Thursday, April 10, 2014

You know, like Che Guevara.

Photo from here.

The day I stopped being Che

Thirteen months ago. It was an 8-hour flight. Hated it. The small space, nothing to do but watch a movie, read or sleep. But I survived! It was by far the longest flight I’ve taken. I was dehydrated, sleepy when I went through immigration. Easy breezy. No questions. 

As soon as I had to take the connecting flight to another state, I knew I was out of my comfort zone. I spoke English but they can’t understand what I was saying. I either got a this-is-an-Asian-who-can’t-speak-English-look or a ‘can you say that again.’ I was an excellent English speaker back home. But I realised, I knew Filipino English, not British English. After that, I thought I only had to work on my accent. As it turns out, I had to alter my name too

I was Che all my life. A very common name back home that people actually remember. But not here. I introduce myself and tell them they can call me ‘Che.” After a couple of hours, I suddenly became Cheryl, Cherry, Cher and Chey. It is difficult for most of the people I meet to say Che` (may impit sa dulo).  

As the days went along, I realised that people can’t say correctly, much less remember, my name. It’s very tiring to keep on saying and spelling it. Imagine me saying this line over and over again: 'My name is Cherrilyn, but you can call me Che. You know, like Che Guevara.'  Then one smart man advised me, ‘Why don’t you change your name to something easier to remember?' That was the day I became a fruit, err, Cherry. 

For some this may seem very trivial, but ever since I can remember, I am Che. I can’t describe it but it was hard for me to give up this nickname. I have several Filipino friends here who still call me this, with the proper intonation. It’s just that with a new job, this new nick would make my life easier and for those who are around me. Which leads me to another not-so-related topic.


I’ve been driving back home for more than a decade. My Dad taught my sister and I at an early legal age because he wanted to be free from driving us to and from places in late high school and college. Upon arriving here, I applied for a driver’s license. 

It was no surprise that I had to start from scratch. After all, they drive on opposite side of the road (right-hand drive). I thought I could nail the driving test, but I was so wrong. Everything I can possibly do wrong, I did. As a basic lesson, my driving instructor told me, 'Do not forget, MSH.' M stands for mirrors, S for signal and H for headcheck.

Headcheck what? What in the world is a headcheck? Well, it is (literally) turning your head over your shoulders, just for a second, to look in the direction of your turn or lane change. This is to cover the blind spots in driving. When I was learning to drive, my Dad would slap my hand when I do this. He always said, ‘Use your mirrors.' I believe it is safe to say the NO ONE headchecks in the Philippines.

So imagine my exasperation when mirrors are not enough but I had to do headchecks too. I can only sigh. So I go to bed at night dreading my second driving test and dreaming about MSH.

My old confident, self-driving Che is suddenly replaced by Cherry, an anxious student driver having to think about mirrors, signals, headcheck and speed limits. My Dad would flip out when he sees how I drive here. 

Starting a new life in foreign land isn’t easy. But I found it easier when you adapt, little by little, without losing who you really are. I mean, changing my nickname is something that I won't lose a sleep over. I don’t mind since it is just another derivative of my full name. But the accent, I am not ready yet. Because I am afraid that once I start changing my accent, people will stop asking where I am from. I don’t want that to happen because I want them to ask where I am from. Then, I'd be proud in answering that I am from the Philippines and I am a Filipino.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pugad Baboy, atbp.

From PDI

Pugad Baboy is one of the comic strips which I was always addicted to. Found it by accident cause my Dad's favorite newspaper is the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Since high school, I used to cut-out my favorite strips and put them in between pages of my favorite books. My favorite characters? Brosia, Polgas of course and Mang Dagul. But somehow, during my very busy adult life, I totally forgot about the strip. I stopped reading the newspaper and instead picked up medical journals. Then one day, my Facebook was full of notifications from family and friends tagging me. The post? It's an issue all of you must know by now, Pol Medina's hit on 'kulasa.'

You see, I grew up in the 'Benedictine world', as we fondly call it. I went to their exclusive schools until my secondary education. So when I saw this protest post, I just laughed. I really found the strip very funny. Because I believe Pol just wrote something that none of us dared to speak of.

True, not every one who studies in these exclusive schools enter into a same-sex relationship. I did not. Or maybe I was one of the ugly ducklings cause the strip said 'all pretty girls.'  Besides, I like men. Although I don't find anything wrong with my girlfriend liking another girl. Much like there is nothing wrong when a boy and a girl end up together in a co-ed high school. Its natural for humans to seek love and companionship.

Anyway, going back to my topic, I realized I missed Pugad Baboy. How it puts everything in a funny perspective without missing the truth. However, Pol was probably safer if he did't single out  St. Scho and suggested that nuns were 'tongrils' (lesbian). But then again, that would be like losing the punch line of a good joke, right?

I was catching up with Pugad Baboy's strips the past weeks on Rappler and I had to look up one punch line cause I didn't get it. Oh it was about what Michael Douglas thought caused his cancer.  I mean, this guy smoked and drank alcohol aside from having oral sex. It would be totally misleading people if he only blames the HPV and oral sex. This one, I believe, deserves another post.

