Monday, February 13, 2012

NO to Valentines’!

I was in the shopping mall today.  In one of the school supplies stores, I was looking over the cards section.  I wondered why there was an obvious absence of Valentines’ cards.  So, I figured, I’ll just probably send my sister a cute, pink all-occasion one (she loves pink). 

Then, I noticed this brochure sticking out of one of the shelves:

In Dutch, the words below the shopping cart mean:

Love is not exclusive!
Show your affection:
A kiss, a letter, a word…
But why a gift on 1 day in the year?
Love does not cost money!
Do not be fooled by Saint Valentine.
Do not fall for the commercializing of your feelings.
Love is not for sale!

I guess the pamphlet worked because I came home empty handed.  I will have some explaining to do to my sister though.

I remember one time, at the airport in Amsterdam and on my way back to the Philippines , a rather pleasant lad approached me and asked me if I was taking a plane.  I smiled and said “Yes”.  He then handed me a pamphlet (I am now starting to be wary of pamphlets).

In the paper was the question: “Do you know how much damage you are about to do to the environment when you fly in a plane?”


In my heart, I know that pretty much all my life, I have been an environmentalist and have tried for the most part to persuade others to care more for our planet.  But please, I have not even remotely considered taking a boat home from Europe (and back!) Spanish era style.  That would be too much.

So, sorry Mother Earth but I will continue taking airplanes home, however, I will continue doing my part in minimizing my environmental footprint.

In the years we have been together, my husband and I have never celebrated Valentines’ day deliberately.  I now figured out why & in a way, the paper is right.

Valentines’ should be every day.  That’s so cliché but it’s true.  We don’t just send cards, chocolates, presents, stuffed toys, etc. to partners or friends on Valentines’, birthdays, and Christmas.  We ought to make them feel special every, single day and we show our love and affection at each waking moment.

Life is fleeting.  Our loved ones won’t be with us forever. 

In the great tradition of Valentines’, my wish for everyone is that we don’t ever take the people we love for granted.  And that we cherish all the moments that we have together.

As one great proverb goes:  “Offer good while supply lasts!”.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Exotic Wife

There is a new television program here in Belgium that has been slowly amassing the interest of the public.  The title of the show is “Exotische Liefde”, translated as “Exotic Love”.  It is about what couples go through in Long Distance Relationships (LDRs) and eventually, how they meet, reunite…or are deceived.

Interestingly, there are several Filipina-Belgian couples in the series (even a Filipino-Belgian homosexual couple).  It is quite intriguing (especially for couples like K and I) and most times, in the middle of each episode, we cannot help but cringe.

Let me tell you why…

When I started dating my now husband, K, I was a bit…careful, let’s put it that way.  I made sure that I dressed “conservatively” & “appropriately” whenever we went out back home and that I didn’t wear anything too short or too revealing.  I also consciously took it upon myself not wear make-up of any sort (not that I often do).  Red lipstick and heavy make-up? Gasp! (No pun intended)

In short, I didn’t want to seem: “Slutty”.  I figured there are enough South Park jokes about Filipina prostitutes as well as prejudices in the outside world (and in my country too) that I refused to fuel them.  Normally, I do not heed what other people might think of me or perceive me as despite the undeniable fact that in my country, what people say or think about you is something that cannot easily be ignored…especially when you are not directly confronted with it.

However, I would like to think that nobody we didn’t know really thought of me as a harlot or a gold-digger.  Although, coming from a conservative country, I still made sure that the maximum show of affection in public was a holding of hands or an arm over the other’s shoulder sort.  Definintely, NO KISSING.

I believed that this time, it wasn’t just about me.  It was something bigger than myself.  This time, it was about me together with all the other Filipinas who had foreign boyfriends.  It was about proving to the world that true love can happen between a white boy and a brown girl…and it doesn’t necessarily have to be about exchange rates or VISUMs.

