September 29, 2006


Business Mirror, Sept. 29

WE really couldn’t figure out Sherry.

She had been living in with Chase for quite a number of years already (I forget how many exactly as it seems like ages) and yet we didn’t know if they were actually happy together or not.

It seemed that every time we—meaning our group of friends—went out with Sherry and Chase, they were always trading insults or slights. Being with them was almost always a guarantee of a really bad night out for us, but what could we do? Sherry was our friend and for her to have a good time or enjoy a night on the town with us, we had to bring Chase along.

Almost always the night would end with Chase getting stupid drunk, tripping and falling on his face in some restaurant or bar, and one of the other men in the group having to drag him to wherever their car was parked. The rest of us would then dissect the entire evening, what led to what, and conclude that Sherry had to leave Chase. The problem was getting her to actually do it.

Sherry once said that Chase told her he didn’t want her but couldn’t leave her. I suspect that the same is true for Sherry. Psychologists now have a term for this kind of relationship. It’s called “codependency.”

People in codependent relationships usually learn their maladaptive or compulsive behaviors in childhood. In trying to survive stressful family situations, these children learn unusual coping behaviors to relate with equally dysfunctional family members.

When they get older, they become involved in self-destructive relationships with unreliable or needy partners.

Codependency is how most of their critics have described Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s relationship. Only after 14 years, after so many women had passed through Bobby’s arms, and after the diva’s numerous publicized addictions and trips to rehab, did Whitney decide that enough was enough. The very wasted and aging music diva has finally filed for divorce and hopes to revive her career by hanging on to the scraggly elbow of music producer Clive Davis.

While bloggers have been asking whatever did Whitney see in Bobby Brown, we could ask the same thing of Sherry and Chase. Sherry would often joke about the sexual satisfaction she got from being with Chase, which we all seriously doubted of course. What good sex can be had from someone with his nose stuck in the toilet half the time or laid flat out on the floor is anybody’s guess. Here was a smart hardworking career woman stuck in some weird depressing relationship with an alcoholic.

I remember asking Sherry once to challenge Chase and make him choose between her and the bottle. Of course, she never did do it. We suppose it was because she knew already what his choice would be and it would be his best Bud.

To be honest, Chase really isn’t a bad person. In fact, he can actually be more fun than Sherry. He can carry a more intellectual and stimulating conversation with us, than between Sherry and us. When he’s sober, that is. He is the creative and artistic sort who can string words into pure elegant poetry when he’s had a few of his best Buds around.

Most of the books in the home they share are mostly Chase’s, which shows his immense love for reading. How can anyone hate a book lover, huh? Apart, they seem to be relatively normal and adjusted people who can interact with other people well.

It’s just that when he and Sherry are together, we all end up reaching for the bottle of Excedrin with caffeine. The nights we cannot take are those when out of the blue, Sherry will blame Chase for some imagined flirtation with some woman at the bar. The entire evening, over more and more bottles of Bud, the accusations and denials will be swatted back and forth like some crazy tennis match we won free tickets to. Only we weren’t really interested in watching but still had to. Maybe we too have some ridiculous codependent relationship with this couple.

Sherry recognizes her codependency with Chase, but can’t be moved to leave him. She reasons that Chase would end up pitiful and depressed without her. “Kawawa naman s’ya” is how she often put it. We think it’s more that Sherry feels she will be “kawawa.”

She doesn’t have many friends except for us, and is probably afraid of how she would fill her empty nights at home when she and Chase are no longer together.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried seeing other men. I remember her telling me that she went to Tokyo to meet up with some guy she had known a few months. But when she got there, she was told the guy was on assignment in some godforsaken South Asian country. She came back even more depressed and angry.

Now she is thinking of having her reproductive set checked. She thinks she may be infertile. We tell her she’s probably alright but that Chase’s sperm cells do not have a Greg Louganis in them. But why even get pregnant, we ask. Having a child will only seal Sherry’s fate with Chase. Any problems they have in their relationship will not disappear overnight with the birth of a baby. It may only make things worse. In fact, I personally fear for the health of the child, who will not only be sickly but probably have the same “addict” gene that her father has. Or her mother. In Sherry’s case, she is severely addicted to Chase.

It’s as if she has been waiting all her life for Chase to change. To suddenly become a new man and lead a more normal life with a decent career, when they have their own child. (He’s had a few with his first wife.)

But that is really the nature of a codependent relationship. Mistrust, a controlling behavior, substance abuse. A quest for perfection. Sherry is stuck. And so is Chase. They don’t belong to each other, and yet they both refuse to let go. It’s like they have their own little alien world which only they inhabit. We continue to try to help Sherry but ultimately we run out of words to say—and the breath to say them. We pray it doesn’t take Sherry, like Whitney, 14 years before she realizes that she can lead a good productive life without Chase.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror.)

