Monday, August 07, 2006

DH

If you're a Filipina in Hong Kong, you must not be surprised, (or offended) to be mistaken for a domestic. That's how the foreigners call our 'katulong' or 'kasambahay'. There are about 200,000 Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong, and yes, there are those who might be irked at being mistaken for a DH. It is true that we are professionals, too, but I don't see why we have to be defensive. Back home, 85 per cent of our countrymen are poor and it is possible that most of the OFW population emerge from this class.

Journey

A couple of days ago I was in Hong Kong for a coverage for Nagmamahal Kapamilya.
We finished a few hours early and so we had time to do some last minute shopping. I simply couldn't bear not to buy anything for my family and friends, even if it were just something I got on bargain from Mongkok. It's our 'pasalubong' mentality.

I enjoyed strolling the streets of Hong kong and taking the MTR (HK's version of my favorite MRT) , and most especially, being anonymous. It bought me the luxury of observing people and immersing myself in busy Hong Kong. It amazes me how much of Hong Kong is like the Big Apple: people rushing to work, with hardly a smile on their faces. That's what you get living in a major city.

Occassionally, I would see people, fellow Asians, looking at me, perhaps surmising that I am from their country. I would smile back, unsure if the person is Filipino, or maybe Indonesian. Once, I mouthed the word 'Filipino?' to a lady passenger in the train, she shook her head. 'Indonesian?', I asked. She gave me an affirmative smile.

I was in the train to Admiralty station when I caught a woman staring at me. This time, I knew she was Filipino. She had an excited look on her face to see a 'kababayan'. She asked if I was the TV person from Manila. Later, I learned that she is from Ilocos and she's been in Hong Kong for only a month. She was still fixing her employment papers; that's why I caught her in the train.

One more station to go... I asked her how she was. She tried to fight the tears. All I could do was hold her hand and tell her to be strong. It was time for me to go.

The encounter was very brief that I would not even call it a conversation, but somehow the look on her face as the train doors closed, said everything about her journey in this foreign country.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bear and Honey

Did I say that I collect those small magnetic starbucks bears?
A few years ago a friend of mine gave me two magnetic starbucks bears. Now I have over ten.
Last thursday my friend May and I went to starbucks and I noticed that they have a new design. I looked at it and playfully held it but I put it back on the rack.
When we were about to leave, a little girl with her Lola handed me the little bear that i held. The Lola explained that her apo saw me look at it and had asked her to buy it for me. I was just touched and humbled at the gesture. I asked her to autograph it for me, and she dutifully scribbled her name-- Honey.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mambo Power

20 years after the People Power Edsa Revolution of 1986... I am left with no memory of it, nothing of the heroism nor the romance that went with it.
I was only 10 years old then. And my parents, especially my mom, is a Marcos Loyalist (so you really couldn't expect my family to participate in Edsa).

---,

A few days ago, the morning show that I'm co-hosting invited Leah Navarro over, being one of the millions who went to Edsa in 1986. We were preparing fot the 20 years of Edsa. I asked her if the song 'Mambo Mambo Magsaysay' was ever played in the airwaves during the Edsa revolution. She said it was played sometime in the 50's or 60's but couldn't recall it being played in the 1980's.

However, I distinctly recall hearing it over the radio in my childhood. I knew there was something going on, and yet I did not know exactly what it was nor could I remember my age then. The song just kept on playing.

Tonight, in a documentary about the edsa revolution which aired in ABC-5, I learned that Mambo Mambo Magsaysay was in fact being played over Radyo Bandido after Radio Veritas was disabled by pro Marcos soldiers! June Keithley brought the tape with her and played it on air. When people heard it she said, they knew it was her. Her life was in grave danger.

I did not know Keithley then, nor did I know of Edsa. My only recollection is the AM radio in full blast, and i was in the our terrace singing... but I could also sense some tension.

"Mambo Mambo Magsaysay, Mambo Mambo Mabuhay, Our democracy will die, kung wala si Magsaysay..."

I regret that I was not in Edsa when we succeeded in installing democracy to our country. I would have wanted to tell my grandchildren about my personal experience then, but I have none, except for that song Mambo Magsaysay.

Anecdotes on Edsa continue, but the stories that are being passed on to the younger generations are faltering.

As part of that younger generation, I wish to hang on to the bit of memory that I have of Edsa. I was not amidst tanks and soldiers, and nuns in Edsa...
but I know i always will be part of our history.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bayad Utang!

How many times I have I not given because of so many excuses. Many, many times. Often my excuse would be I need to save the amount that I intend to give now for an even bigger project. I postpone. And then I would have another excuse: I am saving for the future so that more would be blessed. I postpone. I postpone. I postpone. Procrastinate.

This year, that will change. We a little gratitude.

Most of us are forever indebted when someone lends us money, or gives us something. I feel compelled to do the same for that person, in whatever way I can. The Japanese translation for thank you is Arigato, and Father Rudy, my priest friend who was assigned in Japan tells me that it means that 'deeply humbled'. That's why the Japanese are forever grateful when they receive anything. They are humbled.

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We Filipinos are even so familiar with the term "five-six" . This is a term of payment for loans funded by Bumbays. For every five peso borrowed, the borrower will pay six pesos!

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I bring just a few amount of pesos in wallet, and I admit, I borrow from friends but I pay them right away! Nakakahiya!

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Everything is our life came from God- Our family, our job, our career, our friends... everything. And God does not even want to be repaid in full, but only a measly 10%! Nahihiya ako. We should be ashamed. I pray that he does not collect full payment for all he has given.

