"Me Time!"

Yes, there is life outside of work!!! Let's go!

Happy Place

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As I was skimming through my Facebook news feed, I chanced upon an article about my alma mater, U.P. (University of the Philippines).  Today is U.P.’s 105th anniversary.  Aaaah, so many happy memories…

When I was 6, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about for me to get in U.P.  At 6, all I cared about was playing with my friends in the small playground with rusty swings, super high monkey bars, and creaky see saws.  After school, my friends and I would play habulan (tag),taguan (hide-and-seek), patintero, and agawan base in the little field beside our building.  We collected amorseco seeds, put them into straws and playfully shot at each other’s clothes.  We caught dragonflies of different sizes and colors, put them into glass jars with holes on the covers, and made them into our pets.    We sometimes wandered across the field to the high school building to explore and gawk at the big kids.  When we had money, we bought Twin Popsies, Pinipig Crunch, or ice cream cups from our favorite vendor.  This was our routine up until high school (yes, even tag!).

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As we got older, my friends and I began go a little outside our comfort zone.  We rode the famous Ikot Jeep!  U.P. is the only university with public transportation that goes around the campus so that students could go from building to building for their different subjects.  Our friend’s house was situated within the campus and we often rode the Ikot to her house for lunch and a power nap.  We went to Shopping Center, a one-floor building, which had everything from a cafeteria, a mini-grocery, computer shops, bookstores, dress shops, to salons and barber shops.  Everything we needed, we found there.  But the main reason for our frequent Shopping Center visits is… fishballs!!! and squidballs, and kikiam, and kwek kwek!  (Sorry, I got carried away, but these are just the best street food ever and my mouth is watering as I write).  During cooler days, we walked around the 2.2-km Academic Oval to enjoy the scenery of the buildings and the “Shady Lane” of giant acacia trees.  Sometimes, we went to the Sunken Garden, sat on the grass and discussed school, our crushes, our family lives, and our dreams.

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In college, I met new friends from the different regions of the Philippines with different dialects.  But we all had one thing in common, we loved to “loiter” around campus, and sometimes outside of campus, as there was another jeep which brought us straight to a mall!

Those were the days.

To me, U.P. is not only the Philippine’s top university, it is my happy place.  When I am in a pensive mood or I need to make a life-changing decision, I just drive or walk around campus and everything is fine.  When I feel anxious or worried, I close my eyes and let my mind wander under the shade of the acacia trees.

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Independence Day

It is the eve of our Independence Day.   In our village, I see little paper flags decorating our street posts.  Other than that, there is no indication of any celebration for Independence Day.  With the little time I’ve spent watching TV, I have seen no announcements, no upcoming TV specials, and no advertisements; likewise on the radio.  Isn’t Independence Day important to us anymore?  Is it just another paid holiday for us?

I have never been good at history.  I never saw the importance of memorizing dates, names, places, and events.  But one thing I always remember is the story and its after effects.  300+ years of Spanish colony, 50+ years of American colony, and a 5-year Japanese occupation.  The last of the Japanese troops left in 1945.  After 68 years, are we truly free?  I think not.  We are still enslaved… by ourselves.

Yes, we have been ruled by foreigners for such a long time that we got used to being “enslaved”.  No wonder we are so good at the being in the service industry:  Nurses, caregivers, housekeepers, domestic helpers, drivers, the list goes on.  We are kind, polite, and content. There is nothing wrong with this but we are kind, polite, and content to a fault.  We teach our children to study well so that they can become employed in “good companies”.  We learn that being a good employee (i.e. subservient) could land us a promotion.  We happily slip into the rat race and use our credit cards to buy things to show off to our friends and relatives.  We retire with a lump sum, spend it on the things we could not buy before and end up penniless after 3 years.

The other route we take is to gain employment overseas.  Countries like the US, UK, Australia, Saudi, and UAE prefer us because of demeanor.  That’s really good news, right?  Especially with the remittances.  Our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) have been dubbed Bagong Bayani (new heroes) because of this.  But this comes with a price:  broken marriages, bitter and misguided children, and loss of family values.

But you know, we cannot put the entire blame on our past.  Truthfully, the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese have contributed greatly on our progress as well.  It is our attitudes and beliefs that have put us where we are.  How come Filipinos who migrate to different countries are more law-abiding, bolder, communicate better, and have better control of their finances?

Let’s strive to be free.  Free from corruption, free from debt, and free from poverty.  Let’s start with ourselves. Our country is the most beautiful place on earth.  Let’s not waste our natural resources or our human resources.

(I love this song, “Bayan Ko,” (My Native Land).  I came across this rendition by Libera.  I was thinking of posting a Filipino rendition but when I watched this video, I was deeply moved by it.)

