About Me

My photo
Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

11 September, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Beating Up Our Homes But Not Our Spirits

The hurricane that hit land a couple of weeks ago did a doozy on us but we got through it. Really, it didn't seem any worse than some of the Typhoons I'd experience growing up in Hong Kong - even those at signal 10 - but we did live in a high rise and weren't in any danger of flooding, for instance.

Here in Millburn, however, we were hit pretty badly. We didn't have power for five days, I had a wading pool in the basement and no hot water. I did but up as many supplies as I could during the days leading up to the storm and, luckily, Jude's day care was open and fully functioning and Guada and I had work. At least, for a few hours a day, we were able to enjoy some comforts that we'd taken for granted.

I must say that I feel we've grown from the experience and I feel all sorts of rugged from not having power and hot water and having to take cold showers (how sad is that, that I feel rugged because of this? Haha!) Naturally, I'm grateful that everything's back to normal and I'm thankful that no one here got hurt. I'm also grateful for good neighbours.

The woman next door is not just my neighbour. We've become friends over the last couple of years and she's been very kind to let us use her shower since she didn't lose hot water. Guada took advantage of it and even gave Jude a bath in our neighbour's tub. She also got a generator mid-week from our other neighbours across the street. The husband there is a landscaper and owns a landscaping supply shop in the town over from where we live. I guess it's through the store but he supplies generators for clients to rent. One of his clients must've not needed it after a few days and he brought the generator over and we were able to use it. Naturally, as fate would have it, our power came back on the following day.

The neighbour who supplied us with the generator is the same neighbor whose wife and kids cleared the snow off our driveway and sidewalks when were away in The Philippines last December. I am very grateful for them.

On an interesting note, after we got our power back and the basement was cleared of all the flooding, I reignited the water heater's pilot light and tried to get the hot water going. While the pilot would light, once I raised the thermostat any amount, the flame would engulf itself. I contacted my landlady about it and I bought a bucket and a kettle (which we'd needed anyway) so We could boil some water, mix it with the cold water from the tap and take Filipino-style tabo baths. The morning after I bought the bucket and kettle, for some strange reason, I relit the water heater pilot, adjusted the temperature and, voila, the fire stayed and hot water poured out of the the faucets.

With this kind of luck, Guada says I should buy a $600 snow-blower and snow boots so that the snow will NOT hit us this winter. Haha!

To everyone who got hit by Irene, I hope and pray that you didn't suffer too much damage, that you didn't lose much of your material possessions and, most of all, that all of your family and friends are okay. To those of you who got hit really badly and did lose a loved one, I offer my condolences and my prayers for material, financial, mental and emotional healing.

"All Muslims Should Be Killed"

It's been ten years since the devastating events of September 11, 2001 and I have to say the fears the attacks left us with are still here.

Before I continue, though, I would like to offer my prayers and thoughts to all of the families that suffered that day and to the people who lost friends and loved ones. For me, I was luckily spared. In the ten years that have passed, I haven't learnt of anyone I knew personally who died at The World Trade Centre or at the other attacks. The closest I came to losing someone was an ex-girlfriend who was schedule to have a meeting in one of the towers at 9 am that day. Her meeting got cancelled so she was home.

As I mentioned, though, the fears of those attacks still haunt us. A couple of weeks ago, as I was cleaning up in my bathroom, the house swayed and the shelf and the bottles on it swayed. It turned out that New Jersey was feeling the effects of a 5.9 earthquake from Virginia. After tweeting and exchanging Twitter messages with a couple of contacts, I jumped to the TV and turned on to CNN. In one of their reports, there was footage of a press conference. As soon as the shaking started, the journalists and camera crews, stampeded for the exits.

