Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pondering Death

With so many friends losing loved ones and even family members passing away, I just came to thinking about death and well, here's what I've thought.  Written in QC sometime in August 2014, under a drizzle of rain and all swamped in mourning.

One wonders about death, of what would be done to their remains by the people they leave behind; or how will they be honored in the final sunset by family and friends.  We ask ourselves if friends and family would remember us at all and, if they would ever visit our graves or tombs from time to time, or what they would do to our ashes in our urn.   Would it be placed in the center of their home or relegated to gather dust is a storeroom somewhere? 

Strange how we want to live on, even if we are but faltering memories in our loved-ones' equally faltering minds. Stranger yet is how we hope they would grieve for us in our passing.  Some cultures even hire crying women to shed tears when a family member is gone. 

From the moment a person is born, death becomes a certainty - an infallible end to everyone's journey and so it is strange that we ignore it and only prepare for it in the twilight of our lives. Some even don't do any preparation and are caught off-guard and in a state of shock or even denial when Death comes knocking.

I do not want to be unprepared nor do I want myself to fear Death's coming. For I'd like to be able to welcome it like a long, lost friend when my time comes. But I hope that it would be many years yet before it does come for me because I still have life and living to deal with for now. 

We cannot really plan what would happen in our death as things would all depend on the choices and decisions of those we leave behind.  We can leave them instructions as to our preferences yet, it is up to them to follow it to the letter or make a few adjustments.  It is probably easier for the rich who can leave last wills and testaments to their heirs - non compliance would cost the heirs their inheritance - ensuring their final instructions be followed to the letter.  But what of poor folks with nothing to leave behind but simple possessions or maybe even worse, loans? How will one's life be celebrated if one is not a celebrity or anyone famous?  Again the key would be the people whom you have left behind - their love for you would shape how you would be mourned, remembered, continued to be loved after you have passed. 

But then again, why worry at all?  You'll have been gone by then and free from earthly woes!  After you die, would you even care where or how you were buried?  What they made you wear?  How you hair looked like? Would you mind if no one mourned or visited you?  Being dead, would all these things still really matter?  It would be the ones we leave behind who would care.  It would be the living who will scrutinize the flowers, observe the rituals and the ceremonies and give their opinion whether our burial was to their liking.  But the dead would no longer hear or know of this.  They"d be dead.   They’d be unaffected by anything. 

So I tell my only daughter that she can do whatever she wants with me when I am gone.  Whatever would be the easiest, less stressful, most economic and efficient way for her would be the way I'd want it for myself.  In death I would not want to be a burden to anyone as I have struggled hard to do in my life.  In death all I really want is to be set free.  I know I will live on in my child and in the children she will bear, for parts of me will be in them just as parts of my ancestors are in me.  I live on in them.  That is enough for me.  

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October Opinions

It is October once again, my favorite month (my birthday month!) and I am anxious.  Turning another year older makes me wonder if I have, if at all, become any day wiser.  My opinions are mine alone and though may be influenced by elements around me, and by the experiences I go through, it is unique to me and thus matter only to myself.  Have I indeed matured?  My musings become more pronounced at this time of the year.  What have I done?  What have I accomplished?  What did I miss?

Recent vacation to Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines.
I think this year, I have traveled more.  I've been to old and new places with my family and that is something I am thankful for.  That I've got the means, the health and the capacity to do so...I am thankful, indeed.  In the UAE, we've been to Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah.  We've spent weekends in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Amber and I at Dubai's Global Village

Amber and I in a mall at Ras Al Khaimah
At Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi

Back in Manila, my family decided to explore the Visayas as we spent a few days in Cebu, Bohol and even explored Intramuros in Manila.  So, travel-wise I've had a good share of travelling and exploring. I've tried to retrace footsteps in the old places and have marked my footprints in the new.

In my journeys, I have kept my family close and tried my best to be wife, mother, daughter, friend, colleague.  I'm good for a few more destinations and I'm excited to travel to further places, not just in my mind :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Inspiring thru Quotes

I figured, I have to share and spread positive thinking to the great wide web and what better way than to start this wonderful Wednesday with warm, witty, words (brought to you by the letter 'W' ala Sesame Street's "Wanda the Witch")!
Why not?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Lessons Learned From Mahjong

Mahjong is a Chinese cards game using small tiles.  There are many variations to this game, Ilonggo style, 3-Fan style, Tagalog style, with joker, without the joker, with flowers and without the flowers.  Being Ilonggos, we learn the game as early as we could count.

