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).]


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

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).]


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Birthday in Vietnam

This is the second time in my life that I didn’t spend my birthday in the Philippines. The first one was when I spent it in Dhaka, Bangladesh when I was posted there to help organize an international conference. This time, it’s in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and purely for personal reason.

I took the bus that leaves Phnom Penh at 1:15 in the afternoon of June 19. It was an interesting bus ride for me because it was the first time that I am crossing an international border simply by land! When one comes from an island country, it always feels a bit ‘strange’ that you can actually reach another country by bus! Hehe! The ride was also made pleasant because I got to know my seatmate, Teang, a pretty Cambodian woman, who was so kind enough to offer me one of her SIM cards in Vietnam, which later on proved to be very useful and practical! She’s an angel!

Despite its rapid modernization, Ho Chi Minh City continues to respect and nurture its centuries-old trees.

The trip to Ho Chi Minh City (used to be called ‘Saigon’) takes about 6 hours. There is one ferry boat ride to cross a river at Neak Loeung, which is about 2 hours from Phnom Penh. You can expect to reach the Cambodia-Vietnam border again after about two hours (or 4 hours from Phnom, Penh). The immigration procedure was very simply and fast. Usually, the bus conductor just takes everyone’s passports and hands them over to the Immigration Officers. We were, of course, requested to leave the bus upon entering Vietnam territory because the bags and the bus had to be checked for security reasons. We also had to go through the usual x-ray machine routine. I think all these took 20 minutes only (or even lesser). By about 7:00 p.m., I was already in Ho Chi Minh City.

Mien, my ever-lovely and sweet Vietnamese friend fetched me from the bus station…on a…surprise…motorcyle! I must tell you all that I am not a fan of motorcycle rides simply because it’s like riding on a piece of metal that can fly everywhere! ;) But I trust Mien to be an excellent driver (and I have tested it while she navigated quite effortlessly through Ho Chi Minh’s tricky streets!) and I just prayed that our guardian angels would not fall asleep during those exciting rides as we criss-crossed through hundreds of motorcycles, taxis, buses and cars. ;)

After checking in, Mien and I went to dinner where we were also joined by her fiance, Tuan, and Tuan’s friend, Dung. It was a fantastic dinner of seafood and Vietnamese spring rolls. Mien gave me a good orientation on how to eat a small seashell delicacy which was really yummy. We were laughing all the way because I told her that after eating these small seashells, I would already be an expert in French kissing (wink!)…but seriously, it was quite challenging because you have to keep on sucking on both ends of the small shell until the meat inside becomes lose enough and easier to ‘dislodge’ from inside the shell. Get the picture? ;) However, it was worth the efforts because the meat was really delicious. The dish is also cooked in rich coconut sauce (similar to “ginataang” dishes in the Philippines) and it was really glorious, for lack of a better word. There was also another seashell which was easier to eat because it looks like our own “tahong.” The dish was also excellent!

It was an evening of warm friendship and exquisite and delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

After dinner, we went to a hip club/bar called “Lush” and we just sat in the bar watching people and listening to the lively music. Soon enough, people were already dancing all around us. I was so tempted to dance also but I think I was already happy enough just to sit there and watch people from many nations dancing to the groove, eating and drinking, and probably even discussing major business decisions. On my left, a Korean woman chatted up with me for a while. She can’t stop saying how much she loved Manila when she was there a few months ago. Suddenly, I missed home. The Korean woman was a little drunk but I knew that what she said about Manila could only come from someone who must have really enjoyed her stay. Thumbs up for Manila! And thumbs up for Ho Chi Minh City that is also raring to tell the world that it is alive, throbbing with excitement and waiting to be rediscovered.

The next day, I decided to join a full-day city tour so I can cover many areas given that my time in Vietnam was very limited (I had to go back to Phnom Penh the next day because I need to catch my Finnish friend Tuomo before he leaves for his vacation…this will be another blog entry!). Our tour group was composed of Sri Lankans (who are now based in Sydney) and a Singaporean couple. We had a Vietnamese tour guide who was friendly and helpful. Together, we explored the War Museum, Independence Palace, Chinatown market, a handicrafts factory where all workers are handicapped, and a couple of temples and religious shrines.

