Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Don't have lots of money

I am always trying to instill into my kids’ minds the value of money. Money doesn't grow on trees. Even in this part of the world, we have to work hard in order to get by.

When my oldest son, Reggie, was still a little boy, I would tell him that he couldn’t buy every toy that he desired in the store. I would explain to him in the simplest words that his young mind could understand, “We don’t have lots of money.” When we had to wait for the bus for half an hour because we just missed the last one, he would ask me, “Why don’t we have a car? Our cousins do.” I would tell him, “Because cars are expensive and we don’t have lots of money.”

I didn’t realize then if he understood what I had been explaining to him. That is, until I read what he had written on his Grade 2 school journal. I knew that his teacher always read and checked her students’ journals. At first I didn’t know if I would be embarrassed or proud of the journal entries below.
October - All about Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving, we eat turkey but some of us don’t eat turkey because we don’t have lots of money. Some of us celebrate Thanksgiving and some of us decorate our house and some of us put lots of decorations and some of us put a little bit of decoration because we don’t have lots of money.

December - My Christmas Wish

The people that don’t have our stuff are very poor because they don’t have lots of money. If there are sick kids I wish somebody can give them a present.

Now, I don’t know if “We don’t have lots of money” follows correct grammar. Should it be “We don’t have a lot of money”? And we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving at home. I grew up in the Philippines and we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving there. Thanksgiving is just another day off for me. Also, I prefer chicken to turkey.

I guess in the end, I felt more proud than embarrassed of his journal entries. He was getting what I was trying to teach him.

Reggie, by the way, is now 15 years old and will start Grade 11 next week. His writing has become a lot better and deeper. He still understands that we don't have a lot of money and that he can't buy every CD that he desires in the store.

Friday, August 26, 2005

11 Inexpensive things I did this summer

As usual, I didn’t go away this summer. With a limited budget, I can’t really go on trips. But one doesn’t need to spend much to enjoy this time of year. These are some of the things I did with my family.

1. We went to The Red River Ex. We used two of the kids’ “Read and Win Pass.” Regular ticket price was $7.50.

2. We went to see the Bears on Broadway. This is free. There are three bears situated at locations other than Broadway Avenue. One outside the Winnipeg Art Gallery, one inside Polo Park, and one at the airport. The bears will be on display until October 2005.

3. Ryan and I watched a Goldeyes baseball game. Mama gave us two free tickets. Regular ticket price was $15.00.

4. We went to Steinbach Aquatic Centre. Entrance fee was $20.00 per family. Plus another $20.00 for gasoline. We carpooled with Mama. Steinbach is a city just an hour drive from Winnipeg.

5. We rented and watched lots of movies. Ninety-nine cents only every Thursdays at Pick-a-Flick.

6. We watched a free jazz concert at McNally Robinson.

7. We went to Folklorama. Entrance fee was $3.75 each. Children under 12, free.

8. We went to Tut at The Forks and visited the Egyptian Treasures Exhibition. Ticket was $5.00 each. Children under 5, free.

9. I read and finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince during my two-week vacation from work. The book sold for $21.40 at Superstore.

10. I held a garage sale.

11. I shopped for school supplies and clothes for the kids at Superstore, Zellers and Walmart. There are always great bargains at these stores. I avoided brand names as much as possible except for a few items. For instance, UHU glue sticks are better than generic brands. Payless shoes tend to last longer than the ones from Superstore and Zellers. My kids, and also myself, prefer the clothes style better at Sears or Zellers than those from Superstore or Walmart.

There are a few other things that one can do without spending much or anything. Picnics at parks, visiting the zoo, going to garage sales (instead of holding one), biking, hiking, camping.

How about you? What did you do this summer?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

How I held a garage sale

Every summer, I tackle the job of cleaning out our basement. My three boys have bins and bins of neglected toys behind the stairs. We also accumulate unused items all year round and these are tucked away in the laundry/storage room. I usually sort the toys and other items that we don’t need any longer and I give those to The Salvation Army, the Canadian Diabetes Association, or whatever charity would call first. Really, I wonder how they got my phone number, and once you give them your old clothes or unwanted items, they will call you occasionally. It's just bad that I don’t always have anything ready for them.