September 26, 2006

Suing Jean Paul Gaultier

Teddyboy's clear plastic knapsack...'What I usually carry on the plane: changes of underwear, top and bottom, a casual shirt or two, a Leica, a cologned wet towels in a Ziploc, toothbrushes and a nearly spent toothpaste (now banned, think of the halitosis factor now), and Thai prickly heat powder, which makes you feel particularly fresh behind after a long flight. Do not use in front, you will get cross-yeed. And throway airline socks from the last trip for when I take off my shoes before boarding.'

By Teodoro Locsin Jr.

‘YOU are not alone,” my daughter told me one morning after we’d come back from a trip abroad where I was repeatedly ribbed on my unique and highly original knapsack. “Jean Paul Gaultier said in an interview that he was so sick and tired of being harassed at airports on his carry-on luggage that…”

“Don’t tell me,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said.

“That frog-eating s.o.b. I am not going to take being robbed by white people of my intellectual creations yet again,” I thundered. “Why I’ve had that clear plastic knapsack for six or seven years now and he talks like he was the first to discover it? I’ll sue him.”

Indeed, I am sick and tired of having American newspaper columnists steal my ideas and corporate giants exploit my discoveries without giving me credit, let alone royalties for them. For example, it was I who discovered and was the first to write about the “Fart Factor” in airline travel from both painful personal experience and acute and relentless observation.

My resistance had been so weakened from flying economy class on a plane full of unremittingly exhaling people that when I sat in the shade during a San Francisco Giants game, I succumbed to hepatitis. I concluded years later and well before it became an issue in airline safety that passengers had a curious tendency of leaning left or right or forward from their seats for no apparent reason and it struck me that they might be releasing air. And yet where was the fresh air? A jet must fly airtight and pressurized, so there can’t be an exhaust. In a famous column I wrote later I suggested farting straight into the cushion so the fibers absorb the stench.

At the same time, back on the ground, I also observed that I am a magnet for airport harassment and it’s been like that since long before 9/11. The only thing I haven’t been subjected to at airports is a cavity search and it doesn’t matter if I travel as an ordinary tourist or a state guest, like when I was detained at Detroit in the same room with plaited Jews and shabby Latvians for having been issued incomplete special travel documents by the US State Department as its Ninoy Aquino Fellow.

Was that any fault of mine, I didn’t issue the documents? And I had told them back in Manila that I already had a US tourist visa. But they insisted that I had to get special treatment. I had to fly to Washington, D.C., to retrieve my passport. And then there was the time when…you get my drift. So when I was browsing in a luggage shop in New York, which is what I most enjoy doing after bookstores, I saw this clear plastic knapsack and I thought, Why not come clean right at the start, right there at airport security? Let them see everything even without an x-ray. And so I’ve traveled since, years before 9/11, and the London airport scare.

The harassment, of course, continues because I am, as I said, a magnet for it even if I am whiter than most Americans, clean shaven like a baby’s bottom, and casually drop a big rosary along with my glasses in the x-ray tray. I dare anyone to say there is a light welt across my forehead that might have come from a towel wrapped around my head. Maybe my seeming transparency is arousing more suspicion that I am hiding something somewhere else.

And now Jean Paul is going to claim he thought of it first. I dare him to repeat his claim. I have patented my discovery and hereby copyright my latest observation that the next big airline safety issue will be halitosis, what with hardly any airline passing out travel kits with a small toothpaste tube to economy- class passengers who need it most.

(Originally published in the Business Mirror, Lifestyle Section, Sept. 25, 2006.)

September 22, 2006

Surviving infidelity

Sept. 22, 2006

ONE of the most frequent areas of discussions I have with my friends regarding relationships is infidelity, adultery, or cheating on one’s spouse or lover.

Sometimes it would be just innocent gossip where we trade stories about how so and so celebrity is now making out with another actor other than his or her own usual partner (more often than not, also another celebrity). Remember how the rumor mill didn’t stop grinding out gossip about the turbulent relationship of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, after the latter was rumored to be enjoying the company of Angelina Jolie? Jennifer and Brad kept on denying they had problems and said things were fine in their marriage. Of course, the celebrity couple eventually split up and the acting-challenged Brad immediately shacked up with the talented Angelina, who was already pregnant with their baby, and adopted her Rainbow Coalition of kids as his own.

Then sometimes our gossip would revolve around our own friends, perhaps someone in our close circle whose spouse we have probably seen with another woman in public.

Moments like this can be depressing as we grapple with the question of whether we should tell our friend or not about it. Most often we just keep quiet, confident that our friend isn’t stupid and knows exactly what her husband is doing. This, however, doesn’t ease our discomfort from seeing something illicit and feeling like a traitor for not reporting what we’ve witnessed to our friend.

