December 29, 2007

Brothers, sisters, children

Familial reflection. The cast of the compulsively watchable and thoroughly affecting Brothers & Sisters, the US series seen on local TV that holds up a mirror on the highs and lows of life with brothers, sisters, parents and children.

Something Like Life
Dec. 28, 2007

OVER the Christmas holidays, in between the massive gorging on roast turkey and stuffing, spaghetti, lengua con setas, fruit salad and the subsequent leftovers (love it!), I found myself seriously hooked on watching the first season of Brothers & Sisters. It got so bad that I almost went on leave for this Friday’s column just so that I could finish watching the DVD.

But as I watched more and more of it, and laughed at all the antics of the amusing, yet gritty, characters in this lovely TV series, and also got my heartstrings tugged while seeing each of them go through the pain and agony of discovering upsetting realities in their relationships with one another and those outside their family, I ended up thinking the show was actually a good topic to write about as we go into the New Year.

For those who still haven’t started watching this series (it airs weekly on Studio 23 and on Star World on SkyCable), Brothers & Sisters is a story of the rambunctious Walker family, headed by Nora (brilliantly played by veteran actress Sally Field), who has just lost her husband William (Tom Skeritt) to a heart attack. In this family are her five very mixed-up adult children who include a working mom having marriage problems with her husband (Rachel Griffiths); a bleeding-heart Republican (Calista Flockhart) sleeping with her just-divorced senator-boss (Rob Lowe); a son shooting blanks (Balthazar Getty) who’s asked his brothers to donate their sperm; a commitment-phobic gay lawyer (Matthew Rhys) dating a soap-opera actor who doesn’t want to come out of the closet; and a recovering drug addict (Dave Annable) who’s a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Sounds like great TV, right?

Well, it gets better. Nora finally meets Holly (Patricia Wettig), William’s mistress of two decades whom she has actually known about for years and outs her at a family party, much to the shock of her children, who thought she knew nothing of the affair. To make matters worst, William actually fathered a child, Rebecca (Emily VanCamp), with Holly, and three of Nora’s children including her brother Saul (Ron Rifkin), are conspiring to keep her from knowing this truth as well. Oh, and did I mention that Saul is dating Holly? Such supersweet sordid stuff!

There is no question that this family is out of whack, like most families we know I suppose. We are formed by our relationships and experiences within our own dysfunctional families, which eventually impacts the way we react to situations or relate to the people around us.

While the initial episodes seemed convoluted because of its multiple plots, the TV series has evolved into a witty and intelligent piece of writing. It’s pure soap opera, only a tad more intelligent. It has touches of Dynasty only with more heart, and sans the flashy clothes. (Nora and Holly’s kitchen fight scene, it should be said, doesn’t hold up a candle to Krystle and Alexis slugging it out in the water fountain.) With its characters now well-defined by their own inner strengths and vulnerabilities, one cannot help but be taken by this show. The stories are familiar yet annoying, because it mirrors a lot of our own experiences.

Who can’t relate to the emotional turmoil one feels when he or she finds out that their father actually is no saint? Or the confusion over falling in love with the wrong people constantly? Or even having a mother who says the wrong things at the wrong time. (At the hospital just this week, as she was getting her blood pressure checked at the ER, my mother chatted up a diabetic who was eventually admitted. In true un-PC fashion, my mother tried to wish her well by blurting, “I hope nothing happens to you!” Good Lord! Let the ground swallow me up now!)

Despite the myriad of characters in the series, each one is allowed to develop and shine in one episode after the other. All the roles are superbly filled by some of Hollywood’s often underrated actors. Well, except for Flockhart. She still acts and sounds like the ludicrous Ally McBeal in this new series, minus the imaginary dancing baby. Nope, no Emmys or Golden Globes for her, that’s for sure.

The series also tries to tackle current issues, such as the rise of juvenile diabetes (working mom Sarah and husband Joe discover their young daughter Paige has the condition after she falls into a coma) and teaches how the life-long affliction can be ably managed. The writing has become tighter despite the many roles that have to be acted out and the various topics tackled.

As I kept watching each episode, I often snickered at how I found myself in some of the characters’ often outrageous behavior, especially when it comes to relating to one’s significant other. It was also entertaining to watch how the Walker siblings relate to one another in the same oddball way as I relate to my own, although my siblings and I aren’t the type to actually share secrets with one another like the Walkers often do.

In a similar fashion as the Walkers, while we may have a family to lean on especially during moments of weakness and vulnerability, individually we each have to come to terms with our own emotional baggage in order to preserve—or, at worst, let go of—our bonds with our siblings, parents, friends and lovers.

