Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Day 5: The Last Hurrah


The sun finally shone on our last day in HK. Went back to Causeway for more last- minute shopping and to finish up our supply of HK dollars. The crowds never waned, from the weekend to that Wednesday, and in fact it felt more frenzied than usual. I guess it was because the Chinese new year was starting the next Sunday, and it was a major holiday for everyone there. We saw golden pots of tangerine plants and peach blossoms in every mall and hotel lobby. The fruits and flowers were supposed to bring good luck. Well, I hope some of that rubbed off on us.

Our flight was delayed. I took some pics of the plane against the backdrop of the sunset. This Caucasian guy came over to inform me that the sky had such lovely colors at sunset because of all the pollution. Scrooge. I read the The Da Vinci Code thru-out the flight. It’s an exhilarating tale that’s quite educational too.

Like Yosh, I was just happy to see EDSA again. The whole trip was exhausting but I loved Disneyland and the tour guide was loads of fun, a character Ches and I will laugh about for a long time.

Not to mention all the shopping, of course.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Day 4: Shoppes Galore


Investors’ briefings. Typical me, I forgot to bring any corporate bag and just brought along my big red Hello Kitty sling bag for walking around. Definitely not corporate. Bought a smaller white shoulder bag in Causeway that could pass for corporate if you hid the silver and fuschia sequined Hello Kitty face in front. What can I say? I love Hello Kitty. She’s so all over my house that before Yosh even turned one he’d recognize her anywhere else and say “Ki-ti”.

The briefings were in the 36th floor of One IFC, overlooking the harbor. I had the same dread I feel when I have to work in Tower One of Ayala Triangle, and where I stay as far away as possible from where I can see the floors below, and where I just close my eyes and pray when we’re in the glass elevator. HK is definitely not a good trip for acrophobics.

Lunch of haianese chicken in Mandarin. The best meal of the entire trip. I love Haianese. The bosses let us off for more shopping in the afternoon. I find my best buy in Central – a lilac Chinese-collar jacket with matching skirt, 60 off at Theme. I also find for my sister a really nice (and expensive!) pink fleece sweater, a big pencil case that she’s long been begging me for, and a pair of pajamas, all Hello Kitty of course. She will so love me forever. Or she can pay me one hundred US dollars now and not have to owe me any debt of gratitude. I prefer the latter.

Awards dinner at the Ritz. Two bloopers. I drink red and white wine one glass too many and end up feeling all woozy even before the ceremony starts. Groan. Thom designated me the photographer (coz he was doing the video) and the awarding went by so fast (my boss was on stage to receive the trophy for only like 5 seconds), and I only managed to get two shots, with one all blurred, so I was muttering shit, shit, which were clearly audible in the video when we played it. Aaargh.

We use the Ritz business center to email the pix so our office can release them to the press the following morning. Thom emails a short note to Joy. I had to get out of there as soon as I read “I miss you, honey” or something like that. Thom is really so sweet. He even bought her two jackets, among others, and has pasalubong for her parents and siblings as well. I remember how sweet Ches was too as a boyfriend. What ever happened to that guy? Just kidding.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Day Three: The Amazing Race


Our city tour started with the guide calling me up in the room and asking if we were joining or not and if we were then we should be down in two minutes. To make sure we were joining the right group, I asked him if he was with GTS, our travel agent, and he curtly replied, " No, GTS has sold you to us". Oh, ok. Last time I checked we were free men, not slaves or commodity who could be exchanged for Hongkong dollars or something. Duh.

I thought at first the rudeness was just a case of lost-in-translation. It turns out that the guide spoke impeccable English and just really had an acerbic humor. It was actually quite funny if it wasn't directed at you. Most of the time it was directed at a group of elderly Europeans who asked brilliant questions such as "Are there any car accidents in Hongkong?". It was refreshing to know that I wasn't the most stupid-sounding person in the room (or the van) for a change.

First stop was this old and dingy Buddhist temple that reeked of incense. Then we went to the Peak, situated higher than the IFC Tower, the tallest building in HK and supposedly the fourth tallest in the world. Definitely not for acrophobics. My eyes were closed thru half of the tram ride. There was a nice playground at the top, so Yosh went round and round and up and down the slides and promptly skinned his nose. Thom looked for the fertility Buddha so he could rub the belly. As if he’s allowed to have any offsprings at this stage in his life. Duh.

