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Songs for Sundays

2 Oct

Some blogs have Wordless Wednesdays (or other weekdays), where images speak instead of words. I have Songs for Sundays (because, really, isn’t music the universal language? 🙂 )

This isn’t a new song; in fact, it’s been around for years — but I love it on several levels, all of which speak volumes about the culture of my people: the way faith plays a huge part in our lives, the penchant for song and dance, and the celebratory, joyful spirit that pervades our 700+ islands no matter what trials and tribulations come our way.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do… and have a wonderful Sunday, my friends!

7 Lessons Learned from the 70s

21 Oct

I will, at the risk of revealing certain factors that may make it possible for you to guess my age group, admit to being a child of the Seventies, and loving every moment of it. A decade like no other before or after it (yet), the 70s espoused the wild and carefree spirit that the 50s didn’t have, but was less rebellious than the 60s and less daringly anti-establishment than the 80s and the 90s. The 70s were the perfect decade for coming of age (possibly not a very objective view, considering that they were, after all, the years that I grew up in), but I will dare to venture that proof of this fact lies in the vivid recall of memories of anyone who was a child in the era of America, Bee Gees, and James Taylor.

(And for total ambience: America’s Ventura Highway, folks!)

 

The 70s taught me a lot about life and love, and the lessons are inextricably intertwined with childhood memories. Allow me to share both–the memories and the wisdom–of those wonderful years with you.

Lesson 1 – Follow, Fella

When I was about 6 years old, my paternal grandparents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and, because we had the house with the largest space, ours was chosen as the venue for the big party. Great excitement filled the air as household help prepared the place (and hired men butchered numerous chickens in my first exposure to real-life gore). We had a jungle-gym of sorts in our backyard, and at six in the evening of the big party, I was still busy turning somersaults, my hands holding on to the bars of the gym while I threw my legs up in the air and left my head suspended midway like an astronaut in zero gravity. My mom told me to stop playing as it was time to get ready for the party and performance–oh yes (groan), who kid didn’t get asked to perform for relatives back then? I decided I could afford to do just one more somersault before going inside, so I did–and promptly hit my face on a rock whose existence on the ground I hadn’t even noticed until it caused me to see stars before my eyes. Wonderful: more real-life gore, on me this time, and a bad gash on my face which registered in all the photos of the grand event.

Lesson learned: Listen to your parents because they really do know more than you do. And obey. Immediately. (I have the scar to prove the importance of this lesson).

blog-retroLesson 2: Dance in the Rain

These days, when a little rain falls, many children will easily be seen in thick plastic raincoats, shielded additionally by umbrellas carried by their loving nannies. It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 70s, my brother (who’s two years older than me and therefore, by default, my partner in many crimes) and I would wait till the heavens poured down water in torrents and then we would gleefully grab our towels, shampoo bottles, soap bars, and run. In the wide expanse of our backyard we would dance and play and yes, take a full bath in the rain! Fully clothed. With mud stuck to our legs. Boy, it was a load of fun. Today I still try to get my kids to attempt this, just to experience the utter joy of feeling raindrops on their faces and arms, but they look at me with a mixture of doubt and amusement. (And then I almost see the thought-bubble forming in their minds: “Ah, mom–she is so charmingly nuts!”)

Lesson learned: Take time to frolic in the rain–or in the sunshine, for that matter. Happiness is a decision. It certainly doesn’t cost much, and it can be found in the simplest of things.

Lesson 3 – Fly Like the Wind

As a child I loved spending weekends at my cousin’s house. There was a park nearby, with great big mango trees that were perfect for climbing, and we would sit on the thick branches and contemplate deeply on the answers to some of life’s most troubling questions, such as which flavor of ice cream should we buy, and should we buy it now or later on? There was a big swing set, a serious one, nothing like the unremarkable Little Tykes plastic ones all over the place nowadays. No sir, these swings were made with wooden seats and real metal chains that squeaked as you pedaled with gusto. Unbeknownst to my mom and dad, I would pump my legs on those swings, trying to reach the sky, pedaling harder and stronger and faster, till I reached the point were the swing seat was almost parallel with the top of the swing bar. Then, at that point of greatest height, I would let go, push off, and soar through the air, landing on the grass feet first.

