Category Archives: Strictly Personal

Mixed Nuts

Mixed nuts indeed

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog here so it feels great to be back! The past months have been very busy, challenging, and for the most parts, happy. As they say, there’s always the yin and yang of life so we get to savor the best parts more because we have been through the pits.

I have to thank my favorite snacks these days for the happy feelings the past months. You might say I have gone nuts, too, to correlate my happiness with this pack of goodies. Let me then expound further…

You see, when I am eating this snack, I will meticulously pick out only two of the nuts. Well, actually, only one of them is technically a nut. The other one is like a small bit of biscuits (square-shaped and orange in color). So I just pick out these two “nuts” I like, and I separate the rest of the nuts on one side…or directly put them on the palm of…who else, JR.

Yes, JR takes care of the “rejected” ones. Not that they don’t taste good, nah. It’s just that my two nuts are the best-tasting in that bunch of nuts. So, gladly, JR takes care of the discarded ones. We usually munch over these nuts after dinner, over TFC telenovelas (yes, Virginia, now I am a telenovela fanatic, I can always tell you what is going on in the lives of Catherine in Iisa pa Lamang or Garie in Kahit Isang Saglit). And yes, I consider those moments a big treat! What more can I ask for? I have a good soul beside me, I have the best-tasting junk food in the whole world, and I can watch Filipino telenovelas without having the slightest guilt or “yucckk” feeling because back in Manila, I found telenovelas really kabaduyan. But now that I am overseas and miss everything Filipino, I am definitely changing my mind. Telenovelas rule the world! :D

But wait…there’s more to this Mixed Nuts thing. Much much more. You see, it is during those nights that I realize (again and again) how lucky I must be to have this kind soul beside me now. You see, I am reminded again and again that he must love me so much to allow me to have the best parts of the Mixed Nuts pack, just contentedly waiting for me “sort out” the bunch…and throughout all these, still managing a smile on his face…and well, ok, that hungry look in his eyes (like a puppy waiting for his favorite bone)…;D But seriously, can you imagine having to eat only the ones that, you know, do not taste as good as the others? For example, your friend opens a bag of goodies and he only gives you the Lollipops while he gets away with the Kitkats and M&Ms? Unfair, huh? But you see, there’s that special thing there. You let your friend get away with the best parts because you want to see him happy. Nothing can be as good as that. Well, some others might say, “maybe you have ulterior motives,” but for the less cynical among us, well, this is still something to be thankful and happy about that. And fortunately for me, I am not yet cynical about life.

So, yes, this guy beside me right now does not know it yet. But I have the Mixed Nuts to thank for…not just for the warm, funny, and exciting telenovela moments but more importantly, for the mixed nutty feeling of happiness, contentment, bliss, and peace that I experience just being reminded that there’s this one person in the world who would gladly give me the best parts and still smile about it. :)

[Re-post of a blog dated October 18, 2008 (from my previous site).]


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Courtship, Pinoy Style

Romance, Pinoy-style

I decided to write this for a friend, with the hope that this little piece of information will orient her American boyfriend about what Pinoy courtship is really all about. She shares (with a little exasperation perhaps?) that her boyfriend doesn’t understand the term whenever she or her Pinay friends mention it during their conversations. He almost always looked like the term is from Mars and was purely invented to confuse men like him. ;)  I had a brief chat with him over YM last weekend and he also had the same words for me, “I don’t get it.” ;)

Ok, this one is for him.

First, the Pinoys’ style of courtship may still be similar to how men in other cultures try to woo the women of their dreams. After all, the desire for a man to be with a woman (or vice versa) is universal. But I guess in the Philippines, the famous hot “Latin” blood still runs wildly in our veins and, therefore, we still view courtship in a combination of traditional and modern sense (if there is such a combination!).

Gone were the days of fetching water (in pails and buckets) for the family of the woman (thank God we already have modern plumbing systems in most cities of the country) but nevertheless, men are still expected to bring flowers and chocolates, the works! They are still expected to visit her in her house, get to know her whole family–including grandparents if they are still living with her–and even her friends, call and text her often (though not too much that she won’t have the chance to miss him), and be at her side if she needs a companion in going to the movies or the bookshop and YES, I will put this in capital letters for emphasis, HAIR SALON or BEAUTY PARLOR.

I think the last one is the ultimate test because I know for a fact that men hates accompanying their women when they are having their haircut or having their nails manicured. I don’t know their exact reasons but I guess they are horrified with the thought of being bored to death while their women try to transform themselves with perhaps an equally horrific hair-do. I’d give men who accompany me to the hair salon 1,000 pogi points because that means they really are in love with me, enough to suffer those boring moments just to be with me (wink!).

