Sep 30, 2009

Through The Eyes Of A Child

This is the face of the Filipino child. Who finds the time to smile even when we don't give her and millions of others much to smile about.

Scene from a Cainta Relief Center.Thank you, Macdaddy

This is the voice of Severn Suzuki who found the time- and the guts! - to teach us.

In the first Earth Summit staged in Brazil in 1992, this 12-year old stunned a crowd with her honest and brave words. Seventeen years later, this video is still being viewed by millions all over the world.
"At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, to share, not to be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?"
"I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you! You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer. You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream. You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now a desert. If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!"

It's high time we look at our children. And listen. And give them something truly worth smiling about.

Sep 28, 2009

Lending A Hand For Ondoy's Victims

Even little hands can help. Kind of... Right Nana?

Nana's living room is rice-packing central.

Boys cleaning up their spillage from rice re-packaging.

For Ondoy Relief donors, it's best to re-pack rice into single kilo bags to make it easier and faster for donation centers to get them out. Goods are pouring in (thank God) but the re-packing has become a major production. So... you can also go to any center near you and with just your bare hands you can donate your packing skills. Teeners and middle schoolers with no school can have something to do!

Every donation counts. A few sacks of rice will be welcomed in many relief centers, like this one in Whitespace, Pasong Tamo where Viva Mamas and kids dropped-of an afternoon's worth of rice re-packing. Whitespace will be open for donation drop-offs until this Friday October 2.

Packed and ready for distribution.

Boxes of goods that still need to be sorted and re-packed.

At the Ortigas area, the Mega Tent on Meralco Avenue (beside Renaissance Towers and across The Alexandra) is accepting donations 24-hours-a-day until Friday October 2. Some nice student volunteers from UAP will be on hand to accept, gather and sort all your donations.

Needs include: RICE, BEANS especially MUNGGO, CANNED SARDINES, TUNA, INSTANT NOODLES, CRACKERS, BREAD, MILK, BASIC MEDICINE and FIRST AID SUPPLIES, SOAP, TOWELS, BLANKETS and CLOTHES. WATER is also a major need, but best for distribution are bottles that are 500ml size or slightly larger. Too big and the water bottles are hard to distribute.

For people all over the Philippines and around the world click here to see where it would be most convenient for you to donate or lend a hand. A lot of people hit hard by Ondoy need our help. Keep those donations coming. This will have to be sustained for some time. For now....

Thanks for lending a hand Tato.

You deserved that ice cream break Bear and Mak.

Over dinner tonight Chicha tells us: Today we went to a very responsible place.

Her dad was so amused! I think I catch her drift.

Nugget Of Wisdom

Hours after I was told I was expecting twins the worrywart in me went on full throttle. I sat around the family dining table rattling off fears – some founded and some downright ridiculous. “What if I can’t tell them apart?” I whined. 6-year old niece, Nix, looked at all the grownups and stared me straight in the face: “I’m sure one will have something special like a mole to help you,” then quickly went back to what she was doing. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about. Mak and Tato looked as different as day and night. And true to a little one’s prediction, they did have something to make each extra special.
Sometimes the words of the wise come from the mouths of fearless, trusting, unconditional little people.

Happy 11th, dear Nix! We would have loved to be there with you. We miss you. A terrible typhoon came and now we can’t even call. To sing you a Happy Birthday. And to listen to your nuggets of wisdom.

Sep 27, 2009

Ondoy and an Inconvenient Truth

The neighborhood I grew up in has never experienced waist-deep flood - until yesterday. It has never experienced retaining walls collapse from floodwaters - until yesterday. Yesterday was when Typhoon Ondoy (a.k.a. Ketsana) hit the Philippines. As the day went on you would hear the same - neighborhoods getting hit by major floods like never before, completely unexpected.

Somewhere in Cainta, Rizal a dog gets rescued.
Photo from the Inquirer website.

The way PAGASA sums it up, Ondoy brought a month's worth of rain in just 6 hours. The last time Philippine rainfall reached this record level was 42 years ago. Back then it took 8 days of rain to accumulate.

San Mateo Rizal was one of the towns hit hardest by Ondoy.
Photo from the Inquirer.

8 days... versus yesterday's 6 hours... accumulating a month's worth of rain. Floods where it never flooded before. All these come to mind: Manila's drainage and garbage system, worldwide climate change and Al Gore freaking the hell out of me with his inconvenient truth.

