Posts Tagged ‘family and friends’

back on air

After a hiatus of a year and four months, I’m back on air doing the live horseracing coverage for Viva-Prime Channel at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

With sports writer Barry Pascua last 22 March 2009, on standby to do the opening of the day’s live coverage of the races half an hour before the parade for Race 1. This was my first weekend back. Barry and I are at the grandstand.

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The last two horses cross the finish line after Race 1.

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Racing fans pack the grandstand at Santa Ana Park on Sundays.

I started my broadcast career in racing in 2002, when I was tapped by PRC’s then-vice president of administration Fulton Su to be a panelist for PRC’s coverage, then handled by production outfit Creative Station for Pro-Ads Marketing, the actual contractor.

Boss Fulton took a leap of faith with me, as I had no experience at all doing live racing coverage. Despite being a jockey’s wife, I didn’t have much knowledge of betting or how to do race analysis.

I did have prior on-camera experience as a segment presenter and later co-host of “Karera 2000″, a horseracing show that aired over the government station, PTV (People’s Television) in 1997. For that show, I also wrote the script for my own segment, “Karera 101″, occasionally did the script for the entire show, and directed my own segment and others like the “Jockey’s Tips” presented by rider Dhunoy Raquel.

That’s where I learned to work under intense pressure – imagine showing up at on location at a ranch, only to be told by the scriptwriter/director that he had not written a script for that day’s shooting, and having to scribble the spiels for that episode right there and then while the hosts Jackie Castillejo andYeng Guiao (professional basketball coach and current vice governor of Pampanga province) waited.

But taped shows are easy because you can do over with takes. Live coverage is fast-paced with no room for errors.

Over time, and again under pressure, I learned to analyze races and and discuss the betting with the help of my fellow panelists during the early days at PRC – racecallers Ricardo “Carding” de Zuñiga, Ernie Enriquez (brother of GMA Network’s famed newscaster Mike Enriquez), Ira Herrera (racecaller and now a panelist for MJC’s new in-house production team, San Lazaro Broadcast Network), and former star jockey and current Philracom commissioner Eduardo “Boboc” Domingo Jr. (also now the anchor for SLBN).

I stayed with PRC from March 2002 to January 2005, then I hosted for Winner’s Circle Productions at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park from August 2005 until August 2007, when Makisig Network took over MJC’s production and I was dropped from the roster of talents as they had their own.

The break of almost a year and a half was a welcome development as I got to rest, return to graduate school, put up my website, become a fountain pen and ink collector, and do other things that interested me.

Now I’m back, refreshed, with new ideas, and ready to resume active broadcasting again.

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View from my seat at the studio: on the table are racecards, pens, favorite purple Fino pencase from Leigh, Nokia Xpress Music mobile phone, Denman hairbrush, and Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler filled with coffee. (“No coffee, no workee!”) The larger monitor displays the actual cable TV broadcast feed; the smaller one, the pool totals and odds.

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Coverage essentials: racecards (Winning Time for past performances, useful for race analysis, and Dividendazo for the schedule and for marking the horses on parade, winner, time, order of arrival, and other information that I relay to viewers) and pens (Preppy ED highlighter filled with Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, Waterman Hemisphere, Lamy Safari 1.1 italic, Taccia Ta-ke).

As a mass communication practitioner, I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I do, in that I am doing both broadcast and print (I write a Wednesday column on racing, “The Hoarse Whisperer” for Manila Standard-Today).

Broadcasting has always been a significant part of my life because of my father’s influence.

My father, Valentino Araneta Ortuoste, started his career as a disc jockey in the 1960s in Bacolod City, playing The Beatles and The Ventures. (He didn’t like pop music, though, preferring classical, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole).

Later he became a newscaster for ABS-CBN network in Manila; I was a toddler then, and he would sometimes take me with him to the studio. I don’t remember that, of course, but I have pictures, in black-and-white, me looking up at him almost adoringly, he with a smile and looking dapper in high-necked Vonnel shirts.

Pops also did commercials (a series for Palmolive shampoo with the characters “Sonia” and “Ana”) and bit parts in movies (in the 1990 film Anak ni Baby Ama, he played the wealthy businessman who gets ambushed in his car at the beginning of the film). He also performed voice-overs for radio commercials and even cut a spoken record in the late ’70s, “Happy Birthday, Love”.

