Monday, June 30, 2008

Afternoon delight.

We were sitting in the garden. The sun was bright but the wind was cold. My mother-in-law poured some hot tea and offered me bonbon chocolates. I said thank you and continued listening to my father-in-law. He looked happy but his face was haggard and he looked fragile. Suddenly it dawned to me, he is growing old.

I first met my father-in-law a few days before our wedding. He was waiting for us at the NAIA and was rather annoyed that we were almost 15 minutes late. The many stories I heard about him from my husband and his towering figure made me nervous. He was after all one of the best surgeons in Europe, and was then the head of the committee on Medical Ethics in the Netherlands. A self-made man driven by passion and ambition. Why wouldn´t I be worried? I know his kind!

I was formal when I gave him a handshake. I apologized for being late. Told him that I did not anticipate that there would be a traffic jam around that time of the day. He looked in my direction and scolded his son in Dutch.

That evening we went to Ilustrado restaurant for dinner. The moment we sat down, he started firing me with questions about Philippine history and culture. Fortunately, I am quite well-versed on the subject. After all, I used to teach Philippine Music history.

After the wedding, they went back home and the next time I saw him again was at Schiphol Airport in October 2001. Later on, I found out that he instructed all the family members to meet me at the airport. Which means that they all got up at 4 AM and arrived at airport before 6 AM! He was on time. I was embarrassed.

Christmas came, and my father-in-law offered to give me a brand new piano of my liking for my present. I didn´t know what to say. His children and wife were all watching me and waiting for my answer. I said that I could not possibly receive such a gift from him. He smiled and changed the subject.

My father-in-law also took me around and showed me the Dutch countryside. He said it was important that I know my new home. He took me to several music stores as well, and asked me to play for him. He likes Bach and Chopin.

A week before my first birthday here, he took me again to a music store. He was almost begging when he told me again that he would like to buy me a piano. He said that people with my talent should never be denied of a musical instrument. And so, a piano was delivered at my doorstep 2 days before my birthday.

He also accompanied me to my first job interview at Leiden International School. He patiently and anxiously waited outside while the school director talked to me. When I came out of the conference room where the interview was held, my father-in-law handed me my coat and told me that I was over-qualified for the job. And he was right.

Also, when my own father passed away, my father-in-law asked me if there was a little space in my heart for him,.... if I could love him too like I loved my father. I was speechless. I didn´t know what to say. I barely know him. When I finally found the courage to say something, I told him that I just lost my father and that I don´t think there was a place in my heart for another father.

He held my hand, kissed me on the forehead, and told me that he perfectly understood.

A year later, two of my father´s sisters came to visit. After seeing the way my father-in-law was talking to me, Mama Bing and Tita Ching were both moved to tears. They said that whereever my father was, that he would be happy to see that there´s another father who treats me like his own child.

While I was busy daydreaming about the past; the love, kindness, and the goodness of my father-in-law, I didn´t realize that a tear had fell on my cheek already. It was a good thing I was wearing sunglasses. Nobody could see I was crying.

I was still staring at my father-in-law. This man loves me, and he is growing old. I´m afraid to lose him. I wish I could come and live with them. Spend time with him. But I´m no longer a child and such behavior is unacceptable here.

On our way home, I told my husband that we are going to visit my inlaws more often. And with that thought, I drifted far away again.... This time, I was off to dreamland where I often see and talk to departed loved ones.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Flight stewardess: wo would ye like to drink ma´m?

translation: what would you like to drink ma'm?

me: cola and a glass of water, please.

F.S.: wo tha be'yol?

translation: would that be all?

me: yes, thank you.

F.S.: sorry ma´m bah we don´ have cola. We do have coke howevah.

translation: sorry ma´m, but we don´t have cola. We do have coke however.

me: coke would be fine.

F.S. he's ye coke.... and woah right?

translation: here´s your coke ..... and water, right?

me: nope.... no woah for me. A glass of water would be nice.

F.S.: das wo I said. WOAH.

translation: that's what I said. Water.

Took me a few minutes to figure out what woah was! Of course, WOTAHHH!

Finally, it dawned to me that I was travelling to Bristol, south of England where people seem to have the habit of dropping few letters such as the r's and t's just like the French! Well maybe it's their French connection that makes them do it. hahahahaha!

This reminds me of my first trip to Augsburg, Germany. At that time, I was just starting to learn the Dutch language.

That morning, my husband made me promise not to just stay in the hotel and watch tv all day. He told me that I should try to explore the city, the museums, and malls. In other words, go out and see the world! hahahahaha

That was in December 2002, just before Christmas. I still remember hearing Stille Nacht (silent night) on tv in the background while I put on my thick winter coat. I am going to do my Christmas shopping today, I thought to myself.

When I got on the elevator, a decent looking guy in suit smiled and said to me `hello schat´ . I almost choked! I was uncomfortable with the over-familiarity. You see, the only person who calls me schat (pronounced as skhot) is my husband. In Dutch, schat means sweetheart or darling.

But I did not want that jerk to get the best of me. I am going to do my Christmas shopping today, I reminded myself again. Chin up and continue walking girl!

Germany in December (just like in other parts of Northern Europe) is grey, dull, dark.... why, even somber. People walk in strides and all seem to be rushing. They were polite but they don't smile. I noticed also that even females call me "schat". It was starting to get into my nerves. This schat business! I will not let them get the best of me. I am going shopping just the same. And yes, with a big smile!

