29 December 2007

joie de vivre


This is the balcony view of the Broadwater along Marine Parade in Labrador, Gold Coast. We get to see this span of shimmering water for seven days.

27 December 2007

wiped out



Meeza is up in this huge contraption called The Wipeout having fun. My feet are on soil; my heart in bonkers. When the machine stops, I'm happy to see her still whole. She says, "That was really fun! Now, can I 'ikut' The Claw?" I say, "No Way" (to foil my heart attack).

26 December 2007

pretty in pink


This bird lives at the Currumbin Sanctuary at Gold Coast in Australia. It is sooo pretty it resembles the pink sorbets of summer.

15 December 2007

meme2

I recently found a meme that would put a new perspective in your life. A whiff of fresh air, perhaps. It is called Unconscious Mutterings, a "quick bit of free association, it lists a word/phrase and you are supposed to list the first thing that pops into your head". Try this and see what's in your psyche:

  • Master ::

  • Tour ::

  • Input ::

  • Downtown ::

  • Pricey ::

  • Acceptable ::

  • Terrace ::

  • Sunday ::

  • Payoff ::

  • Jack and Jill


  • My own would be:

    Master - Expert; Tour - Travel; Input - Contribution; Downtown - Bandar; Pricey - Expensive; Acceptable - Fair; Terrace - a view; Sunday - Going out; Payoff - Greater good; Jack and Jill - chips.

    Someone asked why would I associate Jack and Jill with chips. It was a favourite brand of chips in my childhood.

    Have a nice day doing this exercise. To play with more words go to http://subliminal.lunanina.com/.

    11 December 2007

    time flies

    A birthday just gone by and my usual flurry and hurry is happening - medical checks, promises to be kept, books to be read, compliments to be given, recipes to be done, places to be discovered, dreams to be realised... It would be nice to be young again. They say youth is wasted on the young - if we only knew what we know now! Then , we could have:

    - realised early that financial handicap is not a hindrance, luxury is for a few, adventure is for everyone

    - listened to our elders more like when they say 'eat your veges'; they mean well

    - not messed too much with our hair; it gets very dry with abuse - straightening, bonding, perming, colouring - they are the culprits

    - worn sunscreen

    - not jogged on the hard pavement; the knees ultimately suffer

    - not been reckless with our and others lives by being arrogant, jealous, disrespectful

    - not worried too much about the future; events like aging and dying are part of living

    - known that being emotionally mature means that there is no need for validation of your worth

    - exercised more

    - loved our parents more

    Cliche or not - time flies. Live your life to the fullest.

    10 December 2007

    meme1

    This one is fun and unstoppable. It gets you a cyborg self from an avatar by filling in your name.


    Digital Intelligent Neohuman Assembled for Zealous Assassination and Destruction


    Get Your Cyborg Name


    Mechanical Electronic Exploration and Zoology Android


    Get Your Cyborg Name

    08 December 2007

    westlife's home

    The commotion and excitement of the school holidays have begun. Family and friends have started the temporary "migration" to places near and far. Yet, there is no place like home. In the few days that we will be away, each of us will be missing our favourite nooks and niches at home. We've been singing Westlife's "Home" even before leaving. The song is at the sidebar and the lyrics down here........

    Another sunny day,
    Has come and gone away,
    In Paris and Rome,
    I want to go home,
    Mmmmmm
    Maybe surrounded by,
    A million people I,
    Still feel all alone,
    I just want to go home,
    Oh I miss you, You know,
    And i've been keeping all the letters,
    That I wrote to you,
    Each one a line or two,
    I'm fine baby how are you,
    Well I would send them but,
    I know that it's just not enough,
    The words were cold and flat,
    And you deserve more, than that,

    Another aeroplane,
    Another sunny place,
    I'm lucky, I know,
    But I want to go home,
    I've got to go home,
    Let me go home
    Im just too far,
    From where you are,
    I've got to come home,
    Let me come home,
    I've had my run,
    Baby i'm down,
    I want to come home,

    And I feel just like,
    I'm living,
    Someone elses life,
    It's like i just stepped outside,
    When everything was going right,
    And I know just why you could not come along with me,
    'Cause this was not your dream,
    But you always believed in me,

    Another winter day,
    Has come and gone away,
    In either Paris and Rome,
    And I Want To Go Home,
    I miss you, You know,
    Let me go home,
    I've had my run,
    Baby i'm down,
    I want to go home,
    Let me go home,
    It'll all be alright,
    I'll be home tonight,
    I'm coming back home.


    [ www.LyricsTop.com ]

    06 December 2007

    avoiding the drama queens


    How do you spot a drama queen? Being smart means being able to recognise the drama queen that sneaks into your life and before she makes demands and shows her fangs and claws and swallows you whole --- run and hide!!!!

    What makes a drama queen? Bully OnLine gives this description:

    "...every incident or opportunity, no matter how insignificant, is exploited, exaggerated and if necessary distorted to become an event of dramatic proportions. Everything is elevated to crisis proportions. Histrionics may be present where the person feels she is not the centre of attention but should be. Inappropriate flirtatious behaviour may also be present".

    It is our prerogative, choose to "buy into it" or move away.


    28 November 2007

    naipaul's half a life

    Finally, I finished the book. It has been on my bedside table since June and waited too long to be read. V.S. Naipaul was born of Indian ancestry and just like other Indian writers of note including Arundhati Roy, he portrays wretchedness, you wonder if life is really that bitter and angst-ridden. Naipaul and Roy write of emotions that are in extremes - one moment a shade of gray, the next moment the bursting colour of a ripe mango. That is the reason, I would not touch the book for a long time, I fear what is written - too much a burden for me - self-torture I'll call it - because I know they never write happy endings.

    The book centers on Willie Chandran, half-bred, son of a brahmin and of an untouchable. He lived a depressingly marginal life in India (author wrote that he is not 'exact about the countries, periods or situations'), then in England where he led a bohemian lifestyle. Towards the end of the story, Willie had lived for eighteen years in a country that was a mixture of Portugal and South Africa - I would never know the exact country because of the vagueness.

    The character of Willie Chandran is so mystifying because he has this 'I don't care' attitude and seemingly immunity to pain that allows him to go on and on to search for life's generosity. He naively thinks that he soon will settle a full life by associating himself with friends who incidentally will fail his expectations. He finds love and passion in cruel ways and he also will willingly hurt Ana (who held a promise of fullness) and escape to let go of all the half-lives.

    I have not read any review of this book. Maybe, I will, then I might know whether I am not alone in this perception of Willie Somerset Chandran.

    26 November 2007

    cine, cine

    They say movies become unforgettable and serve their purpose when they are cathartic or when they give you the jolts. They are also remembered for what are said. Often the words spoken by the characters linger on for days or longer. These ones I can remember verbatim:

    Dead Poets Society
    John Keating: This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.

    The Incredibles
    Honey: 'Greater good?' I am your wife! I'm the greatest 'good' you are ever gonna get.

    When Harry Met Sally
    ....you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

    Hope Floats
    Birdee: Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it's what's in the middle that counts. So, when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.

    The Addam's Family
    Pugsley: We're not shy!
    Wednesday: We're contagious.

    Practical Magic
    Aunt Frances: My darling girl, when are you going to understand that 'normal' is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.

    The Little Mermaid
    Ursula: Well it's time Ursula took matters into her own tentacles.

    Stuart Little
    Snowbell: Didn't your mother warn you that you shouldn't go out into Central Park at night?
    Smokey: My mother was the reason you shouldn't go out into Central Park at night.

    The most enjoyable repartees that I really really love are from The Incredibles. Just might watch it again soon.

