Posted in family, Filipino, relationships

Goodbye, Lolo.

Yesterday was the 3rd death anniversary of my grandfather. I remember so distinctly the moment I found out that he had passed away. I was on leave from London for the first time since getting my work permit. My father’s side of the family was having a reunion in one of the beach resorts in Cebu and we had just finished a scrumptious breakfast buffet.

I was trying to burn a few calories by doing my own version of swimming in the ocean (I can’t swim to save my life) when my uncle hailed us to come back to shore. I thought he was telling us we needed to check out soonish, but then he said that my grandfather (Lolo) had died that morning.

I went up to our suite to find my mother barely keeping it together. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to travel with them back to Samar (another island in the Philippines) so we can lay my Lolo to rest. I had a moment of self-absorption to be honest, because I had my holiday all planned out and that changed everything. But all my plans paled in comparison to the fact that my mum needed my support.

I did not have a great relationship with my grandfather. Because they live in such a remote area of the country I rarely had time to visit them when I started college. I was also quite a spoiled, judgmental teenager who could not wait to go back to the city every time we visited.

His drinking, and the attitude that came with it, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I was 16 when I first started making it clear that I did not approve of it and I started to pull away. I might, in a fit of adolescent tantrum, have even said all this to his face.

I didn’t realise the value of family until I was much older and living in a city where I didn’t have them. Its only now that I know enough to be ashamed of my actions and to regret never cultivating a better relationship with my Lolo.

When I was 16 all I could see was the drinking and the person he became when he was drunk; I’d forgotten about how, when we were younger and could visit for much longer, he would make every effort to make sure we enjoyed our stay.

He’d catch fish for us, slaughter his chicken and pigs for us (sorry, I know this is crude), introduce us to everyone in the small town and tell everyone how smart we were; he’d sing karaoke with us, take us swimming in the nearby river and watch out for us. Back when we were young and able to appreciate the simple things in life more, we were able to appreciate him more.

My brother and sister were better with him than I was. You see, I went through a phase when I was so full of my own hubris that I thought I was better than everyone else. I had a holier-than-thou attitude that makes me cringe when I think about it now. London has been good for me in so many ways and in a way, living independently has made me more grounded and more appreciative of my family.

I never got to say goodbye. I thought I would have more time. We always think we have more time until we don’t. I can’t even remember when I saw him last (it must have been in 2011 shortly before I left the country), what I said, whether I was able to say I loved him or able to apologise for my shitty attitude towards him growing up, or to tell him that I understand about the drinking.

I visited his grave with my mum, my sister and my aunt and uncle yesterday. We organised a mass for him and said our prayers. It was raining and I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes but I was determined not to complain and to see it through. We then visited our grandma afterwards and we sat around while my uncle reminisced about his last day. It was a sort of catharsis for them all to relive it and to be relieved that he went so peacefully.

He inspired devotion in his children, despite everything. I’m sure they also found him challenging but they loved him so much that they’d travel from afar every year, even after his death, just to visit. He took care of them and made sure that they had good lives and a good future. That’s the minimum that you can ask of a parent and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not everyone is so lucky.

He was a good man.

There’s no one on earth who can say that they’ve lived a life with no regrets; this is one of mine. I can’t go back and change the past but I can be better and do right by my remaining family in the future.

I think this is one of the reasons why I’m home this month rather than off exploring the world. You never really know how much time you have with the people you love. With my sister also home on leave, we’re a complete family for the first time in 3 years. That’s more important to me than climbing Machu Pichu.

Its ironic but I don’t actually come from a family where its easy to express words of affection. Words are wind anyway, its our actions that speak volumes. I will try to be a better person than I was to my grandfather but I also just wanted to write this blog as a love letter to tell him the things I never said and to say goodbye.

Rest in peace, Lolo.

Posted in Careers, Filipino, friendship, london

5 reasons why catching up with college friends is awesome

Last weekend, my friend Jo arrived in London – the first leg of his “dirty 30” trip which will see him travelling to 42 different countries. I thought I’d take advantage of his visit to organise a semi-reunion for other people in my year who are also living in London. I booked a table at The Garden Gate so we could have drinks like proper adults (lol) and pretend we like Sunday roasts when really we just wanted to go have dim sum in Chinatown (where they have rice, a big deal for some of us! :p).

