Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A little love letter to my dear Loyal Readers

Hey everyone!

How are you all? I hope you are doing okay. 

Where I live, it's Day 10 of our community quarantine. The last day my kids went out was March 11 so they've been locked inside for 13 days. While they aren't that bored (my husband and I are introverts so we fully equipped our home to be an entertainment haven), they haven't had much sun and physical activity and that worries me. So this week we'll rev up our indoor exercises.

Anyway, I have a lot of drafts lined up to be published here on the blog. I have nothing to do since all my writing and PR work is now currently on hold, save for this recent and sadly personally relevant article I wrote for ANCx ["10 tough lessons freelancers have learned amidst the community quarantine"]. So I finally found the time to take photos of products to be reviewed, made a video of my daytime skincare, write on the blog... But I can't seem to publish them yet.  

I understand that these are strange times we're living in. This time last month, my family was planning a beach trip and summer classes. We were shopping for tropical-themed outfits and tools for building sandcastles. And now we're indoors 'til we don't know when. Just when the weather is so gloriously beautiful, we can't go outside to enjoy it. I am so profoundly grateful our problems are just that. Everywhere else in the world, people are trying to get to work, trying to pay the bills when there's suddenly no work, trying not to get sick, trying not to die. 

So I feel a bit strange to publish blog posts that are now so trivial in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is facing. Part of me says this is the best time to write about silly things, to take our mind off from the horror of the sickness and how our government is responding to it. I'm not a medical expert, nor a political commentator, an economist, or a spiritual guide. So maybe I won't be very useful at this time, but please know that I want to share with you the stuff I've been doing, watching and reading when I'm not freaking out about our politicians. I need the mental break from all the shit that's happening in the world. If you feel the same way, I hope this is a place you can go to.

Life may be chaotic now but I cling to the hope that things will get better. I don't know when that better time will be but for now, I am grateful I have my family around me, safe and healthy. I wish every single one of us can say the same thing but I am bleakly aware this is not the case. So, dearest Loyal Readers, please pray with me for our doctors, nurses, hospital staff and crew, scientists, delivery people, guards, janitors, supermarket personnel, the people who work in food and service establishments, policemen, soldiers, the people who live on a daily wage, and yes, even for our government. We need to support all of them through donations and prayer.

From all of us in my family, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.


P.S. Here are links to old blog posts that may be relevant at this time:

Exercises we can do at home to get sexier! (I'm using a free exercise app now, though)

My kids' vitamins is now Fern-C kidz. Here's why. (although now it's Enervon C kasi ubos na ang Fern-C kidz last time I bought vitamins)

Since we have 3 more weeks to go (fingers crossed!) in this lockdown, I'll try to come up with fresh content that you may still find useful but won't be health-related. Things like tips on working from home, for example! If you have any requests for topics, please leave a comment below or send an email to frances@topazhorizon.com. Thanks, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Do good recklessly

I know Facebook can be pretty toxic right now with all the sobering Covid-19 updates and then the political disasters happening in real-time. But it's also an inspiring place where we can see our fellow Filipinos rising (yet again) to meet the challenge of helping each other.

Anyway, this is a quick post, just to tell you I'm still alive and that I think of all of you! And to share with you these old screencaps I found on my phone (because I now have time to organize my things!). They're stories on doing good things—even if you don't know the person, even if that person may be scamming you, even if you can't afford to help. They made me day last year, that's why I saved these stories. And when I saw them again today, they made me happy again. I hope they also inspire you.

I have a story, too. When I was in college and in an abusive relationship, I once didn't know how to go home after a big fight with my then-boyfriend that ended with me holding on to my bloody lip. He had driven off with my bag still in his car. It was late at night and I had no money. So I was walking down the street, crying, asking for help. And everyone quickly walked away from me. Except for this security guard who handed me P20 and told me to calm down. Let's be honest here—guard siya so I'm sure he didn't have a lot of money. And P20 in the early 90s is not a small amount (for reference, daily baon ko was P50). In the jeepney ride home, the man beside me gave me his jacket and said I was shaking so much. He thought I was cold. I was actually shivering in shock.

