November 30, 2004

the ties that bind (part 2)

i look at our family now and try to remember the last time we even resembled a "typical" family -- one that, for instance, gathers together for dinner and hearty conversations at the end of the day. or one that we can go home to for cheers and support everytime life gets a tad too harsh.
i remember the first one: for a few years during my elementary days, we were together like that -- waiting for everyone to be home so we can have dinner together. it started when my parents decided to live together in aklan. prior to that, i was living with my mother in manila, my sister was with my father in batangas, and my brother was with my grandparents in aklan.
we grew up hardly knowing that we have siblings. the pictures of us together as infants meant so little to me. in short, back then, all i know was that whoever these kids are, i must call the girl "ate" (big sister) and the boy "manong" (big brother). other than that, they mean nothing to me.
and so all hell broke lose when we were united in 1981.
i was 6 years old, my sister 8, and my brother 9. in those young, impressionistic age, we finally got to meet each other. we were strangers suddenly thrust together by circumstances we can't even understand back then.
the power struggle was horrific. not a single day would pass without one of us getting hurt. my brother would assert his authority, which my sister and i simply refuse to recognize. my sister wished that she never had brothers, and even tried running away from home, while i simply could not understand why i should yield to these two kids. the fact that we don't even look alike only worsened the situation then (my brother took after our mother-side lolo, my sister our mother-side lola, and i my father).
we fought over toys, books, pens... anything and everything! we scratched, punched, kicked, and wrestled ourselves to exhaustion everytime our parents were not around.
those were horrible years, indeed. i can still see the faint scar in my right foot where my sister stabbed me with a ballpen. haha! *shudder*
but slowly, we accepted and tolerated each other. the scratching, punching, and kicking slowly lost their appeal.
and finally, we started caring for each other.
my brother fought off anyone who bullied me around at school, and my sister helped me with my assignments. i would give my brother's bicycle its regular washing and oiling, and bring home my sister's favorite fruits and give her pet dog his weekend bath.
by the time we reached highschool, we were friends. we would invite each other to our respective school's events, even if they're rivals. my brother and i made sure we get to meet all of our sister's "manliligaw" (suitors), just so we can threaten them bodily harm should they try anything stupid on her. in my lowest and darkest hours back in highschool, i remember them rushing to my aid.
we see so less of each other now, but i guess that's the natural way of things.
sigh! i miss my family...
ah! christmas season does conjure a lot of memories.

November 26, 2004


i think i'm on to something -- if this is not a fluke, i'd say it's a breakthrough.
for the past two days i've been sleeping at around 11pm, three hours earlier than my usual bedtime. it started when i had oprah's show in the background while i was tinkering with some sketches. the show was about human internal organs, and later about how the body heals itself. i didn't pay much attention to the part where they show and compare the sickly organs with the healthy, normal ones. but the latter speaker discussed the body's innate ability to heal itself, and he mentioned meditation.
"the key to meditation is to pay close attention to yourself -- your body, emotions, and thoughts...", says the doctor whose name i can't remember.
it then occured to me how long it has been since i last practiced meditation. in my college years, we meditate before and after martial arts training. i was not insomniac then.
and so i stowed my pencil and sketch book, did a little stretching, and forced my body to assume the meditation position taught to us by our sensei. the discomfort didn't last, the familiar kneeling stance was soon recognized by my body as it settled peacefully after a short while.
my emotions told me of the fears and anxieties that i refuse to acknowledge and confront. it complained of being ignored as i bury myself with work, drawing, gaming, and many other things that keep me numb and pre-occupied...
i heard my emotions loud and clear, and just knowing what they are seemed to have rid my head of a terrible burden.
but my body suddenly told me that it's sleepy. that i have to rest my eyes and let my shoulders fall, and that my mind needs to rest as well, and allow it to dream a little longer.
i slept soundly right after that short mediation, and woke up two hours earlier than usual, with more bounce and vigor. i usually get that kind of energy level only after my first mug of brewed coffee for the day.
it's been like this for two days now. less drawing and gaming, but someday i'll figure out how to pull them neatly together in a manageable schedule. but for now, i need to sleep...

