Counting our blessings

As I wrote in an earlier post, I’m thankful that my Mom and Dad and the rest of my siblings were spared from the catastrophe.  One of my bestfriends, Fe, told me they had waist deep water in Justinville Subdivision in Bacoor, but the water had subsided by dawn. 

I spoke with Mom and she was fine.  They had a power outage for a couple of hours but had kept abreast of developments through a radio.  They had ankle deep water only because the flow of the water downhill was too strong that we had some overflow even if we were on top of the hill.  (I cannot even bear to think about how those who lived at the bottom of the slope and closer to the stream fared — this was where the squatter shanties were situated as well.) 

My Dad was trapped on the second floor of his home along Gen. Kalentong Street on the San Juan end — the area is used to flooding so they were more or less bracing for the rising waters, but the whole first floor was flooded and it took a while for the waters to recede.  I had called my siblings and had asked them to look at how Dad was doing.  They brought him some food and caught them cleaning up already.

So I was rather surprised to receive a text message around midnight New York time asking me to call him as it was an emergency.  Naturally, I called.  I was surprised to get the request after my siblings had assured me he was well — and I was rather relieved yet at the same time a little upset that he was calling me to tell me they had to have their electricals repaired due to water damage.

I took a deep breath and told him I thought something had happened to him, and was rather distraught at his seeming panic in the midst of all the chaos going on elsewhere.  I told him we ought to be thankful he still has a roof over his head unlike others whose homes were washed away.  While life is almost normal for some of the more fortunate ones, there are those still immersed in trying to cope with all the tragedy that has befallen so many around them.

Dad’s electricity had already been restored.  He wasn’t in the dark.  The repair of the shop was far from the emergency his text message had relayed to me.  Thankfully, I didn’t get a panic attack.  Still, I got worried.  Seeing the helpless and the old wading in the water — watching the destruction wrought by Ondoy on so many of our kababayans, I got worried.

This has been a very sobering experience for many — I know it has been for me.  In the midst of the anger, the pain, and the sense of loss, we have once more been reminded about how blessed we are.  And I am watching in awe as our kababayans have once more stepped up to the plate, showing us the bayanihan spirit is alive and well.  For all the faults of good old Juan de la Cruz, he has that sense of brotherhood in his heart which no storm, no Ondoy, can ever wipe out. 

I see the mud-drenched survivors walking towards the rescue vehicles, I feel like my worries are much too small compared to the burden these people carry.  The voice from above has spoken again.  And again I say, I hear You.

After the storm

I’ve been thinking of our kababayans as Alan and I sat through several news reports from ABS-CBN’s internet subscription, and like most people who have seen the coverage, were just dumbstruck by how bad Storm Ondoy hit Manila.  Our prayers and thoughts are with family and friends.  As for me, I got confirmation early on that my Mom and siblings in San Juan were okay, and that the waters had subsided where Dad was.  I  am thankful that they were not displaced by this natural disaster where many were not as fortunate.

So for now there is the cleaning up as the authorities continue to work on rescuing those who are trapped on their rooftops, and rendering aid to those who are now cleaning up after the floodwaters had subsided.  There is still much to be done — let’s just hope we don’t get hit by another typhoon in the midst of it all.

Beadwork and Girl talk

I haven’t been visiting here too often of late — mostly because beading has taken much of my time.  Yet here I am a second time today which seems to show I’ve picked up from where I left off.

Beading.. jewelry making.. call it what you will.  It’s a new hobby.  I’ve been surfing the net for price comparison, trying to find the best bargains but not buying anything.  (Did you know that party store Oriental Trading actually sells quite a selection and at very good prices?  They’re practically wholesale, though, and I don’t know how the shipping costs go, but on base price, they are pretty competitive.)  I’ve also looked around for ideas I can use to be able to produce something from what I already have.  After scouring the boxes and bags in the attic and around my bedroom, I now have a treasure trove of materials to work with without raiding a bead store.  I actually find it doubly fulfilling to be able to work with materials I already had and produce something even better.

