Friday, November 28, 2008

Blessed Bookay-ukay Day

Karim and I are slowly rebuilding the library we lost during our exodus here in Manila. It was nothing grand and nothing well-arranged like the books in my virtual bookshelf in Shelfari. We had piles of books in one area and a lot more scattered in different parts of our then tiny house.

So recently, we have been frequenting bookstores to re-collect the stuff we had and to find new ones that never became part of our collection. Between Cole’s gazillion toys and other more important things we needed to bring with us (oh yes, does this sound very “exodus-sy” already?), of course, the toys had to come first. I don’t want him suffering from some kind of psychosis in his latter years in life just because I was the mom who brought everything else but the toys. The skateboard, the scooter, the bike, he had to let go though. I was not going to be impelled into bringing stuff that I had to skate, balance, and pedal all the way here. Lugging along two large boxes of toys and three huge luggage of clothes plus a son who would never stop talking was more than enough for a grand move here in the metropolis.

Last Sunday, with Ate Vi (remember our OC housekeeper?) on her glorious day off, the boys and I had to crawl our way to Box O’ Rice for lunch. No time, no energy, no desire to cook on a steamy midday Sunday. For anyone who has not entered into the realm of eating seafood in a box and on the side of the street, please know that BOR may be the Oprah Winfrey among fast foods. The food is entertaining, a bit pricey but comfortable enough, and the package is quite engaging.

The mommy always gets the best seat (one from the unwritten day-to-day guide “on becoming a gentleman” authored by Karim and studied by Cole) and in a small square table, I opined the one facing the street was the dream seat of the day. Indeed, it was. Something from across the street was screaming at me, hauling me to go over the other side and say “found it!”

Gerese asked me where #55 Maginahawa St. was the other week and I told her I know for sure that it’s somewhere in my neighborhood, but that I haven’t spotted the place yet. She is a booklover who is in constant search for good books. A shop interestingly called Bookay-ukay is a rootage for books that leaves a bookworm salivating.

The three of us marched to Bookay-ukay after lunch and got lost in a huge collection and spent the next three hours picking out books, and then eventually spending a fortune on good finds. Cole was so delighted he found a series he instantly fell in love with. He could only find books one and two of Scholastic’s Abracadabra series so he got hold of those two plus some other books. Finding Bookay-ukay was wonderful especially since we’re starting Cole on short story reading. We don’t want to coerce him into reading (we all know what happens to kids who are ungracefully forced to get into a reading habit. They become serial killers. Of course I’m kidding.)

Karim was ecstatic and looked like he was reunited with a long lost love. I threatened him with a look of jealousy until he held it up to my face: Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. Not a long lost love, I realized. But a destiny he has endlessly searched for.

Months ago, I was approached to do a book review on Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”. I went on a long desperate search among the big bookstores but I was always met with “It’s out of stock.” Out of stock? Who’s hoarding all the James books? I didn’t know Henry James had a lot of fans around here. Needless to say, I begged off from the book review.

Bookay-ukay had it for me and it’s mine, mine, mine.

Blessed Bookay-ukay day is next payday…and God help me from this addiction. I’ll be broke before I turn 33.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seven-minute Cark at the National Bookstore

Karim and I were chatting as we were exiting the National Bookstore Tuesday night when suddenly we were accosted by the guard. Karim was asked to open my bag, which he was carrying, and so obediently, we went back inside to blindly obey the surprisal of the uniformed man. The man in white then pointed at something inside my bag so Karim took it out, looked at it, looked at me, looked at the guard and said: What’s the problem with this?

There it was, a brand new copy of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. It still had its tag and I could tell the guard’s suspicion was spiked with utter excitement. A-hah! I could almost hear him say it inside his head. Thieves.

“We need to check this,” the guard told us.

“Why?,” we answered in unison.

The guard looked at the book again seemingly confused about what to tell us.

“What is this?,” he asked.

“That…is…a…book,” I answered with infuriation that quickly found its way to my head.

He approached the clerks at the counter holding The Secret, showed it to them and asked what he was supposed to do. A second guard was then brought in and this was my angriest three minutes in a very long time. You know how it is when the dumbest of the lot don a uniform and deal with situations in vicious machination that make them look more stupid than they already do?

