Walk in her shoes

walk in her shoes

walk in her shoes

I’m walking for charity.

Me.

Yes. Me.

I know, I can’t believe it either. The last time I walked for anything was in gradeschool, when our teachers made us walk to say no to a casino. I know. It’s a long story.

But Walk in her Shoes is a great cause.

 

Walk In Her Shoes is a campaign run by CARE Australia to raise awareness and money to support women and girls living in poor communities. Women are often the most disadvantaged and impoverished members of poor communities.

The injustice that they face is evident by their burden of walking to collect food, water and firewood, which prevents girls from going to school and women from earning an income – keeping them trapped in a devastating cycle of poverty.

For women and girls in developing countries, poverty is not just about a lack of food, water and shelter. It is also caused by the denial of their right to go to school, earn an income, make household decisions and make decisions about their health and bodies.

And you can be part of it by donating even just $5. I’m doing it as part of the Digital Parents team. Click here to donate NOW!

Inconvenience is not a problem

This last year, I’ve made an effort to really know the difference between a problem and an inconvenience. I must admit, I found myself whining more since joining social media. It is easy to get caught up in the habit of whinging about everything and anything when you see it happening so much online. It seems like the “in” thing to do is to jump into someone’s whining and say “oh yes, that is indeed annoying I feel the same way”.

The line between what a problem is and what an inconvenience is becomes blurry, so much so that people start to think that a mere inconvenience is actually a problem.

No chocolate? That’s an inconvenience. No wine? That’s an inconvenience. No money to go on a holiday? That’s an inconvenience. No time to blog? That’s an inconvenience.

What’s a problem?

This is a problem.

I saw a documentary on SBS where they showed a day in the life of this woman. She goes dump diving in the morning in the bins of the fast food chains in the Philippines. She then takes them to the slums where she lives with her paralysed husband beside the sewers and sifts through the bones of the leftovers. The bits of bones with some edible meat still hanging off them are then “cleaned” and re-cooked. She sells these meals in her little eatery in the middle of the slums in Tondo and manages to take home P70 a day – just enough for her to buy rice for herself and her husband. Those who eat her meals know where it comes from, but then again most of them only have that one meal that they could afford to eat for that day.

For me, that’s a problem.

Got cancer? That’s a problem. No money to feed yourself or your family? That’s a problem. No place to live? That’s a problem. Your house got bombed by a missile? That’s a problem.

When I’m on the verge of a whine, I try to catch myself and think about what I’m whining about. I don’t want to be a bad example to my daughter. I don’t want her to be in the habit of whining. I want to be able to teach her the difference between a problem and an inconvenience. One day, I’ll show her the faces of the people with real problems.

It’s too early in the morning for world issues

I turned on the Filipino news story on TV to find a segment about how CNN featured poverty in the Philippines. You’re only catching up now, CNN?

I watched anyway, even if I already knew it. Because as it turns out, I didn’t know things have gotten even worse.

The segment showed families going through other people’s rubbish, looking for food. I know this isn’t new but these people were looking for meat rubbish – you know, the bits we chop off and throw in the bin? Like innards, meat bones and fish bits. The woman said she’s going to wash it. They showed her washing the meat bits and putting it in a wok, and feeding it to the kids.

I couldn’t help but let out an “Oh my god”, enough for my daughter to notice the distress in my voice.

So she asked why I was worried.

For a moment, I battled whether or not to introduce the ugly things in life to my little angel whose only issue is whether or not she can watch Octonauts all day.

I decided to tell her.

I told her that there are kids in the Philippines who don’t have homes, who don’t have much to eat, or anything to eat at all, who don’t have toys or parents who love them.

“The Philippines we went to where your mum and your dad lives, called Lolo and Lola?” was her little question.

“Yes.”

“Maybe we should give them clothes, and toys and food,” she said in her little worried voice.

I held in tears because those words were so familiar. I used to say that when I was around her age. I’d imagine growing up, having a great job, being so rich that I could adopt a couple of those kids and give them a better life.

I gave my little one a cuddle. Even though she’s battling a fever, she still wanted to help other kids she doesn’t even know.

My heart feels like it’s about to burst. I am so proud of my little one.

Speak out, Help out

It’s international women’s day. I think there is a need for international women’s day given the high number of sexual abuse women still go through in this day and age.

I’m hoping to spread the word on it especially after seeing the stats below.

