Hello…

… long time, no blog…

As you may have noticed, I have taken a long hiatus. My last post was my year-ender special where as I have reviewed thankfully did not promise to post more entries as a new year resolution, so I don’t really have to feel bad about that.

There seems to be plenty of reasons for me to have stopped writing, and it would be pointless to enumerate them. I have begun several drafts over the course of the year, but found myself unsatisfied with the result towards the middle. And even if I did finish an entry that seemed good enough, the mundane requirements of life would demand my outmost attention and such blog posts will be eventually find itself too stale to be even be nibbled at by the few readers that I have.

To be honest, one of the main reasons is that I seem to have lost confidence in my ability to write. One of the main reasons I started blogging is so that I can have a place to practice the only skill I know I can do well. Like a pianist who needs to keep their hands and fingers flexed and nimble, I wanted a way to keep at it and not lose touch. But I often found myself thinking whether this skill will still useful to me in the future?

There is also the fact that I seem to have lost any interest to write anything to write about, something I thought at least interesting. Thought of why anyone would be interested in reading about my life as a trailing spouse, darken my initiative to share my experiences.

Nevertheless, here I am again, up at 3 in the morning, making use of the quiet when my immediate proximity is asleep, collecting my thoughts and typing it down in the hopes someone would find it worthy of their time. Tonight I choose to be bold and leave my doubts asides, at the risk of sounding weird or sharing too much, this post I will publish, if at least to get the ball rolling again.

I thought about getting rid of the blog, chucking it out altogether. I thought it will be close to an entire year since I put something up, perhaps I have lost my right to be visible again. But I think about my previous posts, and the days and nights, I sat telling the invisible universe in the web of my life as a diplomat’s wife; and find myself losing to the sentimentality of it all, not wanting to throw away all those memories, both good and bad.

And so, here I go again… I’m not going to promise to be more prompt and regular in posting entries, all I’m saying now is that I’m not ready to give-it up yet.

Updates on how I am… Let me begin in saying how time flies, and yet it seems I have gone through an entire lifetime. In exactly eight months, JG’s first tour of duty will be ending and I will be coming back to home. I cannot even begin to write about all the things I have in mind about that, so I will leave it for another post. But I am in that phase when you feel something beginning its end. The funny thing about this is the afternoon I wrote my first entry while at post in my house in Libya is still fresh in my head, the feeling of nervous excitement as I looked forward to my life as young new bride, in a new place, my whole life ahead of me. Now my anxiousness is geared toward the slow and inevitable process of untangling myself to this life away abroad that I have gone used to.

Here in Muscat, I will definitely miss the quiet solitude I have come to enjoy, but is definitely looking forward to getting away from its punishing summer heat and coming home to the erratic tropical weather of Southeast Asia. Eight months is relatively quick here, but that is still about 243 days, around 5843.8 hours to go through.

In a more existential sense, I can definitely say I feel different. Different from who I was that afternoon in Libya when I posted my first post abroad, even different from the person who posted my last entry December last year. I guess it’s the turning 30, it really does make you notice that you are older. But for me it did not go BAM! and hit me straight on the forehead the second the clock ticked 12 on my birthday. It was instead, a gradual understanding in moments when you begin to analyze yourself, who you are, and how you handle things in everyday life, how you should handle yourself in life. It gave me a gentle poke each time I made a choice, a decision. The constant quiet nag deep in my thoughts whenever I prompted to release an emotion, be it anger, or cheer, whether or not such an opinion is worth sharing on facebook, whether or not anyone would care about what I think. Taking pause in considering the repercussions of each movement and action.

In assessment I can say that I generally like how I turned out to be as a grown-up. Considering what I went through in life, I am objective in surmising that I turned out okay. Granted I do have some reactions, suggestions, often violent reactions to some aspects, like in body and personality, perfection is not something I wish to achieve for me. Nevertheless, I believe there is always room for improvement.

I’ve also been doing a bit of exploring around this city I have been living in for the past almost four years, some I have been to before, some I am ashamed to say was a long-overdue visit. So here is to hoping to finally something to blog about. On the diplowife side of things, not much to report except for the routine stuff.

Somethings to look forward to…

... a Puccini Opera at the Royal Opera House...

… a Puccini Opera at the Royal Opera House…

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… and the fossil of a Sperm Whale at the Natural History Museum.

A Year of Accomplishments: The Annual Year-End Review

It is another quiet New Year for me and JG here in Muscat. Back in the Philippines, New Year’s Eve is a boisterous and fun time, filled with fireworks and festive feasts in every home, but here in a Middle-Eastern country the coming of a new year is celebrated in contemplative and serene way. Which is something I really like, because it helps you think about how you fared in the year that has past and helps you breath in calmness your approach to the coming new.

2013 for me I think is a year of accomplishments, and two major events has come to mind. The first I played a very small role in, but it was a project that I really cherished because it was something I really believe and thought was something that was really significant and noteworthy.

I will always feel proud about being part of creating this book because living abroad one of the aspects that caught my concern, are the Migrant kids, especially the thousands of Filipino migrant children, whose lives are uniquely growing as they are bound by the need to be with their family, in sacrifice to not being to get live in their homeland.

The Finish Product

The Finished Product

I have always wondered what they feel about their life, what they think about it, and how their young innocent minds manage to deal, and this book has really given me a great wide glimpse of all those questions. I am also happy that through this, their stories, and artworks, can be means for them to be heard, and at least be noticed.

