I’m not allowed to go out alone before 7 AM and should be already home by 7 PM. So dawn runs are out (a friend said I should instead jog in place inside my room which made me laugh). My lack of exercise has me worried. But yes thank goodness for Youtube. I’m doing this simple yoga routine every other day. The rest of the days- jogging in place while trying hard not to pity myself.
K-drama series on Viu are my companion these days. I can now put a tick on Goblin: The Lonely and Great God. Done. The story reverberates with truly unique characters – the Goblin, of course, and, a departure from grim reapers of old, the uncannily handsome and domestic Grim Reaper – that are smoothly threaded in to the world of humans. Living among humans day after day meant that human vulnerabilities would gradually rub off on them, and it did. By opening themselves to the human experience, it made them a whole lot better in the end. Better deities. As for the humans…ah, well, love is a destiny.
As I’ve just gotten into watching K-drama, I don’t know many Korean actors, and deciding which series to watch next is based mainly on the actors from previously-watched dramas. The actor Lee Dong Wook was the reason I watched Goblin, because he was the actor of My Girl the first ever K-drama I saw and liked. So, after Goblin I decided to go for dramas in which the actor Kim Go Eun starred in. Hence, Cheese in the Trap.
The drama is a poignant portrayal of university life, youthful romance, and issues affecting young people such as family, mental health, and self-direction. There are also plenty of quotable quotes in there that especially convey what young people are going through:
Baek In Ho: Who studies on the subway? What do you want to become?
Seol: I just want a job. I don’t want to be unemployed.
Baek In Ho: What are you worried about? You’re a college student.
Seol: That’s what I thought, too. When I was in high school I thought I could be anything when I went to college. Now that I’m in college there are many difficult questions. I envy those people the most (gestures toward a couple of men in business suits).
Baek In Ho: What’s the envy? They look like corpses.
The close of the series brought to mind David Foster’s Just For A Moment (theme song from St. Elmo’s Fire) which floated in my head. I did shed a tear or two. Good news though! There’s a movie adaptation coming out this year! Plus there’s a webtoon of the series which it turns out is the original material.
Afterward, I decided to branch out to dramas of the actor Park Hae Jin, the male lead in Cheese, which led me to Doctor Stranger. I’m now currently watching Episode 9. Incredibly good so far. The story has most everything- spying (North and South Korea), geopolitics, professional rivalry, romance, that involve, well, doctors. But most especially the operating room scenes look very real!
In between, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m also watching Bride of Ha Baek (The Bride of the Water God) originally a manga series of the same title. I’ve seen the male lead Nam Joo Hyuk in Cheese in the Trap and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo that I watched in February. After the first three episodes, I already liked Bride of Ha Baek because Shin Se Kyung‘s female lead’s story arc is so relatable. She has lots of things going on in her personal life, meaning, she’s not as happy, which keeps her, she’s a psychiatrist, from being fully present with her clients until… the series is now on Episode 8. The queer identities that have suddenly popped up in her life are starting to show who or what they really are.
My host organization said I should join them in their team-building event, to take a break even if for a day from an incredible month of hyperactivity not to mention, of late, anxiety. They have done an extraordinary job of facilitating my work so far as well as my security in the areas. Of the latter, I know they’re trying to hold in their worries and desire to guard over me 24/7. As for myself, apart from dealing with work pressure, I’ve lately been bombarded with new experiences almost on a daily basis that there’s no time for me to reflect and understand how they benefit my own life. Also, out there in the areas, there’s such a wealth of information and lessons that it’s made it extraordinarily challenging for me to sift through and obtain what’s just needed for the work I’m doing. Then, the usual pressure from family and friends- wtf are you still there for? When they say that…I start to have doubts- yeah, how the hell did I end up here? which I don’t like. Sometimes when I’m in this mood I imagine I’m in one of my favorite places to be…only that I’m fully clothed you know in case my folks decided to forcibly fly in through the roof and get me by the ears, clothed or not. Is why bombs are loathed- they’re like our parents in hyperwar mode.
