Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ate's Brat

All is quiet in the home front these past few days. Yoshi the blabbermouth is in Hongkong with Jen, Mom, Rino and Vada. Ches and I miss Yosh terribly, and I think even Boots too. But we're secure in the thought that Jen is there to mommy Yosh around (Mom and Rin will have their hands full with Vada, who weighs a ton and is v-e-r-y high-maintenance.)

The Yoshi-Tita Jenny love story started way back in infancy. I was new to all the motherhood business then, barely able to keep my eyes open thru-out the day after another night of endless nursing and diaper-changing and rocking and singing lullabies. Jen would waft in like some fairy godmother in the afternoon and take over the babysitting chores so I could take a much-needed nap. (She was then pretending to be busy reviewing for her US nurses' exams, but all I saw her really do was shop and cross-stitch and surf the net hahaha.) That early in the relationship, Yosh was already a budding brat and would cry from 4 to 7 PM on like a daily basis for no reason that his family or pedia or medical books or folk lore could decipher. At that time of the day only Jen would have any patience and enthusiasm left to march him all around the house in the three or so hours that it took to calm him down. She did everything else, too - change his nappies, give him baths and medicine, feed him solids. Come to think of it, about the only thing she didn't do was breasfteed him. (Hahaha.)

When we moved to Matatag, she made the trip just to be able to spend the day with him while we were at work. When she moved to the States, she looked for him first when she called. She thought the so many dollars cost of the phone call was worth it if he so much as spoke ten words to her, even if it was merely to enumerate his wish list from her, ranging from the harmless like mac and cheese, Legos, to the obscenely impractical like Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort action figures. When she sent packages, he was always the runaway winner in toys, gadgets, clothes and food. She claims he's the reason she came back to the country last year, and again this year. Me and Ches, we try to convince Jen (and other titas and titos as well as grandparents) to give money instead of goodies, money that's better spent on the boys' education and vaccination and other important stuff. But of course we don't fool anyone. Besides, they don't earn any pogi points fron Yoshi if they gave money that he doesn't even know to spend yet. So we just watch helplessly as Jen gleefully hands him another big bucket with 60 million shades of Play Doh that doesn't even last 24 hours before Yoshi turns it into one big icky greyish blob.

Beyond the bribes, I think part of the reason the two get along so well is that they are so much alike – both are first-borns, OC, used to getting their own way and shamelessly resorting to dramatics and tantrums when they don’t, like soft drinks and chicharon and same such brain-deadening stuff, derive inexplicable pleasure out of romantic flicks no matter how incredible the plot, and take 20 years to swallow any given medicine. Is it any wonder that weeks before she flies in to visit and long after she goes back to the States Jen is number one in Yoshi's list of the people he loves. Quite a feat considering it's an ever changing list. One night I'm number one and the next I inexplicably fall into an odd, disgraceful place like 49 or something. (Groan.)

Jen told me that Yosh is known at work as her brat. Apparently everyone knows what a sucker she is for everything he demands. She has an officemate who has the same passionate love affair with her nephew. I hear that they greet each other in halls with "How's your brat?" and stuff. What a riot.

Well, if all this spoiling gets my child an all-expense-paid trip to Hongkong Disneyland, then why not. I'm thinking, maybe if I had a relative who let me be as much of a brat as I wanted when I was a little girl, then maybe I wouldn’t have grown up to be such a biotch. Or, actually, I would have ended up being more of a biotch is the more likely outcome. Hahaha.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pumping Scenes

Is it me, or do other moms also have a hard time keeping their breastfeeding business private? It was easier the first time with Yosh, coz then I had my own room in the law office. All I had to do was lock up, plug in my good old Medela breast pump, and pump away. After some time I got so adept at it I could do it while replying to a client’s email or while engaged in a telecon. No one bothered me as long as I put up the sign on my door, with a drawing of a plump cow, that says: Milking in process. Sorry for the inconvenience. The sign was from Jocelyn, one of my favorites in the law office, who nursed and expressed milk for all of her four kids. I wanted to make a naughtier version of the sign, one that would say: Pumping scene. Not for boys. Hahaha.

That room with the modern and expensive furnishings, plus a lovely view of The Fort besides, was part of the perks I had to give up when I moved to my present job in Balara. (I love to stress where I work. It always brings a surprised and somewhat puzzled expression on the faces of the people I talk to. They probably expect me to mention some elegant address in Makati or Ortigas or The Fort. But I am just so over the yuppie phase. I’m happy to be in my age-old office with the ancient Carriedo fountain in front, and not having to endure the daily traffic in EDSA or C5, just having to pass by UP campus, and that’s it – I’m home or in the office in 10 minutes. Besides, you’ll never find any sunflowers in the business districts, and hardly any flame trees too.) In my present office, only the 7 biggest bosses get their own rooms, and we mere mortals have to be content with a miniscule cubicle that’s just enough to contain my PC, some law books (used purely as props to convince everyone that I did go thru law school), some pix of my boys and a drawer that’s supposed to hold my office supplies but which actually hides my stash of junk food that I much on day-long. Definitely no place to express one’s breast milk in.

