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I was on my way to one of the training rooms for a meeting when an officemate called me from the floor pantry and there I saw a large number of employees watching the TV hanging from the wall.

It took some seconds before I realized what I was looking at – fast running water carrying small debris over what looked like rice fields. My brain quickly went into recall and I remember the movie 2012 only that the logo at the bottom of the screen did not say ‘HBO’ and besides, no movie channel is allowed in our office pantry TVs.

In fact, the logo at the bottom of the screen said ‘CNN’ and this channel never made a spoof of anything. I suddenly rushed back to reality when a colleague nudged me aside to get closer to the screen.

March 11 was the day when Japan experienced its worst earthquake – an earth-moving 8.9 shock on the Richter magnitude scale that sent powerful tsunami over Sendai, Japan. The destructive wave took lives, properties and even led to a nuclear meltdown.

No words can describe the anguish shown in the news of the people who lives on to witness what happened and to endure the loss of loved ones.

One afternoon back in 1990, I was taking a nap in my lola’s room when I heard shouts and I found myself being carried in one arm by my lola. We went out of the house and I saw throngs of people on the street. I did not feel the 7.9 earthquake that destroyed most of northern Luzon but I saw pictures, heard news but was not old enough to grasp the severity of the issue.

A year later, I thought I was seeing snow. My older cousins were on the roof sweeping heaps of ash. Mount Pinatubo erupted after almost half a millennium of sleeping – an eruption that was dubbed as the most destructive in modern-day history. Still, as a young child, I was not able to fully understand how worse the event was on agriculture, climate, economy, lives of those who once lived around the volcano. My life immediately went back to normal.

September 2009 was when I was old enough to understand. To fear. To act as an adult. We experienced Ondoy in such a way we thought we would only see in the news. What we thought is only possible in far-flung places, not in suburban Cainta.

Now, I fear for the future. Christchurch, New Zealand had an earthquake before Sendai, Japan. Both of them lie on either side of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Sitting like a duck on the midpoint of these two places are the Philippines and the Marikina Valley Fault System (MVFS).

Running through the most expensive villages in Pasig City all the way to the Taal Volcano, this fault line has not produced a sizeable earthquake in recorded history. And it is long overdue, taking into consideration the activities of the tectonic plates around that of the Philippines.

What is even scarier to think is that the movement of MVFS could lead to the eruption of Taal just like what happened when Pinatubo was ‘awakened’ by the 1990 earthquake.

No one knows for sure when these things will happen or whether we will be prepared for it.

This is just a testament to how unpredictable life can be. And how important each breathing second is.

Death is probably the most painful thing to accept.

February 2009 was when James and I decided to have a dog as our first child. We studied different breeds and ultimately settled for a mini-schnauzer after receiving a postcard from my boss at The Bank with a picture of a schnauzer.

Together with a dear friend, Ms Hope, we went to Quezon City to see the ‘breeder’ from whom I will buy our dog. The moment I saw the only mini-schnauzer puppy for sale, I knew something was wrong. His hair was very short and skin had flakes. I asked the breeder what was that and he said that it was just dandruff and that it would go away. I knew he was lying. Logic tells me to back out from the deal but my conscience was telling me otherwise. The puppy was sick and I have the resources to take care of him. The breeder will just put him to sleep and no one knows if it will be humanely done so.

I bought the puppy with me and James and I named him Mitos. Mitos was well received by our family. We bought him all his needs – playpen, bowls, food, water spout, toys, treats. He even only drank purified water!

When we brought him to the vet to have him checked, our suspicions were confirmed – he was suffering from demodex, a life-threatening skin disease that is hereditary and is due to very weak immune system. According to the vet, there is a treatment for demodex but it would be long and expensive. James and I were of single heart – do whatever it takes, no matter the cost, just so our child would be well.

For the next weeks, Mitos was well taken care of by our family. Mitos would not be able to get out of his playpen until the floor has been mopped clean with zonrox and water. His toys and bowls were regularly washed. But amidst these precautions, his weak immune system allowed him to suffer from parvovirus infection, a disease characterized by diarrhea and lethargy. The disease has an 80%-90% mortality rate and Mitos survived not just one but two infections.

Mitos was a regular patient at the vet’s clinic. He had been hospitalized for a total of more than a week. But my family, James and I were very positive that after Mitos received all his treatments, he would live the life of a regular happy dog.

On his sixth month, after James and I returned from our Boracay trip, and days before Mitos’ last vaccine, he died.

He collapsed and we rushed him to the vet and left him to be confined. Moments later, the vet told us that Mitos would no longer survive and I quickly decided to put him to sleep. We rushed to the clinic but it was too late. Mitos died before euthanasia can be done.

