"I don't care what my teachers say, I'm gonna be a superhero." Here I go again, singing the wrong words. Earlier today, I chanced upon a blog entry about five super powers one might wish for, and it reminded me of this photo of me and my husband taken last March. We had ordered these snuggies on Amazon, and were silly enough to put them on and agree to be photographed wearing them. For a few minutes he was Batman and I was Wonder Woman... I'm glad to be back to being just Superwifey to my Superhubby.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
My husband recently joined the blogging bandwagon. He was never into blogging, blaming dyslexia for all his spelling errors. When I read what he wrote, though, I was so touched because of the sincerity of his piece, sincerity that people so concerned with structure, and grammar, and sounding witty seem to have already lost.
I find myself guilty of that sometimes. At times I tell myself to use big words so that people will know I'm smart. The ability to use big words means one thing and one thing only, you know how to read the dictionary, or even worse, right-click on a word on the Word program and look for its synonym. I recently came across a video that my friend Anne shared on Facebook. It is a video about language and the grammar Nazis who can't seem to get with the program when it comes to language evolution. It was made by the English actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry. I just might post it here, if I can figure out how to do it.
Yesterday, a friend of mine told me she'd written something that she wanted to share on Facebook. She had wanted me to check the grammar first, before posting it, but we had never had the chance to talk. I told her that it didn't really matter because her Facebook friends would not be nitpicking her sentence construction and grammar. They would just appreciate the meat of the message.
There is a proper time to be grammatically correct. Even Stephen Fry thinks so. I can't help but be grammatically wrong sometimes because I am not a native English speaker, and that's okay. To use the wrong preposition, or to say "there's lots of...", I find totally forgivable. I wish we were this strict in implementing Filipino grammar rules. But I feel like some of us are proud that we can't speak Filipino properly. As if there's a stigma attached to the ability of speaking the local tongue. How unfortunate.
Ayayay. Let's bother with grammar when we need to. Until then, let's sewerage the whole freaking Philippines, for God's sake!
My dad, and the three chefs haha. My brother and his friends were thoughtful enough to cook lunch for us.
My brother Jun, Myq and Budoy
Mom and my sister Grace
My brother's girlfriend Anne and Myqee
It's always great to spend with family, and the fact that we don't get to do it often makes me appreciate moments like these even more.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
When my father’s air miles were about to expire in June 2012, my mother and I decided that it was time for us to continue our exploration of the Philippines, which was brought to a halt in 2010, when for our yearly family trip , we opted to go to Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: because my nephew had not been to the Universal Studios there; Malaysia: because my family had not been there. In 2011, the cheap air fare to Hong Kong convinced us to pack our bags and to head there, putting Palawan, in the back burner of our travel plans yet again. But I had been dreaming of visiting Palawan for years. I had seen pictures of its glorious beaches, rich flora and fauna, and breath-taking natural wonders like the subterranean river, which was recently officially declared as one of the seven wonders of nature. This time, we were not going to pass up the opportunity. It had been decided then. We were going to Palawan. It is, indeed, more fun in the Philippines anyway, right?
My mother and I immediately turned to the internet for a much-needed consultation; comparing hotel rates, reading reviews. We checked out this one hotel that is supposedly located at the beach front, but the room rates were not local tourist-friendly. We chanced upon a pension house called Casitas de Az, the location of which, like the other hotels and pension houses, was described in reference to the airport. We looked at the pictures and we were satisfied. I clicked the Book Now button, printed the confirmation page, and waited five long months for the day of our flight to arrive.
We had booked an early morning flight, which meant waking up in an ungodly hour and worrying about potential stomach problems, thereby prompting me to take nothing but coffee before we left the house. When we arrived at the airport, the queue at the check-in counter was still short, which elicited no complaining sighs from my father. After paying the airport tax, which I wish to God would finally be included in the airfare, we all had to go through one final security checkpoint. My father’s bag was submitted to a not-so-random check, as security officers saw “something” inside that he should not have brought with him. It turned out he unknowingly packed a one-dollar pocket knife with a compass that he had bought in Hong Kong last year. He ended up giving it up, which I thought was the only option at the time, anyway.
The stretch that led from the security checkpoint to the boarding gates was lined with shops and restaurants that enticed travellers to buy that oh-so-expensive pair of shades, or that unreasonably priced cup of coffee. The gate was basically rows of uncushioned seats that made one long for the heated toilet seats of Korea. The culprit: the air conditioner on steroids that kept blasting the unsuspecting passengers with frigid air.
