Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Learnings from "Ondoy"

My heart sank after hearing the news and seeing the pictures, videos of the outcome of the typhoon "Ondoy". It was devastating, leaving families homeless, properties damaged and feelings of anguish or despair among my fellow Filipinos. It was a calamity that struck not only the poor but also those who are not. I have heard stories from online friends in one egroup that I belong to. One says his brother's house was newlybuilt but has been damaged by the flood, good thing the family has not moved in yet. Another says, the whole house had been submerged, good thing the family was able to go to an apartment with 2nd floor. I also saw pictures of cars submerged in the flood, or stacked together caused by flash floods. Good thing, it's only the cars, the passengers were safe.

Notice that, in the stories there is always a "good thing" and that good thing saved the most important - the lives of the people. I hope that we all realize that God really loves us. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (New International Version) says"

8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Here are some of the things we can learn from Ondoy's tragedy:

1. The flood was not totally caused by the opening of the dam. If we have clean, free flowing 'esteros', rivers and floodways not congested by people living there, the water will not go into the streets.

2. Remember the slogan, "Basura mo, babalik sa yo" (your trash will come back to you if you don't dispose them properly). It was realized in the last weekend's tragedy. I remember seeing one photo of a frontgate completely covered with trash. I am not totally blaming the government for the poor implementation of the Solid Waste Management Act but more so of the people. Waste Segregation and Recycling should be strictly implemented and started in all the families, rich and poor. Even if the Garbage Collector gets "Di Nabubulok" when he is supposed to only get "Nabubulok", we should only put the correct trash outside on schedule. We should manage our trash, not only have one trash bin for everything, learn to recycle. My son was asking me why in the Philippines, we have no recycling bin or if ever there was (Meron daw sa SM), the trash inside is not for recycling and he was right. Haay, I'm getting hopeless here, but I still believe that with the recent tragedy, we can do the clean-up soon and start in our own homes. I notice that Filipinos only act on a solution if the problem hit bigtime. Let us not blame the government, let us start by ourselves. Minimize waste, use recyclable materials, Segregate, Reuse, Compost.

3. The basic things in life are already provided for. We may have lost our homes, cars, luxury or entertainment investments but we are provided with Food, Clothing, Water and Shelter. I am thankful for all those who have responded to the call of those who are in need, those who have donated and given cash. I hope we realize that All the things in this world are temporary and can be lost anytime. If we have forgotten God or may have been very busy working to pay for mortgage for the house or the car, or may have been busy with something, it's time to turn to God for renewal. God is what we need especially during these times. He is just waiting for us. Let us come to Him - our Lord and Savior.

4. Filipinos unite when tragedy strikes but I hope there's unity everytime. Let us not wait for a crisis to happen to show our love and kindness to our fellowmen. Let us love Filipinos unconditionally. I pray for those in authority to realize this and not only tell this when they're running for office.

I have many things still going on in my mind but I guess I have said the most important ones. I hope we all learn from Ondoy. We are always forgetful and we need to be reminded of these things when calamity happens.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

My First Born's Photobook

Aloysius didn't have a scrapbook like Achilles. I made a photo album for him using clear sheets and plain white paper and since I cannot find the negatives of his baby photos, I didn't made a new scrapbook for him. While I was doing Kyle's First Year Scrapbook, he helped me cut the papers using craft scissors and put rubber stamps. I just told him, I cannot make him something like Kyle's because I don't have his old pictures anymore, I didn't want to destroy the plain white paper scrapbook I made for him either (actually, I'm just tamad. BTW, I sprayed acid-free mist to his album to preserve them). I still remember that look on his face and I promised myself to make him a growing up scrapbook before his 7th birthday. But last year, the situation is difficult. I was busy with work, the new baby and taking care of them because Lito was not here, his 7th birthday celebration which is supposed to be a blast was not even close to his first birthday. I know, I was a bad mommy to my firstborn and it's time to make amends. I hope that when he receives the photobook on his birthday this December, he will remember my promise and that I fulfilled it.

Making the photobook was sentimental. I was teary-eyed seeing the old pictures of my first-born (well, only those captured in digital cameras while he was already in 2 years old). I remember vividly how cute he was having some babyfats and now I can't believe that he was turning 8 and telling me "I can do this by myself, I'm not a baby". I made the pages in chronological order and the 30 pages was not enough for all those I selected. Because I was reminiscing, I forgot to save the file and lost the 10 pages I added when I accidentally hit the back button. GRRR talaga! But then I realized, I was supposed to be making a 20-page 8x8 photobook to avail the freebie. haay!