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Velez College, College of Nursing Batch 2008, London Chapter (lol)

It was one of the best weekend I’ve had in ages. Don’t get me wrong: I am a big believer in expanding my social circle and meeting new people, everyone knows that. However, there’s something to be said about being people who went through the same experience as you did, who knew you before you shed all your baby fat, who knew you when you perhaps weren’t quite at your best. Here are some of the reasons why catching up with college friends is a blast.

They get your jokes.

I’ve always felt really self-conscious about making wisecracks and jokes because English isn’t my first language. I think some of the punchlines fall a little bit short sometimes because something gets lost in translation. Speaking in my native tongue, in my city’s dialect in fact, changes that. Not only is it comfortable, there are some truly funny words in the Cebuano dialect that just do not have an English equivalent. You also laugh over the same things and you’re not too worried about offending anyone because, let’s face it, its not like the Philippines is all that concerned about political correctness. So yesterday I’ve laughed harder than I’ve had in a long long time.

There’s always good gossip.

I don’t mean gossip in a bad way; and its not like we spent the night digging up scandals about our former classmates. But it was just a great way of catching up with the other people in our year as well, kind of like a “where are they now?” kind of thing. Or because we’re at that age where everyone is settling down into relationships, it would be more accurate to say that the topic of conversation is more like “Who married who?” and “Who’s still single?” and “Will so and so end up with so and so?”. Also, we were a class of 250 students give or take a few; everyone’s romantic history (from the scandalous to the disastrous) is an open secret – and a cause for much reminiscing and good-natured ribbing.

No one else will ever quite get the “Velez College” experience.

Studying Nursing is difficult enough; at Velez College they make it extra hard on purpose. There’s no one who will understand the experience quite like a Velezian. Swapping stories of our college days, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the tough times and the times that have us aching with laughter…I truly think its good for the soul. We’re able to look at that experience and where we are now and have a laugh. And realise that it was all worth it, because it helped us to get where we are. Dean Lumbab, wherever you are, I hope you’re looking down on us and feeling proud of the school that, whilst it doesn’t bear your name, is a school that you built on your meticulous standards and principles. 

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Proud Velezians taking a photo at that famous red phone booth

Everyone’s made it, one way or the other.

There are different measures for success. And as one of my students once said, when everything’s said and done success without happiness is the worst kind of failure. Whether you’ve climbed the career ladder or raised a beautiful baby boy (or girl), it warms the heart to see everyone make the best of their lives.

You can be yourself.

Transformation and starting over are all good things. I truly believe that a person shouldn’t be placed in a box. There’s always room for you to grow and reinvent yourself. The reason why I love London so much is because I have the freedom to try new things, things that no one who knew me would ever have dreamt I do. Like muay thai for example. I was 30 pounds (15 kilos) overweight in college for god’s sake, I could barely complete a circle around the track in the local sports complex. So I was happy to be in a country where no one knew me and where I’m not being oppressed by people’s preconceived notions of who I am.

But.

Sometimes its good to remember that girl who struggled to accept her looks and her body; who spent four years nurturing hopes of getting out of the friend zone; who was perhaps not as confident but who learned that you should never let them see you sweat. I am grateful that I was once that girl, and I like being reminded of it in case I ever get too high on my high horse. There’s nothing like a good college reunion to remind you to be grounded in humility, BELIEVE ME

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It truly pains me to post these photos!
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Its safe to say I have no good photos of me BEFORE 2008
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These photos are a reminder to GO TO THE BLOODY GYM. hahahah

With these guys, there’s no use pretending to be anything other than you are because they’ve seen you at your worst. They call you on your bullshit because they’ve earned that right by virtue of the length of your acquaintance, and the experiences you’ve shared. So really, all that’s left to do is just be yourself – well maybe, a slightly better, much improved version. Angela 2.0.

