Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Renato Redentor Constantino
December 31, 2013
The Family Files

French toast, gouda, doppio espresso cappuccinos, chorizo and an omelette, a great conversation among the four of us.

Our kids are all grown up now -- this was the big thought today. Come August, Rio will turn 16. Holy cow. And Luna will be 12 soon. Caramba.

This year has been one of meaning and loss, a capricious period of achievement, disappointment and unexpected grief. It has been an exhausting, to be sure. The year passed by so quickly it felt like the fastest year ever. But that's how all years feel, I suppose, the velocity of a year coming to a close.

We've moved into a new house, in the place where our old two-storey home was, which we rebuilt into a three-floor structure, which now has a balcony, and Rio and Luna have rooms of their own, and kitchen that can serve far more with greater space to spare.

Apart from loyal Emil, we have Cosmo. In addition to Flowery Moss, we have Kermit the Red. There is okra growing, including alugbati, chile, basil, talinum and lagundi. Benguet bamboo sway high above the grills of the indoor garden. Former tongue-in-groove floorboards are now part of the kitchen island, and what used to be a window grill now hangs from the ceiling, from where pots, pans, chopping boards and ladles are hung. Great slabs of thick ironwood, which used to be the steps of old Kamuning's stairs, now make up the front doors of the first and second floor. Everyone has great big windows from where the horizon stretches out as far as the smog will allow the eye to see. Rows of apartments and houses from Rio's room, and the church steeple and another barangay from Luna's.

Old lamps have been restored, and the dining table, chairs, and sofa have been refurbished. New fixtures have brought some gloss, but the sheen of used, familiar things bring the most comfort. There is love in the house.

Kala changed jobs too. From Oxfam in the Philippines, she's now an advisor in a global team working to develop the ability of colleagues and partners around the world to run better, more effective advocacies.

Rio is thriving in Philippine Science, playing football, writing, playing computer games and chomping on math and science, and reading pretty much everything he desires. He's no longer the best most times, as he usually was with little effort in his previous school; he's now just one among many other incredibly smart students, many of whom have better study habits, so he's struggling and having fun, which to me is great -- it can only bring out the best in him, because he hasn't tapped into his potential yet.

Having held her first exhibit at the School of Blended Learning in late 2012, Luna is flourishing in the new COLF, with its great big building and far greater space. She draws and paints like nothing else I've seen, having a clear style of her own. She is dancing with impressive grace and an intensity that clearly shows respect for the craft, and at the end of it all she will find time to bake with her mum, to watch the silliest of cartoons, to make bookmarks and posters for me while composing poems and creating things from nothing into beautiful pieces of art, with little effort. Right now the girl's imagination is boundless.

This was also the year when Kala's mum passed away. In the world of adults, I'd call her my mother in-law, but she was my mum too. She was a pillar of strength and happiness for her large brood, a storied leader in the town of Anda, which she governed with a caring, firm, moving, selfless, graceful and unique sense of leadership for many terms, including a stint as provincial boardmember in the province of Pangasinan. There was so much sadness when she died, and the weeping was heartbreaking, so great was the space she left behind, because of her unexpected death. Though family knew early that she had a terrible illness that she could not overcome, many felt that her demise was too sudden. It hit Kala the hardest, since she was still in Oxford when Mama died, and the journey over a thousand miles must have felt multiplied a hundredfold, as she endured the long train ride to Heathrow, and the long, terrible flight back to Manila, but nothing could have felt longer than the walk through the corridor of Sanctuarium, then inside the room to give the last embrace to the woman who brought her up to be who she is today. I wept as I held her, because her sorrow was so inconsolable, so deep and so distant no salve would suffice, save for time and the acceptance of our own mortalities.

I lost a good friend too, one I was not fortunate enough to have gotten to know more, but whose friendship stood out largely because of his integrity and the force of his personality, which was anchored on an distinct, innate sense of humor and humility. I hold him as the gold standard of activism, beneath which we are all midgets. Milo Tanchuling, who's qualities stood out because of an unmatched generosity of spirit, who alone showed the way by exercising leadership by listening. I fear that with his passing so many will be lost for a while.