Anyway, here's the link so that you will know why I'm being sentimental. Check out Miggy's Growing Up Years and enjoy. (I hope more paid blog opps come to replenish my Paypal account hahaha.)

Latest Netfind: Artscow for our 10th anniv gift

I was busy this past week looking for my photo archives because I wanted to create Photobooks for the kids. I came across Julliefer's Blog and saw the Dog Tags she made for her family using Artscow. I visited the site and got hooked too. First, I made dog tags for my christmas gifts - I just hope they'll like it. Then, I found out that there are coupons and freebies for new members like me so I started browsing for the other products. I found the small photobooks really cheap (7x5 20 pp for $2.99 with free shipping and 8x8 20 pp for 4.99 with free shipping although for 12 x 12, I still find Blurb cheaper without coupons pa yun). Next thing I knew, I was already browsing for designer kits to use for my photobooks (digital scrapbooking style). There are lots of designs and themes to choose from, I was overwhelmed and excited at the same time. After choosing a free quick pages kit (drag and drop style, I'm not into Photoshop yet), I immediately chose the photos. At first, I was planning to do the kids photobooks, then I saw a cute 7x5 bragbook template for our wedding anniversary so I found myself doing my 10th anniversary gift to myself and Lito in December. I was pleased with the results. You can check it out here. Let me know what you think wink ;)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Visit to Toronto downtown (Eaton Centre and Yonge-Dundas Square)

We were at Toronto downtown yesterday to apply for the OHIP. We then proceeded to the busy Yonge street (parang Ayala Avenue) and check out the happenings in Yonge-Dundas Square, the equivalent of Times Square in New York City. There was an event for the Toronto International Film Festival and I heard Hollywood celebrities will be there for the promotion of their movies at the TIFF (I wanted to see George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon etc, etc). But since it was still early by the time we arrived, we skipped this and proceeded to Eaton Centre for shopping (which I preferred, hehehe - feeling Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic fame).

The mall shops are on sale so we took the opportunity to get boys clothes at a bargain. I noticed that the Eaton mall here built under the building because instead of going up, we descended floors to go to the stores we want to shop. Familiar stores like Old Navy, Gap, Aeropostale, H & M, SEARS etc. are located in this one big mall. Shoppers abound everywhere and there are also lots of Pinoys here. Kyle commented, "Mommy, bat ang daming kapareho natin usap dito? Parang SM" (Why is it that there are many people who speak the same language as us? It's like SM - a big mall in the Phils.) I couldn't help but laugh, my son is very observant and the comparison is valid. Pinoys are really fond of malling. I just replied, "They also want to shop here that's why." We had dinner at KFC - another malling ritual back home, then we went home.

Going there is by bus and subway. Alexus was on his stroller all the time and when we were transferring to another train, I noticed him gazing at all these people and I guess he was overwhelmed and he looked puzzled. When we were at the train going to Yonge, he looked up at me and started to cry. My baby looked helpless in his stroller but I couldn't carry him as we are standing in an almost full train. I guess he is just not used to being with many people and the scene scares him. We need to go out more often and shop too (hehehe, Becky again thinking in her shopaholic moments). Next time, we will bring a camera for you to see Toronto downtown...more to see here like CN Tower, Union Square, Harbourfront centre, Spadina (shopping again here) Cabbagetown...etc etc.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Update on Aloysius schooling

I received a notice from the school that Aloysius needs to be enrolled in a Special English class or what they call as Literacy Program and I was asked for my permission. At first, I do not understand why Aloysius needs that because he understands and speaks English very well. I went to the school yesterday to talk to his teacher and clarify but he left as soon as the bell rang. Lito and I discussed this and we agreed that we follow the recommendation of the school since Aloysius is new, the class might benefit him. So I signed the form and gave it to Aloy to bring to his teacher. I only inquired when and up to what time that class ends so I can adjust the time I will fetch him. I arrived a little late when I fetch Aloysius this afternoon, Teacher Coleman was there because they wait for the mom or dad or whoever will fetch the child before releasing them. So that's my opportunity to inquire on the additional class. This is his answer "Actually, Miggy doesn't need to be enrolled in that class, the Lady who brought him to me on the first day is the one who put his name there because she thought that since he didn't take Grade 2, he might need that. But my assesment is he doesn't need it. He is just shy and his voice is low but he communicates. His spelling is good and he creates sensible sentences. It's still up to the parents to decide but attending that class will not advance him to any class, constant monitoring and a little push is just what he needs." After he spoke, all I said was, "Thank you" because at the back of my mind, I was angry at that lady for not believing in my son. GRRR, wait till Aloy finish this grade with flying colors. Anak ko ata yan at Filipino ata yan....for a while there I felt my son being discriminated, but I shrugged at the thought. Miggy will have his moment, in due time.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The other side of the coin