We have to act and give our share NOW. What starts as bayad-utang will lead to gratefulness. Because when you give something that is important to you--your money or your time--you will begin to recognize the Being from which all things came.

The gift of generosity is humility. The gift of humility is grace.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

An Afternoon with Loida

East Hampton was is a two hour drive from New York City. I was all set to interview Loida Nicolas Lewis, the richest Filipina in New York, in her vacation home for my show Nagmamahal, Kapamilya.

I took advantage of the travel time to catch some sleep. When I awoke, I was mesmerized by the sight of the village of East Hampton--the fresh produce in baskets being sold at the side of the road, acres of orchard, the small boutiques and restaurants. It was very country. And I loved it.

It is no wonder that Hampton is the vacation place of the most prominent personalities in the United States: Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Chevy Chase. Frankly, it made me proud that one of our own lives there.

My jaw fell on the floor when we entered Loida's estate. Her front lawn was something like three acres wide. It reminded me of the movie Sabrina.

And just like in the movie, Loida had a butler too. Lucien.

Lucien told us that Loida is on her way to church and so I joined her.

In the car, she immediately talked about business and how to invest through financing. This was just one of the many things she learned from her husband, the late Reginald Lewis. She was very generous with her knowledge and shared whatever she knew on business with her staff. In fact, Lucien was able to buy two houses in Hampton too!

As the choir played, she whispered to me that the female flutist is also Filipino. She was also very proud that another Filipina, Beth Glorioso had a small boutique in Hampton.

We had our interview at her backyard, by the Pacific Ocean! It lasted for almost two hours ( thank God the crew had enough tapes! )I was so absorbed by the conversation that I forgot the time. I just listened intently to her stories, inspired by her love for her husband.

I was moved when she started to weep, as she remembered seeing her husband die of brain cancer. She was always sure that he would recover and so accepting his death was very difficult. She mourned for six months.

I confess that this was not how I imagined Loida to be when I first met her in Manila. She gave the impression of someone who was always in control. This is the woman who sued her employer in the States for discrimination and won! She never let anyone put her down. Loida is a fighter.

So when she wept, I knew that I only saw a glimpse of her struggle, of her pain. It was all so deep for anyone to comprehend. I can only try to understand.

Before we parted, she gave me a tour of her house, 'Daddy Warbucks' (coined by her daughter because the house reminded her of the movie Annie), from her kitchen, to her living room, her bedroom, down to the small corner where she prays every morning.

As a souvenir, she handed me a red book that gives tribute to her husband, and on it she wrote:

"Daddy Warbucks"

East Hampton, NY

28 August 2005

Dear Bernadette,

Keep close to the Lord. "We are conquerors in Him who loves us."

For your intended, love one another without conditions, with understanding. If needed, be a little blind, be a little deaf!

- Loida Nicolas Lewis

I thank Loida for the opportunity to tell her story, for touring me to a beautiful place, but most especially for being the affirmation of what matters most in life.


(this is an article that I wrote for the Nov 2005 issue of Mega Magazine)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sincerely

Touchdown. Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 400 hrs. Sept 3
The aircraft door opened, and it was refreshing to see Filipinos behind the door. I have been away for weeks and it was good to be home. While abroad, I kept on telling myself, iba pa rin ang Pilipinas. Iba pa rin ang Pilipino.
I overheard someone say, Welcome home, Ma'am! And I said, ang sarap makakita ng Pilipino!
Thinking maybe that I was beyond earshot, someone commented, 'Bolero'. I simply replied, 'Bolero ba? Hindi, totoo yun'

I consider myself a very honest person and when a comment like that is said about me, I take offense but I understand.

Generally speaking, Filipinos are like that. When someone compliments us for looking pretty, we often reply with, 'bola'.

When I was in Texas, a caucasian said I was a pretty girl, I said, we Filipinas all look the same. The man told me that I should say 'thank you'.

He was right. We ought to be more appreciative of the beautiful and good things around us. We are full of so much doubt and pride. Likewise, we should continue doing good despite how other people interpret our actions.

As Mother Teresa would say, Love anyway.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Taxi!

I grabbed the door of the first cab I saw parked in front of my apartment, but paused to ask if the driver drove fast. “I’m a careful driver” said the man who was looked like he was in his fifties and who seemed quite tired from driving the entire day. It wasn’t the answer that I wanted and so I hopped into the next cab. (I don’t like reckless and temperamental drivers, but I needed someone who could drive faster than 60 kph!)

I was anxious because I was running late for my chapter assembly for Singles for Christ but enjoyed a short conversation with Cabbie # 2. During my 25- minute commute to Makati, he told me that the garage of the taxi was in Commonwealth, Quezon City, and that most cab drivers oppose the FX taxi system because the FX drivers don’t really use the taxi meter.

A cab ride is a learning experience each time. I believe cab drivers have well-grounded opinions as a result of listening to AM Radio practically the entire day, and experience-wise? Well they’re stuck in traffic for hours with different passengers who probably didn’t care if someone was listening to their intimate conversation (That beats us reporters to access to classified information! :-) )

Ah, got to the venue in time! I handed the cab driver P160 and said “Thank you”. And his face just lit up!
Was he smiling because I gave him a 4-peso tip?! Apparently not because he didn't even count how much money I handed him.

"Ang bait niyo naman dahil nagpapasalamat kayo. " , he said.

And I understood.

We meet strangers everyday, and we may not be aware of it, but a simple gesture--a smile-- means a lot to others.
Cabbie #2 may not have been aware of it… but HE brightened up my day.

I didn't get his name but he certainly gave me a good ride!

Be a blessing!