Another big accomplishment for is that this year I have finished and attained my Masters Degree! In the practical side of life, a trailing spouse has no need for such attainments, because one of the catches of this life is that dreams of following any professional career will often have to take a step back as it is sometimes difficult to have coincide with your duties to your diplomat of a spouse.

Nevertheless, who knows where life may bring us, and I strongly feel that getting more education strengthens a person’s character. I don’t know how this degree may help me, but whatever it does or doesn’t just the process of going back to school was really a blast. It wasn’t easy, and there were days when I asked myself what they heck did I get myself into? But as I slaved long nights studying, writing papers and homeworks, preparing for exams, I could myself growing with every new knowledge I gain, just as music fills the soul, and as food fuels the body.

One of the best parts of the whole experience was writing the final paper, which was really something I am proud about. During such times, I was simultaneously involved with the book project, so I thought why not get inspiration for my thesis from it. I am not going into the boring details but suffice to say, the paper is a look at the lives of migrant kids living here in Oman, and how Social Media helps them connect (whether or not it does) with their homeland.

Writing the Thesis...

Writing the Thesis…

Writing the paper helped me get a chance to interview such kids in a more in-depth manner which was really something I took a lot from. Not just about Social Learning Theories, migration, and Social Media effects; but dimensions of growing in culture vs. nurture, the dynamics of parents and their kids, and the minds of today’s generation.

Anyway, I liked going back to the academic way of life so much, that I am seriously considering going for the coveted Doctorate degree. So wish me luck on that…

In the Diplomatic front, I along with a small group South East Asian Ladies put up a group that has really accomplished a lot this year, including a most successful cultural and charity bazaar, and several other projects you could not believe little wives could ever do.

bazaar2

Travelling, I went to Amsterdam and Brussels which was a cold springtime but nonetheless another notch at my globe trotting expeditions. Favorite part of the year was going home which turned a bit hectic and daunting, but was also filled with great views and family time.

This was also a sad year for the Philippines, as it will be the year when the biggest storm ever recorded in the history of the world has chosen to test the spirit of the Filipino people. It will probably take a few more new years until some may look back at it without being sad, but loss is always a time to start again and appreciate life anew.

SAVE PH

In between all these things, were some downtime, and as I always say, the quiet and slow-paced life here in Muscat has made me examine myself especially in my alone times when JG is away at work and I am left to run the small but necessary details of our life like laundry, meals, bills, and plumbing. I turned 29 this year, and has definitely felt the age, not just in body, but in maturity. Not to jinx it, but I feel calmer now, more patient, and in some little way has gained some confidence, partly due to the Master’s degree, and mostly from the experience and wisdom getting older entails.

So here I am looking forward to 2014, while I welcome the challenge of new accomplishments to, well, accomplish. but there is a possibility that this would be our last year here in Muscat and the beginning of the end of our second posting.

Leaving Libya was a bit abrupt for us, so there wasn’t really much time to really enjoy and properly say goodbye. And I hope that Muscat be a different kind of parting. Hopefully some opportunities to see more of this beautiful country, but mostly I hope to visit the beach or a park once in a while and relax in it with a good book.

Spring this new year I will be turning 30 and I am bit nervous with getting what JG calls the mandatory coming-of-age passage where you freak out about getting older, and coming to terms with saying goodbye to your youth. JG certainly had his moment, and I wonder how I will handle the big day. To be honest, I’m actually okay with it, I like the feeling of getting older, and I really think that age is a matter of perspective, but JG insists that even though I don’t feel it now, he promises that it gets even the best of us, so that’s one thing to look forward to.

Oh you might be wondering, especially if you have been following my blog over the course of five years, the question of kids in the new year. I kind of got married younger than I expected, and while JG and I welcomed a baby at any point, I was honestly a bit not so ready myself. But one Wednesday, I forget which month this year, I remember it was one of those hectic days, and I asked myself if I could have handled such a time if I had a baby to take care of, and a second of thought later, the answer I have myself was a surprising “definitely”. Sadly that remains a question for the greater cosmos to answer, but it is good to know that I am in a point in my life when I would gladly welcome such a precious gift should it come our way this year.

So here is to another year! Actually just as I am with praying, I don’t wish for the specifics, like more money. or new stuff, I just mostly hope for the safety, good health, and genuine happiness for me and especially the people I love dearly.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Godparent Effect

I ask for forgiveness to those who may find this offensive, but I started writing about as a sort of warm-up before another topic I wanted to write and I sort of got carried away. By the time I finished I realized I have written an entire essay. So it would be a shame not to share it, all this grumpiness…

I was explaining to a Muslim Indonesian friend this concept and found it very hard to do so I decided to write it down, and I hope you bear with me on this rant of a post.

Your Inaanak in English means your God-children; the word “anak” means “your child” and the “inaa-“ is a verb tense, sort of meaning to make. So you basically take the task or the action of being surrogate parent to a child, more traditionally on its baptismal. I know that like in the US, you can be God-mother/father to one certain child, and in most cases the child of your closest friend, and you are chosen because you are expected to stand as a second or support parent to these children. Now in the Philippines, you can be asked to be God-mother/father to an infinite number of children, and a child may have as much as 20 to as many God-parents his/her parents wants. This invitation is extended when a baby is Christened into the church, and in our country they say it’s bad luck to say no when you are asked to be Ninong or Ninang (Filipino term for God-father/mother).

