Mama and Tito Luis

We were in Zambales again last week. This time, my mom decided to join us, along with my father and Youngest Sister and her two boys.

Spouse and I are so very happy she was well enough to make the trip. She even managed to sneak in a couple of the the oatmeal raisin cookies I made for the road trip. She declared they were excellent – a compliment I treasure of course.

We went to pay the taxes on her riceland and also collected our share of the last harvest. While at the town municipal hall, I looked around for the municipal accountant who happened to be a family friend, and a protege of my uncle. He hasn’t seen my parents in years so it was a very pleasant meeting. He also insisted we go see my uncle, even if we didn’t make prior arrangements. My uncle retired to the old hometown years before Mt. Pinatubo erupted and then he returned when all the dust settled a few years after.

And so we got to see Mama’s elder brother, my Tito Luis. His face was just beaming with happiness to see her. It was amazing to see the genuine love and affection between them. Lunch was prepared like during our last visit and again we had a feast. We all had a wonderful time, including the two toddlers. My uncle always loved children and was never afraid to show it. He thus became everyone’s favorite uncle. When he arrived at any party, my cousins and I would run to greet him screaming, “Titol-wis is heeeeere!!!”

He and my mom were born just 20 months apart and it seemed like the two argued a lot when we were growing up. Soon as the two got together, the bantering in loud “I-have-to-be-heard” voices using Ilocano, English, Tagalong and sometimes Spanish started. The laughs would follow soon after though, with my mom declaring she won the argument.

In fact, their youngest sister once told us what a pickle she found herself in once, with my mom on one side of her and my Tito Luis on the other, in an air-conditioned van they were all riding in through the infamous Metro Manila traffic….with the two arguing in their loud voices again! The picture she painted with her words just made me roar with laughter and we repeated that story for years.

My mom and uncle are both in their late 70’s now and things have quieted down considerably. My uncle praises my mom’s dress and how pretty she’s looking…he doesn’t call her funny nicknames like he used to. And my mom doesn’t argue with him anymore. All she said about our visit when we got home was, “I heard his voice and everything was alright.”

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Failed Coup at the Pen

Just another day in the Philippines last November 29…and another failed coup at another 5-star establishment….

We really have to change the title of this post to “A Failure of Imagination at the Pen” …don’t you think?

Posted in Mita Tots, Philippine Politics, Philippine Society | Leave a comment

Jeff Finally Visited


It was only a matter of time before Jeff Foxworthytook a couple of shots at Colorado! Thanks, Jeff 😉

Posted by d Spouse


You are a Coloradoan (or former Coloradoan) if………

  1. You switch from ‘Heat’ to ‘A/C’ in one day.
  2. You know what the ‘Peoples Republic of Boulder’means.
  3. Your sense of direction is: towards the mountains and away from the mountains.
  4. You’re a meat-eating vegetarian.
  5. The bike on your car is worth more than your car and you have your own special bike lane.
  6. You’re able to drive 65 miles per hour through 13 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without even flinching.
  7. You take your out-of-town guests to Casa Bonita even though you would never go there otherwise.
  8. You think your major food groups are granola bars, tofu and Fat Tire Beer.
  9. You design your kid’s Halloween costumes to fit over a snowsuit.
  10. You think that sexy lingerie is wool socks and flannel PJs.
  11. You know all 4 seasons: ‘almost winter,winter, still winter and spring blizzards.
  12. You’ve been tear gassed in a riot to celebrate a CU/CSU victory.
  13. You can never figure out why your out-of-town guests faint on a picnic to the mountains.
  14. You can drive over a 12,000-foot pass in 4 feet of snow, but can’t get to work in 4 inches of snow.
  15. You know the ‘correct’ pronunciation of Buena Vista.
  16. When you visit friends at sea level, you can drink a case of beer and not get a buzz.
  17. Your car insurance costs more than your car.
  18. You have surge protectors on every outlet.
  19. You think the lyric is: “April showers bring May blizzards”.
  20. ‘Timberline’ is someplace you have actually been.
  21. You know what a ‘Chinook’ is.
  22. You know what a ‘Rocky Mountain Oyster’ is.
  23. You know what a ‘fourteener’ is.
  24. But you don’t know what a ‘turn signal’ is.
  25. A bear on your front porch doesn’t bother you nearly as much as a Democrat in Congress does.
  26. Your golf bag has a 9-iron, a 3-wood and a lightning rod.
  27. People from out of state breathe 5 times as often as you do.
  28. Having a Senator named Nighthorse doesn’t seem strange.
  29. Having a Senator named “Changehorse” doesn’t seem strange.
  30. Thunder has set off your car alarm.
  31. You have an $800 stereo in your $300 truck.
  32. You think a red light means 3 more cars can go.
  33. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!!
  34. You know where the real ‘ South Park ‘ is.
  35. You can recognize the license plates of all 50 states on sight.
  36. Driving directions usually include ‘Go over_________ Pass.’
  37. You’ve ‘checked for ticks.
  38. You’ve dressed in shorts, sandals, and a parka with a hood.
  39. You’ve gone snow skiing in July and………
  40. You’ve played golf in January and…….
  41. They were in the same year!
  42. You’ve urinated on the Continental Divide just so it could run into both oceans.
  43. And the most important: You get a certain feeling of satisfaction that California and Texas are both downstream.
  44. You know what a down slope and an up slope weather pattern is.
  45. You actually understand these jokes and send them to your Colorado friends.
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Zambales

