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Naga is a splendor

Naga City in Camarines Sur, Philippines held a population of ~67,000 during my youth. Now, the booming metropolis is populated by some 196,000, according to the 2015 census. Around 167.3 miles south of Manila, Naga sits as the reigning queen in lush Bicol region touted for its perfect cone Mayon volcano in the province of Albay; Cagsawa Ruins, a bell tower and belfry emerging above ground while the rest of the church was buried underground during a massive earthquake in Daraga in the 16th century; the pink sand beach of Irosin, Sorsogon; the hot springs pools of Panicuason at the foot of Mt. Isarog in Naga, among many other wonders.

Besides being the center of the colorful, age-old tradition of the week-long and widely attended Penafrancia fiesta, Naga also is home to the old and charming Penafrancia shrine of the Lady of Penafrancia, and the handsomely renovated cathedral. The city grew and expanded the past decades. The presence of several prominent universities underscores the high quality of education in the community. What were small streets of modest residential areas are now commercial hot spots. The increase in restaurants, hotels, stores and shopping malls speaks to the buzzing business life of the city.

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Sending my grandson loving thoughts from over 7,000 miles away

I miss my 8-year-old grandson, who calls me Lola with a perfectly rounded “O”. He in California, and I in the Philippines, I watched him on facetime weeks ago as he very attentively rehearsed for a piano recital: a skippy Minuet and a winsome adagio that he was aiming to perform with perfection. Quite obedient to his father’s request, my grandson repeatedly practiced the pieces, as well as the introduction to his performance – of course, to my sheer delight, because I don’t tire watching this darling boy at all, playing music or just playing, or doing anything at all.

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Rainy day blues bring out food cravings

This is the rainiest December that I know in all my vacationing in the Philippines. December 2017 is not at all like last year’s when it was warm and feeling almost like summer. The upside is the temperature is definitely a bit cooler, perhaps much too colder for regular residents. The breeze is extra delightful, especially because the grown bamboo, mango, guava and citrus trees in the garden fan the air with a balmy freshness. Nearby is a small mountain of thick vegetation that further fans the breeze.

It has started to rain again just now. I enjoy the lulling pitter-patter on the ground and the tiled balcony floor outside. It makes me want to take a nap – but not just yet, lunch is almost to be served. I think I would love the champorrado (chocolate flavored thick and lightly sweetened porridge) from yesterday’s breakfast. It was a hit; so there mustn’t be any more left. And with the champorrado, I would have chosen the tuyo (salted dried herring) – that, too, all gone, a definite favorite with the champorrado.

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Soaking in the ambience of a live stream market on the street

Today, I’m in my brother and his wife’s home in a suburb of Las Pinas, Philippines, for a week’s staycation. I’m sitting in the patio converted receiving room. To my left is a tall and wide grilled window bordered with pots of bougainvillae bearing newly opened fuchsia, white, yellow and pink blooms. True to its reputation, the orange one is slow in flowering.  It is through this window that I peek through the curtain of vines and flowers to watch the spectacle outside.

Sitting on my favorite polished molave wooden chair, I savor the aura of a Philippine setting. An observation suddenly loomed. I’ve always assumed that roosters crow at the crack of dawn. Now, I realize that cock-a-doodle-doos sporadically toll all times of the day. Chicken calls echo from various distances like a continuous repartee, and at times, like choral refrains. The resonance doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, it delights me. After all, I don’t hear symphonies of cock-a-doodle-doos back home in Palo Alto. Perhaps, I should record them for nostalgia’s sake.

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Remembering Mama/Lola Nena

Heaven opened up to admit a sweet angel, and that’s my Mama, known to grand- and great grandchildren as Lola Nena.  She passed on November 7, 2017, 29 days shy of her 101st birthday (Dec. 6).  Her masses and funeral services in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines memorialized death as a passage to life eternal with God, but they also celebrated the life God gave her on earth, a life anchored on family, love and faith.

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Memories of an old-fashioned girl’s prom

Jitters attacked me.  It was the night of the junior-senior prom at my American high school where I was an exchange student. The grand ball of the year, where high school seniors and juniors swept out of their ostentatiously decorated cars in their best gowns and tuxedos, where girls became ladies hanging on to the genteel arm of their handsome escorts, where boys turned gentlemen opening car doors and pulling chairs for their ladies.  It was a splendid night of putting on the ritz.  The opening event was a march of the voted homecoming king and queen and their royal court.  Having been voted by the school population as third runner-up for homecoming queen, I was thus designated as a princess of the court.  That night, I felt like a pampered princess in a lovely apple green machine-embroidered cotton gown sewn by my American host Mom.  My escort, blond, blue eyes, six-foot tall and all seemed like a prince.  The prince, however, was terribly shy and barely spoke 30 words that night.  He could have been a frog.  If he croaked, I would have jumped in sheer delight.  Bring two bashful youths together, and the game plan is a disaster … though now, quite quirky and funny to me.