Its connection to Christmas is that come the holidays, each Ninong or Ninang is expected to give their inaanak, a gift (also during their birthday). So you see the deviousness in this custom, as when your child has 20 or more Ninongs or Ninangs, he will be expecting a number of gifts. And because it’s unlucky to say no, you may find yourself being the proud, albeit reluctant, Godparent of A LOT of children. I have friends who have 100…

This is why you often hear of jokes back home of God-parents to be hiding under their beds or tables pretending not be home when their army of God-children come knocking at their doors during the holidays – which is of course at times not just funny but happen in real life.

One of the things I hate most about this concept is that prestige comes with the Godparents. For example, Manny Pacquiao, world-famous boxer is affectionately known as Ninong or the Godfather back home. Not because he is the second parent everybody wants to have but because he’s the rich guy who hands out wads of cash to everyone like a Godfather during Christmas…

So sometimes what happens is that it becomes all about connections, the worst is never you mind if you have never heard of the parents, some friend of a friend of a friend of your mom had a kid and heard that you have been doing well in life so presto, you are honored of being their new baby’s Godparent. This is whether you like it or not, whether you are aware of their existence or not.

So another common situation is that you attend a family gathering for example one Christmas, and they shove these kids at you (ones you have never seen in your entire life), telling you that you are their God-parent. They look up to you their eyes misty with hope of what present you have for them or how much newly minted bill will you take out from your wallet.    

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What I hate about this most is that many of the children will never understand the true meaning of having God-parents, instead only have the idea that the more God parents they have the more gifts they will get during special occasions. I find that sad, and a little bit wrong… Imagine seeing a child and he looks at you like an ATM or Santa, and worst imagine their disappointment when you have nothing to give.

Never mind that you are an outstanding citizen of good character and values, one that you worked hard to build so that such a child may learn from you and follow in your footsteps, but come the special occasions you are the stingy God parent who forget about them, or the pathetic one who has no money to give or buy cool presents with.

On the flip side, some parents really just have lots of really good, close friends and having the Filipino attitude of being too nice, just doesn’t want to offend all their other friends by not asking them to be their kid’s God-parent. But in my opinion, if they really are your true close friend, I am sure they will understand that you need just one set of God-parent, the one set who you would want to adopt or at least help your child should God forbid you die, or is unable to be parent to him or her.

Let’s say you just really wanted to make sure your child just has a lot of other God-parents to guide him/her in life. That you, really don’t expect them to give a gift every birthday or Christmas. But would you really think your friends would be able to look you, especially your child in the eyes when you see each other and know that they have been neglectful of their gift-giving responsibilities?

The best you can do is make sure your child understands the true meaning or concept of having God-parents, and should your child be able to grasp this, I go back to my point in saying why have so many? And again, if your bountiful friends are genuine friends, they’d be second parent to your child, official God-parent or not.

I know I sound like such a scrooge, but this is the truth, and this is just me and as kids today say – keeping it real. I am the proud God-mother of six kids that I know of, children whose parents I share a bond with and truly care about, and had the basic requirement of being parents who I actually know and have met. I really don’t care about it being bad luck to say no. And to be honest my being away, is already killing me with guilt of how much I owe these six kids, so imagine my dread if I had actually had 100 God-children.

This morning my Mom asked if I would like to be Ninang to my baby cousin, and I said yes, because one, I know her parents, and two, her 10 year-old big brother is another cousin I just adore, and would’ve really wanted to be his Ninang but was not asked when he was born so I can pass that love to little Mary.  

To be honest I am afraid that after this post, I may never be asked to become a God-parent again. But again I just want to be honest, and perhaps maybe this way, people will think kindly before considering me as their child’s God-parent. I hope that they I understand that this kind of thing is not about having lots of presents or prestige or saving face, asking this of a person is a truly big responsibility one that must be taken seriously and considered quite deeply – if not for them but most importantly for your kids… anyway I’m just saying…

 

 

 

Christmas Away

Today is my fifth Christmas away. If you had told me years ago that I would someday spend the holidays thousands of miles from my family and friends I would probably have a hard time believing you. But the truth is, I kind a like spending it abroad. There I said it…

I find that this may sound sacrilegious, especially to my kababayans, so I hope you allow me to explain. For the non-Filipinos reading, it is true that there is nothing like Christmas back home, especially during Christmas Eve, when families get together to share a special dinner. And these are things that expatriates miss the most, and for some Filipinos would never admit to being truly happy spending Christmas away – and that is of course understandable.

Christmas in the Philippines is perhaps the biggest most anticipated time of the year. In fact we are so crazy about it that it unofficially starts in October, when you begin to hear Christmas carols being played at a house or on a radio, or decorations slowly cropping up all over.  During the primetime news, a nightly countdown of the days before Christmas closes the show.

And the closer it arrives, the crazier things get. Traffic jams become absolutely ridiculous and parties spring up everywhere that you will need list everything down. Aside from the one you will have with your family, you will also need to prepare for the office Christmas party, your circle of friends, your high school friends, college friends, your boy/girlfriend’s family’s party, your boy/girlfriend’s office party, your boy/girlfriend’s circle of friend’s party, your boy/girlfriend’s high school friend’s party, your boy/girlfriend’s college friend’s party. Basically as you get older, Christmas becomes a tedious array of wrapping gifts, and now-a-days the theme is have costume or themed inspired parties you have to prepare for, a whirlwind of expenses, sugar-rush, and if you are really unlucky a bunch of gifts consisting of mugs and/or frames in every color.