But I got home. And I never forgot Manong Guard. That's why if anyone approaches me on the street asking for pamasahe pauwi, I give. Dinadagdagan ko pa ng pang-merienda. Sometimes my gut tells me it's a scam but I really can't walk away. I keep thinking of those people who must've thought I was scamming them when I was asking for change all those years ago. So bahala na! Basta bigay lang ako. Because as our last story above said, "Whether he was lying or not says something about his character, but hearing someone in need and choosing not to help when I have the means to says something about mine."

Let's do good recklessly, mamas. Especially now. God bless us all!

Friday, March 20, 2020

A simple vegetable dish from my childhood

It's Day 6 of our community quarantine. How have you been, mamas? My kids haven't left the house since classes were canceled on March 9 so they've been cooped up for 12 days today. We're not allowed to go to our condo playground so we're just going to do some indoor exercises and sun ourselves by the window.

We've not been doing anything special. It's summer and my belief is summer is supposed to be when the kids do absolutely nothing. Well, the kids have their chores. We're very proud of the boys because they prepare their own breakfast, make up their beds (kinda), and finish their chores all before 10am. I could learn a thing or two from my kids!

One thing I've always been keen to teach my sons is cooking their own food. I really want them to be independent men who won't need a wife to cook and clean for them. This week, I decided to cook something I haven't cooked for more than 20 years. I don't like cooking it because my Papa always said it's pang-mahirap. Konting karne lang, konting gulay, maraming sabaw, maraming asin so that it's malasa, and - tada! - may masarap at masustansiyang ulam na kami.

Kita niyo naman dito na dalawang patatas, isang carrot, at isang bundle ng pechay, when sliced like this ay dumadami agad. My Papa said this is the perfect ulam becasue its cheap and healthy. Konti lang kailangan na sangkap, masabaw pa, so mapapadami kang kain ng rice. Busog agad! So kapag wala kang budget, this is the vegetable dish you cook.

Actually, marami rin kaming ibang similar ulam na linuto na cheap but good. Upo na may miswa. Adobong kangkong. Corned beef and cabbage soup. Talbos ng kamote salad. But when my Papa cooks (or asks me to cook) this ulam that I'm blogging about here, alam kong walang-wala kami, lalo na kung gulay lang at walang karne yung soup.

So when I left home, I just never wanted to cook this ulam again. Bad memories ba. I was determined to improve my life and I was never going to eat masabaw na gulay ever again.

Then this week, something changed. I don't know what happened really. Maybe it's the quarantine and the warning to not go out to the grocery that made me think of food that will last for a while. Maybe it's the fact that such a vegetable-rich dish is healthy and we need to get super healthy these days that made me want to cook it. Maybe it was me going through my 2019 planner and I saw that this time last year, my sister told me Papa wasn't eating anymore and a few turns of the page later, my planner said he died.

I don't really know what it was but I decided I was going to cook this ulam and teach my boys how to cook food that's good in times of crisis.

So the two younger boys helped me wash and peel the veggies. I did the chopping. They did the cooking. Madali lang naman kasi gisa-gisa lang siya. I didn't put a lot of water so it wasn't soupy like how Papa cooked it. It also had 1/2 kilo of ground beef instead of the usual 1/4 or minsan 1/8 pa nga na karne na gamit ni Papa. I should've added more pechay, though. Parang kulang kasi nung luto na siya.

It was fun teaching the boys how to cook this and they enjoyed my stories of my childhood while we were cooking away. I also remembered na nung college na ako and I had boy problems, Papa would tell me to cook this and ilabas ko raw galit ko sa gulay when I'm slicing them. And I would tell him, "Papa, sabi ni Lola 'wag raw galit kapag nagluluto kasi papait yung ulam!" But my heartache would go away anyway and by the time we sat down to eat, okay na ako.

So eto siya. It's not the prettiest thing in the world. It's not gourmet. Pang-mahirap nga, diba. Pero masarap siya. I sat down at the dinner table, asked Vito to call their Papa, and I said to the younger kids, "I'll make tikim lang, ha!"

I put the first spoonful in my mouth after more than 20 years, and the smell and the taste overwhelmed me not with bad memories. Instead, such good and happy memories of me and Papa at the palengke and in the kitchen all came rushing back in one bite and I put my spoon down and cried and cried and cried.

My sons crowded around and hugged me. After my sobbing died down, IƱigo said, "I miss Lolo Jules, too."

Hay, ang puso ko.