Spouse and I were invited to a birthday party in Zambales last Sunday. It’s a 3-hour drive from where we live. It’s also where my mother’s family is from, and where our family consider ourselves to be originally from even if we were not born there. In fact, the family doesn’t have its roots in Zambales, but in the old poblacion of Makati which is now the country’s primary business and financial district. Zambales though, is “our province,” as Filipinos like to say.

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The birthday celebrant last Sunday is originally from Cebu, an engineer whom Eldest Brother-in-law used to work with in the old gold and copper mine in our town of San Marcelino. The mine shut down shortly after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption of 1991. That event caused utter devastation for Zambales and the neighboring provinces. I’ve never seen a catastrophe that wreaked havoc on so many lives, covering such a vast land area. I hope never to see it again.

But Zambales has recovered amazingly well. In the past, I always preferred the Southern Luzon provinces because vegetation was always denser there it seemed while Zambales seemed so hot and dry. Driving up to Zambales late last year, we were met with lush and thick vegetation that I didn’t recognize half the places we passed. Everything seemed so much closer than I remembered it was….the small emergency hospital has now grown and doesn’t seem so far away from the town proper.

The place we went to is a valley with a beautiful view of the Zambales mountain range. It’s not Colorado but it was nice to see the mountains again. The farm had two or three large fish ponds where tilapia is free to grow without danger of being fished commercially. There were several fruit trees around the property too. But the thing that caught my attention were the various bamboo clustes growing in and around the main house. They were tall and provided a large canopy of cool shade…I can only imagine what a lovely shade it makes in the dry, hot season of April and May.

In the first photo you’ll see the house, an old mango tree and a thatched bamboo gazebo. The owners built a small bungalow made of bamboo…nothing fancy. It had tiled floors, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom, corrugated roofing and a large open kitchen on the side where the breeze from one of the ponds made the air cool.

It was just lovely to spend time listening to the water flowing from the little creek dividing the property…and to sit under the “kakwati” trees on wooden benches sitting on the side of another fish pond. My dad came along and so did my nephews and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

In fact, we enjoyed the day so much we decided to check out my mother’s old riceland nearer to the town proper. It’s just a couple of pieces of property she inherited from her mother who was from a neighboring town….all the rest is gone. The other is what was once  a mango grove that Mt. Pinatubo washed away with its lahar. We have yet to visit it after all these years.

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This photo here is the part of the property that can’t be planted to rice because it’s higher than the rest of the parcels around it. The man who has farmed the property for over 36 years plants peanuts, corn or sweet potato just so it doesn’t sit idle. It has a good view of the hills beyond and there’s an irrigation ditch surrounding the property. It also has three, one-lane dirt roads so you can go through the entire property from front, center and back and drive to main roads without a problem.

I think it’s a perfect spot to build a little bungalow with a sprawling screened patio and not much else. Question is….how long can I live without cable television and the internet?

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Prelude to Planning A Golden Wedding Anniversary

After the aunt’s birthday party last week, I couldn’t get my mind off the upcoming 50th Wedding Anniversary my parents will be celebrating early next year. I brought it up with Spouse a few hours after we arrived from the party and he told me he had exactly the same thing on his mind during the day. He then encouraged me to get in touch with the sisters through our main line of communications – the internet.

