Thursday, October 30, 2008

Something to smile about.

What? A smile stylist? What the heck is that?

I was browsing through the internet the other day and I come across an ads about make-over smile, where a procedure is done to enhance one's smile and the person performing such procedure is called a cosmetic dentists. This makes me thoughtful and made me ask myself. Does our time become so desperate that people even have to resort to a medical procedure to come up with a perfect smile? And when does one's smile become perfect?

With the current economic and political atmosphere, it seems that even the cheapest commodity have become scarce. People just don't find reason to smile anymore, or if they do, it is a forced smile.

You see, no two smiles are ever the same. A polite smile or a forced one produce a different muscle pattern than does a spontaneous smile. Sometimes we even need to rely on subtle cues to know when a person is trying to hide physical pain or emotional anguish behind a mask of a smile. It takes an interest from someone who wants to tell if a smile may be lying. There is more to smiling than just moving the lips. If we are truly happy, it radiates and shows in the twinkle of our eyes.

For those who have watched the movie Lords of the Ring, maybe you remember the scene near the end when Frodo boards the ship with the elves at the Grey Havens to leave Middle-Earth forever. He embraces each of his friend, then board the ship. And as he sails away, he looks back with an unforgettable smile, a smile that says - "You were everything to me, and I will carry you in my heart forever". It is a perfectly full smile, brimming with all the bitter sweetness of love and loss.

A smile is always perfect if it comes from within, and I don't think any cosmetics what-have-you, could top that. A smile is the cheapest and most effective gift you can give to a random stranger. It will have an effect on the person we are smiling at, and it will also have an effect on us.

So go ahead, share the most perfect smile you got. Practice creating a half-smile from time to time throughout the day. How do you do this? Place a pen or pencil between your teeth and it forces a half-smile. The purpose of this is to notice the difference in how your body and mood feels after doing this. As i said earlier, no two smiles are the same, every smile is custom designed for the individual.

Smile, who knows, you may be that random person who can changed the entire day of someone in one second. Or you could be a friend who made one's life brighter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A father's grief.

"When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future." - Anonymous

Children are not suppose to die. Parents expect to see their children grow and mature. Ultimately, parents expect to die and leave their children behind. That is the natural course of life's events, the life cycle continuing as it should, however...

My brother died in a tragic accident last summer - he drowned in the beach during a family outing. He wasn't even swimming then, but was merely playing with the wave.
He was 16 years old.

My dad loved him deeply, and even when he manage to accept this tragic loss, I am certain he is left with a grief that paralyzed him emotionally. He is his Junior, he was named after him. In fact, it fascinates me to see the ways in which they were alike, and the ways they are different.

My father wanted for his Junior to be happy doing something he loved. Over the years, my dad tried to give him experiences, guidance, knowledge, taught him basic skills – gave him the best chance to live a life feeling good about himself and others. When at some point, Jujun lost interest in school, my dad hoped it was temporary. He hoped that something deep inside himself would pull him through, that he would learn to be a responsible youth, and find contentment as an adult.

But it wasn’t temporary. Junjun will never use those tools and skills. He isn't around anymore to share experiences with my dad. There is no more past or future for them to reconcile, but only the present and there are only memories. In spite of everything my father did, or what he tried to do for Junjun, he was unable to do the one thing that would have kept him here, and that alone is devastating.

A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But...there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that's how awful the loss is!

Junjun, we will always love you, and we will remember everything about you as long as we live.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A matter of life and debt.

Who doesn't owe anyone debt at some point in time? It seems we are all under a peculiar form of indebtedness at one time or another. In fact, everytime I see a long line of people in lottery ticket outlets, I see souls like me who want to escape chronic financial stress. Folks who hope to escape the financial debt with a stroke of luck or unforseen financial relief. We know that a lot of people get into debt because of circumstances beyond their control.

My monthly bills alone and daily needs are enough to escalate debts for me, especially if I am not extremely careful with my spending. Then think how much more so, for those born into already difficult circumstances such as poverty and economic hardship who continually struggle simply to survive, and often have no way of paying for the basic necessities.