For today, we just hope and pray no one else drowns or gets electrocuted. Red Cross needs volunteers. If you're in Manila and willing to lend a hand Call the Red Cross: Pasay 8542748 /4343751; LasPinas 8734873/4689688; Pasig 6350922; Alabang 8093132; Manila 5245787/5270864. Starting today, La Salle Greenhills is accepting donations for convenience food, powdered milk, blankets, clothes, cough and cold, fever medications, etc. Same with Victory Center in Greenhills and Victory Church in The Fort.

For the long term, it is time to face that inconvenient truth. Gore and those scientists are not shizzing with us!

School's out tomorrow for the entire National Capital Region. Some roads still impassable. Stay safe and dry. Hope all your loved one's are accounted for.

Sep 26, 2009

Human Cloning

It isn't what you're thinking. We just touched on navigating religion. We all need a little bit more time to ponder on that.

In the meantime, there is non-stop rain with streets nearby in thigh-high water. Our major thoroughfares are currently virtual parking lots. Some friends' living rooms have been transformed into lagoons. On our way home earlier, we needed to find the quickest, safest way back without turning our car into a ship. The boys are asking why rain turns streets into rivers. And if that happens "everywhere in Earth and Mars". I need a bit more time to tell them about that.

Here is the result of rain, cancelled plans, an old photo, a camera and a willing victim.

MacDaddy circa 1972

Mak, an hour ago

A little sunshine on this wet, sunless day. Stay safe. And dry.

Sep 24, 2009

A Word About Religion... Oh My!

Images from Carl Jung's soon-to-be released (and controversial) Red Book.
Photos of the "inland explorer's" art work from The New York Times.

Caroline Lazar is still in high school but already won a writing contest over at McSweeney's. I just love McSweeney's and now I love Caroline too. Here's how she starts her winning piece Oh My Gawd: A Column About a Teenager Navigating Religion.

I once set a priest on fire. This was not a radical action of protest or a fitful spell of hatred against the church. This was a clumsy entry into my teenage years. I had been chosen to light the Advent candles one March and the match slipped from my hand on to Father's bright robe. A spark caught the fabric, which erupted into a flame, singeing a hole into the back of the robe. I frantically fanned the man (after blowing on the fire, as if he was a birthday candle on the cake of Christ), and eventually extinguished the blaze. Welcome to Adolescence, please check your elegance at the gate! Luckily, the priest was so absorbed in his homily by that point, he didn't know or care about the forest fire I had set on him.
With the Catholic Church alight in its own inferno of scandal and criticism, it is difficult for someone growing up in a time of change to continue to adapt to the Church's views. Especially when that someone isn't completely convinced in the first place.

Please read the rest of this witty, insightful young girl's column over here.

She is proof positive as to why I am never going to force my kids to go to church on Sunday and why I will be honest with them about my own issues concerning organized religion. My issues need not be theirs, of course. More like, feel free to seek your own path. Maybe a Church, or yoga or Jung can help you? But always, all hail to the "Church of Doing Good Things". Be nice, work hard, play fair. Oh and... tolerance! Especially for blasphemous moms such as yours!

Sep 23, 2009

Wee Mail

If you thought our very own MacDaddy was a sucker for gizmos and gadgets, you have yet to meet the GrandDada. My own childhood is a flurry of CB radios, sound systems, computers... you name it. And on his last visit while MammaMia is away with the other grandkids, the GrandOl' Dada found a willing ally in Tato. GrandDada, Tato and a Blackberry. A very dangerous combination.

Because you see, Tato is three going on thirty nine. He is our old man trapped in a little boy's body. He checks the compass to know what direction we are driving. He looks at Google Earth to check out places we cannot readily get to. And now, thanks (or no thanks!) to his GrandDada, he has now learned the wonderful art of e-mailing.

This email - written, composed and sent all by this little self was for MammaMia. He loves little bits of trivia, as you can tell. It is signed Tyrone only because he is in a
Backyardigan phase now. Tomorrow will be a new alias. For sure.

Hello Nani
The Penggen papas holds the baby in their feet.
From Tyrone

MammaMia responded in a jiffy and now the boy is hooked. And every half hour we hear "Can you check my inbox, Mama? Did somebody write me a letter?"

Today's letter to the GrandDada:

My almost four year old is now an email away. We are in for some interesting times.

P.S. For those who know my email address, do send a little someone some mail his way.

Sep 20, 2009

Grizzly Bear and Other Internet Wonders

I love the Grizzly Bear song Two Weeks and I love the children's film classic La Ballon Rouge. The kids love that film too, actually. So of course I had to post this homage to the Lamorisse film set to the Grizzly Bear song.

