Friday, December 28, 2007


On the second week of December, my friend S and I made a pact that whoever gains more weight after Christmas will pay for our body massage at the newly-opened spa in Bonifacio High Street. We’re weighing in tomorrow and I’m getting nervous! I still have one more party to attend tonight, and I’m gaining weight as I type this.

Three days after Christmas and I still feel stuffed! I guess as we grow older, Christmas isn’t so much about getting our wishes but eating our favorite foods! I skipped dinner last night, but at 2 am, I opened the fridge---another dead-of-the-night dining extravaganza for me! I ate the leftover chicken macaroni salad, ham and queso de bola…I reached for the leftover pasta but stopped myself. I enjoy my late night/early morning binges…everybody’s asleep except me, eating without rules. I like the quiet and comfort of my thoughts. I thought of leftovers, in their less visible form are called memories---stored in the fridge of the mind or in the cupboard of the heart.

A few of mine came up…hearty laughter shared with friends, the last embers of a bonfire by the beach, the long glance of love (from someone who used to love me) from across a room full of people, a long lost melody of a childhood song---Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, that brought me to sleep in my father’s arms, and a chunk of poetry I learned in high school---Tiger, tiger burning bright/in the forest of the night/what immortal hand or eye/dared frame thy fearful symmetry?

I am not often aware that I am happy. But I often remember that I have been happy. Especially on nights when I sit eating leftovers, wrapped in an invisible patchwork quilt made of the best moments I had. I thought of you---where were you at this moment? Or some other people who might be at the same place in their kitchen at this very moment, hungering as I hunger, wondering as I wonder. King Solomon must also had been suffering from a sleep disorder and got hungry at 2 am when he wrote---'Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love...'

Thursday, December 27, 2007

For Toto

i should have told you

that love is

more than being warm

in bed,

more than individuals

seeking an accomplice...

even more

than wanting to share.

i could have said

that love at best

is giving what you need to give.

but it was raining

and we had no place to go...

and riding through EDSA in a cab,

i remembered

that words are only necessary

after love

has gone.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas postmortem

Christmas is over. How’s your Christmas hangover? Is the pocket bruised? The heart soothed? The wishes satisfied to the point of burping? If you pretended at giving, succumbing to the season’s expectations, are you squirming still? Forgive yourselves---we have to do those things once a year.

I usually feel deflated the day after Christmas. After the season’s excitement, the quietness this morning was a welcome respite. The rain seemed to rouse my aching limbs but I stayed in bed a while longer and listened to the voices downstairs.

I could hear Fritz barking as he ran into the house, anxious for its friendly smells and comforting noises from my nephews. Leftover ham, coffee, footsteps, boards creaking under the weight of remembered feet, laughter of all pitches and ages. The music of a family, my personal scrapbook of memories.

Five days to recuperate before the bustle of the New Year don’t seem so bad.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Santa Claus Chinese?

My sister, brothers and I were never introduced to Santa Claus but I love the idea of this character to entertain kids. My nephew once asked if Santa Claus is Chinese while he was busy opening his Christmas presents. The adults looked at each other…my sister-in-law winked and said Santa is from the North Pole. When we asked my 6-year old nephew why he thought Santa was Chinese, he innocently explained that all his toys are “Made in China” so Santa Claus should come from there.

From then on, I gave my sister-in-law all her holiday trimmings and décor---all made in the Philippines, and showed my nephews photos of how each item was made by Filipino artisans. Like these whimsical Santa Claus characters designed by a Filipina artist Weenee Sambrano. These Christmas décor “Made in the Philippines” are adding more than just a touch of color and whimsy to homes around the globe. These have gained the acceptance of discriminating markets worldwide for excellent concept and innovativeness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Wreaths

Of all the festive décor that adorn the homes, streets, trees, offices, malls, etc. during Christmastime, my favorite is the Christmas wreath. Displayed on the door, it is a welcome sight when you enter someone’s home. A Filipina designer, Tami Leung, makes fabulous wreaths [and other Christmas décor] using natural pods, seeds, twigs, vine, and paper, for leaves and flowers. Tami's designs are being carried by retailers and catalogs in the US. Her showroom is located at P. Guevarra Street in San Juan.

