Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hey, I didn't know that!

Celebrating the joys children bring to us!

Abby, 6 yrs. old: Now I know why there are commercial breaks. That’s when the director says “CUT!”
* * *

(Scene: 3- or 4-year old child eyeing mother’s sagging breasts)

Child: Why are your boobs looking down? They look so sad!

Note: Child’s identity withheld to preserve poor mother’s dignity

* * *

Raffy Cabrera to Mom Dra. Cynthia Cabrera: Mom, I know how we can make more money. We can move to a small house and have our big house rented!

* * *

(Scene: Then 4-yr old Cody Cabrera having Loose Bowel Movement. Tita Carmen Cabrera about to wash her FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.)

Cody: Tita Carmen, are you sure you know what you’re doing?

* * *

(Scene: Child rummaging through a drawer)
Child: Mommy, what is this? (holding up a condom)
Mother (panicking): Dad, unsa daw na? (Dad, what is that?)
Father: That’s candy.
A few days later…
Child: Why didn’t it taste like candy? I licked it. It was bitter!

* * *

Gabby Cabrera: Tita, why do you keep buying us toys?
Tita Carmen Cabrera: It’s because I didn’t get married and I don’t have my own children.
Gabby: Oh boy! We’re lucky!

* * *

Abby: Tita Cris, you’re a lawyer, right? My Mom told me lawyers know everything!
Atty. Cris Bonganciso: Well, kind of ….
Abby: Well, if you really know everything, tell me … what am I thinking of right now?

* * *

Cody: Mom! Your tummy’s so big! You look pregnant! I know why. It’s because you eat too much!

* * *

Abby: Ma, people go to heaven only after they die, right? So how did the painters know how to draw pictures of heaven when they haven’t been there yet?

* * *

(Scene: Abby looking sourly at her mother’s friend Marilyn Elemia):
Abby: Mommy Tosay, don’t you ever get tired of talking, talking, talking and laughing, laughing, laughing?

* * *

Cody: Mom, I think that you should get more jobs so we will become rich.
Dra. Cynthia Cabrera: Why do you say that Langga?
Cody: When Lola Meding (Cabrera) was young, she had five jobs: teacher, planter ….. she was very rich! But now that she is old, she can’t work anymore, she is poor now …

* * *

(Scene: Then 4-year old Abby tucking the blanket securely under her sick Papa’s body. She did such a good job, her father ended up cocooned from the neck down. Father and Mother looked tenderly at each other, with the same thought running through their minds: “what a sweet and caring child we have …”)

Abby: Look Mama! Now we won’t smell the stink every time Papa farts!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


January 23, 2007: I was called an ASSHOLE!!! A big hulking FOREIGNER with a very distinctive American accent riding his motorcycle shouted at me across the road as I was turning my car towards my daughter’s school. I have never felt so enraged in my entire life!

I would have taken that insult lightly coming from another Filipino, but from a GUEST of our OWN CITY? A foreigner residing in the Philippines, my very own COUNTRY???? Abusing me right in the presence of my own child????

Whatever did I do to him? I was not driving fast enough and got in his way, that's what!

I should not let that BRUTE affect me this way, as I’ve been telling myself. But as I now sit in front of my computer, I fume with indignation thinking of that BIG BULLY, who, as far as I am concerned, has overstayed his welcome in my very own Dumaguete!

That swine should be taught his lessons on manners and proper courtesy, but really, can a little worm-brained American who apparently has never set foot in any classroom, much less entered the era of the civilized world, and whose very existence is centered at elbowing his way around Filipinos whom he considers his inferiors, be taught anything above that? I bet that Neanderthal can’t even be taught how to use a deodorant!!! (My apologies to the pigs and the worms. I did you great injustice by naming you in the same breath as that tyrant. You’re too noble and dignified compared to “that”, actually!)

How I wished at that exact moment to go after him and pummel his face blue and black, and as finishing touch, stuff his mouth full of cat poo to deodorize it a bit!

Realistically though, I am barely five feet two inches tall. That pre-historic beast must be at least six feet three, with a bodybuilder’s physique! And to think that when I first caught a glimpse of him prior to our encounter, I thought of the Greek God, Adonis ….

All man by outward appearances, but inside … I wonder! His affinities as to gender seriously comes into question.

Oh well, I therefore conclude that his massive bulk is INVERSELY PROPORTIONAL to the size of his brain and manners!

