Thursday, November 24, 2011


"For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!"
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thankful… for the gift of life, for the strength of limb and sanity of mind. For bringing me back from the E platform that fateful day in September, westbound to safety.

Thankful…for my son, the love of my life, who brings me joy every day. For still kissing me good night. For being a decent human being that I am so very proud of.

Thankful for my mom for loving me despite my inattention, for just being my mom. For understanding. For everything.

Thankful… for my sister for keeping up with me and for baking all these goodies for us. For all my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephew for just being there- we've muddled it through and we're still family.

Thankful... for Brownie. I didn’t know that a mixed beagle-dachshund can make me pick up his poop without any complaint. For his wagging tail whenever I come home from work; for just being deliriously happy with a stick of Pupperoni.

Thankful...for my friends for sharing their lives with me.

Thankful... for FB for reuniting me with old friends, for reconnecting me with loved ones from distant places. They’re just one status update or a Like click away.

Thankful.. for the nursing profession that had opened a new world of blessings more than I have ever dreamed of; for making me a better person because I am a nurse.

Thankful... for my old work home for 21 years. For showing me the tools of the trade; for making me the nurse that I am proud to be. For the kaleidoscope of memories that prepared me for my new journey.

Thankful... for my new work home. For a whole new experience, a journey filled with new discoveries and exciting challenges.. for welcoming me and making me feel at home… for proving that the grass is greener here on the other side.

Thankful... for being in service to God. For knowing that all of the trials will prepare me for the final reward.

Thankful... for all the little things that I've taken for granted but have made my life rich and wonderful. For not having to cook today. :)

Thankful... for you. For making me smile and be hopeful. Who knows where this is going to?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thirty-One Years Later

What a wonderful and life-affirming experience it is to spend time together with my dear classmates from the Arellano University College of Nursing. We might have led separate lives, gone on to different pathways, but this last week-end, we bonded together again. Remembrances of clinical rotations at V. Luna, QI, Mental Hospital. Of Ever Emporium and Shakeys. Of terror professors and instructors. Of tests we've hurdled and of skits we've played for our patients. We've come a long way, baby.

October 1, 2011 was the 1st Global Reunion of the Arellano University College of Nursing held at the SouthPoint Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. From our school grounds at Legarda, Sampaloc, Manila and thirty-one years later, to the bright neon lights amidst the concrete jungle of one-armed bandits at Las Vegas. Those slot machines do not interest me at all; I am an oddity in the midst of hungry-looking folks. But here at last, alumni from our college gathered in posh SouthPoint Hotel to celebrate. The excitement in the air was palpable. Anybody who looked Filipino was probably an alumni or a spouse entrusted with the delicate task of taking pictures.

Our AUCN FaceBook group was created by Ampy after Althea who's in the Philippines started the search with a photo of fresh-faced and bright-eyed young men and women, BSN program, section 2, Class 1980, the last batch of the five-year curriculum. Hence, we've grown to 23 members. Because of various reasons, only nine of us made it to the gala but we snatched some time to see two more.

Sept. 30, 2011, Friday-

Woke up very late today, so naspu-naspu lang and barely made it to my Delta Airways flight. After a stop-over at Salt Lake City, it was just my luck that a platinum blonde with bright red lips and short-skirt sat in between me and a gullible middle-aged man. I pretended to sleep so she turned her sights to the male, but I heard Chatty Lady's life story as she proceeded to a dissertation of her life as a Political science professor who's deeply in love with her husband who she's meeting in Las Vegas but he has the sniffles but hopefully better because they're watching the David Foster show then dinner with friends. She took the necessary pauses for breaths but she shifted topics like a pro during the 45-minute flight. I swear that she must have been a Speed Talking Queen I'm not anti-social but this lady brought Chatting to the ultimate level of Annoying Behavior in a Plane. TMI (too much information or as I call it Totally Migraine-Inducing).

AUCN Registration- 6pm SouthPoint Hotel
Met Louie at the hallway as we got lost looking at the reception room. Finally found the group and the screaming began. The room was already filled with schoolmates from all the years but I zeroed in on my Section 2 group.

Louie and I took turns hugging the other ladies. There they were, in casual wear. They didn't look much different from 31 years ago. Maybe a few wrinkles here and there, and some weight gain. It is what it is. But anything more than the ninety-eight pounds I was during my college years is expected. Who cares! But gone were the gangly, innocent, and carefree looks of our student years. Instead, I can proudly say that we all metamorphosed into sophisticated and self-assured ladies with strong personas, confident of our place in society and the successes we've achieved.

The classmates in attendance: Ampy, Rose, Lita, Luz, Janet, Arlene, Fe, Louie, and yours truly. I am so proud of all of you.

After the registration, I begged off to rest a little bit after my flight. Just needed to rest because the ear assault at the plane left me with a splitting headache. We all agreed to meet for a 9am breakfast.

Then at about 9pm LV time, I got a call from Lita. Trelly and Lorna were waiting at the hotel lobby to see us. Trelly came all the way from London with her hubby, but would not be able to make it to the gala because of her trip to California the next day. Lorna who does live in Las Vegas must have her hands full with her brother's family also visiting at the same time.

Another screaming match. Some hotel guests were smiling at the sight of grown Filipinas jumping, and hugging at the same time. If you've seen pogo sticks, we looked like them.

