Sunday, September 22, 2013

a world war ii veteran's take on the zamboanga siege

husband and kids in tow, i visited my mother's sister this afternoon bearing a box of grocery-bought mamon. i wanted to get my  aunt, she who loves all things sweet, something fancier but the usual place was too out of the way (and in these troubled times, the best route is the shortest route) and the other one would not let me in. apparently, they close shop much much earlier than usual on account of the on-going government versus separatists shoot-off a few kilometers away.

she got flowers and cake for her birthday. because of the gunfight, only five guests or so dropped by.  a stark contrast to the big parties this house is used to hosting since what, the 50s, 60s. growing up, this house was venue to countless family gatherings. 

tita anita celebrated her 94th birthday on the 9th day of the siege, on september 17. i was not able to visit her that day because we were by then on our self-imposed exile, having decided to bring the kids somewhere where there was no threat of bullets straying into our personal spaces.

tita anita is the eldest of 10 children. by the time my mom came along, tita anita was 18 years old. she and her younger sister tita norma were in their final year of nursing school when the japanese army came. they both completed their nursing education in the battlefield. both signed up as army nurses for the US armed forces. when i think ideal nurse, i think of tita anita. for tita anita, nursing was art and craft, a point of pride, not just a way to make a living.

before she goes to sleep each night these days, she says she begs God for two things. first, that if the good Lord decides to take her, let it be while she sleeps. Second, that God does not let it rain because it will make life even harder for the evacuees at grandstand.

"I am not afraid to die," she says without arrogance nor self-pity but rather with her trademark twinkly-eyed smile. "But I wish I were younger so I can go to grandstand and see for myself what is happening there." By that you know she means "what she can do."

once a war nurse, always a war nurse i guess.

more insights from her: she thinks this siege is worse than the japanese invasion. she said that at least, you know who the enemies were during ww2. the japanese wore japanese uniforms, looked Japanese, spoke Japanese. now its not so easy to tell who the enemy is.

my thought exactly.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Celebrating Bombastic Birthdays Since 1972

date when the man who would wound the country most deeply was born? september 11.

date when two planes would slam into the twin towers and forever change the world? september 11.

to my mind, bad things happen on september 11.

it's a good thing i was born on that day. all is not lost.

(by the way, if you don't know who the man i am referring to in the first line above, then you need to review your philippine history man)

and now this MNLF infiltration of zamboanga. i celebrate my birthday on the third day of this siege. the mayor has asked essential businesses to please open their shops already. that would probably mean banks, pawnshops, grocery stores, gas stations. the kids' concern last night was "where will we buy cake tomorrow mama?"

where indeed?

i have a blueberry muffin mix which i guess will do as birthday cake. but i don't have muffin pans. maybe i will just make pancakes, stack them up and poke a candle into it.

no. i did not make this cake. i only have enough time and talent to grab it from a google image search. name of owner is watermarked on the photo.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Currently Doing: Double Checking Emergency Evacuation Kit

the standoff today between the military and MNLF forces reminds me of a day almost 12 years ago when another armed group, the MILF, launched an attack on Zamboanga City from their lair in Cabatangan.

we were living in pasonanca then. ariel and me, and our kids rashdi, then six, and jana, just three months old. the news of a rebel attack broke out early in the morning. soon after, loud explosions, too loud explosions, broke out: guns? bombs? rpgs? all of these?

family and friends called and texted, telling us to evacuate. apparently the rebels were exiting cabatangan via pasonanca. there have been sightings of armed men in or near pasonanca - one such sighting took place at duramos drive, about 15 minutes away from our place.

but where to go? to mommy's place in san roque? the rebels were on their way there too.  the day after the incident, two or three dead rebels were found in the kukalan (coconut farm) behind NFA, two hundred meters or so away from mommy's house. because they were being bombarded, the rebels fanned out from cabatangan to san roque, sta maria and pasonanca. it was not really safe to be travelling.

so we stayed put. while rashdi played and read and jana slept, and ariel monitored the news, i packed and packed and packed. into the baby bag went two cans of infant milk -- one half-full and one unopened. i figured this would last a week or more since i breastfed too. in went diapers. i had less than ideal, not even two dozens. so in went cloth diapers. and laundry soap of course. medicines for fever, colds, cough. vitamins. baby wash, diaper rash ointment.

the bag was bursting at the seams. and that was just jana's stuff. i haven't even put in the water for the formula and some change of clothes.

i take another bag. rashdi's cloths, toiletries and medicines. some books and toys. yikes! how to fit in the nebulizer??? and will there even be power wherever it is we will go if and when we have to go there? in the same bag goes spare clothes for me and ariel, toiletries, medicines. also food (mostly candies and cookies). i filled a 1.5 liter bottle of coke with water. what point carrying a lot of water when i cannot run fast enough from the rebels because of the weight of my bag? my imagination was on overdrive.

i tell the helper to put together something similar for herself.

then we sit and wait.

i think the government started bombing cabatangan near noon. i found out later that my brothers monching and ryan hid mommy inside the toilet because it seemed the planes would shoot their rockets (?) right as they flew over mommy's house and the entire concrete structure would shake.

that incident, the "cabatangan shit" as how my friend cielito likes to refer to it, left a mark on me. from then onwards, there would always be an emergency evacuation bag under our bed.

here is an old picture of its contents:

over the years the kit has improved. i use the red cross emergency kit as basis. the bag now includes a waterproof lamp, lots of batteries, rope, knife, scissors, first aid provisions, a pack of thermal blankets, and a pack of emergency food rations that look like pieces of jenga. seriously. i bet it would taste like jenga too but nevermind since the label says they are full of nutrients and calories and that one piece is sustenance enough for one person for one day. these last two were sent by my sister girlie who all too willingly feeds my paranoia. right now, i am making ariel look for a wind-up radio to add to the kit. there are solar powered radios too but what if the emergency is a typhoon?

