Joaquin’s Dream

Joaquin has always called ‘The Orphan Farm’ his home.  Abandoned as a baby and different from other kids, Joaquin like Clara and some of the older children, don’t know their real parents.  Father was Papa Arnold and Mother was Mommy Bernadette.  Nana Josie and the others are their teachers and nanny.  Joaquin loved them all.  Here at home, Joaquin could run, swim, play ball and learn his letters and numbers.

Joaquin especially liked Science and experiments.  Just last week, Joaquin and Clara learned about sound waves.  After class, Joaquin and Clara gathered and cleaned empty soup cans and twine to make a telephone.  With just one arm, Joaquin needed Clara’s help to punch holes on the bottom of the cans and thread the twine through.  It actually worked and Joaquin and Clara spent several nights ‘calling’ each other after everyone was asleep.  Clara did not have to walk with her crutches just to talk with Joaquin or share stories.  With their ‘telephone’, they read stories to each other and laughed at jokes.  They traced and named the stars in the evening sky.  They kept their telephone a secret from the others until Iggy caught them.  Soon, Iggy, Peter and Teri wanted to use it all at the same time.  They caused quite a commotion that Nana Berna confiscated their homemade telephone “until such time that you all learn to take turns.”  That was the end of it.

The children followed their routines for bed.  With much reluctance and with several “Shush” from Nana Berna and the other nannies, the children finally made it to their beds.  As usual, Joaquin and Iggy were the last ones to sleep, whispering about the days’ adventures.

“Am I dreaming?” Joaquin asks aloud.

He looked around; he was standing outside the main house.  He could see the White House from a distance.  That’s what they called the main house.  It looked like the Farm and yet it did not.   Hope Cottage, his house which he shared with Iggy is also there.  Faith Cottage, Clara’s cottage is also there.  It’s all the same but different.  The house and cottages all looked new and bright; and the trees looked young.  And smaller.  Much smaller. “Weird” Joaquin thought.

Joaquin looks around and decides to walk away from the main house and the cottages and into the sugarcane fields.  “Sugarcane!” he thought.  Papa Arnold and Mommy Bernadette planted pineapples, not sugarcane.  “Really weird!” he thought.

He has not been this far away from the main house.  The sugarcane stalks are high.  With his left arm, Joaquin could part the hard leaves.  But he could not help some of the leaves brushing and scratching his face.  At the other end of the field is a clearing and beyond, under a lush mango tree is a small bamboo cottage.  “This is not right” Joaquin thought.  “We don’t have neighbors that live in bamboo cottages.” Chickens are moving about, pecking on the ground.  A small girl in a clean, white camisole is throwing seeds at the chicken.  She does not see Joaquin.

“Hello” Joaquin greets in a small voice.  He is not sure if he is scared or not.  “She is just a little girl, smaller and younger than me” Joaquin tells himself.  “Maybe she’s only 6 years old.”  The girl does not look up.  Joaquin moves closer.  “Hello” he says in a louder voice.   Still, the little girl does not look up.  He walks closer.  The chickens flee from him as he goes closer.  The girl notices and looks up.

“Whaaaaaaa!”  the girl shouts as she drops her bowl of feeds and turns to run to the back of the cottage.  The chickens fly in all directions sending dust and dirt in a swirl.  They make such a noise that breaks the quiet of the morning.

Joaquin freezes, too scared to move.  He looks around with wide eyes.  After what feels like a long time, he starts to relax.  The girl is nowhere to be seen.  He slowly walks to the back of the bamboo cottage and stretches his neck to look around the bend.  Crouched between two large clay pots is the little girl.  Her eyes were larger than his and more scared.  Joaquin relaxes and smiles at the little girl.

“Hello” he says again.  No response.  The little girl just stares at him.  “My name is Joaquin.  I live in The Farm, over there in the White House,”  he says pointing in the direction of the sugarcane fields.

The little girl follows his finger and back to him.  She claps her hands to ears and shakes her head.

Whack!  Joaquin sits up, fully awake.  Iggy was laughing, standing beside his bed.  Whack!  Iggy slammed a book on the bedside table.

“Wake up, lazy bones or we’ll be late!  Everybody’s gone to the main house.  I volunteered to wake and wait for you.”  Iggy proudly said with a silly grin.

Joaquin looked at Iggy and out the window.  “I just had a very weird dream” he says.

“Well, you’re weird, so nothing weird about that” Iggy says chuckling.  “Let’s go, I’m hungry.”

“Did you know that we have neighbors beyond the field?  There’s a little girl who lives there.  I think she’s deaf.” Joaquin persisted.

“Impossible.  We have buildings for nei—”  Iggy suddenly stopped and gave Joaquin a strange look.  With eyes almost jumping out of its sockets, Iggy asked “Was she wearing a white dress and feeding the chickens?”

“You saw her too?  So it wasn’t a dream?  Or was it?” Joaquin whispered.


Lando’s Travels (in space)

Honk, honk! went the cars and buses.
Vroom, vroom, vroom! went the motorcycles.

