Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grieving takes time

By Karen Galarpe

Today, we went to the wake for the mother of a college friend, and I was struck by what my friend said. "Nu'ng nagpo-post ka tungkol sa Mommy mo, naisip ko nu'n, 'Kaya ko kaya pag dumating na sa point na 'yon?' Tapos ngayon, eto na."

It's been two and a half years since my mom passed away. Still, I think of her every day. I remember her when I see the flowers in the garden, and the near empty ref (my mom always shopped at the supermarket so our ref was always full). I think of her when I put night cream on my face -- her brand was more expensive -- and when I see her black and white photo in my dad's room. In that photo, she was smiling so warmly looking down at someone -- who turned out to be me as a baby.

In short, I still think of her, and I don't want to stop thinking about her.

The thought came to mind that God chose our mothers well. He picked the best mothers  for everyone. And I thank God for choosing my mom for me.

Six months after my mom passed away, I wrote the following on my Facebook wall. I read it again today and thought it may be somehow helpful to my college friend and all those who are grieving.

Here goes...

Last night, I had a dream wherein I hugged my mom. I can't remember now the context of that dream but I do remember the hug. :) And that's enough to put a smile on my face, and soothe my grieving heart.

It's been six months since my mom passed away, and someone just asked me last week, how are you coping with your grief?

Here's how:

1. I allow myself to grieve. Let go. There were -- and will be -- moments when I suddenly get reminded of my mom by the simplest of things: an empty Olay bottle, a J. Co donut, the Recipes restaurant sign, a pretty shawl. So I allow myself time to remember her and cry when I need to cry.

2. Daily, I ask God to tell my mom I love her, to hold her hand, and hug her for me.

3. I put a stop to the "If onlys." "If only I spent more time with her," "if only I made it to the hospital in time," "if only I took a leave from work." I can't bring back time so it's useless to dwell on the "if onlys."

4. I think about the times we've shared to replace the "If onlys." Times we went to the salon together, the times she would carry my son when he was still a baby, the times we would ride the Love Bus going to Cubao to shop for clothes when I was small, etc. And be thankful for those times.

5. Most importantly, I rely on God to see me through. The first two months were hard, and especially the first two weeks, but when you just ask God to sustain you each day, He does so. There were days when the most I could utter in prayer were: "Help me. Heal me. Comfort me." And He does. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed." (Psalm 34:18)

When my mom died, someone told me to be strong. I didn't want to be strong. And I don't have the capacity to be strong. Nakakapagod yon. But I've found that He gives enough strength to see me through each day.

6. I remind myself to allow time for healing. It was only two months after my mom died when I realized I stopped writing for six months. That was when my mom's health became more fragile and she started talking about dying.

Now for a writer, six months of no writing is like six months of not existing. Two months after my mom died, I started writing again, and once again experienced the exhilarating joy of finishing a personal essay or a feature story. My life coach asked me, "So what does that mean?" I replied, "I've started to heal."

A few months ago too, when I was contemplating on my career's future, my boss told me to my face, "You're grieving!" It was a sharp reminder to hold off making major decisions while my grief was still raw and fresh.

7. I stepped out only when I felt ready. I didn't want to go out much after my mom died. I had no energy after work, and just wanted peace and quiet. And so I was honest enough to tell friends who have been inviting me to events and parties and reunions that I just needed space. And I'm grateful they understood.

8. I remember that I don't have to grieve like others do. A few months ago, someone asked me at what stage of grieving I was in already -- denial, anger, acceptance? I said I'm not conscious of the process; I just allow myself to be.

9. I express myself. And this is why I post status messages like this. :) Or why I post photos of things that remind me of my mom. Or why I document our Sunday bonding moments at the cemetery. A friend told me months ago, "I see that you're still grieving based on your FB posts." Yes, I am, and this is me. I can't hurry up my grieving or pretend it's not there. You can always hide me from your wall if you'd rather not see what I post. :)

10. I share and reach out to someone. Only this year have I learned that there are people around me who have been carrying their grief or have not allowed themselves time to grieve for years. YEARS! Madugo yan. And so I take the time to listen, hold their hand, share what I've learned.

Grieve if you must grieve. It's the first step to healing.