You see, there's nothing like the German stores around Christmas time. They have all sorts of handmade stuff. From pudding, pies, sausages, hams, gluhwein, chocolate cookies candies in all shapes and sizes; to all those beautiful candle holders, wreaths, art deco vases, knitted socks & mittens, quilt hand bags, personalized Christmas cards, etc... It is truly an experience because everything is unique in its own. It's even hard to find two identical candies!

My shopping went very well. But on my way home, people kept calling me `schat` and it came to point where I almost slapped a man´s face. So much for the `tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!`

When I reached the hotel, I locked myself inside my room and started to get really upset & angry. I concluded that everybody who said `schat` to me, thought I was their darling prostitute! They all think the same. Asians are all prostitute. That's what I said to myself anyway.

When my husband arrived, I embraced him and told him I can´t stay any longer in that place and I wanted to go back home that evening. He asked me why. I told him about all those people who thought I was a prostitute and called me their `schat`.

My husband started to laugh while I was fuming with anger. He explained to me that in that part of Germany, majority are Catholics and they greet people by saying `grüßgott` (pronounced gru-skhot) meaning, God be with you.

Wo-ah.... Schat ..... these are stories that remind me to always clean my ears before I travel! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, June 6, 2008

how to be a hundred....

Sometime ago, J. and I were having this discussion. He said, "yes it´s true that it is important that one should have a healthy and clean lifestyle to stay fit and happy. But who wants to live to be a hundred, just so you could discover one day that all your friends had "moved on" and you are practically alone?" My mind went blank, and I was silent. Good point, I thought. I wanted to say that it would be nice to watch your own children and grandchildren become adults. But I don't have children, and so is my brother. To pursue the conversation for the sake of argument, would be futile and yes, cruel for both of us. But anyway, here are some tips to live to be a hundred. Whatever that means! hahahahahaha

On how to live to be a hundred....

Your behavior now makes a difference, says new research. Experts recommend these habits:

1.Get creative at work.

On average, a woman with a creative job has the cardiovascular fitness and other health attributes of someone six years younger, according to a recent study. What does “creative” mean? Acting, writing or painting are obvious picks, but any job can count as long as you find it interesting and it lets you develop new skills, experts say.

2. Make sure you cover the basics.

Eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day, being active, not smoking, and drinking in moderation could add 14 years to your life, according to new British research. Too tall an order? Tackle just the exercise part: A recent study by the National Cancer Institute found that older people who got at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week were less likely to die over the next seven years than those who didn't.

3. Do something fun.

Women who are feeling “happy, excited or content” have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6—two markers of inflammation linked to heart disease, a University College London study found. It may not take a Ph.D. to figure out that being happy is good for you, but this is one of the first studies to pinpoint a biological reason. So the next time you're feeling frazzled, make plans to do anything that'll get you smiling.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

From Norwich to Hengelo.

My English friend Alice and her 7-year-old red-head daughter Maia came for a visit last week.

I´ve known Alice since 1995. We were both government scholars in Java. She was with the Royal Ballet in London, who trained both in Europe and the Martha Graham dance school in the U.S. An excellent dancer really. And there I was. The Filipina music scholar who wanted to learn everything about gamelan music.

What really brought us together, was not the similarity and/or difference in our character or ethnic background, but our fascination for indigenous music and dances. You know what they say, musicians are frustrated dancers and dancers are frustrated musicians.

I never really understood that phrase until I did my field research in Ifugao in 1990. It was in Ifugao that I discovered that gong players and epic singers are also dancers. That is the beauty of non-western culture. Because in non-western societies, to be a fine and respected musician would mean to be well-versed in movement, singing, drumming, reciting poems and folk tales, and understanding the philosophy behind it.

Apart from her dance performances, I don´t really know Alice very well. I've always thought that offstage, she was arrogant and snub, stubborn and self-absorbed. But at the same time, I was a great admirer of her work. I think I am one of the lucky ones who had the privilege of seeing her perform. Because when she dances, Alice reveals passion, vitality, ectasy, rage, and brilliance.

However the Alice that I met last week was not the worldly-ambitious-fierce-and-graceful-as-a-feline that I know. Last week, I met Maia´s mother. A domesticated Alice. Somehow, Alice managed to set her `self` aside and be mom first. They have a very special relationship; too perfect in fact. Maia behaves both like a child and an adult.

I completely adore her. Everytime she would ask a question, she sounded like a university student. At the same time, she would grow extremely bored & insecure like a lost child everytime Alice and I are engrossed in our discussion.

I also noticed that Alice habitually motivates her daughter with mind-boggling problems. She patiently explained things and concepts that were quite difficult to grasp. And most of all, I was impressed to know that Maia is learning to play chess and piano. Somehow, Alice managed to make her daughter be interested in things that she herself is not and will never be interested. hahahahaha

I am not however surprised that Maia is a very intelligent kid. Her father Tony is a university professor in England. Besides, Alice herself is also an intellectual. She had written many things about almost everything.... from contemporary dance to cultural anthropology, to music and movement and the Japanese taiko drums.

After they left, I had a sad realisation. I realised that neither Alice nor I continued to pursue a career in our respective fields where we´re both extremely good at. I consoled and tried to convince myself that we both are making a difference in this world in our own special way. Alice the great wise mom who volunteers at a local school to teach music and movement; and I ..... the teacher who inspires (according to my students, that is! hahahahahaha).
We still love indigenous cultures. In fact, we plan to travel to Brazil someday and perhaps, study about the newly-discovered tribe close to the Peruvian border.