Video courtesy of virgemvoicez of youtube.

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Sissy and I

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“Sissy, I want some cherries.”  I texted my sister last Monday.  Come Wednesday, all the way from Alabang, she brought me two trays of cherries (which I will gobble down promptly after I write this blog!).  What a sweetie, right?

It brings me back to our “bonding days”, when she was still single and we could do whatever we wanted.  When we were little, we didn’t really get along very well.  She was much older than me and while I was still playing with Legos, she was already putting on makeup, nail polish, and hair spray (yes, she was an ’80s kid).  In one of our cat fights, she used her uber long fingernails to claw at my arms.  When I went to school, my classmates and teacher asked me what happened and I told them, “I fell off a tree.”  I got back at her by drawing on her notebooks and cutting holes into her favorite shirt/skirt.

Then one day, probably we both matured, we became the best of friends.  She even helped put me through med school.  She paid part of my tuition, bought my books, gave me allowance, and paid part of my apartment rent.  On weekends, she would fetch me from my apartment so that I could spend the weekend at home and bring me back on Sunday night.  She rewarded me by bringing me to the movies and feeding me my favorite food.

When she got married, little changed.  Whenever she went out shopping for clothes, I would always have a blouse or two.  Twice a year, she would take me out shopping during end-of-season sales. She would buy a lot of bags, use them a couple of times and then give them to me (probably so that I would not refuse the new bags).  At one time, she gave me a steady supply of revel bars from the Saturday market until I thought I had diabetes!  She even bought me a bejeweled dog key chain and a Swarovski dog pendant when she came upon these in her travels to other countries.

Going back to the cherries, the majority was sweet, some were bitter, some were sour, and some tasted like wine…just like my sissy and I.  Thanks sissy! Thank you for being my second mother and best friend.  I love you to pieces.

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Gratitude

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I’m just so forgetful.  I keep forgetting that God is good all the time.  I’m so ashamed.

I’ve heard that before you’re born, God plants his purpose for you deep in your heart.  It is something that you are passionate about and something that you long to fulfill.  After decades of trying to decipher my purpose, I believe I have finally unearthed it.  My purpose is both very exciting and very scary.  Overly ambitious.  I’m in denial and I’m still trying to shove it back to the deepest recesses of my heart but it just keeps coming back to the surface.  But its flowchart is very clear in my head.  I have a great plan!  But every time I take a step to fulfill my purpose, I’m pulled 10 steps back.  It’s very frustrating and I’m losing hope.  I shy away from God because I’m such a disappointment.  At the same time, I am angry.  Angry at myself and angry at God.  I’m sorry Lord, I just need time.   I hold on to this:  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever (Psalm 138:8).”

And just when I’m about to give up, he nudges me with his loving hands.  Thank you, Lord.  Forgive me for doubting you.  You have given me a blessing today which will put me on my way to fulfill my purpose.  My heart is bursting.  To God be the glory!

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He Only Takes the Best

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As tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you something that I wrote way back in 2009 to honor my mother.

“On August 10, it will be my Mom’s 11th birthday in heaven.

I remember back in UST med school, several of my classmates’ parents died. While waiting for Anatomy lab to start, my group mates and I had a discussion about it. I told them, “If given a choice, I would like to go first before my parents.”  Then a group mate said, “That’s selfish. Think of how your parents will feel if you die? They would be devastated. Would you want them to suffer? It’s not right for parents to bury their children. Think about it.” I pondered over it for a while, then said, “I guess you’re right.”

Several months later, my Mom died.

My Mom was born on January 13, 1941.  She was the fourth in a brood of seven. From what I gathered from my titas, my Mom was shy, quiet and a bit sickly when she was little. When she was a teenager, she moved with my aunt to Cavite to help take care of her nieces and nephews and to go to college. She graduated from PWU with two degrees: BS Accounting and BS Banking and Finance. Yes, she was a math wizard. Side story: My physics teacher in UPIS, Mrs. Yap, once asked me, “Jennifer, what was your mother’s course in college?” I told her. She said, “Oh…”  I asked her why she asked.  She said, “Because your dad, your aunts, and your siblings were all my students and they really were NOT good in math.  You’re the only one who is!”  Going back, my Mom was also a working student. She worked in Customs as a clerk and went to school in the evenings. Little did she know that she would meet my father at the workplace.  My father was as thin as a stick during those days; hence his nickname at work, “butiki” or lizard.  They got married on July 14, 1964 and had the three of us.