Lando dropped from Jupiter to Earth. He was reading the new book on space that his uncle gave him. Lando loves everything about space. He knows the name of all the planets, the constellations and their distances from earth. He tried to read the page again, but it was too noisy. The television was blaring from his neighbor’s house. One neighbor was watching a soap opera while another was watching cartoons. Someone was singing off-key in a karaoke session. Just outside their door, children were screaming and laughing, running after each other. Lando could hear a baby crying.

“Lando, Lando, come play with us!” shouts Pete from the doorway. Pete is Lando’s best friend and neighbor.

“I can’t! I’m reading.” Lando shouts back. He likes playing with Pete and the other boys, but he also wanted to finish reading his new book.

“Aww, you could read that later! Come on!” Pete urges, turning back to the game.
Not for the first time, Lando wished he lived in a quieter neighborhood, with no loud neighbors, no crying babies, no noisy cars and buses and no people going in and out of his house.

Lando closes his book and goes upstairs to his room. He closes the door, but it doesn’t help. Noise was coming in from the open window. Lando covers his ears with his hands and continues to read his new book.
At dinner, Lando has a million questions for his papa. “Is there life in space, papa?”
“What do they look like? Do you think there are beings in the dwarf planets? Yes, the planets in the Kubier Belt. The book says the dwarf planets are icy and rocky. But what IF? Can people space travel? No, I mean, like the ones we see in movies. When could people live in space?”

Then, the most important question of all “Can I be an astronaut when I grow up?”

Lando’s papa looks at him. “Yes, you could be an astronaut. You can be anything you want to be. But you have to study hard and work hard. You could be an astronaut or an engineer or a scientist or a teacher. You could be all these.”

“Really, papa?” asks Lando wide-eyed.

“Yes! But more importantly, you have to be a man with a kind and brave heart.” Papa says seriously.

“But I am a good boy and I’m brave! I’m not afraid of anything!” Lando says.

“Are you now? Are you kind and respectful? Are you brave?” Papa teases. “Yes, you are, son!” shaking Lando’s hair.
In bed, Lando takes a last look at his book before his mama closes the light. He is not scared of the dark. He likes the dark. Sometimes, when the streetlights are dark, he could look up at the sky and see a few stars. Papa said that city lights and pollution makes it hard to see the stars.

Alone in his room, Lando sits up to gaze at the sky. He could not see the stars, but he knows that they are out there. In the street below, he could hear a dog bark. His neighbors are still watching television. Cars and motorcycles are still zooming past and honking their horns. At the end of the street, a group of teenagers are playing basketball. He could hear the sharp, loud whistle of the referee and the cheering crowd.

Lando lies down and covers his head with his pillow to block-off the noise. In space, it would be quiet, he thought. In space, he would not hear dogs barking. In space, he would not hear noisy neighbors and their loud televisions. In space, he would not hear the honking of horns, the vroom, vroom of cars and motorcycles. In space, it would be dark but he would be able to see the stars and planets. In space, with a spaceship, he could travel from one planet to another. In space, he could make new discoveries.

In space, he could look below and see his house, his neighborhood, his city, big lands, mountains, oceans, grow smaller and smaller. Lando suddenly sits up. From his window, he could see the earth with its vast ocean and the clouds, getting smaller. But it isn’t his window he looking out from. It’s a spaceship’s window.

“A SPACESHIP!” Lando shouts. He looks around. There are buttons and small lights on the walls. He is not in his bed. He is sitting on a cushioned chair with a seat belt. Infront of him is a table with more buttons and lights.

“Welcome, Lando!” a voice says from somewhere.

Lando jumps from his seat, but his seatbelt stops him. “Who are you? Where are you?” asks Lando, remembering that he has to be brave.

“I am Control. But you could call me any name you want. I am here to help you go wherever you want to go in space.” Control explains.

“Am I dreaming?” Lando asks.

“Dreaming? Perhaps. But I do not dream. Don’t you want to explore space? Where do we go, Lando?” Control asks.

Lando looks out the window. He could see the earth, with different shades of blue and white. “It’s, it’s beautiful!”

“Yes, the earth is beautiful.” Control agrees.

Lando sees the moon. It looks bigger now that he is in space. In space! “WHOA! I AM IN SPACE!” Lando shouts for joy. He unbuckles his seat belt and starts to float. He bumps his head on the ceiling. He floats to the window and looks at the moon. “Can we go anywhere in space?”

“Wherever you want.” Control answers.

“Uhh, ok, can we go to the nearest planet that has people in it?” Lando asks.

“Of course! Setting course for the planet, Pitru 016.” Control says.

Lando could not sit down. He is so excited. He is not scared at all. He could see millions and millions of blinking stars. He was watching meteors zooming past when Control goes “Approaching Pitru 016. Prepare for landing.”

“Wow, that’s fast! We’re already here?” Lando asks surprised.