My debts are not necessarily as bad as others maybe and I am not ashamed to admit that I have been careless with my spending habit. But debt can become a problem for anyone, especially in today's credit culture. However, trying to be happy while in debt, is like trying to stay dry in the rain. Oh, we might get away with it for a little while, but eventually, if the downpour doesn't let up, even the proverbial "happy camper" will get soaked.

I've been there and done that and it was a tough road. Losing the business I had so painstakingly build from scratch because of the financial crisis in Asia during the 97' is a big blow. It also changes people's attitude towards me. But it made me learn a valuable lessons - like how little I could get by on and not be uncomfortable or do without.

Debt can become a prison - a prison whose walls are fear. It literally crushed the life right out of me. When my spirit becomes ill, the body follows closely behind. The whole of my being is affected by it. First the emotional and spiritual and ultimately the physical as they are closely entwined and it becomes like a tumbling house of cards.

It takes a hell of a lot of courage and stamina to persevere, one day at a time, one foot at a time, till I overcome it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Plight of a single parent.

It is difficult and challenging to be a parent today, and it is even more difficult to raise children alone. Doubly daunting is the fact that I have three boys who's gender is a bit alien to me. But I believe that good solid parenting has less to do with the number of parents at home and more to do with the quality of parenting. My being a single parent was a result of a decision where it is perceived to be a viable option, where the benefit would be less conflict and tension at home.

No matter how loving and competent I am, I'm still only one person and I am doing a job most agree IS meant for two people. Its good that when this separation happened my boys are all grown up hence it was easy to remind them that we should work as a team. They are also involve in decision making and we decide what is important and we prioritize accordingly.

I am a working mom. I have to work to keep the roof over our head, put food on the table and see them through school. Sometimes I felt a pang of guilt as my work often hinders me from attending school activities. Many times I fail to watch my son participate in school competitions. You see, financial pressures can make balancing demands at home and work a constant struggle.

Sure there are times when I feel lonely, times when I feel beyond exhausted and times when I feel extremely stressed, but the one thing that keep me going are my kids.

My eldest son is now 19, a tall great lad with a soft heart and a delightful personality. My second son is 17, and I just burst with pride at him sometimes. My youngest is 15, and he is my angel. We are not the ideal TV, picture perfect family, I still scream, shout and nag at them. Like anyone else, the state of my son's bedroom drives me insane as do the long hours of internet games, the dirty dishes and wet towel left on the bed and I worry too much when they don't come home in time for dinner.

No we are not a broken family as insensitive people may call it. The term "broken" depicts a fractured, disconnected structure. I would like to believe that the kids and I are very well connected to each other - they just happen to live with a single parent.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Love at first byte.

People are meeting and falling in love all over the world via the Internet. Some are finding what they feel are their true soul mates...and yet others are finding real heartache and disappointment.

Right now, the internet has become one of the biggest markets for love and relationships. The rapid increase of dating sites in the net only indicates that more people are using it to find love that they wouldn't otherwise be able to find, if it weren't for modern technology. And of course there are those who just want to have a cyber love affair, hoping this will be a satisfying outlet and still keep their "real life" relationship intact.

So what drives people to online romances? Is it because of its accessibility? It is a known fact that you can log on anytime and find someone to talk to. There are thousands of people online, and while you could never meet them all in real life, on the Web you can meet maybe 20 different men in an average evening.

I suppose anonimity too can be very attractive since Web contact is largely nameless, it feels very safe. You can be honest about what you're saying because you will probably never meet your correspondent. Or, you can be dishonest and spin a fantasy, conceal your worst side and elaborate only on your positive characteristics.

While acknowledging that the Internet is a different sort of meeting place, the relationships established there do not seem to be much different from relationships established anywhere else. In fact, for the hopeless romantics (like me,.. ha ha), many hope that online relationships will have a better chance of succeeding because it start from the inside - from communication, and work its way out. I believe that true romance cannot continue solely online forever.

