I no longer have that tan line on my wrist where I usually position my watch. I do not wear a watch anymore. Being a freelancer, I own the time. I have power over it.  I can watch any TV show to my heart’s content. I can can catch up on my reading. I can develop this blog into a daily exercise in writing. The house will be in order. Everything will be in its perfect place. I can give Martha Stewart a run for her money.

Well, that’s what I thought. It is still time who owns me. Not having deadlines and a schedule to follow can be tough. I find myself finishing a book in one month. I used to finish a book in less than a week.  I clean the house only when I am expecting guests. I do laundry when I do not have anything to wear anymore. I do not even get to watch local TV shows as often as I want. My cousin and I were in a conversation and he blurted out, “What’s ‘sulit’? It is when you get more than what you paid for.” I thought he suddenly became articulate while I was away on a trip. As it turned out, it is a line delivered by Kris Aquino in a Nido commercial.

I am writing this because when I met up with friends last week to catch upon our lives, I find it hard to explain to them what I do. I am a housewife without a husband. I am sister who is an orphan. I am busy but unemployed. I am a boss without a staff.

Ironically, the thought question of the day on this site is:

My answer: I follow my heart. NAKS!

I love this life. Even if I only earn pennies freelancing, I am happy. I am available to anyone who needs me.  When my aunt needs company to check out something, I am there. When a friend needs a ear to listen to her woes, I am there.  When my cousin needs tutoring in her assignments, I am there.  I can have long conversations with anyone anytime.  (Well, unless I am asleep, sleepy or I left my phone in the room. ) I am able to cultivate relationships with people who matter to me. The material things do not matter.  I only need the basics to survive- food, water, air and shelter (with a little traveling on the side).

The thing is: this might not be forever.  There might be a time in the future when I will be married again to a regular job. As I have experienced, it often takes a priority role in my life.  This life of spontaneity will come to its end. I hope that I find the balance between a career and the relationships I sowed.

Since that has not happened yet, I savor every moment I have right now. When my cousin came yesterday bringing durian with the condition that I can only eat that fleshy piece of heaven if I accompany him to his errands, I hurriedly changed from my ratty house clothes into some decent attire. Beads of sweat trickled down my shiny face as I dressed up in this warm weather. I had no time to shower. I think the deodorant, powder and cologne did its magic.  I treasure unplanned road trips and spur-of-the-moment joy ride to undiscovered nooks in the city. The kind of freedom to do things in a spur-of-the-moment is precious.

I now find the tan lines on my feet outlining the band in my slippers. I like it. It shows that I have stepped out of comfortable shade and enjoyed the sunshine.

Weather and Travel

This is the satellite map from PAGASA as of  11:32 PM of September 26, 2011. Several provinces in Luzon are under Storm Signal No. 3.

Typhoon Pedring

Living in a tropical country facing the largest ocean in the world, this is a regular phenomenon.  Every year, about 22 storms hit the Philippines. (This statistics is taken from the deep recesses on my addled brain.  Further research needed.)  Two years and a day ago, ‘Ondoy’ hit Metro Manila. It caused massive flooding in large area, killed lives, displaced hundred of thousands of people and ruined properties. I remember watching the devastation unfold live on television while I was looking after my father who was gravely ill. I thought about what I would do should it happened to us while my father was bedridden. It would have been a nightmare. I found myself wiping my tears.


Two weeks ago, I went to Naga with friends. It was trip booked in February this year.  The Peñafrancia in Naga is on the third Saturday of September.  June to October is tropical storm season for the Philippines. Naga is in the Bicol, a region often hit by typhoon.  I cannot control the weather nor postpone Peñafrancia. The best thing to do for me is pray for good weather.

Before we left for Naga, Onyok is in the PAR (Philippine Area of Resposibility). It is only a tropical depression,  a category lower that a typhoon.  I think it did not make landfall. I was monitoring the PAGASA website.  This was the satellite pic on September 13, 2011.

Satellite pic as of 1:32 PM September 13, 2011

It looks like a good weather.  On the day itself, I visited the website before I left for Manila.  The weather is also good.

The latest update posted on September 14, 2011

This was our conversation whe I told my aunt I was going to Bicol.
(Translated from Bisaya)
Aunt: There is a coming storm.
Me: It is already in the country. It is on its way out.
Aunt: The report on TV said that there will be 4 storms this month .
Me: That is based on statistics. June to October is typhoon season.
Aunt: So, why did you book that date?
Me: September is Peñafrancia. Besides, there are no promo fares for summer months. Remember there was a storm a week before we went to Hong Kong and a week after returned home? Prayers work.

