The Big Project, Launched

Last night we partied. And now that we have reached the end, we can finally say Amen. ūüėÄ

Our Father in the Making

After 19 years of dreaming of this photobook (not mine, but my dear friend’s), after childhood dreams of publishing a book (now that’s mine ūüėõ ); after about half a year’s worth of 2-hour sleeptimes and 4AM bedtimes, countless emails and cellphone text messages, flights across the country and in and out of the country (sometimes within the same day), trudging through the streets of Hong Kong trying to locate a nondescript building where our book was to come alive on paper…

After bonding over kazillions of cups of strong coffee and even stronger bonds of friendship (some old ones further strengthened and some new ones built); after innumerable edits, edits, re-edits, more edits; after learning to use Adobe InDesign in two hours so that we could beat the impending dawn deadline…

After meeting with 62 wonderful men and their families; after¬†gaining serendipitous wisdom from what these men had to say about their experience of fatherhood; after hearing the warm, endearing stories of their children and gaining a glimpse of the private man that only each family sees and knows; after tons of laughter; after perusing countless photos spread on the studio floor as we decided on paging and layout…

We have the book. Our Father. 62 Fathers. 62 Lives. One Journey.

Here are the photos of that night. (There was an official photographer, so these are the only ones I was able to take):

Welcome to the launch!

The Launch

We had an exclusive song given to us by Martin Nievera (he wrote and sang it; we provided it on CDs attached to the book), who was one of the fathers we featured in the book. Gooselamps lit the black frame mounts from which hung the 62 jumbo portraits (3ft x 3ft) of the fathers. As the song of Martin began to play, the gooselamps turned on one by one, shining dimly first then brightening, one after the other until the entire room shone by the soft light of the 62 gooselamps. Then the doors were opened, more lights were turned on, and everyone came in to ooh and ahh at the portraits of the fathers. It was a dramatic experience (certainly more dramatic than I describe it here).

Inside

People milled about both inside and outside, freely moving from the airconditioned area of the Blue Leaf Pavilion to the beautiful garden outside where cocktails were served: lovely yummy food (one guest asked “Are these cocktails? This is real food!!!” as he surveyed the roast beef, the 3 choices of salad served in classy champagne glasses, the pasta, the multiple finger foods which included the most delectable crunchy potato skins (my personal favorite, so it gets special mention here ūüėõ ), and the merengue and chocolate mousse for dessert. 25 bottles of choice cabernet sauvignon were consumed, aside from ice cold water and iced tea for the non-alcoholic guzzlers.

This is where we hung out to get a breath of fresh air (and some relief for our tired feet ūüėõ ) There were 2 of these wonderful Ifugao-inspired huts.

Hangout

And here is the evidence that I do NOT wear dresses, nope. Seriously. ūüėÜ

No dresses here

And that’s all, folks! ūüėÄ

Will upload the next set of the Christmas Lullaby kit within the next couple of hours so see you in a bit! ūüėČ

Life Lessons from a Little Man

I hastily scribbled down this experience in a little notebook that I keep¬†in my bag. Though I have to admit that sharing this with you might make¬†me look “not so good”, I want to share it with you today. Because a-ha moments¬†like this are too good to be kept to oneself. Hope you like it. ūüėČ

 

The sun rose that morning without a hint that it would bring with it an extraordinary day, one that I would want to remember for a very long time.

 

It was a very ordinary weekday in June, filled with regular routines and more of the common stuff that makes up everyday life. My son and I were riding in our car on the way home from his school. We were going through the familiar route with nothing unusual, our car temporarily waiting out a red stoplight in one of the busy junctions that we normally pass.

There was a greasy hobo with a skullcap on his head, sporting a five o’clock shadow and unkempt clothes, leaning against the cement post under the flyover where our car happened to be idling a few feet away. I wouldn’t have noticed him, really, except that he happened to fancy throwing hand signals our way. Looking straight into the window of our car from about 5 feet away, he gestured animatedly with his hands. What his motions meant, I could not tell.

Life Lessons from a Little ManI chose to ignore his signals. I suspected he might be loony, perhaps more than a little bit off. I looked away, inwardly afraid and anxious for the light to turn green.

