Unofficial but officially proud

I think it was through Facebook that I first bumped into this, as related to a controversy involving the Department of Tourism in Manila and McCann-Erickson. But that has been written about to death and I don’t see any added value to weighing in, so instead I’m focusing on the good thing that came out of this brouhaha.  That controversy sparked this video which is touted as the unofficial tourism video of the Philippines.

I have watched it many times over and will keep watching it because it moves me in so many ways as a Filipino.  I will always call the Philippines my home.  Like I wrote on my FB wall:

I’ve watched this over and over again and I am always moved with pride. This is us.. this is what and who we are. When you feel disillusioned by things around you, this will remind you what we are about as a people.

If you’re a Filipino, you will understand what I mean.  If you are just someone who strayed into this space or heard about this video, let me introduce you to the land of my birth.  Hardly any words, hardly any people except for tiny specks in the bigger scenery, but all Filipino in torrents.

I cannot ever hope to capture all the emotion and thoughts it stirs up in me in writing.  But I can sum it up in one word: Wow.

So true.  More often than not, it’s harder not to fall in love with its land and its people.

It’s More Fun in the Philippines from Creatives of Manila on Vimeo.

To be a working law student

I promised a post on this even if I responded via e-mail, going back now to what is the most popular topic (young) people who find themselves in this corner of the web actually read up on.  (Just a reminder that there is an entire section devoted to the posts on the subject of law school and being in law school or trying to get to the right law school and everything else legal eagle related here.)

While I’ve edited out details that might be too revealing, I want to thank the young lady who wrote me with this query:

Let me start by saying that this is my first time to write an e-mail to a blogger. I have never done this before, but I need advise on how it is to become a working student in Ateneo Law School (ALS).   I started working last year and I have seen the importance of gaining work experience, training hours, and money, which is why it is hard for me to give up my current job. Currently, my mindset is to try to have the best of both worlds (I know this will be super difficult) by being a working student. I guess I am writing this e-mail just to ask for advise on how to successfully be a working student in ALS. Or is it even possible to be a working student enrolled in ALS?

There are many students currently walking the halls of the Ateneo School of Law who are working or have been working.  Not all of us go through our academic pursuits in a straight fashion.  Some postpone law school for much later, either due to financial or personal considerations — or simply to take a break and start earning money.  We all go and pursue our dreams at our own pace, in our own time.

I was a working student for most of my time in law school, and it was forced upon me by circumstance, and was not by choice.

Like I told my 11th reader (running joke that I have 10 and now 11 readers here!), I started working because of a literal reversal of fortunes.  It was such that I learned to commute at age 23.  Prior to this, I lived a very sheltered life, driven to and from home and school, fully subsidized by my parents.  I could sleep and study at will — I kept my own schedule. I got all my books in the original (and only law students would understand what I mean here), and got my cases photocopied from the library itself.  Alas, this dream life ended after my freshman year.

So as I entered my sophomore year, it was a hard choice to make — but I started working.  At first it was simply to supplement my spending money — and I took on a job that still gave me flexibility, and proximity to the then HV De La Costa campus of Ateneo.  (I know I’m dating myself here, what with the move to Rockwell ages ago.)  I was a newscaster for one of the radio stations in the Makati area which saw me earning minimum wage, but it was a good training ground for real life and the money helped.

But the choice of job was with law school being a priority in mind.  I wasn’t working to work — I was working because I needed it to continue to pursue my big dream.  I didn’t choose a minimum wage job in the industry I landed in because it was a career challenge.  My place of work was within walking distance from school, and the bourse worked well with my class schedule.(The newscasts were from morning to mid-afternoon, with the later ones taped after being culled from the day’s news.). But — and here’s the big BUT— even as I tried to supplement my income, it was clear to me why and what I was doing this all for.

I eventually moved on to two other jobs in the course of law school — for 18 months as part of a USAID project with the Department of Health that involved a lot of travel around the country, and then a leap of faith that saw me joining a boutique Ad agency just before the bar exams.  There was a lot of value in all those jobs — even voicing a novelty rap song as Louningning — but I would have preferred to have been a full time student.  I envied my classmates who were, and it took a  lot of gall and flexibility to make it through, but I did work through most of law school.

Yes, it IS possible to be a working student in the Ateneo School of Law or any other law school for that matter.  It might just be harder when you’re trying to be a legal blue eagle.