We had been really on a tight budget this past seven months since hubby had been out of work. (He’s working now, thank goodness!) So as I was sorting those toys, I thought, mmn, why don’t I hold a garage sale? I could use the extra money for buying school supplies and clothes. I tell you, my boys do shoot up like trees.

I’ve seen people in our neighbourhood hold garage sales. I rarely go, though. I didn’t have any idea on how to price my wares. But sis and brother-in-law go to these sales occasionally. So, I’ve asked for their help. They priced almost all of my merchandise.

Here are some tips that I have learned from them and from my recent experience as well: (Click on the images for a larger view.)

1. Find out if you need a permit. I was searching the internet on how to hold a garage sale and a few sites mentioned to first find out if your community requires you to have a permit. After asking around, I found out that I didn’t need one.

2. Clean the items. Dust or wipe with a damp cloth to make them look appealing.

3. Put small toys of the same kind in a bag. For instance, I put four “Toy Story” toys in a sandwich bag, price - $1.00/bag.

4. Time your garage sale around payday (the 15th or end of the month). People are more likely to buy if their wallets are full.

5. Clearly mark the items with labels or tags. I used masking tape.

6. Make signs that indicate the place (your street address), the date and time of the garage sale. I printed mine in big bold letters on a white bond paper and taped it to a corrugated cardboard.

7. Put your signs up on strategic spots around your neighbourhood. I put mine at intersections close to bus stops around our area.

8. Set up a table or two in the garage, yard, or driveway. I borrowed sis’ folding table and an old picnic table, which I covered with the colourful plastic table cover, which I used at my son’s last birthday party. Arrange your merchandise neatly on the table or on the floor around it if you don’t have enough space. One lady commented that I had a very nice set-up. Thank you very much.

9. Put up balloons or any markers in front of your house on the day of the sale. One customer said that the balloons helped her find my place.

10. Make sure you have lots of change – coins and small dollar bills.

11. Have lots of plastic bags ready.

12. Greet your customers with a hello and a smile and thank them even if they just browsed.

13. If they seem friendly, don’t hesitate to chat with them.

14. If you notice a customer constantly holding, flipping, or examining an item, go ahead and ask, “How much do you want that for?” I gave a 24 mini Bible board book set for $2.00 even if the price tag said $3.00.

15. You will have free time in between customers and you could use this time to read or write, or whatever it is that you do. I read six chapters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (finished the book in twelve days) and four chapters of Carol Shields’ Unless. I wrote this piece (How I held a garage sale) during that free time as well.

16. Ask your older kids to watch the sale when you have lunch or when you need a break.

17. Any unsold items may be donated to a local charity or may be kept for the next sale.

My two days (two Saturdays) of garage sale had been a pleasant experience. I got to meet the people in my neighbourhood. Some are friendly and some are just like, “whatever.” I was quite surprised that about a quarter of the people I met during this time spoke French. (I’m sure they sounded French.) The proceeds weren’t that bad either.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

He wanted a peaceful reconciliation

To commemorate Ninoy Aquino's 22nd death anniversary, I'm sharing with you this letter that I wrote my mother.

Mandaluyong, M. Manila
September 12,1983

Hello Dolly,

Hi! Hope you have lesser worries now. You shouldn’t, really. Because as Ninoy said, “I want a reconciliation with no violence.” That’s why we, here in the Philippines, are just cool. There is no violence. At first, people were panicking because they were afraid that there would be a rampage. But there hasn’t been any. It was kind of funny nga eh. We heard that people were withdrawing money from the banks, just in case of a turmoil. Then, on August 22, the day after Ninoy died, most of the schools here suspended their classes. My school (PSBA) was one of those. Did you really see on TV when Ninoy was shot? You see, that wasn’t shown on the news here. We saw when he got out of the plane, went down the steps, then CUT. The next thing we saw, his body was being carried away. He was already gunned down. That’s why the question, “Who shot him?” was a really big issue. At first, the story being reported on the news was that it was a “wanted” person (by the government) who shot him. Later on, it was reported that it was one of his escorts. One more thing, it was 2:00 pm when they televised the news here, when in fact, he was shot at 12:00 noon. I think, abroad, the shooting was shown on TV right away after it happened. It’s really very suspicious. It has been on the news ever since, up until now. People are really very dubious of FM, FL, and JPE. I think FM is the least guilty of the three. Because, you see, there are reports that FL and JPE are planning to resign. Siguro hindi na kaya ng conciencia nila.

