Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lost and Found - Sacha

Maybe she’s not anymore, but when Sacha was very young, she was quite vain. She would choose only dresses that had matching bags, and she liked looking at herself in the mirror a lot. She also fancied jewelry, and would often play with my pearl necklaces.

Once, we were attending Sunday Mass when we noticed that Sacha left our pew and was nowhere in sight. John and I had to leave Ching Ching and Kathy with Yaya Ninfa to look for her. We found her, right away, as she did not go far, but we were amused by what we saw. Our youngest daughter, then maybe two or three years old, was checking her reflection on the church’s glass door. Her hands were over her head, and she was tiptoeing like a ballerina, completely oblivious of the solemnity of the church ceremony, or of her worried parents who were frantically looking for her.


Last weekend, John was invited to do editorial travel photography of a resort in Matabungkay (Batangas). I must admit that I don’t have fond memories of the place (of Matabungkay, not of the resort), and I hope that will change soon.

When Kathy was about five or six or seven (I don’t even remember exactly), and she was still known as “Ann Kay,” we took the family to the beach. The cleanest beaches were no longer in nearby Paranaque or Cavite, so that we had to drive about two or three hours to go to Batangas – Matabungkay, to be exact.  It was summer, so the beach was crowded with families frolicking in the sea and on sand, and there were food kiosks and ice cream carts right on the beach.

We were just a meter or two from the shoreline, and were having fun, jumping each time the wave came. When the wave passed, our heads would still be above water, so I did not think that it was unsafe.  I don’t remember who was paired off with Ching Ching and Sacha, but I was with Kathy. It was exciting to jump every time the wave came, and to anticipate the peak of the wave as the precise moment for us to jump. Kathy and I held hands, but I was not alarmed even if we didn’t, because we were in the shallow part of the sea, and we were taller than the water level, without the wave.

But, suddenly, after a wave passed, I could not see Kathy. I looked in the water, as maybe she lost her balance and could not stand, but I could not see her. Frantically, I called out – shouted - her name. When she did not answer or reappear even as I kept shouting her name, John who was farther away, and people around me, even if they did not know us, soon became alarmed and joined me in searching for Kathy. I was in tears, and my heart was pounding, but between sobs and prayers, I still called out “Anne Kay,” “Anne Kay,” “Anne Kay.”

I remained in the water, nervously and anxiously surveying my surroundings for a glimpse of Kathy, when John shouted that he had found her on the beach. Running while looking up to the sky to say  “Thank you, Lord,” I rushed to her.  She was smiling, unmindful of the stir that she had caused. I was just so relieved that I did not have the energy to scold her or to even ask where she went (I’m sure I did scold her later, and I did ask her why she left the water). I just wanted to order her to come with me to shower up and get dressed – right away!  After that harrowing experience (to me anyway, as she seemed unperturbed), I just wanted to make sure she didn’t get near or in the water again. Not again that day, anyway.

Seeing her in dry clothes, I relaxed a bit and no longer insisted on keeping a tight grip on her. But in a few seconds after I let her go – she was gone again! This time, John spotted her right away – where he found her the first time – talking to the ice cream vendor.  

That’s what took her out of the water, in the first place. She told us that she saw the ice cream cart and the food kiosk. She did not think she needed to tell me, but since she did not have any money, she was going to go back to the sea to look for me. The beach was crowded, and the shore was wide, and well, she did not find me.

It was not a big deal to her. It was to me.

We have not gone back to Matabungkay in the 30 years since then, and I feel that maybe, I need to replace my memory of that place to something more positive and pleasant. Indeed, It’s time to go back. J

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learning A Language

I have two granddaughters, the older, “G,” is two-and-a-half years old, and the other, “A” is one-and-a-half. While babies’ coos and babbles are cute, observing how they acquire real and recognizable words is simply amazing.

The older one has learned to string together words to form intelligible (and I can proudly proclaim) intelligent sentences; the younger one is repeating every word that she is hearing.

Names, including nicknames and terms of endearment (papa, mama, nanay, tatay, wowo, lola, opie, omie, each other’s names, John – which can be confusing since both their father and one grandfather, and incidentally, some titos and kuyas are also named John), tenses (“did you,” “will you…”), time concepts (today, yesterday, last night, this morning), relationships (sisters, mother, daughters, aunts), similar and opposites (high, low, old, young), sizes (big, small, tall, short, thin, fat), colors (oh, all kinds of colors, including purple and fuchsia), things in the heavens (clouds, sun, moon, stars), food and drinks, household items, cooking terms, machines, parts of a car, names of animals, safety terms, and many others are being explored and imitated.

(Note: If I were a full-time grandmother, I would count/measure their vocabulary levels at different ages. Sadly, I am not).