He fixed his gaze directly on my precious five-year-old son. A flicker of a smile crossed the rough terrain of his weathered face as he put a crooked finger on his lips, as though he was sharing a secret between just the two of them. Without missing a beat, my son waved and cheerfully called through the closed car window, ‚ÄúHi!‚ÄĚ

As though that was the only invitation he needed, the man limped closer to our car (only then did I notice the crutches supporting him beneath his armpits). Simultaneously, in perfect timing with every stride he made, I pulled my son closer to me, like a mother hen tucking her chick under her protective wing as she watches a wolf lumber close by. Our driver, an old man himself, motioned to the man with the usual hand gesture that drivers in our country automatically give to vagrants on the street knocking on car windows, that hand-signal that tells them No, please, go on your way… It is a sign which is, paradoxically, both respectful and uninviting, both accepting and cold, at the same time. It is a motion so commonly used and accepted in this third-world country of ours that no one even stops to consider how such a gesture can be both kind and mean at the same instant.

As the man turned and ambled back toward the spot that he came from, the palpable fear in me thudded a bit less strongly, relief quietly creeping back to the place once occupied by thunderous heartbeats. From under my arm, my son’s hand slowly crept up and tentatively waved at the sullen figure. Back at his post, the man waved back at my son and then looked away. There seemed to be a hint of sadness in his eyes.

And then it hit me.

What if this hobo was just being kind? Sure, he was a beggar, illegally strolling along the highway, breaking jaywalking laws as he asked for alms from passing vehicles. But he was also a man. A human. Perhaps he had a grandson just like my son? Perhaps it wasn‚Äôt a grandson, perhaps it was a son. Perhaps the last time he saw his son was decades ago when his little boy was the same age as mine? Perhaps‚ÄĒand it was entirely possible‚ÄĒI was romanticizing this incident too much?

But as our car moved away from its static spot, I felt a bite of guilt for being unkind and wary, if not in my outward demeanor then at least in some small part of my suspicious thoughts. I was ashamed of myself. For judging that this man was either dangerous or cuckoo, or both, because of the way he looked.

I shot a glance at my son, who had turned around in the car seat to face the back. He was trying to catch a last glimpse of that strange man on the street. I was tempted to tell him, ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt be too friendly, son. Be careful with strangers. Be wary about whom you trust. People who may seem nice may not always really be nice.‚ÄĚ

But I kept silent. There’s the rest of his life to learn those equally valuable lessons.

That day it was I, more than three decades older, who had to learn from the pure heart of a five-year-old boy. This is probably what the Great Teacher meant when He said, ‚ÄúUnless you become like a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.‚ÄĚ To see others with the eyes of the heart‚ÄĒto fine-tune one‚Äôs vision so that it goes far beyond outward appearances and sees what lies behind, whether these are realities or mere possibilities‚ÄĒthis is what gives the world its hope.

I have to admit. That day, my son and I took a ride, and along the way, for just a moment, he was a much bigger man than I was. I am in awe of the beauty and purity of his heart, so big for the little body that it rests within. And in overflowing gratitude for this eye-opening experience, I pledge to make a greater effort to view the world and its citizens‚ÄĒevery single one of them‚ÄĒwith the pure, innocent, loving eyes of a five-year-old child. My five-year-old little man.

Of fathers and sons

One of the projects that’s been taking up a lot of my time has to do with just this: fathers and sons. It’s a huge project which, while it hasn’t come out yet, has to be kept under wraps (have to sit on my hands and do a jig to stop myself from shouting it out to you, my friends! ūüėÜ )… but I was inspired to write this poem. I should probably mention here that I normally shy away from sharing my poems as they come from such a raw, vulnerable part deep inside of me… but I dare to write it here because you, my dearest friends, make me feel safe. (And that’s the best way I know how to express my trust and affection for you) ūüôā

Hope you enjoy it…

Magallan stock.xchng photo

The Legacy of Ripples

They amble in quiet cadence

hand in hand

to the edge of the lake.

His chest swells with quiet pride

as the little one bends down

by the water’s mouth

And gently, carefully

sets sail to the paper boat.

Together they watch it,

this newspaper ship,

as it glides across the glassy surface

till it is but a dot in the distance.

Looking down,

he spots a stone

hidden in the blades of grass.

He picks it up.

Winking at the little one,

he hurls the piece of earth into the still water,

the little one’s gaze fixed on that rock

flying through the air

landing with a plop into the water

quickly descending into the bosom of the lake,

leaving only a trace of its presence, its weight, its impact

in the ripples that begin round its exit point,

little waves, slowly but surely

moving, w i d e n i n g ,  e   x   p   a   n   d   i   n   g ,

reaching out like embracing arms

till it almost touches the foot

of the little one

who stands in awe, mesmerized, entranced.

The son looks up at his father,

smiles and tucks his tiny hand

into the work-worn one.

They walk away silently,

but the ripples are seared into that young mind.

