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Monday, August 30, 2010

Good fortune!

My grandmother's 90th birthday featured an 8 layer Penk Ching fondant cake in red, the usual color for such celebrations. It had the Chinese character for (roughly translated) happy birthday on the sides. It was delicious too, a banana walnut flavor. Since P Noy was inaugurated on the same day as my grandma's grand birthday celebration and his cake was supposed to be the same flavor, we were kidding that the cake maker probably made both cakes as one batch.

What we kinda missed was the feature of chocolate gold coins on the cake, which is a usual feature of Ama's previous cakes. Obviously, it's a sign of good fortune and wealth, which is always a good thing to wish for (aside from good health and a peaceful life, of course). As kids, we used to look forward to such extra treats on the cakes. They are usually locally made chocolates, but the shiny gold covering made it seem even more delicious than it actually is.

While we still love the chocolate gold coins, as adults, we'd love to have more of the "real thing". LOL. Let's not be hypocrites here. Giving somebody a cake with gold coins and wishing them wealth and good fortune IS a good wish. Wealth in material things means having enough to eat/drink, a (nice, non-leaky) roof over our heads, clothes to protect us from the elements, etc etc. That's one of the main driving forces behind looking for a job, having a business and investing. Sure, you have to love your work or your business, but you'd want to invest too so that you still get money even if you slow down in actively earning.

That's why I'm actually looking at the gold coins in the US Gold Bureau, which looks like a reputable online site for people who would want to invest in gold. Having a good investment in never a bad idea, and investing in gold is a particularly good idea...a centuries old idea, in fact.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My school

Just the other day, my brother and I were reminiscing about the school we all went when we were young -- Saint Jude Catholic School. We agreed that things probably were not the same as the time we were there.

The priests who used to run the school have already passed away, so other SVD priests are now at the helm. I do not know if their style of running the school is better or not, but it's really bound to be different.

There are a lot of improvements in the school itself. Before, the washrooms were dirty. Sometimes only one or two faucets were working out of the numerous ones. And there were no soaps, hand dryers or toilet paper available. We had to bring our own. Now, the washroom I used when I was there for the parent's orientation looked much cleaner, with liquid soap dispensers and toilet paper in the cubicles. There was an additional building which housed administration offices. However, I did feel that it became darker since the new building kinda encroached on the open space. But then, I guess with the limited space, that's the best that could be done.

Classrooms are now airconditioned. The canteen is also much bigger. I think the auditorium is almost the same size, although it has been upgraded. There are now airconditioners and the seats have improved. Of course, they have had to repair these because a fire that happened years ago destroyed the old auditorium.

Are they still as strict as they used to be? Do their students excel later? Do their students get a good command of the Chinese language? Do their students get a firm grip on what is right and what is wrong? I can only hear from other people's accounts.

I had wanted my children to study in here, my alma mater.

But I guess fate has other plans. My son is now studying at La Salle Greenhills, and it looks like this is the school for him. I'm planning to enroll him in their Chinese program when he hits grade 1. As for my daughter, I do not think that I can enroll her in a school so far away from where her Ahia is studying. I'm eyeing ICA, but I still have about 3-4 years to decide. Wherever they go to, I hope that they will be able to LEARN and be the best that they could be.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Healthcare here and there

My cousin's wife M is leaving for Canada in October, with her baby boy in tow. That's because she needs to fulfill residency requirements. Her baby is considered a Canadian citizen by virtue of being born there, so he technically does not need to go, but where mommy goes, he goes too!

M is planning to stay there until December or January. Since Canada has a great health system in place and she's considered a permanent resident, her and baby B's health care needs are more or less covered. If it were the USA rather than Canada, she might have to look into something like an NC short term health insurance, otherwise it would be expensive if any health care needs do arise.

I wish we had a better health care system in place here in the Philippines. Being in the medical field, I feel very frustrated that in order to get medical care, we need to shell out our own money. If you try looking into the government hospitals, you'd be frustrated too with the lack of facilities, medicines and even personnel.

Sigh. I hope the new Secretary of Health would be able to do something about this. I'd be happy if we have a health care system similar to that in Canada, but I do think it's wishful thinking.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hostage drama in real life

Yesterday was an especially busy day for me and my personal internal news antenna was down. I was in the clinic as usual but I had classes in the afternoon. Then I went back to the clinic to see another patient. The TV in our waiting area was turned on, but I really did not notice what channel it was on.

I had to rush to pick up my son from his therapy session. That's why I was not able to be online even if I had to do antenna reviews. That's why I didn't know that a hostage drama was actually taking place at that very moment, not far from where I was.

I only first heard about it when I was already in my car. As was my usual practice, I turned on my radio and set it to DZMM, an AM station. There, after my radio antenna unfurled and the signal became clear, I first heard about the drama that was unfolding, with a disgruntled, dismissed former police officer staging a hostage situation, and his former colleagues unable to convince him to drop his plans. At that time, though, things were proceeding very slowly. There were some hostages released and no one was killed...yet. I was not prepared for what was to be a bloody aftermath.

