Friday, August 26, 2005

Remembering my Lola

Wrote the following passage last year when my beloved grandmother passed away on 30 August 2004:

The family historian is now gone and with her the many stories and remembrances of generations. No one else can make the same woodfire-cooked pancakes, the tasty salted fish nor the soft and melting humba . She even won prizes for her cooking.

I haven't always appreciated Lola Aurea especially when I was young because she seemed far too fuzzy about things. She refused to touch the television at home for fear that it would blow up. But later on, I learned to respect her. How can you not respect someone who fostered and cared for ten children? As a testament to her, all of them love her very much. Among the ten kids she raised is one who grew up to be the best mom in the world, well... maybe second to her!

I will always treasure the time I spent with her, watching her feed the chickens, water the plants and of course, cook her delicious dishes. I am so glad we spent time together before I went to Australia. I stuck to her side like a tuko or gecko during my two-week stay in Siaton, Negros Oriental. Our first day there, we went to the supermarket in Dumaguete to buy some milk for her cereals. I was in shock when we ended up with two boxes of groceries (mostly canned good which I had to lug for a bit) and a great big tin of biscuits (equivalent to the size of a pail). Then we made the one-hour trip to Siaton by bus.

That first day in Siaton was also her first day back, having been to the United States for some months. Lola had eleven groups of friends come over during that first afternoon home. And there I was asking her why we had to get all those biscuits (mystery solved). We kept a steady stream of coffee and snacks going until everyone had cleared out. Afterwards, we went walking and what should have been a twenty-minute walk took hours because of the many friends she encountered along the way. She was that popular! She was open, gregarious, witty, chatty and intelligent. People in need were also drawn to her because of her generosity.

Lola Aurea was an independent sprit and she loved her life. She would still go about the fields and check on the condition of her childrens' plots. She was always strong and ready to go! Lola was debilitated by cancer this past year and that must have been very difficult for her. But she fought a good fight and was actually able to say goodbye to all ten of her children. She also professed her faith in Jesus. Lola said she no longer feared death because she knew God would guide her.

Oh Lola, you will be sorely missed. I was hoping you could still grace my wedding but God had other plans for you. I know you will still be there on that special day though I will not be able to see you. Thank you for all the happy memories. Through you, I have felt what it's like to be truly loved by a grandparent.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Birthday Thoughts

Someone very close to me sent me this SMS:
'Happy Birthday to you. Hope d day will stil b as special even f ur alone, w/o money n prmnent job.'
I knew beforehand that my aunts would be in the Philippines during my birthday so I decided that I would celebrate the day alone. I have never done this before, having been brought up on birthdays complete with cake, photographs, spaghetti, fried chicken, rowdy family and friends. My flatmate could not understand why I wanted to do this and I guess my reasoning is that it's a milestone getting to the BIG 3-0 and going out with friends would make it seem like any other birthday. I mean of course I would have wanted to celebrate with my husband, my parents, my siblings, extended family, new family and lots of friends - the whole shebang. But in the absence of that, I did not want a dim echo.

However, my birthday still turned out great. Family and friends remembered and greeted me. (Thank you very much to all of you, you know who you are). I felt so appreciative of the wonderful people God has planted into my life. My aunt gave me a beginner's cook book before she left while my flatmate gave me an apron with funny captions feeding my cooking obsession further.

I was able to have a meaningful quiet time with God. My hubby and I had a long phone call and we recalled why we fell in love with each other. We promised each other that once he gets here in Australia, we would have a second celebration of both our 30th birthdays. I was also able to finish the major editing assignment that was due today. And I honoured a family tradition - I bought some KFC and enjoyed all the calories!

Going through the Purpose Driven Life book, I have been struck with the notion of how short life is, how fleeting. And it is true. I still feel like I've only turned 22 and just found the love of my life. But the book tells of how there is an eternity with God that is waiting. That is a comfort to me as I now realise that I will probably never accomplish many of my goals and dreams. I will never learn all I want to know. What is important is the day-to-day living for God and accomplishing His purpose in our lives. That's why I'm glad that although the text message I received pointed out all that I lack, it ended with this thought:
'Gods testng ur faithfulns n trust n him. We miss you.'

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Bit of Earth (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)

A bit of earth
She wants a little bit of earth she'll plant some seeds
The seeds will grow
The flowers bloom their beauty just the thing she needs
- From the Secret Garden musical

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
- From Scarborough Fair, English folk song made popular by Simon and Garfunkel

I'm a certified city girl and I've never professed a love for plants. I used to laugh at my mother who talked to her plants during the morning. And I never really understood my aunts' fascination for orchids and roses. I mean flowers are pretty but to actually spend your time and energy caring for them?