(September 13, 2015 Facebook post)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm in the last chapter already of "Work Worth Doing Well" by Dr. Grace Koo (published by Church Strengthening Ministry, 2017). It's a good read and helps one take a look at his/her work -- does it make sense? Are you bored? Stressed? Are you happy? Healthy? Is it honest work? Dr Koo, with her educational psychology background, delves into the issue of work and gives expert tips to help one find meaning in one's work. It's worth reading!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us." Psalm 90:17

Friday, September 08, 2017

Sunday afternoon with Juan Luna and other artists

Inspired by my friend's recent road trips, I had this urge to go and see some art last Sunday. As in, right that day itself, whether or not someone could go with me.

I am that type of person who enjoys going to museums rather than shopping malls, to my late mother's frustration. "Ayoko sa museum!" she said when we were in LA many years ago and were thinking of where to go. Whereas we could drop her off at the mall in the morning and pick her up at the end of the day, I was the person who would gladly spend a day at the museum while travel buddies snap up good buys at shopping areas.

So after attending the second worship service at church last Sunday, I drove all the way to the National Museum of the Philippines on P. Burgos Street near the Manila City Hall. Never mind if I just had an hour to spare to go around before I had to do the groceries. I just had to go, no matter what.

Sundays, I found out, is the best time to go to the National Museum since there is hardly any traffic, save for a slowdown near the Quiapo Church area.

Entrance to the museum is now free. Visitors have to register first and sign the logbook, then deposit their belongings (save for wallet and cellphone) at the security desk.

That Sunday, there were quite a number of people visiting, mostly families or couples on dates. I was one of the few who went solo. Well, this was me-time and I was looking forward to it.

With just a little over an hour to spare, I focused on my favorite old paintings at the National Museum of Fine Arts at the old Legislative Building. 

Entering the museum, the first huge painting I saw was the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. I have seen this before a number of times but it still left me in awe. Such mastery and skill. There was beauty in the pain depicted. I could spend an hour just looking at it. 

Opposite it was Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo's The Assassination of Governor Bustamante, another huge oil painting done in the 1800s.

In the same hall was Guillermo Tolentino's sculpture Diwata, so perfect in its beauty.

In another hall, I found more of Juan Luna's iconic paintings, to my delight.

A post shared by Karen Galarpe (@kgalarpe) on

Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo were buddies, and the museum had a large reproduction made of National Hero Jose Rizal's sketch of them.

At a room dedicated to Jose Rizal, I found this small terra-cotta sculpture our national hero did back in 1893.

A copy of the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis given by Rizal to his wife Josephine Bracken was also on exhibit, together with the dedication.

In the hallway, I found this gem of a sculpture by Isabelo Tampinco.

There were many other paintings that struck a chord in me, such as those depicting the Battle of Manila, and the artworks of Fernando Amorsolo. There's indeed so much talent, so much beauty, in the Philippines.

Go spend a day (or an hour) at the museum. It's a great way to feed your heart and soul.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Someone gave me the book Agueda: A Ballad of Stone and Wind by Anna Maria "Bambi" Harper sometime ago but I only got to read it this year. Harper's writing is exquisite as she takes us to the world of an orphan who came of age during the transition from the Spanish colonial times to the American occupation. The book gives readers an idea of how women were regarded back then, and what life was like for both the upper class and the poor when the country had yet to experience real independence.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hey, I'm back!

Yup, I am reviving this blog because it's there and it's free and I have all these thoughts to share. 😊

This year I became a golden girl, and got reminded via a blood test that I am not getting younger. Those fatty foods (daily silog meals, for instance) I've eaten through the years drove up my bad cholesterol count to an unhealthy number.

And so, I resolved mid-year to take care of myself more: Eat better, sleep better, exercise better, rest better so as to be a better steward of this body.

That meant:
1. Changing my usual breakfast of silog meals to healthier options -- a protein shake, yogurt with granola, oatmeal, fruits, or a sandwich using whole wheat bread.
2. Giving up coffee. I used to take 1-3 cups of coffee a day. Coffee doesn't drive up bad cholesterol but it does make the body acidic.
3. Eating more veggies and fruits. Surprise -- I can have just a salad for a meal and still feel full.
4. Giving up sugary drinks. Bye bye soda and iced tea!
5. Choosing brown rice over white rice, and just half a cup please.
6. Snacking on healthier stuff like yoghurt, trail mix, wheat crackers, fruits (I love nilagang saba), fruit shake, nuts.
7. Sleeping earlier or trying to have at least 7 hours of sleep.
8. Checking my calendar to make sure there's ample rest time. It's not good to have a crowded schedule.
9. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
10. Drinking more water.

These are simple things I've done since May. I also went on the 28-day kit of the Yoli Better Body System where I followed a meal plan and took alkaline supplements and other healthy stuff. Results: 7.5 pounds off, cholesterol level now normal, and two inches off my waistline.

