Ghost Stories

I am not very easy to scare – in fact, I like watching horror movies, reading horror books and seeing haunted places. At the height of popularity of The Ring, I watched it alone at midnight, only to laugh at Sadako’s “scary” face.
But nothing scares me more than when things hit a little close to home. Here are some of my personal experiences with the paranormal.
*****
Our high school, like all schools, had its own resident ghost – a former student, who was supposedly raped and murdered at the premises (I tried to research on her a bit, as we all knew her name and what she looked like, but turned up empty. Maybe one of these days I will research her in detail). I have vague memories but I do recall one instance when she was said to have possessed one of the junior high school students (I was a freshman) in the middle of class. Now, I knew the girl. She and I rode on the same school service every day. But I never got to ask her if any of it was true.
Anyway, one afternoon, I, along with two of my friends, went to use the comfort rooms on the third floor of the high school building during a break. We would normally use the ones on the ground floor but it was crowded that time and since the library was on the third floor as well, we figured why not use it on our way to the library?
We each took a cubicle and after our business, went out one by one. Right as we were washing our hands while looking at the mirror, we smelled the oh-so-familiar smell of burning candle. We were alone on that part of the building and the windows were closed. 
Needless to say, we ran as fast as we could from the place and none of us talked about it except to confirm that we all smelled the same thing. 
*****
Our family has more or less a few members born with a third eye. My mama has hers, and I think I might have inherited a bit of it. I don’t see ghosts or spirits, or monsters for that matter, but I can sense when something good or bad is about to happen. Or tell whether a person is good or bad. As I was saying, it runs in the family, and I think I passed it on to Joey.
It happened the day after Ondoy, on a Sunday two years ago. I had to get my laptop from the office in case I can’t make it to the office the next day and I had Joey with me. I wasn’t planning on staying long, just to get my stuff, log on a bit, and then go home. 
I had to use the comfort room for a few minutes and since the floor was empty save for the two of us, I took Joey inside and told him to stand in front of my cubicle. 
While peeing, Joey said something that made my heart skip a beat.
Joey: Mom, can we go now? I’m scared.
Me: Why Joey? We just got here. And mommy’s still peeing.
Joey: Because there’s a boy here wanting to play with me and I’m scared.
Me: Where Joey? There’s no boy.
Joey: He’s here in the CR.
I hastily finished my business, grabbed my laptop without shutting it down, and we ran all the way to the elevator.
To give you a brief background: the building itself had long been rumored to be haunted. I had my own share of it when I was still a new-hire. I was working early at 7:30am, when I heard the keyboard in the next cubicle typing furiously. My workstation was at the entrance to the area so I would have seen anyone coming in; and I knew for a fact that I was the first one at the office that day so there couldn’t have been anyone in that cubicle behind me.
In any case, ever the curious person, I stood up and looked around. The typing stopped. But as soon as I sat down, it started again. I didn’t think much of it (as I said, I don’t scare easily) but a couple of office mates reported other types of haunting on that floor (the 19th).
Two office mates who were said to be clairvoyant had said that there are two ghosts – a mother and a son, going up and down floors. What scared me about this incident is that I never told Joey about ghosts prior to this; and he couldn’t have known about the “ghost son” who might very well be the boy who wanted to play with him.
*****
Back in college, I was always the first one up every day at my parents’ house. My classes were from 7am to 11am, Monday to Saturday, and to be there on time meant I had to wake up at 4:30am and leave by 5:30 am. It was no big deal for me as I had always been a morning person.
As a consequence of this, however, I was given the front bedroom, since it was closest to the living and dining rooms and I wouldn’t disrupt the others when I wake up and go about my morning preparations.
I loved my bedroom but at night, I never want to be the last one to go to sleep – it meant having to turn off all the lights in the living and dining rooms, locking up the glass doors and walking up to the other side of our house where the bedrooms are. It was the same thing in the morning – I had to be the one to turn on all the lights, open the doors, and everything.
The task itself was no big deal – what I didn’t like about it was that from my bedroom, I could see, on an almost daily basis, a woman in white looking at me from the glass doors. And every morning, while I am busy switching on all the lights, she would be there, looking at me, watching my every move and just gliding aimlessly around the house.
I never told anyone about this for two years, when my papa and I were driving off to work one morning. I casually told him, “Pa, may white lady sa bahay natin.”
My papa looked at me, and stopped at the nearest gas station. I asked him why, and he told me that my mama had said the exact same thing to him a couple of days ago. My mom and I never talked about it and after my papa heard about the white lady from the two of us on separate occasions without talking about it, he had no choice but to believe it. 
It was a sort of validation for me as well, that I wasn’t just imagining things. After all, there was one other person who had seen the white lady. 
*****