“Yes, I am fast.” Control says proudly. “5 – 4 -3 -2 -1. Touchdown.”
Outside, Pitru 016 is bright and cool. People were walking here and there. Well, they look like people, Lando thought. They were tall with very long legs and arms. Their head was narrow and long and bald. The women wore long, silver robes and the men wore long, silver trousers.

A man looks at Lando. He has small, very round eyes, holes for a nose and a small mouth. Lando thought the man looked sad.

“Hello” whispered Lando. The man blinked. “Hello, I’m Lando from the planet Earth!” Lando said loudly, trying to be brave.

The man’s eyes widened. He reached for Lando, covering Lando’s mouth with his thin, long hands. The man quickly looked to the left and right. “Shhh, there is no need to shout. My name is Turk” Turk says, bending down to speak to Lando in a soft voice.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout” said Lando in a softer voice.

Turk stares at Lando with his small, kind eyes. “Earthlings are very small!” he says.

Lando harldy heard Turk, but he smiles. “I’m just a child. Grown-ups are bigger, but not as tall as you. You are very tall!”

Turk smiles back and whispers “We don’t get many visitors in Pitru. What do you do when you meet people in Earth?”

Lando thought for a moment. What did he and his friends do? “We eat, drink, play and tell stories” Lando explained.

“We could eat and drink, Lando” Turk asks.

“Thank you very much, I’d like that.”

People looked at Turk and Lando, but nobody spoke or greeted them. In fact, nobody spoke at all. Strange, Lando thought. Lando looked around. All the houses looked alike, egg-shaped in different sizes and different shades of white. He wondered if the houses cracked when people knocked or if someone slammed the door.

Turk turned to a small egg-shaped house and entered. He offered Lando a drink in a long, tall glass. The drink looked like milk but wasn’t.

“What do you do when you meet new people?” Lando asked in turn.

“We don’t get too many visitors in Pitru. You may be our first visitor.” Turk said carefully.

“Whoa, you mean other people from other planets don’t visit?” Lando asked, surprised.

“You don’t have to shout, Lando.” Turk said, covering the side of his head with his hands.

“I’m not shouting. I’m just so excited. And surprised.” Lando said. Then, after a while asks “But why not?”

“Why not what?”

“Why don’t you get visitors?” Lando persisted.

Turk looked outside then at Lando. “A long time ago, people from other planets visited us. But they brought trouble. They were noisy with loud contraptions and equipments. We are a quiet people. We don’t like trouble. Or noise.”

“I’m not here to bring trouble. I come in peace” Lando assures Turk. But how do you talk with each other if everyone has to be so quiet?”

“We still speak to each other, but in soft voices. Also, we do not ask unimportant questions or talk nonsense.” Turk only looks at Lando. For the second time, Lando thought Turk looks sad.

Lando had a million and one questions to ask, but only said “Oh.”

They drank in silence. It seemed a long time. Finally Turk says in his soft voice “Thank you Lando. I had a wonderful time with you. That was fun. Now we sleep.”

“Huh? We only drank!” Lando answers, surprised. “I’m not sleepy yet!”

“Softly please or the others will hear us!” Turk goes.

“Oops, sorry. But we haven’t done anything yet. Maybe we could play?” Lando whispers.

“Play? That requires one to be noisy. And it is unimportant.” Turk explains softly, looking at Lando.

“But, what do you do for fun?” Lando leans near Turk to ask.

“Fun? This is fun, to sit with someone quietly. But now we sleep. You need to rest if you want to explore Pitru tomorrow” Turk says.

Turk showed Lando to a soft, comfortable cushion in a corner. But try as he might, Lando could not sleep. He looked out the window and watched as the people of Pitru walked here and there without making a noise. It was strange but good not to hear the honk and vroom-vroom of cars.
“Approaching planet Xerus in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. Touchdown” Control’s voice sounded in Lando’s ears.

Lando rubbed his eyes and looked around without rising. He was back in his spaceship. Where is Turk? Where is Pitru 016? I am having such a crazy dream, he thought.

“Control, I thought we were in Pitru 016?” Lando asked, uncertain.

“Yes, we were. But we are now in the planet Xerus. I thought you wanted to explore?” Control asks.

“Uh, um, yes, I do. Alright, let’s see how planet Xerus is like.” Lando says.

Outside, Xerus looks green. There were big trees with dark leaves. There were lots of bushes in light and bright green. The grass he was standing on was soft, slippery and neon green. Lando could not help but smile. Xerus looked like a happy planet.

“Heelooo!” chirped a voice from somewhere high.

Lando looked up and saw people sitting on the branches of a big, wide tree. “Hello there!”

“Heeloo, heeloo, heeloo!” chirped other voices as they slid down vines and ropes.

A boy smaller than Lando approached. The boy had colorful feathers instead of hair and wore a colorful outfit. His arms and legs were thin and smooth. He was smiling at Lando. Other children gathered around Lando.

“I’m Siti!” said the boy in a sing-song voice.
“I’m Natu!”
“I’m Tepi.”
“And I’m Mota.”

Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota were all smiling. They touched Lando as they greeted him.

Lando smiled. “I’m Lando from the planet Earth.”

“Come Lando, join us!” said Siti as he and the others started to climb the nearest tree.

Lando ran after them and started to climb. Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota cheered Lando as he slowly tried to climb the tree. Once up, Lando’s eyes widened and “Whoa! We are so very high up!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall” says Mota, tying a vine around Lando’s waist and holding the other end.

“Would you like to play with us?” asks Natu. “Come on Lando Earthling, let’s fly!” Natu shouts as she runs and jumps to another branch. The others laugh and follow.

“I will hold you safe” Mota says and with a laugh and a wink, runs ahead of Lando.

Lando runs and jumps along with the others, from branch to branch, from tree to tree. There were other children running in nearby trees. The air was full of their laughing and chirping.

Soon, Lando was out of breath.  “I need to rest” Lando explains between gulps of air.  The others tweeted cheerfully and sat near the trunk of the tree.  Tepi was cleaning Natu’s feathers and Siti was sharing a bowl of red nuts with Mota.  They look so happy together, Lando thought.  Lando sat just outside the circle of friends.  He watched as Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota cleaned each others’ feathers and shared food and drinks.  Lando watched as the green sky darkened to red.  The other children in the nearby trees sat in groups too.

“Come Lando,” Tepi calls.  They walk round the other side of the big tree trunk.   Tepi shows Lando a green nest of grass and leaves.  “You could rest here,” Tepi smiles.

Tepi walks to the far side of the branch where her other friends are.  They had a big nest, big enough for the four to snuggle and sleep in.  Lando looked at the other trees and saw other big green nests with 3 to 4 children all tucked in.

Lando lay down.  He could see the red sky peeping through the green roof of leaves.  Xerus is a beautiful and happy planet, Lando thought.  Everyone cared for each other.  Surrounded by these happy Xerus children, Lando felt so alone.  He missed Pete and the neighborhood children.  They too ran around and played games.  They called to each other and went in and out of each other’s homes.

Lando did not know how long he stayed awake, staring at the red sky.  He did not know when he closed his eyes.


“Lando, Lando!” someone shouted.  Lando turned to his side.  “Lando, Lando!” came the shout again.  It was a loud voice, not the chirping of the Xerus children.  Lando slowly sat up.  He looked around and saw the familiar walls of his bedroom.  Honk-honk went the cars and buses.  Vroom-vroom went the motorcycles.  Lando rubbed his eyes.  He was home!  He never thought he could miss home so much.

Lando jumped out of bed and looked out the window.  Pete was shouting from the street, calling to him.  Lando waved back and laughed.  That was a very, very weird dream, he thought.  Today, he would play in the street with Pete and their friends.  He could read his space book some other time.  He reached for his new book on the bed to put in the bookshelf.  As he grabbed his book, some red nuts rolled to the floor.

My Assignment

August 15, 2012

Dear *Ate Ali,




*Ate means older sister.  Also used as a form of respect to an older lady who is not a relation.


August 20, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

This is my assignment.  I must write letters to you for the 1st and 2nd  Quarters.  Everyone in my 4th Grade class is supposed to write letters to a relative or friend.  I think we need to send a total of 6 to 10 letters by the end of the 2nd Quarter.  Mrs. Black said it is so we could practice our English writing and penmanship.   We cannot use a computer coz we are to check our own spelling and not the computer.  We have to make 2 copies of our letters.  I mail the real copy and give the teacher the other copy.  I sent you my first assignment.  Did you get it?  She gave me a “D” for that.  Mrs. Black said that I should tell you things and not only “HELLO”.  She marked “halu” as wrong spelling too.  But before I tell you things, I should ask you how you are.  How are you?  I told her that we always talk through the computer and mobile phone so I do not have new stories to tell you.  I will save stories for you in my next letter.





August 27, 2012

Dear Chesca,

How are you my dear?  I think the letter writing assignment is a splendid idea!  We had a similar project way back when I was still in grade school.  I remember writing to Aunty Bettie then.  Do you have penmanship exercises?  You should practice as your handwriting reminds me of the chicken scratches in *Lolo’s farm.

I was surprised to receive your first letter.  I thought you might have forgotten to include a card or a picture.  Too bad that Mrs. Black gave you a very low mark for that.  But let’s work on your letters so you get higher marks in the future.  You could tell me stories of your friends and the ordinary things that happen in school, at home or even the village.  You’ll be surprised at how much you could write about.

Anyhow, I am fine and quite busy with work with lots of patients to look after.  But, I shall be looking forward to our correspondence.

Love you dearly!


*Lolo means grandfather


August 30, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

How are you?  I am fine thank you.   Mama and Papa and *Kuya Miguel are fine too.