Many sunrises after,

the memory of the quiet soft waves

will accompany him when he returns

to this very place

With another tiny hand in his own grown grasp

as together they stand by the water’s edge

and watch the same ripples begin again…

This Is Why

chaticons by alexmathers at¬†stock.xchngThere’s a nice lady over at BlogHer who wants to know why we do what we do: scrapbook, that is. Frankly, I’ve never¬†asked myself that question–perhaps because, to me, that would be like asking myself why I breathe, why I eat, why I sleep. It doesn’t get more basic than that.

But it’s an interesting question, now that it’s been asked. And my good friend Jessica Sprague has encouraged us, her devoted playground inhabitants, to make our voices heard. So here’s my one little¬†voice among thousands.

Why do I scrapbook?

Why do musicians put down into melodies what they can¬†easily say in plain words?¬†Because it’s a much happier way to express what you need to say. (If you have a fretful sleepy child, try saying “Lullaby and good night” and then try singing it, and then tell me which was more effective in getting those eyes to droop contentedly). I scrapbook because it makes me happy. I scrapbook because it’s a much nicer way for me to express what I want to say, even if what I celebrate on a layout is actually¬†the most mundane event of the day. It helps me to see the world with a singing heart.

Why do historians write history?¬†Everyone wants to understand what happens around them.¬†And having understood, they want to pass on the¬†insights they’ve gained. Scrapbooking allows me to do that for my children, to leave them with a lasting legacy of¬†my view of¬†our lives as well as lessons learned. Scrapbooking allows me to write my own history, to record what is important to me, for myself and for the generations that will come after me. Others may easily say But who’s going to care in a million years? My answer:¬†who¬†can tell¬†that they wouldn’t? We can convince ourselves that it’s a silly and sentimental trip, but really,¬†if Anne Frank had said Who would care¬†whether I put my thoughts down¬†in this little tattered but highly¬†treasured notebook?, would we have had a wonderful glimpse¬†into the poignant life of¬†this little girl living in the midst of a very real and terrifying war?¬†

Why do authors write?¬†Everyone¬†likes to listen to stories. Everyone likes to tell stories. I ¬†scrapbook to tell stories. My scrapbooks are my way of passing on to my children (and perhaps they will want to pass on to their children) my life, their lives, our family’s lives, the little ordinary things that, taken altogether, make up a genuine uniqueness that can never be duplicated elsewhere. It is my way of making sure my story and their stories get told. It is my way of ensuring that they will always have visual evidence of how much those¬†whom I love¬†mean to me. My mother passed away when I was eight, and though I know instinctively that she loved me as any mother would her child, I had nothing written down, no letter, no note, nothing visual that I could go back on during those times when memory just failed and there was a need to at least read that she loved me, since I could no longer hear it. I want to make sure when my kids have to go through that, they will have something to hold in their hands, a powerful visual message made of photos and my own words, to tell them over and over again, as often as they care to look at the pages, how much I truly love them.

Why do poets write verse instead of prose? I love to write, always have and always will. It is, to me, as essential as living. Writing allows me to tell my story in my own words; and who of us has no story to tell? Every day is a journey, and every journey is rife with stories waiting to be told. The cavemen passed on their stories by mouth–they too had that need. It’s primitive yet real. I scrapbook because I want to satisfy that same need that has existed since time began.

Why do photographers take photos, when every split second the scene changes and then it’s gone?¬†Ah, but see, that is precisely why. Photographers and I,¬†we love taking photos.¬†We like to hold in our hands the power to¬†capture a moment from our own viewpoint¬†and preserve it forever on¬†tangible paper.¬†It’s freezing a moment in time so that you can come back to it again and again. It’s sort of like being able to bottle up happiness and being able to¬†sniff a little of it every now and then, whether it’s because you need some upliftment or because¬†you just want to float in its overflow.

Why do painters paint? Every artist wants to share with others¬†his view of the world as he sees it.¬†Painters¬†have their own choices of media: brushes or fingers or palette knives, oil or water color,¬†¬†canvass or paper or walls. Scrapbookers have their choices: digital or paper, sweet or grungy: we all have different styles. And we all choose what fits us best in our quest to record our view of life. I scrapbook because I¬†am an artist at heart. I love drawing, I love painting, I love creating. I love taking something and making something more out of it. It’s pretty much like my desire to¬†leave¬†this world¬†a better place than when I came into it. It’s leaving my mark, my individual contribution to what is already there. Scrapbooking allows me to express myself and release my creative juices using brushes, paper, photos, my computer, my printer (oh yeah, technology works for me big-time!).