I was ten or eleven when he encouraged my sister Aileen and I to do radio commercials. I remember one of them was an English cough syrup plug where I had to cough on cue. I got paid extra for doing the Cebuano version when the kid who was hired couldn’t do what the director wanted and wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t understand Cebuano very well, but was able to mimic a native speaker who read my lines to me. After that I was given more work doing dialects.

When I was in college, in the mid- to late-’80s, Pops was the anchor of “The UN Hour”, a television show broadcast on the government channel, PTV (People’s Television), during the administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino. He asked me and one of my friends from school to act as student interviewers. We met with the ambassador of Namibia; my friend was so nervous, he stuttered over his lines (“Nami-Nami-Namibia?”) but it turned out quite charming and was not edited out from the final version.

I owe my father for giving me the knowledge for this kind of work; it prepared me for when fate gave me the chance to do this. I never thought I would follow in his footsteps. But I look back now and feel grateful for the coaching he gave on how to modulate our voices and act in front of a camera, things we didn’t really understand back then, but proved useful when we needed it.

However, I’d say the most valuable lesson he taught me about broadcasting was this: “Be confident. You can do it. It seems hard at first, but it’s really not – it’s just like talking to a friend.” That’s become my broadcasting philosophy and overall approach to media work.

Another lesson is: information of any kind is welcome, because you’ll never know what might be useful to you later on. So I’m passing on the lessons learned to my daughters, knowing that they don’t appreciate or fully understand these things now, but which perhaps may serve them later on in life.

It’s important, though, to be prepared with data. Oh, and coffee helps too.

taste more:

taccia ta-ke

I love pink.

I love fountain pens.

So when a pink fountain pen comes along, I love it twice as much.

Enter the cotton-candy pink Taccia Ta-ke. Acquired from Chito Limson, a fellow FNP-P (Fountain Pen Network-Philippines) member, this pen has all the elements that make it one of my favorites.

The Taccia is inked with a blend of Private Reserve Burgundy Mist and Diamine Cerise.

“Ta-ke” is Japanese for “bamboo”, the design inspiration for the cap. The body is steel, while the section and cap are of pink resin. It has a c/c (cartridge or converter) fill system, and comes with a converter.

The nib is a German iridium-tipped medium ground by Chito into a stub with lots of patience and Micromesh.

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The result? A fountain pen that’s unusual and a treasured souvenir of a kind and esteemed friend.

Chito offered to exchange the stub nib for a regular medium, but after trying out the “Chitofied” version, I couldn’t let go of it. It takes a bit of getting used to because of the shape of the nib, but it’s worth the learning curve as the line variation I get is interesting.

I’ve always been a fine or extra-fine nib girl, but this pen and the broad nib Pelikan M150 from Leigh Reyes  (also an FPN-P member) make me more open to exploring other kinds of nibs.

taste more:

pens in manila

Are there still fountain pens to be found in the wild – in Manila?

Fountain Pen Network-Philippines members went to find that out last February 21, with a field trip to Escolta.

Escolta is part of “old Manila” and used to be the main shopping district from pre-war times until around the 1960s. Luis Store, a fountain pen sales-and-repair shop, has been located there since the 1940s. The plan was to meet up at Savory Restaurant at the corner of Escolta – another local landmark – then visit Luis and any other places that happened to catch our fancy.

On my way there in a cab, I saw many things. The sight of a Philippine flag flying in the warm breeze stirred me to near-tears. It was so beautiful.

A monument to heroes, near Manila City Hall.

It was, I felt, a good start to the day.

When I got to Savory, quite a few FPN-P’ers were already there, scribbling away. While waiting for the others – and for lunch – to arrive, we celebrated our passions of pen, ink, and paper.

The entrance to the FPN-P function room.

Early birds play with pens, paper, and ink – the triumvirate of our obsession.

A peek at some of writer-University of the Philippines professor Dr. Butch Dalisay’s Parker Vacumatics.

Lunch was another celebration, this time of gastronomic delights not often relished. The Savory  flavor is like no other. It is Chinese cuisine, yes. But it is also has a unique identity that sets it apart. Especially the fried chicken, which is famous.

Bird’s nest soup, pansit Canton, Yang Chow fried rice, pork something, fried chicken, and lumpiang Shanghai.

After lunch, it was back to pens.

Raffle items – pens, nibs, a loupe (for peering closely at nibs), and ink.

A leaf from Leigh’s notebook.

The attendance sheet – for pens, not humans.