Don’t even get me started on the inaanaks

In the Philippines, crime rate also sadly goes up a notch during the holidays. The criminal minds are of course aware that many are blessed with their Christmas bonus (13th month pay as we call back-home), and are on the prowl to take advantage of it. I once witnessed the “Bukas Kotse Gang” in action. “Bukas Kotse” is Filipino for “open the car”.  The S.O.P. of this particular gang is that during the Christmas heavy, bumper-to-bumper, traffic jams (redundancy was intentional for emphasis), these guys would walk down the road and start opening random cars stuck in the traffic, and would grab your bag or wallet, or cellphone, or whatever they can run away with. You of course would be unaware, and would not be able to run after them either from shock or since your vehicle is stuck there.

Fire is also rampant during the holidays, because as part of being practical and yet wanting to take part of the customs, people buy faulty Christmas lights that causes such disasters.

So you could see why it is easy to get caught up in all the hoolabaloo, and just find yourself losing touch of what Christmas should really be all about. However these true meanings are hidden within the core of all the other stressful things I just mentioned.

As it is perhaps all over the world, Christmas in the Philippines is of course also the time for family, for reunions, for burying the hatchet, for love, for giving, for the children, for the Christians a time to celebrate the birthday of the Lord Jesus. At the heart of it all, especially the family and reunion parts, these things I miss most about Christmas back at home. But the rest of it, I would surely gladly pass.

I remember some Christmases back home, when getting to the day, and fighting to have that moment of peace and joy with loved ones, become so stressful, it became a whirlwind of vague memories that left you nothing but relief by the time it was over – and I don’t know about you but I just hate that. The hype gets you so wrapped-up and dizzy that you completely miss the whole point of it all.

Sometimes stepping back or in the case of people like me who live away, especially in a country like Oman who does not celebrate Christmas, gives us a better perspective and gives us a clearer vision of what such occasions is all about. Call it appreciating what you can’t get, but still being away gives you time to contemplate and yes, appreciate what you used to take for granted.

The other day, I went into a KFC and this Filipino with all smiles, happily greeted me a Merry Christmas. I cannot help but feel misty-eyed by how warm and genuine his wishing me happy holidays emanated from him. And in all my twenty-four Christmases spent in Manila, I don’t think I have ever been greeted that way before by a complete stranger, even after being surrounded with all the decorations and the noise the Christmas season brought there. And yet here in a Muslim country, this guy who probably lives thousands of miles away from his family, and will probably be spending his Christmas behind the same counter has touched my heart this way. As I was about to leave he stopped me and said he wanted to give me something, and handed me free tumblers that they were giving away. It wasn’t much, the plastic kind, with a famous football player on it, (and as much as I love the presents I received from JG and friends here in Muscat) that for me was the best gift I got this year.

My first Christmas abroad in Libya, was one filled with Christmas blues, and adjusting to spending it away from family. And even then I said something about not being a yuletide person, and now it has taken me four years to elaborate why.

I still feel sad that JG and I are away from loved ones, but to be quite honest, how we spend Christmas away is something we really like. A day to celebrate with his colleagues at the Embassy and a quiet December 25, cuddling in front of the TV eating party left-overs and take-out, watching Christmas movies like Die Hard and Love Actually.

The Chinese Take Out Christmas Dinner

The Chinese Take Out Christmas Dinner

JG even went to a work thing today, attending a small diplomatic reception, which was to us was an interesting way to spend our Christmas evening.

Another Christmas movie we saw today is the Muppet Christmas Carol and one of the songs there is really what I would like to point out this year, that bit I will leave with this post, it basically says that doesn’t matter if your Scrooge, wherever you are – Whenever you find love, it feels like Christmas.

My take on Tourism in the Philippines

Foreword: Just in case you are wondering, The Philippines and the regions that were affected by Typhoon Haiyan is slowly getting on its feet. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not an easy feat to immediately get better, but as you will see in our Department of Tourism site’s home page, it says it best that even after the storm, we are “the same beautiful country, the same beautiful people.”

So last week, I was asked to help out the embassy to man our booth at the Travel and Hospitality Expo at the Muscat Exhibition Center in Seeb. It was a very interesting experience because not only was I able to interact with the locals, which rarely happens; but talking with them and other nationalities gave me some surprising insights on what others think of the Philippines as a holiday destination.

What surprised me the most is that even with the 30,000+ Filipinos working and living here in Oman, many of the locals here have no idea about visiting my country on holiday. First let me get it out of the way by saying that our Embassy here is of course doing the best that they can to promote tourism in our country, thus the initiatives in joining such expos.

I guess that considering everywhere you go here, in restaurants, hospitals, and all sorts of companies there is sure to be a Filipino, I would’ve thought that at least some of them would be promoting or at least talk about how great it is to visit the Philippines.

And I highly doubt that they don’t, but what do I know? Now that I write about this, it sounds as if this recent discovery that I am finding very surprising seems a bit silly.

Now because I wasn’t prepared of the very little knowledge people have about the Philippines, whenever someone would ask me, “So what can you tell me about tourism in your country?” The first day I found myself baffled. Where do I begin to tell you where to go, since there is so much to choose from?

So I decided to write about the things you can consider in going on holiday in the Philippines. As well as address some of the questions I was often asked during the expo.

The first thing I would encourage you to do is visit our beaches, I guess that is, at least for me, the best thing about visiting my homeland. Its beaches are one of the most beautiful ones in this great big world of ours. The kind of thing that inspires the concept of paradise. And I have to say that I am really not exaggerating on this one, there are no words to summarize how beautiful they are.