One exception to my no plants rule is herbs. My mother grows herbs and she sometimes uses fresh oregano leaves to flavour her pastas. I love the smell of her oregano and mint plants. So I've always wanted an herb garden or plant box of my own. I fantasized about having fresh herbs on hand during the someday I learn to cook. Watching Jamie Oliver in 'The Naked Chef' sealed the deal because he has a plant box by the window sill where he gets his fresh rosemary and thyme.

My aunts gave me a bit of money for my birthday so I decided that this will be my gift to myself. My flatmate and I went off to Bunnings Garden Centre and saw rows and rows of cute little plants. Not knowing anything about plants, I got help from one of the staff there. Jill directed me to the herbs section and she chose two easy-to-grow ones - rosemary and thyme. She also corrected my pronunciation of thyme, saying that it should sound like 'time'. I asked about laurel or bay but she said that it actually grows into a tree so I shouldn't buy that. Since I've been using parsley in cooking, I got that one too.

But then she told me that those little plant pots weren't enough. I actually have to buy a big pot and a small sack of potting mix. What the? Feeling a bit terrified that it was becoming more difficult than I thought, I said that I'd maybe wait for my aunt to come back from overseas to teach me.

Jill then started to reassure me, "It's easy, just put the potting mix into the pot and then dig a little hole then transfer the plant." Still feeling skeptical, she also instructed me to separate the parsley into two or three and plant them around the rosemary and thyme. Then gave some instructions about watering the plants. Armed with this information, we then went into the actual store and she helped me choose a plant box and a good but cheap potting mix with a bit of fertilizer in it. My flatmate read the instructions in the potting mix and we realised that I needed gardening gloves. So we got a flowery pair, a small plant spray and I plunged into the unknown.

When we got home, we semi-cleared the patio of boxes that Charry has been keeping for the time she moves to another flat. Found out that it's actually illegal to have junk and clothes lines on the patios here. But then Charry doesn't have any other place to put the boxes.

Got down to the business of repotting this afternoon. I think I used up more than half of the potting mix. Put the rosemary in first. Dug a shallow hole but then realised that the roots were actually deeper than my hole. I then proceeded to choke the roots of the plant trying to get it out of its pot. Then put in the old thyme, this was easier as I just squeezed the pot and got everything out. Divided the parsley into two. But then the roots of the parsley is more shallow and the plant was going this way and that. In short, I think I half-killed the parsley trying to straighten it out and then planting and replanting it.

Here is the final result. After almost 30 years of life on Earth, I now have my little bit of earth.

P.S.Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme were used as a recurring line in the song Scarborough Fair because it evoked meaning to medieval people. Parsley took away bitterness, sage symbolised strength, rosemary symbolised faithfulness and love while thyme symbolised courage.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Shark Finn Inn and Dutch Masters

I sometimes go out with my tita Babes (mom's sister) during the weekend. We don't do it that often but we sometimes watch a movie. Last July 30, we decided to indulge our cultural tastebuds and went to Melbourne City or CBD (Central Business District). I actually live in the greater Melbourne area but usually the central district is known as 'The City'.

My Aussie officemates suggested that we try to have lunch at one of Melbourne Chinatown's institutions - Shark Finn Inn. So my aunt and I met at Myer (mall) and then trudged up to Little Collins Street, to the Chinatown entrance (pictured) and on to Shark Finn where they start serving yam cha at 11:30 am. Yam cha here is a style of food service where little trolleys of food are brought out and you choose and point to what you want and they give it to you. The trolleys go on and on and the servings are small.

We were given a pot of tea and to start off we chose the fried baby squid calamari. It was so nice! Then we said no to all the other fried things because my officemates told me to wait for the steamed dim sims. We had to wait a bit then we chose prawn, scallop, mushroom and pork dim sims (three per serving). We also had some fish cakes and rice with mushrooms that was bundled in fragrant leaves. For dessert, I chose rainbow gelatin.

It was great eating yam cha because you feel pleasantly full afterwards and because you choose around one or two dishes per trolley, you get to thoroughly enjoy the little serves. And then you're eyeing the next trolleys with greed. When we saw the bill, it was cheap too.

Then my aunt and I rode the trams (pictured) and got off at the National Gallery of Victoria (pictured) in St. Kilda Road. We were there to see the big art exhibition of the year - Dutch Masters. The paintings on display are from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdan and hail from the golden era of Netherlands - the 17th century. During that time, the Netherlands was a world power because of their exploration and trade. The wealthy middle classes or burghers demanded paintings and beautiful objects to decorate their homes.

