The Philippines in the spotlight

I carry my being a Filipino as a badge of pride.  Need I say more given the title of this blog?  So when I hear “Manila” or the “Philippines” being mentioned in the morning news as I prepare breakfast here at home and go about getting ready for work, I stop and look and find out what’s up.

So first there was the infamous Bus Siege that sadly led to some fatalities.  I think the experts are better left to do the finger pointing because then they can make a good case of how we bungled this one so badly that it now provides a textbook case of what NOT to do in a hostage situation.  (Sigh of exasperation.)  If you haven’t yet, read “Ten Things the Philippines Bus Siege got wrong” on the BBC website and I am sure you will agree with ten out of ten points raised.  

Then we get so close to bagging another Miss Universe title when a major, major blunder of an answer was blurted out by the crowd favorite: Ms. Philippines.  I don’t even have the energy to look for any links.  Now she has a “major mistake” she can look back to and speak about.  Please don’t give me the excuse that it was a “beauty” and not “brains” contest.  Or that she was nervous — these question and answer portions in beauty contests are trick questions and dress rehearsals for the beauty queen who will be fielded and paraded to the public once crowned, so presence of mind (no matter if you can’t speak English, as long as it manifests itself somewhere between the ears) is a very important consideration.

See, to me, it’s not how smart the candidate is — it’s what comes out of her mouth.  You can be a dean’s lister and a genuis, but if you cannot blurt out a sensible answer to a simple question, then how can they expect you to smile, wave, and say something nice when they send you out to the press and the public. 

Well, we can try again next year.

Fortunately for me, there is too much happening in New York now that I don’t think either incident made an impact on the people working around me.  So no, I haven’t been asked about the bus siege, but I might not escape a Miss Universe query.  It doesn’t help that US websites and programs are paying particular attention to Ms. Philippines’ blunder — and I think it’s a good sign in a sense because it shows us our candidate actually made an impact.  As I said, there’s always next year.

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A visit to Central Park

My hands are all “wired out” and that’s in the literal sense.  I have been practicing working with household wire which have strained my hands no end over the last couple of days.  I just had to give it up for today, and I think I will give my hands a reprieve from the tugging and the pinching and put away the wire for now.  It can get very addicting to the point of not listening to my hands screaming for a break — and just switching the finger against which the pliers rest. ( End of craft report.)

Here I am preparing for another week ahead.  I’m trying to make a mental note of the things I need to do during this week.  I haven’t even hit Monday yet and here I am finding myself wishing there were 8 days instead of 7, and 30 hours instead of 24 to each day.  It’s that familiar feeling of trying to pull the calendar to a slower trot as it heads towards the end of the year.  It’s Halloween next Saturday, and soon, Thanksgiving will be here. 

The weather has been rather fickle-minded, cold one day and almost spring like the next.  We were blessed with near 70s weather last Thursday and while I could’ve opted to work from home, I dropped by the city and came in, just so I could take a walk in Central Park later in the day. I had wanted to check out if my favorite autumn canvasses were already up.  Not quite.  I had missed out on visiting Central Park in the spring, and with the fleeting colors of autumn, I wanted to see if I can catch the landscape as autumn was creeping in, and then come back to view it in full splendor.

I was lucky enough to have had that chance last year when I visited the park in October and then in November again.  (Click on the links to view my pictures of Autumn 2008).  The way mother nature paints and ushers in the changing of the colors of nature when the seasons come and go reminds me that time goes by so fast.  If we don’t grab the moment, it will be gone and there is no way of getting it back.  I remember my regret in not having snapped up pictures of  a favorite tree here in the neighborhood because I told myself it wasn’t going anywhere and I could come back a few days later. I did go back — but to a different combination of hues of the season.  So much can take place overnight that what was once a fiery crown of autumn leaves might be but twigs and branches tomorrow.  Lesson learned. 

While I would’ve wanted to linger, I had to walk through the park in a more purposeful stride, entering through Columbus Circle towards the Bethesda Fountain and then heading back through the Central Park Zoo and out to 57th and 5th Avenue to catch the express bus home.  The landscape was still mostly green.  There were patches of yellow and orange but the park is still in transition.  The ground is not yet carpeted with autumn leaves.  That will probably happen in a week or two. 