My husband Nonoy had his own close encounter with another foul-mouthed American a few years back. Without any provocation from him whatsoever, this elderly “guest” sped past our vehicle and shouted MORON at him. (Actually, Nonoy was driving slowly. That must have been the provocation.) My husband went after him and a big argument ensued. When I asked why he had to stoop into that person’s level, he explained to me in this way:

“Whenever I’m in their country, I obey their laws, observe my manners, and take their insults and abusive behavior in silence, because it’s their turf and there is nothing that I could do about that.

But NO WAY will I go on taking that kind of treatment right here in my own country! They are in OUR LAND, let them accord to us the very same respect and courtesy we give to them when we are in theirs!”

I agree with my husband wholeheartedly!!!

Now that I have let my fury out of my system, may I say that not all of our foreign guests can be equated with those two non-entities. I am not judging all foreigners on the same level, nor do I see them in the same light with which I view those two. I judge people, foreign or Filipino brother, according to his own merits.

I am reserving my wrath and acerbic opinions only to “Asshole” and “Moron”. Those two are in a class of their own. I will form opinions as to the rest as I see them, one person at a time, and pending that, I give the benefit of the assumption that every one of them is as decent as any human being could ever be.

I don’t have foreigners within my immediate circle of friends but I do know Negros Chronicle columnist Kojak Hughs of whom I hold the highest respect. And then there is David Atwood, a British gentleman I regularly correspond by email with. I have not met him personally yet, but David and his beautiful wife Caye, I regard with warmest and most tender affection.

David and Kojak - compassionate and decent guests of our country – they see us Filipinos with all our frailties, follies and shortcomings. Yet, I know that they respect us and judge us the way we would want to be judged: not as a people, but one person at a time.

To our foreign lady guest whom columnist Cecilia Hoffman wrote about (Gender Bender, Metropost, Jan. 21 issue), may I apologize in behalf of all DumagueteƱos for the lousy treatment you are receiving from SOME of our men. If it's any consolation, you will always find those primitive types every country you’d go to. But that’s no excuse.

As our guest, you deserve to be treated fairly and with utmost respect, just as we too, deserve to be treated with the same courtesy from those whom we welcome into our shores.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Why do men look down when they pee?"

I chickened out when my 6-year old asked me that question. Caught off guard by this sudden query, my mind froze and for the life of me, I could not think of any acceptable answer!

(By the way, in case you are wondering how Abby got to witness this "phenomenon" - Filipino men have this disgusting habit of urinating the way dogs do - PRACTICALLY EVERYWHERE!!! Their favorite spots are against walls and fences, and it does not matter to them if that unfortunate fence happens to be at the roadside, easily visible to passing cars with impressionable and highly inquisitive children on board!

Don't they pity us parents who will have to fend off the relentless barrage of questions brought about by their thoughtlessness? Ha ha ha! Of course, THAT would be the last thing in their primitive and uncultured minds when nature would start calling!)

Why indeed do men look down when they pee? Panicked thoughts ran through my mind … why? … why? … think Olga … to admire their appendages? What??? I told myself, you CANNOT tell her that!! Besides, you’re not sure that it’s really it! What then? That they are ashamed? … hiding their faces? … after all, Abby already said that they were stinking up the place and harming the plants! But what if she follows up with “then why do they do it anyway?” If so, I’ll be seeing no end to this issue!

But I could not come up with any satisfactory answer guaranteed to put an end to this curiosity, so I took the coward’s way out and replied, “Hey, am I a boy? How would I know? Better ask Papa.”

Sure enough, Abby grabbed the phone from me when her father called a few days later. I could just imagine what went through her father’s mind when he heard THE QUESTION. Abby was quiet, simply nodding her head knowledgeably from time to time, and interrupting her father with occasional giggles and “oh yeahs!”

“What did Papa say?” “He said that they have to look down so they would know where to shoot their pee!” She burst out laughing as she added, “Papa said their pee might go to their pants if they don’t watch!” (Why didn’t I think of that?)

Our children make us groan and sigh and scratch our heads once they start bombarding us with those simple yet oh-so-difficult questions to answer. Moms and Dads could definitely identify with me when I’d write of those times when we struggled for suitable answers to questions, the truth of which, they were not quite ready yet!

Ever since Abby started talking, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve resorted to ingenious means of answering question without really answering them, or those moments when I squirmed as I got challenged for my inconsistent answers.

Take this question for instance: “how did the father’s sperm got inside the mother?” By the way, Abby already knows about the sperm and the egg from her collection of Grolier’s “Under the Microscope” and from watching National Geographic’s “In the Womb”.