We have many distinguished graduates who went into law school as full time working students, and who were parents and breadwinners.  We had “moms” among us.  There were office workers who had regular 9-5 jobs then went to their classes after.  Again, note that the majority of the evening class were working, so there were enough of us to actually schedule classes around.

Law school, by itself, is a difficult hurdle to pass.  Working while studying law, and studying law at the Ateneo with its dreaded Quality Percentile Index requirement makes that burden double if not triple.  But it can be done.  How?

You have to learn to study in an abbreviated manner without sacrificing the quality of your learning.  That’s a lot of words that seem to be contradictory taken together.  Working means losing precious time to go through all the required reading.  Even as a full time student, you will always be looking for more time to read the cases and memorize the provisions.  Having done that, you usually don’t have enough time to integrate all that you just fed your brain and truly comprehend the bigger picture.  But we all have different methods for imbibing the knowledge that we read and hear — so find that which works for you.

Do not rely on others notes or digests and lose out on the details.  If you only study with digests, you are relying on how another student actually sifted through the facts and picked which ones they thought would help you survive a round of recitation on the case.  You miss out on the actual lesson which is explained in depth in the ponencia.  And there will always be cases that you will have to read in the original.  As a working student, you will not have that luxury anymore.  You will have to learn to read on the bus or in the jeepney, or during lunch breaks at work (which might not even be an option), and then cram through during the breaks between the ringing of the bells.

I remember being chided by students from the Business school for the law students eating lunch or dinner with their bookholders in front of them as we multitasked in the  cafeteria.

Weekends are for study catch up.  With weekday studies curtailed by work, I used to think twice about going out to watch a movie or hanging out at parties during the weekends.  Not that I stopped doing it altogether, but I was often too tired anyway, so I became very selective.  I hung out with my classmates more, but working shaped my weekends as catch up time.  You have to find the discipline to focus on how you apportion your free time when you find some — and weekends were usually the only time that afforded you that.

You have to be brave enough to swallow a “5” during recitation because you didn’t know the answer.  I may have recounted this story in an earlier blogpost of a professor who must’ve seen the gray matter between my ears who called me to recite on “x vs. y”, and I meekly stood up and told him, “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t read the case.”  Other professors would’ve quickly written me off with a “5”, but he proceeded to give me a chance with three other cases — and the long and short of it was, I didn’t get to the reading list AT ALL.  I repeated my answer for each one, then I sat down.

That was a very humbling moment, but he didn’t shoot me down or look down upon me.  While the 5 would’ve been easier, he wanted to give me a chance.

Be judicious about choosing when to be absent — at work or in school.  There will be days when you will have to choose one over the other, and you have to be careful in choosing.  There are only so many days you can cut a class, and so many vacation days to give up at work.  Choose well.

Know your priorities.  I always say that there is no hard and fast rule about life except that which pertains to doing what’s right.  We all know good from bad, but when it comes to deciding about our personal choices, it varies from person to person.  What might be a priority for me might not be as important a matter for you.

I cannot argue with the wealth of experience that working brings.  Who wouldn’t want to say no to earning your own money after being dependent on your parents for every expense from the time you were born?  But the study of law and the pursuit of that dream entails a different kind of focus and dedication that does not allow for half hearted effort.  So if the question is whether you can make it as a working student in law school — the answer is yes, but not without sacrifices or losing out on the chance to fully prepare yourself for what will be your lkfe’s vocation.

You should combine the two only if necessary.  If there is a choice between being a full time law student or working, and you still choose to do both, then your studies will definitely suffer for lack of your full attention.  Again, it can be done.  You are in Ateneo for a reason.  It wasn’t an accident you saw your name as one of the fortunate chosen– you obviously have the mental aptitude to keep up with the academic standards.  But if you don’t really need to work, ask yourself if the time that working takes away from your studies is worth risking what is one of the most important foundations of your future.

The question shouldn’t even be whether or not this will affect your chances of topping the Bar (although as one of my esteemed and dearest friends, Atty.  Jonathan Sarte told me before I took the bar exams, libre namang mangarap.. ). The question should simply be “Do I really need the distraction from what is supposed to be one of the most important pursuits of my life?”