Spot the Sailor, Danitrio, Pelikan, and Bossert and Erhard.

From Savory, the next stop was Luis Store. The fifteen or so of us crammed into the tiny piece of paradise, ogling the beautiful pens on display. Many of them are NOS (new old stock), some dating back to the 1950s, if not earlier.

Carretelas are still a common form of transportation within the area.

Walking down Escolta to Luis Store. The dome of Sta. Cruz Church can be seen in the distance.

FPN-P’ers crowd into Luis Store.

Dr. Butch Dalisay, Mrs. Pua, and Terrie Pua, who runs the pen store.

Pens on parade.

Plates for the engraving machine.

Class picture!

The Puas pressed boxes of warm and delicious chicken empanada on us, and we ate as we walked. Our next stop was Binondo.

The Starbucks – and the Pancake House beside it, and most other establishments in the area – have signage in Chinese.

Leigh holds up the Frankensnork representing TAO, fellow FPN member. In the background, life in Binondo continues its busy hustle, oblivious to the posse of pen collectors chatting and drinking coffee.

Binondo Square still sports the red and gold lanterns left over from the Lunar New Year celebration.

The penmeets celebrate not only the shared interest in pens and ink, but also friendship, love, life – as do all gatherings. That which binds is important and significant, but when people get together and interact, there is so much more that is shared. Enjoy that. Enjoy each other. Let life be a series of celebrations!

taste more:

coffee-powered penmeet

Last January 17, Fountain Pen Network-Philippines had a mini-meet at the Bonifacio High Street Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at The Fort, to hook up with Baguio-based FPN-P member, businessman and penmeister Butch Palma (known as TOB or “The Other Butch”), who breezed into Manila that same afternoon.

As usual, the hours spent together were devoted to discussing and trying out each other’s fountain pens and inks.

Jenny’s PR Shell Pink, Leigh’s CdA Caribbean Sea, and TOB’s PR DC Supershow Blue, with Jenny’s Wahl, Pelikan M150, and Moore vest pen.

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Leigh tries out the Wahl and the Moore.

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Group picture – this is what they live for! Leigh’s three Wahls, Jay’s Mabie Todd Swan, and Jenny’s Wahl.

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Chito and TOB try out a polishing wax for plastic pen bodies.

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If TOB uses it, it must be good! This little tin, he says, can last years.

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Chito, TOB, and Jenny’s doodles on Chito’s pad. The brown sample on the bottom right (“Butch”) was written with UP professor Dr. Butch Dalisay’s (“D’OB” or D’Original Butch) vintage Parker Vacumatic with a rare flexible nib. He says it was made in Canada, and that the Canadian issues tend to be more flexible. The black sample in the center (“Chito”) is made with Chito’s modern Pelikan M1000 which also has a deliciously flexible fine nib.

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Leigh also tries out Chito’s Peli M1000. The orange sample is made with Johannes’s Peli M1000 with a broad nib. D’OB says that in the Peli models below M1000 – M800, M400, and so on – the nibs aren’t flexible at all.

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Jay holds up one of TOB’s pencases. This is a good design. Elastics and sleeves keep the pens secure.

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Leigh’s Frankensnork – a Sheaffer Snorkel put together with parts from different pens.

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One of Leigh’s Nakayas with a writing sample in green Pilot Iroshizuku “Syo-ro” (Pine Dew). Lovely pen, beautiful ink, graceful calligraphy! The paper is Rhodia fax paper.

taste more:

new year, new pens

It’s always great to acquire fountain pens, whether vintage or modern. It’s even more special when you receive them at the beginning of the year – it connotes good omens and all manner of auspicious blessings.

I’m fortunate to have friends who love the same things I do and love me enough to help me indulge my hobby.

Cheers to law student Raffy Abrina, who patiently pounds the pavements near Far Eastern University searching for little nibbed treasures, because in some pockets of Manila, at old school-and-office supplies shops in Recto and Morayta, one can still find new-old-stock fountain pens tucked away in dusty glass cases.

He turned up some Pilot goodies last week that are unusual, affordable, and quality writers.

Pilots touch down for a landing: green schoolpen, teal 55, stainless-and-white Birdie, two Elite longshorts, a pink Birdie. All have stickers or engravings that say “F”. But the 55 writes like an extra-fine and the longshorts like mediums.

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The nibs are steel. Knowing the durability and reliability of Pilots, these’ll last for a long time. All have aerometric fills.

