My Son’s Friends

My Son’s Friends

By Maridol Ranoa-Bismark


“Good evening, Chelo. This is Ben’s mom. Sorry to disturb you at this time but he has not replied to my message. May I call you?”

I sent this panicky text message at 11 p.m. and Chelo, my son’s friend, replied, “Yes Tita.”

After explaining my problem, Chelo must have sprung into action. She contacted her network of friends. My son, who is in his junior year at the University of the Philippines, was on the phone in no time at all! Sorry, he told me. He was in a dead spot at the debate tournament and didn’t get my message. But he’s fine and will be home in an hour or so. I went to sleep smiling, grateful to Chelo. She must have been a mom in her past life.

Now you see why I have the cellphone numbers of around five of my son’s friends stored in my directory. I know deep in my heart that I will need them, especially during the wee hours of the night, and the morning. But having the numbers of your son’s friends is not good enough. You also have to be in good terms with them. It doesn’t take much: a smile, a hello, an offer to give them a ride, and the occasional get-together in your house. This way, they will warm up to you and even tell you untold stories about your son. Is he taking life too seriously? Does he need to loosen up?

Sometimes we parents act like bulls in a China shop. No matter how much we love our children, we do not realize that we’re just charging into their world and breaking valuables along the way. My son’s friends see another side to him that I, his mom, can’t see. They give me a fresh way of looking at my son. They don’t treat him like a son but as an equal. And that’s just what I need, even with my grown-up son. Now, I see him the way his friends do. And I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Now, I know that I have to advise him to slow down and enjoy his youth, even if I don’t know exactly how he can do that with a worried mom like me around.

If you can’t beat ’em, be friendly with them. I don’t mean attending their parties or joining them for lunch. I mean just letting them know that they can count on you when they need you.

Now that my son is always away from home, spending more time with friends and giving monosyllabic answers to my questions, I know  can still have an idea of how he’s doing through the people he hangs around with.

And I can only cross my fingers that he chooses his friends well the way I advised him to. So excuse me while I check my phone directory again and see if I missed any name on the list.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash


Every Child’s Birthright

Every Child’s Birthright

By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca

One of the many things I thank my parents for is making sure my siblings and I finish college. Like my Nanay and Tatay, I believe that having a good education is a big factor in a person’s future. That is why my husband and I also dream to see our sons get good jobs or put up a thriving business someday so they can, in turn, be able to raise their families well.

Having knowledge about many things can help a person make good choices because decisions should be made after all angles are considered. This is not always possible if one has limited information. Sure, we don’t, and won’t, learn everything in school. But going through a structured educational system at least guarantees you won’t miss out as much compared to those who didn’t go to school at all, or stopped going to school earlier than they should.

Among the various advocacies I support, I particularly have a soft spot for children’s education. Hubby and I sponsor a child each through World Vision because we’ve seen how our donations, no matter how small, are making an impact in the lives of two children, their families, and their communities.

I am optimistic that if only every Filipino child, the leaders of the future, could have a good education, our country would have a brighter tomorrow. Of course, included there should be good values that will also give them the heart and compassion to help others, not just themselves, when the right time comes.

This March and April, three of my sons are graduating from elementary, high school, and college. I feel this sense of joy and accomplishment for getting them through this far. I know, we still have a long way to go but the foundation is already there. And I will continue supporting my kids as much as I can in reaching their full potentials by making sure they all finish school and improve their chances of having the good lives every parent dreams of for their children.

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Riding in Cars with Boys

Riding in Cars with Boys

By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark

What do you do when you have to rush to work in the morning, beat deadlines in the afternoon, and get home ready to drop at night? Certainly not end the day without checking on your child whether he’s a tyke, a teenager, or a college-age young man like mine.

Sharon Cuneta’s commercial about coming home at night and checking on her sleeping children still strikes a chord in my heart, even if it’s been off the air for quite some time. It’s not that I harbor any illusions of being a Megastar; certainly not. It’s just that it paints the perfect picture of my life these days, so crazy that I can’t even catch my son while he’s awake.

How do I squelch the guilty feelings threatening to kill me with visions of a youth gone wild? By driving my son wherever he needs to be, that’s how.

In the mornings, I drive him to school. On weekends, I repeat the ritual when he has to go to a debate tournament or a required school event.

Trapped in the confines of my trusty vehicle, I strike up a conversation with my son. The poor guy—even if he’s about to nod off to sleep—responds. Never mind if it’s a vague “It’s OK” to my question about how the school fair went. That’s enough for a mom like me who’s anxious to connect with her son.

When I’m lucky, my son’s sentences are longer; his replies more colorful. He lets me into his world—a world where an older cross-enrollee acts like a know-it-all, making everyone snicker, and where teacher jokes rule. I feel like I’m part of a secret society where sorrow and laughter are shared. For a while, looming deadlines recede and the pressure of having to deal with rushed ideas fade. I am in a faraway land with my son—a land where life is simpler and I don’t have to deliver numbers to survive. It’s a breather in my hectic pace, a good rev-up for a brand-new work day.

Now you know why I won’t give up those morning drives for anything in the world except, perhaps, for a big breaking story. Our moments of bonding moments make me more human in the dog-eat-dog world I step into every working day. I remember what life is all about: feeling, sharing, being human.

