Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"A Special Surprise" - A Labour of Love

Earlier this year, I wrote The Birth of Our Baby when Ryland celebrated his seventh birthday. This prompted me to also write about Ryan’s birth, Our Small Miracle, when he turned 11 this past June. So I vowed to myself that I would write about Reggie’s as well when he celebrated his birthday in November.

You’d think that I would have enough time to do that. But alas, no. I’d like to say that it was the procrastinator in me who waited until November to even sit down and start writing this story. Well, that played a part. But to tell you the truth, this story had been one of the hardest for me to write. Not just because it happened 16 years ago and I had to dig deep in my thoughts to recall the details. But then again, I’ve written stories that are older than this.

1989, the year I got pregnant with my first-born, had been one of the most emotional episodes of my life. You’ll understand once you read A Special Surprise. It’s about the trials I faced and the decisions I had to make when I learned that I was pregnant with Reggie, who turned 16 in November.

I didn’t want to end the year without completing the stories of the births of my three children, the loves of my life. So thanks to my four-day Christmas vacation, I was able to finish the story of Reggie’s birth.

Just as Reggie had been a fruit of love, this story has been a labour of love. As I wrote this story, I was transported back in time - emotionally - that I found myself in tears when I read my finished work. But then again, I always get emotional at this time of the year.

And now, I present to you...

A Special Surprise


“I hope you won’t change the way you treat me as a friend and view me as a person once you hear what I am about to say,” I told my friend Jocelyn as we head back to the office after our coffee break one afternoon in June, 1989.

She turned to me and asked with eagerness, “What is it, Irene?”

“I’m pregnant,” I said.

I watched her eyes widen with excitement.

“You’re the first one to know,” I added.

She was the only one at my work place whom I trusted.

I was 24 and single. Mama came home during the Christmas holidays. We had such a good time. Mama had been in Canada since I was 15 and she would come home for a three-week visit once every two years. Mama stayed with me at the house I was renting in Pasig. My sister and her family came over several times during Mama’s vacation. That January we threw a birthday party for my niece, who turned one.

Read more here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Dear Saint Nick

"Mommy, is Santa real?"

"Remember what I told you last time?"

"Yeah. Santa is the symbol of Christmas."

"Santa represents the spirit of Christmas, which is?"


"Yup. And giving not only presents but also kindness and goodness."

Merry Christmas to All!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What is solstice?

This announcement has been popping up on the weather channel these past few days.

Winter Solstice. Winter officially starts on Wednesday, December 21st at 12:35 PM CST.

Ryan asked me this morning, “Mommy, what is solstice?”

“We have the shortest day of the year on winter solstice. On the other hand, we have the longest day on the summer solstice.”

Another screen popped out on the TV.

Sunrise: 8:35 AM. Sunset: 4:30 PM

“See,” I explained further. “We’ll have only about eight hours of daylight today.”

But the good news is that the days will gradually get longer after today.

According to, solstice means:

1. Either of two times of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs about June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic of Cancer; the winter solstice occurs about December 21, when the sun is over the tropic of Capricorn. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest.

2. A highest point or culmination.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Family, Friends, and Co-Workers Celebrate Rowena's Retirement

On Sunday, November 19, 2005, Rowena del Mundo invited family, friends and co-workers to her Retirement Party at the Sinclair Park Community Club. The place was elegantly decorated by Party Planner, Kelly, who happens to be Rowena’s step-daughter.

The tables were covered with white cloth and adorned with red napkins and red roses. Bottles of white wine were placed and white candles were lit on every table.

The host and celebrant was dressed in a red satin gown with black embroidery. A sheer black shawl draped her shoulders. She looked radiant and beautiful that night.

Read more here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Communal Celebration of Reconciliation

... forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ....

Last week, we celebrated Ryland’s First Reconciliation. Parents, children and families were gathered in the church. First we sang a gathering song to remind us of what we were celebrating. Then Father welcomed us and said a few words. One of the things he said that struck me was that Reconciliation has become a lost Sacrament. He also emphasized the positive role of this sacrament in reconciling personal conflict and healing our relationships. And that’s when I understood why there was a separate celebration for Reconciliation and it wasn’t celebrated together with the First Communion, which Ryland will receive in the Spring.