As 2008 approaches and I start counting my blessings, what I am most thankful for is having a family that’s tough and fired up with an indomitable spirit. We are bound not only by our common grief over loved ones lost, but also because we’ve actually dealt with our own insanities and self-preservation issues to be able to handle one another on a less hysterical level.

I suppose they call it emotional maturity… when we accept that we can no longer change our parents or siblings just to become some postcard-perfect family living in a house with a white picket fence.

We come to accept certain truths about one another and let go of the situations that we have no power to change. We realize that it’s all the foibles and imperfections that make us and life with one another more interesting. Like, who wants a mom who says the proper thing each and every time, huh? Boring!

Happy New Year to all!

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos from BusinessMirror)

December 22, 2007

Something more to Christmas

THIS morning I received some good news about a friend's husband who had been suffering from cancer. She says that due to a radical new medical treatment, his health has improved tremendously in just a span of two weeks -- his lumps have decreased, and some have totally disappeared.

Of course, I know in my heart that some higher power is at work here, too. A number of his friends and family have been storming the heavens with prayers, asking for his healing. It's one of those situations when we realize who really is in control of our lives.

This development comes at a time so close to Christmas making us all remember it's real meaning. Pangs sent me this video, his Christmas gift, which I also would like to share with all of you. This is in part to give thanks to our friend's healing, and to remind us all that there is something more to Christmas than just the presents and the food at Noche Buena.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!

Keep the faith.

December 21, 2007

100! and counting...

Something Like Life
Dec. 20, 2007

THIS is my 100th column for this super-excellent business newspaper.

I never would have thought I’d have enough discipline to do this every week and talk about a topic which matters to us most: our relationships. After all, I’m more a politics and business kind of girl who usually rants over the latest insane idea of the government, despite my having turned more to lifestyle writing.

When my editor first proposed to me the idea of writing about relationships, I was amused. I think I asked him if everyone else had turned him down before he finally approached me. Frankly, I thought the topic was very limiting and felt I’d run out of ideas each week. Besides, who would want to read about falling in love (and out of it), dating, adultery (woo-hoo!) week after week? Besides what right did I have talking about romance when I’m currently unattached, except to my Mac?

But as Gerard spelled it out to me, relationships do not only mean romantic love and its many configurations, but also the bonds that tie us to our work colleagues, our bosses, our family, our friends and, yes, even those who are within our periphery who may not be any of the above but who still make our lives work, such as our secretaries, assistants, househelp, etc. (A couple of months back, for example, a few people told me how they enjoyed my piece on finding the right househelp, and sympathized with my plight.)

Helping me through this weekly commitment of column-writing have been my friends, some of whose life stories have also made it to the pages of this section. Well, what are friends for if you can’t mine their experiences and regurgitate them for public consumption, eh? Seriously, I just love my wonderful friends, some of whom have been closer to me than my own family, and I’ve shared some of their own stories with you, so you already know just how much I have learned from them, too.

'The Entourage' (foreground, from left): Fil, moi, Donna, Marianne, Tita Nel; (back, from left) Tito Mon, Pinky Poo, Badang

So this year, as I give thanks for the great opportunities that have come my way and to my fabulous readers, I’d like some of my dearest friends to take center stage and talk about their favorite Christmas gifts. This is my “Entourage” — the people who have been around especially when things weren’t going so great in my life. It hasn’t been an easy year for me and my family, but I’m glad I have these splendid guys and gals to hold me up and lift my spirits. This is my own little way of saying thank you to them and hoping that all their Christmas wishes come true. (Okay, I didn’t bother to ask the rest because they don’t believe in Christ-mas anyway…heathens! I still love you guys, though.)

Fil: Back in 1987 when things weren’t that big, Larry (my life partner) bought me a 29-inch Sony TV which had surround sound. Big TVs weren’t in fashion yet then. But it was the biggest gift he ever bought me. Until now it’s still working!

Tito Mon: I was five years old and my mom gave me a bicycle. We lived in the province then and we weren’t rich. So it was something big for me already. Also, I remember that same Christmas, my ninang (godmother) gave me a basketball. The ball fell down the stairs and out into the compound’s ground. I ran after it and the German shepherd of my neighbor clawed at me. I was given 24 anti-tetanus shots!

Marianne: Everyone knows I love vinegar. A couple of years ago, a publicist gave me different kinds of vinegar—red wine, tarragon, malt, balsamic, sukang Iloko, etc. I really appreciated it because I wasn’t even close to her but she took the effort to choose these vinegars in nice different bottles and arranged them in a gift basket. It may be ordinary to some but I liked it because she put a lot of thought into the gift, which is something that you don’t expect from most publicists, right? Napa-bilib ako sa kanya! Someone actually paid attention to what I wanted! (Anyone who can guess who this publicist is gets a special prize. No help from Marianne, please.)

