#30DayWritingChallenge: One thing I never learned.

Day Fifteen: One thing I never learned.

I never learned how to swim.

I got it from my mom. She hardly goes out of the house and she’s afraid of deep water, so none of her kids grew up knowing how to swim.

Our dad was away on military assignments for most of our early childhood. If he had it his way, we would’ve been swimming for most of our childhood years because he grew up near the sea.

I’m tall-ish for a Filipino. Five-foot-eight. So when it comes to company or barkada excursions to the pool or beach, I’m not afraid of getting into the water as long as it’s not more than five feet deep. A little deeper than that and I start to get nervous. Close to six feet and I will wade away to shallower waters. I can’t even float.

Jade in an inflatable pool.

It’s kind of pathetic, actually.

One time, an ex-boyfriend asked me, “what if I was drowning?”

“I’d be sad,” I promptly answered. I think he never forgave me for that.

Lately, I thought about learning how to swim. But there’s always some excuse or another stopping me. I even bought swim trunks and a goggles to motivate me. But, alas, it has yet to happen.

So here is the fastest way to kill me: throw me unto the ocean. I’ll panic and I’ll drown. And then I’ll turn into a mermaid.

Hah. I wish.

#30DayWritingChallenge: The weirdest thing about my family.

Day Fourteen: The weirdest thing about my family.

I can probably count in one hand the number of times our family went to church. The last one was maybe three years ago, during my sister’s wedding.

My father could not care less about religion. He is as nominal as nominal a Catholic can be without calling himself atheist. I doubt he understands the term; but even if he did, he probably think it’s too much of a bother.

My mother has always felt guilty about not going to church. Every Sunday morning, she will turn on the TV for a televised mass. She hardly watches it, but the sound from the television is probably enough to keep her satisfied enough about her Catholic obligations.

TV mass is really targeted to those who are too old or too sick to go to a church. My mother is neither of these. She is just shy about dressing up and going out in public.

So it was the kids who had to make up for the religious lapses of the parents.

I went to a Catholic school in high school and was even active in some church organizations. It was mostly for show, in hindsight, although I believed it (mostly) at that time. Church work means attending a mass and going to org meetings, leading prayers, and learning Cathechism. The latter appealed to the geek in me.

I stopped going to church around college, and like someone who has not eaten bacon in three months and realized that it was possible to not miss bacon, I realize that I won’t be smote for being a bad Catholic. Besides, I masturbated every day. Surely, I should have been punished sooner than that?

My siblings all went to a public school and so they were not pressured to exercise religious fervor the way I did. My oldest sister, as far as I know, remained religious. This is inspite (or maybe because) of living in the Middle East for the last few years.

My middle sister joined me and my oldest sister in church when we were younger, but by the time the youngest siblings were old enough to go to church with us, we already stopped going to church.

Family portrait, Maia's wedding.

Looking back at what I wrote so far, this isn’t particularly weird for an average Filipino family. The weirdest thing about our family is probably the fact that it isn’t.

The weirdest thing about our family is that how I am in it.

#30DayWritingChallenge: My father.

Day Three: My father.

Three habits of my father which drives me nuts.

Washing suede shoes.
Fastidious cleanliness around the house.
Fondness for fish sinigang.

Three musicians my father enjoys which surprised me when I found out.

Indigo Girls.

Three places my father visited which, in all likelihood, I might not step foot in during my lifetime.

The Spratlys.
East Timor.

Three of my father’s signature dishes.

Sauteed pork and tofu with soy sauce.
Kinilaw na dilis.

Three father-son bonding activities my father never taught me.

How to ride a bicycle.
How to play basketball.
How to drink beer.

Three character traits I share with my father.

Emotional dependence on friends.
Anger-driven physical violence.

Papa and Mama.

#30DayWritingChallenge: My mother.

Day Three: My mother.

I woke up early in the evening to the sound of raised voices coming from downstairs. It rarely happened now; the familiar sound used to be more frequent while I was growing up.

It was just one voice. A woman’s, harsh and angry. And it probably can be heard from across the street. Righteous anger always trumps her usual shame in being caught in embarassment.

I went down and asked what the commotion was about. The house helper earlier said her nose bled while in school; it was apparently a common occurence. She was evasive when questioned about her medical condition, and she gave very flimsy excuses when asked to have her sister phoned for answers.

My mother is a temperamental woman. It was borne, I suspect, from various frustrations she carried while growing up. She was the middle child, possibly an unfavorite. She graduated class valedictorian in high school, but rebelled in and eventually dropped out of college. Through the years, she’d tell us of stories of her life while growing up. In retrospect, there was always a tinge of hurt in those stories. It reminded her of what she did not become.

Those frustrations lash out in her angry outbursts, scary and surprising. It is the anger of someone deprived of opportunities to become better, but will not complain of what was her lot.

I tried to calm her down, but I knew I can only diffuse her a little. Once worked up, she can go on for an hour or two. The house helper, a girl of sixteen, hid her face underneath a pillow, still not saying anything. Oh, the many things she got things wrong.

My mother is often a kind, sympathetic woman, but she demands respect from those under her authority. We, her kids, as expected, constantly challenged her; even more so now that we are adults. We got our temper from her, after all. It is especially true with me, who might have made several of mistakes she made when she was younger, only worse and for worse reasons. Growing up, arguments with her became a game of waiting for her to say, “what did I do to deserve you?”

My mother eventually simmered down and I urged the house helper to return to her room. After I told her maybe half a dozen times, she decided to get up and move away. That girl didn’t seem to have much sense in her.

People who have met and talked to my mother would tell me she’s such a nice person. And she is. Except during those times when she isn’t.

House-cleaning and the overlooked “pamana” from the parents.

As I grow older, I realize much I begin to resemble the parents.

Filipinos usually use the verb “mana” when pointing out the similarities of the children to their elders. The noun form is “pamana”, which means legacy; “mana” could refer to a child’s genes, mannerisms, beliefs, as well as material heritage. It sums up the Filipino’s faith in tradition and continuity. Rebellion against one’s parents is often seen as a refusal of one’s heritage, which is worse than merely going against the parents’ wishes.

Old photo: bedroom

It sounds lofty, but I was merely musing about house-cleaning.

When I still lived with the parents — and it’s not uncommon for Filipinos, and other Asians, for the children to live with their parents well into adulthood or even after they have been married — I disliked house-cleaning. I had to do them, initially, being the eldest in a family who didn’t have a house-cleaner.

The parents were, and still are, very critical of house-cleaning. It’s common among the middle class to substitute luxury with cleanliness. One may only have humble furnitures in the tiny living room, but by God! The living room must not have a single speck of dust. When the father was done sweeping and wiping the floor, there was always an urge for me to learn how to float so that my feet will not spoil a work of art.

Eventually, when the siblings grew older, I stopped doing the house-cleaning and merely bossed them around to do the work for me. I grew tired of living with the family and, because I had a long-time boyfriend that time, decided to move out. One night, I told the mother that I found an apartment and was moving in with co-workers (almost true because the other house-mate was a co-worker); two days later, I’ve packed my things and went.

I still dislike house-cleaning. I don’t think I got that from the parents. But I get fidgety when the apartment is untidy. And there are days when I wake up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I clean the apartment. It wouldn’t pass the parents standards, but that belief in cleanliness has crept into me despite myself. Should I be surprised that one day, I’ll realize that I also have begun cleaning the floor in a way that will gleam with middle-class pride?

The thing that sucks about legacies is how you often don’t have a say which legacy you will be getting.