It’s a miracle I broke no bones. But in my 41 years of life, few things have topped the exhilaration of flying through the air.

Lesson Learned: Be fearless (within reasonable limits, of course. We’re talking about launching from swings here, not from roofs of houses). Dare to push the envelope. Don’t be afraid to fly. You may just discover talents you never dreamed were hiding inside you.

patinteroLesson Four:  A Little Dirt Never Hurt

We would start right after the requisite one-hour-rest-after-lunch (“or you’ll get appendicitis if you run around right after eating,” warned my grandma each time, like the broken ’45s that played on the turntables back then). We would end our playtime only when the sun threatened to set, our backs wet (no cloth diaper corners hanging out of our shirts because we never used diapers past the age of 8 months, much less on our backs!), our faces and hands grimy from a whole afternoon of Tumbang Preso or Patintero. When there were no neighbors to play with, I would “cook” leaves and sticks with mud in clay pots over coal. And I could do this all summer long with never a single whine about being bored.

Lesson Learned: Go outside. Get your hands dirty. Experience life with all your senses. There is no substitute for playing in the sunshine, sweat trickling down the side of your cheeks. (You don’t just give your muscles a workout, you also learn what it’s like to win and lose with grace).

Lesson Five: Of Canals and Combantrin

A cousin of mine and I always wanted a swimming pool. We didn’t have one in our house. So one hot day, we decided to take our wishes into our hands and pronounced the kanal outside the gate as a pretty good substitute. (Our kanals, as opposed to “canals”–which are large waterways–were about a meter wide and were meant to serve as sewage waterways… you can see where this is going). So into the kanal we jumped and splashed around, not minding the green moss floating but being careful not to dip our heads and open our eyes in the knee-deep water. Our older brothers and sisters mocked us, but we laughed right back in their faces and said they were missing out on the best thing… till something that did not belong in a swimming pool came bobbing by. We scrambled out just as my mom came around, her eyes wide open with mixed amounts of worry and anger. She made us take a bath in alcohol and water, and then made us drink 2 bottles each of Combantrin (I swear I can still taste that sticky deworming syrup).

Lesson Learned: Sometimes you’ll be ashamed of certain things you’ve done. But you’ll live through it, don’t worry. What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. And one day you’ll laugh about it. And if you were lucky enough to learn something from it, you’ll have even more than just a funny story to pass on.

70s-ugaldewLesson Six: Humor Is Never Overrated

My brother would get his kicks from teasing me and mispronouncing my already-difficult-to-pronounce full first name. I would get back by sneaking close while he was building a tower with several decks of cards and happen to get an uncontrollable urge to sneeze right when he’d be putting the last few cards at the top (thereby sending cards flying in all directions). No matter how we annoyed each other, we continued to play together and have the time of our lives. Our guiding principle back then–to which we still subscribe today–was Picon, talo (“He who gets upset, loses”).

Lesson Learned: When things irk you, you either laugh at yourself, or you learn to dish it out in a spirit of fun as well. Life’s too short to spend wallowing with a morose face in a pool of gloom.

Lesson Seven: Beware the Bangaw and the ‘Bao

Every morning, my father would wake up the six of us, children, at the crack of dawn so that we could walk to Mass at a convent a carabaoblock away from our home. We kids would trudge along the street, half-asleep, but not for long. See, walking with half-lidded eyes could only result in falling prey to one of two risks: (a) planting your feet deeply into squishy, warm fertilizer material freshly laid by the herd of carabaos that just passed by on their way to the grazing fields, or (b) walking headlong into a sleeping large fly (aka bangaw), your eyes flicking wide open at the instant you realize you’d been hit dead-center on your forehead. And that’s if you’re lucky, because if you had otherwise happened to have your mouth slightly open, there’d be at least a 98% probability that the offending large fly would sleepwalk straight into your throat, causing you to sputter in disgust, all sleep forgotten by your now-revolting body.

Today my father no longer wakes us early in the morning but he, my sisters and brothers, and I still find ourselves attending Mass regularly, some even daily, in our own respective parts of the world.

Lesson Learned: Old habits die hard. So make sure you establish really good ones while you’re young, especially if these habits have something to do with being physically and spiritually healthy and peaceful.