We proceeded to a fishing village where some hardy people still lived on boats in the river. The sight provided a striking contrast to the high rises where everyone else lived. What amazed us was that the water was free of any trash, considering that there was an entire community living there 24/7. Unthinkable in Metro Manila.

There were other stops that were forgettable if not for our guide’s wit and sarcasm. Last stop was Stanley Market, where I didn’t find anything I haven’t already seen in 168. Yosh missed EDSA and the huge Sunsilk and Cream Silk billboards and all the Rejoice and Pantene posters. He kept saying “EDSA naman”. Yosh is always good for a few laughs when Ches and I are bored with or mad at each other .

Back to the hotel and at around 3 Ches’ and Yoshi’s ride to the airport came. I was only going to be away from them for two nights but I was devastated anyway. I could hardly say goodbye coz I had this big lump on my throat. So I just kissed and hugged Yosh (okay, Ches, too). I must have looked really pitiful waving from the curb coz this Japanese-looking couple seated behind Ches and Yosh waved back at me with amused smiles.

Retail therapy with Thom. Back to Causeway till night when the bosses called us to Cheung Hong Center. It was like Amazing Race getting there. We walked and ran for more than an hour trying to locate the darned thing armed only with our trusty map and the confidence to ask perfect strangers for directions. Good thing Thom is this really sweet and patient guy who’s also funny in his own way and who’s my little brother in the office, who doesn’t treat me like I’m this lawyer or something. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I were lost in a foreign land with an officemate who wasn’t a close friend, or worse, someone I actually loathed. Aaargh.

What made the trek longer for us were the endless interconnecting overpasses and designated taxi stands, not like in Metro Manila where you can just cross the street anywhere and hail a cab wherever. Finally located our bosses at Yung Kee resto, where they treated us to dinner of duck, crispy noodles and century eggs.

More shopping in Mongkok and Kowloon. Still miss Ches and Yosh tho.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Day Two: Shining, Shimmering, Splendid


Now we know why the term ‘biting cold’ was invented. Disneyland was somewhere mountainous so it was way colder than the city. The weather was the perfect excuse to duck into the shops and hoard some really cool Disney keepsakes. I got myself an Eeyore necklace and watch and a Little Mermaid brooch and Disney Princesses bracelet (which Ches described as “all very lawyerly”. Ever the kontrabida.) I love Eeyore. He’s such a sad creature and every time I see him I get this pang to just sit beside him so we can be miserable together all day.

Anyways. Lest I be mistaken of doing nothing else in Disneyland but shop. We actually did a lot the whole day we were there. The highlights for me were the parade, the magic show and the fireworks. I haven’t been in a parade since I was a kid, I’ve forgotten how much fun it can be. One dancer approached us and said to Yosh, “Ang gwapo mo, ha!” I guess you couldn’t hide the fact that we were Pinoy in a sea of fair skins and slit eyes. We met several other Disney entertainers in the parade who were Pinoy and we were just as happy as them to be there we ended up yelling “Mabuhay ang Pinoy!” to all of them.

We also watched the 4D magic show where Donald Duck sang and danced with other famous Disney characters. Inside the theater, Yoshi kept saying, “Barney…Araneta”, remembering the Barney concert we saw. I doubt he enjoyed the show much coz he wouldn’t put on the 3D glasses. He was probably thinking that he didn’t have to put on anything to see Barney in Araneta. Oh well. For me, the best part was when Ariel sang Part of Your World. Ches whispered that he was really happy for me (coz he knows how much I adore the Little Mermaid and that song). After the show, Yoshi got all excited and said “Barney naman”. Poor obsessed kid.

He had a great time tho with the rides (he rode the Cinderella Carousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Mad Tea Party and the Orbitron). He also loved the fountains and all sorts of animals that appeared out of nowhere thru-out our river cruise. And he was overjoyed to see Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in the flesh. Oh, I’m sure he would’ve been just as happy staying in the hotel and going up and down the elevator forever. Elevators and escalators are another obsession for him.

Our little family Disneyland experience ended with the light and sound show with the Cinderella Castle as backdrop and thousands of fireworks exploding in the night sky. All in all, well worth the so many month’s sweldo we spent to get there.

Thank you, Walt Disney.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Day One: Cold and Away



Was sent to Hongkong with some colleagues to receive an award for the company. So naturally brought my family along for the weekend, as I couldn’t bear to be away from them for five days. Yosh was awake with us at 4 AM, so he was asleep in the airport but woke up soon as we boarded the plane. I could see that he would enjoy this trip so much more than the one in Bangkok last year. He doesn’t remember anything about that at all.

