Archive for May, 2009

The last time I blogged  about  American Idol was when David Cook got the crown, so to speak.  It was David Cook all the way during Season 7.  Wow, now both Davids are here, what a thrill!  But if you ask me, no matter how I admire the two, I won’t  even attempt to watch their one-night concert at SM Mall of Asia.  I am not that nimble enough to mingle with the anticipated huge crowd who will be watching the concert.

I watched David Archuleta on SIS this morning, he really brought the house down. He was a darling and so generous with his praises of the Filipino singers (GMA talents) who interpreted some of his songs during the program.  He described the singers as “perfectly harmonized”. And he loves mangoes. SIS gifted him with a barong Tagalog designed by Pepsi Herrera. He was also given a miniature Filipino symbols like an ice cream cart, a nipa hut inside a bottle and a jeepney(he even joked that he wanted to ride in one) and a small figure  dressed in barong Tagalog.

So Season 8 has finally reached the top two, with Adam Lambert and Kris Allen vying for the  American Idol crown. I haven’t been watching the show religiously but most of them are really, really talented artists.  I love the vocal range and style of Adam Lambert but Kris Allen’s version of Kanye West’s Heartless was totally amazing.  And if you ask me who will win in this season’s finale? It would be Adam Lambert, hands down.  I love Kris Allen though with his winning  smile and charming looks. Win or lose, the top two slots are assured of a bright future anyway, so it won’t affect me that much if Kris Allen goes off with the crown.  Who’s your bet?

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“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls”.

If Khaled Hosseini shines in The Kite Runner, he was even more brilliant as a writer in A Thousand Splendid Suns. And if I shed a tear or two reading the former, I cried buckets reading the latter. I like the simple prose that touches the heart. Once again, the setting was in Afghanistan, this time, Hosseini takes us to the last thirty three years of the country’s history of war and oppression through the eyes of two women with minute details that jump into you and seem so real. You also feel the pain and anguish as you read along and begins to hate the oppressors as much as the other characters in the book. Women in the old Afghanistan were forced into marriage at an early age. At the time of the communists’ rule back in the seventies, women were given the chance to be educated, they were more free and had more rights than they ever had before. But during the Taliban rule, they were not even allowed to practice their profession or to work, they cannot even leave their houses alone.

There were so many quotable quotes in the book but the lines that really moved me were these:

“She sat on the chair instead, hands limp in her lap, eyes staring at nothing, and let her mind fly on. She let it fly on until it found the place, the good and safe place, where the barley fields were green, where the water ran clear and the cottonwood seeds danced by the thousands in the air; where Babi was reading a book beneath an acacia and Tariq was napping with his hands laced across his chest, and where she could dip her feet in the stream and dream good dreams beneath the watchful gate of gods of ancient, sun-bleached rock.”

The book was divided into four parts. And here is a brief summary of the book:

Mariam grew up believing that she was an unwanted child, a harami, which means bastard, illegitimate, born to a rich father, Jalil and a mother, Nana, who was a housekeeper in her father’s house. Mother and daughter lived in an isolated place and they were occasionally visited and provided for by her father. When she turned fifteen, her father promised to take her to his cinema in Herat. Her mother pleaded with her not to go but she ventured all alone into town until she found her father’s house. She saw him looking out of the window but she was not allowed to enter the house. Upon her return, she found out that her mother hanged herself in their backyard.

She was not welcome in her father’s house so his three wives found a way to get rid of her by marrying her off to a man almost thirty years her senior. She vowed that from that time on, she will forget her father. She was taken by Rasheed to Kabul. At first, Rasheed was nice and cordial to her but when she lost the child she was carrying, the true colors of her husband showed. She was treated like a servant. The abuse worsened over the years through several failed pregnancies. She began to live a life of misery in the hands of her husband.

Laila was the daughter of Mariam’s neighbors. She was born during the turbulent years of the Soviets rule in Afghanistan. Her father Hakim, a school teacher valued education and told her that a society has no chance of success if its women are not educated. She did not get on much with her mother Tarifa whom she called Mammy. They were both “pretending, unenthusiastic partners”. She felt more at home with her childhood friend’s Tariq’s parents. Her world changed when her two soldier brothers died in combat. Ahmad and Noor were like lore to her – mere characters in a fable, kings in a history book. For young as she was(she was nine when they died), she felt so neglected by her Mammy who was the most affected by the death of her two sons. They fell more and more apart. Tarifa forgot that she still had a daughter who was a mere shadow in her sons’ existence, “the parchment on which Mammy meant to ink their legends”. She was not the reason why her mammy wanted to live on and she could never leave her mark on Mammy’s heart the way her brothers had.