It was after I picked up my son and headed home that I was able to take glimpses of what was happening as my husband was watching the news on TV and following the incident.

Should there have been a media blackout during that time? It was a "circus", with reporters, media trucks with antennas for the live broadcast, and even "tambays". I do not know if the full media coverage helped or made the situation worse. They say that he actually watched the TV and listened to the radio in the tourist bus, which was apparently well equipped for the enjoyment of the tourists. Apparently, he went amuck when his brother was arrested, allegedly for being an accessory. That's when the shooting started.

We all know what happened in the end. Eight tourists dead. Others injured, some being treated in the hospital where I just came from. What went wrong? You tell me.

I am so embarrassed about the whole situation, even if I was not personally IN it. It is a big blow to our national pride.

I am so sorry for the whole thing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

No smoking

My family has to watch out because we are at higher risk of getting lung cancer.

My grandfather was a lung cancer survivor. He was a chain smoker and only quit when he was diagnosed with lung cancer back in the eighties. He was one of the few people I know who actually survived cancer. He lived for 17 more years, I think, after he underwent both chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was thereafter declared cancer free, and passed away 9 years ago at age 87 of other causes. But what he wasn't able to get rid of was his COPD. He had a chronic cough which gave him coughing spells all throughout the day. He underwent tests with spirometers and while medications were given for his condition, he was often troubled by his cough that won't really go away.

My father, was not really a smoker himself. We attributed his cancer to the fact that he goes to places where smoking is more of the rule. Thus, he got cancer from second hand sources. He passed away 10 years ago due to lung cancer, after fighting it for more than a year.

I never met my father-in-law, who passed away before my husband entered residency training. He too was a lung cancer victim.

I have always thought that smoking kills. In a slow, agonizing way. Not only for the smoker himself, but also for his family. It took away members of my family. I do hope my kids won't ever take up the habit.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

China house

When my grandparents brought us to China to visit my great grandmother, I was fascinated by their quaint house. It was made of stone, had no running water, limited electric lights, and traditional looking furniture like the matrimonial beds interspersed with some modern furniture like Western looking chairs and tables. There were no bathrooms in the house, instead there were outhouses. Water was drawn from a well. No refrigerators around. No airconditioners too, but I don't think they needed them because the stone walls provided great ventilation and kept the interiors cool.

It was a trip for a lifetime. I hardly think I will get the chance to go back, since my great grandmother already passed away, my grandmother does not travel much anymore and the other relatives have moved on elsewhere, mostly here in the Philippines.

I'm still hoping I'll get to bring my kids someday for a glimpse of our culture. When? It remains to be seen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

All occasion

Before we actually went out and had a suit especially tailored for my husband, I didn't know that men's suits cost much more than a barong. Well, at least the well-made ones, because there are some not-so-good ones that cost much less but do not look as good. We figured that suit would be like an investment even if it's quite expensive, because men only need 1 or 2 of them (if they don't become bigger, that is) for functions and they're ok. Just change the ties to fit the occasion. Since my husband's suit was a formal, dark blue suit, it would go well with any light colored shirt and almost any tie -- be it pink ties or ties with print. A good barong in his wardrobe completes his set f go -to clothes for any occasion.

Sigh. We ladies aren't as lucky to be able to wear 1 outfit for all the occasions that we attend. We may be able to get away with a few occasions with our different circles of acquaintances, but even that is limited. But who am I kidding? Women generally like having an excuse to buy new dresses. But it's just so taxing on the budget! Why oh why don't we have a reliable gown rental place where we can just rent an outfit for a few hours?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My dad's car

As a wedding gift to me, my mother gave me my Dad's Toyota Camry. It's a 1998 model, and it's still a beautiful car, despite the fact that it's quite old already. Its exterior is also quite strong. It has been hit by an armored car but is still quite intact except for minor damages (which reminds me -- we have to follow up on the other party's insurance). And it's big enough to seat the whole family comfortably.

But since it is already quite old, it's starting to show some problems due to the wear and tear of its parts. It's a good thing that unlike Ferrari parts, it's much easier to find Toyota parts here. The drawback is that the Camry is considered a luxury car and the prices of some of those parts are higher than the regular Altis.

I am realizing that having and maintaining a car is really quite expensive. But it's really more convenient, especially with kids.

Today, I'll be carless. I will ride the MRT and LRT to get to the clinic because my husband does not feel that my dad's car is in the right shape as yet.

I wonder when we can have our car finally repaired.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our family bed

When I was small, we used to sleep in cribs, then we had our own kiddie beds when we grew bigger. We get to sleep with Dad and Mom when we're not feeling well, so that they could monitor our condition. I thought that was the way of things, because everybody else did the same thing then, back in the seventies.

So when I got to visit my great grandmother in China back in the eighties, I was surprised that my aunt had only one bed for her and her two sons. Granted, her husband was not there -- he was here in the Philippines trying to earn enough for his family. But they told me that even if the father was there, they would also have the same sleeping arrangements.

