Thursday, November 30, 2006

Of friends, freight, and fences

One of the most harrowing and literally life-changing experiences I’ve ever gone through was our lipat-bahay a year ago.

It was a move borne out of necessity rather than whim. It was not easy. Imagine, having to sort through 25 years’ worth of memories and possessions, junk and treasures, choosing what stays and what goes, in that gargantuan struggle to fit them from a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom condominium unit.

From old greeting cards, to grade school projects. Well-loved and now tattered toys, to yellowing books and magazines numbering in the hundreds. Souvenirs and mementos from travels, jamborees, school programs, and balikbayan friends. Boxes of photos, clothes, plates, kitchen knick-knacks.

It took us at least two weeks to sift through these vessels of reminiscences. There was much fighting and arguing and compromising. You get to keep that, but you have to let these go. Get just two of these and throw the rest away. Nope, no way will you take these to our new place. I don’t care how you will do it but the piano is not to be left behind.

At the end of the grueling fortnight, at least a dozen balikbayan boxes of possessions came with us to our new home.

After 12 months, now that I’m thinking about them, I don’t miss many of the things we left, gave away, or threw to the garbage bins. At the end of the day, it was a cleansing, purging experience. What we brought to our new place are ultimately the items most dear to us. Even now, some balikbayan boxes haven’t been thoroughly sorted. And you know the six-month rule: things not taken out of the boxes they were packed in six months before will tend to stay in that box forever.

What was equally stressful was uprooting out lives from the community we’ve been with since I was 11 months old. Family friends whose love for us has withstood the test of time. From block parties to block rosaries, 7th birthdays to debuts to weddings, money loaned and repaid, cars heaved due to dead batteries, dying neighbor transported to the hospital on a family sedan.

It’s such a cacophony of memories and experiences shared through the years. It’s not as if the relationships were severed totally; I don’t believe they will ever be. Things are not the same again but we do our best to keep in touch...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sale! Sale! Sale! Sale na kayo!



Cebu City and its immediate environs (at least their political leaders) are all agog with the upcoming ASEAN Leaders’ Summit. Sparing no expense, the streets are festooned with welcome banners and all things Pinoy to showcase our (in)famous hospitality. December 2006 is coming down as one of Cebu’s craziest. (The truly unique Lhuillhier Christmas Tree, sitting on Fuente Osmena, is said to cost a million pesos, adding to the glitz of the season.)

Well, December always IS crazy. Unfortunately, something about the ‘Ber months convert people into a frenetic bunch of crazy consumers. Forget the US’s Black Friday: in the Philippines, it’s Black October, November, and December- despite the myriad convulsing colored lights (whose number is enough to create glitz that rival the sun’s).
With business establishments declaring price-offs almost too indecent to repeat here, the country’s practically sold out.

And even I, I am not exempted.

A glimpse into my retail therapy past, as I’ve articulated in my September 7th, 2003 entry in my old blog.



I am the power of advertising personified. In a span of less than two hours, I have succumbed to at least half a dozen promotional gimmicks that allegedly aim to make my life easier, if not happier or more delicious. Consider:

5:52 pm: I purchased original HP ink catridges because I read in an HP paid newspaper supplement that the “compatible” ink catridges, though a whole lot cheaper, cause damage to the printer whose repair will ultimately be costlier. And the red Benetton wallet which I got for free was quite cute. I paid for the ink catridges using a credit card with “really, really low interest rates”;


6:21 pm: At the supermarket, I picked out from amongst the vast array of shampoos the one with “new and improved ZPT formulation” for my stress dandruff. For all I know, that ZPT thingie is causing my scalp to slough off dead skin faster. Yeap, I put to good use my credit card to pay for the ZPT shampoo with other grocery items, including those I stowed into my shopping basket from the rack in front of the cashier as I waited in line;


6:41 pm: I bought a 3-for-fifteen-pesos set of pens. They are so crappy-looking I may need to buy one set a day, if they can last that long. I again used a credit card to pay for the darn pens along with my other bookstore purchases. After all, the credit card’s interest rates are “really, really low”;


7:27 pm: True to form, I bought dinner from Jollibee. But it wasn’t like any other dinner- it was a two-piece burgersteak meal with FREE dessert. The freebie I got from upgrading a previous purchase of value meal plus softdrink into value meal plus iced tea. So it was quite logical for me to upgrade my current two-piece burgersteak meal plus softdrink to a two-piece burgersteak meal plus iced tea so that I have a chance to win another freebie. And another free dessert I did earn! All these purchases, of course, are credited to my Silver Card, which earns for me a point for every peso I spend in Jollibee. These points I can redeem later to get more freebies.


I would like to think that I am somehow helping jumpstart the Philippine economy with these small trading activities. I would like to think that I am somehow appreciating the many a sleepless night spent brainstorming to come up with strategies to entice Filipinos to part from their hard-earned pesos. I would like to think that I am somehow recognizing the efforts of the artists and graphics persons and marketing personnel without whom knowledge of the promos and special offers will not be made known to me. These purchases are really for them.