There were disappointments as well, some sadder and more sorry than others. Good friends in government, two in positions of leadership and both coming up short, not for lack of intellect or ability but for lack of respect for their own stations and the unique privilege they have been granted to serve. In almost every other sentence they declare to the listening multitude that there is little time to waste, because the crisis to end all crises is upon us, and yet the timorousness of their actions, the persistent lack of strategy and fixation with incredibly small-minded bickering, have plunged the public importance of the commission they belong to to levels equal to the country's horse-racing association, at a time when climate change, ironically, is on everyone's minds. One refuses to go out of her comfort zone, insisting on leading only her own office while assuming a supplicant's pose when relating to agencies that comprise what should be her commission's main constituency. The other acts as if his main job is to be an inspirational speaker only, to publics outside the very bureaucracy his office is expected to influence, and coordinate, coming to life only when the setting is in an international arena that happens to convene only twice or thrice a year. The two refuse to scale their pettinesses, and thus, instead of esteem, all too many offices in the executive and legislature reward their offices with contempt. Both need one another, and too many communities expect climate leadership from the two, but both are content only to tinker around with the limits of their soapboxes. Perhaps they will rise to the occasion in 2014, or maybe not. They are dear to me and Kala, but they have also so dearly disappointed so many.

The year draws to a close with remembrance, not only of people who have moved on, but also of people who have been constant -- Jenny and the Saulo clan, the grace of Jeng, who despite a few worries remains the person with the steadiest hand on the wheel that I have ever come to know, who must therefore trust herself more and doubt less; Joanna Levitt, who will in a few months celebrate life with even more color, the comradeship and laughter of Ateng and Jasper, both of whom I hope will make real their plans to come home and take root once more -- both were also recently deprived of beloved parents; Sandra, who left behind honey bourbon and limoncello magic, and whose sense of joy and curiosity over life, despite the proliferation of intrinsic meanness, is infectious and humbling; the discovery of like-minded, cantankerous roadtrip buddies from South Africa, Tristen and Trusha, fonts both of base humor and mad thinking, who I hope can enjoy the company of Rico Loco too in the first quarter of 2014; Sreedhar the Wise; Willy, Ravindranath and Anil; and Sze Ping, who is now a Panda. I hope to see more of Mareng Beau, Pareng Romil, Lala, Patty, Jack and Ronald in the new year. I hope to I can spend more time as well to work with and learn from Lidy. And of course, there is the aspect of running to the best of our laughable abilities the best little tavern in town, with Derek and Gina -- without the two, the experience would be so drab and the mirth a fraction of what each week has brought. Together, the four of us -- we've made Fred's a habit to so many, a dandy place with low brow exuberance as atmosphere. And that's just the way we like it.

After a year staying with generous parents, who gave us shelter and company, great mornings and great evenings, and general access to the sunlit house I once called home, we're back to Capers and it feels grand.

The year is coming to a close -- a year of victories and heartbreak, disappointments and daring. Raise yer glasses, folks, on this final night of 2013. Let's make 2014 shine brighter. Let it be blinding, and let us be brash. #

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Renato Redentor Constantino
December 27, 2013
The Family Files

The ship is listing. Quick grab your books.

I realized in late December that I hadn't gone through a mental exercise I used to love doing when, while walking through freezing Beijing with South African buddy Tristen Taylor, my mind stuttered and failed to complete a top-five-of-this and top-ten-of-that list of books. Que horror. Nothing that couldn't be drowned by distilled sorghum of course, but still incredibly bothersome. It didn't help that, on my return to Manila, one of the first things I saw on my phone was a post from Gina, a tag-ten-of-your-friends-and-share post about books that truly mattered.

There is a certain sense of duty when it comes to forming such rosters. I suspect some readers feel solemnly obliged, like me, to give unequivocal props to books that have opened the cosmos for them, some re-read so many times they have become part of the reader's veins.

The exercise is both sublime and stupid and herein lies the attraction, for these are fiendishly fickle lists, a kind of register that's likely to change every year, and each time we will agonize over what is left out even as feel a jab of righteous pride over books that make it.

