Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Food Trips

Yoshi’s in a major food trip these days. He just won’t stop eating. He’d ask for a bottle of milk upon waking up, and easily finish up two seven-ounce bottles before he’s even out of bed. He’d have rice, eggs, longganisa, chicken asado from Lola, macaroni soup from Mama, noodles, ensaymada, hopia, ice cream from Lolo, endless glasses of Wam or Moo. The past few weeks he’s been obsessed with the boxes of Kraft instant mac and cheese from Tita Jenny, and would sometimes ask for them and bawl until we give in even when it’s way past his bedtime already. I swear, at the rate he’s going, we may have to sell the house soon (when it hasn’t even been fully paid) to provide for his gustatory demands.

It’s hard to imagine he came into this world at only 5.14 pounds. He looks like an absolute giant beside Vada. It seems he was small for only a short, short while, coz then he discovered my breasts and soon engaged in virtual nursing fests lasting 30 minutes per breast, or an hour per feeding, with each meal not enough to even see him thru two hours when he’s ravenous and rooting again. (Gosh, I so deserve an award for being such a martyr mummy.) I showed Rommel his baby book, which included a picture of him splashing around in his tub. Rommel said the flabs and dimples all over Yoshi’s body reminded him of the Michelin mascot (whose name we would later discover to be Bibendum).

He lost weight sometime around his first birthday. This was when I stopped expressing my milk and would nurse him only when I was around. We experimented with brands of formula to supplement the breastfeeding. At this point, he wanted only a limited selection of solids. Yogurt and cheese were early favorites. I remember we brought scads of them on our trip to Bangkok. He’s gone thru an eggs and ensaymada phase as well and is presently hooked on longganisa and pasta. He had a bite of the sansrival that Ches brought home for me one night, and when he saw it in the grocery he clamored for it so terribly you’d think we’ve been depriving him of food for weeks. Suddenly I missed his shampoo addiction. Unlike sansrival, shampoos are: 1. cheap; 2. useful; and 3. not fattening.

Ches and I are essentially good eaters. Big eaters, definitely, but not necessarily bad ones. I’m probably one of the rare species around who would ask for ginisang ampalaya for my last meal. Altho Ches is by far the healthier between the two of us, coz he doesn’t like porkchops and chicharon and potato chips and doesn’t have a sweet tooth like I do (which is one of the reasons why I married him – coz then it guaranteed me sole ownership over all the chocolates in the house). We both regularly work out too, me with my taebo and him with his weights and bike. We have this fear thatYosh will turn out to be some kind of a glutton, what with McDo and KFC and 7-11 being a mere two minutes away from home and with his grandparents and titos feeding him junk and softdrinks the minute our backs are turned.

At almost 20 kilos as of last count (an ideal weight for 6-year-olds, according to his pedia’s chart), Yoshi is a long way off from the time I fired the maid bcoz she didn’t have the powers to get him to eat. I knew that it was only partly her fault, that it was likely just a phase that Yosh was going thru. He did have some of what I call the Hunger Phase, where he would take one bite of something and a few gulps of milk and that’s it. I almost cannot wait for this phase again. Just to equalize things, to make up for all this time he’s been pigging out.

Not to mention assuage my fears that I may soon have to divert my shopping funds to cater to little Shaq’s incredible appetite.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fit to be Queen

Working out was just one of those things I did together with Donemark, Jon and Rhoel. Free use of the Mandarin's gym and pool was part of the law firm's benefits. It was The Life - we had just passed the bar and no one was paying us much attention yet in the office (except I think Donemark, that early in the relationship) so we could pretty much show up at elevenish and be in the elevator by 6PM. We'd walk the two minutes from Pacific Star to Mandarin, and there, burning excess fat in the imposing machines, lounging by the sauna after the work-out, and rubbing elbows (literally too) with expat wives and serious sports buffs and even showbiz types - we felt rich. Of course, we often capped the night off pigging out in Hapchang or North Park or somewhere, so this defeats the whole staying-fit purpose.

I usually stuck to the treadmill and the punching bag. I tried this rowing thing but it hurt my arms too much and there was also a bike thing that hurt my legs in turn. The treadmill is best for my asthma and I could leisurely walk and sometimes jog while watching the Lifestyle Network (Molto Mario, Wolfgang Puck, this show that's all about chocolate). The punching bag is perfect for releasing stress. On a particularly unbelievable day in the firm I snuck out and ran to the gym and went punching and kicking away. The instructor joked, "Let me guess. Fight with your boyfriend?" And I replied, "No. I'm pretending this is my boss and I'm trying to maim her!"