My aunt and I saw many beautiful portraits. Many were of the wealthy wearing the dark judge like robes of burghers. The backgrounds were also dark but in constrast, faces were well lit. There were also still-lifes with, some even showing bones to depict that time is fleeting and intricate sceneries. I learned that most of the Dutch at that time were Protestant and the more well known painters include Rembrant and Jan Steen.

What really floored me was the sheer number of people who were there. It was sometimes hard to move about because there were always people trying to get a better look at the art objects. It was amazing how packed the place was considering that there is a $20 entrance fee. I really don't see this happening soon in the Philippines. I think it is still a battle for survival for many of our countrymen so exhibitions like this are not on the priority list. But I'm glad I got the chance to see this and to know more about Dutch culture. And to see what Melbourne City has to offer to 'tourists' like me and my aunt.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Isang Linggo ng Pagluluto, Part 2

I came home Friday night and discovered that all the chop suey and pasta was gone! So I thought that I would get a head start on the weekend and roast the chicken sitting in the freezer. It took a while to thaw it but I eventually got there by using the microwave. The recipe instructed me to put in quartered lemons in the cavity. Easy-peesy. Then I had to massage the chicken skin with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. No worries! I then prepared the chicken 'bath' by putting in chicken broth on the roaster and putting the chicken into the liquid. The final ingredient was a cup of wine wine on the chicken bath. No problem, we had bought the cheapest white wine. I went to open the bottle and to my horror, found that it was cork top, not a screw top. It was the first time I have ever bought wine so I did not remember to check if it was corked. Oh well, look for a corkscrew! Looked in one drawer, then another and all I found was can openers. Not used to drinking alcohol, we never needed a corkscrew until now.

No need to panic, I thought, I just need to chip away or push the cork in. Used a big knife and tried pushing the cork down but it wouldn't budge. Then tried boring down into the cork and was able to to whittle away some of the top part using the big knife but soon enough I couldn't get the knife farther down. Then, aha, use a small knife to drill down. This was labor intensive so I turned on the television while doing it. Then I started making the chicken broth (recipe from Pinoycook) for the pancit molo I planned to make on Sunday. This took a lot of hours to simmer but as I still had my wine to open, I was preoccupied.

Got a lot of cork bits here and there but at 10 pm, I finally gave up and my hand was so tired. I was trying to be a cheapskate but it wouldn't do, really needed a corkscrew and my chicken went to sleep that night in its cold bath still not cooked.

Saturday came and Charry had another request - garlic prawns! I found a recipe online on Thursday from Epicurious and it was named Mother Pepa's Garlic Shrimp and it called for sherry but I thought white wine would do. So I really needed the corkscrew now and I got one from the Warringal mall. But it took the two of us to open the wine bottle, as I had whittled down a lot of the corkscrew it didn't have much wood to hang on to, so we both had to pull hard to get it out.

Anyway, cooked the garlic prawns together with a vegetables and eggs recipe from Pinoycook. These turned out excellent! And in the evening, I finally got to cook the chicken. It was soggy and took a while to roast. And when I got it out of the oven, found that it was overcooked. But chicken is still chicken and it was still full of flavour so we ate it for several days.

Sunday turned out to be a cold and windy day. We went to church in the morning and it was a good service because we started the '40 Days of Purpose' campaign based on the 'The Purpose Driven Life' book by Rick Warren. But then we stayed indoors the whole afternoon. While Charry watched 'The Deep End of the Ocean', I prepared the pork mince mixture and put it in little wonton wrappers. They looked very cute. Made pancit molo from a recipe by Pinoycook and it was the perfect accompaniment to the cold afternoon and the perfect end to my week of frenzied cooking.

It was the first time I ever tried sitting down and planning a menu beforehand. There were some botch ups but I tried all the recipes for the first time so I'm pleased with the results. I also tried to modify the recipes so they could be healthier and because I don't like vegetables much, I tried to make them more palatable. This helped me stay away from 'bad' food the whole week and gave me a boost of confidence in the kitchen. I can now see myself cooking nice and delicious meals for my husband and our future family.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Isang Linggo ng Pagluluto (A Week of Cooking), Part 1

Having just gotten my new cookware and flushed with the success of my arroz caldo, I was excited to do some serious cooking. Charry, my flatmate, had a special request - chop suey! So I asked my mom to go online to share her recipe with me via Yahoo messenger. While waiting for my mom, I searched for a chop suey recipe from the Internet and discovered Sassy Lawyer's cooking blog - Pinoycook. Pinoycook turned out to be such a treasure trove of great dishes so I downloaded a lot of recipes.

