This happened last night: “Mama, I want to sleep. I’m going to school tomorrow.”

Aba, himala! Maagang matutulog dahil may pasok pa daw sya bukas. I was on the verge of texting my father on what to do with my youngest son’s throwing up since lunchtime. Instead, I got the digital thermometer from my pouch and checked my son’s body temperature.

“37^C”—- I calmed myself and checked the internet for signs and symptoms of stomach flu. I gave him a bottle of probiotics and hoped that the symptoms would disappear. Fortunately, he fell asleep a little faster than I expected. Good job to myself!

I remember how I was prone to “usog” when I was a little girl.

“Kung saan-saan nyo dinadala ang bata, ayan, nababati tuloy,” my worried grandmother would tell my mother. Then, they would touch my feet to check if they were cold. If yes, then nausog nga ako.

“Who was the last person who greeted you?” my father would ask.

“Ah, si Tiya Felicing!”my mother would remember.

The three of us would go back to the market to look for Tiya Felicing. Kelangang malawayan daw ako para ako gumaling. Tiya Felicing, in her ever charming smile would apologize to me for causing trouble and then raise my shirt, wet her thumb with a little saliva and then press it lightly against my tummy.

“Gagaling ka na nyan,” Tiya Felicing would say.

At home, I was still dizzy and weak but my parents would assure me that I would feel better “kasi nalawayan na ako.” I would pretend to be okay because that was expected of me because “nalawayan na ako.”

Being prone to “usog” limited my exposure because my parents were afraid that if somebody that they did not know greeted me and made me sick, I would not be cured because “saan naman hahanapin ang nakausog?”

As a teenager and when I was becoming adventurous, they knew that the only way to protect me against “usog” was for me to wear anti-usog bracelet or stones. The stones were sewn on a red cloth and were supposed to be clipped on my clothes for my protection. Believe me, until now, my father reminds me to wear the anti-usog every time I get out of the house!

So why am I telling this story? I realize that aside from parenting style, I am no longer a believer of “usog.” My son probably caught a virus and since viruses are self-limiting, he felt better sooner than I expected. Looking back, I probably had a weak immune system so my body adjusted to new environments and reacted to it that was why I was prone to getting sick before.



Noong bata ka pa, big deal sa iyo ang 13th month pay ng magulang mo dahil ibig sabihin, pwede ka ng bilhan ng damit pamasko. Kapag nabilhan ka naman, gusto mong hilahin ang araw para mag-Pasko na. Parati mong tinitignan kung kasya pa sa yo ang bagong damit at bagong sapatos mo kahit sa isang maghapon at sampung beses mo na itong naisukat.

Ini-imagine mo na ang damit mo ang pinakamaganda sa lahat; na ma-iimpress ang crush mo sa get-up mo. Minsan, ila-lock mo ang pinto ng kwarto habang nagsusukat. Kapag may kumatok at natagalan kang buksan, idadahilan mong natutulog ka lang.

Sa mismong araw ng Pasko, di ka mapakali hanggang di mo naisusuot. Ikaw pa ang nagpapaunang magyaya na magsimba na kayo ng pamilya mo. Ikaw yung masigasig magbahay-bahay sa mga kapitbahay, ninong at ninang mo para mamasko.

“Anlaki mo na at ang ganda/gwapo!” —- yan ang hinahantay mong papuri sa kanila.

Uuwi ka mula sa maghapong paggala na sulit ang bagong damit at bagong sapatos. Magbibilang ka ng napamaskuhan, makikipagpasiklaban sa kapatid o pinsan sa kung sino ang mas madaming regalo o pamasko. Magbibihis at matutulog na kumpleto ang araw ng Pasko.


Being 12 at Heart

“When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”
~Robert McCammon


I want to be 12 years old again not because I want to change the course of my destiny.
I want to be 12 years old again to re-experience the age of innocence: fairies, dwarfes, knight-in-shining armor and magical kingdom.
I want to be 12 years old again to tell all those who passed away in the present time that I love them very much every single day.

If there is a time machine, I want it to bring me back to that time even for an hour. No, I don’t want to change everything in the past because my past life taught me lessons and molded me into a better person that I am now.
I don’t want to change who I met and who broke my heart because I am happy with my children now…and changing the past means not having them in the present.

