Tales from home

this good morning

This morning I woke up to the gurgling sound of a little girl’s laughter and the soft pats of tiny hands on my cheeks, and I wonder at love. I felt the warmth of the little girl’s father’s strong arms engulfing me in a “good-morning” embrace and I wonder about love some more. It was still daybreak but already I was thickly enveloped in it I felt intoxicated.

Yes, some days are better than others. I chalk this one up as one of the best.

Picking up from where I left off

Yes, it was indeed hormonal.

Who’d have thought that 2013 was the year of MASSIVE CHANGES in my life.

For one thing, I had the crazy compulsion to try the Atkins way of eating in the early part of 2013. I shunned anything that had carbohydrates in it. I was more devoted than a novitiate reciting her evening prayers in my scanning of the nutritional contents of every food package that came my way. I had to make sure that what I got only had less than 10 grams of carbs in it.

At that time, the rest of the household considered me a pariah when it came to mealtimes. As custom, they would lay out bowls of grilled sweet potatoes and tureens of mung beans and yam stew along with the dried or pickled fish then finish off the meal with ripe plantains swimming in caramel sauce. But I’d refuse any of it. As the rest of the family piled their plates high with all the carbo yummies that I did love, I would sit there, wordlessly munching my pig-skin cracklings.

My sister-in-law thought that it was a boycott on her cooking and would often look at me with an aggrieved expression from across the table laden with fried rice and noodles. Tata thought that I was on a suicide mission. In his concern he surveyed how many of our late neighbors died from having a lot of meat in their diet [the evidence he presented was inconclusive, I told him while I ate three fried eggs]. The various nieces and nephews thought that it was injustice that I ate pig-skin cracklings during mealtimes while they had to eat veggies with their meat.

I’ll write more on this later, but for now, let’s just say that Atkins worked for me. I lost more than 30 pounds and never felt healthier! But the biggest, most startling thing would happen in the middle part of year and was probably brought in part by the diet.

Also in 2013 I thought that I would lose my mother. We went to Korea in May for what was supposed to be Mama’s treatment for a lump that doctors found in her throat. They suspected a tumor. Fortunately, it was not malignant. I returned home and went back to work, happy with the news about Ma.

And then in July I found out that I was pregnant! And that’s the biggest news for the year.

How many years have we waited for a baby of our own? Faith is already in her way to becoming a teenager. These days, actually, she’s living with her real mom after I explained why her mom and dad never ended up together (read: interfering parents who thought it’s best to let their son marry someone richer).

There were some complications in my pregnancy and had to be in complete bed rest from the 5th month. The baby was scheduled to be born in early March of 2014, but she decided to come out on Christmas Day!

Yes, we had a premature daughter. More than that, she was a micropremie, weighing only 860 grams or 1.9 pounds, when she was born. We stayed for 72 days in the hospital. And it was the biggest ordeal that all of us in the family had to face.

I think I have recovered enough to have the strength to tell of our ordeal. And I can say that our preemie is a fighter, thank Heavens, and she is now a bouncy one year old who melts her papa’s heart like nothing else in this earth could. But that’s just the proud, doting mother in me talking. So it you are into hospital drama (e.g., Grey’s Anatomy), then I encourage you to read posts about our hospital stay, which I’ll write soon. For those who are queasy with thoughts of syringes and ladies in white shoes, I’ll have a warning put up in the first paragraph of a post to give you sufficient time to read about or do something else.

So, for those who are still devoted to the goings-on in the Broken Coffee Cafe, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying with me until now. The place needs general cleaning, and perhaps I’ll get round to it once I can squeeze in the time between diaper changes and milk runs.

Meanwhile, may I tempt you to some cookies and the usual cuppa while I tend to a pile of laundry waiting to be folded? And pardon the goo on the couch. You know how it is with little ones bouncing about in the house.

Faith and the Cockroach

“What is that, Mama My?” Faith’s worried voice floated out from the bathroom where I’ve sent her to wash her hands before coming to the dinner table.

I stuck my head in the bathroom. “What’s what?”

“There,” Faith’s gaze was fixed on the wall near the door, her forehead was furrowed with undefined fear. I followed her gaze and nearly gave a yelp. Crawling on six obscene hairy legs, its long antennae contaminating the path it aimed to follow, was a cockroach. A dark, smelly, scary, aberration of Creation cockroach.