Father read the Parable of the Lost Sheep according to Luke 15: 1-7. Ryland and the other children have learned this story while preparing for this Sacrament.

Father explained that we were celebrating a communal Reconciliation. He said, “You do not have to say, ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been forever since I had my last confession.’ We know that. We won’t give you individual penance. Instead we will sing and pray as a group.”

We recited the Act of Contrition. The children have learned this by heart.

“O God, rich in mercy, I am sorry for all my sins; for what I have done and what I have failed to do. I will sincerely try to do better. Help me to walk by your light. Amen.”

After the Act of Contrition, Father and another priest stood by the altar. We came forward row by row as we do for communion. Parents brought their children to the priest, holding the child’s sheep. (The children made sheep out of cardboard, cotton balls and clothespins.) Parents waited a short distance away. Father leaned over to each child and asked, “What do you want to say ‘I’m sorry’ for to God?” The child then whispered one or two sins into Father’s ear. Father then gave his absolution and the child said, “Thank you, Father.”

The children returned to their parents and are handed their sheep to place on the banner by the altar. Then they went back to their places and took a few moments to thank God for the gift of forgiveness. Parents were also given the chance to have their confession. Hymns were sung while we had our turns.

The children went to the back of the church to get their candles. The catechist helped them light the candles and they brought them in procession to the altar to show that they walk in the light.

We then prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

At the end of the celebration, Father gave us his blessing and said, “Go in peace, your sins have been forgiven.”

And we all said, “Thanks be to God.”

We then continued the celebration of our joy in forgiveness with a feast at the school hall where parents dropped off their dainties (cup cakes, cookies, veggies and dip, cheese and crackers) which was shared by all. Father also joined us and chatted with the parents.

I think this Reconciliation had been a pleasant experience for the children and parents as well.

Related posts: The Lost Sacrament and The Lost Sheep and An Interesting Discussion of The Prodigal Son.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Interesting Discussion of "The Prodigal Son"

In one of the parents’ meeting for the Preparation for Reconciliation (see my previous entry The Lost Sacrament and the Lost Sheep), The Parable of the Prodigal Son was read and discussed.

Here is the Parable of the Prodigal Son according to Luke 15: 11-32.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

The Discussion

The younger son asked for his share of the property. His father was still alive. Usually inheritance is divided among children after one’s death. Just imagine what the father felt when his son asked for his share. Yet he still gave it to him without denouncing him.

The younger son went to a distant country and squandered all his money. He became broke and settled for a job feeding the pigs, the lowest occupation during that time. He was so hungry that he would eat the pods that were fed the pigs, but no one gave him anything. This was the lowest point in his life. He hit rock bottom.

After all this suffering, he came to his senses. This is what we call Repentance. He felt sorry for his sins and he decided to reconcile with his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.” This could only mean that his father had all this time hoping and waiting for him to come to his senses and come back home. I think that this is something any parent can relate to.

“He ran to his son, threw his arms around his son and kissed him.” The father couldn’t wait for the son to step at the front door. Instead he ran on the road. Remember the son was “still a long way off when his father saw him.” That’s how happy and excited the father was to see his son come back.

Before the son set out for home, he was ready to work as a slave for his father because that was what he thought he deserved. And yet when the son told his father that he was no longer fit to be called his son, he called the servants and asked them to bring his son the best robe (for he was wearing rags), put a ring on his finger (the ring being a symbol of royalty or authority), and sandals on his feet (for only slaves walked bare-footed). The father had a fattened calf killed and they celebrated with a feast. Because as he said, “he was lost and is found.”

Meanwhile the older son was working in the field when he heard the music and dancing in the house and he asked the servants what was going on. He got angry when he learned that his father was celebrating the return of his son, “this son of yours,” he said, who had squandered his father’s money on prostitutes, while he stayed, worked for him like a slave and never disobeyed his orders. His father had never given him even a young goat so he could feast with his friends. Then he refused to go inside the house. He was now disobeying his father. He sinned against the fourth commandment – You shall honour your father and your mother.

