Days at Sea, Days of Silence

Remember Everyone Deployed

Whenever my husband’s ship makes the round for Kalayaan Islands, the largely disputed islands of the country, the family knows we are in another round of waiting and longing.

Over the phone, Constancio announces his schedule for the next few days. His ship is bound for Kalayaan Islands in the West Philippine Sea. Yes, I worry but I put it aside and put my faith in my heart that all will be well. Having him at the West Philippine Sea means there will be no calls, no text messages, very limited communication. Whenever this is the case, I prepare the children at once and tell them that we won’t be hearing from their dad in awhile. The littlest one prods me more on details — what his dad is up to, what time will the ship undock from the harbor, what possible communication network there is in the West Philippine Sea. I patiently answer his questions. He settles whenever I tell him, “Your dad has to make rounds to give food and supplies to the soldiers in the faraway islands of Palawan. They’ll go hungry if your dad won’t go.”

As we go about our daily routines without any call from Constancio, there’s a whispered silence that hovers over our heads. When we get lucky, a call or a message creeps into our mobile phones, when cellular networks from Malaysia or Vietnam make it possible. I try to  imagine how he goes by his daily life. I prefer remembering light and happy memories that make his navy life a little bit easier.

But I know it’s also not easy as its seems.

Every single time that he encounters deployed sailors in our disputed territories, I can feel how his heart is mighty proud of visiting them as his ship and crew delivers the little comforts that make life easier. He proudly sends me photos of scenery that I probably won’t ever come close to in my lifetime. As I absorb the scenes, I marvel at the beauty of the country. And yes, his rounds make us love the country more. As a family, we remain steadfast and strong too, understanding that our sacrifices of time and distance is a small thing compared to what our soldiers face at sea.

After a few days, the silence pauses because my son asks, “When will dad have signal? I want to talk to him?” or “Did you get a video of my dance? Send it to Dad now.” (Yes, my little, military son commands me that way.) And when I finally receive a call or a message, my heart is relieved. The silence is stopped. It is replaced by the usual happy chatter of love.

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It’s the Captain’s Birthday!

 

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More than anything, presence of other people you love most complete birthday celebrations.

That’s how it is with my family. As long as we’re together, no matter what the activity, a real hug and a shower of kisses make every celebration meaningful. The children and I wondered what to give their dad, having a list of what he wants as a gift. Instantly, five days before the birthday, I said, “Let’s go to Palawan!” I knew in my heart of hearts that both the dad and the kids want this most.

My husband Constancio is stationed at sea in Palawan. Knowing fully that this is his last leg of sea duty in his entire career as a sailor, I felt it was just right to be together.

Just as I expected, Palawan welcomed us back in all its glorious beauty, setting us up in the most serene atmosphere of celebration to honor the natal day of the man we love the most.

Coincidentally, it was also the ship’s birthday month and my husband deemed it right to also the honor the day she was commissioned to duty. Thus, the dual celebration. It was held in Rita Island, a privately owned, secluded island of Palawan.

The ship crew were busy in preparations. I know with their cramped lifestyle and days of sea duty, they anticipated a day of fun and frolicking. For sure, they also looked forward for the ship captain to let his guard down for awhile on his birthday.

What more could be fun than a beach bash in August, which is usually a month of typhoons in this part of the world. I was sure to be left at peace while the kids busy themselves in the beach.

I watched my husband smile and laugh as he enjoyed watching his crew have fun in the beach. The kids were amused to watch the soldiers play games — beach volleyball, swimming races, tug-of-war, basket buko (!) and sack race. It was an afternoon of basking in the sun, wading in the clear waters of Palawan and good ‘ol beach food!

At nightfall, the Captain and the soldiers feasted on an extra special boodle fight. A boodle fight is a style of sharing meals in the military to symbolize unity, brotherhood and authenticity. It is one time that rank is not a major consideration in Philippine military life. The usual menu is culture food. Food is spread out in a long table, usually in banana leaves and soldiers gather around to partake in the blessing, usually eating with bare hands. My husband has made it a tradition in his ship that every time a crew celebrates his birthday, a boodle fight on deck shall commence. Afterwhich, it was happy hour for the boys. My son joined in for awhile to watch the band. He was initially taken aback and then delighted when the soldiers put on their singing caps and dancing gear. He said, “Mom, the steward is sooo good in dancing!” It was a night to remember in the ship. I was sure everyone enjoyed the Captain’s birthday.

I did. Being together simply brings unspeakable joy to the family.