It's doable! Get on the road to health, friends!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading "How To Lead and Still Have a Life" by H. Dale Burke. Are you in a leadership position and feeling tired or burned out or overwhelmed? The author gives practical tips to help leaders in any situation (at work, ministry, etc.) such as making sure there's time for the 4 R's in one's schedule -- Rest time, Results time, Response time, Refocus time. Burke also reminds readers to guard one's heart -- what's in it? One's convictions stabilize the leader, strengthen character, and provide moral guidance, said the author. I've had this book for years but reading it at this time in my life opened my eyes to new truths. It's published abroad by Harvest House Publishers in 2004 and locally by OMF Literature Inc. in 2009. Great book for leaders!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. -- Proverbs 4:23

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The fire victims

The way he boarded the jeep took us all by surprise: first he slid a plastic drawer, no doubt part of a cabinet, with a jersey shirt covering the contents. Then he hoisted a little girl without shoes, with feet covered in soot. His wife then entered the jeep, with a baby in her arms. Only then did he board, his wide dirty unshodden feet quite noticeable.

The little girl whined that they have no slippers, to which the man grimly said, "Bibili na lang tayo."

He set the girl on top of the pile of clothes on the drawer in the jeepney aisle.

The family was quiet, and everyone in the passenger jeep seemed to have the same question even as the vehicle continued to weave through traffic on E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue.

"Nasunugan kayo?" the man's seatmate, a woman, asked curiously.

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The pamanhikan tradition

In this day and age, marriage has become optional, and even commitment too. Just take into account the various permutations of relationship statuses these days: just going out, hanging out, just friends, special friends, dating, exclusively dating.

Even President Benigno Aquino III is in some kind of relationship with TV host Grace Lee as they confirmed they were "officially dating."

That brings a question to mind: If there's such a thing as "officially dating", is there a status dubbed as "unofficially dating"?

And if so, is that the same as the MU (mutual understanding, or mag-un, for those who like each other but can't shout it out to the world) of a generation ago? What happened to good old-fashioned boyfriend-girlfriend commitment?

With commitment hanging in the balance, it was thus comforting and reassuring for me to note that some good old-fashioned traditions are still alive.

One of them is the pamanhikan.

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Kindness on the streets

Sometime last week, I was walking on Timog Avenue in Quezon City toward the car I parked. Some pavement tiles on the sidewalk were missing on the tight spot right next to the driver's door. 
Gingerly, I half tiptoed on the tiles that were still there but before I knew it—splat! My left sandal became half-submerged in black muck, as the rain drenched the city earlier that day.
"Ay si Ma'm, nalubog," said a middle-aged woman sitting on a stool on the sidewalk. 
"Ikaw kasi, diyan mo siya pina-park," she added, admonishing a young man who was scratching his head.
"Kuha ka ng basahan, dali," she said, and in a second, a younger woman produced a clean rag right beside my sandal, the type of rag being peddled on the streets for a peso each, made of cut retazos of cloth.
"Ah wag na, ok lang ako," I said. "Hindi naman ako nabasa," I explained, turning my foot so that I—and they—could see the sole of the half-muddied sandal, and my not-muddied foot.
"Ay hindi, ipunas mo diyan. Babaho yung sasakyan mo," the young woman said, while the older woman said something in agreement.
And so I stepped onto the clean rag on the sidewalk and twisted my sandaled foot left and right, while they looked on. The older woman said, "umulan kasi kanina."
I thanked them, got into the car, and soon I was on my way home.
While driving, it struck me that a homeless family chose to be kind and helped me that day.

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'Bagong Lipunan', the Metrocom, and my other memories of Martial Law

To my five-year-old mind, something was up.
I was too young to make sense of it all, but I do remember walking over with my mom and my sisters to the house of our neighbor, Tita Vita, one night. All the lights inside their house were on, and soon we were there in the sala where fellow neighbors were already praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Tita Vita seemed distraught. She was distraught and tearful. I remember this because Tita Vita was normally boisterous and happy. Things weren’t the same that night.
It was many years after when I remembered to ask my mom what happened that night at Tita Vita’s when I was just in kindergarten. My mom said Tito Efren, the husband of Tita Vita, was picked up by the Metrocom police, among the many people arrested when Martial Law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

