Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Our gumamela plant blooms only about once or twice a year.

Before it bloomed recently, it was this tall. But the weight of the flowers were too much for the branches and the tallest ones broke in half. Down came the branches -- flowers and all. Now we have to wait for about six to eight months before we can see flowers from this plant again.

Friday, June 24, 2005

San Juan

June 24 is St. John the Baptist’s Day, known as San Juan in the Philippines. I’m not sure if this is still true today, but when I was still living in Cavite, it was the custom to get people wet on that day. The young people would take buckets of water and threw water at people passing by, or at jeepneys passing by. Since jeepney windows were usually open, people inside got wet, too. I remember Aling Azon, one of our mananahi (hired seamstresses), got really mad one June 24th. She already warned Cesar, Olive’s teen-aged brother, not to make her wet because she had her period that day. But Cesar did not heed her warning. He threw a bucket of water at her and she got wet. She was fuming with anger that day. Well, you see, there was an old wives tale that you should not take a bath, nor get wet when you have your period. I think that’s what the elders believed during that time.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Big Band Night

Last month Reggie auditioned for the High School Honour Jazz band. He was very happy when he learned that he made the band. That also meant rehearsals before the “big concert.” The venue of the rehearsals was on the opposite part of the city. And as Lori said, “As a musician, (Reggie) lives in the wrong part of the city.” Reggie’s Flute Recital and Flute Festival were also held in that area. Sometimes we had to travel by bus for over an hour. And we are really lucky and grateful that Reggie’s best pal was able to give him a ride a couple of times. And of course, there were my reliable mother and sister.

Well, anyway, Reggie was one of the flutists of the MB High School Big Band night on Tuesday. It was part of a ten-day-long Cool Jazz Festival in the city. The band’s mentor and conductor said, “If music is the food of the mind, then jazz is the organic, the green salad, of the music world.”

Reggie did a great performance. So did the entire band, which was composed of talented students selected from different High Schools throughout the city and I think some other parts of the province.

Eight months ago, Reggie told Lori that he wanted to be a jazz flutist. He was one that night. I'm really proud of him.

Failure can set us free

A couple of weeks ago, Brother Jorge said, “Failure can be one of the biggest blessings in life.” That is so true. We learn a lot from our failure or mistakes. And when we know better, we do better. And he gave that lecture at a most appropriate time.

Two days earlier, Ryan and I were discussing about the playoffs of his basketball league. At that time, his team was in seventh place out of nine teams. They were playing against the second place team in the first round of the playoffs. He was asking me different scenarios of what would happen if they win or lose against Team #2. At one point, he asked me, “What if we win against them?” Now, I’ve seen his team get clobbered by Team #2, a really good and experienced team. Even their coach told me when I talked to her on the phone that she didn’t think they’d win. So I said, “Ryan, do you really think you’ll win against Team #2? I don’t think so.” He got upset and said, “Because you!” Then he went upstairs. I just didn’t want him to have too much hope. I wanted to prepare him for disappointment yet I knew that I should have also encouraged him. I felt so guilty.

Later, I came upstairs and asked him if he was mad at me. Nakasimangot lang siya. I said that I was sorry. He forgave me quickly and he was in high spirits during the playoffs. And as in every game, he shone in the court on his last game and their team won against another team in vying for the seventh place.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hot hot hot

Ole ole ole ole !

Ryan and his friends danced to "Hot Hot Hot" while playing musical chairs last week when we celebrated his 11th birthday.

We're finally feeling hot-hot-hot here. Flowers are blooming. The grass is greener. So are the tree-lined streets of the city.

I can hardly believe that Ryan is already 11. It doesn't seem that too long ago when I was getting ready to give birth to him.

It was June 1994. We had a sweltering summer weather. I started my maternity leave one week before my due date of June 21. And it was the week that the O.J. Simpson saga began. Read more.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Unconditional love

I was very fond of my father when I was a little girl. I was “Papa’s girl.” I was devastated when my parents had to separate when I was the tender age of 12. I was torn when I was made to choose to live with only one parent. I chose to live with my mother and sister. I knew it was the right decision but I felt that I betrayed Papa. That decision haunted me during my teenage years. I was 17 when I wrote this letter. I am now 40 and sometimes I still weep when I read it. My heart still breaks for the 17-year-old me. This is the reason why I struggle everyday to keep my marriage work. I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through. This is the reason why, when my kids say, “I don't like Daddy,” when he’s being unreasonable, that I quickly reply, “Of course you do (like Daddy).”

View the English version.

View the entire letter here.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Rainy days and mosquitoes

April showers bring May flowers, so the saying goes. But it’s not the case here in Winnipeg. It had been very rainy in May. Here we are in June and the weather condition hasn’t improved much.