We finally moved our chikahan fest to Ampy's timeshare condo nearby. This time, it was just Ampy, Rose, Lita, Janet, Trelly, Lorna and I .

Memories... lit the corners of our minds. Flashback thirty one years. Those were the days, my friends. And the talk just flowed, each and every single one of us bursting to share the warm memories of our years together. With our stiff aprons, blue and white sheer sucker uniforms and white nurses caps, we breezed through the years with carefree equanimity and the knowledge that the real life of nursing may be a lot different. But the years spent in the Philippines defined our work ethics and attitudes, and made us appreciate the nobility in our chosen profession.

As we talked, all the years in between faded away. We recaptured our youth as we relived the experience of not having the real responsibilities yet; we were just student nurses, just within the cusp of a new milestone. We lived for the moment; sure we had our share of problems but we managed to enjoy our nursing years with a group that loved to have fun as well.

We swapped stories about our patients at V. Luna. Our past romances which sometimes involved our military patients. In my case, check my story of my Sam Milby look-alike soldier. Back then I was so embarrassed when another patient visited me at my home with his friends. It was a strange group of friends with various stages of disfigurement.

I should have learned my lesson from Chatty Lady. It is possible to catch up on each others' lives by speed-talking but we were all so excited that we were tripping over each other to relate our own remembrances. It was as if the floodgates opened up and the chatter crescendoed to a point where we just doubled up in girly laughter at the funny moments. No Alzheimer's memory loss yet.

Ampy and Rose kept on looking at me to write about our talks but I just could not remember much with the giggling and the shift from topics to topics. Oh, I did relate my experience in the Quezon Institute as we boiled the syringes and the needles, walked up to our patients with alcohol-soaked cotton balls, and finally injecting the dull needles into the patients' emaciated arms.

Time flew fast; we were just warming up. The cobwebs in our minds loosened up, but Lorna and Trelly had to leave. Trelly's English hubby and Lita's husband managed to entertain each other as we ladies soaked up the camaraderie, and bonded again just like the 21-year olds that we were. I told Trelly, "Lee is a keeper."

October 1, 2011, Saturday-

9am Breakfast at the Garden Buffet with the whole crew. Louie joined us minus his missus. This time the husbands showed up and tolerated the incessant chatter around them. Fe's Brazilian boyfriend came over for coffee.

12noon - a shuttle ride to the Strip. Most of the husbands stayed away (wise decision on their part). The ladies played tourists as we hopped on the tram. Janet's beautiful daughter must have thought of us as daffy as we got lost on the way back.

Photo ops with JT, the lawyer-turned photographer husband of Arlene. Complete with encouragement of Viva Las Vegas, he made us strike poses with our arms up in the air. He must be preparing us to audition for deodorant commercials. This husband and wife seemed to be trying out their comedy act for Jay Leno:

JT (Juan Tamad, John Travolta, James Taylor): "Wala ka nang mahahanap na katulad ko."
Arlene: "Sino naman ang nagsabi na hahanap ako ng katulad mo?"

6pm- the Gala. The Grand Sonoma Ballroom was filled with alumni from the 1964 class to the present. The 1980 class was well-represented. The ladies were beautiful, of course, and Louie the Dude sauntered in with his salmon-colored buttoned down shirt and dark suit blazer.

The Souvenir Ad that we placed for our class looked great, and Louie had generously covered the cost as his birthday gift to us. Thanks.

The pictures told the story. There were too many cameras again, and we sat with frozen smiles just to make sure that each camera captured every single pose.It was a fun night as we applauded each class as they came up to the front stage for the picture-taking. Our teachers, Mrs. Curato and Mrs. Antonio graced the occasion.

The 1980 class, composed of representatives from more than seven sections from both the 5-year and 4-year curriculum, was the loudest group.

For all the fun we had, it was just heart-warming to spend this time together. Thirty-one years later, we sat together side-by-side with our shoes off as we posed, all nine of us, for the last time. The bond is there and we would like to see each other again next summer.

So we resolved to plan our summer get-away. For this reunion, we were on our best behavior with good clean fun. But for the next reunion, I cannot promise that we will hold off our tongues gossiping about our absentee classmates. Maybe, this would be added incentive for them to attend , you think?

Here's my impressions of you classmates:

Ampy- I respectfully nominate her as the East Coast Regional Representative for the AUCN Alumni Association. She has the scent of a hound; she can certainly track down the rest of our lost classmates as we prepare for the Summer 2012 East Coast reunion. And Ampy, you still have the smoothest skin of them all.

Rose- I don't remember her this soft-spoken, but maybe we were just too loud. You're so sweet with your gifts. And how did you maintain your svelte figure? I love how you still maintained your close relationship with your barkada. I love how you always include Heidi in the conversation.

Janet- you're still the reserved Janet I remember. Your daughter is beautiful and it is obvious that you raised her well. Thanks for the gifts. It will be your responsibility to bring Solly and Cely to our next reunion, okay :)

Lita- Good luck with your move back to the ER. Thanks for being comfortable with us to relay that scary almost-experience at V. Luna. I also like how your accent is similar to your husband now.

Luz- The Dancer. Was that Zumba? Couldn't keep up with all that bouncing, lol. Thanks for sharing you-know-what.