What are my kilig moments if someone is courting me? For one, I like midnight calls if it’s my birthday. I feel kilig when my suitor brings me my favorite food like siomai and pansit. I feel so good when he tells me I am pretty in the most unexpected moments. It’s also nice to receive text messages and calls of support when I am about to do something important like open my exhibit or have a job interview. And then, I feel great when my man remembers the things that I shared with him some months ago. That means, he is very attentive. I also give 1,000 pogi points for suitors who show respect and support to my passions in life like my attempts in photography (I had one suitor before who bought me a beautiful book on photography and I swear that almost gave him my Yes!). :) And then, how can I not feel good when he kisses my hands so tenderly while he’s doing something like reading a book or driving his car? And then, there are the usual things that women go crazy about – being pampered like a baby (i.e. getting free head massage for one!), being told she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, being seated in a dining table where all the food was cooked for her, being hugged and cuddled when she’s feeling lonely…ahhhh, such moments are sure to win the hearts of the women in your lives.

Oh wait, I don’t want to forget this. I also get the high if he buys me a little something when we’re shopping together. It’s not the money, you see. I get the kilig feeling because it tells me that he’s still thinking of me even if he’s also buying the things that he likes for himself. I think that’s also the ultimate test. It tells me that this guy will be a thoughtful boyfriend because he still takes special care in finding things that I’d like and enjoy even if he seems preoccupied with buying his stuffs and gadgets.

For the guys—it is not really difficult to please your women. You don’t have to be Mr. Casanova or have the bank accounts of Bill Gates in order to woo the woman of your dreams. Believe me, most of us will be very happy if you show up in our front doors with just a single bud of rose or our favorite dessert on our birthday. It’s the thought, guys. Of course, admittedly, there are “high-maintenance” women, but I think the general sentiment is that most of us just want to feel special. We want to feel that in your eyes, we are unique. That we are above the rest. That you will do everything to make us feel that we’re the only woman you’d ever need in your entire life (READ: no philanderers and cheaters, please!).

Courtship is a great phase and couples should enjoy this period of “getting to know” one another. However, I think that guys should always remember that after the courtship, they should never ever stop wooing us. They may have gotten our “yes” already or that we’ve said “I love you, too,” they still should continue to act like they are still courting us. Remember, while men have limitless choices, too, we can also dump you guys if you begin acting like you’re God’s gift to the universe and have totally stopped giving us that loving look and that sweet head massage that made us fall for you. If you want us to stay in your lives, you’d better hone your skills in courtship or you’re out the door the next day with only your suitcases and boxer shorts to hug at night. ;)

[Re-post of a blog dated September 9, 2007 (from my previous site).]


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Certified Dog Nanny

The Ceritified Dog Nanny and her wards, Sabbay and Luna. :)

Now I can finally call myself a Certified Dog Nanny. :) Sure, I volunteered to care for dogs of friends who were going on a trip before but this is the first time that I am again living with two dogs longer than a few days (we cared for dogs before as a family). Yes, my dear, I have been with these two dogs for three weeks now and two more weeks to go before I finish my “Master’s Degree.” :)

What is this experience telling me? For one, caring for dogs is comparable to caring for humans. You have to wake up early in the morning because you have to let them out so they can do their weewee and pooh-pooh and then later, prepare their breakfast. Once or twice a week, you have to give them a bath and this is a bit challenging because most dogs (at least to my experience) resist the feeling of wetness on their thick fur. And then you have to keep them company, play with them, or they’d get depressed.

With Luna, who can vie for the title of “Cutest and Sweetest Dog of the Year.” (Sorry for this blurry photo; it was difficult taking one’s photo with a puppy that is so “malikot.”)

This also tells me much about animal behaviors. Take for instance the case of Luna and Sabbay, the dogs I am caring for right now. Luna is a Yorkshire Terrier, small, cute and cuddly, with long brown and gray hair. She is so well-mannered, balanced, adorable and sweet. She likes to cuddle but stops pestering you if she’s had her usual share of cuddling and caressing already (like most dogs, she enjoys having her tummy scratched or caressed). She sleeps, goes out and runs after the birds, or simply walk around in the garden by herself. She is a perfect companion.

