Monday, October 31, 2005


Okay, I am now laughing at my own self because I just signed up for Nanowrimo when I already specifically instructed myself not to do that. Somewhere up there, my brain cells are colliding into each other and blaming each other for the mix up that sent me jaunting off to the Nanowrimo site .

Oh well, it should be fun. It should be fun considering I do not have the slightest idea what I am going to write about. Ha, ha. It should be fun considering, I don't even have a plot. So, between today and tomorrow, I should be able to cook something up, shouldn't I?

I really should go apologize to my husband. How many "falling asleep alone nights" does this venture of mine represent for him? I really can't say, but the first time I joined the oww writing marathon, I wrote about 36,000 words in a month and he spent the better half of the month going to bed alone. ( Needless to say, I trashed the greater part of those 36,000 words...aaaaaahhhh.)

This month however, I came way short of my 30,000 word goal. So, we'll just have to wait and see how I fare in the they say, nothing tried, nothing gained. Here goes me.


Now, if only I can figure out how to load that lovely nanowrimo icon onto my blog, I would be perfectly happy. I think I'll have to recruit husbandly help on this matter.

Post Bling Bling - Wabi Sabi

Post Bling Bling has a Wabi-Sabi in it. A deliberate error hidden within its pages. Eileen writes about it on her blog... I won't tell you what the error is, but I found it ;)

The day after...

How many birthday parties can a little boy have? Well, ours had three birthday parties. Small echoes of the parties will follow in the coming days as not everyone made it to his birthday and already two of his playmates have made playdates for the future.

I sometimes wonder what it is that compels me to celebrate birthdays in such an overwhelming manner. My mom still tells the story of how between a choice of a present or a party, my elder sister would choose for the big present and I would go for the big bash. The first computer to ever enter our home was a birthday present from my parents to my sister. That year, I chose to celebrate with a full house...when I say full house, I mean not just ten or twelve guests.

Back home, there are photographs of parties where almost every member of the youth group is present. One birthday, I invited all the children from an area where I had an outreach class, to our house for cake and spaghetti once. There must have been about fifty children swarming all over our garage. All of them excited, all of them dressed in smiles.

I don't know if it is cultural baggage or if it is simply my own personal baggage that compels me to call up and invite people to come over for a huge birthday bash. As if somehow a birthday is not complete unless the house is filled with smiling people who laugh and chat and exchange recipes over a plate filled with lumpias, fried chicken and pancit or some other wok-fried dish. Happily, I have never yet run out of food enough to feed our guests.

Next year, Joel Jan will be turning seven. After that, he can decide for I want three or four birthday parties or do I want one big party and one big present? It's his choice, but I still have next year to plan for...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

More pics...

So, dear folks, to keep you all updated on what's going on in our little household. Here are some more pics of Joel's birthday celebration.

We have one more party to go and that will be it. I am now in the midst of cooking lumpias and baking another cake, so my thoughts on birthdays, celebrations and that thing called cultural baggage will have to wait for after tomorrow.

Joel Jan, always and ever, a lover of trains... Posted by Picasa

Opening presents... Posted by Picasa

Joel on the cableride. His friends are all waiting for their turn... Posted by Picasa

Joel's party with his classmates included a trip to one of the nearby playgrounds. Posted by Picasa

Karin and Joel Jan in a bicycle ricksha. His birthday coincided with the 25th jubilee of two school teachers and the theme of the day was Philippines because one of the teachers had two adopted children from the Philippines. It was one giant party day for Joel Jan. He was also picked to present flowers to the teachers on this special day, so everyone in school knew that it was his birthday. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2005

Six years ago...

Six years ago today, Joel Jan was born.

"Do you know how happy we are to have you?"

There are not enough words in the dictionary to encompass the depth of emotion I feel when I look at my son.

In him I see God's hand at work.

"Go ahead," I say to him. "Go ahead and dream big dreams. It's good to have dreams, it's good to long for and to reach towards something..."

"Go on."

My lips speak the words even while my heart longs to shelter him, keep him safe, protect him from all the hardness and harshness of life.

"Don't be scared."

I want him to find his wings, to be strong, to be brave, to be gallant and courageous.

This is The Netherlands, this is Europe not Asia. Here, children learn fast. You do not get anywhere unless you have the courage to step forward. You do not get anything done, unless you open your mouth and speak up. What we mistake for brutality is simply being open and honest, 'and do not feel hurt if I speak my mind because when the truth is out in the open, we can both breathe easier'.