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Broccoli to balance the comfort food

My doctor won’t agree  – comfort food medicates my stress.  But hey, I’m not so bad.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m likely 8 on narrowing the gap between choosing food that’s good for me vs. less healthy comfort food.  That’s definitely leaps of  improvement from what it was when I was decades or more years younger.  The redemptive part is, when I pig out on comfort food, I make it up with pots of nourishing food.  Then I reckon I’m forgiven.

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People watching at the burger joint

I sat at MacDonald yesterday, gobbling up a quick lunch of nuggets and French fries to gulps of diet coke.  This is not the usual – just had to satisfy a sudden hunger while shopping for the best buys at Walmart.  Up to now, I tell some friends that store offers considerable discounts on certain items that are of quality.  Some of them look at me like I’m kooky.  I don’t want to push, but if they take up my suggestion, they’ll see that I wasn’t exaggerating.

Anyway, while sitting at MacDonald at the end of the wide store corridor, I delighted in watching people go by – a pastime that I sometimes indulge in, especially when there’s no one to converse with.  I noted grandparents with little kids in tow; mothers pushing baby carts while their husbands looked bored and chose to sit inside the burger joint; youths, probably students from the nearby community college, poring over sales before proceeding home; teen lovers holding hands as though strolling in the moonlight; men hurriedly unloading cartful of groceries perhaps trying to make it home before dinner preparation.  But my attention was particularly caught by a two-year old toddler yelling “Lola, Lola” beside me.  I looked up to look for the Lola (Grandma), only to see her parents and big brother who seemed too mature for his young age.  Where was the Lola?  Could that be the reason why the toddler kept calling for her.  Likely, the Lola opted to stay home to either ready the next meal or watch the house, or just rest for that day. Wouldn’t it be splendid for that toddler if her Lola was with the family, delighting on a juicy burger sandwich and salted fries, with the little one grabbing some of those slender slices?

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Act on our compassion and gratitude

Dire effects of disasters and calamities in various locations tug at our hearts. Thousands of families are suffering. When a sector of the population is hurting, we all are. A thread runs through humanity and connects us all. We cannot turn a deaf ear or look away. Stark photos and dismal news of misery confront us every day. It’s true, we never abandon the hope that circumstances will get better, that a brighter tomorrow will dawn. But for that tomorrow, now is the time to extend a helping hand. Several organizations in the communities facilitate donations. Google them for addresses, or watch for their announcements and reminders in the media.

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From fear to love

Bandit and Pebbles. I’ll never forget them. The first, a German shepherd, and the second, a golden retriever half breed, two lovable dogs my daughter and son-in-law raised some years back. Bandit and Pebbles are gone now, but I think of them with deep sentiment. They broke my fear of dogs, and they were the first dogs I learned to love.

I remember Bandit and his very regal stance, head held up high, ears always flexed upward, smooth silky black hair, and a mischievous grin from ear to ear. Looking very much like a handsome prince-dog, definitely of royalty. He was super rambunctious in his youth, constantly on the run and gallop, almost like a horse. Not only did he exude charm and grandeur, but distinct intelligence and smartness. It seemed like he could read minds. But what I remember most was his protective and loving nature. In his advanced years, cancer weakened him. His passing broke my daughter’s and son-in-law’s hearts. That was especially hard for my daughter. Bandit was her first pet.

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The party that broke the spell

Papa gave me permission to attend a dance party! I didn’t have to ask. It was friends who asked him. I was 18 then, a very diligent student of an all-girls college, who chose poring over textbooks and novels than partying. But this particular one, I really wanted to attend. My secret crush (SC) was going to be there. Besides, I practiced the twist so many times before the mirror to ready for this shindig. Perhaps, Papa and Mama thought I was getting to be too much of an academic recluse, so they said yes. The boys were surprised. They expected a no.