One just have to be patient, to take time to know the potential partner well before engaging seriously in the relationship. One has to allow it to flourish to become a real romance and a great and long lasting relationship.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Next stop: America

My American friend had lengthily described to me his disgust over America and how Americans had changed the meaning of "Being American". So I came up with one important question in my mind - What is it to be an American?

Where people are as likely to have been born outside the borders of the U.S. Where most of the residents speak another language in addition to English. Where the soundtrack is, yes, jazz and blues and rock and roll, but also hip hop and salsa and merengue.

America had embrace the widest variety of people. Anyone can come to America and eat a hot dog and watch a ball game and stroll along the riverside, but that won't make him an American. But every year thousands of people troop to the Immigration office hoping to be sworn in as American citizens.

A lot of people come to America to enjoy more security, freedom and liberty that they may not find in any other nation in the world. Those born and race in America takes pride of the fact of being born American because America has always been a nation of freedom, a nation that helped other countries in need.

Then how come my personal encounter with American friends tells me the opposite? Many of them show nothing but disdain for America, what it had stood for today and what drives the country toward the brink of collapse. They continually wish to change the values back to what America was founded on by their ancestors, or they will seek to live elsewhere.

Considering the way the American culture had eroded and with the way things are in America today, I wonder what America will do about this deeply seeded crisis - Loss of confidence in America.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Searching happiness.

If we would ask people how happy they are, we will get real answers that are valid, they're not perfect but they're valid and they predict all sorts of real things in their lives. A conversation with a friend the other night make me ponder. He said, there is a difference between living happily and just living. He is in the latter.

Each of us seems to have a happiness set point, a level of happiness to which we tend to return, no matter what our circumstances are.

The old adage that money doesn't buy happiness, still stand true today. Provided our basic needs are met, wealth doesn't have a strong impact on happiness. I think once a certain level of wealth is attained, more money doesn't make a difference. In very poor nations, being richer brings more life satisfaction, but in wealthier nations, even the ridiculously rich are only slightly happier than average.

I noticed though that religious people are happier than those without a faith. It might be because being religious tends to go hand in hand with being part of a social network. Religion also brings a sense of meaning, as well as increased hope for the future.

People who are romantically involved with someone, or those who are married shows to be happier than those who aren't. What's not clear is what causes what. Is romance good for happiness or happiness good for romance? It might just be that happy people are more likely to fall in love or marry.

Married people, me included, cite their children as the biggest source of happiness in their lives. Oh sure, they give us joy and pride, but while we believe we are raising children and providing for them to increase our share of happiness, we are actually doing these things for reasons beyond our ken. We have become notes in a social network that arises and falls by a logic of its own, which is why we continue to work harder, continue to procreate and continue to be surprised when we do not experience all the joy which we so gullibly anticipated.

So what will make one happy? Most of us are searching for something, or sometime in the future when we will finally be happy. We tell ourselves that if we can only get to "that place," then our lives will be perfect. I know the search for happiness is internal and impossible to obtain. But it's up to us to create our own happiness. It's up to us to create a life filled with joy rather than sorrow.

I think we just have to accept that we deserve to be happy. Being happy today means being comfortable where you are in the present, not where you would like to be in the future. It's about being in awe for the opportunity to learn something new each day.

We don't know what our life will bring tomorrow, so we might as well enjoy where we are today.

Monday, October 13, 2008


The wait wasn't long, probably because as I said in my previous post, I noticed my cat is pregnant only after she is already halfway through her pregnancy. Me and the kids had been waiting for her litters with bated breath.

Stray is a pampered cat and she liked the attention, so naturally, she doesnt want to be on her own during the delivery stage. Being a first time cat mom, maybe she need our presence and encouragement.

She didn't want to stay in the kittening box I had set up for her days before. She would enter my room and cries as if telling me she wanted to be there when she give birth. So I brought the box upstairs and lay it beside my bed. She eagerly gets in and lay there, finding a comfortable position. She is clearly in labor, and i keep stroking her head and body, soothing her... encouraging her. I know it calmed her coz she lay their quitely although I can see her body quivering at times.