Kill it, kill it before it Continue reading

Moving On… Again

It was night. All was peaceful and quite… not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

But rats gnaw at bamboo slats, owls hoot from their treetop roosts, hens stir in their nests, and dogs howl at the moon.

Ahh. It’s good to be home.

Six months after an impulsive decision brought about by skyrocketing prices of commodities and fuel, enduring insane living conditions, loneliness, attacks from a homicidal chicken, I’ve decided to come home to my beloved tropical jungle.

Get a move on, Tarzan, the Deranged Palmist rules the roost again.

Call in the beasts of hoof, of feet, of wing, and of fin. The forest is now in council.

***

Gnnnn. I couldn’t stand living in the boarding house any longer. Yesterday, amid howling winds and pouring rain and with the help of my friends, we hauled my stuff from the lowland cave and hied back to the mountains. Ta was amazed at the volume of the things I’ve accumulated in my six-month stay in the boarding house, which filled the back of a mini pick-up.

The best part was when Faith, after helping with the unloading, looked at me with a big smile. “You’re going to live with us again,” she said and gave me a big hug.

I love being a mountain woman.

For Love of the Game — Part I

For two consecutive years now, Tata has taken to collecting Champion’s trophies from the Annual Sandurot Downhill Mountainbike Competition that is one of the events in Dumaguete’s Calendar of Activities before the city’s charter day celebration, which is on November 25.

How a  person could think of riding on a two-wheeled contraption equivalent to the weight of the government’s NFA rice ration in our barangay for each poor family (read: 3 kilos) down a mountain terrain replete with exposed tree roots, boulders, and muddy foot paths used by small-scale farmers; with berms that, at the end of the line, are blocked by oblivious bovines chewing on their cuds, tall and mighty trees indifferent to the puny humans who crash against their ancient trunks, dogs in heat, and schoolchildren playing marbles; and under the worst weather conditions, e.g., near-zero visibility because of rain, is beyond my comprehension. Continue reading

Tomes of My Fathers

Let’s see… It’s already been two months and three days since I’ve become a roomer in a boxlike 6 meter square cave near the Shoe Factory. And I am still unhappy as a bee taken off her Prozac prescription.

And this unhappiness is brought to you by the constant yo-yoing of oil prices and the all-time-high inflation in the market. I’m not blaming the president though. She has so much on her plate already. If I were running a nation where the average woman’s head scrapes the 5-foot measure, I would surely have serious self-esteem issues. But that’s my personal politics, and I beg you to ignore that. 

There is no relief from this escalating madness, and we might as well chomp on the bit for a little longer. I have a new mantra now: “For all things, give thanks.” Hmmm. It keeps me sane with all that’s been happening. But I’m willing to bet that my blood pressure’s escalated again, keeping up with the trend.

Still we say, as cliche as it may sound, that life goes on.

Well, I was home in the Tropical Jungle over the weekend and whiled the 36-hour reprieve from the boiler-room heat of the cave in the lowlands by coercing my old buddy, the washing machine, to spin and soak/soak and spin my laundry while I watched a pirated copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D and, at the same time, tied old books in bundles.

About those books… my family had those old and musty tomes as far as I could remember. Most bear the mark of the passing years: yellowed pages, insect-nibbled edges, termite-gutted bibliography and index sections (my mother would raise hell when she finds out), waterstains, coffee stains, ketchup stains, scribbles on the margins, highlighted sections, squashed bugs between pages… They’ve encroached all available space in my cottage. Some are languishing in our makeshift library where they get to be the accommodating beds to several generations of woodland mice. I’ve stacked paperbacks and hardbound first editions in every possible nook and cranny; some have begun falling on unsuspecting souls’ heads when things get dull in the house.

But I just can’t throw them away. Would you do that to your 70-year-old grand aunt who taught you to read, to bake cookies and to douche? Okay, I don’t douche. But the point is, would you throw things out if they helped shape how you look at the world? So I endure and put up with the mustiness; every once in a while, I get a fit of the cleaning bug, and I spend a day bundling stacks of these well-loved warped bound sheaves for a reshuffle of their storage places. An aside: I learned the Greek alphabet through my great grandfather’s lexicon, and I could read some words in the language if you’re willing to bet. Sometimes, for nostalgia, I pull out our tattered copy of The Church of Our Fathers, a really ancient book that may already be out of print — one of my mother and father’s textbooks in the seminary — and look at the the woodcut illustrations of how the Christian church was founded. Those pictures scare me. Image montage: blood, gristle, violence, the burning times, the Inquisition, pregnant popes, homicidal landgrabbing bishops… but it’s just my paranoia so I ask you to ignore that. Just please don’t conclude that my childhood was one unhappy mess. It wasn’t… partly.

