At ground level

A column about LIFE

Playing the waiting game

The excitement has been building in our family. We have been anticipating the arrival of my oldest daughter’s first baby – my first grandchild. The contractions were getting stronger and increasing each day, so we thought this baby could arrive before her due date (Yes, it is a girl!), which is tomorrow.

Alas! My daughter’s boss couldn’t stand it anymore and sent her home last week because she didn’t want to have to worry about her driving to work or possibly having the baby at work! I was secretly relieved, but I understand playing the waiting game can get excruciating when work is no longer there to distract you.

I checked on the mother-to-be this afternoon. “I’m still here!” She answered the phone in a monosyllabic, bored tone.

“She must be waiting for her grandmother to get there,” I jokingly told my daughter, since I plan on arriving there day after tomorrow.

I had asked my daughter when she would like me to come and help her out. Did she and her husband want to have a week or so alone with the baby, or did they want me there right away?

She answered, “Right away, Mom! I need your expertise!”

Expertise? I laughed at that answer.

The other day she called in a panic. “Mom, I’m not going to know what to do!”

“Practice your breathing techniques,” I told her.

“No, I mean when it’s here already. What do I do with ‘IT’?”

This got another chuckle from me. “You’ll manage. We all do,” I sighed.

I remembered calling her an “IT” too, until the reality set in and we saw her as a person, with a distinct personality of her own.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I gave birth to my first little one. She took her time though, 29 hours in labor. Doctors and hospitals were more patient then, and let me stay and labor in the hospital. So, if she’s anything like me, I’m thinking, it may be a while!

Last night I leafed through Rina’s photo albums and traveled down memory lane. There were photos of my newborn in the hospital, sleeping in her bassinet, being held by me, her dad, her grandparents. Being the firstborn, there were many photos of her progress – after four hours, after three days, after six days, every week and month that passed.

I came across the first column I wrote about her when I returned to work at the newspaper office a couple of months later. I also found the beautiful column my parents wrote (they, too, were writers) about their experience waiting for my firstborn to arrive and my youngest sister’s as well, since her first child was born just eight days before mine.

My parents, too, had traveled down memory lane while anxiously awaiting the birth of our first babies, both girls. Now it’s my turn to recall when Rina came into the world, her growing up years, which just seemed to breeze by – like mine.

My baby is now in line in a chain of life that is unending – my parents borrowed a line from a song. That chain of life is now extending to yet another generation. I wish Dad was still here to witness this miracle. I’m glad Mom is. The new baby will be her first great-grandchild.

Once upon a time she was my little girl… This baby of mine will soon be having a baby of her own… Let’s hope we don’t have to play the waiting game much longer and pray all goes well for the new mom and baby!

With my baby girl. Rina at 18 months. December, 1985


April 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life is like baking cookies

I have been baking cookies all week. They are for the Milk & Cookie Bar at the baby shower I will be giving my daughter this weekend. Some friends ask, “Why not buy? Why go through all that trouble and stress?”

I’m not really sure why I’m putting myself through all “the trouble.” All I can say is homemade cookies always taste better than store bought cookies. And they always seem more special, too, especially when you see others enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Isn’t that the case in anything you do? You tend to celebrate your achievements, especially the ones that have been tough to earn. Like life…

In many ways baking cookies is like life. It can get pretty messy. And like life, it’s how we make it that matters. Paying attention to the ingredients and how much to put in – just like the choices we make in life.

So far, I’ve made nine dozen chocolate chip cookies and, by tomorrow, I will have made seven dozen shortbread cookies in the shape of onesies.

In my haste and distraction, I forgot to add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to one batch. While mixing another batch, I couldn’t remember whether I had already added three cups of flour, so I added yet another cup.

When you don’t measure the ingredients correctly, or combine them the wrong way, the cookies don’t turn out the way they are supposed to. Like life… We make mistakes because we don’t pay attention, or are careless, or don’t heed advice from people who know better.

I thought I knew better than the icing recipe, only to find out the extra tablespoon of water I added to the Royal Icing was just enough to spell disaster. All I could do was stare helplessly as the pink icing quickly ran over the cookies and on to the parchment paper.

Some mistakes are worse than others. That batch to which I added that extra cup of flour turned out downright awful, and I had to start all over again. Like my life, and starting all over again here, in California.