Sabbay, a mixed-breed local dog, is an entirely different story. I even think she’s mentally-deranged (sorry, I love dogs, too, but it was how she behaved in the first years of her life, according to her owner). On the first two or three days, I’d also scratch her tummy just like how I do it for Luna…but later I realized that she thinks this is my fulltime job – to scratch and caress her tummy the whole day! She will not leave me alone. She will follow me relentlessly, even up to the point of threatening to bite all of my feet’s fingers just to have me caress her tummy…Oh my, I told myself, this is a nutty case. When I started saying NO NO NO to her, she would stop chasing me…but only for 15 or 20 minutes. Later, she’d go follow me again, scratching my feet and legs, getting me to caress her tummy. She’d lie flat on the floor and open all her legs to gesture that I should scratch or caress her! Goodness gracious. So this chasing went on and on for about a week. I realized that Sabbay is totally clueless. I think she didn’t take Promil when she was just a puppy because it seems her IQ level is lower than 10. ;) Finally, now on the 3rd week with them, I think she finally got the message that my job is NOT to scratch or hold her the whole day. Now she leaves me alone. She still attempts to have me caress her, especially when I wake up in the morning (she sleeps just outside my door) but even if it makes me sad, I stopped doing it to her altogether because with her state of mind, I think that one “tummy-scratch” and she’d begin thinking again that it’s my sole mission in life – to become her personal massage therapist!

Sabbay really tested my patience but I learned much from her. :)

So what is this telling me about animal particularly dog behavior? Well, it seems that with dogs, especially who may be suffering some kind of “mental disturbance” or “anxiety” (I checked the websites and I confirmed that Sabbay’s behavior is a sign of anxiety and psychological problems), the best treatment is not to spoil them and make them think that they are the boss. Had I continued to give Sabbay what she always demanded, she would forever think that she can get what she wants and that she is the boss. Now, when I say NO, she stops. Before, it takes me about 20 NOs for her to stop chasing or pestering me. It was a bit hard for me to do this because I love dogs and I have a soft spot for them. My heart melts whenever a dog looks at me as if wanting me to cuddle her.

However, with my experiences with Sabbay, it seems that not all dogs can be treated in the same way. Sabbay needs a strict, disciplinarian and firm treatment while Luna needs a softer approach. Sabbay needs to be put in her proper place while Luna only needs a little cuddling every now and then and she’d leave you in peace. In fact, right now, as I type this, Luna is outside enjoying the view of the garden while Sabbay is here sleeping near me. Luna seems so sentimental and yet independent (maybe like me?), but Sabbay is needy, dependent and always needs to be around a human being. She never leaves my side. At night, she would sleep outside my door while Luna sleeps near the front door of the main house, a good distance away from me. It is still puzzling me, how these two dogs who are living together are poles apart in their personalities and temperaments, but what the heck, they are still my wards and I should care for them in the best way possible.

Enjoying the big garden while playing with my wards. :)

This “stint” with them is nice because I also learned to cook a bit. ;D I noticed that they don’t want to eat their food if it was the same as what was served them earlier in the day (yeah, they get tired of food so easily)…so I have to keep in inventing dishes although I must admit that my experience is rather limited. But hey, I learned that they really love marinated meats! They would usually finish their meals fast if it’s marinated overnight. Of course I also feed them the usual dog food because hey, I cannot cook for them all the time. The commercially-available dog food provides variety, one thing that they also need.

These quiet times with the dogs and house-sitting for my friends Tuomo and Karen—their house is big, warm, and cozy–give me much-needed solitude as I try to heal from my broken heart. Some mornings I sip my tea or Vietnamese coffee in the patio outside my room. Some afternoons, I read a book in the gardens (in a swing!) while I watch over my wards. A few times, I have also watched DVDs because they have such a nice collection of foreign films like those from France and Finland (the countries where Karen and Tuomo come from). On a couple of occasions, I have entertained Filipino friends who have visited.

The household’s Khmer security staff were all attentive and helpful. Their genuine smiles always brought warmth to the place.

Every morning, I also sweep fallen leaves around the house. Although this is sometimes frustrating because leaves fall all the time! But then again, it is also relaxing to just to take care of this small task every morning. The security guards–yes, we were guarded 24/7–were also attentive and helpful. Sometimes, they will help in sweeping the fallen leaves and I’d shower them with my generosity by serving them hot coffee, which were always returned with such warm and friendly smiles.

Anyway, I have to finish this blog now as I need to cook for my wards…again…catch you later. :)

[Re-post of  a blog dated July 16, 2007 (from my previous site).]


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The butterfly grows on my back.

Saturday was fun. Met up, for the first time, with my online buddies who share one of my passions: photography. We went to Fort Santiago but were unfortunately not allowed inside–this is a long story and may cover an entire page of a blog–so we just went to Intramuros and then Baywalk. I remembered how I miss watching the sunset. I was clicking and clicking even if the sun was still quite harsh…I know this is bad for my lens. But who cares? And then a couple of tattoo artists began installing their makeshift booth. Hmmm, this is getting more interesting. I haggled for a 100-peso butterfly design and decided to have it done on my back. I sat while I imagined myself as the painter…people stared at my back (or maybe the evolution of the butterfly or…both) but I didn’t care. The artist was telling me, “stop moving or we won’t finish” so I tried to sit still and endured the feeling of being stared at.