Jun: I was 11 years old, I received a doll dressed as Santa Claus. It was a gift from my favorite kuya who died from bangungot in December also, three years after he gave me the doll. It was the best gift I received because I guess it was his way of telling me that it was okay for me to be gay. He was 24 then, and it was his first job, he bought my doll from his first salary. Of all my brothers, he was the one I was closest to, and he was the only one with an open mind to what I was, what I am. That’s why I don’t enjoy Christmas that much since he passed away.

Donna: Just last Sunday I received a Tommy Hilfiger watch from a really good friend. It’s lined in pink with Swarovski crystals. I really wanted that watch. And although it’s not really that expensive in terms of watches, it was expensive for my friend to buy it. The last time she gave me an expensive item was several years ago. But it’s not really the price that mattered; it’s who gave it.

Ted: I must’ve been nine or 10 years old and our “Santa Claus” got a bundle from his huge Christmas sack and called out my name, “To Teddy.” I walked up to him, got the bundle, ripped open the wrapper and couldn’t help letting out a delighted yelp, “Santa’s finally got it right!” when I saw what it yielded: all the titles of classics illustrated comic books I had written on the Christmas wish list which I and all my cousins in the maternal family compound I grew up in Bacolod were asked to make before Christmas Eve. A Tale of Two Cities, The Prisoner of Zenda, Robinson Crusoe, Man in the Iron Mask, Huckleberry Finn, War of the Worlds, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, etc.

Jun the fabulous, now based in Hong Kong.

Francine: Getting married two days after Christmas Day was the best Christmas gift I received…next to the sofa my husband (Peter) bought me today. Peter and I actually wanted to get married on Christmas Day but we wanted our friends around to share the day with us. People would still be nursing a hangover on the 26th, so we decided to hold it on the 27th. And also now (will be a good Christmas) because we have a baby, it’s his first Christmas. We just moved into a new house. We brought in a cypress tree from the garden into the house and decorated it with lights and Christmas cards. So we’re going back to trying to find meaning in Christmas. We want to make it more meaningful again, especially for us as a family.

It’s funny that as I was interviewing my friends for this piece, most of them had a difficult time remembering the outstanding gifts they received over time. I did, too. I sort of remember the food I ate more than the gifts. (But now that I think about it, the best Christmas gift I probably received was a dainty gold bracelet from an old boyfriend. He had come from Bangkok, where he attended a conference, and didn’t give me any pasalubong. Nagtipid ang gago — the bracelet was my pasalubong and Christmas gift rolled into one. What was interesting was that when we split up, the bracelet also broke…but then, of course, it’s 24k kasi. Confession: I still have the bracelet, repaired, which I still wear sometimes.)

But I guess as one gets older, the material stuff doesn’t really hold too much meaning for us anymore. We’re not as impressionable anymore as when we were little and all gifts were the best. These days, it’s the thought that counts, or whoever gave the gift that lends it some meaning. The fact that someone actually remembered and took time out to give us a present is quite heartwarming, more so if it comes from someone we really have great affection for. (Of course, if anyone gave me the stuff that was on my Christmas wish list published a couple of weeks ago, I will love him or her forever.)

So, with a gentle reminder to keep the Excedrin, Lomotil, Alka-Seltzer, apple juice and tomato juice on hand, my friends and I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)

December 19, 2007

Santa stories

Letters to Santa increase despite e-mail

GENEVA - Text messages, e-mails and social networking are challenging traditional mail but Santa Claus at least is receiving more and more old-fashioned letters, according to the world's postmen.

The Universal Postal Union said on Tuesday that letters to Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, continue to grow at a clip that will top the 6 million notes sent in 2006.

Spokesman Laurent Widmer said it was too soon to estimate a final tally because many letters are sent in the final week before Christmas, or even after the holiday. But checks with union members showed the number of letters was increasing.

"Santa has over five million helpers round the world to answer his mail and deliver the millions of greeting cards, parcels and letters that circulate during the holiday season," the group representing 191 countries said in a statement.

The letters, often addressed simply "To Santa, North Pole" might normally be regarded as undeliverable and marked "addressee unknown," the union said.

But many national post offices reply, including those of France and Canada which each received more than 1 million missives to Father Christmas last year, it said.

In 2006 Finland received letters from 150 countries, representing 90 percent of the letters received by Santa Claus in Finland. The U.S. Postal Service has been answering Santa's letters since 1912. And in Canada, Santa has his own post code -- HOH OHO.