But seriously by joining my host organization in their activity I wanted to convey my appreciation and gratitude. They’re my second family here, and since my entry into their lives their days have become uncharacteristically hectic. I so owe them some slack.
The event took place by the wonderful sea, in an open community training center maintained by their partner-organization. When we arrived, the distinct smell of goat meat (it’s halal) wafted in the air. We were told there’ll be papaitan and kaldereta on the table- yum! This reminded me of similar gatherings in my areas of assignment when I was younger, also the reunions at my grandparents’ during my childhood. The men did most of the cooking.
I’m already acquainted with the individuals there so I went around and joined in the conversation. Crowds is really a struggle for me although I can put a handle on this when it becomes a duty ie. work requires me to work the crowd. I could do it so well that people think I’m a go-getter. Ha! Besides, when you’re with village people, they scrutinize you with beetle eyes- they will right away pack off snobs or outsiders with no sense of humor. Once, I woke up in a depleted mood and no amount of self pep talk could elevate my mood. This showed through when I was facilitating a discussion with village women. Their faces reflected my mood. But I didn’t care. Then somebody said “no sense of humor” in reply to my question of what makes an effective volunteer. The body language of the other women screamed, oh my goodness. They were all looking at me like how children stare up at their parents when they knew they’ve crossed a no-no line, waiting for a punishment to come or not. The mental image tickled me and I laughed. The women’s bodies eased up a bit. Sense of humor is key to working well with villagers.
Then I moved into the hut where the men were cooking. Somebody asked if I wanted tuba. I said, yes sure. He handed me a cupful. And, it was unbelievably delicious- just the right sweetness and fermentation. The coconut juice had been collected very early that morning and fermented a few hours (it gets stronger the longer it’s fermented however 2-3 days would turn the juice to vinegar). Plus, I was told the container had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, which explained why it tasted clean. I had two cups (which kind of alarmed them but I assured them that I have a high tolerance for alcohol). Then while watching them do their thing, we talked about local wines and drinks. This scene reminds me of my childhood during reunions, when I was usually with the men – my uncles and their cousins – watching whatever they were doing and listening to their talk. I have a few photos of those times (come to think of it, I haven’t asked who took the shots). So, growing up, I don’t know but I naturally gravitate toward the company of male friends and acquaintances. Their kind of talk is what I’m familiar with. But also because I find I can be my naturally straightforward self with them and nobody would take overt offense. Ha ha!
We also had prawns, freshly caught and (for me) unbelievably cheap at just 150 a kilo! About seafood, all my life I’ve reacted after digesting it or at times even from merely touching it hence avoided it. But my host organization upon learning this were horrified. The areas teemed with seafood. So we experimented (anyway, I brought my meds). First, pusit small and large ones. And what do you know- no reaction at all not even a hint of an itch. I thought about it. Then it dawned on me. Could it be the preservatives (applied along the supply chain as it makes it’s way to, for instance, Baguio City) and not the seafood? I told my host organization this which excited them some more about our experiment. Next, crabs. I had no reaction after the first. Wow! So I ate another one. Nada. Then, the prawns. No reaction. Amazing! I really am sure now my allergic reactions were due to preservatives. Goodness, how much nutrients did I lose from avoiding seafood?
How did the team-building go? It turned out that was just a bluff. The event was actually a “formal” welcome to me. Soon as the dishes were cooked and laid out, one of the organization’s staff called everyone inside the center, and after the usual how are you all feeling today? talk she then announced the real reason for the gathering. Ha! You thought I was a birthday girl, too stunned at first to react. But, really, it was such a gift.
The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn. His thought passes along the row ends like a mole. What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark?