(My very wise married mader Marianne says that a husband and wife’s relationship is no one else’s business except their own. And as such, people outside the relationship should hold their tongue about allegations of adultery. I partly agree. Sure, who wants to be the bearer of bad news? However, if I were such an aggrieved party, I would appreciate honesty from my friends. I mean, who else can you count on to tell you the truth except your friends, right? In our desire to protect our ego, we sometimes delude ourselves that everything is still all right in our relationship with our significant other, despite our nagging suspicions. And sometimes only our friends can slap our faces really hard by telling us the truth.)

Infidelity strikes at the core of our very being. We all want to be loved exclusively by our significant other. We want to be the only one. Perhaps, human beings are really territorial by nature and such a code has been imprinted in our DNA and passed on to us from the days our ancestors lived in caves and hunted for food amid the preying dinosaurs. Our territorial feelings don’t just relate to material objects but people as well—our friends, lovers, family members, etc.

There is little risk when your cheater is just a boyfriend. You can break it off and walk away from the relationship, cry your heart out to friends who are only too willing to find a new man for you. If your boyfriend tries to get back with you, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Don’t be an idiot and fall all over again for his sweet words. I know, I know…it’s easier said than done.

But think about how more difficult it would be if you were married to the idiot and had kids with him? It would hurt immensely because you had been building a life together and, hey, “I thought we were happy….” After all, you had pledged to love each other—how does it go again?—“for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, ‘til death do you part”? Then here you are, finding out that he’s been messing around.

Maybe there was no sign at all that there was any problem in the marriage. So maybe you blame yourself for doing some unimaginable deed to have pushed your husband to stray. Or you blame the other woman for tempting your poor little defenseless husband. Rarely would wives think that the problem really is their horny husband.

You confront him about his cheating and he at first denies it. Then when caught again, he would probably say, “She doesn’t mean anything. I love you,” or some crap like that. Would you accept your husband’s explanations and stay together “for the sake of the children”? Or do you walk away and shut the miserable shit out of your life? Can you?

The growing number of women filing for annulments or legal separations, claiming their husband’s “psychological incapacity,” shows that Filipinas are no longer Maria Claras who will suffer in silence until their husbands wizen up.

Because the reality is, there is no assurance that your cheating husband will ever reform, despite his promises. I know a lot of men who’ve cheated on their wives, and even after they’ve been caught and given ultimatums by their wives, or threatened by their kids that they’d quit school if they did it again, they still go around hopping from one woman’s bed to another. Ick.

If you decide to stick it out in the marriage, how do you keep yourself from thinking that when he’s late he isn’t really in a meeting with his boss but probably romancing another woman? Once committed, adultery is like a dead child that parents can’t ever forget. It is intensely difficult to get over. With this hanging over your heads, there will always be an unpleasant and uncomfortable dynamic in your relationship with your husband.

But many wives still have their reasons for staying. I know one who spends her husband’s money like there was no tomorrow, just to get back at him. Another just keeps getting pregnant to make sure her cheating husband always comes home to her. Still another sticks with her husband to the end, through sickness, and until his death, accepting even his other wives, his other children.

No matter what path the wife takes to “cure” the situation, it will be strange and unfamiliar territory. And your only hope is that your ego will be able to handle it—and that you finally emerge stronger from the whole ordeal.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror. Xavier Cortada, 'Adultery,' 36" x 36," Acrylic on canvas, 1995. From

September 15, 2006


TOP gossip columnist Cindy Adams of the New York Post today celebrates her 25th anniversary in the paper and reprinted her very first column. It was an interesting read not only because of the celebrity gossip but because it mentioned a very famous Filipino diplomat. Read on... (just remember this is circa 1981)

Current president of the Security Council, Carlos Romulo, age 82, knocked off another triumph. This week the U.N. awarded him its first Peace Medal in 36 years. Romulo said: "It's gold. Maybe I'll hock it."

Romulo's neighbor on the 36th floor of the Waldorf mystified him. The ominous note on the door read: "Keep out. Stay away. Don't anyone come in." Food trays were left in the corridor. Full wastebaskets were surreptitiously stashed in the hall. Wondering who the mystery president or security-logged chief of state was, Romulo inquired. It was Phyllis Diller.

Imagine our very own CPR in the beginnings of one of the most succesful papers in the US! (A tabloid yes, but still very successful.) This was back in the day when Philippine diplomats were really astute and well-respected statesmen, not the common, garden variety species we have these days, whose only claim to fame is being well-connected with whoever is sitting in Malacañang. (At right, a much younger Romulo, signing the UN Charter on Jan. 26, 1945.)

Instead of being able to sell the Philippines to foreigners using brilliant marketing projects or smart networking with officials of the countries hosting them, most of our diplomats these days are quite content schmoozing in diplomatic parties and bringing home foreign cars tax-free. They usually only spring into action when they hear the Malacañang power traipsing through their neck of the woods.

Yes CPR, you were still the best we had.

(CPR excerpt from Cindy Adams' column in the New York Post, Sept. 15, 2006.)