Happy birthday, Sir!

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Spotify! Your Life

Do you have a music playlist? A real music playlist where all the songs you relate to are actually stored?

One of the things I have long wanted to do was to create my personal music playlist with the perfect categories that fit my lifestyle. Alas, I never got around to doing it. It’s one of the things you never really get around to do because you know you can do it anytime anyway.

Today I finally have a playlist. It’s all thanks to SPOTIFY!

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Spotify is an app that offers a new way to enjoy music. It contains millions of songs and thousands of playlists that you can access anytime. These songs and playlists are shareable and you can ‘follow’ the playlists that perfectly suits you. Need music for a Friday party? There are loads of dance-themed playlists. Want some quiet music to set the mood for studying? There’s a playlist for that too. Can’t find that childhood song that keeps poppin’ at the back of your mind but can’t place the title? Try finding it on Spotify. It may just be there. You can also create your own playlist and customize categories the way you want.

For the free version, you get access to all music BUT you listen to music mostly in shuffle mode. This is fine with me since I like the feeling of anticipation. In this free version, you listen to music only when you are connected to the internet.

For the premium version, which is relatively cost-friendly, you have access to your created playlist even when you are not connected to the internet. You pick which song to play and when to play it without the interruption of ads. They have an ongoing 30-day trial for this service. I have yet to try this but with the free version, I am totally sold that I know I am going to upgrade sooner or later.

I found Spotify through my eldest son. Music is one of the few things that bind us, which makes Spotify extra special.

One noble thing about Spotify is that it serves as a platform that discourages piracy as it supports artists and labels all over the world through paid royalties.

I now listen to music often through this app. It’s like having a perfect soundtrack for every moment of my life.

Soundtrack your life, Spotify your life.

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What It’s Like to be a Stepmom

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Have you ever thought what it’s like to be a stepmother?

As a mom, I love hearing stories, telling stories about my family and children. I like reading about motherhood and raising a family. I like relating to other moms on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to being a mother and wife. Sometimes, I like to hear from a stepmom but there aren’t a lot of stepmom thoughts out there in the open (understandably) just as the traditional mothers openly share stories.

I am a stepmother for almost 10 years now. Let me share some things about being a madrasta.

“Mom!,” they would beckon. I can’t exactly remember how or when they started calling me mom but every single time they call me that, there’s something extra special about it in a different way. They know I am not their mother but in some way, they consider me their mother. So every time they scream “mom” even when they’re throwing tantrums, it’s music to my ears. My daughter recently was saying, “I’m so glad we call you mom. Can you imagine if one called you mom and the others call you ‘tita?’ That would be weird. My friends will be freaked and ask a lot of questions.” So yes, I guess it makes things less complicated too.

My stepchildren and I share some awkward moments that are just turned to sweet moments. There was one time that I had to rush a child to the hospital. I recited a litany of the child’s history that I know of. I was caught off guard when the nurse asked, “What was his weight when you gave birth to him?” My son and I looked at each other. I said helplessly, “I’ll have to check.” My son was laughing as he said, “You’d better ask dad for the details on that.”

Often times, people would say my daughter looks like me. We both like hearing that. One time though, a friend said,” You don’t look like your mom at all. You must look like your dad.” We would just smile at each other when this happens. I would notice though that she would make extra efforts to act like me, dress like me afterwards.

If there’s one wish of a stepmom, it is that her own biological child be treated fairly. But I see all the kids getting along, supporting each other protecting each other and loving each other. Whenever I see my stepkids loving my own, my heart just floats. I say a little prayer of thanks for the gift of sibling love.

Years after I got married, I meet old friends along the way. Of course, small talk would lead to questions like, “How many kids do you have?” Or “How old is your eldest?” Every time I give them answers, they have this weird look on their face. It’s likely that they are calculating my age, the ages of my children and the years they have known me. At first, I was worried about what they have to say but eventually, it was amusing! I tell them, “Go figure!”

Restraint is a value I practice most as a stepmom. I step back a lot even when my heart feels I must hover or scold or explain. I have found my place in their lives. I understand that my role is not to replace anybody but be their source of love and support that they now need. I am also supposed to be the “calm within in the storm,” if ever there are storms. I have read a perfect description of my role as a stepmom. This never fails to guide me. It goes:

 “Despite all the drama, chaos and conflict, the stepmom as the mother ship is steady and strong. All parties can go to her for peace and wisdom. She is a safe place, nonjudgmental, nonpartisan and definitely nonreactionary. She lets everyone be heard and does not react.”

