Friday, April 28, 2006

Disgusting table etiquette?

My friend, Elaine, sent me this news link from The Chronicle titled, Filipino table etiquette punished at local school. Lunch monitor tells student his eating habits are ‘disgusting.’

This incident happened in Montreal. The lunch program monitor punished a 7-year old Filipino boy because the monitor thinks that the boy’s eating habit is disgusting. The boy fills his spoon by pushing the food on his plate with his fork. This is the traditional way we Filipinos eat our food. I have been here in Canada for 16 years and I have never heard anybody say that this habit was disgusting. Or were people just being polite? I was surprised when I read this news.

The boy’s mother confronted the lunch program monitor after her son had been punished more than 10 times this year and the boy said that he didn’t want to eat anymore. The lunch monitor said, “If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time.” Now, come on, he thinks that eating with a spoon and fork at the same time is eating like a pig?

What’s equally shocking and brought the mother to tears is the principal’s reaction. He said to the mother, “Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.” But isn’t this a free country? If it’s not against the law, can’t we eat the way we want to eat? The principal even added that he wants his students to eat intelligently at the table? So what does he mean by that? That the Filipino way of eating is dumb? Really. I find that response very childish.

Just the other day, I was explaining to my kids how we say and pronounce words differently in the Philippines. I told them that in the Philippines, their dad’s name is said Ron, the way they say Ron in the Harry Potter movies and not the same way they say it here in Canada. Eva is Ee-va here but Eh-va over there. My son Ryan said that’s dumb. No, Ryan, I said, it’s not dumb. It’s just different.

I hope the Montreal incident is just an isolated case. Because I’d hate it if my kids were subjected to a situation like that.

My children’s schools promote multiculturalism and they study about the different countries and cultures of the world. And I think that’s good. Knowledge about our diversities should help us tolerate each other’s differences. Right? Because, after all, Canada is a country of mixed cultures. And I thought that Canadians should have learned by now how to tolerate each other’s differences. But I guess not. I think we should educate each other about our differences. But will that cure people of their prejudices? I guess not again.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Chicago - A Music and Arts Experience

“You’re not shy anymore, Kuya Reggie?” Ryan teased his brother.

Reggie pinched him on his side.

Ryan usually tells him, “Don’t be shy, Kuya Reggie” when we’re at the dinner table. We’d all be chatting and Reggie would just be quiet. I would always try to ask him something just to make him join in the conversation. But since he came back from Chicago, I had been asking him a lot of questions about his five-day trip. (Yes, my dear son is back home in our loving arms.) I was very eager to know about the musical and the concerts and the other places that they’ve been to. And he was equally excited to tell us about all these. He even exchanged Customs experiences at the US-Canada Border with Lola (grandma).

They were gone for five days, but two of which were spent driving (17 hours), one going there, and another going back. The three remaining days were then spent experiencing the Music and Arts scene of Chicago.

The students had a very hectic schedule. They had music clinics at the Wheaton College. They visited the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, the Chicago Blues Band, The House of Blues, the Bubba Gump on the Navy Pier, and The Art Institute of Chicago. They also explored Michigan Avenue, Millenium Park and State Street. But the three highlights of their trip were seeing:

1. The Broadway Musical - WICKED, which is about the Wizard of Oz told from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Witch is not that bad at all.

2. The Blue Man Group concert – I’ve seen a sample of this group’s music at a late night show a couple of years ago. Recently, I’ve also seen a sample of their gag in the Daily Planet. They’re good and very entertaining. Reggie said that he enjoyed their performance and he was actually seated on the front, which is called the Poncho seat because they had to wear ponchos. (A poncho is a blanketlike cloak.) There’s a lot of food and slimy gags involved. I could just imagine. The one I’ve seen on the Daily Planet involved stuffing marshmallows in a Blue Man’s mouth and then spitting them out.

3. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert – I think this was a fitting ending for the young musicians’ trip.

Reggie took over 250 pictures. Here's just a few, a summary of his trip. Click on the images for a larger view. Or go to My Photosite.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Growing pains (x3)

Spring has finally sprung here in Winnipeg giving us temperatures of up to 24 C degrees this past couple of weeks. Time to put away the winter gear and get our lighter clothing out of hiding. It’s when the season changes that I usually discover how my kids have grown in the past six months.

Ryan and Reggie needed new shoes and shirts and so we headed to the malls last weekend and the weekend before that. I didn’t realize that Ryan wears a men’s size shoes now. I had to make sure that the cashier knew that the shoes I was buying were for my 11-year old son lest she charges me another 7% for the GST (goods and services tax) on top of the 7% PST (provincial sales tax).