So what I would do in the three times that I have to pump in a work day is to look for a conference room that’s not being used or in a boss’s room when he or she is abroad or out of town or otherwise away and not likely to pop back into the office and catch me doing the deed in their rooms. It came to a point where the secretaries would call me and announce that the bosses have gone and their rooms are mine for the taking. It was hilarious.

There is actually a room devoted for this purpose, but it’s in the clinic way down at the basement, and it’s too much hassle to have to wait for the building’s Jurassic elevator that lets me grow several inches and gray hairs before it finally shows up. Until finally, the President’s executive assistant, who became my friend when we were thrown together in HK, took pity on me and graciously offered the room of a former boss who is now a director and who shows up in the office maybe once or twice a year when there’s a grand occasion or something. Ah, sanctuary.

Naturally, with all that running around in search of a private spot to pump in and the cleanest ref where I could store my bottles with expressed milk, all that meticulously washing up my breast pump paraphernalia in the wash room, pretty soon everyone in the second floor knew what I was up to. Male and female alike. From the bosses down to the janitors. So now everyone greets me not with the usual Hi or Good morning, but with stuff like, “Atty., nagbe-breastfeed ka pa ba?” or even worse, “Hi, Ma’am. Nag-pump ka na?” And naturally when they tell me such stuff they surreptitiously glance down at my boobs like they expect it to drip with milk any given moment. Aaaaargh….

But if there’s one thing that a second Lamaze childbirth gives you, it’s a delusion of invincibility, like you can take on anything, and renewed audacity to try and get away with murder. That first time with Yosh, I was quite prudish about the whole breastfeeding business. When Pops would take me to work with Mom and Yosh in tow, I’d cringe when there was traffic in EDSA and the people in the bus would openly stare at my naked breast that Yosh would be greedily suckling on. I even brought along bottles of expressed milk at his baptism bcoz I didn’t feel comfortable feeding him in front of all our guests. (Of course, brat that he was, that early in the relationship, he didn’t take a single drop and just cried his lungs out thru-out the event. Hence, his deafening wails are all you hear in his baptism video. Groan.)

But this second time around, I’ve thrown all sense of decorum and privacy out the window, I don’t care if we’re at the mall or grocery or bank or resto - at the slightest whimper from Boots, we plop down and nurse away. I don’t care that everyone around takes a second look or outrightly gawks at us. One of these days I’m going to snap at them, What are you looking at? It’s not like I’m kissing my paramour in public or something. It’s all perfectly natural. Not to mention healthy and cheap. Hel-lo.

This is why I’m thankful to Rustan’s for coming up with a feeding room. It’s not much, just bare walls and a lone seat, but at least it’s private. I remember when I had a meeting in Ayala Tower that went beyond 5. Everyone I knew had gone home already so I had to locate by myself a room where I could pump. All I managed to find was the pantry, with a door that had no lock. So what I did was, I pushed a chair against the door, sat on it and pumped away. (Sigh. Motherhood.)

I knew I had reached a new level when I spent the whole day in Manila Pen for a seminar, so I had no choice but to pump in the females’ wash room. There was a socket in the ante-room so that’s where I did it, in full view of all the females (and there were a lot of them) who used the washroom. I was thinking, whaddahell, we’re all females here, we all have the same set of boobs (and if they didn’t, that’s their abnormality, not mine). I could have easily used the battery and locked myself in a cubicle, but I pump a lot more in a shorter period using electric power. Besides, I like to live dangerously.

Like I told Ches, they’re not porn star material, they’re not the most lovely nor the most bouncy – but they have got to be the most visible boobs this side of the metropolis.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Trial and Error

It was in one of those newer courtrooms in RTC-QC. The case involved the estate of a client who passed away while the case was pending. I was all of 25 years old, just passed the Bar, and the judge, a pleasant grandfather type, was teasing me about my age, asking over and over whether I was old enough to graduate from college, much less practise law. I tried to keep my dignity intact thru-out, just sticking to the merits of the case and letting his flippant comments pass. Just when I finally convinced him I was mature and knowledgeable enough to be a lawyer, just as he granted a re-setting of the hearing like I requested, my cellphone rang, loud and clear, to the tune of Sesame Street.

And that was the end of my litigation career.