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ahh, much better. :p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t get to go out as much; adulting means we’ve got responsibilities now so we can’t stay up as late as we used to. By 11pm, people were already thinking about the long day shifts they were doing the next day rather than who’s pouring the next shot of whiskey. Still, I had a lovely time catching up with my friends over Jack Daniels and Coke, and I will continue to look forward to the next time we can all come together.

 

Posted in Filipino, friendship, london

The lost art of speaking your mind

I should add a disclaimer and say that this will probably be an unpopular post. It will also be an honest one. Recent events in my life have just inspired me to write about something that I’ve been meaning to speak my mind on for a long long time. 

Its my opinion that culturally, Filipinos have always struggled to speak up for themselves. I think in our country we’ve learned to just shut up and get on with things no matter how much we struggle because speaking up never changed anything anyway. In addition, I think we’ve always been afraid of open confrontation. For us, talking to a person about an issue or concern is often seen as being aggressive. 

The result is this passive-aggressive way of “fighting back” wherein we say nothing but we’re secretly fed up and furious, and rather than confronting the person involved, we go around talking to everyone else EXCEPT the person who should have been confronted in the first place.

I see this a lot whenever a group of Filipinos gather, both here in the UK and at home. If John had a problem with Paul, he would talk ABOUT him to every Tom, Dick and Harry but he wouldn’t actually talk TO Paul. Which doesn’t make sense because how would Paul even know there’s a problem if no one tells him?! 

Being honest with another person is scary as hell. You’re making yourself vulnerable, and you’re putting your relationship with that person on the line because you never really know how people will receive your honesty. I get it. Sometimes its easier to brush it under the rug, or vent your frustration by talking to other people and hope that the issue goes away. In the long run though, how healthy do we really think that is? Does it really solve anything?

The thing I like about being in the UK and being exposed to different cultures is that you learn so many things, and one of the most important skills I’ve learned is how to handle difficult conversations and how to resolve a conflict. I don’t just mean at work but in general as well. A little bluntness goes a long way. I used to be afraid of people who wouldn’t think twice about giving their opinion or saying what they really think but I’ve really come to value the people in my life who will say things TO MY FACE rather than talk about me behind my back. 

I don’t mean that we should all jump at the smallest issue and create a fuss. But we need to realise that we are all entitled to say what’s on our minds as long as we respect that the other person has that right too. Imagine if you’re having a conversation and you disagree about something that the other person said. What is so wrong about saying ‘I hear you, I get your side, but my opinion is this and this, what do you think?’ Or when someone has said something hurtful, what’s wrong with saying ‘hey, can we talk about when you said this and this. It just really hurt my feelings and I’d like to know why you said it.’ Or if you don’t like something, just say it. If you need help, don’t pretend to be all-knowing because there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with something. ASK FOR HELP.

We overcomplicate things when we don’t say the things we should at the moment when they should be said. We involve a bunch of people that should never have been involved in the first place because we’re too much of a coward to confront the person we should be confronting. This is all the more true when we’re dealing with friends. 

It is so much harder to admit that a friend has hurt you compared to a colleague or an acquaintance. But true friendship can withstand a little honesty, I think you can only grow as friends if you deal with issues as they arise. I once had exactly 100 minutes of phone conversation with my friend Dengei so we could mend our friendship and now we’ve been close friends for more than 10 years. 

My friend Christine once sent me a really hurtful email when we were 18 or 19 outlining the many ways that I have hurt her and my response was to not confront it and avoid her. Thank goodness our friendship meant enough to her that she initiated a conversation where she explained that all she really intended was for me to know her feelings, not to end our friendship. Its been 12 years since that incident and she was and still is one of my best friends, and we laugh about her “hate mail” from time to time. The strongest friendships I had are ones where I always know where I stand. 

I’ve digressed a little bit. 

Seriously though, one of the things I’ve reflected on this week is about being honest and upfront with other people. I hate that backbiting and gossiping about people behind their back is so entrenched in our culture, and I include myself in that number. The one thing that I try to do though is self-check and self-regulate: I never say anything about a person behind their back that I’m not comfortable saying to their face. If that’s weak, I’m sorry but its all I got. 