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What theater does to us

It's been a week since I watched Ballet Philippines' (BP) restaging of the 80s pop ballet hit "Rama Hari" at the CCP and I'm still humming "Magbalik Ka Na Mahal," that haunting melody that speaks of longing for a loved one from the depths of one's soul. There's a movie in my mind still playing, that of Rama and Sita dancing with the people of Mithila as lead singers sing "Day da day da day da..." I still ache in my thoughts with Rama as he pours out his soul in the song "Tagistis ng Ulan," while he ponders Sita's fate. 
And a week after watching it, I still want to watch it again, if only time (mine and BP's—their last playdate was Dec. 9) would permit it. 
Ah, time. It's the reason I wasn't able to watch this year "The Sound of Music" at Resorts World, "Phantom of the Opera" and "Stageshow" at the CCP, "Mind's Eye" at RCBC Plaza, and more. They say the chandelier at "Phantom" wasn't quite the same as the original, and I wouldn't have been able to tell. "Stageshow" was “something rare and wonderful,” said our critic, and I couldn't chime in.
That got me thinking: how many of us do make time for theater? 

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"Be my laydeh..." Martin Nievera crooned as I entered the bus, this first bus I saw with a "Dau" sign on the dashboard, on EDSA near Munoz Market.

"Comfort me through all the pain and be my laydeh..." Martin seemed to serenade me as I plopped on a seat I had all to myself. It's almost the same. Like being transported back in time, I told myself, as I surveyed the inside of this generic bus I can't even remember the name of.

Red curtains shielded us passengers from the sun's harsh rays. Backpacks and plastic bags were stacked overhead. The seats were covered in plastic. There was a TV overhead behind the driver, but it was turned off. The bus smelled old. The word 'kitsch' stuck in my head.

Then came Ric Segreto singing "Lovin' you oh-oh is such an easy thing to do..." and I relaxed. I've been through this before, something like more than 20 years ago, on a bus on the way out of Metro Manila with 80s music from cassette tapes. I was on one of my "nakikiprobinsiya" trips back then, like now.

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Why I vote

On my Facebook wall the other day, I saw my friend's post saying she might not vote this coming May for the national and local elections. "Why bother when nothing has changed all this time?" she said.

Now that may or may not be true depending on your vantage point. 

From a poverty standpoint, indeed nothing much has changed since 2006, if we are to believegovernment data. Many of the poor are still poor. 

From a macroeconomic standpoint though, there has been progress. The infamously sick man of Asia is becoming a tiger, says the World Bank

From my own microeconomic point of view, my P1,000 a few years ago could buy a lot of groceries. Nowadays, the P1,000 can barely cover 12 items, qualifying me for the express lane in the supermarket.

And yet there's progress from my small vantage point: government services like renewal of passports and driver's licenses can now be done in the growing number of malls, in between grocery runs. Now that's a bit of progress to me.

But back to my friend's post: she has decided she's not going to vote.

I, on the other hand, am scheduling a trip to the Comelec head office in Intramuros this weekend to take advantage of the early voting for media practitioners. This is the first time journalists are being allowed to do this, giving us the same privilege as soldiers, teachers, and other government workers who have election duties. Many more of my colleagues will be able to vote. Now that's a positive change too.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hope for millionaire-wanna-bes

My sister kidded me a few years ago, saying she's not like me who writes down every expense in a notebook. I chuckled. It must be the CPA in me, I reasoned out.

The truth is, I want to know if I'm overspending, if my income is enough for my needs, and if I'm saving enough. I feel sad when, at the end of the year, I find out I incurred a net loss. And when I come up with a positive figure after deducting the year's expenses from my income the year, I shout, "Yay!"

There have been good years and lean ones, but always, I would see God's hand providing for our needs. We have an awesome God indeed.

Due to my interest in personal finance, I have read a number of books on managing your money. A new one that I received recently is the little white book "9 to 5 Millionaire" by Leila Hernandez, just published this year. It's marketed by the Christian publishing ministry CSM Publishing Inc.

What makes this book different from majority of the books I've read is that it was written with the busy employed person in mind. Its target readers are those who have full-time jobs from 9 to 5 (or any 8-hour schedule) desiring to one day retire as millionaires.

Is that at all possible? Author Hernandez says it is, citing herself as an example. She did not grow up rich, and in fact, was told by her mother there was no money for her college education. But she persevered, supported herself as a working student, saved diligently, and worked hard after graduation. Although she lost her savings dabbling in the stock market, she has bounced back, and retired young as a millionaire after years of working.

The author reminds readers to have a goal, a road map, and mind map in mind. And, like other authors, she advocates building up passive income (income from investments, not your job) while earning active income (salary from a full-time job).