You will get the chance to earn money — and more of it — later.  But you will only pass through the august halls of law school but once (hopefully) until you find yourself taking the Bar exams.  If the choice is difficult for you to see — absent a real and pressing financial need — then perhaps the dream of being a lawyer one day is not that firmly planted “deep in the deepest of your hearts”, as one esteemed lady professor would say in Obligations and Contracts.

If you can afford to focus all your energy and time in the pursuit of a legal education and the dream burns strong in your heart, it shouldn’t be that difficult a choice.  On the other hand, if (like me,) life deals you the hand that makes it imperative you support yourself whether partially  or in full through school, you will find it is that dream as well which will make you find the way to make it work.

Good luck!

Crafty Long Weekend

We are rarely blessed with four day weekends like this year’s Fourth of July (last week) and I had long ago decided I will stay home and try to deal with sorting out my craft supplies and projects, with ample time for catching up with the writing here and in my craft blog, Gotham Chick.  In fact, I managed to write something about my return to Polymer Clay there even before I started writing here.  I am trying to apportion my free time between the thousand and one things I want to take care of.. and whatever gets done, gets done.  What I don’t get to do, I will go back to another time.

I used to stress about keeping up and posting all my post-worthy pictures and blurbs all over– and then one day I just paused and stopped.  One thing I found out was that doing that wasn’t actually so bad.  It wasn’t the death of me.  Sure, the instagram followers stayed steady at just over 700.  But I never really set out to be a media influencer with thousands of followers.  I was happy to have a media presence.  And I am keeping it that way.

I can’t be holding my phone typing away when I want to find new ways to do crafts– and to actually make something of the many supplies I had acquired through the years.  I can actually keep crafting without buying anything with the way it is, unless I decide to change the medium of my crafts.  And I’m not planning to do that anytime soon.

I have enjoyed going back to my unfinished projects and planning how to make something new and different from that which I originally intended.  Projects I had discarded as epic fails can now come to life as something else.  It helps that I never throw things away unless I completely ruined it.  The crafty side of me always insists that even something already twisted or baked or formerly wound up can be fashioned into something new and beautiful again.
Work in progress

I found these round or donut-like beads I had made from polymer clay scraps.  Not quite there yet, but I think I’m ready to start working on the next phase.  Photographing them from this angle gives me new ideas to rework or use them, and I am taking this as the “before” pic.

While I have pushed the limit on sleeping late and waking up even later, I feel like I’ve had ample time to recharge and get things done at the same time.  

I finally finished hand rolling one of my silk scarves I had bought a while back.  Thanks to YouTube, I found a nice way to hand sew the edges of this panel fabric featuring a giant flower print.  Considering this was my first attempt, I’m quite proud of the way it came out.  It tells me what to do and what not to do for the next one, but I think it came out neatly even if there is some unevenness in the project.  I will write about that more in the craft blog soon.

I like the quiet pace of a staycation because then going back to work come Wednesday won’t be such a drag.  I’m actually looking forward to it as I prepare for a new chapter at work.  

The weekend has been all about taking care of me and that has given me a chance to breathe.  No special spa day or what not, but simply taking the time to do the things I want and care about at the pace I want to do it has been treat enough.  That’s my kind of a vacation.

Take care of you… 

Verses in my head

WORK IN PROGRESS: Fabric Flower Brooch with Freshwater PearlsThe words came early to me.  I wrote my first verses before I was ten, but it didn’t occur to me to save them until I was in fourth grade or 9 years old.  I started like most wannabe poets, making sure the verses rhymed and make sense.  They were never short blurbs, and it was more important for me to achieve the appearance of seeming poetry rather than expressing what I felt within in words.

As I grew older, I became more relaxed with the words and the phrasing.  I even let my punctuations loose and just wrote as the words came. 

My love affair with words has been a life long journey.

The uncanny thing was that the words stopped coming when I embarked on what I thought was the most important journey of my life: starting a family of my own.  For more than a decade, my voice was muted.  Perhaps it was a reflection of how the real me disappeared inside the shell of what I became in that new life.  So I guess it followed that when I rediscovered the person I had been underneath what I had been molded to be, the words came.

Even if I only managed one piece last year, the fact the the words and my feelings so easily came together again reassured me my voice was intact within.  