I remember one testimony of a churchmate that like everyone else who are abroad, we wanted to show our "nice" status. We would smile and pose in nice backgrounds, attractions and landmarks so that our 'kababayans' would say how 'lucky' we are to be in that place. But in the real world, as she said "di nila alam nagkukudkod ako ng banyo" (they are not aware that I'm cleaning the bathroom for a living - she's an all-around BTW). Funny isn't it? but it's true. Really true. I realized I miss my housemaids in the Philippines. Today is labor day for me, I did laundry, clean the house (sweep and mop the floors, clean the toilet, wipe all tops) and ironed the clothes (including those unpacked from the luggages). After ironing the clothes, my CTS recurred. haay, kapagod! Here, you have to do it all. I have no choice but this is my life now. I have no regrets or not even ranting about it. I just want to say that there is always the other side of the coin. Pag me ginhawa, me hirap (no pain, no gain). It's not always sugar and spice, and everything nice.

I just want to share a biblical truth about doing some labor. Genesis 1:17-19 excerpts:

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

As God commanded, each of us need to sweat to eat. I still feel blessed and I'm thankful. At my age, I'm still strong to do labor which is nothing compared to others' labor.

Anyway, I was able to rest and relax now. I started to read Confessions of a Shopaholic and I'm amused. It's the cycle, work-play-relax-enjoy, then work again...the next time you see my picture or any OFW smiling, remember there's always the other side of the coin. :)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Aloysius' First School Week at Grenoble and TRAC

I saw from his facial expression that he was uneasy, looking worried and his eyebrows-meeting while we were on our way to Grenoble Public School (Toronto District School Board member) on his first day. I too was queasy knowing that it will be the first time that he will be with other kids from different cultures and teachers different from his previous school. We had to walk 2 blocks to get there and with the 2 kids in tow, it was not easy. We arrived on the first bell and the school quadrangle seemed hectic. I saw a teacher with a paper that said "Ms. Atcha - Grade 3 class and we lined up. I was starstruck as she looked like Ms. Universe hahaha but when I got the chance to talk to her I found out that there were 5 Grade 3 classes and Miggy was not in hers. We had to go back to the registrar's office to get Miggy's Classroom number and teacher's name but there were many people there, with Lex' stroller, I couldn't get through. I was clueless who the teachers were but I asked those with clipboards and luckily, I was able to find Miggy's homeroom teacher - Mr Randy Coleman.

When we reached the area where we left, it was now empty as the students already went to their rooms. I asked another teacher, she looked senior and she volunteered to bring Miggy to his classroom because we had to take the stairs. What irked me was when she said, are you sure he is in Grade 3? I had to explain that the lady in the registrar's office enrolled him there and also told her that he only finished Grade 1. Later during lunch, I asked his teacher if there was a problem with Miggy in his class because the lady who brought him there questioned. He said that here in Canada, the grade is based on the age, I presented Miggy's report card in Grade 1 to let him know the subjects he has taken and he looked impressed (buti naman, matataas ata ang grades ng anak ko hehe). He explained that the lady was the head of the Lead program for those who will have to catch up on class and then shrugged, "We'll see, if your child needs that". I just let a sigh of relief and went home.

Going to the school is burdensome to kyle who had to walk, he always asks, "are we there yet?" but when he discovered the playgrounds (and McDonald's), he always looks forward to fetching Kuya. On the first day, Kuya was rewarded with a new drawing pad when they were asked for their hobbies and he was very happy. Since then, I always see a happy face whenever he leaves for school. I guess he already looks forward to his class and meeting his classmates who were also his playmates after school. Everyday, we stay for at least fifteen minutes at the playground to let them play. I also met some mothers and exchange mom notes. Even Lex have new friends.

I just want to mention that the planner/diary that they gave looked like a diary for an executive in the Phils. I remember the PDCA cycle in ISO and it was something like that. The students were encouraged to have a plan or goal and do something to achieve that goal. The acronym to guide them is TRAC (Think - Record - Act - Check). Here's an excerpt from the Planner and each one of us can also make use of this in lives:

THINK is the first planning step for every month, week or day but it's also a great way to start the year! Take some time right now to think what's really important to you. What do you want to accomplish this year (or month or week or day)? What changes do you want to make? What do you want to improve?