Ninoy was buried on August 31. (You mentioned on your letter dated August 29 that you saw on TV his funeral. He was buried on Aug. 31. How did that happen?) Well, anyway, there were many people who attended the funeral. I was one of them. There were barely any students when I went to school that day. I saw two classmates, Tess and Lyn, and we went to Lerma-Espanya to watch the funeral. The procession, which started at Paranaque, passed through Espanya, on the way to Memorial Park. There were so many people on the streets, even on the rooftops. Hindi nga mahulugang-karayom eh. Even the overpass was full of people. Duon kami nakisiksik. We placed ourselves by the stairs so we could see clearly down below. We waited for a long time. When the procession came, we saw people carrying banners saying “ Ninoy hindi ka nag-iisa,” “Marcos the great liar,” “Marcos nag-iisa ka na lang,” “Fight for justice and freedom,” and many more. I didn’t see any representatives from the government, which was a good thing, because the writings on the banner were all against the government. And it was interesting to see that the police officers were not carrying guns. Batuta lang ang dala nila. Ninoy’s widow suggested that because he didn’t want violence. He wanted a peaceful reconciliation, which wasn’t granted to him. Then we saw the coffin, which was surrounded by yellow flowers. At the exact moment that the coffin came right below where we were watching, rain started to pour. We all got wet. Umuwi ako na parang basing sisiw. People in the jeep were staring at me because I was soaking wet.

That was done and over with. There was no violence. People are expressing their anger in the newspapers. Everything that we read in the papers is against the government. One paper was asking FM to resign in order to better the condition of the Philippines. Yesterday, September 11, was FM’s birthday. Only a few TV stations run tributes to him, unlike the past years, when every radio and TV stations have something to offer him. Ay naku! So much for that.

Is it true that you are planning to come home in December? I really hope so. Hindi naman delicadong magbalik-bayan. As I’ve told you, there is no turmoil here. You have nothing to worry about.

O sige ha, ‘til here. I am very sleepy now. I hope you can still read my handwriting. Don’t worry, okay. Bye. Ingat.

I love you,

You can also view this at Hello Dolly.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On talking and speaking up

My high school classmate, Paul, recommended to me the movie Paulie. I was very eager to see it when he asked me to look at obvious parallelism with my journal entries and our high school life back in 1982. I thought I'd try to find a copy of this movie. I didn't have to search far since my sister has a tape of the film.

Paulie is a about a parrot that was given to Marie (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), a little girl who stuttered. Paulie (voiced by Jay Mohr) learned to talk as Marie was undergoing speech therapy. Paulie was separated from Marie and was transferred from one owner to the next until he ended up in the basement of a research lab where he met Misha (Tony Shalhoub), the Russian janitor. Paulie related to Misha how he had tried to search for Marie all this time and why he was sent in the basement, away from sunlight and any companion. Misha formed a friendship with Paulie, nourished him and helped him search for Marie.

One parallelism I saw was this. Paulie was transferred from one owner to the next. I have lived and moved from one place to another. I grew up in Noveleta, Cavite. When I was 12, my parents separated and Mama, my sister and I went to live with my aunt's family in Pandacan, Manila. After a year, Mama was able to get back up on her feet and we moved back to Cavite, this time in Imus. Two years later, Mama applied for a working visa in Canada, was luckily approved and went abroad, leaving sis and me with Auntie in Pandacan. I lived with Papa for a little while in Sampaloc and then in Mandaluyong before both sis and I settled in Pasig, where I met my future husband, Ronald. And now I am here in Winnipeg, Canada.