Finally, we were called to board the airplane. But of course, the airplane was not exactly there. We rode a bus that took us to the airplane that was parked not so far from the airport. In less than an hour we were airborne, and the flight attendants were serving coffee, crackers and peanuts. I guess the best and only way I would like to describe a flight is uneventful. And our flight was indeed that, thank God. No delay, no accidents, no emergency landing, and most importantly, no dancing flight attendants. In less than an hour, the plane was making its final approach at the Puerto Princesa airport.
We arrived in Puerto Princesa at 7:30 A.M. The sun was still its tame version, with its rays kissing you just so. Since ours was the only plane that had just arrived, it didn’t take long before we got our luggage. Outside the airport a long string of tricycles was waiting for passengers who had no choice but to experience the ride to their respective hotels, al fresco. There were a few hotel-owned vans there, but since we had not informed anyone of our arrival, tricycles would have to do. The ride from airport to the pension house was not even ten minutes long. As we were driving down the driveway that led to the pension house, I looked at the surroundings suspiciously. My standards when it comes to accommodations are pretty low, but I could not say the same for my father. At the end of the driveway was the office/lobby. To the left was a two-storey building being constructed. On the right were the rooms, arranged in a U shape with a fountain, a small fish pond, and a patch of land covered in well-manicured grass in the middle. Comical-looking snakes, plants and other garden ornaments adorned the area. A very pleasant young man helped us with our bags, and inside the office we met Shana, another helpful and uber-efficient hotel staff who booked three different tours for us that same day.
I was beginning to let my guard down, shedding my guarded tourist persona, the only I always use when I travel. Could the people of Palawan be different? Could they actually be…nice? I have been to places where people deliberately lie, cheat and steal from you. I only need to go to the shadier part of my city and be taken advantage of. I walk clutching my bag close to my chest. I’m used to being wary all the time. Somehow it felt different in Puerto Princesa. But of course it was our first day. Things could still change dramatically.
Since we arrived rather early, we decided to start with the Honda Bay island hopping tour. Shana arranged our transportation to and from Honda Bay. From there we shared a boat with nine other people. I am most definitely not a beach person. Give me a sweater and a coat and stick me in a city in the middle of autumn and I’ll be happy. But I love taking pictures, and I had seen wonderful pictures of Palawan on the internet, so the thought of taking countless photos excited me. Our first stop was Pandan Island. Our boat docked far from the swimming area, near the bar and grill that offered a variety of grilled dishes from squid as big as a plate, to juicy liempo, to the freshest samaral. There are other places on the island that sold sea urchins, mantis shrimps, and fresh coconuts straight from the tree. Among the three stops, this was the only one where we could order food so we took advantage of the opportunity.
After we headed to the swimming area which was cordoned off so people knew where it was safe to swim and where it was not. My father, my brother and my husband went for a dip in the pleasantly warm water, while my mother and I contended ourselves with just getting our feet wet. The fine sand started filling my holey Speedo shoes but the discomfort was bearable. I looked around and I felt blessed that we were enjoying such lovely weather. I was a hot and sticky day, with the sun’s rays in full blast. It felt like we were in the middle of summer when, in fact, it was the start of November. When the sun got too hot, my mother and I took refuge in the shade under the tree in front of a bamboo cottage. We sat there, taking pictures, talking and laughing about silly things. At ten to two, we all went back to the bar and grill and met with the rest of the group. And then we were off to the next island.
The first thing I noticed as we approached the next island were the ruins the seemed like a reincarnation of Stonehenge, but with reinforcement bars sticking out. I wondered what the structure could have been, or what it would have been. The island which is called Starfish Island, was surrounded by mangroves, which added more character and depth to it. There were structures that housed a cluster of tables and benches where tourists could take refuge from the angry sun. One of the islands main attractions is an enormous bamboo picture frame to which photo-hungry tourists flocked, taking turns in having their pictures taken, with the calming background of the sea and mountains patiently waiting until sundown. None of us dared to swim for the sun’s rays were at their strongest, scalding anyone that dared get in their way. My husband, however, did not care. He went around the island and into the mangroves, armed only with his smart phone, clicking away, photographing the island from every possible angle. Our stop there was understandably brief; long enough to take pictures, visit the restroom, and get ready for the next stop, which surprisingly was not an island but a manmade floating reef in the middle of the sea: the Pambato reef, a joint project of the local government and ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bantay-Kalikasan.