Applause to Mona Caccam, who kindly overlooked my tardiness at an ink buy and spent the time waiting for me at the University of the Philippines Shopping Center. There, she found practical items like a 30-ml glass bottle with a plastic stopper – great for taking along a small amount of ink! She gave me one and told me where to get more.

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Glass bottle from Mona, filled with my own blend of Waterman Violet and Parker Blue-Black. It’s always good to have some ink in your bag, in case you run out or need ink for dipping.

Much gratitude to Jowell Tan, realtor and horseracing enthusiast, who gifted me with an heirloom Parker 51. It was restored by Butch Palma, businessman and pen friend, who re-assembled the fill system and cleaned up the cap and barrel. It now looks like Cinderella at the ball.

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Antique Parker 51. Photo by Butch Palma.

Big hugs and much thanks to Annie Laurie Merginio-Murgatroyd, a friend from way back during the ’80s at Pasay City Adventist Academy. She was a high school senior and I was in sixth grade elementary when we became friends. We’ve kept touch through the years, and she has always sent tokens like Beanie Baby toys for my daughters and now this remarkable fountain pen.

The markings on the barrel say it’s a Shule 2212. From the name, I presume it is a Chinese brand. Like its compatriot, the Hero, it’s a sturdy, no-nonsense, take-charge kind of pen that will prove invaluable as a daily road warrior.

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The Shule 2212. Its clip has a roller. The nib is a hooded type and nail-stiff, ideal for extended periods of writing. The body is stainless steel. A writing sample made with the Shule is on the bottom left, in purple Waterman ink. The blue cursive writing sample is made with a vintage 1920s Moore with a flexible nib, inked with Private Reserve Naples Blue.

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The Shule has an aerometric fill system.

I am happy to have these things. But more than that, I am very thankful for the friends who found them or gave them to me.

In communication parlance, I’d say that the things are a sign or expression of the message that they are sending. As the receiver, I interpret the message as, “I’m your friend and I care this much.”

I value true friendship above all, because it is harder to find than fountain pens and ink.

taste more:

jock rock

Jockeys rocked the house last December 30 during the annual Christmas party of the New Philippine Jockeys’ Association held at the Philippine Racing Club Social Hall, Makati City, with singing, dancing, and feasting for riders and their families and guests.

What people know of horseracing jockeys is, in general, only what they see on cable television’s Karera Channel. Short muscular men dressed in colorful eye-popping silks swing a leg atop thoroughbreds taller than themselves and ride them at top speed around an elliptical track. Their faces are barely discernible under their helmets and the straps criss-crossing their cheeks. You get to know them by their eyes and their smiles.

A race at Santa Ana Park (2006).

Theirs is a physically demanding and very stressful job. So every once in a while, to ease the pressure, they like to do karaoke, dance, drink light beer from cans, and wear weird clothing.

Hey, don’t we all?

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The “Singing Jockey” Budoy Novera croons an ’80s hit while Noriel Cannaoay rocks a kilt and Jeff Zarate gets with it. Pasaway, dudes.

An average Filipino party consists of several traditional elements. There will always be food – the ever-present rice and ulam – meat, fish, seafood, and vegetable dishes. There will always be drink – the host serves beer, usually San Miguel Light in cans and/or Pale Pilsen in bottles; he may also supply liquor such as brandy or rum, while guests may bring bottles too. There will always be entertainment, usually song and dance numbers and/or karaoke.

Corporate or group/organization parties during the holidays will also have prize raffles and speeches by management or special guests and officers of the organization.

Junior members of the group are expected to entertain the senior members with some sort of presentation.

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The San Lazaro Leisure Park, Cavite-based apprentice jockeys of the Philippine Jockeys Academy dance to an old pop tune, clad in matching shirts. Let’s hope they are more coordinated on top of horses than they are on a dance floor. :P

The holiday season is always a time to let off steam. Jocks know how to party hearty. They rock on and off the track. Woot! *rock horns*

taste more:

penzy at the cafe

No, that’s not a misspelling. That’s a new word coined by my friend Mona Caccam – “penzy”, a portmanteau combining “pen” and “frenzy”.

It best describes the “pen”demonium unleashed at Shangri-La Plaza’s Dome Cafe in Manila last December 29 at a meeting of Fountain Network Philippines (FPN-P), the only organized group of fountain pen collectors in the country. It was so frantic that existing words were inadequate to portray it, hence the need to invent a new one that was most apt.