I’m writing about this journey in verse again because I’ve taken to writing new poems once more.  A friend chided me when I shared what is, joyous news for me, teasing me, do I start with “Roses are red..”‘.   (No, I don’t.. lol).   

The fact that I am able to finish a piece, no matter how short, is a personal feat that brings a smile to my face.  It brings peace to my heart.  I find it reassuring because my literary hand is steady again, writing freely.  My voice has awakened, and it is speaking to my heart.

I’m still not quite comfortable calling my work poetry.  I call them verses.   And I hope the words keep coming.  I am at that point in my life when a decade long silence is no longer on the horizon.  I write or I don’t.  The fact that I am writing again, I guess, means that I will be churning out more in the days to come.  That one there, is a thought that gives me fulfillment, reassuring me I’m in a very good place.

Monday Musings: And Summer is (almost) here

I woke up to a grey morning which I had expected thanks to the weather forecast from the previous evening.  I’m not complaining, but I could’ve used a bit more sunshine to start the week off.  But I’m never one to dwell on the negative.  I have always tried to see the positive — telling myself that the glass is half full — and what better way to reinforce it than to try and get the posts rolling on this side of the web.  I thought I’d keep it short and sweet and this being a Monday, here you go with the latest and greatest Monday Musings from Pinay New Yorker.

Monday Musings are actually supposed to be a snapshot of the things that are brewing in my head.  It’s a list of disconnected thoughts that will hopefully spur an actual full length post sometime during the week.  I’ve tried to keep it a regular to do here but haven’t been quite successful, but when I do write a post on the topic, it serves as a start of the week warm up that gets me to the next post.

Summer is (almost) here.  I like the warm weather because it’s always hot from where I came from, and when it rains it really pours.  So this hot and cold and hot and wet days we’ve been having are not new to me.  I just wish that it will stay hot if it’s “warmer” we’re heading towards, instead of seesawing between the two ends of the thermometer, depending on Mother Nature’s mood.  So we’ve been having hot and cold days with no discernible pattern, and I’m just glad that the forecasts are more or less on point.  Time to get the summer planning going.

Busy crafting.  My creative spirits have been bouyed by business picking up in my Etsy Shop.  Half the time I’m reposting inventory that had expired and posting what is already finished.  I’m trying to keep myself from creating new items until I’ve taken cared of most of what’s in the existing inventory, but I’m hoping to keep the orders coming in.  It’s not as simple as creating the items and then listing it.  There is a whole process to being an etsy seller, and while it can sometimes entail a lot of work, it’s nice to see my items available for sale.

Then there’s the additional task of marketing it on social media — but that’s another post altogether.. more on this for later.

Experiencing New York in 60 seconds.  A week or two ago, I attempted to capture snippets of my day in short video clips I strung together into a minute-long summary of how my day went.   What had started out as a pronounced effort to create something without any fuss turned out to be quite the learning experience for me.  Remember that I shoot only with my iphone6.  I published the videos under my GothamChickshopper monicker where I’ve created a Youtube Channel.  My first attempts were laughable but an enjoyable laughing trip for me, more so after I realized I had shot the videos in the wrong orientation.  I have since corrected the error, but I’m still trying to find the best way to edit the videos.  They are grainy and pixelized and more for viewing on your smartphone.

Here’s one sample below which I like because of the tender moments innocently captured as I panned the camera.

Life changes have taken me over.  I am embarking on a new journey and happily doing so with my not so little guy by my side, but I’m trying to bounce back and even step up my cadence as I begin afresh.

All excited to write about that if I can only get a moment to breathe and hit the keys.  Soon.

Thoughts before midnight

So it’s Friday evening and the tv clock says 11:42.  I just came from freshening up before bed and had this miserable thought hit me.  April is almost gone and my last post here was end March.  Epic fail.

Instead of dwelling on that and planning the dozen or so posts I had thought of or attempted to draft in the last four weeks, I have decided to grab my phone, click on the app, and just write a post I will publish before the clock strikes 12.  Where did the month go?  How could I have let one of the most important months of the year pass without a post?