A few months before Laila turned eleven, the Soviets finally left Afghanistan. The Mijahideen, the returning forces fighting the Soviets incited a civil war. Kabul was bombarded by rocket attacks. It was at this time that the two best friends Laila and Tariq grew closer and discovered their deep love for each other. Tariq’s family left Kabul and she was distraught when she learned that even her beloved Tariq (supposedly) died before crossing the border to Pakistan. Laila was the only one left when their house was bombarded by the rebels and she was pregnant with Tariq’s child. Rasheed, Mariam’s husband took care of her and offered marriage against the wishes of his wife. Rather than go hungry, without a future for her unborn child, she agreed despite the gap of almost forty six years. At first, Mariam resented Laila but through the times that they were mistreated and abused by their husband Rasheed, they finally forged a bond amidst all the hardships of making a life with the former. Mariam learned to love Laida’s children, they showed strength of character in a place where only violence and hunger prevailed. When she reached her 23rd birthday (they were now under Taliban rule), Tariq came back to her life and she learned that through the ten years that they were apart, Tariq spent some of it in prison. When Rasheed learned about this, he was so livid with anger and almost killed Laila in the process. Mariam, seeing red killed him to protect themselves from further hurt and pain. She did a great sacrifice for Laila’s sake and was hanged later. Laila, her daughter by Tariq Aziza and her son by Rasheed Zalmai crossed the border to Pakistan to live a new life but they came back to Kabul after the Taliban rule. Laila visited the place where Mariam was born and raised and there she discovered that Jalil afterall, loved her daughter very much and even wrote her a letter and left a small inheritance before he died.

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Category: Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Author: Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine

A few days ago, my daughter brought home a book which she borrowed from their Stress Management Office. My eyes got caught by the title, “what not to wear”.It’s all about the common mistakes we usually commit when dressing up or trying to be fashionable. Some people really don’t care how they look as long as they follow the fashion trend. Never mind if they have big boobs, no boobs, big arms, big butt, no waist, short legs, flabby tummy, saddlebags, short neck, or thick ankles and calves. This book explores every aspect of how to be stylish, it’s about knowing what not to wear and knowing what suits you. It’s about being honest and accepting the fact that some parts of your body aren’t really that great. Everyone of us wants to look good, who doesn’t?

The book says that “looking stylish is not about following fashion, losing weight, being rich or succumbing to the knife. It’s about dressing to show off what you love and hiding what you loathe about your body”. Here’s a summary of some of the golden rules according to Trinny and Susannah:

. for big boobs: never wear high round necks. chuck out the clothes that don’t suit you – even if you think of them as old friends. never put on underwear that’s darker than the clothes you are wearing.

. for no boobs: plunging necklines are only for perfect decollete undamaged by sun and age. flat chests need high necklines. backs are sexy alternatives, so keep them shiny and expoliated.

. for big arms: fat arms must always wear sleeves. small prints cover a multitude of flabby flesh.

. for big butts: never wear jackets that end at the butt. any panty line on the rear is revolting. hipster trousers cut your butt in half. high-waisted trousers make you butt looks huge.

. for no waist: never wear baggy sacks. deep V necks clinch the waist. all things double-breasted must be chucked-out.

for flabby tummy: never wear hipsters. no skintight shiny fabrics. no cropped tops, even on baby fat.don’t wear your belts too tight.

Yes, I am giving this book four stars out of five

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Sure, texting is a tad way to reach people that easily – as long as the signal is okay, you have enough load (if you are using a prepaid account) and you are busy  to  call the person you want to talk too. Texting can make or break your day depending on how creative or imaginative the other texter is or how annoying sometimes when you receive a text message which is not to your liking.  Herein are some of the things I really hate about texting: 

1.  Hu U – receiving a text with a message like this is not just annoying,it defies good manners. You can ask politely enough without resorting to a three-letter question which you can’t even qualify if it is Tagalog or not.

2. K – How much does it take texting the whole word “okey” or okay” than just plainly sending K? Are you trying to be in or what?

3. Dito na me – who me? This is even more unacceptable than the K word, if there’s such a thing. Either you speak straight Tagalog or plain simple English.

