Monday, October 4, 2010

Nothing beats household chores as cross-training

LATELY I was spending time with my stationary bike. Like every physical activity, it's not something you take lightly and plunge into without enough preparation like warm up and stretching.

So last night, after dinner, when the kids are both in bed, I mopped the floor. I went out to wash the car, and realized the engine was dirty too. So I ended up spraying grease-remover on its dirty nooks and cranny, and washed its engine altogether.

It was quite complicated than usual because you have to make sure alternator and battery terminals are not soaked in water. Vangie wanted to make sure I did it right so I tried to start the engine and it did, but of course. In one click.

The neighbors were all probably asleep. But I was just getting started. After that I took out the garbage. From the kitchen to the comfort room and around our small yard, I collected trash and put them in large black bags ready for collection in the morning.

By that time I felt all revved up and ready to break a sweat. So I saddled right onto the bike and thundered on the pedal.

Nothing beats household chores for your cross training needs.

I came to think about it because Vangie got an assignment to write an essay about – what else? -- raising a family without any house help. Her editor wanted her to specially touch on the fact that both of us are working, and meeting the demands of day-to-day including Mavi and Maxi's school schedules.

Now that I gave it some thought, I realized it's no ordinary feat. You're in charge with every single detail of housekeeping, parenting and cooking – topics that I seriously felt must be taught as major courses in college. The good thing about it is we spend a great deal of time at home, and with the girls.

Yet I guess we're not the only ones rolling up our sleeves and doing the dirty jobs ourselves. At this day and age, I know there are parents like us who worry about clogged sink and how best their kids can memorize the multiplication table – and all the while keeping our day jobs.

Her story's coming out in Inquirer Lifestyle on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You don't sing Bawal na Gamot on Jazz Night at Merk's

IT IS largely unspoken, but there is really such a thing as videoke ethics. It's the code of conduct when singing in parties in front of friends, or sometimes, even strangers.

Like you shouldn't by any means try to sing Stylistics unless you're with very close friends willing to put up with it. And singing only your tried and tested piyesa when there are new faces around because, even in singing, first impression lasts.

It is something learned through the years. Like knowing you're singing out of key when everybody fell silent, looking at their cellphones or just simply looking away.

Same thing with singing the same set of songs over and over again with the same set of friends. It is not something taught in school, but something you either have in you or not.

I came to think about it because last Wednesday I sang on stage, accompanied by Richard Merk's Band, at his place in Greenbelt 3.

I knew trouble was brewing when from the men's room I heard Richard Merk himself calling my name. Turned out my fellow sportswriters volunteered me to sing just when I stood up. So I was there inside the cubicle listening as Merk was calling me out on stage.

``Come on, let's enjoy the band,''' hollered Merk, while I took extra time washing my face.

``Marc, come out already,'' Merk said through microphone. The crowd was laughing, and everybody in the room was into it already. When someone walked by, Merk would ask ``Is that Marc?''

I was planning to sneak out and go home but I left my phone on the table. ``Can somebody check out Marc if he's still alive?'' Merk joked.

Finally, it seemed like Merk gave up and began singing another song. So I slowly walked back to the table, but people from other tables were already greeting me with knowing smiles. It was as if they knew it was me.

And true enough, when Merk finished singing, he called me up. Now here's one thing I know for sure, when you're called up on stage by a celebrity and everyone in the crowd was looking at you, you stand up and take the mic.

He interviewed me briefly, and asked what song I'd like to sing. Now here's where the ethics come to play: I said ``For Once In My Life.''

Merk said: ``Magaling 'to,'' probably because I picked the type of songs they're singing all night. Well, I chose it because I have sang it countless of times already, and the margin of error – when you factor in stage fright and blinding spotlight – is considerably low compared to any other song.

And, of course, you don't sing Aegis on Jazz Night at Merk's.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feel free to call me

FUNNY how our mind can store a lot of things that have no use to us anymore.