As we were watching an episode, there was this scene where the Filipina finally arrived in her “new” homeland and her loving husband together with his family beamed with happiness; some even shed tears of joy that she had finally come to cold Belgium.  He brought her to his house where he practically converted his cellar into a mini-grocery and told his wife that it was all for her and that she could choose whatever she wanted.  He was set on making her comfortable and happy.

There was, however, a scene (among several) that made me/us cringe—a bit.  It was where he was showing her his living room and tv and he handed her the remote to give it a try and she asked a particularly interesting question: “Yu hab kaybol?” (Do you have cable?) Errr…

But well, I would have to admit that I too had my moments.  Maybe even worse! 

When I first came to visit K, my plane had landed in Amsterdam.  We spent the night there so we could explore the liberated city on my first day in Europe.  At the lobby of our hotel, I found an enchanting painting on the wall.  I told K that it was beautiful.  Then I saw a metal object right below it.  Recognizing it from a photo K sent me of his bedroom, I exclaimed that it was exactly like what he had in his room and that it was quite lovely.  I asked him what it was.  Having been situated under a painting, I thought:  Oh, it might be typical “European Art Nouveau”.

To my great embarrassment, K replied with a forced serious tone, “Umm…it’s a heater.”

In Belgium, I try to be at my best—most of the time anyway. I feel that I am not only representing myself, but I imagine a Philippine Flag following me around all the time.  I always think that I shouldn’t be the one to tarnish the reputation of my fellowmen and that I should not bring shame to my motherland. Cliché but true.

I would have to admit that I am not THAT in touch with the Filipino community here.  I only have a handful of Filipino friends but despite that, news still manages to reach me.
For example:  Two Filipinas engage in a shouting match in the middle of the street—in Antwerp!  Which is 40mins away from Ghent.  I knew about that.

A Filipino karaoke bar owner in our city got caught for dealing marijuana and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.  I, of course, knew about that even if it wasn’t in the news.

An au pair in Brussels ran away with her rich employer’s Hermes bags and designer gowns.  I was well informed about that, as well.

The reason we practically have a thousand Facebook friends is not because we want to win a popularity contest.  It’s because we love keeping ourselves abreast with each other’s lives.  Even if we haven’t seen each other in a long time.  That’s Asians  for you.

On a more sour note, worse news also manage to slither through the Filipino grapevine:

A Filipina comes to Belgium to visit her online lover only to be brought to his house, tied to the bed, and repeatedly and alternately raped by the man and his son.  Luckily, she was able to escape and was able to seek solace from somebody we know.


A Filipina got involved in a fight with her boyfriend and ended up being killed in one of the parks here.


Another Filipina who came to Belgium and had such a traumatic experience with her online boyfriend that she had to undergo psychiatric treatment afterwards of which is completely shouldered by the Belgian government.

It is a well known fact that the Philippines is not among the richest countries in the world, or even in Asia, in terms of monetary wealth.  Our wealth lies in our natural resources and in the hearts of our people.  But sadly, that, more often than not, is not enough to put food on our plates.  That is the sad reality and we cannot blame other women (or men) for seeking “greener” pastures elsewhere, even if it means living in another country and learning to love somebody they have never met in person…to the point of risking their lives.

I know the show makes my husband uneasy because it makes him and all other Belgian men who unexpectedly fell head over heels in love with “exotic women” (and I wouldn’t blame them *wink*) prone to the desperate-foreigner-seeking-exotic-wife stereotype and having colleagues always talking about the show just makes it worse. And I feel sorry for him (snicker…just kidding!) but he knows, I know, and the people we know all know better.

But one thing is for sure, we will continue watching the series and we might continue cringing but hopefully also do some sighing (with relief) because things turned out all right for da kopols…I mean, the couples concerned.

To see some excerpts of “Exotische Liefde” click here:

25secs (my favorite guy in the show coz he’s so sweet):

The happy end:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where to Go In Barcelona

When you go to Barcelona, like any other place, there is a list of “Must See’s”. For us, it included:

1. Sagrada de Familia (The Sacred Family), a grandiose Gothic church that is still in the works designed by Antoni Gaudi, otherwise known as “The Architect of God”

2. Park Guell, a park designed by the same architect for Barcelona’s upper class society and is now a UNESCO Heritage Site.