    24 November 2007

    mia farrow in darfur

    Mia of "Rosemary's Baby" is not afraid of ruffling feathers says CNN. We hope for her to succeed in her attempt to save the children of Darfur. In a way, the conscientization of Hollywood is a plus, with all the publicity that it gets when the likes of Jolie and Clooney get out from their comfortable homes to venture into the troubled lands. Then, we get to see the lonely faces of all those children on our TV screens and examine our sometimes too apathetic lives. I shudder at the absolute unhappiness of those children and hate the world's helplessness.

    as i see it (2)

    200 lashes by being with someone who is not related to you and then raped many times? I am sure my father, who is himself a judge in Shari'ah will say "@!#@!#@!#; he never did have high regard for those from the Middle East. During his pilgrimages, he had fistfights with them. History repeated itself when my husband karate chopped one during "the stoning" because of that man's rudeness to us, fellow pilgrims. My brothers (descended from warriors) have the same "haj" stories - being in fights with them. Spare the snake in the desert if you have to choose between two antagonists, they would say. Remember the trauma of Sara Balabagan who fought her would be rapist? How can we of the same Faith differ vastly? I hate to overgeneralize and reinforce stereotypes, but I ask, how many of "them" would cry out for justice for this poor girl who may just wish to die from those lashes?

    22 November 2007

    England vs Croatia

    This morning at dawn, I woke up to my husband lamenting on the current state of English football. England was losing to Croatia at Wembley and was on its way to elimination from Euro 2008. "Where is Mickey Rooney?", I asked sympathetically. "Wayne Rooney", my husband corrected. Upsss, I slipped - showed my lack of passion for the game and my bias towards Hollywood. P.S. Mickey Rooney starred in movies like National Velvet, Black Stallion, Night at the Museum, etc.

    13 November 2007

    unfortunate bunnies

    The second pair of rabbits we had lived for over six years. They were named Maxi and Daisy. They never had babies. This year, Maxi passed away a few days after Daisy. So as not to upset Meeza too much over the death of the rabbits we surprised her with another gorgeous pair, who I called Whitey and Blackie. Meeza refrained from naming the rabbits this time, I guessed she did not want to be too attached to them. So, I named them according to their colours. Easy does it. Two months ago, Whitey gave birth to triplet bunnies who died just a few hours after. Apparently, Whitey bit them to death. Of course, Meeza was devastated so I asked her and Aunty Cathy and Uncle Dennis (ever dependable duo) to take Whitey to the Vet in Gadong (for psycho evaluation?). It did not surprise me that mother bunnies may actually like to eat their babies. My childhood saw gorier details of carnivorous pets eating their own. My, what a shocker for Meeza.

    Yesterday, Whitey gave birth to quadruplets and immediately Uncle Dennis took them away from her to avoid another catastrophe. Here they are away from their unmaternal mama, and, as of today, Aunty Cathy has been spoon feeding them with milk from (sadly) the tin. They are so ickyyy but I really wish for them to survive.


    11 November 2007

    alegre


    It is easier for me to tell of my emotions in Chavacano (a creole lingo that mingles Spanish with two or maybe three of the major Philippine dialects).

    As a child, I spoke several dialects, depending on who I talked to. We talked in Tausug, a Muslim and Bahasa Melayu sounding dialect, in deference to our father who spoke in one other language, English, and would not talk in any other dialects. To our Mom, who is multi-lingual, we spoke mostly in Chavacano, because it has more words that convey feelings and emotions. We turned to her, sought her, when we were con hambre (hungry); con dolor (in pain); triste (sad); alegre (happy). We carry on the practice in our adult lives. We speak the respectful Tausug to our father and older brother; Chavacano to our Mom. Well, their grandchildren is another story; Meeza can only speak English to them while her cousins would speak in Tagalog and Tausug. Talk about Babel in one household.

    Chavacano was the language of childhood fun, taunting and ruidoso. I remember these proverbs we learned in childhood in addition to those I wrote in a previous post:
    De negro si vivo
    De colorao si muerto
    (Black when alive, Red when dead)
    This was in reference to the Christian's practice of 'colouring' their dead.
    Cielo arriba, cielo abajo
    Agua entremedio
    (Sky above, sky below, water in the middle)
    This is a proverb indicating the coconut fruit.

    The high-browed critics of Chavacano would say that it is 'kastila-kastilahan' or lengua de parian, but it was one language that gave us our humanity, that made childhood a sweet memory, a language of the heart. By the way, the parian or padian (seller in a boat), is one proud symbol of the beloved Kampung-Ayer of the Bruneians.

    09 November 2007

    lleno y con sueno

    It has been five months since I started blogging, thanks to my friend, CK, for egging me on towards becoming a blogger despite my age. I have enjoyed reading other people's blogs too, especially those of the younger ones. The world has changed and I see a lot of candidness, a lot of courage, convictions and even humour in my favourite blogs.

    My readers differ too. If I put on a Spanish title to a post, I get readers from as far as Guatemala and Colombia. The stats gets me very curious and I am impressed at how diversified the readers are. I get a sense that my blog is schizophrenic (?). My only frustration is that there is no 'enye' (an n with a wave on top) on my keyboard. Maybe there is a way, but being techno unsavvy, I could not see it.

    It seems like Raya is not over yet - talk about the longest ever Hari Raya. People still are inviting us to their homes. The latest visit I had was to a South African home where the food was glorious. Thank you, Aishah for giving me the recipe of your unique salad dressing.

    The eating has left us lleno and con sueno. Perhaps because of all the sugar and carbs that we have induged in. I am sooo looking forward to a normal life of less gorging.

    06 November 2007

    in honour of one great man


    Nothing beats a Grand Reunion to demonstrate the vibrancy of family ties. Last Sunday, we were part of an important gathering of two hundred families belonging to the late Pengiran Haji Metassan Rajid bin Pengiran Abd Rahman Piut. From where I sat looking at the Power Point presentation of root and branches and from someone unbiased who became a part of the family by virtue of affinity, I not only see a family that has ties to royalty, going back to Sultan Saiful Rijal and up to Sultan Bolkiah but I also see a family that gives importance to loyalty and giving service to the country. This is a family that produced two ministers, a general in the armed forces, two police commissioners who also served as ambassadors, and a palace chamberlain. Many of us, including me, work in the government in many different capacities.

    The Grand Reunion gave us an opportunity to meet with family members who we rarely saw or would have recognised elsewhere. It also gave us a chance to honour a great man who, most of us, have not met. I can only surmise that he lived a full life, because from him descended some of the well-known cheterias of Brunei. This is one person who lived history and most probably gave a legacy of giving to the country.

    02 November 2007

    huevos


    Gone are the days when those rowdy children blurted, huevos! (eggs) to anyone who got a zero in his or her exams or lost in games they played. On anything that you lost or failed, you were called huevos! by the arrogant winner (like someone from the Three Stooges). I have not heard of it uttered anymore for decades because my household is such a sweet quiet paradise, no fighting, no fibbing, no rowdiness, no competitiveness. The girls were very well behaved when they were small children, very unlike me when I was growing up. I was climbing trees (my favourite tree was the only 'camias' tree in our backyard where I soaked in sorrow over my losses and ate the small sour camias as if they would expurgate my unhappiness); flying my own kites the colour and design of which I chose meticulously and, of course, playing the 'patintero' or 'balatin' in the late afternoons (to regain lost grounds and composures too).

    Many of us, undergo an egg phase. Mine was the psychological distress of losing and being called huevos! Another egg phase of mine was in college, where I mostly got zeros in my Stats tests. Meeza's egg phase (I hope just temporary) is cooking her own egg dish three times a day, sometimes secretly, because she knows how I feel about eggs (the unhealthy cholesterol yolk aspect). It consoles me a bit that she forgets to salt her eggs, though.