Last Monday, August 8, became the start of my cooking obsession. My husband, family and Charry know how I am. I have (as Sarah Turnbull puts it) 'shooting star' phases. I usually get excited over something then I will learn all I can, do a lot of that thing and it will be all I think about. But it's a cycle and I will quiet down eventually. Over the years, this has involved ballet, tennis, baking, etc. Some are real shooting stars that I never take up again. Some do stay on like books but I have cycles of interest and disinterest. I'm not reading so many books right now because my book cycle is in a downspin.

Before Charry got home in the afternoon, I made a list of all the things I wanted to cook for the week. Then I followed Pinoycook's recipe for making my own garlic bread spread so by the time Charry opened the door she could smell the bread browning in the oven. We went to our local Coles (supermarket) and Charry was so excited as well that she went into vegetable overdrive and bought so many! Then we headed to the library where we borrowed a lot of videos. I took home videos of cooking shows - the hyperactive but cute Jamie Oliver and elegant Nigella Lawson. These are English cooks who are well known in Australia for their no-nonsense cooking.

Then I took out the wok and it was hard stir-frying the vegetable overload. I followed my mom's recipe but put in more water than called for because I didn't know the veggies also had their own juices to give up. So it turned watery. But it was still good and my flatmate loved it.

The next day, I made blueberry pancakes from a recipe in Slimmingmagazine. Unfortunately, I put in the blueberries too early and mixed it up with all the ingredients. So the blueberries were bruised and the whole batter turned blue. Then I couldn't cook the pancakes properly because the blueberries got in the way. So I had to eat it alone because Charry wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I had a lot left over because some were burned on the outside and raw on the inside. Yuck!

Wednesday found me cooking pasta with tuna, a recipe I got from Super Food Ideas magazine, July 2004 issue. It turned out delicious and healthy. The chop suey and pasta were able to go a long way in covering us for our lunch baons and meals at home until Friday. It was great and I was looking forward to cooking during the weekend.

A (Chocolate) Walk to Remember

Belated Happy Birthday to my new dad! I wish I could have been there to celebrate with the whole family. But may God continue to bless him and his ministry!

One birthday I helped celebrate was Robyn's (churchmate) birthday last July 23. It was unusual because we took part in one of the tours around Melbourne named 'Chocolate and Other Desserts Walk'. We had a light lunch at a mall in Melbourne City named QV. Tastebuds going into overdrive with anticipation, we took a stroll along the city's main street - Swanston, crossed the Princess Bridge and we reached our destination, the Southgate complex near the muddy-looking Yarra River.

Our tour guide turned out to be a bubbly dark-haired woman who gave us green dots to put on our clothes. Not all of us were Robyn's friends, there were also those who just signed up for the tour. The first stop was Charmaine's Ice Cream where we got our choice of three mini-scoops: I chose two unusual flavors - chocolate chilli, pudding and my favorite, cookies and cream.

Then we headed off to Suga which is also in Southgate. They were making ribbon candies the traditional way and we got to see how they shaped and molded the the candy while it was still hot. (By the way, Aussies call candies lollies, even sweets that aren't lollipops). At one point the candy looked like rope and they seemed to be stretching and restretching it until it was a golden colour. Then they put in the added flavour. While all this was going on, we were each given a taste of the different lollies from the rainbow coloured range. They even sell some unusual chocolate treats named Koala and Kangaroo Droppings!

While still sucking on a candy, we crossed the Yarra River and headed to Haigh's Chocolate in the Block Arcade. Haigh's has been around since 1915 while the Block Arcade features beautiful mosaic floors. The display window showed cute little snowmen (pictured) and we were in chocolate heaven with all the different tastings, I had to put aside some of the sweets because I just couldn't take it anymore.

Next on the list was the Pancake Parlour where we had pancakes with rich syrup and vanilla ice cream. Mercifully, we also had pitchers of water to wash out all the gooey sweetness. Some people were already giving up and couldn't finish their pancakes.

The final stop of the tour was the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Collins Street. We went behind the scenes to one of the kitchens. It was such a contrast seeing the elegant lounge and guest areas and the drab looking, strictly serviceable kitchen halls. We saw a big tree of strawberries held in their places with toothpicks. The young chefs showed us how to dip strawberries properly in chocolate (pictured). They also showed us some unusual tricks of the trade like bubble wrap to achieve a polka dot effect, brushing chocolate lines on plastic and then curling it and even using hardware tools. I wish we could have stayed a bit longer in this area because it was all very interesting.

Then there was afternoon tea waiting for us at Hyatt's restaurant. Plenty of tea and coffee and of course, little chocolate treats. All in all we had a lot of fun and there were contented smiles all around. The animated chatter flowed freely. Can't wait until Robyn's next birthday.