The visit to the War Museum was very moving. In fact, I almost cried but I just stopped myself because it was a public place. There, I was again reminded of the horrors of wars and when one sees those photos of death, destruction, and human sufferings, one can’t still figure out how can humanity allow such violence. It will always be a big puzzle to me. How can men and nations just decide to kill each other like that? Can wars ever be justified? Those questions lingered in my mind as our van exited the Museum grounds.

The Independence Palace reminded me of our very own Malacanang Palace. We were walked through the rooms and conference areas where I was also fascinated with exquisite Vietnamese furnitures, arts, crafts, and ornaments. There is one large mural on the wall that must have taken months or even years to create! Please visit the Gallery in so you can see the inside of the Palace as well as other photos.

I think the best part of our tour guide was when we visited a Chinese temple. Here, our tour guide taught me how to do a prayer offering/ritual. He instructed me to write the name of my family members on a red paper with Chinese inscriptions. Then he directed me to a center table where temple staff are seen assisting visitors in burning one end of a coil incense (it’s an incense that is ‘spiraling’ upwards, in a shape of a cone). With the help of a staff, I burned one end of my incense, silently prayed, and then another staff helped me hang it from the ceiling. I looked up and there I saw my incense, burning slowly, along with the prayers of so many believers from all over the world. God, I said, this is a beautiful day.

After the tiring but meaningful day, I went back to my hotel, took a shower, and collapsed in bed (I only had about 4 hours of sleep the previous night). It was already past dinner time when I woke up. On my way out, I realized it was raining and my soul was a bit dampened too because I had planned to walk around the city and take some more pictures. But then again, I thought, perhaps it was meant to be that it was raining that night so I can sleep earlier. I needed to catch up with Mien again for beakfast the next day and my body was really craving for a decent sleep. And so I chose a nice restaurant near my hotel and quietly enjoyed a pasta dinner in an outdoor table. I also ordered an avocado smoothie and it was again delicious. One begins to think how Vietnamese people can manage to stay fit and slim.

I thought I will sleep early that night but when I went to the hotel lobby to check my emails, I was so saddened by an email from one of my best friends…she is in deep pain because of a marital crisis. Gosh. I felt really sad for her. My heart ached so much that I also cried when I reached the 2nd paragraph of her long, sad email…I felt so sad that I am not there by her side. I so badly wanted to hug her tight and assure her that this phase will pass. This is the saddest thing about being away from people that matter most to us. We cannot be there to physically hold their hands or listen to them as they cry their whole hearts out. I felt really sad. But yes, I also believe that distance shouldn’t be a hindrance in making our friends and families feel that “we are there” with them. That we are embracing them across the oceans and they will always be in our prayers.

Anyway, that night was a bit lonely. I so badly wanted to be with my friend who was grieving at that very moment! But I know she knows how much I love her and how much I am wishing her well. So yes, if she gets to read this, I want her to be reminded again that she’s a strong woman, a beautiful woman, who will, one day, smile again.

The next day, Mien fetched me from the hotel and we shared another yummy meal with Tuan. Next stop was Highlands Coffee where Mien treated me for a nice cold Vietnamese coffee. It was also delicious. I decided to buy a pack of 200 grams and was pleasantly surprised by it’s cheap price! :) Oh, I forgot to mention that the day before, I also bought 500 grams of another locally-grown coffee. I intend to taste different varieties of coffee so I can prepare myself to that day in the future when I will already be selling and exporting coffees all over the world. :) Besides, having talks with friends over nice mugs of coffee (and tea!) are one of this life’s simply joyful moments, right?

By 11:00 a.m. Mien and Tuan were already bringing me to the bus terminal where another bus will take me back to Phnom Penh, my ‘foster’ country at this time in my life. Mien and Tuan bid me goodbye and as usual, I felt a little tug of sadness in my heart beause I am again leaving another good friend and a city that I have already fallen in love with.

It was a beautiful birthday trip. Ho Chi Minh City, I will be back.

[Re-post of a blog dated June 23, 2007 (from my previous site).]


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Little Joys, Quiet Moments

I have been here in Phnom Penh for two weeks now, JR reminded me the last time we chatted through YM. “Oo nga ano…”, I replied back. It seems just like yesterday when I was walking through the immigrations of Phnom Penh International Airport. Not bad, for someone who was a bit apprehensive about going to a place that sometimes reminds one of wars and sufferings.

