Friday, June 29, 2012

Love Jewel Week

Sometimes people can be too nice to you for no apparent reason that it makes you wonder whether they know something you don’t, like maybe your husband is having an affair, or you were adopted or something. Haha.

Last week Ate emailed me as usual, but this time she waxed sentimental about how she wishes I was in the US with her throughout all four seasons, bcoz she knows just how much I’m going to enjoy the change in nature, and scenery, and everything. (And the fashion, Ate! You forgot how I’m going to so enjoy the change in fashion every season! Hahaha.) And she said she realizes this is not possible for now bcoz I can’t leave my boys and my job, so she just counts her blessings and is grateful that we can visit her one season at a time. That was a lovely email from Ate. On top of everything, she’s also so sweet to me and my boys.

And then this couple whom I love gave me bakkwa from Singapore. I have tremendous respect and admiration for this couple bcoz they are both so successful and yet so warm, nurturing, and down-to-earth. If I could choose my parents in my next life, it will probably be them. Haha. My kids love bakkwa, too.

After the food came a hand-woven, pure silk scarf made by Cambodian artisans, from another person. It came in the perfect shade of muted pink, too. It’s exquisite and completely unexpected. This person said it was a thank you for my being ‘a jewel’, and an apology for not having enough time chatting with and protecting me. Owww. I cried and cried.

The following day I got a huge bottle of Lanvin perfume from yet another person. Wow, it was like Christmas all of a sudden! The giver told me it was in appreciation for my willingness to stick my neck out in thorny situations, and for having brains, to boot. Oooh, I have brains – that’s a relief to know. Hahaha. Always the character, this person.

I don’t know who it was who declared last week Love Jewel Week, but whoever you are, and to the above people who received and complied with the memo – thank you =)

(Photo credit goes to Ate. Oh, the lovely Cape Cod hydrangeas!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amazing List 9

1. False alarms of sad news, like Yoshi moving back to our family bedroom past midnight of the same night he moved out. All that drama for nothing. Hahaha. I love my boys.

2. Friends who have the grace and humility to apologize when they realize they’ve pissed you in some way

3. Saturday dinners at one of our favorite Chinese restos, and under the glow and joy of fireworks, to boot.

This is followed by walking by the bay where we encounter all sorts of glorious gay people, and the boys are happy just looking at all the flashy rides. How perfect can a family evening get?

4. Spending holidays hanging out with our favorite people, such as Eycee and Robert

5. Sancho's in the neighborhood, a nearer, cheaper alternative to Dulcinea, with the same good food, including desserts and hot choco

6. Throwing all caution to the wind and fighting back if you know you’re being picked on, never mind if the perpetrator happens to be All High And Mighty. What’s even more amazing is, when you make the right moves and she ends up being The Biggest Inside Joke for many more weeks to come. Ha! (Like Babette always says: wag mo akong subukan dahil pumapatol ako. Mwa ha ha. Babette is my hero in many ways.)

7. Surprise treats from the girls, like Ann’s at Congo Grille, and Karen’s at Chophouse. I have the best lawyers and paralegals, I swear.

8. Holding my own with the MDs and PhDs in the office, especially if our lunch conversation mostly revolves around my kind of low-brow humor like funny names (such as Edgar Allan Pe, Jonathan Livingston Sy, Kurt T. Tinio, and the like)

9. Vada’s Contis birthday dinner of kare-kare, parmesan-crusted fish fillet, and blueberry cheesecake. Yummy.

10. Free lunches courtesy of the office, catered by the canteen, and then at Mario’s. Consolation for toxic weeks. Haha.

11. Everything and anything Hello Kitty, from the Eva Air airline that Karen and Thina told me about (where EVERYTHING is Hello Kitty - from the boarding passes to the food to the toothbrushes - EVERYTHING, I'm telling you), and the pix emailed to me by Ate of what she called her dream house. We’re not sure if the house is even real or where it is, but the Hello Kitty airline definitely exists, and Ate and I are already planning to ride one of these beauties. Hahaha.

12. 60 million daily emails from Ate, usually with fabulous pictures of Cape Cod in the summer, everything from flowers to beaches to ice cream trucks. Ate likes to pretend she misses only my kids, but I know deep down she longs for my malditaness, too. Hahaha. I love my Ate.

13. Learning new things everyday, such as the fact that some lighthouses in the Cape (like the one in Hyannis) are actually privately-owned. Whaddawhack?! If that isn't The Height Of Rich. Now I know exactly what I want for my birthday. Paging Chester. Hahaha.

14. Yoshi’s bottomless confidence, that makes him nominate himself in all positions for class officers except secretary (he hates his handwriting). HAHAHA. Now here is one boy whom we can be sure has no self-esteem issues. And there are his never-ending put-downs to me as well. I noticed that his Yoda shirt is getting too small for him, and he gushes: Wow, Mommy, I’m so surprised you know Yoda!!! Whaddawhack, right? Who needs comedy bars when I have Yoshi?