So let’s all learn to be a bit more honest and speak our minds as appropriate. We save ourselves a lot of stress, frustration and misunderstanding that way. 

Posted in Filipino, Music, relationships, Reviews

Getting back to my roots (while listening to Original Pilipino Music)…

I have these moments where I feel a little bit homesick for all things Filipino. During lunch today one of my colleagues brought food that just reminded me of home; someone else was asking me about the best places to visit in Cebu, where I’m from. Yesterday, my boss showed me 2 one-hundred peso bills that someone from Victoria gave her when she was trying to collect money for charity (huh???!!!). I keep getting these little reminders of home, and isn’t it funny how I still think of the Philippines as home even though I spend a majority of my time in the UK? For all intents and purposes, London is my home now and I love it. However, I am a Filipino first, and I know sometimes I forget. I think and speak in English most of the time; I write my Facebook statuses and blogs in English; I read English books, I listen to English music. Its so easy for me to forget where I come from, to shed those aspects of myself that make me Filipino.

To be honest, I think I made that conscious decision 5 years ago when I arrived in London. I decided that I would immerse myself in the culture of this country because I want to experience life here to the fullest. I don’t want to just be over here working 12-hour shifts to make enough money to send over to the Philippines. No, I decided that I would take advantage of this opportunity and become, well, British. I tried to embrace every aspect of its culture, though I’ve yet to see the point of constantly drinking tea or this love of football (basketball, baby!).

It also didn’t help that my first encounter with Filipinos working overseas was with my old landlady, who is a walking, talking model of every negative stereotype Filipinos have ever been accused of: ambitious, money-grubbing, slave to trends and designer brands, possessing a “crabs in a box” mentality, love of “tsismis” (gossip) especially about fellow Filipinos, having nothing to say about art or culture…the list goes on. I have to admit that when I first got here, I sought to be the opposite of all that, to show everyone I meet in this country that there are Filipinos who are cultured and educated and can hold their own in a conversation. There are Filipinos who are willing to try new things, to travel and to explore. There are Filipinos who don’t see every man as a potential sponsor for a fiancee visa (I was once asked out on a date where the first question the guy asked me was ‘so what visa are you on?’. Like hello, I don’t need you and your British passport. I can work my way to my own, thanks).

I didn’t realise until this moment just how separated I’ve become from everything that makes me Filipino. I feel like I’ve lost my love for my home country, and though I will be the first to rant that there is so much about the Philippines that I detest, there is also so much to love and be proud of. I guess today’s theme is a reminder for me to be a little more in touch with my roots, to never forget where I came from because its going to make an impact on where I’m going. And if there’s one aspect where I remain proudly Filipino, its my love for classic original pilipino music (opm).  So I thought I’d share some of my favourite tunes in the hopes that after this post, I will be just a little bit more proud of being Filipino.

Halaga – Parokya Ni Edgar

 

“Sa libu-libong pagkakataon na tayoy nag-kasama, iilang ulit palang kitang makitang masaya. Naiinis akong isipin na ginaganyan ka nya, siguro ay hindi niya lang alam ang iyong tunay na halaga.”

  • This guy’s basically singing to a girl he’s in love with who’s got a boyfriend that doesn’t treat her right. Loosely translated, the lyrics are saying he’s never seen her happy with the guy and he hates the thought of him taking her for granted and not seeing her true worth. Literally, Halaga in Filipino means worth or value

 

Narda – Kamikazee

“Narda” is the alter ego of the Philippines’ version of Wonder Woman, called Darna. marsravelosdarna2

When she’s in her human disguise, she’s called “Narda”. She swallows some kind of stone and shouts “Darna” if she wants to transform. Its a little bit silly, I know. But its a huge part of the Filipino culture. I can’t think of any Filipino over the age of 25 who doesn’t know who Darna is, or who hasn’t made a Darna joke. Anyway, she fights bad guys, she’s super fast and super strong and she flies. This group, Kamikazee, decided to write a song about how hopeless it is to fall in love with someone like that who is so obviously (and literally) out of their reach.