I, with my cultural baggage of Asian deference have had to learn to say, "speak up, say what you think."

I, who grew up believing in the unspoken rule of saving face, have had to learn to shed my inhibitions and speak straight and open just as Dutch people do. But it is very hard to shed the habit of hiding pain. There are moments when I still remain dumb when I should really be saying what I think.

So I say to my son: I hear you. Your words are important to me. You are a child, that's true, but your thoughts are just as important as my thoughts. You are human like me, a person with an entire world of feelings and experiences, that you have just as much right as I, to give voice to.

I look at him and see the confidence in his stance, the way he lifts his chin and looks at life without fear. He does not bend his head, he looks me straight in the eye when he speaks because he knows his size does not diminish the value of his thoughts.

So, you are officially six years old today.

Blowing out six candles on my train cake... Posted by Picasa

At school in barong tagalog, because today is a super-special day. Posted by Picasa

Sixth birthday wake-up smile Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Yet another set of links...

Some of my published works are on the Net. Searching for them, I suddenly remembered that I used to post like crazy when I was still new on the internet. All those outpourings of the heart posted somewhere on Spyder's Empire. It's grown bigger than I remember it to be, but the search for my own poetry is like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack. I also remember frequenting Starlite Cafe which was a regular hangout for wannabe poets like me. Looking back, I have to cringe at my own temerity. Youth certainly has daring and knows no fear or inhibition.

I suppose I have always been searching for connection and for ways to grow beyond myself. Aylad was the first group I joined that eventually gave me the courage to dream and to give voice to my dream.

In a discussion on the OWW mailing list, one of the writers asked what it was that kept us writing in the face of rejections and all that.

This mail really struck a chord in me, because I have had my share of rejections this year and it requires so much strength to gather up the courage to send work back out again.

In my mail to the list I wrote:

I sometimes wonder what madness drives me to pick up the pen and write down
those words on paper. Then, I think that if I didn't write I would probably
go mad.

Getting rejections is really hard. Even though I look on it as the next
step on the ladder to learning and improving my craft, it still hurts.
I know I am surrounded by a whole bunch of extremely talented and gifted
wordsmiths, but I stubbornly insist on plowing ahead and trying my best to
be better than myself. To exceed my own limitations is my ambition, to
write something bigger than who I am, is my dream

I am trying to remember when all this began. When simple stories of puppy dogs turned into this quest for more. I realize now that it is not the publication that really matters (although that is great when it happens). What matters is exceeding my own limitations, stretching beyond...crossing the border of what I think I know myself to be into that somewhere land where stories are born of themselves and not of me, where writers are impregnated and give birth to words that make us laugh and cry and rejoice because the words have life. Maybe it sounds weird, but I don't think that stories and words are ours to own. In my mind, stories belong to themselves, they are living entities. We as writers can only step back and wonder because the truth is, that we can write at all is a miracle in itself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

updated links

I've decided to create links to the interview columns that I've done for The Sword Review. Sometimes, the columns turn over so fast it might be easier to keep track of them this way.

There's a nice mix of writers on there, and it's nice to look back and read the columns. Something's brewing in my mind, just have to put my finger on it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Joanne Hall Interview

My interview with Joanne Hall is finally up on The Sword Review .

Joanne Hall is one of the talented writers whom I met on where she is known to all as Joey. Her first novel, Hierath, is coming out in December and is being published by E-press Online.

To learn more about Hierath, you can visit Joey's website: by clicking on this link

Enjoy :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Autumn Break

It's Joel Jan's Autumn Break. Which means, me spending less time writing because Autumn Break means Joel Jan time.

After the hectic rush of schooldays, the relaxed pace of the break is a luxury. Instead of waking up bleary-eyed and pulling an equally groggy son out of bed, we can now stretch and sleep out until our bodies tell us that it's time to get up. Not that we sleep really late. The latest we've woken up is about 8.30 in the morning.

The Train Museum or Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht made for a fantastic day out. After two years of renovations, the place has changed into a fantastic wonderland for kids and lovers of locomotives and trains. I kept thinking that this would be a super place to celebrate Joel's birthday. He is such a train geek. What I loved about the new museum is the appeal that it holds not only for children but also for adults. It was quite interesting and inspiring to sit inside "Den Electric" which was the name given to the first electric train in The Netherlands. I could imagine ladies and gentlemen dressed up to the nines, stepping into these fabulously decorated wagons. Taking a trip in a train was something like taking an airplane trip nowadays...only classier, I think. For a common laborer, it took about a month's wages to take his family on a train trip to the shore. Can you imagine what a treat that must have been? I wonder how much scrimping and saving went into taking their kids out on the trip of their lives. Probably, they had to scrimp and save a bit more than we do when we want to take the plane home to the Philippines. Well, maybe just about the same. After all, a trip to the Philippines for the three of us is equivalent to about two month's wages. And that's only economy class.