RECORD - so you've thought about what you want to do. Now what? Start to fill in details and plan what you need to do. Get your pen and RECORD. Record the daily tasks and steps you need to take.

ACT - You know what you want to do. You know what you need to do now to get there. Now, put your plans into ACTION! Schedule time for your priorities and then take action. Planning meets action!

CHECK - the truth is things will never work out perfectly, no matter how much you plan. But don't give up; just get smarter. At the end of each week or month, look back one more time. CHECK how you did.

Review everything you planned to do. What did you complete? What did you not quite finish?

Move unfinished tasks and goals to another day or week. Looking back is really just the first step in looking forward.

Reflect on how things went. What went well? What didn't? Why? Whatever happened, think about how you can learn from it next time.

Well, Miggy have lots of TRACs to do and so do I. I am looking forward to the day Miggy finish this school year. It will be a very busy one.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Second Look at Niagara Falls

Even if I have been here before, I was still excited when I found out that our former officemate in SGS would drive us to Niagara to see The Great Falls. I was excited for my family especially the kids. It was a Labour Day Holiday so Jocel and Tina fetched us early last Monday and drove us to Niagara. At last, I saw the falls from the Canada side and I got a better view of the Horseshoe Falls which I was not able to see last year because it was misty and there was snow in the viewing deck in the US Park. It is still summer or the start of Fall but the place is still misty, we were not able to get near the Horseshoe Falls or the camera will get wet. Here are the scenes that we were able to capture in our Niagara Falls adventure:

Horseshoe Falls

another view

Our family's first trip to Niagara Falls

Thanks to Jocel and Tina Natividad

Kyle and Miggy enjoying the view

Of course, Lex all smiles din

"siyempre, kami rin"

After lunch, we went to Falls Avenue and checked out the other attractions. I thought I was in Times Square because of the lights and colorful billboards and signs. There's also a Wax Museum and Guinness Museum where the kids had photo opps from the outside. Afterwards, we went to the Hershey's store. The kids enjoyed the big Hershey's Bar, here are their pictures:

"Can we eat this all?"

"We shall return"

Monday, 7 September 2009

Kids Day at Canada's Wonderland

It's been a month now since we arrived here in Canada and I would say I have done lots of things already (not all home chores, silly), well my family that is. Although we have not been to other attractions here in Toronto, I was and still excited about our Canada's Wonderland trip yesterday. If it had not been to the Filipino Day, the reunion of BFF (Best Friends Forever - Joy and myself) plus the fact that this is the last year of Hanna-Barbera land and Nickelodeon in the park (Snoopy will take over in 2010), we would have not set foot in this wonderland.

Our first trip on our own, by commute - we rode the TTC (Bus-subway-subway), then GO transit (Bus) directly to the park, well returning home is another story. The kids were excited asking "Are we there yet?" each time we alight. It took around 45 minutes to get there, we arrived at exactly 10:00 am. We didn't meet Joy at the entrance because the lines are already long, good thing we have a stroller, we entered in a shorter queue. Our baon inside the baby bag was not inspected anymore, we brought rice and chicken and sandwiches. The first thing that welcomed us is the fountain but you cannot miss the tall and big rollercoaster tracks everywhere. The Behemoth is towering but just seeing it sends jitters. We went to the height scanners first to determine which ride is allowed for both Miggy and Kyle. We then proceeded to Medieval Faire area to get the schedule of the ice-skating show then to Hanna-Barbera Land, Nickelodeon and Kidzville. On the way, we saw lots of thrill rides for the adults but some of them I've already seen in Six flags. The park is larger (I think, or there are just too many rollercoasters everywhere LOL) compared to Disneyland HK because it has a water park inside. I already made a list for the rides to try for myself and with the kids but we spent most of the time in the 3 kiddie areas, by the time they were tired and I was ready, the lines are too long, my plans didn't work out. Anyway, this is for the kids so we literally stayed in that part of Canada's Wonderland almost the whole day. Joy and I finally met when I asked her to go and ride the Hanna-Barbera Merry Go Round with me and our kids hahaha. Her daughter is already 10 so she got bored and looked for more thrilling rides elsewhere, the next time we saw each other again was when it's already going home time. Anyway, the kids had a blast! Seeing them all smiles and cheering especially when we saw and posed with Spongebob and Patrick, then with Diego, I could only mutter - it was all worth it. Miggy and Kyle enjoyed the Rugrats Toonpike (Bumpcar for kids) and rode this three times. We lined up for Scooby Doo's Haunted Mansion but the line is very long. This was super hit even for adults. I remember Ani and Jeri said this was their very first ride. It's the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster version here in Wonderland. The kids rode all the rides in the 3 areas (Nickelodeon, Hanna-Barbera and Kidsville) and stayed at The Candy Factory for hours.