She tackles investing in stocks and real estate in chapters 4 and 5 and does so in an easy-to-understand way. After reading, you get the idea that, hey, yeah, maybe I can do that.

It's not a comprehensive guide, but an informative guide to attaining financial freedom nonetheless.

And at the end of it, when you have reached your goal, Hernandez says, "The biggest reward is your transformation. Life is not about what you acquire, but what you become, how you lived and loved." Puts everything into perspective, doesn't it? :)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I just finished The Tehran Initiative by Joel C. Rosenberg which I got on sale at OMF Lit's R.O.B. sale this month, and man, I could hardly put it down! It takes off from Rosenberg's last fiction book The Twelfth Imam and follows CIA secret operative David Shirazi on his mission to find out all he can about Iran's nuclear program. Throw in the end of the world scenario and Biblical prophecy and you have suspense on every page. 

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." Psalm 23:1

Sunday, March 11, 2012

To Sendong victims from an Ondoy survivor

Dear Sendong victims,

It took me a while to write this letter, although it’s already been on my mind for a month, ever since I heard about the monstrous flash floods that took lives and swept away homes in Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan, and even Dumaguete.

Watching the news that Saturday night in mid-December and the following days, I could only gasp, horrified, at the images I saw. That photo of a father in tears clutching his child all muddied and lifeless – which became viral on the Internet – brought me to tears.

And I just shook my head in disbelief and bowed my head in prayer when I learned that someone I know – well, technically someone I have transacted with in the past via phone and email as we have not yet met in person – lost three of her loved ones: her parents-in-law and a sister-in-law.

I’ve been to Cagayan de Oro City twice in the past, and discovered it to be a friendly city indeed. It lived up to its moniker, City of Golden Smiles. I found it safe to go around, and enjoyed walking around the city proper, having dinner at Bigby’s, shopping at Robinsons, buying pasalubong of Sler’s chicharon and pastel. Everyone had a ready smile everywhere you look.

I’ve also been to Iligan, to Maria Cristina Falls in fact, on a land tour around Mindanao that took us to the Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in Bukidnon, Dakak resort, and Rizal’s old home in Dapitan. The Maria Cristina Falls was beautiful and pristine, with clear rushing waters that were a sight to behold.

So it pained me to see Cagayan de Oro and Iligan suffering.

And the pain was greater because, in a way, I know what you have gone through.

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A Pinoy diaspora Christmas

It's three days before Christmas, but our home here in Manila is quiet. We don't even have a Christmas tree or a belen, although we do have some Christmas stockings up. There are no gifts in the living room, and no one's in a frenzied hurry to wrap Christmas gifts. Oh we know Christmas is this weekend already, but somehow we're just ... quiet about it. You see, tomorrow, half of the family will fly out from Manila to Japan to meet one-fourth of the family based there, and one-eighth of the family will fly out from the US, where they are based, to Japan for the same holiday reunion.

Meanwhile, half of those based in Manila will be staying put in the city, but we still had to convince half of that half –one-fourth–to come over on Christmas Eve instead of just staying at their home like they were planning to do.

As for the remaining one-eighth of the family, they'll stay in the US and connect with the rest of us–in Manila and Japan–via Facetime.

It's not always like this though. Most of the time, my two siblings based abroad would come to Manila, leaving behind their own families, to spend Christmas here with my parents, my sister, me, and our own families. As they would say–and other Filipinos abroad no doubt would, too–iba pa rin ang Pasko sa Pilipinas.

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Get into your kid's world

"Oh look, it's Domo-kun!" I said, pointing to stuffed toys of the brown Japanese character at Toy Con 2011, the annual toy convention held at SM Megamall recently. "And Angry Birds, and lots of anime characters. Do they have Lucky Star?"

Yup, that's me talking. Thanks to my son's interest in Japanese anime, I am not so unfamiliar with what some kids and teens are into these days.

When Miley Cyrus was in town recently, someone in the office asked, "Does Miley Cyrus have a lot of fans?" And I said, "Hello? Hannah Montana!"

And when the video of that 4-year-old Fil-Am boy singing a Warbler song a la Darren Criss on "Glee" became viral, someone in the office again said he's not familiar with the song as he doesn't watch "Glee".

I know who Miley Cyrus is, and I watch "Glee". And "Lucky Star". And some years back, "High School Musical" and "Gundam Seed Destiny".

I try to make time to get to know what kids today like because it's a way to bond and build relationships with today's generation.

