Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For My Dad

One of the earliest memories I have of my dad is easily the fondest. I was about nine years old, we were then living in an apartment in LaLoma, and I just finished my regular afternoon play outside. I was about to go inside the house when I saw two of my dad's clients walk out the front door, my dad following behind them, dad holding a basketful of vegetables and two live chickens. I was just this curious observer of the entire exchange when dad called me aside, lightly touched my cheek and said: Anak, it's a beautiful day. From that day onwards, I resolved that I wanted to be exactly like dad, a lawyer. And I never looked back.

My dad taught me two important things in life that I live by to this day--(1) to treat every single person I meet as an equal, and (2) to live my life in accordance with my own, as opposed to others', standards.

The first of dad's teachings, I witnessed from him first hand. Dad was a big lawyer in the province, was one of the first to be elected as City Councilor of Dagupan City, and went on to be founder of Basic Petroleum and Minerals, Inc. together with his brothers. He also became President of the Pangasinan Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and later on, Governor for IBP's Central Luzon Chapter. Yet all these I knew only from his friends. He never told me these things--his exploits in Jordan, the cases he won, the many awards he received, the exotic places he has been to. No, dad was more interested in talking about my day, and at night, when the world was about to sleep, dad liked to hang out with neighbors, men who had no college degrees, who waited on tables at a nearby fastfood joint, who were part-time firefighters, policemen, market vendors. He loved being with them, talking to them about mundane things, important things. Understand that LaLoma, where I grew up, was a place where more people were poor than rich. That we were right smack in the middle of it for 14 years of my young life made me understand intimately the plight of the less privileged. So that even as I went to an exclusive girls' school during the day, my playmates were kids who went to public schools, or didn't go to school at all. Kids who dreamt only of living a decent life, kids who lived for the day, never for the next. I had no illusions that I was any different from them, because dad showed me that they were my peers. Even when we moved to our own house inside a gated community and long after I had my own car, I never forgot LaLoma, how to commute, how to eat binatog, isaw, scramble and fishballs. I never forgot Aling Josie and Mang Frank, Aling Laura and Mang Arlie and my playmates Jennifer and Michael, Mang Nestor and his boys, the tennis court, the firehouse, the police station, E. Rodriguez High School, Malaya Street, the smells, the sounds, New Year's fireworks. LaLoma is where I will always feel at home.

The second of dad's lessons he never really voiced out loud. But it was a principle that he applied when raising me. You see, I have always been a good student. I got awards, honors, and the like, on a regular basis. Dad never really put a premium to these things. When Dad found out that I performed especially well in law school, he was happy, but not as outwardly happy as one would expect a dad to be. Nevertheless, I never felt that he wasn't proud of me; quite the opposite in fact. He wasn't one to call up his friends and brag about my achievements. Dad was just there in the background, happy that I was happy. He was more interested in what I thought/felt about topping the Bar, whether this particular success was, in MY estimation, a truly happy moment. In other words, he did not quantify nor measure my success and judge me more special as a daughter, as a person. He did not see titles, accolades and a successful career as those that defined a person, that defined me. Instead, my character defined me. He taught me to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.

When I was reviewing for the Bar, dad shared with me a story. He said that he did not study much in law school. During his day, he had more time for fun than serious study. So when he passed the Bar with a barely passing grade, he was already so happy. This was when I interjected, so daddy, happy ka na rin kung mababa lang grade ko, basta pasado? He just smiled at me and said, Oo naman, pero malabo yun anak.That simple statement from dad eased all the pressures of bar review, and from that day, I did not fret anymore about whether I would top or merely pass. I just wanted to pass. True enough, when the results came out, dad only said, O, anong sabi ko sayo?, with a hearty chuckle.

So I learned from dad to live my life to the fullest, to not worry about what others expect, or want of me, to pursue my own dreams based on MY own pace, MY own strategy, MY own desires.