    I don't have the habit of buying eggs but somehow they get to my kitchen mysteriously. The omnipresent egg actually is necessary for all those desserts that we eat. Generally, though, I would not want the egg to become a staple in my pantry. And, if I do need them, they undergo a scrutiny from me. I learned from my mom that to determine the freshness of an egg, take a simple test. Place the egg in a bowl of water, if it goes to the bottom, then it is fresh; the one that floats is a rotten egg. I also learned by looking, that to remove the shell of a hard-boiled egg, tap it gently all over to loosen the shell, then roll between your hands. Peel off shell and rinse with cold clean water.


    Well, loser or not, be egg-happy because it is one of the most nutritious food we have on this planet. Just have it once a week, though, or better eat the whites only.






    01 November 2007

    multiplicity


    There are some things and events on my side of the family that my husband clearly remembers. Just the other day, he recalled the TV interview of my dad at that time when he was acknowledged as one of those who helped in the administration of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (a consequence of the 'Moro problem' as with other autonomy matters). My father was trained in civil law but was called along with other Muslim judges to this momentous event that would put the Shari'ah into perspective.

    The interview dealt on the Shari'ah, the codification of the Muslim Personal Laws which is unique only to India and the Philippines, and other pertinent matters. By the end of the discussion, on a personal note, the interviewer asked if my dad would take four wives. My father in reply said, "No, I would not want to have four mothers-in-law".

    Of course, it was meant as a humorous riposte.

    30 October 2007

    i love my husband

    So syrrupy and so corny! I know, but I can't help writing about my husband. It is just very convenient. This is a happy time for him because all the kids (not little anymore, really) are here together once more. The oldest one is back for a short vacation from her posting in Europe. My husband, their father is in a blissful state. The children are all grown up now (Meeza is almost in her teen years, the older ones in their early twenties), and all we do nowadays is sigh, sigh, sigh, at how lucky we are to have them. All of them are beautiful, very sweet and loving in their own identifiable ways, very ambitious, very zestful in life.

    What can I say about this man in our lives? The first thing that comes to my mind is how so comfortable we are with him. This is what basically describes him - easygoing. He is funny, very indulgent, open, unselfish, and would do anything for any of us. My mom-in-law, yieldingly, said to me once, there is no mountain high enough, no ocean deep enough (or to that effect) that my husband will not navigate - for our sakes - the four women in his life. Those words resonated in my ears a thousand times. And I am thankful and feel blessed for that.

    26 October 2007

    splendido


    My husband has fallen in love with Taal, the cold mountain with a lake and an active volcano in the middle. This is where Splendido, the golf and country club is cocooned. He just had discovered Splendido, but I already feasted on the beauty of Taal long before I even met him. I am glad my husband found Splendido and Taal.

    My parents always brought us here when we were children. The long trip, for us, started along the coast of Manila Bay and wove into the smaller roads festooned with fruit stalls. Along these roads we experienced the sight of freshly cut beef from Batangas cattle that hanged on rods and also smelled the brewing of the coffee called "Barako". A barako literally means a thug or a bully. This is the coffee that raises your adrenaline, I know.

    In the vicinity of the famous lake, there are quaint, European-like houses owned presumably by well-to-do families. My husband is reminded, he says, of countryside England because of these houses and the cold climate.

    As a child, I looked for my favourite fruit when we stopped over at the stalls. It is called 'tiessa' and it looks like a ripe papaya on the outside. The taste is like a chiku gone chalky, my brothers would say. But, it did not discourage me and I suspect I had more Vitamin A because of the 'tiessa'. All of us liked the 'atis' (sugar fruit) because of its unbelievable sweetness and we spit out the seeds to hit on each other. I found the pictures of these fruits (Marketman's) and I am brought back to the magic of Taal.

    waterloo, bournemouth


    A conversation like this comes up now and then.

    MEEZA: Where is 'waterloo'?

    ME (remembering the battle movie): It was where Napoleon Bonaparte lost. It was his last battle. Rod Steiger was Napoleon in the movie...

    HUBBY(with 'stop it mom look' at me) : Waterloo is the railway station where Daddy used to take trains from London to Bournemouth where Daddy went to school.

    MEEZA (lighting up, more interested in Dad's history than Napoleon's): Can we go to Bournemouth soon?

    21 October 2007

    as i see it

    The first time that I went to Saudi Arabia, I was struck with many things, one of which is the stark difference betwen the Saudi women and the Asian Muslim women. The Saudis called us Asian looking women, "Siti" for reasons I do not know. It must be a convenient form of salutation.

    In Asia, we drive, do our shopping without our husbands tagging along, and more important, I think, work outside our homes. In the Philippines, where I was born, the Muslim women generally participate in political exercises, like voting, referendums, campaigns, running for offices, etc. I will not go to the extent of how the Saudi women might be wanting of liberties that we have in our lives. For all I know, they maybe a happy lot even without these "freedoms".

    One other difference is how we cover ourselves. I have to admit, I was quite disturbed with seeing the swarms of women in black, faces unseen and unfathomable. While I saw some Asians (they are Asians, because of their heights and their sounds too) wearing the niqab or burka fully concealing themselves too, most of us wore our tudungs or hijabs which is less restrictive, but some would think as less pleasing to Allah.

    A lot of us would do away with the hijab, too. My cousin, Shalimar, is very exasperated with her mom who does not bother covering up. This is another unique story and brings both of us to marvel about the eccentricities of people in our lives.

    In airports, the hijabs we wear become problematic, when people stare and look at us like we were going to blow up some aeroplanes. More security checks and questions for us too because of our names. Hello!! Do I look like a suicide bomber tagging along my beautiful precious child to finish our lives just like that?

    Hijabs, niqabs, burkas - we have our choices, let no one dictate us. We were always taught that our modesty is the responsibility of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, but let it be our own accountability too. We must be able to use our minds, do interpretative thinking, be real Muslims, fair and just and not imposing and intolerant. And if we choose to cover up (or not), then let us do it with dignity and without fear.

    16 October 2007

    secrets of happiness

    What makes you happy? I don't mean the euphoric-manic, fleeting, on and off feeling but the kind that's peaceful, serene and permanent even in the midst of troubles and misfortunes. I learned late in life the inverse proportion between happiness and my needs (including the need to be happy)...the less my needs are, the more that I can be happy. And learned that you can't look for happiness. It just sits still for you to embrace it.

    Happiness comes from contentment, in giving (generous people are always a happy bunch) and acceptance of things that you cannot change. Optimistic people are happy people. They see a half-full cup rather than a half-empty cup. Happiness depends on how you resolve sticky situations in your life. It also is reliant on how well you can study people and their motives and intentions and choose your friends from among them.

    Being able to forgive and forget is a secret to life-long happiness. "He who lives happiest has forgotten most" says Robert Anton Wilson. I agree. Being unforgiving, combative, hateful, envious, proud, greedy give way to disenchantment and discontent. It will only leave a gaping hole in one's heart and a disposition that's unsmiling, haughty and disrespectful.

    Be less needy, generous, optimistic, forgive and forget, choose your friends - these are secrets to being happy.

    15 October 2007

    hari raya cookie


    The kueh mor is the ultimate cookie for me. The most jaded eaters here would say that it is on equal footing with the best brioches and turrones of the world. This little cookie is even more "godly" than the one that bears the name "the food for the gods" which is really just a crumbly fudgy square of a biscuit. The "suman" even deserves this accolade more, really.