I’ve been dreading that question for a long, long time. When it finally came, I was as unprepared as ever. I’ll never forget those knotted brows and that baffled look on her innocent face. I simply crossed my fingers and mumbled something about kissing. She accepted it – but for how long? - Oh God, I dread the answer to that!

The most recent challenge I got dropped out of nowhere. “Mama, didn’t you say that a girl has to marry first before she can have babies? How come Ate this and Ate that have babies but THEY DO NOT HAVE HUSBANDS YET?” (The last six words are capitalized to match Abby’s scandalized tone.)

Please humor me but I just have to give vent to my frustration at how difficult it is to instill values when our children are constantly being inundated with conflicting realities. How do we find the proper balance? Can we still mold their young minds toward the direction that we want them to take? We can only hope and pray.

Going back to Abby’s latest challenge, I know that I failed miserably in satisfying her curiosity with my evasive answers. How about you? How would you answer that question to a six-year old? I wish you all the luck!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Erma Bombeck

“Loving Erma more and more with each turn of the page!” This was the text message I sent to my editor Irma Faith Pal regarding the author of the book she surprised me with last Christmas.

I haven’t had the privilege of “knowing” Erma Bombeck before Irma “introduced” her to me. What an introduction!! I fell in love with her from the first page and could not put the book down until I reached the last!

It was truly a most wonderful gift. Irma’s Christmas present did not stop at the tangible object she brought over one early morning. It went on to introduce me to a world that is as alien as it is familiar to me. Why? This is the title of the book: Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession. Do I need explain further?

Syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck wrote a humor column three times a week for 900 newspapers from her home in Arizona. She had been writing about mothers and motherhood for twenty years. In this book, Erma celebrates motherhood – the second older profession, and the biggest on-the-job training program ever. She told of the joys and pangs, the fulfillment and the frustration, the poignancy and the pathos of being a mother.

As I read, I was amazed at how easily I could identify with the mothers Erma Bombeck wrote about. Their sentiments were also mine!!! Although I knew that motherhood transcends everything, it was still surprising how I share so much with women in another part of the world whose lifestyles, culture, and even beliefs are so vastly different from mine.

My interest roused, I looked her up in the Internet and sadly learned that she was taken away by the Big C. When she learned that she had this disease, she wrote a poignant poem that touched me so deeply I decided to share it with everyone who reads this column. Her message was very simple: let’s live our lives to the fullest and SAVOR EACH MOMENT before it becomes too late.

By Erma Bombeck

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner, even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love yous".. more "I'm sorrys"... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it... Live it... and never give it back.

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses today! Take time to tell a loved one how much you love them, do something nice for yourself, and stop to give God thanks for all of it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Abby and Carla at the Peryahan!

Carla (in blue jacket) and Abby (in orange shirt) enjoying the ball-throwing game. Abby got so lucky that night she won three times! I don't know if this game is rigged, as most usually are in carnivals and peryahans ... you place a P1.00 bet on a certain number and throw a ball. If it lands on the same number ... lo and behold!!! You're the proud owner of funchum or some junk food!

This picture shows a truly excited Abby as she watched her ball inching closer and closer to her number!!!


Carla (foreground) and Abby (background) enjoying the rickety carousel that appears older than their grandmothers under the close supervision of two hawked-eyed stage mothers ... that's in addition to the Abby's beloved Tlyn standing guard in the background!

"BO ... RING!" Verdict of this beloved twosome. They finished the ride with perfectly contrived looks of boredom complete with faces cupped by their palms for maximum effect!


Pensive Carla - This picture mirrors Carla's personality - a quiet and shy child who can manage to stay put in one place for a full five minutes!

Goofy Abby - my personal whirlwind, the complete opposite of Carla! Honestly, I am getting apprehensive she might be diagnosed with some kind of hyperactive disorder (God forbid!) - she's always moving even her lola (the most formidable and tight-fisted person I know) offered her money if she would sit still for 5 minutes! Needless to say ... she didn't last 30 seconds!

Looking at these pictures made me think how children, when they're not being the spoiled brats that they sometimes are, are soooo easy to please. Take them to a roadside peryahan and you will see unbridled joy and excitement that can be equal to any trip to Disneyland!

Is it still surprising why I want that innocence preserved for as long as possible?

Whoever would want our children to become as jaded as we are?

"Been there, done that ... (ho-huuum) ... what's next? do you have anything exciting/expensive/new there?"

Do we really want our children adapting this attitude?

True happiness cannot be measured by any amount. It sounds like a well-worn cliche, I know, but whether we like it or not ... it is true!