As for Pugad Baboy, I'm not sure I like the new lay-out in Rappler. For an old school like me who used to read it in print, the different punch lines needs sometime to grow on me. I don't even find some punch lines funny or I forget which one is my favorite then have to go back. Sorry Pol. But I still love Pugad Baboy.

By the way, this post should have the #latepost. 
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Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Miss Most

I never thought I'd sound like a typical migrant from a tropical country when I got here, but the winter just made one out of me. Excuses, excuses, I know. I just probably miss the Philippines so much that I never realized the small things that irritated me back home are the ones that will make me want go back.

The sun. I know its sounds so mundane but I miss the sun back home. I miss the way it burns my skin, the way it 'defrosts' my fingers when coming out from an air-conditioned room or the way it shines so early and sets so late. I know the sun rises and sets from here too. But I don't think you'd appreciate it when its 4 degrees outside and the wind is blowing so hard.

The baywalk and everything that comes with it. I miss running along baywalk in the afternoon. Although I don't exactly miss the smell, I miss seeing the different stories I encounter. I miss the stark contrast - street vendors and homeless and just a few steps away are the luxurious hotels, coffee shops and restaurants. I don't appreciate the 'gap' that these things illustrate. But these afternoon runs keep me grounded, open my eyes to reality which is a constant reminder that I have role in decreasing that gap. Here, that gap is so small that it makes you forget people needing your help. You can be so comfortable that you might forget that the world doesn't revolve around you.

The public transport - its convenience. Yes, our public transport, especially the jeepney, is very convenient cause it stops where and when ever you want it to stop. Don't get me wrong, I'm a good citizen. I stop in the designated places. I just miss the fact that just a few steps away from the gates of the hospital where I used to work, I can hail any type of public transport I want. This is in contrast to walking 750 meters everyday during winter just to get to a train station.

The food. I miss the fresh seafood, affordable buffets, things that you can buy in the street. I miss fishball, squidball, corn on the cob, banana cue, turon.... and the list goes on. I am salivating just thinking about the food back home. I know I can cook some of it here, but it doesn't taste the same. It's probably the ingredients, or maybe something else.

The language. I miss speaking Filipino. Wait, change that to 'conversing' in Filipino. After speaking English all day, you'd want to shout in Tagalog when you get home. Or when you hear strangers talking in Filipino, you'd want to butt in just because you miss it so much, even thought they'd think you are a weirdo or ill-mannered. 

The fact that everything is open after 5 pm, and I mean everything. You go home at 7 pm, and you can still buy a television or a new sofa if you wanted to. If you can't appreciate this, try living in a place where everything closes at 5 pm and you get off work at the exact time. No wonder, online buying is so popular here.

My patients. I miss their greetings when I walk in the clinic every morning. I miss our small talks - about their children and how proud they are of them. I miss seeing their smiles when I make them better.  I miss that opportunity where I can make a difference in a few lives.

The people. I was just telling my friend M last night that even though life is very comfortable here, I was happier in the Philippines. Mainly because everyone's happy, everyone can carry a tune anywhere, anytime and they smile at every opportunity they get. Filipino happiness is contagious.

The churches. I miss going to a jam-packed church every Sunday. I miss doing a weekly novena with a community and not feel so different and isolated. I miss that fact that there is a church in almost every corner that holds one (or more) mass daily. I can even attend a mass in a mall if I wanted to.

My family. Enough said.

I really don't know what the future holds for me in this new place where I can't call home yet. One thing is for sure though, I will always miss Pinas and I will always have a reason to go back home. After all, home is where the heart is. I can't wait for that day.
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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Cap the Year

Perfect way to cap the year - salon treatments. Best part about them? Pampering and lots of time to read. It also made me think about the year that was.

This year has been one of the most tumultuous years I've had in my entire adult life. I remember that at the start of the year, I actually whined to God that nothing exciting happened to me in the past 2 years. I felt like my life was in a plateau. No fun, no nothing.

You know what they say, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. And I did. It felt like God made me ride a roller coaster - upside-down - just to teach me a lesson.

I'm sure you wouldn't want to know the details but I'd tell you anyway. This is my birthday post, so bear with me.

- B was diagnosed with cancer
- I got pregnant but lost Rafa after 8-9 weeks in my tummy
- granted permission to migrate
- Chuy leaving then coming back home after less than a month
- plans not falling into place
- finishing residency and studies

It wasn't all good but not all bad either. I know that God waits for the perfect time to give us what we wish for.

Just a few hours before I turn another year old, I was asking myself if this was where I imagined my self to be? Roughly, yes.

I imagine myself that at this age, I'd be a doctor, with a very successful private practice, married to a lovely man and we have kids. I have 2 out of the 4. Not bad, I think. I still have many years ahead of me to make the other 2 come true, and other dreams as well.

At this point, I can only be grateful for all the things that transpired this year - good or bad. It taught me to appreciate every morning that I wake up, every small moments of success, every little thing that I used to take for granted. But most importantly, it taught me not to ever, ever, question His will.

With a book in my lap, coffee on the table and a hairdresser making me look fabulous, what more can I ask for?

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