I think there are two important themes in the film.

First, Paulie being a parrot, it's about how talking gets us in trouble and how we have to be careful of the things we say. Sometimes, our mouth gets ahead of our brain and we let words out before thinking first. We have to be careful on how our words, either oral or written, will be interpreted by the receiver. Paulie had been in a lot of trouble for "talking." But as Misha said, "It's not that. It's how you say things. You have to be careful."

On the other hand, we have to speak up. For how will our listener or reader know how we feel or think about something. When I was in high school and even in elementary school, I was very shy and didn't participate much in class discussions or school organizations. And I think it had been to my detriment at times. I may have had these wonderful ideas but I just kept them to myself.

Misha told Paulie about the story of his love for this girl whom he went to school with. But he didn't tell her how he felt and the next thing he knew, she was marrying his best friend. "It's important to speak up," he said.

I can relate to Misha. As I have already mentioned, I was very shy and quiet when I was young. I was even surprised that a boy noticed me in high school and he actually became my first boyfriend. Somehow, we started drifting apart after a few months of dating until he stopped "seeing" me. I was heartbroken especially when I saw him with other girls at school. We would bump into each other and he would talk to me briefly but not about our relationship. I don't know why I didn't take the initiative to talk to him about what happened to us. It was probably pride. I didn't want him to think that I was still gaga over him if he wasn't interested in me anymore. Or it must be I thought that as a "dalagang Pilipina" (Filipino lady), I should be mahinhin (timid) and always let the guy speak up first. I have hoped for us to get back together until we graduated from college and I never saw him again. I then had to let him go. This is what I learned from that relationship. I have to speak up what's on my mind and how I feel.

So when the next guy came along, I made sure that I spoke up and told him how I felt. It worked. I am now married to this guy.

The second theme is Paulie's determination to find Marie. If there's a will there's a way, isn't there? Now, this one a can very well relate to.

In December 2001, I wrote my high school classmates in the Philippines. I haven't seen most of them since we graduated in 1982 and I have always wondered what happened to them. With 20-year old addresses and maiden names on those envelopes, I didn't expect much. But I wasn't discouraged when my then 13-year old son, Reggie, said, "That's impossible, Mommy!" A month later, I received that first e-mail from Annie Magdael, and the rest is, as they say, history. That e-mail was followed by several e-mails, not just from Annie, but some from other classmates as well, including my dear friend, Josephine Briones, and of course, Paul.

When Paulie narrated this: "Marie couldn't talk. Dad couldn't listen. Mom couldn't cope. So they got rid of me." I was reminded of my uncle and my aunt. They were very strict that they drove my boyfriend away. Yet I couldn't say or do anything. I was helpless.

Here are some more memorable quotes from Paulie:

"The things you love most are the things they take away."

"There are things in life you put off because you think you're gonna do them later. But the real thing Ivy taught me is: You gotta live like there may not be a later."

"How do you know if you met the right woman? She has to be pretty... smart... She has books on her table or flowers on her hair. It's important to have high standards."

"Talking just gets you into trouble. No, it's not that. It's how you say things. You have to be careful."

Paulie is a heartwarming family movie. My kids didn't want to watch it with me, though. I don't know if it's a boy thing, or it could be that they have outgrown this type of movies.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Revisiting my cultural heritage

Michelle wrote this entry on the guest book of Catherine’s Corner:

“Hey! I was bored tonight and being in the Folklorama aftermast of sadness I decided to google the word "magdaragat" and see what comes up. I read your page entry about your visit to our pavillion (pearl of the orient) a few years ago and I have to say I was very entertained to hear an audience member’s point of view from the entire experience! I've been a member of the group for 7 or 8 years or something, and this is the first thing like this I've read. I hope that visit wasn't your last!”

I think it’s cool that pages of my humble website appear in Google searches. And no, it wasn’t my last visit. Actually, I have been visiting the Philippine pavilions ever since.