Like old telephone numbers. I grew up having to memorize the phone numbers in my father's tailoring shop. It's 97-58-38. Numbers that are repeated are easier to remember. It's like they have rhymes to them. I don't remember the last time I dialled that number but there's no way I will forget about it.

There were only six numbers in telephones back then. They were printed around the face of a black, rotary handset. And you have to put up with having partyline. Ours happened to be a nearby beauty parlor just a few meters across the brisk and blue-collar Kamuning Road.

Later my mother took over a corner sari-sari store along the same street and it had a phone also. It's 99-82-05. I won't forget that either. Because me and my brother Jonjon would dial the two numbers and talk to each other just for the heck of it.

I got to thinking about it because yesterday I gave up my old cellphone number. It has been with me the past four years and it felt like I parted with an old friend. Specially when I got the call from the service provider telling me it's the final notice for ``permanent disconnection.'' The way they put it it's like you're ending some very important chapter in your life.

Given the choice I would like to keep that number because I don't have to start all over again and text my contacts that I have a new number. But the office issued smartphones which carry with them brand new numbers.

The number I just gave up was 0917-8590489. Before that I had 0917-9408908. It was my first and we lasted seven years. I wonder what they would do with my old numbers. Would they be assigned to other people or thrown away for good? If they are given to other people, I hope they treat them well.

Now back to the service provider, I think the last thing they wanted to happen is to cut a subscriber's line. The person on the phone tried to convince me to keep it and even offered promo to downgrade my monthly fees.

But I stood with my decision, and with a firm voice, I said no.

Monday, July 6, 2009

He's out of our lives

WORKING in a newspaper, and having a wife in the Lifestyle section certainly allowed me a few perks. Like watching concerts for free.

I have very sketchy memories of Michael Jackson's concert held in 1996 at the reclaimed land along Roxas Blvd. But what stuck into my mind was the two hours it took us to park our cars. From there we walked for about 500 meters to the arena, with a few local celebrities in sight.

It was part of his HIStory world tour which stopped for one December night in Manila. Tickets were in the form of thick plastic cards with his face emblazoned on it along with the P5,000 price tag. It costed three-fold at ringside.

There was massive build up of suspense that evening as we were advised to be there 5 p.m., and the concert proper started past 8 p.m. There was no opening act. But of course, no one needed an opening act if he's the one performing.

True to hype he arrived in style. The lights went out. A space ship suddenly plopped on stage in blinding smoke. Then, he emerged. For some reason, his first number escaped me.

What I remember was he sang Billie Jean in exact MTV get-up of black sequined jacket and white shirt. Thriller in red and black. He also hang on a moving crane while singing a song I can't recall; brought out a giant globe and sang with kids as he belted Heal the World.

But he didn't sing Ben. No One Day In Your Life. No Got To Be There. The songs that made me sleep in the afternoon when we we small weren't in his repertoire that night.

Thinking about it now, I remember the few foreign acts I had the good fortune of watching.

The very first one was the Hall and Oates Unplugged at the Big Dome. I was still in college then, and that meant I had to scrimp on my baon to raise P100 that earned me a seat at the general admission. I don't know if it was just their style but Darryl Hall and John Oates didn't have any spiel, which was probably a good thing.

There wasn't even any back drop but exposed scaffoldings behind them. They just sat there on wooden boxes, acoustic guitars on hand and sang hits like Out of Touch, She's Gone, Maneater, Private Eyes one after another.

Which brought me to Phil Collins concert at the Philsports (Ultra) football field in the early 90s. Reports had it the former Genesis drummer arrived with eight trailer trucks of concert set pieces. Strangely, the whole place looked like building rooftops. He came out of one of them, and did a solo on drums as an intro.

A couple of years back, I was at the far end of that football stadium watching Barry Manilow. It was a two-night concert, the first one of which was held at the PICC which an office crush named Vangie watched. I only had enough money to watch it standing on the field. Alone.