I stopped going to the gym a few months before my wedding. My gown maker would complain that I was losing weight and she had to make all these adjustments yet again. I figured the work-out had to be the culprit bcoz I was eating the same (meaning, a lot. Suffice it to say that when Rhoel sees the food on my plate he is compelled to ask whether I'm feeding an anaconda in my tummy.) And then I got pregnant and became a mummy and hardly had time to even comb my hair. And when I managed to have a little time for myself again we had moved to Net One and then it would take a real effort to go to the gym bcoz there was travel involved (and I'm not really one to exert any effort at all unless required by law, morals or public policy).

Fortunately, one of the pleasant surprises that awaited me in my new job was that the office had its own gym that was renovated too just when I came in. It's not five-star hotel material, but the treadmill is high-tech, and there was even an Ab King Pro at the start (tho it got busted before I got even a semblance of the promised abs). There are classes on taebo, Pilates, even, for a time, ballroom dancing. I joined up the taebo class in the neighboring office recently. The instructor is this graceful dancer type who makes hilarious comments thru-out the hour-long class. He'd joke about all the thunder thighs that he sees in front of him, and scold everyone for pigging out on chocolates and chicharon and mountains of rice, and even give unsolicited advice on our sex lives. He's A Character.

It's so much fun that I'm back to working out on a more or less regular basis (less, really). And it gives my relatives abroad the perfect reason to get me nice gym-related stuff (like this black Nike tank top from an aunt and my new pair of gray and yellow Adidas from my sis). As Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't kill other people. Or at least not the killing beyond knocking out a punching bag and hoping your boss somehow ends up with the black eye for it.

Monday, June 19, 2006


She came into our lives on a rainy night. It was a Thursday, and she weighed 5.14 pounds. Just like Yosh. Rino’s first thought was that she was going to grow up to be as heavy as Yosh. I guess he was already agonizing over the lump of weight he had to be carrying around soon. Jen and I were talking when Mama texted that Vada’s out (11 hours since Grace’s water bag broke). We squealed and hung up so Jen can call her and then I was crying and crying and stopped only bcoz Yoshi was getting sad and started whimpering quite dramatically beside me.

She was named after the main character in My Girl, Vada Sultanfuss. It has got to be my brother’s favorite movie of all time. Mama bought him the VHS of My Girl 1 and 2, and I got him the books, the covers of which Jen scanned so he could hang the posters in his room. The story is so charming and poignant, and the lead (Anna Chlumsky) so pretty that in the movie a woman said to her, “If I had a face like yours I wouldn’t have to talk so much” (which is the same argument I use on Ches when he starts to complain that I talk way too much – that I have to make up with my wit what I lack for in looks). We love the soundtrack too. I short-listed My Girl the song for my bridal march, but Here, There and Everywhere won out.

We loved Vada even before she was born. Yoshi is the first grandchild, alright, but Vada, she was going to be our baby girl. We were going to dress her up in pinks and florals and Disney princesses. She was going to grow up angelic and demure and oh so pretty. Even Yoshi fell in love with her at first sight. He used to reply with a resounding and furious No when we asked him if he wanted a baby sister or brother. But he changed his mind when he saw Vada. He went around singing The Sister Song from Barney, and would refer to her as “my adeng” (Ilocano endearment for a younger sib). The dogs were – as usual – protective of the newest addition to the family, especially Jarjar, who used to suspiciously follow around anyone who carried the baby Yosh, as tho he was going to be kidnapped anytime.

Vada arrived just in time to make my brother (born a mere 10 months after me) a daddy by Fathers’ Day. This is the same boy who threw a big rock at my head when we were kids and broke my hair band right down the middle (which head injury must explain why I get all muddled up sometimes). We were playmates until high school, and one time while we were running around the house we hit the cassette player and the whole thing including the speakers crashed on the floor and we never saw our dad more livid. I camped in his room till I was in law school, and he threw me out only when Jen got married and moved out of the house already, bcoz by then we had like three other vacant rooms in the house. He’d carry all 20+ kilos of Yoshi in one arm while the other steered his bike round and round the neighborhood. To this day, he still criticizes me for the way I dress (or not dress, more like). He remains among the few males who can make me dissolve into giggles with just one word or look, and who can make me cry like I would never ever stop without having to do or say anything.

