Posts Tagged ‘life hacks’

global warming

Sorrow and bereavement touched our extended family this weekend.

For comfort, I burrow into this friendship quilt that I made eleven years ago, some time before the events occurred that culminated in the past couple of days’ sadness.

The quilt is queen-size, draped now on my new double bed made from an old twin-size bed of Canadian pine.

The old bed, almost fifteen years old, was widened from 36 inches to 54 fore and aft over the weekend by a master furniture craftsman using sixty-year old tanguile (lauan) wood left over from when the racehorse stables beneath our little apartment were destroyed.

It is a reused and recycled bed. The quilt is recycled too, made with scraps of fabric left over from other projects. Both are made with organic materials – wood, cotton – and time – years and years of time.

Quilts, like furniture, are built artifacts.They are constructed. Each element is cut with allowances to permit joining; careful attention is given to shapes, patterns, and the way they are put together.

Sometimes mistakes are made in cutting the quilt squares or the wood for a bed leg or post. Adjustments must then be made – a tuck in the sashing here, an additional inch of wood glued on there.

Life is like a quilt, or a crafted bed. We build our lives by hand, with materials organic to our individual journey – tears, laughter, sweat, mistakes, sorrow, joy. We reuse and recycle experiences and feelings. We make decisions that may be right or wrong. We learn from them; sometimes we do not.

For a quilt, the finishing touch is the tag at the back. On it are written the name of the quilt, the date it was finished, and other information that the quiltmaker wishes future owners of the quilt to know. It tells the history of the quilt and the maker.

I had not used this particular quilt in years. The words on the tag brought back memories of the way things used to be, and how I have moved on from that place in that time to where I am now.

This weekend’s sadness stems from events that occurred mere months after I finished this quilt.

The quilt was done long ago.

The bed was done this afternoon.

The story begun in sorrow eleven years ago ends now, also in sorrow.

Let it be done. Let the lessons be learned. Let life go on. Let years roll by that will cover over the heartache and allow the moving on.

I burrow under the quilt and hope that happiness returns soon.

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the flame of life

The red tealight burned in front of the triumvirate of Buddha statues in the temple’s sanctum. Its wax was nearly spent, its wick almost consumed; though it didn’t have much longer, the flame flickered on, bravely, giving off light till its inevitable end.

Live life the same way. When in despair,  do not give up; whatever it is, it shall pass. It all does, always. It shall pass.

Face the fear, the challenge, the problem, and let it go through you, and behind you, until it is gone, and only you are left, radiating the light of your spirit, warming the lives of those you touch.

Kindle inspiration in the young. Incite a conflagration of imagination in their minds; let them think, and think free.

Keep the fires burning in the hearts of those you love and care for with a kind word, a helping hand, a kiss, an embrace, the promise to stay no matter what – and keep that promise.

Above all, and through everything, until the end, let the flame of your soul burn on, an unquenchable fire.

Photo taken at Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay temple in Manila.

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bene gesserit litany against fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

- Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (Frank Herbert, Dune)

Image here.

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rizal on life as a struggle

From my bookshelves: The First Filipino, a biography of Jose Rizal by Leon Ma. Guerrero (Guerrero Publishing, Manila: 1998)

Rizal is the Philippine’s national hero, a true Renaissance man – writer, physician, scholar, sculptor, farmer, amateur boxer, and much more besides. Along the way to his martyrdom at the hands of Spanish colonial forces in 1896, he found time to write two revolutionary novels, poetry, essays, and reams of correspondence,  perform eye surgery on his patients, and fall in love with several women scattered in different countries.

A replica of Casa Redonda, Rizal’s octagonal hut in Dapitan that served as his eye clinic. Image here.

From a letter Rizal wrote while in Dapitan to his nephew Alfredo Hidalgo:

Go ahead, then; study, study, and think over well what you have studied; life is a very serious matter, and only those who have brains and a heart have a good life. To live is to be among men, and to be among men is to struggle. But this struggle is not an animal, material struggle, nor is it a struggle only with other men; it is a struggle with them but also with one’s self, with their passions but also with one’s own, with errors and with anxieties. It is an eternal struggle, [which one must sustain] with a smile on one’s lips, and tears in the heart. In this battlefield, a man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no greater strength than that of his own heart.