Santas flex muscles before big day
Reuters video

December 17, 2007

The importance of being Ernest

I'VE never met Ernest Santiago. But growing up, I often read and heard stories of his famous disco, the Coco Banana in Malate, Manila. I saw photos of his glorious parties and the veritable who's who in Manila's cafe society and fashionistas (the term had yet to be invented then) who went there, and had a grand time often in costume, dancing with the latest Studio 54 disco sounds pumping in the background. For what some would probably call a buddding babaeng bakla then, I was furious at not being old enough to go out and have fun as Ernest and all his friends did. It was the iconic bar of the 1970s which defined the era when everyone just had a great time with no thought of the consequences.

I also recall passing by his atelier in Remedios Circle with his brand Santiago de Manila on his wall, whenever my family and I would eat in the area. He was Manila's foremost fashion designer in his day, and brought the terno, a traditional Filipino dress, to the modern era in its flamboyant oversized dimensions. Whenever his fans speak of Ernest's designs, they will often mention his show-stopping creations for people like Imee Marcos who wore such a modern Maria Clara at one film festival (herself another babaeng bakla, of course). I loved his designs because I sensed a kindred spirit, a rebel against all traditions our family and society forces on us. Tired of fashion designing, he turned to interiors.

In the last couple of years, Ernest's name was constantly popping up in the newspapers' lifestyle sections again after he opened his restaurant Cafe Gallery 83 in Pagsanjan, Laguna and helped found the Viaje del Sol, which led tourists to the wonderful sights and sounds of Laguna and Quezon. He was also building a resort in Quezon which I remember making a mental note to visit with my travel buddies. Last Holy Week, as my friends and I were on our way to Paete, we drove by his restaurant in Pagsanjan, which looked nondescript from the outside, but which I hear served the most fabulous home-cooked meals, sometimes lovingly prepared by Ernest himself.

Early this year, a glossy society magazine held its anniversary party and its editors asked Ernest to dress up the hotel function room like his legendary Coco Banana. While not a lot of people were in costume as the parties and shows in his infamous bar as before (when one gets to a certain age, it makes him tentative and conscious of his appearance), everyone obviously had a grand time.

I wish I had known this great man because his life touched mine in so many, albeit vicarious, ways. He may have died a cruel death, but he lived a fabulous life that people will speak of and remember forever. Greatness endures. This story from the Philippine Star and Inquirer about Ernest's life and times. (Photos from Manila Standard/MST web sites.)

December 15, 2007

On wearing a Barong Tagalog

Director Quentin Tarantino, a recent Manila visitor, announces a nominee to the 65th Golden Globes Awards (above). At right, QT with actors Ryan Reynolds and Hayden Panettiere.

NOT bad, not bad at all.

Acclaimed film director Quentin Tarantino donned the Barong Tagalog for the 65th Golden Globes nomination ceremony yesterday. (To those still living in a bomb shelter somewhere, QT was just here in Manila sometime October which was how he acquired a barong.)

Of course, he just had to wear his sneakers with it, which kinda threw off what would have been a really distinguished look for him. But then, if he had worn leather shoes, the look wouldn't been trademark Tarantino. At least he wore a white T-shirt underneath. Coolness.

A lot of foreigners like the barong because it lends them the right elegance they need for any formal gathering without being so constricted the way the traditional American business suit does. Besides it is light, cool (in an airy sort of way, not cool as in kewl), and easy to pack.

Anyway, this was great exposure for the Philippines' traditional menswear. So huge props to QT for putting his mark on it.

(Photos from AP and Reuters, via Yahoo! News)

Loveless on Christmas?

Something Like Life
Dec. 14, 2007

YOU have just renewed your membership to SMAP (Samahan ng Malalamig ang Pasko). Every time you hear the song “Pasko Na Sinta Ko” played on the radio, you want to go out and shoot your neighbor’s dog. Okay, so you don’t have a boyfriend this Christmas. What are you going to do, short of hiring your gardener’s macho dancer-son as your boyfriend to present to the relatives for the Christmas Day reunion?

Well, first of all, make sure you pay him at least a thousand bucks. Just kidding!

I know a number of people who have husbands, boyfriends, or family who still don’t feel the Christmas spirit at all despite the grand day being just 11 days away. (A friend’s status on his Facebook profile reads “Holidying”.) So I can just imagine what it must feel like when one is all alone with no one to share a special romantic gift over the holidays. It is true that this is the time of the year when suicide rates spike up as people either don’t have money or don’t have loved ones to turn to. If you let the Christmas blues get to you, you will likely feel empty, wretched and miserable.

I, for one, have always been thankful that, despite some years when I have to cough up my membership dues to SMAP, I still have my family around me. It will be a bit different this year, primarily because my father had just passed away, but I know we will all pull together to make Christmas still meaningful despite his absence. Having kids around helps as their wide-eyed innocence and belief in some bearded fat man in a red suit bringing them gifts just makes us work harder to make the holidays extra-special.