Thank you, Ben, for making your harassed mom less of a monster and more of a human being through the years.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Cars Website

Old School Study Habits

Old School Study Habits

By Carmie Dulguime

As a student over 20 years ago, we didn’t need the Internet and all those sophisticated gadgets that children have today. We can proudly tell them that we passed with flying colors without going online for research or having a laptop to use for our reports. We didn’t have tablet PCs that can store our notes, and e-books for references. We also didn’t have the luxury of using online tutorial services to help us advance in our studies.

We used our brains for analyzing skills and memorizing, our hands for writing, our eyes for observing, and our ears for listening. Whatever kids today are doing with their digital aids, we did 10 times more with just our physical senses. We can argue that we were more creative and resourceful since we didn’t have the advantage of having an electronic study partner. But if you look at it, our old school study habits can actually work with today’s technology.

Early birds win: We are calmer, more focused, and more alert when we sleep early and wake up early before an exam. Kids today will argue that they have a lot to cover, so they need to stay up late. You can tell them how we used to do it: we study days before the exam so we have time for more sleep every night. Then we wake up very early to study again since our minds are fresh and alert to absorb more. This is even more useful for those accessing the Internet for studying since connection speed is usually faster early in the morning.

Flash cards for all ages: Kids, especially the older ones, might laugh at the idea, but flash cards will work forever. It’s more fun for studying that requires memorization. It also works better with a study partner. This is easier since there are now Powerpoint slides, Photoshop, or any other program that kids use to make the images for the flash cards. They don’t even have to print them out – just show them straight from the computer, mobile phone, or tablet PC screen.

Remembering the library: Kids probably don’t visit the library as much as we used to because of e-books and the Internet’s own library of millions of resources. But there is nothing like a good book as reference that assures you of credibility and reliability of source. The library is also a great place to study since everyone there is supposed to be quiet. There are computers and Internet access there as well, so there really is no excuse for not choosing the library as a study sanctuary.

Having a break: Getting sleepy, getting a headache, or feeling tired during study is an indication that the body has had enough. That’s the time we stand up, walk outside to get some air, or take a short nap. About 30 minutes to an hour should be good; longer than two hours might lead to distraction. The mobile phone is a good help here as an alarm when it’s time to go back to studying.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Animal Adventures

Animal Adventures

By Romelda C. Ascutia

Father and son were squatting in front of their gate, hunched over black dots on the ground that as I passed by took on the shape of adorable ducklings.

Children and animals go beautifully together like coffee and cream, and my two sons had their own share of animal bonding while they were growing up.

A long list of pets became transient visitors in our home over the years. During mall visits, a stopover at the Bio Research store was a must for the boys, who wanted to admire all the animals on display. Sometimes my kids would succeed in convincing their parents to make a purchase, promising to take good care of their wards. We were naïve to believe them.

One time we bought hamsters, which came complete with a convoluted cage that had all the works including spinning wheels, tunnels, and turrets. For weeks the boys would rush home from school eager to check on their pets, feed them, caress them, and clean their cage. But as time passed, the boys, with the typical short attention span of children, lost interest and moved on to the next attraction, and I was saddled with the care of the abandoned creatures.

The parade of critters in our house included turtles, tropical fish, and white mice that my kids snuck into school, kept hidden in their breast pockets to be shown to their classmates during recess.

The school was another rich source for acquiring pets. Ambulant vendors outside the school premises would entice the pupils to buy goldfish contained in little plastic bags filled with water. There were also chicks and ordinary brown birds given a makeover and dyed garish pinks and blues and greens. My children never let any of these opportunities to bring a surprise pet home pass.

At one point they brought back ducklings, and had a merry time being trailed everywhere by the baby ducks that had mistaken them for their mothers. Unfortunately, the ducklings would later be accidentally squished underfoot.

Of all the animals they had, my children were most obsessed with, to my dismay, spiders. They used up their school allowance to buy spiders locked inside matchstick boxes. These were not regarded as pets, but as combatants to be placed on broom strands and pitted against the spiders of peers. I was glad when they outgrew that phase.

Two particular pets stand out in my memory. One was a pair of outrageous quails which had the most eardrum-splitting squawk I ever heard. Like roosters with a sore throat, they woke us up in the morning with their hoarse noises, and curious neighbors would come by and ask us what those horrid sounds coming from our house were. We grew fond of those awkward fowl which, sadly, met a horrible end in the jaws of the neighborhood cats after my sons forgot to bring them inside the house one night.

The other unforgettable pets we had were hermit crabs. These creatures were sold by pedestrian vendors then, but recently they have found their way into malls. Their shells have been painted in bright colors or cartoon designs and they come housed in proper cages. Of course, they also carry a much fancier price tag.

Our hermit crabs resided in a cardboard box and were actually a breeze to care for. But when my children got tired of them as usual, the neglected crabs escaped from their box, and I assumed they had died from lack of food. Then one day, like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, I saw a strange form dart from behind the refrigerator. It was a hermit crab. The hardy creature had apparently survived for months scavenging on its own (which probably does not say much about my housecleaning skills).

My kids no longer ask me to buy all sorts of pets for them. But they have learned the valuable lesson of taking responsibility for other living creatures they take under their wing, and they now help me feed and care for our pets. They have also learned to respect the right to life of all animals, and during heavy rain would catch frogs that cross our street to put them back safely in the vacant lot where they came from.

Photo by David Jusko on Unsplash