Ryan and I were on our way to his basketball game one Saturday in May when he said, “What is that smell?” He was referring to that distinct smell coming from the ground just before it started to rain. “Maalimuom” as we say it in Tagalog. I told him what it was. That smell brought me back home. The familiar smell that I grew up with is so foreign to my son. I told him that kids in the Philippines sometimes “take a bath” in the rain. “Naked?” he asked. “No, with their clothes on,” I replied.

If I remember it right, rainy season back home begins just around the time school starts. Simula na ng bagyo.

In the Philippines, school has re-opened, so I gathered. Here in Canada, classes will be done by the end of June. We’re almost there, but not quite. And I’m getting a hard time making the kids go to bed at 9:00 p.m. since the sun is still up until around 9:30 p.m. I mean the sun is up somewhere behind the clouds.

And yes, it’s inevitable, the skeeters are back. I dread the re-appearance of mosquitoes in the summer, although I was used to having them around all year in the Philippines. Pa’no ba naman, the mosquitoes here are a lot bigger than the ones back home. I’ve already seen quite a few bites on Ryland’s arms and neck. He used to be allergic to mosquito bites when he was younger and I remember when Benadryl was a resident of our medicine cabinet.

This was a nasty case of a mosquito bite when Ryland was 2.

And you know how we use Vicks Vaporub on mosquito bites? Not heard of here. They only use Vicks on the chest for congestion. My kids wouldn’t believe me that we can apply it to mosquito bites until they saw it worked.

Monday, June 06, 2005

On movies

I seldom go to the movies, not that I don’t like movies. I do. I usually wait for the movies to come out on tape or DVD, or sometimes, to be shown on TV. On average, I go to the movies only once a year, twice at the most. This is a far cry from my movie-going habit when I was still single in the Philippines. I think I went at least once a month, or more, to watch my favourite Pinoy movie stars. It’s probably because I didn’t have a TV back then. Besides, going to the movies back home is very affordable. But here in Canada, it’s quite pricey. Tickets are $8.50 each. Plus I have to buy the over-priced popcorn and drinks for the kids. Otherwise, they don’t see the point of going to the movies without those. Every year, I treat the kids, and myself as well. We pick one movie that we really like that is worth watching on the big screen, such as those with spectacular special effects: the Harry Potter Series, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars.

Not for young children

The ads for Star Wars Episode 3 says: Not recommended for young children. I wondered if I should bring my 7-year old, Ryland. But he really wanted to. He had seen the other Star Wars movies and watched the other movies that his brothers like. So I figured that he was ready. I was just worried because the first time he watched Spiderman when he was about 3, he was afraid to sleep alone. His bed was by the window and he was reminded of the hospital scene when the Green Goblin entered through the window and attacked Aunt May. My oldest son, Reggie, was around 8 or 9 when he saw Star Wars Episode 1 and he had nightmares of Darth Maul. So you now see my apprehension.

May the force be with you

What makes one turn to the Dark Side? Is it lust for power? Or blindness to deception? Or the desire to save a loved one?

The 3 prequels to the Star Wars saga tell us the story of Anakin Skywalker, who became Darth Vader. His is a very sad story. I have to admit, I shed a tear towards the end of Episode 3, when Padme gave birth to the twins and lost the desire to live. Or it could just be me. I always cry when I watch a woman give birth. But nonetheless, I still felt sorry for Anakin. We knew that eventually, he would turn to the Dark Side. But we saw this happen slowly and we understood why.

In "Attack of the Clones," we watched him agonize when his mother, Shmi, died in his arms and we felt his wrath when he slew her killers, the Sand People.

In "Revenge of the Sith," he was haunted by nightmares of Padme dying in childbirth and he was determined to stop her from dying, no matter the cost, which lead him to the dark path.

Ryan said, “Now it all connects.” We now have a better understanding of the series. The movie explains why Darth Vader had to wear that suit and why we hear him breathe. We also learned how the twins got separated and why Luke ended up at Tatooine and Leah with the Organas.

I now know why it’s not suitable for young children. How many times did I try to cover Ryland’s eyes with my hand, which he always brushed off. Of course it just made him more curious. I just didn’t want him to see the sometimes gruesome fighting scenes with arms being cut off. I was afraid that he’d get scared of Chancellor Palpatine’s face after he almost died when Mace Windu battled him. The visual effects are so good that they look so lifelike. I kept asking him if he was scared, to which he always replied, “No.” Sure, he was not. He knew that it wasn’t real.

"Revenge of the Sith" has such a universal theme. It is about the choices we make and the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we have to make life-changing decisions. But when we are young, like Anakin in the movie, we let our emotions take over and we make harsh decisions - decisions that could lead to pain, loss and suffering. I hope that my children can see beyond the breath-taking lightsaber duels and take this lesson with them.