So, attempting to erase the ghastly failure in Beijing, here's a year-ending list of top tops. At least there's something to change later.

Top Ten Non-Fiction Books In No Particular Order:

1. Maps of the Imagination, The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi
2. Reinventing the Filipino Sense of Being and Becoming, Critical Analyses of the Orthodox Views in Anthropology, History, Folklore and Letters by Arnold Molinda Azurin
3. History Wars, The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, ed. by Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt
4. Wanderlust, A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
5. City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
6. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
7. Red Orchestra, The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler by Anne Nelson
8. Street Fighting Years by Tariq Ali
9. Constantine's Sword, The Church and the Jews by James Carroll
10. Voices of Time by Eduardo Galeano

If I could add 10 more, I'd add:

1. Dogs of God, Columbus, the Inquisition and the Defeat of the Moors by James Reston, Jr.
2. Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary
3. High Tide in Tucson, Essays from Now or Never by Barbara Kingsolver
4. Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
5. Infinite City, A San Francisco Atlas by Rebecca Solnit
6. The Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali
7. River of Shadows, Eadward Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit
8. Under the Sign of Saturn by Susan Sontag
9. Democracy Against Capitalism, Renewing Historical Materialism by Ellen Meiksins Wood
10. The Great War for Civilisation, The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk

Top Ten Fiction Books In No Particular Order;

1. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
2. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
3. Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
4. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
5. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
7. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
8. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
9. Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
10. Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

Top Ten Poetry Books in No Particular Order

1. The Place that Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed, by Sixteen Rivers Press
2. Rio Alma: Selected Poems (1968-1985) ed. and trans. by Marne Kilates, Alfrredo Navarro Salanga and Mike Bigornia
3. Mga Biyahe, mga Estasyon: Journeys, Junctions by Rio Alma
4. Sa Panahon ng Ligalig by Jose F. Lacaba
5. Sa Daigdig ng Kontradiksyon by Jose F. Lacaba
6. Canto General by Pablo Neruda
7. Spain in the Heart by Pablo Neruda
8. Isla Negra by Pablo Neruda
9. If I Write You this Poem Will You Make It Fly by Simeon Dumdum
10. Latin American Revolutionary Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology ed. by Robert Marquez

There. It's done. It's already raring to be revised. #

Top and last pic by redster. Middle pic by Ia.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Renato Redentor Constantino
December 26, 2013
The Family Files

It's the day after Christmas. Fixed breakfast for Kala and drove her to her office. I've had my double espresso and the day is crisp.

Luna is still asleep; I expect her to be up and about much later, when the day gets hotter. As for Rio, he's playing his computer war game. The boy's been awake since early in the morning playing with his puppy and Emil, who ultimately just wanted to be let out of the house, as usual.

Usual stinker for Rio -- Cosmo dumped in the garage, which is actually good. Unfortunately, Rio said the black pup did a once over as well -- twice over, actually -- right in front of their bathroom, just a few minutes after as he started booting up his machine.

Unlike the clackety footfall of Emil owing to the calm dog's naturally long nails, Cosmo's fat padded feet and quiet nature gives him uncannily super sneaky powers to disappear and relieve himself out of sight almost at will, to the constant consternation of Rio and Kala. But the pup's just so awfully charming and bouncy that he is often forgiven quickly. A quick play of fetch with his Barbie chew toy, Cosmo behaving like an ungainly cat bobbing across the floor and leaping after the doll with thick gangly legs, overly large ears flopping comically, and you laugh out loud from the utter silliness of the maladroit play.

Cosmo's one of many new things in the reincarnation of Capers, the remake of Kamuning Republic, which took a year to finish, and we're still far from done. But there is more space, more room to grow, more sky, more for the senses, more stories to tell..


Sunlight is streaming into the study. It lies between the bedroom and the balcony, which overlooks the street and is right below the room of Luna. From one end of the house to the other there is a long stretch of hallway and the line between workplace and bed and open air is always blurred, which is also how we've lived our lives. There are grills and doors and ink and paper, and there is soil and water,  ant queues, unruly piles of files amid the litter of discontent and restlessness.