My boy is slowly growing right before my eyes. He’s an adolescent now. Just two weeks ago, I noticed a zit (pimple) on his forehead. Before I know it, he’ll be bringing girls home.

Which reminds me of the girl who shouted, “I love you, Reginald,” to my 16-year old right there at the center of the mall.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

He just smiled. It must be a girl from his school.

“Is that your girlfriend, Kuya Reggie?” Ryland teased him.

I stretched my arm backwards to reach for Ryland’s hand. He was walking with his older brothers and hesitated to grab my arm. What now? Didn’t he want to walk with his mommy, anymore?

I tell you. I can feel my youngest son starting to pull away from me at times. At church, he would brush away my index finger as I point out the words from the hymnbook. He used to make me point at the words so he could follow along with the song. But he’s pretty good at reading now and he has become more independent.


“Are you going to cry again?” That was my friend Elaine on the phone when I told her about Reggie’s school band trip.

“No, I don’t cry anymore. I’m already used to him going away.” That was my brave answer.

Elaine knew about the time I cried the very first time Reggie went away on a camping trip when he was in sixth grade. And the few other times he went to band trips. I haven’t cried the past few times he went though.

I should have let his father drop him off at school on Monday. That was our initial plan. Because his luggage was heavy and it was best if his father helped him. But he had to leave really early and it was still pitch dark outside so instead of walking, I called a cab and told the hubby that I’d go instead. We were taking the cab anyway. I think I just wanted to see my son off because this is his farthest and longest trip yet. I thought I was used to him going away on trips. But the moment I got back in the cab, I got pretty choked up.

It was that same feeling I had when I dropped off my youngest son on his first day of school. I knew that Ryland was coming back home and I knew that Reggie will be coming back home. I know that we should let our children spread their wings but it's just hard to let go.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reconnecting and Healing

A few months ago, Ellen DeGeneres talked on her show about how she moved to different schools when she was younger. She said that she doesn’t remember anything. She doesn’t have pictures and so she asked her viewers that if they went to school with her, to please send her pictures. “I’m trying to piece my life together,” she said.

She may have said that in jest, but I know how hard it is to move to different places. I also went to different schools. My memory of each school is also a blur. But, I do have pictures.

Just as Ellen did, I just want to throw out there the list of schools I went to. So if you or somebody you know went to at least one of these schools, please direct them to me or this site. I would love to hear from them. These are schools in the Philippines.

1. St. Mary Magdalene School, Kawit, Cavite – 1971 to 1977
2. St. Joseph’s School, Pandacan, Manila – 1977 to 1978
3. Imus Institute, Imus, Cavite – 1978 to 1980
4. Carlos P. Garcia High School, Paco, Manila – 1980 to 1982
5. Centro Escolar University, San Miguel, Manila – 1982 to 1983
6. JOBS Secretarial School, C. M. Recto, Manila - 1982
7. Datamex Computer Training Services, C. M. Recto, Manila - 1985
8. Philippine School of Business Administration, Sampaloc, Manila – 1983 to 1986

Ellen learned that her high school class, which graduated in 1976 was having its 30th reunion. Since she was busy and wouldn’t be able to come, she invited them instead to have the reunion right there on the show. Of course, she could do that. She’s a very well-known celebrity and has the means to do it.

I have never been to any reunion. Be it a class reunion or a family reunion. It’s one of the disadvantages of being out here abroad and not being able to afford to come home. But in 2002, I was able to contact some my high school classmates. I wrote them in their 20-year old addresses, which I kept. I was so excited to hear from them. We exchanged emails and pictures. And I started a site where I posted pictures, memorabilia and memories of our high school years.

Being successful in contacting my high school classmates, I decided to find my elementary school classmates as well. Not only did I find them, but I was also haunted by childhood memories. Read more about this here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why are men such big babies?

Our local stations are running a commercial of the Dairy Queen Dream Pie Blizzard Treat. Here’s the scene. Mr. Lee and the pregnant missus are sharing the Dream Pie. Mr. Lee takes a bite and dreams about having a baby boy announced when the missus delivers. Then back to reality. It is Mrs. Lee’s turn to take a spoon of the Blizzard Treat. In her dream, it is Mr. Lee who’s on the table about to pop up the baby. Mrs. Lee is holding the video camera and Mr. Lee gets mad at her, “You did this to me.” Now, that is my kind of dream.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if it is the man who gets pregnant and carries the baby?

On the “Ask an expert” segment of Balance with Dr. Marla Shapiro the other day, the question was: Do women feel more pain than men? Answer: Not necessarily. But women can put up with more pain because they suffer more pain. Women get menstrual cramps and they give birth. They are used to the pain.