November 25, 2004

the ties that bind (part 1)

last sunday i met with my brother, the eldest in the brood of three (i'm the youngest). we we're to meet our uncle at the airport and treat him to some goodtime (great food and some beer, that is) before he flies back to the US.
and so we took our uncle to baywalk, roxas boulevard, had dinner, a little chat, and drove him back to the airport in time for his flight to LA.
as we left the airport, the conversation was fast-paced --  how's dad? how's mom? how's mama (our lola)? how are the kids? wife? girlfriend? business? work? new places you've been to? what's our plan for christmas? new year?...
by the time he dropped me off a mall in makati, we covered enough topics and got enough updates to last us till our next meeting, which would probably be next year.
i consider it a rare occassion just getting the chance to see him, however brief each occassion may be. he was the first to leave the nest, so to say, when he entered the seminary for highschool in 1984. since then, i only get to see him about twice a year. he now lives with his family in batangas, running a poultry business while working as a medical representative.
in 1985, my sister stayed in a dormitory during her highschool years, and goes home only during weekends. i began to see so little of her when she entered a nursing school in iloilo (central philippines), where she also stayed in a dormitory. the rigorous nursing curricullum forced her to spend her weekends in the school premises, doing volunteer work and getting more training. she briefly worked in manila after graduation, and flew to liverpool, UK, where she now lives with her own family (and where it's beatlemania all year round. yeah!).
my entire highschool and college life was also spent in boarding houses and dormitories. when i graduated college in 1995, our parents (after a BIG sigh of relief) decided to spend their time pursuing their own dreams. i can still remember, a week after my graduation, when they asked me if i still want my usual allowance. i made a big mistake of saying no (stoofid me! what the f*** was i thinking then!), and had to dig in deep into my savings (and into some of my friends', too) until i found a job. (hmmm, i wonder what my bro and sis answered to that question.) but hey i love them, and i appreciate them for letting me dive into deep waters on my own early on. i have absolute faith that they will be there for me should i need help.
my father is an intelligent and charismatic batangueno with dreams of running his own poultry farm in his hometown. but to be with his family in aklan, he had to work as a public school teacher. when i graduated from college, he retired from teaching and went home to make his dreams come true. i admire him for his courage and determination to be a good husband and father as he endured the hardships, trials, and challenges of living in a culture that's far different from his own (i say to you, tagalog men don't mix well with visayan culture. no siree, not at all). he is now living his dreams, and sharing all the good things he learned from visayas with his community. for instance, he started and established their annual new year's "bayle" (aklanon for ballroom dancing), which eventually lead to the barangay's move to change their fiesta from May 30 to December 31 -- exactly like the one we have in aklan.
my mother is a feisty aklanon, with dreams of taking public service, though education, to its fullest and highest level of integrity possible in the corruption-ridden system. she is an assistant schools division superintendent, with credentials and qualifications that belie her age. her unshakeable commitment to integrity made her target of dirty politicians seeking control of the system, as they had done easily to her predecessors. her ultimate dream is to be the mayor of her hometown, and so my daily prayer includes that she stay safe amid the culture envy and corruption that surrounds smalltown politics.
i give thanks to emails and SMS -- at least we get to stay in touch and talk about where, and how, to celebrate this christmas and new year -- even if we're not together, as always.  ^_^;

November 18, 2004

stay tuned (part 2)

last september 17, 2004, i found a long lost friend who doesn't want to be found, and wrote her a message in friendster. since then and until now, her page hasn't been logged-on. i doubt if my message was even read.

i guess the time still isn't right, and that nothing has changed...


anyway, here's something new. last saturday an idea about putting up a common blog for the technical people of sws came up. i thought it was a good idea, knowing that some of my officemates really have something to share on the writing side.

and so came about. so far it's just me you'll find there, but i hope people here at tech really use it.

er, stay tuned, i guess.