The World According to Joey: Sem Break Edition


I rarely get the chance to take Joey to the park, even on weekends, since we usually take our nap in the afternoon and wake up when it’s already dark. So I could tell Joey was really happy that I was taking him to the park before naptime during my vacation.

We played ball in the park but had to relocate to another side after I spied some cat poop on the grass (Joey gave a very violent “Eeew” when I told him why we had to move) and ended up on the bridge across one of the koi ponds at our place. A little boy, about two, promptly started following Joey, making signs that he wants to play as well.


Me: Joey, why don’t you let him borrow the ball?
Joey: No, I don’t want to let him play with it. (Moves further away)
Me: But Joey, sharing is a good thing.
Joey: (turns to me with annoyance) Mom, I don’t wanna be friends with kids who are smaller than me. I don’t wanna be friends with babies!
I laugh out loud at this, given that Joey is the smallest kid in his clique – his playmates are mostly six and up, and he barely reaches past the shoulders of some of his friends.
*****
Joey was making a mess with his toys and running around the house holding cookies, and this after I had mopped the floor twice so naturally, I scolded Joey.
Me: Joey, stop scattering toys and crumbs all over the house. I don’t like it.
Joey: Ok, mom. (Stops throwing his toys in the living room and promptly moves to his room. Soon, I hear the sound of toys being thrown about).
Me: Joey, stop making a mess in your room. (I then went to my room to rest).
Joey: (walks in and angrily stomps his feet) Mom, you always get mad at me when I do something you don’t like!
Me: Of course, Joey. Because I want you to follow what mommy tells you to do.
Joey: But you always get mad when I’m kulit! (walks out)
*****
Joey: Mom, why are you not fat?
Me: Because mommy doesn’t eat too much.
Joey: (in a conspiratorial whisper) But XXX’s mommy is fat.
They say that children always tell the truth. Well, this is one truth I would want Joey to keep to himself or I might end up getting into a fight. I remember a similar incident, when Joey heard a gay at the cinema talking, and he says oh so loudly, “Mom, why is that boy talking like a girl?” A good thing the “boy” in question was nice and just laughed when he heard Joey.
*****
I’ve been helping Joey save up for an upcoming trip and have given him a coin bank where he could put coins at night. Of course, Ipe and I are doing most of the actual saving, and I often purposely have my bills changed so I could contribute more to the coin bank.
One night, I let Joey browse the internet so he could look at where we’d be going. He got so excited and wanted to visit and buy a lot of stuff shown on the internet and I saw this as an opportunity to get Joey to stop asking me to buy toys at the mall every time we go out.
Me: Joey, the trip is expensive so mommy can’t buy you all the toys you want. We need to save money. Can I just put the money in the coin bank and not buy you new toys?
Joey: Ok, mom. We’d put all our money in the coin bank. You don’t need to buy me a bike. It’s expensive.
Me: (I was touched by this- Joey had been nagging me for a bike for a couple of weeks now and had set his eyes on getting one for Christmas). Ok, Joey. I’ll just get you a small present for Christmas. But we still have a long way to go. You need to fill twenty more coin banks (he just finished one; I was joking of course, but the kid took me seriously).
Joey: (looks at me with panic in his eyes) But mom, that would take FOREVER! (stress on the word “forever,” at which point Joey’s voice reached a high pitch).
I ended up laughing after Joey’s outburst. Note to self: Don’t make similar jokes to Joey in the future. He’s still a kid.

