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


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


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


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