    The kueh mor is indescribable, only metaphors can figure its essence. It has the taste of the oozing madness of a white chocolate; the melt in the mouth rapture followed by gorgeous happiness as you swallow the flowing sweetness.

    This cookie has the stamp of a rich and old tradition. It is a favourite among visitors during Hari Raya. It is prepared in volumes for this occasion and is served in opened houses.

    The kueh mor is basically made from flour, sugar and butter or ghee. The unique ones have added nuts in them. It is made into a small ball and then baked, coated with icing sugar and in most houses placed gingerly in beautiful crystal jars.

    This cookie or kueh (cake) literally leaves you speechless. Don't attempt to talk with a kueh mor in your mouth or the consequences can be fatal!

    11 October 2007

    legalese

    Every now and then I get this kind of mail in my inbox and I'd like to save this one here - for posterity.

    "This is from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
    WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
    WITNESS: Yes.
    ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
    WITNESS: I forget.
    ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
    WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
    ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
    WITNESS: My name is Susan!
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
    WITNESS: We both do.
    ATTORNEY: Voodoo?
    WITNESS: We do.
    ATTORNEY: You do?
    WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
    WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
    WITNESS: Uh, he's twenty-one.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
    WITNESS: Are you ####### me?

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
    WITNESS: Yes.
    ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
    WITNESS: None
    ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
    WITNESS: Are you ####### me? Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
    WITNESS: By death.
    ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
    WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
    WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
    ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
    WITNESS: Guess.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
    WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
    WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
    WITNESS: Oral
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
    WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
    ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
    WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
    WITNESS: Huh....are you qualified to ask that question?
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    And the best for last:
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
    WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
    ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
    WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law."

    09 October 2007

    maestro, maestra



    Near the door of the room where I hold my classes there is a poster (not my making - it was a product of a reading project launched in school) which reads "If you can read this, then thank your teacher". It does not seek for approval or attention for the reading teachers nor an aggrandizement of some sort. It was just posted alongside other quotable quotes for the sake of the reading project. Nonetheless, it became a reminder for me, a teacher who was taught.

    I am lucky to have had good teachers while in school. The ones that had influenced my thinking and my personality were the ones who made me laugh because of their great sense of humour, their booming voices and flair for drama.

    I remember Mrs Lu, maths teacher in secondary school, who reduced us to tears and laughter with her surprise quizzes but brought us out from our phlegmatic number-hating selves. We knew we had one of her surprises when she came in and commanded us in her very loud voice - "SPREAD OUT", meaning space out your seats. Then, there would be the deafening dragging and pushing of chairs for a few seconds. It was to be that way for three more years with her.

    At the same school, in senior year, we had Mrs Paulate, the bespectaled schoolmarm who was soft spoken but very vocal and intent on perfecting everyone's writing skills. She was from the old school, disciplinarian and very autocratic. In post writing conferences, she would delve on the exact reason why we wrote a particular thought or idea, unmasking us all, and almost always there would be a funny confession or a struggle for language then a quick funny rejoinder from her. In parting, she would deliver a poem and my favourite was "BLOW, BLOW, THY WINTER WIND" every word of which she enunciated and emoted perfectly.

    The most eccentric teacher I had in university was the late Dr Cesar Adib Majul, who taught me and classmates, the Muqaddimah. He would now and then interspersed his lessons with surah recitations. Then in a booming voice and with an intent of startling us from our wandering thoughts or in an appreciation of a good discussion, would say "KUN FAYAQUN" to illustrate the beauty and majesty of Creation and of course celebrate the genius of Ibn Khaldun.

    So, when you find yourself wondering how you started reading or writing or enjoying learning, then you have got to thank your teachers - really - seriously.

    06 October 2007

    many lives (3)


    It is a pleasure to live in Brunei, a true dar-ul-salam. The people and the settings are uncomplicated, peaceful in contentment, rich in culture and safe and nurturing especially for children growing up. As a result, Meeza has a different childhood from mine; hers is one that is quiet, serene and pious brought about by her secure and loving environment. Her years in Ugama school gave her a composure I can't ever have. It was I, her mom, who reached out and clung to her, the child, for comfort in one moment of fear when we hit turbulence on air. She recited her surahs calmly and steadily, while all I thought about was my impending doom.

    In my childhood, the first realization of who I am, was when Zainab, my patrician grandmother, washed for wudhu and donned her pristine 'talukung' to do her solat. Immediately, after her dua at the end of praying, we, the smaller ones, rushed to kiss her hands and her cheeks. In the afternoons, she would sit down on the wooden floor, a thin stick on her hand pointing out to her children the tajwids in the Qur'an.

    She and my grandfather and their younger children whose ages were not far from us, lived in a huge, wooden and water-logged house which was connected by bamboo bridges to the smaller houses behind. On those flimsy pathways, we flew our kites and watched for green snakes slither on the water underneath. When it was our time to read the Qur'an, we sped to the smaller houses to escape. Expectedly, because we were the Hollywood-fed, part-time 'hacienda' children (referring to Rosalinda's land-owning roots) who preferred to play and be restless and rowdy as their horse-riding ancestors. Omar, the secular one, seemed not to mind that we were not at par with our cousins in Qur'an reading.

    Then, the time came when we felt that something was on the air, when the young uncles and aunties went for their studies, became doctors and alims and chose to stay in exile in far away lands like Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia. I remember having seen the pyramids in postcards and opening parcels containing tasbihs and hijabs for the adults and gold-plated pens for us children. We did not see them for a very long time; only the ones who went for haj or umrah did meet them. Soon, the seventies came and everything changed. It was a turbulent decade for Muslims in the Philippines. The eighties was the time for peace-making and happily for us, the now weary uncles and aunties came home and embraced their secular elders. The future now looked hopeful.

    04 October 2007

    many lives (2) - adat based


    Aside from our secular and non-secular lives, we also had a life that was something not really talked about but simmered and surfaced now and then. We call it our 'adat', age-old customs and traditions that have mingled into our identities: Muslim, Asian, People of the Current, People of the Lake, et al. We referred to 'adat' in times of marriages, births, deaths, wars, and when misfortunes occured in families - close and extended.

    'Adat' was called on upon when a girl in our extended family eloped and when an uncle was killed in a dispute with another clan. There was always a quiet busyness, almost eerie and sinister, when people came streaming in and out of our grandparent's house. We knew that the elderly men talked about remedies and planned retributions for honor lost. And, of course, there were peace-making gestures spoken in a language that was subtle, respectful and hopeful because it opened an opportunity or a window for face-saving and diplomacy. My father being one of the elders and who was steeped in the 'Rule of Law' usually had his way. Years later in his career, he became one of only three Muslim justices in the second highest civil court of the land and had a role in developing the Muslim family code and jurisprudence.

    Faith, Adat and Hollywood. I really don't know how they worked together. But they did. In the meantime, from where I am, I hear about a continuing revivalism of the Faith sans the 'adat' and whether that's good or bad news, is really another matter for debate.


    02 October 2007

    many lives (1)




    Omar et Rosalinda lived semi-secular lives and loved Hollywood. Understandably so, because they grew up when America was firmly grounded in post-war Philippines. They brought us kids (in our pyjamas) for late night shows in a cinema (we called it the 'theater') a few blocks away from where we lived. Our favourite was Yul Brynner and we were mesmerized with movies such as Taras Bulba, The King and I and the Battle of Neretva. We also watched Sean Connery in many James Bond movies and Omar Sharif in Dr Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. We slept through movies such as The Lion in Winter and Mary Queen of Scots because of the heavy British accents and the never-ending dialogues. I would love to see these two movies again since I am now so accustomed to this mode of speaking in the almost two decades of living in Brunei.