The Gift of the 70s: The Four F’s – Essentials in Life

Taken all together, the best gift of the 70s era for me was my discovering that there are really only four essentials for living a full and happy life: Faith, Family and Friends, and Funniness (i.e., a great sense of humor). You can have all the money and possessions in the world, but none of that can ever come close in value to the joy and fulfillment and gifts brought by the Four F’s.

So whatever decade you grew up in, or are presently growing up in, I wish you all the best of the 70s lessons, and may you be blessed with the Four F’s in your life.

NOTE:

* This was published in my ParenTTalk column, October edition of The Glimpse.

Credits for Images:

  • RetroMovies image by saine @ stockexchange.com
  • Cassette image by ugaldew @ stockexchange.com
  • Carabao image from tiger.towson.edu
  • Patintero image by Orville Tiamson for ForexWorld Artwork.

Magtanim ay di biro

20 Apr

The English version of this Filipino song goes, “Planting rice is never fun…”

It’s a song that tells about the difficulties of the life of a farmer, how one has to bend over the entire day, with no time to sit and no time to stand. And then it goes on to summon the listener to join in, to keep the industrious spirit alive, to continue the hard work in the hopes of securing a brighter future. Wonderful how the song reflects the positive, hopeful mentality of the Filipino.

Somehow, though, the true heart and emotion of the statement, sadly, gets lost in translation (boy, did that movie get the whole concept right in that three-word phrase!)

So. I love taking shots of farmers at work in the fields. Because the Philippines is primarily an agricultural country (“despite plans to turn it into an industrialized economy by 2000” ), it’s pretty safe to say that farmers constitute a huge part of the images that come into my mind when I think nationalistic thoughts.  Plus there is something so humbling about seeing these men and women working hard to give us the most basic of our needs.

I remember in my first year at the state university, I had a teacher named Judy Ick for English 2. I will never forget her, not just because she gave me my very first grade of 1.0 (though yeah, that added to her unforgettable quotient), but mainly because she was totally cool. Back in the early 80s when teachers wore proper 2-inches-below-the-knee skirts and tailored tops, Judy came to our classes in the mini-est of mini skirts and razor-cut hair, shorter on one side than the other, chewing gum, smoking a cigarette, and holding a can of Coke. She was the epitome of cool to the young teenagers that we were. And when the EDSA Revolution broke out, she held our classes underneath the trees in the university’s fields across Palma Hall. And best of all, she was smart.

So how does all that relate to farmers?

See, a group of friends and I–there must have been 6 or 7 of us–heady with the youngsters’ typical bloated sense of freedom that comes from knowing you have certain advantages in college that you didn’t have in high school, decided to make use of that wonderful freedom to absent ourselves from class via the “free cut” route. We stayed in the one sorry cafeteria then, called CASAA (what it stands for, I cannot recall anymore, although I always got a kick out of pronouncing the double-A ending because it sounded so much like the then-famous weatherman’s way of saying PAG-ASA. And this, I do remember, stands for Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, & Astronomical Services Administration. Phew, what a mouthful!).

So there we were, with our arms splayed out on the caf tables, chattering away and playing Pusoy Dos (poker, Philippine-style), when we really should’ve been in our English class. Just our luck… twenty minutes into class time, who came into CASAA looking to buy  her regular can of Coke to go with the mint gum in her mouth?

I can still recall with 100% clarity how she looked standing there, staring at us, mouth agape. Wordlessly, she turned around, Coke can in hand, and marched off.

And we? We were as red-faced as overripe tomatoes, guilty beyond doubt. A flurry of debate followed:

– Should we tail her and attend class?

– No, what for? She already caught us cutting her class!

– But it’s worse to continue to sit here and play while we know that she knows we’re throwing her class away for a bunch of cards.

In the end we decided to follow her. In shame. And because we were a bunch of loonies, we bought brown paper bags for each of us, cut holes in them for our eyes, and wore them over our heads as we marched back to our classroom in a line. (And yes, the brown bags were meant to charm Judy Ick with a bit of humor. They worked. :D)

When we came in, she was giving a firm-sounding lecture to the entire class, and paused just a second before she said, “See? Here they are! These are the guilty ones I was telling you about!”