Afterwards Charry (my flatmate) and I rushed to get home so we could go to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate another churchmate's birthday. It was the first time Charry ate Japanese food and she loved the clean taste of it. All in all it was a gastronomically full day.

Thanks to my good friend Georgina for supplying the pictures!

Monday, August 15, 2005

An open, screened window.jpg

Moblog: There are times when people will claim to have minds that are as open as windows, but are still screened and filtered.

When Yancey talks about the hypocrisy of Moody College, it hardly hurts Pinoys since the common, typical Pinoy will not have come from Moody College.

But talk about UP, Ateneo or even DLSU and a lot of Pinoys see red.

Yet the only way we can ever open any window here in Pinas is to put screens, filters on them. To keep flies out, I suppose. To keep the bad things away. So, maybe it isn't always a bad thing. Maybe it's just easier and better to look away.

And so Yancey can talk about bitterness all he wants; his objects are just too far away and too far removed to affect us as little more than quaint and funny little stories. When he talks about the hypocrisy of America, the American situtation and American Christians, they wouldn't have to hurt us. He's talking about them, not us. Apparently, we don't have to see his point. We don't have to feel guilty.

Screens on windows... what a great idea.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dad's Birthday

Moblog: I had actually been ill yesterday during Dad's actual birthday. No, not a fever, but really ill nonetheless. So when my brothers came over, with BH and my niece, Dayang, I had been unable to join them.

Today, however, the church found out that it was his birthday, and gave him this cake.

I'm still feeling woozy, but I'm glad I got to celebrate it with Dad, though it is belated.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ærynn and I had always shared music

Ever since that first time, when I tried to lend her one of my favorite music CDs (an Enya CD I borrowed from someone else, actually), hoping that she would like it, then finding out that she not only listened to Enya, but owned a cassette tape of the very same CD, I always knew that Ærynn and I would always share music.

To be sure, we still have our distinct musical preferences. She tends to like Pop and upbeat tunes, while I like the classics (not classical, mind you; there is a difference) of no particular genre. There are, of course, intersections and overlapping of interest, like Enya.

At any rate, since most of my music files were destroyed when lightning struck Dad's laptop, I only have those left over from when we were still in St. John, that is, the closest I ever lived near Ærynn's house when we were still unmarried. I am listening to them now: Winter Solstice, Paolo Santos, Enya, some Phil Collins & James Ingram, definitely Charlotte Church (before her descent into the dark side) . . . all the songs and music my wife and I shared when we were still together. I am listening to them as I prepare to go to a job I am finding tedious, repetitive, inefficiently managed, and nerve-wracking . . . yet as I listen to this music, all I can remember was the soft glow of my wife's skin in the half light coming in through the bridal chamber window. All that fills my mind now is the sound of her gentle breathing as she lies asleep beside me. I can still smell the gentle fragrance of her hair on the pillow, where I lay my head beside hers. My heart still throbs for the lovemaking that happened just a few minutes ago—no . . . months ago.

And I remember why I have to be patient: for the hope that I will see my lovely wife again, and share music once again.

Monday, August 08, 2005

So... even DLSU feels inferior, huh?

This is a response to an article written here. This is another one of my badly written articles on the silent gripe on supposed academic superiority and shouldn't see the light of day because it might offend someone.

You know what? I didn't know that La Sallites had an inferiority complex when it came to Ateneo. My, my... who would have thought? And all this time I had been under the impression that they had been so busy looking down at other universities and colleges, especially those that they are in "consortium" with... like PCU.

What's the entire deal with trying to prove academic superiority anyway? When I transferred from UP to PCU, I had so much difficulty having my subjects credited. They kept on telling me that the subjects from "there" are different from those over "here." Some of my friends who had made the same kind of transfer to PCU and were proud of the grades they got in UP were shocked that the "advanced" subjects they took back there is not considered valid. When for a while I tried to take my M.A. back in UP (more out of a desire to validate whatever academic achievement I had than anything else), I had difficulty convincing them that the subjects I took in PCU were good enough and advanced enough to allow me to even apply.

In the end, all this is bullshit. All colleges and universities, in order to be recognized as a college or university and allowed to operate at all, go through the same process of accreditation. Simply stated, they must be teaching the same thing with the same standards. That is, an English major who graduates from UP should be as good as an English major who graduates from Corregidor College. Yet, inspite of all the "accreditation" there is this view that somehow the "ivy league" schools are not only necessarily better, but also rather the only choice for smart students. If you are just too dumb to go into UP or Ateneo, there are still the others.

So, DLSU is trying to pride itself on being really good athletically over such clumsy morons like those in UP, while UP prides itself on their brains... Ateneo has the best of both worlds, it seems. Back in high school, our Salutatorian chose to go to Ateneo even though he passed the UPCAT and had a scholarship in UP; he was trying to prove a point.