I saw his dead body, his dead stare. I could not control myself but cried as hard and loud as I can. James was with me, trying to be strong for me and for himself.

I hated myself for some reasons – I should not have bought him and spared me and my family the heartbreak. I should have allowed him to play, get dirty, instead of giving him a hospital-clean home.

But I know there is a reason for everything – Mitos came into our lives to remind us that life is short and that it should be enjoyed and well-spent. That love often protects people up to the point of imprisoning the other.

That even gay couples can have children, in this case, dog-children, and lose them just like heterosexual couples.

That love transcends life and death and I know Mitos is happy wherever he is right now.

In loving memory of Mitos (December 26, 2008 – May 24, 2009).

I owe it to them…

Last weekend saw me and James lying on our bed, the television and DVD player on, watching Conviction starring Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver. Conviction is a film based on a true story of Betty Ann Waters and her brother, about a brother and a sister who literally depended on each other while growing up. The older brother, played by Sam Rockwell, was wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit. Placed in an age where DNA testing was but an object of science movies and money is much more important than integrity in hiring the best lawyers, Kenny was convicted much to Betty Ann’s disbelief.

Instead of taking and biting into reality, Betty Ann struggled through life, through divorce, through possible custody loss of her two sons, just not to give up on Kenny, her brother.

It was a beautiful, inspiring film, which I am sure will not be a big hit in the theatres but a sure-fire wonder in everyone’s hearts.

This film made me think, if I were in Betty Ann’s place, would I also do the same for my sister or my brother?

Being the youngest in a brood of three, the only illegitimate son of my mom and dad, I was supposed to be the outcast, the weakest, the dumbest. But I did not have the luxury to be so. Knowing my status in our family (something I only knew upon reading my birth certificate) and in society, I struggled to ensure that my name, through education, would be respected. Would be feared. Would be held in high esteem. Because I fear no one would be there to save me when I fail.

But I know my sister would be there. Countless times she saved me from trouble when we were much younger. Boys bullying me in school stopped due to fear of her. One bully hit me in the eye and my sister was quick enough to hit him back several times he regretted ever meeting me! My brother, with whom I keep a relationship no warmer than the Arctic region saved me, too, by helping me out with my art projects in school.

But I know help only comes once, another one is already sustenance. And I am too proud to ask for help. Because I fear rejection. I fear being turned down. So I evolved into this independent person who can answer all questions, who can pay all the bills, who can take care of everyone, but himself.

When faced with the question if I would go to such extent to help my sister or my brother? The independent person in me says no, they should be able to stand up to the consequences of their own actions.

Yet I know the deeper truth – yes, for whatever happens, a sister is a sister, and a brother a brother. A lot, including my father, may have turned their backs on me, but a lot more has opened their hearts and lives to embrace me and I owe what I have right now to them.

I owe it to my sister. I owe it to my brother.

Have I ever told you that I’m willing to sacrifice my articulacy in exchange for a good singing voice? Or for a graceful dancing talent. I think I can always learn how to speak well, but the gifts of singing and dancing are only given to a small group of people.

Last week, my thirst for some artistic talents was worsened after seeing Cher and Christina’s Burlesque at the Greenbelt 3 cinema. I am following Christina on Twitter (yes, I like her more than Britney) and it was there that I learned of this project of hers. Collaboration between a pop star and a legend (or something much older than a legend!) was definitely something to watch out for!

The movie’s plot, however, was something that has seen better days (especially when it was first used). Burlesque is a story of a country girl who went to the city with very few belongings to test her luck. After landing a waitress’ job in a cabaret owned by Cher, she immediately dreamed of becoming one of the dancers of the club. She auditioned and begged and auditioned and begged Cher to see what she could do. Fast forward, Christina got the part, was able to find true love, and was able to help Cher save the club through the concept of air rights.

But girl, mind you, the movie had shown what most ‘ladlad’ gays would be coveting and showing off on their next pageants and what discreet and closeted gays would be keeping in their closets only to be taken out and worn during the blue corn moon! The beads, the stones, the feathers, the corsets, the tights! Oooohhh! I needed to close my eyes for three seconds for a number of times for the lights and colors were just too much! Which, of course, were what definitely made me love this movie.

So stripping myself of the ostrich feathers, I put on my tutu skirt and did my arabesque to the cinema to see Natalie Portman’s Black Swan. The title itself gives me an idea that this movie would show the side of the often misunderstood mind of a villain. A dissection on what made someone so crazy for power, for love, for fame, that he or she ultimately falls prey to the very things adored.