There is no reason, however, to feel lonely on Christmas just because Prince Charming seems to have lost his way trying to find your house. (Baka na-traffic.)

Focusing on other people instead of yourself eases the loneliness. If you become self-absorbed and keep obsessing about your loveless plight this season, you will likely need more than a bottle of Paxil to lift your spirits.

You can:

Spend the day in an orphanage. Bring some buckets of greasy breaded fried chicken or cartons of sweet spaghetti to share with these unfortunate souls. Or ask donations from friends for used toys or children’s clothes to donate to the children. Seeing these kids’ faces light up from sheer joy at the goodies you’re bringing is a feeling so precious that you will forget, however temporarily, how depressing (you think) your life is.

Visit a home for poor senior citizens. Next to orphans, old people whose own families have abandoned them are the most pitiful creatures imaginable. After giving their lives to their families, they are cast aside like used plastic bags. People who are forgotten need someone to talk to. I find it a real learning experience to just sit down and listen to seniors tell stories about their youth. It’s better than any reality TV show (or telenovela) and you get a history education to boot.

Spend Christmas Day with orphans. (Photo from

Invite others for a Christmas get-together. Whether your friends are alone like yourself or have families, ask them to come over for a meal and some merriment. If you want to slave over a hot pot the whole day just to forget how alone you are, then go ahead and do the entire menu. If your friends are up to it, then go potluck and ask them to bring some special dish. Christmas is all about sharing. For sure, you will all be closer to one another when you all come down with intestinal flu. What fun will it be for all to investigate whose dish caused your brains to run out your ass.

Okay, so you can be a little self-absorbed, too.

Splurge on yourself. Plan the entire day around the most important person in the world. You. Whip up a really delicious meal from a recipe you’ve been dying to try. Relax and book yourself for an entire day of pampering and wellness at your favorite spa. Go watch a Christmas movie or rent your favorite video (except those goo-goo Meg Ryan romantic comedies) to watch at home. If watching a video isn’t your thing, settle down in bed with a nice pot of tea and read a good book while your favorite music plays in the background. God knows you haven’t had much time to read except magazines, or the news online, during the entire year that you’ve been stressed at work.

Indulge. Go ahead and buy yourself a great big Christmas present—like that 40-inch Plasma TV set you’ve been ogling every time you pass by the appliance store. Or perhaps the new MacBook Pro with the 13-inch screen and 2GB memory. Sure, these items are expensive but, hey, they’re gonna last longer than a boyfriend! So go use that credit card and swipe away. It’s zero-percent interest anyway.

Go on a holiday trip. Who says you have to stay at home in this country on Christmas? Right now, go online and start surfing. What destination have you been wanting to travel to all these years? This is a good time as any to go there. And, hey, just think of the cultural education you’ll be getting. Try another country’s Christmas traditions for a change. It doesn’t have to be as far as Alaska (but on second thought, you might have better luck getting a boyfriend there, like Marian Frisk in Men in Trees). Check out New York Times’ 53 places to go to in 2008. There are a lot of exotic countries just within the region that really look like exciting places to visit (e.g., Laos, the Maldives, Lombok in Indonesia, Barossa Valley in Australia, and—believe it or not—Iran).

Go to church on Christmas Eve. There’s nothing more uplifting than to join others in celebrating Christ’s birth, which is the real point of the holidays anyway, and not just maxing out the credit card to buy everybody gifts. Most churches these days celebrate Christmas Eve Mass with some play on Christ’s birth with the neighborhood kids as the main characters, or feature an honest-to-goodness choral group that has endlessly rehearsed the traditional Christmas carols in harmony or other sacred arias. These traditions just make Christmas Mass more extraordinary and inspiring.

While shopping malls have all but eroded the real meaning of Christmas, try to remember that the season is all about giving love and joy to all, and making peace with others. It is also the time to count your blessings and realize just how lucky you are. You may not have Prince Charming by your side, but you’re healthy, are able to eat three meals a day, have a roof over your head, and good friends (or family) around you.

You have every reason to be happy.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of BusinessMirror.)

December 13, 2007

Holidays take over

THE holidays have taken over my life, thus, the relative slacking in my blogging these past couple of weeks.

There was much last-minute shopping to be done, wrapping of gifts, and I had to help coordinate the food, refreshments, and gifts for our gang's Christmas party this Saturday. In between all that, I still had to write my stories for the different publications I work for, squeeze in an appointment with my dermatologist, as well as a checkup with my doctor.

Well the good news is...I'm done. As in I've officially completed my shopping and all those nice people on my Christmas list will have gifts this year. Their presents are all wrapped, the bows have been tied, and gift tags inscribed with my most heartfelt dedications. I intend to send out all of these gifts (except those of my family) by next week. So get ready kiddies!