Phnom Penh at night: glowing like a rare jewel.

What have I seen and felt the past two weeks? For one, I feel so much gratitude in my heart. Not because of big things happening, no. In fact, my life these days is as simple as it can get. I wake up, take a shower, go out and explore the sights and cafes /restaurants around, open my emails, surf the job websites, have dinner by myself or friends, then go back to my hotel. Sometimes, I attend meetings (I once attended a forum on human trafficking) and meet fellow consultants. My life, nowadays, is so…how shall I describe it in one word? Quiet? Serene? Perhaps. I have not felt this much peace in a long long time. And I feel so grateful because everyday brings little joys.

Let me share one perfect example. These days, I have the services of a favorite tuktuk driver. Well, I have appointed him my “personal” driver because as I have shared in my previous e-mail, some tuktuk drivers don’t speak and understand much English. And in a city like Phnom Penh (especially for a woman), traveling the streets could get really challenging. When I discovered this guy outside my hotel and had experienced one nice ride with him, I decided that he’s gonna be my favorite driver in Phnom Penh.

For one, he speaks conversational English and has a cellphone (I am not saying this in a condescending way). Secondly, he doesn’t make me feel like he’s robbing me in broad daylight – this is especially significant because sometimes, tourists (admittedly, even in other countries) can feel a little “harassed” by some service providers who tend to think that all tourists are rich people (again, this is not meant in a discrimininatory way). He never ever tells me how much to pay him, never. I just give him what I feel is a just fair given the distances traveled (with additional tips). And always, he bows with so much gratitude everytime I pay him. He holds the money with both his hands, puts it near his heart, and bows his head.

I find it also touching that even if his English may be limited at times, he points to me landmarks and historical places that we pass by on the way to my destinations. Sometimes his style of messaging gives me a smile (once he texted me, “Now I am here down hotel, please come now.”) but I never really mind. I understand him and that’s all that matters. Last night, it rained so heavily and some streets were flooded and I worried that he will not be able to fetch me anymore (from the cafe where I was spending the whole afternoon and most evening checking my mails and chatting with JR). But yes, he was there, half-dry and half-wet, a little late maybe, but yes, he was there to bring me back to my hotel safely. We negotiated through the rains and he found alternate routes…I was safely back in my hotel before 10:00 pm. When these things happen, who can’t help but say a prayer of gratitude?

And then there are the very gracious waiters and waitresses who always serve my meals with such sweet and heartwarming smiles. Khmer food is really yummy and the satisfaction is enhanced because they are served by people who are generous with their smiles. Now, I am seated in an outdoor cafe by the river (wi-fi use is free!), with a nice mug of green tea beside me, writing this blog. What more can I ask for?

I miss my friends and family. I miss the chaos of Manila! But yes, I am falling in love with this place. It still scares me sometimes but I think I wouldn’t mind calling this my home for a while.

Cambodia is giving me so much. I hope I can give as much in return.

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


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Getting to Know Cambodia

I am now in Cambodia! I arrived last Friday, June 1, the first day of my birth month (a nice way to start one’s birth month, right?) I stayed overnight in Singapore last Thursday (May 31) and was able to bond with my good friend, Len Pagalanan and her friends who, incidentally, all hail from Cebu.

Anyway, Len, her friends and I met up at Orchard Road (literally!), and just sat on a bench by the road and enjoyed Singapore’s local beer, “Tiger.” It was truly a memorable night in Singapore! We had so much fun talking and swapping stories including break-ups and heartaches! Seems to me that it’s really therapeutic to just talk about your heartaches with fellow women (and ok, even men!). It was also great being with Len again after such a long time. Like me, she also had to “run away” from Manila to settle some personal struggles. Well, I could see that she’s well on her way to recovery (if she’s not yet there? Although seeing her, it seems like she’s already found her peace). Way to go, Len!

Stopover in Singapore. It is nice to see that Singapore is keeping true to its environmental management principles.