I enjoy visiting with Alan and Angelo but there is something special about walking through the park alone.  It allows me to experience the park in a more personal way, the way I want to.  Whether I am walking at a leisurely pace or trying to cover as much ground in as little time as possible, I see the park in a different light when it’s just me and my camera.  There are still many parts of the park that I have yet to find and explore.  I have yet to reach Belvedere Castle, and I rarely get as far as Strawberry Fields where the mosaic dedicated to John Lennon with the word “Imagine” can be found — a corner I’ve seen only three times in the almost ten years I’ve been here. 

No matter how many times I walk back and forth through The Mall, I always find its canopy of giant elms breathtaking, whatever the season, whatever time of day.  And for the first time, I spied the park bench donated in memory of the late Jim Henson, and on it was inscribed: “TO THE JOYFUL  LIFE OF JIM HENSON WHO LOVED THIS WALK IN THE PARK.”  I can relate.

There is always so much to discover and there is much to go back for.  That’s the perpetual tourist in me — and I’m already making a mental note to go back to the park soon.

Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, viewed from the Bethesda Terrace
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, viewed from the Bethesda Terrace

Bryant Park is humming again

It’s Wednesday and it’s a beautitul, sunny one — unbelievably gorgeous and we’re warming up!  I managed to arrive in Manhattan a little earlier than usual and I just couldn’t resist the invitation to sit a while in Bryant Park.  I thought it would be a good way to start my day, and a perfect place to sit quietly and pray.  Wednesday being my novena day for Our Lady of Perpetual Help.   Thanks to technology — I actually don’t carry a prayer book anymore but instead have one of the countless published novenas bookmarked on my blackberry.  (I personally prefer this site although there are others out there, only because “column view” allows you to read the prayers by just scrolling down in any fontsize.)

I walked up the steps from the Avenue of the Americas and found the great lawn cordoned off.  There were bulldozers and other heavy equipment moving about, “ironing” dirt and I suddenly thought “skating rink”.  I guess they’re getting ready for it. 

There were still seats aplenty and I picked my little corner, put my bags down and I looked around me and just sat quietly.  That was a good way to start the day. 

A special project involving a lot of wire twisting has been keeping me up lately.  I might have to take  a break, though — one of my fingers is feeling the strain from working with the pliers and wire.  Maybe it’s also the new diet pill I’m taking which is keeping me up, but I’ve been able to wake up on time even if I slept at past 1am.  Today, I’m wearing my gold fancy yarn wrap — sans the fringe which I am still undecided as to whether or not I will add or forego for this project.  (Forego?)  In my busy world, working with my hands has helped me to unwind at the end of the day and to recharge for another round when the sun rises again.

That thought somehow put this post on a standstill, yet I feel there is much more to say.  In time..

Rainy Sunday Reflections

I had started writing a post here between the “sinaing” (rice) and preparing lunch, and Internet Explorer 8 gobbled up my open tabs.   And although WordPress has been generally good in autosaving my drafts, I wasn’t as lucky this time.  Big sigh..  So let me try again..

We woke up to a rainy Sunday morning.   I could actually hear the wind blowing outside.  The weatherman was dead on — rain and lots of it.   I guess we’re staying indoors.  I’m trying to make a mental tally of what my grocery needs are.  A trip to Target seems out of the question.  (I don’t want to lug shopping bags from the car to the doorstep while trying to dodge the rain, with or without an umbrella.)  Maybe a trip to the neighborhood Keyfood later?  I’m not inclined to go too far and head to my usual grocery, Waldbaum’s. 

I think I’m in pretty good shape — I haven’t even washed the dishes from lunch yet and I’m already planning dinner.  Hmmm.. it’s a little trickier when my stepson is here.  I usually come up with the meal with three considerations: Alan and myself, the little tyke and my diabetic 79-year-old mother-in-law.  Now there’s a fourth.  Alan proposed a solution — he will just buy the kids burgers for dinner later, and I can cook up something healthy for him and Mom.  Yes to that.

Bumblebee De Luxe Costume
Bumblebee De Luxe Costume

Can you believe how we’re halfway through October, and almost done with the year?  I’m thinking of the rest of the year in terms of the holidays coming up:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  I don’t really decorate for Halloween because my focus is more on preparing the goodies for the trick or treaters, and getting the tyke set up with his costume of choice.  This year it was not a difficult decision:  he wanted to be Bumblebee from Transformers 2.  We snapped up his costume weeks ago before the store ran out of his size and before the ones on display got all banged up.  (Costume shopping can be such a challenge when you’re competing with the rest of the moms and kids out there.)  I haven’t quite gotten my candies yet.  (Cheap me, I’m waiting for them to go on sale..they are already on sale, but they’ll dip some more by next weekend!)  I’ve always toyed with the idea of being in costume myself, but this is the first real Halloween for Angelo wherein I will not be rushing home from work.  We’ll see.

