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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We Are Better Than This

So much hate, distrust, and negativity. We claim to be  strong and united, but we ourselves are very quick to depict that our government and our military are useless. This is the time to work together, not point fingers. It’s past time that we realize that the government alone cannot hold this country up. We all need to hold this nation up. I agree that aid should have come sooner, things should have been done better, response could have been faster. But it is always that way in a calamity. In life, generally. It could always be done better. You always wish that things could be better than reality. We wish people were better informed about storm surges. We wish we had roads that don’t wash away. We wish we had endless supply of fuel so that the helicopters can just transport everyone out of Tacloban into a massive evacuation camp. Hell, we didn’t ask for a super typhoon to begin with. A lot of things in life we ponder about in retrospect, and a lot of things in life we just have to weather through.

So much information going around that are just plain rumours. People are trigger-happy with that ‘Share’ button. I would rather see information on how to help and stories on how people are helping and are being helped, shared many times over on social media, than the bickering and blaming and painting our country as a nation of thieves and liars. We are not. There are a few individuals that steal and lie to the masses, but as a nation we are honest workers, loving and kind to each other, devoted to our families, decent, peaceful and God-fearing. But now where is the love? Where is kindness? Where is healing?

Each of us are held accountable for what we do in our lives. Each of us are held accountable for what we do now in the face of such devastation. In my capacity as a Filipino living abroad, I extend what financial help I can and encourage friends and family to do the same. A government official in Leyte has different responsibilities, to his constituents, to his own family, to the nation in general. A soldier tasked with recovery operations has a whole other set of responsibilities. We all need to realize what we can do and we all need to do them now and without fanfare. Those that fail to do their job will be judged and held accountable in due time.

I agree that we need to be vigilant and critical of services that we should get from the government. But I think that calling out the government should be done in an informed, factual and educated manner. Let us not get emotional and political. Don’t get me wrong. I am very emotional every time I watch the news and see the extent of desperation in Visayas. But I wish that our emotions would push us to set aside differences and hatred and negativity and focus on helping and healing. We have to be careful about where activism takes us. In a real apocalypse, there will be no government and we will have to survive on our own.

If we want to really, really change our nation for the better, and not just about dealing with catastrophes like this, we need to change our way of thinking. We need to educate our kids. We need to elect real leaders. We need to respect ourselves and trust that as individuals and as a community, we will rise above anything and everything. We need to recognize that there will be difficulties and that we work together to overcome it.  Tama si Maya, dapat kapit-bisig.

Here are just a few ways to help:

**For every dollar donated by individual Canadians to UNICEF Canada from November 9th to December 8th, 2013, the Government of Canada will contribute a dollar up to $100,000. UNICEF’s generous corporate supporters will be matching all donations for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, excluding the Government of Canada donation match, up to $25,000.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Elfie Come and Gone

Last Christmas, somebody very special showed up at our house.

Her arrival was a big surprise, as was the sugar-packed North Pole Breakfast she prepared to welcome herself into our home. She was clearly well-trained in the custom of elves, because I was on Pinterest and saw this other elf gracing somebody else's breakfast table with a wonderful spread of snow-covered donuts and mini-marshmallows floating in yummy hot chocolate, and presents! But our elf also brought peppermint Oreos, candy canes, and peppermint & yogurt-covered star pretzels. Sugar at 7:30 a.m.? Once a year is good.

North Pole Breakfast
Elfie sure knows how to throw a party!
As is custom in our house, the elf was named.... {drumroll}..... Elfie. (Big J had 4 different Betta's that she named Fishy, and if I didn't name our dog before she saw him, he would be Puppy now and forever.) Although Big J is 10, she still claims to believe in Santa and was appropriately surprised and excited about our guest. She did ask why Elfie came now and never before. I said, "Could it be that Santa needed help watching our house now that there's two of you?" "Yeah, that must be why." Phew. Santa needs to warn Mom and Dad if there are major changes in his action plan!

Snow-covered donuts, candy canes, marshmallows 
and peppermint Oreos! (And no, she did not bring 
the peanut butter.)

Big J and Baby J were excited when they found that Elfie also brought them presents. They each had Santa felt baskets filled with a pair of Christmas socks, Kinder Bueno chocolate, hot chocolate mix, Christmas foam craft, a stuffy (Rudolph for Big J and a snowman for Baby J), and ornaments (glass skating Santa and a nutcracker for Big J, Cars-themed balls for Baby J). Mommy was happy that Elfie brought a Christmas tablecloth and placemats and left them for her to use.

Baby J has a mouthful of snow-covered 
"From the desk of Santa Claus, 
Santa'sWorkshop, North Pole."
Lightning McQueen ornament from 
Baby J's basket.
Hey, it's a snowman.
Kisses for you.
Peppermint Oreos for breakfast, yum!
Toasty feet, thanks, Elfie!

Each morning, Baby J was always up before Big J, and he would find Elfie right away, sometimes with a little bit of help from M+D. And no fail, he would always spoil the surprise for Big J, because as soon as Big J stirred, he would yell out to her, "Elfie is on top of the kitchen clock!" or "Elfie is climbing Aunty K's castle!" Sadly, M+D forgot to document Elfie's escapades so there are no photos of her climbing up the Christmas tree, swinging on the hallway light, listening to Big J's iPod, breaking into the Nutella jar, or riding the Christmas moose. Suffice it to say that she had weaseled her way into the kids' hearts so that on Christmas Eve, it was bittersweet having to say goodbye. On the morning of the 24th, she left a present each for the kids with a sweet note, and gave them a few magic minutes to finally touch her. Big J and Baby J smothered her with kisses and hugs and made her promise to come back again next year. (She told me she will, and I told her I will be ready with my camera every morning.)

Saying goodbye to Elfie. Sniff, sniff.

And wouldn't you know it? Elfie's arrival in our lives reminded me that to truly be in the Christmas spirit, one has to immerse in the season with child-like joy and gusto. Elfie wasn't the only new tradition started this year. Grandma and Grandpa also treated us to a 2-hour tour to see Christmas lights... in a limo! So fancy. We brought hot chocolate in mugs, and Uncle D provided the booze to flavor it with. We sang carols and annoyed Monty, the bus driver moonlighting as our chauffeur. We had a blast and ambitious as it may sound, we truly want this to be another new holiday tradition, God-willing. On Christmas morning, we brought Baked Panetonne French Toast (recipe here) to G+G's house and it was a huge hit. And instead of New Year's Day dinner at Ming's, Grandma A took us all to Butchart Gardens to see the holiday lights and watch Big J skate in the outdoor rink. It was such a great time to be a family and be with family, and to create new traditions and make beautiful memories.

Checking out the Christmas lights in the limo.
My own elf snuggled up to Aunty K and 
enjoying his first limo ride .
That mug of hot chocolate packed a punch!
Outdoor ice skating with Uncle A, 
at The Butchart Gardens.
Family photo at The Butchart Gardens. 
Baby J did NOT want to leave 
Santa's sleigh.

Click here to read more about the Elf on the Shelf, and if one of them ever finds his/her way to your homes next Christmas, do share your stories and photos.