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advice from the young

I have two daughters and they are very wise, wise beyond their years.

Living with them is like having “Dear Abby” at my beck and call. They are ready to dispense advice when I ask for it and consolation and comfort when I’m a depressed puddle of goo. As a mom, I must’ve done something right for them to turn out so level-headed and well-adjusted – or so I’d like to think. Most likely they’ve turned out well despite me, not because of me. Parenting is often by trial-and-error and we are blessed when our kids grow up to be fine people notwithstanding our mistakes.

Ik is 12 and Alex is 19. Their thoughts on relationships and other topics:

On people who hate on you:
Ik: “Haters gonna hate. They’re wasting their time, using their negative energy to devise ways to hate you – it’s not benefiting them.”
Alex: “”You jelly?” They just jelly.”

On being dumped:
Alex: “It’ll hurt for a while, but you were okay before them. What makes you think you won’t be okay after?”

On divorce:
Ik: “It’s good to not keep yourself attached when you’re not in love anymore and it’s awkward when you’re sharing the same house and bed and “Hiiii.” It’s a good idea to just get them out of your life.”
Alex: “Bring out the divorce cake!”

On exes:
Alex: “Wish them happiness. Don’t wish them run over by a tractor.”

On communicating with your exes:
Ik: “Don’t.”
Alex: “If they were real bleeps, cut off all communication. And body parts.”

On being single:
Ik: “Enjoy life while you can, and don’t fret about being single because it’s fun to not be obligated to be attached to be one person. And you save more because you don’t spend too much money on Valentine’s Day.”
Alex: “Oh, well.”

On failed relationships:
Ik: “It’s the past, get over it! Let it go, because if it failed in the first place, you aren’t perfect for each other and you should just get over it instead of showing up on their lawn drunk going “I miss yoooou.” And search for the right one instead.  Lots of people have wasted their lives over people who aren’t even the right one.”
Alex: “What about?”

On life in general:
Ik: “Make the most of it because life is short.”
Alex: “What she said.”

Bonus advice from Alex and Ik!
On pizza:
Ik: “It’s great, it’s delicious, I love it! Shakey’s, Pizza Hut, or Yellow Cab? All three.”
Alex: “If it comes with Mojos, all the better.”

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a paean to chocolate

Everyone had left the office and I was all alone, finishing the backlog of work that I had procastinated on. It was getting on for supper time, and I was hungry.

I rooted about in the supply cabinet for crackers – none. All I found was a couple tablespoons of brown sugar in a plastic container, with a scoop thoughtfully placed inside. That was for coffee. There was no coffee. There were, however, steno notebooks, staple wires, and reams of copy paper.

In a tall filing cabinet I found toilet paper and a bag of 3-in-1 coffee sachets. No crackers. They were all gone.

My stomach growled. I tried to think – where else could I have stashed food?

My bottom roll-out drawer was empty. I could have sworn I had chocolate-covered cookies in there. My last hope was the round candy tin. I found no crackers – I had eaten them all – but I did find chocolate.

The sun shone even if it was nearly seven o’clock at night, birds sang and flowers bloomed and butterflies flitted around my head as I reached for one Ricoa Flattops, peeled it, and popped it into my mouth. Ahhh. Sweet bliss of sugar rush. I was renewed, recharged, re-energized!

It pays to stash candy in the office for munchie emergencies. I highly recommend doing so.

Image here.

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new year, new decade

Refilling a fountain pen in some haste the other day, I got a smudge of ink on the back of my hand which I didn’t notice until later. By then the ink had crept into the faint lines on my skin. Ordinarily invisible, the lines were thrown in sharp focus, the ink creating a tracery like a spiderweb or rivers on a map.

The bracelet is of amethyst, lapis lazuli, and sodalite beads; in the background is a Christmas quilt I made some years ago.

Life experiences are like that – they shape and define us, and influence our decisions and actions, because they become embedded in our psyche. For instance, in the face of too much pain and rejection over the years, the initial reaction for some may be sulky withdrawal or acting out. Others prefer to say goodbye, let go, and look forward to what comes next. Because there is usually more than one way to approach a problem, the question to ask is, what tack is more productive? More constructive? More likely to lead to situations of happiness and contentment?

