12 June 2010

Giving a new meaning to Independence Day, we literally flew the coop by migrating to New Zealand via Singapore Airlines. That was a year ago, 12 June 2009.

It all began in the Autumn of 2009, when we were blessed with an opportunity to have a three-week holiday in Auckland as part of the Fernandez Family Reunion. We had a full itinerary of trips to Kelly Tartlon’s, Mission Bay, Goat Island, MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology), Auckland Zoo, The Candy Factory, Hamilton Gardens, Auckland Museum, Paradice, and Snow Planet.

When we went back to Cebu, we decided to move our family to NZ, along with the invaluable support of our families. It took us a whole year to get our papers and ourselves ready to file our applications. A few days later, our case officers called us separately, asking for a few more supporting documents. Ten days after we submitted our applications, our visas were granted: an international student visa for Romil, a multiple-entry work visa for me, and domestic student visas for our kids, Raj and Elle. The catch was that we had only a month to give away and sell things we would not be able to bring, bid our goodbyes to the important people in our lives, buy what we needed, and pack luggages and balikbayan boxes (for shipping).

Arriving in winter did not deter us from doing things as planned: hubby started attending his classes on 15 June and our kids followed suit the following day. We immediately applied for jobs and got accepted for part time work by the same company, a contact centre, a couple of weeks later. Soon after, we joined KBNZ (organisation of Bisaya-speaking Filipinos in NZ) and the NZ-Filipino Santo Nino Devotees. Auckland welcomed us with wide, open arms and we embraced it back with gusto. Despite getting caught by heavy rain sans an umbrella or rain jacket or having to do walk-a-thons to catch the train or bus, as well as to ensure we wouldn’t be late for work or in hubby’s case, for school. Despite the bed bugs and flea bites, too.

By August, we were able to move out of my sister-in-law’s house and move into a two-bedroom flat that was just a five-minute walk away. With a lot of assistance from my sis-in-law’s family and Cebuano friends, of course.

The following month, running after my preschool aged niece and nephew whom I was babysitting then, I accidentally skipped the last step down the stairs, fell hard, and sprained both ankles. Thanks to ACC (Accident Compensation Commission), I was given free 20 physiotherapy sessions and was able to walk properly again after six weeks.

Hubby and I co-hosted the First KBNZ Family Day and had a jolly good time. We revisited MOTAT, taking advantage of the free entrance for Auckland residents. We went on a pilgrimage to Puhoi. In the summer, we had picnics in nearby parks and even those as far as Wenderholm, Tawharanui, and Pakiri. Strawberry picking and eating ice cream with fresh strawberries were certainly a treat. Our wedding anniversary, birthdays, Christmas, and Sinulog were celebrated in NZ for the first time.

Romil’s classes ended on 15 March and we submitted our applications to the Immigration Office for his graduate-job search work permit, my work permit, and the renewal of our kids’ domestic student visas. It took Immigration, however, two weeks to assign case officers – the actual day our visas expired. At 5:00pm the following day, though, they were granted. Whew! Heaps of thanks to the prayers of our families, relatives, and friends, as well as to the support of our employers.

God is good and continuously blesses our family. Hubby graduated and gave the speech in behalf of his class at the ceremonies. We have good jobs, our kids excel in school, and loving relatives and wonderful friends surround us.

Time sure went by so fast and a whole year has passed. It is with great enthusiasm still that we look forward to all that life in NZ will bring.

07 June 2010

My Life According to Julia Fordham

My best friend from uni days, Robert, recently asked me io describe my life as a series of song titles by one artist. I initially scowled and thought of saying I could sum up my life through Miley Cyrus’s songs, but taking him seriously, I knew I simply could not. My life ain't that pop, after all. So no go.

After some pondering, it hit me that if there was one artist out there whose songs I related most to back in a day, it had to be those of British singer-songwriter Julia Fordham.

Describe yourself: "Towerblock". Probably the one song of Julia Fordham that I related most for a little over the first half of my life. That is, until Mr. Right found me and he has became my towerblock since.

How do you feel: "Patches of Happiness". Happiness was but fleeting moments for me in my younger days.

I didn’t know what being happy truly meant. Just that at a particular time and place I was happy. That all changed when I got married and had kids. Since then, those patches have become much larger. And yes, now I can truly say I’m quite happy.

Describe where you currently live: "East West" For here in Auckland, we Filipinos are able to live in a culture that blends the east and west.

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: "Happy Ever After", which may not be a place, per se, but a point in time. And if I’m not there yet, then that’s where I’d like to be. Even though life isn’t a fairy tale, I believe in “happy ever after”.

