09 September 2022

Win some, lose some

When I saw this chess set at the op shop last weekend, the first thing that came to mind was, "what a bargain!" It was only $5 and it was a Kasparov portable chess set. I thought, why would someone donate this? Anyway, one man's rubbish is another man's treasure as they say, so I was happy to bag this deal.

My daughter had joined the chess club at school so I thought this would be a wonderful way to play when not at home. The set itself is solid and wonderfully made. This is a magnetic chess set, actually, but some if the pieces have lost this quality. I would have thought that magnets do not lose this property?

At any rate, upon opening this set, a wave of nostalgia flowed through my mind. Back in high school, a couple of my friends and I got hooked up on chess. However, we only had this portable magnetic chess set and it was a lot smaller than the one I had bought last week. It was an all-plastic set; it's a far cry from this treasure I found at the op shop. But the hours we spent on that set! Amazingly, there were three of us, and it's a two-person game but one of us would patiently watch as the game progresses, and then challenge the winner on the next turn. Those were the days.

I play a couple of games at night with my daughter, and I'm amazed that I can still work my way around the board. Granted that my daughter doesn't have years of experience, but she has been able to make good strategies on the board. I have given her tips which she was able to use and win some games at school. Actually, she has already beaten me twice!

Chess is such a fun game and it's also great for logic. It brought friends together, and now it's bringing my daughter and I closer too.


24 May 2022

That time when I waited on tables

Last weekend was not-so-ordinary. We had a church group activity over Saturday and Sunday, and on Saturday evening I was able to experience being a wait staff. There were only eight couples we waited on, but it gave me a rough idea of how it is like.

There are two things I learned about myself from this experience -
1. I am undoubtedly an introvert - I found it difficult keeping a happy demeanour while going about the 'work' - it left me drained afterwards.
2. I am truly no longer as youthful. Standing the entire time left me with sore feet and ready to hit the sack.

I had to take Monday off just to sleep and 'recuperate'.

But also, there are things I rather liked -
1. I enjoyed being of service. This was a suprise dinner and the gesture was appreciated. I enjoyed fussing over their comfort and asking how their food was.
2. I loved being part of the team. We helped each other out in serving the food and ensuring the tables were not cluttered.

But overall I don't think I will make a great waiter. We knew the people in that event so that made it tons easier. But if I were to wait on strangers, I am quite certain I will have to push my introvertness to the limit.

My respect to those in the hospitality space, especially wait staff. It's quite a demanding job!

(I had to crop out the others from the above photo for privacy reasons, but I thought I looked good in the uniform 😂 )

26 April 2022

Wishy washy

I was in my final year of university and we were in Manila for our field trip. It was my first time in the bustling city, and the enormity of the place was just astounding. I remember being wide-eyed while our bus made its way through the highway with the tall buildings left and right; very different from my hometown! It was also stifling hot, something that I never got used to inspite of the fact that I would eventually work in Makati for many years.

It's funny that one of the unforgettable things from this trip is not any of the places we visited, but rather something we saw as the bus was idly waiting for the traffic light to turn green. It was comfortable inside thanks to airconditioning, but we knew how hot and humid it was outside. 

We then spotted a roadside vendor selling lots of coloured drinks in transparent containers, all loaded with ice and looking so temptingly thirst-quenching. We were commenting how awesome it would be to have a cold drink. 

Then we saw a passerby purchase a glass of it. I think he chose melon. So the vendor removed the lid, scooped out the juice using a ladle, took a glass from a tray and poured onto it. The passerby then dunked the drink in one go, then handed back the glass.

The vendor then promptly dipped the glass into a bucket of water once, then returned it to the tray.

We promptly lost our desire for a cold drink. I never attempted to buy any of those cold drinks those many years I was in Manila.

20 April 2022

The glue in the friendship

I had a wonderful group of friends in Manila when I lived and worked there. It was an unlikely combo but it worked, and I've always thought it's due to our love of the great outdoors. My workmates, along with my 'neighbourhood' mates, formed a bond went beyond mere acquaintances. We all even travelled south of the Philippines together on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

But in life's twists and turns, I found myself going on a journey to another country and leaving my friends behind. That's when one of my neighbourhood friends told me in one of our weekend get-togethers, that I was the glue that bound all of us together. Once I leave, things will no longer be as it was. I didn't think that would happen, but time proved he was right.

03 April 2022

A mother's love

One of my fondest childhood memories of my Nanay is when I was very sick one night. I remember tossing and turning, couldn't sleep due to the fever. Everyone else was fast asleep. She came up to me and asked if I couldn't sleep. I said yes, so she turned on the tv and we watched a children's show together.