Our modern term wreath, or corona de flores ("crown of flowers") in Spanish is, curiously enough, etymologically linked to our word wrist with both terms implying a continuous physical circular shape. It came from the Olde English writha, and then it transpired into Middle English's wrethe denoting a twisted band or ring of leaves or flowers formed into a garland. The holly wreath goes back to the prehistorically Germanic wristiz, which also produced the modern German rist meaning both "in-step" and "wrist" and its modern variant in today's Swedish's vrist, denoting the same meaning. This was derived from the earlier, lengthy prefix writh- whose wr- sound might have been originally associated with a twisting motion.

In México and throughout many parts of Latin America, la estación festiva or the holiday season begins on December 7th and continues for almost two full months thru February 2nd. In this sense, it is truly a "season" and not simply a "holiday break". On the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, Mexican families serve rosca de reyes (literally "ring of kings"), a traditional wreath-shaped cake pastry filled with spices, dried fruit, and one tiny doll representing the baby Jesús. Whoever finds the doll in his or her slice has to host the next feast or fiestecita, which is not very far off, on Candlemas, which falls on February 2nd. The terms holly (as in holly wreath) and holy are remotely related, distant cousins shall we say. From the Olde English halig meaning "hallowed" or "holy", this eventually through the centuries became the Middle English holie, connoting "wholesomeness", as a circular wreath would indicate.

The Celtic Druids of ancient times are the first society in known prehistory to have worn sprigs of holly. Sprigs of this yellow-green plant with its waxy white berries were also hung in their homes in order to ensure familial harmony and a year's good fortune.

For these bygone Celtic priests of yesteryear believed that holly, with its glossy and shiny prickly leaves of green adorned with red berries, remained green the entire year due to their magical properties. Mistletoe and holly berries were considered sacred to the Druids. The bright colors of the holly bush made it a natural representation of life and rebirth during the cold harshness of the wintry whiteness of northern Europe. Along with evergreens, these Teutonic peoples traditionally placed holly plants within their dwellings to ward off unwanted lurking spirits and menacing winter storms. Curiously, many speculate that the holly berries have given us our green and red colors of Christmas. This same plant was also sacred to the Romans during their Saturnalia festival. The Romans exchanged holly wreaths as gifts, with the entailing symbolism of the circle of the wreath implying Eternal Life itself. Once Christianity took hold in Rome, however, holly wreaths became integrated with the Christmas holiday.

By the 17th Century, holly had become a grander part of the Christmas merriment. Soon the lovely verdant plant became Christianized to symbolize Jesus Christ's crown of thorns put atop his head by his Roman persecutors, while the red berries came to represent the blood of Christ (el sangre de Cristo). Holly then came to stand for peace, joy, contentment, and the hearth, yet many farmers in England had planted the holly berries near their homes to ward off witches and evil spirits during the dark chill of wintertime. A sprig of holly tied to one's bedpost often foretold of sweet dreams. A liquid tonic from the holly leaves brewed as a hot tea was said to act as a cough syrup and to have many medicinal properties in preventing the common cold.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lil' JJ

Babies, as innocent and powerless as they are, make the world go round. As soon as they are conceived, they make you give up a lot of things you love---like smoking, late nights, alcohol, roller-coaster rides, binge eating, bungee jumping, non-stop shopping. Having a baby is a life-changing experience, according to my friends. Babies make you feel hopeful about the future, that the next generation will right the wrongs done by the older generation. But don’t discount the fact that having a baby can also cause apprehension. The world is a dangerous place; people seem to stop caring about each other anymore.

All things considered, there seems to be no right time to have a baby these days. The cost of raising a child is staggering, especially for a single working woman. So I was surprised when a friend of mine decided to get pregnant anyway despite the indecisiveness of the baby’s father. I admire my friend’s courage in going through her pregnancy alone…I meant, in the absence of the man who got her in that condition.

With our outdated traditions and sometimes bizarre social customs, I’m happy that the laudable Filipino family values are still alive today. We have a tremendous support system that is not common elsewhere. And my friend is very lucky to have this kind of support from her family.