Almost forgot to post this...this note came from my newly-discovered pariente Choy Arnaldo (from Cavite now residing in Paris. My Arnaldo is from Roxas City, Capiz).


Saw your blog on Romulo. Did you receive my note on this, on your blog, or did it get erased? (Sorry, didn't receive it Choy. The blog host acts funny sometimes.)

I was saying, if you look at the man behind Romulo to his left, you will see your uncle, Solomon V. Arnaldo; who was a member of the Philippine Delegation to UN and UNESCO to write both charters.

That's my dad! (Awesome!)


(see my blog:

Something Like Life


IT was just Grandparents’ Day this past Sunday.

Yes, I know. There is such a celebration on the calendar apparently. Of course, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and the other sappy occasions not actually religious in nature, Grandparents’ Day was probably thought up by marketing geniuses to boost consumer sales in the lull before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I only found out about it when my niece Nikka greeted my folks. My mom and dad were surprised as much as I about the existence of this special day.

Nikka, and her older sister Cesca, practically grew up around my parents. I remember when they were still toddlers, my siblings and I would notice how our parents were extraordinarily loving when it came to these two girls. There were lots of hugs, kisses and, of course, gifts. There was a time when I even got a little jealous of the special care and attention that Cesca, the first grandchild in the family, received. For the longest time, I was the baby of the family, being the youngest, and here comes along this young sprout taking away all the pasalubongs from me. Hmmph.

Of course, there is nothing that these creatures would do that would upset my folks. Even if they had done something bad—although this was very rare—they were and still are the grandparents’ little angels! Even though I’ve caught one of them lying a few times, my parents will choose to believe their precious grandchildren as innocent babes, never mind that they’re now in their 20s.

But I suppose things weren’t really all that different from my siblings and me either, in terms of our relationship with our own grandparents.

I for one so loooved my lolo. (Okay, truth to tell, he wasn’t my biological grandfather but actually the “special friend” of my grandmother. But we were close to his wife and family, too, so go figure.) Lolo Ñing would come home to us almost every day, bringing with him lots of yummy treats—candies, chocolates, castañas. I remember playing in the street with my yaya, and as soon as I’d see him turn into our street, I’d rush out to meet him with a kiss and a warm embrace. And then reach into his paper bag of goodies.

The most vivid memory I have of Lolo Ñing is him teaching me how to tell time. I would bring my pale blue plastic clock which had red arms and red buttons for numbers. Underneath the red buttons, which you could remove, were the minute numerals. So every day he would teach me how to read my plastic clock. Of course, I learned the darned thing in just a few days, but it was just so cool hanging out with my lolo that I extended my stupidity for about a week. He was probably thankful we weren’t really related by blood.

My Lola Ding, on the other hand, would come home with my favorite mamon or pianono from Quiapo. She would leave in the morning and then about after lunch, she would come home with bags of my favorite soft and delicious merienda treats.

For those who don’t know what a pianono is, it’s actually like a small roll with cream filling inside and cut up into six pieces of spiral goodness. Of course, as a small child, I thought my pianonos were the best thing ever invented on earth and would constantly nag my lola to buy me more. I don’t know if I would still find pianonos delicious now that I’m older and go gaga over foie gras. (Just an aside about kiddie tastes, when we were children, our favorite dinner treat was Mabuti sardines, which come from Portugal. They are packed in tomato sauce and come in yellow gold rectangular tins. The brand is still very much around but now cost over P100 a tin. Just to satisfy her need for some comfort food, my sister, now older and married, bought a tin and ate the entire contents. She told me later she couldn’t figure out why we loved it so much when we were little. Sigh.)

When I was in grade school, my lola would bring me lunch every day. Lola Ding was a genius in the kitchen (and thank God, we still have some of her recipes) but she was probably frustrated that my request was always fried pork chops and rice. And my banana, which I would eat as a side dish to my main course, instead of dessert.

Now that I think about them, I miss my lolo and lola. It was always just warm and fuzzy when they were around. They were there to listen to me make sumbong when I felt unjustly punished by my mom. Or someone had wronged me at school. I confessed my evil deeds to them, like pushing my playmate once in a pool of water. There would be no judgments, unlike parents. Just calm reassuring love.

Everyone who knew Lolo Ñing and who thought we were actually related used to say I inherited my talent for writing from him, as he, too, was a journalist. I can only wish this were true. But I suppose in a way, he lives within me, or is probably around whispering in my ear a better lead for my story when I’m particularly stumped on how to write it.

As for my Lola Ding, every time I cook in the kitchen and whip up a new dish, I’m sure she’s right beside me watching and probably stopping my hand from dropping in any more salt than the dish needs. While she may not approve of some of the changes I’ve made to her Bacalao à la Vizcaina recipe, I’m pretty sure she approves of it, albeit grudgingly.

So who needs Grandparents’ Day? I guess we all do.

(Published on Sept. 15, 2006. My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror.)