I didn’t know it was possible for a sister to love him more than I already did. But then came Vada.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Save the Carillon

Went to a fund-raiser for the UP centennial in 2008 last week. The Ayala group was the first corporate partner chosen by the alumni association for such an event. (My guess is they were doing it in alphabetical order.) Thom, Pau and I were part of the organizing committee and also consisted the entire attendance for the office when the hosts called the roll. We actually have a lot of UP alumni but for some reason they couldn't make it, or they just couldn't care less.

Batches were called by decade and I was so happy that I could join the youngest batch (graduates from year 2000 up) even if I really graduated from undergrad in 1996. The UP President delivered a stirring speech on the beginnings of UP and where it's supposed to head given adequate funds. She even had a presentation comparing the average salaries of UP professors with those from Ateneo and La Salle. It turns out that the highest-paid UP teacher gets around P30k, hence the joke that missionaries are found not only in church, but also in UP.

Performers from the College of Music sang opera and kundiman while we were asked to sign forms pledging any portion of our salaries for the general centennial fund or specific projects of our choice. I chose the restoration project for the carillon. For me, it's the most enduring symbol of UP, next to the Oblation. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else. In the rare times that I had the good luck to be within hearing distance as it played, I loved how I could just get lost in the music while I walked under the acacia trees that look older than forever. Also, I remember how Jon arranged for the carillon to play my and Ches' favorite love songs as we made our way to our reception in Bahay ng Alumni from the UP Chapel on our wedding day. (Too bad no musician was available that day, but nonetheless, for me it remains to be Jon's most brilliant idea yet. I love you, Jon!)

The last part was singing the UP Naming Mahal, with the signature raised arms and clenched fists towards the end. It's an unbearably slow song with an achingly sad melody, and somehow it always manages to make me feel young again. Young and with the balls to do something worthy of the taxpayers' money that saw me thru eight years of quality education. Young and still optimistic that a better life awaits all of us Filipinos.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lost in Translation

I have the most unusual friendship with a former client from my law office. I was still single when I started to work on his account, mainly involving the registration of a landholding company to own a beachfront property in Batangas. I hardly did any other work for the account after that, but he still set up these meetings with me whenever he and his Pinay girlfriend visited the country around Christmas. He always brought me chocolates and wine, too, and toys for Yosh even, after I gave birth. To justify these meetings in the office, he'd usually have some non-urgent legal request like for me to draft his will (which he never executed) or help him with further land acquisition in the south (which never materialized).

He kept in touch even after I left the law office. He'd take me out to dinner in places like Paseo Uno and Spices. The lobby of the Manila Pen is his favorite. He says it's his kind of place, quiet and not too crowded, not too cold and with live music besides. To keep up the pretext of a lawyer-client relationship, he'd have a checklist of little legal matters for me to handle, like check up on his bank accounts, advise him on the requirements for a lending company that he plans to set up here. I never bill him for these things and he's never offered to pay. Altho, I must admit, I was kind of hoping he would already after I drafted this agreement where I will act as trustee for the beachfront thing (which agreement he has approved but hasn't signed by the way). Sigh. Well, there's still Christmas. And he did hint about inviting me and Ches to Spain someday. Hope springs eternal.

He's really more of a friend to me than a client. He fascinates me bcoz he's the only one of his kind among my friends. He's truly ancient, at 66, a full 10 years older than my own parents. He was born in Ireland, raised in London and now based in Spain. He was married first to a Brit then to an American and then he had the Pinay girlfriend. He has an estate in Malaga portions of which he sold to friends who are like British royalty or something. He gossips about Lord Smith who's having an affair with Lady something-or-the-other. What I love about him is he talks about these things like they're all a matter of fact, no hint of bragging, like he just happened to be extremely wealthy and these people just happened to be his neighbors. I also love that he's so well-read and well-traveled. So I can talk to him about inane stuff like Da Vinci Code and Maeve Binchy. And he tells me amazing stuff like this tribe in Namibia that's still a hunter-gatherer society, or his lawyer-nephew who developed an allergy to gluten. He has a sense of humor, too. Last time we were having beef mignon in the lobby of the Pen, and the band played The Music of the Night, and I just had to touch his arm to tell him this is one of my favorite songs of all time, and he promptly stopped chewing and solemnly asked, "Should we stop eating?" Oh, of course in the middle of his story about buying this 300-year old building in Dublin I almost snap and stand and point a finger at him and yell, if you're so rich why don't you write me a check for all these crazy little legal things you ask me to handle. If only this were a movie. Sigh.