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Now recommendations, Boracay is a place to start, because it’s the kind of place where ease and holiday comes to mind. It’s the place to bring your family to and just spend the day at the beach. Night life is also big there, so for the party-goers Boracay is a great place to shake it. The only problem I have with Bora is that facing the pristine shore and its powdery white sand is one great thing, but as soon as you turn around commercialism will hit you like it has never before. Which for me kind of ruins the whole getting away vibe.

For a more being one-with-nature-type, I highly suggest that you visit Palawan (both Puerto Princesa and Coron). Pagudpod in the northern part of the Philippines is also a great beach experience, and Cebu and Bohol are also great places for a swim. The southern parts of course has its own to brag about, but I have yet to explore those areas for me to personally say so.

Someone at the expo was curious about a poster in our booth that showed The Sinulog Festival in Cebu, and this is another thing I highly recommend you come visit for. Our festivals are really fun and colourful, (for example the Pahiyas Festival), and this will be the great time to experience authentic Filipino food. There are lots of great restaurants to eat at, but if you asked me, the best place to really enjoy a good Filipino meal is to be invited in a Filipino home.

pahiyas

I am city girl through and through and was born and raised in the capital. But I won’t encourage you to stay, as soon as you arrive stay a few days in the city, and immediately go to the beaches. There are great things to do in Manila like visit historical sites like Intramuros and the Luneta Park. A food trip to the Chinese district in Binondo is also highly recommended. If you like shopping we have the biggest mall in Asia, aptly called Mall of Asia. But if you are a proud cheapskate like me and opts for knock-offs, then I suggest you look for Greenhills and go crazy.

To be clear there is nothing wrong with Manila, it’s an organic urban jungle that is packed with life and all sorts of people. But just as every nation’s capital, city life is about the daily grind, where you find the workers, the students, the politicians, the celebrities, and everyone else in between. And this means heavy traffic, congested areas, pollution, and all the elements a great big city requires.

And I am not going to lie and tell you and in terms of safety for yourself and your valuables, Manila is the model city. But relatively as long as you follow the general and international rule of awareness and minding your things, not going through dark alleys, and getting in the car with a complete stranger, then I am sure you will do just fine.

When JG and I went to Rome, we were warned of the rampant pick-pockets in the tourist areas, and because we heeded this advice seriously we never lost a single Euro. It’s basically the same in the Philippines, just as I am sure it is in Bangkok and Jakarta, even in Singapore. Don’t leave your stuff unattended, don’t just leave your iphone lying around in the food court, and if you are just going to buy trinkets in the market, for the love of God, don’t dress like you are going to a party.

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Picture from blogger My Tinted Lenses

Another thing I would tell you about visiting the Philippines is that we Filipinos are probably one of nicest bunch of people you will ever meet. We smile at every opportunity and find laughter even at the worst cases and situations like funerals (not kidding) and disasters when a storm floods our homes. In fact our being nice and happy is both the thing that I like and hate about being Filipino.

We are really nice, in fact sometimes too nice. One of the things I love telling other nationalities is that if you visit our house, it is customary for us to make you, our visitors, feel as at home as possible, we will serve you the best meal that we can. Say for instance, a family may not be able to afford a can of corned beef, but they will surely borrow money just so they can serve it to you when you visit.

In the Philippines, does not matter if you are the ugliest, most foul person there is, we will never tell you so, instead we will concentrate on your other traits like how nice and kind your mother is, or how well you dress, or how nice you smell. Of course if you truly are the most unlikable person living on Earth, the worst we can do is endure your stay and pray you never come back.

There is one trait we Pinoys don’t like though, and that is arrogance/boastfulness/being haughty. To us, modesty and humility is the shinning attitude that must live in each person. Doesn’t matter if you are the best in everything, you can never ever admit that yourself and must wait for someone else to acknowledge it. And even after someone does say how great you are (something you may have already known), you must always negate it, and pretend that you have been given the most wonderful compliment you have ever heard in your entire life.

And so far, that is what I can say about the Philippines. My country is not perfect, far from it, very far from it. And I could go on and on about the many things that I don’t like and wish could be changed. But as we are born into a family no matter how crazy they are, it is your family, and where your home and heart is. And this post is just probably a tip of what I can tell you about it, probably in a conversation that can last ten minutes, and as I told the people at expo we could sit here and talk all day, and it would not be enough, the best thing you can do is come and visit us and experience it yourself –  which I hope you really would.

The views written on this post and this blog are mine alone and are not shared or represented by my husband or the Philippine Embassy in any way.

Neighborly Love

Two weeks ago, I finally got the chance in doing my share in helping out with the tragedy brought by Typhoon Haiyan. Planned in just a short of a week, the ASEAN community organized a charity bazaar wherein all the money we gained be donated to the victims of the said typhoon in the Philippines.

bazaar1 bazaar bazaar2

If you are not familiar with international relations, the ASEAN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Actually I really can’t explain it in a more historical or technical way, but for a simpler view of what they mean to me here in our posts: You know how you are invited to a party and saving you from being awkwardly out-of-place is seeing your neighbors invited as well? That is what it is like for me, here in Muscat, our friends at the Embassy of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and most recently Singapore are the people I interact with more frequently, outside the Phillipine Community.