Guard Number Two, like the usually unnoticed Mini Me, sprung out of nowhere and in the most Erap-like voice he could muster said, “You know this is a bookstore and there are a lot of books here (one, we would rather just have wandered off to Alice’s Freudian wonderland and not get bothered by guards, and two, adults like us would know damn well if we had rolled into a bookstore or a butcher’s shop to be reminded atrociously). You should have told us you had this in your bag so this would not have happened.” I told him, irate now, that it’s not all the time when you consciously think about everything that is in your bag before entering a shop. Not with my bag especially because I have an entire house stashed inside it. I also reminded him to treat customers the right way especially that we did not do anything wrong and that I could make very serious complaints about him with the proper authorities (namely my mother-in-law and my very protective son). I must have scared that guard because he shut up and a third guard was dragged into the conversation and Guard Number Two was made to leave.

The third and the last guard that came to speak to us was in a barong, and was very professional in his approach. He smiled and curtly apologized that the cark had to happen and explained that he would take care of everything.

While all of this was happening, imagine how Karim (who has braved insurrectionists in the Southwestern part of the country) was reacting to the disquiet. I was trying so hard to control my temper while also praying he wouldn’t blow his top off. Nobody would like that one bit. Trust me.

I breathed deeply and politely told the god-guard that there must be a way for them to know that the book isn’t stolen from them. An exit scan or whatever it is called, I insisted. He excused himself with the book and returned a couple of minutes later profusely apologizing for the confusion.

Amidst the blood-rushing and embarrassing situation, both Karim and I agreed that the head guard deserved a compliment because of how he handled the situation and how he bumped off the rude guard from the scene.

We accepted the apologies with open arms from the other guard as well and triumphantly left the bookstore.

An hour and forty-minutes earlier, I was in a hurry to leave the office and threw The Secret inside my bag. The publisher bought the book for my review. Excited to meet Karim and get an overload of ice cream, I completely forgot that the book inside my bag was brand new. Normally, the bookstore would have scanned all books that have already been paid for. Unfortunately, they missed one and it had to be my book among thousands of them. Tough luck.

Life situations like this are easy to toss to the humor bin. We did and since I always carry a book around with me, I make sure the book is un-tagged and personalized so there will be no alarms going off anymore when we pass through them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's in a Bag, You Ask? (The Realm of the Highly Disorganized)

The problem with blogging is having a million interesting things to blog about in one day and not having enough time to blog about everything. Blogging only has to come second to a paying job. Blog has become a super word, serving millions of people who love to write what they think as I do.

I find it a bit too self-involved to be writing about what is in my bag but it’s the nth year that people have been bugging me with the “what’s in your bag?” question, which purportedly began when I was teaching in the university. I lugged around a bag that had my entire life in it. I think I may have once written in my weekly column a long time ago that I had a problem packing an overnight bag because I’d end up bringing too many of everything--too many shoes, too many undergarments, too many, shirts—and yes, for an overnight stint.

The truth is, it is the same for my everyday bag.

My husband and I were taking a supposedly leisurely walk yesterday, my bag on his shoulder, when he turned to me and said, “Are you sure you don’t have rocks in your bag?” We stopped, laughed hard and long, and then I realized it was the third time he asked me the same question. It was then, when it dawned on me (and on our 7th anniversary) that he might really have wanted to know what’s in my trunk-weighing bag. So I let him in on something that I thought he already knew (oh well, it’s been seven years, right?). I told him I only bring the essentials –the life-and-death stuff, you know. “U-huh,” was the quick answer. “Planner, the make up set you bought me, notebooks, and well, my lunch was in there this morning,” I attempted to sound pleading. “Then why is this soooo heavy?” Karim asked, and still in wonderment.

People I work with also notice my bag: how big it is, how heavy it looks. Probably the only person who understands this discombobulating backbreaking disorder is our publisher who carries three bags, in different sizes and all of them loaded.

“What’s in you bag?!”