Do you remember my classmate Ina?  She is the thin, small, very white girl in my Grade 2 and 3 classes.  Ina is in my class again.  We started our swimming class yesterday.  We have to wear this ugly blue, long swimsuit with sleeves and legs.  I wanted to wear my swimsuit, but Mama said that we have to wear our uniform swimsuit.  I did and I looked funny in my swimsuit but I guess it was ok coz we all looked funny.  We were all excited to jump in the pool and swim, except for Ina.  She did not want to go into the pool coz she said she does not know how to swim.  I said she was not being honest coz I see her swim when we go to parties and the beach.  She said I was bad to call her a liar.  But I did see her swim before!  To show everyone that she knows how to swim, I pushed her into the pool.  Ina started waving her arms and yelling.  I thought she was just acting and pretending and I was waiting for her to float, but I forgot that we were in the older girls’ side of the pool where the water is deep.  I jumped in the pool to get Ina but she pushed my head under the water when I tried to hold her arm.  I pushed her hard so she could hold the side of the pool but her head hit the side of the pool and I saw the water turn red.  When I came up to breathe, Mrs. Castro was pulling Ina out of the pool and the other girls were screaming and crying.

We did not have our swimming class.  Mrs. Castro ordered the class to change into our regular uniforms and to go back to the classroom to wait for her.  Except for me.  Mrs. Castro made me go with her to the infirm  enfir  clinic to bring Ina and then we went to the office of Principal Garcia.  Someone brought my gym bag and Principal Garcia let me use her bathroom to change.  They made me wait outside the office.   And wait and wait and wait.  Papa came and went straight to Principal Garcia’s office.  Then Mama came and joined them and they talked for a long time.  Then Mrs. Castro asked me to join them inside the office to tell them what happened and so I told them.  Principal Garcia was frowning and so was Mrs. Castro.  Papa was looking at his shiny, black shoes and Mama had her handkerchief covering her mouth.  Papa made me go to another room to write a letter to Ina to say sorry while Ina and her parents came to talk with Mama and Papa.  I did not give Ina the letter coz Mrs. Castro took the letter from me.  Mrs. Castro gave my letter to Ina’s Mama.  She should not have done that, it was not for her to give my letter!  The letter was for Ina and not her mother.  I do not think Ina’s Mama will let me play with Ina anymore when she sees the letter.  I drew a picture of Ina in the pool with her big eyes and her arms waving above her head.  But I did write “SORRY” in big letters.



*Kuya is a term that refers to an older brother.  Also used as a form of respect for older men who are not relations.


September 6, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

I am sorry if I scared you with my last letter.  You did not have to call.  Don’t worry, Ina and I are friends again even if she does not want me near her during swimming class.  Mama did not tell you that she baked a basket of *bibingka and kutsinta for Ina and had Kuya Junn, the driver, bring it to Ina’s Mama.  Mama also did not tell you that she took my iPad and my cell phone and it is still locked in Papa’s desk.  They were very, very quiet on our way home and during dinner.  Kuya Miguel kept asking if something was wrong but Papa and Mama kept on shushing him.  I did not tell Kuya Miguel because —- Mrs. Black insists that I use ‘because’ and not ‘coz’ —- it is pretty nice to have a secret from Kuya Miguel that only Papa, Mama and I know about.  Also, you too.

Principal Garcia visits the class every morning and greets me.  I think that it is very nice of her to do that.

Can you tell me stories about your work and friends?



*Bibingka and Kutsinta are Philippine delicacies.  Bibingka is a sweet rice cake with toppings of white cheese and duck eggs.  Kutsinta is a sticky, chewey, gelatinous rice sweet that is orange or dark brown in color.


September 12, 2012

Dear Chesca,

I’m glad that you and Ina are friends again.  Someday, in the far future, you will both remember this ‘accident’ and laugh over it.

We have been very busy here at the hospital.  I often get assigned to the night shift, which means that I work in the evening until early morning.  We get especially busy during weekends, when people go out to party and drink.  That’s when a lot of fights and accidents happen and a lot of people are rushed to our ER (Emergency Room).  I have seen a lot of nasty, scary things and it makes me wonder why people never learn.  I am very blessed though to work with a very efficient team.  (You should look up the meaning of ‘efficient’ if you don’t know what it means.)  We, nurses, work closely with each other and the doctors.  The accents here don’t bother me anymore and I’ve learned to differentiate the regions they come from.

After work, some of my nurse friends and I go out to eat; but more often than not, we go straight home to sleep and rest.  And so, I have to catch some sleep now.  Please study well and enjoy school.  By the way, which clubs are you joining this year?  Give my love to Papa, Mama and Miguel.

Kisses darling!

Ate Ali


September 30, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

Thank you for your letter.  Please do not work too hard or you might get sick.  I heard Mama say that you work too hard and work long hours.  She said that if you came home, you do not need to work that hard.  Papa said he is happy that you know how to work and that you are not like . . . . I did not hear the last part because Mama looked at him with big eyes.  Do you know what Papa was going to say?