But because the brown paper bags worked their charm, she softened up and ended her reproach with these words of wisdom that I have carried with me throughout the years (and yes, I’ve told them to my sons over and over again).

She said:

You have to remember: when you study in this state university and you cut classes, you are not just wasting your parents’ money. You are wasting the money of Juan, Pedro, and Tomas, and all the other farmers who work long hours in the fields from morning till night, toiling under the heat of the sun, never stopping even when the rain pours down, just so that they can earn enough to send YOU to school while their own children sit in their homes, unable to attend school themselves.

(At that time, tuition in our university was largely subsidized by the government, and we had to pay a very very very small fee to add to it).

Oh yeah. It was the perfect guilt-trip laid on us. And it worked. I never cut another Judy Ick class again.

And I think I’ve loved farmers ever since.

dsc_0706-liveimages_magtanim

*photo taken on the road during our trip to the mountains last week* more photos coming soon 😀 *

Hopping off the Roller Coaster

27 Mar

This is pretty much what I looked like the entire month of March:

scaryride_sundstrom-sxc4

… and what a ride it’s been!

I have two sons graduating this month and embarking on new journeys: one is going on to university (can you believe it? Am I feeling the creak in my bones? Uhm… yeah. 😆 ) and one is going on to high school. Of course we are incredibly proud of them and we celebrate this additional feather on each son’s cap. Never mind if that means that there are a ton of only-in-March obligations to attend to (all school-related: baccalaureate masses, enrolment in the new schools, buying new outfits, getting the required medical and dental sheets filled up by the pedia and dentist, attending all these “no, they are not optional” parents’ meetings which are included in the acceptance requirements of the new schools… and wait, I’m not even half done, but let’s end it there before you doze off).

But hey, that’s not too much to attend to, right? So let’s throw in a number of family reunions (ah, now we’re talking really happy stuff!)  My darling brother, two years older than me, whom I have not seen in almost 10 years, finally came home with his family for a couple of weeks, and because there’s just so little time before he has to fly back, naturally we’ve been trying to get together as often as we can. My aunt, whom I haven’t seen in just a little less than the time I haven’t seen my brother, also came home with my cousin, so it was just totally wonderful to get together with family this month. (The only thing I regret about my brother coming home is that I just know I’m going to miss him and his family soooo much when he flies back in a week’s time. >sniff<)

Since in my family I have the most kids, and most kids = most home space, it was decided by majority (we’re a democratic family 😉 ) that the reunion dinner be held in my home. I love having visitors over. I love having family over. I love having friends over. I love having company over. I love hosting dinners, impromptu or planned.

But wait. Did I mention that our home is currently undergoing *major* renovation?

😆

So. That’s why I’ve been absent for such a long time. I received your sweet, sweet emails and notes, my dearest friends, asking why I’ve been quiet… I am so grateful for the hugs you sent my way and so moved by your sweet concern, and I am so so sorry for having been unbelievably remiss in keeping up with my new year’s resolutions. (Yep, No. 5 – I will blog at least 3 times a week. I am so pathetically behind. Tsk tsk.)

Lots to catch up on.

Home on the Range

… or should I say Range in the Home?

Remember the photo of the undone kitchen some time back? Well, work on it is finally done. (Yay! Score 1 for the rooms in the home!)

dsc_0097-kitchen

The kiddos’ room is also done. Score 2 for the rooms in the home!

stitchedroom

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Finally found another use for all those beloved (accumulated) figures. dsc_0095_shelf

Monsters, Inc., anyone? 😆
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None of the other rooms in the house are completely done yet, so this is all I’ve got on the homefront for now. 😛

This Week’s Funny

Preface: We walk around our home in bare feet because we’ve got wooden floors, and  then there’s the fact that the kids (and I) will jump at any excuse to walk without shoes 😆

So a couple of days ago, I was feverishly working on my latest kit while my newly-7-year-old J and my soon-to-be-5 S were sitting on the floor of my bedroom a couple of feet away, playing with toys together with their nanny.

Suddenly, J half-screamed in shock and distress: “AAAACK! Mama! Yaya’s feet are bleeeeding!”

