Thoughts on Christmas Eve

I woke up this morning to a few texts.. I replied and tried to savor sleeping in on a Saturday like I usually do. Sleep has been a luxury at my age— more so now that I’ve gotten back to work full time. Weekends are all about chilling and just lazing the days away… until Monday, that is.

Well, I have a long weekend to look forward to. No special plans really— except tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner with the son. I have him Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The latter can be a dinner some place outside.. tonight, I cook.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, but it doesn’t mean that I always greet it with guns blazing, all set and festive! I am still writing my Christmas cards and it’s Christmas Eve! I haven’t finished my window decorations which I am hoping to get done tonight. And the biggest blunder was that I forgot we had thrown away my old Christmas tree last year, with plans to buy a new one for this year. It was too late to order by the time I found myself remembering this while I was desperately turning the attic upside down, so I decided to use what was a lit up twig tree I nestled on the bigger window in previous years. It actually worked out great, but now I have no use for two sets of white Christmas lights I meant to use on my former tree. (I am torn between returning them and just keeping them for next year..)

Christmas dinner isn’t a big production, because the carnivore in the son and I means a steak dinner usually seals the deal. I order a standing rib roast good for a full table, and just keep the half that remains for the intervening week between Christmas and new year. Our sides are pretty predictable as he prefers his corn and his rice, and I make a Brussels sprouts side. I am just glad he’s home.

I did the customary Christmas family Facebook chat after midnight and caught up with the siblings. I miss Christmases back home but that has been tough to pull off given the cost of travel post pandemic. I really only managed the November trip home because of a fare sale that I caught sometime during the middle of the year. That was a lucky break for me, given that flight schedules are nowhere near normal as yet, making the fares still a bit on the high side. So I’m happy spending Christmas on this side of the world.

It’s not quite the same— spending Christmas here and Christmas back home, that is. But Christmas here has improved from the two christmases before it. The throng of tourists are back— almost to normal levels. You can feel the spirit of New York coming alive again with the festive air everywhere. I actually don’t mind the crowds as much as I used to— maybe because they give me the sense that we are back — or almost back— to where we used to be.

That really isn’t such a bad thought— considering we diverted to different routines and had to adapt to the demands of the pandemic. Last year, people crowded the urgent care centers and testing booths to get tested before heading home. Lines wrapped around corners and people waited their turn. I haven’t seen the lines. Perhaps we have let our guard down with a false sense of security, thinking the vaccines and boosters are all we need. There is that sense of complacency that even I am guilty of.

We celebrate the holidays in the ways we are used to. And I know not everyone chooses to celebrate — we all have our own faith that guides us during these times. I’m winding down Christmas Eve with a happy thought. I celebrated with the ones who matter the most to me, and for that, I am grateful.

Grand central this Christmas season 2022

In my prayers

I had started writing a post over the weekend on a totally different topic when, after three paragraphs or blocks, I decided to hit delete and start again from scratch. I’m listening to Himig Heswita as I’m drafting this — and I guess that’s what sort of brought me to a more spiritual slant. (Eternally grateful to the Jesuits for their gift of knowledge in law school and music.)

Sometimes I think about writing and as much as I am dying to put the words to paper, I resist and postpone it for when I can sit and focus on it. That usually means it never gets written — because time has been precious and hard to find. Even blogging has been quite the struggle for me. I have always said how I wish I could write (and read) more. There just isn’t enough time to write all that I want to say.

Just like today. I wanted to write about a conversation over sushi and sashimi last Friday, and how I left that luncheon not just with a happy tummy. I walked back to my perch with a heart that was full. I am struggling with the words to put that together in a coherent post for now— so it’ll have to wait another day.

