Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day with Gulayat en Lolo Badong

     Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.
It is because my mom had set this season apart as special from any other date in my childhood memory.

     Together with the images of carollers, gift giving, Santa Claus and good behavior being rewarded with very nice gifts, she instilled in us as children a wonder for the season, being the birthday of the baby Jesus. In keeping with Filipino tradition, our family comes together, hears Mass, and shares the Noche Buena meal with cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces from my daddy's side of the family on the 24th of December.

     In recent years, we've taken to going out on short trips as a family on Christmas day, this time with mama's side of the family. We've marveled in the wonder and beauty of Sagada's un-commercialized and tourist-free charms. We've had several picnics in Tagaytay, just soaking in the quiet presence of Taal Volcano, jostled and valiantly made our way down Session Road during the Christmas rush, just to feel the hug-inviting and smell the pine-fresh  climate of Baguio.

     This year, my brother and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to take a road trip to Baguio again with mama and her siblings.  With the newly opened, [and still toll-free  :-) ] Mindanao Avenue-NLEX connection, we were able to save one hour off our trip and reached Baguio at four and a half hours, counting rest stops and breakfast on the way  :-) . 

     This year, we stopped by Hacienda Luisita to grab some breakfast. At the parking lot of the compound  of a row of restaurants was a little crowd gathered, with digital cameras whipped out, and children's voices all excited that caught our attention. When I turned, I saw this "one-goat powered uh, coach, decked out in colorful flowers, crepe paper, and a lively driver dressed in his best Christmas clothes, complete with sunglasses, and hat! 

      The "coach" was just too serendipitous a find to pass up on a  few pictures. So, I rummaged in my bag for my trusty point and shoot camera, and joined the  little fan club. Hehehe. On closer inspection, I couldn't help but laugh at the homemade "marquee" between goat and rider... 

     That made my day! It was another testament to the Filipino's own brand of humour and creativity. I mean, what other name would better suit a herbivore than Gulayat (gulay, is the Filipino term for vegetable)? How else can you best illustrate the strength this goat has to pull this karitela along with it's driver? How else can you describe such a friendship?

     What struck me most was that, being instant "celebrities" or a mini-sideshow, I did not see any cruelty from Lolo Badong to make it look as if he intentionally was exploiting Gulayat just for a few bucks, or a few laughs. They both seemed to enjoy the limelight, and being the bearers of mirth for the benefit of the little children who gamely posed for a souvenir photo. In the urbanization of any available piece of land nowadays, Lolo Badong and Gulayat are a welcome sight to teach children another kind of friendship. Another kind of interaction, and a look back into a beautiful co-existence between a man and his pet. 

     The baby Jesus once again gifted me with a glimpse of his birthday in a manger, with only farm animals at His side. No store-bought gifts and expensive clothes were presented to him by the magi or the shepherds. In all likelihood, they would have dressed probably more like Lolo Badong. His clothes and shoes are old, and covered in dust, perhaps if not because it was kept so long in a cabinet to preserve it for use only on special occasions, they've been covered in dust and dirt from the long distance they've quietly travelled. They probably tried to imagine what they will find, once they reached their destination. Of course, in Lolo Badong's case, talking loudly to himself, getting only a shake of the head from Gulayat, whether in assent or a fly, only he would know.
     Knowing that they looked and could present themselves as best they could, they went on with their journey, and on reaching their destination, gave and was given joy back, as only the blessed and special season of Christmas could!

©CherWriter 2010.12.26

Monday, December 20, 2010

From the Hearth...

From one of my favorite animated films, Ratatouille

     I have had the privilege of having been given the chance to work in a company where for a time, quite a number of individuals were foreigners. It's fun to get their take on life in the Philippines as they complete their 3-4 years assignment in the country.

      Their most common answers would be about our innate hospitality, our warmth as a people, our creativity, a resilient and happy disposition despite a bleak improvement in the country's future, their astonishment at our faith, and the wealth of beautiful natural resources we possess. Out of all these however, one answer never fails to elicit a proud smile from me. That is their amusement at how many times we have  meals in a day, all of them considered major. Hehehe.  Of course, there is your usual breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there is also the mid morning and mid afternoon snack which, mind you, are not really light fares at all sometimes. :D

     One thing good about our culture is that since we value family very much (another thing foreigners appreciate about us), we still do make the effort even in this impersonal day and age to keep our families together. Amidst the worries and burdens of life, you might ask, "How so?"