This weekend, I stashed some editions under the stairs, away from the leaking roof. Some found a new home beside the clothes shelf. At least, there are no termites this time of the year to get at them.

When my 36 hours in the mountains were up, I rode down to the cave with my clean clothes crammed into a bag, far far lonelier but not yet beaten.

I have a backup plan:

You know, when I win the Aegean Lottery, part of my winnings will be used to rehabilitate all those books in a humidity-controlled chamber, complete with a restoration area and carbon-dioxide-minimizing technology. And it shall be housed in a chrome and steel edifice that I shall call bibliotek.

Here’s to making our dreams into realities.

 

[image courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk]

I Need Sleep!

by John McCrady (1911–1968) [oil glaze over tempera on canvass]

"I Cant Sleep" by John McCrady (1911–1968), oil glaze over tempera on canvas

There’s no sleep for the weary.

There are boogeymen under my bed.

And they scratch the baseboard beside the double decker bed and thump about, whisper gibberish in coarse voices, and poke and pull my hair just as I begin to fall asleep. Maybe it’s their intention that I should not get any sleep at all. I guess they’ve managed to sneak into Morpheus’ laboratory and gagged and bound the poor thing so that nobody would be getting any snooze at all. They’ve even conspired with my mutinous muses (perhaps bribing them with all the cakes and candies I’ve deprived them in an effort to cut down my calorie intake) to conjure images of storylines and plot twists for some of my attempts at writing stories. I tossed and turned and turned and tossed.

Dogs were growling and howling outside, and I deluded myself into thinking that it’s mating season for the canines.

I tried to entirely cover myself with a blanket. But I’m claustrophobic. Hyperventilating, I switched to having the blanket about my cold feet.

Experience taught me that when the room suddenly gets cold (I’ve turned off the fan), somebody is there in spirit. Okay, it was really, really cold last night and raining outside, too. And I’ve watched The Sixth Sense dozens of times.

But really, I couldn’t sleep at all. I got down from the top bunk, groped for the light switch, and hunkered over to the table where I left some draft for a story. Nope, I shall not tell what it is about just yet. I channeled the mutinous muses, and, pen in hand, allowed them free reign on blank paper. At about two in the morning, with a substantial amount of scribbles, my exhaustion just overcame every bit of my thinking process. I must get some sleep.

I swore at the boogeymen, the muses, the room-temperature-altering spirits, and the half-formed images of the characters in the draft. They all dissolved at the cussword, totally disgusted with my uncooperative nature and my vulgarity. The dogs I spared from my expletives.

Nevermind. At least, I was left with a degree of peace and quiet and the prospect of half a good night’s sleep. That I had, until at about six in the morning when the fishwives, in their morning bath, started gabbing by the water pump.

The morning found me here, in this Internet cafe, where I’ve taken refuge from the noises and creepies and crawlies that hounded me in the night.

I shall put a wooden cross by my bed tonight. For what it’s worth.

[image courtesy of the Morris Museum of Art]

An Update from the Cave

Just so the public may know, I am on the way to recovering my equilibrium. In my latest trip to and from my beloved tropical jungle home to visit my tribe and procure neccessities for my cave near the  Shoe Factory, I did manage to lug the following down from the mountains:

  • a bagful of books, mostly of the spy thriller variety cooked up by Mr. Ludlum
  • a guide to being a tightwad, The Tightwad Gazette II
  • an old issue of Vogue
  • four dictionaries: regular English, mispronounced and misused words, American slang, and Oxford’s dictionary on euphemisms. Why four? Honestly, I don’t know
  • a batik painting from my beloved uncle Zio
  • a table cloth
  • clothes hangers
  • masking tape
  • thumbtacks
  • scarves. For what is a world without scarves?
  • empty chocolate tin cans for my sugar and coffee.

The sight of familiar things really did wonders to my flagging sanity. I found out that I can again smile upon waking up.

Things are shaping up rather nicely.

I shall be using my spare time to blog and practice Haitian voodoo.

[Note to self: Bring sewing kit next time around.]