3. The Picasso Museum, which features the local born artist’s early works.

4. And the FC Barcelona Museum at Camp Nou.

Naturally, for our weekend holiday, I picked the most important from the lot. And yep, if you know me well enough, you guessed it right! The FC Barcelona Museum.

When we went to Brazil a couple of months ago, I got the chance to visit the Museo de Futebol of Brazil (K could not come with me then as he had work). I loved it! I loved walking into the first room of the Museum embraced by dramatic drumbeats…tum…tum-dum…tug…tum…tug…tum-dum… at the same time, seeing life-sized holograms of Brazil’s top footballers of all time: Ronaldo, Falcão, Vavã, Rivaldo, Gilmar, Garrincha, Romario, Didi, Bebeto, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Tostão, Djalma Santo, Gerson, Zizinho, Socrates, Jairzinho, Rivellino, Zagallo, Carlos Alberto, Julinho Botelho, Zico, Nilton Santo, Taffarel, and Carlos Alberto Torres. The Baroque Angels, they are called.

My all-time favorite was the next room. And just writing about it now gives me goosebumps.

In the next room, there were 3 big screens set up. As I went up the escalator to the platform I felt my heart pounding in my chest and my hair raising in my arms as I was constantly embraced by the roar of the crowds cheering in Brazilian football matches. Different eras but with the same deafening shouts as Brazil scores a goal. It wasn’t just a one man victory. It was the country’s.

In Barcelona there were the same rooms. But nothing like the one’s in Sao Paulo. Still, it brought me the same rush it has been giving me for more than half of my life. It reminded me why I love football so much.

Last June, in Rio de Janeiro, K and I were supposed to watch a local football match. We had our tickets, we were prepared and from Sao Paulo we flew all the way to Rio, but alas! The game was rescheduled and instead of Saturday it was to be on Sunday—the Sunday when we would head back to Belgium.

You can imagine how enraged I was with the ticket agent who failed to inform us of the change. Apparently, they just assumed that Sunday was also fine with us. Having worked in a call center for 4 years I certainly gave them a “Call to Remember”.

So it was that we didn’t expect to see a football match when we went to Barcelona. Good thing I just happened to check the FC Barcelona schedule 3 days before we were scheduled to go there. As I went over their website my heart started beating faster and faster. “Could it be possible?” I asked myself. “Could it really, really, really be possible that they had a game and that there were still actually tickets available?”.

My husband rechecked it and much to our delight, we were able to get tickets for a Saturday night game of FC Barcelona vs Racing de Santander PLUS go and visit the FC Barcelona museum before the match.

18 years I have been a football fan and on that day, Saturday, October 15, 2011, I could not have asked for more. No, it wasn’t Juventus. No, it wasn’t Alessandro del Piero. No, I wasn’t in Italy. But it was FC Barcelona. It was Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa and Puyol. It was Barcelona Baby. And best of all, I could share the experience with my husband.

After watching the Barcelona game, these days, all I ask for is a little bit of world peace, environmental consciousness, and cure for cancer. Seriously and sincerely.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tropical Fruits of the Philippines that are not so known in Belgium

A long time ago (or so it seems), during the period when K and I were still sustaining our LDR (long distance relationship) through Skype, I paused to get some juice out of my refrigerator. As I would usually drink mine straight out of the box (one of the great pleasures of living alone), K asked me what kind of juice it was. I nonchalantly replied, “guava”. His next question was something I never expected… "What is that??"

I had never imagined that somebody in the world would not know what “guava” was.

And then came...

Batad Rice Terraces, November 2009.

We met an Italian and a Frenchman there. That day, I decided to start my “guava” foreigner survey: "Do you know what a guava is?"

They both answered: "No."