With regard to my checkup...TADAAAH! my blood sugar is normal. Yay!

Because diabetes runs in my family, I've had to monitor my glucose level at least once or twice a year just to make sure I don't go the way of my elders who have become insulin-dependent. Thank God I'm not really a lover of sweets (except for certain times of the month, ehem), and aside from pigging out on Cyma's Skolatina for the last couple of weeks, I've really stayed away from the sugary stuff. I suppose it helps that I've been using Splenda for the last couple of years in my coffee, tea, even in my champorado.

(The worst really is taking the fasting blood sugar test. You can't eat nor drink water for nine hours before the test. And I drink water a lot...right before going to bed, when I wake up to go to the bathroom, and upon waking up in the morning. So it was extreme torture not to have some midnight snack or a drink of water before bedtime. The next day, I had to bring a big bottle of water with me to the testing clinic, and as soon as I gave my blood — this was at 8:30 am — drank like I had just traveled through the Sahara desert! I felt that parched. Ugh. Also hungry. Thank God there was a Pancake House nearby where my mom and I could eat our breakfast. I had the Salisbury steak and garlic rice. Not a great combination actually. I had to order the potato salad instead. Yum.)

Aside from my normal blood sugar level, my cholesterol levels are all in check, even my triglycerides, uric acid, and creatinine levels are within the reference values, so the doctor gave me a clean bill of health. Well, almost. I had my blood pressure checked and it was 130/90, slightly elevated (my normal BP is 110/80). So he told me to exercise. Hay!

Well, I must confess, I've been remiss in my yoga practice these past two weeks (due to the weekend bazaar shopping sprees), so I'm not surprised my BP has risen. Then again, my mom was with me at the doctor's so that could also be the reason for my higher BP hehe.

Anyhoo, I'm really thankful for my good health (and my mom's too). I think this is the best Christmas present anyone can receive.

December 07, 2007

When Cora met Ike

Something Like Life
Dec. 7, 2007

ONE of Hollywood’s all-time favorite romantic comedies is When Harry Met Sally. Released in 1989, the film’s hook is simple: “Can men and women just be friends?” As we find out in the movie, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) are friends for the longest time. They meet up over the course of so many years, each in a relationship, broken up, setting the other up for a date, but still remaining very platonic friends. Then when Harry goes over to Sally to comfort her after she grieves over her ex-boyfriend getting married, they end up having sex—and the most awkward morning after ever.

They don’t speak for a while until New Year’s Eve when Harry goes to a party that Sally is leaving, and declares his undying love for her. The film closes with both characters talking to the camera, as if being interviewed; they are now married. So this is what happens when best friends fall in love with each other.

Well, when Corazon de la Paz (née Santos), one of the most accomplished women in the accounting field, and currently president of the Social Security System (SSS), first met Enrique “Ike” V. Bernardo, a retired banker, they were both in their teens and studying at the Rizal High School in Pasig City. They were classmates from second-year to fourth-year high school, and vying for the school’s top academic honors.

“He’s from Pasig and I’m from Pateros. He was No. 3 in our class. I was No. 2. The guy I was being paired off with was the No. 1. But wala naman noon kasi we were still very young. ’Di ko nga pinag-interesan ’yan [Ike] nung araw. ’Di ko na ’yan inambisyunan nung araw, kasi gwapo s’ya,” Cora jokes. More seriously, she adds, “My friends were from Pateros kasi—and also because we were competitors in school.”

(HER friends and colleagues insist she is now “glowing.” But Cora de la Paz-Bernardo says, “I’m always glowing!” before letting out peals of laughter.)

Here in Manila, Cora worked up her way to the top of her field, heading up the distinguished accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (formerly Joaquin Cunanan). She married Wenceslao de la Paz, chairman of the National Power Corp. and presidential adviser on energy affairs until 1992. They have one daughter Cristina, 28, now studying Theater Lighting Design in London.

Alone in a big house

BUT in 1995, de la Paz passed away after struggling with a rare type of cancer. Cora says, “It was not too difficult to accept. I believe in the afterlife kasi. I had a happy marriage. So I felt that we were still going to see each other again someday. I prayed that kunin na s’ya kesa mag-suffer pa s’ya ng matagal. There was no cure for that cancer at the time. I felt that I have been lucky to have been given a life with him. I learned a lot from him.”

Cora’s work and her frequent travels kept her from being lonely. She also occupied her spare time with golf. “So I wasn’t depressed,” she says. The only time she felt ill at ease was “when I was all alone in our big house in Greenhills on the second floor. My daughter was away, studying abroad. I didn’t want to stay in the house. My husband had bought it and we lived in it for 10 years.” She moved to a smaller house, near Manila Golf and Country Club in Forbes Park, Makati, where she still lives today.