Well, the movie gave another reason why there are villains (and heroes) in just one person – mental illness. The movie has shown the most bizarre, intriguing, disturbing side of ballet, an art form often regarded as something that can only be appreciated by the old rich. Natalie’s portrayal of both the white and black swans was outstanding! I hope she gets an Oscar nod for it!

The movie should not be seen by someone who is already stressed at work, or someone who cannot sleep at night thinking someone is watching by the window with a big acacia tree outside, or someone who has full paraphernalia for the execution manicure and pedicure. Instead, it should be seen by someone who just recently came from a very happy, funny meeting, or someone who wants to justify their bulimia, or someone who cuts their nails in public places.

Seriously, this movie is not a date movie (though James and I watched it during Valentine’s) but something that should not only be seen but felt.

After watching these two ‘artsy’ films, I danced and sang myself back to the office to do some work and spread my wings for everyone to see the Scarlet Peacock that I am!

Life never fails to surprise us!

For a span of three days, James and I watched three movies that made us laugh, cry and fear for our lives – or limbs, for that matter!

The first on the list was James Franco’s 127Hours – a story of an adventurer who thought he knows everything he needs to know to spend a weekend in Utah’s rocky desert without even telling anyone where he has gone to. Well, in fact he knows a lot about the place, but one thing he did not know, and did not expect, was that that weekend would change his life forever – by falling in a narrow ravine with his arm trapped under a boulder. With only a bottle of water in scorching Utah desert, he stayed alive and sane until he mustered all his guts to let go of something in order for the rest to live.

A story telling us there is nothing stronger than the will to survive – one test I would not dare be put into.

Second movie on the row was Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway’s Love and Other Drugs. Catching the movie after running from Greenbelt 3 to Glorietta 4 in less than 15 minutes to spare, the first half of the movie made me feel if it was worth the run as all I saw were Anne’s breasts and Jake’s behind and all I heard was our seatmate’s guffaws for every single line Jake said which made me doubt if I can really understand English or not! But lo and behold, the movie went into a sudden deep dive, allowing the audience to re-visit their faith in their love amidst health challenges. The movie tackled an age-old vow to love in sickness and in health. While our seatmate suddenly stopped laughing, our hearts started smiling.

The last was the animated film Tangled starring the voices of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. It was a different story of Rapunzel, the beautiful girl trapped in a tower who grew hair so long Pantene and other brands would kill to show in their commercials! I remember reading Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister which tells the story of Cinderella’s sister which gave the old classic a new perspective and a new life. Tangled, is in a sense, a modern take on the classic Rapunzel but what set it apart from the rest was that the antagonist – the old lady who kept Rapunzel in the tower – was not as evil as most villains. She kept her in the tower but in it were food, warm bed, artists’ materials such as paints and brushes for Rapunzel to nurture her love for the arts. She even would go as far as going on a three-day travel just to give Rapunzel her birthday wish. But the lady was, in herself, imprisoned by her need to stay young. Modern-day parents, in themselves, are imprisoned by their fear that someone, something, would hurt their children. Both ending up imprisoning the ones they love.

If you agree with me that life never fails to surprise us, then how come I am still surprised most of the times?

Lunch at Cafe Juanita

As customary for me and my friends from The Bank, we went out for lunch on a payday yesterday. It is like our little way of treating ourselves without spending too much. We usually go to places we have not dined in together and those which are a short walk away from the office (for after all, you only get an hour’s worth of escape).

This time we went to Café Juanita at the Burgos Circle – a place here at The BGC where restaurants, cafes and little shops are side-by-side in a rotunda. The Circle is a few blocks away from our office so it is perfect to walk away all the extra calories without sweating it too much!

It is my first time in Café Juanita and let me tell you about its interior. Their décor is very colorful and a mash-up of different cultures and time periods. Upon entering, I already noticed the crocheted seat covers which are colorful and remind me of the old same things in our ancestral home in San Juan where I grew up.

We were ushered to the second floor which is bigger than the first and I immediately saw the wooden altar at the first landing and I just love it! Looking up (for the stairs are very steep), I saw many different lamps hanging from the ceiling – an explosion of colors, textures and materials. It was like you were a jungle of pretty flowers minus the clutter.

Yes, some might say the colors and knick-knacks placed everywhere can seem like clutter but I saw the liveliness of the place but at the same time its homely ambience. We chose the little corner (for it was just the three of us) and I immediately investigated the numerous ceramic figurines on the shelf. Some of these were similar to what we used to have in San Juan. Memories of my childhood soon flooded my thoughts and emotions as I was lost in it while looking and admiring the collection – which, to my surprise, is also for sale – but for a bit pricier cost than what is reasonable (must be old, then).