Tomorrow, I will ice the onesies. They have to be perfect because they will be the shower favors. I plan to wrap them individually and top each one with a pink bow.

I’m a little rusty with my decorating skills, but I’ve practiced. I now know better than to second guess the experts. This time, I will make the border first, and then flood the cookie; I will use a #2 tip, instead of a #3 tip; and I will wait until the icing has hardened, before I decorate the cookies with stripes and polka dots.

Practice makes perfect. Like life … you just have to keep on trying until you succeed.

Once the cookies are decorated and individually packaged, I will face yet another hurdle. You see, my daughter lives in Vegas, so packing the cookies in my suitcase and making sure we all get to Vegas in one piece, undamaged, will be a challenge!

I can’t risk taking the frosted cookie favors on the airplane with me, for fear the TSA will confiscate them. I’ve heard of too many horror stories about similar incidents.

After much research, I stumbled on one woman’s advice. She said the best thing to do is to carefully wrap them individually and separate them with bubble wrap; pack them in single layers with more bubble wrap; place them in pizza boxes; and then pray!

Challenges in life never end. About the time we think we’ve overcome one hurdle, here comes yet another. Sometimes, we think we’ve followed the perfect recipe, but somehow hit a roadblock. When we know that we’ve done the best we could, we have nothing left to do but pray…

Mind you, I will be praying all the way to Vegas!

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Life | , , , , | Leave a comment

Touching base with random thoughts

I have. Indeed, I have neglected this blog. And I don’t even have an excuse this time. I guess I’ve spent much of the time lapse keeping my thoughts to myself. I have had many thoughts about many things that have transpired all these months. Here are a couple of random thoughts …

We’re EXPECTING! Well, I should say my eldest daughter is expecting, but I feel like I am expecting too, since I seem to be riding along on the mood swings caused by those pregnancy hormones, as my pregnant daughter updates me daily. Her sister gets updates, too, but she is too young to appreciate the little daily updates. Here is a conversation she related to me the other day:

Pregnant sister: So what did you do today?

Younger sister: Oh, I went to the mall today and bought a shirt.

Pregnant sister: Well, guess what I did today!

Younger sister: What?

Pregnant sister: I bought a breast pump!

Younger sister: Eeuww! Mom! Why does she have to tell me that?!

Then there was the time pregnant daughter called me bawling. Seems she was late for her doctor’s appointment. She called to let them know, but when she got there, to everyone’s surprise – the receptionist, the nurse, her husband – she collapsed on the chair and burst into tears. The doctor came out and asked her what was wrong, why she was crying. “Because I’m late! I’m late for my appointment!” He consoled and said it was perfectly fine, no worries.

“Were you like this Mom??” she asked me.

“Uh, no, I don’t think so.” I honestly can’t recall any emotional ups and downs while pregnant. I do recall them after the baby was born. Especially with my first born, because I was so uncertain, so unsure, and felt so alone since my family lived thousands of miles away. But it all worked out. You learn as you go. It’s easier with the second and the third. You’re more relaxed, you know they won’t break or die if you don’t change their diaper right away, or give them a bottle every four hours or get them potty trained by the time they are age two.

Yes, babies are a blessing. So much work, but truly a blessing. This one will be, and you will probably read more ramblings from me on this topic!

On another note … My dad passed away 19 years ago today. I can still vividly remember receiving the phone call from my sister at three o’clock in the morning, how I frantically tried to track down each of my siblings who were living in different parts of the country, and making arrangements to take the first flight home. My heart still aches when I remember …

I was disappointed in myself because I didn’t remember the significance of today until later in the morning. So after work, I went to Our Lady of Peace Church for the first time because I learned that it is open 24/7. There happened to be a mass going on when I arrived. The priest was half way done with his sermon. He spoke about angels and how they help us and guide us, but that in the end, it’s up to us because we all have free will, just as Jesus had free will and made the difficult choice to die for us.

The priest said we should have faith, not to worry, and to trust in the Lord, because God makes miracles happen in the most dramatic, extraordinary, and sometimes, even confusing way. We just have to have faith, he said.

Then, to my amazement, he said we should all pray to our ancestors, our relatives who have gone before us, because they are part of the communion of saints and they, too, can intercede for us. I just thought it was such a coincidence, since that was the reason why I came to the church this evening, to pray for Dad and to pray to Dad.