God and prayers are often my closing argument with my devout Catholic aunt. It is a discussion-ender. I sincerely believe prayer works. God answers prayers; sometimes the answer is “No”.

If God said “No” to my Bicol trip, there are other provinces to explore with my round-trip ticket. I know Butuan-Manila flights seldom get cancelled when a storm hits Luzon. There is Baguio, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Bataan, Cavite and a lot more to explore.

Even with Typhoon Pedring, the cancelled flights yesterday did not include Butuan-Manila.

Cebu Pacific Advisory

The weather was fine the day we traveled.  It rained in the afternoon in Naga.  It usually rained in the morning and by the time we go out  to explore, the rain disappeared.  When I think about it, we were always indoors when it rained. It makes the temperature cooler when exploring outdoors. Thank you, God!

This is Naga in the afternoon of September 14, 2011. Streets are wet when It rained a bit. No puddles. Ideal for strolling.

While in Naga, I got a call from my aunt asking me about the weather. It rained hard in Butuan the afternoon of the day we left. I took note of that event. It will be a good point to raise when my aunt and I will have a discussion about travel and weather in the future. 😉

Typhoon Names

PAGASA lists typhoon names alphabetically. The typhoon names are already chosen until 2016.  Typhoon names are reused. The names of the typhoons that were devastating are retired.  Thus, we know that Ondoy and Peping in 2009 were 15th and 16th typhoon for that year and those two names will not be used as a typhoon name again. This week’s Pedring is also the 16th typhoon for the year.

Taken from PAGASA website.

The complete list is posted here.

I spy my second name on the list for 2012.   Thus, I made a remark on Facebook, “ I just learned that my second name will be a Typhoon name in 2012 (the end of the world. ha!). Should I warn PAGASA? My first name was a devastating hurricane.

I’m traveling next month. Thus, I am praying for a typhoon-free country from October 20 to November 1.

I end this blog post with this positive quote:

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  ~John Ruskin 

Betty Crocker saved the day!

Yesterday was my 34th birthday.  I woke up at 5am to attend mass. It was good to start my day with gratitude and blessing. I had a simple lunch with family. I cooked lunch (just spaghetti) and I baked a cake.

A cake is staple in my past birthdays. It makes a regular lunch or dinner a little fancier. It signifies a celebration.  I’ve had cakes of different sizes, flavors and designs.

This time around I baked my own cake. Betty Crocker came to the rescue. I found this box of cake mix in the local grocery.

Although I had six months of baking lessons under my belt, I did not want to sweat it out on my birthday. Baking from scratch is a lot of work. I was glad that the instructions written in the box were really simple: just mix and bake! No sweat!

What sealed the deal was that it was affordable!! Only Php141.75 (~ $3.3)! The price of a chocolate cake when ordered from a good baker ranges from Php 500-Php1200 depending on the size (and the reputation of the baker). Since I know how to make chocolate frosting, this is worth giving a try.

This is the baked product with frosting.  Tada!!

Haha! It looks bad. I need a lot of practice in the frosting department. Don’t tell me what it looks like. I already know what you are thinking!! Taste-wise, the cake did not disappoint. It was moist. I almost burned the cake bottom but it was still soft and moist. I think my oven was too hot that the cake was done earlier than the expected baking time. (Mental note: Buy an oven thermometer. )

Thank you, Betty Crocker! I will never bake a cake from scratch again. (The lazy bones in me are acting up!) I should have met you before I had the six months of baking lessons! Now I have this crazy idea of selling Betty Crocker cakes for Php500. (Cue in: evil grin)

More on the birthday:

I did not do much yesterday. I spent it lounging around. After the chitchat with family over lunch, I took a bath, napped and  read a book. I replied to Facebook greetings in between.  I was swamped with all the greetings. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for Facebook. Although I have issues with your privacy settings (the lack thereof and my confusion over the existing ones),  it is a nice feeling to receive greetings from friends. I tried to personalize my reply (as opposed to the standard “Thank you, _____!”).

“Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more–a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.”