Then I remembered the husband and wife T and T and prayers. (Reminder to self: letter to T and T. Or even just T. )

Today I write about prayer. I start praying when I walk out the door, as I make my way to the bus stop (which is approximately 6 minutes away) at a leisurely pace. What do I pray for? I reaffirm my faith with The Creed, and then I follow a simple combination of prayers. I used to pray the rosary as I walked and ended it on the bus, but my prayer life has not been as devoted as that in years. Walking out the door with the son has also meant postponing the prayer for when I walk into the church on 43rd, because I end up talking him through what the day will be like. There are times when I put the earphones on and I start listening to the God Minute and I tell him I’m praying, in which case we walk in silence to the bus stop.

Still, I feel like I could pray more and do it with more heart.


I walk into Church and I stand at the back, mass or no mass. Like I wrote in a post not too long ago, I have a list of friends and relatives with health or emotional challenges I pray for by name. The cousin afflicted with cancer.. my bus driver friend with the tumors that they can’t operate on but which he gets treatment for each month. My siblings, and of course my mom. The mom of a friend who is also undergoing treatment. The grieving bestie at work who recently lost her Dad and has her medical issues. A friend back home who lost his grown son last year. My grade school friend who is trying to overcome cancer. A friend I never met and who found me through this space, fighting cancer for years now. A fellow postcard collector who is battling cancer in a land so far away from home. (I have postcards to write and send!) The friend of a brother trying to live through being HIV positive back home..

So no, I don’t pray to win the lotto — I am too busy trying to remember the ones that need to be on my list. I do pray that I be a good person each day — even if I know I don’t always succeed. I pray for a good day at work.. and then I have a very short list of two people I ask Him to keep safe here on this side of the world, besides my number one guy, the son. I pray that He bring the right people into my world— and to keep those who are not meant to stay, away from me. I pray for those praying in Church with me that very moment..

Sometimes, I do an express version of the list when I’m running really late. I start walking out before I get to the end of my petitions. I figure He would understand. I make the sign of the cross and walk out to start my day. And there are times when I just stand there in silence, not saying anything at all. I am just there — present.

I always remember to be grateful. One of the many retreats I attended in my younger years at St. Paul told us that praying is not just all about asking. It is also about thanking Him. And I thank Him for each and every day.

Last night, as I slept, I spoke in prayer to my older brother who died at birth. My life would be so much different had he lived to be the head of the family now. Four years my senior, he would’ve taken on the cudgels of making the decisions and of moving our brood this way or that. I never knew him growing up, but he would visit me in my dreams where he manifested as this person or other, but I was always aware he was not in the land of the living and he was who he was. And I always cried each time, more so when he hugged me. I was tossing and turning and doing my usual evening prayers. I called out to my “Kuya” (older brother or male relative), I whispered I was good and could handle my troubles for now, and I told him I wanted him to help my sister first. She needed him more than I did. I asked that he let her feel his embrace. Finally, I asked him not to visit me in my dreams because I would end up crying again like I always do. I know he heard me.

Prayer, really, is a matter of faith. And I have always been grateful that I was able to discover it early on in life. It has kept my footing steady when I would have otherwise stumbled and fell. It has helped me get up those moments when I lost my balance. It has kept me going through the good and the bad times.

So today I pray that He keep my heart steady.. and that He doesn’t let go of my hand. Amen.


53 years ago, he came into this world, and then he left just as quickly as he did. I never met him, and yet in my heart of hearts, I know him. From time to time, he would visit me in my dreams in some form or other, and I would know it was him even if I knew he was in heaven already .. He would just say hello, and sometimes he would hug me.. and in that dream, the tears would come because I missed him so dearly. I knew I always had a Kuya who was always watching over me. So I know that though he is an angel in heaven, he is always with me, forever holding my hand. Life would have been so different with you around.. Happy birthday, Kuya Silvano.