It was not yet nine in the morning but I guess that’s already late in the day for these beachgoers. I was meeting select people in this coastal village for a discussion about what they’re doing to make their community resilient. For many Filipinos, resilience is equated to “smiling or laughing though the world has crashed around them”. This attitude is good but…only to an extent. Beyond a certain point, it’s avoidance, of sad realities around them- no basic infrastructures such as water systems, roads, sea walls, and if there are as for instance village health stations, they’re not staffed or equipped. Spending one’s free time on a banana boat is a personal choice, yes. But then the choice each and every Filipino make makes the nation. If everyone of us are on banana boats where does that lead all of us to? Filipinos need to be more conscious when making a choice especially at this time in our development when the nation needs more of it’s people to engage with planners and decisionmakers. We need to spend less time on banana boats and more time in public session halls, lobbying for quality basic infrastructures and services, for talk to be consistent with walk, for change to happen on the ground in the villages among families. Otherwise it’s the same hullaballoo all over again- the next generation inheriting redundant pile of to-dos we procrastinated on that our generation inherited from the last and so forth. Filipinos need to be generous.
I have decided to be a volunteer for most of this year. I’ve been growing toward this aspect of service a year now. I was supposed to be deployed internationally last year but I retracted because of personal safety concerns. Last year as we know had been hell in international security and I wasn’t prepared to be in unstable areas without full compensation. Ha ha! But, I guess, when it’s for you it’s for you. It’s going to come at you no matter how you dodge it.
The question posed to me by the organization was, what made you decide to volunteer? Well, looking back, my story has been of gradual awareness and readiness.
In my 20s, colleagues, after completing their contracts (in development work) went overseas for volunteer work. They were young and overseas was the next step. They were deployed in countries like Tibet, Kenya, Congo. I was urged to join them, but volunteering never entered my mind. In the communities, I had been both fascinated and filled with respect for the local people especially women already multiple-burdened who volunteered for our organization and helped facilitate it’s work. But volunteering didn’t mean anything to me personally. I couldn’t see myself as selfless as the locals were. ‘Volunteer’ didn’t appeal to me.
I have not, until now, volunteered formally. I have only been helping people in my immediate surroundings such as helping elderly folks in my barangay with their grocery bags or colleagues in need with their work. As a freelance consultant for some time now, I voluntarily don’t ask for my full fees from organizations I knew didn’t have much financially or when it involves a cause I personally believe in. Beyond the private sphere, I’ve not much to show for (public) volunteerism. As I got older, however, growing in experience, knowledge, skills, emotional maturity, and confidence, I felt myself becoming more and more psychologically ready to give of myself in a more public way. The key factor for me here is ‘psychologically ready’.
“Wow,” the officer listening to my story said, “that’s a word.” It is. That’s how I feel about volunteering now. In a sense it’s like my personal journey toward becoming more generous. I guess it’s similar to being in love or getting married. When one is ready, and you’ll know the time, one is more able to give of oneself fully and completely and to appreciate the other as fully and completely. And, like love or marriage, I’m venturing in with an open mind.
In my next post, I’ll write about my initial realizations from my first steps toward volunteering.
Philippine Military Academy graduation today and what’s unique this year is it’s “ruled” by females. The valedictorian is a woman. Eight of the top ten graduates are women. There were 63 women graduating cadets in all, the biggest since the Academy accepted the first women cadets ten years ago.
Each has their own journey story to the Academy, like this ex-housemaid who eventually found out that her career is really in the military. A dramatic transition. Wow!
On Arirang cable channel recently, it featured a young South Korean woman who voluntarily joined the government’s mandatory military training. Her father, a military man, challenges her to not just be a soldier who is a woman but a woman who is a soldier. I was struck by that statement which I recalled again today. The next step I guess for these inspiring women cadet graduates is figuring out how to be successful at both. All the best to them!
Ivy League-educated, demure, socially conscious, white and pretty, Emma Watson fits perfectly into to the category of the woman whose breasts we are not supposed to see. In the binary of virgin and whore, she is firmly in the former camp. It is this that has upset the critics of her photoshoot, because there is an idea that nudity of any kind is for women of a lower class.
