Meet Yayet Ann.

Some six years ago, I would have been horrified to introduce her as my friend, since I didn’t really feel comfortable with her around. It still feels weird to call her my friend, but I guess we are friends now.

She came to the department a few months after I was hired, and we were teammates for a year or so, until she decided to leave the company. When I first saw her I felt that I had to get to know her better – she looked just like the type I could be great friends with. She grew her hair long and wore glasses like I did, and dressed and carried herself almost like I did (someone at work even mistook me for her). She looked like the type I could talk books and shit with, probably because she reminded me of a point in my life when I cared deeply about how I saw myself in relation to the world and everything in it. By the time I met her my angst had been replaced with apathy, and the introspective me had been pushed aside by a need to blend in and go with the flow. She reminded me of my younger self; but unlike me, she has chosen to stand her ground and be who she is. She was a mystery that invited intrigue. She was smart and hardworking, but she kept mostly to herself. The team did not really understand why, and for my part I knew she was just waiting for a chance to open up, but I was too busy complaining to the others about her to help speed that chance up. Now that I think about it, I probably did not reach out to her because she felt like a threat – she was a younger and better me.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow she wormed her way into the team and we all saw how cool and fun she was (which just affirmed how good a judge of a character I am). And before I was able to get close, she left. She moved back to her hometown, and Sunshine and I relocated to another place. I opened up a Facebook account, saw Yayet Ann on it, and added her up. Even then we didn’t really exchange messages or post on each other’s walls. I sent her a message to congratulate her on her pregnancy, on the birth of her daughter and similar stuff, and she replied and in turn sent messages on Christmas and Mother’s Day and what-not. We were colleagues at work and Facebook friends.

Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about her and two year old Malaya Aleksandra Irie, her daughter. Malaya was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, and they have been battling (countless tests, trips to specialists, hospitalization) this disease for six months now. Malaya is currently taking medication, but she has to undergo renal biopsy for the doctors to determine why her kidneys are leaking proteins, and what should be done to help them function well again. It is very sad to know that someone as young as her is suffering from a condition like this. I do not know why I feel so much for Yayet and Malaya – maybe because I’m a mother too, and if I were in Yayet’s place I would not know how to get through this ordeal; or maybe because I feel I can finally be a friend to Yayet by praying for her family and helping her spread the word about Malaya.

I know one thing, though. Malaya needs help, and we are knocking on your kind hearts to help Yayet’s family fund Malaya’s renal biopsy. Alternately, you can visit her blog to view (and maybe purchase) her artwork, which helps her redirect the stress and negative emotions and energies brought about by Malaya’s condition, or visit this page to view her hand painted canvas tote bags for sale, perfect for lugging small necessities around.

20140603-011059-4259289.jpgMay you be blessed. 🙂

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I live in the Philippines,

in a resettlement area around two hours away from Manila. It’s not quaint or picturesque, and the houses range from shabby to not-so-shabby to livable to decent.

The neighborhood is quiet, if you don’t count the more than occasional drug- and alcohol-induced brawls and family squabbles on the street. And then there’s always a group of talking people nearby – very helpful if you don’t step out of the house too often and are not in the know about the goings-on in the neighborhood, but not so much so if you don’t really give a hoot about who slapped whom or why the police released the neighborhood drug pusher for the nth time.

From time to time, though, the neighborhood comes alive with snippets of genius to amuse and entertain, but only if you are keen and quick on the uptake.

Take, for example, this conversation between a 6 year old girl and her grandfather:
Little Girl: Lolo, ano kasi ang English sa manok natin? (Gramps, what is the English word for chicken?)
Grandfather: Roster.
LG: Ano yun? (What?)
G: Roster!

Or this mother singing her baby to sleep while she listens to the community news (i.e., gossip):
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the ocean….

Or this woman playing with and singing to her grandson:
I have two hens,
The left and the right….

Or this teenage boy upon seeing his friend helping out in the building of a new house:
Uuuuy, contraction!

And this smarter-than-thou lady talking with a neighbor after a typhoon:
Neighbor: Nakakatakot ang bumaha. Baka magkaron ako ng leptoporosis… ano nga ba yun? Yung galing sa ihi ng daga? (Floods scare me. I might get leptoporosis… you know that disease that comes from rat pee?)
Lady: Tanga, osteoporosis! (Osteoporosis, stupid!)

Filipinos can be very funny. Nothing beats Americans, though.