Dad never stifled me; even with 55-year age gap, he understood that I was my own woman, and that the way to nurture me was to let me be. I would like to believe that he raised me well, and that even when he was already sickly and too weak to make jokes and converse with me, he knew that I was coming into my own, in God's time, in my time.

The true measure of a man is how he treats those who have less than he. I am absolutely certain that in this regard, dad stands taller than any man I know.

Dad passed away last January 23, 2009, and I am here inside a coffee house in Dagupan City, seeking a brief respite from the oppressive heat. I already miss my Dad terribly, but I breathe a little easier knowing that dad is finally at rest.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hatin' on Sarah Palin

I love being a woman. I equally love having a brain. And I love to use both to my advantage when the need arises. I have no problem being cutesy too, should the situation call for me to do so, but I refuse to play dumb or silly at any time, not the least during those crucial moments in my life--e.g., applying for graduate studies, or for a job, or moot court, or real court room drama...

...which is why Sarah Palin's facetiousness disgusts me. "In her world", apparently, winking, beaming into the camera, giving a semi-pout and looking pretty, constitute the basic ingredients of competence. Nevermind that she cannot, for the life of her, seem capable of stringing coherent sentences together, especially when being interviewed by another woman of obviously superior intelligence like Katie Couric.

I mean, anyone who has ever watched those Couric interviews, especially of my gender, must have cringed and squirmed in their chairs while listening to Palin's long-winded, but empty, attempts at answering questions like -- which other Supreme Court decision apart from Roe v. Wade does she disagree with; or what periodicals or newspapers she reads. But, like some bad movies, we just can't get enough of Palin. It's as if we want to torture ourselves, and wait for another gaffe, another stupid remark, another blunder, that our dear Sarah will commit. When just yesterday, Palin said that Couric "annoyed" her because the latter asked irrelevant questions, I wanted to throw a hissy fit! Some people just cannot accept that they're out of their league! Which is why I loved it when Madeline Albright put her in her place :)

Having been brought up to believe that men and women are equal, for a time I tried to make sense of Hillary's tactic during the primaries -- basically, to act like a man and ignore her womanhood because it was perceived as a distraction. I didn't appreciate Hillary for it. I thought, if she's fighting for equality, then why did she readily morph into a man and seem ashamed of her gender? But looking back now, I could see why Hillary had to do that. Because ultimately, she knew that she first needed to be taken seriously. Because the reality is that women have to try much harder to break the glass ceiling. In stark contrast to Hillary, Sarah Palin is turning on the womanly charm--she's bursting to the seams with it in fact, flaunting her being a woman to her full advantage--but woefully lacking is the intelligence and common sense that are the most important prerequisites for public office (apart from integrity of course, but that's another story). I hate that Palin has the audacity to even think that people will swallow her moronic antics hook, line and sinker, but what I hate even more is that there are a few out there who actually fall for her stratagems and accept her mostly undecipherable rhetoric as gospel truth.

I wish that there will come a day that someone like Hillary, with her competence, experience and intelligence, can be taken seriously by the electorate solely through the quality of her arguments, and the inherent value of her vision, so that she will be free to express herself in the only way she ought, as a woman. But Sarah Palin?, Vacuous Barbie? She sickens me. I am deeply offended by her presence as a woman, but more so as a person. But I thank Palin for one thing... for bringing Tina Fey back to SNL. Now that Tina Fey--she is amazing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Man Who Can't Be Moved

It doesn't take much for me to love a song. For as long as the lyrics are nice and sensible, and the tune is pleasant, I would make time to download the song into my ipod. But this song, from a three-man Irish band -- The Script, is markedly different from the songs I have recently downloaded & sing along to when I'm alone in the office. The lyrics play on a range of emotions, from plaintive and positively melancholic, to hopeful and optimistic. The singer's wonderful voice tugged at my heartstrings... it's just a very beautiful song. It's so good that I am not ashamed to admit that it's way better than my fave -- David Archuleta's latest single -- Crush.