I set up our family Yahoo! Group in March 2003 and communicating within the family ( sisters and nieces and nephews and brothers-in-law too!) in two different countries became easier. Our latest member is the Eldest Sister. After years of trying to convince her to go online for real, and not use her daughters’ Yahoo! Messenger accounts to chat with us, she finally set up her own email account about a month ago.

And so the messages are flowing in our group…back and forth with this or that detail. The anniversary is in January and we should have made plans sooner but the parents were not keen on a party for one reason or another. We’re not big party people….and definitely not the stiff, formal-wear required kinda party. So we’ll steer as far  away from that as we can manage.

But a Golden Wedding Anniversary! Ohhhh…how could you not celebrate such a milestone? As a family with 7 middle-aged children and 9 grandchildren of various ages, we definitely have reason to celebrate.

My parents made it this far and they are even finally getting along with each other!

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Meeting the Aunts

My husband and I are going to a birthday party for my mom’s youngest sister tomorrow.  We’re all expected to go.  It’s RSVP and all our names are on the list to make sure we all go.

My Tita Mameng (Carmen) already called to make sure we’re going because she just flew in for her annual visit.  She’s the aunt who migrated to Australia after her husband retired more than a decade ago.  I love my Tita Mameng.  She’s the most colorful of all my aunts.  In fact, I wrote about her in my cooking blog.

The birthday celebrant is my Tita Chato (Rosario) who is another vibrant woman.  I loved how she told stories when it was just family and friends around, with her arms flailing and her face all animated as she suppressed a premature laugh.  Standing in the middle of the room, all eyes were always on her.  She’s a beauty too I always thought…a beauty with brains … always the level-headed member of the family you can rely on were there was a crisis.  There’s always one in every family, for ours, it’s Tita Chato.

But she’s also the aunt who always dresses just so and always smells pretty as she looked.  She’s also the only aunt who dropped by my office, not once but twice, and tried to enticed me to take the day off to make “lakwatsa” or fool around.  I should’ve taken her up on it.

My godmother, Tita Remy, won’t be there.  She passed away a few days after the last birthday party.  I’m still in denial about it so this is difficult to write.  She was the matter-of-fact eldest sister who seemed unperturbed by anything.  But she showed me she cared in so many different ways as I was growing up and later, as a grown-up.  I miss her.

It will be nice to see the aunts again, along with the cousins.  It’s been too long.  There’s a new generation already starting their individual lives and a few who are just learning to take their first steps.  It’s their turn to be introduced to the rest of the family.

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Missing Home

I know I’m home…back in my country of birth no less…with my parents living just a two-minute walk away from us. But still…

There are just times when you miss what you got used to…the routine of a life you made some place else…

I’m with the same person. We’ve always told each other (or maybe it was just me) that for as long as ‘WE” were okay, everything else will follow. Not that things are not okay….it’s just “I miss Home.”

While we made a major change in our life moving here almost a year ago, we’ve found a new routine. New elements have taken root into this new routine, and we are happy. Still….

I miss the mountains. I miss the clear, cool air. There’s no clearer air than in Colorado where the lights shine brighter and illuminate for miles and miles. I miss the crispness of a an autumn evening, the shock I get when walking out the door into a sunny, cold day. It seemed so strange to me how sunny and cold was NOT incompatible…it’s still strange to me as I write it.

I am home but I miss home. How could that be?

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My Mother, Ambrosia aka Bessie

ma.jpg

In the Philippines, as in most parts of Asia, we hold deeper respect for our elders than in most parts of the world.  It’s so ingrained in the Asian psyche, we don’t even think twice about it.  It’s a simple philosophy based on affection more than obligation. They took care of us when we were unable to take care of ourselves, hence, we take it upon ourselves to do the same now they have advanced in age.  If that sounds like an obligation, I assure you it’s not.

At this stage in my life when my parents are in their late 70’s and their older siblings are passing on one by one, nothing scares me more than the thought of losing one of them.  My niece said the same thing in our family Yahoo! group.  I feel so badly for my two sisters who are in the US, far away from our parents.  Everytime we have a medical emergency here, I know their fears because I felt it once before.

I lost an aunt last June.  At the very same time, my mother’s doctor wanted her confined for a minor infection.  My mother was also suffering depression at that point and I knew to confine her then would not have helped at all.  So I begged and bargained with her doctor until he agreed to an outpatient arrangement where we shuttled my mother every other day to see him.

My mother has been a diabetic for years you see.  The disease is taking its toll on her body and her emotions.  Diabetics suffer from depression more than the average person. There were times when she refused to eat because she had no appetite at all….not for anything.  There were times when not even my little nephews, whom she loves  dearly, could get her out of her funk.