The ink on my skin looked like a stain. What kind of experiences have made that sort of mark on us? Do these mind stains have negative or positive effects on our behavior and attitudes?

It will soon be 2011, a new year and the beginning of a new decade – an auspicious time to make a fresh start. I considered my life so far and the options I have for future directions, and realized that I am trapped by constructs of my own making: expectations, desires, and illusions which had crept like ink into the crevices of my soul.

I was the one holding myself back.

Once I understood this, I resolved to let loose of the mental moorings that tie me down. To be untethered, I must set myself free to breathe and create and live.

Some of the things on my “to do” list for 2011:

1. I will no longer “hold back what is owed to the work.” (See poem by Marge Piercy below.) My life informs my art. My experiences are the raw material from which I create. My stories are born from the narratives of my life. My life is filled with people, places, and happenings. And some of it or all of it will find its way into the stories and essays that I write and the photographs I take. I will give to the work what is owed to the work. Having made this decision, I can now finish for publication my uncompleted pieces and start new ones that I’ve been longing to write.

2. Write a blog post everyday.

3. Do more walking. Walking is underrated and running is getting the hype, but people who have been mostly sedentary will have an easier time sticking to an exercise routine if they choose a low-impact activity. Now where are my training shoes…? Gaah, I don’t think I even have socks anymore.

4. Let go of the people and activities in my life that bring stress, and embrace those bringing calm and joy. This includes actually burning the scented Yankee Candles and incense sticks I’ve collected through the years.

5. Ink my demonstrator fountain pens – the Pilots and the Sailors. With permanently-staining Noodler’s Baystate Blue ink. Wait, maybe I’m being too hasty with this…!

6. Listen to more music. It will me take years to comprehend the oeuvres of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, not to mention The Beatles.

7. Sort my books and give away those I don’t wish to keep. What I usually do is pack books in balikbayan boxes and leave them anonymously on the doorstep of the Sta. Ana, Manila public library.

Like ink on skin, kept resolutions will be embedded within us, further filling out our drawing of ourselves, as we are the artists of our lives and it is up to us to create the rendition as we wish.

Happy New Year and New Decade, everyone!

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hack you

Muji is a terrific little Japanese shop which carries houseware, stationery, and even clothes, all in neutral colors. It’s almost like Ikea but not quite because it doesn’t have the same staggering selection of goods. Still, it’s a place to get interesting stuff. Last week I visited the Powerplant Mall, Makati branch close to closing time; not having much time to look around, I went home with only a few items – a couple of erasers and this yummy kraft-paper covered notebook.

The cover is actually quite smooth, as is the creamy unruled paper inside. But the cover was excruciatingly plain. So I hacked it.

How to hack a boringly blah notebook or something of similar persuasion:

Step 1: Wait for an inspiration to come like a lightning bolt.

Step 1a: In the event that no creative brainstorm occurs, open drawers and rummage through stuff to quickstart the process. I found red and purple ink stamp pads, a flex-nib fountain pen, ink, and a great poem.

Step 3: Using the materials you have found, use them to embellish your notebook by gluing, painting, writing, drawing, cutting, folding, verb+ing, and so on.

Step 4: Enjoy your one-of-a-kind modded thing!

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life. it keeps happening ’til you’re dead.

This is true. I found out using empirical methods.

First, things happen – they are earthshaking, life-changing, soul-transforming! You’re borne up on a wave of hope, washed to sea on a tide of fancy and fascination, drenched in a deluge of possibilities and potentials.

Then, something else happens to shift the situation to the left of the number line. Next thing you find, you’re left high and dry on a dirty beach with oil-slicked pelicans staring at you in puzzlement.  It’s the same old shit after all, mainly because you’re still hanging around the planet to experience it.

“Merde!” you say to yourself. “When is it going to stop raining human waste on my parade?”

The answer is “Dunno.”

Having no control over the cosmic sewage system, you should therefore take measures. No, not those kinds of measures. Put down the ruler. And the fragmentation grenade.

You can perform reactive measures – have a golf umbrella handy, stock up on toilet paper and wet wipes, and have a garden hose attached to a fire hydrant or an industrial-strength pressure sprayer nearby.