15. Cuddling with a four-year-old on the couch while watching some silly show on Nickelodeon. It’s one of the most peaceful, most idyllic moments you can ever have. When I hold Boots in my arms like this and he snuggles right back – there is nothing more I can ask for.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I’ve been excited to go to Taal since I saw a feature on it in Mabuhay or some other airline magazine last year. I didn’t know it had so many old churches and ancestral homes. It’s sad that when you say Taal people just think of Tagaytay bcoz of Taal Volcano, when Taal is an entirely different town with so much more to offer than Tagaytay. So I told Pops about Taal, and he liked the road trip idea bcoz he’s also into old and native stuff (he's fiercely patriotic). So we went as soon we got us a sunny weekend.

Our first stop was the grandest of them all – Taal Basilica (more properly, the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours). Oh wow. This church is amazing. It is easily one of the most breathtaking churches I’ve seen (and, as you know, I go out of my way just to have a look at all these churches).

It holds the distinction of being the biggest Catholic church in Asia.

The tabernacle is made of silver, the only one of its kind in the Philippines.

The ceiling has a trompe l’oeil painting that gives it a 3D effect in the late morning sun. Even the boys thought it was cool. Haha.

It also has what I call the royal box (Ches says it's the pulpit) typical of old churches. Manaoag Church has this, as well as St. Louis Bertrand in Pangasinan where my parents got married.

I wandered and discovered the baptismal area. So old, serene, and beautiful. I wouldn't mind having our next baby baptized here. Hahaha.

A wedding had just finished when we got to the church. There was a spanking white limousine parked right on the church entrance. People were lining up to have their pictures taken with the thing. Hahaha. Boots and Pops were among them, of course.

I love Taal Basilica. It drives home the point that there is so much heartbreaking beauty to see all around you if you only take the time to look.

We went to the Caysasay Church next. It’s like this small parenthesis compared with the Basilica (haha), but equally exquisite in a more manageable, less overwhelming style. I love the colorful ceiling and the altar that, unlike in most churches, is not elevated and is the same level as the rest of the pews. It looks warmer and less intimidating that way.

I prefer the back of the church more than the façade. It looks so old and sturdy and you can almost see the characters of Noli Me Tangere lounging around here. Haha.

Our Lady of Caysasay is said to be miraculous. She was said to leave the church at night and found by a fisherman named Juan Maningkad in the Pansipit River. Playful, aren’t we. Haha.

Behind the Caysasay Church is the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps, another ancient structure from the 1800s that has since been dedicated to the first Filipino saint.

The 125 steps lead all the way to the Basilica. A bit nearer than that (at about 20 steps or so) is the Well of Sta. Lucia. It is marked by a grand stone arch with the image of Our Lady of Caysasay in the center. The water from the well is again said to be miraculous and heals all kinds of body pains. I was more interested, tho, in the arch, which looks like the ruins of a magnificent old church.

Following the typical structure of town squares established during the Spanish colonization, Casa Real, the town hall, is right across the Basilica.

To the right of the Basilica is Escuela Pia, an old school from the Spanish times. I feel bad that I didn’t see it until we were well on our way and so I wasn’t able to take pictures. I did take pix of this old school and ancestral home to the right of the church tho.

The street to the left of Casa Real is chockfull of majestic old houses. Some were in better condition than others. There were no historical markers tho so they were probably private and not open to the public.

We passed by the Apacible Museum but couldn’t find a parking space nearby. We also drove thru the Agoncillo Mansion. This house is like something out of a dream. If I had lived during the Spanish times, my house would look exactly like this. Hahaha.

Our last stop was for the boys’ balisong hunting. Aside from being a heritage town, Taal is also famous for the balisong (which originated from Barangay Balisong here) and barong.

I would’ve wanted to go thru all 14 items in my list of places to visit in Taal, but it was late and hot and the kids were fussy. I had six items more to go. If it were up to me, I would’ve spent all day wandering around the old houses and getting lost in the fantasy of living in a long gone era – but Leslie’s in Tagaytay beckons. Haha.

Oh well. Perfect reason to go back to Taal, I guess.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why We Lawyer

We were on our way out for lunch when Karen saw this employee whom some people wanted to dismiss, but she had put her foot down and said there’s just no legal basis. And she said this guy plus another one and another one and many others owe us their jobs - they’d have been out of here a long time if we didn’t insist on our legal advice that the company can’t fire or discipline them or even initiate any sort of administrative proceedings against them. And that’s when it struck me: this is why we lawyer, to save people who are otherwise not fully aware of their rights and have no idea how to defend themselves.

The realization that we are actually making a difference in people’s lives was gratifying. I’ve been a lawyer for 12 years now and it has been rare for me to feel the sense of fulfillment that comes from being able to help other people. In the law office, there were all the call centers I incorporated, which provided jobs to a lot of people. I also practised environment law, which made me feel good bcoz I got to advise clients that they can’t do what they have in mind bcoz it’s a violation of our environment laws. In MWC, there was our Cebu project, which aimed to bring potable water to the city’s residents using environmentally sound means. In the process, I also got to work with Didoy in the donation of several classrooms to two elementary schools in far-flung rural areas. It was also in MWC that I first handled corporate governance, which was a constant source of pride and joy bcoz there you essentially get to tell people to behave and mind their ethics.