Everyone can claim that their mother is the best but I really, truly believe that I had the best Mom. When I was little, I loved cuddling with her before going to sleep. I would look up at her and admire her face. She was so beautiful. I could not take my eyes away from her ‘til I fell asleep. In her arms, I felt so loved, safe, and secure. I always had nice dreams because of her, cotton candy, milk shakes, floating clouds, and Fiesta Carnival. Sometimes, she would tell me of her dreams. She told me, “Jen, when your teacher asks you what you want to be when you grow up, you’ll say you want to be a doctor, okay?” Being only 3 years old, I said yes.

As I grew older, I saw how determined she was to give us a better life than she had. She even had me believe that we were rich even if we weren’t because I never felt lacking in material things. If I told her that I needed something for school or for my Hello Kitty collection, she would promptly give them to me the same day. She always put our needs before hers. The three of us would have the latest clothes, shoes, bags, and toys while I often saw her with worn clothes, torn bags and scruffy shoes. Whenever we ate out, she would not order and would just wait for us to finish eating. Whatever was left, she ate.

She taught me the value of money and opened a Banco Filipino Savers account for me. At an early age, I was already hoarding money into my bank account. I saved some of my allowance and whatever I got from Christmas and my birthday. One day when I was older, we went to Rustan’s Cubao. I asked her if we could go to the shoes section. Thinking that I wanted new shoes, she held my hand and led me there. When we got there, I pulled her arm and went to Lady Rustan’s. I pointed at the pair of black suede pumps with two straps and dainty black ribbons. She said, “Jen, you’re too young for that. Maybe when you’re older, okay?” I said, “No, Mommy. This is for you.  I’m going to buy you shoes.  Look at your shoes, they’re already worn out!”  She didn’t say anything but picked up the shoe and tried it on. She had tears in her eyes but I pretended not to see. She only wore those shoes to work on Fridays and on special occasions.

I was determined to show her how appreciative I was of her. I knew that doing well in school would make her happy. I bagged several medals and awards for her. And even if I didn’t want to be a doctor, I went on to med school. During my first year in med, I had a difficult time adjusting to the commute and long hours of studying. When I got home from school, I just wanted to take a bath and drift off to sleep. She and my sister would occupy the whole of my single bed so that I wouldn’t be tempted to sleep while I was studying. Oftentimes, she slept on my bed. After studying, I would lay beside her like I did when I was little. Our hard work paid off…I became a scholar and was on the Dean’s List. She was so happy!

Just before second year med, my robust mother began having abdominal pain around her navel. She also felt unusually tired, like a “melting candle” she said. Soon after, she began vomiting whatever she ate. We thought she just had gastroenteritis but after this had been going on for more than 2 weeks, we decided to seek consult. She was admitted and underwent several tests, blood tests, barium swallow, barium enema, abdominal x-rays, ultrasound, and CT scans. Diagnosis: Pancreatic cancer with metastasis to the liver. We were in disbelief. “Doc, how long before …?” “At most 6 months. I’m sorry,” he said. “Her management would only include procedures that would make her feel comfortable.” We cried. We cried individually. We cried as a family.

My father, sister, and I “lived” in her hospital room. My aunt and her husband also slept over. My brother, his wife and kids were there every chance they got. Friends and relatives always filled the room every weekend. Those who were teary-eyed excused themselves to cry in the bathroom or outside the room. In the evenings, my sister and I would sing her favorite church songs like “Here I am Lord,” “I love you Lord,” “He is Lord” and “In His time.” We had mass in her room every Sunday. We even brought her to Father Corsie. We prayed for her healing.

Mommy’s health slowly deteriorated. Despite this, she was still concerned about how well I was doing in school, if we had eaten or had a place to sleep in her room, and if we still had money to pay for the hospital bills. Later on, she was no longer able to get up from bed. She lost weight and was in and out of consciousness. In one of her waking moments, she asked me, “Jen, am I dying?” I choked back the tears and said, “Yes, Mommy.” She looked at me and said bravely, “Okay.” We cried.

One time, Mommy had just awakened and seemed to be in a pensive mood. I was studying on the sofa at that time. She beckoned to me. I held her hand. She said, “Jen, aren’t you going with me?” I looked at her curiously. I didn’t quite understand what she said. Then it hit me. I said, “Ma, I do want to go with you but I still have some things to do here. You want me to be doctor, right?” She looked down on our clasped hands and said, “Okay.” Shortly after, she slipped into a coma. At that time, we no longer prayed for her healing but for the Lord to relieve her of her suffering.

On August 9, 1998, Sunday, after the mass, our whole family went to her one by one and talked to her. We told her how much we loved her. We asked for her forgiveness. We thanked her for all that she had done for us and for all the sacrifices she had made. And finally, we told her that it was okay for her to go.

On the midnight of August 10, 1998, I saw her take in her last breath. Just one inhalation…and she was gone.”

I still miss you Ma.  I love you.