You can also choose to be proactive. Look back on your life. Pick out the recurrent patterns. After having one last cry about the mistakes and wrong choices and failed relationships and their after-effects, analyze what the probable causes could be. Learn to recognize the factors that bring about negative situations and shy away from them. Mainly this involves avoiding toilets, assholes, and other sources of waste matter. This is very difficult, by the way, easier said than done, because of habit, ignorance, and the risk of internal poisoning.

Rally from disappointments and find ways to turn the bad into good. For instance, make a diary of your life’s journey and use the narratives, the experiences, to inform your art, whatever it may be. Life is fodder for creativity. Heartbroken? Take all that emotion, handle it like clay, and turn it back outward onto your canvas or notebook or piano.  The resulting painting, story, or song will be brilliant in its sincerity and truth.

There is a third option – passivity. You can decide to just let life pass you by while you watch it from your ratty couch with coins, keys, and cookie crumbs trapped between the cushions, your feet propped up on the coffee table with the beer bottle rings. This is the cop-out choice. Do you really want to do this? Are you sure? You have a reclining two-seater La-Z-Boy with drink holder? In that case, scoot over and pass me the popcorn. And the remote.

Another empirical finding – call it karma, call it divine retribution, call it bilog ang mundo, there is a force in the universe that redresses the balance. “First, do no harm,” like that ancient Greek doctor guy said. Should others do unto you, let them. The wheel will turn. They will carry the burden of their behavior, not you. Understand this – you cannot control others’ actions, only your own. Take it from there.

Therefore, while on this planet, do good. Spread peace and love. Bake red velvet cupcakes.  Call it ‘luck’ or ‘random happenstance’, you will be surprised at the unexpected blessings you will receive.

Then again I could be wrong about all this.

This recliner sure is comfy.

“Some think it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.” – Sylvia Robinson

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where to stay in manila when there isn’t room in the family nipa hut

When my sisters – one based in Dubai and the other in the US – came to Manila early this month for a three-week vacation, one of the concerns that arose was accommodation – where could they stay that is comfortable, affordable, and safe?

Filipinos, as long as they have room, open up their homes to friends and family. Hotels are too expensive especially for extended stays and families believe in staying together. I would have loved for my sisters to stay with me, but my two daughters and I, along with my househelper, her son, and her niece, live in a one-bedroom unit above a disused horseracing stable – not the best arrangements for guests. Luckily, we have an aunt who insisted that my sisters stay in her capacious “empty-nest” home.

Then a cousin from another side of the family popped up in Facebook chat to ask the same thing – “Where can I stay when I come to Manila in September?”

This time I flexed my muscles and exerted my ultra-buff mouse-clicking finger to do some research:

  1. For short stays, try an affordable hotel:, which promises a “place for every Juan”. The earlier you book, the cheaper the rate.

2.  For transient and extended stays, why not rent a fully-furnished room, apartment, or house? Check out This is a service provided both for tourists and property owners. The home page shows several excellent property lists sorted by cities (Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, etc.) and by access to public transportation (LRT 1 and 2, MRT). There is a wide range of places (condos, flats, houses) and prices that will suit anyone’s tastes and budgets. For the impecunious traveler, there are also options for bedspace and flat-sharing.

Twin beds and aircon? Looks good. One of the rooms at

Hotels are, well, hotels. Rental units are cheaper and provide more space, privacy, and freedom. When my Dubai-based sister had my eldest daughter and me over to visit her in 2000, she rented a condo for our stay. She said that renting a unit rather than booking into a hotel was the preferred option for many Filipinos and others looking to make the most of their money.

Conversely, a high-school classmate who came to Manila last December with his family chose to check into a house-for-rent run by a religious organization affiliated with our school. Other friends from college have booked at the PCED Hostel at the University of the Philippines. They cite ease, convenience, and less hassle for their Manila-based families as their reasons for not staying at the old ancestral manse.

But what if you do not have easy access to places like those? That’s why I like the concept of because before the Internet, word-of-mouth and the newspaper classifieds were the only places to look for rental units, and it took a lot of phone-calling to narrow down choices.

At this website, you have an entire database of properties, all arranged and sorted to make decisions easier. As the site gets more public awareness, more property owners will be posting about what they have available, to offer even more options for the traveler.

One of the rooms offered at

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