I really miss you, Dad. You continue to remain in our hearts. And if you had something to do with the blessing that’s arriving in a few months, thank you for this amazing miracle! We pray all goes well and, with your help, I pray that God keep all my children happy, healthy and safe!

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am an Apple lover; how can you not be?

I am an Apple lover. I have always loved Apple computers, even before I knew who Steve Jobs was. Beginning with an Apple IIc computer, which we purchased while still living on the farm, I have been through many Apple/Macintosh computers and loved every single one of them – the Macintosh Performa, and then the iMacG3, the iMac, the iBook, the PowerBook, the MacBook Pro.

Yes, some may call me a Mac junkie, with one desktop computer and three laptops in tow. Unfortunately, I had to stop with the Pro. I am a single mother now, and cannot afford to keep up with the latest, like I used to. I did purchase the first iPhone. $250 was a lot of money for me to spend on a cell phone, but luckily I was given a raise at about the same time, so I finally rewarded myself with the iPhone.

Since I bought my iPhone in 2007, I have fought the urge to upgrade and even buy myself an iPad2. It’s been difficult, almost like Eve being tempted to eat the Apple – pun intended. Some may think it was stupid of me not to upgrade my first generation iPhone, but there were times it was a question of having just $20 on a weekend and having to choose whether to spend it at the store or relinquish it to my daughter, so she could watch a movie with her friends.

Like many people, I was a bit disappointed when Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 4S. I, too, was hoping he would announce the iPhone 5. But it’s okay; I will succumb this time and I will be one of the thousands in line for the iPhone 4S.

The one thing that always irritated me about Macs was their exclusivity, which meant they were pricey, too pricey for the average earner. Even the computer games for my kids were too pricey and few. I often wished they were priced like PCs. My kids complained. All their friends had such neat computer games; we didn’t have many.

Yet I have always continued to love the Mac. It is simple, neat, easy and friendly. I found the IBM so intimidating; same with Dell and other PCs – too formal, too cold. My decades of work with newspapers and even teaching, jibed so well with the Mac. As the Mac grew more sophisticated, so did I, I felt.

The giant behind Apple has left us. I didn’t realize how hard the news of his death would hit me until I learned about it at around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a day after the iPhone 4S was unveiled. I imagine he was just waiting until that project and announcement was completed, and then felt he could, indeed, rest in peace.

It was only when I came to live in Cupertino that I got to know Steve Jobs, though not personally. If you live in Silicon Valley and work just a stone’s throw away from Apple’s headquarters, you are bound to learn about Steve Jobs. His leaving this world has left many of us with a hollow, heavy heart. Jobs is, and always will be, a legend of our time.

The text from his speech to Stanford’s graduating students in 2005 is very telling about this great man. Here are excerpts, lessons which I, and everyone, should take to heart:

… Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

… I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

… Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

… Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

He is/was so right!

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all my Macs and my iPhone. Each time I use them, I will remember you and feel good. And yes, I will make sure I follow my heart!

October 8, 2011 Posted by | California | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It was a surreal day in Cupertino…

I woke up this morning (Wednesday, October 5) to the sounds of helicopters and police sirens and my daughter bursting into my room yelling, “Mom, there’s a gunman loose in Cupertino! The police are everywhere. Turn on the TV!”

That was enough to make me jump out of bed and turn on the television. Sure enough, on the news was a scene shot just about three blocks away from our home. Police had cordoned off a 10-mile radius and police cars had blocked off the road we took to school, which was also the road to the quarry, where a tragedy had occurred. It appears an employee at the quarry had shot and killed some people and fled the scene. The police were hunting him down.

Then, more sirens and another piece of breaking news. Another group of law enforcement officers were at the corner of Homestead Avenue and Wolf Road. There had been another shooting incident by the Hewlett Packard parking lot. Were these two incidents related? The news crew didn’t know.

Then came the phone calls and emails from the school. A message on my cell phone, home phone and later, office phone, notified me that due to police activity in the area, I was to keep my child home from school. Of course, my daughter cheered. I was in a quandary. I had to be in Los Gatos for a meeting in an hour. While I felt we were safe and believed the gunman was no longer in the area, my mother instinct told me I should remain at home with my daughter, at least until I was sure that the authorities had everything under control.

