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My Pregnancy Journey

At exactly 6:40 AM every single day I wake up to the baby’s kicks. Throughout the day, I could feel him/her rolling around, switching between feeling happy, sad, peaceful, and as tired as me. I never thought that these little movements can mean so much: how these can make me feel so thankful for this gift of life, and how these can make me feel so humbled to be chosen as the carrier of this specific soul. It is such an amazing experience and I never thought that I could love this half-of-me so much– and I haven’t even held him/her just yet!

I am now on my 26th week and fatigue is, for the first time, taking over my day. I have been quite robust since the start of my pregnancy, saved from extreme morning sickness, mood swings, and cravings. Tuesday last week has actually been the very first time that I had extreme morning sickness and felt so sick that I threw up in our garden as I was preparing to leave home. To my surprise, my oldest dog, Kitty, hurriedly shuffled her way beside me and gazed at me all the while that I was throwing up. She was just staring at me all that time, and I felt her kindness and compassion, so pure and true, piercing through me– and all that, uttered without even a single word.

At that point, I felt all the more in love with Kitty. I had her when I was 18 as a birthday present from my Tito J. and Tita S., having just lost my dog just then. She’s been a witness to my ups and downs, and 11 years on, she is still here with me, supporting and loving me without question. I am really happy that she will also be a witness to seeing my mini me!

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Photo credit: tuanawebtasarim.com

I choose to keep the baby’s gender a surprise until my delivery, which I think is a nice way to welcome my first born! It can be quite difficult to contain the excitement given that the radiologist herself finds it hard to keep it a secret. But it is a promise she kept and will keep until late June, my expected date.

One thing that I’ve learned so far that stuck ever since I had this baby is the importance of a disciplined mind, and disciplined action. Knowing that another soul is dependent on me makes me want to focus on what’s important, address my thoughts as just thoughts, address my opinions as just opinions, understand my feelings as just feelings, and recognize chaos as just a play on my wisdom. I know that this baby is growing calmer because of these learnings as I am, too.

I’m thankful that the Universe has finally allowed me to go on this path set for me at its right time. Pregnancy is such a humbling experience, and I thank all the mothers, especially my own mother, for all the love and teachings passed on through generations across time and space. I’ve read somewhere that worldwide, four babies are born every second. While every mother’s experience is different, I wish that every mother’s journey  in every part of the world becomes a unifying factor to lift every woman up; not tear each other down.

Good night from me and my little Anthroonfoot 🙂

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Why I’m Proud of My Parents: Part 3

(If you haven’t read Part 1, you’ll find it here; and Part 2, here.)

So the question remains, Why am I proud of my parents? 

First off, my parents taught me that life should be dealt with head on with an open mind. They taught me that life has its ups and downs, and so I should develop the resilience to deal with it. An open mind, coupled with an open heart.

My parents taught me that in life, there are absolutely no double standards. Principles remain and so if these are challenged, I should be ready to speak up for what I believe in.

My parents taught me that hard work is key to success. Despite their well-off backgrounds, they chose to build their own lives together even if this meant having to live together secretly for a year until I was born. They lived in a small rented apartment, then when I was born moved to a house which was eventually paid off on my 25th birthday.

My parents taught me that there is nothing wrong with saying “No,” and that the key to failure is to try to please everybody. I am free to strive for things that I want to achieve even if that meant they couldn’t guide me professionally because the path is very different from theirs. But knowing that I’ve got their back 100% all through the journey is all I ever need.

My parents taught me that when people say not to do things because of what other people will think, I should put the comment in one ear and push straight to the other ear. This is the best advice I’ve ever received in life, and I’m glad they led by example.

My parents taught me that it’s okay to feel ugly, fat, and a failure. It’s not a mental issue. It’s these feelings that make us human.

My parents taught me, most of all, that life is indeed simple to live in. It is not as stressful, mean, or f****d as it is deemed to be. But if I put into the equation the want for fame, power and prestige, then I cannot expect my parents to wave their magic wands to make my life better. It’s a choice to make and many people are drawn to them. At 27, I should know by now life is a waste to be leading down that path.