September 14, 2006 the Podium

HMMM...the presidentita GMA must be traveling light as she makes her way across Europe, Latin America and the Pacific this week. Seen watching the fashion show of Victorinox's newest luggage line last night at the Podium were business leaders Donald Dee and Miguel Varela, who usually travel with other prominent CEOs of the country's top businesses whenever GMA feels ambassadorial.

Asked why they were not with their presidentita, Varela's wife, Michelle, quickly spoke up, "Sa mga misis muna sila noh?", making everyone laugh. Dee's wife, a very luminous and young-looking Ophie, nodded and smiled in agreement. Ophie (short for Ophelia), mom of the equally beautiful former model Apples Aberin-Sadhwani, was one of the lucky winners of a Victorinox travel bag. Apples emceed the show with her proud husband, businessman Rajan Sadhwani, watching at the sidelines. Good thing he didn't win any prizes that night too or it would have been mighty suspicious. Hehe.

Anyway, Varela told us that they were indeed invited by their presidentita to join her trip but many of them declined because there were no business meetings scheduled on the sidelines of the quite longish trip which began on Sept. 9. He said the roundabout journey wasn't too encouraging either as it would take the delegation through a five-nation stop in Europe, then to Cuba before ending in Honolulu on Sept. 15.

Told that the UK Embassy in Manila issued about 120 visas for those in the presidential delegation, the very amiable Varela said, "Oo, lahat gusto pumunta ng London." He added, "They'll pay for their trip daw," though he turned away after making this remark. Hmmm... Varela, by the way, is virtually a member of the media, being the president of the Manila Bulletin. Plenty of hats, this man wears. :-)

Victorinox, the famous manufacturer of Swiss Army knives, watches and cutlery, offered a 20% discount to participants of last night's event. But we balked at the prices of its colorful double-stitched luggage which were selling for at least P15,000. The brand is definitely more expensive than Samsonite, but at those prices, you are definitely getting good quality products which conform to the latest international travel restrictions. Lightweight yet made of good strong materials, and with various compartments to ensure hassle-free packing. It's really the must-have travel gear for all.

(Victorinox is located at the second floor of the Podium, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.)

September 13, 2006

I love clean toilets!

Promoting Toilet Culture in a John Near You

(A public toilet in Hong Kong. Photo from FEHD of Kong)

EVERYONE loves a clean toilet, but does the idea of an exceptionally pristine potty make you want to burst into song? Officials at the WTO summit sure hope so.

And in case you were wondering, that's the World Toilet Organization. No joke.

Singapore's Jack Sim, self-proclaimed "representative of toilet culture" and head of the WTO, says his organization is serious about sanitary loos — and they're gung-ho about getting the rest of the world to buck up to the challenge of making public restrooms less revolting.

And as for the singing, part of the organization's campaign for clean cans involves promoting seemingly farfetched events — one such event being a WTO rock concert, the Associated Press reports.

"You cannot imagine singers singing about toilets and sanitation, but this will be done," Sim said.

According to the WTO, well-kept washrooms are not only a welcome sight to those answering nature's call, but also a key to integrating countries into the globalizing world. They even go as far as to say that festering public facilities can harm a nation's work force by causing people to … um … resist relief so long they could develop bladder and colon diseases.

"In fact, the toilet is the competitive edge of a nation," Sim said.

British Toilet Association chairman Sir William Lawrence seems to agree, noting that most complaints made to tourism organizations in his country are regarding restrooms — and that could potentially impair a nation's ability to attract recreational travelers.

"People seem to laugh a bit when I tell them I'm chairman of the (British) Toilet Association, but then ... they say 'wait a minute, there's a reason we need a toilet organization'," Lawrence said.

(Originally published on the Fox News web site, Sept. 11, 2006.)

September 11, 2006

Fighting silence

Sept. 11, 2006

SILENCE is the enemy of the poet, the painter, the musician and the actor. Artists attack the blank paper, the bare canvas, the silent studio and the empty stage, finding themselves insufferable foes.

As a writer, it is my life’s work to fight the silence. But I know that sooner or later, I will be overcome. Silence will be the death of me.

Silence kills. Without conversation, our monologue strays into presumption, paranoia and pride. We say the wrong things, if only to have something to say. Silence gives voice to our insecurities, our prejudices and our madness. It is a blindness with which we fall for the traps we ourselves made, collide with the walls we ourselves built, and wander away from our very salvation.

Silence begets silence. It is the attrition of fools. It is to answer that we are cowards not worth a response. Silence is suicide. It is to still one’s heart when another feels for a pulse.

I hate silence. But it is an implacable foe I have fought all my life. I know it well. The silent—all those who are unforgiving and unforgiven —are but part of a chorus that has ceaselessly sung the soundless litany of all that makes me unforgiving and unforgivable. So go on, as I myself will go on. I live for this fight.