Later, we learned the shootings were related. The gunman was sighted by the Sunnyvale/Cupertino border, which happened to be close to where I work. Feeling my daughter would be safe at home, I decided to skip the meeting and proceed to work. When I got there, the office received a notification from the police department, asking us to keep safe and giving the gunman’s description. Our office remained open, but was placed on lockdown.

As the day progressed we learned more about this gunman. A single-parent, father of a teen-age daughter, a seemingly good person, a TV host who even authored a book and preached against non-violence. How could he have shot and killed three people and wound six others? For a while I felt sorry for the man. He must have snapped. But how? Why? I wondered out loud.

“He will be judged at the pearly gates. I have no sympathy. He killed three people,” someone muttered.

With the day off from school, I allowed my daughter to watch a movie with friends. Some people at work were surprised I was so permissive. I seriously doubted a man on the run would want to visit the mall. And I couldn’t keep my daughter home alone, when I recalled that time, when I was not much older than her. That day when I had arrived at school and was met by a flood of students streaming out of the school. Martial law had been declared, they cried out. No school! Soon after, my friends and I found ourselves frolicking around the streets of Manila, carefree, oblivious to the soldiers with guns that rode by in their trucks. That day we pranced into a parlor and got our nails and hair done, unconcerned about the uncertain future before us and the gravity of what was to unfold after that monumental day. Little did we know that a year later, we would be among the many students marching in front of the President’s palace calling for justice, democracy and the end to a corrupt dictatorship. My daughter’s afternoon was tamer than mine, it seems. She returned safely home after the movie and her afternoon was otherwise uneventful.

Back in Cupertino it soon turned to afternoon and still the gunman had not been found. I received yet another notification from the school thanking us for our cooperation and telling us they would continue to keep us abreast on further developments.

At around 4:30 p.m. we received yet more breaking news. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, innovator, visionary had died. The toll of the day had finally taken over and I trekked home with a very heavy heart.

I was reminded of a few things today:

1. Stuff happens and your life can change in an instant.

2. The safety of family is more important than a meeting at work.

3. I was impressed with the school’s diligence in notifying parents about the status of the school and students.

4. Kids have to experience a little adventure. You can’t keep them locked up in the house, alone and afraid.

5. I didn’t realize how much I admired Steve Jobs until today. I didn’t know the man, but have always loved his Apple and Mac computers. I was surprised his death hit me hard. Godspeed, Steve Jobs and thanks for my Mac and iPhone!

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Children, Family, Life, Parenting, Philippines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grape Jelly 101

It’s hard to believe I’m back to square one, a novice at making jelly. It’s even harder to believe that I wanted to go back to making jelly in the first place. When I saw my grape vine’s bountiful crop, I just couldn’t resist.

A bountiful grape harvest

I was in awe at the grapes that draped this gigantic vine yesterday morning, considering I had hardly watered the vine this summer and the only tending I ever did was to cut the vine down to size to prevent it from crawling up to our windows and on to the roof. I instinctively grabbed a container and began picking the grapes off the vine. A little more than five pounds of grapes filled my container.

I don’t know who planted this grape vine. Even my landlord was surprised to learn he had this grape vine in his yard. It has yielded many grapes since I’ve lived here, but this time, the grapes were overflowing. I’m not even sure what variety of grapes they are. I do know they’re edible and safe to eat. They’re smaller than the ones you buy at the store, not as sweet, and leave a tangy taste in your mouth. I’m guessing they’re wild California grapes.

Then came the dilemma … now that I picked all these grapes, what could I do with them, I wondered. Do I make grape pie or jelly? I yearned for pie, which can taste so delicious, but I’ve only made pie with Concord grapes. These grapes are smaller than Concord grapes, the seeds would be a problem, and I no longer had my sieve. So I set out to make jelly, instead.

It’s been years since I’ve made jelly. I often made apple and plum jelly many years ago, but I have never made grape jelly, especially wild grape jelly. So, today, Google was my friend. I came across a few recipes and timidly set out to try one that received great reviews. After two trips to the store – first for small plastic containers, and then later, when I realized I would actually have enough for several pints of jelly, I went back for the whole shebang – a box of half pint jars with lids and rings, cheesecloth, pectin, and even paraffin.