I was impressed by the idea of making things more convenient and safer for the tourists, but more than the tourists’ welfare, the welfare of the corals and wildlife remain their top priority. Here, everyone was required to wear their life vests, and those who could not swim ventured out in groups with a guide and an orange flotation device. Our stay there was cut short because we had arrived late. So after about thirty minutes, our group was getting ready to leave to go back to Honda Bay. Not long after, we were in the van on our way back to the pension house.
By the time we got to the pension house we were spent. We had been up since 2:30 A.M. and had gone non-stop ever since. But it was nothing a shower could not remedy. By six-thirty my mother, my brother and I were outside yet again, waiting for a tricycle to take us to any restaurant. At this point, the thought of Jollibee’s Chicken Joy was eliciting in me the same effect that foie gras would under normal circumstances.
We did not have to wait long before a passengerless tricycle with the word Barracuda written on it headed our way. On the seat was a big plastic bag of rice which, we found out later, our driver was supposed to drop off at his house before he saw us standing by the side of the road. He asked if it would okay with us if we passed by his house which was not even twenty meters away. We acquiesced, and soon after he was already telling us about his day. He said their church (Jehovah’s Witnesses) had organized a convention in Puerto Princesa, and being an active member, he had to be there. That meant he could only work at night, and the reason why he was working this particular night was so he could buy rice for his family. We asked him where we could go to buy dinner for the three of us and the two that were left in the pension house. Any restaurant would do, but our driver suggested that we try a local restaurant famous for its Bird’s Nest soup: Balinsasayaw Chicken Grill and Restaurant on Rizal Avenue. When we got there, our driver offered to wait for us, which meant we did not have to worry about finding a tricycle that would take us back to the pension house. Not that it would ever be a problem.
We ordered our food to go, and an hour or so after we had left the pension house, we were back, paying the courteous driver, and saying our” thank yous”. My mother went straight to the room that she shared with my father, while my brother and I went to our room. We knocked at the door but my husband did not respond. I tried to call him, but his phone was out of service. My brother asked one of the guards for a spare key which he produced in a matter of minutes. Inside, we found my husband fast asleep. I had to do more than tap him on the shoulder before I was able to elicit some form of response from him. He was dead to the world, and he said he’d rather sleep than eat.
The food was nothing extraordinary. The ingredients seemed fresh enough, but the serving was too small. The soup was, to me, like flavorless goo – a definite let-down, considering it was supposedly one of their specialities. the chicken barbecue was not unlike others I had had before. The grilled tuna was bland, but the squid sisig was phenomenal. The squid, cut into tiny cubes, was tender, and the sauce creamy and filled with chives. It was definitely one of best sisig variety I have ever tasted. After dinner, I watched a little TV and tried my darnedest to keep my eyes open. But it had been a long day, and my tired mind and body had to rest.
Friday, June 21, 2013
I am deeply saddened by his death, although I know that now he doesn't have to suffer anymore. He was in so much pain, since the cancer had already spread to his bones. But he bore his pain with so much grace and dignity.
When I saw him last March, he was always in high spirits. He never uttered anything negative about his illness, or about anyone. He was happy in the company of his favorite teleserye characters, the ones that he would watch on ABS-CBN's The Filipino Channel.
On Sundays we would drive to church, as he still insisted on going, even though he knew God would understand his absence. Every week, a deacon from St. Christopher's Church, his parish, would go to his house to give him communion. God bless that deacon; his rewards are waiting for him in heaven.
I consider myself lucky, having had the chance to spend three weeks with him just this summer. I am sure he had a smile on his lips when he found out for certain that he was finally going to meet his Maker.
I remember sitting at the dining table with him when he said to me, "Who doesn't want to live? I still want to live. But if I die now, I would consider death the greatest blessing from God."
Thursday, June 20, 2013
My husband kayaking - Paradise Island
Silhouette - Samal Island
Masks - Ponce Suites, Davao
Delicious burger from Gino's Boom Burger. Yummy!
Klia River, Sunset - Kota Kinabalu
Woman on the beach, Sapi Island
Sapi Island, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Lobster with lemon butter sauce
Photo taken from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Nail_Clippers.jpg
There are many things in life that I treasure. I love eating good food, hanging out with my friends, going to the movies with my husband, and traveling with my family. A guilty pleasure would be looking at pictures of expensive bags on Facebook and Instagram, drooling over things I could never afford, and perhaps, things I wouldn't buy even if I could afford them.