The link to this amazing song -- The Man Who Can't Be Moved -- can be found here. ENJOY :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lives Intertwined -- E-heads

Almost everyone I know (or at least those who were either in high school or college during the pinnacle of E-heads' fame) has their own Eraserheads' story. For me, the cheesiest one, but easily the most memorable, was my and my bestest friends' drunken rendition of With A Smile after high school graduation. We were all understandably distraught then, none of us were going to the same college -- I was going to Ateneo, my best friend was going to La Salle, one was going to UST, another to UAP. With A Smile was THE song that we sang to remind us that we were going to be alright. And what do you know, we are still the best of friends after 11 years.

When I went to the E-heads reunion concert last Saturday at the Fort, I was immediately struck by the obvious -- the sea of people trying to get inside the venue also had their peculiar E-heads story, or stories... I saw high school friends, college friends, older now, maybe wiser, wearing their most comfortable outfits, with bright smiles and twinkling eyes, eager to go down memory lane and reminisce the good ol years, the romanticized past. From the moment the band hit the first chords, I was transported to a time when everything was simpler, when I was more idealistic and carefree, when I was at the height of my YOUTH. I, along with the strangers beside me, were one with the music, shouting SEMBREAK with such fervor, knowing that, as members of the workforce, we no longer have sembreaks. No matter that the concert was cut short due to Ely's heart condition, I had my 'bottle of memories' when I left the Fort that night. There was an undeniable thread uniting all concertgoers that night -- the music of E-heads somehow made possible the existence of intertwined lives -- lives which, without E-heads, would not have intersected or found common ground. Kaming lahat -- parang naging isa.

Ely, Raimund, Marcus and Buddy, thank you for making me an uber-happy girl last Saturday. Sana ay maulit pa. Gusto ko talagang marining uli ng live ang Magasin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Amazing Human Body and The Olympics

Yesterday, I spent most of my time glued to the TV, hoping for whatever I can get by way of Olympics coverage from our cheap cable TV operator. I have been a fan of the Olympics for as long as I can remember, and the event that I enjoy watching the most is artistic gymnastics. There is just something almost unreal about watching these mostly diminutive individuals make maximum use of their muscles, their core, and flexibility to come up with the most masterful, but still, graceful, moves. Through these extremely talented gymnasts, I am reminded of the human body's amazing potential.

I used to be fairly athletic myself, and even dabbled in volleyball and badminton during high school. But when I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and was ordered to wear a back brace, I knew that my previously fit body would no longer be able to benefit from real, hard-core training. To compound my misery, my doctor told me that my scoliosis was getting worse, and that I needed operation. So I went under the knife at age 17, and until now, I carry a harrington rod the length of my spine inside me. My spine is now straight, but alas, my movements and activities are now restricted. I can't do extreme sports (not that I really want to), but even the more normal stuff like bending, or reaching my toes, I can't really do anymore. Sadly, I can't even show my back in a two-piece, because my scar runs the length of my back.

I have learned, through the years, not to whine about my situation, and embrace my imperfections. I refuse to think I am handicapped, and eventhough my body is no longer as fit as I would want it to be, I am happy that my spine problem has been corrected and my lungs can expand without interference.

...which makes the Olympics an even more cherished every-four-years event. I may not be able to do what these Olympians can do with their body, but I find comfort that THEY can. I watched US v. China basketball last night, and was blown-away by the athleticism of the US athletes. How fast they ran; how high they leaped; how nimble they were with the ball. I also watched men's gymnastics, and my sister, who is a med student, definitely benefited from seeing all those bulging muscles up close, without the aid of books.

Now that I'm determined to live healthy, I have come to appreciate my body more. My mom always says, "your body is a temple", and now, I know exactly what she means. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

My New Online Family

I'm far from being a techie, and before, much of the time I spent on the internet was used up by (1) checking my mail; (2) checking my facebook; and (3) checking Jae's, Golda's, Sir Te's and Arnold's blogs. And then I stumbled upon a blawg that has been getting well-deserved raves from law students and bar reviewees. Reason: the blog appears to have been put up entirely because of the blogger-lawyer's admirable sense of civic duty, and its posts are dedicated to helping reviewees and students of law keep abreast of the latest legal and bar-related developments. Now, this blog has a link to an online forum, whose members are mostly law students or lawyers.