    I remember that the cinema had soft red leatherette chairs as we sat in the 'Lodge' section. We had those seats courtesy of a prosperous uncle who owned the cinema. The chairs were big enough that we curled up in sleep when we were burdened with too many dialogues. However, we watched the war movies with eyes wide awake. The late night double shows started at nine and finished at twelve midnight. Double shows - meaning, there were two films back to back. So, it could be Guns of Navarone 'doubled with' Mutiny on the Bounty at the price of one.

    Post movies, we, the children re-enacted the scenes in rowdy mock battles - brothers and sisters with our imaginary weapons battling each other and falling down on the ground, wounded but unbowed. That explains why the girls never had dolls for toys - otherwise, we would have made warriors of them or perhaps doll-played the downfall of Mary Queen of Scots?

    27 September 2007

    searching for genghis khan


    Stories in my childhood have it that we descended from Genghis Khan kind of warriors from Mongolia. If it were true, then that would explain my dad's handsome features which got handed down to my brothers down to my nephews. That would also account for the sometimes quirky warrior-like qualities of the men in my family. According to tales that were fed us, my great grandfather was a horse-riding ponytailed hunk of a man. Picture a horsewhip carrying Shang (Mulan's beau) riding across the Gobi. That was the closest image I can have of my great grandfather. He was also a Muslim who perhaps came to Sulu to proselytize and eventually married my Mulan of a great grandmother.

    My family on my dad's side is so interesting that an aunt in the States actually wrote two books about our genealogy. Unfortunately, the books did not tell about the hunk-greatgrandpapa, because they dwelt on the ancestors on the side of my paternal grandmother who were really sort of law-abiding citizens and not the Kazakhs battle hardened warriors which lit our imaginations. Rosalinda would always quip, when we, her children, were in this fantasizing state, "It runs in the blood". What dya say, Zaza, fancy writing a book about your great-great grandpapa?

    24 September 2007

    sungkai minds

    Me: $!@#$!! I forgot to put out the dates again.

    Meeza: Mummy, it's Bulan Ramadhan. Don't say bad words.

    Hubby (a picture of cool): Let's not miss Tarawih tonight.

    to youssif with love

    Youssif the kid who got caught in the cruelty of war just had his first of several surgeries for face reconstruction. The heartrending story of this boy kept us glued to CNN for developments. We cried when on his way to surgery, he buried his face on his mother's chest. And, we ask, how many more little kids are facing the horrors of the inhumanity of conflict. How many more will be scarred physically and emotionally?

    role models

    The women of Islam need not westernise to expand their rights and roles within their societies. With this thought in mind I ventured into searching for those women in Islamic history and literature and found some of them. They were strong, some of them mystical, others exemplary. In my list, the following are on top:

    Khadija was strong, with "character and conviction". She faced difficulties when she married our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but kept to her faith.

    Aishah was young yet a fine leader of Islam. She was outspoken and defended the weak, very pious and generous.

    Rabia rejected all wordly pleasures. She was austere, simple and gave us glimpses of Allah in her writings.

    Each of them deserve to be our role models. And they need to be studied, their lives read and their values imitated.

    22 September 2007

    the funny road to dissent

    While in university in the Philippines, I was, as always, the marginal one. I had another tag to my identity. I was an 'elitist' person (meaning belonging to a family with feudal and oligarchic history). So, in a defensive mood, I had to prove that I was not 'elitist' nor 'oligarchic' in deeds and character. One of the tests was to dissent against the established opinions, even to the fashion of the day - must wear those tattered jeans and sneakers to fit in.

    The university I went to was the beacon of liberalism, hotbed of activism, but has a history of producing the country's leaders (who, by the way, belonged to the elite).

    On one Labor Day, we, the Muslim Youths, a group linked by cultural-religious dimensions, joined ranks with the labourers, human rights groups, animal lovers, the Reds, the Greens, and the Yellows (no Blues - they were the establishment). We were to march from Campus to Malacanang. With new found convictions, I trodded on unfamiliar waters and burned my bridges. I also recruited my kid brother, who was happily feudal, into the ranks. He did join in, albeit unwillingly, to protect me if something untoward happens. And so, I, the car-riding elitist was now walking tens of kilometers along with my comrades and my hesitating brother yelling slogans (seems to me now like expletives), waving banners and placards. I could see my brother's eyes lurking here and there looking out for jeering friends. We arrived at the destination and quickly were asked to lie down on the dirty streets and pavements to barricade the police planks wanting to cross over to us. At my angry prodding, my brother dismayed and red-faced, lay down too. Then, came the water rockets drowning us, testing our limits, extricating us from our positions. With water in our ears, eyes and noses, my brother and I ran for the life of us because we knew that the next probability was us being herded to the police trucks and our worst nightmare, facing the angry tirades of Omar, our dad.

    That was the end of my living dangerously.

    20 September 2007

    innocence lost

    Apparently, the buzz about the nude picture of Vanessa Hudgens has not died down. I guess as long as the Disney Channel continues to show High School Musical II intermittently, then the story is not ebbing out yet. Talk of innocence lost, Primary 6 children (perhaps, younger) are having a day talking about the picture. Remember us and the era minus the computers, all we thought of was who to play "patintero" with once we stepped out of the school premises. What a GREAT DIVIDE! Now, with info on the fast lane, our children are more informed, more sophisticated, perhaps more hardened than generations past...But, at what price? Tell me.

    poetess of the faith


    Reality
    In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
    Speech is born out of longing,
    True description from the real taste.
    The one who tastes, knows;
    the one who explains, lies.
    How can you describe the true form of Something
    In whose presence you are blotted out?
    And in whose being you still exist?
    And who lives as a sign for your journey?

    - Rabia


    Among all the known poems of Rabia Al-Basri, this one is thought-soul provoking. It is beautiful as it is mystical, simple and powerful. Rabia lived in the 8th century and was known to have said that the veil was a "hindrance to the vision of Allah". She was a mystic, a Sufi. The Sufis at several times in history suffered from persecution. When asked where she came and where she was going, Rabia said, "From the other World... to the other World". She was said to "pray all night, sleep briefly before dawn and on the rise again just as dawn tinged the sky with gold."

    19 September 2007

    the golden rule

    There were some reprimands from parents and teachers that we never listened to because they did not really relate to us when we were young kids. Then, there were admonitions that we were given again and again- for example - from a schoolteacher who barked "Keep Quiet" mindlessly, when what you were doing was simply ask your classmate for your ruler. We never listened, right? Moreover, what young child would pay attention to "Do unto others what you want others to do unto you" or the negative form, "Do not do unto others...." It is the GOLDEN RULE, Rosalinda would say in response to a misdemeanor done.

    Then, in an unexpected twist of fate you suddenly become a teacher and it all comes crystal clear - the need to teach children ETHICS - when rowdiness becomes the rule of the day. You do need to tell about the GOLDEN RULE. And never mind that they do not listen now or they think of you as obsolete, because sooner or later your wards will remember its significance as they go on to discover LIFE.

    15 September 2007

    quo vadis, disney?

    The latest Vanessa Hudgens fiasco has left many children (mine included) in crisis and many mothers grappling (perhaps, inventing) for answers. This one amidst all the dizzying, very public spectacles of La Heredera - Paris, Lindsay 'Knife' Lohan, Britney Spears,et al. We won't be judgmental, though. Imagine all the terrible pressures thay must be having! I suspect Vanessa's faults were borne out of naivete.

    The silver lining? The unfallen ones (pray they won't slide)- there's cute and toothy 'Hannah Montana'; Emma Roberts (niece of Tinker Bell - Julia); 'Zack and Cody' - are still here. Emma Roberts has said, "If you're a role model and kids look up to you, it's just not good to do that stuff (explaining why she won't appear half-naked on magazines). Kudos!