I couldn't help from feeling, as I watched the report, that the immediate rush out of the building was due to fear of the building they were in having just been hit with another aeroplane. In today's world, after 9/11, it's a legitimate concern. Nonetheless, as I watched, I was saddened to the point of pooling tears that the world has come to this and that people - the terrorists - would do the things they do. I'm not naive to terrorism. I recall the Iran hostage crisis of 1980 and the terrorist takeover of the Achille Lauro cruise ship quite well. I didn't get why people did that and I still don't. It makes me wonder and worry of the nature of mankind - or is it the conditioning of man? - that makes us say things like "Let's agree to disagree" yet if we can't see eye-to-eye we'll still gouge the other person's eyes out to, fearfully, make him or her agree.

To try and think positively about the world we live in, I think the events of 9/11 have made me more open-minded, forgiving and even tolerant; and I like to think I'm one of the more tolerant ones out there. Sometimes, I fear, however, that perhaps I've become more open-minded, forgiving and tolerant to a fault and as a way of compensating for those who aren't.

Two years after 9/11, there were bombings in the London Underground. Someone I know said, of the bombings, "All Muslims should be killed." This person and I were never friends in the true sense of the word but we were more than just colleagues, co-workers and acquaintances. I don't talk to this person anymore. Reacting and not responding, initially, I wanted to beat him to a pulp. I didn't. What he'd said was really stupid, ignorant and I have some very close friends who are Muslims so, for their sake, I simply wanted to kick this guy's you know what. I just walked away. Then, I wanted to come back and say, "Then, shouldn't all white guys be killed since it was a white guy who bombed the Federal Building in Texas in the late 1990s?" I didn't do that either. I did , however, walk away with the strong feeling that it is people who do things - good and bad - and NOT ideology. Ideologies are guides, in my opinion, that are meant o be interpreted for the greater good of ALL mankind. Any time an ideology is interpreted in such a way that there is destruction and death then that ideology has been misinterpreted.

People hurt people. Not religions, not races, not genders. People.

People can change, too, and make this world a better place to live in. That change, however, can't be forced. It has to come from within the person. I can't change you. You can't change me. We can influence each other's thought processes and belief systems but we can't change unless we make the conscious decision and effort to change.

As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see."

Mr. Mom

It's been a long time since I last posted and I say that honestly, having let time slip by without even realising it. So, I'm back and I promise to be more diligent about keeping my posts ongoing and regular.

So, what's happened since 'Christmas in July?'

For one, I had my first experience playing single dad last month when my wife flew to The Philippines to attend her parents' Golden Anniversary celebrations. Jude and I would have gone too but it just wasn't financial feasible for all of us to make it. Regardless of our absence, from the stories Guada told and the pictures and videos she's shown us, they all had a great time and really cherished the meaning of fifty years together.

As for Jude and I, it was also a celebration of sorts. Naturally, we both missed Guada (and she missed us, too), but we she and I got to experience some quality alone time. She broke down in tears when we met her at JFK upon her return and she said the early days apart were the hardest but there was also an escape from the daily grind to catch up with who she is and to reconnect with Guada as an individual human being.

Jude and I, I suppose, did the same thing and we had some serious father-son bonding moments. A day at the pool at the gym, an afternoon of football (soccer) in the park, seeing The Smurfs movie together, watching the pilot movie of the old Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (which Jude loves and still asks to watch now and again...thank God for DVR!) and just simply getting an appreciation for each other.

Funnily - and I'm not saying I'm a candidate for Parent of the Year or an advocate for single parenthood - but with Guada away, Jude and I were able to establish a schedule that worked like a Swiss timepiece. Naturally, it's easier to have someone else around - my wife - to share the load and hand Jude off to when I need 'my' time. However, with just the two of us, we managed a routine that was easy to follow, saw lots of laughs, was very productive and oozed with quality and closeness like I've never known before.

In fairness, we were without Guada for only ten days but it was a good test and experience and, to be completely honest, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Would I hope she travels more often and for longer durations? No. I'd miss her, Jude would miss her and that isn't any way, in my opinion, to be a family. People, though, do need their own time and to have their own way of doing things and to be reminded and even remind others that, no matter what our state in life is and the kinds of relationships we are involved in (husband-wife, parent-child, etc), we are all still individuals and it is a specific combination of individuals that makes a given collective.