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


The Year of Living Brilliantly

The Year of Living Brilliantly

By Jing Lejano

When we started the Smart Super Women blog exactly one year ago, we never thought that we’d play witness to daredevil feats of adventures. We wanted to hear inspiring stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, warriors, peacemakers, intellects, vamps, homemakers, career rats, readers, adventurers, and dreamers who were going through their everyday lives. But we didn’t think that they’d do so with such daring and gumption.

Take the case of Mari-An Santos, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines. We happily read about her trips to Thailand, when she suddenly revealed that she was packing her bags and moving to Romania! She had received a grant to pursue her Master’s degree in that European country. In her latest entry, she writes, “Studying in a foreign land has not only opened my eyes to the reality that I am a citizen of the world, it has made me appreciate my being Filipino all the more. Even as I learn about other peoples, cultures, and places, I have learned to value home even more.”

A collection of personal essays for and by women, the Smart Super Women blog was created to inspire its readers to tackle everyday challenges with courage and to work for the fulfillment of their dreams with conviction.

Most of the contributing writers are working mothers with school-aged children. They discuss such topics as careers and children, literacy and education, family and friends, and the quest for self-improvement. Because the writers contribute on a regular basis, readers have seen them tackle different challenges, resulting in a very interesting read.

There’s newspaper editor Gina Abuyuan, who never got around to traveling alone when she was single, but who finally had the nerve to roam the streets of Chiang Mai all by her lonesome now that she is “older, tougher, not afraid to tell someone off.” Her latest solo trip had her enjoying the sound of waves crashing at a beach side resort in the provinces. Oh, and may we add that she also recently opened a pub together with her life partner and some friends?

Of course, the adventures aren’t always of the adrenaline-pumping kind. Sometimes, we see these women finding epiphany in a cup of coffee shared with friends, in the few hours they sweat it out in the gym, or in the few minutes they spend with their children as they drive them to school.

But whether they’re raising their kids in the Philippines like writer Ruth Floresca, who’s a work-at-home mom to four boys, or juggling their time between career and home in Australia like editor Lyra Pore, who gets up at five in the morning to bring her daughters to the day care center, these women always find creative ways to make every opportunity a learning experience.

Ruth goes on date nights with her sons as a way of catching up with what’s going on in their lives. She writes, “It’s a continuous process, this getting to know one’s children because they grow up so fast and I don’t want to wake up one morning to find out that I don’t know anything about them anymore.”

Lyra Pore Villafana takes swimming lessons as a way of relaxing from the challenges of living an immigrant’s life. “Life overseas is so different to what we’ve all been used to… But doing something for oneself isn’t unique to Asian moms coping with the stresses of building a new life in a different country.”

Maridol Bismark bombards her sons with questions to learn her way in the digital world. She writes, “I work for an online entertainment portal. Every day, I am exposed to words and phrases that are just starting to make sense to me…I feel like a child lost in a newfangled world, groping for a hand to guide me. Fortunately, the hand belongs to the boy who appreciates everything that I’ve done and will still do for him.”

As these women continue on their journey to live, love, and learn in the modern age, Smart Super Women will be right alongside them, watching their every step, hoping to inspire others to live as fearlessly and as brilliantly as they do.

My Boxing Life

My Boxing Life

By Tet Defensor

There is something about the sound of boxing gloves hitting the punching bag in steady rhythm; even more exciting is throwing a strong jab or hook that lands right smack on your coach’s training mitts. Tiring? Not at all! Despite the strenuous physical movements, a boxer magically feels stronger after every hit. The adrenaline rush is endless; there is no stopping the fist from hitting the target. A boxer only feels tired when everything stops.

Boxing is the perfect sport for working mothers. The movements are strong and heavy. And five minutes into the sport, you are sweating like crazy. It is also the best way to unleash pent up frustrations.

I started boxing when I was working for a public relations agency. Those of you with agency experience know that there is truly no end to the task at hand. I think the whole idea of multi-tasking came to be because that was the only way to survive in such a competitive work zone.

Without my regular boxing routine, I probably would have hated all my colleagues. But since I was able to release my stress, every day was a renewed opportunity. I may leave the office angry, but once I start punching away, all feelings of anger and frustration are thrown out the window. Of course, I feel tired after a two-hour workout, but I also feel refreshed and energized. The next day, I am eager to go to work and finish my tasks.

