meet kaiyel

The icing on the cake of my recent Davao vacation was a little girl named Kaiyel, my brother Bong’s firstborn. When Kaiyel is not injecting or feeding her doll, Momay, she takes pleasure in sneaking up on people and jolting them with a hearty “Bulaga!”—complete with hand gestures and a mischievous grin that turns her eyes into two jovial slants. Most times we play along and feign surprise, but sometimes the little prankster really makes us jump. (We have had to gently warn her against surprising her Lola Lils in her sleep.) It’s quite apt considering that this little blessing graced our family quite surprisingly. A new granddaughter and niece? Bulaga!

Kaiyel is a few months short of three years, but if you listen to her, you would think she’s five, sometimes even twenty-five. She is gregarious and does not understand the meaning of “shy”. Like a boss, she walks around with her hands on her hips, and will dance Gangnam-style at the drop of a hat. Her favorite greeting is not “Hi” or “Hello” but “Ano’ng gawa mo?” (“What are you doing?”). She is quick to remember names and never forgets to say, “Ingat ka ha!” (“You take care, okay?”) whenever someone leaves the house. She hardly stutters and is quite a sponge with words. It’s apparent that my niece has the gift of gab, and I can’t wait for when she starts reading.

Now, little Kaiyel has a yellow piggy bank that she requires people to feed. Her Angkong (Chinese for paternal grandfather) enjoys giving her coins to feed her piggy. Sometimes she thinks that all coins belong to her piggy; if you leave coins unattended and later find they’re no longer where you had left them, you should know they’ve been fed to Piggy.

A few days before New Year’s Day, my brother traveled to GenSan with wife Mikay and little Kaiyel. I had hatched a plan that only a heartless uncle could think of – I would kidnap Piggy and see how his little mistress reacts. My brother laughed when I told him about it, which I took as an endorsement. (It’s important that he was in on the plan because the last thing I wanted was to be on the receiving end of a karate instructor’s mean kick!)

A day after New Year’s Day we heard the red gate rattle followed by a knock on the door and a squeaky voice declaring, “Andito na ako!” (“I’m back!”). Kaiyel, cute in pink leggings, kissed everyone with the flair of a movie star in the company of adoring fans. She went to her Angkong to announce her return and promptly received coins to feed Piggy. I hadn’t expected Kuya and family to be back so early, so I rushed to nab Piggy from his usual place under the computer table and hid him under the coffee table in the living room.

New Piggy fodder in her small hands, Kaiyel headed straight to where she thought Piggy was, and it didn’t take long for her to discover that her yellow treasure was missing. “Asan ang baboy ko?”  (“Where’s my pig?”) she inquired with a a small pout and a hint of sadness. Her tone wasn’t accusatory; it was pleading.

My heart was soon crushed by guilt. So I “helped” her launch a search-and-rescue operation for Piggy. “Check under the throw pillow,” I instructed. Kaiyel brushed the throw pillow aside, looked up to me, and said, “Wala ‘man” (“Nothing there.”). She checked one or two other places I had led her to, without success, of course. Then I finally told her to check under the coffee table.

Kaiyel squatted on the floor, lifted the red table cloth, and finally found the object of her search. What followed had us all in stitches. In a voice not unlike a mother reprimanding her child, she quipped—to Piggy: “Ano ka ba? Anong gawa mo d’yan?” (“What’s wrong with you, why are you there?”). The inflection of her voice reflected both the relief of finding and the exasperation of searching. “How innocent,” my sister Liza reflected. “She never thought ill of anyone, and instead ended up blaming Piggy for wandering off.”

After feeding Piggy with new coins from Angkong, grinning Kaiyel tried lifting Piggy so she could bring him to his home under the computer table. She grimaced with the attempt, unable to lift Piggy more than an inch above the floor. So being the good and repentant uncle that I was, I carried Piggy for my little niece.

Piggy was heavy, Kaiyel’s heart light.

Kaiyel discovers a new ride, and his Kuya Paul and Tito Aleks discover back pain.

On Christmas Eve, Kaiyel discovers a new ride, and his drivers, Kuya Paul and Tito Aleks, discover back pain.


Hear that rusty, creaking sound?

Well, that’s me switching my brain to “student mode”. Last week I began a leadership and management course at the Ateneo Center for Continuing Education. I’ll be hurdling this course for the next three months, sitting in class for a total of 14 hours per week (including all Saturdays of summer, ouch), and praying three days a week for a good parking space in crazy Makati.

And I’m stoked! It’s a welcome change to be in a formal learning setting again, complete with handouts, classmates, and debates. And, yes, homework too (this part isn’t too exciting). I joined a batch of over 30 managers representing a hodgepodge of industries—IT, hospitality, construction, FMCGs (fast-moving consumer goods), automotive, real estate. We also come from various functional expertise—sales and marketing, finance, human resource, operations, manufacturing. As the sole dude from publishing and book distribution, I’m happy to contribute to and learn from this rich tapestry of professional experiences.

When we had the requisite introduce-yourself exercise during the first meeting, I was happy to find that several of my classmates recognized our publishing house, bookshop, and books. One even came up to me during coffee break and said she frequents our Makati bookshop. Another told me that he found one of our leadership books, The Way of the Shepherd, very helpful. Praise God!