Feminism And Nudity: Why Are The Two Still At Odds? Reni Eddo-Lodge, Vogue
On the other hand, before Christianity and civilization our ancestors wore skimpy clothes to none, women bared their breasts, and that was natural. Civilized Christians who came upon these communities called them pagans who must be civilized and made to know God. Now that civilized people, women especially, are showing skin they’re called sluts, by even more civilized people.
Feminism has nothing to do at all with the reactions to Emma Watson’s Vogue shoot. They’re about our sense of what’s civilized and not. Interestingly, the more “civilized” society becomes so has the demarcation between civilized and wild people gotten even tighter. I guess it’s why the story tellers made civilized Jane fall head over heels over jungle man Tarzan and living with him in his lair became wild happy Jane, just to flip ‘civilized’ on it’s head. Why the story continues to be so well-received by everybody is what’s mind-boggling. Does this mean, in an alternative reality for humankind, ‘civilized’ is not even a word?
Women who want to make it in their chosen field need to have grit (ie. perseverance, direction, passion, endurance, never say die attitude). In my case, it’s like I’ve always had it, but mine is wrapped in shyness (because I truly am as well and can’t seem to shake it off). Many times, people who don’t know me misunderstand. They only perceive the shyness or softness, but in time they’d see that, as long as I haven’t decided to walk away, I’m one of the most shamelessly forward and persistent female around. Ha ha! But these traits I usually confine to my career and professional life.
I learned very young that if I don’t persist or have grit, the boys are the only ones who’d be enjoying the prize. And I too want the prize. I’m actually very competitive deep down but I also learned very young that this is frowned upon in females; that if you persist nonetheless you’re going to walk a lonely path. That doesn’t really bother me although I do compromise on certain matters.
Loren Legarda was recently featured on CNN Philippines Profiles. She shared that when she was in broadcast media, she wrote letters to heads of States which became her ticket to getting the role to interview Nelson Mandela when he visited this country. It was grit, or colloquially, kapal ng mukha, she said.
Grit is the reason women are able to break through the glass ceiling. The other reason, especially where men are the dominant force, is having a male mentor. It’s true what Sheryl Sandberg wrote in Lean In. I too had male mentors from whom I learned the recipes of success and who opened doors and rich experiences for me in my youth. In that aspect, I was very lucky to have met (considering that we don’t choose the people we meet in life) and worked with them.
Sometimes, I forget that I am young.
I forget that I have only been blessed with a quarter of a century.
I forget that mistakes are part of trying.
I forget that fear is motivation, not food for anxiety.
I forget that friendship takes kindness, and openness.
I need to forget those who have made me less kind and less open.
I forget the way a first kiss feels.
I forget to smile sometimes.
I forget what it’s like to be wooed, except by myself.
I forget that it’s better to woo yourself than to expect others to do it for you.
I forget how to give a genuine hug to someone other than my mother and my father. Because I’m fearful others won’t return it.
I forget the sound of my first boyfriend’s voice.
I forget to eat well.
I forget to make eye contact, retail has killed a friendlier version of myself.
I forget not to stand tall and act like I don’t care, because of how I was approached when I cared.
I forget that kindness and courage can go hand in hand.
I forget who I was when I was 19.
I forget what it looks like when someone wants to be your friend.
I forget because I remember that no one can change my life, only I can.
I remember these wonderful women who have looked me in the eye, and told me good, and kind words. Strong words.
I forget that each day is a blessing. That each day is what I make it. That each day belongs to me and me alone.
I’m going to forget forgetting and start remembering.
– via thatkindofwoman
Stored away my personal things, done. Leased the house, done. I am these days practically homeless again. This “lightness” is essential when going away to work in a rather unstable environment. But having children has changed me, inside. I worry and have guilty feelings. But, I know and have read about women like me whose children turned out well. As if to reassure me, I chanced on cable TV recently a feature on Leticia Ramos Shahani, pioneering UN official among her other achievements. I learned that she became a single mother after having been widowed young. This happened at the height of her career as a diplomat. “I was so busy I’d tell my children ‘alright, you have five minutes to tell me what you need,” she said in the interview. I smiled. That sounded familiar. But, look her children grew up to become fine men and women. That’s what’s important which I’m always on guard for, even from a distance, and pray for. No, in truth, that’s the only thing I pray for. I hope that one day they will come to understand “mommy’s project”.