Ahhh…the butterfly was finally growing on my back and when it was over, I stood up, happy that it was over. I love my butterfly. Now it is a part of me. It will fade one day day but I won’t forget the simple joys of becoming a human canvass.


A hug from a stranger

The sun still refuse to set. I waited with my camera, silently, as if waiting for a lover. Then a group of Korean guys approached me and asked me to take their pictures (through a combination of sign language and little English). I happily obliged…but I realized this was tough. Their backs were against the late but still blazing sun and there was no way my (still limited) photography skills can make their faces appear on this shot. I told them it’s hard, the sun is at your back. They just nodded their heads and posed..and so I continued and took their photos. I think they didn’t care at all. They’re just happy being together, enjoying Manila Bay and its famous sunset and maybe having photos that may eventually end up in their deleted files. But oh, I got a sweet gift. This was unexpected. One of them went to me and hugged me! No words, no nothing, just the beauty of a simple hug. Who can beat that? Maybe he can’t speak in English but for me, he just told me one of the biggest thank you’s I’ve ever heard in my entire life.



“This is a microcosm of Philippine society,” I thought aloud inside my friend’s car as we weaved out of Baclaran Church. It’s past midnight. Another friend was talking endlessly about the cute guys we saw around the Church. And sex. Around us were merchants, devouts, cigarette vendors, pirated DVDs stores, chauffer-driven luxury cars, and bibingka stalls. I am part of this but I am not. I found myself but I am lost. I remembered the candles I lighted. The prayers I whispered. Next week, same time, I will come again.



For two days I didn’t go out of my house. I worked and read and wrote and read again. I seemed to have immersed myself in so much solitude and reading that I may have forgotten to eat voraciously (as usual) as I lost two pounds (yehey!). I had fever when I woke up this morning. It was so cold last night. My world was so silent. I received text messages and knew I should go out and be a part of humanity again, to be confused again, to laugh again, to believe again, to celebrate again. My solitary days will soon be over. My friends miss me and I miss them. I am back. I am back.


“Artists don’t sleep…

…they just close their eyes.” I just suddenly blurted this out one night when my friends were leaving my place and said something about me looking like I am already very sleepy. I don’t know why I said that. Sometimes I just say things and realize that they don’t make sense and yet, they make sense. You know what I mean? Sometimes these words just happen. Like moments in our lives that just happen. I promised myself I’ll always try my best to write more. To write about these moments more. To embrace my life more. To take photos more. To understand my life more. To become a better friend. A better lover. A better daughter. A better sister. A better artist. It’s past 2:00 am as I type this. I must be inspired. Or maybe the 2-day seclusion did my soul some good.



Sometimes I don’t understand you. I give myself to you completely but sometimes I don’t like you at all. You are my joys yet you are my pains. You are my growth but you are my destruction. You are my strength but you are my weakness. You are my light but you are my darkness. You are that comforting voice in the middle of the storm but you are the noise in my deepest solitude. I don’t love you but I love you.

[Re-post of a blog dated January 30, 2007 (from my previous site).] 


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Goodbye, Neo

In less than 24 hours, I’d be bidding you goodbye. No tears, just a little sadness in my heart. When I announced that you are up for ‘adoption’, so many would-be parents contacted me, asking me about your special characteristics. I told them what you really are – three years old, supportive, loyal, always eager to please but with some eccentricities (sometimes you just stop working especially when I am in a hurry and trying to do two or three things at a time).

I am giving you up but that doesn’t mean you will stop being in my mind and heart. You will always be the first one. I have a new ‘baby’ now, maybe stronger than you, cuter, with fewer tantrums, but yes, I don’t think he can still experience the same things that we shared the past three years. Maybe we will weave our common stories, too, but our past three years are all yours to keep, all mine to keep, forever.

Remember the time that I was writing in the dead of the night while everyone was already snoring their way to never-never lands? Well, you were the only one who managed to stay up awake while I try to write and chase my muse. In between each paragraph, I talked to you like a curious reporter–probing, determined, not satisfied with the answers–and you never complained. You just simply listened. Because that’s all I’ve ever needed.

Remember the time that I was deliriously happy and my heart seemed like wanting to burst? Well, you shared that moment, too, with the same peace. You simply sat there and listened while I write about my thoughts and feelings. Always, you allow me to save those moments, to write about them. You kept and guarded my musings and you made me feel that my secrets are always safe with you.