"Lying is done with words and also with silence."—Adrienne Rich, feminist and poet

"We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."—Martin Luther King Jr., pastor and civil rights martyr

"Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most."—Bob Dylan, folk singer and rock legend

"It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don’t say it."—Sam Levenson, humorist and journalist.

(For the rest of the piece, click blog title. I specially dedicate this column to the Energy beat reporters and the Philippine Coast Guard.)

September 08, 2006


Starting over

ONE of the toughest challenges men and women in relationships go through is coping or starting over when their spouse has passed away.

After years of what has become routine to you—going to bed with your newly showered wife beside you and waking up with her knee or elbow sticking to your side—it becomes a jarring experience when all of a sudden you find yourself alone in bed. There’s an empty space beside you, with her side permanently sunken and conformed to her shape. And instead of a soft silky arm or a warm breast to caress, your hand rests on the cold bedsheet.

Jeremy tells me when his wife passed away after a long illness, at least he had his two kids to attend to and keep his mind off his grief. Truly, children can save one from insanity and keep you focused on moving forward. There was no time for him to wallow in self-pity no matter how many times he wanted to surrender to the loneliness.

In the beginning, it was pretty tough even working around everyone’s schedules, including his. It was a good thing he had his sisters to count on to lend a hand in keeping his house in order. They brought the kids to school, picked them up, and stayed to cook dinner until Jeremy got home. They also pitched in to do the grocery, arranged what bills needed to be paid first, what school supplies the kids needed, etc.

But Jeremy says he knew he couldn’t depend on his sisters forever. They were both single and had their own lives to lead. And while their mom also helped out by staying with the kids or letting them come home to her house, Jeremy didn’t want to abuse her kindness. He was lucky that as a manager in the trading company he worked in, he was able to rework his schedule to fit his children’s.

It wasn’t going to be easy to run the household and put a new structure after eight years of a familiar routine basically set up by his wife Jane. Fortunately, technology was on his side. With cell phones and the Internet, it was easy for him to keep in touch with his staff and the company’s clients even while he was at home or attending a PTA meeting.

“I had to grapple pa with the extra duty of overseeing their assignments. Jane used to do all that, and she was really patient with them because she used to be a nursery teacher. No problem ’pag math but when it came to English composition, patay, I would call my sister [a writer] na.”

After tucking in the kids for the night, Jeremy still had to work on the stuff he brought home from the office. He confesses that, sometimes, he’s just so tired that he wants to give up and go to sleep. Thank God for coffee.

Then like a knife that would stab his heart, certain memories of Jane would just enter his consciousness. “Out of the blue. I’d be checking all the orders and then I’d remember her dressed in this blue and pink bathing suit that she wore when we went to Boracay. It was a year before she died. It was their staff outing and she brought me along. Ang sexy niya.

It starts with one memory, he says, then a whole tide would wash over him and he’d feel that dull pain gnawing at his insides. “Naiyak talaga ako,” he tells me quietly, as he remembers one particular night. Not far behind would be the feelings of guilt that he couldn’t take care of Jane very well, and then self-pity would kick in. Even when he was dead-tired from work and attending to his kids, Jeremy says sometimes he would just lay awake staring at the ceiling until he would hear the birds chirping outside the windowsill. “I was numb at first eh. Pero after a month, two, three months, wala na. It really hit me na she was gone.”

Jeremy says it took him a whole year before he could actually gather Jane’s things together and donate them to charity. His sisters wanted to do it for him but he realized that he had to look at Jane’s stuff again—sort through her clothes, her perfumes, her kikay things—if he wanted to move forward. He brought his kids to help, telling them they could take one thing that belonged to their mom to keep for themselves. “It was hard but we all needed to do that. All the while we were sorting her stuff nga, parang there was this internal dialogue going on in my head if it was the right thing to do or not.”

Somehow, he says, they managed to get through the ordeal without anyone breaking down. Jeremy says his kids are really tough, “something they got from Jane siguro. Kasi even throughout her illness, ang tibay n’ya.

It’s been three years since Jane’s death and the entire family has settled into its new routine. Jeremy has gotten a day maid to help out in the household chores. He is home by 6 pm in time for dinner with the kids. He monitors and helps in their homework but still calls his sister—for the English lessons. And he is dating again.

He says the funniest thing that happened after Jane passed away was his friends and his sisters jockeying to fix him up with this woman or that. Also, at his office the single women seem to have found an excuse to talk to him all the time. “Ewan ko ha, that’s what my friends told me. Kasi I didn’t really notice naman. But one would say, ‘O ayan na naman si…, magpapa-check ng inventory kunwari. I-date mo na kasi!’” It’s nice to hear such Jeremy’s hearty laugh. And he marvels, “Ang daming single women pala!

But Jeremy isn’t in a hurry to get married again, even if his friends tell him he should. He’s still young, that’s true, but he says right now he’s just enjoying the company of other women—that is, when his schedule permits. He says his kids are still the top priority, while going out with his barkada or dating remains at the bottom of the agenda.