28 March 2022

Waiting game

Waiting outside the Asian Store while my wife shopped for goodies reminded me of the times when I waited for my Nanay decades ago. Our house then was a good fifteen minute walk to the market. If there's going to be a major 'shopping spree' - think Christmas - I'm the kid my Nanay chooses to help with hauling stuff around. Not sure why, perhaps because I spend too much time in the house. Or perhaps I don't really notice that we have a roster!

Our marketplace is called Hilltop. An apt name, because you do get a good exercise going up and down the alleyways and narrow streets looking for the best price. There's always a good crowd, noisy and vibrant, with vendors calling out to their 'suki', mingled with the occasional singing of religious groups asking for donations, or the loud blast of a jukebox. For me, it's always an adventure going to the market. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the hustle and bustle. It's so vibrant.

Anyways, we'd start the day going round the vegetable section, then she'd make her way to to the grocery stores. It's somewhere in the middle of the hill, by the stairs hugging the Maharlika Livelihood Centre, that my Nanay would ask me to stay and look after our groceries, which by then would be considerably heavy. Then off she goes to get meat and other stuff. She would be away for quite some time, perhaps half and hour or so. There were no phones there. So I would just stand there and watch as people go about their business. I never felt bored doing that, though I would sometimes wonder when she'd return. I was a high school kid then so I think she felt I was more than responsible not to go wandering off.

When she would finally return, she'd have some more grocery bags having with stuff which we then muster with carrying all the way back home.

This was a routine we did for many years, so I already anticipated what would happen in the course of that trip. And each time I would wait patiently for her return.

07 March 2022

In isolation

It all started last week when my son had to leave school early as he was unwell. The next day I signed up for a RATs test kit and promptly queued up to collect. He tested positive.

We have been voluntarily isolating since. Good thing we have work-from-home down pat in 2020 so we can still earn.

This is the situation that I thought we'd dodge. NZ had been doing so well keeping the virus at bay. And then cases started to exponentially increase late February. From hundreds, it turned into thousands. Suddenly friends either started getting infected, or they had to isolate. And then it hit right home. This virus is incessant.

On the positive side, the rest of us is negative on our day 3 test. Let's see what happens on day 10.

23 February 2022

Ramen is life

I watched The God of Ramen from the Japanese Film Festival because I love Ramen and I thought it will be about cooking. Well, it was in some way. But it was more on the poignant life of renowned Ramen Chef Kazuo Yamagishi.  In a lot of ways, his story strongly resonated with me. This realisation came when Yamagishi's hands were focussed. I've seen those hands before: calloused and a bit twisted from osteoarthritis. It was my father's. His hands became even more pronounced when he retired from work. Arthritis hurts. Must be why he was difficult most times, at least with those looking after him. He was also stubborn, that much is true.

And the way Yamagishi san tasted the broth and knew how it adjust it, and what was missing... it was my Nanay. She was amazing. Whenever I went home on weekends she made sure that I have pre-packed meals I can bring back to Manila to keep in the fridge. Her meals are so delicious.

I also saw part of me in Yamagishi san. The person who is stuck with past hurts. The deaths of my parents and relatives are a defining moment for me. The pain never goes away. It lingers. But you have to learn to live with it, for the sake of the present, the future.

13 February 2022

Pyjama party, anyone?

 If I'd be asked to tell an awkward story, this would be my go-to account. But no one's asked me this questions before, so I thought I'd just share this out there.

I was new in Makati then, which is a bustling city in Metro Manila, Philippines. I was there more as a necessity rather a choice because I couldn't find work in my hometown. Luckily I did land a job in IT but as an entry-level staff member, I had to budget my rather meager starting salary for my daily expenses etc. As an office worker, I had to buy appropriate office clothes. But what would you do if money was tight? Buy from discount stores, of course. 

There was this shop in SM that had just that. SM is a big chain of shopping malls across the country, with its own department store. It also ran a discount store and that was where I started shopping for office clothes. There was one particular short-sleeve polo that I took a liking to. It was white with thin, blue stripes running across the fabric. I think it was made of cotton and was comfortable. I bought it and I loved wearing it to work.

One day I was walking opposite SM and I had a full view of their department store's display window. There were mannequins wearing nice-looking sleepwear. I remember thinking I wouldn't be able to sleep in those, on account of having no airconditioning whatsoever in my bedspace rental. And then I spotted something familiar... one of the mannequins was wearing the same exact shirt I've been using for work. It was the top half of a pyjama. 

I've been going to work in sleepwear.

I realised then that the pants that came with the top may have gone missing, hence it ended up in the discount store. Awesome. I stopped wearing that polo since then. I just wished they did make work clothes that comfy that you can sleep in it!

