Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for the ‘From the Inkload’ Category

Train Up A Child In the Way He Should Go…

Little Judah was already tired. He’s just three years old and he had this long, unwavering patience not found in most children. Lans had to tag the little boy with us because she was his babysitter for the day.

“Ban-og ka (Are you tired)?” she asked Judah in Ilocano.

The little boy shook his head a wee bit as we were trudging along an inclined path. Still, she lovingly gave him a piggyback ride on her back.

I was impressed with this little boy. He has been with us in an event full of adults, an almost childless place where he could have the right to be bored and display social tantrums. But I did not hear him whimper a sigh of complaint. I have noticed that this has been the personality of most Igorot people – they are not pushy and they are very kind. I wonder how well they were raised as children. I could see that Lans and with the other adults around him are raising him well.

Most parents today, especially those who the Igorot people would label as lowlanders, are quite confused with the thin line of discipline and cruelty, as well as kindness and spoiling children. I find some parents not being aware that their way of discipline is actually destroying them.

I had observed how some parents would berate and try to embarrass their children in public by calling them “stupid”, “fool”, or “useless”. A former colleague felt sorry for a three or two-year-old who was berated by his father by blurting out a curse just because the child accidentally spills his drink inside the jeepney. Parents who would scold like that would never discipline a child because they are just declaring who their children might be when they grow older. They usurp their authority as a parent because they don’t realize there is power when they are declaring names over their children.

I must admit I don’t like children who do not regard their elders around them. There was a five-year-old girl who did not give me a mano (the Tagalog tradition of children placing their elder’s hands on their forehead as a sign of respect), despite her mother nearly screaming at her to do it. In return, I could not help but glare at her threateningly to set down her utensils because she was already waving them before our faces (despite her mother screaming at her again). Most of the times, screaming and shouting is not the way to discipline them. I guess children are tired of their parents’ screams so they would taunt them by closing their ears. A sincere heart-to-heart talk is all they need because they need to understand the consequences of their actions.

Let me go back to little Judah. Now, Judah has an elder sister named Blessie. At one time, Blessie made drawings on the wall and Judah imitated her. You know how messy a clean wall can become when scribbled by a playful kid. Lans, in her patient nature, set aside Blessie and talked with her gently.

“Did you see the drawing on the wall?”

The little girl nodded.

“Did you see what Judah did after you wrote on the wall?”

No long sermon needed. By the sound of her question, Blessie understood her mistake. She nodded without a word.

“Do you see it’s wrong to draw on the wall?”

Blessie nodded.

“That’s right. You should be a good example to your little brothers because you are their ate (elder sister). So be careful with what you do. Ok?”

No raising of voice. Words were just spoken calmly like the morning waves of the sea. But it deeply strikes the conscience like an arrow. Blessie did not leave any marks on the wall anymore.

It’s tragic when our lighthearted culture dictates it looks cute when small children display tantrums around elders because they look funny. But tolerating that would only tolerate rebelliousness. That’s why when parents correct bad habits by the time children are older, these kids snap out of it and slap it back on their parents’ faces.

Much needed to correct in the way we correct our children. Somehow, most parents in my generation are not used to be disciplined because they belong to a generation waning away from the strict authoritarian rule exuded by our much older Spanish ancestors. They have created their own way of discipline. There is a need for parents to be aware how to discipline their children well without removing love out of their system. There is a greater need for parents to learn how to pass down good traits to their own children in a well-mannered and disciplined way.

I have this sense that our culture has a big factor in the way we react to correction and discipline. Truly Proverbs is already advising us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If we instil into them the wisdom to do what’s right at an early age, they will embrace it as they grow up. When we discipline them in the correct way, they will grow up as good-mannered citizens. With this, we can be proud of ourselves and with them, because we are adding up another history maker in this generation that needs deeper understanding on what is right or wrong.

Selfies Are Made For All Ages

Narrowing her eyes before the smartphone screen, my mom tried to take a picture of our Vietnamese lunch.

I chuckled at the sight. I thought selfies are for millenials. 

She then faced the screen towards the two of us.

“I can’t make a selfie. My hand is a bit shaky.”

For the first time, I did not instigate this picture-taking session. It’s her idea.

My mom belongs to the 70-year-old and above demographic who are thought by many to be slow, outdated and boring. When I encouraged her to use a smartphone, she was scared she would never ever catch up with the wonders of technology. But lo and behold, she has learned how to post and share a video without the technological wisdom of this Facebook guru. 

And millenials like me find it fascinating.