The first song I remember very well. He started out straight to the chorus of Ready to Take a Chance Again. His Greatest Hits rang in the air one after another. But his voice was often overshadowed by the audience singing the song themselves. There were ladies crying, especially when the first strains of I Write the Songs played out.

He sang As Sure as I'm Standing Here reading the words from a paper. He said it wasn't one of his most popular and was surprised to learn that it was a big hit back here.

Now, that was one major conversation piece for me and Vangie later on as we both heard the song from a Lovingly Yours, Helen episode starring Vivian Foz and Ariosto Reyes Jr.

Thinking about it now, and totally abandoning the thread of thought I had when I started writing this blog, it felt good learning that both of us happened to be watching the same show on that same Sunday afternoon far back then.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It was raining when summer left

I'VE read it somewhere that parents shouldn't rush to pick up the clutter on Christmas morning. That happy mess after the kids unwrapped their presents would represent just another precious family moment.

You don't throw that away quickly as it's good for another stash of memories. To be kept for tomorrow.

It had me thinking about it because today I torn down the tent in the yard. It stood there the whole summer and sheltered the girls while frolicking on the inflated pool. The pool also had to go.

I've been putting off placing them back in their respective boxes. But I admit it was because of laziness on my part as it was for sentimental reasons.

The clouds have gathered thick and heavy as I looked at them outside.

High winds and rains already ripped the tent canvass, and the lining underneath the pool had already gathered moss. They have become a lonely sight in that corner of the yard, to tell you the truth.

Yet in about eight weeks that they stood there, they played big part in the family's Summer of 09. Squirt gunfights. Halo-halo. Crushed ice wars. Videoke. Cold beer.

One by one I untied the ropes that held the tent together. By this time, big raindrops came as if in a hurry to get to the ground. I disassembled the metal posts. Piece by piece. Lifted the canvas from its joints, and folded them to the side.

It was already pouring when I get to brushing the pool. I needed to dry it first before I could deflate it, but it had be cleaned inside out. When I got to the heavy matting that was under it all this time, the rain was torrential.

I called out the kids earlier to play in the rain. They were sailing their slippers in the rushing water by the driveway. I hosed down the slippery patches. And swept away the remnants of the summer that gone by.

On that note, another season came to an end.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Talking about sports

My favorite author Erica Orloff once blogged about making up different excuses just not to tell people what she does for a living when in a room full of strangers.

She said it takes a lot of work explaining what she does if she tells people she's a writer than it does if she tells them she's does something else.

I relate to her completely as I encounter that same situation every once in a while. People, for some reason, tend to ask a lot of questions when they find out you're a writer. When you write about sports, that makes them doubly inquisitive.

I don't mind them thinking how cool it is covering big sporting events and then reporting them later on the big newspaper with a by-line to boot. But I swear there are people out there who challenge me with what they know about sports and then compare it with how much – or how little – I know about my supposed field of expertise.

Off hand they ask you about Pacquiao. His next fight. Cotto. Mosley. Mayweather Jr. The NBA playoffs. PBA. London Olympics. Laos SEA Games. Major League Baseball. Federer. Tiger Woods. It makes a great deal of conversation fodder when in a party among strangers. My close friends hardly ask me anything about sports when I'm with them.

Unlike her, though, I haven't gotten around to tell people I'm someone else although there are plenty of times I wish I tell them am a short-order cook instead of a sportswriter.

I got to thinking about this because Pacquiao once again redeemed the country by demolishing yet another A-list foe in Briton Ricky Hatton.

Everything has been said about the spectacular 2nd round KO win. But when the topic comes up in a gathering, it most likely get the attention of everybody in the room. Including the women in the crowd.

Suddenly it became very fashionable to know about sports. So here are my advise to people who want to brush up on their ``sports smarts.''

1.The best pound-for-pound boxer in the world only means the most successful fighter across the board who normally competes with the lightweight to welterweight categories.

