Tuesday, September 09, 2014

What I'm Really Doing When I'm Cooking

Cooking had always been my Mom's thing.

My Dad was into interior design -- he had an earthy, artsy, non-gay, shabby chic taste even before shabby chic was a thing.

My sister has her shoes and bags and shopping. 

I read and I write.

My Mom, she cooks. She cooks like a scientist. No not in the manner of having exactness down to pat. She was like a scientist who loved to invent new recipes. Sometimes she fails, but we all tease her good-naturedly. Not asking her to experiment was like asking Albert Einstein not to discover the theory of relativity.

I wish I could say I had interest in cooking while growing up. I wish I could say I spent almost every Saturday and Sunday afternoon cooking and baking with my Mom.

I didn't.

I was a bookworm who would bite off anyone's head if they bothered me while reading. But I did poke out my head once in a while. It wasn't a big deal. Some days, I may have just finished reading a book, or Mom asked for help, or I was just plain bored. Those are the days I would help out in the kitchen, and now that she's gone, I'm really glad I did.

Do I remember the recipes? Barely.

But I remember the smell of flour and milk while I am tasked to whip the batter 100 times in the same direction. I remember the smell of cooking butter -- full, sweet, sour. I remember the tears induced by peeled onions, the searing pain of spattering hot oil. And i remember my Mom, fingers tearing chicken meat from the bone, basting a pan, stuffing a milkfish, hacking on pork bones, flipping an upside down cake and her beatific smile while she does all of it.

Cooking was my Mom's thing.

And what I'm really doing when I'm cooking is remembering her. It's a full immersion into my memories -- she is there teaching me how to peel the potatoes. She is there telling me to put the garlic first before onions. She is there telling me how long to cook the shrimp. She is there shaking her head when I burn the bread. She is with me when i cook.

The meals I cook aren't always outstanding. Sometimes, they turn out just a little better than mulch. But even if it's not my thing, i don't see myself not doing it. Because like my Mom, it became the language of how I show love to the ones who are still here for me to cherish.

Cooking was my Mom's thing. And i am my Mother's daughter.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Parentless Adult: 5 Things We Need Your Help to Remember

It had been 8 years since my parents were welcomed back by the Creator. About half of those years were the darkest season of my soul, but then afterwards, it alarmed me how fast things have changed. The heart is a sentimental creature; years from now, you can still evoke the same emotions of grief, happiness or regret. However, the mind still controls everything you remember, as well as what you ought to feel as you look back.

It's so easy to forget the little things now. That's why I try to make a mental exercise out of it and force my brain to remember: the mornings I woke up to smells of Spam frying, the music of Roger Whittaker blaring from the downstairs stereo, the hum of conversation as my parents discuss the affairs for the day. How my mother smells after a bath, her soft skin as she tucks my hair behind my ear, the color of her eyeglasses which aims to hide her partially blind eye. How she would sit at the foyer, facing my bedroom door, while she prays the rosary well into the night. My father's restless energy as he flits around the house trying to find anything to do to keep his hands busy, his happy voice rising in a song, his laughter filling the downstairs hall.

But some things fade whether we like it or not. And I think I have been so focused about not forgetting the little things that I have forgotten about some of the bigger things. The other day, I was getting all hot and bothered about my boyfriend's mother wanting to treat us to a day in Tagaytay. I said I don't feel comfortable "na nililibre". Then my boyfriend patiently reminded me, "But she's a parent, and parents like treating their children. That's what they do, remember?"

And although I was touched to be thought of as someone's child again, I was also embarrassed. I have been parentless for so long that I have forgotten the joys that parents get out of a simple family day, regardless of the cost.

And that brought me to the realization that I need help. Maybe all parentless adults need help. Someone needs to remind us of how it felt to be part of a whole family unit, and how some times, you do not have to do it the hard way at all.

So here's a list of what we might need help remembering years after :

1. It's not always about Pride. A lot of times, it's about Love - i really hate being indebted to anyone. A lot of people (my boyfriend, for example) loves being treated to things. A free dinner, free movie, free shopping spree, etc. But ever since my parents died, I have forgotten how it feels to make "lambing", to ask for something you really want, without the fear of being judged as weak or inept or impractical. Remind us that being able to take care of own needs is great, but there is nothing wrong about accepting gifts or free things, because it's not always about pride, but in the best of times, it is because you are loved.

