Tales of Busy Bee Me

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

It’s that time of the year when taxes fall due.

Since my Dad passed away in 2001, I have taken the cudgels for settling the yearly real estate taxes for some of his properties, including one belonging to my uncle (his younger brother). We normally pay the entire year’s taxes in order to avail of the discounts. What was supposed to have been the usual round of tax payments turned out a bit different this year. I was told at the Pasig Municipal Hall that I now had to go all the way to Antipolo to pay the taxes. So tomorrow, the last day of March, I head out for Antipolo to do my citizen’s duty.

In a few weeks more, income taxes fall due. Even now, hubby is busy attending to his clients’ financial statements and audits. I do not need an alarm clock to wake me up. By 8:30 or thereabouts every morning, his mobile starts ringing or the telephone in our bedroom does. And sometimes, it is the client wanting to fax the financial statements for his review. I am steeling myself for the amount that will need to be paid in addition to what has already been withheld. Crunch time…

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When It Rains, It Pours (literally!)

It was another one of those Murphy’s Law stuff.

Hubby had purchased roof tiles to replace our old, galvanized iron roof. The carpenters were waiting for a truly dry spell to start and a few weeks back, they thought it was a good time as any to do so. On the first day they set out to tear open the galvanized sheets, the skies began getting dark. They spread a tarp over the exposed roof part but not well enough. That night, the rains fell really hard, water slid to the part of the tarp that had a hole, ran into the open roof area, and before we knew it, it was raining INSIDE our bedroom!

Thankfully, the downpour was on a part of the room that did not have much furniture so we had time to move stuff out of the way before they got real wet. The leaks came about an inch close to my side of the bed and missed me — just barely! Some wooden parts of our bedroom ceiling warped terribly and had to be changed. I still see other parts beginning to warp and guess these will need to be replaced too. *sigh*

The blessing in all this though was that the water came to our side of the room. Had it gone the OTHER way, there would have been a lot more damage because in that room were the computers. M1′s iMac and our brand new printer/scanner would have suffered the greatest water damage.

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School’s Out!

All the kids are home most days. It’s summertime!

But with so much time on their hands, you get the intermittent “I am bored, Mom!” comment.

Years ago, I would get stressed finding things or trips to entertain them. After a while, I gave up and told them I was not their entertainer and they had to find things to do. Summer sports or arts programs were the in thing then so I enrolled them in swimming, cooking, chess and whatever they fancied. Now that they’re a lot older, they thankfully leave me alone most days as they play computer or video games amongst themselves.

However, with M1 entering his last year in high school, one of the things we had to do very quickly was find a good review center for him to prepare more for the coming college entrance tests. I took him to review centers close to home and though he initially was reluctant to review at all (one of his good friends kept saying he did not need to — a view I took exception to), he finally agreed to enrolling in one review center. It turned out to be the same review center the 2 girls went to before. I knew the Directress of the review center and actually liked them for their low student-to-teacher ratio as well as their 95+% record for gaining entrance into the top 3 schools (UP, ADMU and DLSU).

Realizing however that summer is the only time I can truly bond for longer periods with my kids, I have taken them to blogger events that cropped up in the past weeks since they are all bloggers anyways. And I am planning some educational and fun trips around the metropolis also for them in the next few weeks. They are growing up so fast that I feel I need to do these things with them now before they totally outgrow me!

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A Tribute to Amiel Alcantara — Ateneo’s Angel

A statue in the Ateneo Grade School grounds that aptly represented Amiel

A statue in the Ateneo Grade School grounds that aptly represents Amiel

Today, Amiel Alcantara was laid to rest. I was unable to attend. Last night, my sore throat came back for the second time and my nose was congested. But I am glad that I was able to visit — yesterday.

I was not feeling that well yesterday either. My energy felt sapped. But there was an inner compulsion in me to go and visit Amiel Alcantara’s wake in Ateneo before he was laid to rest and to finally meet the little boy that occupied my thoughts ever since I heard about his accidental death in Ateneo.

Dine and one of my 2 girls who study in Ateneo, were with me. We were actually wondering where Amiel died because I only had the GMA News simulation to imagine where it was. As we approached the entrance to the grade school, just off the gym and Henry Lee Irwin Theatre, we saw a spot blocked off by metal barriers, filled with flowers and surrounded by candles. It was right smack where the kids were being picked up, very close to the gate that led to the Grade School. I began imagining just how many yayas, drivers and kids saw everything happen. It must have been so traumatic, so terrible, especially for the young ones!

The spot where Amiel was hit

The spot where Amiel was hit

As soon as we entered the GS chapel, we knew just how well-loved Amiel was. The place was packed to overflowing. His teachers were there and so were his classmates and school friends. Most of the adults were in black (a sign of deep mourning and regret for a young life lost) while his batchmates were still in their PE uniforms.