A little over a year ago, the wives of the Ambassadors of the mentioned embassies decided to make it a bit more official and formed the Asean Ladies Circle or the ALC. We hold cooking sessions, sometimes some fashion shows, sports gatherings, and probably the biggest accomplishment was the first Asean bazaar and cultural show, which was a lot of work, but was really fulfilling because it was really well-received.

The great thing about the ALC and having the ASEAN community for me isn’t just a way to socialize and find something to do while we are all here, what I like most about is that they are all generally really great, nice, fun, and happy people. People whose company I really enjoy. It’s always a pleasant opportunity to see my Asean friends, because they are people I genuinely like.

And it was so humbling and heart-warming for me when they suggested holding a bazaar and giving all the proceeds to the Philippines. Their respective governments have already sent help in the Visayan region with monetary donations or via relief goods or logistics support, and the ASEAN Embassies here in Muscat could’ve just been satisfied with that and we would’ve been thankful nonetheless. And just in case you are thinking, organizing such an event isn’t easy at all it takes a lot of coordinating and cooperation, not to mention tiring. But they wanted to do their share and do something more, all in the name of neighborly love.

The views written on this post and this blog are mine alone and are not shared or represented by my husband or the Philippine Embassy in any way.

Rainy Oman

In case you have been looking forward to some updates on how it is in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, I am bit happier to say that at least now, help has come to those in need and the people there are slowly picking up the pieces of their lives which I have no doubt has been forever changed.

I can imagine it would be hard to take my word for it, since I am a Filipina living abroad, so here as a great article from the BBC that gives an update of the mood there now.

But it seems that the rain has yet to spare us here in the Middle East. It has been raining here for the past couple of days, which is something that rarely happens. Here in Oman it rains about once or twice a year, especially during this season when the climate starts to become cooler. I find this fascinating, because as most may already know, I come from a country where rain happens almost every day, all year.

I welcome the rain, the smell of wet pavements, and the cool breeze that is perfect for long naps or weekends where staying in bed is the best thing to do, it is great for me because it brings a feel of home.

But subtle things really just jolts you back to the fact that we are not home, for one thing, people here have a different reaction to rain. Especially when it comes to driving, whenever it rains, there seems to be a hurried sense to come home, which makes driving a little bit more dangerous.

Rain also comes with elements that we never or rarely experience in the Philippines, for example today, hail storm came pelting down from the sky. JG and I were about five minutes away from our house, and I got worried that a big enough pebble of ice, with the right amount of velocity, may shatter the car’s glass; thankfully that did not happen. I am however yet to thoroughly examine any small scratches it may have done to the car.

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This picture was taken a few minutes after the hail in Al Ghubra a few miles from us, and look at the size of those things. (Photo from Times of Oman)

Omani houses, or at least our house, are not built for the heavy downpour. Unlike homes in Asia, where rain is a big possibility, roofs are often built is a slanted manner, so that water may just naturally fall downward. Here most homes are concrete blocks, with flat ceilings, and windows not sealed enough to withstand rain. This I know because water has seeped into our house via the windows. I can only sigh…

I am not saying this is a bad thing, you can hardly blame them because, since as I explained, rain comes but once or twice a year. A chunk of the year is spent in the Arabian heat, where temperatures can climb as high as 45 degrees in the summer time. And in times such as that, the Omani homes are the perfect kind of shelter, as its high ceilings and tiled floors gives us the shade of all shade.

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To give you an idea here is a picture outside our apartment taken on a good weather day.

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Here is a picture of my neighborhood, see how most houses have flat rooftops?

The same can be said with the flash floods that often happen around the city when the rain comes. The roads here are built with the same sort of perspective in terms of weather. It’s hard to explain this part, but I guess rain-water that is coming down from the rocky mountains around the city are really too much for the wadi’s to handle. FYI, a Wadi is like a mad-made gully that remains dry except during the rainy season. These are common in Arab countries like here in Oman, which they built to help channel the water flow. But as I mentioned, sometimes the rain is just too much that it overflows into the streets causing floods in some areas. (Just in case, this is just how I understand this so I could be wrong, or I welcome a good explanation as to why such flash floods happen).

A great thing about this rain though, is that it happened a few days after Oman celebrated their 43rd National Day. Which I think is really nice of God, or Allah, or whatever higher power that handles the weather conditions, as they locals are given good climate to celebrate their day.

It’s always nice here during their national day as people show their love for their motherland by putting out the Omani flags out their house or setting up nice lighting decorations with the same colors as their flag.  Another thing they do is decorate their cars with the same said colors of their flags, which is pretty cool here, especially when you see a Ferrari or a Lamborghini painted in their national colors. The National Day is topped with awesome fireworks display at night, and a traditional long weekend two days decreed as holiday which means no work to especially mark the occasion.

It suddenly hit me, I have now spent three Oman National Day! How time flies…  

 

In these sad times…

Whenever I write about something, I try my best to always keep it light or at least sound like it is. I really don’t like sad-themed-anything, movies with sad endings, books that tell dark stories, and events that just break your heart. I try to avoid them as much as I can, but these days, being sad and serious is unavoidable…

I’m sure you’ve heard about what has happened in the Visayan region back home in the Philippines, Yolanda (or Haiyan as it is more Internationally known) has practically wiped out everything in its path when it landed in our country. For the non-Filipinos reading, we Pinoys are very much used to typhoons, many have come and gone, and each year we experience them as part of our everyday lives. But this one really got us, especially the cities and towns in the middle part of the country.