With love, from gullible me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Annie in the sky with diamonds

Dear Anne,

Baby girl! Have you explored your new home? Lolo Andoy and Lola Oreng are excitedly waiting for you- I'm sure. They'll take you on endless journeys aboard Lolo's wonderful train, as you savor the delights of Lola's cooking. Eat! You have so much catching up to do!

Sweet angel! Are you frolicking in your fluffy white dress already? Run, play, dance, sing, soar. Where you are, savor the fresh air you can now easily breathe in. Let peals of laughter emanate from your heart. Let all the bottled in glee escape and ring true.

My pussycat! Are you sleeping soundly? Free from the shackles of pain and illness, rest well, cradled in Your Father's loving embrace. Rest your weary body as you recharge our spirits.

My Annie! Is it really wonderful over there? Is every moment a lump-in-your-throat, makes-your-eyes-water-with-joy event? Is the temperature just right, a perfect balance of envigorating heat and refreshing coolness? Can you really see us from up there?

Don't worry about us. We'll be ok.

Loving you and missing you daily,
Tito Ian

PS-The thought of you waiting for us should we be judged worthy of heaven makes the trials-strewn journey worthwhile.

I can't wait to hug you, look into your eyes, hear your tiny yawn, run my fingers through your hair, hold your stubby fist, feel the ebb and flow of your breathing again...

(A year hence, we haven't forgotten! We love you dearly and miss you all the more...

Posted in my old blog 11/27/05.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A pack-rat's lament

(Posted in my old blog last August 21st, after discovering that the message inbox that came along that blog was empty! All fifty or so valuable messages lost! *sigh* Suddenly feeling sentimental again today after swimming through lengthy emails from classmates sorely missed, I am reminded of this entry and opted to post this again...)

I’ve had more than my fair share of hard disks crashing, PDA’s resetting, phone sms inbox contents accidentally disappearing, or large-scale online system failing taking along with it months or even years’ worth of blogging and memories.

Each event leaves me feeling as if I have been hit head-on by a train traveling at 1000 kph, dragged for a station or two, and left bloody but still conscious, albeit barely. I mustn’t stay on the tracks though, lest I allow another train to ram itself unto my already mangled body. So I pick up my left ear here, my right femur there, bits and pieces of my brain everywhere, as I try to move on and rebuild my life as a trying hard techie.

I try to live in the same vein that my Lord and Savior did: while He saves, I keep back-up copies of everything. Almost everything. Well, about 50% of my creative output. Of the last 3 months or so. Which amounts to about 10% of my life’s work. In the process of which I ran out of CD-RWs. So I was able to make back-up copies of some folders in my computer. FOLDER to be more precise. Alright, alright. I haven’t learned my lesson.

Immediately after realizing that I’ve lost data from my phone, PDA, or computer, my reaction is to unleash an un-Jesus-like litany that would make a detergent company salesman make his quota with the number of soap bars I have to buy to wash my foul-mouth with. And then I’d be in a state of panic, sadness, and grief- lamenting the loss of contact numbers, photos, essays, messages- memories that I treasured the moment they landed on my brain cells. Now gone.

Forever.

Well, not for long. My pack-rat mentality would kick in soon enough and my phone’s inbox ultimately gets filled with jokes or sentimental messages or timely Bible verses. I’d eventually churn out journal entries and they’d be uploaded soon enough to provide evidence for my shameless self-promotion (thanks, f, for that unforgettable line). I’d receive text messages from ‘strangers’ who are kind enough to help me update my phonebook by replying to the uber-annoying query ‘Who is this again please?”. New photo ops will present themselves. In no time at all, what I lost would be replaced. And if they don’t get replaced, they are never missed. Except during attacks of melancholy, when I know that I have this person or that person’s number in my PDA’s address book but now I don’t.

Somehow it provides a ‘cleansing’ mechanism. To ease from my life the ‘clutter’ and ‘white noise’ that pervade without me realizing their presence. Wiped out gigabytes leave room where new memories can be saved. And somehow, that’s what I need every now and then. Tabula rasa.

A clean slate.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Arnel, 27

As what is wont to happen, I hardly derive any inspiration to write from positive or happy developments in my life- hence the delay in writing about the passing of my friend, Arnel.

Lest I be accused of being utterly inhuman and devoid of normal grieving patterns, I take comfort in the knowledge and belief in my heart of hearts that he is in a place 999,999,999,999 googol times better than where the happiest person on earth is.

Truth be told, I envy him- having finished his mission on earth at the age of 27. Free from the toil and misery of the daily grind here, he’s probably enjoying endless videoke sessions in heaven, with harps and lyres and a cohort of magnificent angels and cherubims as back up vocals to boot. Performance level, I’m sure. And a constant score of 101%!

Do I miss him? Hell yeah.

But I’d rather lose him than have him here but he's deep in the muck of illness and misery.

True to form, Arnel was ever the entertainer, even at his own wake. It was arguably the most animated and lively wake I’ve ever been to. A handful of high school friends were able to visit him and our constant recollection of Arnel’s antics, witty one-liners, and fondess for imitating people’s mannerisms had us all doubling in laughter, albeit suppressed with supreme effort in deference to the event we were in.