A place you’d like to visit, whether or not you’ve already been there before: "Italy" – to see the Vatican and perhaps catch a glimpse of the Pope; to set foot in one of the oldest countries in the world and bask in its history, arts, and cultre; to see Milan fashion up close.

What's the weather you like most: "Blue Sky". Although autumn is my favourite season and that I used to love walking in the rain, there’s nothing as peaceful and beautiful as the clear, blue sky.

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: "Foolish Thing". Like most people, I’ve done a lot of foolish things and do get silly at times.

What is life to you: "Mysterious Ways" of course. It’s what makes life interesting.

Your fear: "Invisible War". The thought of which sends chills up my spine.

What is the best advise you have to give: "Hope, Prayer, Time" With faith, we would have hope. With hope, we can pray. With prayer, we can make the most (and best) of the time we have in this world.

01 April 2010

Good Housekeeping

Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won't take long when there's a song to help you set the pace

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you'll find you're dancing to the tune

For some strange, fairly inexplicable reason, I always sing in my head and consequently hum (and at times catch myself singing out loud) Snow White’s cleaning up song whenever I do household chores. In all probability, my subconscious mind strives to convince me to take joy in doing my chores. Either that or I watch too much cartoons. Naturally, I’d like to think it was the former (I do watch a lot of animated films and TV shows, but I have young kids and thus, the perfect excuse to do so).

Most of us Filipinos were not accustomed to doing household chores, with the prevailing practise of having domestic helpers back in the Philippines. Although my mom taught us how to clean the house, cook, wash dishes, do the laundry, we rarely ever really needed to do so ourselves.

The first time I went on fours to wash and scrub the floor was when my friends and I cleaned up our organisation’s staff house. Of course, it was heaps of fun back then, with lots of hands and laughter to get the job done.

I did live alone for several years and had to keep the studio apartment I rented tidy, but when I got a bigger apartment later on, I hired a household helper. Marriage and kids came afterward and having been a hands-on mom, I gladly relinquished all other domestic duties to our helpers.

Moving to New Zealand, we prepared our kids by training them to help out in our home back in Cebu by putting away their toys after play at the end of each day, setting the table for every meal, and putting away their own plates and utensils after each meal. I took a two-day training in housekeeping, dabbling into a business that provided cleaning services to homes and offices. After the training, though, I let my business partner oversee the work as I focused on marketing our services.

So when we finally moved to Auckland and into a modest two-bedroom flat, domestic duties have been a struggle for us, particularly for my kids and myself. Hubby has always been more domesticated and handles the vaccuming, taking out the rubbish, and tidying up quite well. I, on the other hand, have been finding it difficult to make sure the laundry gets done twice a week, the bathroom and toilet cleaned daily, the dishes are washed after each meal, and that we have food to eat for lunch and dinner (Breakfast has always been my husband’s assignment, be it to prepare rice and the viand or simply ensure we have cereal, milk, bread, butter, choco spread, and jam.).

The talk I listened to during a spiritual recollection I attended a month ago, however, focused on how we should do all things well and out of love. Most specially household chores. Cleaning behind the toilet bowl and cleaning it very well, because you want your daughter or son or husband or even yourself to be able to put your hand at the back of the toilet bowl and not shiver in fear or whatever might be back there. To cook meals that you know your family would relish.

After that talk, I realised I had just been doing the chores at home simply because I had to, and admittedly at times begrudgingly. My resolve was then to start thinking of my domestic duties as opportunities to show my family how much I love them.

So I guess, Snow White knew what she was doing, after all, when she sang:

Just whistle while you work
Put on that grin and start right in to whistle loud and long
Just hum a merry tune
Just do your best and take a rest and sing yourself a song

When there's too much to do
Don't let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee

And whistle while you work
Come on get smart, tune up and start
To whistle while you work!

01 March 2010

Total Surrender

“What do you do,” a young mother asked, “if you had to leave home early to find work and though you tried very hard, at the end of the day, you found nothing? What do you do when you go home with empty pockets and hands and your two children, whom you left home, had nothing to eat for breakfast and lunch that day? What do you do when they run to you and ask if you have anything to eat, because they’re very hungry? What do you do?”

This woman asked a priest, who could not say anything. For what can you say to a story that’s as real as that? He did, however, ask the woman, “What did you do?”

“We just hugged each other cried,” was her reply.

Such was the story related by Fr. Gilbert Ramos in his homily for the Mass he celebrated last 16 February in Balmoral (Good Shepherd Parish), the day before the Lenten Season officially began.