Pseudo Siblings (or those people who are almost but not quite the real thing)

Even after living in New York the last 14 years, I haven’t quite gotten used to being away from my siblings who are all in Manila. Despite all the technology that allows me to talk to them as if they were just minutes away and not a half day ahead, or being able to spend 2-3 weeks with them in person practically once a year, it’s just not quite the same. It doesn’t even help to know that the distance has continued to keep us closer than ever, and has not affected our bond as family — it actually makes it even worse. But I continue to try and cope my way…

I have always cherished the way my siblings and I have continued to build our relationships with each other. I feel so blessed to have been given each of them. And that includes my older brother who went to heaven after but a few hours on earth. He and I have an even more special relationship, because I know he watches over me and never fails to move me when he visits me in my dreams. I’ve only seen him as a baby, yet I know it’s him when he pops up in my nocturnal adventures.

The hardest part of being here in New York, is that I am 10,000 miles away from them. One of my coping mechanisms has been to take out their friends when they land in my part of the world for one reason or another.  Yes, even those I’ve never met before but whose connection to me is that they are “superfriends” or “buddies” of any of my siblings back home.

Most of them are surprised by the warm welcome — but it is always easy for me to be warm and friendly and cozy with those who I know share a special bond with the most special people to me.  Be it for a single dinner or a walk around the city or what have you, I cherish those moments when I find myself with them again, even if only vicariously.  I miss them that much even if we see each other every other year (or even every year like in most recent times) and even when they are but a touch of a button away on Viber or Facebook or a dial away on the cellphone.

So in the last couple of months, I’ve met up with two of my sister’s friends, and a pair of my brother’s.  Each one has been a different encounter but rich with a lot of laughter and reminiscing and just plain getting to know you.  I relish those moments shared because they translate to time spent with the sibling who is our common friend.

Val visited a few months back and had helped me to get a better insight into my sister’s current circle and world.  Although it is not the same as meeting up with my sister’s friends who I had known from their shared childhood or high school years, Val gave me a window into my sister’s world outside of the circle I normally see her in.  She was quick to laugh like my sister, and it touched me that she told me she had connected with my sister between the first and last time I got to sit down with her here in New York, and she had told Ofie, “Mahal na mahal ka ng Ate mo.”  (Your older sister loves you so much.)

Then came Edlyn who I had known from a visit a few years back and who, like Ofie and I, is a Paulinian.  (We all shared the fact that our formative years were spent with the Sisters of St. Paul.)  We were supposed to attend aparty in Freehold, NJ the same evening Edlyn was free, but it was more important for me to see her, so I sent father and son off without me and planned a special night.  I picked a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for the longest time, Esca, and I went into the city on a Saturday evening not knowing it was the start of the (in)famous traffic-snarling UN Week here in New York.  (I would’ve loved to pique your palate with the sumptuous photos I had taken but I lost my iPhone two days ago.. along with the thousands of pictures I had stored in it.)

I have always loved Edlyn’s positivity and vivacious personality.  Even on Facebook, her page drips and oozes with optimism and words of encouragement without being soupy or overly religious.  (Although I don’t mind those, in general.)  She had an infectious laughter (tossing her head back in wild abandon, several times almost hitting a server sidling up behind her — caught unaware by her sudden jolt of joy).  I was there to just have a dose of that, but I got so much more.  A professional life coach, she was in town for a spiritual conference and to take on several other events from coast to coast.  We discussed so many things over that sumptuous meal that I would’ve stayed longer at her apartment, but I didn’t want to rob her of a chance to catch up with some Zs in preparation for the long day ahead.

She doesn’t see my sister as often as they used to see each other, but she is close enough to know the latest that’s been going on in her life.  Edlyn’s focus, though, was me — and she shared her heart so openly and with no reservation that I soon realized we were brought together for a reason beyond catching up about my sister.  Of the many things Edlyn told me and asked me, she told me “It all comes back to ‘YOU’.  Always remember that — you are the most important thing.”

Even now, that gives me pause to think and reflect.  And I see her tossing her head in wild laughter again. =)

Just a few days ago, one of my brother’s friends arrived with another friend/officemate in tow.  They were a nice pair of young travelers trying to take in the city — very pretty Anna and my stand-in Nikki superfriend, Romeo.  (Nikki is my youngest brother who is now a physical therapist in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila.)  Never met them, and I never even started communicating with Romeo until Nikki connected us just before he left.