FPN-P had its first penmeet in July, at the home of University of the Philippines professor Dr. Jose “Butch” Y. Dalisay Jr. At that time, around ten people showed up, not counting hosts Butch and his wife, artist June “Beng” Poticar-Dalisay. Soon after that, the group was featured on national television. Then, to keep everyone in touch, a Yahoo! Groups list was formed and the group took the name FPN-P, since all were members of the online forum Fountain Pen Network.

Today FPN-P has 44 members, some of whom, like artist Pep Manalang and photographer Dominique James, are based abroad. All are grateful to Dr. Dalisay (also known as “D’OB” or “D’ Original Butch”, while another member, businessman Butch Palma, is “TOB” or “The Other Butch”) for organizing the group and keeping a motley crew of different personalities bonded by the common love of pens, ink, and writing.

This year-end penmeet was the most well-attended so far, with twenty people. D’OB had just returned from Shanghai and had promised a surprise for the first ten people who showed up. The meet was set for 11:30 AM. The early birds were journalists Alcuin Papa (Philippine Daily Inquirer) and Boojie Basilio (GMA Network) who arrived at 10 AM. “We wanted to be among the first ten for the freebies,” they whispered. It was Alcuin’s first time to attend a penmeet, while this was Boojie’s second – he was part of the first one in July.

Mona Caccam, a writer and mining industry executive, was also early. We were good friends in college, both members of the UP Journalism Club, and we hadn’t seen each other in years. It was great to welcome her to the group and catch up on each other’s news. She used to take classroom notes with a fountain pen; this was back in the late ’80s, and she was one of the very few people I knew who used FPs on a regular basis.

D’OB handed round the prizes to the first ten attended – Chinese-made Hero 616 pens that were Parker 51 look-alikes. We gathered around a long table in a small private room and the penzy started. D’OB gave a short talk on Parker Vacumatics as writer Clement Dionglay, entomologist Lourdes Taylo, Cindy Trinidad, law student Raffy Abrina, Ateneo de Manila university chemistry professor Nestor Valero, Mona, and I inspected his vast Vac collection. Corporate czar Chito Limson showed us his colorful pens.

At the other end of the table, research don Caloy Abad Santos, high-schooler John Raymond Lim, creative guy Iñigo de Paula, chef/musician/stockbroker Jay Ignacio, advertising guy Vic Icasas, and new member Kurt were doodling and talking about latest acquisitions.

Dr. Butch Dalisay (standing, dark shirt, left) gave a lecture on Parker Vacumatics; John (standing, black shirt, right) is a teenager who is very knowledgeable on his chosen hobby; Chito (standing, orange shirt, right) smiles as he listens to Cindy (sitting, orange shirt, right) describe a pen she’s holding; while Clem (back to camera), Nestor (sitting, right) and others look on.

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Some of Chito’s candylicious pens. Generally, he matches the color of the pen barrel to the ink.

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FPN-P members spread across several tables to have lunch. I had mocha coffee, served elegantly in a goblet with a handle. At our table (foreground), talk revolved around pens, how one’s favorites were acquired, where to acquire one’s “holy grails”, mining, explosives, social conditions in the Philippines, and ink.

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Mona shows off a huge pen that Boojie acquired at an antique store for only P500 (around US$11). Yes, it’s in working condition. No, it’s not just a display item, it actually writes.

After lunch, the penzy continued. More people had arrived, among them chef Johannes Sia and advertising executive and calligraphy expert Leigh Reyes. Carl Cunanan, C! magazine editor and pen enthusiast (though not yet an FPN-P member) also dropped by to check out the action.

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Waving, smiling, doodling, inking, talking, sharing, writing, ogling – all these and more at FPN-P meets.

Generosity is a mark of FPN-P’ers. Leigh shared her recently-acquired Pilot Iroshizuku inks, potent potions in beautiful bottles, and let everyone try out her lovely pens – Nakaya, Danitrio, Visconti, and Omas, to name some. She also gave out vintage plastic pen holders and steel Esterbrook dip nibs. Cindy handed round colorful rubber ice cube trays perfect for holding pens. Baguio-based TOB, who was unable to attend, sent a couple of vintage pens for raffling off, which were won by Boojie and Lourdes.

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Leave it to the Japanese to package ink so that it looks like perfume. Wonderful. A “dip” or “well” (the triangle at the center) allows all the ink to be sucked up sans waste.