And what a joy it is viewing over and over again that one video of Arnel I was blessed enough to capture through my phone. It was taken March 31st of last year, at Jen’s birthday party, one of our high school friends. Vintage Arnel- singing, nay, performing as if on stage, with eyes shut at the right part of the song, arms flailing about, thoroughly working us, his audience, like putty on his hands.

While we were viewing the video at Arnel’s wake, we couldn’t remember what he was singing much less hear the melody and lyrics from the video since the audience- as captured in the video as well as those viewing it- were laughing so hard, enthralled by this performance. Fearing that I might lose the video in one way or another, e.g. my phone gets stolen, it conks out, etc, I shared the video to two other friends. Fortunately, the boyfriend of one of these girls had better hearing than all of Arnel’s friends combined. He was able to discover what Arnel was singing- Irene Cara’s Out Here On My Own from the Oscar-winning 70’s flick FAME .

Rather than post the, um, somber lyrics of Out Here On My Own, I believe what is more "Arnel" is the movie’s theme Fame.

Baby look at me
And tell me what you see.
You ain't seen the best of me yet
Give me time, I'll make you forget the rest.
I got a story, and you can set it free
I can catch the moon in my hand
Don't you know who I am?


Remember my name (Fame)
I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly (High)
I feel it coming together
People will see me and die (Fame)
I'm gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame (Fame)
I'm gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name
Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember,
Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember

Baby hold me tight
And you can make it right.
You can shoot me straight to the top
Give me love and take all I got.
Baby I'm in love
Too much is not enough
I surround your heart to embrace
You know I got what it takes.



Indeed, you will live forever, Arnel. You won’t be forgetten.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Weather we liked it or not


A long-delayed blogcast

With all the media hype billowing around it, and the obvious impact it was beginning to impress on anything and everyone that it touches, it was one of the worst times to be out on the streets without a camera.

It was one of the worst times to be out on the streets, period.

It was a scene straight out of the movie Day After Tomorrow, minus the snow. (Day After Tomorrow is the film where Dennis Quaid [I believe] overcame horrendous weather to get to his son Jake Gyllenhaal who along with some friends were trapped in New York City.)

Classes were suspended the day before the bad weather came because according to PAGASA, Tropical Storm Milenyo will skim the borders of the metro. There was initial rejoicing since I didn’t have to go to class and deliver my lecture on- irony of ironies- Disaster Management to 3rd year med students. However, my teammates from GK said that an emergency meeting is being called for the GK Global Expo scheduled for next week.

And so despite the warnings a-blaring on radio and tv and the obvious foul weather which greeted me the instant I woke up, I headed to our GK office that faithful Thursday, September 28th. When we got to the office, electricity was already cut off. Not the ones to give up easily, we scouted the fastfood joints along Ortigas Avenue and lo and behold- Jollibee was open and it had electricity. We proceeded with our meeting which ended a little before 11am, the time the tropical storm was expected to pass through Metro Manila.

Great.

By the time our meeting ended and all other subsequent side trips were dispensed with, the winds had already began showing off. So many branches of trees have fallen and the streets were litter-strewn. Mind you, when I say the branches, they were anywhere from finger- to torso-thick logs and the mess flailing around were a mixture of detached business signages and a host of loose construction materials like galvanized iron sheets.

The flooded streets- in some parts reaching at least half my tires- were no help either.

As we are programmed to do in occasions such as these, my sister and I decided that we should go home together. Yes, we BOTH reported for work. After arguably the scariest road trip I have taken in my entire life, I got to Glorietta and we drove home.

Trees within Ayala Center were uprooted. The stretch of McKinley was practically devoid of the darling shade provided by the decades-old acacias living parallel to the road. Lamp posts along C5 fell like dominoes. Traffic crawled at a pace that would even make a snail loose its cool with the sheer slowness of it all.

We get to our house, which had no electricity, water supply, nor phone line. With cell phone batteries barely able to send and receive messages- due to lack of battery power and the cell site system thrashed by the tropical storm.

To add to my anxiety, I was to leave for a GK workshop and surgical mission in Borongan, Eastern Samar at 5:10 am the following day. I nearly didn’t go. But all systems were back on track according to the Cebu Pacific personnel I interrogated over the phone at around 11pm. And more importantly, our bosses said the trip was a go. So, go we did.

Boy- am I glad that I DID go. Else, I would have missed these:




Milenyo practically spared the Samar provinces en route to whooping through Metro Manila hence the excellent weather there and the negligible amount of damage to property and disruption of lives.

Faiths were a bit shaken but we were steered to where we ought to be.

(In the photos: the hardly-visible Makati Shangri-La and a fellow straggler in the form of a cab, caught in Milenyo, caught by my phone's camera because my digicam's batt went dead and i left my Woca at home; sumptuous feasts wherever we were in Samar; my first real view of San Juanico Bridge; a fantastic beach along Borongan; San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Balanggiga town, whose bells were stolen as booty by Americans in 1901; the fine hotel we stayed in in Borongan; scenes from the surgical mission and GK workshop we conducted).