It’s a rather interesting phase in my life — challenging, eventful, and just plain busy.  Work has been light, though.  (I’m contradicting myself, I know.. “Busy” after all, is relative.) 

The other day, I sat across the table from my boss at the Cosi branch on 42nd street by Bryant Park.  It was supposed to be for coffee, but we each had our diet coke.  Although most people would think that she has five million reasons not to be upset that she is out of work, I know the woman enough to see that it has been a painful past few weeks for her.  It’s a stark illustration of how money just isn’t everything.  But she’ll be fine.  She’s doing better than most everyone expected, and as I told her, it’s time she took a breather and just enjoyed her children, and just lay back and take it easy. 

One thing I love about my boss is that though everyone thinks she’s the grand diva and that she’s a tough cookie — and she’s both — there’s a side of her that I’ve been privileged to see, and which, during these times, I cherish the most.  She genuinely asks about how Angelo is, what’s happening in my life..  We laugh about things we never discussed but knew together — talk about the people we know are kontrabidas, and we go back to how we had it so good — she has always been generous with the praise, the raise, and acknowledgment.  I know it was through her personal negotiation that I still have a job. 

So we whom she left behind ride out the quiet storm as we hear the unspoken thoughts of those who wonder why we’re still where we are.  (Sorry to say we’re not getting the boot anytime soon.)  There are those who have stopped talking to us, treating us as if we were no longer there.  Yet I’d rather dwell on those generous souls who have reached out to us, concerned and wishing us well. 

In the meantime, I have my stash of beads.  I would sit surrounded by little containers and organizers.. clutching the two tools I work with.  I would try to figure out what to do with which bead or chain.  The other night, I was dismantling old or unused accessories that had been given to me but which I had not found any use for.  Soon they will be reborn as new pieces.  I found a broken cross pendant — the cross will have to go, but it’s bail can still be used.  (Love that old, worn weathered look!)

I had stared and held them in my hands trying to get the inspiration.  And inspiration aplenty came from two friends from elementary and high school who have been into it waaaay longer than I have.  I have to say, it was through their artistry that I got drawn into this.

First there was Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez’s ICE CRYSTALS and then there was Rina Calica-Ward’s NOSTALGEMS.  Both sites will inspire you and leave you in awe.  True works of art!  One modern, the other vintage. 

Ice Crystals by Tweetie De Leon-GonzalezICE CRYSTALS’s Facebook page says it’s “Fun, fashionable jewelry for the snazzy, fabulous lot with refined taste and sophistication. ICE CRYSTALS is a treasury of style pieces that work for every age, occasion, lifestyle and reason.”  Tweetie handmakes the pieces which are sold in select department stores in Manila, and with some even finding their way into Paul Smith’s stores.  (Wow!)

NostalgemsNOSTALGEM has it’s own Facebook page  and introduces itself as: “Heirloom-style jewellery reminiscent of little treasures unearthed from your grandmother’s jewellery box.  From simple dome pendants to intricate and eye-stopping chunky charm necklaces.  You can even create your own charm treasures with our jewellery kits.”  Treasures indeed.. (Rina, where do you find these gems?)  Charms galore.. they add a different style element to what would otherwise be ordinary pieces.

I have been very proud of these two ladies whose paths have crossed mine in my younger years.  Technology has enabled us to reconnect.  It is their work that has inspired me to tinker away here in my little corner in the big apple.  I cannot wait to browse some antique shops for Nostalgem-like findings.  Tweetie’s works continue to inspire me as I try to pull together my pieces.  These ladies deserve a pat on the back and a kiss on the cheek for making me a proud Filipina, a proud Paulinian (where I met them at two different points in time) and just a plain old proud girlfriend.

Check their sites out!