A Sore Monday

I am thinking of ways by which to dominate the world while a bag of newly purchased groceries is wedged between my feet, for fear that I’d forget and just leave my week’s ration of noodles and, hoohay something new!, instant curly spaghetti and no-cook just-add-boiling-water soup on the internet cafe floor when I get up and go home. Mmmmm! My jaded salivary glands just water at the thought of another MSG and sodium overload.

Apologies to all who drop by and see that I haven’t written anything insane for some time now. There’s the situation in The Shoe Factory, where everything passes through the newly installed pirated version firewall. The fear of being suspended from work for three to five days without pay grips my heart each time I key in www in the address bar of my browser. IT’S THAT BAD, boys and girls! Someday, furtive glances would not be allowed anymore, and we elves will be required to look each other squarely in the eye so that the Host of Unimaginative Shoemakers are assured that we are not cooking up ways of dominating the world while stuck for a quarter of the day in the dreariness of the factory and that our glances mean nothing else than attempts at flirting with the cute guy two rows away. Sorry. I must recant that. But then again, dang and tarnation! I do blog in the office… sometimes. And another thing is that I am still feeling wretched and lonely that I can’t bring my carcass out of coma to head off to an internet cafe with a bit of decent connection. I can’t, really can’t.

But something has got to give. Addictions are really hard to banish, so says a crack peddler to his new protege. I’m here now, clacking away like a deranged… clacker.

This is how it came to be:

I finally escaped the suffocating heat of my boarding room and rode the mini-jeep (I shall not call it easyride too often, as the word conjures images of highly impregnable females in my already malicious mind) to the city after rolling around in the upper deck that I’ve transformed into bed and getting nothing out of it except the feeling that I am a limpid lumpiang sariwa drenched in garlic sauce.

In the city, I marvelled at the pace of everything… fast, blurred, and confused. People wore confused expressions on their faces. Or is it just me? It’s been three solid weeks since I walked around the downtown area and mingled with my fellow mortals. To acclimatize myself, I ate in my favorite carinderia while on half a shoestring budget and then proceeded to the grocery to stock up on semi-eatables for my daily subsistence in the boarding house.

Some people might think that I suffer needlessly from my diet of noodles and other curlicued carbohydrates and that I have a choice between eating a freshly cooked meal or bomb my system with all that sodium and gunk. Yeah. Let’s just say that I am a masochist.

After getting my groceries, the afternoon sun’s still high overhead. I’m loath to go back to the boarding house this early and was wondering if it would do me good to hang out by the boulevard. The last time I did, I got propositioned by a desperate soul for a two-hour stint in a nearby hotel/motel. I told the poor guy my sores* were still raw and I was off duty that day. I opted to stroll and window shop this time.

So walk I did. Then I came by rows and rows of internet cafe offering promos for their per-hour computer rental. Alrightee. The addiction has to be fed.

Here’s where I am right now. This is NOT in the office, that’s for sure.

And about my plan for world domination? I’ll keep it to myself. But it does begin with cartons upon cartons of instant pancit canton being unloaded on the docks of major city ports all over the globe.

___

*Kidding about the sores. Ask my physician.

Tuesday With the Blues

My life, so far, this past week consists of the following routine:

my window to the outside world

my window to the outside world

  • wake up to the growls of puppies tearing each other apart over some piece of garbage they’ve rootled from my neighbors’ trash;
  • boil water in my heating pot, then drink hot ginger tea while still in bed;
  • boil another potful of water, this time for my bestest buddy, the packet of instant pancit canton/noodles (we get along nicely these past few days);
  • scald the noodles, discard the water, dig up some crackers and cheese, and then eat breakfast (again, still in bed);
  • curly breakfast in bed

  • go to the bathroom, check the bathwater supply and then refill the empty pails. a trip to the water pump is unavoidable. on the way there, i face overfriendly dogs who try to clamber up to be hugged, thereby muddying my clothes, and a murderous overprotective mother hen, with a single scraggly chick, who always snaps at me when I am within her 3-meter-radius perimeter;
  • after surviving the ordeal of fetching water for the bath, take a trip to the market (this, as mentioned before, happens every two days or so) to get drinking water from the coin-op machine;
  • back to the boarding house to numb brain and fan the seditious flame growing in the heart with the final chapters of my other buddy Rizal’s El Filibusterismo;
  • take a bath;
  • sleep until the alarm clock says it’s time to get up again;
  • dress;
  • drive to work;
  • be amazed at the number of employees pouring in from the highway and rushing to the log-in building;
  • slave away for eight hours in the production line of The Shoe Factory;
  • return to the boarding house;
  • dress down;
  • sleep;
  • see above.