I spent the afternoon stemming the grapes and washing them, but when I was ready to start making the jelly, I realized I had forgotten the technique. Which came first – sterilizing the jars, lids and rings, melting the paraffin, or boiling the mixture? The recipes never tell you everything, and I couldn’t recall the procedure which, at one time, I used to carry out so flawlessly. Without a dishwasher to help me sterilize the jars, this project became even more challenging. Then came a flashback of my first year on the farm …

Like a novice, I kept glancing at the recipe after every move I made, in between Googling how best to sterilize the jar, how to melt the paraffin, or if I should even still use paraffin. I somehow managed to boil the grapes, strain them through the cheesecloth, take them back to the pan, add the pectin, boil the mixture, add the sugar and boil it again, and at the same time sterilize the jars, lids and rings, and melt the paraffin. That’s probably where I got my excellent multi-tasking skills, I muttered to myself, as I hurried along.

The balancing act wasn’t over. Then it was time to pour the liquid into the jars (Alas, I no longer have my funnel!), skim off the leftover foam and bubbles, wipe the mixture that had spilled out of the jars, then add the paraffin and attach the seals and rings while the mixture was still boiling hot.

After it was all over, I breathed a sigh of relief and surveyed my kitchen and the purple spills around me. Yep, I can no longer brag about my canning expertise. I am back to being a novice!

While washing the pans and cleaning up the spills, I kept checking my jelly, hoping it would set. I finally remembered it isn’t jello; jelly doesn’t set instantly.

More than an hour has passed and it looks like the paraffin has set. Now I remember that I used to go to bed and wake up the next morning to homemade jelly. I think I’ll do that again … If my grape jelly turns out to be a success, then some very special people will receive a jar; if not, I’m going to be stuck with a heck of a lot of grape sauce and will have to search for another bunch of recipes!

Grape jelly all done (I hope!).

September 19, 2011 Posted by | California, Life | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where “home” was always meant to be …

As we stepped outside the airport in the wee hours of the morning, a blast of hot air hit us. Then came the noise from the traffic and a swarm of people. I smiled, for I knew I was home. After a short drive, we arrived at my mother’s house. There was Mom, who is 84, looking so well and happy to have us back.

It was raining; in fact, there was a typhoon, which thankfully, had not crossed our airplane’s path. I loved the smell of the rain. Then came the sweet aroma of garlic rice, eggs and spam, a traditional Filipino breakfast – yet another sign that I was home. Except for a few out of town trips and gatherings with friends, I stayed close to home this trip. It was just nice to be in the house.

The house we now call “home” is the perfect place for Mom. It’s almost identical to, but a smaller version of the home where my siblings and I spent much of our childhood years. This one-story house where Mom now lives is located in an exclusive village in Makati, the business and shopping center of the country. It is the very first house Mom and Dad built a few years after they were married, though they never lived here. Instead, they had the same architect design and build a larger two-story version of this Eichler home, 900 sq. meters, in Loyola Heights, close to the schools they wanted us to attend.

For nearly three decades they rented the Makati house to the U.S. embassy, until one day, the embassy informed my dad that it would no longer be renting the house. At the time my father was stretched for money and decided to sell the Makati house. Each time, for some reason, the sale would fall through. Eventually, the real estate agent told my dad, “Mr. Meily, I’m not a religious man, but it’s really uncanny that something always happens whenever we try to sell this beautiful house. I think God has another plan for this house.”

Not long after, the plan unraveled … Dad finally gave up the idea of selling the house and, instead, had it rented. A year later, Dad died and we decided it was best for Mom to move to the house in Makati. It is less than half the size of our house in Loyola, but it would be more manageable, and a safer place for her to be.

Mom and I sat in the terrace and reminisced. Although Dad had to wade through an hour or more of traffic to get to his office in Manila and then spend the same amount of time to get home, he refused to move to the smaller house in Makati. He loved the sprawling front lawn and backyard of our Loyola home, Mom recalled.

“Where would I put my things, hija (daughter)?!” I remembered Dad groaning whenever I broached the subject of moving. How he worried about his papers and collection of magazines – Look, Life, Time, Newsweek, and yes, even Reader’s Digest!

For a while there Mom and I lamented about the house in Loyola. The buyer had torn it down and it is now the tallest condominium on that street. Perhaps it was for the best … We (and so many of our friends) have many happy memories of our time in Loyola Heights, but I think I would feel sadder if I passed by the house today and wondered who was sleeping in that large room, once occupied by four little girls. How about the boys’ room? I would wonder who was now browsing through the books lined in the gigantic bookcase in the study, and who was playing with the old turtle that had made our backyard pond its home.

