May 30, 2013

Bali With Children

The Fam Bam in Bali, Indonesia
My family just came from Bali, Indonesia. The first time we knew that we were going there our first question was: “What are we going to do in Bali?”
We have been to the beautiful shores of Bohol and Boracay as a family and we believe they’re better than what we can find in Bali (or any other places in the world to be honest) that’s why we were skeptical. My parents, who are frequent visitors of Bali, replied nonchalantly: “FOR CULTURE”! You know what we said to that? I’m not kidding you, we replied: “Culture my ass, Philippines has culture! We want to go swimming”!

Of course we went and yes, we had a very rich cultural experience. As always, my parents know what they’re talking about when it comes to art and culture. Come on, I grew up going to museums and watching plays, pushing us to see Bali "for culture" was really not surprising. 

We were a party of 20, a large group and almost half of which are minors. Having said that, on how deep we dove in Bali’s culture depended on the children’s level of comprehension and appreciation. Also, it was really hard to mobilize a large group and traffic jam had to be considered.

From the moment we landed, I deeply felt Bali’s confidence in their cultural identity. They’re consistent, proud, beautiful, inspiring, non-compromising, distinct. Marvelous sculptures, rigorous rituals both deeply integrated in their daily lives. With the onslaught of tourists, they never faltered. The foreigners that keep on crashing on their shores like their ocean’s hard waves co-existed with their calm, serene, and almost ancient-like way of life.
To be honest, Bali is the first place in Southeast Asia that I have visited apart from my own country, so I guess my opinion on this is from an ignorant’s point of view. Or rather from someone who is Asian but grew up with heavy Western influences. Regardless, I can safely claim that Bali is extremely rich in culture. I’ve been to the United States and to Europe and I haven’t been blown away like this with regards to arts and culture. 

I am glad that we went to this place instead of Singapore or Hong Kong. (Although of course we hope that someday we’ll be able to go there with our kids.) You will realize you don’t necessarily need highly commercialized characters and high-technology rides to entertain your children. One time my oldest son even asked me if he can sculpt soaps when we get home. That’s how Bali art gets to you: it makes you want to touch it, hold it, feel it, and yes, do it. That’s when you’ll know how well the art is – when it has the power to INSPIRE. Going to mainstream Western theme parks will not give you that kind of inspiration.

That's my cute nephew who enjoyed being a "local" for a day.
Going to Bali with children is really different. It’s not like they’re diving inside a cartoon channel. It’s showing them diversity in life, depth in culture, and the beauty of nature.

Please do READ ON to know more about our experience and for TIPS:

May 22, 2013

When Plans Don’t Push Through : A Birthday Story

My husband and I have been together for 15 years and within those years we have never gone out of town as a little family simply because we couldn't afford it. Although we have traveled locally and abroad, they were trips made with my family or with friends.

Money has never been easy for my husband and I. For some weird reason, I have never been motivated to earn more than what a simple life will require. I’m aimless, I procrastinate, I am complacent, I live my life one day at a time. I am not the type of girl who will break my back for luxurious things. (But that’s about to change because I will really aim for Harry Potter World come 2017!). My husband, being a goat through and through (Capricorn and ram), is a person who has long-term goals. He really works hard but what comes in is just enough for us to get by.

But we dream. My husband and I have always fancied traveling as a little family.

About a month or so ago, my husband told me he’s planning an out of town trip for my birthday. I was worried. In my head, I was calculating what we’ll spend. But he assured me again and again that there was nothing to worry about, so off we went.

On the day of my birthday, with no definite plans, we left the hot and sticky city and headed for adventure.

We decided to stay in Subic. An old US Army Base, now a tourist spot, a couple of hours or so away from the city. It was good enough for a family who will do this for the first time. The swimming pools in Subic were not as pretty as we hoped (save for the places where membership is required. Argh.) but that didn’t bring us down. We still checked ourselves in in a very nice and cozy hotel. We went to the local restaurants where my husband and I had been before. We ate to our hearts’ content. Delectable baby back ribs, juicy steaks, chocolate shakes, crepes - the works. We also checked out the duty-free shops, my husband re-assuring us all the way that we can buy whatever we wanted! No, I didn’t take advantage of his generosity, in fact I bought my own goodies, but I really did feel he was spoiling us! We were having a great time.

Until night-time came. We could no longer ignore my eldest son’s coughs. They were getting violent. He was obviously getting weaker and soon enough he had fever. We cancelled our plans to hit the spa for some special massage and instead my husband and my eldest son went to the emergency room at the nearby hospital. He had to use the nebulizer 3x in a span of 45 minutes. That’s how bad he was. 

He felt good right after and we all slept well that night. He no longer coughed and his fever abated. When we woke up we were excited to go to the zoo and ocean park. We were feeling high! But during breakfast, my son’s cough and fever came back with vengeance. And our 1-year old started to cough as well.