If some kids had legos to play with when they were young, before legos, we had mahjong tiles.  The sound of mixing up the tiles is like rain falling on the rooftops.  It is relaxing as well as stimulating, waking up the almost sleepy players who have put on an all-nighter for a game.

In our home, you begin your introduction to mahjong like you would in any other board games.  Your elders, on a rainy day, when school is out, would put out the brown case, filled with the mysteriously carved Chinese characters.  You begin with the wall.  This is done on the special square table with small drawers along each of its four sides and a brown paper on top, as big as the table's square that you can peel off, one page at a time, where the older members would write things down - like this radar-like drawing - keeping track of who is winning, called a high.  "Isa pa ka high," they would say after midnight when everyone is tired or really sleepy.  "Sige, last high." like a 'one for the road' for the players.

To make the wall, you need to create 16 tiles - a row of eight plus another row that goes on top.  Then you make this your own wall - east, west, north and south walls for all four players.  You add up to your wall until all tiles are neatly piled one on top of the other.  This alone is a fun activity already and we'd vie for being the child called up to do the wall as the players take a break.

Then you are taught to feel the tiles and guess what they may be.  The round balls, the straight, thin sticks, the Chinese characters from one to nine, the four winds, the dragons: red, green and white, the flowers, and the joker that has nothing at all.  You can use your middle finger to feel them or go old-school and use your thumb.  We even had a game of feeling for the tiles and if you get it right, it's "yours".

Life like mahjong is ruled by luck and determination; ambition and right-timing. Nothing is certain but the fact that you will win some and lose some, and sometimes, it could even be a draw.  You can win a little, or win a lot and sweep everyone dry but you can also lose just as much.  That when you take, you must also throw something back and that you have to take care of your wall.  Taking chances is all right but cheating is a big no-no.

So my blog, inspired by mahjong is about some of the lessons I've learned whilst playing it.  I'll make it into an even ten for inspiration.  Yes, the 10 Things That I've Learned in Mahjong That I Can Use in My Life.

1.  What you throw, comes back to you.  Often in life, people or things that you leave behind or discard have the capability of coming back after many years.  Some even come back multiple times, as if mocking you for letting them/it go.

2.  When in doubt, bunot (take one!).  When you seem to have run out of choices, just pick one and go with it.  Life has a way of sorting itself and if you ever reach a crossroads, just choose one path and take it.  It would eventually take you to where you ought to be.

3.  Stop settling down for the immediate win.  Take a swing at the higher stakes.  Small wins can be good but sometimes, you have to go for the big one.  Mahjongeros call this "todo-ambisyon".  Yes, ride that star and aim for the biggest win.  If you do, it feels great.  If you lost, at least you took the chance and you know you can take another swing at it, maybe later when your cards show better chances.

4.  When you take, you also have to give (bunot-tapon).  You pick a mahjong tile, add it to your set if it makes sense or throw it back out if it doesn't.  You pick friends and keep them if they improve your life but eventually let them go if they don't.  You take things but you must also give back.  Life is a give and take situation.  It always is.

5.  Don't force your tiles into what you want them to be.  Just play the game.  Often we force our lives into this image of what we want it to be, forcing ourselves, our families into this idea we have in our heads.  There is no template.  Often there is just life and we should just live it.  One day at a time.  Listen or watch out for the signs.  Usually there may not be a manual but there will be bells and signals.  Whether your tiles are going for an escalera, a seven pairs or just plain pong-chow, you will know.

6.  It feels good to win by what others threw at you but a self-pick win is always the best.  When you play mahjong and you finally picked that card you need to win, you shout gleefully, "Bunot!" Meaning you, by your own hand, picked the winning card.  It is so much sweeter than a mere "tapon" (throw).  A self-earned victory is always the sweetest of all.  In life, when all your hardships turn into some form of vistory, it is well-earned and it is the best.  Yes!  I made it!  I won!

7.  Respect the first (bunot).  Well just respect all the firsts and go through all your firsts in life.  You need it, you should just bear it.  The good firsts and the bad firsts are firsts, one and the same.  First love, first crush, first kiss, first break-up, first heart-ache, first job, first time away from home...even first time alone.  Rejoice in your firsts.  Learn from them so there are no seconds.  Try to make them your last.