Let’s welcome JJ, my newest inaanak! This little boy is a bubbly and delightful bundle of joy…not to mention, good-looking! Nagmana sa ninang!

If I have a monument in this world, it is my son.
~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Pardon my ignorance but I didn’t know what alibata was. During the Oakwood mutiny in 2005, alibata was emblazoned on the Magdalo soldiers’ armbands but it didn’t stay in my memory bank. I read the word again during the NPC press freedom mural controversy, where Bonifacio, depicted as a cigarette vendor, had a tattoo on his arm---an alibata---which was replaced with a heart pierced with an arrow in the altered version. I got curious what this alibata is all about.

Alibata is a script that first represented the ancient Filipino language and writing system before the Spanish came. The origin of the script has not yet been ascertained---some believe it came from India, or Celebes. It was used around AD 1000-1200, and was extinct by the late 18th century. Only two forms of the indigenous scripts survive today: the script used by the Tagbanwa of Palawan, and by the Mangyan of Mindoro.

The term alibata was coined inexplicably to mimic the first two letters of the alphabet of the Maguindanao, used in the southern Philippines, which is derived from Arabic. (The term refers to the first two letters, alif and bet.) It is also called baybayin, which means "to spell" in Tagalog.
Reading about alibata, I stumbled into Hector Santos’ A Philippine Leaf where he wrote about the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. An 8 x 12 inches copperplate inscribed with a mysterious script found along the shores of Laguna de Bay in 1989. The object gives a precise date from the Sanskrit calendar which dates back to 900 AD. This is 621 years earlier from the first observations recorded by Pigafetta in 1521.

Why does the world consider China, Japan, and Thailand as countries that have a tradition of writing and assume that the Philippines owe its literacy to the Spanish? It is because these countries use their own writing systems while Filipinos read and write in the Latin alphabet. Although outsiders may be forgiven for such a belief, many Filipinos unfortunately also do not know that a writing system was in place in the Philippines long before the Spaniards arrived.
Pedro Chirino, a Jesuit historian, who wrote in his 1604 Relacion de las Islas filipinas,

All these islanders are much given to reading and writing, and there is hardly a man, much less a woman, who does not read and write.

Many other historians had similar conclusions, including Dr. Antonio Morga, Senior Judge Advocate of the High Court of Justice and commander of the ill-fated galleon-turned-warship San Diego that was sunk by the Dutch Admiral van Noort. He wrote in his 1609 Sucesos de las Islas filipinas,

Almost all the natives, both men and women, write in this language. There are very few who do not write it excellently and correctly.

It was a simple and elegant system that was called baybayin or alibata.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Don't quote me

Underground River, Palawan

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

~Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 7, 2007

Delayed sleep-phase disorder

I envy people who fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes, or their backs hit the bed. My sister falls asleep standing up in the bus. Counting cows inside my head doesn’t work; I change animals to count through the years---ants, ducks, penguins, and I would still be counting by sunrise. I also tried counting bubbles, stars, cracks on the walls and ceilings, tiles in the bathroom. But sleep hides in places I can’t find.

I never cared much for sleeping even when I was a kid. The afternoon naps imposed by my parents were always met with resistance…like eating vegetables or brushing my hair when I get out of bed in the morning. As I grow older, I learned to eat some vegetables, and was compelled to brush my hair regularly lest I’d be mistaken as an escapee of a mental asylum. But sleeping has remained something that I regard with dislike. It interferes with things that I’d rather be doing.

The bad sleeping hygiene resulted to sleeplessness even when I wanted and needed to sleep. By mid-20’s, I would go on weeks, even months without a decent night sleep. My job was 9-5 and it was a struggle getting to work on time. I tried a cocktail of sleeping/wake-up pills, alcohol, relaxation techniques, exercise, marijuana and other home remedies---but they were all temporary solution, nothing really worked.

Insomnia runs in my family. My mother used to take Valium, my brother had transient insomnia when he was a teenager. So we all thought I was also suffering from the same sleep disorder. About 3 years ago, I went to a sleep clinic and consulted a sleep expert after seeing her on TV. The doctor’s diagnosis was not insomnia but another form of sleep disorder called Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome (DSPS).