He continued to talk about how in the Gospel reading that day, the apostles were overly concerned about not having enough bread to eat, when prior to that incident, they witnessed Jesus’ miracle of multiplying the loaves of bread and fish with heaps of leftovers. He talked about faith and how sometimes we lack it or pray and ask for God’s help conditionally.

It struck me as I listened to his sermon that for the first time, as long as I could remember, I had just surrendered totally to God’s will. For almost half a year, I was struggling to find full time work with pay. Despite my continuous search, several CV versions, and fielding of applications left and right, the most I got were part time jobs given by relatives and friends and a non-paying internship for a not-for-profit organisation.

Of course, I was glad to have helped OxfamNZ with its advocacies and had self-fulfilment achieving my goals during my internship with regard to producing the social media manuals and strategies of the organisation. I appreciated the blogging job and the retail sales experience, too. But the pressure was on by the start of 2010 to find full time work so that I could help provide for our family, particularly because my husband was still a student and could only work 20 hours a week.

Although it was difficult, especially since I do not (yet) drive, I completed the nine-day novena and Mass for the Feast of the Santo Nino last January. A first for me. Once, I rode the bus, got lost and walked more than a kilometre to find my way to the church. Another time, coming from another direction, I accidentally got off more than a kilometre early and had to walk the rest of the way. The rest of the time, I ate my pride and hitched a ride to and fro with friends.

I prayed for a job, any job that God wanted me to have, that would help lead me to sanctity, as well as help provide for my family. I surrendered to His love and will, applying for jobs that I was not truly keen on but knew I was qualified for. And then it happened. I got call-backs and interviews one after the other. I had my preferences, but left all to His will. On that morning I heard Mass at Balmoral when Fr. Gilbert talked about having complete faith in God, I had just signed a contract for a full time, 40-hour per week job with a small company that was actually my first choice among the little options I had. A good job, good work environment, a good company that upholds principles similar to mine. Normal working hours and short bus ride away from home.

My first day of work was on the following day, Ash Wednesday. What better way to commemorate the start of Lent?

15 February 2010

A Mania Magnified

There's something about vampires and their lore that make them so attractive to us, mere humans. Upon search, 19,200,000 sites on vampires came up on Google. They may be monsters, but they're almost always portrayed as exquisite creatures in fiction novels, TV shows, and films (well, save for Nosferatu).

They didn't start out that way, though. As a child, I recall watching Dracula movies that starred Christopher Lee over and over again. No, I didn't find him captivating, but the concept of a supernatural being that fed on the blood of humans was fascinating.

Then came along the 1992 production of Bram Stroker's Dracula with Gary Oldman making vampires into seductive beasts. Didn't we all secretly (and maybe even openly) wished Winona Ryder ended up with Dracula, instead of her drab beau, even though he was played by hunky Keanu Reeeves?

Anne Rice's vampire novel series soon afterwards took the world by a storm and moreso when Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Antonio Banderas brought to life on-screen the fabulous creatures she wrote of in Interview with a Vampire.

Attempts in television were made, but it was only in 1997 when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was produced that the teen audience was considered. Angel, as a spin off, didn't however, have as much raving reviews. The catch? He and Buffy were an item and fans just didn't like it any other way.

There's something about vampires and humans as starcrossed lovers that make a tv or movie plot a sure hit. Moonlight tried to latch onto that idea, but it's audience was limited to the 25 and above, and so it failed.

That's where Twilight comes in, which has become a mania, particularly among the youth. I admit, though, that I read the first three books in one night, and the succeeding two soon after their publication. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone below 18 years old, just the same.

Moreso the 2008 TV series True Blood, which, despite the casting of Anna Paquin in the lead role, I find a poor excuse to show nudity and porn. Too much of anything is no longer alluring and much less, entertaining.

These days, hubby and I follow another TV show, Vampire Diaries, that still is far from being wholesome, but its plot is more complex and well-thought of. A twist to the vampire-human romance is the inclusion of the vampire-brother, completing the a love triangle. With teens as main audience, we'll see how long the series will last.

One thing's for sure, vampire stories, be they in literature, on television, or on film, will be here to stay for a very long time.

30 December 2009

Reckoning of a Resolve

1. Find a job

2. Stick to the job for at least six months (or until I find a better one)

3. Go on a diet and get fit

4. Prepare more nutritious meals for the family

5. Blog more often (at least once a week)

6. Do my norms (of piety)

The list can actually go on, but I decided to stop there. It’s already overwhelming as it is. This top 6 are actually a rehash of last year’s list (and the year before that). Not that I didn’t get to do any of them at all. I did find a job each time I set out to look or one, but the search here in New Zealand has proven to be difficult for the past four months. I am, nonetheless, hopeful that I will land one soon, with the holidays finally over.