It was years later, when I became a mom myself, that I learned that "co-sleeping" is something that is quite common among Asian families, and that using the crib is more of a Western thing that we have adopted.

We are actually doing it now. The four of us (hubby, me and my 2 kids) all sleep on two mattresses put side by side on the floor. We feel more bonded that way, we get to check on the kids when we feel like it, and we don't worry that one of them will fall.

Of course, it's an arrangement that won't work for everybody, but for us, it's working very well. We intend to continue with this until such time that our kids will ask for their own beds and their own rooms (and we get our own house!) Such time would come, and while my kids still prefer mommy and daddy, we'd love to be there for them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Month of ghosts

It's the Ghost Month, according to the Chinese calendar. For the year 2010, it started last August 9. The Hungry Ghost Festival itself is on August 24, 2010. It's supposed to be the time when the gates to the underworld open, thus the ghosts come back to visit the living.

This is the time that wedding and wedding planning are put on hold, major operations are postponed even if you have health savings account, moving houses or even moving furniture around is frowned upon. No opening of new businesses either.

It's because this is the month where it is considered to be bad luck to do any of the above.

Usually, the Asian stock market does not have much liquidity because there is little trading activity as Chinese who believe in the Ghost Month try not to spend at this time.

Prayers and offerings, burning joss sticks and paper money (not real paper money but those made for offerings) are done at this time. Food offerings are also done to feed the ghosts who might visit.

Does our family observe this? We have to--it's tradition.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Browsing buy.com

Ever since our laptop broke down, we haven't been able to have it repaired. Sigh. No time! As of the moment, I am typing away at my mom's laptop. But of course it is different. Firstly, I can't work when she needs it. Secondly, I cannot store data on the hard drive since this is not mine.

I am very much tempted to look through the specials at buy.com and get a new laptop for myself. There's a Sony Vaio notebook there for a special price of $699.99. With free shipping too! Well, I guess the free shipping does not include international shipping but since my cousin's supposed to come here soon, I wonder if it would be okay for her to bring it home to me if I have it shipped to her?

In any case, we still hope to have our laptop seen by an expert, so that we'll know if we could still use it. What I regret most are the stuff inside our hard drive. Some are quite important, others are sentimental. I am hoping that we could somehow recover the data that's on it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The problem with hi tech

When you are too dependent on electricity and computer works, everything goes into disarray when something goes wrong with the gadget.

About 2 months ago, the hard drive of my computer failed. I haven't recovered the data from there yet. Some of them are quite important. I knew I should have made hard copies but then my problem with that is where to store them. Sigh.

When Typhoon Basyang struck and left Manila with long hours of electric outage, our clinic had to close. It was useless to keep operating. Yes, we had generators for lights and some equipment, and we're not dependent on receipt printers, but all our patient files are in the computers and all the ophthalmic diagnostic equipment (well, almost all of it anyway) were dependent on electricity. So our medical director deemed it wiser to just shut down the whole clinic.

We've bought ice since we were also afraid that my refrigerated breastmilk, among other things in the refrigerator, would go bad. Typhoon Milenyo which occurred about 3 years ago left us with a lot of thawed meats that we had to cook or risk spoiling.

ahhh, the problems of the modern, hi-tech world!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ama and Lola

My son calls my mother "ama" and my mother-in-law "lola". They both mean "grandma" but ama is Chinese (Fukien to be exact) so my Chinese mom is ama and my Pinay mom-in-law naman is lola. To be more specific, my mom should have been "guama" because that means "maternal grandmother" while "ama" should have been "paternal grandmother". But since "ama" is easier to pronounce and my son doesn't use that with his paternal grandmother anyway, my mother claimed that title for herself. :)

My children enjoy their grandmas in different ways. Ama babysits them when daddy and mommy are away at work. Lola prepares the wooden swing set for them to play with when they visit. Ama teaches them to wash their hands and always be clean. Lola allows them to get dirty with play. Ama wants them in sleeved clothes when it's chilly while Lola wants them in sleeveless clothes when it's hot.

I am so glad my kids have grandmas to love them in the way that only grandmas can.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Family home

During my grandmother's 90th birthday celebration, an AVP showing my grandmother's life was shown. I was surprised about things I didn't know, like the fact that my grandparents got separated by the war for 10 years. I mean, I know they had a long separation (kinda like today's OFWs, but I didn't know that it was 10 years!

Their sacrifices paid off though. My grandfather, grandmother, dad (born in China) and uncle (born in Hong Kong where they had a five year layover) were able to finally settle in the Philippines. My father's 3 siblings were born here. My grandparents were able to buy a lot and had a house built. Not only a house, but also a small complex of 4 apartments which were supposed to be beginning homes for their sons and their families. Each unit has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. They have standard kitchen and bathroom fittings, nothing fancy like jacuzzi tubs but complete. We lived there until my parents were able to buy a house when I was 24 years old. I hope I would be able to do something like that for my children, provide a place for them to stay when they are just starting their families. Now that I have kids, I realize that parents would do a lot of sacrifices in order to ensure that their kids get the best.