Revisiting College

Revisiting College

By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark

“What do you like more? High school or college?” I ask my son, who’s on his third year at the university.

“College,” he replies, without missing a beat.

In college, he tells me, you get to meet more people from all walks of life. You also have more freedom, the freedom to choose your teachers, your schedule, and your extra-curricular activities.

If high school is the time to form cliques, then college is the time to widen one’s social circle, and to create as many of those circles as one can. No longer bound  to one section, your teenager can hop from one college to another like a butterfly flitting from one flower to the next. He may make friends with schoolmates who are so unlike him, or who come from a province or a country that he has never been to.

I myself am fascinated at the big university my son goes to.  When I enter the building, the guard greets me “Good morning,” thinking that I’m a professor. Since my age and eyeglasses allow me to assume another identity, I get to enter different school buildings and walk through an ongoing exhibit or diorama. Why, I even get to know about job openings for students. They’re posted all over the bulletin board!

Another big bonus: finding out what events my son has signed up for the month, at least we have something to talk about at the end of the day.

I pepper him with questions: Did you find the career talk useful? Are you joining the college fair? Did you meet anybody interesting in the outreach program?

It’s a great way to bond with somebody who’s turning out to be harder and harder to catch up with.

School activities are generally safe subjects to discuss; he won’t recoil when I ask about them. Sometimes, when I’m feeling lucky, I segue to more delicate matters like grades, teachers, and girls. I step on the brakes when he suddenly turns quiet or starts answering my questions with a standard, “It’s okay.”

It’s his way of saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I’ll just try another day. He’ll ask for my opinion when he needs it.

For now, I enjoy the sights and sounds of the university. I walk around the campus that it is my child’s second home and try to see it through his eyes. And here’s what I saw: all these young happy people, eager to learn, eager to grow, and excited about all their tomorrows. I am instantly filled with joy and say to myself, “Wish I were in college too!”

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Only Good Memories Remain

Only Good Memories Remain

By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca

A friend of mine shared something on his Facebook wall last night. It’s a link to a story he wrote about his dad. Soon after, other friends, including myself, started sharing our own experiences as sons and daughters.

Most of us acknowledged that our parents are human beings too and are bound to make mistakes like we do. We may have been hurt by some of the things our dads and moms did during our growing up years, but we recognize that we have done stuff that caused them pain as well.

Many of my friends and I have already lost our dads or our moms, or both. Some, many years ago; others, just a few months back. But one thing we expressed is how we all love our parents and respect them.

Me? I remember my Tatay as a strict man who can be quick with the belt when my siblings and I made mistakes while we were still kids. When he and our mom had misunderstandings, he would be gone for days, staying in my Lola’s house before coming back with his sense of humor intact. I loved listening to his corny jokes! I also remember him as a person who people go to when they need help. He was generous to a fault and would even lend his last peso to a friend in need.

He was a good granddad to my kids and my nephew. Up until now, 11 years after he passed away, our relatives and people in our town still talk about him with fondness. I also don’t think anybody has yet broken his record for having the longest line of mourners during the long walk to the cemetery when we brought him to his resting place.

When I get asked about the most precious memories I have of my Tatay, I’ll always recall how he would take my youngest son, barely a year old at the time, every morning for a walk around the town while he chitchats with his many friends. The two of them were a common sight in the area which seems to be still engraved in peoples’ memories. It is gratifying that whenever we visit my mom in Laguna, neighbors and friends would look at Daniel and exclaim how big he has grown from that little baby that my Tatay used to bring everywhere. It always gladdens my heart to hear that.

Nobody is perfect and it will serve us well to look beyond a person’s imperfections to appreciate the goodness within. I’ve long since forgiven and forgotten whatever shortcomings my dad had. What I want to remain are the happy memories he left behind.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Christmas Party List

Christmas Party List

By Maridol Ranoa-Bismark

“Mom, my classmates want to hold a Christmas party at our house,” my son told me in a voice that was half-pleading, half-threatening.