It is in the little details of our lives, like a child's laughter, a friend's hug, or a stranger's smile. I did not write this myself, but it is so meaningful to me I am quoting the rest: "They may be small, but when we look back in our lives, we will realize that these are the things that made our lives complete!"

Another truism that we can gather from those text messages that we receive from our friends goes this way: "The way to be happy is to be grateful even for the simple blessings that come our way." Isn't it so true?

And here's another gem: "Life is pretty simple. When you're asking for apples and life hands you lemons, made lemonade. If your on your way out and it starts to rain, at least you won't have to water the plants anymore! It's simply a matter of putting things into their proper perspective."

Again, it goes back to our attitude towards the events the come into our lives. We can either choose to be pulled down or we can choose to see them in a brighter light and turn them into our advantage.

I'm getting kind of deep here. And to think that when I started writing this, I merely wanted to celebrate the simple joys of childhood that we all try so hard to reach for but couldn't quite manage. Woe to us!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Me

Abby with cousins Raffy, Gabby and Cody Cabrera during their Gameboy tournament on Christmas Day!

“It’s UNFAIR!” … whined my beloved brat last Christmas.

“Why did Santa give three to Raffy and I got only one? I asked for six!” … she continued with her heart-tugging oh-so-woeful expression complete with mouth that somehow managed to pout into unbelievable lengths!

Abby was referring to the single game cartridge for her Nintendo Gameboy that she “got” from Santa compared to her buddy Raffy Cabrera who got three.

Of course, Abby and Raffy agreed beforehand what they would ask for. Of course, one very cooperative mother encouraged Abby to write him letters so “Santa” would know what she wanted for Christmas.

Christmas came and that very cooperative mother wanted to kick herself in the head for perpetuating the Santa myth, or the Tooth Fairy for that matter!

I planted this seed and got so good at cultivating it Abby came to believe that she could ask for everything and anything under the sun.

One time, she even asked for a MICROSCOPE from the Tooth Fairy!!! For pete’s sake! That thing must cost ten grand! For a tooth? For a six-year old? Well, if it’s for education … and GRANTING that I had plenty of dough stashed somewhere … but I’m digressing.

So what could a poor mother who was neck deep in unpaid bills do to veer thoughts away from microscopes?

Resort to creative thinking, what else? I told her Tooth Fairy is as small as Tinkerbell!

“And how heavy is your school’s microscope?” Oh yeah! It was heavy alright!

“How then” I asked, “could a tiny creature such as the tooth fairy carry such a heavy present?”

“Oh yes!” she wholeheartedly agreed with me.

And while we were still at it, I went on improvising, like tell her to ask only for something that could be found in Dumaguete (so Tooth Fairy won’t have to travel far), or something that’s not expensive (or she’ll think you’re too greedy)!

How did I cope with the outburst last Christmas? I told her Santa must have made a mistake when he gave a box with only one cartridge instead of three … you see, he’s soooo busy … got gazillions of children to give presents to …and poor Santa, he’s soooo old already (thus forgetful!) … see his white beard?

I know … I know! Lying is bad and I’m setting a terrible example! Will she resent me when she finally learns the truth? I don’t know. What I know though is that my friend Chedette’s daughter, Ina, was terribly disappointed with her Mom when she caught her doing Tooth Fairy’s job!

What does this tell us? That children want their fairy tales and make-believe world? That we owe it to them to make them believe for as long as possible?

Despite my periodic head-kicking urges, I believe that this should be so. Every child deserves magic in his world.

When Abby was told by another child that Santa was not true ... that it’s the parents who actually give all those stuff ...

Abby is only 6 years old. She cannot lose her sense of wonder yet!!! I had to cook up another tale: “remember the song … Santa Claus is coming to town? That he’s making a list who’s naughty or nice? That’s because only nice children get presents from him. Maybe your friend ---- has been naughty and his parents knew that he won’t be getting any present from Santa. But they didn’t want him to be sad, so they had to get his present themselves and pretend it came from Santa … and got caught ... ”

I breathed a big sigh of relief when Abby swallowed the story hook, line and sinker.

Am I doing the right thing? I really don’t know. But I do know that Abby can only be a child once. She will get to enjoy the innocence of childhood only for so long. The realities of life will always be there, lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce at every chance.

So I’ll shield her while I still can and while she still believes everything I’d tell her.

As for her excessive expectations, I’ll just improvise along the way - like tell her Santa has gazillions of children to give presents to, and it would be unfair to the others if she’d ask for more than one!

And as for wanting to kick myself, I will always want to do that first, then think of a way to wriggle out of my predicament next!

Happy New Year everyone!