For starters, the Pinay New Yorker is now 51.  My golden year has ended and ushered in the next one with quite a parade of small celebrations, notably the distribution of the so-called #GiftOf50.  I think I made a lot of people smile, accomplishing the goal I had in mind at the start, which is to spread some positive vibes.  People asked me why, and I simply said it felt good knowing people smiled with those little gestures.  Whether or not they were friends or acquaintances, they smiled when they thought of me — offsetting the negative thoughts of those who harbored ill will towards me in some shape or form.  Happiness is contagious and it’s one contagion I don’t mind spreading around.  I’m one VERY happy 51-year-old.  L

But my life is still in a state of semi suspended animation.  I am frozen that I am not.  I feel as thought I am moving in micro millimeters, but I know I am moving.  I continue to remind myself that the world will not stop turning if I cannot keep up, but no one said that I should get ahead of it.  I am catching up slowly but surely.  I just have to accept the fact that I am still in a bit of a struggle to keep pace. 

The important thing is that I know I am in a good place.  Yes, even if there are days when I have to stop a while, gather my thoughts and recalibrate. The point is to be able to pick myself up, catch my breath, and then move along.  Practice helped.  It is true that once you get the hang of it and keep doing something, it becomes an automatic reaction or a reflex.  We fall, and then we get back up on our feet again.

One of the remarkable discoveries I have made this month is that my life had stopped  when the rug was pulled from under me, and I chose to forget large chunks of my life I am only now going back to.  I recently participated in a church bazaar in my parish and pulled out my craft pop up store gear from the attic.  I had made pieces for the last bazaar or “tiangge” I had joined and had packed those away for the next one or to post in the shop.  Then I forgot about them.  Seeing them and remembering the pieces I had created not too long ago has revived my shop and my desire to keep the shop going.  And there were two sales in two weeks.. I took that as a sign.

I am good.  I have just been overwhelmed by life in general, but I am here.. happy at 51.. happy to be 51.

My Happy Place

A couple of weekends ago, I visited with a girlfriend I hardly get to see because of the distance.  I haven’t seen her in ages and it’s really because (1) I don’t drive, and (2), getting her to the city or getting me to Long Island can be quite the journey.

She asked me a question which was simple yet a tad complicated to answer:  How do I manage to stay happy?

Happiness, for me, is a continuing journey.  I think that as we get older, we have to seek or find that “happy place” we can retreat to when we feel ourselves being buried by the day-to-day hassles of our toil.  I have not always been as positive or happy as I am now. Even now, I still find myself succumbing to moments of sadness or those blah times when  life overtakes me.  But I know better now to stand up or wiggle free of the weight of negativity, and not let myself slide deeper into that abyss of sadness.  I deal with it in a way that works for me.

One thing I’ve learned is that you have to consciously seek to be happy, or you will find yourself sinking or wallowing in the opposite.  Happiness is not automatic.  How many times have you heard it said, “Happiness is a choice.”  I’m still not quite comfortable with that whole concept because I think what people label as “happiness” is relative to what they consider it to be.  As we get older, the word takes on a bigger meaning but we start defining it in simpler terms.

Each person defines happiness a different way, and I think much of the frustration or sadness about life in general is brought about by how difficult or unreachable that definition of “happy” is.  When people ask me for advice, I come back with a simple question: What is it that will make you happy?  Without worrying about everyone else around you, the other people depending on you for their own happiness, just thinking about YOU and YOU alone — what would make you happy?

I had asked myself that question many times — and I found my answer.  But the answer to my question is personal to me.  That question is answered a million different ways by the millions of other people out there.  You would answer that question your way.

I still ask myself that question when faced with a dilemma where I have to make a choice.  We have been wired to think of “what’s good for the majority”, or “whats good for all.”  But when that answer clashes with “what’s good for us” or “what’s good for me”, there arises a frustration that leads to sadness and discontent.  It leads to sacrifice — mostly on our part.  And sacrifice, no matter how noble, always hurts.

There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing or doing what’s best for others.  But it is more difficult to swallow when we ourselves, are, in general, not happy.  It all starts with ourselves.  So you need to find your happy place and go there when everything else seems to be crumbling down.

Memorialize “happy” in words.  I read somewhere not too long ago, that a gratitude journal is precisely for these times when we feel at our lowest.  We need to remind ourselves that there were things that made us feel grateful, and collectively, these are the things that contribute to our happiness.  That worked for me for a while and I just don’t know where my gratitude journal is right now, but that is a good idea that might work for those who do journaling or blogging or some form of record keeping.  I haven’t posted in ages, but I used to have a “Five Things to be happy about” list here– simple things that make me feel grateful at any given point in time.