“That house served us well. It was a good home,” said Mom. “Before we left I cleaned that house from top to bottom and left it spotless, even though I knew they were going to tear it down. Then I bade it good-bye and thanked it for being such a wonderful home for our family.”

I observed Mom walk across the living room, pass the dining room and kitchen, and head toward the hallway, which is just a few steps from her bedroom. I concluded, without a doubt in my mind, that all this was meant to be – the look, the feel of this house is almost identical to our house in Loyola. Best of all, it’s always felt like “home.”

They say there’s a reason for everything … It’s nice to know this house that Dad and Mom first built had a purpose from the beginning. It never sold because it was always meant to be “home.” I only hope old Mr. Turtle was able to walk away before the bulldozers leveled the house in Loyola …

A family gathering at the Makati home a few years after Mom moved there. It's so much like our home in Loyola. It is here where we now make happy memories.

A young Mom and Dad, newly married.

We have many happy memories of our house in Loyola Heights.

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Family, Life, Philippines | , , , | Leave a comment

Tomatoes from my safe haven

I love sitting in my patio and watching my garden grow. These days it is the tomatoes that are thriving. Every day I get to pick some tomatoes and look forward to making them part of our meal.

I read somewhere that the tomato continues to have an identity crisis. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? According to the Oxford Dictionaries, “… Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless)…

“As far as cooking is concerned, some things which are strictly fruits, such as tomatoes or bean pods, may be called ‘vegetables’ because they are used in savoury rather than sweet cooking. The term ‘vegetable’ is more generally used of other edible parts of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which are not strictly the fruit of the plant from which they come. …”

I never used to like tomatoes. I think my dislike for them stems back to the day of my first hangover when I was a teen-ager. Two mischievous friends stopped by the house to check up on me and handed me a Bloody Mary. They suggested I drink it because it would make me feel better. I never got over the joke, nor the taste of that tomato juice mixture. To this day, I dislike Bloody Marys.

I learned to like tomatoes in the farm. My father-in-law loved his sliced tomatoes on toast. Sometimes, he would slice them and sprinkle sugar on top. I, myself, prefer having them on salad. I also love cooking with tomatoes. So far, I’ve used my tomatoes in chicken fritada, spaghetti, salsa and goulash. Next time I plan to use them in a new adobo recipe, sans the soy sauce. It is supposed to taste delicious, I’m told.

Someone reading this blog will quickly realize I am enjoying my garden immensely. I’ve wondered why myself. Perhaps it’s because in my garden I can actually see the fruits of my labor, almost immediately. The garden is also something I can manage with relative success, within the small confines of my yard, unlike all the problems of life that I have to face.

These days I feel like I’ve been experiencing a meltdown, and the only thing that seems to console me and shelter me from the chaos of life is my garden. It’s become a safe haven. Watering my plants and picking the tomatoes, green peppers and zucchini (the beans and cucumbers were a disaster) seem to calm me – up until the time that darn blue bird dives down on my tomatoes and bites into one of them!

Tomatoes and green peppers freshly picked from my garden.

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Life | , | Leave a comment

To my grown-up son

My cousin Sandy kept this poem by Alice E. Chase in her wallet while her only son was growing up, to remind her to spend more time with him. He is now a young man and lives far from her, so she doesn’t often get to see him. Like Sandy, I miss my son and I also wish I could go back and do all the things he asked me to do …

To My Grown-Up Son

by Alice E. Chase

My hands were busy through the day,
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to,
I didn’t have much time for you.

I’d wash your clothes; I’d sew and cook,
But when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me, please, to share your fun,
I’d say, “A little later, son.”

I’d tuck you in all safe at night,
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door,
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.

For life is short, and years rush past,
A little boy grows up so fast,
No longer is he at your side,
His precious secrets to confide.

The picture books are put away,
There are no children’s games to play,
No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear,
That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy, now lie still,
The days are long and hard to fill,
I wish I might go back and do,
The little things you asked me to.