It wasn’t all books for me. My extracurricular activities at school dominated my scholastic schedule as well. Theater/drama was my first love. Next was folk dancing. I was often on stage for one or the other. I even fantasized becoming a stage singer. That became reality when I was picked for the role of Laurie in Oklahoma, after a score of challenging singing lessons, of course. I was ecstatic. If my voice didn’t ring so awesomely broadwayish, my passion for drama kicked in the spice in my performance.

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A sad recollection … and the message to a confused world

Sorrow engulfs much of the news in the media these days. Human suffering is magnified. No heart can stay callous to the pain of tragedy and loss. Lately, we often are reminded by the mounting numbers of people divested by calamities as hurricanes, terrorist and criminal acts, and the ravages of war.

Reading or listening to the news can be a painful experience. Stark photos tell the stories. In recent weeks, hurricanes in Houston, south Florida, the Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico, then, earthquake in Mexico City, and lately, massacre in Las Vegas, not to mention isolated stabbings and shootings in other cities in the US and abroad – all these run a cord through humanity, and humanity trembles. Devastation, loss, grief and uncertainty induce fear that castrates hope. Yet, in the midst of profound suffering emerges the triumph of the human spirit: resilience, courage, determination, patience, re-birth of hope, the strength of faith. The selfless service of responders and volunteers, the outpouring of help, sympathy and prayers all manifest that in this world, love is not lost, human hearts care.

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Learning from the expert

I just finished reading the book given by my daughter, “Wired to Write” by Lisa Cron, after two months of dabbing on it. Finally last week, I determined to pore seriously over her insights, ideas and instruction like a student cranked up to get an A in the exam. Two-thirds of the book flew by with every thought and suggestion mentally chewed into fine morsels for my brain to easily digest. The goal? I want to be a better writer. I want to know the knots and bolts of tight storytelling, be it in an anecdote, novel or script. Up the ante, a common phrase in Cron’s book, and that’s exactly what I aim to do.

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Admitting being a baby boomer didn’t come easy

Up until a few years back I shied away from admitting being of the baby boomer generation. I didn’t wish to be considered “old”. I remember my daughter, when she was a 21 year old working in an investment banking company, had told me of a smart 27-year old investment banker who was interested in her. She discouraged him from showering attention on her because he was “too old”. Too old! I thought, what does that make me, decades older – ancient? When my son’s wife became pregnant, I was elated, yet I planned to ask that I be called Mama by my grandchild. But when my grandson Eliott was born in July 2009, I couldn’t help celebrating the thought that now, here’s one who will call me Lola! It has been that way ever since. Without embarrassment, I can declare to the world, I am a baby boomer Lola, graciously and gracefully advancing in age and somewhat wiser — once a blooming teen of the 60’s, a lover and hater of tissed poofed hair, still a nostalgic for old romance and hootenannies, still a swooning fan of Beatles songs, and now a striving student of the modern tech world, an aspiring poet and songwriter, a dreamer, a doting Lola very much in love with the cantankerousness of youth. Also now, a very “young” blogger.

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Intimidated by technology

What is it about the invading tech world that many (generally speaking) of my generation fear, refuse to learn or grapple with, ignore, or not have anything to do with. I may be among the brave few who use and depend on computers for regular work. But don’t ask me to troubleshoot a technical glitch. I’d rather leave that to the much appreciated and revered IT department. I probably could resolve the bug if I put my mind to it; but no … I decide that the IT person can do a better job. I don’t tinker with the fledging gadget because I cling to the crazy notion that the machine might either blow up in my face or completely break down. Silly, but I don’t dare risk it.

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Look at Ms. Daisy now

For over four decades, my husband drove Ms Daisy. I was Ms. Daisy, happy to get from point A to point B without the knack for learning or knowing directions. He liked driving and rendered me this service as one of the perks of love. I graciously accepted and enjoyed being the sitting queen.

When he passed nearly two years ago, I intensely grieved over the loss of my love — and sorely missed my driver. I had to re-learn driving skills and confidence, thanks to my son’s thoughtful gesture of enrolling me in driving school. Now, Ms. Daisy drives, and more, I’ve learned to gas up the car, steer up to car wash lines, and go to auto service shops whenever a warning light pops up on my dashboard. I relish the thought that an ability has been added to my list of “can do’s”.

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An unplanned meaningful deed in the car shop

Still about my visit in that car shop — what was I thinking! Did I assume that car repairs always ended in a good car wash? Honestly, I did. Wasn’t it that way in early days? I told the customer service guy that I’d get back my car after the car wash following the repair. He looked at me strangely like I was from another planet. Quite respectfully, however, he said, “Ma’am, it’s not done anymore. Maybe many, many years ago, that was part of our service, though I don’t recall when that stopped.” Oh no, that wasn’t my intent – reveal that I came from the ancient world. Of course, I was dismayed. I wanted to save a trip to the regular car wash.