Guess what?!!!!!  We had an exciting week!  Kuya Miguel was practicing soccer with his team when KABOOM!  He had an accident!  He tripped and he landed on his left side and twisted his arm.  He was rushed to the hospital and Coach Raffy called Papa who went directly to the ER.  Mama and I did not know anything happened until Papa and Miguel got home.  Kuya Miguel’s shirt was torn and he had mud and dirt all over — just the usual dirt from playing, so that should not have scared Mama.  But I think it was the arm cast that was so white and clean that made Mama scream and shout bad words at Papa.  I don’t know how to spell those words, but it was the same words she used when she saw you throwing up in the garage with your friends.  Remember those words?  Anyway, Papa tried to explain the accident to Mama while Mama kept on asking Kuya if he was hurting and Kuya was telling Mama that he was fine.  Papa did not want Mama to worry so he did not ask her to go to the hospital.  Kuya told Mama that he did not cry — but I could see from his dirty face that he cried.  Papa helped Kuya get cleaned up and into his pajamas and Mama had his dinner brought to his room.

Mama made him stay home the next day but when he tried to excuse himself from school the day after that, Papa told him that he was strong enough to attend class.  It’s a good thing that Kuya Miguel and I go to different schools because I’m sure Mama would have made me carry his books and stuff for him.  That’s what Kuya Junn had to do for several days.  But Papa found out and made him stop.  He made Kuya Miguel use a bag with wheels for school.  It was my old school bag, my pink Dora the Explorer bag.   Kuya Miguel used it for only one day.  He said that he could carry things with his right arm.  The doctor also said that he cannot play soccer and other sports, not until his arm is completely healed, which will take a long, long time.  He is forced to study and read now because Papa still does not allow us to play games on the computer and our time with our iPad is still limited.  We could still watch television, but all the good shows are on cable which we do not have.  Oh, I think I forgot to tell you about the cable.  I will tell you about that in my next letter if I remember.  I have to start on my other assignments now.

Love you!



October 13, 2012

Dear Chesca,

I wish you would not leave me hanging.  Please do tell me why we don’t have cable!  What happened?  What did you and Miguel do to upset Papa and Mama so?  Did Miguel receive the card I sent him?  Please don’t tease him so much.  Having a broken arm is very painful and the healing does take time.  It could be very uncomfortable too, especially when the skin inside starts to itch.

I’ll be attending training this coming week, so I’ll be very busy.  The training will be in the next county and we will be billeted at a local B&B.  Look for the meaning of ‘billeted’.  B&B is short for ‘bed and breakfast’, which is an establishment that offers overnight accommodations and breakfast (and no other meals).  I will attend the training with 3 other nurses from my hospital.  I am quite proud of this as so many applied for the training but only four of us were selected.  All expenses will be shouldered by the hospital too.

How are your Math and Science subjects?   You still haven’t told me what clubs you joined. What has Miguel been doing since he can’t play sports?  You have a lot of things to write about, Chesca!

Will eagerly wait for your next letter!

Love you very much!

Ate Ali


October 25, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

I am not teasing Kuya Miguel.  I am trying to stay out of his way because he is always moody.  He did allow me to write on his cast after all his classmates wrote on it.  He did not allow me to draw flowers or hearts or stars.  Hello Kitty was not allowed too.  And I was only allowed to use blue or red or black markers.  I drew a panda bear with a soccer ball.  He liked it.  His cast looks soooo yucky as it is soooo dirty and full of writing and drawings.  But he likes it that way.  He still attends soccer practice to watch and help out, but he cannot play in the field.  He also can’t play basketball.  He is also excempted exempted from much of his Gym Class.  He is able to ride his bike though and he practices every day.

The cable.  I did not do anything.  It was all Kuya Miguel’s doing.  Kuya Miguel spent so much time watching his Anime cartoons that he forgot to write his report for History.  He also did not submit 2 book reports.  When Mama reviewed his performance report, she asked him why he did not do his History and book reports.  He said that he was busy with other assignments but Mama did not believe him.  She did not scold Kuya Miguel which is soooo unfair because she always scolds me when I don’t complete my homework.  We got home from school one day and did not have cable.  So you see, it was not my fault.  I made my reports though I did not receive high marks.  Mr. de Leon said that my essays were rushed and that my book reports did not say much.

I joined the Swimming Club again. Mama was insisting that I join the Choir or the Dance Club.  I auditioned for the Choir —- yes, you have to audition —- but they told me to just try again next year.  I signed up for Dance Club, but you have to be in a dance ‘class’, studying a dance to join.  I saw a Street Dance class and asked Mama if I could enroll but she prefers that I study ballet.  So I’m in the Swimming Club again.  Our teacher taught me the Butterfly Stroke and I want to train to compete in the school intramurals this summer.

Goodbye for now and see, I answered all your questions.  Will write to you soon!



P.S.  Kuya Miguel got your card and he says ‘thank you’.  Mrs. Black taught us the ‘PS’.


November 5, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

How was your training?  Did you have delicious breakfasts in the B&B?  Breakfasts must be their specialty.