Louie- thanks for covering the souvenir ad and for keeping up with all that screaming and tsikahan. Get all those men to come next time so that you won't have to clam up and you won't have to plead the fifth.

Fe- Hands down, she's the sexiest of the whole bunch. Is that because she works too hard, as her boyfriend claimed? I hope she joins FB soon.

Arlene- you and your hubby make a good team. You made me laugh with your prayer.

Trelly and Lorna- I wish you could have stayed longer. It was so much fun just hanging out with you.

There was so much more that we wanted to share with each other. We went through the gauntlet of clinical rotations together, took tests together, worked through our thesis together, posed for pictures together. So the bond was started by our experiences. That night, we realized that the connection remained; it just needed a little spark. We may have lost touch along the way as we built our own lives. Our successes are measured in many different ways; our lives were as colorful as the soap operas we watch, but we emerge victorious. In shared confidences, we've learned about our ups and downs. But through all these trials, we have remained self-assured and strong and I'm proud to know them.

October 2, 2011, Sunday-

7am- I attended the INC worship service at the Las Vegas congregation. Both my cab drivers were friendly but polite. None of the sleazy leering from some of the NY cab drivers.

My driver on the way back to the hotel said that he was impressed that I even had time to go to church. Of course, nakapag-misyon ako. He also said that with the expensive taxi fares (about $100 round-trip ride to the Las Vegas locale), I could have rented a Ferrari or Lambhorgini. I said that next time, I might go for that. I will drive the car as slow as possible so that I can savor the thrill.

The handsome driver engaged me in a really enjoyable discussion during my 30-minute drive. No Las Vegas fling for me (no, I was not even thinking of that) but he surely made my day with his quiet appreciation.

I came back to New York, hailed a cab at JFK and got a grumpy driver. Welcome back.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A 9/11 Birthday

When you share a birthday with a national tragedy, it feels selfish to even celebrate. The catastrophic impact of the 9/11 disaster looms large over any concerns, and renders everything else unimportant, something inconsequential.

The attack on the World Trade Center is forever etched in the collective consciousness of everyone from New York and the world beyond. And on this tenth-year anniversary, the wounds have opened again and the world stands still in shared remembrance.

While some of us have been tangentially affected, the survivors of the innocents felt the void and the loss that most of us could not even comprehend. Children lost their parents, and parents lost their children. The rescue workers who toiled on Ground Zero have lived, but with dust in their lungs. The survivors grappled with post-traumatic stress even after the television replayed the gruesome images every year. The rest of us moved on.

But we cannot escape the memories, nor can we feel safe again.

For this tenth-year anniversary, we struggle with the need to maintain a sense of normalcy in the midst of the threat of new terrorist attacks. The presence of heavily-armed police in subway serves as the new reality.

Where were you when the world stood still?

Ten years ago, I stood on the platform of a Manhattan-bound E train to spend my birthday morning at the bookstore cafe in World Trade Center. Just as the train was pulling into the station, something inexplicable gripped me. I turned around, crossed to the west-bound platform to the train back to home, to safety.

This divine intervention gave me the chance to hug my son again, and reoriented me to life's priorities. My work as a nurse gives me the opportunity to make a difference. So as I continue to celebrate the fact that I am alive, a huge part of this day will be forever spent in remembrance of the day when the world stood still.

I resolve to honor the sacrifices of those who died before us by living my life in full appreciation of God's bountiful blessings and of His promise of the new Jerusalem.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Twins

July 30,2011.

The twins would have been 23 today.

July 30, 1988. It was a day that began with hope and ended in despair. Everyday thereafter is a struggle to bury the memories of the pains, the heartaches. Twenty-three years ago, it felt that the world stopped, she wondered, "What is the point of it all? ".

They died as soon as they were born, too premature. The clinical diagnosis was fuzzy in her mind; it did not matter anymore because they were dead. She had premature rupture of the membranes, which at six months of gestation did not give the babies any chance. Just before her husband signed the consent for emergency caesarean section, she felt the gush of fluid signaling the end, and heard the nurse's frightened whisper, "It's meconium."

When she woke up in the hospital room, she knew immediately what happened and she felt the visceral pain of losing a part of her. She held her babies for the first and the last time, touched their small feet and kissed them; hoping that she can preserve their memories forever. The pain was unimaginable.

One week after that fateful day, she walked to church with a heavy heart, not really understanding how she can go past the pitying stares and the empty words of condolences. All she wanted was to curl up in bed in a darkened room. Her world ceased to matter. Even though the tears had run dry, she could not imagine ever smiling again.

She stayed at the back of the church with her trembling fists clenched at her side. Darting a look at the closed door, she had resolved to bolt out of her seat as soon as the recessional was played. But the resident minister must have sensed her need and delivered one of the most inspiring sermons she had ever heard. The spiritual hymns worked their way into her heart and the Lord's promise broke through the dark chambers of her mind. She surrendered herself to God and believed that she will find reason to live again.

"I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure."(Psalms 16.8-9 )

It was not easy. It will never be easy. Losing someone you love is a tragic moment that leaves its imprint in everybody's lives. Losing both her twins shook her whole being, seared her emotions and left her scarred for life. She had mourned her loss but picked up the pieces again because there was no other recourse left for her.