My hands are sore from practicing with a spool of utility wire I picked up from the dollar store before the weekend.  At 75 feet for a dollar, I’ve been able to practice my loops and wiring techniques without worry of wastage.  It’s not exactly the ones you find in the jewelry supply stores, but its dull grey tone is good for pewter findings and charms.  It would also make for a good chain or link base for some black, silver and clear beads I’m recycling from older pieces.  A site I came across also suggests wrapping the wire with thinner-gauge colored or plated wire.  That’s a thought.  I’ve put aside my knitting kneedles in the meantime but the colder weather definitely means I’ll be picking them up again soon.

I’ve found myself browsing the stores of Etsy more and more these days, surfing for ideas and just admiring the different works of the artisans selling there.  (Special mention again to Rina Calica-Ward’s Nostalgems which brought me in that direction.)  For novices like myself, sites like this help to nurture our creative instinct and give us inspiration.  No matter how amateur my own attempts at creating things may be, it helps to give me an outlet for expression.  I have always believed that it is never too late and one can never be ever too old to learn something new or start something different.

My afternoon is slipping away and I must run after the tyke to do his weekend homework.  I haven’t been firm enough in resisting his supplications to postpone it for later as he is busy playing.  Besides, it gave me an excuse to browse and write here.  Time to run after him and pester him into getting down to business.. right after the dishes are washed and put away.

Ramblings at past midnight

Don’t blame me if this post ends up to be a hodge podge of nonsensical ideas and thoughts.  It’s 1AM here in  New York, and I’m catching the second run of “Clear and Present Danger” on TV.  (What happened to the CSI and Cold Case reruns I used to catch at this hour?)  No, I am not thinking it’s Friday when it’s a Thursday night.  I think it might be the new herbal meds I’m taking to get rid of some of the “extra me” that just won’t let me go back to a decent size 10.

Alan and I watched Drag Me to Hell on DVD earlier this evening which I don’t recommend for the faint of heart and those who have a weak stomach.  (Too much gore.. at least for my taste.)

Then I went on to browsing researching altered game piece jewelry — or altered domino pendants — which was actually an offshoot of my discovery of scrabble tile pendants from a few days ago, plunging me into research about resin jewelry .  Now I found out about “inchies” which can actually be made on scrabble pieces or by themselve, in paper or fabric. 

Hmmmm.. nice to think of getting into these crafts when time permits — but time doesn’t.  Besides, I have yarns to knit, scrapbook layouts to make, and motherhood and work.  I have this itch to use one of my son’s older watercolor palettes from the dollar store to color newspapers I want to make into a collage which I can use as a scrapbook background paper.  Not exactly the best time to work with paper, though  — it’s raining so the air has a lot of moisture.  The best time to handle paper (more so when there is drying involved) in my experience is when it’s warmer.  Which basically means waiting for June or just doing it anyway and just being doubly patient with waiting for the finished product to dry.)

“The phone is still on, Moira..”  .. Why hasn’t Tom Clancy written any new novels?  Whatever happened to the continuation of “Teeth of the Tiger“?

It’s been a cold, cold day — they say it’ll be raining all weekend.  I went up to the attic to get more of Angelo’s fall and winter clothes from his off-season bin earlier tonight.  I need to fish out my gloves from my dresser, too.  Today was definitely scarf-and-gloves but I went out unprepared.  Never again.

And I think I’m finally sleepy..  I want to write about my friends back home who fell victim to the onslaught of the floods.. we always think of disasters in terms of our kababayans (countrymen) out in the provinces — not in the city.  There were floods, yes — but to actually end up losing literally everything like some friends did — was just such an overwhelming feeling. 

Let me stop here.  I need to get some sleep before I have to start yet another day in paradise.  Happy Friday, folks!

In the first person

I had a long day today that left me exhausted as I trudged home on the express bus (Alan had gone ahead to take his Mom to a doctor’s appointment) and by the time I sat down for dinner after frying some flounder fillet, and putting together a side of siomai, I had a throbbing headache.  (The naproxen sodium hasn’t quite kicked in.. but I’m counting on it to relieve me soon..)

I sit back and log on, seeing a forwarded message from my cousin Ate Lian.  It was another cousin’s first person entry of her experience with Typhoon Ondoy — something I had seen previously on Facebook.  Reality hits me and I forget about the headache (momentarily) and I want to share this entry with you to give you a glimpse of what took place from someone who was actually there.  Read on..