2. Telling people what you're up to - My parents were very strict about where my sister and I went. I had my first solo foray when I was already 16 years old, and that's walking the 2 kilometers between my school and my house. I felt very rebellious because I didn't go straight home. I stopped by a local 7-11 and bought Slurpee before I went home. Wow, right? And it didn't improve much from then. Even when i was already working, I still had to account for all my hours to my parents. Since I had to travel a lot, the compromise was that I have to give them a copy of my itinerary so they can keep tabs on my safety. But since they've been gone, i suddenly have total independence. And it's been like this for a long time that I have forgotten that people who still care might want to know what I've been up to. So remind me when I seem to have forgotten that you have people to consult about your schedule, or what you want to do. It's not that I'm self-centered, but just that I have forgotten how parents care where you go and what you do.

3. Celebrating the little holidays - It's not like we forget celebrating Mother's or Father's Day. We can't even if we wanted to, with what the deluge of FB posts and TV commercials can't let us forget. I don't know about others, but I have built up a certain reticence about these little holidays because they hurt so damn much if I allow myself to care. But what I have been trying to remember is to send a message to the people who have been like a mother or father to us instead. Also, I'm not exactly one of those people who hate overtly expressive people who post "I'm so lucky my parents are still alive to see...blah blah blah", although it does seem pretty insensitive if you think about it, and a bit of TMI. It wouldn't hurt to tone it down though. :D

4. Family time - if I'm going to be very honest, I only have a family of 3. That's me, my sister, and my cousin who is also orphaned. But we are individual units of 1, and sometimes we have schedules so insane they hardly meet. It wouldn't be like that if our parents were alive. There will be at least 1 day where we have to do activities together. So far, we're not doing so bad but I can see how other orphaned brothers and sisters might have the trouble. We need to be reminded that some family traditions are worth continuing. Spending time with your kin should be one of them.

5. You are not alone - even if you have sisters or brothers, a parentless adult can still feel alone. There is just this feeling of loss of protection that can't easily be shaken off. There are things in your life that even your siblings can't understand, and wisdom from your parents would have come in handy. There are things out there that feels so big to us, that we can't fathom taking it on our own, and we find ourselves wishing we had our parents to help us fight the battle. They were like demi-gods to us, always a bit more powerful and more knowing than we could ever hope to be. So we overprepare for battle, we arm ourselves to the teeth, because we feel there's nothing there to fall back to if we fail. There is only the very hard way forward, and no way to overcome it but through it. Please. Remind us, it doesn't have to be that hard. That there are people who will help us, if we ask. That we are still protected, and that if we fall, somebody will still help us back up.

Somebody (I don't like very much) once told me, "You're lucky, you don't have your parents to worry about anymore." The one thing you have to remember about us though is that, even if it will be difficult, even if it will be full of hardships, I would choose having my parents here with us every. single. time.

Help us remember.


3 1/2 years ago, i gave this story to someone who I pegged is the happily-ever-after type. I still believe.

Peter Pan gave Wendy a thimble.As thimbles go, this one was wet and sloppy. And yet of all thimbles, Wendy was sure, Peter’s was the best.

“That’s a thimble?” Wendy asked. “What is it for?”

Peter Pan smiled sheepishly as he hovered over her bed. “Oh, you know, something you give another person to tell them you like them.”

“So you like me?”

Peter sighed and settled on a duvet beside her. “I did give you the thimble, didn’t I?”

“Well.” Wendy replied. She reached over to her bedstand and picked up her stitching. “Well.” She said again. She seemed to be lost for words. Her fingers clumsily worked the needle and thread.

“Well?” Peter flitted up, inched his face closer to Wendy. “What are you thinking?”

“Nothing.” She said, too quickly.

Peter was visibly miffed. “Nothing? But that’s the best kind of thimble ever!”
Wendy’s eyes widened. “Are there many kinds of thimbles?”
He huffed. “Of course! And I know all of them. Would you like to have them all?”

Wendy bit her tongue, an answer hovering on her lips. She wasn’t sure she’s allowed to have more thimbles. But oh, she wanted more! “How many are there?” she put down the cloth and folded her hands over her lap, just like she does in school when learning lessons.