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Solitude

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There are times when I crave to be alone, especially after a busy week of work and daily chores. This is the time when I recharge and let my mind wander and let my heart feel what it feels.  Today, I gave myself the gift of solitude.

Since the cleaning of my pickup’s a/c  has been long overdue, I started my day by bringing “Greenie” to Frigidzone at Kalayaan Avenue.  The shop had a small customers’ lounge so I brought a book to read while I waited for my pickup.  The lounge’s a/c was on full blast and I was quite comfy sitting alone on the wooden bench.   I never got around to reading the book though because I was fascinated by the shop’s “Aspin” (asong Pinoy/local dog).  She was a short-haired, medium-sized, brown dog with black, floppy ears, and a pointed black nose.  She looked like a supervisor, sniffing at the customers and their cars and just walking around and observing the goings-on in the shop.  After her “rounds”, she plopped down at the entrance of the lounge with her body parallel to the glass door.  She actually blocked the doorway!  Then it occurred to me… she was trying to cool herself down with what little air that leaked out from under the door.  As time passed, people started to come in.  I was amazed at how people respected the dog and took extra care to step over her and not disturb her.  I realized two things:  1.  The dog was really smart.  2.  There is still good in people.  3.  I should’ve left the book at home (‘coz it was heavy and it was more fun to watch the world).

Next stop for “Greenie Day”… change oil.    I went to a nearby Petron gas station at Katipunan Avenue which had a mini-mall complete with restaurants, a convenience store, a barber shop, a bank, and Starbucks.  I deposited my pickup at the basement and proceeded to Jollibee (the #1 local hamburger franchise).  I got myself a hotdog, fries, and Sarsi (rootbeer).  I took a table at the second floor as the first floor was just wild with activity.  I ate slowly and immersed myself with people-watching.  Across my table, there was a woman in her 30s or 40s who appeared to be studying for an exam.  I tried to peek at what she was reading and saw some pictures of x-rays.  My guess was that she was studying for the medical boards.  I felt her anxiety.  In another table, there was a family of three, a mom, a daughter, and a son with a man who was in his 60s.  The family didn’t talk to the man much and I figured that he must’ve been their driver.  He looked tired and sad and I felt a bit sorry for him.  Then there was another family with a little girl who looked so happy and excited as she ate her spaghetti and chicken.  I heard my phone’s text alert and it was time to fetch Greenie.

It felt good to spend some time by myself.  It gave me a chance to be an outsider/observer. Sometimes, I get so caught up in myself and my concerns that I forget that other people had problems of their own and feelings that go with them.  I forget that I am a mere speck in this universe and there are things which are bigger than me.  I forget to count my blessings and thank God.  Not everybody appreciate solitude but for me, it’s a welcome treat.  Try it!

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“World Bank sets ‘expiration date’ on poverty”

Two children beg on an pedestrian overpass in Manila

When I was little, I always wondered about the beggars in the streets, how they ate, how they slept, and how they felt about life in general.  I felt sorry for them and felt guilty that I ate three meals a day, had a  house to sleep in, and had a chance to go to school.  I used to give the street kids/adults some coins when I had the chance but I was told that they would just buy rugby or some cheap drug so I shifted to giving them simple foods like biscuits instead.

As I got older, I envied my classmates who were rich.  They didn’t seem to have a care in the world and during recess, they could buy whatever they wanted without counting their money first, unlike me.  I knew exactly how much I had and I had to budget my money wisely.

A little later on, before my financial awakening, I realized that I was actually lucky to be in the middle because I had a choice.  It was up to me to choose if I wanted to have a better life.  I had all the tools that I needed, including a little money, to get where I wanted to go.

Yes, even those living below poverty have this choice but they don’t have the tools to better themselves, maybe they have resigned themselves to their situation and lost hope, or maybe they just need a little inspiration from us to change their mindset.

In my own little way, I have started to share what I’ve learned about managing finances and investing to my workmates and friends.

I really wish to see a Philippines that is free of poverty in 2030.  May God bless the leaders of the World Bank in this endeavor.

http://ph.news.yahoo.com/world-bank-imf-endorse-bold-poverty-agenda-225752387–finance.html

Photo courtesy of http://www.philaid.org

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The Garden is Abloom

The Lenten season is a time for reflection.  Oftentimes, I only turn to God when I have problems or when I feel sad.  But sometimes, God nudges me and makes me see the beauty of all his creation and my heart fills up to bursting.  I feel the love, God.  Thank you for a wonderful world.  You never said life would be easy but thank You for leading us through it.  Thank you for giving us everything that we need, even if we don’t realize it.  Thank you for forgiving us even if we commit the same mistakes over and over.  Lastly, thank you for loving us unconditionally.

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