Click here to continue reading at Smart Super Women.

Note to self

Watching Giada de Laurentiis, Anthony Bourdain, and even the kids on “Junior Master Chef Pinoy Edition” on TV last weekend, I got amazed once more at how they all seem to be so good at cooking. It's so natural to them as breathing, and they seem to know what to do with food.

I, on the other hand, confess that I always end up confused whenever I go to the meats, fish, and vegetables section of the supermarket. I look at the counters and shelves and ask yet again, what do I do with these?

Pressed for time, I would order a half kilo of this, pick up a frozen pack of that, and grab a sealed pack of salad vegetables (just pour dressing!) before heading to the canned meats section.

Cooking isn't one of the areas I'm gifted in. I'm not like my friend Meg who can whip up something without the help of a recipe. Oh sure, I can cook survival food and fry something or do basic adobo. But still I'd look up a recipe just to make sure I put in the right amount of soy sauce and vinegar in it.

Click here to continue reading at Smart Super Women.

Learning starts with wanting to learn

At a lunch meeting early this week with a school official, talk veered to teaching. I asked the woman I met with if she also teaches there.

"No! I can't teach these young kids. I tried before, but I just can't do it again. I can teach adults, but not college kids," she said.

She then went on to explain how difficult teaching is and moreso when the students are not interested or behaved.

I nodded in agreement, as I know what she's talking about.

Back in 2005, I taught communication subjects at a college nearby, and the yearlong stint has instilled in me an even greater respect for teachers. You see, I realized how much of a vocation teaching is.

You spend many hours preparing for your classes, then when you are in class, you give all that you've got. Teaching exacts much of you, as you give of yourself so your students can learn.

But I realized after a time, that even though you pour out your heart teaching, not everyone will learn. Only those who want to learn, who are willing to learn and be taught, and who are teachable will be the ones to benefit. Even the smart guys stand to lose if they are not hungry to learn.

Click here to continue reading at Smart Super Women.

Tutoring our children

Back when my son was in preschool and the early grades, I would try to rush home early, and beg off from after-work activities to make way for "Homework Time."

That was the time I reserved on weekdays to help my son with his homework, and if there wasn't any, to make him answer reviewers I would make myself.

As the years went on, I trusted him to study on his own. But there were times when he and I agreed a tutor would help, such as during one summer he spent going twice a week at a tutorial center for high school math stuff.

He also attended a summer tutorial course this year to prepare for college entrance exams.

My friends who are also parents also believe in tutoring their children. Most of them take the time to help their kids with homework, and some of them have hired tutors when they couldn't be there or don't feel they're up to the task.

Click here to continue reading at Smart Super Women.

Being thankful

I overheard someone say our weather these days is bipolar. It can be very very hot in the morning until early afternoon, then rainy from late afternoon to early evening. Four days ago, it was stormy; yesterday was a sunny day, and today promises rain and flood as typhoon Quiel is here.

On social networking sites, particularly Twitter, I read many comments from people all over the world. “Crazy weather,” said one. “The weather needs to be better informed about our needs. I say we write a petition. No, protest. With signs,” tweeted Vaguery. “Weather today is so confusing. One minute the suns out, next minute a monsoon mixed with tornado-like winds coming down the street. Umph,” posted benthal.

I find it ironic that here we are complaining about the weather when, just a few weeks ago, survivors of 9/11 were recounting their stories on History Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. It has been 10 years since September 11, 2011, yet these survivors still choke up when recounting their experiences finding their way out of the North Tower before it collapsed, and running away from the humongous debris cloud when the twin towers collapsed.

Click here to continue reading at Smart Super Women.

How parents really feel about those college entrance tests

I craned my neck to scan the crowd for a familiar face. So many high school seniors have been spilling out onto the sidewalk on Taft Avenue in Manila right after they took the De La Salle University College Entrance Test (DLSUCET) last Sunday night. Some of them were smiling, while some looked serious.

“Ang hirap naman ng exam! Puro word problems! Mas madali pa ang ACET!” one guy said, talking to someone on his cellphone. (The ACET refers to the Ateneo College Entrance Test.)

“Madali lang. Mas mahirap pa ang ACET, pero pinakamahirap ang UPCAT,” said my son when we finally met up. (UPCAT, on the other hand, is the University of the Philippines College Admission Test.)