Yosh takes to Thom right away, and just wants to sit beside him and play with him and chat him up, when Thom is clueless about babysitting. That’s one of the many amazing things about toddlers – they just openly embrace anyone willing to pay them any semblance of attention, without any cynicism or pre-judgment. If we could all have the simplicity and innocence of children.

It was the coldest time of the year in Hongkong. I loved the little flower pots of mums in the streets. Our hotel room had a window seat, much like the one Scarlett Johansson’s character in ‘Lost in Translation’ loved to sit on. It was Yoshi’s favorite place but just looking at him sitting there against the backdrop of the high-rises and with all the cars and people below was enough to make me feel faint. My acrophobia has gotten so bad with age. I don’t even remember being afraid of heights when I was a kid. I’d climb all the fruit-bearing trees in the backyard (guava, chico, caimito, duhat, mango, etc.) and go up the roof to play (much to my grandparents’ consternation) during summers in Pangasinan. But now just going down the escalator in Gateway or Shangri-la mall where I can see the ground below is enough to terrify me half to death.

Yosh also loved to sit on this little cabinet housing the mini-bar. He’d lay down all his shampoo sachets and toothpaste and soap and play with them to his little heart’s content. We also took him to a nearby playground where he ran around and went up and down the slide seemingly without a care about the weather, like he dealt with eleven degrees on a regular basis. He’s always been such a trooper.

He was so heavy tho that we didn’t get to do much shopping in Causeway, which we checked out on foot all the way from the hotel at Thom’s encouragement/insistence. Bad idea. We took the MTR going back. It was very efficient. We marveled at all the young people who all seemed to be in a hurry for some important business at that late hour. We wondered if maybe bums and old people were banned coz we hardly saw any.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ballet Dreams

My mom says that I have always wanted to be a ballerina, even as a little girl. I guess I just love how they can go around the whole day wearing their pink tutus and dainty little pointes. And ballerinas all seem to embody grace and elegance and everything beautiful that I want to be in my life. They’re just like fairies. I never did anything about my passion for ballet tho, never did more than hoard all the ballerina trinkets I can get a hold of – picture frames, posters, notepads. They’re all over my house.

So here I am, not up on a stage performing a classic art and being thin and lithesome and wearing pink all the time, but instead working as a lawyer who cries over some guy who owes my client a huge sum of money. It’s actually his company’s debt, but his business partners have all abandoned him and he doesn’t expect that they’d help out so he’s taking it upon himself to settle the debt the best he can. So he can start out anew, he said, and so that he can rebuild his reputation and approach banks to finance his new business venture. He related how he even mortgaged his family home already and how he has to deal with an estafa case filed by another creditor. At the end of the meeting he even had the balls to apologize to my client for the way things have worked out. That guy broke my heart, sitting there all dignified and earnest, despite the blows that life has dealt him with.

And my friggin job is to milk the most out of him. I should never have been a lawyer. I’m not cut out for these things, I swear. And we’re not even talking about defending a child molester or something.

It’s times like this that makes me wish I had studied ballet seriously, or that I could migrate to the States and flip burgers at McDo or be a cashier in some posh shop and get first dibs on season-ender sales. Or be anything at all. Anything other than a friggin lawyer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nico & Lei


It was Nico's and Lei's wedding on Saturday. I burst into tears when Lei walked down the aisle. If there's one part of the wedding that's sure to make the guests all weepy, that has got to be it. I guess it's bcoz if the bride shows up, that means the wedding is really going to happen already. In this instance, I cried bcoz the groom who was waiting by the altar was Nico, one of my and Ches' best friends, the first male I ever got close to straight out of girls' school, and who made himself available all these years, even dropping by uninvited in the hospital barely a few hours after I gave birth when I was in no mood to see anyone coz I just felt so spent and still so bloated. Nico and I have a long-running love-hate relationship which amuses Ches to no end. So you can understand why his wedding got me all emotional. I was crying so hard I thought my contacts were going to pop out.

Ches and I loved the wedding. If there's one thing I can say about it, it's that it was truly heartfelt. You can just feel the love, happiness and pride of the relatives who took care of the couple since they were kids, and friends who saw their relationship flourish thru the years. The whole event was a team effort. The caterer, photographer, florist were all friends from church, the same people who worked on the invites, keepsakes, program, and who took care of all the little details (like putting the butterflies in pieces of paper that had the quote "To fall in love is to spread your wings and fly."). The venue was the lovely garden in the Antipolo house of one of Nico's tita. There were tivoli lights on the trees and yellow flowers everywhere and the moon and stars shone so brightly that it was all very nearly magical. I just have to give it to the couple. They had such strong faith that God will not let it rain on their garden wedding. I don't think they had a Plan B at all in case it rained.