As to the career path I chose (or, should I say, it chose me after which I then came to love), there have been innumerable lessons I learned on the way. I came upon a better wording of these, in a post by Philen Naidu also a WordPress blogger. I’m sharing here her three insights that resound with me most:
The Truth Is That We Are – at Our Core – Most Interested About Our Own Happiness.
No matter how we try to word it so that it sounds good to us, as soon as we accept this; that our philanthropic endeavors are nothing more than an attempt to discover our own happiness … then we’re one step along the way to being authentic and true. And this is what is needed more than anything.
Through volunteering, the people you think you are serving, are actually serving you for you to discover your own joy and passion.Volunteering is just a weird vehicle that is used where we trick ourselves into believing that we’re actually the gift-givers, when we’re not. We are only co-participators in something bigger.
Only an Arrogant Fool Believes They Can Show Anyone a Better Way
Remember this wherever you go. The people, cultures, and communities you will meet, were all there before you arrived. They have successfully nurtured generations of children through conditions that you could likely not handle for longer than a few weeks, and then, only in the knowledge that it will end at some stage and you can return home. They will also be there after you leave. While you are taking a break, the people you meet are not. They are in their life and they take no breaks. When your trip or project ends, their life continues, unbroken in its stride. Remember, it is you who has gone to them, and it is not them who has come to you or even called you.
Listen First, Talk Second
Resist the chance of appearing as a coloniser who is trying to impose their ways on another society, by listening and observing first. Without judgment. Learn the way of the people and the land; Be a community member who understands and shares the desires of the people of the community you’re visiting, before offering your carefully considered opinions.
It’s been a helluva week. I’ve procrastinated so long with organizing and securing necessary documentation that I now can’t put it off any longer. I thought I could live in an alternative world where humans do not need IDs to tell others that they are who they say they are. Why do we need to flash our IDs to justify the truth of our statement? Is the artificial ID more believable than human words- “I am who I am”? In this world, alas, it is. So, it’s earth calling me to get my ass down on the ground right now (or, make do with lost opportunities). Ha!
Running around town to get documents in order, on top of everything else, turned out to be quite what I dreaded. Government offices are scattered all over the place and the immense traffic from the week-long closure of Session Road for Panagbenga were such a headache, not just for me I imagined but the rest of the local population who were working, going to school, attending to business, in short, not on vacation. Nonetheless, processing time at the government offices was a breeze, just 15 minutes or so! That was such a stress buster and I told the people behind the counters and desks so, happily and with my all out smile. Really? they said, all shy smiles. Yes, really! You are all amazing! I replied. These are the simple things that make everybody ie. clients and service providers truly happy. I hope the practice has or will become a habit, institutionalized, and not last only until the next President.
A suggestion though- as I was going about these tasks I’m reminded of the studies I did with young people in the provinces and urban poor communities in which one of the main hindrances to their job hunting was their inability to pay for documentation processing and travel to and from the various government offices. When you’re looking for a job, you don’t just apply to one vacancy or organization, but rather, you do 10 or more applications at once. All these require money. Five hundred pesos is inadequate to pay for the whole gamut of clearances much less medical certification for some jobs. Jobless young people looking for jobs from poor families simply cannot shell out PHP500.00 which comes by to them like it was a million pesos. So my suggestion is, on top of the sponsored job fairs held at the Convention Center, why not also do a one-stop-shop of all government clearances eg. City Hall-related, PNP, NBI, Passporting, etc. in one place, now and then, or especially right after graduation month? It will be a strategic assistance especially for moving young people (still relying on allowance from parents or family) looking for work toward employment and economically productive lives.