I was preparing you for your new journey this morning and I can’t help but think of the years we’ve shared. All the angst, pains, joys, triumphs, doubts, fears, hopes, and dreams are pieces of me that you also happily embraced and kept in your memory. I touched your face and remember how it felt under my fingers the first time we met. I was excited that time. Happy that finally, I have you to keep under my wings.

Tomorrow, someone else will care for you. And he promised me that he will also take good care of you in the best way that he can. I made him promise to be patient with you but you have to promise me that you’d behave yourself and give him the same kind of loyalty and support that you’ve given me. Well, I really have no doubt about it. You are a good friend, a good listener, a good laptop. :)

Goodbye, Neo Q-Note. I hope our paths will cross again and you’d tell me that I made a good decision – that your new Dad is really the best among the many who wanted to adopt you.

[Re-post of a blog dated December 14, 2006 (from my previous site).]


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Those who have ever placed a bet or watched a horserace would know what Dividendazo means. For those who think this is a designer labelor a stock market lingo (e.g., from “dividends”) (wink!), this is the published schedules of horse races at the San Lazaro Race Tracks in Makati and Carmona. Sold at 7 pesos (or sometimes 10 pesos) per piece, this is considered the main “review document” for “karera” aficionados.

Horse racing aficionados rely on this to predict their winners.

I grew up in Paco, Manila and “karera” is a favorite past time of the men in my neighborhood. My Dad, for one, was a regular customer. He was not what others would consider a professional gambler but he enjoyed this Sunday pastime when others would down bottles of cerveza or quarto cantos in corner stores. I grew up enjoying how my Dad would shout and laugh in triumph whenever his horses and favorite “hinetes” (jockeys) won. He has this unique laughter that most people would describe us contagious. Contagious it was because I cannot remember a moment when his laughter didn’t also make me laugh. I think my laughter even has a resemblance in the way he laughs (to some of you who may find my laughter ‘crazy’, well, you have my Dad to blame…wink…wink).

Anyway, not to digress…this part of my childhood was somehow revisited last weekend when my sister (Rowena), and brother (Dennis), and I went to the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. (But before that, I must mention that we also went to the Canyon Ranch, a housing development by Century Properties. I like to mention this because Canyon Ranch is impressive. The house designs were simple yet pleasing and the place offers a breathtaking view of the valley and horse track below.

Anyway, the moment we entered the horserace track, I was already bitten by excitement. I then bought my first ever Dividendazo! I looked around and didn’t care that the people there were about 95% male. :) The place smells of testosterone but I was too happy and excited to even care. Ate Weng, Deng, Kuya Andy (Ate’s hubby), Anne-anne (my cute pamangkin) and Francis (my sister’s staff) got a table with a good view of the track and almost across the finish line of the oval track. We ordered food and drinks (and the usual beers for the men) and by the time we took our first bites and gulps, we were already thinking of what horses to bet for.

It was so enjoyable! I am not a gambler but this was so exciting for me. I didn’t win on the first game though. But hear this – my bets won in the next two games! Of course, my “consultants,” Deng and Anne, should share the credits as they also helped me in deciding which horses to bet for. We only watched 4 games and winning 2 games out of the 4 is a good batting average, right?

But before you even think that I must be a millionaire now (wink!), I was only betting 10 pesos each horse so that only meant winning about 50 to 200 pesos each time my bets won. In horseracing, you must guess the first two horses who will reach the finish line. So that means, I paid 10 pesos each for the 1st and 2nd lead horses. One unit of bet is worth 5 pesos so if you bet 10 pesos, you have 2 units of bets. That means, if your horses win, you get double of the winnings assigned to the winning horse. For example, if you win a particular race and the amount of win is 70 pesos for that horse, your total winnings is 140 pesos.

Usually, those horses that have good standings would have lower “prize” amount because more people would naturally bet on them. They are what aficionados would call dehado bets. One has higher chances of winning on them but the prize would be lower. The opposite of this is called llamado – they are bets that a lesser number of people would vote for because the probability of their winning is lower. But when they do win, the prize is so much higher. The winnings I had from the two games were both dehado bets, ergo, lower prizes.

However, win or no win, I surely felt a winner after that day because not only did I had a natural high experiencing the excitement of betting for horses, I also had a super wonderful time with my loving siblings–my brother Deng, who just came from abroad (he is a seafarer) and my beautiful sister, Weng, who is an epitome of kindness and warmth. What more can I ask for? It was a day of excitement, laughter, wonderment, love and funny moments.

One thing I learned, too? Well, I must review the Dividendazo one week before I even go to a horserace again! :)

(Special thanks goes to Francis who helped us by placing our bets with the Leisure Park betting counter whenever we were done writing them on a piece of paper!)

 [Repost of a blog dated November 17, 2006 (from my previous site).]