The darndest thing about it is that my Dad's generation felt it first. Right now, where my Dad is assigned as a pastor is a RTC judge amongst the congregation. Dad, ever the nice, doormat man that he sometimes is when meeting old "friends" remembers that both he and that present judge both took the entrance exam for Law so many years back. He wouldn't tell me what that guy's scores were, but I suspect that Dad got higher marks. Yet, he couldn't afford it so he didn't take Law and became a pastor.

Fast forward to the present, and here is that same judge arguing before the Church Council exactly why Dad doesn't deserve more than P13k a month: he's just a pastor. The second darndest thing is that the Church Council agrees with him, inspite of the fact that they hear Dad every Sunday and they heard this judge last month give a sermon and... well, there just isn't any comparison. That judge seemed like he was half dead. I wonder how he holds his court...

The funny thing is, this isn't the first time. He has an IQ of 152, right? Yet he never became Valedictorian of his graduating Elementary class. Why? He's from another barrio. Same thing with high school. Same thing with College. Same thing in the seminary. Should he have graduated at the top of his class in Yale then (where he finished 2nd, that is, secundi honoris)? After experiencing all of this prejudice and deliberate stops to his career everywhere, he thinks that it is fiction when I tell him of instances when there is prejudice based solely and merely on where you graduated. Or maybe, he just doesn't want to accept the fact that this is true. He has been held back so long, he needs to know that where he is right now is his best possible destiny. Will I ever become like Dad, or those La Sallites, always giving alibis on why they are perceived as second- or third-rate?

Another group of people who would not believe or acknowledge the unfair bias shown to UP/Ateneo, heck! even La Salle are those people from these very institutions. They just have to know that they are really good, not merely considered good. We got those jobs because UPeans really are good naman. We rule, we rock precisely because we rule and we rock. My wife, who began and ended in UP, finds it offensive whenever I talk about those of us who have been overlooked and shunted aside not because of our lack of skill or talent but because of our Alma Mater. Which is wierd, since I had thought that, after experiencing a version of that particular bias in Oz she would see that there was some validity in our gripes and our groans. But, no go... she should be accepted precisely because she is from UP and they are being unfair. The aussies don't know what UP is, and they will only, only value people who graduated from their local universities, or at least have plenty of local experience, and bugger all other qualifications.

Yet, Ærynn still would not believe me when I say that thing about jobs. The only jobs available to us are the lowly, utusan jobs—being under those who finished in an "ivy league." She, like my Dad before her, would cite all those people who had gotten jobs who were not from UP, silently and deliberately ignoring the fact that most of them only got their jobs not on the strength of their resumes but rather the network of people that they know. The only way a walk-in applicant gets hired is if that person has a UP or Ateneo (and, yes, dear friends, sometimes a DLSU) diploma and TOR; and the cycle continues.

Well, PCU has the basketball championship. Looks like PCU, like DLSU before them, will now have to bask in their athletic rather than academic prowess, making alumni like me even more useless in the job market.

And so, even when this job that I have now is the sort of job I particularly dislike I am staying in it (if it kills me), since it is the first job that has offered me pay higher than P10k a month. In fact, my salary is, in fact, higher than my Dad's right now. I am a prostitute, prostituting my skills and talents in what is technically organized slavery to money just so I can meet some of my friends, and not be ashamed of telling them what my salary is (among other, more needful things, of course).

Oh, don't worry... this won't get published. Nobody will read and be offended by it... I'm hiding it right in here where no one can see... Let the delusions continue... UP... Ateneo... what was it that Mercutio said?

Sunday, August 07, 2005


uploaded by
Gryphon Hall.
Moblog: My sister-in-law and I just took time off to watch a ballet performance, which had just ended now. It was no Nutcracker nor Swan Lake; in short, it was the sort of pointless and meaningless post-modern production that showcased skill and scantily clad bodies, but little else.

Still, it was a nice experience because I was with my hipag. Too bad that I couldn't spend the night at their house so that I can also be with my mom-in-law. It has been a while since we've had some fellowship together.

I wish my wife was here. This was the sort of thing that we always went to.

Arcosteel and Arroz Caldo

My mother and I must have had this conversation a thousand times:

'Dapat matuto ka nang magluto!'
'Bakit?' Vainly hoping the inevitable wouldn't be said.
'Para pag nag-asawa ka na, hindi ka naman nakakahiya!'
'Eh di, hindi na lang ako mag-aasawa.'
To which mom would just shake her head and exclaim, 'I'm telling you, you will get married someday.'

And I silently thought, fat chance of that happening!