Perhaps I can just be 12 years old at heart: loving, fun and magical.


Those were the days when Balanga was still a town. Those were the days when patintero and tumbang preso consumed my afternoon to dusk. Those were the days when you can buy a bottle of 8-oz. Coke for 25 centavos. Those were the days when it was fun blowing bubbles made from gumamela extract. Those were the days of childhood innocence; when you are too confused why your heart beats to the one person that can make you smile. Those were the days of getting soaked in the rain, of making paper boats and sailing them on the flooded streets of Balanga. Those were the days when Beanery was non-existent; when the best treat in town was Eddie’s bibingka with free hot tea. Those were the days when Farrah and Aling Charing’s parlor was the “in” thing in town. Those were the days of the typewriter when free wifi is not a technology in Balanga. Those were the days of the snailmail, when Mama had to wait for the kartero for my father’s mail.Those were the days when Archade lorded it over on the RTW’s. Those were the days when Tdel was the only private school with secondary education in Balanga. Those were the days when Joyous Fishpond Resort was the 8 Waves of Bataan. Traffic was less and so was pollution. Everybody knew who their neighbors are. The Balanga town plaza was our playground at night.

I am proud of what Balanga has become today…but looking back, I can’t help but to long for Balanga’s innocence.

Days of the Operator-Assisted Calls

My boss forwarded an email about a software supplier that has a branch in Singapore. I tried to avail of the trial software but the trial button was not enabled so I emailed the company to ask for assistance. They quickly replied and asked me to contact 747-xxx-xxxx so that their account manager/s can assist me. I googled Singapore’s country code and found it to be 65. So, I tried to contact the company by dialing 0065-747-xxx-xxxx. I heard an “unreachable tone” so I tried to dial again. I asked a friend who’s based in Singapore if there’s a 747 on their landline and he suggested that that number could be a “redirected” number. I was so sure that that landline was from Singapore so I mentioned to him that my boss thought that that number was from the USA. He agreed with my boss and he even showed me a link that I sent to him days back with that number written above the software company’s head office in Reno, Nevada. Ouch! I should have been more careful in perceiving things! Just because the first advertisement came from their Singapore office does not mean that the 747-xxx-xxxx is a Singapore landline number. Lesson learned.
How I miss the days when direct dialing was not yet possible and we have to be assisted by telephone operators whenever we need to place a long distance call or overseas call. I was very fond of placing a long distance call and talk with a telephone operator back then. Some operators were serious and stiff while most of them were friendly. There was even a time when one of my mother’s many godchildren was the one I was talking with.

“Uy, si Iris ba to? Saan ka tatawag? Ah sa Makati? Kumusta mo ako kay Ninang, ha?”
How sweet. =)
One of my admirers in college was bold enough to place a collect call from Baguio and he so missed me a lot; he talked with me for an hour! I knew it was a collect call and I was polite enough not to reject the call and I was also stupid enough not to end the conversation; it costed our telephone bill PhP500 for that call; back in the mid-90’s, that was a big amount for a telephone call.
I love Piltel operators and for me, they were the friendliest telephone operators; they wouldn’t show impatience if they could not connect your call to the person that you needed to call. When I was in Baguio, I had this Sunday habit to go to Piltel in Session Road after my Sunday mass at the Baguio Cathedral (I was a Catholic) to place a long distance call to my parents in Bataan. (I was teary-eyed when I passed by Piltel-Session Road in 2008. Memories, memories.)

It was sometime in 1996 when PLDT launched its direct dialing system in Balanga. This was a system enhancement and a reduction in labor cost, too because this new system would not need an operator to assist us in placing a long distance call.
Fast-forward to 2011 when having a cellphone is considered a necessity rather than a luxury. I was just thinking this afternoon; would it still be possible to get the assistance of a telephone operator even if I’m using a cellphone and not a landline phone? I guess, if that were possible, I would hear the voice from the other line saying “Ma’am, this 747-xxx-xxxx is NOT a Singapore number; let me help you place an overseas call to the US instead.”