Who doesn't like having nice stuff? Who doesn't want to be filthy rich? We need money - that's a fact of life. But we only need it up to a certain point.
My husband and I watched Man of Steel a few days ago, and one of the scenes that touched me the most is the one where Clark's mother, after her house has been destroyed, gathers all the pictures she can find. She tells Clark that everything else can be replaced.
All material things can be replaced. But memories are sometimes more precious than gold.
A few months ago, my family and I went to the US to visit my uncle who has cancer. When we were there, my mother cooked for him and washed his clothes, since he could no longer do it himself. I remember us picking oranges from the tree in the backyard, and squeezing them so he'd have fresh orange juice. But the thing that I will never forget about that trip is when he asked me to clip his nails. I was happy to be able to do it for him, and thinking about it now chokes me up a little.
I know that we all know money isn't everything. I just feel like sometimes we tend to forget.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Thesis writing - It is a necessary evil - something all graduate students have to do.
Last month, I enrolled in Thesis Writing 1, confident that I had the perfect topic in mind. Being a Creative Writing major, I have to write a creative thesis, and up until two weeks ago, I was so sure that I would write a work of fiction - maybe a few short stories (poetry was out of the question.)
And then I realized that I already had the perfect story in mind - my story. The one I'd written in Creative Non-Fiction class. And then I went ahead and reread my work - something I wrote three years ago. Oh my! It was so bad, the only way I could salvage it would be to delete the whole thing and start over.
Calling on the Holy Spirit for inspiration. I haven't even begun yet, and I already feel like I'm running out of words.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
It was after lunch when my phone rang. My friend's frantic voice told me her father had been found on the couch, unconscious. He had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and that she was headed there with her younger brother.
Less than an hour later, we were all gathered in the hospital's emergency room. My friend was crying. Her father had died of a heart attack. His third. Her elder brother had rushed to go home to retrieve their father's wallet. It contained his senior citizen's card, which entitled him to a 20% discount at the hospital.
My friend's brother arrived moments later, eyes bloodshot, hair disheveled. He handed her a tan leather wallet, the very same one my friend had bought in Florence the year before. She cried, as she held the wallet close to her. Her father loved her, and she knew it.
The wallet contained some paper bills and plastic cards. A typical wallet, if you ask me. My friend immediately looked for the senior citizen's card. She found more than what she was looking for.
My friend found herself staring back at her. Tucked in one of the wallet's compartments were pictures of her and her siblings. Her father loved them, and they knew it. She cried again, this time comforted by her father's love. I cried with her, because I had been witness to that love.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Perhaps the scariest thing I have ever done (to date) was to revisit a manuscript I had written years ago. I used to maintain a blog, mostly for family and friends, and was told that I could write. So armed with a newfound confidence, I ventured into creative writing, convinced that I would sell the manuscript right away. Why wouldn't they be interested in me? I was funny and witty which, I thought translated to my protagonist's sense of humor, charm and wit.
After finishing writing the manuscript, I sent it to two publishing houses, one in Manila, and one abroad. At around the same time, I started attending graduate school, with the prodding of my sister. She had told me that if I really wanted to write, then I should study how to write.
This was four years ago, and just yesterday, I finished rewriting the very same manuscript that I had submitted to the publishers. The whole process was horrifying, as my original work read like a work of horror. What happened? And then I realized something... My character was me. Bitter, overweight, loveless, (at the time), old me. I didn't know how to separate myself from my character, perhaps a blunder that neophyte writers often commit. Also, there was no plot (something one of my professors told me after she had read the first few chapters, which kind of bruised my ego, but then I moved on). I had written pages upon pages of detailed descriptions of characters and what they are going through, explaining why they behave a certain way.
Thank God for people who critique your work for free. Thank you, Ma'am Jing. Thank you, Ms. Ines.
Yesterday I sent the revised manuscript to Ms. Ines of Summit Media. She has already replied and says she is looking forward to reading it.
After four years, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
As a Facebook shout out, I posted about a week ago, that I realized how immaterial material possessions were; that people remember a dead loved one's big heart, rather than his big bank account; that we touch people through kindness, and not by showering them with gifts. It wasn't much of a eureka type of realization. It was something I had known all along. But like everyone else, I forget such things in the comfort of stillness; when the calm waters of life make us forget that at anytime strong currents could come and topple us. This blog entry will be short, as life is short. I pray that I never take for granted that I still wake up in the morning and breathe a deep and satisfying breath.