8/31/2007

Let's Go to the Book Fair!


Let me try if I can publish this post. It's been sitting in my drafts file for two days now. I see green light (blinking rapidly) in the modem.

There's an oasis in my blogging desert: The 28th Manila International Book Fair!

It opened August 29, at 10 AM and will end on September 2, Sunday, 10 PM. Venue: World Trade Center, Gil Puyat Ave. corner D. Macapagal Blvd., Pasay City.

Books, books, books! I have been exercising my arms to be able to bring home as many books as I can.


Don't fail to visit the OMFLIt booth - right behind the National Book Store booth. All of my books are discounted.

See you at the fair!

8/27/2007

MY DSL: A Blogger's Bane


Many timesmany, many timesI have tried writing a new post. But My DSL makes it impossible. Before I could save it, or shoot it out, pffft goes My DSL again.

Despite complaints many, many complaintsto the PLDT Customer Service, nothing is being done. They write good excuse letters, but letters don't get you connected to the outside world. All told, I probably get only a total of two hours of internet time in one day. And to think that I pay for 24/7 service! It's been this way for the past three weeks and it gets worse everyday!

What gives?

There is a breach of contract somewhere here. I signed up for My DSL but am getting, instead, invisible service.

Is there anyone out there who can help me? I want to write more but My DSL light is blinking again. I better publish this before My DSL conks out on me!

8/24/2007

Our Home is a Junkyard


Moving into our very own pre-fab, low-cost home ages ago, I had lofty dreams and lowly cash.

I wanted our living room to be restful after a long, hard day’s work in the office. But my trips to home décor stores proved to be frustrating. There was not an item—not even a small planter—that the string budget of a new homemaker could afford.

I wanted green accents to the pristine white walls. Plants would have been great but they needed caring and I had two small children who needed it more. While unpacking all our paltry earthly belongings, I found several empty bottles—most of them green. I brushed them clean and put them on the shelf and on my piano. They looked good, I thought. When the sun or overhead lights hit them, they had a refreshing glow.


Soon I would be asking friends if they had any empty green bottle in their trash cans which they might want to donate to me. An avalanche ensued!

Like my husband’s Elvis collection, my green bottles had become . . . “Oh, you collect green!”

In over 20 years, I now have a motley collection of green glass in all shapes, sizes, and shades. In recent years, glass trophies and plaques have become a vogue and so, those that we receive in green glass have joined the collection!


Among the unusual ones are a bottle shaped like a nude lady and a stretched seven-up bottle. One is a 200-year-old antique liquor bottle and the biggest bottle of them all—called damajuana—used to be a vinegar container when commercial processing was just an idea.


Some double up as candle holders, flower vases, paper weights, fruit trays, lamps, coasters, door chimes, pitchers, etc. Now I hardly have a space to place new arrivals!

I am not complaining, I am bragging. Because here, in the living room of our very first and only owned home, these over 200 green glass gewgaws (except for a few exceptions—well-chosen and well-priced gifts from friends and family on my birthday), once junkyard bound, have a place all their own. Within white walls, they and my family share a history.


After 20 years of back-breaking, brain-draining, energy-sapping stint in the workplace, I am often asked by friends who have moved from our neighborhood to newer villages, “Aren’t you moving to a new home?”

My answer has always been, “Ours is irreplaceable.”

In the same manner, I can now reward myself with shopping in those pricey home décor stores. But should I?

If my green glass junks could talk, they’d reply, “We’re irreplaceable.”

8/16/2007

Elvis is Alive?


“Elvis is alive” has been a lingering rumor for exactly 30 years on August 16, since Elvis Presley died. In my family, this lingering rumor has morphed into a roaring humor—which is another story of grace.

You see, my husband, Tony, has been an Elvis fan since . . . forever. What makes this rumor/humor even more uproarious is, Tony’s birthday falls on August 16! That’s why the most natural thing in the world was for cousins to give him the moniker, “Elvis is alive.”

How apt. Tony keeps his childhood memories of Elvis alive in an Elvis room. Here he stores Elvis memorabilia—from wine glasses to books, wall clocks to neckties, tees to RPM records, paper weights to what-have-you.


They appear like a collection of a lifetime and by looking at the odd little and big pieces, you’d think he either looted Graceland or all he’s been doing every day of his life is search for them.