We dont know yet when the first litter will come out, so we decided to watch a film while keeping our cat company. I positioned myself at the edge of the bed so I can watch the movie and the same time keep an eye on my cat in labor. My hand continously stroking her gently.

Thirty five minutes into the movie, I saw a bubble of red sac appears which she licked. She continue to licked her private part probably to stimulate birth. Not long after, she is in distress, her body coiled, she cries, she stiffen. Her purring rhythmic, her breathing, heavy. She tried to get up, and fall back down, she would cling to the side of the box, and fall again. She is obviously in pain. I continue to stroke her, calm her.

Evetually, the first kitten was delivered. It is enclosed in a bag filled with fluid. The next kittens come out in rapid succession. Each kitten was born head first. All came out in a membrane sac, and Stray would rupture the sac with her tongue. She then clean each kitten by licking away the fluid from their faces and stimulating the kitten to breathe. When the kitten cries and flexes its little body, then we know that all is well. After licking the kitten dry, she bite the umbilical cord. Oh she eats the umbilical cord along with the placenta and the remains of the birth sac. Its kind of freakish, but that is normal cat behavior.

Instinctively, the kitten would crawl towards its mother's warm body and look for a nipple to suck. Me and the boys become busy removing the now active litters away from their mother's feet or body for fear that she may crushed it.
Stray has a total of six kittens. Each one different colored from the other. All very cute.

Next task, finding each one a new home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Virtual reality.

When we grow up, work, get married, have kids, our world sort of shrinks. We lose touch with people, which is understandable. Of course, there is a natural challenge with physical distance, but my best friends are still my oldest - those whose faces and voices have been part of my daily life even when invariably, they too had become part of my online network of friends.
Which brings me to a topic i have been musing about - do you consider friendship that develops via the internet a "real" friendship? Are "on-line" friends, equal to "real-life" friends?
Being in front of the computer most of my waking hours, i don't know anymore where one ends and where the other begins, or if it even matters.
Like real life, I've met some people online who I thought were great and had become my friends, and there are people I initially knew in real life who I only get to communicate through email and by chatting online, because we have moved into different locations. So maybe by meeting online first, we just flip the script?
I count myself lucky for being able to dive into the cyber community and get the support and laughter and so on, that I need to keep going in my daily real life.
I think that in the end, online friends can be there for each other in some ways that "real" friends might not be- but real friends have their own definite advantage.
Still, I'm quite sure that good friends can offer support in a variety of ways and the computer is one of them.

Someone in the family is having a baby!

Just when I think that our life is running smoothly, our pet cat comes home with more than she went out with…..

All that affectionate behavior and cute rolling around she’s been doing for the past week or so hasn’t been for our benefit after all – she’s been in season and has been anxious to get outside and call for any Tom, Dick or fur-covered Harry to mate with. And now, out of the blue, I'm going to be a grandparent to a litter of kittens and yet I have no idea when that might be.

I really don't know how long i have to wait to see her newly born, cute and fluffy kittens. In fact, I also don't have any idea that my lovely, pregnant cat is ‘with kittens’ until she is five or six weeks into her pregnancy and starts to show certain signs. By the time I begin to suspect that my cat is pregnant, more than half of it have passed by. I certainly noticed that her belly is becoming larger and more rounded as she takes on the distinctive pregnant shape.

Me and the kids are excited to see her litters, but we also worry because we don't know how long will the pregnancy last and when our cat's labor is about to start.
For some time now, I’ve been able to see her kittens moving about in her belly quite clearly. It may not be very long now.

The approaching birth of her kitten is mounting...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On my own.

They say that leaving is always painful - maybe, if there is a reason to cling to those you will leave behind. But sometimes, you just have to leave because things aren't working out for you at all. Not that we didn't try, but maybe we just can't stay together anymore.

Its good that even the kids took it in stride. I could sense that they too felt relief when we finally leave the house. And setting foot to our new abode give me and the kids a new leash of life. The new environment and people didn't dampen our spirit, even when the house is smaller compare to the one we had to give up. It just made me realized how needlessly I hold on to the relationship just because I don't want to be branded a "separada". Having a support from my family allow me to take that bold step. I left with nary a longing nor bitterness.