… And these are the reasons why I’m proud of my parents. They taught me valuable lessons that I would never have learnt in school, read in books, or watched in documentaries. I may not have the best-paid job in the world, but I know I am complete. I am fulfilled. I am content. And that’s because of a grounded, liberating and nourishing life I was brought up in. Thanks to my parents. I’ll forever be grateful.

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32 years and 30 pounds later.

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Why I’m Proud of My Parents: Part 2

(If you haven’t read Part 1, you’ll find it here.)

When I tried to make sense of my life, I thought of my parents when they were growing up.

My parents are not from sugar baron, oil refinery or steel milling families who had extraordinarily deep pockets that can sustain even their 100th generation. But I’d say they were well off.

My dad is from a family who made their wealth through land properties and lending. His maternal grandfather, an Italian who joined the Spanish government, was eventually elected as the first mayor of their hometown. I acknowledge that it was a very difficult time for many Filipinos throughout the Spanish colonial period, and I am not proud of that history. However I also acknowledge that we are given the gift of life to make things better moving forward.

Growing up we would have family reunions in my grandparents’ farm during the harvest season. My favorite was for watermelons. One time I asked my grandmother where exactly her farm land is as I found no difference among the greeneries. She said, “As far as your eyes can see.” I thought for sure she was kidding. As a kid I thought there was no way that can happen.

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When I was younger I once asked my grandma where her farm land exactly is. She told me, “As far as your eyes can see.” I didn’t fully understand what she meant back then.

As for my mom, she is part of a family who made their fortune through trade. Her dad is an only child of a family that owned the first hotel, first ice plant, and first ice cream factory in the city. Her mom, on the other hand, is from a family of mango plantation owners who had their own tennis court in the backyard. Things turned sour when my mom’s maternal great grandmother died and the new stepmother rewrote her aging husband’s will and put everything under her name. My mom grew up in the penthouse of their hotel, and she would spend her weekends in her maternal grandparents’ flower farm a few kilometers away.

Both of my parents got to choose the major they like, got the chance to travel before university, and had the opportunity to study full time with generous support from their parents.

But with all these privileges, why didn’t my parents choose to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their foreparents’ labor? They were both given the opportunity to join in and continue with the family trade, but why did they choose to dip their hands voluntarily, without compensation, and start a career of their own?

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Check out Why I’m Proud of My Parents: Part 3, the last of this series, which shall answer the question.

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Why I’m Proud of My Parents: Part 1

Growing up I thought traveling overseas every year for summer vacation, buying a new car when an upgrade comes in, having a brand new set of school clothes and supplies for every quarter, traveling to Manila on weekends for when we want to watch movies, and having a personal hairdresser, masseuse, gardener, cook, laundry staff, cleaning staff, drivers, and personal assistants were all normal. I thought they were all part of growing up.

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On one of our annual summer family trips. It was something we all looked forward to growing up.

My classmates back in elementary and high school used to tell me that I was lucky. I had very supportive parents and a comfortable life, they said. Raised with the idea that I should be earning for what I deserve, I never thought I could have everything. And I was content just eating foods I like, reading books I love, studying, and playing with my friends. So I always brushed the statements aside because after all, it didn’t matter to me.

I never realized how privileged I was growing up until I went to a public university.

I could still remember my first day. As usual the first hour was for getting to know my classmates. When it was my turn, my classmates asked me how I am adapting to Manila knowing I lived in the province all my life. How do I get by going to school, and where did I find a place to live? It felt awkward for me when there was a momentous silence, and gawking, when I told them I have a personal driver and that my mom bought me a condo unit just 10 minutes away from school. I didn’t know how to feel but I knew something wasn’t right with the truth that I just said.

I think that was the beginning of me being “shy” of where I come from. From being oblivious of the life I was in, it appeared to me head on with the truth that indeed, the life I grew up in wasn’t normal at all for many Filipinos.

The public university environment exposed me to the struggles of many Filipinos. With the national average wage of PHP 15,000 (300 USD) a month, it was almost impossible to be paying for food, water and rent, more so for a child’s education and the family’s health, even for a family of three. I had classmates who struggled to pay our PHP 5,000 (150 USD) a semester tuition fee, which at that time I thought was ridiculously cheap. I didn’t realize that while it was the cheapest tuition fee in the Philippines being government subsidized, it didn’t erase the fact that living in Manila, especially for those who had to relocate, was ridiculously expensive. Across the school is the country’s biggest public hospital and every day when I get dropped of, I see jeepney after jeepney loaded with so many stick-thin patients who then fall in line to be checked for free by the country’s best doctors. It was a desolate sight, but I took in the consolation that they were being seen by the country’s best. It was a bit odd though, that for a hospital needing so much staff, their College of Medicine has the stringiest and most competitive of all admissions with less than 100 students admitted every year.