     Filipinos LOVE food. There is no argument there. For each region, town, or city, there are as many variations of one dish as there are the cooks that make them . Whether these are treasured family traditions, or bold new experiments into the fusion cuisine trend and beyond. The hearth in the home is where the family cooks... mothers, aunts, nieces, daughters, daughters-in-law, and now, even sons and fathers, pass on the most valuable family secret food recipes. These are the things that give each family it's identity in the intricacies of food preparation.

     Families bond in the "unity of their palates." Sharing becomes easier. Major and trivial concerns are put to light at the dinner table  where the goodness of the food offers a palatable perspective on the situation. Family values are reinforced in the way things are done. As each family cook will have his or her own set of systems as to the way things should be done. At the same time, creativity is encouraged because from a main recipe, kitchen greenhorns, when deemed "ready", are also allowed to put their own spin into their own brand of cooking, in the same way that Filipinos are generally more tolerant of individual personalities, while keeping the tenets of faith and values anchored firmly as they do so.

     With the longest Christmas season celebrated anywhere in the world, do not be surprised to find the fires in Filipino kitchens constantly stoked; burning steadily, amid the frantic hustle and bustle of activity in the home. For it is here where everything is prepared with love and care, consideration and understanding, because those that will partake of the meal, whether one, two, or a clan, will taste love with each mouthful. Hope is renewed in the very steam rising from the food in front of them. People who may have come in surly, cranky and hungry will always be made a place for at a Filipino home and offered food. Around family and friends, happiness is found once again, nowhere else on earth.


©CherWriter 2010.12.20

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Past Presents: TIN TOYS

     I grew up in my grandparents' home. That beautiful house held many wonderful memories and life lessons for three generations of Reyeses. 

     If it was still standing today, you would have had the chance to know my grandparents and how wonderful they were, only by looking at the elements of the house. 

     The seamless blend of old and new architecture would tell you that my grandparents embraced change in life while steadfastly preserving, and handing down to us the good and lasting values of the past. 

     The fact that antique and modern furnishings were still useful and were still being used, mirrored my grandmother's meticulous nature. Everything had its proper place and use. Her loving and caring nature showed in the way the cleaning and care of each glass, plate, silverware, clothes, and other personal effects were keenly supervised so that care instructions were followed to the letter.

     Of all my childhood memories of that house where I lived 22 years of my life, one of the fondest involves her wood and glass toy cabinet. 

     It was found in a small and cozy room just to the right of the living room as you entered the house. This magnificent toy cabinet never failed to elicit oohs and ahhs from us little kids. It had all kinds of toys, big and small. As a mother of five boys and a girl, most of the toys my lola had were cars, trucks, log cabin play sets, toy soldiers, spaceships, wind up toys, and dolls.

     Only lola had the lone key to open the alligator lock on the glass door. Puppy dog eyes and your best sweet grandchild antics had to work in combination to get her to relent to having us play with these toys. Actually, now that I think on it, borrowing a toy from lola was not very hard. The thing was, she was a little reluctant to have us play with these toys because they were all antiques! Having been the best friends of my dad and his siblings growing up, lola really wanted to make sure that we could responsibly and carefully play with these toys. Well, I guess you know how it is... the usual list of "Be careful..." reminders and promises half listened to because of our eagerness to fulfill the only thing on our agenda... PLAYTIME! :D

     It's funny now looking back, because even if these toys were made of tin and had a lot of sharp parts and mechanical components, never did I remember me or any of my cousins sustaining any injury from these playthings. I guess lola's warnings were really scary enough for us to take them seriously... :D 

     Some of these toys were battery operated. Some were the mechanical wind up type. Made of tin or heavy metal, these were heavy and sturdy, unlike the plastic toys prevalent in stores today. 


     How ironic that these toys were purposely built for children in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, by today's standards, these are hazards to children.

     These toys, for me, were the REAL INTERACTIVE TOYS. They let children play with actual children in IN THE SAME ROOM. Friendships and character are built through sharing, consideration, trust, honesty, and respect for one's personal property.