For more information and to give you support, visit the Action Aid Australia website. It’s not a laughing matter folks. Do your part to spread the word.

 

In times of crisis

Written for my column in a Philippine newspaper – a repost:

It’s no secret the economic situation in the world is getting more difficult by the minute. Although Australia has not been hit as hard as other countries, we can still feel the waves of the tsunami and we try to stay afloat like others in its path.

Like other Filipinos overseas, I send money to my family to help out in any way I can. My family doesn’t demand that I send money. On the contrary, they feel I shouldn’t concern myself so much especially since I have a family of my own. But the Filipino in me recognises the old “utang na loob” adage and I am more than happy to help out or pay for some luxurious spending.

However, in times of severe crisis, I understand that my dollars will go a longer way than my siblings’ pesos. Recently, my family had a really bad health scare. As usual, I was the last one to know because they did not want me to panic all the way down under, especially since I just had a baby and have no relatives here to support me. When they finally told me about the news, I was distraught. What do you do when you’re far away from home and can’t support your family?

I turn to the only possible thing I can do – send money for medical bills and any services that would speed up recovery time. I dug into my savings and sent as much of my hard earned money as I could.

For a lot of interracial marriages, this would have been quite an issue. It is a known fact that western cultures do not share the same family values as most Pinoy households do. I’m not saying it’s bad or good – there are pros and cons to both situations. However, I know of interracial couples who have issues regarding Filipinos sending money to their families in the Philippines. In fact, it can go as far as hiding receipts and secretly stashing money to make sure their spouses don’t know about the transactions overseas.

[Read more…]

Wordless Wednesday: The Badjaos

Badjao: The boat people of the Philippine shores.

Badjao: The boat people of the Philippine shores.

My Little Drummer Boys

My horror story

My second experiment. Looking great! Er...dead.

I come from a very superstitious country, the Philippines. And the more remote your town is, the more people believe in the supernatural. Although I grew up in the city, my imagination always leaned towards supernatural beliefs. While growing up, Mama would take us kids to the quack doctor to be “healed” when mainstream doctors fail to diagnose our sickness. In hindsight, it was probably just because our medical industry isn’t as advanced.

But my ultimate horror story happened when I was in senior highschool. A group of us classmates qualified to a computer programming tournament in one of the few computer companies that branched into the southern part of the Philippines. However, because most of the other contestants lived up in the mountains, away from the city, the company opted to have the competition there and drive 15 of us from my school to a tiny town a couple of hours outside the city.

It was a thrilling experience for a 16 year old girl. We had to stay overnight at the campus because we were due to be picked up at 5am the next morning. I was giddy to be sleeping in the classroom with my friends (and a crush nearby). Our bus trip was spent half dozing off because we really didn’t get to bed early (as would be expected when friends are under the same roof).

The competition venue was remote to say the least. The classrooms looked like temporary buildings surrounded by coconut and banana trees. The ground was muddy from last night’s rain and the stage looked like it’s been there since the Japanese occupation. But we were ecstatic to be participating in the first ever computer programming competition. Needless to say we aced it. The top three prizes were given to our school. We were overjoyed that our little excursion was successful.

Armed with our trophies, we made our way out of the school, expecting to go home that same day. However, the competition lasted longer than we expected and by the time it finished, there were no buses travelling back to the city (the school couldn’t afford a hotel or private transportation for our group). Our teacher decided we camp at the computer company’s local office and leave the next day. But before we could head off, we were approached by a local student who generously offered his home for the night. He was insistent that we take shelter at their place, and have dinner with his family. Since he was a local, our teacher obliged and told us to follow him to his place.

So we walked, and walked, and walked until there were no more lights or houses nearby. We followed a muddy trail in the middle of what seemed like a jungle, going deeper into the darkening forest.

Now you should remember that before we went to this place, there were stories of supernatural creatures frequenting the area. We called them Aswang – a beautiful maiden during the day that transforms into a baby-eating monster at night. According to the stories, she would apply a special oil on her body to make the transition easier. Once she is ready, her body would grow huge bat-like wings, her hands would turn into claws, her teeth would grow enormous fangs, and her upper body would separate from her lower body – hiding it in her house for safety. The Aswang would then fly into the night to hunt for people to eat. But her favourite meal is that of a pregnant woman’s unborn child. The stories say that the Aswang would remember the pregnant women in the village during the day and then follow their scent at night. Her long tongue would then descend from the roof made of nipa leaves and puncture the woman’s stomach to suck the delicious flesh and blood of the foetus.