First, I took them out to lunch which caused quite a stir with the boss for the length of time I was away.  (I was royally scolded!)  Then we met up again at night to take in the lights and sounds of Times Square, Fifth Avenue and Central Park.  I played photographer, tour guide and jokingly, “Pimp”.  We managed two sets of photos with New York’s finest which were the biggest hit in their photostream of photos taken here in NYC.

Sitting across the table from Romeo at dinner at Rosie O’Grady’s felt like sitting across the table from my dearest Nikki.  He came into our lives when I was 18, and had always treated him as my baby, even now when he’s a 30 year old professional.  I had always told myself that if I were never blessed with a child, he would be the one to fill that gap in my life.  But even now that I have my own son, I look to him as the baby I saw grow up before my eyes into the beautiful person that I am so proud of right now.

I wanted it to be Nikki in those pictures we shot — and I went all out in the hopes that seeing Romeo here would make him want to come here and join me — finally.

These people were brought into my life here in New York through my siblings, but they have touched my life in a more direct way and I feel that my life has been enriched by these encounters.  Beyond the care packages they brought, they brought me a piece of my siblings that I wouldn’t see otherwise, viewing it from the perspective of being one of the family.  And over and above that, they all brought something different to add to my life experiences.  For the special friendship they shared with the people who mean the most to me, I let them in with open arms and was able to find new friends of my own and for that I am a better person.

I opened my heart to them as if I had known them forever, and because they saw an older sister in me, they did the same.  We became instant friends because one of my siblings was a very dear friend of theirs — and now, they are my friends, too.  For that I am eternally grateful, and I can’t wait for the next pseudo-sibling to come along… hopefully soon.




Over breakfast

I slept normal last night which was a first in many days.  I was in bed before midnight and made sure to shut all my electronic devices when the witching hour came.  Instead of lingering and having difficulty sleeping, I drifted off to la-la land almost instantaneously.  I know because I don’t remember anything after closing my eyes.  No stressful dreams of people who haunt me into a stressful awakening.  Bliss.

My raisin walnut loafI woke up earlier than usual, too, which is good.  So instead of immediately getting down to the business of getting myself ready for work, I sat down at our breakfast counter, powered up the laptop, and then proceeded to enjoy a quarter slice of the raisin walnut loaf I picked up from Maison Kayser in the Flat Iron district.  It might not be one of his fancy pastries or desserts, but this bread is a heavenly treat.  I can make do with it and butter for a meal.  (Which I will indulge in later for lunch.)

I checked my messages (the boss is on the other side of the world but thankfully has kept to emailing me at the start of HIS day, end of mine, instead of some ungodly hour — but it still pays to check — just in case.)  I said my morning prayer — something I’ve been good with even if reading the scripture readings via Kerygma’s Daily Readings has not been as easy to do regularly.  And I sat down here, determined to write a morning post.

I can hear the humming of the refrigerator and nothing much else.  The TV is off because I’m the only one in the house — everyone else is asleep or gone off to work.  I’m just savoring this alone time where the only sense of urgency comes from the cadence of the laptop keys as I strike them.

The half dozen or so posts in my head are still in my head.  While I have been writing, it’s been more of the spontaneous account of the “thought of the moment” or major activity of the day.  I still hear the words coming forth in my head as I go about doing my work — or even as I hold the clay in my hands, trying to experiment with this new design I wanted to come up with.

Yesterday, the anger almost crept up on my again.  I don’t want to say it’s getting easier to let it go — I think I’ve just gotten better at it.  I breathe in.  I calmly tell myself to let it go.  Another deep breath.  I pray that God help me to let it go.  And I think that is what does it for me.

Time to get ready for work again.  I’ve indulged enough here and must head back to the real world and do my part for the day.