4. Wer na u? – same thing as number three. It is obnoxious.

5. Receiving chain texts, like a prayer,  asking you to send them to at least 10 or 15 people, otherwise something happens if you don’t. Receiving grace from above is unconditional.Goodness, are you playing God?  I could appreciate just a short and simple prayer or a nice quote than having this one in my message inbox.

6. Too much abbreviated words – it’s beginning to look like English is a mangled language. It’s okay to substitute 4 for “for” or d for “the” but deliberately misspelling the word even if there is just one letter to insert to correct it is plain laziness for me.

7. Kol me, kol kita – another abused term in texting. You just have to add another letter to correct it to “call”. Have they never learned that  they allow 160 characters  in one “send” and it  costs  one peso just the same?

8. Just like in No. 5, receiving texts from people whom you don’t know from Eve and asking you to forward the same message to your network of friends. Unless it is a “quotable quote” again and the receiver would even thank you back for forwarding it, why should you?

9.  Just plain guessing about your number and when you politely respond, they would text you back, “pwede ba kitang ka-text mate” or something to that effect.

10. Receiving an unknown call or texts in the middle of the night when you are about to sleep only to inform you there is such and such on such and such  a date. Can’t it wait till tomorrow? I need to have my beauty rest. hehe..

Honestly, I  always do the texting the old-fashioned way, full words, Tagalog  if Tagalog  and English when I’m in the mood. I like receiving inspirational messages first thing in the morning , because sometimes I do it too, send quotes to my close friends as my good deed for the day.  I remember now, I have these two or three former office mates and a fellow carpool rider before, the usual thing is, you ask how the person is after a few months of not hearing from him/her but these people start the night or day just forwarding annoying chain texts which I never bother to forward anyway. How about just saying, kumusta ka na or how are you? Don’t you think it would make the recipient more responsive to your text?

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What are those unseen shadows
Gnawing at me like tentacles?

Grief –
Shock, anger, pain?
Or am I just denying myself
and believing you are still around?

“Who is this girl?”, you asked
Struggling vainly to remember my name
But the years are slowly showing through
I didn’t mind really,
That you can’t remember me
But I was silently crying inside.

I watched your gnarled hands counting the threads
Repeatedly, on and on and I asked myself
“What could she be thinking?”
Are you trying to remember too?
The days and years gone?

Little did we know that morning that God
Was going to call you home
Caught unprepared, but we thought we were
When you went, we didn’t want to let  you go.
Part of us went with you.

I didn’t know
That a month ago would be
The last time I’ll  see you smile
We promised to come back this summer
And take you to Anawangin
To see the sunrise!

You left us with warm memories
Something we will treasure for always!
The link may be broken
But it would be whole again
As God calls us one by one
To welcome us back home.

Goodbye Nanay,
Go in peace with God!

(gosh, I want to have a good cry).

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bobicA box of crayons, a pocketful of assorted unsharpened pencils, a half-inch thick  coloring book – what more do you need to pass the time away?

A few months ago, I got the chance again to go home and bond with my  smart, inquisitive and hyperactive five-year old niece Bobic. No picture-taking this time because I didn’t bring my camera with me but we agreed to spend an hour or two after dinner to go over her lessons and color her brand new book. I have nearly forgotten how relaxing, how stress-free and artistic one feels when you are so engrossed in making a dull picture come to life by blending different shades and making  it colorful and beautiful in the eyes of a five-year old child. She was so lavish with her praises when we finished two pages of the book. Lesson No. 1 – simple things mean a lot to a child.

She made me go with her and her Mama to their school one afternoon so I could meet her teacher whom she calls Miss Melanie. She literally dragged me by the hand and introduced me by saying, “teacher, si Tita Arlene”. Well, that afternoon I learned my second lesson from her, kids shine when they are surrounded by their family and loved ones.  I was pleasantly surprised when my brother told me that she could recall every word and sentence in her two short-story books entitled Ang Tikbalang Kung Kabilugan ng Buwan and Mariang Alimango. Through frequent readings and story-telling before she goes to sleep, she was able to memorize every page of the two books. True enough, she even knows the English version although she could not pronounce the words right, she does not know yet how to read that much. Lesson No. 3 – play it by ear and it gets easy the second and third time around.

She keeps a piggy bank because her Papa told her that it would take a lot of money for her to become a doctor so she started asking for coins every time she gets the chance. She is so steadfast in saying that she will be a doctor someday and will treat every one in the family. I was impressed – the wisdom of a child.

And how I wish life is that simple!  How I wish that sometimes, we could see things through the eyes of a child.