This is what an aswang pretty much looks like. (Image credit click the photo).

Gruesome? Absolutely. That’s the kind of tale I grew up with as a child. It makes the evil stepmothers of Brothers Grimm seem like sissy little brats.

We were all teenagers, yes, but those stories that we keep hearing about will always linger at the back of our minds. Darker and darker the forest became, and we got extremely worried about our situation. Then suddenly, we saw a gate in the middle of nowhere.

“We’re here,” our guide said.

It was an old-style Spanish house, tattered and weary, surrounded by so many trees. We entered the house and saw that it was filled with people. A lot of people. The living area, the dining area and the kitchen were clumped together in the middle of the house. An old woman with long black hair, almost covering her face, was chopping something for dinner. There were several rooms, all on the second story surrounding the living area, like a dormitory of sorts. There were women and young girls, all with long flowing nightgowns, all with long jet black hair almost covering their faces –some sitting, some standing, all staring at us. I’m not sure whether there were any men there at all. I can’t remember seeing any.

We didn’t say it then, but we all felt it – the collective thudding of our hearts, the collective fear we felt, the collective instincts in our gut to get away. He asked our teacher to come, sit down and have some dinner with “the family”. We all gave our teacher pleading looks, even if we didn’t need to, because even in her adult eyes we could see she was petrified too.

She politely declined and we slowly walked towards the door (we didn’t want to make any sudden moves in case, you know – angry dogs usually jump on you when you run instead of just slowly backing away).

Once we were in the clear, we ran. We ran towards the nearest lights, the nearest road, where other humans can see us. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief and unanimously decided to sleep in the computer company’s local branch for the night (our teacher already had the key).

taddaa

It was probably just our imagination running wild, but if it was, why did we all feel the same way towards the place and the people? Why did all 15 of our gut instincts, our spider senses, go berserk?

After having dinner at a small diner, we headed to the office and slept on the floor, on makeshift beds, on the tables. We stayed away from the doors and windows, huddled in the centre of the office, and went to the bathroom in teams.

The computer competition with no computers.

Everytime I see these people (we’ve kept in touch forever and are still great friends), we talk about that night and we still get the creeps. Who knows what would have happened, but I’d really rather not know.

p.s. A big THANK YOU to Marnie from 3pickles for giving me a new skill to master. Awesome awesome skill!

My second experiment. Looking great! Er...dead.

 

Best of both worlds

One of the best things I love about Australia is its multiculturalism. When my parents visited a couple of years ago, they were quite surprised as to how widely varied the cultures are in just one suburb.

It is not unusual to see two cultures merging in one family, just like my own. My husband, an Aussie from Tassie (it rhymes!), and I have been together for 10 years. We have a two year-old daughter and she’s a beautiful mix of our genes.

But as a Filipino living on my own in Australia, with no family and only very few Filipino friends, I have a difficult time deciding how to incorporate my own flavour to MiniMe’s upbringing.

But I know I have to be proactive about this so here’s my action plan to mix both cultures into my daily grind.

  1. Teach her a Filipino word each week. We speak English at home, mainly because it is just so much easier to communicate in that language. I do try to drop a word or two of Filipino to my daughter (and even my husband) but not as often as I think I should. I don’t know how to teach her both languages without confusing her. I’ve seen Filipino couples teach their kids more Tagalog, but I’ve also seen some teach more English, or even no Tagalog at all. But I’ve noticed she is able to pick up foreign words like Spanish (Thanks Dora and Diego!) so I know it can be done.
  2. Explain some of our traditions. In the Philippines, tradition has taught us to be respectful of our elders by doing the “mano” – you do it by putting the back of their hand on our forehead as a gesture of respect. My parents never implemented the “mano” for us, but everytime we’d visit our relatives, we always had to do it  – even today. My relatives have asked me whether I’ve been teaching MiniMe the “mano”, and although I can see the traditions behind it, I much prefer a cuddle or a kiss from her.
  3. Cook more Filipino foods. One thing that she has no problem embracing from my side of the culture is the food. She has developed a taste for some of my favourite dishes (and her dad’s too). However, I still have yet to introduce her to the world of sautéed innards, pig’s blood soup and fried dried salty fish (which hubby says smells like his mum’s feet).
  4. Visit the Philippines as often as possible. We are not well off enough to visit the Philippines that often so she can experience the country herself. But I do hope things improve. I want her to see where I grew up. I want her to see poverty at its worst so she can appreciate what we have here even if it’s not much. I want her to embrace her Filipino side and try to communicate even if she has an Aussie twang (I find that cute anyway). I want her to watch the tackiest and the best of Filipino cinema.