Taking care of a woman like my mother is not easy.  For all our lives, she was the strong, formidable presence who made all the decisions.  When she said no, which was rare, we had no choice but to acquiesce.  That’s become a problem now that she needs more medical care.  When she refuses to do something, we cannot just give in like in the past.  To do so could cost her her life.

We had another scare last week.  Pneumonia.  That killer of an infection, especially for the elderly.  Diabetics are more prone to infection.  My aunt died of pneumonia in June.  And oh God were we all scared when the doctor said my mother had pneumonia last week! I could hear the gasps of fear in my sisters’ emails and text messages when they were told.

Luckily,  it was caught early and her doctor is good.   My mom loves her doctor and thinks the world of him.  She can be coy with him and lie straight to his face about her diet or what she’s been up to, but he’ll wiggle it out of her like none of her children can.   She’s naughty that way you see.  The young tomboy who bullied her classmates into giving her their gourmet lunches or prized goldfish will still surface every so often.

When she first got sick over 5 years ago, she disliked the first doctor who saw her so much she called her “Brownie” – after all the brown outfits and accessories the lady-doctor seemed to wear on a daily basis.  Hemming and hawing was never my mother’s style and this is what the good doctor seemed to be doing with her.  My mother has always been  a straightforward, no nonsense woman who speaks her mind but is also very charming when she wants to be.  She could’t find it in her to even be slightly charming with “Brownie” and told me to contact her niece in Cebu who could refer us to another doctor.  And so we found Dr. Ed.  We all go to him now – for anything that ails us.

I’ll always be grateful for finding Dr. Ed.  He’s truly a lifesaver. My mother is back home now, sitting in her usual place at the table.  Her blood sugar is going back to normal and she’s her old cheerful, sometimes naughty self.  She’s not being naughty when it comes to her diet though…the will of steel  is showing again and she’s sticking to her low-carb diet until she’s off insulin.  And all is right with my world.

Posted in Mita Tots, Philippine Society | 1 Comment

Women Rule in the Philippines

Women rule in the Philippines. I’ve always known it and before I get into the nitty-gritty of why it’s so….here’s just one thing to prove it:
MORE women than men occupied the top positions in Philippine companies in 2006—2.257 million of them compared with only 1.629 million men, according to a labor department survey.

The study, by the department’s Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, also showed that the number of female bosses ballooned to 2.257 million in 2006 from just 1.86 million in 2002, and that compared with 1.4 million male bosses the same year.

The number of male executives and supervisors totaled 1.613 million in 2004. By contrast, the number of women holding the same posts increased by 97,000, bringing their total to 2.162 million for the same period.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said female bosses had been steadily outnumbering their male counterparts over the last five years, and mainly because they were better educated.

He cited another department survey showing that one out of every three employed women in 2006 had a college education.

By contrast, only one out of every five men employed during the period had some college education.

“With higher education, women have better chances of also getting better-paying and higher positions,” he said.

Brion also cited an international report early this year that showed 97 percent of all businesses in the Philippines had women in senior management positions—the highest among 32 countries surveyed and also significantly higher than the 59 percent global average.

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Sex and Seniors. Monetizing A Blog, Part 2

I hope you’ll take me seriously and give me some feedback. I know someone out there will read this somehow. *BOT? what’s a BOT? is that like a robot?*

Seriously, a few days ago, the Spouse was giving me my much-needed, geek-speak lecture about monetizing a blog. In-between a couple of mental yawns, the conversation reminded me of an idea I told him about when we first had this discussion when I first started blogging. Anyway….that was a long time ago, and in blog monetizing language (for this blog anyway), a few cents ago.

So what was that marvelous idea I had you might ask?

Well how about writing about SEX?! Sex sells so they say. I think it’s true. And think of all the possibilities…sex for middle-aged partners, sex for the menopausal, sex and seniors…mmmm…prolly not a good idea, huh?
I could write it anonymously and not give any details about who, what or where I am so people won’t find out I’m writing imaginary stuff I most probably would pick off the internet (YES, you can find anything online!) so there won’t be any repercussions when the blog becomes, not just popular, but FAMOUS. But who cares about fame, right? This blog may finally be monetized!
Seriously again… millions of baby boomers will be retiring in the next years. They’ll have time on their hands and spendable income – an advertiser’s dream clicker! What is out there for seniors?  Think of the possibilities!
I probably should go check…

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