“Lots and lots!” Peter jumped from her bed and did a quick zip around the room. “There are big ones and small ones, and slow one and quick ones, and…”

“Wet ones, I suppose.” Wendy finished for him.

“It wouldn’t be half as nice if it were dry.” Peter defended.

“Fine.” Wendy nodded, intelligently. “I’d like to have all the thimbles, please.”

Peter Pan clicked his feet together. “I’d love to give them all to you, Wendy! But in one condition…” he sat beside her on her bed. “Don’t tell the lost boys yet. Let’s tell them together when we’ve figured out the thimbles. Is it a deal?”

Wendy nodded. She didn’t think she’d like to tell the lost boys about thimbles anyway. Thimble-giving felt private and best done in secret.

“Close your eyes, Wendy. Here comes.”

Peter leaned forward and gave her a thimble. Wendy suddenly felt overwarm. She doesn’t care what Peter says, this thimble was better than the first.

“That’s one. And then…” Peter whispered and leaned forward again. This thimble made Wendy feel as if her lips were waking up, realizing there are other uses for the mouth than just speaking and eating. Definitely better than the first two.

Peter pushed another thimble towards her, this time, parting her mouth.  Definitely, Wendy thought to herself, the best thimble of them all. She found she could breathe if she breathes slowly through her nose. It felt just like swimming in the sea. And she felt just as calm and buoyant.

“Wendy!” came a voice from downstairs, coming nearer.

Peter and Wendy stared at each other for a moment before leaping into movement. Wendy pushed Peter away from her bed. “You must go, Peter! Mother and Nana are coming. Nana will smell you were here!”

“Shall I come back for more thimbles tomorrow, Wendy?” he asked, mischief and sheepishness alternately twinkling in his eyes.

Wendy smiled and reached out to touch Peter’s face. “Yes, Peter. Come back. I want more thimbles. 
Lots and lots.”

The mischievous glint in his eyes was replaced by something tender, only for a moment, but it was there. “Then I shall. I can’t wait.”

“Nor can I, so promise to come.”

“I promise, Wendy. I will.” Then with a wink, Peter snapped his fingers and shimmering dust fell across the bed covers. “You are my happy thought,” he said before he sailed out of the window.

“And you, mine.” Wendy whispered to herself. She hastily picked up her stitching, just in time for Mother to see as she swung open the door.

“Wendy? Aren’t you asleep yet?” Mother asked.

“I’m just finishing the last stitch, Mother. I shall rest soon.” She smiled innocently while keeping an eye on Nana who was sniffing the air and thumping her tail a little too restively. Oh Nana, don’t give me away, Wendy prayed silently.

Mother looked around her room and nodded. “Well then, alright. BE careful stitching in bad light though, dear. You might prick your fingers.” Her hand went to her deep apron pocket. “Here you go, just so you won’t hurt yourself.”

Mother held out the smallest cup Wendy has ever seen. It was shiny and silvery where the moonlight was hitting it.

“Oh, what a pretty little thing! What is it, Mother?” Wendy took it and held it against the light coming in from the small dainty lamp beside her.

Mother smiled. “A thimble, Wendy. Now, be careful, okay?” With that, Mother leaned forward to kiss Wendy on the forehead, oblivious to the stunned look on her face. “Goodnight!”

“Goodnight Mother! Goodnight, Nana!” Wendy managed to say.

 When the door closed, Wendy held up the pretty little thing against the light again. “A thimble. Oooh, that Peter! He tricked me.” She only frowned for a moment, and then she smiled.

“I like thimbles.” She said softly to herself. “This and the other kind. I shall give Peter lots of thimbles when he comes, thimbles straight on ‘til morning.”

And somewhere in the night sky, perhaps just behind the second star from the right, a man-boy grins with delight.

A Note:
In the book, it was actually Wendy who gave Peter pan a thimble when he mistook a kiss as an object --- he didn’t know what kisses were. So I took a lot of license writing this one. :D

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Practical Magic

Dear Sister,

I couldn't get your question out of my head. You asked me, "What if I never find love?"

 I remember having the same thought. Half of me dreaded it, the other half was steeling myself for it and saying, so what? Some ultra-feminists would say we are silly for even thinking we need to find a man. They confuse themselves with their liberal talk when all we mean is that, we want someone to share the love we have. And hell to it, but gifts are nice. period.