Oh… I took a pic of a sign pasted on the wall of the common kitchen in the b.house. It might not be much, but I find the first request a bit “disturbing”:

disturbed

I am still floating. It may still be weeks before I could accept that this is how things shall be for the rest of my working life in The Shoe Factory.

~Sob.~

This Side Up

Today, I shall tell you of transitions.

It’s been three days since I left my tropical jungle home and become a roomer in a boarding house near The Shoe Factory.

It’s been three days still, but I just found out Monday morning that Faith, already four, was enrolled by her mother for day care.* She sent me SMS that our girl was to start school Tuesday. How time flies. And Tuesday afternoon when I called Ta, Faith also spoke with me and enthusiastically reported that she’s now a big girl because she is already in school and she has a new set of uniform and crayons and books and new friends. ~Sigh.~ How time flies. And I wasn’t there for her first day. 😦 But at least Ta was there to bring her to the day-care center. Then, last night, another SMS came from Faith’s mother, informing me that the little one was chosen to dance for a program held at the end of the month in the day care. I won’t miss it for the world.

+++++++

Ta has discovered supermoto. Each Sunday for the past three weeks, with some of my college years barkada and other speed freaks, they flock to Valencia’s oval** to ride several laps around the track, pitting each other’s skills in steering around the grassy, sometimes muddy circuit. He still overshoots his mark because the motorcycle doesn’t have front brakes installed and the wheels are near-bald.

There’s is a race scheduled as one of the highlights of the town fiesta this October, and Ta has set his mind on participating — that on top of being a rider for the annual downhill mountain bike race. My only complaint is that after practicing for downhill and supermoto, he seldom has energy for other things (*wink*).

+++++++

As for myself, I am now living away from my beloved hut in the midst of the tropical jungle. I miss the frogs that sing their guttural songs, the buzzsaw call of the cicadas emerging from their more than a decade hibernation, the fist-sized bugs and creepy crawlies, the flowers, all the greenery.

I got a small room (2 m x 3 m) near The Shoe Factory. Hopefully, this will save me a few pesos considering that I won’t be consuming that much fuel anymore. Grn! When would this crisis stop?!

Consider a bed and breakfast place. That’s the feeling that I got the first time I checked out the place. The boarding house has eight rooms, or doors, lined in two rows. My door is farthest from the wash/kitchen/bath area; I have to walk down the hall in order to brush my teeth or pee. But I am not complaining much because each door has its respective bathroom. This is the most important factor that I looked for while house-hunting. Even if a boarding house has a jumbotron in the common living room or each room is equipped with airconditioning, footlockers, and personal masseuse but I have to share a toilet and compete for bathroom time with two dozen other people when my bladder is about to burst, it just doesn’t seem a very attractive prospect for me.

It’s been years since I’ve lived by myself (I left home when I was sixteen to attend college in Dumaguete, which is more than an hour’s flight away from Manila), and the current arrangement somewhat brings back those college days. I now sleep on the bottom deck of a double-decker bed; I’ve stowed most of my stuff on the top deck. My morning coffee gets boiled in a stainless steel heating pot that I also use to cook my instant noodles. I’ve stocked on bananas and soda crackers in an attempt to economize on the foodstuff. When I go to the bathroom, I carry my toiletries in a plastic basket — I am still paranoid when it comes to leaving stuff in the toilet.

There’s still a bit of problem with water. The town where The Shoe Factory sits does not have a constant water supply. A pump sits in a neighbor’s yard and they are kind enough to let the boarders like myself get water there. So each morning, I go there with a tiny pail, with the lines of Belle’s song about provincial life traipsing in my head, and I exert my biceps and triceps, getting a fairly good workout from the rusty water pump. Goodness knows I also need the exercise. Then, a bit of weightlifting ensues as I haul my first pailful to my bathroom, deposit the water in the bigger pail, return to the pump and then repeat the process three or four times. I may get tired of doing this in the future but for now, I am enjoying the novelty of it.

Drinking water is much more complicated to procure. The first day, the landlady assured me that the water from the tap was safe to drink, and I, trusting but not used to the local water, tried a glassful of it that sent me to the banyo with a rebellious stomach. This morning, I worked out a system that is composed of taking my empty water bottles to the town market (2 kilometers away) and use the coin-op water-dispensing machine there.*** Ten pesos yields three liters of potable liquid that’s good for two days. I should get a bigger water container next time to save on trips to and from the market.