Now this! There's another must-see visual-feast inspired by Two Weeks, created by Vimeo member Gabe Askew. Feast your eyes on Mr. Askew's FAN video, of which the kids and I are now fans of....

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.

Does Grizzly Bear have the coolest, most creative fans or what?

Sep 18, 2009

Dating in the 21st Century

Peacekeeping, playdates, a puzzle piece and the politics of it all. Written for Working Mom magazine.

I watch from a calculated distance as two boys cunningly sit on the jigsaw pieces a girl we have over is looking for to complete the puzzle she painstakingly worked on. I confess I would ordinarily be half-amused. Except I can’t be. This is my home and those are my boys.

Welcome to my world. I am a mother of twin toddler boys. Hand in hand with this responsibility comes an occasional stint as human jungle gym, wrestling referee, toy police and peacekeeper. With every stone left unturned, every detail sorted out, I certainly used to be the classic role model for faultless preparation. And then the boys arrived - completely unplanned.

As I watch them with the I SPY jumbo floor puzzle pieces scrunched in between their behinds and the colored floor mats, I realize I have no plan. More importantly, am I expected to have one?

Welcome to the world of playdates. The playdate is something many children (mine included) look forward to. There is no question socialization is a huge and important part of any youngster’s early childhood development. What better way for children to learn and have the chance to share toys with friends than the playdate. Thrust into their own mini social circle, they have the opportunity to be both hosts and guests, learn to compromise, take turns and even resolve conflicts.

But you all know what they say about the best laid plans. Sometimes that carefully planned playdate is anything but playful. Just how involved should we be? When should we back off and when should we jump right in?


As in most situations, particularly those involving at least two little people, it is inevitable that conflicts will arise. Let them work things out on their own.

As parents, we are there to equip them with the necessary tools to solve their problems. We are not their problem solvers. "Children teach each other friendship through play," says Michael Thompson, PhD, coauthor of Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Worlds of Children. "If you're micromanaging the kids, it's not play-it's an adult-run activity."

“Playdates are a great opportunity for your preschooler to learn social skills,” explains Myrna Shure, developmental psychologist and educator, “ but they require plenty of patience and conscientiousness on your part to run smoothly. When your child yanks a toy car away from his playmate, resist the urge to lecture, take the truck away, give him a time-out, or send his visitor home. Negative approaches such as these might curb the behavior for the moment, but since you're doing all the thinking and the enforcing, your preschooler learns nothing about how to get along in the future. Take a positive approach, one that encourages him to think for himself and sets the stage for problem solving in the future.”

If I had a peso for every time I heard “That’s MINE” on a playdate I would have one impressive coin collection. What to do? Take one step back. Keep a careful eye and a keen ear but don’t jump right in at the slightest hint of tension. This will help send a clear message that you trust your child to settle matters into his/her own hands.

If this doesn’t work take half a step forward. Suggest other toys they might like but ultimately let them decide on how the toy should be shared. This is also an opportune time to create a diversion and bring out the time-tested favorites. We can always count on bubbles, markers and stickers to unstick sticky situations.

Are the two playmates and your daughter having trouble assembling the dollhouse or stacking up the Dado cubes? Take 2 steps back. Resist the temptation to come right in and set it up for them. With enough practice they will get it eventually, fine tune their motor skills and learn to tolerate frustration in the process.

Confused and conflicted on how the Pinoy Domino game should be played and who should go first? Take 3 steps back. Afford them the space they need. Allow them to experiment, negotiate, and make up their own rules.


There are, of course, instances when we need to be more than spectators. If you notice your toddler is becoming aggressive and angry words are being exchanged do not waste time and step in. Discuss with everyone in the playgroup and help them process where all that irritability is coming from.

“Children in this age group have difficulty in understanding anyone’s perspective other than their own. Everything and everyone in their environment is ‘mine.’” “Understand that he’s not going to be willing to share toys or wait for his turn, and be prepared to intervene,” says Patricia Robertson, coordinator at Seneca College’s School of Early Childhood Education. When to intervene? Robertson suggests parents step in when your toddler is hurting another child, your toddler is getting hurt or your toddler is damaging toys, furniture or other things.

When your toddler inflicts harm on another or when the playdate turns into a battle, this is time to step in. Remove the toy that is causing the tension, and sit down with your child and help him understand someone is hurt because of his actions. This is also a good time to give the group firm advice. Explain to each of them that hurting, grabbing, and sinking their teeth into each other are definite no-nos. When the playdate is over, discuss with him again about the importance of being kind and thoughtful towards others and teach him there is always a better way to get what he wants.