He confesses that he still can’t help but compare his dates to Jane, which he knows is really unfair. This is but natural and quite understandable, I tell him. Besides, no woman in her right mind should even presume taking Jane’s place. But at least Jeremy has opened himself up to the experience of meeting other women, which is really a big step itself. He really can’t do much except take one day at a time and just enjoy the moment.

(Published in the Business Mirror, Sept. 8, 2006. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday.)

September 05, 2006

Top 10 relationship questions

YOU'RE dating a new hot guy, or currently in a steady relationship with a guy you think you’d like to spend the rest or your life with, or maybe you’ve just broken up with your boyfriend of five years. There are still a lot of questions keeping you up in the middle of the night. And no matter how many times you talk to your girlfriends or gayfriends, asking them the same questions over and over again (which they patiently answer over and over again because, hey, that’s what friends do), you can’t calm down. Your mind is reeling, you feel anxious, maybe even panicky, and you hope that the answers in your head are wrong.

Herein I think are the top 10 relationship questions that we women always torture ourselves (and our friends) with.

1. Is he going to call? Or should I call him?
The first date went well. You both clicked. And you’d like to see him again. Honey, if he doesn’t call, don’t take it too personally. He just may not be into a steady dating frame of mind yet, as I gathered from my talks with a lot of young men these days. Many of them are just trying to make a name for themselves in their chosen profession, so they’re not really in a hurry to tie themselves down to just one girl. Then again, he might just be looking for a different kind of girl and you don’t fit the bill. So it’s best to adopt the same attitude as men do and move on. Should you call him? Hell no!

2. Should I kiss on a first date?
If the date went well, a peck on the cheek would be nice before saying goodnight. But if you feel the chemistry really flowing, then you could consider some tongue action—but only if he makes the move first. You don’t want to scare him off, do you? Leave it at that and let him want to see you to get a taste of more.

3. Should I have sex on a first date?
It helps to be clear about your objectives for the guy. If you’re just in it for the fun of it, then be my guest. I realize that sometimes you just want to go with the momentum of a great date. But don’t expect him to say “I love you” after. More often than not, he won’t. No matter how many times you do it. Now if you strongly feel that he could be the father of your kids someday, then it would be best to hold back until you get to know each other better. Who knows, he might have insanity running in his family? Seriously, men like the chase. But whatever you decide, please practice safe sex.

4. Does he love me?
He’s nice and sweet to you. He’s thoughtful. Never fails to call you, always picks you up from your work, takes you out to dinners frequently, and showers you with lots of gifts. But not once has he said the “L” word. Honey, just in case you don’t know it yet, men are idiots when it comes to expressing their feelings. And they absolutely hate talking about the relationship, where it’s at or where it’s going, along with all the other stuff that’s important to you. I guess you will never know until he actually gets down on his knees and proposes to you. In the meantime, you could consider the truism that “actions speak louder than words” and be content basking in his undivided attention.

5. He’s asking for a cool-off period. Is it over?
If he wants to have a cool-off period, you know he is having doubts about spending any more time with you. It may not be over just yet but realize that it is heavily tilting toward that conclusion. In the meantime, go out with your friends and flirt with other men. Men are territorial
by nature, so if your boyfriend has any feelings for you left, knowing that other men are hitting on you could make him realize a thing or two.

6. Should you date during the cool-off period?
Absolutely! A lot of people may disagree with me but, hey, why should my girlfriend sit around and wait for her boyfriend to snap out of his stupidity? If he wants her, he knows where to find her. In the meantime, enjoy your freedom and go out. Moping and waiting for him to call won’t serve any useful purpose, except drive you crazy.

7. We broke up. I know he still loves me. Will we get back together?
You’ve been listening to Barry Manilow again? Heck no! Move on, girl!

8. How do I know he is The One?
Many married people I’ve talked to all agree that you will know if he’s The One. You’ll feel it in your bones, in your guts, in your loins and, most important, in you heart. Nothing stupid like “He completes me.” Because you should be a whole person to begin with. Like you’re already happy and satisfied with your life but having him around is a nice bonus.

9. He’s married but we’re very much in love. Is he going to leave her?
Not in a million years, honey! Especially if he has children with her. Either be content being a mistress and not complain if he isn’t with you always, or enjoy the fact that he isn’t with you always. Imagine all the wonderful things you could do—you’re in a steady relationship and yet you can go out and come home late, or have your friends over for dinner, go on vacations and so on. Enjoy your freedom. And, no, getting yourself pregnant won’t make him leave her either. He might just end up resenting you later for making him lose touch with his other children. Live your own independent life and just be there for him when he needs you.