Strictly for personal use

Colored Wooden Bead bracelet with antiqued copper tone chain links and heart locket
Colored Wooden Bead bracelet with antiqued copper tone chain links and heart locket

I’ve been experimenting a lot on beadwork and jewelry making — and I’ve enjoyed wearing them the past couple of days.  No, they aren’t for sale.  I haven’t quite mustered the confidence to sell them.  I’ve given away a piece or two — but always with the caveat that if anything breaks, I will repair them.

Here’s a favorite bracelet I had put together some weeks back.  I’ve had the beads for 3 years or so now, but I got the chain during my last trip to Manila.  (How can you beat the price of P60.00 pr approximately $1.20  for 5 yards of this chain?)  I didn’t have the luxury to shop then so I took only this and another, keeping in mind the beads I already had stashed away.   When I bought the beads in Wellmanson’s in Divisoria in 2006, they cost P20.00 for 20 grams, and there were approximately 20 beads.  I am not sure if they are still selling for the same price but I saw them on the shelves when I visited this May.   The lobster clasp and the heart locket with its own lobster clasp, I bought from a bead store here on Avenue of the Americas (a.k.a. Sixth Avenue).

Braided suede bracelet extender with toggle clasp
Braided suede bracelet extender with toggle clasp

I created a bracelet extender (which is what I call it only for want of a better term really) which is made of braided suede straps, slightly longer than the regular 7.5″-8″ inch bracelet length, to enable me to loop it around whatever bracelet I am hoping to extend.  When worn by itself, I knot the middle and attach a charm to weigh the braided strap down. 

Combining  the two bracelets make for an interesting combination of texture and color.  Because of the lightweight material, a charm is a good means to give the bracelet an anchor so that it falls nicely on the wrist.  A favorite pendant attached to a bail will also do.   

Combined Wooden Bead bracelet with heart locket and braided suede bracelet extender looped on one end and attached with its toggle clasp around the other end
Combined Wooden Bead bracelet with heart locket and braided suede bracelet extender looped on one end and attached with its toggle clasp around the other end

Just because..

I’ve been getting off a corner or two before or after my usual stop on Sixth Avenue the past couple of days no thanks to Fashion Week which ends today.  We had to go past and I ended up a block away, and amidst the hustle and bustle of the morning rush hour, I saw a homeless man with a sign declaring him as one and he was asking for food or clothes.  I was about to cross the street to my building but I doubled back and looked for a breakfast cart and found one a block further down.

I wasn’t sure I had enough cash in my purse, but all it took was a couple of seconds for me to realize that with all that I worry and complain about — what I felt I carried on my shoulders was nothing compared to this man.  His face was severely deformed, and he was deaf to boot.  I have always had a thing for not giving money.  I’d go out of my way to buy a homeless person food, but I have never given money.

I walked to the food cart and got two bagels and a large coffee.  I walked back and was disappointed to find him gone.  It had started drizzling and I guess he had gone to look for a spot where he could stay dry.  The clouds have been a threatening grey all morning.  I looked around and even went into the nearest subway station.. I crossed the street but figured the security men of the two new buildings on opposite corners would not allow him to take a spot along their sidewalk.  I crossed anyway and walked to the other subway entrance and tried to see if he was anywhere downstairs.  I walked to the other side taking me full circle but there was no sight of him.

My heart sank.  Just as I was trying to look across 42nd street to my guy’s perch, a cleanly dressed older man was hitting me up for a quarter.  I offered him the brown bag I was carrying, telling him I had bought the breakfast for someone but he had disappeared, and he actually refused the offer saying he never takes food from people (!… but he will take my quarter or any loose change.. ) 

Then I looked around to see several other people walking around Bryant Park, straggling to the coffee kiosk at the corner, trying to get ready for the onslaught of the rain.  I took one last look across 42nd street where I saw my guy originally but he was nowhere to be seen.  I tried to survey the men walking around, afraid my offer of breakfast would be rebuffed again, but this time, the older man I approached just looked at me and accepted my offer quietly.  Mission accomplished.