I could still remember the days when we were enthralled with the magic of text messaging. Our first phone was a walkie talkie-like Ericsson (yes, not mine, ours). It was heavy and bulky but I will never forget our fascination of having a handheld phone, especially we never had a landline at home. My mom used it to connect to fellow teachers but most of the time it stayed home. I then had my own Nokia 3310 phone in my last year in high school. It was a luxury then, even though it only had three games (Snake was my obsession, though). This is my very mode of communication with my mom, until my thumbs have mastered the art of fast texting. Fast forward through GMs and unlitexts, many people are relying more on social media messaging because it is easier to send voice messages, documents and pictures. It is also easier to use when reaching loved ones working overseas. 

I don’t know why most moms (and even dads) are more excited than millenials when they own their FB account. I have heard stories of friends who sometimes find it weird when their parents try to be groovy on their posts (like posting 10 shoutouts about household matters in a day, yep). Some of them have shared horror stories of parents berating their children through social media. I can’t help but laugh out loud when a fellow hiker told us his mother threatened him by posting on his FB page a news article about a mountaineer who died while hiking. His mother did not understand why he’s enjoying what she called a dangerous past time. It had surprised me that Parenting 101 could sometimes be attempted on social media (even for a 30-year-old guy like him). I guess technology has a way in revitalizing everyone. Perhaps, it’s a chance for our parents to try to relate more to us children. It could be their moment to express themselves through social media. 

My mom would tell me she only want an FB account so she could communicate, especially with my sister, who’s working overseas, and me, who would only come home on a weekend. She wants to see pictures of her grandchildren while commenting how they have grown. She would send me cheesecake recipe videos and watch out how I am doing by looking at my posts and my hiking pictures. Seeing her pop-up on social media from time to time is like being home. It’s communication on a higher level. But it still carries the same message of love. 

Soon enough, the evolution of messaging may take another major shift and the next elderly generation would have to grapple it again. I believe text messaging, social media and even selfies are not made for the young at all. That’s why it should never take it for granted. Let’s be thankful we have technology that can connect with everyone, even though we are ages apart. 

 

The Joy Of Washing Clothes


Round and round I watch with fascination

My clothes spinning like a froclic cat that tries to catch its tail

My hardships being cleansed by detergent and fabric conditioner

My convenient independence achieved with a higher price

I don’t mind waking up too early or paying too much

All that matters is that laundry brings me joy…

Catching Dragonflies

I don’t know if most kids still know how to catch dragonflies nowadays. I doubt if any of them still do, especially those who live in cities where trees and plants are almost non-existent. It seems they have settled their childhood on iPads and YouTube, leaving me with the impression my childhood days were better than theirs.

Childhood for me was simple and bliss, peppered with memories of Gummy Worms, colored gum, matchbox cars and Japanese anime series. I never owned a game console even though I had drooled for my cousin’s Nintendo, which was filled with Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, I had loads of playtimes at school. Huge old, mango trees gave us shade when we played touch ball and sipa. The green, growing grass that had brushed our socks and newly, shined leather shoes became home to curious little creatures like the dragonfly.

I don’t know the origin of dragonfly catching. It appears to be buried in the subconsciousness of every active kid born with sunshine and fresh air. My mom told me they also used to catch dragonflies when they were children. Now, it was my turn to catch a few of them. 

These little creatures were quick. While one dragonfly would brush its face with its front feet, I’d slowly and quietly sneak behind it. I’d usually spot them sitting on blades of grass. Snatching it by its wings, I’d then feed it with pieces pf grass. Once it stops eating, I’d let it go. Then, I’d catch another one out of thrill.

Green dragonflies were the most common ones. It would be an honor for anyone who could catch a blue one because it was rarer and quicker. Anyone who catches a red one would be the master of drangonfly hunting. It’s like winning a jackpot and the awe of your classmates when you catch the reddest of them all.

But I’d usually beat the others by catching more dragonflies quickly. One schoolmate once asked for my handful of dragonflies in exchange of chocolate candies I was asking from her (which I obliged for the sake of chocolate). But it was a horror for me to find some kids picking off this insect’s wings one-by-one. I’d never do that to a harmless creature. So, it seemed to be a waste for some kids at school that I would always let go of the dragonflies I have collected at the end of the day. 

These days, I’d only see dragonflies when I go on a hike. Unlike before, I would never dare to touch one because there might only be a few of them living in this sanctuary. But seeing one would always make me excited because it would always be a part of my simple and blissful childhood that might never be experienced by the next generation.