I have one more child at home, but it’s not going to be long when she, too, will be off on her own. And soon, my busy hands will lie still, and the days will be long and hard to fill …

My oldest daughter is expecting … When that joyous moment arrives, I will pass this poem on to her, so she will cherish those simple joys that I sometimes forgot to do.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Children, Family, Life, Parenting | Leave a comment

What a difference a meme makes

Last I looked there were 22,498 members and counting, just in a matter of days. And I dare not count the number of posts and comments. If my inbox is any indication, it has reached thousands upon thousands.

Like the article “Facebook meme triggers UP frenzy of nostalgia” by JM Tuazon of GMA News says, in just a matter of days Facebook became a time machine for us graduates of the University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD), bringing together thousands of UP alumni and thus creating an “online bonfire.”

Cleve JD Mallari, the group administrator, set up a group page on Facebook, which tasked members to complete the sentence “Taga-UP Diliman ka kung …” (You are from UP Diliman if …) with memories to which only alumni of UP Diliman could relate. Little did he know his Facebook page would explode in just a matter of days. Nostalgia set in and within a few days, the group page was filled with posts from enthusiastic alumni from all over the world. They flooded the site with memories of those good old days from food – like the best butterfly ice tea, the barbecue and delicious fish balls, to seemingly endless nights of studying, riding the “ikot” (the jeepney that serves as transportation around the UP Diliman campus), the terror teachers and the cool ones, and many amusing anecdotes about trying to register for classes and answering test questions on that famous blue book. They remembered the rallies against Martial Law and the boycotts. And, after all these years, so many of us still remember our student ID number!

Ann Angala’s post (807 and counting) “Taga UP-Diliman ka kung … hanggang ngayon memorize mo pa din student number mo…game! 87-00440,” (You’re from UP-Diliman if … until now you still have your student number memorized) along with many similar posts by others, made me recall that once very valuable student ID.

Like some other alumni, I still have my student ID 73-02494 – with my picture in my baul (treasure chest). I scanned and shared it with the group. I completed the sentence: “Taga UP- Diliman ka kung … hanggang ngayon nasa iyo pa ang UP ID card mo to recall the first time you became ‘a number.’” (… if until now you still have your UP ID card to recall the first time you became ‘a number.’) It generated 42 likes and 50 comments within a couple of hours. Ancient, paleolithic age, some of the young grads quipped, and some even noted “wagas!” (perfect)

I’m not sure why I kept my student ID. I think it signified freedom and independence for me. For 12 years, through nursery, pre-school, grade school and high school, I attended a convent school run by the Maryknoll sisters. Though the American sisters were already thought to be educating us to be independent thinkers and decision makers way ahead of the times, it just seemed natural that attending UP would be the next step for me after high school.

In UP I was just a number, but the freedom felt good. Freedom to learn – or not. Freedom to make something of myself – or not. With teachers who took us to task and challenged our minds. But it was not only the teachers, for there were many great teachers in the other good schools. In UP, there was just something different in the air you breathed. Whatever it was, just like the Maryknoll sisters, the university shaped me to be who I am and I am grateful for it.

I thought I had special grade school and high school memories, which I continue to share with longtime and very special friends, but this group page opened up yet another of many chapters in my life, which I had almost forgotten and it has been a pleasure to look back and cherish those times. Thank you, Cleve JD Mallari, for doing just that!

Whether it be due to common experiences over time, or our idealism, love for country, quest for truth (especially during the Martial Law days), and hope for a better future for a country that continues to have difficulty getting out of the trenches of graft and corruption, we have all united and made even more friends through your group page.

Mallari himself sums it up well in the article: “Iba-iba kasi yung kagandahan na nakikita ng bawat isa sa iba’t-ibang panahon na nag-stay sila sa campus,” he said. “Pero nagkakaisa kaming lahat sa pagmamahal namin sa pamantasang ito bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan.” (Each generation experienced a special time when they stayed at the campus, but they all unite in their love for a university that reared scholars of our nation.)

In June Taguiwalo’s post (183 and counting): “Ano ang natapos mo sa UPD at ano naman ang trabaho mo?:)” (What did you finish in UP and what is your job now?), you see fruits that this powerful academic echelon of a university has produced, from international engineers, distinguished teachers, scientists, writers, proud fathers, mothers, homemakers, to highly regarded public servants. How can one not dare to hope for a better tomorrow?

73-02494 - just a number back then

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Life, Philippines | | 2 Comments