- Lisa Bagshaw, Stepmom Magazine

If there’s one solid thing I have learned about my stepmom journey, it is that when there is a lot of love around, there will be a lot more to share, to give and to celebrate.

Need a Cab? GRAB One!

Sometimes, a cab is all you need to answer your commuter woes.

The convenience of taxi services has been proven over time. Just imagine how the streets of Tokyo and New York would live without them. Although my favorite memories of Carrie Bradshaw (of Sex and the City) comprise of her stylish presence hailing a cab and Mr. Big running after that cab she just took, it’s still nice to imagine how a cab would just pick you up on your doorstep just when you need it.

Enter GRAB Taxi service.

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I was problematic on how I would drag my 11 kilo suitcase, 2 backpacks, 2 carry on bags, 1 teenager and 1 kid to the village gate to hail a cab going to the airport. On the side, it was also going to rain. I remember I read somewhere in Patty B.’s blog, something about a taxi service with an uncanny name. GRAB. I googled, installed the app and navigated through it until I was rightfully served.

I was pleased. Right after I typed in my location and my area of destination, everything fell into the right place like clockwork. The process was easy-peasy.

  1. Install the GRAB app for FREE!
  2. Register your details — name, email address and phone number
  3. For immediate service, type in your current location and your area of destination
  4. After a few seconds, the screen will display how many drivers are nearby your area. After a few more seconds, you will see how many drivers have responded to our alert. On your screen, you will see the driver’s name with photo, plate number and the distance of their cab from your spot.
  5. Pick one. It is most logical to pick the one nearest you.
  6. You will be prompted to give the driver a call or if they have the same network provider as your number, they will call you. The communication is meant for specific directions and other instructions.
  7. The actual waiting starts. While waiting, your screen will display the tracker and the estimated time before the taxi arrives on your doorstep. It was amusing to see, “4 minutes away,” or “3 minutes away.” Soon enough, when I looked out my window, it’s there. It’s really there! And it’s swell that the photo on the GRAB app matches the actual driver who arrived.

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On our way to the airport, the driver said my waiting time of 4 minutes was actually quite long, on the average. From him, I learned that GRAB started in August of 2013. They are currently celebrating their anniversary for the whole month. He said that when you are lucky enough to be served by the actual GRAB cab (I just know this is the one with ears and one of them is in pink hue), you get a free ride! How cool is that.

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Manong Driver also said that he is grateful to GRAB as he averages around 15 serviced passengers in a day coming from GRAB alerts. It has made his taxi stint more strategic and lucrative. He also mentioned how GRAB screens and controls its member drivers and systems to ensure safety and security for the both driver and passenger.

As I alighted the cab, I understood that I am to pay a booking fee of Php 70.00 on top of the metered bill. It got me where I wanted safely and comfortably. With GRAB Taxi, I got a really fair deal.

For GRAB Taxi FAQs, visit this site.

 

Learning About Mobile Photography

Learning is a big part of my life. I love attending classes. The latest of which I attended was Jelito De Leon’s Mobile Photography Workshop, organized by Martine De Luna. This particular workshop was special to me because it was the first time I was attending a learning session with my daughter. Yes, I wanted to know about Instagram and mobile photography but I also saw it as a great opportunity to bond with my daughter.  It was also a golden chance to witness first hand how she absorbs teaching and instruction. I brought her along to this particular workshop because she has a penchant for pretty perspectives. Most of the photographs on this blog is hers!

Jelito De Leon is a young superstar IGer (Instagrammer). By “superstar,” to me it means having a solid following in thousands, in terms of numbers. More than that, it means being able to creatively depict a beautiful perspective of how you see the world through photos, using Instagram as a platform. To understand what I mean, you have to visit his feed. To have the heart to actually share what you know with other IG hopefuls is a kind bonus from a ‘superstar’ like him. He is now being invited around the world to share what he knows.

What I love about Martine De Luna’s workshops is that the sessions always allow me to own practical takeaways that I can bring to daily life, amidst my ‘busy’ness.’ To me, a learning session is only successful when you can apply something, even just a tip or two in the things that you do. Here are my takeaways and insights from my experience with Martine and Jelito.

Instagram is fun and friendly. As much as it can be a visual feast, it is also a social platform that promote an air of mystery and privacy. It’s a simple platform yet it bursts with so much of life’s wonders. Also, I have yet to find the unkind type of drama here. Explore it. It may be the right social platform for you.