from reading a national geographic article on preparing provisions for extreme treks, i have a jar of vaseline and lots of cotton. these mountaineers say candles are useless even inside tents when the tent is located on the side of a mountain constantly buffeted by strong winds. these experts say the best source of light in a pinch is a wick made from rolling cotton then coating it in vaseline. i have not tried it myself but they said it works. i believe them. these are the people who know exactly how to drink urine when you run out of water.

a lot of people who know about my kit think i am insane. you guys should watch the national geographic show Doomsday Preppers. You have not seen insane until you have seen those guys. as for me, i will continue to maintain that bag under our bed. it might not make the MNLF rebels go away, but if my family needs to run away, i feel safer knowing we will have tissue paper with us.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

On your Bookmark, set, go!

i love books. and i love to pimp my books almost as much. no, i don't prostitute my books though there are certainly a lot of prostitutes in some of my books.
 one way i pimp my books is with bookmarks. i am so obsessed with bookmarks - using them and making them - that there was a time, before graduate school took over my life, that i was supplying bookmarks to the bookstore chain, Fully Booked. O di ba?

if you think about it, a bookmark does not have to be anything fancy and expensive. it can be a piece of tissue paper (you can come out now, readers of books in loos), a twig or a blade of grass, or even bread crust. but the same can be said of food. at the human needs level, what is the difference between odong with sardines and pasta pomodoro? take for example the bookmarks that are on these books i am currently reading:

from left to right, the bookmarks are a mailing envelop, a receipt from a gas station, a piece of product packaging, and a folded piece of tissue paper.

(by the way, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is very VERY very funny)

i still make bookmarks to sell. some are over here. but sometimes i make them for personal consumption only. my current favorite, the one that is in between the weirdly fascinating crazy rich asians, is this cheesy tree bookmark:

i know i know. it is terrible painting. and that is why i emphasized personal consumption above.

how i made them is, again, so simple it is stupid.

first i cut lengths of stiff paper from used notebooks.

 then i painted stuff on them with acrylic paints or whatever stuff you have at home - crayons, craypas, housepaint, pens. whatever at all.

the nice thing about fancy bookmarks, homemade or not, is that you tend to have greater respect for them and thus tend to not lose them, as opposed to, say, a piece of Mentos wrapper.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Artsy Weekend. Or, Yet Another Proof that Daughter is Better with Scissors and Paste Than Me

I like instant gratification. haha. hello immaturity.

Case in point: these all-occasion cards:

I made them in less than 30 minutes some random weekend a couple of months ago. 

I was cleaning house when I came across three issues of the very gorgeous Contemporary Art Philippines magazine. They were given to me by Tricia of ADZU GPA. This is high quality magazine - thick paper, high end printing. I needed to get rid of magazines - they were taking up too much real estate at home - but it seemed like such a waste to just throw these particular ones away. What to do? What to do?

So I got a pair of scissors (the one everybody at home is prohibited from using), some fancy glue (I had my husband buy Mod Podge for me at National Bookstore in Manila. He does not understand why a 200 peso glue exists. Neither do I, really), a wicked sharp cutter, and vellum leftover from one of my kids' school projects. 

The steps to make them are elementary, my dear watson.

choose the images you like.

cut them

 paste them

et voila, home made cards!

i was beside myself with joy at my creations. i felt so clever and so artistic. until i saw what jana, sitting across from me at the table, made:

she took the same magazine i had been cannibalizing and made a collage.

what a show off. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

epidemic of mysterious computer problems in the weeks leading up to finals week

If there is one thing I have learned in my ten years or so of teaching college students, it is this:

the closer it gets to the project deadline, the greater the tendency for student computers to

get stolen...

break down... 


 and burn...

and on top of all these, get infested with virus!

Monday, May 20, 2013

wait a minute taiwan

I understand they are upset, but physically harming Filipino workers there?

Here is what a simple google research brought up:

March 2013: police arrest and charge 24 chinese and taiwanese nationals with running a drug den in pasay.

August 2012: police arrest 5 taiwanese for manufacturing shabu factory in a metro manila suburb. Ph 150 M worth of shabu, raw materials, and equipment confiscated.

May 2012: immigration arrest 2 taiwanese for attempting to smuggle into the country illegal drugs.

March 2011: police deports 14 taiwanese caught pushing drugs.

March 2009: police raid a drug factory in Manila. The operators? 3 taiwanese.

January 2007: police arrest 2 taiwanese for manufacturing shabu in the philippines. 10 EFFING kilograms of shabu in their possession.

but do we go around attacking taiwan nationals? no. did we rally and made unfair generalizations about the taiwanese people and their government? no. did we burn their effigies? no. is shabu manufacturing a heinous crime? hell yes.

thanks to for the image.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

a platter

my plate is so full i really ought to upgrade to a platter.

during the two years i was doing my graduate studies, i kept telling myself that once i finish it, i will (1) go on a long vacation far away, (2) watch all the movies read all the books and listen to all the music that i have not been able to because of school, (3) go painting biking cooking goofing off with the kids, (4) do absolutely nothing for at least 6 hours straight.

but you know what? a month has passed since i learned i will graduate and i have not had that stupid break.

and i don't think i ever will.

my to do list is 43 items long!

and so what do i do in the midst of all these feeling-like-drowning times? i revive my blog.

this is exactly what got me in trouble in the first place.