I’m not sure what I actively need to do so she learns about my culture. She has only one Filipino friend, and she doesn’t see her that often. I know she won’t have a problem experiencing the Aussie culture, but I’m wondering if I’m doing my part of making her see the beauty of the Filipino culture. Like parenting itself isn’t already hard enough, I also have to think about the merging of cultures and if I’m doing the right thing by my child. Given I’m on my own in this country, I guess I’ll just do what I can. As long as she’s happy, healthy and safe, I’ve done my job.

Smacking the old fashioned way

I’m not even going to start the argument about smacking. I’m against it, period. But I do want to tell you about the stories Mama used to tell us when we were kids.

When we were young, my siblings and I were left to the care of our nanny while my parents worked (nannies are cheap in the Philipines). Mama took time off work for seven years before going back to the work force. They didn’t believe in smacking either but our nanny didn’t share the same belief. We used to get hit using various things like a belt, bamboo stick (the long bendy one), guava tree’s branch (the really thin one doesn’t break easily and stings like hell), slipper, and a broomstick. I was hit once using the buckle side of a belt. Not a good experience.

Mama eventually found out but the nanny had already left before she could fire her.

She told us about her days as a child. They lived up in the mountains, kids of farmers with no education. Child smacking was a norm, a way to keep the kids in line so they work in the farm without complaints. Mama said she remembered once – I’m not sure if it was her or one of her siblings –they placed the child in an empty rice sack, tied it up on a tree and set fire underneath him, this while whipping him every now and then. Punishment by smoking and whipping. THAT was punishment then for the wayward child. Other milder punishments came in the form of whipping using a stingray’s tail – said to be the worst pain ever (I’ve never seen one but I was assured it wasn’t an urban legend).

Mama said she decided a long time ago to change the ways of the older generation, and I thank God for that every single day.

So, what do you think about the creative ways my ancestors used to punish kids?

Children hit hardest by East Africa drought crisis

HP_EAfrica625

This is a guest post from ActionAid Australia regarding malnutrition, famine and children. Coming from a third world country, I’ve seen this first hand. And now that I’m a parent myself, it disturbs me even more. Anything I can do to help to spread the word about how people can help, I will do. So I hope you guys can help out in some way too.

The worst drought in 60 years has caused a devastating food crisis in East Africa. Over 12 million people across Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti have been affected, with famine declared in six Somali regions.

We hear the words famine, and we see the heartbreaking pictures of malnourished children, but what is the actual situation and how does it affect children? By definition, famine is a widespread scarcity of food, the effects of which are malnutrition, starvation, epidemic and increased mortality. History has shown that women and children are often the most severely affected during famines, and the current situation in East Africa shows no divergence from this path. In Somalia, it is estimated that 80% of refugees are women and children.

According to the UN 750,000 people are at risk of death in East African over the next 4 months. With mortality generally concentrated around the young and old, the child specific figures are even more shocking.  One in three children in the affected regions is malnourished, and more than 6 per 10,000 children under the age of 5 are dying every day.

What is malnutrition?

Children become malnourished when they do not get the nutrients they need for proper health and development. Children who are malnourished are more likely to get sick and severe malnutrition can lead to death. In the East African nations that are currently affected by drought and food shortages, hunger and malnutrition go hand in hand. Children in these crisis affected areas are severely underweight. What’s more, their growth can also become stunted.

With inadequate food and nutrients both within and outside of the camps, malnutrition is rife. Whether children are experiencing protein-energy malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency or nutritional anaemia, their bodies are unable to defend themselves against disease and infectious organisms.

What can be done?

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to famines, disease and disasters when they are out of sight, out of mind. But the magnitude and extent of this drought and famine, and the severe impact it’s having on children calls for international attention. The situation is dire, but the more awareness, donations and support that aid initiatives receive, the better. There are a number of ways to donate that do not create dependence, but give those that are affected the tools and means to support themselves and protect themselves from future droughts.