Tacloban in Leyte is where McArthur made his historical come-back during WWII, where the longest bridge in the country can be found (San Juanico), and was for a short while in the 40’s even became our nation’s capital. But at present, the entire world’s eye is focused on it as it is one of the many other cities devastated by the biggest typhoon ever seen in history.

I refrain from watching video reports, I just stick to reading articles and news reports on the progress of help getting to them, my heart can only take as much.I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about this, except that if for someone like me who lives far away from the devastation feels this sad, I cannot even begin to imagine how it must feel for those back home. About ten years ago, our house caught fire leaving us with nothing but the shirts on our backs. I remember the feeling of disbelief of losing everything, but was also quick to be thankful that no one was hurt, and that I still had family nearby to take shelter in. But how do you go on, when everything around you is gone? Where do you go? Who do you turn to when everyone else is as much as in need as you are? Aside from the thought of many men, women, and children who perished, these are the sort of questions that burns in my head and tightens my chest with grief for those affected by this storm.

I know this kind of thing happens all the time, in some part of the world, but it kind of hits home when the degree of separation is closer, when it’s highly possible that someone I know knows someone who knows someone who lost somebody there.  On Social Media sites, I often see status updates of friends asking relatives if they’ve heard from this certain other cousin/uncle/friend, and the feeling of helplessness just washes over you in empathy for what they must be going through.

And just so I can get it off my chest, it’s really irritating how even in this time when all the world is saddened by what has happened there are still those fellow Filipinos who seem oblivious to it all and cannot be bothered to avoid posting “selfies” and newly bought toys and gadgets, just until those affected find their bearings and help has been delivered to everyone. Do not even get me started on those who posts vague updates like “I feel so alone…” Unless you lost all your relatives in the typhoon your problems are a bit irrelevant to everyone else right now. And special mention to those compelled to express their irritation of being unable to get over a level in Candy Crush. If your lives are too important to be bothered, the least you can do is show a bit of awareness and sensitivity. I reluctantly digress…

Yesterday I visited the Embassy where JG’s colleagues in the consular department said that several of our kababayans who have lost loved ones, have come in to process papers in tears, so that they can go home. Like I said, no matter how far away we are, we are affected. And no matter how much I try to avoid it, being sad cannot be helped.

We Filipinos are a prayerful bunch, and I despite not being that religious am no exemption, and in times like this, that is one of the main things we can do. Help has also poured from all over; I too am humbled of news of other countries sending aid to help my countrymen in need. Back home I am reading of news of offices and organizations opting to use their Christmas party funds to send as donations instead. And that is a big deal because we love our Christmas parties, but how can you attend a party and be merry when someone else in your country will be spending the holidays in the aftermath of this tragedy?

Picture of kids breaking open their piggy banks or erecting a make shift lemonade stand to sell and send their sales to donate bring a smile to my face. I read this one story of a Filipina working here in Oman as governess to a little girl, who asked how much 1 rial costs in Philipine peso and was over the moon to find out that her measly savings can buy so much to help those in need. Hey even big shot celebrities are blasting tweets to send help as well.

I wish I can say that this is one of those things that we have gone through before, that Leyte and all the other Visayan provinces affected will be as good as new in no time. But this will need some time to get through, but I’m counting on the Filipino spirit to shine amidst it all.  

I know only a handful of people read my blog, but in case you would like to help here are some of the links that can provide you with info on where or how to send them:

This is from a CNN article.

JG is a big comic book fan boy, and this guy we both enjoy reading his strip. Whatever he collects he will send to UNICEF to help the kids.

This is for those here in Oman who would also like to reach out, as well as the link to the Filipino Social Club if you would like to ask for further details.

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The Red Cross is always a dependable means to make sure your donations get to those in need, so here is the link if you want to send help through them.

 

 

The View

A few days ago JG was trying to explain to me about the new condominium that was being built near The Rizal Park. At first I did not mind because for some weird reason it did not occur to me where exactly they were building it, until JG further explained that they were building it a few miles behind it. And that was when the irritation sank in. So the idea is that every time you look at the view of the Rizal Monument you will see an ugly looking building sticking out like a sore thumb behind it.

Below is the picture of the said park, now imagine the same view with a building behind it and tell me if it will be as nice?

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I find this absolutely ridiculous because that would completely ruin the atmosphere of the whole park. For the non-Filipinos reading this post, Rizal Park or Luneta Park as it is also called is like our Eiffel Tower in Manila, it is probably not as iconic but it is ours. In fact a few more kilometers near the Rizal Monument is where our Kilometre Zero is, so it’s basically the official center of the city. Our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was shot there by firing squad in 1896, an event that sparked the Philippine Revolution from Spain. After that monument was built some few years later, his remains were transferred there from a small park where he was previously interred.

The story was that Rizal really did not actually want a big monument for a grave site; he specifically requested that he be buried in a small lot, with a cross and his name on it. So now you can see that not only did we vehemently ignored a hero’s dying wish, we are now also going to defile his tombstone by ruining its view. If you ask me, we might as well just return the poor guy in his small lot in Paco Park.

And I will come clean, my personal gripe with this issue is that I have yet to stand up-close the park, or the monument. I don’t have fond memories near it as other kids do, I have yet to take a descent picture with me on the park. You must understand that I never really imagined that I would be able to get to visit the Eiffel Tower, or Big Ben, I did not even think I was going to be able to see the Merlion of Singapore. I am not ashamed to say but growing up, money was so tight we never really found the time to go site-seeing not even for a park an hour of jeepney ride away, and by the time I was old enough to go around by myself I was already working, and by the time I had the time, I was married and moved to Libya for JG’s first posting. I admit, I took it being so close for granted that I set back my visit my whole life, and after being able to visit other countries and taking pictures of other iconic sites, the guilt of not being able to visit Rizal Park grew bigger and bigger in my gut.