Sometimes I get annoyed when my husband takes a week off from work because of a cold. I know, I’m bad. But he can be such a big baby when he’s sick. I get sick and I can still manage to work. Okay, that’s because I work at home. But still, when I’m sick, I can’t lie down and stay in bed. I still have to get up, help the kids get ready for school, feed them, or attend to their needs and still do the chores. When the husband is sick, he grumbles and stays in bed all day. Or lies on the couch and watches TV or sits infront of the computer for hours. Oh wait, I think he does these too even when he's not sick. Now, can you blame me if I get irritated?

If it was turned around and the man is the one who gives birth, do you think they wouldn’t be such big babies?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Box of Peace Colours

One of the things I like in my children’s schools is that they are encouraged to write (creatively) even at a very young age. I’m not sure if this is true for all schools here in Canada. The teachers make the kids keep a school journal where they write at least once a week. They are not strict with spelling when it comes to journal writing, especially to those kids in the lower grades who are just starting to read and write. They are instead instructed to sound out the words. (For those who grew up in the Philippines, remember learning to read with ba-be-bi-bo-bu? None of that here.) Of course, they still have to know the right spelling when they have their spelling tests and when they are in the higher grades. But for creative writing, more focus is given on expressing their ideas.

They also write poems every once in a while. I don’t remember writing poems when I was in elementary school. The only thing I could remember is trying to come up with a haiku in my sophomore year in high school.

At the end of every school year, I gather all my children’s writings and compile them in separate binders. We sometimes look back at them. It’s fun to see how their handwriting and work improve as they grow older.

Ryan’s class studied a poem similar to the one below a while ago. They were asked then to write one of their own. Sometimes, I have no idea how much my kids have learned until I read their work.

Photo Credit: Earth Science Picture of the Day

The Box of Peace Colours ©
by Ryan Carlo, Grade 6, 2006

I had a box of colours.
I tried to open it but it wouldn't budge.
I tried to open it again and it opened.
In the box it was full of sludge.

I drew a picture.
I had no black for the lost and lonely.
I had no gray for the smoke we're smelling.
I had no red for the people who sacrificed at war.
I had no green for the army soldiers attacking.

I had yellow for the sun shining bright.
I had orange for the sun setting down.
I had blue for the clear high sky leading us home.
I had white for the light guiding us through the night.

I drew a picture with happiness
and used the colours in my box.

© 2006 Ryan Carlo

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ryan's Week at the Soup Kitchen

Before Confirmation, candidates are prepared to become fully responsible member of the Catholic Christian Community. As a young person, the confirmand already understands that there is hunger, poverty, loneliness and need all around us and in the underdeveloped countries of the world. So they are invited to choose a Christian service project to do a good work for someone who is needy. Ryan’s class was also provided with a journal to record their experiences.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Ryan and I volunteered at the soup kitchen last week. He wrote his experiences in his journal. They were given a list of questions that needed to be answered in the journal. The main points were: What did you - See, Judge, Act, Reflect. I found his observations very direct and honest. I’ve also included his entry from December when his class delivered Christmas hampers in different households in the city.

Ryan's Christian Service Project Journal

Dec 17, 2005
Christmas Hampers

On this day my catechism class had no catechism because we are doing Christmas Hampers. First, we went to Br. J----'s house. In there we put food in the hampers. Then we take some hampers with our group and drive it to the location on our sheet. Our leader in my group was my teacher in catechism. The first house we went the person had a dog but his christmas tree was small. His railing outside his stairs was broken. The second house we went the person had big T.V.'s and lots of food. He didn't seem poor.

After we were done giving the Christmas hampers Br. J---- treated us to McDonald's. This day was fun but a lot of work. I saw people who were poor and who didn't look like he was poor. I decided to help people with Christmas hampers along with my classmates. This activity we had to put food in the hampers, give the hampers and go to McDonalds. The people we gave hampers to were happy to see us helping. I spent about two and a half hours.

Mar 28, 2006
Volunteer at Missionaries of Charity

Today was the first time to volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity. Me and my mom were the first ones there. While I was there, there were some other people volunteering too! Their names were Muffy, Shane and some other people. First we had to cut hotdog buns in half and put them back in a bag. Next, we had to put chips in plastic bags. We served hotdogs, soup, bread with margarine and donuts and muffins. I saw people coming in to sit and eat. I decided to serve them food. I actually served food and ask if they want water or coffee. Washing the tables, setting them and serving them - that's what I did also. Other people that we served were hungry and we served them so they weren't hungry. This activity took three and a half hours.