So... the curious cat that I am, I joined the forum and hid behind a cutesy username... And before I knew it, I was hooked to the forum and was making a habit of checking new posts everyday that I could. I found it exhilirating to be in constant contact with nameless, faceless people from all over the Philippines, and even in various parts of the world. Nice people, kind people, people who have something meaningful to say. I felt that I was among people with similar ideals, people who also genuinely want to help make the Philippine legal system a fairer and more just one. And then I did the scary part... I bravely decided to forgo my anonymity in order to reach out to bar reviewees who might need some tips on how to hurdle the bar. Truth be told, at first I was hesitant to do so, having been told many horror stories of meeting up with virtual strangers face-to-face. But, having been raised to believe, unconditionally, in the innate goodness of people, I decided to take the leap and reveal who I am.

And... I'm happy to report that I made, 100%, a great decision! Some members of the community met for the first time on July 5, 2008, and then again on July 26, 2008, and, thanks to the forum's amiable big boss and the blogger-lawyer who introduced me to the forum, Atty. Fred Pamaos--who is not only generous with his time but also with his hard-earned money--the gatherings were a resounding success! The kindness that the members exhibited in the forum happily matched the kindness that they showed me in person :)

I have been chided countless times for always acting on impulse, but joining the phbar community was really an exercise of good judgment on my part. Oh, I'm still cautious when it comes to cyberspace, but I'm so happy that the only time I took a risk, it was all worth it! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sa Wakas... Bagong Buhay! :)

I used to dislike smoking, even back in my college days when some of my debater friends huffed and puffed their smokes like they were going out of fashion. But then I entered law school and just two months after, I was hooked to smoking. My trusted brand -- West Ice. I was a certified addict, and nothing my mom said about how my dad is now suffering the consequences of years of smoking could deter me from indulging my addiction. A good friend of mine, who was determined to make me stop, even bought me those nicotine-replacement gums to help me quit (thanks, Mark!) to no avail. Somehow, I was able to convince myself that smoking is cool and is the best way to pass the time, and even though I still don't like the smell of cigs on my hands, there's Green Cross to take away the nasty smell.

And so fast-forward to seven years later. I was still well into my nicotine addiction until (1) I have had to endure coughing and heaving for almost a month, with medical bills amounting to thousands of pesos already; and (2) I was feeling nauseous and queasy all the time, due to hyperacidity. Of course the doctors were one in pointing the blame at my smoking addiction. At first I simply shut my brain down and refused to process this information that would mean the death of my nicotine habit. But my cough got worse, and I had to spend thousands more on meds, and I couldn't even go up a flight of steps without stopping to catch my breath. And so... I did the unthinkable...

I QUIT!!! I QUIT!!! Last Saturday, I finally quit. I have with me all the time my trusted Nicorette, and so far, not a single stick. Clap clap clap. A feat, indeed, for someone so addicted to smokes. I know i could easily slip back to my old ways, so I'm not taking out the champagne just yet, especially since my withdrawal symptoms have been baaaad -- shaking hands, lack of concentration, grumpiness, headaches... But in just these four days, I have already seen a lot of good things happen -- easier breathing, no more morning cough, yummier tasting food :)

And, what's even more crazy is I finally got my lazy butt out of the couch and into the... GYM!!! Hahahaha, me, in the gym? None of my friends could believe the whirlwind changes I've introduced in my life, but hey, so far so good :) So instead of coffee and smokes in the morning, I switched to yogurt drink and bananas. Who knew I had that in me? :) I don't know if I have the willpower to stay the course, but for the first time, I really want to. So that could only mean I have a much better chance of succeeding :)