DSPS is a chronic disorder of the timing of sleep, peak period of alertness and other rhythms. People with DSPS tend to fall asleep well after midnight and also have difficulty waking up in the morning. Sufferers manage only a few hours sleep a night during the working week, then compensate by sleeping until the afternoon on weekends. Sleeping in on weekends, and/or taking long naps during the day, gives people with the disorder relief from daytime sleepiness but also perpetuates the late sleep phase.

It’s difficult to explain a sleep disorder to those who have no difficulties falling asleep. It’s like describing a green leaf to a blind person.

Through the years, my family, friends and co-workers have come to accept that I’m a nocturnal creature. I feel most creative, alert and more active at night. Much as I want to be at my desk at 9 a.m. like everybody else, it’s hopelessly difficult.

I would love to be “cured” and start a new way of life, like a "normal" person.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

America: still rockin'

Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell are in their mid 50’s and have been making music for the past 37 years. They’re the main men of a folk rock band, America…and they rocked The Big Dome last night.

Beckley, Bunnell and Peek were sons of American servicemen stationed in UK. The trio formed the band in 1969 until Dan Peek left in ’77. I lost count of the albums they released all these years but I have their Greatest Hits cd, and if I’ll dig into my baol, I’d sure unearth 1 or 2 America cassette tapes.

The music of America is part of my generation. I discovered the band with their song “I Need You”---one of the first songs I practiced my inept guitar skills on way back in high school, more than half a life ago. It was great to rediscover the music of America last night.

When they sang “Ventura Highway”, the audience sang along. And once the audience started, there was no stopping us! “Ventura Highway” brought me back to the afternoons under the shade of an ancient acacia tree where my classmates and I would sing and play the guitar over a well-worn copy of Mop Top magazine.

Every song brings back memories, and the pleasure came on different levels. It felt like a high school reunion of sorts---nobody in the audience, it seemed to me, was younger than 35!  There was a connection, a kinship and we laughed as we sang along---I guess, each of us remembering the people and places we associated with each song.

My favorites are “Sister Golden Hair”, “Daisy Jane”, “You Can Do Magic” and “Muskrat Love”. It was great to listen to the band’s acoustic trademark live. Beckley’s voice quality was not as good as before but hey, Lolo Gerry is still rockin’! Bunnell still has a strong voice and I love his rendition of the “Sandman”…Funny I’ve been there/and you’ve been here/and we aint had no time to drink that beer/I understand you’ve been running from the man who goes by the name of the sandman…

“Tin Man” reminds of an uncle who taught me to play the guitar. My friends and I giggled while singing “Lonely People”. I also enjoyed their version of “California Dreamin’”, originally done by The Mamas and the Papas, way before my time. 

When Beckley sat on the piano and began singing “All My Life”, all of Araneta took out their cel phones and recorded the performance. How could I forget slow dancing to “All My Life” with my high school sweetheart? We were all sweaty and out of breath after all the “Grease” dance steps…but when “All My Life” played, we were on the dance floor in a flash. Oh, those were the days! 

“A Horse with No Name” brought the house down. Our voices galloped all the way to the rooftop of The Dome. You don’t really know how much you miss these classics until you sing them. My vocal chords still reverberate. 

You can still catch America tonight...but in Cagayan de Oro, the last leg of their Philippine tour.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday Blues

After the weekend, Monday mornings are always a reminder that it's another week of keeping my nose to the grindstone. I'm always zombie-like on Monday mornings. This morning was cloudy, and that kept me in bed for another 20 minutes. Remember that Carpenters' song, "talking to myself and feeling low/sometimes I’d like to quit/nothing ever seems to fit/walking around, nothing to do but frown/rainy days on Mondays always get me down". This song perfectly describes my Monday blues. Nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don't belong...