The other week, as we were coming into the city from a trip to Subic Bay, both children were exhausted, and crying. While the younger one could only cry and cry out “mama,” “mommy” and even “nanay,” my older granddaughter was articulating her frustration. She was insisting that she wanted to go home. We told her that we were indeed on our way home, but that she had to be patient if we could not get home right away, as traffic was bad. She said, with the irritation obvious in her tone of voice, “I don’t like traffic.” (She has not learned the word “hate,” thanks to her parents who try hard not to introduce her to such words). We laughed (which may not have been appropriate), and chorused, “We don’t like traffic, either.” “Those who don’t like traffic, raise your hand,” someone in the car piped in, and we all raised our hands. I tried to amuse her by saying, “Let’s say “good-bye” to traffic.” “Good-bye, traffic.” She repeated, “Good-bye, traffic.” I said, “Good-bye, bus,” and she echoed, “Good-bye, bus.” Good-bye, jeep.” “Good-bye, jeep.” Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, building,” I continued with the litany of things we were seeing.  “Good-bye, post.” “Good-bye, traffic light.” “Good-bye, pedestrians,” and she asked, “Lola, what’s ‘pedestrians,’” and I pointed to the people crossing the street. “Good-bye, man in yellow.” “Good-bye, Toyota car.” And soon, we were out of the traffic jam, and rolling along.

Everyday, I am awed by the many words that they are learning, and the confidence they are gaining in saying them. The 1-1/2 year old is emphatic when she says “No!” and for emphasis, repeats “No, no, no, no!” She also expects us to understand that to her anything to drink is “juice,” even when she would say “water.” But the older one? When asked by her papa if she wanted water, she nonchalantly said, “Sparkling, please.” Whoa!

The other day, we were eating at a place where food attendants accepted orders at the counter. We placed our orders, chose a table and waited.  “G” left the table, walked to the counter and talked to the attendants. We could not quite hear what she was saying. After two or three minutes, she went back to the counter, talked again to the attendants, and then walked to the side of the counter. We saw her pointing to a high chair. One attendant dutifully brought the high chair to our table, and “G” said to “A,” “A_____, sit on the high chair!”

Her younger sister would not sit on the high chair, so “G”, stared at the empty high chair. Even though she didn’t like being strapped to a high chair herself, she climbed into it. We figured that she realized that since she asked for the high chair, she should make sure that someone used it.

She was not just learning language, but the responsibility that goes with using it.

Pardon me if I am rambling. I’m just a proud grandmother!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Where'd You Go, Leonardo?

Recently, I attended a creativity workshop called “Where’d You Go, Leonardo?” It was designed to help me (and a few others ) to take the bold step of finding the artists within us and to silence our inner critics, so that we could be comfortable and confident in accepting our artist selves.

A week or two after attending such a workshop, Oliver, our facilitator, followed up with this email:

How is everyone? It was  great to meet all of you at our first WHERE'D YOU GO , LEONARDO Workshop ! 

More importantly, how is  your Inner Artist  these days? 
Are you listening to him/ her? 
What is he / she telling you ? 
How is your intuition or Inner teacher guiding you ? 
Is your Inner Critic easier  to handle? 
How are you bringing more art into your daily life? 

We would love to hear feedback about your artistic journey ! any questions, concerns, stories, insights and discoveries and developments are welcome ! Just email through this address. 

Here’s my reply:

Hi Oliver,

Thanks for following up with me, and helping me remember that there is an Inner Artist in me that should be allowed to find expression.

For two Wednesdays now, I have been attending a Music Class in Southvale, near Daang Hari Road, just outside Ayala Alabang. There are ten other participating partners, and we have a wonderful teacher who sings and plays the piano. She also lends us – every student – two kinds of drums, egg-shaped rattles without handles, and tambourines.

For an hour and a half, we sing, tap on our thighs, clap our hands, snap our fingers, beat two kinds of drums with either our hands or rainbow colored drum sticks, dance while twirling scarves, sing songs while doing appropriate hand motions.  

We sing with gusto – sing softly or loudly, or mumble the words. Never mind if we are out-of-tune.

There are no critics in this class! Hallelujah!

The dances are not scripted or prescribed– we just follow the music, follow the beat of our own drummer, and dance as we please.

There is no right or wrong way. We are free to sing, dance, jiggle, joggle, tap, swing, sway, gyrate, prance, hum, act, pantomime, whistle, whirl, twirl, and act like there is no teacher, no censor, no judge. 

What a most inspiring, liberating and exhilarating experience it is to be in a music class with toddlers, where mothers and grandmothers are encouraged to be as free as any one, two or three year old whom they are accompanying in this class.

Yes, Oliver, this is how I am finding my Leonardo, and loving it. As I thanked my daughter for inviting me to my granddaughters’ music class for toddlers, I told her that in my next life, I will ask God for a singing voice, and enough grace so that I could dance with my grandchildren, but for now, I didn’t care – I’ll just sing and dance as if I were two. Years old, that is. J

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spend Time with Your Children While You Can

(Note: I am sharing this blog with the hope of reaching young mothers who divide their time between work and family.  I pray that their financial situation and personal predisposition would allow them to be full-time mothers, or if not, then for them to find ways to maximize time with their children).

