Monday, December 31

New Year

Sydney celebrated the new year a few minutes ago. True to its tradition, which is quickly becoming the benchmark by which new year is celebrated everywhere, it celebrated the coming of 2008 with much funfare, along with colorful, spectacular fireworks. It reminded me somehow of the way our family celebrate new year back home. I remember then that on the afternoon of December 31st, the family usually go to the market, never minding the traffic jam and the throng of people rushing everywhere, to buy the traditional "turotot" for the kids, and the family's collection of fireworks and firecrackers for the coming of the new year. Alice also becomes frantic to complete her collection of round fruits, and the other preparations she had to make for the coming of another year which she usually gets from watching all those TV programs that prods you to buy their products which are supposed to bring you a better life in the year ahead. I remember me having a penchant of buying those Dragon brand fireworks, since they are more stable and provide better and more colorful effects, which made the neighbors just wait for our fireworks display to commence and just watch our show. Those were really good memories of the celebration of new year for me, and probably for Alice too... and those are the ones that make the cold we currently feel in this country much colder and bitter, and the blowing of the wind fiercer, as we celebrate another new year with only the memories with us.

Our despair is not absolute, anyway. We have new memories to cling to, and new ones to give us hope. I called the kids several hours ago and asked them about their preparation for the new year. The kids seem happy, and that's big deal for me. Alice had her own call just an hour ago, and the kids told her they're starting the celebration, and that it's also starting to be noisy there, thus, they decided to cut the call short. For us, we'll celebrate new year with friends. That's how it is in this region. There will be no firecrackers, no fireworks. We'll celebrate new year in the same way we celebrated Christmas a week ago - by congregating in one of our friends' house, eat the various food that we'll bring there, and probably have a song or two in the videoke. The important thing is we celebrate it with friends, and not alone.

This reminded me of the new year I spent in Japan several years ago. It was by far the saddest new year I had, I believe. While training in Japan sometimes in the late 90s, I happened to be the only Filipino living in that area where I'm having my training, and my friends happened to be in far away places. There, I was forced to just had a late dinner and then afterwards slept the coming of the new year. I just called my family the morning after to greet them.

Anyways, however the celebration of the coming year happen tonight, I could say that the family is still lucky and blessed. The kids are healthy and are protected by loving grandparents there, both Alice and I are doing well in all aspects of our lives, and the good Lord keeps on showering us with blessings. I guess with those in mind, however the celebration is, we'll still have another great year.

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Thursday, December 27

Boxing Day

I first heard of the celebration of Boxing Day - December 26 - when I celebrated my first Christmas in Sydney in 2005. I later learned that Boxing Day is celebrated by most of the Commonwealth countries, Australia being one of them. This day which is also celebrated as St. Stephen's Day or the "Second Christmas" is supposed to be the day when the neighborhood's year-long workers such as the paper boy and the postman carry their "boxes" and go from house to house getting their Christmas gifts from everyone they served throughout the year. This reminds me of a similar scenario in the Philippines when garbage men and your all-around repair guy give you empty envelopes in which you put a little cash that serves as their Christmas "bonus" for all the works that they've done for you throughout the year. The difference is, in the Philippines these people tend to give you their envelopes much earlier than December 26; sort of getting the perennial "vale" instead of the Christmas bonus.

Anyways, the Boxing Day and all the other days before the new year which are called "days between years" in some European countries like Germany, are also the time when big stores and malls are supposed to empty their current inventories and thus give more discounts and bargains to shoppers. I remember Alice had a particular liking to the celebration of Boxing Day in Australia because of this, when one is supposed to really find good bargains from malls and department stores. I think this is also somewhat being practiced in the Philippines, with discounts and other bargains continuing until the new year.

Unfortunately, Boxing Day is not celebrated in this region, and thus, Alice is dismayed. This means no big discounts, no very good bargains, nothing of the sort from this day on until new year. Well, what can we expect, when Christmas is considered a secondary occasion, it just follows logically that Boxing Day won't also be celebrated.

Anyways (again), here are other Boxing Day origins: (from
  • In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.
  • In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.
  • In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left.

Wednesday, December 26

life notes is one year old!

'Twas this day last year when I decided to start my very own blog site... I haven't decided on a specific subject matter when I first started writing and I thought putting some sort of a personal journal over the web will be cool... anyways, everybody is doing it, and doing content management for information that are related to my existence, I feel, is quite a challenge. While at this, the site had evolved from a personal journal to also tackle other topics which I find amusing or fascinating, and over the months I had written quite a number of them. The frequency by which blogs are posted also progressed as months passed by, which made me realize I really am hooked into it as I got hooked in Tamiya racing before :) Well, writing is an outlet they say... and what better way to do it now than to blog.