We missed you for All Souls Day and All Saints Day!  As always, the memorial park was crowded with people.  It’s very different now because loud music, gambling, drinking and karaoke’s are not allowed.  Kuya Miguel went with Papa, Kuya Junn, Uncle Berto and Andre very early in the morning to set up the tents, tables and chairs.

Everyone in the family was there!  Aunty Nena made her special Paella.  Everyone was so excited and wanted to be first in getting her Paella.  I have to use ‘so’ with only one “o”.  Mrs. Black said writing ‘sooo’ with several “o’s” is wrong.  Uncle Berto brought his famous Chicken Inasal and I ate 4 big pieces!  I made 6 pans of Leche Flan — with the help of *Manang, of course.  But I measured the ingredients and mixed them.  I also made the caramel topping for it.  Manang poured them into the pans and covered them.  It was a L – O – N – G wait!  Mama announced that I made the Flans and everyone tried it.  Everyone said it was good and the Flans were all eaten up and nothing was left!  Even Kuya Miguel said it was “ok”.  Aunty Lillya brought tapas and Nina made cinnamon buns.  Would you like to guess what *Wawa Saling brought?  Of course she brought Gazpacho.  It was Papa’s turn to bring roasted calf and he had it delivered to the memorial park.

Nina made a very big ball of wax.  She knew the families from the nearby graves, so they allowed her to collect the wax drippings.  David made a figurine of a Pokemon.  Lupo, Cecilia and I tried to make our favorite Pokemons, but mine looked like a big blob.

We all went home late and Papa, Miguel and Kuya Junn had to stay behind with some others to clear the tents and tidy up.

A new priest, Father Sonny, said Mass.  I think he is too young and too good looking to be a priest.  Priests are supposed to be old like Father Nicholas or Father Jaime.  Also, Father Sonny is from the mainland and not from our place, so he only speaks a little of our dialect.  He is very good in English though.  Wawa Saling liked him and so did Ate Sylvia and Yasmin.  They all sat with him for lunch.  You should have been there.  You could have talked with the young priest too.



*Manang is term used as a form of respect for a much older woman

*Wawa in the Ilongo dialect means grandmother.


November 21, 2012

Dear Chesca,

Your letter made me hungry!  I am writing this letter in a Spanish restaurant while waiting for my Arroz Valenciana.  As for my training, it was intense!  Look up the word ‘intense’.  But we learned so much and had fun!  I do miss our holidays, but most especially, I miss you, Papa, Mama and Miguel.

People here don’t celebrate All Souls Day and All Saints Day like we do.  They celebrate Halloween where people dress up in scary costumes and go from house to house for ‘Trick or Treat’.  People give treats of candies and goodies to children in costumes for if they don’t, the children will play tricks on them.  Even grown-up people here dress up for Halloween.  People scare and play elaborate pranks on each other. (Do you know what ‘elaborate’ means?) It is all in good fun, but some still get hurt.  I’m sure some of your friends celebrate Halloween this way.  Our family is just a bit more traditional than other families.

There are several restaurants here that serve international cuisines (do you know what ‘cuisine’ means?  Look it up!).  They serve Spanish, Italian, Mediterranean and African dishes, so I get to eat a lot of different kinds of food.  I still miss Aunty Nena’s Paella.  I don’t think anyone could ever match Aunty’s Nena’s Paella, not even this restaurant.  I’ve tried their Paella and it isn’t as good as Aunty’s.

Maybe you could make Leche Flan when I visit home.  I don’t know when I’ll be visiting, but I am looking forward to tasting your Flan!

Love you, sweetheart!

Ate Ali


December 5, 2012

Dear Ate Ali,

Mrs. Black gave me good marks for my past letters.  Not high, but good.  She has been correcting my letters and writing notes.  She says my grammar is ‘good’ but my vocabulary ‘needs improvement’.  Her note says “Refrain from using simple words; look for synonyms and use more appropriate words.”  Like you, she said I should improve my penmanship.  I have been doing writing exercises — the circles and loops.  I can’t make them all the same size though.

Our letter-writing assignment is almost complete and I just have one more letter to write to complete it.  But I like writing to you.  Is it alright if we continue writing each other?  It does not have to be through post, we could write emails to each other.  I’ll ask Mama if I could have an email.  Will you still have time for me?  Or will you be busy with work?

Oh, by the way, Kuya Miguel had his cast removed already.  He was so excited to have it removed because he wants play sports again.  The skin on his arm looks yu awful.  It looks like paste and white pale.  He did not get to practice with his team, but he attended practice and watched all their games.  It would be good to see him play again instead of him hanging around the house and sneaking into my room.  I saw him going through my desk drawer.  I think he was looking for our letters, but good thing that I keep all our letters in a secret place.  Ha! He will never find my secret place!