Three days into living alone and with no other diversion other than reading El Filibusterismo, I’ve caught myself talking to myself. Maybe I should get a radio or something.

+++++++

And how have you been lately?

*Faith has been with her mother for a week when I moved near The Shoe Factory. She was feeling lonely with the grown ups in our house because they won’t always play with her. She has her little brother, now a year old, for her playmate in her mother’s house so we sent her there for the meantime.

**A former track-and-field race track that was abandoned for many years. Owing to its secluded location in the outskirts of town, the place had been a favorite venue for lovers who wanted time alone for themselves. Also, this place is where people took their goats and cows there to graze, taking advantage of the lush vegetation that grew unhampered over the years.

***I’ve noticed the coin-op machine when Ta still drove me to the office and we passed by the marketplace.

Waxing Self-Righteousness

This morning, I invoked the good girl residing buried under the mounds of mildewed rubbish, dust bunnies, old molted skins, and the general debris of my own self’s basement and helter-skelter ran down from my tropical jungle hideway to pay some outstanding electricity bills.

The bills have been tacked to my bedroom dresser for eons already, as my schedule did not make it easy for me to just go waltzing out at any hour to go to the electric cooperative payment outpost, falling in a three-mile-long line, waiting until, millimeter by millimeter, it would be my turn to hand my statement of account (SOA) to the octogenarian sitting behind a glass cage for him to smack his thumb on wrinkled lips and use the said thumb to leaf through the sheafs of tissue paper that are my SOAs, wrinkling his eyebrows every now and then as he strains, with fading eyesight, at the minuscule numbers representing the amount I owe each month for the service that allowed me to be anesthetized by shampoo commercials shown during prime time on the local tv station. I simply did not have the luxury to regularly experience such indescribable experience.

But today, despite the light drizzle and the fact that I ran out of the house without any breakfast, I resolved to treat myself to the experience of paying my bills, just like in the old days.

However, it turned out, to my slight disappointment, that the octogenarian I’ve mentioned earlier has already been called by his maker, perhaps making him the keeper of books up there (I imagine him, methodically smacking his lips and using his good old thumb to search for the names of people who are allowed entrance into the Pearly Gates. He’d be looking for my name under the letter “F”…”Let’s see now… Felipe, Felix, Feliz, Fem…” It will be ages before the lines moved).

The present teller’s hair has been slathered with the latest snake oil pomade, he had the lightest pink polish on his David’s Salon-manicured digits, he has a rock the size of a baby’s fist on his left earlobe, and I think I detected a hint of gloss on his lips. The top three buttons of his polo shirt were undone, revealing a chestful of hairs.

He leafed through my sheafs of SOAs with flexible fingers, looked at the computer monitor for verification of my account, then puckered his lips. Looked at the sheafs of SOAs and puckered his lips again. I sensed something was amiss with the three SOAs that I’ve brought.

He looked at me with a raised eyebrow (countoured, mind!) “There are five unpaid bills here.”

What?!

“Five unpaid bills. This wasn’t disconnected yet?” His contoured eyebrow made a perfect parabolic arc.

I told him that it’s only three that I have at hand. But it was like arguing with the Matterhorn. He would not budge. There were five bills there. Pay all of them or face disconnection in the coming days (the horror of not seeing Wowowee!). I didn’t have a choice. I paid the almost-three-zero-zero-zero outstanding balance.

(Lucky I was dripping with cash as of the moment — not! I was actually paid only 51 hours for the 104 hours that I reported for work. Something about an accounting personnel endorsing the wrong hours for my shift. So, actually, I was nearly broke.)

Then on to the good part. For those of you who are not aware of this, the town where I live is host to the power plant that generates electricity for most of the region and the surrounding provinces. It is ~aherm~ only natural that simple folks such as me could get an electric bill refund each time I pay my bill.

But still, in order to get the refund, it requires me to undergo a bit of a complicated process. But the process is actually a catch basin to keep the citizens of my beloved town in check, and it ensures that there are no deliquencies in our payment of taxes and other services, e.g., safe drinking water and property taxes. In toto, I shelled out an additional Php300 to pay for property taxes and water bills that I happened to forget about the previous two months *blush*.

After all the hullabaloo, I am pleased to inform the interested reader that I got my money back — that amount I paid for my electricity bill. All in all, it boils down to me spending Php300 to get back my almost-three-zero-zero-zero pesos. And I have paid all my taxes for this year. See you around, Internal Revenue!