Then we have to get something to eat for this is, after all, renowned for their good food. I had Grilled Tofu in Pesto Salad (diet ako walang kokontra) and my friends shared sisig together. I only had a tiny morsel of their sisig and it was spicy so I could not really comment on it but my grilled tofu was really good!

At first, the serving seemed small (kahit naman salad lang ako, gusto ko medyo Italianni’s-style serving) but I was happy to note that I felt full after devouring the yummy meal. The grilled tofu was put on top of a plate-full of pesto and sprinkled with almonds. Beside it are crisp lettuce leaves and small ball of shredded carrots and sliced mango. With a glass of fresh mango juice (which I noticed was not very sweet so no artificial sweetener was used which is good), I was good to go. My lunch set me off by little more than P400 for my salad and juice and I think it’s worth it.

Their attendants were also very warm. We initially reserved seats for five but only the three of us pushed through and they did not have any problems with that. I’ve experienced frowns in other places when to turn up with lesser people than actually reserved so Café Juanita’s attendant’s ever-present smile earns points from me. They were even kind enough to replace some of our chairs (for they were pretty small). The attendants are standing nearby, ready to assist you but they did not appear pushy as others do.

Café Juanita also has al fresco dining and the area is pet-friendly so I guess James and I can bring the girls with us (and besides there is a fabulous dog shop nearby).

So I will be definitely coming back to Café Juanita very soon (and I might even procure some of their little pretty things to remind me of my childhood)!

The light was faint. It was still cold and when I opened my eyes, I was still able to close them without any effort. Meant I’m still sleepy. But it is impossible that it was still early in the morning. I already woke up before and saw that it was already 9.

I opened my eyes again and realized, through the red round clock on top of the shoe cabinet beside my bed, that it was five minutes before 12! I quickly got up and opened  the curtains and in came the noon light! I have slept for almost 12hours!

My weekends aren’t usually like this. This Saturday is different for James is in Isabela and he will be coming back on Sunday which means no one to wake me and force me out of bed! But being the efficient person that I am, I soon regret wasting so much time.

So after having lunch with my family (they were very kind enough to wait for me), I quickly set to work on my potted garden. The champagne palm needed some investigating for a caterpillar is having its leaves for salad but I could not find the pesky culprit until today. Its presence was betrayed by the shadow its furry body made while basking on the palm’s leaf.  My mom knows I am afraid of caterpillars since it can really make your skin itch if it makes contact with its fur so she took out a pair of scissors and cut the lone leaf. The leaf and the caterpillar fell on the ground and I took out the hose to wash it away.

Next thing I did was to swap the places of the potted Buddha corpus (a pine-tree like shrub) and the Eugenia. I then re-planted the growing Aglonoemas from the pots to the plant box since the latter had a space when a big Lourdes grass had died out.

Some cutting out of dried leaves and twigs, I was off to my next task – cleaning my aquarium. In mynew year post, I mentioned that I would be spending more time with my aquatics pets – five goldfish, an orange fish and a pleco. This week, the tank showed algae growth and after taking off the lid, I scrubbed the inner wall with a sponge exclusively used for that tank. I replaced half of the water. 

That left me to my next task – wash and clean my daughters’ playpen pans (where their urine is collected while they are staying inside their playpens). I took out all three of them and washed them with such vigor a surgeon does with his hands before performing surgery. After all these activities in the garage, I washed the floor with hose and went inside our home.

I then spent almost an hour working out in my room, lifting weights, doing sit-ups and push-ups. I looked myself in the mirror and I know I still have a long way to go. I can achieve my desired body if I work out in the gym but I know I would be more interested (or should I say they’ll be more interested) on other stuff! So I took a long, scrubbylicious bath and read Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home.

At 6, I decided to do her Herb Pasta with Poached Eggs but less the fresh herbs. James did not permit me to go to the supermarket today to get some ingredients so I used what I can find in our pantry – ready-to-cook pasta, sage and basil and eggs.

I did what was told in the book and I shared a wonderful dinner with my family!

Now that everyone is off to their rooms, I miss James and his antics. What would be my life when the day comes he has to work somewhere far? Would I be able to cook all Martha’s recipes? Would my garden expand into a forest and my tank into a pond? Would I work out and achieve my target UFC-body and I won’t have my greatest fan beside me?

Hay, I won’t think about that yet. I’ll just eat this slice of cake my mom gave me (masunurin akong anak kaya kakainin ko) and pay the price with tomorrow’s additional push-ups!