I was shocked then and sometimes, I still get shocked now. Today, I will write about Common Unknown Fruits that I had introduced to K (through Google this time, not Skype) many moons ago.

First up, Guava ofcourse!


This fruit is very tempting to eat, especially when ripe…just watch out for the worms! They possess the uncanny ability to blend right in. Yum! Yum!

Another version of the guava is what my cousins and I call the “Guapol” (Guava apple). Don't ask me why we call it Gaupol. Beats me...


Atis or in English, it is known as “sugar apple”. I like this fruit. It is soft (even the shell) and is generally sweet but you just have to be careful with the seeds. If you swallow it, legend says the branches grow out of your ears and nostrils.


Cacao. This fruit is what they use when making chocolate (nothing sort of the Belgian kind). It's the chocolate we use to make "champorado" but that's another story. Surprisingly though, this fruit is one that I find sweet and delectable. It can smell like chocolate but it definitely doesn’t taste anywhere near it. :)


Durian. As this fruit is quite heavy (not to mention, spiney!), I cannot imagine being in its way as it falls from a tree. Although I have never heard of such incidents happening, we most certainly don’t want to be the first!

This fruit tastes like heaven, but smells like hell. I remember being on plane from Davao to Manila and it just reeked of durian. Though I don’t mind the smell of this fruit but too much can be really overwhelming. Blech! *shudder*


Jackfruit. Much bigger than durian but more pleasant in smell, the jackfruit’s fruit can be sticky on the hands. Still sweet like most tropical fruits, its crunchy meat is surprisingly something I do not go out of the way to eat. Just wash your hands well after eating as the smell can stick to your fingers.


Galangan” as we call it in my dialect, or "Balimbing" as it is more popularly known. Poor guy. For the latter, I have no idea why it is named as such as in our language, "balimbing" means someone who swings both ways (not gender wise but takes both sides).

This fruit is usually sour and thus, better dipped in some soy sauce with vinegar and salt or eaten with salt as a stand alone. We don’t usually find these in markets but I can eat a lot of this from the short tree at my grandfather’s place.


Iba, or more commonly known as "Kamias".

It has been a loooooong time since I have eaten this fruit. We really don’t eat it much as it is so sour it’ll make your face look like the Grinch’s. But sometimes my aunts make it into jam and it becomes quite yummy.

Iba or Kamias

Lanzones. A summer fruit with opaque insides, together with most of the rest, when choosing this fruit, one must note that the more black ants on the fruit stand the better. It means that it is much sweeter if that is the case. Just be careful with the small seeds in the middle as those can be quite bitter.


Lomboy. This appears to be berries on really tall trees. Best eaten with salt, this fruit is not the sweetest (more of an acquired taste actually) and makes your mouth purple. Old people dry up their leaves and make it into filter-less cigarettes. *cough*cough*


Mangosteen. Admittedly, I haven’t eaten a lot of this fruit as it may either be quite rare or my family is just not so fond of it. But it tastes and looks more like the star apple (or vice-versa) of which I’m more familiar with.


Manzanitas. Now THIS is one of my favorites. But it is quite small, like half of my thumb, but ofcourse it doesn’t taste at all like the half of my thumb (come to think of it, I will never know really!). It is always sweet when it’s ripe and it comes in reds, oranges, and yellow-oranges. When I was little I loved climbing up the manzanitas tree. I just had to keep a close lookout for the “til-as” or hairy caterpillars. Itchy!!


Rambutan. This tastes like lychees actually and I am very fond of lychees--in cans! Hehe This fruit is quite sweet but the reason why I don’t like eating it is that the flesh gets in between my teeth and that makes it very annoying for me, especially when the outer covering of the seed sticks to the flesh after you bite it off. Arrrrgh!


Santol. Fibrous but still sweet. You have to be a really good climber to get fruits from this tree. I wonder how our parents managed to allow us to climb up those trees. Or did they even know about it? Hehe


Sineguelas. Usually sold in plastic bags during the summer, I used to eat this as if I were eating junkfood. Sweet, crunchy and even great when overripe, this is one of the fruits that I truly miss eating.


