Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Let’s hear it for Dionne!

Last Friday, I had a chance to hear Dionne Warwick--live! A couple, our friends, offered to give us their tickets after learning they had a more important function to attend that same night. Of course, I was thrilled to accept! I love Dionne Warwick’s songs and style of singing. I grew up hearing and singing her music.

Bud and I were not disappointed. Twice, I stood for standing ovation. I clapped, I screamed with the crowd. I wished I knew how to whistle with my fingers. I didn’t, so I just yelled, Woohoooo!!! Dionne told the audience at the beginning to sit back, relax and enjoy what she had prepared. Sing along, move… I did all of that. Now I can say I sang live with Dionne Warwick, never mind if we were rows of chairs apart.

Dionne still had that beautiful and powerful alto although it seemed she was holding back on the high notes sometimes. Maybe she was preserving her voice to last her through the evening, or maybe age was catching up on her voice, or maybe she had been singing quite a lot on this world tour. I didn’t mind. I still loved her performance.

I felt very nostalgic to hear songs like, A House Is Not A Home, Alfie, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, This Girl's In Love With You, I Say A Little Prayer, Walk On By, You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)…There were two songs that I probably enjoyed most: I’ll Never Love This Way Again and That’s What Friends Are For, her last number. I just had to sing with her during these two numbers without disturbing the lady beside me.

The lighting effects were great especially when the mirror ball started spinning, filling the auditorium with twinkling coloured lights. Okay, this made me dizzy, but I am willing to overlook that.

After the concert, I felt really good. I felt even better because we got to see Dionne Warwick for free in a nice show theatre! I was singing on the way home up till the next day or days.

The next time we have karaoke at home, I will definitely sing Dionne’s songs. Never mind if we are voices apart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Engineer

This blog is dedicated to my late father to mark Father's Day. It's a story I want my kids to know and learn from.

When I was in grade school, I thought my father was an engineer. I wrote it down on school forms and proudly said it in front of the class. I never doubted it for a moment. After all, he worked at the College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines.

I remember being met with chuckles when I mentioned this at home. I could not understand what was wrong or funny about it. Nobody really bothered to explain it to me. Or maybe I never bothered to listen to any explanation. If someone did, I did not get it.

It was not until I reached Grade 6 perhaps that I realized that my father was not an engineer. He was a technician, an electronics technician and then was promoted to Precision Instrument Technician. I don't know exactly what instruments he worked with. I just know they they were complex and were related to electronics. His office was a lab. He also helped put up and then maintained the University's radio station DZUP.

Tatay with the men who erected the DZUP antenna tower, Sept. 4, 1959

My father and me at 4 months

On the side, my father repaired broken TVs and radio sets in the community. He was very much sought after by everyone, all the way up to the University President. My mother and I frequently tagged along when he made house calls. While he was busy repairing the TV, my mother would be chatting with the lady of the house. I would be eating the snacks.

Born of a tobacco farming family in rural Naguilian, Isabela, my father was orphaned by his mother at a young age. His father, unable to care for 7 children, sent my father to live with relatives. "Alilang kanin", my father used to describe his life at the time. He served his relatives who took him in and sent him to school. He was able to finish Grade 7.

But my father was resilient and determined to improve his lot. He went to the Big City, stayed with other relatives, and when WWII was breaking out, he joined the army. He was among the youngest and he served with USAFFE. Some of his war stories have been written about in Seattle newspapers for veterans.

He got medals. Real ones.

In 1945, he married my mother. Years later, with the money and benefits he received as a WWII soldier, he put himself through a technical school while working at the same time, and already a father to three children. By then, he had found employment with the University of the Philippines as a policeman. Although he skipped high school, he performed very well in his vocational course, graduating with flying colours. He got first honour, I believe.

He made it--and how!

He left the police force and worked for the College of Engineering. That was years before I was born.

Fast forward to the mid 70's. My father began travelling around the Philippines and inspecting and putting up radio stations at various localities and universities. He travelled from north to south, from Aparri all the way down to Tawi-Tawi. Then he became a consultant for World Bank projects and other big agencies.

I don't know when it started, but people started calling him Engineer. Real engineers consulted with him! I met some of his colleagues and heard from them firsthand how good my father was in what he was doing. He gained a lot of respect from people who were better educated than him, who had real titles and big companies. He rubbed elbows with people in high places.

The title "Engineer" amused us but no one was more amused than my father. Amazed is probably the right word. His career and track record were amazing! But he certainly earned it and everyone recognized that.

But I was the first to call him Engineer!

A few years ago in Seattle

Friday, June 08, 2007


A few months ago, we moved all our home computers to our den in the basement. The den has since become an office, study room and computer game room combined. As expected, the boys hang out there very often.

Our den is directly below the kitchen where I, on the other hand, spend long periods of time. Because I often find it inconvenient to go downstairs to call the boys up, I instituted an easier way of communicating to the boys down under--I tap my foot on the kitchen floor.

“You are tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap,” I told Gabriel at the beginning of our code-tapping. “It’s like jingle bells, jingle bells,” I sang in monotone. “Markus, yours is tap ta-ta-tap-tap, tap tap,” which I sometimes alternate with a happy birthday ta-ta-tap tap, tap tap to Markus’s confusion.

“Mom, why don’t you just tap once for Kuya Gino, twice for Kuya Mickey, three times for Kuya Gabriel and four for me?” Markus suggested.

“Oh that’s okay. I don’t need to call Gino and Mickey that often anyway, only the two of you,” I replied.

At the start, I had to tap my foot then yell out their names.

Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap. “GABRIEEEL!” … Tap ta-ta-tap-tap, tap tap. “MARKUUUS!”

“Mom, you don’t have to shout,” they would respond.

“I’ve been tapping. You’re not answering. I don’t know if you’re wearing headphones.”

Nowadays, everyone seems to have gotten the hang of it. I tap a code once or twice and the person addressed comes up. Or I hear a faint, “I’m coming, Mom” or “Just wait, Mom”. I tap more lightly, too, and yell a lot less. That is, if I get a quick response.

An intercom would be a nice thing to have in our house. But for now, I’ll use my wireless tap-tap-tapping.