When you sponsor a child, for example, the funds go towards providing education, farming and seed supplies, health services and shelter for an entire community, enabling them to protect themselves and ensure the welfare and opportunities for their children.

The drought in East Africa has mobilised large numbers of female headed households with small children, looking for shelter and aid at already overcrowded refugee camps. Make sure vulnerable women and children are protected in the future by taking action now.

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After reading this I keep thinking if I had a superpower, it would be to deliver excess food from first world countries to hungry kids in a blink of an eye. Somebody find me a radioactive insect.

A cause for the kids

Since having MiniMe, I’ve been so easily concerned about children-related issues. It’s hard not to think about your own when seeing the suffering of other people’s children. So I was more than happy to extend my support to The Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA).

Just so you know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. CCIA is the only independent medical research institute in Australia dedicated to research into the causes, prevention, better treatments and ultimately a cure for childhood cancer. “Our vision is to save the lives of all children with cancer and eliminate their suffering.”

“Before the 60s, childhood cancer was practically a death sentence. Today, as a result of enormous advances in medical research, the survival rate has risen to well over 70% (on average). However, three out of every 10 children with cancer do not survive. These are the children that CCIA is dedicated to saving.”

“It’s a frightening fact that 600 children in Australia are still diagnosed with cancer every year, and each week, three Aussie kids will die from cancer.”

These are scary statistics and if just by writing about it I can do my part to spread the word, then I’m SHOUTING it from my blog. Visit the site for more info on how you can do your part.

Visit their Facebook site and donate here.

Not just another seminar

So I went to the Landmark Forum – three days, 39 hours.

And I’m so glad I did.

It’s not a cult, not even close.

What is it really all about? Fundamentally, it’s about unleashing the potential in each human being to become greater than what we think we can be.

Sounds too kumbaya for you? Yeah, I thought that too. I didn’t want to do it because there was nothing wrong with my life. I have a fantastic relationship with my family, I have great friends, I have a great family life in Sydney, I have a great career that’s picking up really fast. All good. No need to rock my boat.

I saw the changes that the Landmark Forum did to my husband but in my head I thought, well, he has hang ups, I don’t.

I had the chance to leave, and yes, with a refund too. On the first day I could have done that, and I was about to. But then the group leader – a chunkier version of Rick Moranis – said that the person who started the successful nationwide campaign R U OK? Day (yes, the same one the blogsphere immensely supported and has been raving on about) is a Landmark graduate. If this course inspired one normal guy to create something so big to help others then it can’t be that bad.

So I gave it a go.

Two days into the forum and I learned some things in life that was handy to me. But nothing was sinking in. I started to think I was right, I was “beyond” this. I am already awesome. Nothing needs changing. Other people got the message of forum much earlier than me. Some on day one, a lot on day two. But each one got something out of it – as long as you are open minded, just for those three days.

Third and last day, I sat on my chair and listened to the other people sharing, and something hit me – not literally. Something popped inside my head that sent me cussing out of the door to compose myself. Everything started sinking in and I saw things clearly. I saw why I act the way I act. I saw why I manipulate people. I saw why I’m wary, angry, cautious, controlling. I saw the things I couldn’t see before and they were not nice but at the same time, seeing all these was also liberating.

It’s intense. Why would anyone want to rock the boat that is their normal life right? Why would you do that to yourself?

But the thing is, after the rough patch in those three days came the light. And I can’t describe it, but I definitely left the place lighter. I was exhausted and battling a cold and cough, plus coming home to a sick child. It wasn’t an easy weekend. But had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have fought it so hard.

Would I recommend people to do the course? Yes, definitely. If you had a chance to be the best that you can be and erase the negative versions of yourself in your head, wouldn’t you take it? Wouldn’t you want to spend the rest of this one and only life you have happier?

So what came out of that in relation to the blogosphere? Well, I’m only a beginner, but I thought maybe I can start small. Maybe I can do a monthly pro bono design for Blogger or WP bloggers. I know there are a lot of SAHMs struggling with finances, like me, who can’t afford professional designers to tweak that one spot in their life that they look forward to – their blogs. So I’m thinking maybe I can help them tweak their sites for free so at least when they have one of those days when nothing is working, they can go to their blogs and smile because it’s pretty.

Just a thought. What do you think?