We prayed briefly before Amiel’s coffin, then met his dad Pepe — a  soft-spoken man. When Dine asked what that day was like for him, he recounted how it was just an ordinary day when he saw his kids off to school. But there was one striking detail about that day, he said. The car bearing his kids had began to move off already when it stopped. The door opened and out came Amiel running back to hug him. He said his thoughts were: What does this kid want from me? You know how kids are — when they want something from you, he told us. But Amiel just wanted to give him a hug since he forgot to do so.

Shortly after, the 6pm Mass began with Fr. Ben Nebres as the main celebrant and 3 other co-celebrant Jesuits. Dine and I were asked to stay in the first pew, just opposite the pew where the Alcantara family was. It was a blessing. We were able to listen intently to Fr. Ben’s homily as well as the sharings of his family and best friend, Vince.

A glimpse of the Alcantara family, including Yaya Tata (in wheelchair) who was injured trying to save the kids

A glimpse of the Alcantara family, including Yaya Tata (in wheelchair) who was injured trying to save the kids

Near us were some of Amiel’s classmates from 4-Manobo. I spoke with them during a lull after Mass and asked them what they remembered doing with Amiel that day that serves as their best memory. Typical of 10-year old boys, one boy chirped up, “RECESS!!!!”

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Just some of Amiel's classmates

Amiel's uncle

Amiel's uncle

Amiel's aunt

Amiel's aunt

His best friend Vince

His best friend Vince

Their stories showed just how loving Amiel was. Fr. Ben recounted a time when Amiel spent 3 hours looking for a teacher so he could get back a friend’s soccer ball. His aunt, a dentist, recalls how Amiel (described as more mature than his age) called her the day before to set a dental appointment. She had asked him if he would go out since that Monday was a holiday and he responded no because “I like to BE home!” Was this comment a purview of things to come? I don’t know — but what really gave me goose pimples was his aunt’s comment that whenever she would text and type Amiel’s name using predictive texting, what would come out was “ANGEL”. Yes, Amiel, you are now an angel and you are truly HOME!

I briefly hugged Amiel’s mom, Niann. There were just too many visitors coming to her. Too bad because I found out later that evening that she was a childhood friend of my good friend and kumare, Aly.

I’d like to end with this video lovingly prepared to show the boy who loved and was loved. Amiel’s uncle told us that he had wanted to add another thing a classmate had written: “You are now so popular. Even Boy Abunda sent you flowers!”

My hands were a bit shaky while holding my camera so I will replace this once Amiel’s family posts the original video. Meanwhile, take a look at the life of a blue angel…

Rest in the arms of our Lord, Amiel. You are now a totally whole, healed person in your eternal Home. Watch over your loved ones who will continue to miss you. Ask our Father to grant them peace, comfort and healing knowing you are safe with Him.

UPDATE (March 16, 2009)

Dr. Martin Moreno, Amiel’s uncle, sent me a text today with good news. Yaya Tata will be discharged tomorrow, March 17, before noon, after a successful debridement operation, saving her left leg from amputation. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful news!

A Tragic Accident in Ateneo (An Update-Feb. 26)

Today (Feb. 26) I read an update on what really happened to Amiel from the blogs of Cathy and Noemi, both co-founders of  The Compassionate Friends (Philippines) – a grief support group for those who lose a child . Cathy and Noemi are parents who had to deal with their sons’ sudden deaths. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also has accounts HERE and HERE. GMANews carries a 3D simulation HERE.

The details in Cathy’s blog sent shivers up my spine. Here is part of Cathy’s account:

My husband and I have just returned from his wake and I am shocked, stunned and restless over the circumstances surrounding his death. The Alcantara’s actually almost lost three children, and not just one.

Amiel, his 65-year old Yaya Tata (who has been with the family for 40 plus years), his 7 year old sister, and 13 year old brother Javi, together with the driver, were already so close to their car when the CRV driven by Teresa Torres, careened from behind and hit Amiel. Yaya Tata was able to push the youngest one and the elder boy out of the way but was too far to get to Amiel. Yaya Tata had herself suffered injuries and fractures and is set to have surgery next week. The most heart-wrenching thing about the whole thing is that it was the Alcantara’s driver and 13 year old Javi who had to extricate Amiel from beneath the van. The impact was so strong that three other vehicles were damaged in the process before the vehicle finally came to a stop. How does a 13 year old young boy cope with the image of seeing his younger brother that way?

It was the driver who took Amiel to the New Era hospital and they were en route to the hospital in another Ateneo parent’s car when Amiel died in his arms. Amiel’s father, Pepe Alcantara, former chair of the UP Student Council in the 1980s, and his mother, Niann, were no longer able to see their youngest son alive. It is a tragedy of such great proportions.