From then on, I refused to share much about my life except to a select few who knew me growing up, or who understood from what situation I was coming from. When I’m asked of my weekend plans, I downplay them saying I’ll just be spending time at home when in reality my cousins and I booked for a members’ only resort getaway. When I’m asked how I get to school, I say I’m dropped off by a family friend when in reality, I had a driver waiting for me no matter how late my classes end. Not wanting to have an 18th birthday debut party, I was asked what my parents gave me instead for my birthday. We had a get together at home, which was true, but my parents also bought concert tickets for me to see my favorite singer in the world, Josh Groban, and they had to switch network companies, and sign up for a 5-year platinum account, because it was the only way to purchase a 700 USD front seat ticket for a show that went for 1.5 hours.

While in university I refused to dip into this reality, and applied for a part-time job at the College of Arts and Letters library. I thoroughly enjoyed my job there, shelving books, helping students find books they need, and having access to books that are rarely available because they are always borrowed. I had the chance to read them during quiet hours. I earned PHP 80 (1.65 USD) an hour, which I never really used for anything else except for buying my favorite desserts after shift. It was far off from the generous allowance I was receiving from my parents, who also paid for all my living expenses. I was replaced, and basically fired, in summer because I filed for a one-month leave for my family’s annual summer vacation. The chief librarian said, “We’ll never hire a rich student ever again.” Those were her last words, and they still make me cringe in a fairly uncomfortable way up until today.

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Check out Why I’m Proud of My Parents: Part 2, which shall answer the question.

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In Search of the Greatest Treasure of the Philippines

Note: This was written for a school paper wherein we were tasked to incorporate fiction with non-fiction. Almost all story elements are fictitious; but all sentiments are, for the record, ingrained in my 21-year old memory.

I cover 56 kilometres every day from home to school, and from school to home. I hate the nauseous, nerve-wracking feeling of waiting in line and of waiting for more passengers to ride. I hate that I have to use two hours of my time in the morning for travelling instead of catching up for a recitation that day; and two hours again in the afternoon instead of studying for an exam the next day.

I hate it most especially when I have to bite my lips to patiently wait until I come home to pee, having no freedom to make the driver stop because of the other passengers I’m with. The insolent, insensitive strangers, with their boisterous laughter and their endless gossips about their neighbours; with the high school students’ cheesy updates with their boyfriends on the mobile phone; and the cautionary tale of an upbeat guy singing his favourite song out loud. These are the kind of people I have to deal with.

Travelling to and from school with the infamous Filipino innovation
This is how it is for two years now, and I cannot help but constantly remind myself to stay strong for two more college years. Anyway, we are but strangers waiting to reach our own respective destinations. I have to go to school; that irritating girl has to go to another school; that insensitive guy has to go to work. Pay the driver. Bye-bye.

Yesterday, I had to deal with these all-too-unpredictable menstrual cramps. I shouldn’t have come to school, but I had to push myself because of an exam. Feeling moody, downright weak and dizzy, I forced, with every best way I can, to ride the jeepney and to take the two-hour ride to my school—bumps, ramps and all. It was then that I wondered how things would be like if only I had my own car and my own driver. The idea of never complaining of these same things; of being able to sleep, to listen to music, or to study my lessons, and still arriving in school safe, sound and still shower fresh. These things seemed too wonderful for me to even dream about.

Taking public transport makes you deal with a great diversity of individuals

Then without warning, a surge of the worst cramps I ever had since 12 took over. I felt cold, I looked pale, and I twisted and turned to make the hurt go away. Feeling alone, I tried to grab my phone to call my friend; but to no avail. I could hardly move. Then a girl about my age told the driver to stop the jeepney. She put out her fan and shoved it left and right towards my face. An old woman grabbed her purse and pulled out an aspirin, and a young guy gave his water for me to drink. People on my row stood outside and let me lie down on that long chair. People left behind pulled out their fans and directed them toward me.