The profound sorrow did not choke her as she thought it would, but instead she found herself smiling again. Until finally, her natural sense of humor resurfaced. And when her new son was born, she relished the simple joy of living. Time, family, and friends eased the way. Her God's embrace gave her the strength to carry on.

Life went on. The heart-rending pain of the loss had been numbed to a dull ache for what could have been. Somehow the human heart surprises us with its capacity to make room for more loves to come. All it takes is patient endurance.

Joseph and Jason remain as a reminder of the need to hold close to the faith and strength of God's enduring love.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The World Got Talent

It all started for me when Susan Boyle came on stage on the Britain Got Talent show. This frumpy, overweight woman walked up in front of a frowning Simon Cowell and a snickering crowd, then shamed all disbelievers when she brilliantly sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables.

In a society obsessed with fashion-model or movie star looks, it is an upward battle to shine with sheer talent alone. For all the ordinary people out there, those who are disadvantaged because of their looks and station in life, that moment with Susan Boyle was a promise fulfilled, a dream realized. It is also a reminder to us all to open our minds to all possibilities.

Thus so began my fascination with the underdogs who end up center stage because of their undeniable talent. Together we suspend disbelief when an armless pianist dared to show up on stage. I draw inspiration from the unlikely heroes; those who triumph against all odds. And I cheer on those who dare to reach for the stars.

Korea- Sung-bong Choi,"Nella Fantasia" His story moved everybody to tears as he recounted being on his own at 5 years of age. At the end,I just wanted him to win it all, to makeup for his lonely childhood years.

Thailand- Bell Nuntrita, 2-voiced singer. Wait for the surprise. Enough said.

America- Kevin Skinner, "If Tomorrow Never Comes". A chicken catcher from Kentucky whose heart-felt rendition highlighted a beautiful voice.

Philippines- Jovit Baldovino,"Faithfully". Coming from extreme poverty, he had to sell "siomai" to help his family. Now he has two best-selling albums to his name, and a thriving career.

America- Cindy Chang, a 42 year-old Korean unemployed technical writer. Yes, she did not look like Susan Boyle but she overcame her shyness and came out of her shell.

Update: 7/5- Cindy didn't advance today on AGT :(

Philippines- Marcelito PoMoy sings "The Prayer" all by himself. He is a man of many voices.

Britain- Madonna Decena. Singing "I Will Always Love You", this single mother to two kids reminded us about the sacrifices we do for our loved ones.

China- Liu Wei - this armless pianist performed "You Are Beautiful". He is an inspiration to everyone.

The stage is for anyone with a dream...

We have our own stage to shine on. So imagine the spotlight on you. Oprah might be waiting for the new Charice.

Our stage might not come with a microphone. But we can still dream of something big and live the life we have always longed for. We just need to work hard and follow our passions. Be the next superstar. For our next group of students or our new audience of patients. You'll never know what awaits beyond if you don't even try. The impossible had just become possible.

We only need to believe in ourselves.

Dream. Have faith.

Nella Fantasia
In my imagination I see a fair world,
Everyone lives in peace and in honesty there.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my imagination I see a bright world,
Even the night is less dark there.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like clouds that fly.

In my imagination there exists a warm wind,
That breathes on the cities, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

Addendum: July 22, 2013

This was from the X-Factor Australia 2011 auditions. Emmanuel Kelly did not let the tragedies in his life deter him imagining better things. Wow!!!!

Addendum: November 25, 2013 Just because this world has many talents.

From X-Factor Israel- an unlikely surprise, an unexpected discovery. Another Susan Boyle. Rose Fontanes, is a 46 year-old Filipina caregiver in Israel who wowed the judges with her rendition of "This is My Life" in the first audition round. She received another standing ovation from her fellow contestants after singing Lady Gaga's hit "You and I" and she advanced to the second round.

Rose Fontanes won the X-Factor Israel edition.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Love

For most of my childhood and teen-age years in the Philippines, my father worked abroad. He was an aircraft mechanic whose assignments had brought him to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Uganda, Angola, and Iran.

With five growing children, the separation was a necessity. He had always stayed abroad, only coming home for a month. He was the quintessential OFW (overseas foreign worker), long before that word became popular.

When I was about eight, Tatay came home for his vacation laden with gifts. My doll was taller than my baby sister, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and porcelain skin. My youngest sister had a similar, although smaller doll, and my brothers had monster toy trucks. In an instant, he shone the spotlight on the Cerrudo kids and raised our importance among the neighborhood kids.

Even though the gifts were expensive (and excessive as per my ever-practical mother), the toys represented my father's amends for those days when he was not around to see our milestones, when my mom raised us by herself. He was not being materialistic; he was just overjoyed upon seeing our faces brighten up with the excitement of discovery.

His love was undeniable, the truth as unequivocal as life itself.

At times, he waxed philosophical about the lost opportunities when he had to drop out of college because of family responsibilities, but he encouraged us all to explore beyond perceived boundaries. My father envisioned the best for us, and encouraged us to excel in this world. He didn't miss any chance to tell his buddies about our achievements.

He was a story-teller who regaled us with tales of his exploits in the foreign lands, and when our lids started to droop, he switched to stories of vampires and in respect to our Filipino mythology, he loved to talk about the manananggal (who can separate their upper torso to fly into the night with huge bat-like wings in search of pregnant women) and kapre (tree -dwelling smoking giant).