2.Pacquiao doesn't own a single title belt outside of the WBO welterweight crown he wrested from Hatton. WBO is second-rate compared to the more prestigious WBA, WBC and IBF, which nowadays are dismissed as just ``alphabet titles'' because the real big fights are those that command big pay-per-view buys – like that of Pacquiao's.

3.Tiger Woods is generally acknowledged as the greatest who ever played golf. There are four majors in golf: US Masters, PGA Tour, British Open and US Open where Kevin Costner's character in Tin Cup competed.

4.Federer is just three Grand Slam titles away of beating Pete Sampras' 14 titles. There are four Grand Slam events: French Open, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open. There is only one Filipino who won a Grand Slam (Nino Alcantara who won doubles in the Australian Open juniors early this year).

5.Deuce in tennis means a tied score after 40-all. Ace means a serve that wasn't returned. In baseball ace means the top pitcher for a team. In golf, ace means hole-in-one.

6.A baseball game is played on a diamond which is sometimes called a ballpark. The one who throws the ball is called the pitcher, while the person who holds the bat is, well, the batter, while the catcher is the guy with a grill mask behind him. There are nine players per team in a single game of baseball. A single game is normally made up of nine innings.

7.There are 90 minutes in a soccer game or football. Football, and not basketball, is the most popular game in the world. David Beckham plays right midfield and is usually the guy who runs the play similar to a pointguard in basketball. Eleven players are in the field at any given game including the guy who man the goal who is called the goalie.

8.The Philippines has not won a single gold medal in the Olympics but we had two silvers before. Neighbors like Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysian, Indonesia and even Singapore each have a gold medal already.

9.A perfect game in bowling means scoring 300 pinfalls – not points – which means he or she had 12 (not 10) strikes in a single line. Paeng Nepomuceno is a Hall-of-Famer in the sport and has four other Guinness Book of Records for his achievements. He's a lefty.

10.Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times and is found to have lung capacity double to that of an average person.

Given the chance, I'd rather leave the game analysis to the guy next to me, and reserve mine for the day's story quota.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is a two-edged sword

THE HOLIDAYS work both ways.

I did a lot of thinking about the coming Christmas and New Year while staying at home with the kids. (And when you're left alone with the kids, you get to think about lot of things). And I'm convinced Holidays make you happy only if you're already happy. When you feel miserable, they only make things worse.

Think about it. It's like having a drink. After a few bottles, it's either you feel bliss, or crap. One makes you feel even better, the other makes you cross to the dark side.

Lt. Dan explained it without saying a word in Forrest Gump. When in the din of New Year's Eve revelry at a bar filled with merry-makers, he sat there frozen – tinsel and confetti trapped in his hair – and remembered that he's still a forgotten soldier who lost his feet in the war.

Well my sad theory has nothing to do with what I'm writing now, except that it also concerns the Holidays.

In the process of this year's gift-giving chores, Vangie informed me that I have a grand total of 32 godchildren. Quite a feat, if you ask me, though I know someone from office who has more than 50 of them.

I have 13 girls and 19 boys. The oldest two are already 18 years old. I was their age when they were baptized. The youngest is three. That means nobody asked me to become their kid's ninong for the past three years. I still don't have wedding godchildren.

Vangie has about the same number of godchildren as mine (we are both ninong and ninang to one boy whose mother we helped rushed to the hospital to give birth to him). She keeps track of the children's ages, but even then things get mixed up once in a while.

One particular year, I inadvertently gifted a god-son kiddie basketball goal with plastic ball. Turned out he's already in his teens by then.

Then only a few years ago, I gave one of my god-sons pink, embroidered cheong-sam. It's because I didn't ask the boys' parents – who are our officemates – what's their kids' gender and instead asked a fellow ninong who also didn't attend the baptism.

Like the past few Holidays, we have prepared our Holiday attire this year. We have started a small family tradition to wear identical shirts on either Christmas or New Year. It's not as expensive as our previous get-ups, but something I expect to draw attention no less. Because it has our picture emblazoned on its front.