Star Apple. I dunno why this fruit is called as such as it is not shaped like a star and moreover, it has no semblance to the taste of an apple. Hmmm...

My grandfather has a large, old starapple tree at his house and people who have a “3rd eye” say that there is an enchanted castle far bigger than the tree on it. On a less freaky note, the fruit is fibrous and sweet and meaty. I like it but I don’t love it. It’s not really something I would go out of my way to eat. No offense to the "little people".


Tambis. When I was a kid, I used to climb this tree the moment we arrived at my grandfather’s house. I got to know most of these fruits through my grandfather’s trees. Tambis is also crunchy and best eaten with salt or vinegar. My cousins and I loved vinegar with lots and lots of chili.


Chicos. It's supposed to be Chico for singular but I dunno why we've always called it "Chicos" (but definitely Tambis is for both singular and plural). I love this fruit: It is soft, sweet, and oh so satisfying!


Guyabano. Hmmm...the best juice flavor for me (alongside guava). I'm not that fond of this fruit that looks like a cross between a durian and a jackfruit, but turned to juice, it is impossible for me to resist it!


All these fruits that I grew up with, are those I never imagined that K has never gotten acquainted with before we met. Guava. Seriously, Guava?? It’s one of the most ordinary and common fruits! It’s so ordinary, they don’t even sell it often at the marketplace really. We don’t even consider exporting it!

Funny. But then again, I’ve never eaten a peach that wasn’t in a can either…until I first came here.

Though I still prefer the canned ones… *wink*

I Love KFC

I don’t deny it. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is my favorite fastfood in the whole wide world. For an environmentalist that is quite disgraceful, I know. But as everybody is entitled to their own simple pleasures in life, these 3 letters have just always been one of mine—K.F.C.

The other weekend, after long months of searching, I finally got a taste of good old Kentucky Fried Chicken—or so I had hoped.

Ever since I was a kid, I have had only good memories of KFC. Having grown up in Los Baños, a town that was not yet invaded by fastfood chains the likes of KFC, eating their chicken became quite a treat. Being the first child and the center of my parents’ universe at that time, during some weekends, I remember the three of us would go to Manila for just a day, shop at Harisson Plaza, and come back home with one big bucket of KFC, lots of gravy and extra coleslaw! Things couldn’t have gotten any better than that.

When we moved to Dumaguete there was, yet again, no KFC yet. But my family and I survived. Cebu City, an island approximately 3 hours away, had KFC.

Fast forward. In my mid-twenties and 3 siblings later, I decided to go and work in Manila.

The first time I went back home to visit, I remember going to a KFC branch close to my apartment the night before (at that time, I finally lived in a place where there was a great abundance of KFC. Hmmm…come to think about it, that may have just been the subconscious reason why I moved to Manila in the first place. Hehe) and ordered one bucket of KFC: 6 original and 6 hot and spicy with extra gravy, and a large coleslaw.

In the cab on the way to the airport the next day, I held that bucket with pride. On board the plane, I put my bucket of KFC on the luggage compartment with dignity. All that time, I knew the effort was all worth it and besides, it wasn’t a can of Rebisco cookies anyway, was what I told myself. I was bringing with me the three key ingredients to happiness = chicken + gravy + coleslaw.

When I got home, the look on my siblings faces reminded me of how I felt when my papa would come home from a trip to Manila, bringing with him a bucket of KFC. I felt happy.

Before I moved to Belgium, not having a KFC branch was one of my main concerns (that and the absence of “Ivory” brand soap—mind you, these issues at that time seemed to be a matter of utmost importance. hehe). It ended up getting so bad that I joined the “Bring KFC to Belgium” group on Facebook. Really pathetic. Friends started suggesting places that had KFC. These places mostly ended up being a country or two away…so you get the picture.