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Stories of our Lives

Recently, I attended the birthday get-together for Grace, a former landlady, who has also become a good friend. Because my former apartment (owned by Grace’s family) is just a short walk from my current one, it’s always easy for me to connect with her especially that she would always make it a point to invite me every time there’s a get-together in their home – including birthdays of her Mom and Dad whom I’ve also learned to love like my second parents.

I thought that after the usual “pigging-out” and conversations with Grace (I joked around with Grace that I stayed in the gym for two hours before going there so I can eat like an elephant), I’d just quietly go home and read a book. However, that night, a good friend from way back my Ricky Lee workshop days, was also there and he invited me to join their set of friends who are out there in the front patio.

Our stories connect us to the Greatest Source. (Photo taken in Tagaytay, Philippines, by the author)

At first, I was hesitant to join because I didn’t know anyone in the group except him and another woman whom I was briefly introduced before. However, something pulled me in so I found a seat and tried to join in the conversations. Most people who know me would say that I’d usually be the one to start conversations when thrown by circumstances to strangers. However, that night, I guess there was no need for me to try to break the ice because it seemed that everyone was already in the middle of conversations. Not wanting to just sit there and listen, I began to chat up with the woman beside me whom I will name Cristy. Cristy, by the way, is about to leave for the US—this, I gathered from the moment I joined the group.

So that’s where my first question to her came from. I asked, “So…I heard that you’re leaving…maybe you’d like tell me the story behind it?”  I didn’t want her to feel that I am trying to be nosy over what could be a very personal thing but it seemed that she was warm and open enough. Amazingly, I think this was also the needed question that would set the ball rolling…because immediately after that, all ears were on us.

It became apparent that the group was also raring to hear more about the story behind this decision. It turns out that Cristy was leaving “to follow her heart.” She met a US-based Filipino guy in Baguio sometime last April. They fell in love, went steady and eventually got married after one month. Yes, one month. Of course, to the hopeless romantics in the group, this was a love “made in heaven.” However, to some, they felt it was too short a time to get to know someone, much more, get married. The guy is now in the US and waiting for her to follow. When Cristy was narrating all these, she really looked so happy and in love! I prodded her more and more and she gamely answered all my questions. Before long, the others were also throwing their questions in.  Things like, “Why so fast naman?”,  “Are you in love?”, “Where will you be staying?” I guess Cristy didn’t mind answering all of our questions . She blushed. She laughed. Her eyes twinkled. She expressed her concerns, too, but she is a picture of joy and hope. I knew then that I was touched again by another love story.

The universe gathers our stories, creating a web of colors, giving deeper meaning to the lives of others. (Photo taken by the author in Gasan, Marinduque. Philippines)

Because the mood of the night began to encourage heart-to-heart talks about love, life, relationships and sex (yes, this is always a favorite topic), it didn’t take long for the group to start passing on the questioning (interrogation?!) to another female in the group. Let’s call her Janet. I can say that Janet is all fire and passion. Her sense of humor is contagious, too. She started by saying that she married her husband just after one week from the time she met her. I almost fell off my chair. I can imagine having sex with a man on the first date but surely, getting married only after one week…wow.

That beats me. Janet said she was engaged to be married to someone else already but when she met her husband, she instantly fell “magic.”  This word later on became one of the favorite words of the night. It was Cristy who said it first but Janet, maybe after trying to find a better word, just blurted it out for the second time that night. She said her whole family found her insane. But she didn’t care. She knew she will follow her heart and she did. She is still happily married now. She admits there are problems and that there was even a time that she wanted to call it quits. But now, she gamely said, “You single women there (pointing to me and another female guest beside me), marriage is a gamble and a commitment. You don’t know what you will get. There is no guarantee. But you have to give it your best shot. It is a continuing work. You committed yourself to it and that’s what you will do – make it work. That’s what I learned.”

I know I have been hearing and reading these words before. But it’s different when they are uttered by someone right across me. Nothing can get as real as that. I can hear her every word, each one coming from her soul. Janet’s decision touched me as very courageous. It was insane, yes. But how can one doubt her feelings when it is as strong as that? Could I trust my feelings in the same way, too?

As I mull over the questions in my mind, Lilia, still another strong woman, shared her story. However, before that, she said something like this…”Do all women here agree that each woman has a depth so deep that it is only herself alone who knows its reach and what it holds?”  Everyone was quiet for a few seconds…and then one by one, every person there nodded or said “Yes, I agree.” And then Lilia shared her story.