Uh-oh, I told myself. Time to make a list in between deadlines. The good news is I won’t be doing any of the entertaining and my son’s friends wisely thought of going potluck. The bad news is I will have to coordinate a couple of things that my son is too busy with school to do. I scrounged around for the telephone number of the chair and table rental company and called the nice lady who owned the home-based business.

December is party season, she told me, so she might not be able to deliver the goods at my doorstep. I tried to calm my nerves and begged her to please send her delivery truck since I lived only five minutes away. Besides I’m a faithful customer, entitled to certain privileges; problem solved.

Next, I checked for paper plates, napkins, and drinking cups. Finding our supply running low, I sent someone to get these party musts for me. I then asked the help to resurrect our neglected water jug and wash it clean. The plastic tablemats also had to be washed clean and wiped dry the day before the party, so that it won’t smell “ugh.”

Then I checked the powder room. Is there a bar of soap in the sink? Is the toilet free from cobwebs and other signs of non-use? Is the roll of toilet paper enough? Is the bathroom mirror smudge-free?

Oh, and the dogs! Since we have three, I asked the house help to keep them in the cage and curtail their master-given rights to roam the house in the meantime. It’s the height of bad manners to set them loose and scare the wits out of our young guests.

D-day. The tables and chairs arrived as expected but what’s unexpected was their condition. The delivery guys already left when I discovered that the white monoblock chairs had smudges from a previous party! I turned to the tablecloths. I was shocked all over again when I saw food stains and wrinkles. Obviously, the tablecloths haven’t been tossed inside a washing machine! Thank heavens I had enough time to call the chair rental company and ask for a clean set of chairs and tablecloths before the guests arrived.

One last word: Going potluck means guests have the license to take over your kitchen. So make sure your supply of cooking gas is enough to last until your guests’ kitchen adventures are over. Mine did. And I heaved a sigh of relief.

You think your job is done when the guests are bidding you goodbye? Not quite! Your guests being kids, you have to make sure that they can get to their respective homes safe and sound. When they’re gone, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Now, where is that mop to clean the floors full of smudged footprints?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

It Pays to Be ‘Praning’

By Regina Abuyuan

“What’s worse than someone raping your daughter?” read an award-winning poster for an awareness campaign back in the ‘90s. “Someone raping your son.”

I think either is worst, period. Sexual assault, bullying, seemingly harmless pranks that end up scarring one’s emotional growth forever, illness—the list of motherly fears go on.

Friends and family like to say that I’m braver (let’s say more foolhardy) than most, but it’s the opposite when it comes to my kids. With them, I’m hopelessly praning. I wiped down their toys with alcohol when they were babies, fearing they would contract some deadly disease when they put them in their mouths. I stock up on the Neosporin, fever patches, and make them drink wheatgrass, even if I know their intake of fruits and vegetables is enough (I hope!). I’m that kind of mom.

I also, have of late, begun teaching my teenage daughter more practical ways to stay safe. Some of these were borne out of my own “kapraningan” when I was young—and were validated later on via viral emails and warnings, as everyone grew more aware of how to keep out of danger or compromising circumstances. Here they are:

The two way mirror. Restrooms, dressing rooms, and yes, motel bedrooms have them. Not wanting to go down in history with a Betamax scandal tape to my name, I learned to search for hidden cameras or places where they could be hidden. Any strange protusions, wires, unevenly installed areas of an otherwise flawless surface—those were subject to scrutiny, knocking (if it sounded hollow, it was covered), and rearrangement (lamps and vases, transferred to the floor).

Mirrors were particularly tricky. A trick I learned from a policeman was to put your finger against the surface. If there was no gap between the surface and your finger, it was likely to be a two-way mirror (I can still picture myself doing this in the restroom of Larry’s Bar in Makati). Another trick was to check if the mirror was installed within the wall, and not merely mounted on it. If it was, it was a sign that it was an observation mirror.

Of course, a pervert need only to clear the silver backing of a small area of a mirror to get a view, and there are more ways to tell a one way mirror from not (read here), but so far I’ve been safe. Phew.