I’ve been boxing twice a week for more than five years now. It has become so much a part of me that I am beginning to enjoy the boxing fights of Pacman Manny Pacquio. I’ve been so religious with my routine that my coach even asked me if I wanted to take part in a friendly match. As much as I was thrilled with the idea, I decided to pass. Nope, I am not interested in boxing in public. Training with a coach regularly is one thing, but getting hit in public is another. Besides I don’t think my father’s heart will be able to take the sight of me being hit by a stranger.

Like any fitness routine, I started boxing because I wanted to lose weight. Surprisingly, I began enjoying the sport. I even managed to maintain a healthy physique. I think I have reached a plateau, however, and have started alternating my jabs and hook  with running and brisk walking. More than losing weight, I wish to live longer and enjoy a good quality of life in my old age.

Of course, there are days when I am too lazy to get out of bed, much less wear my trainers.  On such days, I imagine the energizing feeling I get after a workout and that springs me out of immobility.

Although I am basically a cheerful person, I attribute my bright and positive outlook to my active routine. We all know that exercise releases seratonin, triggering off feelings of happiness. On occasions when I detect signs of some kind of hormonal imbalance, I cling to the possibility of bliss, and run off to the boxing gym.

Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

Version Me

By Jing Lejano

On the way home with V the other night, she asked, “You don’t wake your kids up in the morning?” “No.” “Who wakes them up? “They wake up by themselves.” “Who makes their breakfast?” “They’re old enough to make their own breakfast.”

V gave me a look of utter surprise, as if I belonged to some other planet. She goes on to tell me that her mom still wakes her up in the mornings and fixes everybody breakfast. V is in her twenties.

D, who is in his thirties, also once told me that his mother makes sure that breakfast is ready for everybody. And I gave him a look of utter surprise, as if he belonged to some other planet.

Well, apparently, I am the one who belongs to a galaxy far, far away.

I don’t wake my kids up in the morning, but I can stay up with them all night. I don’t do breakfast, but I can cook Lasagna, Sisig, Pata Beans, and Chicken Pickle whenever I have the time and the inclination. I don’t do the laundry, but I work–although my work is on such a crazy schedule that it might see me wracking my brains one day and sleeping all day the next. I may not be able to attend each and every school-related activity but when I do, I am my child’s loudest cheer leader—much to his consternation. I may not be able to help them with all their schoolwork, but I hyperventilate whenever they get sick, and could hardly sleep unless something happens in the middle of the night. I can’t iron but hey, I can sing and  I can dance.

There are all sorts of ways of being a mommy; this is mine.

Child-friendly Holidays

By Lyra Pore

It had been a long drive. My young family had just spent seven hours on the road; and we were relieved to have finally arrived at the Twelve Apostles, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Victoria, Australia. Getting a glimpse of the famed rock formations would be a fitting highlight to our road trip after the scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road. My children, however, thought otherwise.

My six-year-old asked, “Is this all we’ve travelled seven hours for? To see rocks in the water? And, look, they’re not even twelve.”

“The drive is part of the experience,” I’d told the girls earlier. But dizzy as they were from the twists and turns on the zigzag coastal road, they completely missed the point. To them, the fun part was getting off the car, running on the beach, and picking up pebbles and shells they could take home.

Earlier that week, my husband and I had taken them on a sightseeing trip to the Melbourne City Center. It would be fun, I figured, to ride the tram that went around the city and hop on and off to check out different tourist spots. But my girls didn’t even bother to look out the windows. They took out their Nintendo DSi games and played with them the whole time we were in the tram. The Melbourne day-out would have been a complete disaster had we not stumbled upon a sand pit where they were happy enough to play with shovels and pails.

I picked up some brochures at the visitor information centre to find other places we could visit. Ballarat, a gold rush town with lovely 19th century architecture, would be interesting–not to the children though. They sat at the back of the car with this bored look on their young faces unable to appreciate what could be so fascinating about those brick houses that were built over a hundred years ago.

“Can we swim in the pool when we get back?”

To them, the highlight of the day was heading back to the resort and frolicking in the pool. Last weekend, a family friend suggested we go on a family holiday in New Zealand. We would see things there, he said, that we wouldn’t find in Australia.

“We’re not ready for it,” I said to my husband, memories of our trip to Victoria still fresh on my mind. “The children aren’t interested in sightseeing.” It wouldn’t really matter to them where they went. Their idea of a great holiday was simple: just let them play.