I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

Somebody get me a halo and a pair of wings. I feel a beatific glow around me.

 

Wednesday’s Freaky Weather

It was Quiet at the Start

It was a balmy morning when I woke up in my tropical jungle home. The Sun peeked through the bamboo lattice above our bed, bathing us sleepers in golden light. Birds sang from tree branches, expressing their gratefulness for the blissful morning.

I got up, stretched, freshened up a bit, and did some chores. Then it was breakfast.

After breakfast, I couldn’t help but look around me with amazement — everywhere, the leaves of all the trees and flowers glistened. The sky had never been bluer that this morning. The air smelled sweet.

It was a perfect May morning. But it lasted only for a few hours. Minutes before 9am, the bank of clouds to our West, cloaking Mt. Talinis, suddenly turned dark. Ominous rumblings rolled down from the cloaked mountain, and the wind suddenly picked up, chilling me to the bone.

 

Climate Change

Tata advised that we might as well head down to the Shoe Factory while there’s still time, as we would be driving down only in a motorcyle, which could not afford us shelter in case it started raining. I agreed and was at once in a flurry to beat the coming droplets. While I was taking a bath, a light drizzle started. Still, the Sun was out and shining from overhead. We still have time.

Driving down the mountains, Tata and I talked about the choices people make in order to survive. While we were discussing the pros and cons of marrying an old guy who has only a short time to live for the money, water suddenly gushed down from above, like it was tipped from a barrel. We had to take shelter, fast! Our first stop was under a canopy of banana leaves and coconut fronds, which did not help much in keeping us dry. We got on the motorcycle again and drove under the rain until, a few meters away, we saw a makeshift shed. There were people in the shed halloing us to get out from the rain, and we didn’t need any more coaxing.

We saw that the shed under which we took shelter was actually a furniture and upholstery shop, with sawdust, wood glue, bits and pieces of wood shavings, half-finished cabinets and dining chairs, and cuts of lumber all over. A green-painted wooden sign said

Tatang’s Furniture Shop

– Accepts upholstery and carving

– Any kind of anything

The people of the shop were very friendly (topic of another post) and entertained us with their humorous jabs at each other.

When the rains stopped two hours (yes, two hours!) later, Tata and I drove off, happy in the knowledge that we’ve found new friends.

 

Strange

A few hundreds of meters from where we stopped for shelter because of the torrential rain, the soggy muddy ground abruptly gave way to gravely bone-dry cemented road; it was obvious that, despite the couple of hours of heavy rain where we got stranded, not a drop fell here. The Sun was even out, scorching us like any noonday Sun would.

I arrived at the Shoe Factory just in time for me to log a few hours of overtime.

 

Freak Storms and Flash Floods

Then it rained again. Thunder boomed outside, and some people in the other processes cracked nervous jokes about the weather. With each thunder clap, the lights would flicker as if power outtage would follow. Change of shift came, and the power held. There were, however, a lot of employees who were not able to come for the second shift. News reached us that the South National Highway, which is the main artery by which to reach the Shoe Factory, was inundated with knee-high (and in some places, thigh-high) water.

Motorists were stranded, and some had opted to take a detour through the mountains, passing the place where Tata and I stopped for shelter, just to get to their destinations across the flooded part of the main roadway. My friend, Hyacinth, was one of those came in at 4pm; she’s tardy by two hours for the afternoon shift. At five in the afternoon, that part of the road was still flooded.

The last time that that part of the highway was waterlogged was in 1999, and that time, there was a supertyphoon harassing the Visayas region.

The rains have stopped for the time being, and the Sun is shining out again, hotter that it has been a few hours ago. But in the West I see dark sinister clouds lurking.

I wish for a dry passage tonight when we go home.

[images courtesy of Diana Pilson of Uni.of Nebraska (www.unl.edu)  and of news.motorbiker.org]

not-so-manic monday

Here we go…

It’s Monday again, another start of the work grind cycle. But wonder of wonders! I am (almost) happily cruising through my shift. I am actually grinning. And I know not from where these good vibes are coming from. Mayhap this is hormonal?

Well, whatever it is, I like this sort of lightness, which is akin to bubbly-feely, bordering on fluffy bunnyish.

