Monthly Archives: December 2012

Happy this new year

For the first time since I returned from Cambodia, we are celebrating the coming of the new year. We had put up the Christmas tree and other decorations as early as November. And at Christmas my mother and I cooked up a storm for Noche Buena. Tonight the house is uncharacteristically noisy with the bustle of cousins, nieces, and nephews. I am writing this as I am resting. I have cooked two dishes and one a*s-kicking dessert. We have fireworks and noise-makers, meats to grill later and some alcoholic drinks to share.

It looks like it’s going to be a great celebration, for a change. A good portent, perhaps, for the new year.

fruits for good luck

fruits for good luck

According to Chinese astrology, it seems that it’s going to be a good year for me, indeed.


The Year of the Snake should bring progress and expansion for you. Did you have a bumpy ride last year? You still might hit a few obstacles in 2013, but you’ll have 10 favorable months to look forward to, and only two not-so-favorable months. If you’re a typical Ox, you might need to work on being less stubborn and learning to bend with the wind. Compromise is your friend. Yes, I know you’re a tough and powerful creature, but you might butt heads with others if you’re forceful about being right. Borrow some creativity and gentleness from the snake. Raise your expectations, and practice diplomacy to get what you want.


The year 2013 Chinese horoscope forecasts that it will be a test of patience if you are born in Ox year. It will bring many ups and downs in your life. But if you are calm and polite even in the worst situation, then you can easily achieve your goals. You might be lucky but you should control your emotions well. You will have favorable events but you need to be careful and handle them to your own advantage. You should be patient while in a fight and not burst out.

Ox people are known to hold secrets, but too much hiding can tamper relationships. As difficulties come by, you will learn how to overcome them. You need to try using your imagination and creativity to a large extent to derive maximum desired results. You can open up your mind this year and come out in the clear and talk to your friends so that they understand you better. Overall, this year will have fewer obstacles for ox people and would be good year.


Essentially, slow moving signs will do well in the year of the ox. The ox, of course, is slow moving as his/her pace matches that of the water snake. The secret for the success for those born in the year of the ox is to match their pace to that of the snake – even if that means going just a little slower and in a more roundabout way. Both relationships and business will flourish this year for the ox. Remember, however, it is a water snake year, and there are traps ahead. Take them into consideration. Move slowly!

Happy new year everybody! May this new year be kinder to us!

Keep it green

This is almost a relic… a product of much happier times… back to a time when I made personal holiday cards using my drag persona… my life is different now… but the sentiment remains the same… HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

xmas 02

Where is Christmas?

I remember a time when I was really excited at the thought of the coming Christmas day. I think I was still abroad then. Christmas in Phnom Penh was almost a non-holiday, observed by the few Christians and Catholics. There was a kind of simplicity about its observance/ celebration that I didn’t find anywhere. A few Christmases spent in Bangkok and in Saigon have shown me how these two non-Christian cities have succumbed to the more commercial aspect of this holiday.

The first Christmas I spent in the Philippines after spending almost 7 years in Cambodia, wasn’t particularly joyful. I was depressed. My father died less than a month before; no one in my family felt like celebrating. The year after that was almost the same. It was only this year that my family and I put up a Christmas tree–a sign of improving mood, surely.

xmas 01

Still, venturing out, I find myself un-settled by the seemingly overwhelming sights and sounds of a Filipino-style Christmas. Instead of cheering me up, it has the opposing effect. I always find myself thinking of past Christmases I spent in Phnom penh, with few carefully selected friends. Those times allowed me to focus on the communal aspect of the holiday. I miss those times. This is a tacit declaration that I am missing my old life in Cambodia as well.

Although I must admit, some aspects of the whole celebration, Pinoy-style, has begun to appeal to me again. Things like receiving gifts. Last night I attended my first Christmas party in two years. And with some new friends we had some after-party coffee until about 3AM.

So, all in all, things seem to be really looking up.

And, who am I to complain anyway? My life was not shattered by a natural calamity or ravaged by poverty, unlike many of other Filipinos. For that alone I should be thankful and grateful.

For Joyce

We’ve been colleagues in development work for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2003 that we became close friends. And such a loyal and honest friend she is. Unfortunately, as I made my way back to the Philippines in 2010, she was on her way to Canada to start a new life. We both are travelers whose paths rarely cross but it doesn’t in any way diminish our friendship. I wrote this poem while still in Cambodia and I asked a mutual friend to read this on my behalf on Joyce’s send-off party. I am posting this now at Joyce’s request.


If we were at Treehouse now 


Maybe tonight when you’re done

Celebrating, after the last of post-prandial

Conversations have been exchanged,

The night will forget decorum

And reveal the profound sadness

I am keeping inside my heart,

Because you’re leaving. It is an arrow

Embedded in the flesh, much like the stories

We have shared through the years–

Tales of joy and grief, the love we gave

But didn’t always get back, as we made

Separate but parallel journeys in life.

But perhaps, more than the stories,

What we really have in common

Is this wanderlust, the need to remain

In constant motion. So this departure,

Being just one of the many,

Shouldn’t cause me trouble, but

It does and what can I do?

The fire that consumes our hearts

Is the same, lighting up the evening sky

In the city I’m also preparing to leave.

The whole world is before us, my friend,

And I miss the times we are together,

Weaving such stories of our lives.

As you make this yet another journey,

Remember to look at the sky,

Know that no matter how far off you go

I will always be within reach.



Phnom Penh, 2010

We’re all Ageists

Tonight on the way home from work, I took a cab that was being driven by a very old-looking man. He appeared to be at least 70 years old. I wanted to ask his age but I didn’t want to be rude. He drove very well, by the way. He followed the same route that I had been following–the fastest, I deduced–without any question or attempt to take the longer way. I also noticed that he didn’t wear any spectacles. Quite remarkable, I thought, to have a keen eyesight for his age. Unlike me, who’d been wearing them since I was eleven.

Finally I got the nerve to ask him and he said that he was, in fact, 65 years old. He said that he’d been driving a cab for 25 years and that he’d been a driver since 1971. I asked him if he hasn’t thought of retiring and he said that he stopped driving for a year upon the request of his children. But he fell ill, probably from doing nothing so he went back to taxi driving. He said it’s the only job he knew. I thought to myself, it’s only right that he kept at it because he did it so well.

When I got off I added an extra 50 pesos to the fare and told him to be careful. I couldn’t help it. It was late and taxi drivers are especially vulnerable to robbers. And he looked so frail. I regretted uttering the quip I jokingly said to my colleague just before taking this particular cab. I said, ‘dito na ako sasakay kay lolo!‘ [I’ll take grandpa’s cab].

That was mean and I shouldn’t be. After all, who is trying to start a new career in middle age but me? Who is being addressed as ‘kuya‘ [older brother] by my younger colleagues like it’s the most natural thing in the world? Who hears jokes about older people all the time, in an industry that makes young people grow old so quickly then discards them for new younger people?

When I was young I couldn’t wait to grow up. And when I did I wished growing up didn’t mean growing old. Sh*t, we’re all ageists!

This will take some getting used to.