Walking on the traffic side of a sidewalk. Never walk on the outer side of a curb—especially if you have long hair, a bag swinging from a long shoulder strap, or loose articles of clothing hanging from your body (a jacket tied around your waist, a cuff with tassels, a necktie). Abductors can easily swing by and drag you into their vehicles, mostly vans. (I almost had this happen to me in the Katipunan area. I quickly stepped back and ran back inside the Ateneo campus grounds.) In the same vein, don’t use your mobile phone, iPod, or gadgets while walking in public places. A motorcycle snatcher can easily breeze by and grab your valuables.

The open drinks. Never accept open drinks when you’re out partying or hitting the clubs. Let’s be real. Your daughter will eventually enter this scene, even if they claim they never will, and forewarned is forearmed. I tell my daughter that, when that time comes, to buy her own drinks, and if she accepts one from anyone, to make sure she sees it being opened in front of her by the bartender. Sedatives or date rape drugs can easily be dropped in already-open drinks. Not good.

Don’t be afraid to scream. Teenagers value their image and poise. But in times of uncertainty and danger, they have to learn to scream—scream their lungs out. Troublemakers don’t like attention, and they’re sure to scurry away if a victim creates a major fuss. Their voice is their best weapon in times of distress. Reassure your children it’s okay to let it rip, and the “embarrassment” far outweighs their safety.

Be wary of men who approach you in malls. During the launch of Called to Rescue, a movement to halt trafficking, Cyndi Romaine informed the audience that a popular modus operandi of traffickers was to approach a group of teenagers in public places, usually malls. They would choose the average-looking girl—not the prettiest, not the homeliest—to them, it was a safer gamble. That particular girl would probably have the self-esteem easier to manipulate and be easier to “sell” to clients. Whether or not the motive is to traffic, warn your children—girls and boys—to stay away from strangers in malls. Our parents warned us about this then and it’s worked…so might as well warn our kids now.


Building Memories

By Karen Galarpe

Looking over the chocolates on the shelves at the supermarket today, I smiled at seeing a bag of local cheap chocolates individually wrapped in white-and-orange stripes. “It’s still alive!” I thought to myself, as I picked up the little bag and added it to my basket. Memories of me in my grade school uniform unwrapping those little chocolates while in the school bus (more like a school jeep) on the way home came to me on the way to the cashier’s counter.

Then other grade school memories flashed: filing past displays of swimming fish at the Manila Aquarium (there was such a thing back in the 70s), eating my classmate’s baon back in Grade 4 (since she lived near our school, she had hot lunch delivered every lunch break, and oftentimes could not finish her meal), running around and going up and down the slide in the playground under the hot noonday sun, swimming with my father in a beach (me in T-shirt and shorts, he in maong pants), going from tomb to tomb at the cemetery with my cousins to collect candle wax on All Saints’ Day and rolling them up in huge hot balls, and traipsing down Session Road in Baguio with my family, all of us bundled up in sweaters and jackets.

Those were the days when we had nary a care in the world about traffic, debts, bad news, sickness, inflation, catastrophes, love life, and what have you. What mattered then was that precise moment, when we just did what we had to do and lived for that moment alone.

A few years ago, I interviewed Heinz Bulos, a money-smart dad and editor of a personal finance magazine, about family finances, and he said something that stuck to my mind: “Spend for experiences rather than stuff,” he said. “As dads, we have a tendency to lavish our kids with material things, partly out of guilt for not spending enough time with them and mostly because we just enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces. But their excitement is gone weeks or even days after getting something they want. So instead of buying more and more stuff, spend for experiences–trips to the zoo, the park, the beach–since memories of happy experiences last much longer than the fleeting enjoyment of toys and gadgets. Plus you get to spend quality time with them. More experiences, less stuff.”

What memories are you building with your children? I hope that someday, even when he is a grown man, my son will remember us going to Manila Zoo and Enchanted Kingdom, swimming in the clear waters of Boracay, eating sushi in Tokyo, watching cars drift in an exhibition game in Greenhills, plunking down on the floor of a bookstore at the mall to read a storybook together, or just sharing a piece of chocolate at home on a lazy summer afternoon.