There are times when the simplest of things which usually go unnoticed make such a profound impact on our day.  I know this one did it for me.  I can’t help but look up and just say “I hear You…”

Craft rescue, etc.

I’ve been thinking of posting but have been unable to the last few days for one reason or another.  There were nights when I didn’t even open my laptop as was customary at the end of the day.  Then those days that I did, I ended up browsing for other things — not having the inclination to pay the blog a visit.  I’ve been busy.

But of course of this Monday morning, I cannot help but be drawn to what has become a habit of speaking out loud here on my corner of the web.  I thought I’d start by giving an update on what I’ve been up to lately.

The little tyke has started kindergarten which is a new phase for us all — Mom, Dad and Angelo.  While he had started Pre-K in the same school he’s in right now, I can see the big difference in terms of the whole set up — from school supplies to the almost all new wardrobe no thanks to the fact that he’s taller this year.  It’s also remarkable how he’s b een so excited about school — seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  I listen to him talk and I watch the animated expression on his face and I feel like wanting to freeze the moment and just replay it over and over.

I have also found a new hobby as Alan noticed.  I’ve been collecting small packets of beads from the trips home and from the trips to the theme parks (where they let you fill a bag with your choice of beads or stones for a flat fee, for as long as you can close the bag) tha past couple of years  but I have not seriously gotten into beading.  Crafty me, I’ve managed to string together an ID necklace (to hang the ID on) and repaired some pearl necklace and bracelet clasps that had gotten damaged.  I also made it a point to save bracelets or necklaces that had gotten damaged one way or another thinking I can probably repair it or find some use for it at a later time.

When I left Manila in 2000, it was also the time when Swarovski crystal bracelets were very popular and were being worn in groups, layered on the wrist to create a beautiful rainbow of colors.  I left with at least 10 of those bracelets which I have to this day.  They have not lost their sparkle, thanks to periodic soaking in soapy liquid.  My sister, sister-in-law and friends have likewise gifted me various accessories handmade from the Philippines through the years.   Everytime I manage a trip to Divisoria, I go to a favorite native aisle along Ilaya where I have picked up cow bone and wood beads.  The last time I was there in June, I also made it a point to visit Wellmanson, known for its distinctive supply of notions and other craft supplies.  I picked up a pair of plyers there which I am glad I did as they cost twice as uch here in New York.

I always go to buy a “banig” of sewing needles, some sewing thread, crochet hooks, perhaps some garter.  Since I’m very handy with the needle and thread, I try to do my sewing repairs at home instead of paying someone else to do it.  While these supplies are available here, they are much more expensive and available in smaller quantities unless you are going to a sewing supply store specifically. 

So through the years, I’ve managed to get bits and pieces which I haven’t really had the chance to work with until now.  It helped that I had always bought beads to bag in a specific color scheme — so it’s not like I have a hodge podge of different rainbow colored beads.  I have a good handful of blue beads in various shapes and sizes which can make for a good bracelet or two, and perhaps a choker if I chose to make one. 

I have received tons of inspiration from two friends who have their own handmade jewelry line (more on this later) — and which was also the reason why I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing the accessories at the department store sales over the Labor Day weekend.  No, it was not to purchase, but it was to look for ideas on how to group items together or how to do a progression of beads for necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  I examined bead wiring up close and hope to achieve the same clean worksmanship eventually — through practice and more studying.

I’ve visited several bead related sites online through the previous weeks where I learned more about the differente types of tools and implements.  I spent many lunch hours at beadage.net learning the basics and getting ideas.  One of the articles that really made an impression on me and gave me great ideas about possible projects was a piece on “Recycling Beads: Creating  something new from something old” which helped me to create my first completed (well, almost!) project which was a charm bracelet.

So I’ve been busy crafting — and getting ready, too, to start knitting my first scarves for this year’s winter as fall starts creeping upon us.  Busy bee, I am.