I have read articles of writers prying into celebrities’ bags and trying to know their can’t-live-without items. In my case, I don’t have a claim to fame but I manage to puzzle a lot of people. My bag will also be a disappointment to thieves since I don’t have anything in it that will bring them fortune. That mascara which sells for $14 million sold at H. Couture Beauty? No, this lass doesn’t have it. It’s drilling in there but I’ll finally let those who’ve been asking to get in and see the rest of me.

The Big C Planner. It resembles a small, messy board (only with a lot of pages) with schedules for photo shoots and interviews, some birthdays and who to contact for what. (Example: Via, the mighty housekeeper, for kwek-kwek)
Strunk and White. What needy mortal does not have this in his or her bag?
Notebook # 1. Doodles—for times when I want to nap at work but can’t.
Notebook # 2 Drawings—for when I get the urge.
An almost 12” three-fold black Kenneth Cole wallet. For the small things that will get lost in my bag.
Book. I bring around my current read. Again, just in case I’d have the time between coffee and bugging Gerese Axalan or Ms. Glenda Lo (for Lopez).
A pack of tissues. Self-explanatory.
A big phone. I don’t like small phones and texting. I’ve heard this is considered the unbecoming of a Filipino.
A make up kit. The shy, queasy newcomer in my bag.
An orange bag of “personal stuff”. Cole made me promise to never ever show this to the boys in my office-- “because it is shameful mommy!”
Orange. The name by which my orange umbrella is known for to friends and family.
Olive green pencil case. Handsewn by my Korean friend’s mother.
Emergency school supplies kit. Miniature pastes, glue, scissors, rulers, scotch tape, erasers, paper clips, post it, and everything your teacher told you to bring.
Mini medicine kit. For emergencies, whatelse.
Jell pens. Simply because they’re fun company.
Lunch box. If I were to carry the pretty lunch bag that my sister sent me, I might end up calling to the gods for help for my “heavy load”.
Supremacie by L’bel. For the dry moments of my skin.
A bottle of Para Mi Bebe or Nenuco or Denenes or UCB or CK or Gotas de Oro or Johnson’s Baby Cologne. My happy scents since first grade. I appreciate people who don’t smell like a basket of fruits. Every girl on the street; in the bus, jeep, MRT, supermarket, public toilets smells like this and it’s maddening already. It rained fruit scents somewhere and we didn’t know about it.
Keys. Entrance to Cole's kingdom.
A folder. Find all sorts of paper there.
Business cards organizer. Don't we all have this?
My business card holder. Self-explanatory.

I meant it when I said I just have ‘the essentials’ in my bag. Those tiny bags that women carry around amaze me and makes me wonder what they have in there.Who wants to let me in on their little secret?

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Housekeeper from Heaven’s Side: OC Mom Meets OC Helper

Work-shy on Sundays, our house is quiet until about noon when my husband and our six-year old would stretch, talk and finally leave bed. My circadian rhythm has programmed me to wake up not later than 9 a.m. so I wake up ahead of the boys, grab whatever book there is on my bedside and work hard on falling back to sleep and failing. Sometimes I go out to have a cup of coffee and get a little sunlight from the veranda.

Last Sunday, I found a note on the table. It said:


Pasensiya na po di na po ako nakapagpaalam. 8 napo ako umalis. Hindi ko na po kayo hinintay gumising. Pasensiya na po. Ingat ho kayo. Cole I miss you! Take care and God bless! TCIC!



For anyone who has answered those colorful books called ‘autograph’ in grade school, you’d know that TCIC means Take Care coz I Care. Just to remind you a bit, JAPAN means Just Always Pray at Night. And if you’re not too sick to barf yet, here’s another one: ITALY-I Trust and Love You. The note left me smiling and later when Cole discovered it, he smiled as he read it too.

The note, after an hour when I read it, was followed by a text message from her telling me that she has left and didn’t wait for us to wake up anymore.

Our obsessive-compulsive housekeeper is named Via Villanueva. The note, she explained later on, was to make sure that “we would know that she has already left and for us not to wonder where she was and so I would not get mad at her”. So first there was a note, then a text message, then a verbal explanation. The night before, I told her that she needed not wait for us to wake up so she could leave early but she still waited for “a little bit” to say goodbye the following day.