I was having a conversation with one of our younger photographers, when she apologized for troubling me with personal concerns. Assuring her that it was alright, I told her that I could even consider her as one of my daughters. After all, she has been with us seven years, and we’ve probably seen more of each other than I have with my own grown up daughters who now live abroad. 

She agreed, and added that I have probably seen her more than her own mother has.

Those were unplanned statements that triggered some painful thinking. I was swiftly taken to the years when my children were very young. Sadly I computed the hours that we spent with our children and realized that we lost our biggest opportunity to be with them when they started to go to the big schools. And with this realization came regret.

I remembered recently reading on Facebook the agonized confession of an employed and commuting mother who has to leave the house before her child woke up, and who returned home after her child had gone to bed. And it wasn’t even that she worked far from home, but that heavy traffic gets her (as it does many of us) stuck on the road for hours.

In a way, we were lucky that we enjoyed our children’s young years with us. My husband and I had decided that to see more of our children, we should live where we worked. We did not have to waste time on long commutes, and our children could walk in and out of his studios (he’s a photographer) and of my office (I managed our photography business).

Not that working from the home gave me the full privilege of time with our children. Our business was also young and demanded much of our time. Although I pleaded for Saturday off, advertising work was practically 24/7, without regard for Sundays or holidays.

It also meant that even mealtimes were not sacred, and our photographers were known to gobble up lunch or dinner in two minutes flat – so they could go back to finish their shoots. Their busy schedules did not allow for leisurely family dinners. To claim time for the family, we had to conjure a new family tradition – to eat out on weekends when there were no shoots or no urgent paper work to be finished.  Eating out meant walking together to look for a restaurant, sitting down to order, to wait for food to be served, to wait for everyone to finish partaking of lunch or dinner, to wait for the bill and to wait for either change or the return of a credit card. That’s a lot more time to be with family than our two-minute lunch or dinner sprints.

We also had to find ways to combine work and family time. I am grateful that our business of photography allowed that. Sometimes, our children would skip school to join a location photo shoot. It was good that St. Scholastica’s College, where all our daughters went for grade school, shared our belief that they could learn a lot outside of school. (If they were absent from school to go out with their photographer-dad, they were excused if they would do a presentation on the place that they visited).

Looking back, I realize that of all my children, the youngest spent the least time with us. Like her eldest sister, she went to a high school in Quezon City – and even then, EDSA was clogged. At age 15, she entered Ateneo de Manila University in Loyola.  After a year of carpooling to get there from our Makati home, she asked to be allowed to stay at a dorm on campus. After graduation from college, she stayed on at the same university to take up her masters and to teach. During that year, she stayed in a private, off-campus dorm.  While at her university, she could only come home on weekends, but sometimes, not even, as some school activities were scheduled on Saturdays, or even Sundays.

Even those precious weekends were lost when she spent six months in Japan, and soon after, when she got accepted into the University of Toronto. She has been living in Canada ever since, having found employment there, and subsequently marrying a Canadian. Since her husband’s family and clan have settled in Canada, it does not seem likely that they would consider resettling here, especially now that Sacha herself has recently acquired Canadian citizenship.

Ching (eldest daughter) went to the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and while she continued to live with us while she was in school, she did spend an inordinate amount of time going to school and back, either with a carpool, or when she was old enough, to drive to and from school.  (Her high school – like Sacha’s - was also in Quezon City, and that required long hours on the road. I am not sure if that was the time when the MRT was being built, and traffic on EDSA was horrible). I am also grateful that she stayed with us even when she started to work, and her office was in Makati.  She got married in 2003, and she and her husband moved to Singapore shortly after. Presently, they live in California.

Thankfully, Kathy’s high school and university were close by.  A few months’ stay in South Africa after college graduation, and now that she is married, a few weeks each year to visit her in-laws in the Netherlands, or when I myself leave for vacations abroad, are our longest separation times. I am grateful that my son-in-law’s job allows him to stay in the country – at least for now.

She made a brave decision to quit her job with our company to be a full-time wife and mother, and I admire her for this. She is a very hands-on mother, and I expect that her relationship with her two daughters, and with her husband, will be richer and more fulfilling than my own time and business responsibilities afforded me.

Computing time when we spent our lives being together, it is obvious that our best and only opportunity for maximum time with our children was when they were babies and toddlers.

The children grow up. They leave home all too soon. If it were possible to turn back the clock, I would most certainly fight to be a full-time mother. I am now 69, and I get lonely for my children - my little children then, or my grown up children now. In the twilight of my years, I can no longer insist on time with them. They have their spouses, their jobs, their homes and other activities to attend to. My chance – when they were children - had passed. I do appreciate the time that they spend trying to stay connected – through Skype or overseas calls, and personal visits, whenever possible - but typing "kisses" and "hugs" is not the same as physically giving or receiving them. :(

(Note: I thank Kathy for asking us to continue to take an active role in her life, and in our granddaughters’ lives. Having grandchildren gives me another chance at spending time and creating bonds with the children in my life).