Best Buys

It’s my first time to take a week off from work, EVER, and two days into it, I can say I’m so not used to it but I am loving it! I’m not a workaholic but I never had the opportunity to take longer than two days off except when I had to go on my honeymoon (which lasted barely a week) and maternity leave (which I cut short).
My first day off, I roamed aimlessly around our neighborhood mall and discovered that Saizen has finally opened a branch at Market Market (was I living under a rock the past two weeks???)! Yey! I’m a sucker for bargains and this is the best place to get them – I am reminded again of how much and why I love the Japanese so much (aside from Anime and Manga, they have one of the best fashion anywhere and I love working with Japanese – they’re so perfect).
I didn’t get to take photos at the store (darn, I really should have my trusty cam with me all the time; my phone was dead) but the place had two aisles dedicated to cosmetics, several aisles for office and school supplies, kitchenware (even baking needs!), home decor, food, and of course, those thingamajigs that only the Japanese would think of inventing.
I got me several of the rose-scented incense cones and potpourri (not as good as Crabtree and Evelyn but for Php85, who am I to complain) and cookie cutters, which got the little man at home so excited to bake with me this weekend. 
I would have loved to hoard more but I didn’t really want to lug around a huge plastic bag but do expect to bump into me there one of these days. 
Seeing all those JP-made stuff also reminded me of how much I love their chocolate so I decided to get some sweet fix. By the way, Saizen sells these pocket-sized Meiji chocolates but I think they’re also priced Php85 (forgive me if I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, but EVERYTHING at Saizen goes for Php85), so I got mine from Mercury drugstore just one floor below.
*Saizen is actually Daiso in Japan. But like with Forever 21, G2000, Prudential Life and a lot of other foreign brands, some smart-ass Pinoy took the name and concept for his own and so, the real Daiso had to settle for Saizen. Forever 21 was lucky they had Henry Sy backing them up, otherwise, the fake Forever 21 (now called Hip Culture) would have gotten away with their brand name. And just so you know, it’s perfectly legal here in our dear country to do that.

Chinatown

Hubby and I didn’t make any plans for last weekend and finding ourselves with a full day of nothing was quite…rare. So we hopped in the car and drove around the metro, where we had a quick museum tour, and decided to drive further to Binondo.
No, this is not Hongkong, but the establishments here all have Chinese translations

Binondo Church, where Lorenzo Ruiz served as a sacristan.

Looks like they repainted the ceiling as it was much brighter than from my last visit here

Chinese food – not so bad, but not so good either. Certainly didn’t leave me wanting for more. But the dumplings are ok – the wrappings are sweet.

And of course, when you’re in Binondo, don’t forget to bring home some goodies from Eng Bee Tin.

Colourful siopao!

Lookie, they have the “lite” version. I like!

National Museum

Ipe and I almost always find ourselves in the Intramuros area whenever we don’t have anything to do and this Sunday was no exception. But given that it was high noon and it would have been torture to roam around under the sun, we decided to go to the National Museum first, as it had been over a year since our last visit.
Luckily for us, several wings have been reopened to the public AND you can go in for free! Apparently, Sundays are free so better make the trip. 🙂
Hall of Masters
First on our stop was the Hall of Masters. You can’t really miss this as this is the main hall of the entire building and it’s directly in front of the museum entrance. Here, you will find the masterpieces of Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo: the Spoliarium and the Assassination of Bustamante. 
The Assassination of Bustamante

Spoliarium
I love their work and while I can’t decide who the better painter is, I personally prefer Hidalgo. His paintings look so life-like, especially his portraits. Even the gradation of light to depict creases and wrinkles on the skin is rendered so masterfully. If you stand a few feet back from his paintings, you’d think they were photographs.
Unfortunately, most of Hidalgo’s paintings, indeed all my favourites of his, are located in a different museum – at the Bangko Sentral Museum to be specific so you might want to check it out (it’s just a few kilometres away).
One painting of Luna that I particularly like, is his Portrait of a Lady. I can’t determine what draws me to it, perhaps the colors or how the face reminds me of European paintings (we have the Louvre coffee table book full of paintings at home and I browse through it in my idle time – a sort of present/souvenir from hubby from his trip there).  
Portrait of a Lady
 
Amorsolo
The Museum has an entire gallery devoted to Fernando Amorsolo’s works – from his sketches to his paintings. Fitting enough, considering that he is our country’s first National Artist for Painting.