Judging from past experience, I know that I can be very conspicuous in a classroom setting—and not just because I am tall, but also, and perhaps mainly, because I can be boisterous and, er, competitive. (Yes, in the past, I was usually that kid in class whose hand shot up one time too many to recite, who cheered and jeered—good-naturedly, I hope—during group presentations, and who dispensed from a bag of humorous asides that brought down the class in fits of laughter and sometimes derailed the teacher.) For this class of, eherm, management professionals, I had resolved to tone down “Bibo Kid” mode a few notches lower.

But I’m not sure if I’m succeeding.

Yesterday at the end of the long Saturday session, the training coordinator came in to conduct a class election for President and Vice President. Guess who the class elected (well, “called out” is more accurate) for President. Put on the spot and feeling awkward, the only thing I could muster to say was, “Do I get discretionary funds?” Everyone laughed, and some demanded a treat for my “victory.” I’m thinking Chocnut.

blogger whines

I am convinced more than ever that Facebook and Twitter have both conspired to fan the nasty flames of my blogging indolence. (And, yes, they’re also to blame for my heightened self-centeredness and paranoia.)

I woke up one dark morning and realized I could not write more than 140 characters at a time. Horrors!

Worse, any attempt at “long-distance” writing is frequently interrupted by the urge—nay, need—to check friends’ post so I can “like”, comment, retweet, or get lost following links to pictures, videos, articles, or what-not.

Don’t forget to punctuate with an apt emoticon: 🙂 :/ 😛 😀 ❤ or “hehe”, “haha”, or “huhu.” I don’t use “LOL”.

I have never been a consistent blogger to begin with, but since my love affair with social media’s mini-posts, the inconsistency has intensified to an alarming level.

Believe me, I have not taken the matter sitting down. Well, maybe I have, but only literally: I’ve sat in front of my computer many times in the past month attempting to break the blogging dry spell.

I struggled, despaired, and self-pitied (more than usual), only to churn out half-a-dozen drafts, each never maturing to more than a few sentences.

I’ve read articles—yes, picked up from friends’ FB and Twitter links—that bemoan or celebrate the way social networking media is dramatically changing the way humans (at least the chunk of humanity that has a modem) are thinking, learning, and relating. And writing!

Oh I feel the change.

See, this blog post even looks like a patchwork of Facebook status messages and tweets.

Woe is @aleks_tan.

Then again, maybe that’s the way to win the battle to regain blogging and “long-distance” writing momentum.

Think of each sentence or two as an independent mini-post.

Assemble and then hope the end product resembles something readable, understandable, even “like”-able.


eyes age

A middle-aged lady came to the bookshop needing help with the audio bible that she had purchased from us. Being a tech enthusiast (read: geek-wannabe), I was asked by the retail manager to see if I could help address her concern.

Turns out, Lady Customer had issues loading the audio bible files onto her iPod. She brought along her laptop and the audio CDs. I asked to take a look, pulling the laptop screen closer to my eyes and squinting at the small display.

Me: Pasensya na po (Please excuse me), I’m nearsighted.

LC: You should wear glasses then.

Me: Oh, I have contact lenses on.

LC: Ah, si ser nagpapakabata…(sir is trying to look young, I see…)

Me: Bata pa po ako! (I’m still young!)

I might have sounded a tad too defensive. I was simply amused, really. Later she shared that she had problems with her eyesight, which was why she bought an audio bible.

Thank you for clarifying. No offense taken.

the youth of today

Now that I’m entering my 30s, I’m finding out that one fun thing about being almost-old is having the “right” to say things like, Hay, ang mga kabataan nga naman ngayon (What’s with young people nowadays)… and then rant about how the younger folk are indecisive, apathetic, lacking depth, irresponsible—you know, all those things grown-ups used to say about me and my generation not too long ago.

While such observations about the youth may hold some truth, we have also seen that when their imagination is captured and their boundless energy properly directed, the youth can be a powerful catalyst for positive change.

The “interfaith” rally today in Makati calling for President GMA’s resignation did not have a shortage of participants from the youth sector. One particular group that was featured in the evening news had me laughing out loud—not in mockery, mind you, but in sheer admiration of their youthful spirit. As the report showed, it had started to drizzle during the rally. This prompted some creative young protesters to chant, “Rain, rain go away! Isama na si GMA!” Haha! How clever is that!

Weeks ago, just when whistle-blower Jun Lozada had come out in the open, I saw a “man-on-the-street” interview of a female college student. I suppose the question was about the youth’s response to Lozada’s sordid account of massive corruption in government. With fire in her eyes, College Girl declared, “The youth of today are not apathetic. We will not tolerate a corrupt government. If necessary, we will not hesitate to take to the streets carrying our tarps!”

Tarps? I did not get it at first, then I burst out laughing! Oh yes, placards and streamers are soooo yesterday. Tarpaulin banners or “tarps”. Now there’s a cool thing to brandish in rallies. And they’re waterproof too. Talk about being hip and practical!

Okay. This is just me warming up to being on the other side of the age demographic fence 🙂