When they got tired, we then walked towards the adult areas but either the lines are too long or I was too chicken to try the rollercoasters. We just checked out the water park which the kids wanted to try next time and see the rollercoasters and other Pinoys walking around (katuwa). Ani walked towards me while I was browsing the map on the way to the Ice Skating Show and we were happy to see each other there. We posed at the Wonder Mountain (the only photo with Lito) and had coffee at Starbucks before parting. We enjoyed the Endless Summer - Ice Skating Show, Lito captured it on video. After the show, we were supposed to go home but Miggy insisted on the Scooby Doo ride so we lingered. We lined up for almost an hour, Lito and Lex had already finished a Swan Lake ride and we're still there waiting. After the ride, Kyle had another round in Merry go round, this time with Sharky then we headed home. It was already 9:00 p.m. We met the Dimitui family at the gate. Because we have kids, Joy and Ador insisted that they bring us home but Lito had to commute. The kids slept in the car but played with Jaymee (whom they called Girly) at home before they headed off. Some minutes there for Joy and I to catch up. It was almost 11 when they left and Lito arrived. What a lovely day! Enjoy our Canada's Wonderland pictures:

Taxi Jam -rollercoaster for kids - Look at Miggy (first coach alone - Tapang!)

Miggy and Kyle meets Spongebob and Patrick

Spongebob and Patrick meet Irmee and Lex

Miggy: "Diego, where's Dora (and Kyle)? Diego: "Nag-date kasama si Boots"

"Bye Nick, next year Snoopy naman"

"Ayun yung Vortex mommy oh, sabi mo sasakay ka" -Miggy "Ayoko na, ayaw akong samahan ni Tita Ani mo" -Irmee "Tingnan na lang natin-ayun oh sa itaas" -Ani

"Yaan mo mommy, paglaki ko, magrorollercoaster tayo" -Lex "Naku anak, matanda na ko nun, okay lang pose na lang tayo ngayon" -Irmee

"Haay, salamat, nagka-picture din, kanina pa ko kuha ng kuha wala naman akong kuha" -Lito

"Kumpleto na ang pamilya namin" -Joy "Ang cute talaga ni Alexus" -Jaymee

Joy and Irmee - High School Buddies, Best Friends Forever (Gaya ng dati sans the added weight and lines hehe)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Aloysius' enrollment and first visit to McDonald's

We (only Miggy, Kyle and I) went to Grenoble Public School today and enrolled Miggy. After filling up the forms and some interview, we were told that Miggy will be attending Grade 3 class and classes shall start next Tuesday. We were overjoyed because aside from the "acceleration", the boys got free books from the school. Most of the books looked new as if they were not used at all. We got all we could bring in our backpack (hahaha hoarding!) because we left all the kids book in the Philippines. BTW, I was told to only let my kid bring healthy snacks, no cookies, candies or chips or chocolates, only fruit or veggies.

To celebrate, we stopped at McDonald's and had 2 Happy Meals. While waiting for my turn, here are my observations:

1. The menu only displays the specialty burgers, no ordinary hamburger, or fries. I guess fries only comes with a combo. Aside from the burgers and desserts, they also serve greens (salads)

2. Without finding the price of Happy Meal, I still ordered 2 cheeseburgers with orange juice and boy toys (Lego) which the kids wanted. My bill totalled almost 10 dollars, haay I miss Jollibee, I will already have 2 champ meal and single chicken with rice for that price (LOL).

3. The crew age bracket is not known. Like in the US, even the oldies can be a crew member. And they seem to be enjoying their jobs.

4. The drive thru station is high tech. I used to be a drive thru team member of Jollibee (in fact, the very first team, now you know my era, hahaha) and if I will be a crew again, I would probably want to work in that station. Imagine, a drink dispenser that is fully automatic (ice, drink and cover). All the crew needs to do is give it to the customer.

5. The waste and recycling bin clearly indicates which goes where and people strictly follows. I had to separate the paper bag from the plastic containers before throwing it to the bins.

6. McDonald's Canada has its own logo. When I was googling for the image copy to show here, I found interesting facts about McDonald's Canada. It was the first McDonald's restaurant outside of the United States and the headquarters is near our place, Don Mills. As of 2006, it has 1375 branches all over Canada including those in Wal-mart Canada locations. Here's the logo, and I also mean what it says (after Jollibee of course, LOL)