Last week, we went to see the “Nayong Pilipino” pavilion held at the new Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM) building. As usual, I was mesmerized by the opening song. A Filipina youth rendered Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas, originally popularized by Sharon Cuneta. I was enthralled once again by the graceful movements of the Kayumanggi dancers in their colourful costumes. I finally had the chance to see the dances from the North. I was looking forward to watching the Igorot dance. It was the first time I saw a live performance of men clad only in bahag (G-strings). I also saw some of the dances from the South, the Moslem dances. I was in awe while I watched a couple dance, each of them on top of just a single thick bamboo pole carried by two men. They both managed to dance gracefully without falling off. Whew! And I just can never get enough of the tinikling. Ang galing talaga ng mga mananayaw.

And of course, going to a Filipino gathering like this, I bumped into a few familiar faces. And it’s always a treat to taste our delicacies. A huge tent was set up to accommodate the eating area. I noticed that there was only a small room for the cultural displays. I think that the PCCM building is quite small to hold a Philippine pavilion. But we had fun though.

Folklorama, by the way, is an annual two-week event that celebrates the diverse cultural heritage of the people who settled in Manitoba and Canada. Pavilions are hosted in church basements, community halls, gymnasiums and theatres of schools. The pavilions showcase traditional home-cooked meals, cultural displays, music and dances of the different cultures of the world.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Do they speak Tagalog?

Two years ago I wrote Do They Speak Tagalog? in Catherine’s Corner. In observance of Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) in the Philippines, I am republishing this post.

It has been my mission to teach my children how to speak my native language, Tagalog. I don't really know why it is that important to me. My main reasoning is that when I am old and gray and have Alzheimer's Disease, or as we say in our native tongue, "kapag ako'y uliyanin na," and I forget the English language, I don't want them fighting over their inheritance (if ever they will inherit anything) because they can't understand me when I tell them what each of them will get.

I talked to my first child, Reggie, in Taglish (a combination of English and Tagalog). His babysitters, (he had been through three) were all elderly Filipino women who talked to him in Tagalog. I noticed a problem when he was already three years old, ready to start nursery school, and he couldn't talk in straight sentences, neither in Tagalog nor in English. I even recall that he called Batman, "Memen." You know how the Whites say "bat" with a long "a" sound and also "man" with a long "a," hence, "memen." My husband's uncle said, "He must have taken from his Daddy. Ronald was a late talker, too."

I sent Reggie to nursery school, worried that the teacher and the other kids would not understand him. Luckily he learned to talk in straight English soon after he started school. I continued to talk to him in Taglish and it worked out fine. Then came my second child, Ryan. I talked to Ryan the same way I talked to Reggie, in Taglish. I sent Ryan to a family daycare run by a very nice white lady after my 6-month maternity leave was over. Between the nice white lady and Reggie talking to Ryan in English, and watching TV shows that were in English, Ryan's first language became the English language. Same thing happened with my third child Ryland, who also went to daycare. And so it happened that as my three children were growing up, they were talking to their friends in school in English; and at home they were talking to each other in English. They talked to me in English and they answered me in English (they still do) even though I asked them something in Tagalog.

When Reggie was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, they had a routine hearing test at school. He came home with a letter from the teacher advising me that the test results were not good. I made an appointment for him to see a hearing specialist. I thought maybe that he did have a hearing problem. Sometimes at home, he would not hear me when I tell him, "Reggie, lumayo ka sa TV (get away from the TV)," or "Reggie, hinaan mo ang TV (turn down the volume)." We went to see an audiologist and after a few tests, the audiologist told me that his hearing was perfect. She explained to me that maybe he was just distracted at school and didn't hear the teacher when he was called. And since he didn't "hear" me at home either, that was when I realized that he did not understand me when I told him "lumayo ka sa TV (get away from the TV)." But when I told him "move away from the TV," he quickly did so.