10. He’s cheated on me but he says he’s sorry. Should I accept him back?
Tricky question. Maybe if it’s just once, stick to the relationship and give him another chance. We all make mistakes. Forgiveness is a huge part of making any relationship work. And if you’re married and have kids, there is more reason to stay together. I still believe that most kids grow up better adjusted when raised by two parents. Now if he’s a habitual cheater, then leave. He’s making you miserable, so stop being a doormat. “Hard” isn’t even close to describing what you will go through in the next few months, but just think about it this way: not many people get a second stab at happiness.

So live and love, people!

(Originally published in the Business Mirror, Something Like Life, May 19, 2006. My column comes out every Friday.)

September 01, 2006

Uniform cheats

South China Morning Post

I'M thinking of switching careers - shifting to a job that will take me abroad and have employers crawling all over each other to bid for my services. Yes, I realise it might seem a bit late in the day to consider becoming a registered nurse, but only one thing worries me: what sort of uniform would I have to wear?

As for the rest of it, though, I'm very confident. That's because, as the latest scandal here shows, it's easy to pass the qualifying exams. All you need are perseverance, the proper attitude - and someone who'll hand you the questions before the test.

Why would anybody want to cheat in a nursing examination? That's easy: becoming a registered nurse is a guaranteed ticket to working overseas. The Philippines is among the world's biggest suppliers of nurses. Hospitals in many countries - mainly the United States - can't get enough of our nurses, and are snapping them up frantically. But there simply aren't enough to go around, which means the ones working in hospitals here are disappearing at an alarming rate.

I can imagine the scene in a Manila operating room. Surgeon: "Scalpel ... Nurse! I said give me the scalpel." Orderly: "She just left for the US."

So high is the demand that everybody is trying to get in on the act. Many doctors have started retraining as nurses. One computer institute opened a school of nursing, which has me wondering what kind of graduates it will turn out. If they become rattled, will they try to reboot their patients?

Now the whole enterprise is threatened by the revelation that, when 42,000 would-be nurses took the board exam in June, hundreds had been prepped with leaked copies of at least 500 of the questions.

There are accusations that the president of the Philippine Nurses Association (who has since resigned) leaked the questions to students he had coached. If that is true, it's an example of care and concern which his charges should never forget when they handle their patients. That is assuming they can tell one end of a patient from the other.

Although President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's spokesman has dismissed it as an "isolated incident", the scandal could scuttle a plan for the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing to hold licensing exams here.The spokesman probably knows that the head of the body giving the tests is the president's personal dentist.

Anyway, maybe the president (accused of cheating in the 2004 elections) can form a commission of lawyers (dogged by bar examination cheating in 2003) and doctors (still recovering from a medical board cheating scandal last decade) to investigate the case.

They could begin their work with a prayer: everybody should get down on their knees and thank the heavens that the Philippines doesn't certify nuclear power plant engineers.

(Click here for the South China Morning Post.)

Quote of the year

"(The Philippines is a) beautiful country with warm people. I will tell my friends to visit the Philippines because there are talented singers and dancers with the potential to become pop stars.”

Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco

WHATEVER happened to "visit the Philippines because it has a lot of fabulous white beaches and fantastic shopping malls?" Well unfortunately for us, this royal—son of Princess Caroline of Hanover and commoner Stefano Casiraghi, and grandchild of that ethereal beauty, the late actress Grace Kelly, and her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco—he wasn't able to tour the beautiful spots in the country and instead got up close to the poverty and muck that is more the general rule around these parts, rather than the exception. (It didn't help that his visit commenced just as the oil spill in Guimaras was spreading its gloom and doom in the Visayas, while the government and Petron Corp. sat around doing absolutely nothing.)

Andrea came here as a follow up to his uncle Prince Albert and mother Princess Caroline's earlier visits, on behalf of Amade Mondiale founded by the late Princess Grace, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting children's rights and uplifting their welfare. So necessarily, the 22-year-old royal cutie with blond shoulder-length wavy hair, had to visit the organization's projects in Sta. Ana and Payatas.

How he got the idea about our "talented singers and dancers", I confess I don't know. He must have watched Eat Bulaga or one of those inane variety shows playing out to a dedicated Filipino TV audience, while he was tucked away in the comforts of his luxe hotel room. Ugh.

Speaking of inane variety shows, is there any way our newly appointed Education Secretary Jesli Lapus can forbid public schools from visiting these noontime shows as part of their regular field trips? I remember when I was in grade school, we used to have lunch in Fort Santiago or Luneta. So it really floors me when you see a whole group of elementary school kids in their uniforms watching these shows along with their crazy teachers among the studio audience.

Oh I'm sure the teachers and principals of these public schools will justify these trips to TV studios as "educational" as the kids will see up close how TV shows are produced. Honey, we didn't do those until we were in high school and old enough to understand what TV production was all about! Obviously it's a way for the teachers to have some fun while at work. And you wonder why we have more artistas than we care to know? Most of them just pretty faces lacking in any real talent.

Go back to Fort Santiago kids, and learn why Rizal got shot in Luneta!