It was also great seeing Singapore again. It is one of my favorite places in the world because of its seriousness in keeping the air and the environment clean. In Singapore, you can still enjoy walking along tree-lined boulevards despite the growth in the real estate sector. I hope that it can continue its wise environmental management despite its massive infrastructural projects.

Anyway, I am typing this blog in my hotel room here in Phnom Penh. Luckily, they have free internet access in rooms and the technician helped me set up my LAN connection. Not bad, huh? I’ll be staying in this hotel for maybe a couple more days because I am still looking for an apartment so I can afford a longer stay.

Yesterday, Tito Frank, a good friend of mine who’s been here for more than a couple of years already toured me around the city and I was able to take some photos already. I have just posted some of them here in Friendster. Sorry, I can’t put the correct names of the landmarks yet as I didn’t bring a notebook yesterday. One thing I noticed here is that the drivers are also aggressive (wink! wink!). If I can’t drive in Manila, it’s equally challenging here. :)

The FCC in Phnom Penh reminded me of Cafe Adriatico in Manila :)

I spent my first night here drinking the local beer, “Angkor”, with Tito Frank. I love the FCC (Cafe); it reminds me of a Malate bar like Cafe Adriatico. But of course, I missed Manila when we entered the place. Nostalgia enveloped my whole being. One thing special also about the FCC is the fantastic view of the river if you’re seated by the wide veranda.

The FCC is located in Sisowath Quay (also called as Riverside Street). The next day (yesterday), we cruised along that street. It hugs the sides of Bassac, Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers and on one side, you’d find more cozy bars, cafes, and restaurants. I told Tito Frank I want to live in that side of the town but unfortunately, when we checked out apartment rates, they are really very expensive (one studio apartment costs $750/month). But the view is really nice…can you imagine waking up in the morning and just walking towards your veranda to see the magnificent view of the water with its silver reflections on its surface? <Sigh!> Anyway, I told myself to stop dreaming…but who knows?! Maybe I’d end up in one of those apartments in the future! :D Here are some of the photos that I took in the vicinity.

A part of rRverside Street in Phnom Penh (also called Sisowath Quay).

A mobile vendor plying his trade along Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.

Some of the boats offer cruising services (some are floating restaurants, too).

The next agenda yesterday was to eat lunch and I was so glad because my friend brought me to a Pinoy restaurant owned by a gracious lady named “Helen”. Ang sarap ng dinuguan dun! Then another friend of mine (Idon) joined us for lunch. Later, we went to Idon’s place (he’s sharing the flat with his sis, Ate Cel). We enjoyed the whole afternoon just swapping stories about their Cambodia sojourn and of course, I was able to get bits and pieces of what Cambodia really is. I am excited to know more. We promised each other that we will go to Angkor Wat, and maybe even Vietnam. Imagine, you can go to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) from here by bus for about 6 hours. Not bad!

I want to see the museums soon. I was told of the horrible reminders of the war and the killings…and I am sure I will be horrified, too. It is always a big mystery why certain people can do such a violent and senseless act. We all feel sad whenever we are reminded of wars. However, those memories make us appreciate the peace that we are enjoying today and move us to do more concrete steps so we can lessen, if not totally eradicate, such events again.

What is my first impression of Cambodia and particularly Phnom Penh? Well, it is like a provincial city like General Santos and Davao but definitely, it is also very unique. It has its own character. The streets could be chaotic and noisy, too, but there is also some quiet dignity in the place. So far, I like what I am seeing. I am a little anxious because I am a complete stranger here but the city seems smaller (compared to Manila, for example) and I’m sure, even if I will get lost sometimes, I’d still find my way eventually. Is this too much wishful thinking? :) Watch out for my new adventures!

[Re-post of a blog dated June 2, 2007 (from my previous site).] 


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Is that armrest mine? (Some Simple Reminders When Flying)

I think it’s about time that we take flying etiquette more seriously. As more and more of us are flying all over the world (and even in domestic routes), we should be more sensitive to our fellow flyers who come from different time zones, persuasions, professions, cultural backgrounds and…yes, eccentricities.