On the relaxed days bit, we spent a super afternoon in Alphen aan den Rijn. A town that is swiftly turning into a city with its renovated shopping streets, its colossal municipal hall that looks somewhat like something Lorenzo Piano would have created, and the Library which was our main goal for that day. We spent a fabulous afternoon among books and sheet music, and ended up taking home a subscription and three books that we can keep for the next four weeks. Joel Jan is such a bookworm that a library subscription is certainly not a surplus. It has become a necessity.

After that, we visited this little toy shop where the shop owner is an avid train guy. Joel has been saving up for a train locomotive, but his cents still won't buy him the loco that he wants. So, we ended up looking at some passenger wagons. Since we are booked to go to Eurospoor, it might be worth taking a look how far his fifty euros will get him.

What else does this week hold, well, a trip on the light rail train...lots of reading aloud...lots of "Knutsel" ( craft ) time... and generally very little time to write.

Thus far, I've only written 1,300 words which represents my rough draft for the OWW November challenge.

*visualize me pulling my hair out by the roots* I really want to write more, but visualize doing that with a boy who says every five minutes: "Mama, time to read now. Mama, time to do crafts with me." and so on and so forth...

But honestly, I do love these days. :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

now reading...

Now reading:

Luisa Igloria's, Trill and Mordent

Interzone ( the UK scifi/fantasy mag )

Waiting for:

Eileen Tabios, Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole

Wonderwall ( Route 16 )

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On reading poetry

I am immersing myself in poetry.

I find myself remembering: words are seduction that pull me in, never mind if I don't understand all their meanings, it is enough to peruse the words, to hear them resonate in my inner ear, to savor the richness of their texture as they flow over my tongue, and caress my palate.

Words still continue to be my indulgence. A certain twist, overheard conversations, a billboard, signs on the street, children talking, first lines of a book, scribbles on a scrap of paper, my brother's instant messages, they are all capable of moving me.

Where I now am, the writings of Filipinos far away from the land of their birth, move me. I wonder what memories live inside them, what myths inspire them, all these thoughts - these emotions – these experiences resonate in the images they put in words onto paper. I find myself astounded, overwhelmed and engulfed by words that move me to remember how I came to love the written word itself.

Without poetry, language loses its music.

I loved poetry before I fell in love with story, and in a sense, the cadence of lines, the imagery of poetry continues to haunt me.

I acknowledge my shortcomings. Words defeat me.

Is this why I always look for meanings behind stories that I read? Is this what I am reaching for constantly? I can't seem to find that hidden I am, can I? I'm always straining to catch sight of something around the corner, something more beyond the bend…

So maybe, we are all born with poetry in our veins. Perhaps not in the way critics understand poetry, perhaps not with the education of meter or rhyming or with the sophisticated poshness belonging to literary geniuses, but in the sense of meanings hidden within images, in the strength born of the desire to communicate emotion and feeling, the true me not hidden but revealed.

So I can say to you, "the world is beautiful. Let me paint you a picture that will live on and grow on inside your mind, inside your heart…"

Move me.

Let me move you…

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Taking a deep breath...

One million words, they say that that's how many words a person has to write and discard before you finally get around to writing something worth reading.

There's a saying that goes, nothing tried, nothing gained. This is me, taking a deep breath before I take the plunge again. I've decided to take another shot at subbing stuff to mags.

I have these stories that just float around in the ether from here to home, from here to OWW, from here to Fantasy writers, and me not having the courage to sub anywhere because... because... phew... I am a scaredy cat, and it takes a lot of courage for me to go and send my stuff out to a faceless editor who may or may not like what I've written.

In many ways, my stories are extensions of me. My stories are my babies and letting go, is always painful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Instant Messaging is fun. Now that my brother is online, I can chat with him and catch up on life in the Philippines. Funny how chatting can somehow diminish distances. For me, it was like a total scifi experience. Lots of thoughts squeezed through my brain, and I found myself wondering what life would be like once the higher powers establish entire communities on Mars, the moon or even on a space station in the middle of the universe. Instant Messaging will certainly be handy. I also find myself wondering how long it will take before that Star Trekky "beam me up Scotty", form of transportation finally evolves to the point where they can transport entire humans instead of teeny-tiny atoms that machines do beam over from point a to point b.