I just hope that the separation will do good to him as well as he doesn't have to measure up to our expectations anymore. Maybe that's what causing him to drown his frustrations in alcohol.

An end only allows a beginning of a new one. I just want to live in my present and leave the past in the past.I like my new autonomy and freedom now and I look hopefully to my future.

My visit to Sagay.

I am home now....I thought I have prepared myself for this, but seeing my dad in his present state was devastating, I just can't conceal my tears!

My dad never weighed more than 140 pounds, with a medium body frame. No big muscles, but he wasn't skinny either. Today, he is little more than skin and bones. My dad love to debate. He always find reason to talk against someone's idea even if its mundane. He would always butt-in to every conversation and give his two-cents worth of prognosis to every situation. But today, he is quiet, not because he'd lost the desire, but because he was losing the strength. The man in this frail body was changing and no matter how hard he tried the cancer is winning. I am broken hearted that I can't do a thing about it - no one can.

Iam glad I came home today. I sat at his bedside, just the two of us in his room for about an hour. I was holding his frail hands and caressing it while he tried desperately to talk, even when he is terribly short of breath... the distance and the long absence just seemed to vanished. I'm here again, and he is happy.

I had a smooth plane ride, and the bus trip is pretty cool. I took an air conditioned bus in going to my hometown from Bacolod City. Looking out of the window, I take in as much of the scenery as I could - I can see lush expanse of greenery as far as my eyes can reach - you see, Negros Island is the sugar capital of the Philippines, hence it is covered with miles and miles of sugar cane field.

Watching the scene unfolding before my eyes, I cannot help but drift back my mind to the memories of my childhood, where I would run in the open field chasing after a butterfly or a dragonfly... intermittently, we would pass by a city or a town and I see people going about leisurely with their is so unlike the people here in Manila where everyone is intensely in a hurry.

However, I would have enjoyed the trip more have I not had the urge to pee..hahaha. I had coffee and water in the plane, and just as the bus had started to move, I felt a pang in my gall bladder. So aside from watching the view from the bus window, I was also thinking how wonderful it would be to cover behind the plantation and relieve myself, ha ha ha!

After four cities, I was already feeling extremely uncomfortable. It felt like a very long trip, and I would glance at the driver every now and then, hoping he would pressed on the accelerator more. Unfortunately however, he seemed to love the slow pace while I squirm and writhe in my seat..!

Phew, now I have learned my lesson - do not have liquid when going on a long trip...ha ha ha

A parent's emotional turmoil.

My children are growing up faster than I could blink. Tido is now in college and my youngest, Cedric is already in high school. Now, more than ever, I realized that parenting is never easy and it gets harder as children become adolescent, teens and adults, with their ever-expanding understanding of the world (or so they think), and constant questioning of their parents techniques.

It seems that the older my sons get, and the bigger their world becomes,the less perfect their parents seemed to them. They become disrespectful of the rules we set at home and would repeatedly ignore complying with it.

Indeed hard times provide a great opportunity for stress to come in. They still could not understand why other kids enjoys some perks while they could not, why peers are being provided for by their parents with lots of things, while they pretty don't have much of anything!

As a parent, all I want is to provide for my children even if it kills me. Economics notwithstanding, I could not tell my boys to eat less, want less or dream less.
As a child, it makes me more understanding of my parent as well.

Looking back, I realize the impact of the times I answered back, acted spoiled, and disobeyed. It must have broken their hearts, as it does mine when my children do it to me.

Good news, bad news.

Summer is over in this part of the world. I heaved a sigh of relief at the first drop of rain because it means cooler climate and lower electrical bills!

But my woes not over yet since a 20-minute downpour could result to flooded streets and horrendous traffic. think what an hour-long rain brings...

Classes had resumed last Monday for my two younger sons, my eldest will have his next week, since he is in college now. Boy, got to really tighten our belts two holes further to cope with our daily expenses. But then aren't our belts tight enough that we could barely breathe?

Imagining me collapsing suddenly on the street is not a remote possibility!