Not quite. Most of the items are gifts from friends and relatives—a phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me.


It happens when people see a few of his Elvis pieces. They exclaim, “Oh, you collect Elvis!” Before the cock crows, he is deluged with gifts of Elvis—on his birthday, office anniversary, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or any day worth celebrating.

It doesn’t stop there. Whenever there is an event that needs intermission numbers, “Elvis is alive” is pushed into singing a few Elvis tunes, which he obliges with little prodding and much heckling.


(I used to have a collection myself of over 300 clowns, which started with three, on my desk at work.  Guests who entered my office would exclaim, “Oh you collect clowns!” And then the clowns started marching in—pasalubong (arrival gift) from all over the world. Now that I am no longer in the workplace, what happened to the clowns? I’d tell you, but not on Elvis’ day.)

As “Elvis is alive” celebrates his birthday, he receives gifts and greetings from family and friends with the motif . . . Elvis.


His staff, I am sure, will find another Elvis novelty item that will top the previous Elvis dancing wall décor and the Elvis paper sculpture. Son #3 sent him an e-card with Elvis singing and all the URLs of Elvis trivia.

Our kids were often put to sleep with Teddy Bear, Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and other Elvis songs. When son #2 was four, he heard an Elvis song on radio. He cried, “Papa, the singer is mimicking you!”

My “Elvis is alive” is not alone in this madness. Elvis outsells all other recording stars even today, 30 years after his mortal remains left earth. Even the Fabulous Four (Beatles) acknowledged that there are only two music eras—before Elvis and after Elvis. Of course media have a lot to do with marketing genius, but it puzzles nonetheless.


And it brings in lots of ribbing. Whenever a friend gives “Elvis is alive” another Elvis novelty gift or an Elvis message, the moment becomes a full-blown event: riotous bantering, laughing, and reminiscing. It keeps alive the magic of childhood that never leaves our memory, even as we number our days with many birthdays.

That room is not so much an Elvis room as it is a special sanctum of friendship and relationships. In it are pieces which friends and family took time to craft or choose so they will bring a smile to the receiver.

Enjoy your day of grace, “Elvis is alive!”

(The photos in this post comprise only 25% or less of the collection. Simply snooping, I am loath to open drawers and cabinets lest I break or misplace a sentimental relic.) 

8/15/2007

Thirteen Blogs in a Row


The biggest challenge for me as a “teacher” is how to teach.

Duh.

What an inane statement you may say. If you can’t teach, then you’re not a teacher. True.

In which case, most of my teachers and other teachers in classrooms everywhere are not teachers. They lecture, they preach, they talk about their experiences, they give quizzes and assignments, they conduct workshops, they echo whatever textbook is there, and they spew all the ideas from books they’ve read, but—they don’t teach.

I take responsibility for the preceding paragraph. But it came only after a long reflection on my own plight as a teacher, and after talking to my outstanding students (majoring in Marketing, or Advertising, or International Business) about what they expected from their teachers.

To clinch the issue, I looked up “teach” and the meanings are very telling: to show how; to impart skills and knowledge.I once had a teacher who gave us a list of books to read on the first day of class. In succeeding sessions, we were either given a written exam or were made to report on what we read. He taught us how to do things on our own. But he, unfortunately, didn’t show us how, neither did he impart his skills or knowledge.

Many teachers lecture for hours. They care not about gauging how much a student has absorbed.

Having spent most of my working life in the corporate world, I have imbibed the value of communication. It’s what sells ideas. It emanates from a sender to the receiver, and back to the sender. If the cycle is not complete, no learning takes place.

This is what I carry close to my heart in my part-time teaching.

So may we take a look at the following statement again? The biggest challenge for me as a “teacher” is to teach. It isn’t inane, it’s a struggle.

The language of the youth today is technology. They’re into gadgets—mobile phones, i-pods, PDAs, internet, cameras, and video games. More are coming. I decided to use their language to get their attention.

In my Business English class, I found out on day one that writing formal letters and memos, staples in my time, is not as revered as “cut and paste.” There were a few gallant tries from some students, but the rest was dismal.

So I asked all 13 of them to blog. Yes, blog!