– George Herbert

34 minus 1 day

As the title suggests, it is a day before my 34th birthday. It is reminiscing time for me. I want to write something thoughtful but I can’t seem to move forward. This is the empty page in my Moleskine journal.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to write something meaningful before the day ends.  I try to recall my past birthdays by looking through photographs. I am amazed at the birthdays my mother single-handedly prepared for me. Even if my parents did not have much financially, my mother was able whip something special for my birthday. Oh, how I miss my parents!

My favorite celebrations were the ones when we were all gathered in the dining table, eating, talking and laughing. Last year, I had a simple lunch with my aunts.

The parties with guests stress me out that I vowed to do that every 5 years only.  Next year, I am due to have a party with guests. For  tomorrow, it will just be a simple lunch again (or dinner?) with family.

As I reminisced, I tapped into my journals as a teenager. I had quite a number of them. Oh my! I was surprised at my entries. I had my share of teenage angst! I have always thought I was a calm and balanced teenager. I guess I poured all my heartaches and pains into those journals.  I am glad to say that I have grown up. The things that bothered me before do not bother me anymore. I must admit they were quite shallow.  How I cringe at the grammar mistakes! Well, that is part of the learning process. I was thinking of posting my entries here but I digress. Some things should be kept hidden.

I look forward to the future. As I welcome another year in my life, I’ll say to myself:

“If you’d never been born, well what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a door knob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes!
Or worse than all that… why, you might be a
A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t.
A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present.
But you… you ARE YOU! And now, isn’t that pleasant!”

— Dr. Seuss, from Happy Birthday To You!

Discipline Zone

Confession: I do not know how to cross a street.  My cousins laugh at me because I wait for the street to be clear of vehicles before I cross while they cross the street even if the approaching vehicle is 5 seconds away from them. I can’t do that. Their argument: No driver would want to hit a pedestrian.  My argument: What if the brakes stop working? Even if the driver does not want to hit me, controlling the vehicle might be difficult if such trouble arises.

My lucky day has come. Butuan City will soon be strictly implementing several existing city ordinances that need to be followed for everyone’s safety. One of them is: “No Jaywalking”. Yes! Whenever I do my grocery which is two blocks away from my place, I always take the longer route.  I choose to cross the street where there is a traffic light. (Not all intersections have traffic lights.) I am sure that the vehicles will stop and I will be able to cross safely.

This morning, when I crossed the street, a traffic enforcer assisted me. Naks! I like that. For several months now, the traffic lights at the said intersection are not working. I do not know if that was intentional. The city might have discontinued the use since that street is no longer as busy as before since the completion of the new bridge.

Another concern of mine is addressed by another city ordinance: wearing of helmets for both driver and passenger of a motorcycle.  I have constantly nagged my cousin who owns a motorcycle to wear a helmet. I would often tell him: ” Say goodbye to that pretty face of yours if you do not wear a helmet”.  I would roll my eyes whenever I see him carry a helmet and hang it on his elbow while his head remained unprotected. ” Is your head that hard that it won’t break if it hits the pavement?”, I would often remark. Then, he started wearing helmet because traffic enforcers lurked around the corner and were quick to catch motorists not wearing helmet.  Thus, my cousin wore his helmet but he did not fasten the strap that secured it to the head. Oh my! He just won’t let me stop nagging. Recently, he came home a bit disappointed of a new directive: Motorcycle passengers must wear helmets, too.  “Of course!  When you have a passenger and you’re thrown off the vehicle in an accident, what do you think will happen to your passenger without a helmet? Fly?”  Whoever is responsible to strictly implementing these rules, thank  you! And the nagging stops.

This is the billboard posted on the streets. I used my cellphone camera so the resolution is not that great. Some other rules for strict implementation are “No smoking in public places”, “No parking in the highway” and “Loading/Unloading Zones enforcement”.

My aunt learned about the “No Jaywalking” rule the embarrassing way. Because she was used to just crossing anywhere in the street, she was already in the middle of the street when she realized her mistake because there is a  police officer waiting for her to remind her of the rule. She was relieved when all she got was a reminder. My uncle told us that strict implementation (with penalties) will start on September 16.

Today, the streets  are in order. Traffic enforcers are visible. People use the pedestrian lane. Nice job!

I just have one pet peeve. Can motorists not stop on the pedestrian lane? Vehicles should stop before the pedestrian lane! How can I cross when there is vehicle blocking my way? Pretty please?

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit. “
– Aristotle

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