Mind-boggling, ain't it?

I wonder how much travelling via the Star Trek way would cost. Would it be cheaper or more expensive than a plane ride?

Anyway, we are going home next year. I've made ticket reservations for June 30th, and we should be home and recuperated from our flight in time for my parents 40th wedding anniversary. Considering how easily folks discard their mates these days, 40 is definitely worth cheering for, don't you think?

I'm aiming for forever after :)

I'm catching up, believe me. I recently received my order of Interzone. Two copies of different issues, to get a feel of what the mag is like. Can't wait to dive into them and see what I've been missing all this time.

How come Amazon delivers slower than BBR? I ordered James Stevens Arce's, Soulsaver, from Amazon and it took a month before it got here. I wonder if ordering via a UK address will make a difference in delivery time. I'll have to find out when Lily calls me.

Which reminds me...I really should send James an email soon. Drat, yet another to do on my list that I keep forgetting about.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

teaching sunday school

I've been recruited to teach Sunday School at our local church. To date, the nearest I've gotten to Sunday School was helping out with the church creche, tending crying babies and changing their nappies. A pretty safe job which doesn't require much of a stretch when it comes to language. But teaching Sunday School is a stretch and a challenge.

This class consists of about ten boys and girls aged 8 and 9 years old, who all behave like teeners do in the Philippines. They all speak Dutch and not a one of them will have english lessons until they get to seventh grade.

Like most kids who grow up in the church, these kids have been raised on Bible Stories. They know about the Ark, about the creation, about Samuel, Daniel, Job and David.

My first storytelling session involved telling them the story of Samuel.

"Just tell the story," our supervisor said. She's a determined lady who manages to keep our unruly bunch on a straight leash.

But just telling the story won't cut it. I imagine the scene turning to chaos if I stand in front of them telling them about the time when God called Samuel. Just telling it won't do.

For lack of commentaries and the extensive library that we have back home, I decided to call up my sister who is a theology expert and got the goods on Samuel. To my surprise, I discovered that life during Samuel's time was pretty much like how life is these days. Perhaps a bit rougher, but quite similar in many aspects.

For instance, there's Israel, beleaguered by enemies on every side. Tribal wars aren't uncommon and the priests of Israel have quite forgotten to teach the next generation about the Lord. Note Phineas and Hophni who committed all sorts of atrocities against the altar and who even took advantage of the women who came to bring offerings to the Lord.

This setting was what I needed to bring this story to life. To make it vivid enough for the children to step into Samuel's world. To see this little boy whom his mother had dedicated to the Lord walking in the midst of all the wrong things that were going on and somehow being preserved and kept pure because God had set his mark on him.

Take a map of Israel during this period, trace the important parts. Write down places that are familiar to these children and show them where the wars were going on. It's pretty much the same, they said. There is still fighting going on in the Gaza stroke. That put the setting into perspective.

Having done that, I went on to tell this story to the children. It may be a bit romanticised, but it's still based on I Samuel 3:1-10

A retelling of Samuel in the Temple
by rcloenen-ruiz

Samuel shivered and drew the covers up around him. Nights could be cold in Shiloh. Peering through the curtains, he could see the stars. Like a belt of shining diamonds, the stars embraced the wide waist of the sky, stretching out from horizon to horizon, from hill to hill, illuminating shrubs and patches of earth.

He murmured the words of a prayer that he had heard Eli utter aloud before the men and women who came bringing their offerings of sheep and produce.

Samuel did not understand all of the words yet. He only knew what his mother told him.

She had brought him to Shiloh when he was still too young to understand. Entrusted him into Eli's care, giving him over unto the Lord.

Samuel did not doubt his mother's love.

It was there in the constancy of her yearly visit and the coats that she brought him, one for each year that he remained in the sanctuary.

"Why can't I go home with you?" he'd asked her once.

He never forgot the look in her eyes, pride, sorrow and love combined in that look.

"I promised you to our God, Samuel. Even before you were born, he placed his mark upon you. You were born to serve Yahweh, honor him with your body, honor him with your thoughts and love him with all your heart."

As the years passed and Eli's health deteriorated, the old priest leaned more and more upon the young boy.

"God will call up a proper priest," Eli said.