Yeah, it could happen and what a grim picture that would be...

Gloom amidst the celebration.

T'was an exciting and busy month, what with people coming in and going out in succession. First, an auntie arrived from Canada and had invited me to a lunch at Rockwell. This gave me a chance to see my cousins too and we had great conversations.

Then a few days after, another auntie flew in from New York. And while waiting for her flight to Bacolod, she opted to come to the house to kill time. Wow, got so many beautiful things as pasalubong! That same week, my best friend in Boston texted me that she's at the airport waiting for her flight to Dumaguete. No chance to meet though, because she's so eager to be at the hospital where her dad has been confined for a lingering illness.

I'm pretty certain that families with their balikbayans are rejoicing for the chance to be together once again. Family reunions truly provide a touching example of Filipino cultures and we never lack of it.

But in the midst of these celebration came sad news of death. Tito Jun died while Ann was still at the airport, and the news of uncle Ted's death was doubly painful because my auntie was miles away when this happened. She had to cut short her visit to attend to the funeral and my kids had to do away with there supposed "shopping spree" with Tita Elsa.

Now, gloom descended upon my kids...

Pleasant surprises comes in twos.

Last week, a classmate from grade school informed me that a reunion will be held in our school this coming summer vacation and they wanted me to be there. Then, two days after, another classmate in college sent me a text message about a reunion they are cooking up, also in April. Boy, I was so happy to be in touched once more with friends from school.

Indeed, school friends are my most important relationship outside my family. They provided me with love, support, understanding and joy. Even when I created a circle of friends in campus, yet every single one in my class, and all the other students I had interacted with in the past, no matter how trivial the connection maybe, had made a contribution in molding me into the person I am today.

It is my relationship with them that helped me expand and alter my perception of things around me, and in return, these things started to change according to how I perceive them to be.

I am now excited to see and reconnect with old friends. But which reunion I'm going too?

Now, I'm in dilemma...

So difficult yet...

I have been without a househelp since November. It's the first time since I lived away from home that I was left to attend to household work, because even when I was single and living independently, I have a helper that attended to domestic chores.

I really hate doing laundry, much more to iron clothes! Then there's room to clean, beds to make, pets to feed, closet to fill, plants to water, table to set, dishes to wash and so on.. it overwhelms me just thinking about it especially when I have three kids who all need my time and attention on a regular basis. I sometime wonder how to balance my time, but then i remind myself that while i do have 3 kids, they're all grown ups and could already help me with the chores. Besides some couple even have 5, 6, or seven, so three shouldn't be difficult.

Indeed, we manage quite fine although I need to post "what-to-do" list in every conceivable area in the house to remind my kids of their chores. Teaching my sons to do house work was most rewarding, it felt good seeing my family busy working during weekends. You just felt some sense of pride inside you that nobody else will be in the position to claim at that very moment.

Duty free: Scheme or scam?

Off we went to the duty free shop yesterday. People are milling about at the lobby waiting for the release of their shopping card.

Like many others in the crowd, only one among a dozen of us has the shopping card coz we are no balikbayans but were there anyway to buy imported goods. Promos abound and the sucker that we are, we would line up to avail of it only to find out upon exiting what a scam it was.

Anyway, we gulp more than a couple of wines that offered a free taste, even when we dont have intention of buying any.

I just noticed that fewer items are being sold there, it is even fun shopping at 168 in Divisoria whose variety of items are a feast to the eye!

What? Christmas?

Dec 2005

Indeed, the holiday passed with nary a change in our too familiar and ordinary routine.

Wake up late, no need to hurry since their is no work to go to. Cook breakfast, clean up, cook lunch, clean up, cook diner and Noche Buena, clean up.Go to bed and rest those tired bones. It would have been more fun if there are many people to celebrate the day with, but they are miles away in another island.

But hey, was the birthday celebrant been invited to the party? Was there a present bought for him?

Maybe we had neglected this most important part of the celebration, hence we felt empty despite of the food and wine and laughter. We took pains to prepare a great party but the very reason of the celebration is not even included.



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