However, what I got from that repair shop as I spilled out my car woes was remarkable customer service — a respectful listener, a sympathetic look, efficient response, accurate diagnosis, and quick recording on the computer. “Needs oil change and a checkup,” he advised. “OK, I’ll wait,” I said.

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A surprise visit from a chatty intruder

A brown little bird whizzed by my ear and flew into my home as I opened the patio door to reach for the broom standing in the corner. A surprise and unexpected visit from a winged intruder I quickly named Tweet-Tweet was, for the first three minutes, a playful flurry that I enjoyed. When that novelty wore off, anxiety settled in. How could I make Tweet-Tweet fly out the open door! With no thought of catching it, I just wanted to shoo it away, out the open door. It read my mind if it had any brain at all. I decided, yes, definitely with a brain in its tiny pointed head. It expertly avoided me, often with exultant chirp-chirps that teased and irritated. No, that’s not all correct, Tweet-Tweet amused me, too. Strangely, I found myself chatting back with a lilting chirp-chirp version of my own that aimed to top Tweet-Tweet’s. When I did, Tweet-Tweet stopped fleeting back and forth, alighted on a ledge far above my reach, and ogled at me with its round black eyes like I was a friend, or plain crazy. Then it resumed circling the living room with such graceful elegance and no qualms, no shame, like it was master of the house. For one fleeting moment, I considered keeping it for a house pet. Quickly I abandoned that ridiculous thought when it fluttered about my head in taunting fashion.

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A mindless quirky way of enjoying food

What do you do when you fancy what you’re eating to the max, and feel like you’re in seventh heaven? Do you close your eyes with an ethereal smile? Do you roll up your eyes in disbelief of what you’re savoring in your palate? Do you grunt and exclaim “Wow” in between munches? Or do you look down at your food and pray over it in utter gratitude?

I swing my legs under the table as I chew with gusto. I was unaware of this quirk until my husband pointed it out to me. Some years ago, while I was contentedly eating at the table, my husband relaxed on the couch watching his favorite TV talk show. He finished his dinner ahead to catch a feature on 60 Minutes. That was fine with me because I appreciated some quiet time with my food, intending to catch up with the day’s chats after his program.

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A fourth grader’s first agony of defeat

A strange memory popped up – my first painful encounter with defeat. It was in the fourth grade when I robustly volunteered for a needle threading contest: walk fast ten yards to the person holding up a needle, thread the needle in lightning speed, and … easy, I thought.

The first to thread the needle, I stopped right by the human post. I couldn’t understand why some zealots in the audience were waving ferociously at me. Were their waves victory gestures? I smiled triumphantly back at the waving people. But suddenly, my smile froze when I realized something was wrong. The other contestants were rushing back after threading the needle. Then gripped with the sad realization, my heart suspended in mid-air, anger with myself followed over “youthful stupidity” fringed on lack of focus. I was too busy listening to my thoughts of winning, and failed to hear the full instructions.

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Introduction

I am a baby boomer and a Lola (Grandma).  Shhh!  Don’t ask … wondering how old I am?  It’s just a number – and I’ll keep you guessing.

Babyboomerlola.com offers meanderings from the heart.  Looking back over the years, I recognize how much more I know now, how remarkably I’ve experienced the nuances of life, the summation of which is the wisdom of what and how much I’ve learned – through all the mesh and mush: gaiety grabbed, foolishness treaded, anxieties bashed, choices snubbed, ambition seized, triumphs celebrated, dreams chased, hopes abandoned, and wise counsel followed or wasted.  The vortex of this wisdom is the humility of realizing the vastness of opportunity, experience, insights, lessons and care bestowed in generous measure by love and blessings.

My blogs will share observations, memories, thoughts, feelings, reflections. They will reminisce the “old days”, see how they compare with the changing times  perhaps with some nostalgia sufficient to elicit gratitude for what was then that effected what has become. There, too, will be tid bits of significant trivia of the day, or flashbacks of episodes meaningful enough to remember and tell: random musings, mind teasers, contemplative cliffhangers, stories that may run the gamut from interesting, instructive, sophic, intriguing, amazing, to humorous or simply ridiculous or foolish.

I invite you to come step into my world – or, take a peek and linger a while.  With variations, it could be your world, too.

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