01 February 2022

Time after time

I glance at my watch. 11.07pm. I pause and wonder how time just flew by so fast. I glance at my watch again and half an hour has gone. This watch counts down every hour, every minute, every second. So precise, so... clinical.

How about counting the days by the season instead? We're almost done with summer. Soon the hot summer air will give way to the cool autumn breeze. The trees will swap their greens with blazing reds and oranges, and then drop all these for white, powdery snow. 

And then... The daffodils would start to sprout and flower. Colour and hayfever all round!

And the cycle starts all over again. 

Time waits for no one. How should I spend this time, I wonder? I glance at my watch..
 an hour has gone...

23 January 2022

A serious lapse of judgement

The year is still in its infancy and yet I have already made it memorable in the worst possible way.

It was early January, we were invited to an impromptu evening party. We've actually just concluded a beach gathering which lasted the entire afternoon. My wife had to stay home as we had some guests over so my daughter and I went.

They were serving bourbon whiskey. I said I was only going for beer, but that shot was a welcome drink. So I acquiesced. Long story short, that welcome drink was followed by another, then another...

I was startled by my 7am alarm. I hastily shut it off, then realised I fell asleep on the sofa. I couldn't remember what transpired that night. I had blacked out.

Which is a scary thing. Because I'm not sure exactly what happened! I managed to piece some scant details from my daughter and other friends; and I did not like what I heard. And, as to be expected, our host had some video footage which he thought was entertaining. He let me view it when we next met in another occasion, but after the first five seconds I refused to watch further. They saw a drunk me throwing a fit; I saw my drunk father. I was becoming what I did not want to be.

At first I wanted to place the blame on my friends who served the drinks. But eventually I realised it's not their fault, but mine. I should have exercised self control.

It's true that your ultimate adversary is yourself.

I guess you now know what my new year's resolution is.

17 January 2022

It's getting hot in here

It's late in the night but I'm having a bit of a problem catching my zzzzs. Too warm! Not that I'm complaining, we don't get a lot of these hot days here in NZ. But when I started sweating right after a shower, it just reminded of my early days in Manila when I started working professionally in the early 90s. Growing up in the cool city of Baguio, the hot and humid Manila climate was a challenge to adjust to.

Being a minimum wage worker meant I had to look for bedspace accommodations in Guadalupe, Makati City. That meant living with four other guys in a cramped room with bunk beds and no windows. The first thing I bought, besides beddings, was an electric fan. But even when the fan is aimed straight at me, it's just circulating the warm air so I would be sweating til late, when the evening finally cools down.

I remember there wasn't really much to do at night. The internet was very much a privilege then, and we had analog mobile phones (Nokia 2200 I think) and a beeper! We didn't even have a TV! So we would nofrmally chat until it's time for bed.

I wasn't much of a conversationalist though so as soon as I had the money I bought a small TV! Without telling the landlord! That took them by surprise when they saw us watching TV one night. Good thing they didn't raise the rent.

I don't think I lasted a year there when two of my officemates suggested we rent an apartment. That was a huge improvement!  But the other thing that triggered that memory is my son working on a Gundam kit. It was in those cramped quarters that I found interest in painting model kits (soldiers and knights, then Star Wars ships). This led to Gundams eventually. There wasn't much to do on weekends so that kept me occupied when I didn't have the money to go home.
I wonder how my old bunkmates are doing now...

10 January 2022

Pure shores

I was around 10 when I first felt sand between my toes. It was at the  Blue Beach in the city of Dagupan in the Philippines.

I was spending the summer in my father's hometown. My uncle decided to bring me to the beach. It was just the two of us. I didn't think it will be much fun at all, until I saw that vast expanse of deep blue in the horizon as our ride trudged along the dusty road. And then I heard the rhythmic, rustling sound of the waves crashing to the shore. I was in the water one time, then on the sand next. I couldn't get enough of the warm waters and the smooth sand. When it was finally time to go home, I fell asleep in the ride home but my dreams were of floating in the water and the sound of the waves playing over and over in my head.

We're staying at a house near the beach at the moment, and seeing my daughter play reminded me of that happy childhood memory, and of why I'm always drawn to the beach.

06 January 2022

Cooking home

'Firmly hold the edge of the bowl with one hand, and with your other hand make the wooden spoon glide across the side of the bowl, then complete a circular motion while turning the bowl the other way. This way, you don't break up the macaroni while mixing the ingredients. Repeat as often as needed. This is how you fold."

I feel my Nanay's presence, her voice steady and giving me gentle guidance every time I make her macaroni salad recipe.

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