    11 September 2007

    those of us who live to see this month

    Very soon, we will not only be fasting for thirty days but we will be striving to be more thoughtful, charitable and faithful. The spiritual significance of Ramadhan is a blessing. Never ever think of it as a burden. This is what we have been taught since childhood. And this is what we always teach our children.

    "Those of you who live to see this month should fast...". This particular injunction reminds me always about living a full life - we will never know what comes ahead of us and we must be thankful for all the blessings we have been given.

    It is during this time, when we should remember those who have been displaced in wars and the difficulties they face. Fasting will be trying for them and we must always pray for them to strengthen their taqwah.

    Ramadhan Al-Mubarak to all Muslims.

    09 September 2007

    from where i'm standing - meet me halfway

    The school holidays began and I have lotsa time to write, relax, eavesdrop, gossip and surf and ..... found the lyrics to my favourite song, Bridges. Surely, I will have to answer to Meeza's queries - "What song is this? When? Who?" FYI, Flora Purim sang this song and is contained in one of Sergio Mendes' albums. SM's genre is bossa nova. This song was played frequently on the airwaves in the 80's.

    Bridges
    Sergio Mendes, Kevyn Lettau

    I have crossed a thousand bridges
    In my search for something real
    There were great suspension bridges
    Made of spiderwebs of steel
    There were tiny wooden trestles
    And there were bridges made of stone
    I have always been a stranger
    And I've always been alone

    There's a bridge to tomorrow
    There's a bridge from the past
    There's a bridge made of sorrow
    That I pray would not last
    There's a bridge made of colors
    In the sky high above
    And I'm certain there must be
    Bridges made out of love

    I can see him in a distance
    On the rivers of the shore
    And his hands reach out in longing
    As my own have done before
    And I call across to tell him
    Where I believe the bridge must lie
    And I'll find it, yes I'll find it
    If I search until I die

    When the bridge is between us
    We'll have nothing to fear
    We will run through the sunlight
    And you'll meet me halfway
    There's a bridge made of colors
    In the sky high above
    And I'm certain there must be
    Bridges made out of love

    La, la, la...

    Something you should know about
    As Told By Ginger Theme
    Tune LyricsTitle: Macy Gray

    Someone once told me the grass is much greener
    On the other side
    And I paid a visit well, it's possible
    I missed it
    It seemed different, yet exactly the same (yeah, yeah, yeah)

    Til further notice (til further notice)
    I'm in-between (I'm in between)
    From where I'm standing (from where I'm standing)
    My grass is green
    Someone once told me the grass is much greener
    On the other side






    silver linings

    Definitions of silver lining:
    • a consoling aspect of a difficult situation
    • a hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty

    Picture me as a young woman in her twenties unperturbed by a major career move in credit information. In five years I moved from editor to analyst. I ventured to work in a world of office politics, of difficult bosses and of personal ambivalence ..... was the marginal little fish in an ocean where the liberal inhabitants were unshackled from cultural sensitivities. And, I was the one burdened with labels. First of all, I was Muslim, and second, I was a Woman. I was in a sense tied up with my identity. I also had an authoritarian father whose interest was to further the family's political ambitions - daughters and sons must match his achievements. Can you believe the feudality of it all? But here was the silver lining - in my restlessness and with the first, rudimentary, beginnings of a rebellion, I went out to see more of the world, just in time to rescue myself from the great plunge - depression - did what others will not dare - give up the job that did not bring me to my real self. I went back to school in the hope of understanding the religion I was born to and devoured Islamic literature, history, political thought and learned Arabic. Thanks, Rosalinda for being so generous and understanding. In the process, self-acceptance was in order. Things came to stack up nicely and the world made sense.

    And then life went on - gained some and lost some. But the silver linings were always there to the rescue.



    07 September 2007

    getting lost in yoga

    Finally, I went to yoga class. Today I brought along my old water bottle plus pre-conceived notions of yoga - of contorted bodies and vocal cords articulating the ommms. I also had anticipations of vertigo, of awkwardness and of pain.

    Our teacher was a lady with a body that speaks of perfection - belly-less, biceps and triceps toned in a feminine way and an unbelievable suppleness. The room smelt of a spa - the one that lulls you into nothingness and then lets you dream of cascading waterfalls.

    Yoga is serious stuff. I promised not to laugh.

    The beginning poses were quite comfortable and soothed my aching body which was for a long time cheesecake-fed.

    And then came the moment when I had to stand on one foot. I heard a grunt followed by a "snapping off from the socket" sound. Was I disconnecting some tissues in my body? Then, I performed several ballerina lunges and plunges involving thighs, legs, pointed feet and raised arms. Twenty minutes on and the body was yearning to quit but the mind persisted on. I could not leave, It was too embarrassing - there were a lot of bodies more aged than mine. They were balancing themselves beautifully.

    Another ten minutes and I lost myself to yoga and contemplated to say my ommms (though everyone else was quiet and butterfly-like). I had a sense of accomplishment. I felt heady and healthy and wise. At home, still wearing my euphoria, I played "Wind Beneath My Wings" on the piano perfectly.

    What a day!

    30 August 2007

    a tradition of Whiskas giving



    We are threesome shopping at a supermarket near our home. Somewhere after the detergents/softeners aisle, I can see my daughter taking a large bag of Whiskas and putting it in the trolley. The following conversation takes place:

    Me: Sweetheart, why are you taking cat food. We don't have cats. (Meeza is allergic to cats; other siblings are cat-phobics).

    Meeza (a little bit defensive): I would like to feed the neighbour's cats (in reality, stray felines). Cannot kah?

    Me (I'm having a memory of Rosalinda, my mom, handing a packet of rice to a needy person at the iron gate): Ah, okay.

    Hubby (delighted at daughter's compassion): Of course, you may feed the neighbour's cats.

    And so..... the tradition of Whiskas giving came into being.

    21 August 2007

    my daughter, my critic

    Last night's conversation:

    Meeza: Mummy, why do you have to blog?

    Me: Same reason as you do 'friendster' - expressing myself, reaching out.

    Meeza: Ooohhh (with narrowed eyes meaning 'I see').

    Me: Would you rather I do 'friendster'?

    Meeza: Oh no, please (eyes widened)!

    19 August 2007

    nasi lemak on sundays

    Sunday is when people oversleep and miss a lot. For one, the sounds on a Sunday morning - they are quite different from any other day. There is a peculiar mood too - perhaps because you don't have to rush out to work and you have the time to eat. You'd rather stay indoors and enjoy the stillness and 'mindchew' what you are gonna have for breakfast.

    The family's favourite is the ubiquitous nasi lemak. The nasi lemak is part of the Malay psyche as ingrained as the adobo of the Filipinos and the curries of the Indians. It has some variations too. It can come with a choice of chicken, beef or fish cooked in curry or soya sauce or simply fried (pre-marinated by turmeric, chillies and salt). It can be accompanied by the exuberant egg, peanuts and pieces of cool cucumbers. I like mine unadorned so you would see me take out the cucumbers and the half mooned egg.

    The omnipresent bilis or anchovy gives the nasi lemak its crowning glory. Whose pantry does not include this magnificent silvery fish with the big taste? A nasi lemak with just the anchovies and the sambal can proudly stand on its own. The fiery sambal and the nutty taste of the fragrant rice which is cooked with the "all food" coconut milk combined with the lovely pandan taste gives the nasi lemak its definitive place in the hall of fame of Malay cuisine.