On my bedside are four books I've been picking up and reading alternately since November -- the more I like a book, the longer it takes me to read it. There is the intensely stimulating The History of History by Vinay Lal, The House of Wisdom by the theoretical nuclear physicist Jim al-Khalili, the dreamy River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit, and William Dalrymple's excellent From The Holy Mountain.

I pick one up randomly daily, and maybe I'll walk about the house reading a few pages, a few passages, and maybe I'll carry it with me downstairs to be left at the dining table and to be picked up later once I'm back. Sometimes two are thrown inside the day's sling bag, to be exchanged with another book that will then be left on the bed, for another bedtime reading.

There are books for the Smoking Chair, a large, soft, red velvet chair we acquired from an antiques dealer, that we might as well call Sleeping Chair, because it makes its sitters drowsy with the help of the Ottoman stool from Dada Ming we reupholstered, switching from green faux leather to a deep red fabric. The chair's a proposition fraught with ancient alchemy. It stops time and picks up the errant idea that got snagged on the branch of a lean day growing out of a lean, forgotten year.

You sink down on the chair and lean back and lift up your feet, and you look out at the chesa, frangipani and caimito, and the lamp from Marrakech is swaying with the breeze, and you open a book and wake up on the other side. #

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Renato Redentor Constantino
April 16, 2012
The Family Files

The cloud cover above Chicago's O'Hare airport is thick and layered, a canopy mimicking the tarmac's gray tones. Then the tufts part briefly to let through a streak of sunshine that greets shoeless, beltless passengers emerging like Farmville sheep from the security queue near gate B9.

The past few days have passed by like a blur.

Rio has finished Grade 7 and he's blazed a trail of glory, with big thanks from the parents channeled to his wonderful school, the Community of Learners Foundation, or COLF, which nurtured his mind and his charms and where his persona flourished.

By the time summer is done though, he'll move to Philippine Science High School, which accepts a little over one percent of students invited to take its entrance exams, who represent the top ten portion of their batch and who, of course, had to pass the school's eligibility test first. 

Mighty proud of the boy for making it. Whether he thrives there or not, the ball is largely his to play, pass or shoot. For now, he knows he's reached a fine spot, a place of distinction, and he's humble enough as well to know he'll be pushed in the bigger environment, with his limits under constant test.
What can I say? He's grown up to be a well-rounded person.

On Fridays he waits and helps me tend Fred's Revolucion, a bar I'm running with dear friends. (He's been missed by the crew most of last month; most weeks have found him really spent due to the exams and grad preps period.)
When he's not reading novels or picking up non-fiction around the house, he's playing Starcraft and other games on the computer. Most Sundays he spends doing watercolors and playing football, browsing 9gag and goofing around with his lovely sister, Luna. And when he's not doing anything else or finds some space for himself right in the middle of class or during breaks at school, he's playing futsal or still reading.

What a blessing he's been. The boy everyone wanted to hug when he was still so small and playing with toy cars and swords - he made me walk last Saturday after his graduation feeling a couple of inches taller.
It was a night of surprises. The first was how cool he looked all dressed up - his mum was gushing - wearing a brown tie, a crisp blue shirt and dark brown trousers which all matched the shoes he said he wanted to wear for his graduation - the brown shoes his late great grandfather Renato Constantino once wore, or Lolo Ding to Rio. His great grandmother, Letizia, or Dada Ming to her growing brood of great grandchildren, was beaming when she saw Rio at Club Filipino, where COLF's commencement exercises are held, with Lolo Ding's shoes on and all dressed up. All smiles too were his Lolo RC and Lola Dudi.

Then Rio gave everyone another surprise that night - as Teacher Marge was winding up the opening remarks for the graduation ceremonies for COLF's High School and Grade 7, she called Rio and Sari TodiƱo to the stage to deliver the speech for their batch. It was a huge wow moment for the parents; this was kept secret till the last minute and as Rio and Sari spoke, everything became even more special.

And of course, there was still another surprise left for the night - traditionally, COLF parents accompany their kid to the stage and receive the diploma, which they then pass on to the graduate. Just before we climbed the stage, Teacher Marge read out the inscription on an award for Rio - for academic excellence, I think one of the highest, since he registered pretty high on most subjects and had maintained a really high average.