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More pens, ink, nibs, and good-for-the-heart dark chocolate. Can’t have a successful penmeet without chocolate!

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Mona, me, Jay, Lourdes, and Raffy. The orange tray holding pens is actually an ice cube tray. Photo by Dr. Butch Dalisay.

Seeing each other’s pens and inks renewed everyone’s desires to keep on collecting and using beautiful writing instruments. The enthusiasm is contagious, and the cult is growing. With all looking forward to the next penmeet – the first for 2009 – it’s sure to be another huge success!

taste more:

best tricks with favorite things

I spent a couple of hours at Starbucks (Yupangco Makati branch) waiting for my sister to finish lunch with friends. It was her last day in Manila; I was to take her to the airport in the late afternoon so she could catch a flight back to Dubai, where she has been based for the past ten years.

I had some of my favorite things with me to pass the time productively.

The coffee is a Double Tall Dark Cherry Mocha nonfat, no whip, one Splenda. (“Are you sure you still want the Splenda, ma’am? The syrup is very sweet…” I always add one Splenda when I take an extra espresso shot.) The caffeine jolt is necessary to jump-start my brain.

The book is the ninth edition of Theories of Human Communication by Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss. It is one of the bibles of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. It explains around 126 theories, give or take a few. I read and re-read chapters when I have free time.

The mobile phone is a year-old Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. They didn’t have the pink one when I got this one, which I would have bought for the color. I prefer skinny candy-bar phones, which I can easily hold in one hand for texting. I dislike clamshell and slider types, because the more moving parts there are in a gadget, the more parts there are that are likely to break.

The fountain pens are my daily road warriors. Lacking a proper pen case that can accommodate the six or eight pens that I rotate on a monthly basis, I use a plastic Waterman case that the red Hemisphere came in. Yes, I know, it’s not the best thing for the pens, they’ll scratch each other, but it’s only temporary, I promise.

The purple leather two-pen case is a Christmas gift from my friend Leigh.It’s adorable, just as she is.

Armed with these things and in between downing gulps of coffee, I wrote entries in my ”communication diary”, a large Scribe (Moleskine knock-off) notebook covered with olive silk. The diary is homework for our Communication Research 201 class with Dr. Joey Lacson and must be entirely handwritten. I used a different pen for each entry, so the words pop off the pages in a whirl of colorful inks – Private Reserve Naples Blue, Caran d’Ache Sunset, J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose, Pilot Iroshizuku asa-gao (morning glory blue).

I also texted the entire Board of Directors of the company I work for, telling them that it was a year since they hired me and thanking them for giving me the opportunity to work with them. After that I cleared my messages and deleted unnecessary files, freeing up valuable storage space for data.

I snapped photos of my pens using my mobile phone camera to use as my phone screen wallpaper.

From time to time I would jot down meetings and other reminders in my planner, while at the same time listening to too-loud conversations of other patrons rather than tuning them out. It’s not eavesdropping because they are talking loud enough for others to hear. As a communication student, it’s one way of observing communication behavior in the field.

One young woman, a self-proclaimed frequent traveler, complained to her friend in the colegiala accent of privileged female private Catholic high school students about losing her baggage on a flight to Paris. “It was the first time, and I never though such a thing would happen to me,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted.”

At another table, an elderly man sitting with eight friends was telling them about a recent golf tournament he played in. “I played eight holes then almost collapsed,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling ill or anything. It just shows that anything can happen, even the least expected.”

My two hours at the coffee shop were well-spent. I completed several important tasks, relaxed in soothing surroundings, and was reminded by others of an important bit of wisdom – “Never take anything for granted.”

Multi-tasking with things that are chosen carefully with functionality foremost in mind helps you be more productive. Find out what things work best for you given your own particular way of doing things. What’s good for someone else might not be what’s right for you.

Once you’ve found out what kind of tools you’re comfortable with and make you more effective, stick with them, while still keeping an open mind on new things. It’s not a case of old dog, old tricks, but rather old dog, best tricks.

When my sister texted that her lunch was over and she was on her way to meet me, I packed up my favorite things, drained my coffee cup, and walked out the door with a sense of accomplishment. Now that felt good.

taste more:

happy new year!

Filipinos customarily greet the New Year with a barrage of fireworks. Many families lay in a supply of things that go bang or explode in a shower of colorful sparks. Even humble households will try to buy a box of inexpensive sparklers or pop rocks for the children to enjoy.