Somehow, he managed to convince us that the manananggal and the kapre will also prey on children who do not like to take their afternoon naps or sleep early at night time.

The kids pretended to squeal in horror but we always asked for more. And so it went that we gathered around him as close as possible, seeking protection from evil creatures as he watched over us. His rich baritone as he sang gentle lullabies reassured us as we dreamt of adventures as Filipino superheroes- Captain Barbell and Darna. We were not traumatized by the stories, and never had nightmares. Because we were secure in his love for us. Perhaps, the smell of his Old Spice perfume warded off the evil spirits.

And then he always woke us up either by tickling our feet or playing with cotton balls in our ears. Tatay gave us butterfly kisses. He danced around the house and showed off his what would later be his Rico Mambo moves. My mom became a target of his constant teasing and he would sometimes chase her around the house just to tickle her.

As we grew up, my father started to stay longer in the Philippines in between job assignments and eventually, he stopped his overseas work after I finished college. My father loved watching the ladies of the house as we were absorbed in whatever drama series was showing on tv. During the most dramatic parts, he usually started to sniffle and blow his nose loudly to annoy us. But as much as he was the teaser and the ultimate joker, his sentimental nature was legendary. He cried more often and much quicker than my mom.

On June 20, 1987, he walked me down the aisle. He hugged me close and said that he would always be there for me, no matter what.

In July 2001, he died of a stroke in the Philippines. My sister and I went home. It was heart-wrenching to realize that we would never see him again... that he would not dance with us again.

If I could freeze-frame any moment for posterity, I would love to see him dance with my mother again.

If I could get another chance, I would join my father as he teased my mother until she blushed. I would hug my father to breathe in the scent of his Old Spice cologne again. I would sit at his feet to listen to his stories, anything just to hear his voice once more.

If I could steal another moment with him, I would have said "I love you" over and over again, not just on Father's Day. And if I could go back in time, I would like to see the contented look on his face as he proudly and joyfully watched his young daughters playing with over-sized dolls.

And when I started on another journey on June 20, 2011 with a new work environment, I knew that my father had given me the strength to shine and the spirit to persevere, in spite of the kapre and manananggal. I can almost see him giving me two thumbs up.

I have learned all those years ago when I was eight, that he loved us all with that consuming and unconditional love.

Luther Vandross- Dance With My Father

Cat Stevens- Father and Son

Charice was estranged from his father, but at the end, she still expressed her love for him, probably regretting the time they had lost.

Bob Carlisle- Butterfly Kisses
For all that I have done wrong, I must have done right.

Jose Mari Chan featuring Cherie Gil- Sing Me a Song, Daddy

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Feeling good with a major decision. Another milestone, another journey. And with this major change in my life, I must have opened myself to new adventures. Change begets a sense of discovery.

Suddenly, I'm liking Pink, that pop-rock diva with the shocking and provocative videos. Gasp! What have become of me? Me of the easy-listening and pop music persuasion have gone over the deep-end? Breaking free from my self-imposed restrictions, I have unleashed my inner rock star.

Then last week, I started humming along with a song about betrayal and resilience. It's about having more fun after being hurt, and riding a slow lawnmower in busy traffic without any cares in this world, and throwing eggs on the ex. Just don't mind the angsty violent expressions; I could have used this anthem of survival about 15 years ago. What a feel-good song this is.



You took my hand. You showed me how. You promised me you'd be around. Uh huh. That's right. I took your words. And I believed. In everything.

Pink wrote about a male friend that she lost to drugs when he was just 14 years old. A life wasted.

GlITTER IN THE AIR - this is a breath-takingly awesome performance at the Grammy awards in 2010. Pink's gymnastic experience was in full display as she mesmerized with her raw and powerful non-auto-tune voice while she dangled precariously up in the air.

Forget the vulgar lyrics, but a common thread in her songs is about being strong and relying on a woman's instinctive nature for survival. Even the most shocking and disturbing parts in her videos are laced with humorous undertones.

She is unique. A true diva. And I am now a fan. No, this is not a middle-life crisis, just a late realization of how amazing Pink is.

Who's next, Lady Gaga?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


My son and I bonded again today as we reminisced about our shared fondness for "My Favorite Things". Thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein for the "Sound of Music". Still cannot understand what gene pool gifted my son with a beautiful voice and an aptitude for piano playing. Seems unbelievable that he came from a parent whose alto try-out was such a disaster that it finally convinced the choir organist to abandon all efforts to change me from a passable (at least in my mind) soprano.

I am a frustrated singer. So gone are my dreams of setting the world on fire with my melodious voice. But I love music, even karaoke music (take that Simon).

These are some of my favorite songs:

There is no decent video of "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music but the "Lonely Goatherd" showcased the incomparable Julie Andrews and the puppets. It has now become my LSS (last song syndrome)

A mash-up of these two songs had been featured in the movie "50 Dates".
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo╩╗ole. It must have looked a little strange... a huge man with his ukelele, but it worked.