But there is one thing that has kept hope afloat inside me all those years of waiting. By being very inquisitive, I have researched that in our mother's side, three generations of women (at the very least), found love one time, big time. 

Our great grandmother fell in love with our great grandfather at first sight. Our grandmother only had eyes and heart for our grandfather to the point of running away with him at the age of 18. She was young when she found him, but they never left each other's side until granpa died. And Mommy? Daddy was her first and only love.

So there's something in our genes that has a propensity for just knowing when our great love has come. It's definitely not in our brains. You know my long list of crushes, and they are one impossible fictionalized men after another. And the one time I was smitten and thought I was in love, you know what version of impossible that was.

It may be too early to speak, but as far as my limited vision can see, I see myself married to the man I'm with right now. And you know how different he is from the man i fantasized myself belonging with. It turns out, love is not about vanity. It is not about what you think you deserve, but who fits. It is about who can grow with you, and round you out. It is about finding someone who feels like home to you.

So don't fret about not finding your great love yet. When you see him, and this could be someone whose been there all the time, you will know. And when it hits you, you would know what I mean by one time, big time.

For us Santos women, it only takes one to get it right.

It is our practical magic.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Last Day at 31

There's about ten minutes left of my most awesome year so far. I have to be very honest here, I feel like I made comparable leaps and bounds the last 12 months than the last 10 years. I actually felt myself stretch and get uncomfortable until I got used to it, and suddenly, I grew, noticeably, incrementally.

I am feeling a bit sad leaving 31. I have a fear that I will never be able to top this year. But another side of me is also saying, no, this is where it starts. This is where you woke up, and this is you stretching your limbs. Yet far to go, Liv.

I just want to be able to look back, 5 or 10 years from now and remind myself that for better or worse, I was alive the last night I was 31 years old. And I was also grateful and hopeful and I can feel my core stabilizing again.

And to wrap up my year of awesome adventures, I listed a few accomplishments I want to remember. To remind myself I am not a sell-out. To affirm that though I still daydream, I am also living my life as well.

Liv's Top 15 Awesome Memories the year she was 31:

1. Built my first snowman in negative degrees Birmingham.
2. That godawful leg cramp i got in the middle of Harrod's and people started looking at me funny and I started thinking how embarassing it would be if I try to walk and fell down. So I whipped out my cellphone and pretended to be debating with someone about which souvenir to get. For a full ten minutes til i recovered. Gimme that Oscar.
3. Took to the London Underground like a duck to water.
4. Climbed a mountain-sized hill in the Mongolian countryside. In freezing weather.
5. Trekked barefoot to a sacred spring in a hidden valley in Mongolia.
6. Lived in a ger for a week without taking a full bath.
7. Closed my eyes and sent a prayer to heaven before opening my mouth while a strange man put ceremonial pan (sweets wrapped in nganga leaves)in Islamabad.
8. Saw the Gobi desert with my own eyes (from the plane, but still). There's something very satisfying about seeing something you've only read in your textbooks in grade school.
9. Survived the chaos of a particular country's strange airport. Di ba, Jay Ancheta?
10. Learned smatterings of 2 languages (Mongolian and Pakistani)
11. Wrote 2 children's book which came out in HaloHalo Books.
12. Illustrated 2 children's books for other people.
13. Saw a wolf, a tapir, a marmot, a falcon and real elephants. God's strange creatures strewn across 3 continents.
14. Had less severe depressive episodes.
15. And the hardest achievement yet --- kept the Faith.

Lord, I wish I could surgically incise my heart, just so I could hold it up to you as proof of how filled with gratitude and joy it is over your so many blessings. And You are also the reason why I leave my fear of never having this much fun in any age again. Because I trust, that with You, the best is always yet to come.

Goodnight one and all!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Artist Card Edition and Originals and Artist Trading Cards

So I came upon a trend in etsy and amazon about ACEOs (see title) and ATCs.

ACEOs and ATCs are artwork done in 2.5 x 3.5 inches of canvas/paper and was originally used as trading cards (much similar to baseball trading cards, but for artists). I figured I will try to make as many as I can, and it's fairly easy for me because I have that kind of short term attention span anyways. :D

So here's some of my latest works. These can also be viewed on my other blog: http://livbeeart.weebly.com/