We decided, with heavy hearts, to terminate the trip and head back home.
I saw how my husband was sad. I felt his sadness. We didn’t talk about it, but I felt it. I saw the twinkle in his eyes vanish. It was replaced with worry and disappointment. I felt how sorry my eldest son was too. He was feeling guilty and down. But we assured him that he was our top priority, not our trip.

We went home in silence, save for the loud coughs of both my sons. And I reflected… What did this experience teach me? We have waited so long for this but the Universe had other plans. What did it want to teach my little family? There must be a lesson, or a nugget of wisdom, at the end of this failed trip – yes? Is it about money? About how precious time is? About how fragile my eldest son really is? Is it about defining what quality time is?

We were feeling so high, my husband couldn't even sleep properly in excitement days before my birthday. It was a momentous day. Our first time out of town, just us, our little family. We had swimming pools in mind. We had tigers and dolphins in mind. We had shopping and non-stop eating in mind. We were supposed to stay at Subic for at least two nights. We were determined to make it a happy and very special trip.

Maybe it is about handling disappointment as a family. Well, if that's the case, we handled it well and I am quite proud of it. As a family, we knew what to do, we did it properly, we did it together. And that’s what matters most, especially for my birthday, that we, as a family, are united wherever we may be.

May 07, 2013

First Steps

Everyone's excitement - all a big happy blur.

Everyday he grows. Everyday there are changes. Everyday he learns about this World we live in. For us, most days are insignificant. For him, they’re monumental, critical, crucial, wonderful, beautiful, and magical. Everyday I challenge myself to turn the ‘ho-hums’ to ‘ooohs and aaahs’! That’s the wonder with Children, everything IS ‘ooohs and aaahs’! Adults are boring.

Today my one year old humbled me. As he took his first steps, I was reminded how every little thing for him matters. All the tiny details of the surroundings, every word that he hears, every sound that vibrates around him, every face he sees, they're all forming him to become who he will be.

I was doing the most mundane thing a normal woman would do, grooming nails, when it all happened. Clipping my toe nails juxtaposed with his memorable first steps just really placed things in perspective. The excitement in his eyes, his unbreakable grin, his will to do it again and again, his innocent mirth... it was an ice cold water thrown right smack in the middle of a hot ho-hum day.

I am glorifying my son's milestone by making it a lesson for me: We can still have our "first steps". We all should have excitement in our eyes, unbreakable grins, will to do it again and again, and (not necessarily innocent - hehe) mirth in ALL the things we do. There should be wonder in everything.

Watch his first steps HERE.

May 02, 2013

Celebrating My Son’s First Birthday

With 8 teeth and still on all fours, my baby celebrated his- eep! time flies so fast! –first birthday last April 13, 2013 at Sta. Elena Fun Farm. He turned a year older but all his guests regressed a year or two as they climbed ropes, rode horses and carabaos, fed rabbits and hamsters, rowed a boat, caught fishes, played trumpo (spinning top), holen (marbles), sipa, jackstones, and Chinese garter. They blew plastic balloons, conquered fear of heights as they rode the zip-line, and so much more. It was indeed a day of fun and laughter.

Kuya felt it was his birthday too, he ran and played all day.

Kids and adults shared the day enjoying the same things.

I wanted to have a birthday party that will resound my values and beliefs. I am his mother after all (husband nods head). As much as possible, we made sure everything was rustic, natural, earth-friendly, and handmade. There was this unexplainable and overwhelming want to keep it local and earthy.

Cake that the celebrant's older brother and cousins baked for him.

It was also the day when we blessed my son. We didn’t have a priest nor did we have a pastor just like in our wedding ceremony, but we all prayed and bestowed our deep and pure love on my son. We all enveloped him with our good intentions. It was an ideal “baptismal” rite for my husband and I. It was untainted with religious expectations and it was simple and direct but very spiritual. We also selected a lucky few who will serve as guardians and beacons for my son. We re-defined what Ninongs and Ninangs (Godparents) are. We selected specific people for specific reasons, we explained the reasons and handed them custom-made certificates. We wanted it as holistic, solemn, pure, and non-religion-specific as possible.

Lower pic: Awarding Tita Joni her certificate, she is Jaichi's Guardian of Happiness

My two precious boys!

I guess to encapsulate what I am trying to say is that we celebrated my son’s first birthday without much commercialized, controversial, and artificial materials and influences that may cause distraction or may deviate us from the innocence of the occasion. I didn’t even have blaring music; the party had laughter, excited conversations, and occasional animal grunts, cackle, and crows as ambient sound.

Of course my son will remember none of this, he’ll probably just know this party through photos and my video log. But I am sure that the good vibes, the unclouded and true energy and Love that vibrated that day will forever reside in him.

*If you wish to learn more about the details, or wish to see more photos of the party, please do read on (YouTube Vlog coming soon, please LIKE my Facebook page found on the right side panel for updates! Thank you!)...