One woman had a meeting to attend. A bunch of girls and boys were late for school. Many were late for work—but no one was complaining. I, a mere obnoxious undergraduate student, who always complained about their laughter, their singing, their gossiping… Here I am now, a stranger, being cared for, patiently, by these same people. I couldn’t help but cry, not for the pain of cramps, but for my selfish self. People around me looked anxious while I was crying, but I tried my best to stay up, and hug each of them who cared for me. I didn’t care anymore whether he was this sweaty guy I almost sat next to, or whether she was this irritating girl who couldn’t control her laughter. I felt in one with them that very moment, and I felt, above all, loved.

The very next day, things didn’t look the same way again. I greeted the new morning through Mang Danny’s honk, bringing our family’s favourite pandesal; and then by Mang Eddie, the village’s wheeler driver, who brought me to the jeepney station.

Riding a pedicab instead of walking: much convenience for a student who always wakes up late

 

Along the expressway, I noticed the small, old car with a flat tire on the roadside, with a young man helping out the old woman change her tires. Then along the way something suddenly struck so striking: the many yellow ribbons stuck on cars, buses, trucks, even after more than a month since the elections.

Transcendental symbol of Filipino solidarity

When I arrived in the university, I was greeted by the guard who checked my bag and my ID, “for safety purposes” he would always say. I remember how irritated I always was whenever he did just that. Then I came to my first and favourite class for the semester, taught by a brilliant yet underpaid professor. I wonder what keeps him going on, despite the meagre salary he takes, and despite the fact that numerous promises of a higher salary and better benefits are continuously offered by international universities.

Arriving at Palma Hall
After class when I came to get my readings from Ate Mimi, our photocopy assistant, I couldn’t help but wonder how she feels, being exposed to radiation all day long, being bombarded by professors and students for more and more copies of readings and all. Before going home, I headed to Manang, my constant ally for an affordable lunch. On the sidewalk, we would share stories, usually of urban legends and current events, which I’ve always believed to be the best desserts ever.

Better than any fancy dessert
Now, traversing yet another 56 kilometres, though tired from school work and club commitments, I feel content and fulfilled which I cannot figure out why. I am now beside a college student who chants a poem he made. I commend him not realizing I just sparked a conversation between bookworms. On my right is a middle-aged shopping mall employee, who cannot hide the excitement of being home again in the arms of her children, with a dozen of doughnuts in her arm. I now decide to open the window for some air, yet I am surprised to see the blue sky with the increments of a red tomorrow, the lush and bountiful fields hard-earned by hardworking farmers, the Eurasian Tree Sparrows roving around electric lines and the fields, trying to make sense of the rich earth of the country they’ve been blest with—all of these, against the majestic Mt. Arayat, a reminder of the past, of tectonic plates, and of legends that shall forever be ingrained in our cultural memories.

The epic-filled Mount Arayat in Pampanga: such a site on a long, winding road

People say that the Filipino identity is not yet found, and that the Filipino spirit is now lost. What then shall I call the epics, legends, rituals, tradition, culture and history that lie beneath our Philippine soil—that are forever immortalized in the palms of our hands? Everywhere I look, I can’t help but see the Filipino spirit: I see it in Mang Danny and Mang Eddie who make my morning more alive, in the passengers who treated me as a part of their own families, in our school guard and in Ate Mimi who help make my life more comfortable, in my underpaid professor who selflessly offers himself for the Future, in Manang who makes me feel special and in tune with the world, in that college student who makes me feel connected and unique, and in that employee who makes me appreciate the googolplex value of the family in this country.

We always dream of travelling around the world—in the ancient ruins of Egypt, in the cosmopolitan New York, in the romantic Venice and Paris—yet we fail to recognize the greatest treasure that can only be found in this country. Apart from our country’s biodiversity and the many endemic species we should be proud of, deconstructions of every day life can ultimately lead us to the very treasure that can never be found in any part of the world. A stranger helping you find your way. A relative sharing a personal recipe. A neighbour helping you out in times of distress. Yellow ribbons as symbols of solidarity.

We do not have to look very far. We may not have the highest GDP in the world, but we certainly have the greatest treasure of all—each other.
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