When I started this blog site, I never knew I will be this passionate for this kind of thing as I am today. As it is, it has become one of my major activities, and I got totally hooked that I started two more - one for the family, and another one for my professional works and other related matters. On top of that, I also maintain a "casual" blog in my Friendster site where I write about practically anything under the sun, albeit using fewer words and in a more "casual" mood.

I guess for me, blogging has really arrived.

Happy Birthday, Life Notes :)

Tuesday, December 25


Celebrating Christmas in this country is really quite unique and different. Having been raised in a country where Christmas starts as early as four months before the actual day of the nativity of the Lord and having been used to "elaborate" celebrations the kind of which the actual Christmas feast lasts for several days, being in a country where the Christmas season is usually celebrated in the background becomes really challenging. Yesterday, the group spent most of the day normally, that is, it was taken as a normal working day and everybody went through his/her own usual work routine - writing programs, designing websites, developing online courses, etc. After the work hours passed, Alice and I went home and spent the afternoon listening to some Christmas carols. At least it can prep us to really get into the spirit of the season.

I haven't listened to our collection of Christmas songs for quite a while. I remember the last time I listened to them was way back in September when I had one of those sound trips that I do from time to time, just to while away time when there's not much to do. Listening to those songs again a day before Christmas gave new meaning to the word "homesick" for me. I remembered the kids and the other members of our family, and I thought of the things I and Alice may and could have done with them during those frantic hours a day before Christmas in the Philippines. I had a mix of emotions - sadness, happiness, hopefulness - and it made me want to cry. Anyways, listening to those songs at least made me feel Christmas as I feel it when in the company of my family even for quite a while. That's good enough for me at the moment.

After a while, I called the kids. They told me they have just started congregating in their Mima's house, and is about to start the traditional "Bingo" game until midnight comes, when they share the customary "Noche Buena" and exchange gifts with one another. My little girl Rain intimated that they are preparing noodle soups, burgers, some hotdogs with marshmallows, and other delicacies for Noche Buena, and that she had taken several bites of the hotdogs already. I told her to just enjoy the night with her brothers there and that I'll call again on Christmas day. We ended the call by saying "Merry Christmas" to each other.

After sometime, some of our friends called us. They said they're already going to one of our friends house, where the group's Christmas party will be held for the night. I told them we're also ready to go there, and since the house is just near our flat, we just walked there, feeling the biting cold that signifies winter, and the Christmas season is really here. Sometimes it's nice to just walk into the cold and feel that the holiday season is upon you and you're trying to celebrate it in the humble way you can. We spent the next several hours mingling and socializing with our small group of friends and celebrating Christmas in our own little way here in the Gulf.

Our celebration ended just several minutes after midnight. After greeting each other Merry Christmas, we went into our different ways once again, with some of us still trying to break into the crowded telecommunication lines calling their loved ones back home even though it's already early morning there. The longing especially at this time of year just wouldn't let up for some of us. After parting with each other, I felt like it's back to our own routine lives and to our own melancholic emotions once more.

Although today is a holiday, Alice and I still reported for work for a few hours inasmuch as there are some pressing works and assignments for both of us that need to be completed. Having done this sort of thing for two years - two Christmases - already, we really don't mind these anymore, and went to do our normal routines for the day. While riding the bus to work, Alice called the kids. They said they're already in her mother's house celebrating Christmas with their aunts and uncles, and with their cousins there. And so we arrived at work happily knowing that the kids are celebrating Christmas back home.

In the afternoon before going home, I called the kids again. They're already at home playing with their cousins there, and trying all the toys they received from relatives and friends. I found out that Ash, our youngest son, wanted to buy a pet hamster, having seen one in his cousin's house. I told him if he buys one he should take care of it properly, in which he promptly said yes. I could sense the excitement in his voice already. After that I greeted them Merry Christmas once again, promising them I'll call again as soon as I can. Maybe it's because of the holiday season...or maybe also because of the fact that they're on vacation and not busy doing their chores in school, but the kids want us to call them more this time. The least we can do is to give them their wishes.

After coming home from work, Alice and I took the chance of recovering from the missed hours of sleep from last night's party. After napping for a few hours, we spent time watching TV while the last hours of Christmas Day tick. Tomorrow, we'll do our usual routine again, just like today. Any which way...