I was told by Teacher Nancy it was the highest award - but whether it's indeed the top or one of the highest - it doesn't figure much to me. I've never received any academic recognition in all my schooling days. I remember Kala and I giggling as we went on the stage, like the time we were getting married, which made the priest officiating our wedding rather annoyed. But that's another story.

I'm just writing this from a cramped terminal, effused with the murmuring noise of anonymous travelers passing through an airport in decline, and despite creaking, tired bones and the stupor induced by spending almost 24 hours within the confines of a plane, I still feel myself glowing.
The boy has done really well, and myself, Kala and Luna - we soar with him. Thanks for dropping by. #

Photos by redster.



Monday, April 11, 2011

The Family Files

Only Emil knows his real age. But yesterday we marked his third year with us, as Rio's loyal friend and as a happy member of the Kamuning Republic.

We had a picnic at UP, where Rio and Emil shared polvoron, which is one of Emil's great treats. (He also eats Weetabix, cookies, bread, cake and other pastries.)

We played football, and the kids played chess - Luna versus Kuya Miggy - and then Bambu Kamatis, with Maegan, Sophie and Icia, brought by the parents of Kala, who is currently in Surigao.

We brought our binoculars and sandwiches and mats and the usual bit of imagination.

Rio romped away with Emil, who is still as spry as when he first arrived in Capers.

Later that night, Luna proceeded to Tandang Sora for a sleepover with her cousins.

It became boys night, and I prepared a great feast of Oxtail Ungas - named after the kids' Tito Looney Tunes, also known as the crazy chef Jose Enrique Soriano, who gave me the recipe.

Oxtail was immersed in beer and cooked over a low fire for five hours, but I doubled the anise and the peppers and put in some cayenne.

We began around 6:00 pm, right after the picnic.

After browning things, Rio poured in the bottles of beer, and then we waited, and close to midnight, the liquid greatly reduced and the meat incredibly tender and fragrant, things were ready.

I prepared rice the way I've always liked it - malata - and after the first spoonful, my son exclaimed it was all worth the wait.

Indeed. The stew had the right heat, the right texture, and it worked fabulously with the soft rice and the meat was virtually falling off the bones, and interestingly the carrots were still whole, though really soft. The onions had melted and merged with the meat.

We finished the whole pot, including the rice, and immense slabs of leftover fat and huge bones, along with the sauce and the softened carrots and the tasty bits at the bottom of the Dutch oven - it was all for Emil, who actually couldn't finish everything.

What a day. We'll surely do this again, and we'll try goat next time, and short ribs.

Thanks for dropping by. #

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Family Files

Days before her birthday, Luna asks her brother “Kuya, what is your favorite body part?”

Rio: “Eh? Well, duh! The brain!”

Luna turns to her mum and Kala thinks the question is weird. She replies anyway: “Hmmm… That’s an interesting question. Brain!”

Luna, a bit disappointed with the answers, turns to me. “Ako rin, brain!” I answer.

But what about you, I ask Luna. “What’s your favorite body part?”

Luna: “My favorite body part is kuko! My nails!”

Rio, Kala and me: “Huh?!”

Luna: “So I can put cutix! I like nail polish. My favorite body part also are my eyes! And cheeks! And lips!” She's just like my youngest sister Yammy, who is beside Luna while the girl is holding a leaf...

Rio: “Duh. They’re just accessorizable body parts.”

Luna: “I don’t care.”

There’s about five seconds of silence -- then mad laughter, from everyone.

Yla Luna turned five in the middle of November, and what a blast it was. A small party was put together for her but since Kala and I have been either out of the house, out of town or out of the country too often, we just had to cross our fingers and hope enough people would come to Luna’s bash. We kinda flubbed the invitations part to our friends – Kala thought I was sending to so and so but I thought she was sending to the same people. And then we sent invites a little late…

The event was held at the original Max’s restaurant (the best!!!) and although we were expecting 20 kids and 30 adults, in the end, over 50 kids came (cousins and classmates and friends) and 75 adults showed up. Yeyey!