Dieting has, however, been akin to a yoyo for me the past four years. I’d get on one, stick to it, lose weight, and gradually go back to my eating habits. Exercise? Much worse. Intermittent at most. Having struck the big 4-0 recently, however, I realise I can only count on having low blood pressure, normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels for so long. Plus, there is that need to pass the permanent residence visa we plan to apply for in the near future. I walk a bit to and fro Oxfam’s office in Newton (where I have been an online communications intern since November), but that’s just twice a week. So I’m planning on walking at least half an hour, five days a week. Soon after I get a job, I can enrol in a gym, too. As for the diet, well, I’d like to keep it simple and real. More fruits and vegetables (one serving of each everyday should do the trick), less fat and sweets (limiting the latter most specially to once a week).

A naturally consequence of the above would be the next on the list. If I eat healthy then my family will, too, since I plan and prepare our meals.

Now as a writer, I have to push myself to enhance my skills, to get my name out there. Watching “Julie & Julia” before Christmas has inspired me. If Julie Powell was able to blog her way to stardom, I can, too. One of these days (hopefully within my lifetime). Plus, there are my fellow writer-friends Janette Toral (Digital Filipino) and Max Limpag (of Sun Star) who have made names for themselves in the blogging arena.

Last, but most important on that list, is having a plan of life to help ensure my spot in God’s kingdom one day, when my time comes. Thus, the need for me to do my norms of piety – e.g., daily Mass and Communion, prayers, spiritual reading, examination of conscience, penance. In so doing, I become a better person, a better wife, a better mother; and set an example to my children in the process.

Daunting tasks, yes, but achievable.

If only I were still a child and it would all be easy and simple to do. A child’s primary job, after all, is to play. At play, a child is active, almost always bursting with energy. A child, more often than not, does what she is told and what is right for her. A child loves God with complete abandon, with all her heart and soul.

No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So on hindsight, my one true resolve this coming New Year is to be childlike. And what better child to emulate than the Holy Child Jesus, Himself? Quite apt with the celebration of Sinulog falling on this same month. Undoubtedly one event we all shouldn’t miss.

30 November 2009


Hi. My name is Cherry and I’m a Facebook addict. There, I said it. They say that admitting is the first step to recovery. In my case, however, I doubt I would.

Although far from being a tekkie, I embraced the commercial launch of the Internet back in 1995 with wide, welcome arms and have been avidly online since. I even learned html and offered Website design and development soon afterwards. As a hobby at that.

When social networking sites started cropping up, I got into them, too: SixDegrees.com, ICQ Buddy, MySpace, Multiply, LinkedIn, Flickr, and even the biggest disappointment in Internet history (so far), Friendster. Of course, I also use communication tools like Yahoo Messenger, Chikka.com, and later on, Skype. And yes, I also blog (obviously) and Tweet.

Anyway, I was disheartened by those social networking sites. Poor design, not much interaction and growth, and just plain boring. So when Facebook came into the picture, it took me three years to actually create an account. Once in, though, I was hooked. I was able to reconnect with friends as far back as primary school and relatives all over the world. I’ve joined and advocated causes, created fan pages, kept abreast of what’s happening internationally without having to open a single newspaper page or visit a news site. I get to share photos and videos of my family and keep in touch with everyone dear to me. After the onslaught of Typhoon Ketsana, Facebook helped people communicate with one another. I was glad to have helped connect two of my friends, one who had medical kits to donate, and another helping organise relief goods and medical kits for Calamba, Laguna. They didn’t know each other, but because I read their wall posts, I introduced to them to one another, so to speak. And yes, Facebook keeps me entertained, too. Not only with the videos posted by other users, but more by the games. Yes, you read right. Games. The priest actually laughed when I confessed this fascination of mine, hearing my struggle with temperance when it comes to playing online games.

Truth be told, one of my motivations for getting up from bed each morning, despite the lure of sleeping in after a late night, is that my spaghetti would spoil if I’d leave them on the stove or that my crops would rot if not harvested on time (Same goes at night, before I hit the sack, I make sure I have enough food for the waiters to serve while I'm asleep.). If you’ve played these games, then you know I’m referring to CafĂ© World and Farm Town. Mafia Wars? I play it, too, although not as zealously.

For Lent this year, I abstained from Facebook. But hey, I am only human and couldn’t fathom staying away from Facebook the whole season. Just every Friday. It was what I coined as my Friday Facebook Fast. Now that it’s Advent, I’m thinking I should offer up abstaining from Facebook. Then again, the Yuletide season is supposed to be filled with joy and merrymaking. So maybe it’s not such a good idea, after all. =8P

Written like a true addict would, don’t you think?