When you have something tangible which may be anything from a scrap of paper with a list, or a tome with a lifetime’s entry worth of “Happy”, you might find that it’s more than just memories tucked in there.  There are feelings that will come rushing back that just might lift your spirits up.

Find that picture that will never fail to make you smile.  I have pictures that remind me of a million emotions that, wrapped together, bring a smile to my face.  I love taking selfies with my boy, and even before the age of smart phones and all, I trained myself to take photos with my point and shoot camera facing us, at arms’ length.  People used to wonder how I could do that and come up with perfect framing– I simply say, “Practice.”  Of all the thousands of selfies I’ve taken, I have a favorite one when he was probably 4 or 5.  I love that photograph because he was still small enough to sit on my lap, rest his head on my chest, and he smiled this happy smile that proclaims to everyone around “This is my girl.”  (He will probably cringe now at almost 13 if he reads I wrote that.). I have a copy of that picture in a frame on my desk, some place I can always see it.  And when I see that picture, I find myself in my happy place.

Create a happy space in your mind you can retreat to just by closing your eyes.  Remember how, as a kid, you would imagine a world where you were the princess or the super hero?  Or how you had such fun vacations with the family?  A special trip with friends perhaps?  Or a time and place where you get a tight embrace, where there was so much laughter you found yourself shaking uncontrollably until you had to take a deep breath before you started tearing up?  I have my favorite happy moments I loop in a repeating video in my mind, and I go there when I feel like things are going grey.

It might just be a snapshot of a particular moment when you saw someone break out in a smile, or the repeated loop of laughter in the air..  Think of it like your favorite TV show or your favorite movie.  Pick a scene or a few strung together in a clip in your mind and pull that out when you feel the moody blues pulling you down.

Label it consciously as a “Happy thought” and pull it from your deepest of memories when the mood hits you.

Acknowledge when the sad thoughts are creeping up behind you, wallow for a MINUTE, then let it go.  I used to think that people who say “Don’t sweat the small stuff” probably didn’t have any big stuff to worry about.  But it’s true.  We have to pick our battles — and learn to let go of the ones we are wont to lose, or the ones we have absolutely no control over.  I am not always successful in doing so but with so many things going on in my life — transitions and big decisions being made — I can either choose to let the collective sigh weigh me down, or take one big sigh and then let go.

I have learned to stop the tears before the swell in my heart becomes too big for me to hold back.  I know to take a deep breath, close my eyes for one moment — but not too long that the feelings overpower me and the tears start flowing.  Sadness can be exhausting.  It is a fact of life we must live with, but nobody said it was a weight we needed to carry on our shoulders 24/7.

I, personally, tuck it in my heart, and try to count the happy times, or go and retreat to my happy place.  I hear laughter, I see smiles, I see funny faces.  I remember a touch, a hug or a kiss.  I always hear it in my mind, in a loop, when the boy just utters it from out of the blue – “I wuv you, mama.”  And he will give me the look if I fail to acknowledge it, or repeat it until I do.

Even now as I write, that thought brings me to my happy place.

We have to consciously find what it is that will make us happy.  It’s not automatic.  It’s not a default setting.  We have to place ourselves there, whether it’s via color, make up, clothes, a picture, a memory.

True, there are many things that make life dark and sad.  But there are just as many — if not more — reasons for us to be happy.  We just need to acknowledge it.  Holding the “happy” in our hearts and in our minds will help keep us afloat when the waves of life tower above us and threaten to drown us.

One last thing.  When I was younger and being driven from San Juan just before Greenhills to my gradeschool in Pasig, it meant traversing Ortigas Avenue all the way across EDSA.  For as along as I remember until I hit 13 and had to transfer to the high school in Quezon City, this was a daily morning ritual.  I don’t know when I consciously started it, but as the traffic light turned green and the car crossed to the other side of the highway, I made it a point to look southward towards Mandaluyong and Makati and smile..  I held that smile until I got off the car after another 10 minutes.  It was a frivolous exercise to try and thwart the wrinkles (vain me, I know), but I think that was the start of me physically willing myself to start the day with a bright thought.

I do that now as the bus emerges from the tunnel and I see the light again.  Time to smile, Dinna — it’s the start of a new day.