    My aunt who is a compulsive chicken eater and who bases her writings on the "chicken and egg" cycle would love this paper (or leaf) -wrapped thing of a food accompanied by her favourite fried chicken. What inspiration might she have gotten!




    17 August 2007

    today's entries - justice and one more heroine

    Today, I opened up my husband's mail (opening mails is an unspoken act of habit between me and my husband in the absence of either one so we may not miss any important messages from the outside world). The letter was from somebody important who has been greedily manipulating events for vested interests. The letter was a tad desperate although very well written. And, so, being me - eccentric and unwordly, I am not going to call my husband about it and destroy his golf holiday. I would let my husband enjoy his pars and his birdies (hopefully!).

    So, Mr Norman Holton, cry out loud! The 'justice' we know, will never fail. The big fish sometimes can't eat the bony small fish.

    I wish to tell of an unbelievable act of miracle, I know only a mom can do for her child. Hjh Lunak is my new found masseuse, my new heroine. She uses the traditional 'urut', the one that breaks your body because of its ferocity and then mends you to become whole again.

    She said she learned traditional massage two decades ago when as a young mother, she coped with her daughter's Down Syndrome. She would give this daughter a whole body massage twice in a week after learning from the doctors that the toddler will never be able to walk like a normal child. With the resilience of mind and dexterity of fingers, she became the nurturer 'per se'; the light beacon; the hopeful one; and after eight years the ultimate healer-mother. I could shed tears over and over again with this story. It tells of hope and triumph; of mind over matter; of miracles of love; of the meaning of 'ibu'.

    08 August 2007

    a survey

    I like the look of bullets in a write-up. When I went back to school (for the nth time) two years ago, a few lecturers wanted our answers to exam questions in bullets – much like – enumerated items. I found an excuse to make some bullets in my blog, and I thought of one topic: No Substitutes (guaranteed limitless bullets) and one method: a survey. I asked friends and relatives about one thing in their lives that can’t be substituted. I had an image of a long list of answers in BULLETS.

    • mother’s milk (too overstated)
    • a child's hug
    • a security blankie
    • an old teddy bear named Koko
    • chocolate that melts and oozes in the mouth
    • seri muka
    • nasi lemak
    • an antique kebaya/antique watch/antique table/antique……
    • a photo of a dead pet
    • Marsha of Akademi Fantasia (???)
    • home-made pancakes
    • a best friend
    • a guy who picks up the tabs (no dutch treats eh)
    • a little girl’s French beret
    • Harry Potter book
    • beloved amah
    • cigarettes
    • fiancé/fiancée
    • wife/husband
    • laptop
    • coffeemate
    • honey stars
    • Lancome’s Blanc Expert (did I get that right?)
    • credit cards
    • dora the explorer (so cute)
    • a hole in one

    I got my wish – BULLETS.

    P.S. I conclude without hesitation that my adult friends and relatives are foodies and/or materialists and/or credit laden. The children are more sentimental and found attachments in valuable/non-negotiable/irreplaceable possessions.

    07 August 2007

    rhymes we learned in childhood

    Here is a rhyme we spouted when we were children:

    Bate, bate chocolate (pronounced tso-ko-la-te)
    Uncle Borja ta bate

    The above one was taught by pompous older cousins. Several years later, when we were adults, we learned that the particular rhyme was quite a salacious one. In our innocence, we recited them in front of adults during merienda cena, when hot chocolate made traditionally using a wooden mixer was served. What I vividly remember were the chuckles and the giggles that came from the older people who were present. Poor Uncle Borja (may he rest in peace)! I just could imagine his discomfiture as we chanted those lines through the whole merienda scene.

    This one was simply racist and very stupid. We chanted it when in an angry mood or when boisterousness possessed us:

    Bisaya, Bisaya
    Ta kaga na paya

    This was sort of a social reaction on our part; a retaliation for endless taunting (children can be unmatched in cruelty); and a salve for broken egos. Well, we hope that we are forgiven and have learned our lessons. It is very ironic that, as an adult, my best of friends are Bisayas. Moral of this story - listen to what your children are chanting; for all we know, they don't really have a grasp of the connotations of their chants nor the effects they can have.

    05 August 2007

    birthdays

    July was the birthday-est month for my family. The month started with my brother-in-law’s birthday, followed by two sisters-in-law, then my husband, my dear house help of twelve years (same day as the Sultan’s), a couple of nieces and then my brother. Birthdays always provided me with respite from work and other routines. The days become significant with plans for outings and of course, budgets for presents, cakes and other objects that give meaning to this milestone in life. Aside from giving fascination to the children in the family (immediate and extended), birthdays do provide us, adults, with thoughts of things beyond the mundane…thoughts of mortality perhaps, of aging parents and loved ones, of generous gestures to be reciprocated, of the missed, or those who are far from our hands’ reach.

    On a lighter note, birthdays are always the happiest days of our lives. My immediate family has enjoyed our birthday parties for their naturalness in gaiety and giving; the painstaking preparations for food, flowers, hair (the girls’), and most appreciated of all - my husband’s loving keenness to make us – wife and children – happy. We’ve said this before and will say it again for the many years to come, happy birthday!

    28 July 2007

    back to prose - the howler

    In memory of Aunty Jahiliya, ninety-ish, who passed away last Sunday. She was unschooled yet had the wit and wisdom of an alim. She was our Scheherazade, our very own story teller.

    "Que pasa?", the moral guardians of those times would ask each other as they sat for their merienda cena in the magnificent dining rooms of their lavish houses within the walled city. The gossip of the day and of the days that followed was about Alma, aka the howler, aka "La Gritona". Alma was of their own, the loved one gone astray; the tempted; the temptress; the unforgiven; the woman who laughed at life; the scarlet woman; the woman who ate a lot of chilli; the woman in love - much like Arundhati Roy's tragic character, Ammu. The guardians of the "caste" were the "Bella Floreses" of those days, the anti-heroines.

    We were the children who loved to play under the balites, huge trees that lined the walls of the "city". Those walls, very tall in our minds, divided the rich and the mighty from the "Gaza" of those times. "La Gritona" appeared under those trees. She was the one who howled, some would say, emitting cries of desperate longing. Others would say, they were sounds of "La Gritona" giving birth to "El Bastardo".

    She was the ghost, we did not judge. As children of the "Moros", we always said "Subhana Allah" before approaching those trees. Those 'magic' words and our imaginary kris wands emboldened us. The balites were our trees and the ghost was our friend. We were never scared - no wonder - the Bella Floreses called us "juramentados".

    26 July 2007

    clouds

    Writing sometimes is painful…gnawing and arthritic post recess. After being hit by a lull, I compose tidbits of words. They are my word clouds; my poems in pretense; they lift me up; they express my innermost feelings.


    the nights are cold
    the winds blow my facade
    and I am left defenseless
    i am back to my shell
    a place of solace

    the apple of my eye is sad
    at eleven her world is imperfect
    questions stirring the peace
    i don’t have answers
    i only have love

    cross my heart
    cross my fingers
    there is a bright side
    lo a silver lining we'll all
    smile and laugh again

    17 July 2007

    why is harry potter so attractive?

    What a week it was! There was the Sultan’s Birthday ceremonies; the outings; the missed gym days and of course the MOVIES. I felt that the movies (transformers, harry, bruce willis) came simultaneously. The nicer seats were constantly sold out and I had to make bookings hours earlier before screening time.

    When I was in my mid-teens, I read JRR Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. Decades later, the book made sense when I watched the trilogy in the cinemas. Thank you, Peter Jackson. Today, the rage is JK Rowling and her Harry Potter creations. I never read a Harry Potter book, because, it seemed like I learned my lesson, ‘just watch the movie’.