I turned around and said, “Whaaaaat?”

Yaya (their nanny) was totally calm, and with a very embarrassed look on her face, she whispered (loud enough for me to hear): “That’s nail polish. I polished my toes.”

Without missing a beat, S ran to me, anguish written all over his face: “Mama! She punished her toes!”

Hmmm.

This is probably the biggest disadvantage of having a mom who keeps her fingernails and toenails short and unpolished. My poor boys have absolutely no exposure to such feminine toys of vanity. hehehe. (Seriously though? I can’t grow my nails simply because I find they get into the way of everything I love doing: working on my compy, taking photos and changing lenses, holding my kids’ hands without fear of scratching them accidentally, giving my scalp a good massage as I shampoo my hair… ya know, those kinds of things. 😆 )

Humor and Cuisine, Filipino Style

Two things that are very basic Filipino food fare: adobo and puto (though not necessarily eaten together).

Wikipedia says this about adobo:

In Filipino cuisine, adobo refers to a common and very popular cooking process indigenous to the Philippines.

When Spanish colonizers first took administration over the Philippines in the late 1500s and early 1600s, they encountered an indigenous cooking process which involved stewing with vinegar, which they then referred to as “adobo,” which is the Spanish word for seasoning or marinade. Dishes prepared in this manner eventually came to be known by this name, with the original term for the dish now lost to history.

Thus, the adobo dish and cooking process in Filipino cuisine and the general description “adobo” in Spanish cuisine share similar characteristics, but in fact refer to different things with different cultural roots. While Philippine adobo can be considered adobo – a marinated dish – in the Spanish sense, the Philippine usage is much more specific.

Typically, pork or chicken, or a combination of both, is slowly cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns, and often browned in the oven or pan-fried afterward to get the desirable crisped edges. This dish originates from the northern region of the Philippines. It is commonly packed for Filipino mountaineers and travelers. Its relatively long shelf-life is due to one of its primary ingredients, vinegar, which inhibits the growth of bacteria.

The standard accompaniment to adobo is white rice.

Outside the home-cooked dish, the essence of adobo has been developed commercially and adapted to other foods. A number of successful local Philippine snack products usually mark their items “adobo-flavored.” This assortment includes, but is not limited to nuts, chips, noodle soups, and corn crackers.

This is what adobo looks like:

adobo

(image courtesy of rasamalaysia.com)

Then there’s puto.

Wikipedia says this about puto:

Puto is steamed rice cake popular in the Philippines. Rice, the main ingredient in this dish, is an important staple in the Philippines. It is typically eaten in most meals and has been known to be featured in all types of sweet and savory Filipino dishes. Puto is usually eaten as dessert, but can also be eaten for breakfast dipped into or paired with a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate.

There are many variations to the recipe ranging from the type of rice used to the method in which the rice is prepared. In its traditional form, puto is of a plain white color. Adding certain common Filipino ingredients like ube and pandan (made from pandan leaves or Pandanus amaryllifolius ) slightly changes the flavor and completely changes the color of the finished product. Likewise, food coloring can be added to change the puto’s color but still keep its original flavor.

Most varieties often include the addition of coconut milk and this influences the flavor.

This is what puto looks like:

800px-putoricecakes-e

(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

And here is the reason why we have this little lesson on Filipino cuisine. Because it’s the preface to this showcase of Filipino humor at its finest.

I was riding the car on my way to a dinner hosted for my brother-back-from-abroad and his family when I looked up and saw this little diner with the funniest name. And I had my camera with me, whoopee-doo! So of course I turned around the block just so I could come back to this little resto by the roadside and snap a photo of it.

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Isn’t that such a hoooot? 😆

I am so inspired to travel around the city, heck even the entire country, searching for more of these hilarious signboards, showcases of the ever-amazing sense of humor of these people on my side of the world. 🙂

Okay. Time for bed. It’s 4.30am and I’m going to crawl through tomorrow if I don’t hit the sack right now. But it was just *awesome* sitting with you on this blog porch after such a long time! I have totally missed you and am so glad to be back!

More tomorrow, including a wonderful announcement about an upcoming course or two (wink, wink, wink!).

Have a happy day, my sweeties! (((hugs)))

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