Yosh had a grand time too. The garden had a pool and jacuzzi so the minute we got there he wanted to dive in. There was also a sculpture of a pony which he climbed up and down and from which he promptly fell, uprooting the thing entirely. Groan. He also enjoyed the fountain in front of the house, and a smaller one by the salad table, and the centerpiece of the buffet which was a stack of goblets on which flowed some bubbly red liquid. He probably couldn't believe his luck to see three fountains all in the same place. (I've come to realize that he is more of a water person than a light person.) He just kept running all around the place and I spent the whole time keeping up after him, in my heels and plunging neckline. Aaargh. And he had to throw his biggest tantrum while the couple was saying their vows, so all I could catch was Nico saying he looked forward to waking up beside his beautiful wife every morning. That's not all. He wanted to get near the bubble machine while the entourage was marching and before I could stop him he had held on to an aisle bouquet which fell down and the whole structure would’ve come crashing down if not for some quick and able hands. A few guests giggled and Nico kindly smiled but Ches (who was with rest of the groomsmen in front) looked as scared as I felt that Yoshi almost single-handedly sabotaged the wedding. Hay, parenthood.

It was a great honor to host the reception. Nico could've asked any of his church friends who probably do these things on a regular basis. But instead he picked me, me who can be counted on to say over the microphone, in front of all his relatives and friends, on his one and only wedding day, "I've known Nico since 1992, more than 13 years, which is a really long time to be friends with someone like him who can be a real pest". And when one of his titas spoke and mentioned that he could read at age 3 (to which his mom promptly objected, that it was really at age 2), I just had to say "What ever happened?!" Well, at least I made Nico’s dad laugh at that. I also almost said that Lei looked taller than Nico, but Rommel (my co-host) stopped me in time. (I have such talent for these things, I swear. I should have it patented.) And the one nice thing I thought of I forgot to say, and that is, Nico and Lei, Rommel and Faye, and Ches and I all have something in common: we all married our college sweethearts.

Nico's mom was in her element, acting the photographer and gracious hostess. She told me I gained weight and, to save face, I replied that I'd already given birth, but she still wouldn't let me off the hook and retorted that my baby's already two. Groan. She remembered tho that I gave Nico a pink rosary when Ches and I visited him in the hospital after a nasty car accident in college. She has always been such a character. I know that Nico got some of his quirks from her.

Ches and I were just overjoyed to see Nico married off, now a husband and maybe a daddy soon too. We still remember him as the blockmate who was asked to step out of our Pol Sci 11 class bcoz he talked way too much and sat with his legs up on the chair, or maybe it was just bcoz of his long, long hair which he pulled back with a big white bandanna. Who would ever have thought.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

To My Friends, Wherever You Are

I read “What about the love part?” by Stephanie Rosenfeld over the Christmas break. It’s a book of short stories in the life of Abby, a middle-aged mommy and her daughter and friends and boys. The author had a unique, beautiful style of writing that I someday hope to acquire. The last story, ‘To Sarah, Wherever You Are’, was a tribute to her childhood best friend with whom she grew up but lost touch thru the years. They used to be so close that an idea could not even be considered an idea until they shared it with each other. But then Sarah moved and they both changed and their communication became limited to the yearly Christmas card and Abby feels bad about it and just misses Sarah terribly. It was just so devastatingly sad that I ended up silently weeping on my pillow. Ches thought it was something serious like a case of missing my sister or lolo on Christmas eve.

In the book guide the author spoke about how we should invest in our friendships. I guess it’s the same as what I read about investing in your marriage, especially when a baby comes along and your world starts to revolve around him to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. This book I read advised that you should invest in your spouse and spend some time alone together and talk about things that don’t have to do with the baby, because the baby grows up and will have a life of his own and at the end of the day it will be just the two of you again. I guess it’s the same with friends. They’re the first to go when we get busy with careers, marriage, parenthood or whatever and we just forget to take the time to hang out with them or just talk to them over the phone on a more or less regular basis. And then thru the years we just drift apart and before we know it we’re not even what you can consider close friends anymore.