Mar 29, 2006
Volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity

Today I went with my cousin. First I had to take bread out of the bag then place it on the table. I had to cut bread by cutting thin strips on one side then the other side. Then I had to spread butter on the bread that wasn't cut. Also we had to put two cups of sugar into a bag. We had to make seventy bags. We served soup, sandwiches, bread with butter, donuts, water and coffee. When I was serving I saw the same people from yesterday. I decided to volunteer again. Doing chores was involved also. I felt sad to see a young person eating here. I spent about 3 and a half hours.

Mar 31, 2006
Volunteer at Missionaries of Charity

Today there wasn't very much people. There was about twenty to thirty people that we served. While we were serving we said a prayer. But first I had to spread butter on the bread. There was a lot of bread. My mom came with me to help. She had to cut onions. She was almost crying because she had to cut lots. We served soup, bread with butter, coffee, water and tuna sandwiches. I thought the day was done but we had to do lots of cleaning and chores. It took four hours so I was very tired. I saw people from previous days that came here because they don't have food. Doing less serving and lots of chores was involved.

My version:

The soup kitchen is run by the nuns of the Missionaries of Charity. This is the same Order that Mother Teresa belonged to. They wear the same habit - white with the blue stripes on the edge of the veil. The regular volunteers are mostly retired seniors. Since it was Lent and last week was Spring break, there were also a lot of young volunteers.

It was my first time to volunteer at a soup kitchen and so I really didn’t know what to expect. The nuns keep a very clean kitchen. We were even asked to wear aprons and hairnets for girls and hats for boys. Everything is sanitized. They serve the hungry as if they were patrons in a restaurant. I couldn’t help but smile when one complained about a strand of hair in his soup. I didn’t think it was one of the helpers’. But the nuns courteously replaced his with a new bowl of soup.

The patrons were mostly Metis Indians (Aboriginals). I was surprised that Ryan didn’t mention this in his journal. Because that was the first thing that I noticed when they started coming in. It probably didn’t occur to him. Or it could be that he has been exposed to the different cultures and nationalities here in Winnipeg since he was born. But what struck me was his concern for them when we left the kitchen on our first day there. He asked me if they were homeless. And I told him that I didn’t know. The next day I went there, I asked one of the senior volunteers. She told me that they do have homes and they receive welfare money from the government. But I guess they couldn’t get jobs. One patron was telling us that he didn’t finish high school and there was one Polish lady who couldn’t read English. The last day that we volunteered, there were only a few people who came. I guess that was the day that they got their money and they must be out there spending it somewhere. Who knows where their money goes. We could only hope that they spend it on food and clothing. I saw a lady there who looked wasted, her hands shaking. As much as I’d like not to judge, your guess is just as good as mine.

But the Sisters don’t judge these people. They take them graciously and are very friendly with them. They know their names. I also learned that the Sisters visit these people at their homes or in the hospital if they are sick. The Sisters also have an after school program for the kids and they also teach catechism in nearby parishes.

It had been a tiring week for me since I also worked that week. But I had fun meeting new people, the volunteers who were very friendly and how could I forget Nelson who entertained us with his lovely voice. And I was glad that I have been able to help in the little way that I could.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Where did Spring break go?

The temperatures are getting warmer everyday. Most of the snow has slowly melted. The start of Spring is not a pretty sight here in Winnipeg. The grass is soaking wet. There is sand everywhere. It sometimes gives me the creeps to find out what has been buried in the deep snow all winter. I see cigarette butts and pieces of garbage at bus stops. Two bags full of Fall leaves have been unearthed, or should I say, unsnowed in our backyard. Oh, I have heard other things that are worse than that.

I usually catch up on sleep, reading, watching tapes/DVDs during Spring break. But none of these happened. Okay, I did watch King Kong with my family on Saturday night but I was half asleep after the first half. I thought it would only be 90 minutes long. I started to drift away after the first two hours. “What happened?” I asked everybody when I woke up and saw the ending credits on the screen. I have to borrow that DVD again. Or is it worth it?

I can’t remember the last time I sat down to read a book. I started reading The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields a few months ago and it still lies there on my desk, the last chapter waiting to be finished. I have bought two books recently, The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan, which was on sale at Coles for only $6.99 and the paperback copy of The Da Vinci Code, which I found at Staples and cost only $10.99. I can’t wait to read these two, but I got to finish The Stone Diaries first.

It’s been a very hectic week for me. Hectic has been my normal lately. I accompanied Ryan to his volunteer work three times this week, including Saturday. He wasn’t too happy earlier this week when I told him that he had to start his Christian service project while he had no school. And so I was really surprised that I never heard a complaint from him after his first day at the soup kitchen. I think something inside him has been transformed. He had just been studying in his Confirmation book about how the Holy Spirit transforms us through Confirmation. I think he learned a lot during his week at the soup kitchen. I will write about this next time.