Let me enumerate those things that, I think, should always be remembered when flying:

1. Armrest. It is difficult for airplane manufacturers/designers to consider that people want both armchairs on their sides, right? With planes that have 3 seats lumped together, this could be a major concern. Should the one in the middle take both armrests because he was stuck in the middle? The answer is no. I think the general rule is that one person should have one armrest to claim. So that means, the one in the middle should claim only one armrest, unless he politely asks either of the persons on his side if he may be allowed to use an extra side, for special reasons (i.e. recent injury). For those on either sides of the center seat, they should be sensitive enough NOT to claim the armrests on both their sides because that means depriving the one in the middle BOTH his armrests (not leaving him with even one armrest!)

Is this armrest mine? Try to negotiate if you have a special need like a recent injury. (Photo credits: The Wall Street Journal)

2. Trips to the lavatory. While people may be nice enough to stand from their seats so that you can visit the lavatory inside the plane, don’t over-exert this kindness by not relieving yourself prior to your flights. Go to the Men’s/Ladies Rooms prior to your flights so that you lessen the chances (or the number) of trips to the lavatory inside the plane. If you know that you really must go to the lavatory often, ask for an aisle seat when checking-in (this is what I do especially if I know that I drank too much fluid before my flight to avoid dehydration). Check-in early so you can have your choice seat.

3. Use of lavatory. I would usually want to avoid using the lavatory in planes because they often smell after an hour or two of flight. But since we all need to relieve ourselves at some point especially in long flights, remember to clean the place up after use – most especially the toilet seat! Wipe them clean with tissue paper provided in abundance there. Not just once but thoroughly. I used to bring alcohol with me so I can wipe the toilet seat before and after use but because of security issues in airports nowadays, I don’t think I’d ever be allowed to bring a bottle of sanitary alcohol again. For the male passengers, please take notice of this rule because admittedly, it’s harder for men to “aim” at their target so they would more often leave mess on the toilet seats (ugh). Please, we love the sexy stuffs you are made of but please be nice to us when sharing the toilet. (wink!)

4. Overhead space. The rule is not to bring too much hand-carry bags that you would already be using more than what should be yours in the overhead bin (or under-the-seat space). Just bring a small bag and maybe your laptop bag. If you are in a short trip and would rather not check-in, make sure that your luggage would fit in the overhead bin. It is very insensitive to use more space than what is normally allowed for one passenger. Remember that you are not the only one who has space requirements. Don’t you find it absolutely insensitive that some of our fellow passengers carry so much that you have to go far down the aisle just so you can put your bag in the overhead bin? This happened to me several times and I really find it quite inconsiderate.

5. Heavy overhead bags. Related to No. 3 rule above. While people would be kind enough to help you carry your stuffs to the overhead bin, remember that heavy objects may just suddenly fly and hurt anyone on their path. If you really must bring this heavy stuff with you, ask a steward or stewardess to help you carry it up on the bin.

6. Space underneath seats. The only space available for you under the seat is the one across you, not under you. Again, don’t carry so much hand-carry that you usurp the spaces meant for others.

7. Seat space. Respect the seat space of others so do avoid leaning on them unnecessarily or worse, putting your head on the side of their seats. Ok, you may fall asleep or accidentally fall on the sides along the way but just make sure that your hair smells nice! :) The same rule applies in reclining seats. Try not to recline the seat up to the maximum angle or try not to recline your seat at all. If you really want to sleep and needs to recline the seat–after all, it is your right–I think it is always better to kindly inform the one seated behind you. Most will be impressed with such a considerate gesture and would likely smile and say, “Go ahead!” The thing is, it is better to allow more leg and personal space for those behind us particularly if we are not even sleepy. If the one infront of you seems to have reclined his seat too much and you find it really bothering, say so politely and don’t act like a teenager by banging on the back of his seat just to stress your point. Most will accede to requests when asked in a nice way.

8. Conversations. Admittedly, this is my biggest irritation. I know I am sometimes guilty of this but ok, I try very hard to keep quiet in most of my flights. Please, if you have this urgent need to divulge your secrets and escapades to your seatmate, please do so in hush-hush voices or better, yet, just wait until you’re in the airport. Some people stayed up all night preparing their presentations prior to a conference and they are really dying for a nap so be nice and be quiet. Once, I was coming from a long trip (Toronto to Manila via Narita) and my fellow passengers who must be so excited to come home were shrieking like hyenas during the flight–not to disrespect the hyenas, of course, but you get the drift. It can really be a test of one’s patience to stop himself from screaming. We understand the excitement but remember that people need their peace and quiet especially if you just came from Japan and the others came from Canada, a country in a different time zone!