But my heart goes out to him, too. His Pinay girlfriend has broken up with him, so now he just comes here to visit their two kids, and take his elder daughter to Disneyland or for a vacation with him in Spain or something. I told Ches, this guy must be an immensely lonely person if he has the time to email me regularly and take me out on these long dinners whenever he's here. I mean, if he had a better life, why would he waste his time being friends with a nobody like me? I don't think it's to avail of my free legal services, bcoz he never really needs it anyway. Rommel has a theory tho. According to him, this guy must have the hots for me. Rommel has an amazing and endless supply of crazy ideas, I swear. How can a man as old as Abraham even feel any hots for anyone? It's not allowed.

No matter. My friendship with him makes me feel like we're in Lost in Translation, and if this is the only way I can get to play Scarlett Johansson, I'm happy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mightier than the Sword

I recently listened to Katrina Legarda speak about grammar and punctuation and writing styles in an MCLE class. It’s one topic I can thankfully relate to, unlike the trial techniques and arbitration proceedings and stuff in the past classes, things as alien to me as rocket science.

I know that some people are as averse to writing as I am to, say, math. I know that addition and multiplication and basic stuff like those are important, but algebra, geometry and trigo? I almost did not make it thru high school bcoz of these devils. My philosophy is, if X wants to know what Y equates, positive A can run along and help him. So there. I even wrote something about hating math. Too bad I didn’t keep a copy. It would’ve made for a nice blog.

I have always enjoyed writing. I remember in grade school and high school we’d be given like the whole of English or Filipino class to write a composition, and while most everyone would groan and whine I’d be humming. I’ve always looked at it as a form of expressing myself in a way that is concrete and lasting. I mean, you can tell a story and make people laugh or cry, but after that, you can relive it only in your memory. Yeah, you can always re-tell the story, but the second time may not quite convey the same emotions anymore, or maybe you said it all wrong the first time. But if it’s written, you can edit it, and keep going back to it whenever you feel like it, and it stays exactly the same unless you touch it.

I write essentially for myself alone. I don’t need to be published or read by other people. And when I manage to write something I am completely satisfied with, then it’s a different kind of high for me. It’s inexplicable. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when other people say nice things about your writings. It’s something more profound than, say, a compliment about how you look, bcoz there you have to think, is it really you or your outfit from Theme or Kamiseta or wherever. But when it’s your writing that people like, it’s as if they approve of you as a person, your way of looking at things, your sentiments.

Anything at all can inspire me to write. I can compose an entire story out of the title of a poem or a line in a song, or write on and on about something as silly as wildflowers or a toddler’s antics. When Ches and I are in the middle of a discussion and I’d suddenly get quiet, he’d say, “You’re blogging, aren’t you?” And I’d giggle bcoz it’s true, I’m forming an idea for a blog in my head. (This is what you need a good husband for. To find you doing something utterly selfish and completely useless – like shopping, too – and lets you do it, anyway.)

I would’ve taken Journalism in college if Uncle Ben didn’t dissuade me from it. He’s a prolific writer. He wrote for magazines and comics before his family migrated to the States, and even there he wrote all these poems that won awards and cash prizes. He would read Neruda on his vacations here. He advised me to take up a practical course so I could land a good job coz he said I could always write on the side, anyway. (Of course, I think what he had in mind was something other than what I do now, i.e., blogging during working hours.) He passed away a few years ago, but his legacy lives on, if only thru his runaway bestseller, the tragically lovely poem, If You’re Ever Going to Love Me.

To my sis and Ches and his friends and all my friends who read my blogs and who, even if they are too shy to post their comments on this site but text and email and say nice things about what I write, thanks. You inspire me to keep writing week after week. I’m not about to compel you to keep reading, but, hey, it wouldn’t really be my loss, would it :)