November 17, 2004

sampling samar

the smell of seawater seemed to wash away the aches and pains of the 4-hour bumpy ride from tacloban city, leyte, to calbayog city in western samar. i can see the beaches from the window of the mitsubishi delica van, but the cramped seating conditions (all ten passengers stuffed in with our baggages, plus the driver's assistant) prevented me from getting a clear shot with my camera (i missed the long bridge, too).

bagacay beach resort became my home for the next six days. it's a quiet place just a few minutes away from the town proper. i later realized it's also a prime spot for lovers to spend overnight or even "short time" (three hours or less) in one of its private rooms. how ironic -- i was there for a project about safe motherhood and reproductive health, and everywhere i look around the resort there's lot of S-E-X going on. but i'm not complaining. for once i've found a sex-ridden place that doesn't feel or look sleazy. all in all, i'd say my field anchor did a good job of securing a place that could serve as our field headquarter.

anyway, the resort has a lot of wholesome things to offer as well. the more public areas of the resort are always full of families and barkadas having picnics and playing parlor games. the restaurant also has a videoke bar that goes on until wee hours of the morning (oh my ghulay, my tenga). don't get me wrong -- the locals have awesome vocal prowess, but maybe only about a fourth of them could get the somewhat proper pronounciation for the english songs that they so love to sing.

i hit the ground running, and on the first day i claimed one of the beachside cottages in the name of sws. from then on, for the next six day, the locals would have known me as "the guy from sws". i stuck out like a sore thumb because of the bundles of questionnaires i carry around. from sun up to sun down, i checked the questionnaires, pausing only for meals, rest, and, if the pressure and drudgery get unbearable, a quick swim.

in some ways i was thankful i hadn't that much time to look at the place, because upon closer scrutiny, one will see how mismanaged the entire resort is. there's not a single trash can in sight, and people just leave their mess around. the only thing that has kept this place's garbage levels bearable is that one guy who sweeps the place twice a day. in between his daily routine of cleaning the place, i would find him snoozing in a hammock under a tree. it became my daily habit to remind the nice ladies at the restaurant (one of them being the wife of the resort owner) to place a garbage can in every room and cottage. gosh i hope they paid attention.

it is in the evenings that the place reveals its full beauty and charm. the sea becomes still, and when you stand in its shoulder-deep waters, you could almost hear the sun set. and when the sun finally sinks beneath the horizon, fishing boats create myriads of lights that look like lanterns floating in endless stretch of black and blue.

calbayog city and its barangays are mainly fishing communities. it is somewhat baffling, however, to find the prices of fish just a fraction lesser than the ones you'll find in manila. ah it must be that inevitable tendency for prices to go up once the seller learn that you're not a local. even my field anchor, who is from leyte, had a hard time bagging a fairly cheap catch.

but it's in places like these where i can leave my supply of antihistamine behind, and have absolute faith that the fish and seafoods are fresh, fresh, fresh! (i somehow developed severe allergies to unfresh prawns and crabs. bad bad. you won't find the prawns and crabs here in the photo because i ate them all up.)

calbayog has the finest pedicabs i've seen, so far -- large, sturdy, and fast with the cab under full suspension. the pedicabs use the kind of bicycle just like what my lolo used in his younger days. the bodies are not alloy, and they's darn heavy. at first i thought they're cumbersome to use, but they adjusted the gears to deliver maximum power for a fast and easy drive. the steel bodies make these pedicabs one heck of powerloaders, too.

the pedicabs charge five pesos more than the motorized tricycle for long distance trips, but it's a nice, relaxing ride. i was told that the true makers of these pedicabs originated from catbalogan (the capital city of western samar), but the artworks has adapted a uniquely calbayog characteristics (i wouldn't know, haven't had the time to stop by catbalogan).

finally, i give thanks to the field anchors and field interviewers -- they are the foundation of survey research. these extraordinary girls have braved storms and slippery slopes, long walks and hostile territories. here, they share their success stories, as well as tales of horror -- and i will always wonder at the inner strength each one of them possesses.