The task was for each one to create his blogsite where he can freely write his thoughts on a given topic. They are online most of their waking hours anyway (we are the world’s biggest Friendster user), so why not practice writing in blogosphere? Too much extra work for me, having to visit and post a comment in all 13 blogger.com sites, but it is a relevant option.

I am appalled by what has become of grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. The ellipse has never been more abused. Paragraphs have disappeared. There is utter disregard for spelling. Choice of words is haphazard. Fragments have replaced sentences. And the pronoun “I” is in lower case!

But as days wear on, each post is becoming more organized, more interesting, more lyrical even, and better written. Writing, indeed, can only be taught through writing, in a medium one enjoys.


Also on day one, I asked them to always bring a small dictionary (others prefer laptops). Whenever there is an argument about a word and its usage, we look them up together. It’s fun and funny, ideas are tossed like beach balls. Though I use slides for the day’s topics (Power Point), which models lessons on presentations, our chairs are often arranged in a circle for better communication.

As the final exams—moderated in our affiliate school in the UK—near, I hope I have prepared my students for the biggest hurdle of their lives this term; and for the workplace eventually. In this post-modern era, Business English seems to have no appeal to “techno-addictos,” but if taught in their language, it can be appreciated.

Someday, when they are conferred with degrees, I pray that one of their ammunition shall be what they learned from this writer who blogs on grace and wants to earn her title, “teacher.”

8/11/2007

Simpchongs


It turned out that my two boys did not have to talk me into watching Simpsons, the movie. I said “yes” before they could ask.

Blame it on inclement weather: Typhoon Dodong rendered us useless. Classes were suspended, the internet connection went kaput, the electricity was fluctuating, places of interest were flooded, and Tony attended the wake of a friend. Two boys and one mom—me—found ourselves marooned at home, facing each other with not much to do.

One had the brilliant idea of having pizza in the SM Southmall, a most convenient neighbor. While chomping and munching, we dreaded the prospect of going back home to listen to the lashing of the wind and with not much else. I think I might have said aloud, “Simpsons, the movie.”

In a breath, one rushed to the third floor to ask for the screening time: in less than a hour! The other hustled me up another floor to purchase a gizmo for my mobile phone (a thingy that would allow me to download the photos I’ve been taking of just about anything).

The movie house was the roomiest I have ever been into.
 
There were only three people inside—us. This proves that even the best marketing efforts do not work during typhoons in third-world economy.

Homer was at his nastiest and dumbest best; and his wife, Marge, sticks with him like bee to honey. What she said, or the essence of it, struck me: “The reason I stick with you Homer is because I overlook all your failings.”

Overlook suddenly becomes a good, operative word for spouses. With it comes a slew of other virtues: tolerance, patience, reasonableness, resilience, staying power, kindness, and—forgiveness.

This concept comes from the creator of the cartoon himself who describes his belief as agnostic. Not by accident, I hope, these are the same wifely virtues found in Proverbs 31:10-12 (ESV): “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

More than Homer’s contrition in the end—and his recovered image in his son Bart’s eyes—it was Marge’s attitude that redeemed the irreverent (okay, extremely funny, too) movie for me.

P.S.

We stayed till the very end of the mile-long credits (literally thousands of cast and crew!) because advertisers hyped the surprises after the end of the movie. Baby Maggie, after 30 years, spoke for the very first time, “Sequel!” I hope I misheard it.

8/07/2007

My Mom's Best Friend


She may have all the woes of an octogenarian, but my Auntie Pat is physically healthy and I know she will still be with us for sometime. Yet, somewhere along the way, we lost her. And she can’t find her way back.


Maybe in a special part of her mind, we do exist. But that part doesn’t come around too often anymore—not in the last months that I saw her.

Auntie Pat is my late mom’s younger sister and best friend. When my mom suddenly died four years ago, Auntie Pat still had the capacity to grieve over the loss of her manang (older sister). And grieve she did for a year or two. But like mist, the grief wafted away, not because “time heals all wounds” but because she started to think of my mom in ancient past, when they were children, in and out of her confused and indistinct time zones.


Alzheimer’s is fast becoming an epidemic, afflicting today over 24 million people worldwide and counting. I personally know of other aunts, uncles, and moms who have left the world before their time while we, their families, mourn the passing of their minds.