    Both Tolkien and Rowling used magic in their stories. That’s why their stories are so alluring to both kids and adults. Dumbledore, Voldemort, Hogwarts, Gryffindor…they all come rolling out from our babies’ tongues. Much like Babel’s. Déjà vu… Gondor, Gandolf, Frodo, Aragon, etc. Also, Merlin? David Copperfield?

    JK Rowling once said that the ‘only caveat about magic in the real world is that It Doesn’t Work’. That gives us parents much needed assurance that our children may not resort to or be attracted to taboos such as superstitions, voodoo, séances, etc.

    Meanwhile, sit down and relax. Be titillated by those broom flying wizards and witches. And don’t overanalyze. They are as harmless as Sabrina the Witch or the Fairy Godmother.

    10 July 2007

    aging with grace

    Have you been struck with thoughts of aging lately? Aging, in my opinion, is well...you can't stop the clock (in short).

    My aunt who is part-Chinese has turned seventy, yet she looks like she just had her fortieth birthday. I asked her what sort of magic she did? Was it a face-lift? (Partly, yes, the eye region). Exercise? (Yes, all sorts. I remember her favourite, the "LA Walk". Go right, step,step,step.). Love/sex? (Everything to do with it!!!).

    When the time to decide comes, it would be a no-no to surgery. Aside from religious qualms, its the blood and the gore that goes with it that is so unacceptable. I've seen a few of "Plastic Surgery" on TV. I always did turn my head away. Was that a garden hose suctioning liquid fat? The nurse did not bat an eyelid!!! Ughhh!!!

    I know, there are several alternatives, to name a few: botox (heard there is a 'fatwa' against it), retin-A, lasers, lip plumpers, etc.

    But don't forget---the natural ways: exercise, eating the right food, emotional balance, brain boosters, etc.

    And here are some tips from beautiful women I know who are aging gracefully:

    When you sleep, do it with your head elevated by several pillows, this way, you keep fluid from pooling around your eyes while you sleep.

    Use sunscreen (quite bothersome, really).

    Exfoliate, exfoliate! to remove dry flaky skin and then load yourself with moisturizers.

    Appy a good foundation. It should match your skin colour. Too light a foundation helps to show the crows.

    To avoid a "pulling down" effect, brush eyebrows towards the hairline and fill in with an eyebrow pencil or powder the colour of which should be a shade lighter than your hair.

    Don't forget to SMILE!!! It's a natural face-lifter.

    08 July 2007

    anti-thesis

    The "iron butterfly" is back in the news. She thinks she will be acquitted of all thieving charges against her and family. Everytime she appears on the news, she is in her usual bravado style but sadly, really out of touch. Her generation was one of "hypocrisy" brought about by a bipolar society; of women of low self-esteem relentlessly climbing the social ladders. She will be part of history.. labelled forever for her notoriety. I remember gawking at the enormous shoe display and me and friends, the wannabe women activists telling ourselves, "these could have fed a lot more mouths".

    My daughter will be less socially conscious...the reason is that she has not seen poverty and its consequences around her. (She lives in Brunei, lah!). If she gets to read this, then, I could have shared a lesson or two. I hope she will come to know and experience those values that give lives meaning and direction...honesty, justice, hope and best of all, charity. I love you sweetheart!!

    07 July 2007

    heroine


    Aunty Munah ---- she who babysat nephews and nieces including my hubby

    22 June 2007

    searching for role models - a woman of the village

    My friend, who was my classmate in the grade school and who is now an accomplished writer wrote this piece: "...on one unusually calm dawn (a woman of the village), had gone out to the open bamboo platform of her stilt house to wash herself for the dawn prayer. She looked out to the sea and saw a giant tidal wave, like a glistening snake rolling across the horizon, approach the seaside village. Murmuring some prayers, she bent over to pick up a brittle stick, held it up at both ends, and broke the stick into halves. Before the giant seawall could reach the village, it parted and collapsed under the weight of dawn".

    The story is one of magic and mystery but gives a powerful image of Faith in Allah. Will my daughter be mesmerized with this woman of the village as I was?

    21 June 2007

    searching for role models - Scheherazade

    Perhaps, not many of us have heard of Scheherazade who was the daughter of the Grand Vizier (Chief Minister) to Sultan Shahriyar, who for three years had taken a bride each day only to be killed the next day. The killings were done out of revenge to his Queen who had betrayed him. One day, Scheherazade told her father that she wanted to marry the Sultan. Her father was horrified but eventually yielded. With the connivance of her sister, Dinazad, she survived each day by telling the Sultan tales up to their most interesting point but would suspend the finale for the next day. These tales were eventually called the 'Arabian Nights'. Scheherazade's stories were told in a span of 'one thousand and one nights'. Finally, the Sultan convinced of her greatness spared her the gallows. It has been said that by telling her stories, Scheherazade saved herself, her people and also the Sultan from becoming a monster.

    Scheherazade might prove to be a controversial role model, but she imparts a powerful image difficult to ignore.

    20 June 2007

    spiritual golf

    Today, after eleven years (my daughter's age) I played golf with my husband. I have forgotten how I enjoyed playing this game. To completely recapture this almost forgotten bliss, I searched my diaries and found this entry which I wrote on 18th August 1994: "Friday mornings are for spiritual golf, and more mystical is that Friday mornings are spent with my husband. A smile from him is all what I need for the days ahead."

    05 June 2007

    searching for role models

    Excerpts from my diaries (Dec. 2000)
    My four year old daughter is easily entranced by those Disney heroines. At this age, she gullibly takes it all - the antics, the magic and the charmed lives of Mulan, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Belle and Ariel. These characters are her role models at the moment. There's absolutely nothing wrong with them if one views them as they are, except that I worry a bit about the cultural and racial impact they have on a very young mind. Besides, Disney has been accused of distorting history as in the cases of Mulan and Pocahontas. It would have been ideal if my dear daughter had an inspiration from women in our own culture.

    01 June 2007

    from the babe's mouth

    My daughter at the age of six when asked to switch off the lamp light:
    "Mummy, do I look like Cinderella to you". "You're giving me tasks".

    30 May 2007

    childhood adobes

    My memories of Jolo are clear. It is where (aside from Basilan, my mom's place of origin), I had most of my growing up years. I remember long stretches of white sand along the coasts; of smells of the sea; of breezes that tasted of salt. It was a beautiful coastal haven where the masjids and the churches thrived and co-existed.

    Basilan in better times was a bit more tame, quieter, more Hispanic than Moro (depended on which part you lived). The calesas were the mode of transport (still is). The calesas were horse drawn and I remember the excitement whenever we had to go to the poblacion to shop for buttermilk, eggs and molasses (these items were for making leche flans). I remember how young and vibrant my parents were; how green the surroundings were; how lazy the afternoons were as people went for their siestas.

    Those were the days when the juramentado bolted from nowhere. (The significance of this entity is clearly seen now. The juramentado was the microcosm of what followed next - the bigger danger, the full blown conflict).

    Since then, a few of us have found adobes that have satiated our desires for peaceful existence (our dar-ul-salam). Our lives have changed but both Jolo and Basilan remain etched in our minds.

    28 May 2007

    machiavelli is obsolete

    What could be more exasperating than reading about the election feedbacks in Mindanao and Sulu? Nothing has changed. But there are 'shining moments'. People have been witnessing, seeing with their own eyes, the irregularities committed and reporting them to the world. KUDOS!!! Wake up, all you CYNICS.

    insecure about the dragonettes

    "Little Dragon Ladies" caught my eye while scanning my local newspaper. These are "domestic helpers from China" who may seduce local Malaysian men according to the women's wing of one of Malaysia's ruling parties.