     These toys from the past are now worth a lot from a monetary standpoint. But perhaps, their value is more in the fact that they are links to a past where toys were valued and passed down from one generation to another, or a friend to another. They were not like the disposable toys of today that when a part of it breaks, it is immediately discarded and forgotten. These tin and metal toys more often than not, outlast their owners so that when these children grew up, they learn to appreciate the care and quality of workmanship that went into it. Since it was not rapidly mass produced, these toys were really TREASURED and were not set aside as easily for the next big toy fad.

     I consider myself lucky to have been given the chance to play with these toys by my lola. It connected me more to my mom and uncles and aunt, and it felt wonderful that I got to play with the same toys. THEIR TOYS. It was as much a family heirloom as antique jewelry passed down from mother to daughter.

     I wonder if our generation will make toys like these again.

©CherWriter 2010.12.17

Saturday, December 11, 2010


     There is a very well-known Filipino saying "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinganggalingan, ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan." (One who does not look back at where he has been, will not get to where he is going.)

     I have written about my very poor excuse for a handwriting here and gave a little nod to technology here  but I wonder how many of you in our generation, particularly the Martial Law babies with older children or nephews and nieces, talk to them about what life was like growing up, without present day technology.      

     For my mom and me, this is one topic of conversation that elicits the most teary-eyed laughs whenever it comes up. Normally, it starts out innocently with a comment on how hard life is becoming. Of course, mama counters with her own, "Maswerte pa nga kayo eh. Alam mo ba, noong panahon namin..." (Your generation is still very lucky. Did you know that back in our time...) 

     And so it starts... anecdotes of a generation so rich in values amidst the simplicity of life and the absence of the convenience of modern technology as we know it. The simplest of these is the comparison on currency.

     My mom tells me that growing up, money had more value because coins were minted with a high silver and gold content. Coins were in those days, had monetary values of a half cent (isang kusing during my grandmother's time) and 1, apart from the usual 5, 10, 25, PhP1.00, and so on... She says that unlike today, the coins then were very heavy and solid unlike those that are in circulation today which are very light and very thin.

    I do remember growing up that there were several changes to the coins that were put out in circulation but I never did start a coin collection. There were the one-centavo coins that had the image of Lapu-lapu that were in the shape of either a square with rounded edges or round ones. There were also five-centavo coins in the shape of a flower. There were also the flora and fauna series, and even a decagon shaped coin.

     However, the clinchers are the things money can buy in those days.With the average office worker's salary of P20.00 a month,  P2.50 will put a whole chicken on the table for dinner. P0.15 can buy you a bottle of soft drinks or take you from Pedro Gil in Manila to Quiapo. A date including  jeepney fare, Pepia (Pepsi and hopia), a double program movie, and a big bag of peanuts (popcorn was not available yet) to munch on in the movie house only costs P5.00!!!!

     How nice it would be if today, more people would be able to afford more of the basic necessities of life, and there was more value to the money we hold today. Ironically, the world has gotten more materialistic and so dependent on money that hardly can seem to buy anything of value. There is more money needed now to buy just a fraction of what it could afford years back, and yet, we say that this generation is better. How so, at least financially speaking... Let me know your thoughts on this. Please feel free to leave a comment. :D

(Mini Curve: "Martial Law" babies: those born in the Philippines during the period of Martial Law between 1972-1986 under the administration of President Ferdinand E. Marcos)

©CherWriter 2010.12.11

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blanket Security

     Let me introduce you to LINUS VAN PELT.
For those of you born in the 90s onwards, Linus van Pelt is a character in the Peanuts comic strip created in 1950 by the late Charles M. Schulz.

     He, along with the other well-known children in the series, Charlie Brown, Sally Brown,  Lucy van Pelt, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Rerun, Pigpen, and Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy, made up the cast of the popular comic strip that appeared until February 13, 2000, a day after Mr. Schulz' death.(1)
     Of all the Peanuts cast of characters, he is my favorite because of our similarities, primarily in growing up with a security blanket.

     My mom and my aunts and uncles can attest to how I loved my flannel security blankets (my baby blankets, 1 pink and blue with diamond patterns, and 1 yellow with a green, blue and white middle stripe :D). I just referred to them as kumot (pronounced "coo-mot"; Tagalog word for blanket). I would have it with me constantly. It was my favorite plaything because to my young mind, it could morph into a gazillion shapes and forms.