 

“Awit na nananawagan (a song that’s calling out)
Baka skating napakikinggan (hoping maybe she’ll hear it)
Pag ibig na palaisipan (a love he can’t make heads or tails of)
Sa kanta na lang idaraan…(so he’ll just write a song about it instead)

Nag-aabang sa langit (Looking at the heavens)
Sa mga ulap sumisilip..(peeking through the clouds)
Sa likod ng mga tala..(or behind the stars)
Kahit sulyap lang Darna.” ( for even just one glimpse of Darna)

Ugh, the whole song is such a great metaphor for the hopelessness of unrequited love. I love it.

Harana – Parokya Ni Edgar

Harana in Filipino literally means Serenade. Its an old-fashioned practice during the “courtship” stage for a guy to gather a group of his friends so that he can serenade the girl he likes (usually at night and usually with the girls’ father giving him the death stare. Honestly, how can the poor guy be expected to carry a tune?!).

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photo taken from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/551972498049666343/

Anyway, I guess in this era of Tinder and Match.com this practice is terribly OUT of fashion, and I for one think that’s a shame. I mean, I can see where this would be incredibly embarrassing, but part of me thinks its also incredibly romantic.

Parokya Ni Edgar is one of my favourite OPM bands, and their songs will probably feature in any OPM list I make. But Harana holds a special place in my heart because my high school crush sang it once and allowed me the illusion that he was singing it just for me (spoiler alert: he wasn’t!)

 

 

Pare Ko – Eraserheads

“Pare” (pa-reh) means, like, bro or brother or something. As this, and the next song, will illustrate, The Eraserheads are amazing storytellers and they really have a gift for writing songs in a clever way. In this song, the singer is telling his romantic woes to his “pare” and asking him to have patience and understanding because he knows he knows he’s bound to say things that are sappy and corny. So the singer tells his “pare” about a college girl he’s in love with who led him on and has now broken his heart.

Part of the reason why I love this song is because girls think they have a claim on the whole pouring-their-hearts-out-to-their-friends thing but actually, guys talk about their problems too. They just do it in a different way and usually with a lot more alcohol and swearing involved. This song is just such an accurate representation of the kind of conversation a guy would have with his friend, where he’s desperate for advice but trying so hard to still appear cool and collected. Although most of the song talks about the girl, because of the way the E-heads have written it, it actually becomes a celebration of male friendships instead.

Also? The song lyrics contain actual swearing! :p

“O, diyos ko, ano ba naman ito? (Oh my God, what is this?)
Di ba, ‘tang ina, (Son of a bitch)
Nagmukha akong tanga, (I looked like a fool)
Pinaasa niya lang aso, (She only led me on)
Lecheng pag-ibig toh…” (Damn this love)

Ang Huling El Bimbo – Eraserheads

Ah, now this is an epic song. Its really such a shame that I can’t translate the lyrics because it tells a story that is so quintessentially Filipino. To sum up, this boy once had after-school dance classes with this girl during which she would teach him the El Bimbo; in the process she also taught him about the power of true love. He never had the courage to tell her how he felt though, so they moved on and years pass. The girl becomes some kind of mistress and has a baby out of wedlock. Forced by desperation to take some kind of menial job washing plates or something, she was run over by a car walking home one night. So the guy laments that he can only hold her and dance with her in his dreams now. I’m probably not doing such a good job of translating this song, and maybe you have to be Filipino to understand the impact of this song. But the Eraserheads were probably like the Coldplay of OPM. They made listening to OPM cool.

To me, this song will always be associated with the guys in my class playing guitar one day during free period and everyone just spontaneously joined in because we all knew the words. This was probably a couple of months before high school graduation, and we all knew that we would never be together in quite the same way ever again. An era was ending and we didn’t know what the future held in store for us. Would we all make it? Would we all reach our dreams? In that moment, singing El Bimbo, we forgot about our worries for the future and just got lost in our love for music, for this song.

Cheers, blabbaholics.