As an Ambassador’s wife, my Auntie Pat has seen the world and has rubbed elbows with the world’s Heads of States. But she and her husband, my Uncle Love, chose to come back to the small town which my mom never left; the town where Auntie Pat and her older sister grew up and raised their young families.

Coming home, and leaving her grown children in America, Auntie Pat became a probinsiyana (rural lass) once more.

Reunited, minus the responsibilities of growing children, Auntie Pat and Mom had the time of their lives. They traveled and enjoyed new things together. They sought out their other siblings and redefined bonding. It was idyllic and comfortable, you might say, for a few years until Mom passed away and Auntie’s brain begun to falter.

Barely two years after, my uncle Love passed on, as well. We couldn’t tell whether losing her beloved husband of over 60 years was something she was aware of. She seemed to be grieving, but not really. Or maybe she had forgotten what grief means. Her children began to worry. They live too far away to give Auntie Pat the caring she needs. So one day, her eldest daughter (my cousin Minna) came home for a few months to see to her needs.

In all this, here’s a baffler. Although her memory has been practically shut—forgetting everyone—she knows God! She follows your lead in prayer and sings hymns with fervor, most lyrics in her memory still.

The difficult decision to bring her back to the US had to come, but only after a tug-of-war of emotions.

“We can’t uproot her all over again.”

“But she doesn’t know where she is anymore anyway.”

“Her memory takes her to so many places and America won’t make much difference.”

“There we will all have the chance to show her our love and take care of her.”

On the eve of her departure, we had a party. She sang, danced, laughed, and prayed with us—happy memories that could last forever. But not in Auntie Pat’s mind. An hour after we left, she was on to a totally different era, maybe a snippet of one not-too-pleasant memory.

The Auntie Pat that I knew was always a refreshing, calming presence—a gracious hostess, a mild-mannered lady, a considerate woman, an attentive listener, and an appreciative guest. As I described her in one of my books, “She talks like a queen and walks like a queen.” Well, the queen is no longer here; she is not in America either.

Cousin Minna updates us and sends Auntie's latest photos—the next best thing to being with her. But the once-sweet smile is perfunctory and the once-bright eyes are glassy.

We miss her. Where could she have gone?

One of my prayer partners, a doctor, makes everything seem right. She says, “Your Auntie Pat is blessed. In her condition, nothing can hurt or worry her.”

“But what if all she remembers are those that hurt and worried her?” I ask.

“All her memories are short, or gone,” she retorts.

“But her feelings aren’t,” I reply.

“Right, but the feelings are fleeting. And fleeting feelings—sad or happy—don’t count.”

Indeed, what counts is that one day, up there where Jesus lives, when all of us shall have left this earthy life, Auntie Pat will recognize Mom and us. And we, who dearly love her, will see the queen as she was—a wonderful aunt who prays hard and sings glorious hymns with her heart full and mind intact.

8/04/2007

Simpsonized!


I am not overly fond of the Simpsons, but my children are. And since sights and sounds in and around the house have a way of creeping into my eyes and ears, I get to watch or hear them.

At the moment, son no. 3 has the TV set blaring. Bart's and Homer's voices are unmistakable. They are arguing. They are whining. They are complaining. Often, you can't tell which plays which role. Bart and the other kids have as much authority as their parents. And their parents don't teach them or model values. Not overtly anyway.

It takes a certain amount of maturity and appreciation of sarcasm and satire to learn from these yellow irreverent characters. Well, it takes the same maturity to learn from life's lessons. At my age, I have experienced all sorts of horror stories so I guess at this point, I look forward to shows which remind me of the simple stories I learned as a child from children's books and the Bible:

Good prevails over evil. Heroes don't die, villains do. That's what the good Book says about eternal life, implicitly and explicitly, with as many examples as there are possible—from Genesis to Revelation.

Putting myself in my children's shoes, however, I see what draws them to the Simpsons—a hit since it debuted on television in 1987.


I also see why, in my blog hopping, my friend Aleks (a hundred years my junior) took time to Simpsonize himself. In one of his posts, he has a character of himself in yellow skin. Lest you think of me as ancient and unbending, I followed Alek's example. I simpsonized myself.


Here's how I see me from my own eyes, in the inimitable style of Matt Groening. Of course, with a little help from Adobe, give or take a few lines and bumps here and there.

After this self-portrait, I might even be talked by my boys into watching Simpsons, the movie.