​Vacation Forever

My seatmate kept me awake on the bus by loudly talking on her phone. Smartly dressed in a light brown office coat, she assured authority as she kept on instructing her colleague to close an order because she was getting late to the office. She was almost slumped sadly on her seat while her young, tired face starred at the window longingly. She made a number of calls to her boss, clients and other VIPs. Her tone, which shifted from being demanding to apologetic to friendly and then strained, revealed that she was vexed out in her job. Her stressful aura made me think about my hierarchy in the office world. The first thing that popped up in my head was never go up the ladder. I did not want to become like her.
I never desired to be on top of the career niche all throughout the ten years I’ve been working. All I wanted was a decent job and a good pay. I had this fear that when I get to the executive position, I’d loose my freedom, my social life, and my sanity. 

I only had this ambition to get into heights when I took a job in a media company. I did get a high-end job as a segment producer in a huge media outlet. This was my chance to become a popular reporter! In the end, I was not able to handle the toxicity of this job. 

Every time I feel bored or jaded in a job, my initial thinking was to resign and leave this toxicity behind. I’d change gear in my life plans, believing I’d be able to survive by becoming a missionary, a YouTube star, a philanthropist, an artist, or a hobo. I envisioned myself living daily under a grove of coconut trees while drinking cocktails before a clear, blue sea in the Bahamas. I breathe the air of freedom every time I resign, waving my arms like a freed slave from a maximum institution. However, this season of paradise is being slapped down by the reality of being financially empty. 

I was struggling during the first time I’ve resigned. I tried venturing into agriculture but was not successful in culturing earthworms. I tried doing freelance jobs but I was too scared to face foreign clients. I thought of becoming a missionary but there was no confirmed calling. Being a bum made me a bit depressed for a while. My savings were almost gone. I had realized reality at its finest. I need to look for a real job.

This is a dilemma for most millennials like me. Unlike the former working class, our minds are not wired to survive in one industry alone. We have multiple choices to choose from and we want to try all of them. When we are forced into hard labor, we give up. There is a gap between the older workaholic bosses whose excessive hardwork was able to build empires and the young freedom-loving yuppies whose existence is fueled by an unrelentless sense of exploration, passion, and entitlement.

My mother always remind me, “A rolling stone cannot gather moss.” Perhaps we need consider well before taking an offer. We need to switch off our dreamy selves before we embark into a decision. We need to learn how to be patient, to persevere, to find joy in every circumstances. One day, we have to pass down every valuable legacy to the next generation. If we keep on escaping every defiance in life, the next generation would learn nothing but escape and the underestimation of reality. Life is not made of holidays and sandy beaches. I had learned this the hard way. I have learned that I would be able to pursue my dreams when I have the right resources and I am focused with an orderly life goal. But I hope every industry, every executive and every boss would learn how to value their own workers by not pushing them into toxicity. Besides, we don’t need pushy bosses and loads of work to prove our worth. We, human beings, are more valuable than the services or the products we could produce and deliver for this rueful world. 

​Cultural Immersion: Baguio Weddings – A Kiss, A Gong, and A Dance

The sound of gongs is strongly infusing the festive atmosphere. The bride and the groom were greeting well-wishers who had attended their wedding ceremony earlier. Looking closer at the floor near the stage, a group of men playing gongs were formed in a circle. Old men in baseball caps, traditionally dressed elderly women wearing colored beads, young men in tuxedos, and ladies in satin gowns took turns in dancing traditional dances to the beat. In such a wedding feast in Baguio, no modernity can hinder the rhythmic culture their generations have embraced. 

In the definitive Filipino culture, weddings are held as a community event. Almost – if not everyone – in the community are invited to celebrate. The bayanihan system (a classic Filipino attitude where the whole bayan or community helps one another) becomes alive in such occasions. Neighbors would voluntarily help to cook, arrange, and even organize the wedding. While this tradition is slowly dying because more couples are relying on professional wedding coordinators, this concept is still being kept in many rural provinces and cities, including Baguio.

An example of the bayanihan system – locals form a line to pass food to one another in this large gathering at my friend’s wedding.

Every Filipino loves Baguio for its cool climate, strawberries, and many popular tourist sites. I love Baguio for its meek and courteous people. Some of them have become my friends and I have the privilege to taste their culture and their way of living.

I had two friends who have recently married at Baguio. Just like how the quaint townspeople of Bulacan would hold their weddings, they similarly hold their matrimony with a community celebration. My province, Bulacan, would have videoke as a form of entertainment while Baguio people would celebrate this occasion with dances and gongs. 

Gongs are considered an ancient instrument by city people like me. I am impressed that these people would not use them for production numbers alone. Both elders and youths would join together and strike musical rhythms on it. They are accompanied with traditional dances that love and courtship to mark the occasion. 

Food being served to the community at my friend’s wedding.