Anyway, nothing meaningful and earth-shaking happened to me during the long weekend. The weekend was marked by a series of uneventful yet pleasant episodes in a life of a single woman with nothing else to do. Out of boredom, I secretly wished for a week-long coup d'etat! Unfortunately, tear gas was enough to make the coup plotters surrender, so I resigned myself to the doldrums of a long weekend. Sigh!


I planned of going to Liwasang Bonifacio last Friday to witness the celebration of Andres Bonifacio's 144th birthday. But I got stuck in front of the television watching commentaries on Trillanes’ recent misadventure at the Manila Pen. By late Friday afternoon, my friends called from Greenbelt inviting me to have coffee with them. After dinner at Capricciosa, we explored the newly-opened Greenbelt 5 while debating on which movie to watch---my friends wanted to see One More Chance (giggles), I wanted to see The Namesake. I was out-voted! Fortunately [for me], One More Chance was not being shown at Greenbelt 3 (yeheyyyy!) and we were too lazy to walk to Glorietta.

The Namesake is based on a novel of the same title written by Jhumpa Lahiri. I came upon this novel early this year when I was grounded at the Minneapolis airport on my way to San Francisco. Our plane returned to the terminal 15 minutes after take off after we complained of an unpleasant odor inside the plane---it smelled like a combination of daing and smelly feet! It turned out, there was some problem with the plane’s air-conditioning system. The flight was delayed for almost 4 hours!

With nothing else to do, I looked for a bookstore thinking of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (a Pulitzer-prize winning debut). Interpreter, however, was out of stock…so I bought The Namesake. And I’m glad I did.

Gogol Ganguli, an American-born son of Indian immigrants, was afflicted from birth with a name that is neither Indian nor American. He is given a name by his father, who before coming to America to study at MIT, was almost killed in a train accident in India. Ashoke, the father, was holding on to pages of Nikolai Gogol’s book when rescuers found him. The story of Gogol and his family kept me busy and entertained till I landed in Manila. I cried my eyes out on the plane while reading this novel that the old guy across the aisle was giving me sympathetic looks, and the flight attendant served me an extra scoop of ice cream.

The movie also sent me to tears (I pretended to wipe my nose!). I could relate to Ashima’s (Gogol’s mother) loneliness in a foreign land, away from her family and anything familiar.


I was supposed to go to the supermarket in the morning but I was too lazy. Spending the whole Saturday morning in bed listening to the radio was a pleasant exercise. I had a late lunch then went back to bed for a nap and by 3:30 pm, I was driving towards Mandarin Hotel to check out the Annual Wiredstate Hi-Fi Show. But the line to the parking lot was very long; I drove around once, and then decided to go to MoA instead. I was planning to see SM Science Discovery Center in preparation to my nephews Xmas vacation in 2 weeks. But the Science Discovery Center was full of school children---the reason for 10 or so buses at the parking lot.

By dinner time, I was at Seaside with 3 friends binging on suahe, talaba, crabs and lapu-lapu. We went to the nearby pet shop after dinner and shopped for our dogs’ Santa costume. I also bought cookies and a red shirt for Fritz.

Happy that the curfew was imposed for only 1 night, we drove to Bonifacio High Street to have coffee. The place was packed with people. The midnight breeze was cold we regretted not bringing our jackets.


Catching up on movies/TV series that I missed is usually my Sunday morning activity. Brunch in front of the TV watching Hairspray in my pajamas was the place to be...also feasted on House' Season 4. Then chatted with my land lord about the Trillanes’ disaster while reading the newspapers. A retired soldier and a loyal Binay supporter---you can imagine which side he’s on.

I put an Armik cd on, played with Fritz, and gave him a bath. Made pop corn and began reading Istanbul (by Orhan Pamuk) until it’s time to leave for the supermarket. It was crazy at the mall---I was dizzy with all the people, colors, and movement before my eyes. Christmas songs permeated the air---the merry season is definitely here!


When I woke up this morning, I knew I had the blues. I wonder if there's a medical term for it. I'm just tired of feeling this way on Monday mornings. Just when you're getting used to the weekend---it's over!

The long weekend produced a languor in my soul I feel that I have been sleep-walking the whole day. I decided to write this blog while having coffee to get my brains into mental aerobics. My blood is just warming up...