Lilia has an ongoing 4-year relationship prior to her marriage. She considered him the love of her life…he was also her best friend. Unfortunately, they broke up and went their separate ways. Lilia eventually started going out and met a new guy who eventually became her boyfriend. He later asked Lilia to marry him. Lilia, who wasn’t sure how she would decide, asked God for a sign. She said that if her ex-boyfriend didn’t visit or see her for one month, she would say “yes” to her boyfriend.  During the weeks that followed, she was somehow hoping that her ex-boyfriend will visit her (she lives in Laguna while her ex-boyfriend lives and works in Manila) but after the “deadline” and still, there was no word or visit from him, she eventually agreed to marry her new boyfriend.

However, a strange thing happened after she already accepted the proposal of her boyfriend. Just after two days from the day she gave her “yes”, her ex-boyfriend visited her in Laguna! He said that he still loves her. He wanted to come earlier but that he just joined a new company and he couldn’t file a leave yet. Lilia couldn’t believe what she’s hearing. She wanted to tell him that she still loves him but that she knew she couldn’t have the heart nor the courage to take her word back from her future groom. When her ex-boyfriend left, she was so distraught that she cried for days on end. The day of her wedding came. She was on her way to the church in her bridal car when she saw…her ex-boyfriend, standing alone in a street corner near her house, as if waiting for her…she said she almost opened the car’s door and gone out to run to him…but she couldn’t…she went to the Church and married her boyfriend.

Looking back, she said that she couldn’t even remember most parts of the wedding. It was a blur. She was smiling outside but she was torn apart inside. Everyone thought she was so deliriously happy. We asked if she still loves her ex-boyfriend until now. And she said…”Yes.” But that she chose her husband and she has a good life now with 4 children. We asked, “Why didn’t you marry the person you really loved?” She said it was more important for her to keep her word and admittedly, her growing-up years made her promise to herself that she won’t allow her children to grow up in a world similar to what she experienced. She said that her father was so irresponsible that he was often jobless and left all the burdens to her mother. He would also often hurt her.

They eventually separated. And so, during those crucial days when she was thinking of what’s the best decision for her, she chose her boyfriend. She was sure that he would give her and her children a good life. And she was right. There were no flowers and no sweet-nothings with this man who became her husband but he is a very good provider and shows his love with the way he takes care of her and her children. She says she couldn’t ask for anything anymore. She admits that she misses the flowers, the sweet nothings and the “kilig”gestures, but ultimately, she is content.

Would I decide in the same way, too? I asked myself. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Knowing myself, I think wouldn’t marry for any other reason. I would marry only for love and passion. But would this be the right decision? I don’t know. I only hope that I would have someone to grow old with and if it is God’s will that I remain single for the rest of my life, I pray for spiritual strength, contentment and bliss.

But let us not digress…let’s move on to another woman’s story. Let’s call her Pia. She married someone 10 years her senior. But truth be told, her decision to marry this man wasn’t really based on love. She married primarily for security. Of course, she cared for the guy and have strong admiration and respect for him. But you see, she came from a poor family and when she met this successful man and proposed marriage to her, she immediately accepted it, believing in her heart that she will be a good wife and build a happy family with him. It was a good and comfortable life. Her husband seems to be getting richer everyday.

Pia was happy…until one day, she found out that her husband was having an affair. She didn’t know when it started but looking back, it was clear that the more the husband became richer, the more attractive he must have been becoming to the opposite sex. There were fights and accusations until it got to a breaking point. Her husband left her for the other woman. She went through a long healing period and must still be trying to heal up to now. But she has finally come to terms that in this life, there is no guarantee. We just do our best and if things don’t work out, then we just simply move on. Now, she says she is still hoping and praying for another chance at love.

The stories of Cristy, Janet, Lilia, and Pia are stories that somehow connect to our lives, too. We may have different circumstances but we all share the same questions. We may have different paths to take but we all share a common journey – that of trying to find ourselves in a world that is full of uncertainties and eventually making peace with every decision that we make.

That night gave me valuable lessons that I now carry in my heart, grateful that their stories will continue to guide me as I continue my journey towards wholeness.

[Re-post of a blog dated June 4, 2006 (from my previous site).]


This is not a paid blog.

How buying my toiletries gave me more than I asked for

With Rose, riding a rickshaw in Dhaka

I still wonder why I didn’t write about this important event in my life many years ago when everything was still fresh in my mind. Maybe I just wanted to keep everything to myself, worried that if this story gets published, the beauty of the moment will be diminished.

Ten years ago, I was assigned in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to coordinate the preparations for an international conference, which was going to be attended by civil society groups engaged in social development, justice and equity, governance and empowerment. I was a little anxious on the day of my departure from Manila. After all, it was my first time to be away from home for more than a month (my Dhaka stint was to last for six months). It also bothered me a bit that some people think being assigned in a job in Bangladesh is like experiencing a “hardship post”. While these two things somehow bothered me, I actually looked forward to the experience. I cannot explain that, too. Perhaps it was a combination of anxiety and excitement.