We were for a time hesitant to get a housekeeper because we hear a lot of scary stories about them. But a housekeeper was the only solution to our problem with the schedule, fatigue, and Cole’s companion when he goes to school everyday (which is a two-minute walk from our house and we made sure of that when we were looking for a house). So we called up the Admiralty Agency based in Makati and spoke to the owner Mr. Singson. We had very basic qualifications for a housekeeper. She just needed her updated papers from the NBI and Residence Certificate. We also wanted somebody honest, clean, free of any disease, has initiative, honest, honest, honest. Although I didn’t require it, I said I would appreciate at least a high school diploma, which fortunately Via has plus a certificate for a vocational course after high school.

After a long interview with Via, we decided to give her a try. On her first day on the job, I was happy and had the gut feel that this person was well, worth it. Being the OC mom that I am (and don’t point a finger at me because I know you’re so like me) I like everything in order: front of bottles facing outward, very clean floors, bathroom well-scrubbed, beds well made. With Via around, the entire house is squeaky clean and I come home to it feeling relaxed…something that I have missed out on for quite a while.

Just recently, I read a post of this young mother who had problems with her yaya whom she described as irresponsible. It makes me really sad because as moms, we already go through a lot of stresses in life and to have a house help whom you want to trust but can’t, it adds up to the daily hell that we experience. I sympathize with you and I hope you find the super yaya that you deserve.

I have not raised my voice on our OC little housekeeper. There is no need for that. Most of the time we’d have to jokingly threat her to stop wiping, scrubbing, cleaning whatever it is that she gets her hands on, and rest. This is one of those cases when the OC-ness of the housekeeper becomes an advantage to the boss.

Meanwhile, Via, whom we jestingly call Ate Vi after who else?, has been doing a really great job not only managing the house but doing things conscientiously, like reminding our son to study, putting aside money that we forget in our jeans or on the table, and reminding me politely about what I need to get from the grocer. These are little things, I know, but to find someone you can trust to do the job correctly even when you’re not around (and in a place where there are more foes than friends) is priceless.

And an Angel Came Down and Whacked Me with The Guide

Karim and I brisk walk from the MRT station to our offices every morning (a good 50-minute slow walk for me on some days when my butt feels heavy). I “drop off” hubby at the corner of his building since mine is around ten more minutes down Ayala Avenue. I run up to the sixth floor when I get to my building.

“If I do what you do, I’d probably be dead on the third day of work,” so I was told.

“I don’t like elevators, “ I would answer back.


“No.” In denial, of course.

After months of doing this, I seem to be more alive and happier, especially after I gave up nicotine a couple of months ago. Soon as I enter the office, Gerese, our ultimately sweet staff writer greets me with a “Hello Mummy!” And the yackety-yack goes on until both of us get hit with the reality of this thing called “deadline”.

I got to work on Thursday morning with my usual craving for coffee. I dropped my bag and just when I was about to turn to get my first doze of caffeine, I saw IT there...IT was gloriously lying on top of my desk. I gasped for air as I slowly walked towards IT. Gerese watched me, giving me that same look she would give me when I go through asphyxiating moments like that. When I got closer, the IT I was looking at was really IT. A brown envelope was on top of it and inside was a note saying “You Will Believe!”

I might have pleaded too hard or perhaps too loudly that an X-Files Guide Book came falling down from heaven the morning after I posted “I Want to Believe”. When I opened the book, something fell off from it. It was a shopping gift certificate enough to buy me more books, a toy for Cole and something nice for Karim. It said, “The only requirement is for your family to have a blast this weekend. You all deserve it!”

On the same day, I found out that movie tickets for X and Wall E were on their way to me.

Who else gets lucky on Thursdays? Somebody just braved the strong Wednesday night rain to buy the book for me.

Angelica Therese Axalan, you truly are an angel. I don’t know how to thank you enough for letting this little miracle happen. The universe is looking at you and it will bless you endlessly because you have such a good soul!

You have just beaten Cole’s Tooth Fairy!