Why did Alexander Graham Bell invent the telephone? Why do we write letters or emails or telegrams? Our makeup as human beings dictates the need to reach out and touch someone instead of living on an island separate from the rest of creation. Scrapbookers are a wonderful community to move with. There is real support and¬†real friendship, none of which requires parental consent and all only of the positive, clean, uplifting kind. To be sure, this can be found anywhere; it is not exclusive to this large group of people who go crazy about the latest brushes or papers or wordart or screws and brads. But it is wonderful to be a part of a larger, worldwide community whose bridges are built strong, transcending¬†differences in race, color, creed and geography, because of a shared love and appreciation for what each of us holds dearest to our hearts, because of a certain courage that allows us to put our heart out on a piece of paper and trust that no one will trample over what we’ve just shared from the deepest recesses of our very being.

Why do I scrapbook?¬†I have a¬†passionate desire¬†to express myself in a combination of words, art,¬†and photos. I want to¬†record my world the way I see it. It’s really a matter of self-expression.¬† I am a living being and I want to celebrate life, mine as much as the lives that belong to those around me.¬†I am a wife and a mother¬†of five sons, and I treasure the look on¬†my boys’¬†faces when they see me celebrate them through my¬†scrapbook creations.¬†I have struggles and triumphs and pains and joys, and putting them down in my choice of art form allows me to taste and savor these experiences over and over again, and perhaps learn a bit more each time.

Without  scrapbooking, my life would be sorely lacking the beauty of art, the celebration of joy, the declarations of love, the amazement with the ordinary, the wisdom and insight gained as one gazes at past events, the poignant recall of memories, the release of pent-up emotions and creative rushes, the friendships that transcend all boundaries.

I scrapbook because I like to live, laugh, and love fully… and then be able to experience all that over and over again, alone or with those who matter,¬†as we leaf through the pages of my creation.

This is why I scrapbook.

And now, the details…

Photo by aztazou at¬†flickrI have a confession to make. I am a sucker for details. Oh yes, I know how to look at the big picture. But it’s the details that tickle, that amaze, that fascinate me.

When I was a kid, my five older brothers and sisters would groan as I told them stories; inevitably, I would hear, “Just get to the point!” When others would tell me their stories, I would wait for the details like a dog panting after a bone held in mid-air–and when they instead¬†shot straight to the punchline, I couldn’t help part of me feeling the story was lacking something.

It makes sense that as a child, details fascinate–simply because at that size and age, everything else around seems bigger and more grandiose. The details can’t be ignored because they don’t seem like tiny little things. But as one grows older, the importance of details seems to naturally wane–often, almost always, there is simply no time to dive into the specifics; there is always so much to be done, and right away!

And so as I entered the adult world, I found myself, like most others, developing fondness for to-the-point, grown-up, big¬†expressions like at the end of the day and in the final analysis… Still, a part of me would not let go of the affinity for particulars. As a teacher, I would put effort in letting my students understand that the homework itself mattered just as much as their margins, their penmanship, the presentation of their work. Attention to details was for me a big indicator of the care and dedication a student put into her work.

Now that I have become a full-time mom, I have discovered to my delight that I have the time to stop and smell the roses, and I love the opportunities that come along with it! The simplest things put me in near-reverie. Case in point: while bathing my 3-year-old, I moved the tub of water a bit to the side, and he exclaimed in pure wonder: “Mama, look! Water going down the holes!” It was the moment I call Discovering the Drain. A-ha moments like this amuse me to no end; sadly enough, moments like this are exactly the kind that got overlooked when I was caught up in the world of work.

Recently, our family took a much-longed-for trip to an island. In a rush I would say, “Oh, it was great having the opportunity to spend time together away from it all!” But give me a few more minutes, and it’s the particulars that I will relate fondly: my second son and I laughing as we struggled to waddle to the ocean with our snorkeling gear on and tripping all over our clumsy fins. (Only later, after getting over the excitement of a shared adventure,¬†did we realize it made more sense to walk barefoot to the water and slip on the fins once already in the water. Smart.) My husband and I relishing all-too-rare time-alone together on a date at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant after dutifully ordering room service and setting up the kids with their books, crayons, and movies. My eldest sweetly caring for the youngest, completely unaware that anyone was watching. The glee and wonder of my three youngest kids as they explored sand and shells for the first time in their lives. It is these moments, not the incredible landscape, that are recorded for posterity in my camera. My husband teases me that he regrets giving me that little gadget that I whip out virtually every hour. But capturing the most ordinary moments in my family’s life on my camera allows me to celebrate the little details of each day and each life and each relationship in a tangible, lasting manner.