In Manila, my friends put on some bets that I wouldn’t last there for more than a month. Not that Manila is a paradise. Although, I must say, at this point, that despite Manila’s chaos and horrible traffic, I am very much in love with it. But as you know, many people somehow always think that Dhaka is not really a place to go. I didn’t ever think of Dhaka or any other place, for that matter, as a place that I shouldn’t visit but of course, I knew what they may be thinking: Dhaka only translates to poverty, beggars, traffic, chaos, and floods. They seem to forget that Dhaka could also be a place of warm smiles, friendly people, innocent children and beautiful moments.

There were many wonderful things that happened to me in Dhaka and I would probably need a whole issue of Readers Digest just to share them all to you. But one thing that really stands out is this very touching story of my encounter with a shop-owner.

Almost every weekend, I would go to this marketplace where I would usually get my week’s supplies of food, drinks and personal stuffs like toiletries. Around that time in Dhaka, there was no shopping mall yet. Nothing like Manila’s SM Megamall or Bangkok’s MBK.  The closest that one can find is a 4-storey store called Aarong where Bangladesh-made products are sold (but even Aarong would seem small if situated beside SM or MBK). For grocery and household items, one can only get them in marketplaces that are similar to Divisoria or Baclaran stalls in Manila, only smaller. These shops are nothing modern or swanky but of course, it has that quaint character. It reminded me of small shops and nooks back home or even those in Phnom Penh. Some shops/stalls are airconditioned, some are not. There would usually be 3 or lesser sales staff to attend to the customers. Of course, things could be different now.

Anyway, on that particular weekend, I needed to buy mostly toiletries so I went to this shop where I figured familiar brands are sold. Those silly things that we mortals are sometimes guilty about whenever we are away from our comfort zones…ahhh, forgive my youth and ignorance back then! Nowadays, I guess I am older and hopefully, wiser and would likely prefer products that are locally-made or locally-grown! And for Asian economies’ sake, I hope we Asians can patronize more of our locally-made products, right? After all, we are supposed to be the future!

Not to get sidetracked…the old male shop-owner helped me find shampoo, conditioner, lotion, feminine pads, tissue paper and the like. I was so happy with my finds and confidently took out my wallet from my bag….but lo and behold, I realized that my wallet didn’t have any local notes in it! I just suddenly remembered that I failed to put new notes in it as I was in a hurry to leave my flat a couple of hours earlier. I started apologizing to the shop-owner, explaining that I don’t have any local money in my wallet and that I could no longer buy all the items that he kindly prepared for me. It was all wrapped up in a brown bag and I felt so guilty just thinking about how he helped me with my purchases.

I thought I would just simply leave the shop after getting his acceptance of my apologies. I was wrong. For the next thing I heard was, “No, Madam…you can take everything home with you, no problem…just come back another time so you can pay me.” And with those words, I saw the most sincere and kind smile in the whole world. I think that I was so shocked with that gesture that I was speechless for half a minute. As I still couldn’t believe my ears, all I blurted out was, “Are you sure??” And he said, “Yes, Madam, I am very sure.”

The next thing I knew, I was already teasing him. I said, “Well, for all you know, I may be flying home to my country tomorrow and you won’t get your money anymore.” With that, he simply said, “I am sure you are coming back here.” Wow. I suddenly realized, there are really small miracles that can happen in our daily lives but sometimes, we just miss them or take them for granted.

And so, armed with my package, I happily prepared to leave his shop and whispered a silent thank you to the Supreme Being who makes things like this possible. Of course, I couldn’t stop thanking the shop-owner that I swear, I was ready to hug him right there and then.

One week after that, I went to the shop and the moment he remembered me, his eyes sparkled and said, “See, Madam, I told you, you are coming back!” We started laughing together.

I paid what I owed him, and added some more. I even ended up buying  a whole month’s supply of toiletries!

What more can I say? Dhaka didn’t just give me quiet moments, beautiful friendships, wonderful sceneries, French language lessons, soulful chanting that I hear from a nearby mosque every morning and evening, opportunity to work with committed NGO workers, and unexpected help from officemates (who went as far as bringing a broken shoe to a shoemaker). It also gave me a deep reaffirmation of the beauty of life – that in every corner of this world, there is a little kindness just waiting to happen.

Dhaka can really be a challenging place to most people used to ‘big’ city living. But for me, it is indeed a very soulful place, still full of old charms, of genuinely kind people, of people who still give their trust unconditionally. I would probably never experience that kind of gesture anywhere else in the world. But then again, who knows?!


[Repost of a 2006 blog from my previous site].


This is not a paid blog.