But the father explained, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

This last part got quite a few reactions from some of the parents at the meeting. Apparently they had experienced this with their siblings and parents. There was this Mom who has four siblings and one sibling was sort of the black sheep in the family. A brother who took his parents' money, moved away and didn’t contact the family for a long time. But when he came back, his parents welcomed him with open arms. And this brother became the center of attention. Which caused the other siblings to be jealous of the brother. Now they have a grudge against this brother and they have committed one of the seven deadly sins – envy or jealousy. But what can we do if we are thrown in a situation like this? We are humans and we can’t help it if we feel that way. And now that I am a parent myself, I can understand where their parents were coming from. We will accept our children no matter what. This is what parents do. I can imagine the worry their parents had when the brother was away, not knowing how he was and I would just be happy that he came back home healthy and safe.


Of course we know that the father in the parable is Our Father in Heaven who is always ready to accept a repentant sinner. This parable just shows us how great and infinite His Love is for all of us.

Next: A Communal Celebration of Reconciliation

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Lost Sacrament and The Lost Sheep

I was busy this past couple of months preparing my second grader for his First Reconciliation (Confession). I was a little bit surprised when I first learned that I would be the one teaching him about this Sacrament. My children attend public schools where Religion courses are not taught. So they attend their catechism classes every Saturday in our parish church. But you see, my two older sons learned about Confession through their catechism classes. So it was a different experience for Ryland.

To prepare the parents for this task, we were invited to attend three meetings. It was really sort of a refresher course on what Reconciliation is all about. And also to guide parents on how to explain this Sacrament in such a way that our 7- or 8-year olds could understand.

On the first meeting, we were asked to remember about our experiences in Confession. I was one of the parents who couldn’t remember the first time I went to the Confession. Talk about selective memory, eh? Yeah, I do have a lot of baggage that is repressed deep inside me. Well, what I remember is that I had it the day before my First Communion. Because back then, and this was also what my two older sons experienced, Confession and Communion go side by side. And back then, we also went to the Confessional box. I guess for me, it was less intimidating knowing that the priest couldn’t see my face when I told him my sins.

There was this Dad at the meeting who remembered going to Confession as a kid as a terrifying experience. He went to a Catholic school and every other Friday or so, he would line up in a hallway with the rest of the students waiting for his turn to go in the Box, while contemplating about his sins and worrying if Father would remember that his sins were the same ones he confessed the last time.

We don’t use the Box now. I remember my first time to go to Confession when I first came here in Winnipeg. I was surprised that I didn’t have to go to a Confessional box. I was kind of embarrassed to tell Father my sins, face to face. We sat next to each other in one of the pews. I was, at a certain point and up until that time, what people say “living in sin.” I felt so vulnerable. I cried my eyes out. It was a very intimidating experience. But I felt so relieved and so clean after that.

Which brings me to what a Mom shared at that meeting. She said that her husband tells their children, “going to Confession is like taking a bath. What would you feel if you don’t take a bath for a month? You would be stinky. If you don’t go to Confession, your soul will be stinky.” I must be one of those stinky souls because I don’t go that often. But I always pray to God every night and ask for his forgiveness. Could I be really stinky?

I didn’t mind teaching Ryland about Confession. The parents were given a Family Guide, which included stories and pictures, to help tackle this task. For half an hour, three to four nights a week, Ryland and I sat down by ourselves and learned (for me, I re-learned) about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And I even noticed that Ryland appreciated the conversations and special time that we spent together. I also noticed, that my middle son, Ryan, hang around a couple of times, probably wanting to have a special one-on-one time with me as well. And we will. He’s having his Confirmation later this school year so we will have this special time together when we prepare for that. I try to have one-on-one time with each of my three children whenever I find the time. But I guess I can never give them as much as they’d like.

These past weeks, Ryland has learned how to follow the paths of God. He has learned how to forgive and how to be a peacemaker. He also learned the story of The Lost Sheep - Luke 15: 1-7.