some of Amorsolo’s portraits

Walls full of sketches
Favorite Paintings
Several galleries are devoted to paintings and indeed, there is one devoted entirely to National Artists such as painters Joya, Edades and sculptors Abueva and Tolentino. Masters who belong to that distinct group of last men you address only by their last names. Funny though that I felt like I was rattling off the names of condominium towers at Rockwell. 😛
Modern Maria Clara by Victorio Edades, 1958
Kagampanan by Napoleon Abueva, 1970

Bust by Guillermo Tolentino

The Hills of Nikko by Jose Joya, 1964
There were also other paintings which I particularly like, spread out across various galleries.

Up Site Today, Dominador Castaneda, 1945
Fugitive from the Japanese, Dominador Castaneda, 1945
Bonifacio Brother by Carlos Valino, 1973

Death March, Dominador Castaneda, 1948

Hmm, I seem to favor a lot of paintings by Castaneda. I love the theme – mostly WWII. Nothing gory but it somehow evokes strong emotions from me.
Mother’s Revenge by no less than Jose Rizal

Some of my favorite halls, especially the “checkered” hall – reminds me of San Agustin Church in Intramuros and Baclayon Church in Bohol:

Senate Session Hall

One notable portion that Ipe and I were really excited to see is the old Senate Session Hall at the 3rd level of the building. It was based on the original design of Ralph Harrington Duane as revised by Juan Arellano.
The ornaments were done by Isabelo Tampinco and his sons Angel and Vidal. If I am not mistaken, this is one of very few structures, if not the only one, in the country with such intricate statues of Greek and Egyptian gods. The statues though were too far up for me to see and my trusty camera can’t get a good enough zoom photo of them; but while these lend grandeur to the hall, I was a bit confused as to what this myriad of characters was supposed to represent.
In any case, the hall is still under renovation; I honestly didn’t think hubby and I should be there but the workers kind of forgot to close the main doors so we just assumed it was open for viewing (and only as we were exiting the place did we see the “No Entry” sign).

The Progress of Medicine

A recent addition to the masterpieces housed in the museum is Carlos Francisco’s Progress of Medicine – a set of four panels depicting the evolution of medicine in the country from pre-colonial, colonial, American and the Modern Era (up until the time it was painted in any case, back in 1953). These paintings were commissioned by Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dean Agerico Sison, Dr. Florentino Herrera Jr., and Dr. Constantino Manahan, and were originally installed in the entrance hall of the Philippine General Hospital.
The paintings should be viewed chronologically, clockwise, from top left
Obviously though, being exposed to the public in uncontrolled temperature and humidity had deteriorated the paintings so badly that several restoration works had to be done to salvage them, until finally, it was decided that they be transferred to the Museum where they can be better preserved for future generations. As a compromised, a detailed replica was installed in its original location.
Under Renovation
There are still lots more rooms under renovation; indeed, there are more closed rooms than open and I am almost giddy with anticipation for when they do finally open. I saw a note on one of the hallways that the renovation cost for the entire place is budgeted at Php10MM and I was, to be honest, dismayed. Even without much knowledge in construction, I knew that budget was too small to fully restore the museum to its old grandeur. That amount is barely enough to cover one floor, let alone a mammoth complex. I wish rich art patrons would donate to this cause because there’s a lot of potential for it to be really attractive and worth tourists’ money.

For those who haven’t visited yet, you can take the 360-degree tour here.