A sweet and poignant song. Perfect for a Daddy's girl and sure to be a tear-jerker in weddings.
"Sing Me a Song, Daddy" by Jose Mari Chan/ Cherie Gil

Watch how a future multi-awardee stage actress charmed the producers of Miss Saigon with her innocent ways and magnificent voice. Lea will soon be appearing in "Allegiance", an upcoming musical about Japanese-American interment during World War II.

Lea Salonga's audition for Miss Saigon, "Sun and Moon".

I thank my lucky stars that my son never got into rap and hip-hop like the teens of today, although I've been known to break into an apl.d ap (of Black Eyed Peas) song called "Bebot." Go figure. Don't get me wrong; I still don't approve of the the gyrations of the skimpy-clad girls but I love the colorful jeepneys and the display of Filipino pride.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Prude Newbie's Sauna Experience

"Don't worry, nobody will be staring at you. Everybody minds their own business.", Lynn's friends assured her.

She received the holiday gift card from her fellow nurses for a whole-day stay in a Korean sauna in College Point, New York. A day of pampering. The brochure promised a day of relaxation and rejuvenation. The nurses gushed about the soothing experience of hot sauna, full body scrub and massage and brushed away her questions about nudity. They cited the health benefits of saunas: improving micro circulation, reducing vasoconstriction and hypertension.

In European and other Asian cultures, saunas were regarded as an important part of daily life. A high-end spa website offered "an ideal environment for a rejuvenating spa vacation for both the body and spirit and for rediscovering the peace there is to be found in silence." So before Lynn went to her spa treat, she envisioned a totally relaxing encounter. Peace and quiet, no assault to the senses, just the soothing and deserved pampering.

The Korean spa is not frequented by celebrities but still is an impressive, state-of-the-art facility with high ratings from its customers. Lynn was met with valet parking and friendly receptionists who handed her a tacky but cute peach-and-yellow top and shorts ensemble. A high-tech wrist bracelet for the locker and for additional purchases in the restaurant and other services reminded Lynn of the wrist bracelets that her hospital uses to keep the wandering patients from absconding.

Lynn was directed to a row of lockers just off the reception desk. The receptionist handed her two small hand towels, not the beach towels that can cover just about everything. The towels were about 18 inches by 24 inches, not meant to be cover-ups, but more to pat yourself dry. Modesty be damned. Huh??? Just a portent of things to come. Not a place for the shy.

As she was standing by the lockers, some Korean girls claimed the locker nearby, and without even any sign of self-consciousness, proceeded to take everything off. Butt-naked and not bothering with any covers, they sauntered off to the pools.

Lynn was not easily intimidated, but the idea of walking through the open hall without a stitch on is something she never thought she would ever, ever do even though this is a female-only place. The place was huge. Immediately to her right were the stand-alone showers. A few steps away were the heated swimming pool.

Lynn had erroneously thought that there would be private jacuzzis and massage areas where she would only drop the towels just as she quickly jumps into the pool or climb onto a massage bed. Lo and behold, three Russian ladies in their 70's passed by, nonchalantly going on with business and made Lynn realize that she was the only one with a "deer-in-the-headlight" look. Everyone around her was oblivious to all the nudity. Forget the neon lights, her stilted walk and her firm grasp on the hand towels to cover strategic areas might as well have labeled her as a Newbie.

This is a place where inhibitions are forgotten, and where average women can enjoy the benefits of the sauna, to reclaim the right to shine alongside the skinny models of today. Unlike the young, her body had succumbed to gravity. Lynn tried to psyche herself to the inevitable unveiling, "Isn't this what we want all along, that society accepts women of all sizes, warts and all, and in my case, bulges and all? A place where Reubenesque figures hold court, where there's no shame in imperfections and there's freedom from constraints of society's idea of perfection. Should be liberating, right?"

But first, she needed to work on liberating her personal hang-ups and inhibitions. Born and bred in an ultra-conservative family in the Philippines where showing cleavages were frowned upon, this sauna experience is a test of how liberated she had become. Growing up, women with "Walang K" (loosely translated as "no right to flaunt") received scathing glances and sometimes disrespectful catcalls. Problem is, Lynn's Prude gene was very dominant still, even though she had spent her summers in water parks like Splish-Splash where people paraded around with skimpy clothing that paid homage to misplaced and more-than-generous curves. She stayed away from form-hugging clothes and plunging necklines.

Lynn mustered the strength to shower alongside the women, mindful of prison etiquette. She darted quickly to the pool, dropping the towel to the side only as she dipped into the heated jacuzzi. The pounding jet of water calmed her pounding heartbeat; distracted her from the shame, and eventually relaxation took hold. Bliss on earth. It was like that stress-reducer Calgon tv commercial from a long time ago, "Calgon, take me away". Her muscles loosened, she thought, "If other women are enjoying their sauna experience, despite their less than perfect bodies, who says I should be cringing every time something jiggles."

Feeling more courageous and adventurous, Lynn ventured over to the full-body massage section. She expected private rooms but instead the huge room featured several slabs of concrete. Exfoliation come courtesy of stone-faced middle-aged Korean women attired in two-piece bikinis with loofahs which they wielded with professional insouciance. Not knowing what to expect, Lynn meekly lay prone on the concrete slab, closing her eyes in shame, to close off the visual of naked women in slabs just like meat in a slaughterhouse. The worker expertly massaged her tight muscles on the neck, back and all over and all her aches and pains went away. Lynn sighed with pleasure, "Ahhh, Heaven."