Finally, our American friend, S, mentioned that there was a KFC somewhere in Lille. Lille is on the border of France, approximately 45mins away. One late afternoon, K proposed all of a sudden to pay Lille a visit with a knowing look on his face. Without any hesitation, I flat ironed my hair, put on some make-up and perfume, wore a nice outfit and got this close to jumping up and clicking my heels with delight. It was the moment I had been waiting for.

Either K was a very good sport or he was just subconsciously pressured into doing so, he ended up unexpectedly changing into a long-sleeved polo shirt, black jeans, and dress shoes for our most awaited and long overdue KFC dinner date. I admit, I don’t normally dress up to have dinner (more so at KFC?!@#%) but this was a momentous occasion for me. After months of being KFC deprived, I forgot that I didn't speak French and wanted to look special when ordering my hot and spicy, extra crispy chicken, gravy, and coleslaw with Mountain Dew, if they had that in France.

So we started on our journey to happiness. We were off to Lille! I was so excited that not even the cold could freeze my spirits.

When we arrived at Lille I grew very anxious waiting for our trusty GPS (we call her “Sophie” for no particular reason) to bring us to THE place. Finally, there she was. Nestled in a corner of what seemed to be the highway….waiting for me all this time, calling out to me…there was my KFC outlet.

I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. I was giddy with excitement. At the entrance I even wanted to have my picture taken! But alas, in all the preparations, we had unfortunately forgotten our camera—again!! Besides, K already started giving me “the look” so I decided not to push him to take my picture using his phone. Hehe

While we were waiting for our turn, I searched the menu over and over again until it finally dawned upon me: Oh my gosh! There was no rice!!!

How can I eat KFC without rice?!?! Stupid me! I should have brought a Tupperware of rice with me! I should’ve known! But it’s okay, Jacki. The important thing is the yummy chicken, dipped in gravy, together with their heavenly coleslaw, isn’t it? Yes, Jacki. That’s what is important. You can live without rice for one meal.

Finally, it was our turn and having gotten over my earlier disappointment, I eagerly told K what my order was so he could translate it to the waitress.

“Bizwa fushwa boozhoo wee zhoo”, was what I deciphered from the lady behind the counter.

K asked me, “What type of gravy do you want?”

I said, “Ummm…there is only one type of gravy in KFC. I want THE KFC gravy.”

Then K spoke to the girl again. While this was transpiring, a weird, sickening feeling started to creep up inside me.

K turned to me again, “She says they only have sauces. She doesn’t know what gravy is.”

I almost turned pale, “Gravy, you know, it’s brown. I’s gravy!”

I finally realized that they just didn’t have any gravy. Never had and maybe never will have.

My heart sank.

I grudgingly said, it’s okay. I’ll just have coleslaw then.

K spoke to the girl.

Again the, “Bwoozhoo zhini amtwoh zhizu.”

“They don’t have coleslaw either.”, K told me hesistantly.

I wanted to cry. So much for happiness. I just started staring off into space and didn’t even mind that they didn’t have any Mountain Dew. Well at least they had chicken, right? Ugh, no wonder KFC Stockholm went bankrupt.

The first couple of pieces of crispy chicken wings were eaten in stunned silence. They became a vague memory. Suddenly, something just clicked inside me (no, it wasn't one of the loose screws). I realized that I should still be happy. There I was sitting inside KFC in a small town in France, eating my favorite chicken in the whole wide world, with the man I love, who drove all the way to another country--literally, just to cater to my craving. There was a lot to be happy about and our KFC experience just made up another wonderful memory to add to my own.

I have vowed to simply wait until I come home to my country to eat KFC. After all, I have lived without it before, I just have to live without it again.