For his part, Ike lived abroad for 30 years, working as an expat banker in Hong Kong and Jakarta. He married Angelina Pineda, with whom he has two sons: Ricky, now married and living in Chicago; and Radi, who works here in a telecommunications firm.

Ike and Cora only saw each other once in 1998, when he was home for a visit. He had sought his old classmate to ask if his son, who was then coming home from the US for the summer, could work for her accounting firm in the interim. Unfortunately, there were no summer-job openings then, Cora recalls. Still, both promised to play golf, their favorite game, next time Ike was around in Manila. Somehow, that didn’t pan out: when Ike was here, Cora would be hard at work or abroad.

Then in 2002, Ike returned home to Manila to retire with his family. “It was not until our class reunion in January 2006 that I saw him again,” Cora recalls, and together with another friend, they agreed to play golf on weekends.

Just golfing buddies

SADLY, Ike's wife died in November 2006 after a brave bout against the Big C. “He was so devoted to her. He took care of her,” Cora says. After his wife passed away, his old high-school classmates, including Cora, helped him through his grief. But it was only this year that he resumed playing golf with Cora and their friend Joe. “After our game, we’d go to the nearby eateries and eat a lot of food from Laguna Lake. That’s what we have in common, mahilig kami sa kanduli, sa ayungin, maliliit na hipon.”

Cora insists that the relationship was all very platonic then. “We were very good friends. ’Di ko nga alam boyfriend ko na pala sya,” she guffaws. She just noticed that after a few months, Bernardo no longer brought along their other golfing buddy to their weekend games. He made excuses, such as being unable to call Joe because the latter didn’t have a cell phone. She then got used to playing golf without their third wheel “until at some point, he just proposed. I said, ‘Kaya pala ’di mo na sinasama si Joe!’

('I never thought I was missing anything in my life anymore'.)

Cora says she can’t really identify that specific point in time when everything just fell into place for her and Ike, romance-wise. It just flowed naturally. They were golfing buddies, best friends, then they were holding hands. “It wasn’t planned. I didn’t even think of it. Besides, I didn’t dare presume that there was something between us. It just happened. Basta mabait sya. He’s a very gentle person. He could be very sympathetic and would take my side even when I’m being attacked in the media. He would always say, ‘Remember, as long as you’re doing the right thing, the silent majority is behind you.’ Ayun, he’s always there to guide [me] and advise [me]. And he has a sense of humor.”

A party of eight

SO without the fanfare and grand announcements that usually accompany weddings, Cora and Ike, with eight other people standing as witnesses and guests, including the priest, got married at 4 pm at the Twin Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church in West Triangle, Quezon City, on October 7. The reception for the small wedding party was held at the cozy and intimate Lemuria restaurant in Horsehoe Village. “There was just a short period wherein we could get married,” Cora says of their quite hectic schedule leading up to their wedding. “The next day, we had to leave for the States!”

A lot of people, including Cora’s closest friends, were surprised. Some were hurt, of course, feeling they had been left out of the loop. When she informed the SSS board that she was “going to hyphenate my name,” the directors thought they were just about to receive their wedding invites. “Sabi ko, tapos na,” Cora bursts into laughter.

Asked for a wedding photo, Cora says she had asked her husband if she could give us one, but he demurred, joking, “’Wag na, sweetheart, baka hindi na ako makapag-jeep n’yan!” Seriously, though, Cora says Ike does take the jeep when he goes from his condo in Rockwell to the Makati City Hall, where he pays his taxes. “He says it’s more convenient for him to take the jeep because it’s a short ride and there’s no hassle of parking. He’s been away for so long, so all these things are new to him. It’s like an adventure. He lines up at the bank. He tells me he wants to go through the process of how things are done [here].”

In a week’s time, Cora will be moving into Ike’s three-bedroom condo, which is currently being renovated to accommodate the new lady of the house. She says she’ll still keep her house in Forbes for her daughter and siblings who come home from the States from time to time.

Doesn’t she feel uncomfortable sharing a bed with another person after 12 years of having it all to herself? “’Di naman. It comes naturally eh. Na there’s someone...very caring naman....I never thought I was missing anything in my life anymore. But now he’s here, and you feel so cared for. ’Yung me yayakap sa ’yo. Kasi I grew up with a loving father. I grew up with a feeling of continued reassurance that you will always be protected.”

Asked if she had any advice for the lovelorn (like me!), Cora says, “Take each day as it comes. If it happens, kung talagang nandoon, just enjoy each other’s company. Don’t have too many expectations. Live a simple life as you can.”