Inspiration and a Mother’s Dream to be a Lawyer Someday

One of the rewards of personal blogging is that you occasionally receive a heartwarming e-mail saying you have been an inspiration to someone who read something you wrote. Although it is not the first time this has happened, I am always deeply humbled by such a declaration and I whisper a quiet thank you across the universe for this feather on my cap.

H wrote me last week with a question about life choices. She is a mother of three young children, the breadwinner, and has always been an obedient daughter. In fact when her parents told her to shift careers, she did, giving up her one true dream to be a lawyer. Then from out of the blue, the question from her parents came — would she like to go to law school?

I have to take a long pause before answering the question because I had chased my dream to fruition without pause — not even when it became financially difficult. And when it became apparent that litigation was not for me, I gave up that pursuit. There are, after all, many ways of being a lawyer. Once I had accomplished that, I set my sights on raising a family, and I crossed the oceans and started a new life to pursue that part of my dream.

So this question comes, and I’m trying to picture myself in H’s shoes. At her age, I had achieved the dream to be a legal eagle, but I didn’t have the family she has had the fortune of building. Three kids — and having just one takes up all of my time, energy and resources and then some.

It is never too late to pursue a dream, but when you have little children to think of, it becomes a totally different story. People are usually surprised to hear I am not a lawyer here in the US. I tell them I have thought about it, but I don’t see myself devoting the time nor the energy towards a career in that path until maybe after Angelo has grown big enough to be more self-sufficient. Maybe when he is almost ending high school, I can give the New York Bar a try. And that remains a serious thought close to a plan in my head.

It’s hard enough being a working mom. Add to that the burden of being a working law student. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to do it, but that was me.

When I was in law school, it took all of my heart and soul as a working student to make it through. The concentration the pursuit of the study requires is beyond normal. It requires 110% of your time and effort. As a young mother of three, I don’t think it’s impossible, but I’d ask you to weigh your options.

You have set your sights on ONLY either UP or Ateneo. Commendable and understandable. I’d say go for it without batting an eyelash if you weren’t working full time while trying to raise 3 kids. While you are indeed lucky to have your husband as the full time caregiver for your children, that does not mean that you are fully excused from the demands of motherhood. I’m sure you will agree that nothing is more precious than seeing our children grow and being a part of their everyday lives. His presence and willingness to fulfill much of that role is certainly a plus, but you have to do your part, too. Which is why I’d like you to seriously think about other schools whose curriculum and schedule are not as heavy or demanding as that of UP and Ateneo.

San Beda would certainly fall under the same rigorous curriculum and academic parameters, but there are schools like Arellano Law and PLM which are trying to beef up their faculty and standards as well. They offer “Executive classes” catering to working professionals pursuing a law degree. FEU is also whipping up it’s faculty, and I’m not just saying that because a dear friend teaches there but because his being there speaks highly of their faculty and academic standards. Do not limit yourself to Ateneo or UP only. Good if you make it in to either one, but let it not be the end of your world if you don’t. UP said no to me. Ateneo welcomed me but it was literally a struggle staying in because of the required quality percentile index. Yet I made it. My passing the bar became part of their passing statistics.

It would be so easy to say “Ateneo or UP or bust!”. But if that dream is really strong in your heart, I’d say instead “law school, come hell or high water” — meaning even if it’s in the usually flooded Taft Avenue of Arellano in Pasay or not. Take all the exams. Do the preparations.

If you strongly feel that your essay writing is what’s holding you back, you need to seriously work on improving that because it IS a major requirement to make it as a lawyer. Beyond the sentence structure and the subject-verb agreement, you have to be able to construct your thoughts in a cohesive and logical manner. You’re there.. Maybe you just need to polish it a little. Beyond trying to see if you can write in basic English, the essays are there to enable them to see if you have the ability to write something coherent. (I would gladly be a sparring partner to help you brush up – let’s start by your e-mailing me a response to this post.)