The CRV that careened through the parking lot was around 25 meters away from where the kids were standing. Apparently, for some reasons that remain yet unclear, the driver had stepped heavily on the accelerator because a screeching sound, akin to those that you hear at drag races, was heard by several witnesses before the car sped and hit Amiel.

Our youngest son who will turn 15 in a few days came to me a few weeks back and asked me: “Mom, next year is it possible for yaya not to fetch me anymore? I am big enough to walk home by myself.” Wanting him to learn independence, I had nodded my head and made a note of this for next year. But now, I can’t help but fear not only for him but for our older son who also walks home. No matter how careful they will be in crossing the streets, a careless driver could cause them harm. All parents, I think, are haunted by this possibility.

As the Alcantara family continue to deal now and in the future with this irreplaceable loss, I can only pray for them to find comfort in Our Lord and His Mother (she, who also saw her only son die).

Will I allow my sons to continue walking to school? Maybe. Most likely. But I will likely also step up my prayers over them. One great book I find very comforting during times like this is The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. Try to get hold of a copy and use it to cover your children with prayers throughout their lives. We can only shelter our kids so much. The rest is up to Him.

The Makings of a Chinese Lantern

Ever since my boys were young, this mother had to be “tortured” annually whenever Chinese New Year came around because I had to help all of them make one Chinese lantern each. Their school, being Chinese-Filipino, used the lanterns made by the students to line the hallways.

So, it came as a great relief to me that my two high school boys decided this year to do the lanterns on their own. (Woohoo!!!!)

Actually, they did so with grunts and rants (and I was just waiting for them to give up and ask me to jump in to help). But, to their credit, they hurdled the test which I call the Test of Extreme Patience, and worked on their lanterns (with a little help from big sis and yaya). As of this posting, M1 had already finished his and M2 is almost there.

Just to give you an idea of what this mother had to go through year after year, let me give you a synopsis:

Materials You Would Need

1. Lots of RED Japanese paper and cartolina (be sure to beat the rest of your school mates to it at National Bookstore or suffer from lack of supply)

2. Glue (Elmer’s Liquid Glue is too wet; Elmer’s Glue Stick is too dry. Heck, I don’t know what kind of glue is best!!!)

3. A pair of scissors, paper cutter and cutting mat (the mat will spare your floor from potential disaster like permanent deep cuts here and there)

4. Ruler (to ensure the distance of the pattern lines from each other are exactly the same)

5. Scotch tape (to hold together the parts that accidentally rip if your luck runs out as you are halfway through the pattern)

6. The pattern for making a red lantern as shown below (Note to parents: Be sure you have good co-parents willing to share this with you AND keep this pattern in your home vault as you will surely use this until your kid graduates from high school!)

7. Yarn

8. Last and surely not the least — a willing victim or two (I mean, helper/s — which was moi in past years)

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Instructions

1. Cut 80 pieces of the lantern pattern using Japanese paper and 2 pieces using cartolina.

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2. Draw lines down each piece of paper following the pattern’s lines.

3. Get one paper and glue down alternate lines (I refer to them as lines 1,3,5,7 and so on). Lay this paper down flat on the floor (the side with glue facing UP).

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4. Get a second paper. This time, glue down lines 2,4,6,8 and so on. Lay the paper’s side without glue EXACTLY on top of the first paper with the glue.

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5. Get a third paper. Glue down lines 1,3,5,7 and so on. Lay this paper EXACTLY on top of the second paper.

6. Keep going till paper #80. Don’t forget that the papers have to be glued on alternating lines (following the odd-even pattern in instructions #3 & 4 above).

Now you know why I call it the Test of Extreme Patience?

7. Once all 80 papers are glued together, the cartolina pieces are glued to the front and back as the opposite ends.

8. Punch holes through the entire stack of papers following the hole locations in the pattern.

9. String short yarn through these holes and knot them.

10. Hold both ends of the lantern and slowly open it up like an accordion.

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Voila!

WISHING YOU ALL AN ADVANCE HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR  TO USHER IN THE YEAR OF THE OX!

Highway Billboard Art + Girl Bonding Time = Great Night!

The great thing about having 2 grown-up daughters is that I can do grown-up stuff with them. It has been a while since we did things together as they have just been through hell month finishing up school requirements and studying for their Finals. Now that they’re on sem break, we have that chance once again. And last night was one of them.

We went to the blogger launch of The Manila Outdoor Gallery Art Route, held at the Top Shelf of Fully Booked Boni High Street.

This event caught my interest because 1) the theme was environmental awareness (something that I as a yogini have become more sensitive to; 2) it had to do with art (I wanted to get back into the art scene and that, combined with bloggers coming together, was a magnet); and 3) it was time together with my girls.

