hope more of them get the chance to enjoy the company of your wonderful kids Rachael and Joshua!!!!

Small Steps

Winter had its finale last week when on Friday it blanketed the northeast with some more of the white stuff. But the season had been relatively mild and in its most earnest effort, all it could show for it was about 6 inches of snow and in some places it didn't even stick. In the city where the snow plows were eagerly awaiting for its arriving, there was not even a chance to accumulate on some of the major thoroughfares - including the front of my building so that my only reminder that it DID snow was the playground across which remained untouched until the weekend when kids rushed in to make snow angels.
This morning I woke up to bright Sunday sunshine and the melodious cheerful chirping of a familiar bird from back home - aha!!!, a maya!!! The sparrow shivered in the nippy morning temperature (44 degrees Fahrenheit) and fluffed its feathers. Yet despite, it hopped from one bar of my fire escape floor to another, armed with a wake-up tune and somehow, it felt like he had directed it towards me.

You know that cartoon image of the pages of the calendar just flipping by quickly? Seems that has been how the year had been to me and not without much event. I have traveled home, saw my beautiful daughter finish college, returned to New York with some restlessness and as a season draws its curtain for another, I find myself looking forward to 2007 as the year when there will be major changes.

Call it part of the impetus for spring cleaning but other than organize my closet and my cupboard, I feel like this is the year when I would do a major make-over of my life.

Out with the old and in with the new has found a new meaning in my life. AGAIN.

I really love my job but sometimes I wonder if I have reached a plateau in terms of enthusiasm and my capability to continue to learn when the things I have been doing is routinary day and day out. We would often joke about it at work that our familiarity with the many facets of our responsibilities, we have come to breathe, live and sleep our work and seriously, there are days when the load is so toxic that I would have nightmares about work not finished in time or materials that have deadlines not being sent out promptly for review.

And so out of curiousity I applied for a vacancy posted in the organization's job site a few weeks ago and got called in for an interview last Thursday. I came and did pretty good and I now I am wondering how I would turn down that job offer because I realize I am not ready to pack my boxes and move out of the crazy world of construction and engineering I am involved in. In a way it was reassuring to my ego that I have continued to be marketable but I have also reconciled with the fact that I was not yet ready to leave.

And then my next makeover endeavor is a change of address. I have been living in the same apartment for the past 5 years and much as I continue to enjoy coming home to something familiar, with my daughter joining me soon, a studio is no longer an ideal living arrangement. There are few bigger apartments in the city that are affordable, however. This is Manhattan where a 100 sf studio is cheap at $1,200 (AM New York story here). I pay almost the same greenbucks for my 400 sf unit so many people tell me I have a good deal and I should just stick with it. Two bedroom apartments that are affordable are definitely not to be found in the city. There are some that are fifteen minutes away, in a place they call East New York in New jersey because it is along the Hudson with grand views of the cityscapes of Manhattan. The commute is scaring me, however, just not ready to leave the convenience that the city provides at a high cost.

Spring inspires so much and is just screaming enthusiastically for a change. Still, I think my 'out with the old and in with the new' adventures will continue but for the meantime I think I am settling down with small steps - like a change of hairstyle. My hair which is at its longest has reached the middle fo my back and this coming weekend, I am chopping it back to shoulder length. That is not a bad start, no?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where does love go?

Here I go again, asking and wondering. Where does love go after the love has gone? Where do the feelings go – those many ‘kilig’ moments brought about by the sound of his voice, when you see his face, a quiet moment when your skin brush? It can’t go away. Not when magic never goes away. It lingers, moves to another part of our life but it stays there. Perhaps it wanes and ebbs but it never ceases completely. If you give a part of yourself to someone, you cannot take it back. And when you make someone a part of your heart it is theirs forever. I assume lost love finds itself a space on the shelf where it sits awhile until the wounds are not so raw - it waits until you find the strength to let it sit back on your shoulder, and allow a chance to look back and actually smile when the memories rush back. Love never goes away. Perhaps it finds someone else – with different intensity, perhaps stronger, perhaps deeper because not two loves can be the same.

In our lifetime, many loves will pass our life. Only one will touch us with immense life-changing power. Only one will have that rare connection. Life’s greatest gift to us is to be touched by love at least once, to experience its intensity, its genuineness and its power. To want to be a better person for the love of another, to long for ways to show someone how special they are and make them feel love. Real love – unconditional, generous, insane and illogical. Beautiful.

For isn't it better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Eve

This is my friend Erin. He looks like Bono, doesn't he? He is also the lead singer for the band Echo and they will be having their last gig this Friday, 16th March, which also happens to be St. Pat's Eve.

The guy is uber talented: he writes his songs, mixes them, and sings. He also is an actor, a scripwriter and let me see... oh, he works with us in the project! On the more casual side - he barbeques, makes mean impersonations of many sinister characters including a certain 'Arthur', he is office clown and a great friend. He also is dad to Edison and roomate/hubby to Jill.

So, should you be in the lower East Side in Manhattan this Friday, hop on down to Crash Mansion at 119 Bowery (at Spring Street) and join the party. There's free vodka from 9 to 10 PM and the cover charge is only $10!

Another event on Friday night is the return of Armin Van Buuren at Pacha New York at West 46th Street so we will most likely head that way when Erin wraps up his performance. And with the weather now much milder, I mean it: LET'S PARTY!

This vid was from Echo's gig last year...enjoy!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Email: Seeking a Wall

Got this on email today and it really cracked me up. To those of you I never got the chance to forward it to (you're not in my contact list?), enjoy!

I love my work!!!
............I am happy here
................ I love my colleagues
...................... I have a great job
...........................I am not here for the money
..............................I wake up everyday and look forward to this
..................You can't make this up.
PS: I do really love my job (and you would too, if you knew what I do! This was actually forwarded to all of us by one of the bosses - how cool is that???)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Music: Loving Hate

Cool song, simple lyrics. Fun, too when you're just getting too much of the intolerable.

They also have a page at myspace.

I Hate Everyone lyrics

Some stupid chick in the check out line
Was paying for beers with nickels and dimes
And some old man had clipped coupons
And argued whenever they wouldn’t take one.
All I wanted to buy was some cigarettes.
But I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left.
I hate everyone, I hate everyone
I hate everyone, I hate everyone.

All the people on the street,
I hate you all.
And the people that I meet.
I hate you all.
And the people that I know.
I hate you all.
And the people that I don’t.
I hate you all.
Oh, I hate you all!

Some fucking asshole just cut me off
And gave me the finger when I fucking honked
Then he proceeded to put on the brakes
He slammed on the brakes, but I made a mistake
When I climbed out of my van he was waiting.
But he was six three and two hundred pounds of Satan.
I hate everyone, I hate everyone
I hate everyone, I hate everyone.

I bet you think I’m kidding.
But I promise you it’s true.
I hate most everybody.
But most of all,
I hate you.

And the people in the East,
I hate you all.
And the people I hate least
I hate you all.
And the people in the West.
I hate you all.
And the people I like best.
Oh, I hate you all.

And once more with feeling..... hehehehe...