The vocabulary tests gauge if you have the basic vocabulary required to enable you to comprehend the voluminous texts. In a way, too, they show your aptitude for learning the many concepts that will be thrown at you.

You’ve read my previous posts on preparing for the law entrance exams. Go through them and do the word power exercises religiously. Repeat the books if you must, the idea is not only to familiarize yourself with etymology but to exercise your brain and make the word-root word association almost automatic. That’s the reason why those darned vocabulary tests give you all of 15 seconds to come up with the right answer. See, if you didn’t know it and were hastening a guess, you would probably not guess right. On the other hand, if you were at least familiar with the word, your guess will probably be spot on.

It looks like your parent’s question already takes care of the financial aspect of plunging into the study of law. Forget the immigration updates or deadlines — deal with that when they come.

I say go for it.

But I want you to do it with an open mind. I want you to do it thinking about work, your kids and your husband. At the end of the day, the final equation is not just you and what you dream of. It will take you, and how you juggle all these responsibilities, to get to that dream. If there is any chance to write an appeal when all else fails, DO IT. Pride has no place in seeking something that means a lot to you. It will get you nothing but yet another lost chance.

I don’t think postponing your dream another time will do you any good. You wouldn’t want bitterness gnawing at you and later filtering out to your kids and husband for a dream unfulfilled. You can do it — you’ll just have to compromise a little. Go for Ateneo and UP if you must, Beda, too — but take the exam in the other schools, too. When all the results are in, then make your choice.

Do not let the schools that accept or do not accept you determine your future. For all you know, you were made to land elsewhere for a reason — or if you bag either one, then perhaps it was just all a matter of giving it another try at a later time.

You are so lucky to be given this chance — don’t waste it. If indeed the heavens say “no” in all directions, then perhaps it’s just not the time to dream the dream, but it doesn’t mean you must give up. Never give up.

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

Road trip: Fairfax, VA and Baltimore, MD tomorrow

We’re in the thick of summer and while we had hoped to do more, work and other priorities have forced us to scale down on trips. But we’re always open to doing something spontaneous like driving cousin G to cousin D’s place from New York to DC. It’s always good to see family even if only one night.

So I’m writing this in the kitchen in between treats and savories ranging from barbecued spare ribs to ceviche and kilawin. It’s my nephew, Chris’, graduation party, and the house is overflowing with his mom’s and dad’s friends. I’ve done the round of introductions to guests, photographed, uploaded and tagged people, and now I’m taking it easy just trying to sneak a post here.


It’s a typical Filipino party with drinks and food aplenty. Laughter and reminiscing included. I can’t even remember when was the last time I heard “Hard Core Poetry”. (And I’m sure a lot of people younger than 40 will have a hard time placing the song.). Even I had to pause a while to try and remember the title of the song. “This is a song, not necessarily sweet…”. I guess my year or so in a radio station playing these songs sort of helped.

Yummy cupcakes by Charmaine

I’m stuffed. There’s finger turon a few inches away. I’m saying no to the alcohol, though, because we’re going to try and make it to Harbor Place in Baltimore tomorrow. The pancit got me full. And there was laughter going all around.
It has been over a decade since I last went to Baltimore. We want to show him the submarine and the lighthouse by the pier. Another day to look forward to then we drive back to New York.

Memorial Day, a Family Trip and Revolution

In my attempts to try and keep posting every day, I’ve decided to just scribble randomly when the inspiration or the energy escapes me.

Memorial Day in the US today.  Even if I am an immigrant here, I am grateful.

We went on an overnight trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Pocono Mountains, and the boy is totally exhausted.

I am, too.

What better way to end the day but with Revolution?  If they turn on the power, it’s the end of the show.