Lighting fireworks on New Year’s Eve is believed to frighten off ghosts and other evil spirits, and welcome the New Year in with joyous celebration. A practice borrowed from Chinese culture, it has led to the growth of a fireworks industry concentrated in the Bulacan area of Luzon.

My children, my sister, and I spent New Year’s Eve at my aunt’s home in Quezon City. There, as everywhere in the country, super lolos, trianggulos, sinturon ni Hudas, fountains, showers, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, watusi, pop rocks, sparklers, luces, and other fireworks were lit and consumed in a burst of flame, to the applause and glee of spectators.

It was raining, which wasn’t good for the fireworks set out in the street. Wet gunpowder doesn’t go off. It was the first time that it rained on New Year’s Eve in many years, as far as I can recollect. Many, though, were actually relieved; the drizzle reduced the risk of fire.

Happy new year! May 2009 bring us all the good things that we need and wish for!

Image above P’shopped from this original.

taste more:

what’s in your bag?

Assignment: Turn out your handbag. Make an inventory of the items inside. Why do you carry them around? What is their significance or value in your life? Discuss.

Some of the things in my handbag:

  • Black Moleskine ruled pocket notebook for jotting down random thoughts and quotes dropped by strangers, like the man of Indian heritage whom I overheard at the Rockwell Pancake House say, “They sprayed the restaurant with bullets…and it happened to be beside our favorite hangout”. This was just after the recent infamous Mumbai massacre.
  • Vintage (‘70s) Sailor “21″ long-short fountain pen, inked with J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose. It is a cartridge fill, convenient and practical.
  • Pink brocade wallet that holds US$1 bills collected from all the purses and handbags my mother has sent me through the years; she inserts them in the pockets as “lucky money” to attract more money. It works, in a way, but they attract Philippine pesos and not more US dollars. *Sigh*.
  • Red FaceShop nail polish to touch up chips.
  • Clinique sample size lipstick in “Blushing Nude”. It came in a box of freebies my sister Aileen sent from Dubai, and for which I thank her profusely, because in it there was also a bottle of eye makeup solvent which I needed for the velvet black Clinique mascara which also came in the box, along with samples of facial soap, Clarifying Lotion, Dramatically Different moisturizer, and a jar of Night Repairware that claims to minimize fine lines and crow’s-feet which I will use only when I’m old and wrinkly, which will be starting tonight.
  • Two bars of Food for the Gods baked by my aunt, with plenty of dates and other dried fruit. Essentially “pocket fruitcake”.
  • Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 that my sister bought me the other day after I said I was looking for liquid lip balm in a tube because Chapstick wasn’t helping all that much anymore to moisturize my aging puckers, and, she said, so that I would have “at least one item of Kiehl’s” in my cosmetic bag. I also mentioned that I was looking for a car, maybe a compact with great mileage, power steering, and candy-apple red body paint, but she didn’t get me one that day although I don’t have one of those yet.
  • One-gigabyte USB thumb drive with a swivel cap. Another freebie from my sister. It was a souvenir from the company she used to work for.
  • A sample vial of Flower by Kenzo fragrance from my mom. She put it in one of the pockets of one of the handbags she sent for Christmas in a balikbayan box. You really have to look in all the pockets of stuff when you get things from my mom.
  • A sachet of 3-in-1 coffee – Choco Fudge by Nestle. My favorite instant coffee with the powerful kick of robusta beans mixed with a hint – only a hint, mind you – of cocoa.
  • A blue, gold, and glitter pearl handbag hook from one of my bosses, who bought it in Hong Kong. The enamel medallion is backed with rubber; you place that on the table surface at, say, a restaurant, allowing the hook to dangle down, from which you then hang your bag, obviating the need to carry your bag in your lap while you eat, which, from personal experience, is a good thing, because sometimes accidents happen like you spill your drink or drop a forkful of food in your lap, and you don’t want to get that gunk on your bag, but it’s okay if it falls in your lap because in theory there should be a napkin spread there.
  • Cherry Chapstick. What can I say? I’m a loyalist. And it smells great. And it’s famous because it was mentioned in that song by Katy Perry, although as a bit of an old-fashioned person I don’t hold with the rest of the lyrics aside from the words “Cherry Chapstick”, “the”, “and”, “it” and “of”.

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