Movie: Dream House

One statement before I proceed: Dream House is well worth your money and deserves far better than what critics have said about it.
I saw the trailer of this movie a few weeks back and suffice to say that I was intrigued enough to want to watch it, notwithstanding the fact that the trailer practically gave away the key elements and should-have-been-unexpected plot twist. The movie had a lot going against it though: one, it movie was widely panned by critics for the poorly (stupidly, I might add) trailer; two, reports said that the director and lead stars were so unhappy with how it was edited, turning what was supposed to be a thriller into a campy horror movie, that they boycotted all promotional rounds for it; three, being the confused movie it was – it was understandably hard to market. I mean, do you sell it as a drama/thriller or a horror movie?
Credit should be given to the story, though – it gave quite a unique twist (unfortunately revealed in the trailer, as mentioned above) to your usual family massacre. Kind of reminds me of The Sixth Sense and the Others combined (hint: there are ghosts!), but even the similarity is given a fresh twist here. Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) moves his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two young girls from New York to the quiet suburbs of of Connecticut, living in a rambling house just a few steps away from the forest so he can work on finishing his novel.
Things go smoothly with the family settling in – Libby painting over portions of the hosue and the kids finding a hidden attic full of toys of the kids of the previous owners; however, one night, their youngest daughter Didi sees a man with “a big head and his face was fuzzy.” Will and Libby dismiss this as the product of Didi’s active imagination but Will becomes alarmed when he sees foot prints in the snow the next day, exactly where his daughter said the man was standing and looking in through their window. Will also discovers a group of goth teenagers lighting candles and recreating a massacre scene in the basement of their house, which prompts him to investigate the history of their “dream house” and its previous tenants.
I won’t go past that part since I would be giving away spoilers if I do, but suffice to say that if you have no idea how this movie would turn out, you would enjoy the twist. And Daniel and Rachel made it all the more enjoyable – I especially liked the scene when Will was confronting Libby with the truth and she just cries and those brief moments of realization when her husband was trapped in the burning house with her best friend, Ann Patterson (played by Naomi Watts). I just noticed one thing – Daniel Craig seems to have aged A LOT. Is he really that old or was he really just aged in the movie to give more credence to the character’s sorrow?
The movie has that dreary setting which immediately gives you the creeps but I somehow felt that the directing and editing of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. There were scary and touching moments but those came few and far in between to make it truly memorable, although I did shed a tear during the confrontation scene between Will and Libby, and when Ann’s daughter remarked how she misses her friends, and in the final scene, as Will escapes from the burning house.
All in all, Dream House isn’t a masterpiece of whatever genre it thinks itself to be in, but I did find it entertaining and not a waste of my hard-earned money. Hubby agrees with me too. 

Food Trip: Lau Chan – Best Shabu Shabu

I don’t know why it took us a full year to come back to this place, but one reason I’m always looking forward to our friend Yek’s birthday is because he always treats us to dinner at the best shabu-shabu place we’ve come across: Lau Chan. 
The place isn’t visually appealing, what with its plain white table and chairs and the outdated feel of the place. And the manangs all covered up in old aprons and hairnets remind me of some old Chinese martial arts movies where the lead stars would suddenly up and fight bad guys in eateries such as this.
But don’t let appearances deceive you. The food more than makes up for whatever it lacks in aesthetics.
Seven pairs of eyes are eagerly on that pot
these were the closest plates to me, but we must have ordered more than a dozen ingredients for our shabu shabu
We felt a bit guilty not ordering any veggies, so we had a plate of pechay. 😛
chili, soy sauce and lots of garlic! I think I ate the entire bowl of garlic, I just love garlic so much!
Seriously, I don’t know what they put in the sate soup but it tastes divine. I could just stay there the entire day and do nothing but eat! That good.
 
The best part? The fact that food here doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
I don’t know the exact address of Lao Chan but it’s near the intersection of Pedro Gil and Mabini in Malate (it’s along Mabini) – we came all the way from Makati and QC just to eat here. But SO WORTH IT. But don’t take my word for it – go try it yourself. 
*PS: Even the manong guard missed us. He commented to hubby while guiding him to a parking slot, ”Sir, tagal nyo di nagpunta ah.” Nice that he remembered us, as it was exactly a year ago on Yek’s birthday as well when we were last here. I’ll make it a point to visit again sometime soon. 

The World According to Joey: Bukol

Joey had a bit of an accident at home while Ipe and I were both at work – he tripped on the power cord, slipped and hit his forehead on our tiled floor. The yaya didn’t even think of calling or texting either of us, even though the bump, if it was even a bump, covered his entire forehead. 
A good thing hubby had to pick up our car from the casa early and he got home an hour after the accident. So the night found us at the ER where Joey was checked, x-rayed and then sent home – luckily for us, he didn’t get any fractures or clots. 
This isn’t the first time Joey had this type of accident – a couple of years back during a Christmas party, Joey fell down the stairs and hit his forehead on the steps. And yes, we ended up in the ER that time as well.  I don’t know if Joey just inherited his dad’s clumsiness but I really wish these ER-trips will not have a repeat.
Two days after, swelling has subsided, but Joey ended up with black eye and bruises

Three days after, black eye looked worse. Now Joey looked like a victim of child abuse. Haha. And he purposely looked sad in this picture to get full effect.