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23

three things...

First thing is the cold. whenever the cold weather comes, we know it's the signal of the holiday season. it reminds us to make a list, lists actually - one, of the things we need to buy in preparation for the holidays, and another for those "lucky" individuals that we're planning to give presents to even if it means parting with our hard-earned bonuses for the month :) ... as we say, 'tis the season of giving, although most of us really prefer receiving anyway :) The cold weather also signals us to once again take our jackets and sweaters out from their usual places in the cabinets and use them to attend the Misa de Gallo, although in the Philippines it's not that cold anyway, and we can do away with our everyday attire of shirts and jeans. Anyways, aside from thinking that we could be more "japorms" wearing jackets, we also know that there's not much use of those thick clothing in other times of the year, and so we take the chance of using them during this season whenever we can. And speaking of Misa de Gallo, that's one of the things I miss during this holiday season. I miss waking up early and going to the church, although sometimes it's not really the mass which makes me wake up in those cold early morning hours, but the revelry associated with it, including of course, eating "bibingka" or "puto bumbong" and sipping "salabat" while chatting with friends inside the church patio until the mass ends. It's one of the things that makes me want to sometimes go back to the Philippines... and believe me, those times don't come too often. Although I prefer the much colder weather of this country, I still long for the revelry experienced attending the Misa de Gallo and sharing it with friends...

Another thing is the festive mood. Maybe it has something to do with Christmas carols permeating the air - from the neighbor's CDs or maybe your own radio - as early as September, but I really found it different celebrating the Christmas season in the Philippines than in other countries I've been to. Well, we know that in the Philippines, radio stations start playing Christmas songs as early, and from there, malls, restaurants, fast foods, and practically any and all establishments follow suit. You will sometimes wonder whether Filipinos don't get tired of listening to all these noise until December 25. Anyways, carols are only a part of the festivities. Also in September, houses and all structures get to be decorated with Christmas accessories - lights, labels, nativity scenes - name it, and you'll probably find one in one of the structures that are being decorated in your area. This is the time when "Made in China" Christmas accessories start flooding the Philippine market. It's kind of funny how Filipinos really celebrate the season. And I miss it too... being in a country where the celebration of Christmas is quite reserved, the "over-indulgent celebrations" in the Philippines really becomes a yearning that just wouldn't go away.

The last thing is getting together. In the Philippines (at least from my experience), the holiday season is not just the time for festivities, it is the time of renewing bonds. It is the time when old friends see each other again and catch up with each other's lives... it is the time when the family gets together again in the ancestral home and renew the love they share with one another. For Filipinos, Christmas is the celebration of the family. I remember those past Christmases when we share our noche buena with my family and celebrate the season sharing jokes and playing "Bingo"... the kind you do just to be together and keep each other's company during the Christmas eve. Then on Christmas day, both of us and the kids go to Alice's old home where a reunion of her family will be celebrated the whole day. It's those times when you'll really appreciate the essence of Christmas, and it's those times that we're really missing and longing for these past several years. It's what makes Christmas in the Philippines different, really.

Sometimes, even for just a while, you really really wanted to go back home.

cormac mccarthy and the holiday season

The holiday season is always a respite. Well, at least even for just a little while, we can relax a little and savor the good things life has to offer. Anyways, I'm grateful that during the first few days of the break I've finished several books already. I guess I really had to do it since I feel that I'm really lagging in my reading and I had to seize this opportunity and try to read all the books that I bought several weeks, months even, before.

I'm fortunate that I already discovered the works of Paulo Coelho. I made mention about it in a review I wrote several days ago. I got more fortunate after reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". I've heard of McCarthy first in "Oprah" when I was keeping Alice company one night watching the show. Oprah is recommending the book that time and showing her short interview of the author. I decided I'll buy the book and try it, but after buying, it just stayed in my drawer for weeks, and I was not able to even scan it. Well, I guess the timing was just bad, that when I bought it it coincided with just too many works in the office.

Anyways, after reading it two days ago, I would have to say it really was a piece of work and worthy of the award(s) it received. McCarthy's technique of narrating it thru prose-like literature is really successful, as well as his description of the end of the world viewing it thru the "real" humanity of man - the good and evil that reside within him.

In its deeper context, "The Road" does not only tells about the story of the bond between a father and his son. More importantly, it narrates about the humanity of man. Such that even in despair and difficulties, there exists in him the instinct to help, and in hopeless situations there is always the love he has for his family.