20140514-113028.jpg Image from lauraagudelo272

Call me a sourpuss

but I do not get why there’s so much hype about Mother’s Day. I love my mom and all, but I don’t remember ever making her a card or doing something special for her when I was a kid. And I don’t think that’s about to change, even if I myself am a mother now (okay so the Octopus is still a few months away from her second birthday and has no idea what Mother’s Day is and what she’s supposed to do to make me feel “special” on this day but what the hey). I do not know why, but my mom and I seem to have an unwritten rule about sap – we are not supposed to engage in anything that is even borderline mushy towards each other, lest we cringe and die.

Case in point: Yesterday I said, “So it’s Mother’s Day. Do you want to go to the salon and have your hair and nails done?” (this was said in a tone devoid of saccharine undercurrents)
She answered, “Are you nuts? I can get Lou to do my nails, Winny to cut my hair and Sari to color it for a small fraction of the amount you’re going to spend in the salon. No, thank you,” and promptly left me to check on her cooking.

20140513-020346.jpgImage from Blazing Catfur

I’m not sure if my mom and I weren’t exactly like this when I was younger – I remember lots of tickling and giggles and snuggling at bedtime, but I can hardly recall you’re the best mom/kid messages or some kind of drivel along those lines. Maybe we were, or one or both of us would have died.

I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad my mom has no interest in gadgets (a few Christmases ago she asked for a cell phone but specifically stated not to get her one with a camera because what the bleep would she do with it when all she wanted was something to call and text people with), will not click the mouse if her life depended on it (she has taken possession of my Kindle since it’s a more convenient read compared to her paperbacks and comes with a reading light so she could read in bed with the lights off but still needs me to replace the ebooks she has read with new ones), and has no patience for Facebook (teeming with messages about how special mothers are, and how they have sacrificed for their kids, blah blah blah). I’m glad I have a mother who does not lay guilt trips on her kids when they fail to make her feel special according to the world’s conventions.

Last year, I told Sunshine that I didn’t feel special about being a mother, and being greeted Happy Mother’s Day felt weird. A year later my feelings have not changed although I feel a bit more tolerant about the greetings and have allowed mom friends on Facebook to share Mother’s Day photo greetings (yes those cheesy quotes and flowers and pregnant women holding their baby bumps with – ugh – lavender and pink backdrops) photos on my wall (note to self: next year my Facebook page will be non-existent). I don’t get why my child needs to feel indebted to me for bringing her into the world – I wanted her, dreamt of her, prayed to have her. I do not see why I should not devote my time and attention to someone I have helped cause into being.

Sure I did not sign up for sleepless nights or blocked milk ducts or trips to the ER or incessant worrying or banshee-like screams or a house that seems to magically turn up with a clutter of toys, but that’s all part of it. I don’t need to be glorified for being who I’m supposed to be. I’m a mother. I could go on and on about the things I had to let go to accommodate the Octopus, but I do not call it sacrifice – I call it necessary.

I do not give a damn about how the rest of the world spends Mother’s Day. I do not discount the fact that mothers are special. Treat them out, make them breakfast, do the chores for them for the entire day. But please, leave me out of it. Spare me the goo.

I first read

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon when I was in graduate school. Everyone in class was to write a paper about their assigned novels. I do not remember anything about the professor, save for the fact that she carried the title “Doctor” (she had a Ph.D. on – dang, I don’t remember that either) and that she was a big woman, somewhat akin to Meryl Streep’s Julia Child character in the movie Julie and Julia. Out of respect I would not call her old to the face, but she had a big mop of greyish white hair that, together with her tendency to go off-tangent in the middle of a Hemingway novel discussion, had always left me in awe about how someone her age could still teach. She wasn’t really funny or scary or friendly, but I will forever be thankful to her for giving me my first taste of Morrison’s writing.

I did not write an exceptional paper on the book. I did not even keep a copy of the report, probably because I didn’t think it was worth keeping. Looking back on the ten years or so that have passed, I have only the faintest memory of myself lifting ideas for the paper from Sparknotes or some such website. I suck at writing about books, you see (and maybe writing in general). I cannot even make one coherent review about, say, this book.

20140505-214338.jpgImage posted with permission from the sleeping owner

[If you think that’s bad enough, let me share that I also have this amazing ability of forgetting the details of books I have finished reading, after some time. Yes, even books that I sooo love I voluntarily lend them to friends who never bother to return them. I also love movies (who doesn’t?), and it annoys me that I do not like sitting through a movie adaptation of a book (with the exception of Charlie the Chocolate Factory because well, there’s Johnny Depp and Tim Burton and more Johnny Depp) without reading the book first. So if I want to relive the experience of watching the Harry Potter movies, then I have to reread the six books. Where am I to get all the time for that? Sorry, I digress.]