8.  Throw the unnecessary tiles.  Things that complicate your life, things and people you don't need, things that you could live without, these are just clutter and confuse you and distract you from winning.  Throw away the things you do not need.  Keep only the tiles that show potential for winning; that will help you win.

9.  What you think is trash can be golden to the other players.  Related to #8, what you throw can be what they others actually need.  So even if you consider something or someone as useless, they could be everything to the next person.  Others could even win from what you threw away.  So be careful about what you throw away but do not let that stop you from throwing away the things you no longer need.

10.  Push your wall.  In mahjong as in life, you have to share your wall with others.  Kindness goes a long way to making our journey enjoyable.  Besides, the game can't go on if you don't do your part.

In the end, the last high does come, the final winner takes the pot.  You count your wins against your losses and well, todas is todas.  The end.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rain and the Filipinos Love for It in Songs

We Filipinos are happy when it rains.  We feel blessed by the heavens above.  We love it, revel in it, welcome it.  How many among us have happy childhood memories of playing in the rain?  How we'd stand under the gutters and take a "shower".  Back then, acid rain or fear of contaminated water was not a serious issue and our childhood was carefree.

We may complain about it; moan something about the hassle of having to bring an umbrella or grumble about the resulting floods in the streets, the longer traffic jams it would cause, and other inconveniences but deep inside we thank the rain for cleansing the mind, the environment, getting it back to green and fresh and removing, even temporarily the grime and dust and wash away the trash.  We bathe in it and hope that we too are cleansed.

My daughter Amber was baffled when I asked her to go jump in the shower AFTER she had a fun bath in the rain.  She asked, "Why do I have to bathe again when I just bathed in the rain?" I had to give her a quick lesson in germs and how bathing in the rain counts more like playing rather than bathing, much like going swimming. 

But I ramble off, so back to rain.  Yes, rain. We fear it, especially when it is angry and pours for days.  We send a silent prayer in the hope to calm it.  We brace ourselves for the worst that it could do to us and our homes: the floods, the power cuts, the destruction of property, even loss of lives.   We try our best to keep dry and warm and wait for the sun to shine again.  We've learned to endure it, because living in our tropical Philippines, we must.

We've written songs about it.  Romanticised how it can influence our loves and lives.  And this is the heart of my blog today.  How we have sung songs that are somewhat ode to rain.  

The classic "Tuwing Umuulan" is one example.  

  • I think the original singer is Basil Valdez during the late 70's.  Here's his version

One of my favorite songs about rain is Joey Ayala's song "Ulan Sa Syudad" which talks about rain and how it relates to us as individuals, workers, society.  I invite you to listen to it.  It is very calming and also deep in meaning.

Another powerful song involving rain is Aegis' "Basang-Basa Sa Ulan" which is often sung in Videoke bars.

Rivermaya, another popular band during the 90's have their own Ulan song.

The Apo Hiking Society has their iconic song "Pumapatak Na Naman Ang Ulan (sa Bubong ng Bahay)." Reminding us of the time when calling on the phone just cost 30 centavos.  This same song was also covered by Parokya ni Edgar updating the 30 centavos into text credits. 

And digging further back, listen to Eddie Peregrina's version of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain."  Although this song was originally writen by Canadian John Fogerty and released as part of the album Pendulum by the Creedence Clearwater Revival Band.  Speaking of Eddie, he's the same person who sang another Rain song, popularised during the 90's by singer Donna Cruz.

Maybe these songs aren't totally about rain, but they are definitely part of the song's appeal.

Haji Alejandro's "Nakapagtataka" mentions a never-ending rain.  Same song but his daughter, Rachel Alenjandro's version came out in the 90's.  Sponge Cola made a more recent cover of the same song giving it a rock twist. 

After Image has the song Tag-Ulan but talks more about friendship.

Rico Bautista has Tag-Ulan too, singing about love which will not change in whatever kinds of weather.

Even hunky actor Jericho Rosales has "Paboritong Tag-Ulan" song.  Another rain inspired song by the same artist is "Bumuhos Man Ang Ulan".  Wow, he must really love the rain! 

There are many songs about rain in English too.  Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again" always comes to mind.  Many love songs too.  But I love the OPMs (Original Pilipino Music) about rain.  They speak a different love for the rain that we Pinoys love to sing about.

We even have our native bamboo rainmakers or rain-callers, to ask the gods for rain to fall.

Oh how we love the rain.  How we love to celebrate it in songs.  I love that it is raining here in Al Ain...a wet desert is defintely beautiful.