Then the masseuse started to do chiropractor work: stretching, pulling, snapping, and cracking. Lynn panicked. The image of EMS crews responding to her 911 call of a fractured back came to mind. Would they recognize her as the triage nurse who gave them hell every time they turn in an incomplete ambulance crew report? ? OMG, would they just run her off to her hospital as a Trauma Team? Would the ER people recover from the initial shock then will take turns to offer foley catheters? Arggghhhh!!!! Lynn was traumatized by the specter of embarrassment.

Freaked out by the experience, Lynn decided to abandon her plans for a facial. She might be that unlucky one trapped underneath a mud masque or held hostage by the one-hour seaweed treatment while her grumbling stomach threatens with diarrhea. She did not want to push her luck.

Lynn survived. No cracked spine, no embarrassing trip to the ED. She half-wished that the spa sells those "I survived" t-shirts. She spent a few minutes deep-breathing to recover. To her surprise, her joints felt loose and her muscles tingled with appreciation. Her body sizzled with energy, as if the masseuse had released the demons of sluggish inactivity and awakened heretofore forgotten cells. Her muscles felt like 25 years old. Thanks to the exfoliation, all the dead skin cells were washed away with warm water. She was a new woman, with reddened but baby soft skin.

The next hour was spent enjoying the hot and cold sauna, especially the clay room with a sea of clay balls. With the awkwardness gone, Lynn felt sophisticated and a woman-of-the-world as she imagined her body responding with improved micro-circulation. Those healthy anti-oxidants were enjoying a free rein inside her body. She was alone inside the sauna, and there was peace in silence.

The restaurant food was pricey, but tasty. Energized and now dressed with the peach and yellow garb, Lynn downed a few California rolls and a refreshing strawberry smoothie. Tucked in one of the comfortable chaise lounges just off the restaurant, she spent the next hour enjoying Dean Koontz' latest book. Lynn thought, "What a life! So this is how pampering feels."

Except for the initial awkwardness and the momentary terror with the pseudo-chiropractor, she enjoyed the experience. Exhilarating in its uncomfortability. It was humbling in the sense that it exposed her vulnerabilities. It was also a triumphant adventure because she learned to operate outside her comfort zone, accomplishing the unimaginable. Yay! She had shed her inhibitions... and much more. She had successfully accomplished her objective to push her boundaries. She's a new sophisticate. No longer a prude. Buoyed by the experience, she was ready to take on the world.

At the end, Lynn learned that the third floor is unisex, and of course, no nudity. All that agita for nothing. Hah.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Changing Seasons- Part Two

For Part 1 and 2

Spring 2010

"I guess we should discuss joint custody arrangements."

Jack had suggested this to Bel last winter. At the cemetery, Jack was stunned but relieved to be reunited with his dog Max after a month-long search for the mixed breed beagle-dachshund. How the dog ended at the cemetery where his wife was buried remained a mystery to both Jack and Bel.

Bel's husband Mike had died from bone cancer three years ago, and she was a regular visitor to the cemetery. That was where she found the dog she named Brownie last Fall.

The seasons had changed. Now, Spring had come.

Bel had felt energized with the changing season. Truth be told, she felt buoyant after two seasons spent with Brownie. Last Fall, the dog had saved her from an almost certain descent into a bottomless pit of despair and hopelessness. She had finally let go of the cloud of grief that surrounded her with Mike's passing. Then in December, in the cold of winter, Jack came and was reunited with Max.

Jack. The man surprised her with his willingness to share his Max with a total stranger. Bel did not know why she readily agreed to the arrangement; perhaps it was because she just welcomed anything that will allow Brownie to stay in her life. Besides, Jack looked trustworthy and friendly.

The joint custody meant two weeks of Brownie every month. Jack explained that he occasionally had to travel out of state and the arrangement would mean that he did not have to drop Max at the kennel. It also meant that she saw Jack every two weeks when they meet at the cemetery to drop/pick-up Brownie/Max.

Jack and Bel had shared the stories of their respective spouses' passing. Barbara died from a motor vehicular crash two years ago. At 30 years old, she was at the prime of her life. Jack admitted that the experience shook him to deep depths of anguish, but he had held onto to his sanity by spending his time with Max. Barbara's dog had given Jack a much-needed focus to continue on living.

Jack thought he lost Max forever, when he got home one Fall day and didn't hear the familiar welcoming barks. He related to Bel his frantic search for the dog but that he did not imagine finding him miles and miles away from home.

"I am overjoyed to find Max here in the cemetery. " With twinkling eyes, he continued to tease Bel, "Little did I know that I would find him romping around in the snow with the snow angel."

Embarrassed at being caught indulging in a rare display of carefree abandon, Bel stammered an excuse. She did not realize that she presented a pretty picture with her red nose and her hair covered with fluffy snow.

Bel sent the dog home with Jack after their exchange of information. She felt grateful to Jack for his sensitivity but understood that it was Jack's turn to enjoy Max's company.

After just three days of quiet at home, Bel was becoming more restless. She found herself at a nearby dog park which she discovered shortly after finding Brownie. It had been a favorite for both of them because dogs were allowed to run around leash-free in the park.