Lunalu was sooooo happy.

She wore the dress that her lola gave her and each time I tried to take a picture of her, she would do a curtsy if she were standing or if she were sitting she’d cross her legs. Amazing kikay to the max, just like Yammy.

Kala hired the outfit of Kuya Mao to entertain the party’s guests and what a grand show it was. Kuya Mao was formerly with Batibot, and whose repertoire was just magnificent. Kids and adults were all in stitches over Kuya Mao’s ventriloquist performance with Elmo, which was followed by an even more hilarious puppet show, then finally a magic show that was so interactive everyone was still laughing by the time the whole birthday party ended. Ibang klase! Look at Sophie and Julia! And Luna has doubled up. Tingnan ang tatlong anak ni Ateng -- halakhak ng halakhak!

If you have an event coming up, I tell you, get Kuya Mao’s show! It’s for kids and adults together, and for birthdays, Christmas events and office parties – he da man. Just write me if you’re interested and I’ll give you his coordinates. Sobrang sulit po, as you will see in the photos of laughing people in Lunalu’s birthday!

Kuya Mao a lot of characters with their own funny personalities – Superman was there and so were Spongebob, Barney, Lolo and Buboy, and Elmo/Elma.

He made sure everyone had fun -- the adults were laughing at the antics of the children and the kids got stomachaches laughing at the silly adults in front of them. Here you see Auntie Maki and Ninong Teddy wearing Kuya Mao’s costumes while singing nursery ditties. Nakakangilo! And right below that is top Tito Pogs – one of the country’s top telecom execs playing weird bunny… Creepy!

So many friends came and it was unbelievable. I saw long-time best buddy Jenny and Auntie; also Bituin (Filipino for star), whom Luna once said was her natural partner ”kasi ako , ‘moon’.” Bituin brought her mom -- birdie-girl and sandbox playmate Annabanana. With his three kids in tow was good buddy Peter Sing, former senior media man and now co-CEO (with Gilie) of the best-selling Pan de Pidro Bakeries. (If you’re thinking of special gifts to give to special people this Christmas, put Pan de Pidro on top of your list. Your friends and family will love you for it, though they’ll hate you for the calories; drop me a line too if you want to order, though Pan de Pidro branches are all over Metro Manila now even though they’ve only entered their second year)

Also present was Ninong Teddy and Ayen; the Pulido brood led by Miggy, Megan and Sophie, and the Constantino clan/Dada Ming’s troops led by Ia, Taro, Jedi (from Maoi) and Julia (Hochi) and newly wed CP and Ani.

I saw my university buddy Alphonse, who came with his kid and Teacher Fe and so many other COLF teachers.

On the pic here you'll see Luna giving a kiss to Dada Ming and also to Lola Dudi. She shouted to me that Dada had arrived with Lola and she was jumping up and down, her eyes gleaming.

Ninja with CJ and Aldo were also there along with Tito Pogi and Tita Winnie.

Leizl and her kids were there and Teban and Gigie also, with gorgeous Juliana – the pretty little girl hugging Luna in the pic.

Ang dami. My mind has lost track of who turned up. Sayang Kala and I again forgot to bring a guestbook...

The food was superb – Max kasi! – and the service was as crisp as the chicken and the ambience was appropriately rowdy (there was a big play area right behind Kuya Mao’s set). So many of the guests left saying they had a fabulous time. (And they were not just being polite; some were insisting they had humongous fun and were asking for Kuya Mao’s details...)

Luna can only agree. She was the most patient, giving away loot bags, holding the hands of her classmates, laughing with her cousins and sharing party food.

Soon as the family got back home, Luna went straight to her presents and nimbly opened them one by one. She said it felt like Christmas, since so many brought nice things for her, and indeed, it looked as if she received an advance barrage of gifts. Her immediate favorites were Annabanana and Bituin’s ceramic bird call (sobrang galling!), a dress from Peter’s youngest, Tiny’s Doggie Storybook and the doodling pad from Ninang Delia, the mum of Jenny.