Later on, when Gryphon came into my life, we had a modified version of the talk:
'Dapat matuto ka nang magluto para pag nag-asawa na kayo, hindi ka naman nakakahiya.'
'Di bale Ma, magaling naman syang magluto!'
And that would be the end of that! Point for Christine. Bwahahahahahahaha.
We have an eatery back home so we get most of our food from there. Consequently, I only learned to make spaghetti for special occassions and baked the rare cookie.

Coming to Australia, my aunt took good care of me foodwise. But I moved out of my aunt's place last year so I've had to (*gasp) learn how to cook. At first I subsisted on instant noodles, Spam and my flatmate's cooking. Through trial and error and the help of kind people, I can now cook adobo (taught by my flatmate), sopas (taught by a churchmate), lasagna (taught by an officemate), some stir-fries (attended a demo at the library) and a curry (from Slimming magazine). I can honestly say that I love cooking and I'm always on the look out for new recipes.

Recently, Joan (churchmate and part of our Bible study) lent me her diary where she put down recipes from when she moved out of her family's home. It has menudo, tinola, beef steak, sinigang, sweet and sour meatballs (which I've tried) and a fave of mine, arroz caldo. The problem is, we only have two small sauce pans and a wok, so couldn't use these to cook arroz caldo or nilagang baka. Despite the tight budget, I made up my mind to buy a stockpot.

So we went to K-Mart today intending to buy a stockpot, egg rings, possibly a grater and groceries. Must admit, I felt really happy when I saw all the kitchen utensils (very strange). Found my stockpot (on sale!) but then my flatmate pointed out the box of Arcosteel 23-piece kitchenware (on bigger sale!).

I tried to resist, tried to remind myself of my budget, tried to think of happy thoughts, looked at other kitchen starter boxes, looked at other pots but I kept going back to the big Arcosteel box. Even rang up Gryphon on the mobile to ask him if this was a good idea and if a dutch oven is better than a stockpot (still don't have a clue).

The short of it is that I ended up with a roaster, dutch oven, sauce pan, steamer, frying pan, grater, colander, mixing bowl, chopping board, knife set and other goodies like ladles at a $100 discount!Didn't receive stuff like this during the wedding because couldn't bring them to Oz. Was positively tingling with excitement and delight. Never thought kitchenware would have this effect on me in my old age.

Cooked the arroz caldo this evening and made use of my new sauce pan and dutch oven! It's my first stab at this dish but because I had Joan's advice and recipe, it turned out well. I even fried garlic for garnish. I know my husband would be proud of me. And after all these years, I think my mother has the last laugh!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Off to Work

I was off work for two weeks in July when my supervisor was in Ireland and the ministers of Parliament I am working with had a break in their sessions. Started working again for the Department of Justice on July 20 and this week, my boss asked me to come in for four days instead of three. I praise God for that because I need to pay for the car registration soon so the extra income is welcome.

It truly is wonderful working for this department. I enjoy learning about the government system in Australia. And I'm getting to edit and do a bit of writing so it's not all drudge work. Another bonus is the fabulous views out the glass walls of the office. Pictured is the view from my desk. The greenery is part of the Treasury Gardens and the big round structure in the distance is the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, usually shortened to MCG or even 'The G'. A lot of Aussie rules football is played there which is a really big sport here.

Applied for four jobs last July but was knocked back (turned down) for all of them. So now I'm looking for new job opportunites. I hope to get something with the promise of going permanent and full-time as this will assist in Gryphon's visa application, not to mention renting our own place later.

I've also started going to a Book Editing class last July as part of my postgraduate studies. Every Thursday evening, I go to one of the old buildings at RMIT (pictured) and get to learn more about one of my passions. We are currently doing a lot of copyediting exercises.

There are days when I feel lonely, depressed and ask God what I'm doing here. There are times when I wish I was in the Philippines like last Sunday when Gryphon's niece was dedicated to the Lord and I was ninang (godparent). It would have been a great time of celebration. But I honestly would not replace everything God has taught me and everything that has happened to me since I came here. I once had a very sheltered life, now I can feel a little of the cold wind and it's painful. But the Lord keeps on reminding me of the words He once said to Paul when he pleaded with God to remove the thorn on his flesh:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9).

Philip Yancey on Writing

One of my joys in Australia is the public library system which has given me a chance to borrow books I've lusted after. I used to spend hours looking at books at National Bookstore but couldn't part with my money to actually purchase them.

One drawback though is that when you really like a book, it's hard to let go and I've already reached the borrowing limit on Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor. In this book, Yancey writes about the lives of 13 men and women who have inspired him and kept him going in the faith. The way he wrote about them is good because he showed both their incredible achievements and great flaws. One example is Martin Luther King, Jr. who showed tremendous courage and yet had extra-marital affairs.