Later on I was talking to my kids more in English than I talked to them in Tagalog. Their dad would talk to them in Tagalog and they would not understand him. Their dad would get upset when he'd ask "Reggie, kunin mo ang kamiseta ko sa itaas (get my shirt upstairs)," or "Ryan, hanapin mo ang tsinelas ko (go find my slippers)," and they won't budge from their seats because they didn't understand what he just said. When I told their dad "Don't get mad at them. Translate it in English. They didn't understand you." Ronald turned on me and said, "lagi mo kasi silang ini-inglis (That’s because you always talk to them in English)." I just couldn't help it. My child talked to me in English and my instinct was to reply in English.

I started talking to them more in Tagalog. It was not a piece of cake though. It took a lot of patience. Read more here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

What are real matters of consequence?

Before I start reading a thick book this summer, I thought I'd revisit The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince may seem like a children’s book but it really addresses both the children and the adults in us. This is a story about love and loneliness.

I first read this book when I was a Freshman at Centro Escolar University. My Psychology teacher suggested that we read The Little Prince. And I did. That’s how easily one can persuade me. Well, not all the time.

The narrator is a pilot who met the little prince when he was stranded in the Sahara Desert. The narrator learned that the little prince lived alone in a tiny planet no larger than a house and where he owned three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. He also owned a flower, one of a kind, very beautiful but very proud. It was this pride that set the little prince to travel and he told the narrator about the different kinds of adults and creatures that he met. The reader will realize that one encounters these characters regularly.

The king claims that he rules the universe. Although his orders are reasonable, they are ridiculous. He gives orders that people will do anyway, such as yawning. The conceited man hears only praises. He craves for admiration. The tippler (drunkard) drinks to forget that he is ashamed of drinking. The businessman is too much occupied with counting the stars, which he claims he owns yet he doesn’t know what they are called. He is too busy to even greet and talk to his visitor. The lamplighter is the only one of them all whom the little prince could have befriended because he is the only one thinking of something else besides himself. But his planet has no room on it for two people. The geographer hasn’t explored his own magnificent planet because he believed that it is the explorer’s job, yet he has not a single explorer on his planet. “The grown-ups are certainly very, very odd,” the little prince said.

On earth, the little prince met a snake that only speaks in riddles because it claims that it can solve them all. He came upon a garden of roses where he realized that his rose wasn’t one of a kind after all. He met a fox that taught him how to tame (establish ties with) it because “One only understands the things that one tames.” The fox also revealed its secret to the little prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The fox explained, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

The little prince also met a railway switchman who explained to him that travelers rush to different directions and are never satisfied where they are and that “only the children know what they are looking for.” He met a merchant who sold pills that quench thirst “because they save a tremendous amount of time. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.” Yet the little prince said to himself, “If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.

The Little Prince reminds us of the innocence of children and their constant thirst for knowledge. It also reminds us how adults are sometimes dull and unimaginative and how they are always busy with matters of consequence.

The Little Prince is a tiny book full of profound and hidden meanings.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dog days of summer

Here in Winnipeg, we get the extreme temperatures from both ends of the thermometer – from minus 33C (or lower) in the winter to plus 33C (or higher) in the summer. I think this is the hottest day this summer, so far. We reached a high of plus 32C with a humidex factor of 7. So it really felt like it was plus 40C. We had the aircon on for the last two days. This is one more reason I enjoy working at home. I don’t have to go out there under the heat of the sun. I did go out this noon in the sweltering heat to water my flowers. They looked so thirsty. My white petunias are thriving but the red pansies are struggling against the heat. We’ve had quite a few really hot days that we had melted chocolate bars and we had to put them in the fridge. We had steamed rice as well that had been spoiled. And I was sunburnt when I went to the baseball game. Well, I guess I can’t complain too much. This is a lot better than the summer we had last year.

Summer trivia:

Why are hot days referred to as dog days?

The phrase dog days is said to have originated in Roman times as canicularis dies, 'days of the dog,' referring to the dog star Sirius or Procyon. The Romans thought the rising of the most brilliant star of the constellation Canis Major contributed to the heat of summer.

Source of trivia: http://dictionary.reference.com/features/summer.html