I forgot to tell you earlier that I started a Christmas drive in our grade level.  I don’t like the fund-raising drive we have, so I suggested that instead of raising funds, we could ‘adopt’ a class from one of the community schools.  We’re supposed to wrap a big shoe box and fill it with things that our adopted class listed down.  (Boxes of adult-size rubber shoes and boots are the best because they’re BIG.)  We each have names of students from our adopted class and their age and wish list, so we’re supposed to fill the shoe box with their wish list.  I got a boy’s name, Chris, and he’s asking for shoes or slippers, notebooks, pens and a shirt.  I got him all of the things he asked for.  Ms. Reyes said that we could pick more than 1 name from our adopted class, so I picked another name.  It’s another boy, Peter and he’s 12 years old.  He’s also wishing for a pair of shoes or slippers and a pair of pants.  I asked Kuya Miguel if he has pants that he does not like anymore that I could give to Peter.  Kuya Miguel surprised me by buying a new pair of pants for Peter.  I thought he was joking, but he was not.  I added a gift for Chris and Peter.  I inserted an English book, a simple one that they could understand.  I hope Chris and Peter like their gifts.  I hope all the kids like their gifts!

I have to go now.  I have to help Mama clean and prepare the *belen.  Kuya Miguel and Kuya Junn made the paper-mache landscape and painted it.  Mama and I will clean the figurines and put them in place and add accessories.   This year, Kuya Miguel included a well with water.  It’s only pretend water —- he pasted a broken mirror inside the well.  The Christmas tree is not yet up but the Christmas lantern is hanging in the front yard already.  We light it every night.

Mama helped me place bowls of coins and candies in the living room so we could give the children who sing carols.  I hope we have enough because Kuya Miguel and his friends always get coins and candies from the can when they’re here.  They say they’re going to form their own group and sing carols door to door too.  I heard them practice and they sound terrible.  I don’t think anyone will give them any money with the way they sing!  I would not!

How will you spend Christmas there?  Do you have a Christmas tree and a belen?



*Belen is the term used for the set of figurines in the Nativity scene


December 20, 2012

Dearest Chesca,

Of course you could still write me!  I always look forward to your letters.  When I spot the postman from afar, I always greet him and ask if he has something for me.  Your letters brighten up my day!  We could still do post or email and I’ll never be too busy to read your letters and answer them.  If Mama won’t allow you to get an email address, then we could continue using the post.  I guess Kuya Junn or Manang will have to make more trips to the Post Office.

I am so proud of you for thinking of a wonderful way to help others!  I am sure that Chris and Peter and the other children will like your shoe box gifts.  I hope you get to meet your adopted class.  Maybe in the summer you could help clean and paint their school.  We used to do that.  When you get to high school, you could tutor the younger children in the school too.

The Christmas carols!  I hope you get really good ones!  Aren’t you going to form your own group with the other girls in the neighborhood?  It’s fun to sing Christmas carols with friends and go from door to door.  Some people give generously while some are stingy.  My friends and I never collected that much, but we had the best time just being together!

I didn’t buy a Christmas tree, but I do have a miniature belen.  My place is small and decorations and furnishings must be kept at a minimum.   I will be on-duty for Christmas Eve, so I will celebrate Christmas with my fellow nurses, doctors and patients.  I’ll bring Leche Flan for them and I hope it will be half as good as yours.  I sorely miss you, Mama, Papa and Miguel and Manang and Kuya Junn too — especially during Christmas.  But maybe we could do a video call?  Then you could meet my friends in the hospital.

People here do not put up Christmas decorations weeks ahead of time like we do.  They put up their décor just a few days before Christmas and celebrations are limited to the immediate family.  Not like ours where Aunts, Uncles and cousins get together.  For single people like me, we celebrate with our close friends.

Well, little one, don’t stop writing to me.  I’m glad you got good marks for your letter writing.  I’ll always look forward to your letters.  Let’s do the video call this Christmas!

Love and kisses!

Ate Ali

Muddy Puddles

My 4 year old niece, Chesca, loves playing in the park and so when we brought her to the park after a rainy morning, we all thought she would not mind a little mud and the water puddles.

But after a few slippery steps and getting her sneakers and pants splattered with mud, she wanted to go home.

“I don’t like to play, it’s so dirty and muddy!”  Chesca screamed and whined.

To appease her, I used one of her all-time favorite cartoon characters.

“I know someone who likes playing in muddy puddles — Peppa Pig!” I said.

“I AM NOT PEPPA PIG!” cried Chesca.

Cinnamon Memories

Blackberry muffins in a baking pan.

The timer rang.  Natalia opened the oven door and a waft of freshly baked muffins heavy with cinnamon filled the kitchen.  She savored the aroma:  sweet, spicy and nutty.  Cinnamon always made her feel warm and fuzzy, maybe because she always associated it with Christmas.  And Aunty.

It was the last batch of muffins to fill the Christmas box for the Johnson’s next door.  “Remember to write a personal greeting” Aunty always reminded her.  It was Aunty who taught her to bake.  Aunty who started the tradition of baking and giving, all those years ago.

“I remember Aunty,” Natalia smiled.

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