I did learn a lot from this book about faith but I also learned about writing. I have always loved reading and appreciate the power of words but I've always been insecure about writing. That's one reason why I chose to take Communication Research as major instead of Journalism (which I actually wanted). Gryphon started this blog last year but I only started writing near the middle of this year, due in part to Soul Survivor. Yancey addressed two issues I have thought about and used as reasons not to write:

1. I have not had anything extraordinary happen to me, my life is ordinary. All I can write about is ordinary things.

James Joyce said, 'Literature deals with the ordinary, the unusual and extraordinary belong to journalism.' Yancey wrote about Frederick Buechner, a critically acclaimed novelist and a minister. 'He writes not about Iraq, China or the crisis of postmodernism, rather about the faint memory of his grandmother Naya, or about the old mill down the road...' One of Buechner's books, The Alphabet of Grace picks throught the events of one day: 'shaving, getting dressed, staring in a mirror, starting the coffee, dressing the kids...'

Frederick Buechner found that he could write and ponder on the material of his life. He found that God can use the ordinary events of our life to convey Himself to us. Yancey agrees that we can observe the daily occurrences in our lives and have an attitude set forth in the Bible--'Be still and know that I am God.' He said that even in writing fiction, one should be still. Don't try to impose too much on the characters but let them breathe and see where the story goes. Yancey concludes, 'We can only write with passion about our own experiences, no one else's. I find that readers respond not to the specifics of my experience, rather to what they summon up. In the reader, words work a different effect than they worked in me as I composed them.'

2. Why should I impose what I've written on people? I'm no better than anyone else.

Annie Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize in her early twenties. One advice she gave to a fellow writer: 'Everyone feels like a fraud ... Separate yourself from your work. A book you have made isn't you any more than is a chair you made, or a soup. It's just something you made once.' Henri Nouwen, another Christian writer said: 'Most students think that writing means writing down ideas, insights, visions. They feel that they must first have something to say before they can put it down on paper. ... But with this approach true writing is impossible. Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.'

Throughout the book, Yancey also told about his own doubts in imposing his writing on other people. And I thought, if this great best-selling author has his doubts about his own writing, then it's okay to have doubts. In the end, he still wrote books like Disappointment with God and What's So Amazing About Grace that a lot of people can relate to and have helped strengthen them against the small waves and tidal waves of life.

So for those of us who have doubts about our own writing abilities and what we have to say, it's a comfort to hear from these great writers. For me, it's incredible to know that the doubts that plague me are not unique, even the great writers have these same feelings and thoughts.

On the 29th Sonnet of Shakespeare

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,--and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.
Just like a lot of my more recent posts, this one is blatantly self-absorbed. I have always loved this particular sonnet of Shakespeare, not particularly because it is well made (though it is) but rather it reflects very well how I see my life. Oh, I am not proud that my life is so very well reflected in this verse; I am not. But, it used to comfort me that there was at least one poem, and a sonnet at that, which gives validity to what I felt was true in my life.

I am not proud to say that the first four couplets are so very true of me. Without any hubris I can say that people are usually surprised that I feel this way. They usually think that I have far too many talents and skills to ever feel that I don't fit anywhere and hate it (1st couplet), that I have once asked God to change my life so often, but felt that he didn't (2nd couplet), and that I am filled with bitter envy (and I still often am) at the financial well-being, the friends, and the talents and skills of other people have (especially those whom I think deserve it least) that I find it difficult to enjoy life (3rd & 4th couplets). No, I am not proud... and for a long time I have dissembled my mind to seem more happy and more content, all for the sake of others.

For the longest time, I had loved that poem... and hated it, since only the first four couplets were true for me. For a long time, I had no friend that would help me appreciate the me that I am now, rather than wish to be the other guy who had more money, or more friends, or more talent. That is, until Ærynn came into my life in 1995.

Oh, I still feel the first four couplets occassionally; yet it no longer haunts me as it did before, for at last my life is a complete Sonnet XXIX, where all I have to consider is that, if I had been somebody else, I would not have my wife now. It is complicated, but I am sure that if I had been somebody else, I would not have met such a wonderful friend and lover all in one. Of course, it seems like a case of the bitter grapes. But one only has to meet her who is my wife, and know that I am more fortunate than I deserve.

Maybe I do feel that the first four couplets should still be part of my life—having just the last three will not a sonnet make, and without the first four the last three are meaningless. I sometimes feel that I should have more money, more friends or more talents to be deserving of Ærynn... however I also know that even if I remain the friendless pauper with limited skills, she will still love me and stay with me.

And that is a poem in itself.