Parents and relatives wait it out outside Melchor Hall in UP Diliman in August 2011 while their children take the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). Photo by Karen Galarpe

I found it sweet to see a mom smiling from ear to ear as her daughter was telling her something. And then there
was the touching scene where a daughter held on to her dad’s arm, a latte in the other hand, while they walked.
She was talking about the exam animatedly, while her dad beamed from ear to ear.

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Online tutoring: a 21st century benefit

It was a few years ago when I first saw those ads of companies looking for English language online tutors. These tutors were to go over essays written by Korean students, and would have to conduct one-on-one tutorials via the web.

Here was another application of modern information technology – classes and tutorials can be done online, with a student in the comfort of his home abroad going over lessons on English grammar and composition with his teacher across the seas.

I heard that Filipino English language online tutors are quite in demand, given their proficiency in the English. That isn’t surprising.

Online tutorials now are not just limited to English language tutorials. A number of tutorials are now done on the Internet, from web applications courses and college exam review courses to cooking lessons.

Yes, cooking. Senator Panfilo Lacson himself said he learned how to cook during his fugitive days last year, thanks to Google. He could now even bake his own bread!

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Building memories

Looking over the chocolates on the shelves at the supermarket today, I smiled at seeing a bag of local cheap chocolates individually wrapped in white-and-orange stripes. “It’s still alive!” I thought to myself, as I picked up the little bag and added it to my basket. Memories of me in my grade school uniform unwrapping those little chocolates while in the school bus (more like a school jeep) on the way home came to me on the way to the cashier’s counter.

Then other grade school memories flashed: filing past displays of swimming fish at the Manila Aquarium (there was such a thing back in the 70s), eating my classmate’s baon back in Grade 4 (since she lived near our school, she had hot lunch delivered every lunch break, and often times could not finish her meal), running around and going up and down the slide in the playground under the hot noonday sun, swimming with my father in a beach (me in T-shirt and shorts, he in maong pants), going from tomb to tomb at the cemetery with my cousins to collect candle wax on All Saints’ Day and rolling them up in huge hot balls, and traipsing down Session Road in Baguio with my family, all of us bundled up in sweaters and jackets.

Those were the days when we had nary a care in the world about traffic, debts, bad news, sickness, inflation, catastrophes, love life, and what have you. What mattered then was that precise moment, when we just did what we had to do and lived for that moment alone.

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The candies and sweets of my youth

At the foot of the MRT station near my workplace a few weeks ago, I screamed in my mind at the sight right in front of me: Butter Ball candies in the familiar yellow plastic packaging.

I quickly gave a P5 coin to the woman vendor, who looked up at me quizzically. I then scooped up 5 Butter Ball candies and said, "Piso isa, 'di ba?" She nodded, and I smiled.

I popped one in my mouth soon after and was immediately transported back in time when I was in my grade school uniform, white socks, and black shoes, waiting for my turn at the Chinese garter game--a piece of long garter is held by two girls, and one has to jump over it, making sure to touch the garter with one's legs. The garter is held higher and higher as the game progresses.

Ah, it's the same Butter Ball of my youth, with the same sweet "butter" taste. Now this was contentment, never mind if the candy now costs so much more than it did back in the '70s.

Butter Ball isn't the only candy I loved back then. There was Cola, a round candy wrapped in purple, which tasted like Coca-Cola.

Then there was Serg's milk chocolate which I preferred more than the crumbly Choc-Nut. The latter one is still around today, but sadly, Serg's is nowhere to be found. My schoolmate Analyn said the owner's daughter was her classmate in prep, and she thinks they may have migrated already.

I remember I was in Grade 3 or 4 when I discovered Pop Rocks--an imported candy which, when you put inside your mouth, would literally 'pop' in what seemed like baby explosions. I would close my mouth and listen to the pops, afraid that if I opened my mouth, the 'rocks' would pop out of my mouth, and isn't that so dyahe?

I didn't quite get the science behind it, but I suspect there was some carbon dioxide thrown in there. Now come to think of it, Pop Rocks could have been my first exposure to "molecular gastronomy."

Goya chocolates in football-shaped balls and round gold coins have also been treats I enjoyed as a child, and so were Ricoa Flat Tops and Curly Tops--cheap and satisfying. I stayed clear of Milky Ways and Hershey bars in grade school since these would cost a big part of my baon, and so I settled for local chocolates.

Just last week, I discovered that Goya has pretzels dipped in dark chocolate, and twice this week I gleefully had that for snack in the office. I so liked it that I didn't share. Ooops. Sinful.