9. The value of waiting. Wait, wait, wait until all people have passed the aisle before you fix your things on the overhead particularly if it will take you more than two minutes. This is also one of many passengers’ irritations. I have always noticed that people just want to grab the first space available in the overhead bins that they take their sweetest time to fix their stuffs when there is already a long line of passengers waiting to pass through the aisle. It is better to remain patient particularly if your seat is on the aisle’s side. You have more time to fix your things later. Allow people to pass through first.

10. Drinking alcohol. Of course, many people want to take advantage of the free liquors served on board international flights. However, a glass or two should be set as one’s maximum. It’s no longer cute when you start to smell. And bad smell lingers in the air. Some are even allergic to them. Be sensitive to the smell buds of others, ok? Besides, you don’t want people greeting you in the airport smelling you like you just came out of a beer joint, right? :)

Smelly feet = smelly air inside the cabin. Deodorize your feet and be a nice co-passenger! (Photo credits:

11. Shoes. As much as possible, please do not take off your shoes while inside an airplane unless you are very sure that your feet do not smell (which is rarely the case particularly if you’ve been wearing them for several hours already). Oftentimes, shoes = smelly feet. I have been on a recent trip and someone beside me took off his shoes and the smell that floated in the air seconds afterwards was truly unforgettable. Remember that shoes are mostly made with materials such as leather, plastic, foam resin (such as the material used in Crocs), etc. and these cause your feet to perspire profusely and then smell after some time. If you really must take off your shoes for comfort particularly in long-haul flights, wear shoes that allow you to wear socks (cotton socks are better in absorbing perspiration). You can sprinkle your feet with an effective foot powder and deodorizer (preferably those made of essential oils such as sage and lavender) before wearing your socks. There is an effective Pinoy brand of underarm/foot powder called “Milcu” and this is ideal for long-haul travels (I am not an endorser of this brand but I like the product). Even ordinary talcum powder for babies may also work to lessen perspiration and smell. There are many online articles on home remedies for smelly feet problem so you may want to check on those articles, too, for general hygiene.

12. Kids. I know that it is sometimes necessary to bring the kids but ensure that the older kids (maybe aged 4 up) are given proper orientation (“Do’s and Dont’s”) prior to the flight. Give them incentives if they behaved nicely in the flight (i.e. their favorite toy or games). Stress to them that being quiet is the No. 1 rule when flying. Kids’ voices and laughters can be cute but please, not during flights when people want to steal a nap, read, or review their work presentations. For babies and toddlers, ask your doctors how to alleviate their miseries (e.g., pains in the ears) during flights so they don’t cry hysterically during flights. Keep young babies relaxed by cuddling them and whispering nicely into their ears so that they can eventually fall asleep after take-off. This is not the time to excite them with new toys or tricks. Reserve that when you’re already in your destination.

13. Cellphone use. I like to put this in BIG BOLD letters but I don’t like to sound like I am shouting (wink!). Please, don’t turn on your cellphones while the plane is still trying to park upon landing. It is also quite irritating when fellow passengers would all reach for their cellphones and start calling or texting EVEN IF the stewardess just announced that aviation rules prohibit use of cellular phones inside the cabin. Just wait until you reach the terminal before you call your “sundo” or your driver. They know you are arriving and they will not leave simply because your call/text came in a minute or two later.

14. Politeness and helpfulness. Kindness begets kindness so don’t forget this rule even when flying. I know it’s hard to be nice when you only have two hours of sleep and you’re still half-way through your reports. But think of how nice it will be to wake up from your nap and you realized that the sweet ‘motherly’ woman beside you reserved a glass of water for you or picked up your book that fell on the floor while you were sleeping. Do the same thing for others but don’t overdo it that your seatmate would think you’re an scam artist trying to gain her sympathy. :)

Please forward this to your friends/families who travel a lot so we can make a contribution to making flying a truly enjoyable experience. For those in the airline industry, maybe you can reproduce copies of this and include in your inflight magazines. :)

[Re-post of a blog dated February 5, 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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Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

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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