Coloring books and crayons – try holding them some time and forget about your worries even just for a little while.

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Last week, I wrote to Francis J. Kong and asked permission to link his site to my blogs.  Oh boy, he answered my email. I blogged about him a few days ago, Meet Francis J. Kong, My Idol.


I just have to buy his book, The Early Bird Catches the Worm But the Second Mouse Gets the Cheese. And so this afternoon, we all went to Power Books.  A slim volume at 131 pages but packed with words of wisdom and lovely anecdotes that you can’t simply put  down.  It’s a bit pricey though at P410.00. It’s a Mother’s Day gift to myself, haha, so the price is justified.  He has published several other books like Only the Real Matters, Life’s Work, 3 Little Words, Just When You think You Can’t Do It…Do It, Why Don’t You Grow Up Dad?, and the four-volume, One Day At A Time. I took a glimpse of them all, after all, reading is free at Power Books, you can even finish one without buying it.  How cool is that?  And to give you a glimpse of what is on the cover, I am quoting them here.

Remember this:

If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
if you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you
When through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment
if you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help
if you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
Then, you are almost as good as your dog!

P.S. Yes, there certainly are a lot of things a dog can do without. And so can you!

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For the past several years, I’ve always read the Philippine Star, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays.  It’s one of my favorite weekend reads.  Either I catch the news online or buy a copy from our neighborhood pan de sal vendor who is enterprising enough to supply newspapers everyday to his pan de sal suki. The funny thing is, I seldom start the day reading the headlines, sometimes they can get quite depressing so I skip the pages and go to my favorites, the Lifestyle Section where I always look for Lucy’s articles  on Love Lucy every Sunday and Barbara Gonzales’ Second Wind every Saturday.  Features Section comes next and before I’m through with the editorial pages, I turn to the Business Section and scan the closing prices of stocks, and look for my favorite articles by Francis  J. Kong, Business Matters ( Beyond the Bottom Line).  Take note, there is always that  J in his name.

Francis J. Kong – a noted writer, author, broadcaster, motivational and inspirational speaker.  Check this out, http://franciskong.com/about/. I always look forward to his once-a-week guesting at Umagang Kay Ganda, a regular morning show of ABS CBN. Last night, I wrote him a short note asking permission if I could link his site here and to my other blogs. I was surprised to find that he personally answers e-mails. Wow! it might be short but it made me admire him all the more.

By all means arlene,
I would be very honored.

On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 7:15 PM, franciskong@businessmatters.org

I’ve subscribed to his previous articles on Philippines Star and here are some of his inspiring quotes:


If you like the above articles, you can log on to Philippine Star archives for Mr. Francis J. Kongs writings.

By the way, he has published several books and I intend to buy The Early Bird Catches the Worm soon.

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I’ll catch the sun
and never give it back again
I’ll catch the sun
and keep it for my own
And in a world
where no one understands
I’ll  take my outstretched hands
and offer it to anyone.

– I’ll Catch The Sun
Rod McKuen

The first time I encountered Rod McKuen’s poetry, I was hooked  and that was almost thirty years ago.  A singer, a songwriter, a poet!  He was part of my days and nights of finding myself, searching for a lost love, maybe, just maybe,  it wasn’t there at all but the poetry of Rod McKuen was.

Seasons in the Sun was one of his popular books and he  was a friend, a companion during dark nights and an imaginary shoulder to cry on.  He speaks for a generation with gentle and always intelligent poetry . In vain, I am still trying to find some of his books and they are still included in my wishlist at Shelfari.

I would ask of you
that you ever be warm
willing to be kind
not letting me forget
that kindness is the passport
and the proven way
for two to journey through
a lifetime, each other,
or a single summer’s day.

Simple lines, the meaning of which touches you to the core.  I’ve spent some of my younger years wishing that I could put my thoughts on paper as sensitively as he does.  I’ve spent some of my youngers years wishing that I could reach out through poetry too just like he does, but that will never be.  Ambitious thinking!

And in my heart, I truly believed in finding one true love.  And  somehow I was brave enough to give it a try.  Listen to this:

Cloud formations
on a give day
and wondering
if you’d seen them too
are enough to make
a morning pass for me.

was your day
filled with wanting
or the needlepoint
of knowing that I waited

I did
I do.

Rod McKuen! He still could turn my days into sunshine and  makes me appreciate the times that certain rain must fall.

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“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Albert Camus

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