This is the version that we read together.

Once a shepherd had 100 sheep. He loved them very much and took good care of them. One evening, as he brought them back to the stable, he counted his sheep as usual: 97-98-99… But where was the hundredth?

The worried shepherd left his other sheep and set out to find his lost sheep.

At last he found her at the bottom of a ravine, entangled in thorns.

Did the shepherd complain to her? No, just the opposite. He was so happy that he put her on his shoulders and sang on his way home.

As he passed through the village, he gathered his friends together and invited them to celebrate with him.

In the same way, Jesus said:

“There is great joy in heaven when a single sinner comes back to God.”

Next: An Interesting Discussion of "The Prodigal Son" and A Communal Celebration of Reconciliation

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Five Favourite Childhood Foods

I have been tagged by Ange to list five foods that I loved during childhood, but no longer eat or able to find them. I also included links to pictures I’ve found on the internet for visual reference.

1. Champorado (Chocolate Rice) – Sticky rice boiled in a mixture of water, cocoa and sugar. It has a soupy consistency and is usually served with swirls of condensed milk. Perfect for those cool rainy days.

2. Atis (Sweetsop or Sugar Apple) – This is a round fruit with very scaly skin. This fruit has lots of seeds about the same size as the tamarind seeds. If my memory serves me right, I think each scale corresponds to one seed. Each seed is enveloped with white sweet flesh. It may take you a while to finish one fruit but it’s all worth it. I haven’t seen any here in Winnipeg. This is one of my must haves if and when I go back home to the Philippines for a visit.

3. Duhat (Java Plum) – (You have to scroll to the middle of the linked page for a picture of the duhat .) About the same size and shape as grapes. It has a thin blackish purple skin, white flesh and a large seed. Taste is somewhere between sour and sweet. I would put a bunch of duhat in a bowl, sprinkle with sea salt, cover the bowl and shake the contents. This fruit leaves an aftertaste in your mouth and also purple stains on your tongue, as well as on your clothes. So don’t wear your best clothes if you plan to eat this fruit.

4. Sugar cane – We would peel these stalks, sometimes with our teeth. We’d chew the fiber extracting the juice. Then we would spit out the fiber once we have taken out all the juice. Kind of like eating gum, which we chew and spit out once the flavour is all gone.

5. Manggang Piko (A variety of mango) – The only kind of mango that we get here in Winnipeg is the kind that we call "Indian mango" in the Philippines. This "Indian mango" has greenish or sometimes yellow flesh and is usually sweet. What I miss is the manggang piko. It is smaller than the "Indian mango" and is more elongated. Manggang piko is very sour. I would prepare patis (fish sauce) in a small plate and sprinkle it with sea salt. I’d dip my sliced manggang piko in this sauce. Umm, nangasim tuloy ako.

I’m supposed to tag 3 people. But instead, I’m keeping this as an open invitation to anybody who’s interested in sharing their 5 favourite childhood foods. Just let me know. I'd like to read yours ,too. Enjoy!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Celebrating Christmas at the Christmas Capital of Canada

Usually after Halloween, Christmas decorations start to appear in the stores, carols fill the air, advertisements of toys, jewelry, and electronic gadgets pop up on TV. Snow falls and then it will really start to look a lot like Christmas. Known as the Christmas Capital of Canada, Winnipeg kicks off the holiday season on the third Saturday of November with The Santa Claus Parade. Houses are brightly lit with Christmas lights throughout the season. At home, my kids help me put up and decorate the Tree.

Continue reading how I and other Filipinos celebrate Christmas in different parts of the world in Ang Aming Pasko (Our Christmas) at pinoyatbp.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

How much does it cost to see a movie?

We paid only Cdn$4.25 a ticket at Garden City Cinema here in Winnipeg when we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this past weekend. I don’t know if it’s because we caught the matinee. The last time my three kids and I went to the movies, we paid Cdn$8.50 each. Well, I’m not complaining.