Bel had been sitting on the park bench for awhile when from out of nowhere Brownie/Max sprinted straight up to her, with his long golden brown floppy ears and wagging tail. Although the dog had responded to both names, in Bel's mind, he would always be Brownie to her. Jack was equally surprised at their chance encounter. He had passed the dog park right after their last visit at the cemetery. Max had barked continuously to get his attention until he was forced to stop at the side of the road and then discovered the dog park. They had frequented the dog park ever since.

Bel and Jack watched in silence as Brownie/Max interacted with the other dogs. Bel and Jack watched with shared pride as the mixed Beagle-dachshund quickly established himself as a leader among dogs much bigger than him.

That began their weekly meet at the dog park. Over time, the desultory conversations gave way to an easy companionship. The wariness had lifted and in its place came friendship.

One day, Brownie/Max decided for whatever reason to abandon play time with the other dogs. He stationed himself between his two masters as they sat on the bench. Bel automatically reached over to pet the dog, at exactly the same time Jack did. It was just an innocent contact, but Bel was shocked at the intensity of emotions that washed over her. Confused on why she felt like a hormonal schoolgirl, Bel laughed to cover her confusion and to bide time to regain her composure. Brownie/Max, oblivious of the undercurrents, demanded attention by running to a corner to relieve himself.

One week later, Max traveled out of state on business; he worked as a business consultant for a major engineering company. Three days later, Bel received a call from Jack. Her heart did a funny turn when she heard Jack's voice. As always, the talk centered on the many antics of Max. Then Jack cleared his voice and said, "I miss Max." After a short pause, he continued, "I miss you too."

The unexpected declaration flustered Bel; she thought she heard it distinctly but convinced herself that she just misheard. Not knowing how to respond, she pretended that she did not hear the loaded sentence and quickly changed the subject. They made plans to meet in the cemetery.

Bel felt uncertain about her growing feelings for Jack and thought that her attachment to Brownie opened her vulnerability to the attentions of a handsome man. At this point in her life and having just surfaced from the deep sadness brought by Mike's passing, she did not want any complications. She did not want to explore a future beyond just living for the moment. She acknowledged that her loyalty to Mike's memories had chained her to a solitary life, but did not want to change the status quo. "Not yet. I'm not ready.", she told herself.

Two days later, Bel stood in front of Mike's grave. The Spring air smelled clean with the freshly-mown lawn. Signs of new life brightened the cemetery; new budding leaves reasserted themselves from the trees. Bel bent down to touch the purple crocuses that had sprouted from the ground. There was still left-over snow on that patch of ground but the bulbs that she had planted a month ago rose in defiance and provided a bright contrast against the whiteness of the snow.

Yes, Spring had come... a time of growth, of new beginnings.

Brownie barked behind her. Bel turned and faced a smiling Jack. Man and woman against the backdrop of their respective spouses' graves. The sun shone brightly and somewhere a robin chirped. The scene evoked a sense of rightness; as if the changing season brought blessings of renewal and regrowth. The snow had melted. One look at Jack and the promise in his eyes melted the frost in Bel's heart.

"Bel, I meant what I said on the phone. I missed you."

Jack reached out and held Bel's hands. Brownie rushed Bel from behind and made her fall forward, straight into Jack's arms. Where it was warm and safe. Where there was the promise of love.

Summer 2010.

Bel and Jack stood in front of their former spouses' graves. The couple paid their respects the day after their wedding. They were headed to the mountains of North Carolina in a cabin in the woods to celebrate their new lease on life. With their best man, the dog.

Life had grown full circle; the seasons had changed. From profound sadness to grateful appreciation of love's healing touch.

The summer breeze brought the fulfillment of the promise made in spring. A riot of honeysuckles, lupins, dahlias, and asters competed for attention under the aspen tree in a picture-perfect summer scene. The sun dazzled as it bathed the cemetery in its warm embrace. Even the lowly dandelions flourished and stood tall while butterflies flitted happily around the grave markers; unlikely and incongruous at best, but somehow, the blissful view reaffirmed the hope for second chances.

Love found its way, in an unexpected place, surprising the reluctant lovers brought together by a dog. That same dog strutted around the grave in his customized tuxedo from yesterday's wedding ceremony. Brownie/Max had eluded the newly-weds' attempt to divest him of his favorite suit. The dog had looked mighty impressive for a canine with his newly-groomed and silky brown fur. And now, it looked as if he was enjoying his upgraded status to Best Dog. He was basking with a sense of self-importance.

Somehow sensing the solemnity of the moment, the dog stopped pacing and faced the couple who had bowed their heads in silent commune with their departed loved ones. Their love is in full bloom, and they wanted to share their happiness with Mike and Barbara. Bel and Jack held hands, each one promising each other's departed to nurture the love that was cut short by tragedy. There was no sadness, because there was the joyous realization that their union was blessed.

In true fashion, Brownie/Max broke the reverie and claimed his masters' attention by licking the couples' joined hands. His eyes were bright, his tail thumped happily, and then he smiled.

The End

"How did you know
I needed someone like you in my life
That there's an empty space in my heart
You came at the right time in my life"

Part 1-

PS. Our own Brownie had been a delight and a treasure since he came into our lives, but now, we mourn his passing. We miss him so much. 9/8/2012