After listening to Ma’am Cora tell her love story, and giggling through most of her narration, I can only say, “Nakaka-inggit!” I kidded her that she was lucky to have loved not once, but twice already, while there are so many single women like me who have yet to find that special person we would want to spend our life with.

But it also gives me hope. If it’s meant to be, love will happen, no matter how young or old one is. (Though I hope it doesn’t arrive when I’m 90, with my hair and teeth falling out, and too senile to remember I even have a beating heart!)

As Ma’am Cora and I part ways, I remember a quote from an upcoming book by author Norman Mailer, who recently passed away. I share it with her:

“It struck me that everyone I knew, including myself, was always looking for love. ‘Ah, if I could find love, it would solve my problems.’ Some years ago, however, I found myself saying to my children, ‘Don’t go searching for love. Love is not a solution but a reward.’ So long as you go searching for love directly, you will fail, because love is a grace and you don’t pursue grace.” (Norman Mailer from On God: An Uncommon Conversation, as quoted by the New York Post)

December 06, 2007

Eastern Promises...bleah

PANGS wanted to watch a movie today and he said the reviews of Eastern Promises were good. Okay, I said, who's starring in it? He said Viggo Mortensen. Whoa! Sure! Lesgow. Pant pant

So we met up in Trinoma...we were probably about 10 people in the entire theater. Not promising. Okay, I thought maybe the film's just too artsy fartsy and high brow for most of the moviegoers at Trinoma. (So now you know why the mall is so goddamned ugly. Ayala Land certainly didn't pull out the punches in designing this one. Like where's the pay lounge with the automatic flushing toilets? They think too low of the people in the Quezon City area.)

Anyway, back to Eastern Promises which also stars another favorite character actor of mine Armin Mueller who plays the godfather of one of the Russian mafia families living in London. That's his day job. At night he is a restaurateur and a good cook. Cute. In fact, he's the only character I liked in the entire film.

The plot was too predictable. The film draaaaaaaging, fact the only time I actually sat up straight was when Viggo's character, Nikolai, tried to fend off burly Chechnya types from another mafia family, NAKED. Yay! This is what I call action. Kicking, punching, knifing....blood everywhere! And seeing Viggo in the buff. Pant pant again. Now it gets interesting. NOT!

The film goes back to the same ho-hum pace. Ending was predictable as well. Dang. I thought, P140 was way too much to pay just to see Viggo's pitutoy.

December 05, 2007

Balat sa pwet?

WHILE this piece from the Visayan Daily Star seems to be the usual PR job, it's still interesting to read how top cop Geary Barias, now NCRPO chief, seems to be hounded by calamities everywhere he is assigned. The paper notes:

"A month after he assumed command of the National Capital Region Police Office in Metro Manila, Barias was confronted with the Glorietta incident and the Batasan blast, which were recently followed by the Makati stand-off, involving detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, among others.

"In his six months as regional police director of Western Visayas, Barias confronted an oil spill in Guimaras and the bombing of Silay airport in Negros Occidental, and the accidental explosion of the ammunition dump at Camp Crame , while serving as director of the Headquarters Support Group."

Hmmm...that's one heck of a giant balat sa pwet, huh? Heaven help us if he becomes PNP chief.

(Barias photo from GMA News TV)

December 03, 2007

Je t'aime... moi non plus (I love neither)

OVER the weekend, I read Vanity Fair's piece on the late Serge Gainsbourg, a French songwriter/singer (and actor and director) who was adored in his native country for the purity of his songs, the loveliness of his spirit, and his gorgeous women...notably Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin (who designed and inspired the Hermés Birkin bag).

While I knew of BB and Birkin, I really haven't heard of Gainsbourg until I read the VF story which included interviews of his daughter, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as Misses Birkin and BB. Gainsbourg passed away in 1991, and his house had remained shuttered to the public until Charlotte allowed VF access to it. The story is an interesting read and piqued my curiousity further about the man. I've already downloaded his "Best of" 2-CD torrent and am enjoying his songs, despite not understanding a word of French. (But then songs of love cut across all languages don't they?)

Anyway, here's a video of Gainsbourg and Birkin's love song Je t' non plus which became controversial because of Birkin's ummm, whisperings. It was subsequently banned by the BBC, journalists called it lewd, and the Vatican even issued a statement denouncing it. If you listen to it, it actually sounds tame by today's standards. It was first recorded by Gainsbourg and Ms. BB, but when they broke up, Ms. BB asked him not to release the song as a single. He instead recorded it with Birkin when they hooked up. Btw, this song inspired the Donna Summer hit...Love to love you baby. Yeah disco!


If only making love was all we ever did.

December 02, 2007