This is how much we spent: ($ = Cdn$)

Tickets $4.25 x 4 = $ 17.00 (taxes included)

Large popcorn $5.79 x 2 = $11.58
Extra butter $0.25 x 2 = $0.50
Small Kool-aid $3.29 x 3 = $9.87
7% GST (goods & services tax) = $1.54
7% PST (provincial sales tax) = $1.54

Total = $42.03

We couldn't forego the overpriced popcorn and drinks. My kids don't see the point of going to the movies without these. If you will notice, we shared the popcorn and I didn't buy drinks for myself.

We saved $17.00 this time, ticket was half price. Otherwise, we would have spent $59.03. Quite pricey, eh? This is the reason we go to the movies only once or twice a year. We usually just wait for the movies to come out on DVD.

What about in your city, how much does it cost to go to the movies?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Trials and dilemmas

“It was boring,” my seven-year old said.

“I like Harry Potter 3 better,” my 11-year old said.

“What about you, Reggie, did you like the movie?” I asked my 16-year old.

He nodded.

I personally enjoyed it. Although, I’ll admit that I didn’t have that same feeling of satisfaction when I first saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I read three movie reviews of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before I actually found the time to watch it this weekend. The film stayed close to the book, although there were a few parts that didn’t make it to the movie. I didn’t mind it though because the film captured the essence of the story. Sometimes filmmakers have to sacrifice some parts of a novel for brevity. Otherwise, we’d be sitting at a four-hour long film.

Boy, these young actors have grown! Daniel Radcliffe has become more handsome. Emma Watson is very pretty. Rupert Grint is not that bad, either. And it was very interesting to see some characters come to life for the first time. Cho Chang’s beauty is very simple and charming. Mad Eye Moody is magical. And Ralph Fiennes, although we can’t recognize him, gave a fine performance as Lord Voldemort.

The special effects is outstanding. It’s amazing to see the three trials happen on the big screen. The scene at the graveyard is not that too harsh for the kids. I got emotional towards the end of that scene. I don’t know if it’s just me. But I got misty eyed when I watched Harry broke down when he brought Cedric back from the graveyard. It could also be the acting. These youngsters have matured not only physically, but professionally as well.

In my opinion, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the best storyline of the series so far. In this book Harry was faced with different trials in the Triwizard Tournament, which could signify the trials we face in life. He was faced with dilemmas in the last two trials but he rose to the occasions and he showed his “moral fibre.” We also witness the characters grow up as they experience the pangs of adolescence. To Harry, stealing an egg from a dragon was an achievable task, but asking Cho to the dance was excruciatingly painful. I can relate. I could easily solve a trigonometric equation in high school but I was clueless at how to make a boy notice me.

I guess this is the reason that the Harry Potter series is a success. The theme is universal. Teenagers can relate to the characters, and parents as well because they have been through that phase. At the same time, I think this is also the reason why my two younger kids didn’t enjoy The Goblet of Fire as much as Reggie and I did. This installment is geared towards a more mature audience

Note: I have noticed recently that the movie rating is more lenient here in Canada. In the U.S. this movie is rated PG 13, here in Canada it is PG. I also noticed that there are movies Rated R in the U.S. that are rated only 14A or 18A here. Or it probably varies in the different provinces and territories.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The sneeze

The Sneeze
by Sheree Fitch

I winked and I blinked
And my nose got itchy
And my eyes all watered
And my mouth went twitchy
I went AHHHH
I went AHHHH
And I blew
And I sneezed
Then I coughed
And I wheezed
And my brother said, "Oh, brother!"
And my mother said,
My father said, "Bless you!"
And I said, Ah . . . ah . . . ah . . .

Whenever one of my children sneezes, I say "Bless you." Once, Ryan sneezed three times in a row and I said "Bless you" three times in a row. When I sneeze, Ryland will say, "Bless you, Mommy." And I will say, "Oh thank you, Ryland."

This weekend, I was shopping with Ryland and this lady sneezed and I said, "Bless you." She said, "Thank you."

What about you? Do you say "Bless you" when somebody sneezes, even if you don't know them?

The picture above is one of the many Christmas lights that adorn Winnipeg streets. I think it depicts Father Winter blowing snow. This one is located in front of the City Hall.