going home, i decided to take the bus. little did i realize i was off to my last samar (mis)adventure. warning: do not ride buses with no signboard! the bus i rode was a "kolorum" (unregistered), and we got flagged by police and traffic enforcers in every checkpoint. in every occasion, the driver has a "lagay" (bribe) ready at hand, but not after a fifteen-minute or so charade and what-nots with the enforcers. my ghulay, corruption is alive and kicking!

and so after getting flagged six times all the way from calbayog to tacloban city, i was sure i'd miss my flight had it been on time. but the flight is RARELY on time in tacloban, as i was already informed by the office days ago that the flight WILL be one hour delayed. just the same, i learned my lesson to take only the tried and tested modes of transportation (in this case, Grand Tours or any of the established bus liners, such as Philtranco, Tritran, and Bltbco).

it's good to be back. Ü

November 06, 2004

wisdom of age

been trying to post this one for the longest time since i got back from fieldwork, but the darn email blogging won't work. and now i'll try copy-pasting it directly to blogger page. so here goes...

as we were travelling back to the office from a morning meeting in ayala the other day, my boss took out his new digital camera, and asked me how to change the picture quality -- he wanted to decrease the file sizes of the photos.

i looked over his shoulder from the backseat of the car, without thinking (because i was so sleepy), i said "try that one, sir, the format menu."

he is a good student, that boss of mine, and he has absolute trust in what i was saying, because he was quick to follow my instructions. too quick. the realization of what i just told him came in too late, and before i could say (or rather, shout) "wait!!", he pressed "execute".

the memory card got formatted in a split-second.

if i could describe my face at that time, it would perhaps resemble something like a squashed spider. my boss saw my expression, blinked a few times, turned pink, and said, "oh dear."

i was devastated. i knew he has not transferred any of the images to his laptop since all saint's day. the pictures of his vacation with his family, his meeting with amina rasul, his trip to cebu, the paintings of don jaime zobel, and many more (he's a trigger-happy snapshooter like myself)... all gone.

"i'm soooooo sorry, sir..." and went into more apologies. i never was the person to screw-up on techie stuffs, and i am careful and meticulous with anything that's new. but at that moment, exhausted from the 8-day fieldwork and lack of sleep, i made the biggest mistake of not taking that darn thing out of his hands and giving it a thorough inspection first.

"it's okay, don't worry about it," was all he said, made a little crying face ("booohoohoo, i promised amina i will send her our pictures..."), and laughed. he then proceeded with his morning phone calls like nothing happened.

but i wasn't okay. i remember exactly how i felt when priceless moments captured in digital images accidentally, or deliberately, get deleted. i wish camera manufacturers make it extra harder to delete images -- like adding perhaps an additional message "are you really, really, 100% sure you want to erase this image?" or something like that.

my boss noticed my misery, because i was unusually quiet at the backseat, staring blankly at the traffic. as he finished a call, he told me a little story:

"when i was in indonesia, i met a nice lady who lives in one of the oldest houses i've seen. the place is a treasure chest of antiques and memorabilia. one day her grandchildren came to visit, and one of the priceless antiques was broken while the kid was playing. but instead of worrying or getting upset about the broken item, she was thankful that the child wasn't injured. so you see, leo, don't worry about the things that's been lost, because worse things could have happened."

i guess it comes with age, this uncanny skill to draw light out of pitch darkness. my boss, whom my officemates affectionately call "papa bear", has gone through a lot of trials and challenges. but at 60, he still has the wonders of a ten-year old -- eager to try new things, and always finding ways to have fun. i dread the day he will have to retire and leave the office.


hey hey hey! it's great to be back in manila. samar is beautiful, its beaches and the people -- but when you're stuck in a rural area, even just for eight days, you are bound to miss a lot of things (like blogging). i'll post something about my visit there soon. ^_^

taken at a beach resort in calbayog, western samar.