     Among its favorite uses, it was my first pick for a bedtime companion. At night I would do this little ritual where I would fold the blanket up and roll it, pretty much like a pinwheel cookie and it became my version of a plush or stuffed toy. It had this smooth, comforting, warm feel to them that made bedtime so much more pleasant. It felt I was playing until sleep finally took hold.     

     An anecdote from my mom about those blankets was that they "mysteriously" found its way into luggage when we were going on out of town trips, despite having been purposely left it in the closets. Now, we can't have that, can we? I always made sure no one, not even my favorite blanket, got left behind. Hehehe.

     I felt bad growing up at some point because my aunts and uncles ganged up on me to "malign" and scare me into giving up my favorite blankets. Imagine??? They just don't know my blankets and what we've been through! Hehehe. Well, my mom, giving in to their advise, either gave away or (I hope not!) threw away or burned the blankets one day because despite a fervent search, they mysteriously just disappeared! They did not even get to be so threadbare beyond recognition! :-(  How could they when an aunt of mine still held on to her childhood pillow! At that time, I felt like screaming, "Well! My kumot is better than your crummy pillow! Ha!"  (but of course, I did not have the heart to shout that to my aunt. ♥)

     But, since my blankets were no more, there was nothing I could do. I just had to trudge on through life without them. To my non-blanket wielding relatives (hehehe), this was a rite of passage. I had to learn that life goes on in the face of a loss of a stable force in life. I had to learn to make do. I had to adapt.

     I will just say though that I think I turned out pretty much okay after my beloved blankets have gone. Sometimes I wonder though if I'd be the same person I have become if my blankets were still here. Maybe they'd be framed somewhere in the house, pretty much like a baby picture would.

     There are other similarities between Linus and myself but I will reserve that for another post. Meanwhile I leave you with the philosopher Linus' words of wisdom:

©CherWriter 2010.12.08

A Poem for Mary, Immaculate Conception

La Immaculata

Mother dear, we gather here
To praise you on this blessed day.
Heaven deigned to bestow on thee
The greatest gift for all humanity.

To be a living tabernacle
For Jesus our King!
Born without stain of sin and sorrow
To bring hearts to Jesus, and glorify his reign.

May the rosary never be tedious
In our daily life of prayer
As we pick roses from Heaven's garden
At your feet, we lay to bear

Through the pains of this earthly life
Keep our heads turned to the light
That through every loss and burden
Bear with joy, and hope, love and care.

O mother beautiful and loving
Make in my soul a gentle stirring
Advent's waiting hour at hand
Strive to reach our Heaven homeland.

©CherWriter 2010.12.08

Friday, December 3, 2010

ONNA: Woman's perspective

  This is the Japanese character for the word "woman." The Japanese word for woman is onna (pronounced "ohn-nah").

     I like this Japanese character as it effortlessly evokes femininity, and it isn't very hard to decipher what message the pictogram wishes to convey. In three simple strokes, it illustrates a woman:

  1. Kneeling, with arms crossed;
  2. Kneeling with a child in her arms;
  3. In meditation / prayer;
  4. Seated with a child;
  5. At a loom;
  6. Hunched as if attending to a sick person;
  7. Gracefully striking a dance position...

    There are definitely a myriad ways to interpret this pictogram, but underneath it all lies the fact that for generations past, and even today, a woman attending to any task displays grace, poise, and a genteel spirit that carries her through trials and tribulations, triumphs and trivialities.

    Her "soft" nature naturally complements her caring and nurturing spirit, but does not in any way limit her to such. As the world has proven, a woman's nurturing spirit is also the fountain from which generations have been sustained.

    Who can argue with a mother's protective instinct to do all in her power to preserve and protect her family? With what can compare a woman's passion in providing all that is necessary to ensure that her brood can face the world with confidence when they are hit with the harsh realities of life? Too often I have seen women rise up as a better version of themselves after having been dealt with an unfair hand by life.

    To women out there, single, married, or widowed, I salute you! To the men who have the privilege of knowing these exceptional women, take a good hard second look at the treasure you actually hold. Protect and value, love and reassure them always. Doing this not only assures you to be in their constant good graces, but you will soon see that the measure that you give to them is given back to you hundredfold without protest. Simply because a woman is so much more than the womb of man.

©CherWriter 2010.12.03


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