FoodTrip: Banapple

Had dinner with hubby and our friends at Banapple’s Il Terrazo branch after the La Naval procession and mass last Sunday – all that walking (yeah, right) made us really hungry. 
Did I ever tell you that this place is one of my favourites? They serve really good comfort food at unbelievably affordable prices. My mama likes this place so much and she would always ask us to eat or at least buy something whenever we pass Katipunan (I think this is their original branch).

Anyway, the place was full considering that it was: a) Sunday, b) raining very hard, c) it was past 9pm in the evening – we had to get a number first and we were number six, if I remember correctly. But the food, as always, was well worth the wait.
Pan-Fried Porkloin with Herb Mushroom Gravy, I think.

Hickory Smoked Barbecued Country Ribs
Herbed Chicken Rolls with Basil Cream Sauce – love this so much! The chicken was stuffed with ham and cheese!
But of course, the star (make that stars) of the night was dessert! Goodbye to my non-existent diet. I would have to starve next week in order to fit into my swimsuits for my Bora trip later this month.

Pecan Pie
And of course, when you love the food so much, you just have to take home some – cookies for the little man waiting for us at home.
crinkles and chocolate chip cookies

And the best part? The food is so cheap you can eat to your heart’s content. Entrees range Php170-200 and cakes at around Php100 per slice. 
Just writing this entry has given me a craving. Arrgh.

The World According to Joey: Touching Moments Mommy Edition

Joey has always been a very sensitive kid. I don’t mean this negatively but in a good way – like he senses when people around him are sad, or angry, without being told. When he was still a baby and doesn’t understand words yet, his dad made a face and said, “ang baho” (it’s stinky!) after smelling his baby poop, and Joey suddenly cried after seeing his daddy’s face.
 
A few weeks back, his lolo introduced the concept of mortality in his young mind and we had several interesting conversations about this, mostly revolving around me.
 
*****
Last week, after sharing what we did for the day, I suddenly ask Joey a question which we, grown ups, sometimes ask one another.
 
Me: Joey, will you cry when mommy dies?
Joey: Well, mom, everybody will die when they’re old. So maybe when I’m old and you’re old, you can die.
Me: What if mommy dies while you’re still young?
Joey: (doesn’t answer – but tears immediately welled up in his eyes and soon he was sobbing)
Me: Joey, why are you crying?
Joey: I don’t want you to die mommy!
 
I was so touched, I ended up crying myself. Isn’t Joey the sweetest?
 
*****
Another day a few weeks back, Joey and I were discussing brothers and sisters (his playmate has a baby sister) when he suddenly blurted out: “I don’t want a baby sister or baby brother!” I tried to ask him why the sudden change of heart as he used to say he wanted one, and he came up with all sorts of excuses such as sharing toys and his room until the truth came out: “I don’t want your tummy to be broken, mom! What if the doctors don’t fix you in time and you get broken?”
 
Ok, cue teary-eyed me again. It’s funny how Joey can connect these thoughts. And very touching that he would rather not have siblings than entertain the thought of his mom getting hurt.
 
Last night, Joey and I were telling jokes before going to bed. I don’t know where he gets his jokes from, but he has been insisting he be allowed to say his jokes every night for the past week. After one such session, I hugged Joey and kissed him good night. And ever the sentimental person that I am, I told Joey that I will these nights when he grows up coz he probably wouldn’t let me hug or pinch or kiss him anymore.
 
I was surprised that Joey ended up crying after that. When I asked him why, he said, “I’m gonna miss you, mommy, when I leave and grow big.”
 
*****
 
Maybe I should stack tissues near our bed. Or keep Joey from these kinds of conversations. In any case, I was very touched by Joey’s concern for me. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter kid. J