I also connected again with my former sister-in-law, because of my medical. She read aloud one of the routinary questions, how does this person handle stress? She handles it very well, wrote my former sister-in-law aloud, emphasis on very. To both of us, that had double meaning. Also, I had a very full morning, no food intake since breakfast, and for the past days stressed with traffic (what causes stress from traffic is plain stupidity of, mostly, drivers) and anxious with beating deadlines, and when I finally went to her just before noon, my BP registered 140/80, a first for me. I read that 140/90 is the new normal, as orange is the new black and such. Handles stress very well indeed. I laughed out loud and muttered some joke which made my former sister-in law and her secretary laughed too. Maybe a little bit more laughter in our lives is what we need. And I guess for me, back to regular exercise, a reminder not to forego it even on vacation. In the past couple of months, I’ve been lounging around like a useless log (which has extended to the quality of my posts).
I told my former sister-in-law, a statement really, that our mother-in-law (my former) had a stroke during the yuletide holidays. I haven’t visited which has been one of the things nagging at me in the new year. Yes, she said, she’s recuperating well. I nodded and then, I’ll go visit her soon, I said. Where did that come from? She looked up and smiled. Oo, she said. I’ve uttered it so now I really had to go. If that will make my former in-laws happy, sure why not? And it’s not as if the bridges have been burned. My son lives with them.
Speaking of the son. He has gotten even taller. Twice when I was out with him, his guy friends blinked when he introduced me to them, “my mommy”. Ha! Plus he dated on Valentine’s! I’ve never (except when I was married)! I believe they have this school sweetheart thing going on. I teased him about it. I told him I’d like us three to eat out one time. I’ve also asked him further about it and I’m glad to know that his Dad has the same thoughts on the matter ie. studies first, of course, and only group dates. It’s true what’s been said about sons having a special bond with their mothers. I feel it- he’ll always be my little boy but that’s just me.
So where am I getting at here? Well, a bit of order helps make working very far from them a bit easier on the mind.
I was at a cafe, comfortably ensconced on my high chair having, well, coffee, and indulging in a slice of sinful dark chocolate cake. Earlier in the day, I had planned on hearing the 5 PM Mass after an early afternoon business meeting. I haven’t gone to Mass in weeks, or is it months? But, while at the cafe I decided not to go. I don’t know, maybe I was still in a mood. The holidays, December to February, are especially difficult. It’s when, despite putting up a resistance, I feel most vulnerable; when I make tampo with God- because I feel He’s let me down in that aspect of life (although deep down I know God being this silent invisible presence makes for a convenient reason to get “angry” at and the moment He actually speaks I’d probably die of fright). But, I felt a much stronger pull to go and at least visit while I was downtown. Fine. Duty is my weakness. I finished up the last bites of the cake and drained my coffee.
I got to catch the last statements of the homily. “We must believe that God has something good in store for us,” the priest was saying. Ha ha! Now that was something I needed to hear. Having settled in my place, I saw that there was something installed facing the altar and a large B&W image of a couple, man and woman, displayed near it.
I learned, toward the end of the Mass, that it was the relics of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin. Who were they? The names didn’t ring a bell. At home, I remembered to search online. And, my god, crazy me, I should’ve known! They’re the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. My Carmelite BFFs would’ve whipped me for my ignorance! I quickly muttered an apology.
I spent the night reading up about the life of this blessed couple. I learned that they lived their life, an ordinary life, with faithfulness which was what made them extraordinary and eventually earned them sainthood. Louis, after his days as a soldier, had wanted to be a priest, and Zelie, lacking affection from her own family, a nun, but the vocation wasn’t in their stars. Instead, venturing into businesses of their own after failing to get accepted into religious life, Louie in watchmaking and Zelie in lacemaking, it was how they met one another. As a married couple, they lost three of their children, Zelie had breast cancer, and Louie a mental breakdown, but despite all that they hoped, lived, and loved fully. A life to draw strength from. I’m glad I let myself be pulled away from my coffee.