Those feel-good parts are just isolated aspects of my job, tho. Most of the time my nose is buried in board meetings, negotiating and drafting contracts, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory compliance, corporate structuring, expansion projects, intellectual property, risk management - all those eternally lame stuff. Sure, there’s joy in being able to close a major deal or make the other party give in to your demands or finish a legal document that you know sufficiently protects the company’s interests. But gratification and fulfillment are hard to come by bcoz the benefits of your work are not easy to see. They’re like these intangible, nebulous concepts that do not seem to affect anyone or improve any lives. I mean, whodahell truly cares if my minutes of board meetings are oh so thorough and accurate and in flawless English, right? Corporate law work is miles away from being able to save a client from death row.

Into my fourth job now, I have found that, sure, the company that I work in matters, as do the boss, the office mates, all the perks. Part of what I have always looked for in a job, however, is the chance to do something worthy, to set things a little righter than how we found them. I remember that, even way into law school, Mom would wonder whether lawyering was for me. It’s supposed to be a cutthroat, show-no-mercy kind of job, and she knew that, deep down, beyond all the malditaness, I’m actually a softie. She wondered aloud about this every time we saw a little child begging on the street, or some stray kitten, or a poor guy from the slums wrongly accused of a gruesome crime, and I would say ‘kawawa naman’. Well, I never really wanted to be a lawyer – all I ever wanted to do was write – but now that I ended up being one, it makes me happy to be in a position where I can do more than just say ‘kawawa naman’.

From what Karen said about all the employees who are still roaming around the office bcoz we made a call that they had every right to stay, it was heartwarming to discover that even stiff, unexciting corporate lawyers like us who spend our days mostly typing away in our laptops if we’re not in our endless meetings - we can actually help other people. And even if they never realize that we fought for them to be able to keep their jobs, even if they never thank us for it, it is enough to know that we are capable of doing something good.

After all, that is why we lawyer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


We always go to Antipolo to hear Mass at the Cathedral and buy cashews in the stores around the church grounds. We never go anywhere else, tho, and I thought that was a shame bcoz surely Antipolo has more to offer. So I did some surfing, and chanced upon a 17th century church near the boundary to Tanay. And since Yoshi’s Filipino books always make a reference to Hinulugang Taktak, and Boots has never seen a waterfall, and we’ve never been there, I thought we should visit that as well, never mind friends’ warnings that it will be a major letdown. Haha.

Boso Boso Church was far, out of the way, in the middle of nowhere. You get the picture. It was so worth it tho. At least for me. I’m sure everyone else in our little family was like, here she goes again with her obsession for these old, dilapidated buildings. With four pairs of eyes (including Ate Ann’s) simultaneously rolling. Hahaha. Yoshi gave me This Look that clearly said: Who else goes out of town to visit creepy old churches when it's not even Visita Iglesia? Only Crazy Mommy. Hahaha.

It’s referred to in some sites as Boso Boso Ruins, but whatever ruins used to be there have been renovated and it is now a fully functional church. I was telling Ches how amazing it must be to hear Mass every Sunday in these ancient churches, like Paoay Church in Ilocos. Of course, Boso Boso is a lot less majestic and famous than Paoay, but it has its own charms.

I like the imposing façade, the clean simple lines of the pews, the bare altar.

My favorite was the brick walls. So ancient yet so sturdy still. Can you imagine all the stories these walls could tell, after standing in the same ground for hundreds of years?

I was happy that the huge church grounds were maintained and remained allotted for the church after all these years. This is what I miss in newer churches – there never seems to be any church grounds to speak of, as if they’re just a couple of slightly bigger houses. If you look at the old churches in the provinces, they occupy almost a whole compound. This is how I think it should be, if we are to give churches their proper place of honor.

Our next stop was Hinulugang Taktak. The place was old but at least it was clean. It was not as bad as we’ve been warned. The only thing that was heartbreaking was the trash in the water where the falls drop. It looks like it’s been there forever. You would think someone – anyone - would find the goodness of heart to clean it up. How hard can it be? I don’t care if they triple the measly P8 entrance fee if that’s what it would take to pay someone to clean the water. Just. Get. The. Trash. Out. Of. The. Water. Already!!!

We heard Mass at the Cathedral next. This church has one of the most exquisite altars I’ve seen. It reminds me of the altar in Manaoag church, albeit on a less grand scale. I’m amazed at the sheer number of people who hear Mass in this church on any given day, in all the times we visited.

After Mass we did our usual hoarding of cashews and suman (Yoshi LOVES suman). And then it was off to dinner and we gave Ches the choice since it was Fathers’ Day. Haha. He picked Chocolate Kiss in UP, and it was just perfect – with the rain beating down hard, the yummy spareribs, chicken fingers, adobo flakes, and dinuguan, and the boys happily pouring honey into the famous CK iced teas. We could not have asked for a happier Fathers’ Day, nor a better father than Ches to celebrate it with.