I’m tired, but a happy kind of tired.  We have another day at the water park tomorrow and I’m treating myself to the spa in the morning.  My hands and feet can’t wait. =)

Friday Thoughts on the bus

I’m trying to get the hang of using the wordpress app for Blackberry, multitasking while on the bus home. I can close my eyes to nap but I’m all energized after trying very hard to stifle laughter as I watched some really crazy funny videos online. One brought me back to the days when I was a newscaster for a local FM station and when I deejayed occasionally. The other brought me memories of when I first watched “Mamma Mia” here on Broadway more than a decade ago. Wow… I suddenly realized how long ago that was.

I’m still trying to think about my dinner. Fog is descending upon us and rain threatens from above — picking something up from the corner restaurants is out of the question, more so since I’m umbrella-less after depositing my humongous golf umbrella into my coat closet in the office. (The boy will have his home-cooked fried chicken wings which he swears by as better than KFC!). Maybe I’ll have pizza.. (Ooey-gooey cheese-filled crust pizza…).

I have Grimm, Blue Bloods and the other shows I missed over the past couple of days to catch up on. A journal to finish (almost there!) and postcards to write. I’m all excited to go over my craft stash from the craft fair last weekend and try them. (Talk about delayed gratification..). Somewhere in between there, maybe I’ll get to pick out a dress to wear to the wedding mid-May. (Hotel reservation done, flight on hold.)

I had lunch with bride-to-be Cousin M earlier. She wanted to treat me to a fancy restaurant but the wait was kind of long and so I voted for the B&N cafe where we spent an hour or so talking about another solo trip for me, and how we were going to take her Mom and Dad around NYC after the wedding out Midwest. That made me smile. Tita Fannie and Tito Rene are very special to my family. I would also love to see Tito Mar who will fly in from Bangkok. (Family always gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling.). Cousin M is a relative on my father’s side, and although we are quite distant from each other in the Samaniego-Tolentino family tree, they are dearer to us than some of our closer relations.

The wedding is a month away, but I can’t wait!!

Meanwhile, I’m 10 minutes from the house and think I’ll treat myself to the pizza. =). (Pigging out again..). I’m looking forward to staying up out of choice. I struggled to sleep last night as I found myself still awake in bed at 1am…I’ve always had a tough time heading off to la-la land, but it’s not that bad when I can stay in bed a tad later like I do on Saturdays.  (Just remembered I have penne in the fridge.. Penne it is!)

Happy Friday, everyone!

My family and I — Then and now (30 days of blogging prompts 24)

Describe your family dynamic from your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

I grew up in a very close knit family, but both my parents were busy running a family business.  I was the eldest of three children born successively (1966, 1967 and 1969) so we were all playmates.  We were also room mates.  We did everything together even if my sister and I went to a private girls’ school, and my brother went to an all boys’ school.

DSCF1870We always ate our meals together and played with each other.  While our parents were busy, we were fortunate enough to have had a paternal aunt who was a former nun stay with us through most of our growing up years.  (Our Auntie Lydia was Sister Eduviges with the Oblates of Mary, and also makes an appearance in another list for this journal project as one of three people who have influenced me.)  She took care of making sure that our nannies fed us, bathed us and got us to bed on time.  She would help us with homework, read books to us and took us out on movie afternoons when Mom and Dad could not.

Despite being busy making a living, we had our routine of going to movies and dinner out on Fridays.  Saturdays were spent at home or roaming the shopping center (not quite the malls that sprouted in later years).  Sundays, we went to mass, then headed to lunch or dinner, depending on which mass we attended.  Religion was a focal point of our family life.  During the Rosary month of October, we would pray the rosary together (usually without my Dad, though, who would still be out of the house before dinnertime), and we could each lead prayers based on memory.

Filipino families are very conservative and the word of your parents was law.  We were not allowed to talk back, and we followed our parents wishes.  There were parents who did not spare the rod, so to speak, when called for.  We continued to be respectful even as we grew up, and there was always a healthy deference to authority even as the children became adults themselves.  In our culture, parents and children are never equal.  Parents were always a source of love and authority.