Kuya Rio was a dutiful big brother throughout, helping entertain his young sister’s guests and having great fun in the process. You can see him here in his camouflage pants, laughing at one of Kuya Mao’s puppets.

What a fine day it was.

Luna has begun to read at will and she was delighted to receive so many books. Of course, the many art thingies that she got occupied her attention on the very day after her celebration. She was out in the garage, painting and drawing, as soon as she woke up. Right after she played with her most special gift, that is.

We gave the little girl a dresser. And oh boy o boy did she love it....

“I’m a big girl now,” Yla Luna told her parents as she batted her eyelashes and smiled at her image in the mirror.

Yes you are, Luna.

But you will always be our little girl.

Thanks for dropping by. #

Big thanks to Annabanana for some of the pictures here!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Family Files

Middle of last August, the boy reached nine years. He’s now almost a decade old – time flies faster than the Green Lantern...

It took a while for the delinquent dad to post his pics and write about Rio’s big day, but finally here it is.

Months before his birthday, Rio was asked by his mum what he wanted to do on his special day. He said he really hadn’t thought about it, but he said "Please, no clowns or games or mascots or balloons. Especially not loot bags..."

Obviously he was saying he was no longer a boy. I wondered aloud and said maybe it was time to give him some whiskey. Rio said "I'm older but not old!"

Smart kid.

Rio’s a big boy now. His routines and pastimes are more defined, and his habits speak more and more about who he is and what his interests are.

I’m happy that he’s still so far the only boy I know who would turn down an uninterrupted afternoon of Sony Play Station time if he had a great book to read. In fact he has taken to reading with such gusto that he is now exchanging books with his uncle and his mum’s pops (his mum also gets to read Rio’s books every now and then.)

Rio loves fantasy novels and science fiction, which is of course just fabulous. It’s one of the most liberating and underrated genres ever and many of its writers are among the most visionary and stubborn people the planet has ever known. He'll get more smarts from such books, and tougher lessons too. (That's Rio with a Gen. Macario Leon Sakay shirt on, which was issued to commemorate the centennial of the Filipino revolutionary's death -- hanged in 1907 by American invaders and the native elite. Kala and I named Rio after Sakay.)

Rio somehow reads almost everything he sets his eyes on. Like me, he tends to read all the details and ingredients on the back labels of shampoos and cereal boxes.

A stray political manifesto in the house provokes questions over dinner. Old newspapers make him wonder aloud about who is stealing again in government. Comic strips delight him and make him go searching for his ever missing sketchpad, and brochures or flyers about a housing project or new product make him ask about humankind’s capacity for stupid inventions and real estate.

There was a day when all the kids, including Luna, were romping about our street, which was then under construction. Water gun play, hide and seek, climbing gravel mountains – the works. You will see Rio in one of the pics here -- in the middle of kids chasing kids -- in the midst of youthful tumult, Rio is standing by his lonesome on a cement block quietly reading Tolkien's Return of the King...

He finally decided just a week before his big day how he wanted to celebrate his ninth year.

Rio said he wanted to go out with his gang and treat them to humongous sandwiches, buffalo wings, fries and milk shakes, after which, he said, they should go to Station 168, his favored gaming place.

Great agenda.

And so on the designated date, I watched Rio and the boys goof around all day, boisterous and rowdy and ever hungry.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they actually ate the table cover. (I think one of them wolfed down a whole sandwich including the wrapper...)

At the gaming station, they were in Seventh Heaven. Rio did the job of policing the games they played – he asked his chums to avoid the spectacularly nasty, stupid stuff such as Grand Theft Auto where you get points for beating up old women and running over pedestrians while stealing cars and so on.

The kids played for hours, laughing and squealing and throwing paper missiles at each other while I tried in vain to write notes on a chapter of a second book. I ended up walking around a lot to laugh with the boys, who kept swiveling around in their seats to taunt each other and to laugh some more.

What a day.

It was his best birthday celebration ever, Rio said. And his classmates agreed. One even whispered to me as I walked him to his guardian: "Tito Red, it was the best day of my life!”

I walked around later with a spring in my step.

“Can we do this again next year?” Rio asked when we got home.

But of course my son. Surely. But of course. #