So yes, I say, pay attention to the details. I try to impart this little truth to my sons at every opportunity. It’s not so much that you did your chore but how much love you placed into doing it. It’s not so much the words you said but how you said it, the tone you used, the smile that was or wasn’t there as you spoke. It’s not just whether you took your bath, but how well you scrubbed behind the ears. It’s not just about the final destination, it’s just as much about how you made your journey.

My sons have heard thousands of variations of this, all with the same underlying¬†counsel: Little things matter. Someone once said, “God is in the details.” If we can all pause a while in this hurried–or harried?–life, just long enough to appreciate the little things that are so often passed over, if we can apply the same amount of effort and love in doing the small unseen things that on the surface don’t seem to matter much in the larger scheme of life, wouldn’t we all be much happier and better for it? Because, really, isn’t the big picture called Life simply a majestic mosaic made up of all those tiny pieces of ordinary moments? ūüėČ

¬†*This was an article I wrote for the April 2007 issue of The Glimpse. Just wanted to share it with you… ūüôā

Dissection of a Hump

{This is an article I wrote for the July issue of our quarterly newsletter}:

There really are days like this. You’re cruising along in the cool comfort of your car, viewing the trees, the grass, eveything green outside the window, music playing in your ears, the wide expanse of the road ahead full of freedom and promise… and then BAM! You hit a hump on the road.

I’ve had a crazy week so far. Well, crazier than it normally gets for stay-at-home moms who are tasked with running the household and generally keeping everything going smoothly enough so that nothing seems out of the ordinary and everything passes unnoticed.

Frankly, I’m used to having a lot of things on my plate. In fact, I crave work. I love being busy. Multi-tasking is my middle name. I have a hard time relating to the statement “I have nothing to do” simply because I think there is more than enough that can and should be done, if we only look hard enough. My kids know that the statement “I’m bored” is taboo in our home. For me, a day well spent is one that makes you feel like a squeezed lemon at nighttime. So I’m used to being in situations that others may classify under their Stressful Days list.

But this week was different. Deadlines for different unrelated things started pouring in, requirements from a take-for-pleasure course started demanding attention, three of my babies contracted that awful cough-and-fever virus that’s been spreading because of the shift in weather. To top it all, I had to learn a new method of juggling now that summer has ended and bringing children to and from school has inserted itself in the daily t0-d0 list once again.

This week, my dear friends, was my hump.

When I was a kid, I loved humps. Especially as I rode my bicycle up and down them, with the breeze flapping at my hair and a smile plastered on my face. Growing up, I had an enlightened moment when I realized humps were actually placed there, not for the enjoyment of wheel-riding kids, not because the people fixing the road found a humorous way of putting extra cement to good use, but for an actual purpose.

Humps are meant to slow down speeding cars, making roads safer for both pedestrians as well as drivers. In the areas where speeding roadsters love to converge, humps tell them to stop or risk damage to the under-chassis of their beloved cars. And if one observes closely, then one will notice that effective humps are of certain heights and spaced at deliberate intervals: certainly, one abruptly tall hump a few feet from the next would make one feel as though they hopped on a rickety roller coaster instead of a car.

So what’s this got to do with my crazy week? The sudden realization: there are humps in life too! Sometimes, when things are going so smoothly and the cruising is on auto-pilot, we find ourselves in such a satiated state, in such comfy surroundings, that it’s easy to doze off at the wheel. It’s easy to take things for granted. Then the stressful moment arrives (and each one of us has his own version of this), and we stop and sigh and throw our hands up in despair. Ah. The hump.

It forces you to stop and think. And that, I did. What is the purpose of this particular hump at this particular time? Why should things just suddenly come crashing down in torrents, each calling my name, each demanding my full attention all at the same time?

The answer came (as it funnily often does) from a homily at Mass. In essence, what the priest said was: when you feel like you’re being overpowered by all the daily concerns of this life, stop and pray, talk to Him, and you will see that everything will work out for the best, according to God’s plan. Everything is an opportunity to bring you closer to heaven.

Aha! Suddenly it became clear to me. Maybe I was starting to cruise along. Perhaps I was beginning to fall asleep on the wheel. And because I sit as co-pilot right up front with my husband at the wheel of the car and a load of five kids in the seats behind us, I have to make sure I am always fully awake in life, fully taking advantage of each opportunity to serve even more, fully aware that my kids will learn how to drive through life by my example. So I got down on my knees and had that talk with Him. And you know what? He got everything sorted out, right away! Hooray!

Which brings me to this conclusion. Humps? They’re actually a great thing. Ahhh. Now, to drive again in peace.