Everyone’s perspective has so much potential. This made me appreciate and respect the people behind the everyday photos that I see. We were in one studio (Slate Creative Studio), with one kind of lighting and similar types of photography devices but when I saw how the photos from different people looked, I was in awe! It was a thrill to experience the processing and hard work of different people and see how amazing the results are. Look!

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Photo Credit: @martinedeluna Instagram / instagram.com/martinedeluna

Oh I discovered Scarsdale. I finally found it last weekend, wanting to find it after the workshop. They have the best artisan cronuts and donuts. They look pretty and taste really good too. They come at affordable prices. My favorite is their lemon meringue.

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When you are with your child in a class, you step back more and let her do things on her own. During the class, it was like I wasn’t there. I just let my daughter be. It was fun to watch her, observe her gestures and her reactions. It was good to watch her in action, while I just guided her when she needed me to. I realized, it’s her time.

Because of this workshop, I think we now take better pictures. We got some tips.

Try to keep still while holding your photo device. Tap on your phone’s screen to get the kind of lighting and focus that you want. Use the features of your phone. Don’t over edit. Use filters only if you have to. Photo styling can go a long way. Taking photos from 5 AM to 8 AM can get you the best kind of lighting. Save your photos by date. 

On a happier note, we are able to look at things in a certain way with the thought, “This can be beautiful.” And it’s not such a bad approach to life too. That things can be beautiful, no matter what the state.

 

 

She’s Dating a Gangster Movie: A Mom’s Thoughts

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I finally brought my daughter to watch, “She’s Dating a Gangster,” a teenage movie that raked in over 200 million pesos the past three weeks. It’s a novel written by Bianca Bernardino, so popular and trendy that it was brought to the big screen.

The movie is about Kenji and Athena, teenagers brought together in a glossy display of teenage love only to end up NOT being together because of some unexpected issues surrounded by mature emotions. Of course, as in Philippine commercial cinema, producers don’t dare allow the moviegoers to leave their seats feeling depressed or confused that a more ‘acceptable’ conclusion arises.

I entered the cinema with low expectations, looking down at young love, knowing what I now know as an adult. I expected teenage love with all its naiveté, the usual charming love story that ends up with oohs and aahs and endless sighs. Well, I left the cinema with a different feeling. Surprisingly, a formula teenage flick left me insightful to some extent.

Teenage life is really, so much fun! — no matter what the generation. 

I was thrown back to the 90s, my own teenage days. There was nothing more ‘throwback’ than seeing boys on skateboards with hankies worn as headbands ala Rambo while Eraserheads music was playing in the background. Those scenes made me smile. I realized too that yes, that was so long ago. They’re using it as flashback these days.

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Hmm, this Daniel Padilla, he’s born with charm. — a definite goldmine. 

I never looked at Daniel Padilla as the Aga Muhlach or the Richard Gomez of my time. Looking more closely, he is! And probably more. He’s a superstar in his teenage years. He has that unspeakable, magnetic charm. He has a long way to go —- up!

My desire — to allow my kids to really enjoy their teenage years to the fullest — was intensified. 

I had a blast during my high school and college days, while looking out for myself and learning the value of responsibility. When the kids graduate from high school, I hope they say, “Best high school everrrr!!!,” while being responsible in school, of course. I want them to experience those young, raw feelings of love, crushes, friendship and admiration. I want them to to wade through pain from seemingly “world-crushing” problems to figuring out that things will actually be just alright. Although it’s scary for me, I’d like them to experience young love in its purest form, before life gets too complicated.

Young love — it should not be trampled on, should not be looked down upon.

I have yet to see how my kids are to experience teenage love, or first love for that matter.  Being like the protective hen, before the movie, I was critical about young love, dismissing it as an utterly insignificant phase. Something like, “You think that’s love. That’s not it.” Because as you age, you know better, I tend to have a “know it all” approach. Then, I watched Kenji and Athena in this movie. Hmm, they reminded me that even young, teenage love for all that it is deserves respect, too.

Parental love — its power can never be underestimated. 

The scene where Kenji reunites with his son Kenneth in the end, this is the most moving part of the film. It depicted facets of a parent’s love that goes beyond words — forgiveness, acceptance, faith and honesty.

And so the movie ending did not just please the teen audience, but the adults who were around as well. I left the movie house with an arm around my daughter, sincerely hoping that a good head on her shoulders will see her through the heartaches and heartbreaks of life. Meanwhile, I bask in watching her shriek about Daniel Padilla.