As I stayed awake the whole night reading McCarthy's book, it dawned on me that the story is real, and it's happening to all of us. There are lessons that can be learned from this book. You have to read it.

Wednesday, December 19

The Alchemist

I have to admit I just recently discovered Paulo Coelho. Alice told me about him, when one of our friends from South Africa who is a very indulgent reader told her about his works. When we happened to pass by Borders several weeks ago, I bought Alice this book, and after she finished reading it I took turn in scanning its pages.

The Alchemist's story is not unique. It is in fact, a very common one. And there lies the success of the book and the power of its author. The Alchemist is very powerful in its simplicity, and its uniqueness lies in the beauty of its message: pursue your personal legend and you will find happiness, for then you will know the purpose of your existence.

Santiago's story tells us that we must listen to our hearts, for if we know what our hearts desire, only then can we know the true purpose of our existence, and only then can we truly be happy. This book also tells us to continue following our dreams, for only through it can we find our purpose in life.

What makes Paulo Coelho's book a success?

Its narration of the simplicity of life. And its telling of the simple things that make our lives more meaningful and interesting. The story of the shepherd boy is the story of each and everyone of us. The quest for happiness and the meaning of life is the same quest that we try to achieve everyday. Each and everyone of us shares the same dream with Santiago.

What is the secret of one's happiness?

As The Alchemist tells us, happiness is following our dreams. And not being afraid of obstacles that can be encountered following the path to our dreams. As the book says, true happiness is understanding the meaning of our lives, the purpose of our existence. We can do that by listening to our hearts... and by following its yearnings.

Paulo Coelho tries to tell us these simple things in his little book. I guess it won't be hard for us to get his message and learn from it.

"in pursuit of happyness"

I borrowed this movie from a friend, not knowing really what this movie is all about at first. When I had the chance to watch it on a night when there's not much to do, I got some valuable life lessons that will stay with me for a long time...

The movie "In Pursuit of Happyness", is the story of Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman with a 5-year old son. Like most of us, the movie portrays the difficulties one has to go through when we're just initially starting a family and only having a "common", average job. The life of Chris Gardner is a portrayal of the triumph of the spirit, that is, against all odds and armed only with commitment and dedication, one can realize his dreams only if he won't lose focus and continue to sacrifice and persevere to attain it.

I haven't read the book from which the movie was based, nor I know the story of Chris Gardner prior to my watching the said movie. But after watching Will Smith and his son Jaden in the movie, I feel like I could relate to their story somehow. I don't know. Maybe because their story is such that it's actually the same story most of us currently have. Maybe somehow, this story is also the story or our lives as we live them right now.

One important lesson this movie taught me is to love your kids. And don't let anyone take them away from you even in difficult times. It's sad that I could not do that. Like millions of other Filipino parents, I am separated with my kids right now. That's the sacrifice 10% of the Filipino parents have to go through. It's part of our diaspora. And although sad, it's a fact of our life. I just try to make up for it by constantly communicating with them and trying to let them feel I am not away in any way I can.

Gardner's story is an inspiration. Every one of us is in one way or another, experiencing struggles in life. And like Chris, we have to learn to face them all. We have to stay focused and committed to our goals, and move towards realizing them everyday, every minute that we can. We shouldn't lose any given opportunity.

As this movie tells us, if we persevere, if we try hard, if we dream long enough, our pursuit of happiness will eventually be rewarded.

Sunday, December 9


The season is really changing already. Cold mornings are here once again, and the cool air permeates longer even until before noon. It's good to know that winter has arrived once more...

There's just one problem when the winter season comes, and for that matter, the climate starts to change along with it... people get sick. I personally experienced it the past week. Maybe it was the cold nights or the prolong cold mornings, but either way, I got hit by a flu. I even experienced some chills during the first day I got it. And so, I was not feeling well for maybe, four days... with aching muscles and headache, combined with on-off fever. I finally decided to visit the clinic on the second day. The nurse said I had an inflammation of my tonsils, which indicate something of an infection is there. Anyways, after taking some anti-biotics and vitamin C tablets, I finally felt good in the fourth day. Everything's well again :)

After my encounter with flu, I decided winter - and the cold weather - is really finally here, and so I started wearing light sweaters during nighttime. I also started to put away my sleeveless shirts, I won't use them for quite sometime.

Alice is happy... I won't be using the airconditioner anymore at night :)