In high school, I had a friend, Abigail, who was not in my usual gang but with whom I chatted up a storm and had loads of fun. She was like an elder sister to me, always the calmer and wiser between the two of us. We used to be diehard McGyver and Ginebra fanatics. She went on to major in Math, the one subject I stayed farthest away from, and we just stopped seeing each other and I don’t even have her cel number now. In college, there was Hannah, who was sweetness and poise personified, no mean bone in her system and never a hair out of place. She was going to be the equivalent of a nun in her Christian sect. I was still in law school last time I saw her. It’s really sad. (Come to think of it, it’s the good, gentle girls who seem to have strayed away from me while the crazy, pesky ones like Jon and Nico I seem to be stuck with forever. Bummer.)

The consolation is, with true friendships, time and distance don’t seem to change much. I remember when I re-united with my high school gang on Kaye’s visit to the country after migrating to the States. It was seven years since we all last saw each other but we stayed up all night giggling and hooting and being silly and mean like we were never apart at all. It was like that also when Jon and I saw Rhoel again after Christmas to visit Donemark’s and Dendee’s little baby girl. We haven’t seen him for months and he texted me the following morning to say that it was like the old times, like we were still always together instead of working with three different offices now. I hope that it will always be like that.

At the end of the story, Abby related how her daughter plays this game of shutting her eyes tight bcoz one time while at it she saw a bunch of gleaming red apples on top of a table covered by a dazzling golden tablecloth. So she kept playing it in the hope that she will someday see the apples and tablecloth again. I have the same wish, too --- that I will someday open my eyes and see all the beautiful friends in my life again.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fireworks


Saw fireworks in Manila Bay on the last Friday before the new year. According to Rommel, it was the finale of a week-long pyrolympics among eight countries. The traffic going there was so unbelievable that we had to park near the Film Center and couldn’t reach Blue Wave anymore. It was even worse going home. We were stuck around Star City for like a whole hour.

It was worth it, tho. It was the best free show of 2005. For a full hour we were treated to a grand spectacle of colors and lights that left us breathless and exhilarated like kids enjoying the first rain of summer. It simply amazes me how a single burst of light can explode into a hundred little sparks of all colors and shapes. It’s like witnessing a myriad of stars and comets and planets up close. The best part was when red, yellow and green star-shaped sparks shone and seemed suspended in the sky for a full minute or so, like lovely stars shining down on us poor benighted souls.

When two strangers meet and discover an instant connection between them, like they’ve known each other all their lives, we say there’s fireworks. I guess it’s because together they can make something exquisite and beautiful, if only for a few fleeting moments, and no matter how devastating when it ends. Together they can create magic. Like fireworks.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Best of 2005

1. Favorite gifts I received – Disney Princesses pink fleece blanket from Thom for Christmas, Estrel’s caramel cake for my birthday from Ches, pink and orange floral two-piece bikini from Jen (for no reason at all)

2. Fastest reply to a question I asked – Yoshi’s “No” when I ask him if he’d like to go to sleep already, or brush his teeth, or if his mommy looks pretty, or if he could maybe just sit down and behave for one minute

3. Biggest bargain I spotted – lavender and pink swirling and satiny M&S skirt marked down 70%. I wear it with my fuschia halter top and I feel like such a goddess, like I can slay dragons or something. I am a.k.a. The Girl with the Lavender and Pink Swirling and Satiny M&S Skirt.

4. Most fulfilling books I read – Shopaholic series, Neil Gaiman books, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. An Amateur Marriage and The Weight of Water by my long-time favorites Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. This book is so good I just have to give it to my twins-friends Amelle and Mina.

5. Greatest fun I had in a trip – Boracay and Puerto Galera with the amazing Zuniga family, who are one of the few genuinely kind-hearted people we know and have their share of funny and strange quirks. Bangkok was also fun but we lost our baggage of pasalubong in the airport.

6. Best new friends I made – Rommel, Thom, Sheng and Pau

7. Winner buffet – Paseo Uno. Pesto, salmon, fondue. Yum.

8. Most heartbreaking movies I watched – Crash and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.

9. Loveliest song I learned – Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera

10. Most daring adventure I tried – cooking for my little family. I tried to make Thai fried rice, creamy vegetable soup, garlic butter mushroom. And no one died on me. Ha!

11. Newest useful skills I acquired – taebo, Pilates, blogging

12. Best motherhood moment – When I called home from work one November afternoon, and Yoshi answered on the first ring and after I said hello, he said, “Mommy … miss you”. Happiness is made of these.