29 September 2009

As you have probably seen or heard, Typhoon Ketsana (“Ondoy”) hit the Philippines last Saturday, September 26. The eastern towns in Metro Manila were the worst hit areas.

We were one of them.

You can search news online on the floods that left hundreds of thousands of Filipinos devastated. Here is my personal account of what happened around me in the last 96 hours.

Saturday, 26 September

9:30 a.m. Our helper woke me up frantically. She said that there was already flooding in our streets. It had been raining since 8 p.m. the night before. I was not surprised that it was flooding. I have experienced many floods in my childhood. To me, flooding was a chance to make paper boats and make them sail right from our porch.

My dad was not home. I called to tell him that he should wait out the rain because he cannot bring in our car home anymore. I also learned that our driver went to pick up my mom at the airport early in the morning. It was just me, my sister and our helper.

10:30 a.m. The water rose dramatically, flooding our whole front yard. At this point, we knew it was serious. The last time it flooded this bad was almost a decade ago – our house was filled with 6” deep flood water.

It was not long until the water entered the house. I shut the power supply off in our house immediately.

We started hauling everything we could to our bedrooms – 3 steps up from our living room. Files. Appliances. Couches. Tables. Everything three women could possibly carry, wading in murky flood water.

12:30 p.m. My parents are still not home. Mobile phone signals were weakening. We could hardly contact our parents. My sister and I started to pray the rosary while our helper was sitting by the steps, delegating herself as the official flood watcher.

1:30 p.m. It was only 2” until the flood water rises to the level of the two bedrooms. Two inches until all our efforts to move our belongings would be futile. We continued to pray.

After four rounds of rosary, the rain started to weaken. The water never reached the bedrooms.

5:30 p.m. I hear someone yelling from downstairs – “We’re home!” It was my parents. Thank God.

My mom stayed at a friend’s condo a couple of miles away from our village. Our driver had to leave the van with her since he had to go to attend to his already submerged house. My dad left his car at another friend’s house and got a ride home in his friend’s much higher SUV, only to find out that cars could not pass the roads anymore. My dad braved the cold, waist deep water, trying to keep his balance as passing trucks made the already raging flood unbearable to wade in. He saw a couple of guys pushing a cart – trying to make little business out of the calamity by pushing “passengers” to land. They were asking for Php 20 ($0.50) for each ride. My dad got in, paid a little extra so he would be “pushed” to the condo where my mom was staying. He and my mom drove the van, parking it a few blocks from our village, and once again, dove into the flood water and walked home.

It was hard to sleep that night – no electricity, mosquitoes all around, the stench of the flood water, news on the radio about people in nearby villages on their roofs hoping to be rescued, the uncertainty of the lives of friends and family who we could not contact that frightful day.

Sunday, 27 September

The flood had already receded. There was no more water inside the house, but our garage was still submerged. We had to sweep out as much mud and debris that the flood left inside before it could harden. It was not an easy mop job. We had to hose out the mud out of the wood and tile floors. We were lucky to have running water. Cleaning Day 1.

Monday, 28 September

Cleaning Day 2. We started to realize the damage of Typhoon Ketsana to our home. For me to use the word “damage” is an exaggeration. Soaked furniture, damaged piano, muddy floors, destroyed photographs – nothing compared to people who have lost their homes and loved ones. Children swept away by river currents. Corpses hanging from fences, washed under bridges, buried in landslides. I am blessed.

Tuesday, 29 September

We finally hear from our driver, whose house was located in the hardest hit area. His house was completely submerged in water on Saturday. He had to dive underwater to push open the doors, only to discover their belongings floating near the ceiling. His neighbors tried to save each other. There is still no running water to this day in their area, and to make matters even worse, there was an oil spill in the next town that added to the already murky flood water stagnant in the neighborhood.

I AM BLESSED.

My story and the pictures I took are incomparable to the images you see in the news. This is merely the tip of the iceberg of what was the biggest storm to hit the country in four decades.

The Philippines needs your help. Any amount is greatly appreciated. I hope you can find it in your hearts to reach out to the needy amidst the ongoing recession.

ABS-CBN Foundation Toll Free Number: 1-800-527-2820
Ayala Foundation
American Red Cross*
*Please specify that your donation is for the typhoon victims in the Philippines.

Click this link for images.  I ask you to please share this blog entry with your friends and family.

Thank you very much. God bless you.

Mia S. de Guzman
miasdeguzman@gmail.com
+63922-853-7132

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.