I finished rereading Song of Solomon three days ago, have been mulling over the question Why hasn’t anyone thought of turning this book into a movie? It would be a delight to see how the emotions are acted out in the movie version, how the film would make the audience root for the characters – for Macon Dead’s tyranny, Ruth’s neediness, Lena and First Corinthians’s silence, Guitar’s intensity, Hagar’s pain, Reba’s emptiness, Pilate’s love, Milkman’s indifference. Song of Solomon the movie – why not? It has all the workings of a great dramatic film. Then the answer hit me: Because it’s nothing like Nicholas Sparks’s A Walk to Remember or The Notebook or Dear John or whatever. Because it is not anything like John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Because it does not fall into a category with Claire Cook’s Must Love Dogs or Cecelia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You. Because it is heavy, is unlikely to be enjoyed by moviegoers who went gaga over Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight movies, and would probably not bring in the bucks.

Movies are created to entertain, and maybe even provide an avenue for escapism, hence the quality of the above-mentioned movies that feature sappy stories, but whatever happened to catharsis? Why aren’t there more books-turned-films like Patrick SĂĽskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer or Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or Toni Morrison’s Beloved? I know a lot of people like films with depth and substance, but the fact they seem to be the minority is sad.

Sigh.

Dear PLDT,

Image

In PLDT, if it ain’t broke, we make it better. Just as we strive to make our products and services better than ever, we also strive with even greater enthusiasm to continuously uplift our management and governance practices. -Napoleon Nazareno, President and CEO

Please allow me to express my gratitude to your company for granting the voluntary permanent disconnection request I made for my Home Bro (formerly SmartBro) Wimax subscription exactly 21 calendar days after I went to the nearest PLDT Sales and Service Center to have it processed.

I was beside myself with joy when I received a call today from one of your agents who said that they were finally processing the request – who knew that you would act so fast on a disconnection request like mine? Don’t these issues take forever to resolve? 21 days! And I thought I would be spending another week or two trying to follow up with your Customer Care chat agents on Facebook because I am a sorry excuse for a cheapskate and it would totally be against my character to pick up the phone, dial 171 and pay for airtime I would waste listening to some scratchy recordings of promotions or rewards or some new offer you have until I frustratingly hang up because there is not a single customer service agent who is free to take my call.

Of course it is not your fault that many subscribers call customer service for help – they probably have no connection, or have some difficulty understanding why it is taking too long to have their lines installed, or they probably just enjoy talking to your very helpful agents. And it is probably my fault that my request was not processed EVEN IF I PERSONALLY WENT TO ONE OF YOUR CENTERS AND DEALT WITH ONE OF YOUR PERSONNEL FACE-TO-FACE. Blame me and my luck for visiting the center at a time when the PLDT Home system was down – what a coincidence! Probably, it is also just a coincidence that I kept getting crappy connection in my two years as a SmartBro/ Home Bro subscriber, which made me decide that I should have the service terminated and look for another provider.

Maybe I should not have taken that personnel’s word that he would be processing my request, and all I needed to do was write a letter of request and give him my ID for photocopying. Maybe I should have followed up a day after I went to the center, just so he would not forget that I requested for a disconnection. Maybe it was my fault that I went to the center a week before Holy Week and everyone knows no one reports for work on those days, even if Mr. Personnel said he would future-date the disconnection on April 18 (Good Friday), the exact date my two-year contract ends.

But what the hey, right? All that is water under the bridge now. My request has been granted, thanks to the Customer Care agents I was chatting with from April 21-25. They have been very patient in coordinating my issue with the concerned center which refused to give their say, rendering the chat agents unable to give me anything but a promise that I will be advised of the feedback as soon as the center releases it. Those chat agents even deserve a pat in the back for displaying grace under pressure when I threatened to write the NTC a formal letter of complaint if nothing happens by April 25.

I probably sounded too desperate to be taken seriously by the center, because they never bothered to send me an email or to give me a call. So I wrote an email addressed to the NTC and the NTC regional office. I distinctly remember carbon copying Customer Care on the email and blind carbon copying some your bigwigs (I still am wondering whether or not I got those email addresses correct). I sent the email at around 3:00AM of April 26, and at 2:00PM I got a call from the PLDT regional head apologizing for the delay in responding to my request and promising to see to the matter a soon as possible. I could not believe my luck – who addresses concerns like mine on a Saturday? And there I was doubting I would get a reply by Monday!

I was wrong to doubt you in the first place, PLDT. Maybe I should not have sent that email. How horrible of me to have your regional head breathing down the necks of your agents in that center. On a Monday. I apologize. I did not mean for them to have a bad start to this week. Please know that deep in my heart of hearts, I sympathize with how those agents must have felt, how you must feel to have me – someone you will not be earning money from anymore – kick you in the teeth.

Quits na tayo.

Sincerely,

Pilosopo Takya