Beginning today, as you travel through major thoroughfares throughout Manila (EDSA, NLEX and other major roads), try to see if you can spot huge billboards that do OTHER THAN advertise products & services. Frankly, I was never a fan of billboards. In my own opinion, highways need to be free of distractions to allow motorists to drive safely.

I am happy that for once, the Outdoor Advertising Association of the Phils. (OAAP) did something out of their commercially-oriented business and supported awareness of environment responsibility.

The plans were originally to feature 10 works of art but the interest grew so much that there are now 29 works of art throughout Metro Manila that are featured in this billboard art gallery! Some of the Filipino artists are, to name a few, Popo San Pascual, Riel Hilario, Eddie Boy Escudero, Jose Terence Ruiz, Mario V. Fernandez, Gari Buenavista, MM Yu, Christina Q. Ramilo, Lotsu Manes, and Tina Fernandez (who also curated the exhibit).

Here are some of those billboard art you can see. Try to spot some more as you travel!

The girls with their Kuya Az

The girls with their Kuya Az

With MM Yu, one of the artists

With MM Yu, one of the artists

Some of the artists with smaller versions of billboard art

Some of the artists with smaller versions of billboard art

After the event, the girls asked to go down to Fully Booked. Bookstores are always a favorite hangout spot for our family so I obliged. Actually, I also wanted to look around myself! When they got tired, they went to Starbucks (C2 had coffee). Then on our way home, we all felt hungry again so we dropped by McDo in the Fort for some late-night burgers and fries. All this time we covered topics ranging from the event, to school, to friends, to their inner thoughts & other not-to-be-named topics. Haha!

All in all, it was an artsy and environmentally conscious evening combined with mother-daughter bonding. What a great start to their sem break! Wonder when our next bonding will be…

The Blue Eagles — 2008 UAAP Champions!!!!!

After a 6-year drought, Ateneo de Manila University finally clinched the 2008 UAAP Championship with a win in Game 2 against its long-time arch rival, De La Salle University, 62-51.

C1 and C2 had classes in Ateneo but were able to get out in time to run to Escaler where they joined other schoolmates for the final moments of the game. I still need to find out where my sister and her family were all this time. My BIL used to be captain of the Blue Babble Battalion during his days; their only son and oldest daughter both graduated from ADMU; and my sister and their 3 younger daughters are naturally just as loyally blue. At championship games like this, they are almost always there in full force at Araneta too.

I was at home, watching on TV, dressed all in blue down to my blue & white Adidas gym rubber shoes.

I went into lotus pose to try & relax while watching the games. Didn't work!

Tried the lotus yoga pose to relax while watching the games. No dice!

M1 came home in time to catch the 4th quarter. Initially the lead of Ateneo widened to as much as 15 points at the end of the 2nd quarter (26-41) but in the 3rd quarter, La Salle cut this down to as narrow as 3 points and that really made me nervous. I felt a bit of relief when Maierhofer got his second technical foul which meant he was out of the game; and in the 4th quarter, JV Casio fouled out as well, leaving La Salle bereft of 2 of their star players.

This championship is so much sweeter as it comes when Ateneo is also preparing for its 150th anniversary, its Sesquicentennial, on December 10, 2009.

Ateneo also swept up majority of the UAAP and Studio 23 awards handed out as follows:

1. Finals MVP – Nonoy Baclao

2. Season MVP – Rabeh Al-Hussaini

3. Part of Mythical 5 – Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Chris Tiu

4. Rookie of the Year – Ryan Buenafe

5. Most Improved Player – Rabeh Al-Hussaini

6. Defensive Player of the Year – Nonoy Baclao

Several special sponsor awards were also handed out to some of the Blue Eagles.

The sweet smell of victory will only start to sink in beginning tomorrow and over the weekend. Already, my girls and I are excited to be at the bonfire which usually caps an Ateneo UAAP victory (It’s now definite – the bonfire will be on Tiu’s-day, Sept. 30, 7PM! It will be preceded by a thanksgiving Mass at the Church of the Gesu at 6PM. Watch out for more details!).

I found the final moments of the 4th Quarter on the ABS-CBN sports site:

I am happy that my girls were able to experience a UAAP Championship during their school years in Ateneo. The school spirit and pride, I am sure, is now welling up in them. It is something they will remember forever.

C1 using her Blue Eagles tee

C1 using her Blue Eagles tee

And even if I am just the mother of 2 Ateneans (and hopefully 2 more waiting in the wings), I will always be one of those who will shriek and root excitedly every time the Blue Eagles play a UAAP game.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BLUE EAGLES TEAM (and that goes not just for the players but for coach Norman Black, the coaching team and everyone else who did so much behind-the-scenes work for the team).  You truly are champions in every sense of the word.

Update: Found this on inboundpass’s YouTube channel. A view of the after-game celebration and a short clip of Norman Black:

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