Oh, Faith turned four yesterday. It is something that the entire familia is grateful for. We had a little party for the little one. Her proxy grandmiere bought her a dress and she insisted on wearing it the entire time (dragging dust at the racetracks for our annual Ligiron grand prix race) and even going to bed wearing it. Faith said she likes the dress because it made her look like a princess. This morning, I finally managed to make her change her clothes for something more play appropriate.

Speaking of the Ligiron race, it’s now become an annual thing.

This year, we had eight riders who competed for the championship cup. The race was pseudo supercross, pitting two riders at a time and eliminating the slower rider until only one dominates in the final heat.

For those not familiar with what a ligiron is, it’s a four-wheeled contraption assembled from a rag-tag collection strips of wood, scraps of rubber, and thin planks of bamboo. The wheels are constructed from pieces of thick plywood and treaded with strips of old tire treads. These materials are whipped to shape with a few strikes of a hammer on rusty nails, and voila! a rustic riding contraption is born! The closest thing I can compare what happens in a Ligiron race is the American soap box derby, but in a more exotic locale and with indigenous materials for the vehicle.

The standard lubricant to keep the ligiron’s wooden axles going was cacao (Theobroma cacao) pulp. However, modernity has caught up with the mountain folks, and this time, it’s good old grease that makes the ligirons reach speeds of 60 km/h on a downhill ride.

That, with a strong sense of adventure and honest to goodness guts qualify you to be a rider.

Risks are higher, with the potential for splinters to the ligiron disintegrating upon landing. It is more frightful to crash against another ligiron made out of bamboo slats while it’s being driven at 45-60 km/h than colliding against an alloyed bicycle in downhill cycling heats. Fortunately, nothing like that happened yesterday.

And the tracks (made by Tata and his barkada) by the way, wound around coconut groves, through forests of bracken, a field of boulders, and then led the rider up a dirt jump that suddenly drops 30 feet down the forest floor before reaching the finish line, which is, to suit the tropical jungle surroundings, fashioned out of an abaca (Musa textilis) trunk.

The riders were thirteen- to sixteen-year olds and their driving skills continued to amaze me. I took some videos (and photos too) that I’ll be posting on my multiply site soon.

As it was Faith’s birthday, every race participant and most of the spectators were the guests to the small agape meal that we had.

It was a fun weekend. I guess it’s what’s fueling my Monday good vibes.

Saved by the Beach

It has been a hectic time at work the past few weeks.

Although our group didn’t really render that much overtime, each day of last week was spent slogging off and agonizing over complicated files that seemed to be written by authors not of Earthly descent but may have come from planets Jupiter or Mars or from Galaxy 6-O-991. It was no surprise that output was low and group morale was lower than Marianas Trench’s depth could go.

blue overall

To save my sanity, I proposed to the family that we head off to the beach at the closest weekend. They all readily agreed, especially Tata who, for the past weeks, had been taking the brunt of my stresses at work (sorry, baby!)

Sunday morning shone bright; the skies had the blue hue of an ideal summer day. The clouds were scattered above just so, and the breeze picked up nicely as we went down from our mountain home to the beach. Faith had a new yellow lifesaver.

Tata with the new lifesaver

We took off with a few friends who were also eager to do something that would herald summer for them. Our slice of beach was not in some commercialized resort lining the shores of this side of the island. I’m very pleased to know that there is actually, in Bacong, a little clearing — free from cottages and the omnipresent hawkers and vendors — with a strip of sand and shade from coconut trees, which is very much like the beaches of my childhood memory: untainted, unspoiled, and isolated.

cool summer

Nevertheless, our group’s elation at being the only ones on that deserted beach lasted until a couple of hours before lunchtime. By then, other beach goers — families, couples, kiddies, grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins all — came in and invaded our sanctuary by the truckload and busload. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who knew of that strip of beach’s existence.

faith by the beach

Still, that didn’t stop the fun that we were having. The tide was coming in, and the waves crash to the shore with such force that took my breath away. I swam over, under, and into the waves, appreciating how powerful such force of nature really is. I think I already have an idea how it is to be punched on the abdomen. I was screaming and laughing and swimming along with everybody. We body surfed and built sand castles. We buried someone in the sand! I realized that I never had such fun in such a long time. I’m all brown and a bit of sunburnt from staying under the scorching Great Yellow for a great many hours; Faith and Ta are browner as well.

I could really say, from experience, that a little unwinding could do wonders for wage earners such as moi. A little break can be all we need before tackling another grind on the work mill.  Ask me how I’m feeling today, and you could already guess that my reply is, “I feel good!”