It’s not like I wanted to be a trial lawyer to begin with. I was in that courtroom only as part of my orientation program in the law firm, where all new lawyers have to spend some time in a specific practice group to help you decide which field you really want to be in. It’s not that I’m a total loser in the few cases I’ve handled. I can even recall two cases in OLA (Office of Legal Aid in UP, where graduating students are allowed to handle cases for indigent clients) where I was able to get favorable judgments for my clients. One was a support claim which unfortunately we couldn’t execute because the respondent was untraceable. The client, an oldish woman with two unruly kids, a character by any standard, threatened to light black candles for me so I wouldn’t pass the Bar. (What an ingrate. This after I had just given her free legal services. Is it my fault the father of her kids did a disappearing act? Last time I checked I was only a law student, not some genie in a magic lamp.) The second case involved a guy who was arrested while playing basketball, for allegedly stealing a case of soft drinks the night before. I filed a motion to quash – or something exotic like that – on the ground that it was an illegal warrantless arrest, which motion was – surprise - granted. (Gosh, I have fond memories of this case. I remember braving the Malabon floods to visit my client in jail and appear in the RTC. Not to mention the mother was always bringing me yummy sapin-sapin haha.)

It’s not even that I don’t enjoy litigation. On the contrary, I quite relish the whole formality and frumpiness of it, with everyone having to stand in attention when the judge enters and leaves, everyone trying to be on his best behavior thru-out the hearings. It’s about the only place where you can still get away with such pompous statements as, “Your Honor, may it please the court”, or “With all due respect to my opposing counsel”, or, “Objection. He’s badgering the witness.” (Gosh, it’s a throwback to the Victorian era.) It’s in these stiff upper lip production numbers where the best comedies happen. Where do you think people got all those courtroom jokes in emails and comic strips and books?

It’s just that I never saw myself as fit to be a lawyer, much less a trial lawyer. Not with the way I can get emotionally involved with a beggar I meet on the street for less than 60 seconds. I can’t handle the stress of being responsible for someone going to jail or losing his job on my account. I don’t want that kind of moral baggage hanging all over me and keeping me from finishing a full-board meal. No, thanks.

Again as part of the law firm program I was on rotation with Labor and represented some big hotel which fired a guitarist bcoz it was shifting from acoustics to a jazz ensemble or something. While waiting for the Labor Arbiter I made small talk with the guitarist, asking him how he was and whether he has found a new job yet. He replied in the negative and stated, with meaningful dagger looks, that his daughter had to stop going to school bcoz he could no longer afford the tuition. Ugh. I remember another case that Jon the eminent labor lawyer handled, involving a secretary or something who was fired by the expat boss bcoz she was caught literally with her hands in the boss’ cookie jar. Unbelievable. (This is why I’m always teasing Jon how he can manage to sleep at night hahaha.)

To be honest, I’m petrified of doing litigation. I think to be a good trial lawyer you not only have to know your case inside out, you also need a good grasp of all the laws that have ever been passed and all the jurisprudence that have ever been written. A bit of a tall order for a slacker like me who just gets by using in my legal memos the most basic legal principles of, say, due process or unjust enrichment or freedom of stipulation in contracts. (You won’t believe the variety of questions you can answer with these things. The HR staff will ask me, Can we terminate this employee? And I’d say, in so many words, Yes, as long as we observe due process. Can we recover the costs of our Cebu water permit? Yes, under the principles of unjust enrichment. Is this provision in the MOA valid? Well, under general civil law, the parties are free to agree on the terms of their contract.) It’s one thing to bluff my way thru an interview with the President for my present job when he asked whether I was familiar with the Water Code and the Clean Water Law. That’s just between him and me in the solitude of his room. But to pretend to talk legalese before a judge, with an opposing counsel ready to pounce on my every mistake, in front of an entire courtroom watching me make a fantastic fool of myself – this is a bit beyond my powers.

So I’ve decided early on that I wasn’t going to be a trial lawyer. I’d rather be a corporate lawyer and help foreigners invest in the Philippines, set up their call centers and techno park companies and regional headquarters and create jobs, advise them on their grant of stock options to their Filipino employees and purchase of land and buildings and acquisition deals. I’d rather be an environment lawyer and assist clients with their environmental compliance certificates and draft memos to convince MNCs there will be hell to pay under Philippine laws if they bring their toxic and hazardous wastes here. (You won’t believe the trash that all these big companies have planned to dump here. Electrical wires, broken TV screens, molded pet food, outdated ATMs. Hel-lo. What makes their nations so special that they have to be waste-free while we impoverished lot from the third world die a slow and painful death from the poisonous fumes emitted by their incinerated wastes? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked it was bad manners to throw your poop at the neighbors’. Grrr.)

And then later on I’ve decided I’d rather be an in-house counsel and leave all the stressing and meeting deadlines and trying to please the clients all the time to the external lawyers. Even better. Mwahaha.