My mom would sometimes get the chance to actually take care of us herself, and she would scrub and bathe us in a way our nannies routines often paled in comparison to.  We had a cook but she would take to the kitchen for certain special dishes.  It was, however, not the norm.  As a couple, my parents had their marital spats, too, and one thing I was not appreciative of was that while they were never physically abusive towards each other, they did a lot of verbal tussling and would often involve having all three of us in front of them as an audience of sorts.

Birthdays were always an occasion to celebrate, and so was Christmas.  We held many parties in our home, inviting extended family.  My mother was painfully shy but was a great party host, making sure her table was overflowing with good food — not just regular dinner or lunch fare.  Christmas saw relatives and friends knocking on our door to partake of the christmas spread and to get their holiday gift which was usually some cash in an envelope.  My parents showed us that family always meant looking beyond just the five (and later 6) of us. 

Growing up, I was close to my mom, but we always had that Mom-Daughter dynamic where I was always obligated to follow her.  I have to admit that there was some resentment, but none of us rebelled against authority like some others who resorted to shennanigans with their peers, resorting to drinking and the usual dalliances with drugs and parties.  I grew up closer to my Aunt.  If I had a problem, I would go to my Aunt, not my Mom.

My current set up is very different because I am basically on my own taking care of home and family.  While both the hubby and I work in the city, we have pretty regular schedules that free up the weekend.  So work, in general, does not interfere with quality time with the family. 

Unlike my upbringing where I had Auntie Lydia and the nannies through the years, I am very hands-on with Angelo and housework for lack of househelp.  As a result, I get to interact with Angelo directly from the cuddling to the serious business of homework and life in general.  We have our weekend routines, too, which revolve around family.  We do our errands together, usually setting aside time to do our “own thing” during the weekdays more often than not.

I know that the disparity between the way we were as a family when I was growing up and the way I’m raising my family now is largely because of the locale where I was and where I am now.  It makes a big difference, though, in terms of how much closer I am to my son than I was to my parents.  I guess the absence of other parties beyond parent and child has helped me relate to Angelo in a deeper sense.  In a literal and figurative way, there’s just us.

I plan my schedule around when he needs me.  I’ve been invited to after-work drinks and sometimes girls’ night outs but have had to decline and rush home because Angelo was waiting.  I do my errands in the city during my lunch break so that I don’t have to spend an additional 20-30 minutes later in the day instead of hopping on the next bus to take me home.

As a parent, I try to instill the same healthy respect for authority in Angelo, and he is by nature, an obedient boy.  He is very good-natured and always mindful of not offending others.  Perhaps it’s also because I’ve reminded him time and time again that he needs to think of other people.  I try to instill in him a respect for others, and more importantly, a respect for his parents.  Sometimes he would kid me by saying he wants to be my friend — my response to that is simply I can be his friend but I’m going to stop taking care of him, making his meals, and being his Mom.  And without batting an eye, he’ll say he’d rather have me as his mom.

I try to define the roles in a positive but firm manner.  In that way, he knows that he has to obey what we say.  I am fortunate that he doesn’t talk back to us, and once he sees that my voice is starting to take on.

While I am not overly involved in school, I make it a point to be on top of his homework and school load.  My parents attended all events and caught my performances but homework was Auntie Lydia’s turf. 

I’d like to show my son what an extended family is, but beyond his paternal grandmother living with us, he is always a vacation away from his other (and favorite) grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins back in the Philippines.  That is one thing I wish I could give him — the feeling of being part of a bigger family.  To make up for this, I have tried to keep him connected with them back home.  In a sense it has made his interaction with them even more special.  He knows that he needs to cherish and make the most of time spent with them, because of the actual distance separating them.

I wouldn’t say my family dynamic then or our family dynamic now is better or preferred — they both had their pros and cons.  But I guess the fact that my siblings and I turned out to be responsible adults who cherish those memories and try to build on them for our own families now only goes to show that part of that remains with us and will be passed on to our children.