Usually, they would hold their celebrations the whole day, even up to the wee hours of the morning the next day. There is an abundant flow of food, mostly made of pork and chicken, rice, and pansit (a type of Filipino noodles) which the whole community would partake. Locals are not shy to share their talents while everybody would show their appreciation to them. Celebrations would continue at the house of the bride and the groom. Old men at night would chant to call the spirit of the anito (traditional deity) to bless the gathering. As the music and dancing continues, the bride and the groom danced along with everyone. And of course, the visitors are not exempted from joining in the fun.
For the first time, I played the gong. It was heavy for me, but the hypnotic rhythm of the instrument made me enjoy every moment I danced to its tune. I just think I look awkward while dancing. My Instagram post just proves that (sorry I can’t upload the video on this blog. So please click the link to find out. I am the lady in the white dress and black blazer in the video).

Baguio people are proud of their artful heritage, as they wear woven Kalinga skirts or intermarry these designs with modern fashion. They love their culture so much the rhythm of the gongs pulse through their veins, willingly dancing along every clanging beat without hesitation. Through the sound of their instrument they become one, bringing into awareness the legacy they carry as Igorots.

Celebrations would continue at my friend’s house the whole night

Manila, a fascinating city of sights, color, sounds, is nothing as unique as this. The mixture of various cultures has turned this central city of Luzon into a melting pot of obscurity. We have become more in tuned with modernity and Western civilization, losing into consciousness the beautiful, old songs that have been passed down to us through school. Looks like Madonna’s Crazy For You has become the local fixture in videoke sessions. 
I keep on learning so much from other cultures in my own country. With all regions having their own differences, it just proves that we are a diverse society. I’m glad we have Filipinos who still carry the pride of their heritage. The Igorots are teaching us that traditional hertages are not a myth but they are living, breathing, and are worth to be celebrated for their uniqueness.

You can check out the videos on my Instagram account @rhemapenaflor. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

​Keeping Real Friends

I was on a mission to sort out my list of friends on my Facebook account to remove clutter: the non-existing account, the one-time friends and the total stranger. I was surprised to find over a thousand names linked to my account. Most of them were colleagues, former colleagues, relatives and former classmates (including that crush and that bully). Truth is, I could only count my closest friends with my fingers. But I was hesitant to remove most of those in my list because I’ve had acquaintances with them in the past.

When Facebook was first introduced, I hoarded tons and tons of “friends”. Social media became a platform to connect and reconnect. But it also became a tool to make us feel “closer” to our secret crushes (too bad if your crush only posts once a year). 

Because the longing to make friends is an inborn quality in young millennials, we easily add to Facebook anyone – just anyone – we meet for the first time. That kind of friendship, I realized, is platonic because they vanish overtime.

Even without meeting them personally, some people kept on adding to their list anyone who’s connected to a mutual friend or who belong to the same affiliation as theirs. At first, I accept their friend request out of courtesy. But I realized later that might not be helpful.

My former colleague told me once she would always accept a total stranger’s friend request because her purpose is to inspire. I argued back then it would be too risky to accept them because I don’t know who I would be dealing with. Now, there’s more risk at accepting friend requests of unknown and sporadic characters. They might be spies to the Dark Force *Wears 3D glasses. Eats popcorn. Star Wars theme blasts in movie house.*

But most of all, they could be assets to the gossip world, especially when they read posts such as this.

“Monday. Office drag day. Only your smile can turn it into a happy day.” Forward ko ito kay boss para di sya pumasok. Haha!

“Jeepney makes a wrong turn to Shaw Blvd. I need a detour to go to your heart.” Tse! Lalagyan ko ng barricade at barbwire ang dadaanan mo para di mo ko makita (as if ikaw yun…)

And worst yet…

“I only have 100 left in my wallet. But I have a thousand more reasons to love you.” Pare, may pangmaryenda na tayo! Aabangan natin sa kanto!

Ok, that sounds too exaggerated but sometimes, stalkers are really born out of social media. 

Having a thousand friends on social media does not mean you are the universe’s Ms. or Mr. Congeniality. Sometimes, they are just there to taunt you (because of a bitter feud you’ve had with that person), to make business with you (“open-minded ka ba? Kasi ako hindi harhar!”), or to linger in your memory. As I grow older, I realize my truest friends don’t go beyond a thousand…even a hundred. A few of them don’t even have Facebook accounts. The rest can only like and comment with flattering words but those who really matter are willing to go out of the social media world to see you face-to-face.

Social media has created a universe that is different from the real world we belong. It gives us the capacity to become perfect in everybody’s eyes by acting like a star on this virtual universe. But only real friends know you for who you are. They follow you not because you’re an internet sensation but because they love you are you are. That’s why I need to clear up clutter because I only like to keep those who matter to me. Besides, Facebook was originally meant to connect with friends, so why not just keep the real friends that you have?

Tag Cloud