Although I will never go back to Lille for KFC, the experience just reminded me again that in life, it doesn’t really take much to be happy--it shouldn't. For me, it can be something as simple as a set menu from KFC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ang Una kong (at malamang huling) Sanaysay

Sa araw na ito, susubukan kong magsulat sa aking sariling wika; ang wika ng aking bansa. Baka sa susunod Bisaya naman ang gagamitin ko. Wag ka nalang magtangkang basahin ito at sasakit lang siguro ang ulo mo...alam ko na ang akin ay nagsisimula na. ;P

Ano ang dahilan at naisip kong gawin ito? Sa pagdayo ko sa bansang ito, dito lang ako napaisip: Gaano ba talaga ako ka-Pilipino? Sa paaralan ko ngayon sinasabihan ako ng aking mga klasmeyt na taga Estados Unidos na sobrang Amerikano ang aking pananalita pati na ang mga kwento ko tungkol sa aking mga pinagdaanan sa aking paaralan noon, Silliman. Complemento man ito sa iba, sa aking hindi. Mukhang hinding-hindi ko maatim na mapagsabihan ako ng ganun kasi ako ay Pilipino na may sariling pagkatao pagkatapos sabihan lang nila ako na ang aking mga gawi ay para lang dayuhan..?

Pero di ko naman masisisi na ganoon ang kanilang masabi kasi di hamak na totoo naman. Tulad ngayon, sobrang nahihirapan akong magsulat ng Tagalog kahit na halos 1/3 ng aking buhay Tagalog ang wika na aking ginamit. Kinailangan ko pang magbukas ng dictionaryo para lang makatulong sa aking pagsusulat…AT alam ko na sa aking huling talata sigurado ako na dudugo na talaga ang ilong ko. Kaya patawarin nyo lang ako at ito na siguro ang pinakauna ang pinakahuling sanaysay ko sa Pilipino dahil sobrang hirap talaga.

Subali’t hindi. Hindi ako papayag na ako ay matawag na may gawing kano. Ayoko…Ayoko! Alam ko higit kwarentang taon sila dito pero…ako ay Pilipino, ang dugo’y maharlika. Likas sa aking puso, adhikaing kay ganda… ;P Pero di nga, sinasabi ko ngayon na kahit anong mangyari hinding-hindi ko bibitawan ang aking kulturang napagsanayan…yung kulturang pinoy. Gagamit pa rin ako ng kutsara’t tinidor pagkumakain at hindi tinidor’t kutsilyo. Hahanap at hahanap parin ako ng bigas na aking maisasaing kasama ng piniritong isda, adobo, afritada, o kung anumang maisip kong lutuin dahil alam kong hinding-hindi ko makakasanayan ang kumain ng sabaw lang at mahabang pandesal na may palaman na karneng hilaw at keso. Sa aking pinanggalingan yan ay hamak lang na merienda at hindi panghapunan. Ako ay patuloy na tatawa ng malakas pag mayroong nakakatuwa kasi ganyan ako at ganyan dapat ang mabuhay.

Ikanga sa isang palathala: “Magpakatotoo ka.”

Wala na siguro akong magagawa sa aking pananalita o sa aking mga pinagdaanan. Sa ngayon, ang alam ko lang, na kahit na anong mangyari, kahit na ano pang sabihin ng ibang tao tungkol sa aking bansa at mga kababayan, mahal ko pa rin ang aking bansa…at hindi ko makakalimutan ang aking pinanggalingan.

Whew! Aalam kong mukhang walang sense yung mga pinagsusulat ko kaya patawad. Ang puso naman ang masmahalaga, di ba? :

Expensive Plumbers

Each person has a fetish of his/her own. Some have shoe fetishes, some have handbag fetishes, some have canine fetishes, while some have feline fetishes.

I have a bathroom fetish.

I like my bathrooms squeaky clean, shining, shimmering, splendid.

So it was on one gloomy afternoon here in Gent, that I was happily cleaning our bathroom when I didn’t notice our toilet deodorizer slipping into a bubbly pit on its way down to oblivion. Unaware of the escape, I obliviously flushed the toilet with little regard for what I thought was a tiny transparent something sticking out amidst the suds. “Oh, it’s just bubbles.” I told myself.

A couple of hours later, in one of my random toilet trips, I noticed that the color of the toilet was turning blue. But this time, instead of blue dripping down, it was blue rising up! It was just then that I realized what had happened.