If the toddler that swings the first punch is someone else’s child should we correct him? “Two simple rules: Never tell another parent how she should raise her child, and never discipline a child who's not your own. Parents have their own way of addressing their child's behavior, says Marilyn Segal, developmental psychologist, “and though you may wish wholeheartedly that the other parent would rein in her child more firmly, it's not your call.”

When boredom suddenly sets in bring out the craft, baking or art project you prepared just in case. Might be a good time for snacks as well. Gather all the little ones in your kitchen and make snack time part of the fun. Shaping their own sandwiches with cookie cutters, watching the popcorn pop in the microwave and adding their own toppings over the yogurt are always sure hits.

SCENARIO # 3 “I HATE YOU. YOU’RE A *&%^%$#!”
Sometimes conflicts escalate into verbal confrontations where angry and inappropriate words are exchanged. For starters don’t attempt to solve things with equally hurtful words. Monkey see, monkey do. Maintain a picture of calm yet be firm. "Marco, I can't let you do that to Enzo. I’m sorry but we cannot use words like that around here." Explain that those words are not acceptable. See if the kids can come up with a compromise. If all else fails, separate the children for a while or introduce a new activity.

It took a lot for me not to step in. Realizing she couldn’t finish her puzzle, our guest, Little Miss Sunshine peacefully walked over to a corner of the room to play with a new toy that caught her fancy. Thankfully, Mr. Crafty and Mr. Wily found a new distraction as well. Minutes later she discovers the missing pieces, puts in the puzzle’s finishing touches and all three gather to admire her masterpiece.

As I watch and breathe a sigh of relief, I realize that it is not only the little ones that gain from these dates. I just learned a thing or two or three. Sometimes the biggest lessons we learn come from the littlest people.

Sep 15, 2009

Music Please!

A word about music posted at the bulletin board at Explorations, Chicha's preschool:
Children who grow up hearing music, singing songs and moving to the beat are enjoying what experts call "a rich sensory environment." That's just a fancy way of saying a child is exposed to a wide variety of tastes, smells, textures, colors and sounds. Kids who enjoy such a rich environment do more than have fun. Researchers believe they forge more pathways between cells in their brains.
Musical experiences are an important way to help create these pathways - also called neural connections. While listening to music is certainly key to creating them, it's when your child actively participates in music that she makes the strongest connections.
Research has shown that children who are actively involved in music (who play it or sing it regularly): do better in reading and math; are able to focus and control their bodies; play better with others and have higher self-esteem.
In light of that, it's high time we pay tribute to They Might Be Giants - who have been rocking for kids and forging pathways even way before we discovered The Alphabet of Nations. They have so so many songs we love, but here's three that can get Bear and Chicha singing, dancing and laughing. And hopefully... creating those neural connections.

Here's one about shapes. Everyone at the party is a many-sided polygon. When a guest arrives they will count how many sides it has on....

Here's a super-witty-funny song about words and letters. An epidemic of missing letters has swept the land. Whatever the cause, for the sake of future generations, in the limited time we have been permitted, these stories must be told....

Here you can have your toddler provide letter ID's with some cool visuals and funky tunes as background...

More They Might Be Giants here. Party at the playroom!

Sep 14, 2009

Happy Halloweens

Yes you read right and no I haven't completely lost it. I just happen to be right in the middle of organizing this year's Halloween street party for the neighborhood. I have visions of clowns and jugglers, magicians and glitter tattoo artists. I'm seeing shiny, happy people...all under a "circus tent". I hope I can pull it off.
Another year, another halloween. Two pumpkins at twenty eight days.

Race car drivers Michael Scumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, a year old

Boxers Manny Pacquiao and Eric Morales at two

Two faces of Harry Potter at three

Flirting with this idea this year.

Now to get the Mak-Tatos to agree. I hope I can pull this one off too.

Sep 12, 2009


President Obama with his daughters and their friends.
Photo from Huff Post.

It's back to school season in the US and President Barack Obama had decided to address young Americans from kindergarten to 12th grade. His speech was great in all it's simplicity. He was speaking to kids in a language they could understand, but with no trace of condescension whatsoever. I loved it. Here's a snippet that captures his message for all kids heading back to school:

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

Student Ariana Steele says the message connected with her: "When you see someone of such power saying what your parents say or your teachers have said, like all your life, it really makes it more powerful to you and it really makes you want to try more" says the fifteen-year-old.

If you end up reading the full speech here, tell me why some rabid Republicans have banned their children from hearing this speech? Some of them say it is Obama's way of indoctrinating young Americans to his socialist ideas. They have got to be kidding.