Eli's own sons desecrated the sacrifices.

"Why don't they listen?" Samuel asked Eli.

"Because they were born twisted in their hearts," Eli sighed. "They're too old to change, Samuel, and I, I am just too weak to change them."

"But you're their father, they should listen to you."

"I'm too tired to make them listen now."

Eli often turned away after these conversations, leaving Samuel to wonder.

Surely, the sacrifices were holy, surely God was mighty, and yet Eli refused to honor the sacrifice and to honor Yahweh.

Samuel didn't understand it all. Nevertheless, he was bound to the temple, bound to the old priest and bound to his love for his mother. For her sake, he honored the old man and did all that was laid upon him to do.

It was his job to take care of the sanctuary, to make sure that the candles were lit on time, that the altar was clean, that the floors were swept, and that the old priest did not stumble over his own feet when he climbed into bed.

Eli slept in a separate chamber, on a soft bed of straw and sheep's wool. Samuel preferred to sleep on his woven mat. Lying as near as he could to the altar where the lights shone down on the cool gray stone, and warmth seemed to reflect from the place where the glory of God was hidden.

A chill wind blew in through the curtains of the sanctuary. It caused the candlelight to shiver and Samuel crouched down under the covers of his bed.

Would the wind blow out the candles?

But no, the candle flame only flickered and if anything it seemed as if the glow grew brighter. A glad light seemed to spread from its rays.

"Samuel," he sat up.

It was Eli calling. He jumped to his feet, forgetting that the stone would now be cold.

"I'm coming Eli."

He ran in through the curtains that divided his sleeping space from that of the high priest.

"Did you call me?"

Eli sat up.

Samuel saw the look of surprise on his face.

"No, Samuel. Go back to bed. You must be dreaming."

"I'm sorry," Samuel replied. "I thought I heard you call me. I didn't mean to disturb your rest."

"It's all right child. Go back to sleep."

In the sanctuary, the light still shone. It spilled over the grey stones like a warm blanket of gold.

Samuel wondered what glory it must be to see God face to face. It must be like being wrapped in the warm light of that flame.

He lay down again, drawing the covers over him.

Lying there, his thoughts drifted to the man of God who had visited Eli.

"I will raise up a priest for myself a faithful priest," the man of God declared. "He will do according to what is in my heart and mind."

Samuel wondered what the words meant. Was Eli not a faithful priest? The man had spoken such dire words against Eli, words that Samuel could not begin to comprehend. If God should call him to serve, would he be worthy?

He trembled at the temerity of his own thoughts. What did he know about God anyway?

"If you listen with your heart, you will hear him speak to you," his mother had told him.

All those years waiting at the altars, Samuel waited for some revelation, for a flash of light, for a message, for a lightning bolt to appear out of the heavens, for a flaming fire that burned and did not consume.


He sprang up and out of bed.

"I'm coming Eli."

He ran on his bare feet towards where Eli lay. What if the old man had fallen out of bed and broken his knee?

Samuel could not bear the thought. He loved Eli. For all his shortcomings, Eli was always kind to him and Samuel delighted in hearing the words that Eli spoke even though his own sons mocked him.

"I'm here, Eli."

He saw Eli rise up on his elbow.

"What is it Samuel?"

"You called me, Eli. Can I get you a drink of water or perhaps another blanket?"

He saw Eli's mouth fall open. Surprise spread over his face, even as realization dawned in his eyes.

"I did not call you," Eli said. "But I think that God wishes to speak with you. If you hear that voice again, you must say, Speak Lord for your servant hears."

Eli's voice took on strength.

"Go, hurry back to your bed, my son. Lie down and wait. Listen for the voice of God and when he speaks be ready to store up all his words inside your heart."


Eli made a shooing gesture with his hands, and Samuel turned and ran back towards his bed.

In the tent, the glow of the lamps seemed to reach out and embrace him in their warmth.

"Samuel," came the voice once more.

He sat up and he could barely speak.

"Speak Lord," he whispered. "Your servant hears."


Of course, I had to tell this story in Dutch, but this is pretty much the way I told it. One thing that amazed me about this telling was how I could tell it so fluently in Dutch, but for the life of me, I can't write it down the way I told it. Thinking about it, I can say that in that moment, I wasn't doing the telling anymore. Someone higher than myself took hold of my tongue and caused the words to flow so that the children would understand the message behind that story.

It's all about our readiness to listen. It's all about me, being willing to surrender myself to the voice of God.