But still nothing beats the candies our helper bought recently at the sari-sari store--Lipps candies! These were the bright red candies that made your tongue (and lips) bright red. My classmates and I would stick out our tongues at each other and laugh at how red they have become. And yes, we would take the red candy and apply it on our lips as "lipstick." I was happy to discover that Lipps is still around these days, even though they changed the packaging.

And so yesterday at the office, after lunch, I unwrapped one pink Lipps candy. Ten minutes later, I checked my tongue in the bathroom mirror and chuckled at seeing my fuchsia tongue. I felt like a kid all over again.

Funny how little things like candies bring back memories of your childhood. And to think I haven't even started on the drinks, like the Choco-Vim I used to buy with chits at the school canteen.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm almost done with Finishing Well: Book Two: Is This Really My Life's Work?, written by Bob Buford. It challenges people in the midlife stage, or those beyond 40, to discover how to make the second half of their lives count.

The author does this through interviews with accomplished people conducted over lunch, such that you feel as if you're there and part of the conversation.

What is the second half of life (or what he calls Life II) all about? He says it's all about relationships and priorities, it's about family first, it's about saying no, and it's about giving and receiving a blessing. It also involves having a new purpose, repositioning, and finding or creating the right context.

So much to learn in this little book.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A non-Thai relaxing massage in Thailand

They say you haven't been to Thailand if you haven't seen the reclining Buddha (Wat Po), got on a boat on the Chao Praya River, bargained in the night markets, rode the tuktuk, and had a Thai massage.

Well, in the 3 visits to Thailand I have made over the years, I've done them all, except for the Thai massage.

This year, I got the closest thing to it, though--a non-Thai massage. It was an hour-long aromatherapy massage which was so relaxing and memorable, I would have had it again the next day, and the day after that, or every day even, if it were possible.

Our hosts, the amiable people of Goodyear who were launching new tires then, billeted us members of the press at the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort and Spa, a beachside place by the Gulf of Thailand, some 3 hours away from Bangkok.

It was a wonderful resort hotel, with the cool waters of the swimming pool winding around the villas leading down to the infinity pool a few meters away from the beach. The casitas with their red cushions strategically placed around the pools looked so inviting for those who want to lounge around, curl up with a book, and sip a refreshing drink in between dips to the pool.

 Sheraton Hua Hin Resort and Spa. Photo by Karen Galarpe

Our hosts asked the 4 of us from the Philippine press if, after the event at the racetrack that day, we wanted to have a massage at the resort hotel's Aspadeva Spa or go to the night market. We chose the massage.

So on our 2nd night, we were booked for massage service at 9 p.m. The spa receptionist had a message for us: eat light for dinner. So I just had caesar salad and fish fillet from the buffet table at the resort hotel's Black Restaurant.

It was there that a Goodyear executive, about to have his dinner, warned us not to get the Thai massage as it turned out to be more uncomfortable and a bit painful than relaxing for him. And so when we trooped to Aspadeva Spa from Black Restaurant, we said we're having the Aroma Fusion Massage (2,100 baht), not the Thai massage, for 60 minutes.

The gracious lady at the reception area gave us a choice of massage oil, letting us get a whiff of three kinds of massage oil. One was lavender, which was calming, another was lemon, I think, and then orange. We all chose orange.

My massage therapist, Wen, led me to a private massage suite which had its own changing room with a dresser. A couple of red silk robes, disposable underwear, and slippers were ready.

Wen then got a basin with warm water, and bathed my feet in it while I sipped cold lemongrass tea. She asked me where I was from, and when I said Philippines, she said people from the Philippines are friendly. Then I got on the massage table face down, and found myself looking at a bowl of floating flowers placed strategically in my line of sight.

I told Wen what I like: hard strokes on the upper back, light massage on the legs, hard strokes on the soles of my feet. She would ask often if the pressure was okay.

I felt the hard knots on my upper back being loosened, the tension being addressed. Ah, This is what massage is all about, I thought. It's healing those aches and pains. It was so good I didn't want it to end.

But it had to, after 60 minutes. Back at the reception area, we were given hot ginger tea and a warm face towel. And as we sipped our tea, we all had smiles on our faces. We may not have been yanked and twisted away here and there via a traditional Thai massage right in the heart of Thailand, but it was such a great way to end the night. Can't wait to have such an experience again.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Four years ago, my friend Richelle gave me the slim book Handle With Prayer by Charles Stanley. It took a long while before I got to read it finally recently, but I felt it was the right time. It tackles topics such as why our prayers are not answered, how to pray in the will of God, fasting, and praying for others. A book certainly worth reading.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14