But it gave me a goal; after our last visit back home, where priorities once again kept me from visiting the park, I realized that it would be much sweeter to visit the site, after seeing all those other places. I imagine it will be a quiet sunny afternoon with blue skies and white clouds rolling by; on a weekday, where there is not much people around but the usual vendors and tourists. I would take some good pictures, and then sit by a bench near it and revel in the thought that I have come home and after seeing all those other famous places, as beautiful as they are, nothing will be as wonderful as the one on my homeland…

But of course now that this monstrosity of a condominium will be built it is driving me crazy to think that this dream of mine will now be tainted.

The Philippines is not exactly a rich country, we don’t have much, and we know that, plus I am one to admit that it does not take much to make us happy. But I would like to think that because we know this, we value the little and few things that we do have. This is why I think that we are one of the happiest people in the world even amidst bad things happening to us, because we know how to appreciate what we have and the things we cannot lose. And I would like to think that includes valuing the few historical places and areas that we can look back into and remember who we are and how we came to be. If not all, at least this one. (So if there is a chance, I call upon those the company building it claims to have bought a unit, I urge you to think about it again, are you really okay with this?)

It is one of the things I love about Muscat, they are a very rich country and can easily build sky scrapers in their city to prove how progressive they are, but they choose to maintain their culture by not allowing such building to be built that may ruin the look and feel of their city.

Here is a view of Old Muscat and the harbor.

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One of Rizal’s most famous quotes is “Ang hindi marunong tuminging sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” It is a bit difficult to literally translate into English but it basically teaches to honor and look back at your roots, because you wouldn’t be able to get where you want to go if you don’t acknowledge where you came from. You may say that sometimes things like this with the condominium happen for the price of progress, but is it really? What society progresses by valuing profit over the beauty of a historical site?

Here is another personal gripe with this issue. I may never get my chance to get at least a good picture with the site, and it is my fault that I let it. But the problem with this is one building is the start of many others, and I was hoping that I will one day be able to take my future children to the park and tell them about the man buried there, what this place is about, and what it means for them, and it breaks my heart that they will probably won’t get a descent view to see…

The views written on this post and this blog are mine alone and are not shared or represented by my husband or the Philippine Embassy in any way.

Nega-trons and the simple solution

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me about how I handled negative comments on the blog. It wasn’t really something I thought about a lot because, happily, three blogs and countless posts later, I have yet to receive ones that really chilled my bones to anger. Irritation yes, partly to those who posts spams, at times disbelief at the hilarity of thoughts shared against my opinion (the entry on Charice collected quite a number of interestingly passionate fans who was ready to fight to the death to defend their singing idol…). But that is what blogs are about, a place where you can post your thoughts on certain themes or topics, most likely one that you are very interested in.

Now, of course, what most people don’t understand that blogging as Diplowife, comes with certain conditions. Unlike my previous blogs, this blog is something that in some ways connected to my husband’s job, one that is very sensitive and complicated. What most people don’t understand that there are a lot of things of that I can’t just write about, I could if I really wanted to but I don’t, because that is not just who I am.

The problem lays on the fact that some people seem to think that just because the root of our entries is because of our husband’s choice of career, we must always base our thoughts in the shadow of that reality. That we must at all times consider the things we write and say and do – and we do, believe us we do. But that doesn’t always mean we can’t be ourselves.

So at the beginning of making this blog, I set up some rules, which included not to talk about the nitty-gritty of JG’s work, and should I really have to, I must make sure, that I put a disclaimer, that everything I put is my own opinion, and is not shared by my husband, nor the Embassy that he works for.

That said, another thing I would like readers to understand is that, us Diplowives, like most women, made certain sacrifices to be where we are now, not just as Diplomat’s wives but wives who want to be with their husband, whose job happens to be something that requires him to move around.  While there are a lot of good things about this life we chose, there are certainly many negatives as well.

Sure there are the Diplomatic receptions, coffee meetings with all kinds of nationalities, and the opportunity to see the world and travel – some parts do sound glamorous and intriguing. But most of the parts include life away from family and friends, for some careers left behind, mundane days of chores and endless things to do, culture shock, language barriers, and all sorts of adjustments from things new and unfamiliar.

I consider Diplowives like me lucky because today we have the means to at least let out what we go through in our unique little lives through blogs such as these. At least for me why I write, how I write, and what I write about is a result of a means to share and be heard, despite some conditions that come with it.   My blog is a compilation of experience and the things I AM fascinated in, while making the most of the lot I have been dealt with.

Another great thing about blogging a la Diplowife is through our blogs we find each other, and learn from each other. Others like me write about really serious stuff, but most of us just write about different sorts of things in our own corner of the world. I write mostly about observations on culture and society because those are the kind of topics I am interested in, some write about art, places to eat and go; the things that they buy, use, or wear, because once again that’s their thing.

In Filipino we have this very “street” saying Walang basagan ng trip, which basically means not to criticize other people’s thing no matter how much you don’t get it because you have yours and that is theirs, the key is learning to respect that.

Besides it all boils down to one simple solution, whether it be a Diplowife blogger, or someone who writes Justin Bieber fan fiction if you don’t like what they say or write about, then don’t read the blog.