Not knowing what else to do, I just continued living a normal life that day. K came home and I told him what happened and we both just tried to be positive and hoped for the best.

But alas, positivity had no room for our hopes. After a couple of days, the most dreaded thing happened: Our toilet got clogged.

Though not to despair! Google had helped me before in dire circumstances and I had great faith that it would redeem me again. And so I Googled (and Youtubed—I move to propose that the latter be also made into a verb) the magic words: “How To Fix a Clogged Toilet”.

As expected, my surfing skills came up with several, ingenious options for us. I will not go into great detail as to what these selections were but oh, after extensive research and some equipment bought at a supply store, I was ready to become a plumber.

Now, plumbing isn’t as easy as it looks. On second thought, I take that back. I never thought plumbing was easy…doable, but definitely not easy. And after my first try, I unfortunately, had to give up. It is to be noted, however, that I am NOT a quitter. I just know my limits…and for plumbing, my abilities were merely good for one go (also, I feared making more damage than good). ;P

A couple of days later, it was K’s turn to put his plumbing skills to the test; but also to no avail. We were both not cut out to become plumbers, after all.

And so we had to submit to defeat, set our prides aside, and dial the dreaded plumber hotline to make an appointment. Two of them promptly showed up the next day.

I am always apprehensive about these Belgian servicemen (mailmen included) as I often feel as if it’s a “close encounters with the third kind” sort of thing. I have to speak Dutch and I’m always afraid I might say something incorrectly. “E.T. phone home!”.

So before they arrived, I made sure I had all my “visual aids” ready. I cleared some space in the bathroom so they would have more area for mobility, I put a sample of the same toilet deodorizer within reach, I put some paper towels on the floor, I set a bucket with a sponge nearby, and I made sure that whatever “not-so-miracle-after-all” stuff we poured down the toilet were within reach so the plumbers would be aware of what had already transpired.

They arrived on time (Europeans and promptness! Pfff… =) and immediately asked me what the problem was. I proceeded to explain what had happened and directed them to the bathroom for my presentation. Good thing I did not pull out my laptop. hehe

Again, I will not to expound on the plumber’s next moves but all I can say is that he was certainly (and nonchalantly) HANDS-ON when it came to doing his job!

He told me they had to get some equipment from their truck and so they went down and came back with an R2-D2 looking machine. Thinking that they needed some “privacy”, I decided to just loiter around the living room.

After one hour (including a cup of coffee and some paperwork), they were done. The whole ordeal made me so relieved (as the plumber said that our situation was dangerous in that the toilet thing (let’s call it “TD”) might have clogged up the pipes of the whole apartment, thus, affecting the flushing and draining capabilities of other units. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if that happened…and all because of a small TD!!!). Although another thing wasn’t so pleasant afterwards—The bill.

The bill was a whopping 190 euros! Even if I don’t convert that to pesos that is A LOT here in Europe…and just for a TD!!! Okay, converted to pesos that is roughly 11,000php! I can send a kid to school with that amount of money! Or maybe even send one whole class to school WITH books!!! Now, now, Jacki don’t get carried away…

It made me feel so terrible. But then my bestfriend told me that in France, should you be in need of the services of a locksmith (you know the guy you turn to when you lock yourself out because you forgot your keys or you lost them?), that will cost you pretty much 2,000 euros—with three (3) zeros, and not just two (2)! That’s 118,000php!?!@#%

If time comes that I get locked out, I might as well hire a locksmith from my country. It’s much cheaper that way (fare included).

And when he goes to the Belgian embassy and gets asked the ultimate question: “Why are you going to Belgium?”

He would then answer: “Because a client of mine has locked herself out of her house.”

For 200 euros per job, I had wanted to become a plumber. But now I have found my life’s ambition and my bestfriend is also willing to discontinue her law practice for it….

We are off to become locksmiths!

This article is based on true events. Any resemblance to similar incidents or real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.